You beam with pride after replacing that old, antiquated light switch with a fancy new dimmer — realizing your old Time-Life Home Repair and Improvement books aren’t written in Greek after all. Then your entire electrical panel blows. Would you hesitate to call a professional electrician?
Why should parenting be any different? Questioning one’s self is reasonable when presented with an unsure situation — especially when it comes to parenting. Obstacles beyond your scope of experience are as common in child rearing as they are throughout life.
It’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this column you’re aiming to rear well-adjusted, independent and mentshy children. Of course, how you go about that is the prototypical “X” of algebra. While there is no magic potion, identifying when you may not have the right tools in your parental toolbox could be more impactful than winging it.
What could that look like for parents? Take potty training, for example. Some kids do it themselves, much to the delight of their parents. (You lucky parents!) However, many parents struggle with their children throughout various “stages” of the training process, which usually presents for one or two reasons.
Most common, parents can miss the child’s “readiness” window, which then leads to potty training that is forced. The other issue that delays development is when someone is experiencing anxiety about the transition. (It could be both the parent and child.)
Anecdotal evidence shows most people adhere to advice provided by their child’s pediatrician versus reaching out to a counselor or therapist. While it’s always advisable to consult your child’s pediatrician with concerns, it may be shortsighted to forgo exploring a second opinion by a therapist or psychologist.
An extreme, if not uncommon, example is when parents finds themselves in a situation where their child’s introduction to potty-training, typically at age 3, has not fully been incorporated by age 5 or 6, and the child is experiencing “regular” accidents that have no physiological cause.
You aren’t a bad parent or a poor teacher; the reasons for developmental delays are complex; and it takes a great parent to identify when their efforts aren’t working.
Another classic example is when a child is having behavioral issues, commonly referred to as “acting out.” You’ve read all the “right” books and worked with the school’s counselor to maintain a similar behavior/discipline plan at home, but the same problems keep happening.
As your child got older, you thought he would simply outgrow it— but he’s not and those “time outs” aren’t working anymore. Don’t give up. There are professionals who can help figure out what the root causes are.
The diagnosis you receive may not make you “feel good” but at least you’ll have answers. And, when you know what the real issues are, you can tackle them effectively. Otherwise, nothing you do is going to change — and everyone ends up losing.
Rebecca Zusel, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker. She and her husband, Matt, live in West Bloomfield with their three children, ages 7, 5 and 2. To learn more about this subject, visit her website at ahand2help.com.