How to Advocate for Your Child
As you meander the cereal aisle with your boisterous and defiant five-year-old in tow, you sigh deeply. With this being his third big tantrum of the day and it’s only 10:30am, your patience is running low as are your options on how to address his behaviors. You have done the tried and true methods of natural and logical consequences including loss of toys, early bed, and time outs with none of these methods proving any real level of success. You are at your wits end and you don’t know how to make it better.
Children are Going to Act Out as They Grow
Even still, you keep a calm voice and attempt to redirect him. Instead of following through with the request though he follows through with a heavy slap on your arm. In shock, you call out his name in a firm tone and grab his hand to start walking. Although not optimistic, you hope that the new sights of another aisle will distract him enough and you can complete the grocery trip quickly. Unfortunately, as anticipated, it doesn’t and his behaviors continue to escalate with curse words and screaming that echo throughout the high ceilings of the store. It doesn’t help that he has an audience as well now. Shoppers who were once casually perusing the aisles for baking items, breads, and dairy, catch sight of the situation and immediately focus their attention on the outcry.
You give a slight nod in the direction of one of those customers, hoping that the gesture would provide some reassurance that you haven’t totally lost it yet. She quickly diverts her eyes in response as if to avoid acknowledgment of her unwanted glare she provided. You also hear murmurs from other guests nearby as they mumble under their breaths things like “I’m so glad that my children don’t behave this way,” and “Oh, my, my, what a naughty little boy she has, I can’t believe she lets him act like that in public.”
As if to prove their point, your son continues to fight back. He kicks, screams, scratches, and bites leaving you no choice but to let go momentarily. He tears down the aisle with great speed and throws box after box onto the laminate floor. Embarrassed you quickly set the food back on the closest shelf and prepare to take hold once more of your son. This time placing him in the cart itself in an attempt to try and contain him.
With an initial wave of relief he stays seated and you move on to other items from your rather extensive list. As you take a few steps away from the cart though on another aisle, you feel something hit your back. “Ouch” you say as you look down to see a box of cheesy crackers on the ground by your feet. Hearing a snicker, you then turn in the direction of your son as he lifts another item to throw. Out of frustration, you pick up your little boy and leave the store, abandoning your partially filled cart right there in the aisle.
Tips for Handling Your Child’s Behavior
Some of you have felt this exasperation. You have felt the embarrassment and frustration as well that comes with having no real control over your child’s behavior and the public scrutiny that coincides with it. No one wants to be THAT parent, but it happens. For those of you who may have related a little too well to this situation, know that there are many steps that you can take to help advocate for your child.
- Document, Document, Document… – Keep diligent records of your child’s behaviors, diagnosis, medical appointments and providers. This information is essential is pushing for more services as well as informing new members of the treatment team of your child’s medical and behavioral history.
Communicate With Your Child
- Talk to your child – If your child is of age and able to communicate his or her needs, let them. By allowing them a voice, you are allowing them to assume some responsibility for their treatment and recovery.
Learn About Your Child’s Behavior from Professionals
- Ask Questions – No one can be an expert in everything. When there is some confusion or misunderstanding, don’t be afraid to ask questions of the professionals. They are more than willing to clear up any muddy waters. If you have concerns about remembering questions, feel free to carry a small note book with you or write a memo in your phone. This way you can recall any and all questions that you may have when you have the opportunity to speak with the professionals.
- Educate Yourself – Learn about your child’s diagnosis. Become aware of the signs and symptoms as well as possible treatment options for the conditions. This information is powerful when trying to push for new and different services for your child in which you may not have otherwise been unfamiliar.
- Ask for a Second, or even a Third Opinion – You know your child best. If you feel that a provider is not meeting your child’s needs or listening to you, seek counsel from someone else. There is no harm is finding out more resources that could benefit your child or locating another professional that may have more insight or knowledge of the diagnosis.
- Find a Community – Search for others who have been in similar situations or are currently facing the same challenges. Learning from these individuals will help identify potential pitfalls and educate on possible services making the process just a bit easier. You also discover that you are not alone in these trials and that does wonders in boasting your confidence as you deal with the situations that your child presents.
- Maintain Open Communication – Talk with physicians, attend school conferences, speak to your child’s therapist, and participate in family therapy. Do anything you can to learn about your child in these others settings. It may even be helpful to call or email between these scheduled meetings in order to provide updates of how your child is performing should something intense occur.
Advocate For and Take Care of Yourself Too
- Self-Care – In order to advocate for others, it is important to know how to advocate for yourself. It is okay to put some focus on yourself and your needs. This allows you to be better prepared to deal with the challenges that come with caring for a child with higher needs.
So before your son loses his cool again in the grocery store and you approach your last nerve, take the necessary steps to get the support and services that he needs. Speak up. Speak loudly. Know that you are his voice until he is strong enough to find his own. And whatever you do, do not ever give up. Your son has the ability to overcome this and it starts with you advocating for him so go get ‘em.