"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance

This weekend, I had yet another experience with a family member in which my son's behavior was absolutely not tolerated... leading to the swift ending of our time together (yes, for the rest of my kids and me as well). I held back tears, just barely, in the moment while I got everyone ready to go as fast as humanly possible, feeling very much kicked out. OK: we were kicked out. There's no two ways about it. I kept wanting to cry for hours later, and would remember why only belatedly. This sticks with me.

I won't get into the details, but especially after passionately reading this article about how zero-tolerance policies have helped lead to our exploitative, cruel, racist and classist prison system -- and  after having suffered much painful familial isolation from a variety of in-laws and my own flesh and blood -- I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance policies. Even if behavior is intolerable, the people who deliver the behavior should be tolerated. Especially if we say we love them. (And why do people feel the need to say "I love you" while they're telling you they don't want be around you? Is that love? Isn't unconditional love... unconditional???)

I know many impartial observers might see this from a different light. But if a child -- or even an adult -- has a short outburst of socially unacceptable behavior following a period of sweetness, kindness and helpfulness, I feel that forgiveness and not "I will NOT allow that in my HOUSE get out now!" is in order. Honestly, I've seen a lot more patience to adult bad behavior than I have to my own child's; and this hurts deep, long and lasting. It's led me, at least, to evaluate my own responses to others' behavior, and to see the context and the intentions and the reasons first and put my foot down second (or never).

Is there anything you're zero tolerance about? Or have zero tolerance policies put your family and friends into black, hurting places? Do you think there is any place for zero tolerance in a loving social group?

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I can easily think of issues I would have zero tolerance for in my house:
1. abusing my children--verbally or physically.
2. taking drugs.
3. blatantly disrespecting me (this is for people who are capable of controlling their behavior, not for young children or people with challenges, but at a certain point, I feel the need to say, "I don't let anyone talk to me like that."

I know your son is young and has challenges and I can't imagine invoking #3 in the situation you're describing. For me #3 (and I've never had to do it, but I have thought about it a great deal recently with respect to someone in my extended family) is about my own self-respect and modeling that for my children. For children, I think there are so often other ways to deal with the issue, and clearly you and your family aren't working from the same playbook.

I do think that loving someone does not always mean embracing them or supporting them in a way that they appreciate. Sometimes "support" is just a nice way to say "enable." Sometimes people have to be allowed to confront the consequences of their choices and their behaviors.

I'm sorry you're having a tough time. Isn't family drama supposed to end with the holidays?

My kid's Montessori school is zero-tolerance on hitting (for which they provided some information about why they feel it's important to have that standard)... but what that means in reality is that it will be addressed if and when it happens. Yep, my kid's been the hitter... he was removed temporarily from class, talked to the teacher about ramifications, etc. I felt he was treated respectfully and it made an impression on his that it is serious business. The school does a great job of having a high level of expectation but also working with kids who have yet to meet that behavior standard.

At home, if I feel he's out of line, I simply 'walk away'. I feel it's a low-key way to make the point that certain things are not going to be ok with people.

J, I like that imagery: "working from the same playbook". I'm going to consider the possibility of differing playbooks next time I "can't believe someone would treat me/us/them that way!"

I agree with j's house rules and agree that often support looks more like enabling. I can't tell you how many kids I run into that seem to be just plain wild and their moms/dads do nothing.. even sometimes when they are hurting my kids.

Did the Op's family have a "three strikes" policy or was this a "last straw" kind of thing? I know it hurts like hell to have a kid that others can't see the beauty of but we can't let our child make others miserable or uncomfortable in their own homes.

Hitting or biting, any physical or emotional abuse. I was physically/verbally abused as a child, and I will not
tolerate that kind of behavior--either towards me & my family,
or by any one in my family. If my DS acts like that and we
are out, we go home right away. It is never, never acceptable.

I think j's post is good but I'll add I have a zero tolerance policy concerning bigoted langauge. You will be asked to leave my house (relatives included).

My husband's brother's son acted inapproprately for a while and we all tried to ignore it and be supportive but because the behaviours were not addressed they escalated as he got older and larger and he eventually hurt one of my children. We don't see them anymore and looking back we shouldn't have enabled so long. His parents still feel he is just misunderstood.

In my situation, I'm usually in the middle of a calm, "that's not o.k., if that behavior continues we'll have to go," when the "you have to GO NOW" is delivered from another adult. I believe that some people in my extended family have been cultured to think that disrespectful behavior from children can only be addressed explosively; whereas in my years of struggle, I've learned that explosiveness only leads to more and louder and flagrant disrespectful behavior. shouting does not engender respect. I'm not always winning quickly with my approach but I (think I) win long term. many people do not have the patience for the long term.

It's easy to say that hitting and biting are zero tolerance behaviors. sure: I don't want to be hit or bit or kicked or have things thrown at me. I surely have an immediate awful range of feelings, from shame to sadness to fear to some sort of panic -- how am I going to stop this, how am I going to fix this, did my child hurt someone?!? -- when I see my own children hitting/biting/kicking/throwing things. yet a zero tolerance policy only addresses the behavior, whereas the behavior does not exist in a vacuum (none of us believe anyone ever thinks, "if only someone had TOLD me hitting wasn't ok! I would have never done it! it was just so fun.") and it is far more useful to (1) make sure no one is terribly injured and (2) try to address the cause of the behavior. tossing someone out when they are aggressive (and this is the school system's policy too) can often perversely reward the behavior; it's often a kid's last-ditch way of saying "I can't take the stressors in my immediate surroundings any more!" and the punishment of kicking them out / suspending them / sending them away won't change the way the child copes with the stressors. and often now, when my kid hits, he's hitting-out-at, not hitting, which to him is a major distinction (we're working on this) and which most other adults see not at all.

anyway. I could go on and on and that's probably unhelpful. I think it's useful to have low tolerance for behaviors when they're regular features of an adult or older child member of our social group -- my brother-in-law is forever coming over to my house when he can't stand his own house any more (which I can completely understand), and usually doing so with a generous helping of his family coping mechanism (cheap sweet wine). another me would have given him zero tolerance but I believe he needs us. so I just, as calmly and kindly as possible, ask him to stop whenever he launches into the negative self talk and the nasty gossip and the occasional racist jokes. I think that modeling the loving approach to this -- to tell him it's not to say these things, and to say why -- is ultimately more useful than yelling at him (or saying sternly) to get out.

in any situation, I think it's useful to examine our response to a behavior and think to ourselves, "what would we do if a best friend did this? our own child? our spouse? if I had done this, why would it have been?" I think most of us have *actually done* most of the worst things our children can do, at some terrible, awful, dark time, and at the time our rational brain wasn't really operating and our passionate brain had totally taken us over. but... not at someone else's house... :)

I have found that that usually when zero tolerances are in place, its more as a message to the parents saying "we wont tolerate your childs unruly behavior while you stand back and allow it just because YOU think its cute". Because honestly if your child has an outburst and you quickly correct it,theresnot much to tolerate. Its those parents who feel like everyone else should tolerate their child's bad behavior just bec they might happen to be in the midst of a teachable moment. What someone told me once is that noone thinks your kids are ever as great/wonderful/cute as you do.

What's the next step, though? Once you've lovingly modeled appropriate behavior or calmly asked your brother-in-law to speak differently, what happens if he ignores your request? Repeatedly? What if he ignores it with malice aforethought, as in you ask him not to use racist language and he looks at you and immediately launches into a racist joke? Or tells you not to be an uptight b*&(%? At some point do you tell him to leave and only return when he's "ready to be around other people"? (That's my mother's phrase).

I have a boy who displayed some rather unruly behavior on a trip to in-laws a few years back, and I imagine the invitation to leave would have been offered had we not been 3,000 miles away from home. In some ways, I might have preferred that over the quiet whispers and knowing glances that were exchanged instead. In any case, I have found that a behavior that is going to trigger someone else's zero tolerance button, probably triggers mine as well and will have my child's coat on before the host can even suggest it. I guess my bottom line on zero tolerance has a lot to do with location. Something that I might work with at home might not stand a chance out in public.

I just re-read my comment above "What's the next step." It sounds kind of snarky and that wasn't my intent. I'm really interested. It's kind of like with my 12-year-old. If he misbehaves and I say, "go to your room," and he says, "no." . . . Well, it get's complicated.

I can see that the first reaction of modeling and addressing the issue through conversation is desirable. But that doesn't always work. So then what?

tracy: yep, the desire to leave is mutual whether it's delivered by shouting or through sighs... I think this case was just so pointless it made me sad. (due to circumstances, we wouldn't have stayed more than 10-15 minutes even if the kids were spinning 'round maypoles)

j: no worries re: snarkiness :). I don't often get that kind of response... It's more likely to be repeated slip-ups rather than in-your-face defiance (that's what I get in my husband's worst moments). but if there is a refusal to cooperate, I'll either ask him to leave or -- especially if there's been so much alcohol I've lost all hope of my words having an impact -- I'll take the kids out of the house myself. we've gone to the park/coffee shop a few times when husband+inlaws crossed the line. with my nine-year-old, when he doesn't respond I remove him any way I can, even if that means picking him up. (tho in public this is kind of my nuclear option. It's so terrifically embarrassing that he'll later explode with anger at his bad feelings.)

I don't mean to suggest that no zero tolerance means infinite tolerance. :)

I wanted to add that in my case, on the subject of forgiveness, that you can forgive but that doesn't mean you're in any obligated to continue to put up with the person/behaviour. Sometimes for the sake of family unity members are coerced into "forgiving" and it can perpetuate unhealthy situations/dynamics.

Interesting topic,though I can't relate-my kids have never been so horrible that we've ever been asked to leave anywhere. In fact, I think is so extreme that if we were asked to leave, rather than being annoyed, I'd take it as a huge lesson to me as a parent that I should be doing a better job with their home training....

I would have zero tolerance for anyone who would kick me out of their house for any reason. How crazy is that? I obviously don't know the specifics of what happened, but can not imagine EVER treating a family member that way. Especially with kids in the scenario. If that were even a possibility, I wouldn't subject your child to them again, family or not.

Another thinly veiled insult jln, as usual. Not terribly supportive or helpful to the original poster. I would feel ashamed to write that comment in response to a fellow mother reaching out for comfort.

To you Sarah - even though it may be improbable, impossible or insane to expect infinite tolerance (or even a tablespoon of tolerance) from teachers, friends, neighbors, fellow shoppers or even from this website, deep down we hope for it from our family.

If we can't find tolerance for our children (and ourselves) from our own flesh and blood, where can we find it? Even when it is not realistic or rational to expect tolerance from our family we still long for it. We long for a safe place for our children to lose it without our feeling lost, embarrassed and ashamed.

The disappointment on learning that extended family love (even for young children with behavior challenges who need it most desperately) may not be as unconditional as we hoped is bitter.

You are a good mother Sarah. Your children deserve better than tolerance anyway, especially from family.

My MIL watches our cat whenever we leave town. Last time the cat behaved badly towards her own cat. I've never seen my cat behave anywhere close to what she described happening, (she can be dramatic and exaggerate) but now my cat is no longer welcome at her house. Zero tolerance indeed!

MIL also takes my almost-2-year-old for overnights about once a week, and always reports how perfectly angelic she was... Except for this ONE time my daughter woke up in the morning as if possessed by spirits! She even called her "Brunhilda" -tantrums, screaming, thrashing and kicking, throwing food... And I've seen it all myself. My daughter certainly can be a handful. So far MIL's not issued any warnings or tolerance policies, but if she can't tolerate a CAT's bad behavior, how long before she does or says something about her granddaughter? Hopefully she has more patience with her own kin.

It's so easy to make assumptions about what parents are or aren't doing, as well as what each individual child can and cannot control. Coming from the mom of an "intense" child, situations are often so much more complex than they may appear on the surface.

i honestly don't mean to insult. but think about it. to be kicked out of ANYWHERE because your child's behavior is THAT terrible is really extreme. i think a lot of PacNW parents have this feeling of "let children explore and do whatever pleases them", which is not the way it should be. we shouldn't pat someone on the back and talk about how terrible the people doing the kicking out are; how about being honest with one's self about the child's behavior. what a disservice to a child to let the child do as they please and then blame others who can recognize an unruly, undisciplined, untrained child? the world doesn't work that way, and children should be TRAINED from a young age how to act, and parents should have zero tolerance for nonsense too.

I have a barely-adult cousin with schizophrenia. He's really bumping up against the zero tolerance issue because he can no longer live with a couple of different relatives because he is a safety threat to them. I totally get it. My 80 year old aunt and uncle just can't deal with their own needs and his at the same time. And he can't live with his mother because he assaults her. My heart goes out to him because he really has never learned to live on his own when he is well, let alone when he is sick. None of those folks refusing him shelter love him any less. Their love for him is indeed unconditional, but their ability to shelter him is not. (Luckily he has an aunt who is able to take a bit more risk and he has a place to go when he wants to.)

Obviously this is different than your situation, Sarah, but your post makes me think of him. Many people look at his behavior and just think he needs to control himself. He really can't sometimes. He gets delusional and psychotic, and all bets are off. That's an illness, just like people with diabetes and epilepsy go into shock and have seizures. We do everything we can to get them all to take their meds, control their diet, etc., but still the uncontrollable parts of their illness sometimes take over. I've never heard of someone being told to shape up and stop it when they're having a grand mal seizure on the floor, and yet we say that about a child in the middle of a panic attack brought on too much noise at a family gathering.
Ugh.

Anyway, maybe your family is in a similar situation. They love him and yet have their own needs they need to look after. Or not. Maybe they really are conditional. I don't know. I imagine in your heart of hearts you know which one it is and can use that to guide what you do next. Either way, I am sorry you're on the receiving end of the hurt.

I think you can have unconditional love without having to forgo healthy boundaries. I think it is one of the things that seperates love from co-dependency. In the case of our family, there was a troubled child on our midst and our desire to be supportive and loving became a kind of denial that was fueled by our hope that he would grow out of it, or that his therapy would begin to reap benefits but instead as he got bigger and stronger his parent's strategies no longer worked and they completely lost control and they were angry when we decided we could no longer subject ourselves and our children to him. It is a sad situation.

I find it sad that people (often including myself) are so worried that others will think they 'aren't doing anything' that they will quickly say 'don't hit', as if just saying those words will make the child magically stop (as if they are doing it with no reason and no clue that it's a poor choice)... and then by saying the words, they look like a better parent who at least 'did something' by saying the words. And if you choose to deal with it any other way, you are 'doing nothing', because you didn't say 'don't hit' and if you had just said the words, it would stop, just like that. The problem arises then when the child doesn't stop just because you said so... in my case, my kid realizes real fast that it's not our normal dynamic and doesn't appreciate that I'm doing it just to please others around us. He already knows hitting is not approved and repeating 'the obvious' instead of giving attention to what's driving it can often make things worse.

I do think that setting clear boundaries can be a loving thing to do. Perhaps a family discussion about what those boundaries are in that house is in order. But I think it is important that the child understand the boundary beforehand -- and that if you have to leave, it is done in a matter of fact kind of way -- not overly emotional (if possible).
BTW: I disagree with the poster who said children should be "trained" to behave properly -- I think that approach is misguided.

Kathy, really? "Training" children is now bad? I've done my best to train mine how to behave in many circumstances. When they were little, we'd role-play and act out the 'what could happen' and 'how you would react' scenarios so that many times, they didn't miss a beat! Some kids are slow to catch on to the providing good role models approach to life. And I'm not waiting around for my kids to suddenly acquire insight on how to treat others... it has to be actively taught. Be a parent.. not a friend.

I have a child with erratic behavior. I get the challenge associated with that, and I have been beyond my own limits in tolerance more times than I can count. I figure if I am having a hard time dealing with the behavior as her mother, than it certainly isn't fair for me to subject others to that behavior.

I am not saying that the OP did something wrong. One would hope that family would be able to deal with it. Unconditional love and all that. But unconditional love does not mean tolerating disrespectful out of control behavior.

I have had to pack up and go on many occasions, or in some instances, unpack and refuse to leave the house due to bad behavior. It sucks when it punishes the entire family, but sometimes that's necessary to get a point across.

I also agree that kids do in some respects need to be trained. It's not a good/bad training thing like you would a pet, but any time you use reverse psychology, rewards, or logical consequences on your child, you are training them. Call it whatever you want, but setting boundaries, and having consequences when those boundaries are crossed is "training." When my child gets things taken away (playdates,screen time, attendance at birthday parties, etc) because she is being disrespectful to us, eventually she learns that if she wants to have fun outside of the house, she needs to be respectful of us and have fun in the house first.

It starts at home friends! There is a lot of "soft" parenting in vogue at the moment, and frankly I think it's setting up the kids for failure when they get older. I am not talking about things like spanking, but logical consequences. For example, my oldest was smacking her sister in the car on the way to the mall the other day. As a consequence, her seat got moved to the middle row, and now she no longer gets to sit next to one of her siblings. She's already asking how she can earn "her" spot back because she wants to sit next to her sister. She also had to write a letter of apology.

Find a logical consequence that is meaningful to the child, and follow through on it. I say this knowing that it's often easier to say than do. I have an explosive child, and there have been times that her behavior is so bad it's beyond my comprehension. But just because I have to tolerate it to some level, it doesn't mean I am going to subject others to it.

Some children are more resistant to training than others, and just because you see an "unruly, undisciplined, untrained" child doesn't mean the parents are slacking.

Lyd - I would say an undisciplined child does mean the parents are slacking. Discipline is an important part of a parent's job, and if they aren't doing it, the child will not know limits and boundaries.

I am not saying the original poster falls into that category. I don't know what her parenting style is, and don't know the details of her son beyond what she's posted here...which I assume is not representative of what happens on a day to day basis. I don't presume to know what happens or how she is disciplining. I would say though that if he's acting out of line, she likely is aware, and it would be best not to subject others to that behavior if at all possible, even if it means skipping activities and staying home.

Children aren't a finished product, though, are they? A child could be woefully misbehaved in public and do horrible things that we all abhor and the parents may STILL be parenting in a good, productive while fully aware of their child's problems. Hopefully over time that good parenting will have effect and the child will learn to be socially appropriate and kind and all those good things. But you can't take a snapshot of a child and conclude that this is reflective of the parent's discipline--for good or for ill.

I also think it is worth remembering that children are not computers to be programmed, such that if you write the code correctly you get the desired outcome. Children are highly complex. They are people! You can do your utmost to structure their environment and your interaction with them and still you cannot guarantee a certain outcome. And wouldn't life be boring if you could!

I really think it all depends on whether you feel it's the job of you and your child to be and to do exactly what is currently acceptable to those you encounter... or not. That doesn't mean you get to hit people and say it's ok... but there are varying degrees of what is accepted depending on one's social circle and I think we can go overboard in not 'subjecting' others to a child... this is life, there are kids, kids are not going to be perfect esp. when hungry, tired, just had enough. You can't teach how to behave in public if you only stay at home... you need to get out and model public behavior, and yeah, there may be bumps along the way and not everyone is going to see your child at their best. I'm also not sure I see the point in having to leave/not going somewhere because they aren't behaving well... quite likely, they didn't want to go/be there anyway!

"Even if behavior is intolerable, the people who deliver the behavior should be tolerated. Especially if we say we love them. "

This line has continued to bother me. This is exactly the mindset that allows abuse to fester in a family and allows generational abuse to occur. No one should have to tolerate those whom act inolerably for the sake of family, love or any other thing.

Oh, Kelly... I so agree.

Spottie - agree on modeling good behavior in public. I am talking about not going out as a consequence of bad behavior.

Example - last month, my daughter had a birthday party to attend for her besets friend. That morning, she hit her brother and sister, was yelling and screaming and generally being disrespectful to all of us. she had several warnings that if the behavior continued, she would not attend the party. I followed through on that when she continued to misbehave. And then, I told her just what fun her best friend was having with all of her other classmates. She thinks she can be awful to us and fine to everyone else. wrong. She didn't go. She stayed home with dad and wrote about behavior, and I took her brother and sister out for some fun without her.

I was not doing to let her go have fun after treating us so awfully, and in the event she didn't shape up for her friends, I certainly wasn't going to subject them to that behavior during her best friend's big day.

So yes, model behavior in public. But if they are having a meltdown, show them the consequence - leave the situation and go home, or don't let them go out and have fun. Boundaries!

Also, I most definitely expect my children to make mistakes. They are not perfect. Neither am I. We all have our off days. I don't know why you thought otherwise from my other posts.

But when they are having an off day and can't deal with the public then for goodness sake, remove them from the situation!

If there are any moms out there who feel really icky about the idea of shaming/punishing/rewarding/"natural" consequences/acting conditionally loving towards your children in order to control their behavior (this is *different* than having boundaries), but don't know how else to go about parenting, a great resource I've found (I'm totally unaffiliated with them) is handinhandparenting.org. It's pretty much the only approach to parenting that makes sense, from my view, since it deals with the "why" of "bad" behavior and helps kids re-connect with their innate desire to fit in with and be close to their loved ones. (Mods - hope this post is okay - I'm not making any $ by recommending the site, and most of their resources are free.)

It is hard to comment not knowing the whole situation, but since we are talking about a 9 year old and assuming he didn't actually hurt anyone badly, I would most definitely not ask him to leave. I may try to limit the future invitations, but even then, I would try to find ways to spend time with my grandson in a way that would work for both of us. Maybe one on one outings would be best for a child with behavior problems? Maybe grandma coming over to the grandson's house would work better? I don't know. The bottom line is, I would not give up on a 9 year old and I would not want him to feel like I don't love him any more. Children can easily wrongly interpret many circumstances as "she/he doesn't love me any more" and that is the last thing we want.

I'll first say that I don't know any of you, and have no knowledge of what are clearly community dynamics on urbanmamas. I live in the deep South where "bad" behavior on the part of anyone is frowned upon, and the school of thought that "if your kid acts up, you are a TERRIBLE parent" is in full effect.

So, I'll submit this to y'all (accent for emphasis): If we're talking about neurologically typical children, I have a pretty low tolerance for lousy behavior, tantrums, whinging, name-calling or funny business of any kind---obviously paying attention to the age group said behavior is attributed. So, if 6 yo daughter is defiant and unruly, then follows it up by stealing someone's toy there will be immediate consequences which could include the complete discontinuation of a playdate or outing if applicable.

But, when dealing with a neurologically ATYPICAL child, the game is different. A child's set of symptoms may well dictate how you handle things. You can't have the same conversations and consequences all the time with a neurologically atypical child. Example: My 9 yo son is on the autism spectrum. He looks as cute as your neuro typical child and is dressed as well, but his brain does not work TYPICALLY. He has sensory issues that overwhelm him. He reacts to situations in large groups differently than neurotypical children. He does the best that he can, and most times there are no issues. Sometimes he falls apart. The stress that other children don't feel is too much for him. The problem, IMO, is that other adults--even family members--just see the adorable kid who can be an absolute nightmare. They judge the child. They judge the parent. They don't know (don't care?) how long and hard your family has struggled just to have a "normal" playdate. They don't get that he's not being intentionally rude by not eating Aunt Gladys' potato salad. They don't understand the sheer terror that cold or wet foods instill in him. They don't understand that it's harder for him to make friends than it is for his same age cousin. They treat you (the parent) like you have done something tragically terrible that has yielded the most spoiled, wretchedly bad behaved child on the planet. They look at the child and say or think, "There's nothing wrong with that child. He's just a brat."

Guess what? He's not a brat. He's the most delightful, beautiful, challenging, and intelligent child who is 9 years old at my house. His struggles have been my struggles. His pain over being the outsider is my pain. I have been in countless hours of all kinds of therapy with him, and every bit of ground he's gained in learning how to be more "socially acceptable" brings tears to my eyes. He's a good kid---a good kid with a unique set of neurological issues that make life a little bit harder for him. And, I guess it makes life a little bit harder for those who "have" to be around him.

It's hard to have the kid who people roll their eyes about---they judge and judge and JUDGE. They tell you that you're doing it wrong---that this is all something that could be solved with a good spanking. You know what? Maybe it's the other parents, the family members, the "concerned" onlookers who need a time out. Maybe they need to educate themselves about neurological abnormalities that don't present as physical cues that there IS SOMETHING WRONG with a person.

In as much as a person has a right to protect their home and everything/one in it, I think they also have a responsibility to be a loving and understanding co-citizen of the planet: to think before they speak about that which they do not know. To consider speaking quietly to the offender's parent before giving them the heave ho or issuing ultimatums and threats.

Zero tolerance for zero tolerance may be a bit stronger than I'm willing to go, but I certainly have little tolerance for alleged friends and family members who are not willing to step outside of themselves enough to understand that not all children are wired the same. Friends and family are the ones who are supposed to rally around you when things are tough. They see your upset and don't further exploit it. They don't throw you out when the chips are down. I hear what you're saying Sarah, and I've felt the sting of similar situations. You're right--even if you didn't say it in so many words: we win with love, not with rejection.

but again, a parent who is ACTIVELY instructing/correcting/disciplining/CONTROLLING their child isn't going to be put out. that wouldn't make sense. but what WOULD make sense is a parent who is "out to lunch" while their child is running amuck would be untolerated. i see this happen all the time, and it's well deserved. others shouldn't have to put up with someone elses brat just because a) the parent thinks it's cute/funny b)the parent is clueless c)the parent likes the laid back approach.

i don't think parents are either one way or the other - (controlling and engaged or out to lunch). it's not so simple. life, love and parenting is complicated and there is much to consider in each moment.

i think it's so important to come to this forum trusting that we are all parenting the best we can and that we continue to engage in this forum to grow and learn from one another. not to be attacked. that's not helpful.

on a side, but related note: i ran into another mama friend last week and we discovered that we both love urbanmamas. i told her that i sometimes comment and she said, "you aren't one of the mean ones are you?"

so important for us all to try and not be one of the mean ones.

Thank you, Liv. I so appreciate your willingness to post so honestly about your family and your child. I have a son who is also on the autism spectrum, and my life and challenges sound a lot like yours. I composed a similar post many times in my mind, but didn't post it.

You said it all so well, all I want to say is just a loud "amen!"

I wasn't attacking anyone. I was speaking generally. But fwiw, there are many types of parents who come to this site.I don't assume any or all parents are doing their best or not, since I don't know anyone personally.

I love all the comments. But I say, tell the intolerant in-laws to piss off! Not when the kids are within earshot, of course.

anony---ITA. Although we've never reached the "zero tolerance" point, my child-free brother and sister-in-law used to LOVE to tell me how to parent, how "bad" my daughter was, as well as lecturing me about involving her more in sports.

That recently ended---because my nephew is now a huge teen screw up, so they've realized perhaps I'm not such a lenient parent, after all.

@Anotheranon, while I agree with giving your daughter's bad behavior conseuquences, I'm struck by a couple of things: 1) could she have somehow felt nervous (even if it was a good nervous) or over excited about the party and that drove her bad behavior? 2)I think telling her what an awesome time her friends were having without her was a bit spiteful and mean. This IS a kid, after all and I'm sure she was already aware of this.

BTW, the first part (and I don't know either of you, so I certainly have no idea, but) has proven quite helpful with my daughter. As I noticed and observed what her motivations and triggers are, I've found it sometimes easier to stave off the bad behavior---or discuss it and diffuse it.

Liv, I think your post was great too. I also have a child on the spectrum and when I hear people going on about how certain behaviors aren't tolerated, etc. I just wish our lives were that simple. I have one child who is perfectly behaved and respectful (i.e. it isn't my parenting!) and I have a child on the spectrum who struggles to control his inappropriate verbal commentary (yes, often rude) and sensory reactions. It is so hard to be judged by people who apply their own experience to yours. Admittedly I was pretty judgmental about child behavior before having my son and now I am non judgmental because I know that I have worked with my ASD son about 10,000 times harder than with my typically developing child and we just aren't there yet. It's so hard to be excluded and feel judged all the time. I know people have a right to make rules for their own homes (and we definitely avoid certain places) but there are good days and bad and sometimes no matter how hard those of us with kids who aren't typically developing try, things are going to be problematic. I know that when I'm around people who I know are empathetic and tolerant I'm able to manage my child's behavior much better than when people are judgmental or uptight as my kid feeds off of my own stress. As for people worrying about how their kids will react or if their kids will be traumatized because they see bad behavior, our very well respected pediatric behaviorist said that (because I asked on behalf of my typically developing daughter who sees all kinds of difficult behavior) it will actually create capacity, tolerance and compassion as she grows, provided she's supported and we discuss why behaviors may occur. I already see it at age three--she is eager to help kids who struggle, is really kind to kids who are different at preschool, etc. She's also confident, happy and secure and doesn't blink an eye when she sees a meltdown. Kids have amazing capacity to handle all kinds of things if they're supported and see good adult modeling so the argument about protecting kids from being around behaviors that aren't OK (i.e. kids misbehaving or acting inappropriately) doesn't really hold true, provided you aren't sending out angry negative vibes that your child is picking up on and getting anxiety about or freaking out yourself. We have friends who have ASD kids and my daughter will watch one of the kids having a meltdown or acting inappropriately and she already has terminology such as, "he's not being flexible," or "he's having a hard time using words and making good choices," that she applies to situations. No anxiety, she's not crushed and ruined for life, etc. I think we can teach our kids tolerance and acceptance for all sorts of people.

I think that when you are in someone else's house, you are not at home. I don't know what happened here. You didn't say. But I do know that when you were in my home, you let your child run wild. You let him go upstairs unsupervised. You didn't say a word. I finally followed him upstairs (where I didn't want him) and found him rummaging in my drawers. Did I blame him? No, I blamed YOU. Because I didn't think you were at all sensitive to what was going on. Children move fast (I know, I take care of two year old twins part time). Children are lovely and wonderful people but they don't know what is appropriate. They need supervision.

for those who didn't make the connection, sarah gilbert = cafemama. sorry about the multiple identities.

and I had wanted to respond in a more granular fashion to more of these comments, but I haven't been able to. I'd like to say a couple of things, though:

-- I may not have described the situation in detail (it included a short swearing outburst at the very end of a visit. I don't want to describe it in any more detail as I don't think it's fair to the family member involved) but I never said my kids were horrible. they aren't. they're wonderful, and they all have screwy brains when it comes to behavior. this manifests itself very differently in each child.

-- I have seen such amazing things in my children; they are the light of my life and they constantly surprise me. I have also changed utterly my opinions of parent-child dynamics in the almost 10 years of parenting experience. I appreciate greatly those who have commented about their children on the autism spectrum; oh! do I know how you feel. and there is no isolation like the isolation you feel when you are afraid to bring your children around your very own family -- those people whose love and tolerance and energy and, let's face it, help -- you think should be automatic. I lost all contact with one of my sister-in-laws for three years because of my oldest child. she lives two miles away. I see my parents' impatience and very vocal anger with behavior in my oldest child that they tolerate without comment from their sons-in-law. I visit rarely. every time something like this happens, I become more isolated, I fear more going out beyond the safe confines of my own home. this is not healthy and I must fight against it with all my might and this post is part of the fighting.

-- part of what this post is about is that I believe in forgiveness. not just for my children but for the people who are intolerant of them. I am angry and hurt (and that goes for some of the commenters on this site too) but in my own children I see the willingness to try again, to risk the pain when an adult yells at you to get out, to expose themselves and leave their hearts open still, and that takes such ultimate bravery. and I am so proud of them for wanting to open the door again and go out into the world and try to control their temper and to have healthy relationships with other children and to trust, to give love first, to ask someone else if they want to play. I often do not want to play. I just want everyone to remember that it is not what the children do to us but what we do to them that matters. we are the adults, which means we should be the big-hearted ones, the ones that are quickest to forgive and most understanding of how turning away feels.

my biggest hope, my most constant goal, is that I will never, not for the space of a minute, take away my love from my children or from any other children in my world because of something they do. not for any reason, because even if you do not say so they will think it is their fault. they are children and they still believe they are at the center of the universe and the causal factor for all observable phenomena. I will not take my love away, and that goes for every child, even the ones who, when I am in private, I will admit to having really pissed me off.

we're talking about little kids here, not adults. please let's not talk about abuse. that's for another blog post altogether. fine: have zero tolerance for abuse with my blessing.

donaleen, I'm sorry about that. I don't really remember the circumstances, but this was a different child -- my middle son -- at a much different age. I suppose I was caught up in my conversation with you and wasn't supervising him properly.

Children are capable of abuse as well. It is a very tough lesson to learn the hard way.

So, Sarah, here's a question for you. Please don't think I'm challenging here, because I'm not. It's an observation and I'm curious about your thoughts on it. It comes from a very genuine place.

You talk about wanting to side with forgiveness. And some of the comments from others is about the line between tolerance/forgiveness and becomming sucked into a pattern of relationship that might not be so great. (I hate the enable word, so I'm avoiding it. Can you tell!?) You have talked about your parents having trouble with your son before, and I'm wondering where you are with regards to that line for them. I hear you talk about the pain involved, which makes tons of sense, and the sense of isolation you are feeling from your family. But part of me wants to jump up and down and say "please don't make your son have to deal with them anymore." Maybe it's not their intolerance with him that is the problem here. Perhaps it's too much tolerance of them?

Sara Gilbert-

I just want to say that I admire you and think you are brave for being willing to really put yourself out there on this blog. And, to address things that are so personal so directly.

Thank you!

Tracy, the short answer is I am not taking my son to my parents' house any more. I haven't said that to them or anyone else in the family, and it's pretty easy to do so without drawing lines (we have to make a concerted effort to get there without a car, so...). I'm keeping the visits to third party brief encounters. It's really not the best choice, because he has no paternal grandparents (one has died, the other ... well, not present). It seems like the wrong answer to me, but the other answer also seems wrong.

the family member in the original post is another one with whom we would have to make a very large effort to see in the future. I -- oh, I just don't know. do you at some point start remaking a family of your own design? or do you just wait until they are able to stand your children? or until your children grow up enough that they can be around the family? I always, in my childhood and young adulthood, thought I had such a wonderful, loving, forgiving family. I now know that this is true but also more complex and hard than I realized.

Nicola, thank you, and you're welcome :)

@Zumpie - totally agree about motivation driving behavior, but in this case, it was not nerves/excitement over the party. Even if it was, we are working on the concept that being tired/frustrated/excited/angry/hungry does not give you an excuse to yell and scream, hit, kick, bite, scratch people until they bleed or brake things. I am attentive to her needs, we try to diffuse this type of behavior before it gets out of control by checking on needs/motivations and addressing those. That morning, her outburst went beyond that, and she was calmly warned and understood what her consequence would be, etc. On your second point, I can see how from stating it, it might appear that I was mean and spiteful. However, the way it went down was not that way. her consequence of not going was explained calmly and with the detail that her friends were going to be there without her having fun. She is a kid that needs things explained to her, calmly, rationally, in detail.

This works for her. I am not saying the approach is right for everyone, and while it has been slow going for us to make progress, she has fewer outbursts now than even six months ago. She is learning that there are behaviors that are not acceptable, and there are consequences when those behaviors are chosen.

I have two other children who are more typical laid back easy going kids. And I don't have to work as hard with them. I get it, I really do.

But I still think that when she is having an outburst, it makes the most sense to leave the situation if we are out and to be somewhere quiet where she can regroup.

So, if we were at a family member's house like in the original situation, I would give her a warning, and then leave. If my family were at their last straw, and kicked us out, I honestly wouldn't go over there anymore. To me that would be more stress than it's worth, and I don't have time to invest in toxic relationships. I save my energy for more positive interactions with friends and family who do get it.

And Sarah - I am sorry if my posts offended you in any way. I said it before and will say it again - I am not finding fault in your parenting. I don't know you and hardly think a blog post is representative. I am just stating my views on some of the parenting topics, and specifically on the subject of tolerating bad behavior/setting limits.

Well, I can say we haven't been back to my in-laws since our horrible visit. It makes me very sad. But I know my son just can't tolerate being away from home for more than a couple of days, so it would be a horrible trip for him. Even our family vacations close to home are brief. It's just what we know about him. And my boys don't spend the night with their other grandparents because I just know it would be hard on everyone. It does come with a lot of grief over the loss of what should be lovely relationships, but until I know it would be a success for all, I just can't do it. We do other things to support the relationships, I just have some clear lines that I have drawn.

So, yeah, I don't know either. I think for us we have created a situation where some of our family relationships have suffered because we just don't visit as often as we all would like. And as far as my parents go, my mom has stopped asking for the overnights because I think she gets it now. But it was really hard for awhile when I know she didn't understand my hesitance and I felt horrible for setting that limit, but worse knowing if I did it, I would just be sick the whole time with worry. I don't explain a whole lot to people, I just let them think I'm overprotective and a bit smothering. I'd rather it be about me at this point, than about my son. It's also partly about them (the grandparents), but again, I don't feel the need to drag every one through that, although I would if pressed.

I'm all for families of our own design!

It sounds, to me, like your son is not developmentally in the same place as other children of the same age but that your family has the same expectations of the average age child and that you are getting frustrated with their lack of understanding that his behavior is normal to his development and something you need support with not judgement. That seems like a lot to handle!

To be quite honest, misbehaving kids can sometimes piss me off, especially when they have exhibited a pattern of misbehavior. To me it seems perfectly reasonable to take matters into my own hands if I don't feel like the parent is doing what I feel needs to be done to control the situation.

Yes, it's selfish, and my feelings/needs are just as valid as the child's.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment