By Joyce Oglesby
Q: “My child has a sensitive food disorder. It’s not detectable to look at her, but if she happens to eat something that triggers the sensitivity, it manifests itself in acting out and even temper tantrums. When I’m in public, I’m often embarrassed at the disruption because people are rude with their looks and sometimes even make critical comments about my parenting. My husband gets frustrated because I don’t want to go out to dinner with or without our child, but I don’t feel comfortable leaving her at home, either. It’s a dilemma. She’s under a doctor’s care, but how do you discipline a child who can’t control the reason behind her problem?”
Joyce: I don’t believe discipline is the problem, or the cure, as much as I’m drawn to feel your sensitivity is your own challenge. I find people have very little tolerance for things they don’t understand. I’ve also lived long enough to know that folks would rather judge others than pull the plank out of their own issues.
I’ll leave your doctor to advise you about your child’s condition, but allow me to offer this piece of advice for you: other people are not walking in your shoes. Let people think what they want to; they’re going to anyway. When folks feel as though they have to meddle, simply thank them for their concern. If you care to give them the medical terminology for your daughter’s condition, feel free to put them in their place about their uninformed opinion regarding your parenting skills. Go out to dinner with your husband and with your child. If the acting-out occurs, turn her over to him and you enjoy your dinner. Don’t be reluctant about securing a sitter and going out for a nice evening with your husband. You need it as much as he does. I don’t have to tell you to be sure to enlist someone who respects your rules for what your child can and cannot eat. Whatever you do, don’t become a prisoner to things out of your control. Love, protect, and enjoy your child. She will detect your tension. Manage her condition skillfully without intimidation or humiliation. Make sure your child is aware of appropriate boundaries and that you will not be allowing her to use the disorder to her advantage. That is something you and your husband must discern in the parenting of your daughter. As for people, they are not your concern. She is.