When You Blame Parents For Their Children’s Differences
I threw a book across the room this morning.
It helped my level of frustration and anger, but not my sense of injustice.
I ordered this particular book last week. I was looking for a resource to help with a few things beginning to stir for my youngest son. Becoming a teenager has shifted some dynamics in our home, and in his overall well-being.
I was hoping for a fresh perspective.
What I got was this –
Two chapters in, the author shared a case study of one family, who had been struggling for years with their daughters various behaviors and mood dysregulation. He described an angry dad, the overinvolved mom, the frustrated sibling, and lastly, the struggling teenage daughter.
He then began explaining (mansplaining? doctorsplaining?) in great detail how all the very normal and understandable actions and reactions on the part of the parents were contributing to their daughter’s disorder.
On and on, paragraph after paragraph, it continued.
20 pages and an increased heart rate later, I threw the book. Then I processed my amazon return of it.
It’s not because I think parents are somehow living in a vacuum or absolved of any responsibility in terms of the family dynamics a special needs diagnosis can bring. I know and have seen first hand how my reactions and decisions can and do affect my son’s well being.
The fact that I can be a contributing part of my child’s problems keeps me up at night.
No, I threw the book because:
- This intense focus on parental blame came in the very first part of the book, before there was even a discussion of medical resources available to help.
- The tone was one of superiority and dismissal.
- Even if every single thing our children struggle with is 100% our fault, I do not think that a family barely making it through the day needs the heaping shame of blame from the person they are coming to for help.
- I wish it was my fault. All the time. Then I could change it and make it better for my child. Try as I might, this has not been the case for us.
I admit, I am a little sensitive about this topic.
Time and time again, I have felt the sting of blame for my children’s needs. For years, it defined me as a mom. I was sure I was failing my children and they were suffering because of it.
And you know what? It helped no one.
It wasn’t until another mom, another family, and another doctor (who incidentally was actually a parent and not a single, overeducated “expert’) encouraged me that I was doing the very best I could and that my sons were better off because I was fighting so hard for them, that we were able to make progress.
It was one thing, ten years ago, when so many of these diagnoses were still new. But now?
Given all we know about brain development and genetics, how am I still reading a book that begins with parent behavior as a reason for a teenager’s significant mental illness?
I have a rule – never blog angry.
I’m breaking my own rule today, because the truth is, as I type this, I am furious.
I am angry, but I also no longer feel anything other than incredulity when I read something like this.
I don’t feel the sting of shame and pain of worry after reading that expert’s advice.
I have seen first hand what makes a difference for my kids.
Blame and shame are not it.
I am breaking my rule and writing this furiously, because I know so many other moms are in the thick of it, desperate for answers, for help, for support, for mercy, and I hate to think their pleas for help will be met with dismissive shoulder shrugs and judgement.
We have to do better than this.
Our children deserve better.
And so, I would like to say to you what one of my son’s doctors said to me, long ago..
You are doing the very best you can for your child.
You have more insight and awareness of your child’s needs, because of your day to day involvement, than anyone else ever will.
Your hard work matters.
Your child is better off because of you.
Looking For More Support And Encouragement For Parenting Your Child With Differences?
I have written a ton about this topic.
Please, if you need support and encouragement, read on.
Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned educational consultant, and mom of two brilliant boys who have learning differences and special needs.
Shawna has also written four books: Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos, and Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. A passionate advocate for individualized education, Shawna is frequently featured on Today.com, Simple Homeschool, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and The Mighty. She can also be found supporting parents online at her own site, DifferentByDesignLearning.com.