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If you have lived on this earth long enough, you have probably figured one thing out about other human beings – apparently, everyone is an expert at parenting except for you and that includes people who have never had children of their own!
Why Do People Criticize & Judge The Parenting Of Autistic Children?
It is absolutely amazing to consider the vast number of people around you who KNOW THE ANSWERS to the mystery of parenting “perfect” children and yet they haven’t published their book yet. Even more amazing is that these same “experts” can also tell you EXACTLY how to fix all of the struggles that you may be having as a parent of a child with autism. Aren’t you glad that you have all of these experts to consult with when you are overwhelmed and experiencing meltdowns, food refusals, elopement, self-injurious behavior, aggression, verbal protests, and all of the other characteristics of autism?
Yes – that was sarcasm.
The truth is – all of these experts are nothing more than judges who may or may not have had success in dealing with whatever you are dealing with at the moment. The only reasons for judging others is either to be genuinely helpful (although judging is not the ideal way to begin helping) and/or because judging others takes the spotlight off of our own inadequacies by showcasing the inadequacies of others.
“We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of others.”
What Does It Mean When People Judge And Critique My Parenting? Am I A Bad Parent?
“Show me a perfect mother and I’ll show you a leprechaun, riding a unicorn, over a double rainbow, with a fairy holding a pot of gold at the end of it.”
While this quote may be funny to a degree, there is a more simplistic way to view the judgment of others. Consider this as a way to deal with criticism:
“What others think of me is none of my business.”
If you were to adopt this frame of mind and remind yourself that outside opinions are completely irrelevant and not helpful, you will give yourself the grace and the peace of mind to parent your child with autism in a way that suits your family and in a way that is fitting for your child with autism.
Even if another parent who has a child with autism is judging you, chances are that they are dealing with an entirely different set of struggles and their child is not going to match your child’s struggles note for note. Each child is unique whether they are typically developing children or atypically developing children on the autism spectrum. There is no “one size fits all’- even in the realm of autism.
So, when it comes to other people judging and criticizing you for your parenting, you should not take it to heart and it might be worth your time to have a few strategies or “go-to” lines ready for these critics so that you can excuse them and continue tending to the needs of your child with autism.
Ideas For Dealing With Judgemental People:
Especially if it is a stranger in public, ignoring them can be very popular. You have no obligation to answer to someone that you don’t know and you are also teaching your child not to engage with strangers when you take this approach.
This is especially important if this is family. Some of the harshest critics can be aunts, uncles, grandparents, or best friends. A little bit of information about autism might go a very long way if done in a loving way and in a way that helps them to consider what your child is capable of and what they are not capable of.
If someone is butting in during a stressful moment (tantrums, escaping, etc), it’s okay to be direct with them. You can say, “Thank you. I know you are trying to be helpful but all we need right now is a little space and I have this under control.”
Take over the conversation and turn the questions or talkback on the critic. Ask them questions like, “I’m just curious as to why you feel compelled to help me and my child. Do you have a child with autism? Did you find a solution to all of your child’s behaviors? I’d love to hear about it.” (Yes, it is a bit sarcastic but it also gets the job done in a polite yet “leave me and my imperfections alone” sort of way).
Remember that even on a “perfect” day when you manage to get through the day with minimal stress and a very positive day with your autistic child. You will still be judged because people get some strange satisfaction from judging others. If you can remind yourself that you will be judged, either way, it is easier to laugh it off and proceed with the important things in life like teaching and helping your child with autism.
What To Do When People Criticize And Judge Parenting
Could outside judgment be what you need?
It is good to consider that there may be some validity to outside judgment if you are hearing the same message again and again.
Parents of children with autism are not always the victim of judgment here. Sometimes parents of children with autism are the perpetrators that make things difficult for others around us by being inconsiderate and making too many excuses for our children with autism.
Self-reflection is important and as a parent with autism it would be of great benefit to you and your child and even your family to take an honest inventory of how things are going at home, at school, and in public. Ask yourself a few questions:
When it comes to responding to your child and some of the struggles at home, it’s important both parents be on the same page. If not, sit down and discuss this because a divided house will fall and a child with autism will quickly learn how to play one parent against the other when they want something. This is innate with all children and children with autism are equally gifted in this skill.
A great example of this is when your child’s teacher calls you at home with a grievance. Do you defend the child no matter what the concern is or do you listen and accept what is being said? By listening and considering the situation, you may be able to work alongside your child’s teacher to address a struggle with consistency at home and at school. This is beneficial to your child because you are their biggest advocate.
You might notice this when you are out in public at the grocery store, restaurants, libraries, or wherever you may roam with your child – are you often hearing the same commentary from complete strangers? For example, are you hearing strangers complain about screaming or throwing things or harming other children? Are you listening and trying to strategize ways to reduce or eliminate these behaviors or do you just chalk it up to your child “being autistic”? Take note of repeated commentary and get help in addressing the problem- stop making excuses for your child.
What Is The Benefit Of Positive Reactions To Criticism?
Responding positively to criticism is good practice. The most important reason for responding positively is to model acceptable and appropriate behavior in front of a child who is watching and learning. If you respond to a stranger with profanity or physical gestures, guess what you will see from your child shortly thereafter? Profanity and physical gestures.
Are there other benefits? Of course! How about accepting the fact that no matter how long we have been a parent, or how long we have lived on this earth we will never stop learning. The only way to learn is to listen and to think through and examine the things that we read or hear.
We may not ask for advice and we may be resentful of unsolicited advice if it is given in the midst of a public struggle with your child who has autism. However, it might be worth five minutes of your time to think back and evaluate what was said and honestly apply the advice to you and your child. Did the person have a valid point? Did something that was said ring true for you? Then, be wise and accept the truth and get the help you need.
If you can accept commentary with grace and if you can be painfully honest with yourself you will be giving your child the skills that they need for the rest of their lives. Teaching your child to be an active listener who can accept constructive criticism and examine what was said with honesty is a skill that many people would like to ignore because it forces deep self-reflection. Sometimes we don’t like ourselves because we know we aren’t doing the right thing. These skills can help you and your child with autism to self-correct and do the right thing. As a result, we will be more comfortable in our own skin.
Don’t navigate this world and the world of autism alone. Find other families who are experiencing some of the same things. Find a specialized autism support group or seek private counseling just to keep yourself in check.
It’s easy to let the outside world get to you when you are hard at work trying to help a child on the autism spectrum.
Circle Care Services can help you and your family through these difficulties. We have parent training, a social skills group for your child and we can help you to get connected with the resources and the people that you need to surround yourself with.
Give us a call!