|"You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view." -Harper Lee|
How Much is Too Much?
Lately I’ve noticed a few videos and articles of a certain type creeping up on my Facebook newsfeed.
One article showcased “kids crying for the funniest reasons ever”. It featured a set of pictures showing children crying because “someone broke his cheese in half” or a little boy sobbing while wearing noise canceling headphones because “we took him to a Justin Beiber concert”.
I used to think posts like that were funny. That is, of course, the intent.
Now I look at the tears streaming down the child’s face in the picture and wonder if the child is having a moment of sensory overload- but no one even knows it.
And then, there are the videos.
These videos are not intended to be funny.
These videos- shot by the parents- show the explicit and painful details of a child at his most vulnerable- during a meltdown.
These videos are too painful for me to watch.
They are often justified in the name of providing support to other parents or as a parent’s desperate cry for help.
And I get the need for support- I really do.
But I don’t believe that “support” should come at the expense of the child.
I also don’t believe that the “support” will be found by uploading videos onto YouTube.
It starts innocently enough.
It is so easy to share the cute photos and videos of our children on Facebook.
I do it all the time.
It’s fun to see their sweet smiles.
It’s amazing to be able to watch the babies of my childhood friends “grow up” online- even though I’ve never met them in the real world because we live half a country apart.
But lately I’m pausing more often before hitting the “submit” button.
I’ve started asking myself if this is a photo my child would feel comfortable sharing with the world one day when he grows up.
As parents it is our job to make decisions on behalf of our child.
But our decisions to post things online will have repercussions far into their adult lives.
Our children are not accessories nor objects.
They are human beings deserving of dignity and respect.
And it is our job to protect them, especially when they are at their most vulnerable.
I’ve certainly experienced moments when my child’s behavior drives me to distraction.
I understand the need to vent and let off some steam to someone.
And so I call a trusted friend or family member.
I talk to my husband.
I meet up with a friend at Starbucks during those rare moments when I have a free hour.
I don’t videotape the episode and hit the “share” button with the world.
Behavior is Communication
When our child is having a meltdown or acting in a “socially frowned upon” manner, we need to stop and ask why.
First- we need to ask if this “socially unacceptable” behavior is hurting the child and/or others. If not, then it’s probably not worth worrying about anyway.
Believe me, I completely get the frustration and even the embarrassment.
But it’s not about me.
We need to shift our perspective and consider the behavior from the child’s point of view.
If the behavior does need to change (because it is causing potential harm to the child and/or others), then rather than focusing on how the behaviors are impacting us- we need to change the question.
We need to ask- What need is this behavior fulfilling for the person?
All behavior happens for a reason.
Even the most seemingly random behavior has a purpose.
It may just be that the behavior was slowly building over the course of the day until it reached the point where it spilled over in a moment of sensory overload.
It could be that the environment is simply too overwhelming, for a variety of reasons. Remember- your experience is very different from your child’s. Pause- look around- and consider the situation from the child’s perspective.
Or it may be that a circumstance that usually wouldn’t faze the child will suddenly be too much to handle if the child is either emotionally or physically tired.
We as adults are the same.
Think about the difference in how you respond to your child when you are running late versus when you are heading out on a leisurely morning.
All behavior serves a purpose.
The Endless Question
Ben tends to ask the same questions over and over.
This summer, the question has been, “Are you my mom?”
He knows perfectly well that I’m his mom.
I’ve tried answering playfully (“No- I’m your aunt's cousin's sister"), but I’ve noticed that it is no joking matter to him.
Since Ben is taking the question seriously, I decided that I need to also.
I started thinking about the times when he asks the question.
Usually it’s when we are in a new place or if we are with people who are unfamiliar to him.
I thought about what Ben really wants to know when he asks the question.
He wants to be reassured that I am, in fact, his mom.
He wants to hear that I will always be here for him.
He wants the security of knowing that I will never leave.
And so, when he asks the question, for the umpteenth time, even if it’s in line at Target and the shopper behind me is raising an eyebrow and wondering who knows what, I have found my answer.
“Are you my mom?” he’ll ask.
“Am I your mom?” I ask with a raised eyebrow.
“You’re my mom,” he answers with relief.
And, rather than worrying about how his behavior appears to the outside world, I’m choosing to focus on what the behavior is telling me that my six year old boy needs.
And, sorry, there will be no videos on You Tube to show for it.