Mothers DO Know Best

Parents know their children very, very well. And while fathers are good at acquiring this knowledge, mothers know the most, to the greatest depth, in the greatest detail.

I am not able to explain this phenomenon. But when mothers sense something is “wrong”, their “sense” is remarkably accurate, much moreso than the impressions of “professionals” who teach or test them.

How mothers acquire this knowledge is remarkable because they have NOT had the opportunity to compare their children to other children except by brief, informal observations of those others. Yet, their descriptions and inferences about their own children are almost invariably true. Somehow a mother “knows” when her child is depressed, angry, confused, happy, demoralized, fearful, or excited. Moreover, a mother knows what circumstances and activities elicit these different states in her child.

Of course, a facile explanation is that a mother spends a lot of time with her child and gradually learns patterns. But that explanation is extremely simplistic. To identify demoralization in a child, for instance, entails repeated, close  observations of that child in widely varying circumstances and then somehow aligning the properties of certain circumstances with the many ways that emotions can be physically expressed (e.g. by a change in facial expression or voice tone or body position, or all of these combined) . She must discriminate between “shows” of demoralization and genuine indicators of demoralization. This particular discrimination is one even the most experienced, sensitive “professional” can miss altogether…understandably, since it takes so much time to learn these distinctions. That is why I invariably advise mothers to believe what they feel, to trust their own judgments and intuitions and to question closely those specialists and teachers and psychologists when these latter make pronouncements about their children.

One of the most common experiences a mother has is when a teacher tells her that her child is “doing fine” in school when the mother senses he/she is not. Worse,  a child can be labeled “inattentive” (or even ADD by a psychologist) when the mother believes he/she is bored. So often the mother’s opinion is trivialized, treated with a dismissive and patronizing “I understand; he/she is your son/daughter so you don’t want to acknowledge his/her problem” and patted on the hand.

But mothers KNOW.  Sometimes, they can be convinced that they CAN’T know, that the professionals know better because, well they’re “trained” and “experienced”.  And so, I constantly exhort mothers to believe in themselves. For in the end, THEY ARE the EXPERTS.


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