As professionals we see children for a snapshot of their lives, and all too often we make our judgements based on those snapshots.
Parents are judged, sometimes instantly and sometimes over time, by people who have no idea what it is like to walk in their shoes.
Whether it’s parenting technique – too soft or too strict – or simply lifestyle – the truth is if we scrutinise anyone hard enough it’s hard to find fault.
Because as we tell our children often – people are humans and humans make mistakes.
And for most people, for most families, the learning curve that is being a parent, is done behind closed doors – to be laughed about in good humour by future generations, who talk about the time Mum got so cross she stormed out of the house in her slippers, or the time dad decided to send the children to bed with no tea – and mum came to the rescue and fed them anyway. (Both real examples, from my genuinely fantastic childhood).
But for parents of children with SEND. The story is often different. These stories are scrutinised, along with the others that follow and all too often the parents are blamed.
If the parents were better at parenting, the child would not need support – or even a diagnosis. And so the cycle begins, the parents are sent on a parenting course, aimed at parenting neurotypical children – armed with strategies that they probably already know. Yet in order to jump through the hoops of professionals, they do so anyway.
They do what they have to to be listened to. Why? Because they love their children. Because they are incredible parents, who are already doing a fantastic job. A job often not akin to neurotypical parenting – instead one that needs to be done differently.
And then we come to the children who are ‘fine in school’ or who are ‘fine in the doctor’s surgery’ – the expert maskers who fall apart the minute they step over the door of home – the minute they feel safe enough to do so.
It’s time to change the way we think.
Parents are the experts in what their children need. We as professionals should not be scrutinising their lives, making value judgements on their parenting, or asking them to jump through yet one more hoop.
Instead we should be listening. Asking questions. And putting in support. The support that parents ask for, not the support that neurotypical (or worse no) parenting experience leads you to believe they need.
Only if we do that will anything change.
Only if we do that will the needs of the children be served.
And that needs to be done, it’s time for judgement to stop.