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Selfish Parenting: Not always the best route

Updated on October 16, 2012

Children look for limits, we must set them.

As a parent of a child with a disability plus two "neurotypical" children, I am exposed to many different types of parenting styles. What I have noticed more and more is a brand of "selfish parenting". They proclaim this to me and to others, this is NOT a label I came up with. This group of parents proudly announce to all the world that they are indeed selfish in their decisions as parents.

I admit that there IS a time and a place to be "selfish" as a parent, but I do not agree when it causes issues for those trying to raise their children around you.

One prime example is when you see a family at a playground. Of course there are always those parents who are walking with their children, making sure that their child is safe and that there are no altercations with other children that might cause angst on either end. I, as a parent of young children and even now as my children are older and more independent was always cautious of my children's safety and that they were behaving properly and not engaging in bullying or rude behavior. This is something I rarely see in the parents who are coming up AFTER me. Here is what we see. The handfull of parents engaged with their children or with other parents. The parent completely uninvolved, busy texting, talking or surfing while they have no idea what their children are up to. Granted, I have done this NOW. But my children are older and I am always aware of where they are. I try to limit those conversations when I am with the kids out somewhere since it is my time with them. Lastly you have parents who are right next to their children watching poor behavior and smiling. They truly believe every single thing their child does or says is absolutely acceptable and adorable. At times, it is, and there are the times,when it is not, which is the problem.

If your child is of a certain age, especially double digits and they are still completely unaware of how their behavior affects others, it is not a good plan. It may be time to take a step back and realize that this is not going to be good in the teenage years. I am not speaking of children with a diagnosis, but I can honestly say, that many children with IEPs and therapists are fair more aware of their behavior than those who do not have issues.

There comes a point when behavior ceases to be "cute". When your child is up to your shoulder and still throwing temper tantrums (again without a diagnosis) then it may be time to reevaluate your situation and your parenting styles.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also have a teenager who is on the autism spectrum. He has major social deficits that we have to work with everyday. We have coined the phrase "Captain Inappropriate" to help him understand which behaviors are socially acceptable, and which ones are NOT. I have met many other parents of teens on the spectrum and I see how they parent similar to me, trying to teach their child to assimilate while applauding their differences and gifts as well.

I am finding that the younger parents of ASD children are looking at the issues slightly different. They seem to have a mind set that the WORLD must change to accommodate THEIR children. While I agree to some degree, I do not feel this is a realistic way to bring up your children. I am well aware that meltdowns happen and at times there is little a parent can do in public except wait out the storm. Been there, done that. I have lived through the scorn, dirty looks and scolding by store managers and workers over my son. I get it. However, many of the "younger" parents are expecting everyone around them to embrace this behavior. I do not agree. Although our children have a major neurological difference to other children. I do not believe that we shouldn't attempt to correct them and redirect them towards another form of letting the anxiety out. Tantrums are unacceptable for ANYONE especially as your child becomes an adult. An autistic child is one thing and autistic adult is quite another thing. We MUST work with our children and help them with "coping mechanisms". It is an insult to our children that parents believe that they cannot learn new more acceptable and safe behaviors. They can and they will with patience and perseverance.

My son and my parenting abilities are far from perfect. But he tries and so do we to help him be a part of society. He can stand out but in a positive way if we work with him. So can all children. I truly believe this especially after visiting day hab facilities and group homes. We have to start when they are young or what will they be when they are adults?

I read a blog where many parents of disabled children were looking at the upcoming election. They all stated that they would vote selfishly. That they could care less about the state of the economy, foreign affairs, the unemployed and many other issues that are hot topics at the moment. All they cared about was whether Healthcare would cover their children and that there would be money for them to continue to take care of their children. While I completely understand, I was taken back that they would NOT research all candidates and issues and learn about what other people were going through in these tough times. They were only interested in care of those with Autism. As an advocate for the disabled, I am a bit upset.

My child may have autism, but I am well aware that this is NOT the only disability that needs care and funding. We need to step back before we scream about being selfish and realize that we too are acting Autistic, being only aware on oneself. This behavior is rarely acceptable nor helpful to anyone if you are trying to function as part of a society. We also need to stop only looking at causes, cures and early intervention for autism, but at those who are HERE and what we can do for them to make them part of society. A real part of it.

Breathe. It is very difficult to be a parent and even more so to have a child with special needs. However do not forget that we are RAISING THE FUTURE. It is in OUR hands. We must not raise our children to be self centered and socially unacceptable. We must teach them to be accomplished, caring, giving and polite individuals. Take a step back and see if that is what you are putting out to our future. Many will proudly say Yes. However, I hope some will pause and think, perhaps not. I have done that on occasion, it is a good thing to do. Step back and re evaluate. This is the most important job you will ever have. There are not do overs. Be smart.

Your children cannot always win the game or the race. They cannot always be in the starting line up. Other kids deserve a chance too. A trophy is NOT always awarded. Disappointment and hearing the word NO is an important part of growing up as well. It better prepares us all for reality that we cannot escape no matter how hard we try.


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