Knock Out the Bad Behavior

I received the following response to my “Oral Hygiene” blog from someone I will call Walt. Walt had the following advice for me: “Where is this boy's father?  The problem is clear in your post and it has nothing to do with Giftedness - the boy is not being properly socialized.  A father or grandfather can do that for him.  On top of that your treatment of him is making his behavior worse. There's so much wrong with this story I can't go through everything. 

You need to assert your dominance as the leader and make the boy comply.  He relies on you for his survival and he needs to know you are in charge.  Instead you're letting the boy run wild.  This is bad not only because he is running wild but also because your lack of control is freighting him.  If you cannot show leadership that he is forced to follow then you are letting him know that the person he relies on for survival is not up to doing the job of keeping him alive.

Do not baby your boy too much. He needs to learn to be a boy. Do not over-protect him. He needs to explore and learn to be independent. You do not want to raise a flighty, paranoid child. When he acts afraid of something that he should not be afraid of, do not pick him up and ooh and ahh over him. Simply tell him it is okay, and show him the object, person, etc. Your confidence will make him a confident and dependable child. If you feed his fears, he will become a snappy and untrustworthy boy. He's already showing signs of responding to fear with aggression.

Knock out the bad behavior now else things will only get worse when he is a teen.”

While my first impulse was to bang my head against my computer screen and scream, “Why doesn’t anybody get it!?!” I maintained control and wrote a nice reply back to Walt. I hope he has many wonderful experiences in life, including the chance to parent or grandparent a 2E kid.

Actually, I am grateful for Walt's comments, because they perfectly illustrate most of the wrong-headed notions people have about our kids. But I'm not being entirely honest, what I really wanted to say to him is the following:

(Warning: If you are expecting a professional, advice-filled column, don't read this. It is a reactive rant that reflects the week I've had.)

  1. Our kids are shrieking and flailing about at any given public event because we have not asserted our dominance/control over them. They are just wild children of lazy parents who have not put forth the time or effort it takes to properly raise their child.
  2. Our children do not give or reciprocate the correct social reponses because we have not socialized them. Again, apparently we just can’t be bothered with teaching our children. We would much prefer to be constantly embarrassed in public, have a very restricted social life, and be bombarded with advice on how to be a more effective parent by people who have no idea what they are talking about.
  3. Our children’s behavior has nothing to do with Giftedness. Really?!? Oh wait, maybe it is our parenting; after all, we created these little monsters with our lazy, no good ways. If we attended the Walt School of Parenting our children would be model citizens, gifted or not.
  4. You can “make the boy comply” in the middle of a shrieking and flailing episode. Short of netting and darting him, I’m not sure how. I really have tried every sort of threat, bribery, and physical hold. Prompt removal from the situation has been the most effective so far, and I have the bruises to prove it.
  5. Your children will behave if you just show leadership and force them to follow you. Hee, hee, hee, haaa, haaaaa, haaaaa…stop, stop my sides are hurting.
  6. Our children are freaking out because they think that their parents, who they rely on for their survival, are not capable of doing the “job of keeping him alive.” I only wish Walt could see what we really have to do to keep these kids alive…special and complicated diets, various expensive therapies, careful planning of activities, heroic efforts to get them to sleep, endless answering of questions, extreme watchfulness when they are out in public, extreme watchfulness when they are at home doing stupid things…actually, we should get extra credit for not killing them ourselves.
  7. When he acts afraid of something that he should not be afraid of, do not pick him up and ooh and ahh over him. Simply tell him it is okay, and show him the object, person, etc.” ROTFL! If only I could just simply tell him it is okay and have him snap out of it. Oh Walt, if you had any idea of what we have tried.
  8. We baby and overprotect our children thus creating a flighty, paranoid child.” Hmmm, I wonder if I could just give him a magic potion that would instantly give him power over bullies, mean excluding kids, rude misguided adults, bewildering situations, and shame.
  9. That we are feeding our kids’ fears…why would we do that!?! They come up with plenty of fears all on their own. They don’t need us to feed and multiply them.
  10.  Screaming and flailing are an aggressive act designed to inflict harm. Does Walt know how hard it is for our kids to cope with a staggeringly misfit world? I wonder how Walt would react if we dropped him into a maze filled with his worst fears, made sure he didn’t quite understand any of the facial, body, or verbal communication directed at him, and told him at any moment something awful might come around the corner. Add to that self-shame of knowing he is doing something wrong, but can’t quite understand what it is or how to cope with it. Then we will make sure that know-it-all, busy-bodies are constantly haranguing him with their good advice. Let’s see if Walt becomes a snappy and untrustworthy boy.”
  11. That we should “Knock out the bad behavior now else things will only get worse when he is a teen.” How can we do that? I am assuming Walt didn’t mean to actually physically knock out the behavior. I’m pretty sure that regular beatings would not produce a trustworthy, socialized, well-balanced child. So if beating is out of the question, what does one do to knock out bad behavior? Sure wish I knew. I’ve tried every restriction and currency known to man (or boy) and he just doesn’t care. Take away his computer, okay he’ll play chess. Take away his chess, okay he’ll read. Take away his books, okay he’ll do math. Take away math, okay he’ll lay there and think. Take away thinking…oh wait, I can’t do that.
  12. That it takes a father or grandfather to socialize a boy. (Take a deep breath) While I am fully versed in the developmental needs of children and would be the first in line to make sure boys get a chance to interact regularly with loving, dedicated adult males, I must strongly disagree that an opposite sex parent/grandparent/relative/friend cannot properly socialize a child. It takes love, patience, understanding, and mutual accountability; all things I think a woman could provide to a boy. I believe Walt thinks that we are coddling, overprotective mothers who won’t let our children explore and learn to be independent. He must not know the women I know. Everyone in my village is fervently working towards, and waiting for, the day when their kid is independent. When I can set my boy out into the world, knowing I have given him every tool in my arsenal (to the point of utter and complete depletion), and he can successfully and independently live a happy and fulfilling life…HALLELUJAH!

So to all the Walt’s out there, thanks for your well meaning advice; but next time, please walk a mile in my heavily weighted corrective shoes before you pass judgment.