Teaching Our Children to Be Kind- Despite the Disabilities of Others

Toward the end of the school year my daughter’s General Education class was evacuated due to two children fighting. Apparently, a desk and a chair were thrown and it was children who it would appear, have behavioral issues. This isn’t the first time there have been issues.

I’m in a unique situation from most parents. This was R (age 9), who spends most of her time in General Education with pull outs mainly due to Dyslexia, being evacuated. But it very easily could have been D causing the evacuation in his class. At school, he’s mostly fine since his service dog Charlie started going with him, but at home, things can get a bit crazy. So I know how those parents must have felt when they got the call from the school about their child. I know the frustration, the panic, the helplessness, and fear that comes from situations like this.

Because I understand all this, I find myself in an unusual situation. How do I teach my daughter to be safe, not to become a doormat, and yet be kind and friendly to a child who, I’m just guessing, but probably really needs a friend or two?

I don’t even begin to have the answers for this. I just know how I would like D to be treated if he were in this situation. I asked my community of Special Needs Parents and one response that really stood out was this-  “When something is happening and your child doesn’t feel safe, she should call out loudly that, “I don’t like what “John” is doing and I don’t feel safe.” This alerts the adults nearby that something is going on and helps the child who is being unsafe hear that a peer is not comfortable with what he is doing, and then your child should walk away. That works great for keeping her safe.

But what about learning to still be kind to people who may not seem to deserve it but not taking it so far that she learns to just take the abuse?

I don’t want my daughter receiving the message that you just keep taking whatever someone dishes out to you no matter how unkind they may be. That’s abuse and I don’t believe for a second that is what Christ meant when he said to turn the other cheek. I believe we should have respect for our body and spirit and the same respect for others.

In Appied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy we learn about reinforcing good behaviors and causing an extinction of the bad behaviors. As R only sees these children in a school setting and they are in her class and will likely be in her class next year, I think she should remove herself from the situation when things get out of hand. But it is my hope that when things are safe, she includes these children in her play, that she invites them to join in. As one of them has a crush on her I’m hoping that the positive reinforcement of her attention and kindness will have its effect on the child.

However… I also know only too well the dangerous line she runs in doing this, having followed this idea myself as a young girl. I had young men severely upset with me because they thought they were my boyfriend simply because I was being nice to them as I could tell they needed a friend. How do I help her navigate this minefield that is only going to get harder as she gets older?

Still searching for answers….

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