I’ve received some awful parenting advice over the years, mainly from well-meaning busybodies who have no understanding of my situation, no clue about my kids and no idea that unsolicited parenting advice is not all that helpful (or wanted!)
As a special needs parent, most parenting advice is irrelevant. It really is. Even if it’s well intentioned.
Believe me on this one.
Take the following examples of advice given to me based on real life examples. Now all these were well-intentioned pieces of advice but none of them helped me in the slightest. In fact, most of the time I came away feeling worse rather than being comforted or supported!
You may know of a distant cousin, who’s daughter has “a touch of autism.” You may be aware that they have put her on a gluten free/casein free diet and that has “cured” her. You may think that because my kids also have autism that I should be doing this too. You may even INSIST on me trying it because it could actually cure my kids’ autism.
You’d be WRONG. There is no cure for autism and, you know what, I wouldn’t want to “cure” my kids anyway. I love them as they are. However, you obviously think there’s something that needs to be “cured” so let me help you with that by walking out of your life.
You may have witnessed my son having a meltdown in the supermarket and feel the overwhelming desire to chastise me for my poor parenting as I seemed to just let it happen, right there in the middle of aisle 5. You may also feel the urge to point out that all my kids need is a little more discipline. Because, back in your day, the cane, strap and belt did the job just fine.
You’d be WRONG. You see, my son has just spent the whole day holding himself together in school, a place where there are unwritten rules everywhere. Rules that he just can’t understand.
He is exhausted from trying to engage in social interactions, tired from concentrating all day and weary from trying to keep his ever present anxiety at bay. Plus the lights in the supermarket are bright (& reflect off the shiny floor, making the glare worse), the ambient noise level is high and the squeaky sound of that one errant wheel on the trolley is reverberating through his head.
He’s not having a temper tantrum. He is having a sensory meltdown. And all I can do right now is stay quiet, not shout at him and give him time to recover. So feel free to take your advice elsewhere and relive the ‘good old days’ of corporal punishment somewhere other than here.
You may see my son on the street and remark on his “very blonde” hair and general paleness. You may even suggest that he may want to get a spray tan and even dye his hair and eyebrows one day so he can fit in and not look so different. Because you are worried he’ll be bullied and picked on at school.
You’d be WRONG. My son is actually proud of looking different and being unique. He doesn’t need anyone telling him that this is a BAD thing. No-one needs to be told they need to change their appearance in order to fit in or be accepted by others. So keep walking on and in future keep your potentially damaging thoughts to yourself.
You’d be forgiven for thinking I have only ever received bad advice based on the above example. But, I have actually received some good advice over the years too and lucky for you I have recorded some of these gems for your viewing pleasure.
But I do have to admit that the bad parenting advice lingers far longer in the mind than the good stuff. Don’t you agree?
As a result, I’m wary of any parenting advice thrown my way as, most of the time, it’s something I’ve already considered, already tried and already discounted, for very good reason.
So, here’s a tip for the future. I don’t want your parenting advice. I thank you for thinking of me but, for my own mental and emotional wellbeing, just keep it to yourself. If I need help, I’ve learned to ask for it and if I need to, I will ask for help!
Tell me that I’m not the only battle hardened special needs parent dealing with this?