Intervening IN a child's life, not ON it

I recently had the opportunity to observe two parents responding to their child's need for external structure and support in a way that many of my colleagues would label as "feeding in" to the child's behavior. When the child laid down on the floor while making loud, keening noises, the child's father laid down beside him, stroking his stomach and reassuring the boy that it was OK. His mother, upon seeing this, came to her son's side and did the same thing. Both parents, on the floor, intervening IN their child's life. He calmed down in a minute or two, got up off the floor, and the family went on about their business.

Having seen this first-hand, it struck me that these parents had intervened IN their child's life, not "ON" it as many qualified professional advisers would certainly have recommended. While those recommendations may be appropriate for some children, I was impressed that such interventions were not appropriate for this child at that time, and I was impressed by the parents' fearlessness in approaching their child. The confidence that flowed from them enabled their child to restore his equilibrium and "move on" without any apparent "residue" of the intervention in a very short period of time, and his loud attention-drawing vocalizations stopped in a matter of seconds, rather than echoing through the halls for minutes on end, coming from a bathroom or some other out-of-the-way place, as is all too common.

I have no doubt that the child will have a lower probability of displaying this type of over-reaction to stimuli in the future because of his parents' gentle but assertive and wholly supportive intervention in his life. It gave me pause to think and reconsider what I've been trained to recommend by people who have never invested themselves as deeply in the life of a child as these parents had. I've now advised my staff to strive to intervene IN the lives of the children they serve, not "ON" them, in exactly this same way, and I encourage other parents and professionals to consider this when addressing the issues of child misbehavior, especially in public places.