Loving the idea of a new diagnosis of “What Did You Expect.” I heard this term recently, from a psychiatrist, in response to the many many labels we designate to the “bad behaviour” of young people. He proposed, instead, a culture of awareness, and a diagnosis of What Did You Expect.
When you take away safety, nurturance, stability, food, housing, identity, community & support from a young person, What Did You Expect would be the result?
When you inflict trauma, pain, neglect, loss and fear on a child, How Did You Expect Them To Behave?
When young people experience trauma, neglect and a lack of safety, they cannot, read that again, CANNOT choose to behave in well regulated ways. To continually expect them to “make good choices” at all times, to not “act out”, to “behave normally”, is reinforcing the trauma they have already survived.
These expectations reinforce the shame, reinforce the feelings of alienation, reinforce the belief that their world is out of control, unfair and unsafe. These expectations reinforce the message that there is something wrong with them, not something wrong with what has happened to them.
We need to change this narrative, dig in deep and be in empathy with them. Get curious about their story. Create moments of safety, of acceptance, of understanding. Model vulnerability, willingness & commitment. Build relationship. Build trust. Show up, unconditionally, show up, again and again. Be the one person that does them no harm, takes nothing from them, and shows them their worth. Be the person that gives back to them their sense of value, their sense of safety, a feeling of hope. Be the one to give them attention, unconditional positive regard, and a deep knowing there is nothing WRONG WITH them, but that something terrible happened TO THEM.
And finally, be the one who allows them to believe that not only can they heal, they can thrive.