All-theism -- by Laura Houston
Two weeks ago I wrote a blog about religion and the effects a zealous parent can have on a child. I received a lot of responses. Most of them were very thoughtful and eye opening. One reader asked if I had discussed the eldest son’s upsetting comments with his mother. I had. And as you can imagine, it did not go well. She was defensive. Rightfully so. I would be, too.
And so the conversation began in my local mom’s group: Do you tell another parent that you find their child’s behavior offensive?
Our answers were as mixed as our feelings on it. Most of us agreed that the right thing to do is to try to figure out a way to dialog about it. But too few of us who had done it successfully without alienating a friend.
Children learn through socialization. So do parents. As painful as it is to hear someone say something your child is doing, it’s still a valuable learning tool. A parent has to figure out what information is important and what’s not when filtering other parents concerns. It’s a delicate process.
I often find myself torn when imparting information regarding a child. By no means am I an expert, but I have had a lot of training in behavior disorders and socialization. I used to be a social worker – a case manager to 57 at-risk youth and their families. I was also a foster mom to two high-needs boys. I took a lot of classes on parenting and mentoring kids with special needs. I have also attended 50+ hours of family and art therapy classes geared to help children attach, bond and better socialize. But all of my learning has been trial by fire. Books and classrooms are poor substitutions for real life.
My job to as a case manager was to mediate between child, parent, teacher, school administrators, lawyers, and juvenile court justices. Don’t let the title and the job description fool you. It was much easier to discuss child behavior with parents and teachers when it was my job rather than as a mother.
One of my foster sons had been sexually abused, and he had acted out with another child. Therefore the state would not allow him to be alone with other children under any circumstance. I also had to notify the parents of the children he played with that he had issues, and he was not to be left alone with their child. At the time, I lived in a “transitional neighborhood” where there was a mix of upper, middle and lower class residence. I found the parents to not only be tolerant of my son, but I found them to be supportive, as well.
I had a lot of parents come to me to talk about my son’s behavior. I could do it maturely and compassionately and with vested interest, but the moment I shut the door, I wanted to only to cry. It’s a terrible thing to watch a child say and do things that will eventually ostracize them. But thanks to the teamwork, my foster son is doing fine today. He knows the price he will pay if he ever steps out of line and acts out. He’s careful. He’s mindful. He fears shame and alienation of his peers. He knows people are watching, and he also knows people care about him.
So, yes, talk to the parents. I lost a friend in doing so, but if I look back, I gained a few along the way, too. After all, it takes a village. And I think how much better the world would be if we were all watching. Not judging. Just watching. And communicating with one another to keep our kids safe physically, mentally and socially. Because bigotry, violence, hatred, and unhappiness are all learned behaviors. It would be a better world if we called them out.