Saturday, February 12, 2011

When is it okay to intervene on behalf of a child?

Ms Dorothy
The other day I was in the doctor's office when an older couple came in with an almost 2 year old. They were obviously grand- or even great-grandparents of this little girl. She was very active (of course) and friendly and wanted to walk around and talk to people. She wanted to come over and talk to me. grandparents said no, and threatened her with a spanking. ____ just couldn't sit still. Grandpa smacked her hands, saying 'no', telling her to sit. I couldn't help get involved a bit, and suggested maybe looking at a book. That helped for a bit. Until the book was over and ____ wanted to come visit with me. Grandpa smacked her again. Grandma said,'shame on you' and things just got worse. I couldn't stand it, but did not know what to do! Is there anything to be done when one witnesses such a glaring ignorance of normal, acceptable developmental behavior and horrific parenting? People are so staunch in their defense of their parenting styles...
-A Child Advocate

Consider that a positive pre-supposition can make finding a solution easier because it diffuses your own emotions about the situation.  

A lack of understanding about normal developmental behavior is really at the heart here. These grandparents are acting out of loving concern for the child, and not with an intent to harm her. Coming from that perspective can really help re-frame the situation in a way that opens opportunities to help. 

Starting a conversation with them, and sharing your background as a teacher might ease their concern about the child talking with strangers, or give them a chance to share their concern about her spreading germs to you (this was in a doctor's office after all.)

Whenever a situation concerns you, whether ignorant or malicious, the best approach is often to diffuse the attention on the child by engaging the adults in a conversation. 

Sharing your own, very similar, experiences is often the best way to make an ally of someone who's behavior or mind you want to change: even if you have to make it up.

Tell them about how you were really firm with your own child till you learned that this behavior was normal, and how hard it was to realize that they just can't be still at this age. Compare notes on when your own daughter would talk to strangers everywhere, and how  you had to learn to keep a close watch on her till she was old enough to understand the danger.  

If they see you empathizing with their circumstances, they are more likely to be open to your input.

No comments:

Post a Comment