Our instinct as a parent is to protect our kids.
That’s a good thing.
Sometimes, though, we need to protect them by not protecting them.
See, we spend a lot of time teaching kids how to be polite to others who have differences and that’s super important, but parents of children with differences also have the task of equipping their child with the ability to handle what are oftentimes awkward and sometimes even hurtful situations. My friend Eric recently shared one of these somewhat awkward experiences that his son Sam had.
Eric is one of my favorite people on planet Earth and I love that he shared this. It’s a universal experience for parents of a physically different child. Our instinct is to jump in, right? To protect our child by correcting the offender. Maybe teach the person a lesson. Or at least let our kid know we have her back. Mama bear, etc. And honestly, this is true for any kid, regardless of their limb configuration.
I remember having a talk with my dad about this once and what he told me made a lot of sense. He said that when I was little and I encountered a situation where another kid was being pushy or asking questions over and over or touching my arm without asking…he would keep his distance and just watch. He said it was almost unbearable at times, but, “I knew you were going to have to deal with this for your whole life, so I wanted you to learn how you best dealt with it.” Of course he would have stepped in if things got out of hand (so to speak), but he couldn’t remember ever having to do that. Sometimes he’d talk with me about what happened afterwards, just to see how I was doing, and I’m sure that helped to reinforce the skills I had just worked on.
I realize that telling people how to parent is basically like prancing into a mine field, so please take this for what it’s worth. I’ve seen and experienced the value in this approach first-hand, which is why I’m sharing it and I hope it challenges you and that you find it helpful, too. It’s not easy, I know, but in the long run I think it puts our kids at an advantage and makes them even stronger.
What do you think? Is this your approach, too? Have any other tips from your experience? Please share them below!
Ryan as a father I always appreciate your insight and perspective. I have to always remind myself I can’t fix it and need to help my son learn how to deal with his difference in a healthy way. And as a parent it will always be hard to step back so he can grow and learn how to deal with people and their curiosity around his nub. Thanks for your contribution to the community.
So true, Todd. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I, too, was brought up by parents who allowed me to figure these situations out for myself. I remember my mom telling me of a time when I was 5 or 6 and we were waiting in line in a store when a nun behind us said “Oh, you poor little thing! What happened to your arm?” I looked right at her and said “A bear ate it!” My mom said she didn’t know whether to laugh or discipline me forr being rude, but she said she then knew I’d always be able to deal with like situations afterwards!
Great stories !!! I too believe that it is important to let your child figure out “things” for themselves in most situations. The dad observed and was ready to intervene if he felt it was necessary. I too would talk to my son about encounters with people and we would do some role playing in preparation for any other future encounter.
Jan, I love your daughters answer about the “bear.” It shows her spunk and sense of humor.
Thanks for the nice stories.