I admit that my kids are a little quirky. They’re really smart, but they don’t always act like all the other kids and sometimes they have no common sense. I work really hard to smooth things out for them, but there’s always a parent or a grandparent or a teacher or a random person in a grocery store who offers “helpful parenting advice” to cure their “bad behavior.” Are they right? Am I such a bad parent? Are their problems my fault?
Guilty in Galveston
Repeat after me: It’s the neurology.
Your kids are who they are. You can only parent to the best of your—and your child’s—ability.
It’s easy for others to come to the conclusion that “if a child is well-behaved, it’s as a result of good parenting choices.” If this were always true, it would then follow that if your children are misbehaving, then it is certainly the result of your poor parenting skills. The assumption, of course, is that if only you knew better, you would do things the way that observer would do them—and get (in their opinion) acceptable behavior as a result. For the observer, their “helpful suggestions” are really a way of doing you and your child a big favor. They believe they are giving you information you are obviously missing in order to be a good parent.
It doesn’t necessarily follow, though, that what worked for one parent-child duo will work for all others. It’s also frequently the case that the well-behaved child has fewer barriers to good behavior in the first place. And the others have it all wrong—at the heart of matters, it’s not the parenting, but the “raw materials” that the child had to begin with. Not to say that parenting isn’t a factor, but it’s more complicated than that. When there are significant barriers to good behavior, such as temperament or sensory processing issues, significant asynchrony or learning differences, it can be very hard to figure out the parenting solution that will produce the desired good behavior—and in fact, it might not even be possible, for a period of time. Some behaviors are neurology-based, and will only truly resolve when brain development makes it possible.
At other times, “good behavior” may not even be the goal. For example, a child may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, so that when they finally do so it is not elegant nor, perhaps, polite, but it is still a positive step for them. Additionally, what appears to others as bad behavior may actually be a tremendous improvement over previous behavior, for which both the parent and child deserve credit for improvement, not criticism.
It’s important for you, as a parent, to know your child and be comfortable with your parenting choices. That may mean that you have to nod politely and redirect others who don’t share your opinions. What you lose in your relationships with these observers you gain tenfold in your relationship with your child, by modeling for them that you know they are doing their best, no matter how it looks to outsiders. By accepting your child’s whole self, including their neurology, you build their self-esteem and help them grow the best way for them.
To receive more support and ideas from parents who have “been there, done that,” please join the GHF Online Community. You can also look for local support groups in your area. Can’t find one? Start your own (and let GHF know about it, so we can share it).
Meanwhile, you might also be interested in Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development, by Corin Goodwin and Mika Gustavson, which expands on this topic!