As parents of complex kids, we regularly ask friends, family, and perfect strangers to give our kids a second, third and fourth chance. We struggle to show them that the kid who is melting down is actually terrified by what’s happening and is crying out for help. We ask teachers & playmates to ignore bad manners, poor social skills, and flat out aggression. We encourage others to find the good in our sons and daughters, even when their behaviors make that difficult to do.
In return, I think it's important to show some grace when handling unwanted advice about parenting our complex kids. Trust me, I know it can be difficult when:
- that soccer mom suggests you try chia seeds and metronome therapy to control your son’s ADHD symptoms
- or when the soccer coach thinks your gifted daughter with disabilities shouldn’t get an IEP because she's cheating the system
- or when the woman at the line in the grocery tells you about the liquid mineral supplement that worked for her sister’s best friend’s aunt’s kid
It's important for us to keep our defenses down and be open when others have something to share with us about our special needs families. After all, when we are asking for a bit of grace, we need to be prepared to offer it in return. It's the Law of Attraction at work.
Most of the time the unwanted advice we get about parenting our complex kids is well-intended. People are trying to find common ground, to connect. And people willing to find common ground and connect are all too rare these days.
What message are we sending if we shut down or get angry the moment someone tries to connect with us in an effort to be helpful? Our kids try clumsily, embarrassingly sometimes, to be understood and to fit in. Aren’t the adults in our lives just trying to do the same thing? And – usually -- in far more appropriate ways than our kids do?
If I don't listen openly, there is no opportunity for me to help my daughter's soccer coach understand the way special education works, or that kids who test in the 99th percentile may still be functionally incapable of tying their shoes, remembering to eat or successfully navigating a busy school building.
So when handling unwanted advice about parenting our complex kids, I encourage you to lower your shields and welcome unexpected opportunities to connect, to educate and to promote acceptance. Remember, caring people are just trying to help in their own, special way.