I watched while he sat in the courtroom. Where the topic of conversation being discussed was who he was and what he had done. I noticed, perhaps because I was looking for it, a slight change in his posture. Then, slowly, I began to see tiny cracks in his exterior’s toughness, and the little boy inside appeared.
Part of the struggle with having a child facing the juvenile justice system is our awareness that our children will move forward in life with a label. We worry about what school administration and teaching staff will think about them and if they’ll be written off as a problem child. Will they give our child a fair chance, or will they have already predetermined they are not worth the effort? What will our child’s classmates say about them in the hallways and on social media? Will they tell their parents? Will those same parents come up with a label for me?
But, we don’t see labels.
When we look at our kids, we don’t see the labels that others do. During my time in the courtroom, I heard parents stand up in court and say things like, “He’s a good kid, he just needs to do a better job of picking out his friends.” or “She’s so smart, she’s just making some really bad choices, and we want her to get help.” They saw the situation for what it was. A mistake. Sometimes a big mistake but definitely not a complete picture of who their child was.
We battle with fear over what others will think of them and the judgments people will place on them.
I wish I could tell you that labeling won’t happen. I wish I could come on here and say people won’t spread rumors or form judgments. I wish I could say that every teacher and parent will give them a fair chance. That they’ll never label your child as a trouble maker or juvenile delinquent (UGH! I’ve always hated that word). I can’t promise you that won’t happen. However…
As parents, the words we speak to our child will influence what they think about themselves. The thing that is so important about family is that our kids need to know we are there even while they are doing their best to break away from our influence. That means that What you, their parent or family member, believe to be true about them will absolutely be a message they receive. Good or bad. They’ll get the input even if it seems like they are uninterested in your thoughts and opinions.
So, you get to decide what the label YOU will put on them is. Who will you say your child is? Maybe today, you’re questioning it. Perhaps, you don’t recognize who they are at all anymore. If that’s the case, take time to think back to who your son/daughter was as a child. What were some of their best qualities? When I ask parents this question, they usually take a deep breath, and their eyes soften just a little bit. They typically say things like:
He cared about other peoples feelings
He was joyful
She was so good to her younger siblings
She was courageous
He loved to share
He had the biggest heart.
Maybe the things you once loved about them aren’t exactly shining through at this moment. Will you dare to believe it’s still in there? Can you find a way to remind yourself the next time you want to scream in frustration to remember the child inside?
Choose to be the consistent voice in their life that combats all the other labels. Because even if they deny it, they still need you to believe in them. To remind them of the goodness that you see in them. I read a quote today that said, “What is sanity, after all, except the control of madness.” This is not the end of their story, far from it. We have to begin the process of shifting our focus from all the things we can’t control to the things we can. You can do this because you are not a parent who gives up if you are reading this post. You’re a parent who shows up!