This is a very timely post. I have striven to be conscientious about this very subject, but it is something we really need to be consistently aware of as parents of kids with special needs. I have been personally thinking a lot on this subject the older Elise gets. I want my child to be strong and confident, but not feel any more entitled than my other children.
Thank you, Starrlife, for putting it so beautifully:
"A Good Question
A great artist, bloggy friend and parent of an adult daughter with Down Syndrome, Candee Basford, turned me on to a wonderful article from Psychology Today written my Brene Brown read here.
Reading this article has some at an interesting point in my daughter's development, my sweet kind 11 year old daughter who who recently has been trying on asserting herself, and not very skillfully - in other words, doing a little bullying in the form of pushing a little boy and cutting to the front of lines (moving her body and intimidating others to get to the front). Being the parent of a child with visible differences, I have, like many others, visions of people taking advantage or making fun of my wonderful child. So, to observe and hear about these incidents is so ironic - it sends a chill down my spine. Have I raised a bully, an unkind child? Is that how my daughter is going to manage her own emerging feelings of vulnerabilities as she becomes more aware of her differences? Did she learn that from her peers of from our family environment? Does this mean there are cruelties being done to her that I don't hear/know about? That she can't express?
Brown reflects in her article that at this point in our culture, it seems that there is an increase in the pattern of, "Rather than doing the difficult work of embracing our own vulnerabilities and imperfections, we expose, attack, or ridicule what is vulnerable or imperfect about others.".
I can see that everywhere - from reality shows and the news, comedy and movies. I hear that Myspace and Facebook as well are hot beds of one-upmanship and put downs. Denigrating others to boost our own sense of belonging, enhancing that us vs. Them dynamic appears to be built in our day to day life. How can we stop our children as the struggle to find their comfort zone in the world from doing unto others what we would not want done to them?
I know that, as a so-called typical person growing up, the world was a painful and exclusionary place socially. So I've always thought that my ideas about difference were progressive and that because I was so happy with my daughter just as she is that that would assist her in maintaining her self esteem. But now I see that there is more to it than that. There must be a deeply held belief that not only is it okay to be different, but that it is okay to be apart, it is okay to be afraid and to teach skills on how to be afraid and vulnerable without acting out against it - finding the place that we can be "the one" and being kind instead of aggressive in that place. Standing at the head of the line and humbly offering it to another. Seeing the person pushing an reflecting on how sad it is rather than how strong that is. Brown says it better than I can so I'll quote her again, "Vulnerability may be at the core of fear and uncertainty, but it is also the birthplace of courage and compassion".
Now I know in my heart that my daughter remains sweet and kind but needs to learn skills to manage her social interactions in a positive way. Her school has a wonderful program called Positive Behavior Intervention Supports to build anti-bullying skills. The teacher decided to address my daughter's behavior just as you would anyone else's, with an invitation to speak to an authority figure assigned to educate around conflict resolution skills and he id an excellent job since she reported back some of what he taught her. But as Brown says at the end of her article;"The answer to the bullying problem starts with this question; Do we have the courage to be the adults that our children need us to be? ".
And that is a good question."