Reinforcing a Disability in the name of “Family”

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
― Plato


She is 3 years old has a full life ahead of her. She is just discovering the pleasures of mud, the joys of a sunny day, and the wonderful experience of dessert. Every morning she awakes with the anticipation of the wonders that the new day will bring.

She walks into the living room, wiping the sleep from her eyes. Her tummy makes a loud rumble. She is new to understanding the messages her body gives her, and she is still learning how to communicate with people to allow them to know what is in her thoughts and emotions.

She looks for her mother, so she can have her hunger pains satisfied, but her mother is too busy dealing with an issue that her older brother is having.

The sounds of her brother’s frustration are filling the house. He is stomping about, making loud noises to express his displeasure.

She observes her mother in the process of correcting her brother about one reason or another, but her attempts seem to only escalate the situation. She hears her mother’s raised voice. She sees the mother’s arms flailing about frantically. The expression on her mother’s face frightens the little girl, but her tummy is beginning to ache without breakfast to fill it.

In her sweet voice and simple vocabulary, she bravely says, “Mommy, hungry.”

Her mother is too focused in dealing with whatever situation her brother is involved in. In her mother’s opinion, the situation must be dealt with immediately.

Not realizing that she is adding to the stress of the household, the mother gets frustrated, and starts to raise her voice even louder. She threatens her son with a lashing.

“MOMMY, HUNGRY,” but the daughter’s words fall on deaf ears.

The little girl is feeling the miserableness of an empty stomach. All she knows is that she is hungry, and she is not even being acknowledged.

How can she make herself heard? What can she do to be recognized? Her little 3-year-old mind does her best to look at the problem and find remedy. Finally, it dawns on her…

What would her brother do?

Not knowing any better, only knowing hunger, she impulsively grabs a picture from the end table next to her and slams it with all her strength on the floor.

“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.” ― Dave Pelzer, A Child Called “It”

With the sounds of shattered glass, all the yelling stops, and the focus is now on the daughter.

The mother looks condescendingly at her daughter. In the mothers mind, she begins to chart the recent behavior of her daughter. She begins to use her experienced, but unprofessional knowledge of her son and applies it to her daughter.

She picks up her cellphone and calls her son’s case manager.

“She is starting to behave like my son, I think she has the same problem.”

The role of parent is a hard one, indeed. You must be a supporter, a comforter, a provider, a teacher, a doctor, and many more, too numerous to list. For parents that have more than one child, sometimes you have to wear many hats, all at once. If you are a parent of one or more special needs children, this can further complicate the parenting role.

As a parent, we try focus on the what we believe is needed to keep the family safe. Often, we are so focused on the immediacy of a situation, we lack the ability to look at the larger picture or take our children’s feelings into account.

When we are in the middle of a crisis, we react with the typical short sightedness of people whose lives might be in danger. Our “Fight or Flight” response occurs, regardless of what the reality of the situation should call for.

To our detriment, many would not see a little girl who is suffering from hunger pains. We do not hear her words expressing a need that the little girl views as critical. We do not realize the effect that the family situation has on the little one.

What we do is apply our current emotional crisis response being redirected on a situation that we parents are also creating. We infer, we diagnose, we judge our children into a situation that can only lead to the imitation of what the little ones see around them.

And in our Adult, Authoritarian, Parental perspective, we do not see the situation. We, instead, use the concept of genetic predisposition, medical opinion, and psychological diagnosis as the excuse for why our families seem to be dysfunctional.

I am not saying that this happens all the time, but it is time to stop using science to excuse our own “Bad Parenting Skills.” More parents need to start using understanding, mercy, forgiveness, and love, like all of us dreamed of getting when we were children;

When we were unheard, when we were unfairly punished, when we were thought of as “unimportant.”