Friday, May 27, 2011

Bad Kids = Bad Parents?

I read an article on the Today show website about whether or not bad kids always equal bad parents. I had to laugh for several reasons. First, I don’t believe there are “bad kids”, but instead, bad behavior for a lot of different reasons. Any parent visiting this blog may know first hand that you can be the best parent and still have the most outrageous behavior due to brain chemistry. Then there’s factors like abusive homes and drug abuse. The list goes on and on and yes, even bad parenting can make this list. But what made me laugh was a comment in the article about good kids. They mentioned that parents are quick to take credit for good behavior in kids, such as sleeping through the night, achieving good grades and being responsible.

It made me wonder, can we really take credit for good kids? I have first hand experience that kids can be born this way. I happen to have one of those “good kids” in my middle son, he’s a star student, very caring, respectful and responsible. He asks for forgiveness when he does something wrong and feels sincere remorse when he does. He was my only child to take naps, eat the food off his plate, sleep through the night and do his homework independently without ever complaining. I can’t even remember the last time he got a timeout.

Now this son of mine is not a perfect child, he has his own faults like we all do, but I can say that he’s an easy child to raise. Had this been my only child, I would’ve thought that I was an amazing parent, that my parenting techniques were exceptional and that I had mastered this thing called “parenting”. But I can honestly say that this is not the case. I’m like most parents who are doing their best, making mistakes along the way, who happens to have a child, created by God to be easy going.

This year at open house when I met my son’s teacher, I was pulled aside. At first I thought... Oh no, what happened. You see, most communication with the school staff had been uncomfortable due to the challenges we faced stabilizing his older brother’s meds. But to my pleasant surprise, his teacher began praising me, so much so I was a little embarrassed. She said that she just had to meet me because I was raising an amazing child and was so impressed and wanted to know what I was doing to raise such a special child.

I had to laugh.

First, I will admit that it felt nice to be the parent receiving praises after so many negative experiences with his older brother acting out. But I was laughing because I knew that I couldn’t take any credit for this child. He is who he is.

If you spend any time in my home, you’ll see that our kids are wired to be who they are. I really think that there’s a lot more “nature” involved in who we are then “nurture”. Now don’t get me wrong, I really value good parenting and believe it’s very important, but I have an unusual perspective showing me that our kids are uniquely themselves. So for all those parents of “easy” children, be careful how you judge us parents who are in the midst of a nuclear meltdown, don’t be so quick to judge, maybe in our shoes, with your top notch parenting techniques, you’d be experiencing the same breakdown. We need to be kind to one another and instead of measuring our value as a parent based on how our child acts, we should just celebrate who they are.

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Article from the Today Show website:


  1. So true, so very true! My brother and I are both Bipolar but are totally different. He refuses meds and I take them...he has distanced himself from the family and I cling to family values. Yet we were raised in the same household. It is in our nature to be different.

  2. How true! I remember 30 years ago believing that with my OUTSTANDING parenting skills, love would fix everything. LOL, I was SO naive!

  3. I've been lurking here at your blog for a few weeks. My middle son - almost 9 - is currently part of a research study for depression. Just this week the doctor became increasingly concerned with his fluctuation of behaviors. We are "testing" Ritalin this week and next to see if it treats possible ADHD or brings out bipolar tendencies. So far, he has been doing wonderful!

    Your post today really hit home with me. I am struggling with not concerning myself with what others think and teaching myself to ignore those judgmental glances and stares. However, the majority of them come from my MIL. That is a very tough one to overcome. She has actually told my husband that she doesn't approve of how I am raising her grandsons and I don't know what I'm doing.

    Thank you for being open and honest with your experiences and feelings!

  4. Thank you so much for your blog. I've been reading it on and off for a few weeks now. It has encouraged me on some of our darker days with our son. I have read your post "Why would God do this?" over and over on days that are rough.
    Today I googled feeling like a failure as a parent and then I thought I'd check your blog and found this post of yours.
    Thank you for sharing.

  5. I am moved by the last two posts above, both by anonymous followers. It makes me so upset to read about the judgements that Moms face. Our job is hard enough as it is and we can’t do it without the support of others. Many times I’ve been in your shoes, feeling like a failure, being judged by other moms for something no amount of love and good parenting can fix.

    I believe in my heart that most moms facing such challenges are not only good parents, but exceptional. You face challenges like no other without the “kuddos” from society to move you forward. You’re not only dedicated, courageous parents, but you seek out learning new skills, having to leave your ego at the door, you spend hours researching everything from therapy techniques to medication side effects. You experience moments that most will never see, raising a child whose behavior is cruel and at times physically painful to the body and your soul, yet you tuck them in with kisses every night.

    I know you don’t hear it in your life and having family say hurtful words doesn’t help, but you must know that you’re a good mother. As much as I hurt from those judgmental eyes from other parents, or harsh comments under their breath, I try and remember that God sees and God knows.

    I really wish I could sit on Oprah’s couch and open the eyes of women all over to be kind to us moms and to withhold their judgement. As Maya Angelou always preached on her show, “When we know better, we do better”.

    Unfortunately that won't happen, so seek out those that know what an incredible mom you are. Share your story so that they can understand. It may be a challenge, but once accomplished it is priceless.

    (Ok, getting off my soap box now...)

  6. LOVE this post. I, too, have a "perfect child". He was my first, thank goodness, or I probably wouldn't have another one. My friends used to call him "the stepford child", and still, to this day, I get compliments and praise from other parents who have him over for playdates and from his teachers. To the teachers, I usually laugh and say, "just wait until you get the NEXT one"!

    Before I had the MadMan, I was one of those judgmental cocky parents who thought my "stepford child" was due to my exceptional parenting. I was quick to recommend parenting books and techniques that worked for us. Ha! Apparently God wanted to teach me a lesson, so he sent me THE most challenging, sometimes monstrous child he could find (he can also be the sweetest little boy in the World) to show me how little control I actually had over the situation.

    I think to a certain extent, nature tells us that you get certain personality traits and temperament. It's what we do to NURTURE our children that will help them learn to manage themselves and succeed with their unique skills and talents. As an adoptive mother, I had no control over what nature gave me, but I can do my best to nurture and help him turn out to the best of his abilities. But that said, nurture isn't a miracle and doesn't happen overnight. If we keep at it, our kids will become amazing productive members of society. THEN we can take the credit!!!

  7. Mama Bear, I LOVED your post to the new followers, too. We all need to remind ourselves that it takes an exceptional parent to continue to research treatments and medications, and to deal with what we do on a daily basis. For the most part, we are so isolated from parents of "regular" children, who don't want their kid coming near ours, so it's easy to feel like a failure. We need to seek out support and learn to tell off those nasty judgmental parents!

  8. Amen, sister!

    We have one of those "good kids" too. She was raised in the same environment as my difficult two, yet has skills they don't. She just came that way. I cannot take too much credit.

    Contrats on the compliments on your son. Way to go mom.

  9. HA! Accidental Expert used my line already - AMEN SISTER! I'm feeling the love here... Yes, we have to work to be good parents in this difficult situation, but ultimately, these children have to make the choices about how they will live their lives. I finally surrendered to my situation (3 boys, 2 are bipolar, one has Aspergers) and accepted this. It is. It just is. I also accept that I can't "love them out of this." If that were an option, none of us mom who posted here would have children who suffer so. But I can love them through this, and I can teach them skills and ways to manage the path they have to travel. However, only they can choose to use those gifts. It's a long road. I promise you other moms here, there are those of us who share your journey and when we see your child "misbehaving," we think "I wonder if that child suffers from a mood disorder?" instead of casting judgment. My oldest two are 16 and are as difficult as ever. However, they have found some really good friends that understand what they stuggle with. In fact, I have 3 teenage boys who spent the night last night. All three of these friends are GREAT kids, yet each has his own difficult story to live. They don't struggle with mental illness like my sons, but I think what they have been through has created a much less judgmental heart - and they can see my boys for the kind, good kids they are. I hope these same successes for each of your children. It's possible. But in my case, it took a long time for them to aquire such a good group of friends. Keep going, comrades. I think you're all fabulous women. Sincerely, Vicki B

  10. Vicki- Love your comment “I can love them through this” and your reminder that there are others out there acknowledging that our child may be struggling. It’s so great your kids have found friends that have accepting hearts, we hope to be there someday.

  11. I really think you will be. I felt the same sense of despair that I hear in your posts. It was hard during elementary and middle school. Sooooo hard. I hurt for them and all that they went through with "friendships." But they are in a good place now and the kids they now call friends are good kids who know they've found a loyal friend in my boys. I still have my 11 year old with bipolar disorder and he's not there yet. He's still subject to friends whose parents make them "stop hanging out" when they discover he's on meds for moods. He's pretty stable at school, so it's not like he's been threatening or anything. It's odd that these children are so open to each other until an adult teaches them to be biased. I hate that. But the good news (in my opinion) is that when they become teenagers, they love to rebel and do all the things their parents are being friends with a kid with a mental illness. I'm just hanging on a few more years until my youngest is in a peer group that can fully commit to being his friend. I do know it's possible though! I believe with all my heart that what my boys have had to go through has created in them an open and compassionate heart. That will serve them so well when they become adults. I know they will be rock solid friends to those they choose to let in their world. Vick B

  12. Really great post, Mama Bear. As the mother of an only child, I really struggled with blaming myself for my daughter's problems for a long time. I didn't see the Today Show, but your post reminded me of a similar radio program I heard on NPR a while back. Here's the link in case you're interested.