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Monday, November 11, 2019  

Letter to the EditorPublished 3/24/2003

I began reading the column (Regarding Children Learn What They Live, 3/10/03 - by Linda Rener MPH, MSN, RN) casually but by the time I finished it, I was in a much different frame of mind. Rather than generalizing, I’ll address my specific points.

"I don’t know what was upsetting me more: the mother/child dynamic or the people desensitized to the situation."

The writer’s lofty indignation gives the impression that she regarded herself as one beacon of intelligent perception among a sea of ignorance. Perhaps the people who appeared "desensitized to the situation" were simply trying their best to allow mom a non-judgmental atmosphere so that she might have an opportunity to sort out the situation. There are those who, upon seeing someone trip and fall will rush to help. There are also those who do nothing at all precisely because they are making the snap decision to not acknowledge the fall so that the person may preserve his/her dignity. Neither action is open to judgment, since both are well-intentioned.

"…finally the writer said to the child……’if you don’t get up I am leaving you here!’ "I don’t know what the mother was thinking, but when she threatened to abandon the child….."

Imagine a five or six-year old child throwing a tantrum: unheard of—if you are recently arrived from a different planet. The writer’s tone of shocked indignation seems to convey her impression that there aren’t several hundred thousand other parents who have said the same thing under similar circumstances.

"Just then one of my students came by and said, "Can you believe that mother?" The writer, the instructor, the teacher, responded with, "Perhaps I should intervene."

The student tried and convicted Mom on the spot in a marvelous display of intolerance and lack of compassion. Her nursing instructor, instead of cautioning her student against such a rush to judgment, seemingly reinforced the student’s unfortunate condemnation.

"I had to hold back the laughter at what this child was getting away with."

Mom was also seemingly tried and convicted for incompetence by her smiling, but inwardly condescending, benefactor.

"What I modeled for that mother and child today was an alternative to the way they communicated in the past."

Once again, the writer is our lone, shining beacon in the darkness. Exactly when did the thorough evaluation take place that allowed the writer the perception, or even the right, to make this judgment? What parent can’t tell of how his/her child can act like a perfect angel with others and a holy terror with the parents? I have yet to meet a fellow parent who hasn’t experienced one or more of those morbidly embarrassing instances of a child temporarily out of control in public. Our fondest wish during those times is that the people around us are also parents and are therefore assuming that we are doing the best we can rather than passing judgment on the entire history of our particular parent/child "dynamic."

The writer also makes no acknowledgment of any possible personal circumstances in Mom’s life that might have grossly affected her coping skills. Is Mom perhaps a working, single parent going to school? Is she suffering through a divorce or even a death in the family? Is she worried about paying the bills? Is there any one of a thousand circumstances in her life that might have her to the point of emotional overload? Even if there is, the writer, a holistic practitioner, obviously didn’t trouble herself to consider that.

Yet, the writer states earlier in the article, "I don’t know what the mother was thinking." Exactly.

"…if the mother continues to model appropriate behavior, the child will learn."

One cannot help but feel a sense of relief that when our parenting skills fall below certain standards, that there are people out there looking disdainfully down upon us from their haughty perches of righteousness, ready with heartfelt assistance—spoiled only by their unspoken censure of our incompetence.

It seems a rather odd attitude from a profession that is supposedly characterized by caring for people without making hasty, personal judgments in the process.

In the writer’s defense, she is certainly not unique. I have observed this same sort of attitude in a dismaying number of her colleagues from various institutions. It is a frequent subject of conversation in the trenches of nursing and the motivation for this rather angry expression of what is, after all, one person’s opinion.

Any military commander (yes, I’ve been one of those, too) is aware that the most important, effective type of leadership is defined as "Lead by example." I must regretfully offer the opinion that this was a very poor example of leadership. I can only hope that the distressed mother of this article never reads it, else she might discover the rather distasteful attitudes behind the help she was given; rather like discovering the half-worm in the middle of the apple.

I believe the Greek word is "hubris."

Michael Thayer

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