All kids do that.
When my son Andrew was in kindergarten, I heard those well-versed four words for the first time.
With growing concern about his inappropriate behavior in the classroom, I arranged a meeting with his teacher.
But she responded immediately to my opening statement – maybe without thinking, maybe without realizing the impact of her blanket statement.
No need to worry. All kids do that from time to time.
But not all the time and not with such intensity.
In students like Andrew, bad habits multiple quickly – and then are hard to break.
My son – like every child in the classroom – had a personal history. He’d spent five years in foster care. He’d experienced early childhood trauma. And he’d been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
My son – like each child in the classroom – had a personal history.
Fact is those four words have a potentially negative meaning to every parent. When said by professionals in the medical, educational or mental health communities, they dismiss the parent’s point of view. And they indirectly state the obvious.
I know more than you. Let me do my job without your meddling.
Where’s the spirit of collaboration? Where’s the respect for parents – the adults who knew the child best? All have observed day in and day out. Many have read extensively.
The obvious can be overlooked.
I knew one thing that afternoon many years ago. Andrew needed a different approach at school. All kids weren’t like him. His brain didn’t process information – both verbal and sensory – in the same way.
Andrew needed a different approach.
Did that mean he couldn’t succeed? Quite the opposite!
Progress was possible with the right strategies. Sustainability was possible with home and school on the same page.
Unfortunately, I heard those same four words again and again.
Each time they cut a little deeper. With no change in direction after a couple of years, I started to react negatively – which never establishes trust or fosters cooperation.
However, I wasn’t asking for the moon. I wasn’t asking for favors. I simply wanted others to stop sweeping the problem under the rug – thinking it would go away on its own.
That’s when my new focus became finding a way to turn the table.
What if I nodded in agreement when hearing those four words? What if I asked for examples? What if I, in turn, started a respectful conversation?
Yes, all kids do that but let’s dig deeper into Andrew’s behavior.
Due to his brain damage, my son doesn’t understand cause and effect thinking. He can’t quickly learn from his mistakes. Consequences can backfire if not carefully used. He’s also impulsive and anxious. At the same time, he needs to feel safe. He thrives on structure. Sticker charts don’t provide support. They judge and add to his shame.
My backdoor approach eventually worked.
The ”all kids do that” comment created common ground. It led to a mutually-benefiting discussion about the origin of Andrew’s challenges, as well as his strengths. It then generated a reasonable level of personal expectation. And the result was a specific, individualized set of classroom accommodations – to keep my son on task and out of trouble.
After all was said and done, all parties won. The teacher built a stronger, more positive relationship with Andrew – which made him feel included and accepted. From that day forward, he usually made the right choice at school.
And all kids want to do that, if given the chance! DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To learn more about Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love, Craig’s upcoming memoir about raising six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold
To watch Andrew’s amazing ESPN 14-minute documenrary, click here. Andrew Peterson ESPN Documentary