It’s been years since I heard those words while chasing after my child in the supermarket. But they’re still painful.

I remember bringing my son with ADHD to the store when he was very young. Each time, I told him to stay with me and the cart. But he’d run ahead to get to the cookie aisle, forcing me to run after him. Well aware that people were staring — and in some cases glaring — I’d scold him loudly without thinking about it, and he’d burst into tears. That’s when I would hear those dreaded words: “She needs to control her child!”

Parenting can be difficult on the best of days. But if you’re anything like me, you know that parenting a child with learning and attention issues can be an extra challenge. The last thing we need is strangers in the supermarket — or anywhere else — judging us and our children. Often, these folks just have the wrong information. Or they’re simply unaware.

Even so, their words can leave us feeling embarrassed and isolated. That’s what happened to me. I also felt guilty for taking it out on my child.

Being understood is important when you’re raising a child with learning and attention issues. If those strangers had known that the symptoms of ADHD are caused by differences in brain function and structure — not by bad parenting — maybe they’d have reacted differently. If they’d known that he and I were doing our best, maybe they’d even have said something supportive.

That’s why at Understood, part of our mission is to raise awareness of learning and attention issues — and to reduce the stigma for the parents and kids who face this reality every day. When people understand, they’re better able to support parents and kids, and to make a difference in their communities. With family, school, and community behind them, kids with learning and attention issues can reach their full potential.

But it all starts with being understood.