One of the more difficult parts of parenting a child with autism, and something that can be hard to talk about, is the embarrassment you may feel about your child’s behavior. As parents, we’re not supposed to feel embarrassed about our children, yet we’re also taught that children should behave, and if they don’t, it’s probably a result of faulty parenting.
This belief system can be very disempowering, especially for a parent of a child with autism, because it’s impossible to control everything your child does. At those times when your child is acting strangely or falling apart, you can feel embarrassed or angry about the judgment you may feel from others. As a result, you may feel pressure to do something against your instincts, such as punish your child, just to save face, to look like you’re in control, or to assuage your anger.
In reality, just like the sadness issue, how you feel about others’ opinions is completely up to you. Believe it or not, you can choose to feel however you like when your child throws a tantrum in the mall. You don’t have to feel unhappy just because your child is unhappy, or because others may judge you or your child. It’s possible to empathize with your child in the situation while remaining happy and calm, or at least neutral and calm.
Next time you’re in such a situation, ask yourself this question- “Which attitude would best serve me, my child, and this situation? Happy and calm, or embarrassed and angry?” My guess is that happy and calm would be the better choice in most situations, but ultimately your mindset is up to you. You cannot be influenced by others’ opinions, your child’s feelings, or anything else, unless you decide that you can.
Now let’s turn for a moment to the person who is judging your child. This is someone who is judging a child with special needs. What exactly does that say about them? In reality, their judgment doesn’t define you or your child at all. Instead, their judgment defines them as someone who needs to judge. It has nothing to do with you or your child.
If your child could do better right now, he would. In time he will do better, no matter what’s happening at this moment. If you choose happiness instead of embarrassment, you can best support your child when he needs you most, even while he’s falling apart at the mall.