Although every parent knows the annoyance of receiving unsolicited parenting advice, we parents raising exceptional kids know it more intensely. Peppered with false accusations and insults, we warrior parents are sadly accustomed to being told how we can rectify our kids' "problems." I can even personally attest to the fact that the childless feel at liberty to tell a parent what to do. It happened to me many times over the years, especially with this child.
When it comes to outward behaviors, the comments can begin with strangers and proceed to family members. I had people telling me not to give my child so much sugar so she wouldn't be so hyper. I had neighbors commenting that I wasn't supervising her enough and accusing her of doing things that she hadn't done. I had family members telling me I needed to "lay down the law" with her. My own mother even scoffed, "You don't ask a child what they want to wear, you TELL them."
Sadly, the stress of raising an exceptional kid can even cause spouses to fight over which "hill to die on." My husband had a much tougher time than I giving my daughter the space she needed to deal with sensory needs. His solution to times when she got "stuck" was to yell at her, which was completely counterproductive. As frustrating as it was, I knew that we had to discern which battles to fight.
One of the hardest ones for us came with clothing and appearance. For many years our daughter chose a very short haircut and boyish clothes because it met her sensory needs. This left us vulnerable to questions like, "Why do you let her dress like a boy?" or "Well, maybe she was just born in the wrong body." It was hard to take remarks from both ends of the spectrum because we raised our kids biblically and clearly taught them about what God says regarding sexuality. Yet, I truly sensed that pushing her on this issue would only create the opposite effect. I decided to give her room with this issue, as hard as it was.
My daughter's 15th birthday reminds me to share with you that we need to seek God's wisdom when it comes to knowing which battles to fight. If EVERYTHING is a power struggle, we only push our children away. If NOTHING is disciplined, we end up with kids that lack character development. Keeping everything in prayer and consulting God's word are critical habits when raising kids like ours. Loving our children through every quirk helps them to know how they are loved by their Maker. When we violate their boundaries on either side of the power continuum, we rob them of God's best for their lives.
PRAY: Lord, thank You that You make each of us uniquely bearing Your fingerprints. Grant us discernment to parent well by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Keep us from pushing our kids too hard or from being too lenient. Make us good stewards of these precious gifts You've given us to raise.
~ Barb Dittrich