Monday, May 31, 2010

From the Other Side of the Looking Glass

I don’t know about other parents, but when my children (including Ricki), act up in public, I will promptly correct them. But, often, when it is Ricki, people tell me, or otherwise indicate through an expression, or a wave of the hand, that it is not necessary; they understand and forgive. If they look insistent, I will mention that it is necessary for me to rebuke her, for her own education.
But is that REALLY the reason?
I have recently been teaching math to an older teen who has Down syndrome. This young man seems to have a decent self esteem, and has no hesitations about speaking his mind. His mother, at least in my presence, seems to be intent on correcting every mistake as soon as possible, and sometimes I have to motion to her to give the young man time to think, without pressure.
A week ago, as they were leaving, she urged him to tell me “goodbye”, and in typical teen style, he refused. She tried again, and he mumbled “She’s a stranger”. The mother insisted that I was not a stranger and I FELT like making that “It’s OK” motion with my hand, although I didn’t. I simply spoke directly to the young fellow, and said, “Well, I DO want to wish YOU a good day!” At that, he said “goodbye” , and headed down the stairs.
Now WHY did I WANT to make that “It’s OK” sign? Because, as much as I understood the pressure she felt, that maybe she would feel less capable as a mother if her son acted out, I wanted her to realize that I was not insulted, that she could talk to him about it at her leisure, and certainly not in front of me. I was calm about it as well…
Oh, but if Ricki had done this, I would have probably reacted much as my student’s mother had, and I would NOT be as calm or collected as I was when it was someone else’s child. So I suspect that much of my reaction IS due to embarrassment, and not solely for “educational” purposes.
It was very enlightening for me to see the difference in my reaction, and I think that next time Ricki misbehaves in public, I will try to imagine how I would feel if I was a bystander, and not the mother, and react purely in a way and tone that will be beneficial for her education. It’s perhaps a tall order, but one worth perusing….


RivkA with a capital A said...

It's kind of humbling to "see ourselves" through "other eyes."

I saw a mother parent her ADD child without patience and realized that sometimes I behave similarly.

It was clear to me that the other mother should exhibit more understanding, forcing me to realize that I also should exhibit more understanding.....

I would not have noticed my own mistake had I not witnessed the same behavior in someone else.


Staying Afloat said...

Oh yeah, been there. Both with E. and my "typical" kids. It's hard to know when to enforce and when not to. I like to expect a lot of my kids, but they don't like to deliver.

And RivkA, agreed that when I hear That Voice on someone else, it reflects back on me horribly. I heard a mother alternately begging and scolding her kid, and I felt so much for her because I knew exactly why she was doing it, and that it wouldn't work.