Why you should never be quick to judge another parent

Amie battling with her son in the clip.
Amie battling with her son in the clip.  Photo: YouTube

If there is one golden rule which everyone should follow when it comes to parenting, it should be this: never, ever judge another mum or dad based purely on what you believe is the unacceptable behaviour of their children in public.

Whether it's a toddler throwing an almighty tantrum, a five-year-old being spiteful or a 12-year-old being rude, the truth is that nobody outside the family knows exactly what is at the heart of the problem. 

This truth is something US radio host Mike Steele is now well aware of - but sadly he managed to shame a mother struggling with her young son who has autism before coming ot that realisation.

Steele posted a video of Facebook and titled it "Spare the Rod Spoil the Child". The clip showed mum Amie Carter struggling to control her son Jayden in a restaurant carpark; the then two-year-old boy was pulling at his mum's arm, throwing himself to the ground and screaming uncontrollably. 

Steele, and many of his followers, believed the boy was a spoiled, badly behaved child who needed firm, and physical, discipline.

But when Amie contacted Steele about the clip, and informed him the video was taken six years ago, before Jayden was diagnosed with autism, the radio host retracted the original post and changed his opinion. 

In a new post he wrote: "Little did I know, this little boy ... is diagnosed with Autism. I didn't know until his mother contacted me. It's funny how we can see a video and add our twist to it. Now that we know this piece of info, how would you really react to your child who's diagnosed with autism? We probably would have reacted the same way she did … Let this be a lesson to us all and let's join hands to understand autism as a whole!!! Sorry Amie AND Jayden!!"

The video in question was shot in 2010 as Amie and her family left a restaurant when Jayden was upset about not winning a toy at a game inside. After managing to get her screaming son out of the restaurant and into the carpark, Amie asked her daughter to video the tantrum so they could show her son's behaviour to his doctor in a desperate attempt to get a diagnosis for him. 

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The video has been viewed more than 11 million times since Amie posted it on YouTube in 2010.

"I honestly chose to post it because I was mad and frustrated with the system and its lack of support. I was mad because I had been speaking out, trying to get help. I decided to be a voice and posted the video," Amie told Scary Mommy.

Jayden has now been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, Asperger syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and sub threshold bi-polar disorder.

Despite this diagnosis, and Steele's subsequent apology, many of the 33,000 people who commented on the post still blamed Amie for her son's behaviour and suggested physical punishment as the answer.

"Let him know who's in charge! That is a brat! Spoiled brat!" one woman wrote.

Thankfully, others sympathised with Amie's situation and that of all parents of children with special needs.

"Bless his little heart. He doesn't understand why he is acting like that and obviously has issues. Don't judge the mother. She is doing what works best for the situation. Patience, love and compassion go a long way in these moments. What could start out as a good day can change in a heartbeat," said one commenter.

And that is why it is important to refrain from judging a mother or father when their child misbehaves in public. A more helpful response would be to offer support and ask if there is anything you can do to help the struggling parent.

Who knows, one day it might be your child's behaviour that requires understanding from others.  

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