I am terrified about not being there when someone decides to take out their frustration on my child. It’s a high risk. They behave oddly and sometimes aggressively. As they get older, people’s tolerance for non-typical behaviour gets smaller. Once they’re ostracized, it becomes easier and more acceptable for other people to strike out at them.
We’re social creatures. We’ve evolved to depend on our social interactions for survival. Loss of the group’s support and approval can and does lead to tragic consequences. When someone is identified as being outside the group, it becomes part of the group dynamic to show that they are excluded. Rudeness becomes acceptable, followed by more aggressive steps if the outsider doesn’t get the message. People on the receiving end of this ostracism can go one of two ways. Their spirits are crushed or they embrace their anti-social position, becoming even worse.
My children are bright, genuine little people. I don’t want them to be crushed by society and I certainly don’t want them lashing back at those who haven’t accepted them. There are problems with their behaviour, no question. But there’s something worthwhile under that and I don’t want someone in a temper to scar them emotionally. No one deserves that.
The only defence I have is to work on their behaviour, specifically aggressive behaviour. Make them less of a potential target. I may not be able to prevent ostracism, but I can certainly try to minimize the odds of them being physically attacked. It adds urgency to what was already a difficult situation.
It would be much better if people could react with compassion instead of offence. It seems like there’s no trust in our society any more. At its root, brat rage says: I can’t trust the parents to manage their child, so I have to take direct action. It’s vigilante justice, which often results in innocent people getting hurt in real life. There are always multiple sides to an issue, no matter how simple we would prefer it to be. Selected context can twist just about anything. Taking direct action against a brat can become an assault on a disabled child. The words create the spin and define the perceived reality.
Most people aren’t violent. I may get a lot of disapproving “bad parent” looks, but that’s usually as far as it goes. Sometimes I get unasked for opinions and advice. And once in awhile, things go further. It’s not acceptable and it spotlights the incredible vulnerability of me and my children. The attackers may be dealing with their own issues and I imagine they often feel sorry afterwards, but that doesn’t change the terror they’ve unleashed in the moment. It can’t be taken back, no matter how many apologies happen. It can become a life-changing event and the victims will never be the same as they were before.
That’s why I believe we should expect better from ourselves. Expressing feelings is all well and good but there should be respect and compassion for others as well. You can get the same relief of venting by complaining to friends or family as by directly confronting the object of your frustration. The feelings themselves are completely justified, but expressing them violently overshadows everything else.
It’s time to renew the virtues of decorum and self-restraint.
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