A recent post by IHM had a comment about some parents being in denial about their child’s problems and this made me think about my own work. Being a child and adolescent psychologist involves a lot of work with parents (Unfortunately! I don’t hate parents, but it would be much easier if I could work with just the child and/or teen!) And I have seen all kinds:
- The ones that are involved and want what’s best for their child,
- The ones that are over-involved and pushy,
- The ones that are blissfully ignorant and think that their child is an angel and it’s everyone else’s fault their kid gets into trouble,
- And of course, the ones that accept there is a problem but won’t do anything to help fix it because that is the school’s job or the psychologist-with-a-magic-wand’s job.
I get really annoyed with the last three.
And sadly, more often than not, they are the ones I get to see.
I just don’t understand it. If a person chooses to have kids (and trust me, it’s a choice even if it was an “accident”), they need to take responsibility for bringing up these kids. And in that case, I fail to understand where the last two types of parents come from. The ones who think it’s everyone else’s responsibility but their own. The ones that are in complete denial.
If I had a dollar for every time a parent told me “But it’s not little Johnny’s fault…it’s other children…or it’s the teachers picking on him…”, I’d be rich. Or for the ones that go “I have [insert number] children to look after, I can’t spend extra time with this one just because he has learning difficulties” Yes, I’d be a millionaire. [When parents that give me this last statement, I often find myself thinking “That’s no excuse…you chose to have these many kids!“]
I understand that every parent loves their child to bits and will not want to hear something negative about them. But sometimes, when your child is behaving like a brat and is bullying other kids or is spreading false rumours or is being physically aggressive towards others without being provoked, well, there is a problem! And when a teacher says there is a problem, they are able to see your kid in comparison to others his/her age. More often than not, when teachers suspect something (especially the more experienced ones), they tend to be right. But then, it’s up to the parents to do something about it. I’ve known of parents who blamed the school for a child’s oppositional behaviour. Okay, one school could have been wrong. But 3? Seriously. Same behaviour occurring at three different schools. One common factor: The child! If your child is struggling in all academic areas, it probably suggests that there is either a learning disorder or low intellectual ability. Being in denial about it doesn’t necessarily change his abilities. In fact, being in denial and putting more pressure on the kid is probably going to make things a whole lot worse.
The parents that accept there is a problem but then expect the school or me to fix it without contributing anything are also deluding themselves. After all, I would see a child for one hour a week as against the zillion hours the parents see the kid. And why is the problem solely the child? God forbid it’s something about the parenting that needs to change! I constantly tell parents I do not have a magic wand. Some laugh. Some smile. Some look at me uncertainly. But I’m being serious. I do not have a magic wand. And if they need to see some form of change, they need to put in the effort as well. And that might involve changing parenting tactics. Not giving in to the child’s every whim and fancy. Ignoring minor whinging or complaining.
You know how most parents-to-be attend birthing classes? Well, I think it should be made mandatory for parents to attend parenting classes as well when they are expecting a child. The Triple P could be one such course rolled out to new parents. And then classes on normal child development. And then, in case the child is later diagnosed (e.g. ADHD, ASD, Depression, Anxiety) they can seek the relevant help.
But I bet I will hear human rights people having a go at me for “taking away people’s freedom” or dictating too much or being a nanny-state.
Honestly though, what else can we do but educate? And what better way than when someone is expecting a child?
Until next time,