About THAT Kid: A Lesson in Understanding
Have you stumbled upon Amy Murray’s open letter to parents about THAT kid that went viral this week? In her insightful post, the Canadian educator cracks open the door for a glimpse at the raw emotions teachers bear when managing a class that includes a child that is a little different from the others – behaviorally, emotionally and socially.
She starts, “Dear Parent: I know. You’re worried. Every day, your child comes home with a story about THAT kid. The one who is always hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children. The one who always has to hold my hand in the hallway. The one who has a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes sits on a chair rather than the floor.” Murray goes on to describe all the things she can’t tell you about THAT kid, from how THAT kid’s parents cry at every meeting to the special hand signal she shares with THAT kid when he needs a break. She concludes her letter by pledging that, no matter if your child is THAT kid or not, that she will be a partner and advocate for your child.
As I read – and cried – over the letter for about the hundredth time, I reflected about what strikes me personally about it. It’s not the fact that my 3-year old son has frequent episodes of hitting, shoving, and other transgressions in preschool. It’s not because a recent evaluation shows that he struggles to self-control and self-regulate his emotions. It’s not because, one time, classmates said they didn’t want to play with him because he always hits them. Or that I often have to explain his behavior when he’s not quite understanding the rules at the public playground. And it’s not the fact that he’s made a ton of progress in the past month but has setbacks often. Or that his preschool teachers understand his struggles and love him just the same. Well, maybe the crying was a little bit from all these and then some. What really strikes me about the post is the lesson in understanding.
It’s not simply knowing the background of THAT kid but the idea of accepting that kids and parents alike have unique challenges. Every parent has to deal with something – that’s what parenting is all about. Karen Copeland, another blogger, shares her reaction in I Am THAT Parent and describes how she often stands alone because she is a parent of THAT child. And that breaks my heart. Shouldn’t we – the collective “we” as parents – support each other? Honestly, a few years ago I may have been one of those other parents, not truly understanding what THAT parent was going through and too afraid to get involved in case I overstepped parenting boundaries.
But I know now. THAT parent simply wants understanding and support. She wants other parents to know that she worries for THIS kid – the one that is at the other end of THAT kid’s bad day. And that she expects disciplinary action for each transgression. But she also wants you to understand that discipline strategies may look a little different. She wants you to know that she isn’t ignoring you on the playground rather keeping a watchful eye to ensure THAT kid has a successful playtime. And most of all, she wants other parents to get to know THAT kid. Because underneath all those less than desirable behaviors, there is a child who loves, who has talents and interests, and who is growing and learning every step of the way – just like every other child.