Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Why do you care how I parent my child?

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(RSS Readers – there’s a video. Had to import it via VodPod. I wish VodPod would get on the ball and make it so their transported videos were viewable in readers. My apologizes).

I’ll be the first to admit, I judge other mothers. I try not to, but we all judge on some level. But I rarely, if ever, call a mother out for something she’s doing, or not doing, because A. it’s none of my business and B. I don’t know her, her child, or the situation.

I think I judge because I’m in the same boat and/or I’ve been there, done that and feel like I handled it, though not necessarily the best way. (I have regrets – ho boy, do I have some parenting regrets).

I judge because I’m an experienced mom and I can draw on that experience and think, “there is such a better way of doing that.” Or, “That is a terrible habit to start.” Or, “Oh wow, they’re going to regret giving in so much when that child gets older.”

I think other parents care because of a genuine need to help. It hurts my heart to see a young, frazzled mom out and at a complete loss as to how to control, or soothe, an agitated child. I would love to stop that mom and give her some advice because I was there, I went through that, and I have ideas on how to make it better.

But of course I don’t do that because again, A. it’s none of my business and B. I don’t know her, her child, or the situation.

I think other parents care because they don’t want to see other parents make the same mistakes as they did when confronted by the same issues. They want to protect other parents from going down the same road, and suffering the same heartache and/or guilt that comes from making a wrong decision. It’s a “learn from my mistakes” sort of instinct, I think.

I think other parents care because pointing out someone else’s flaws makes them feel better about their own parenting skills. It’s petty and despicable, and I’m not condoning that “holier than thou” attitude, but it’s a human reaction and one we must control and correct.

I think other parents care because they see potential health risks (like mentioning the child should be wearing a hat when being pushed out into hot, direct sunlight). It’s hard to see a child physically suffer when the fix is so easy.

I think other parents care because they think the young parents don’t know any better. Maybe that mom honestly doesn’t know that putting a hat on her child is protecting her soft, sensitive head.

I think other parents care because these children are our future. Because correcting behavioral problems when they’re young is so much easier than trying to break the mold and start over when they’re in their teens. Bright, disciplined, respectful, considerate children generally grow up to be productive and responsible adults.

All of these are parenting instincts – we’re parents, we should all stick together sort of mentality – they’re natural reactions to situations we’ve experienced – we want to help. But pushing that advice on to other people is not the way to do it. It comes off as rude, intrusive, and snotty and it’s certainly an unwelcome intrusion into something so personal as parenting and our children. Especially at a time when we’re feeling frazzled and unsure how to handle the situation and definitely not receptive to outside “help”. Those young parents KNOW something is not right but they just haven’t processed how to handle it.

It’s like trying something new and you’re concentrating on figuring it out for yourself – you’re trying out different ways of achieving the goal and some know-it-all comes along and solves the problem for you. There’s no satisfaction out of that. There’s no sense of triumph that you handled it all by yourself.

No one likes to be shown up, in any situation.

Then the unsolicited advice comes along and there’s a sense of embarrassment that A. the parent wasn’t strong, or wise, enough to handle the situation on his/her own, and B. all eyes are on them and everything from that point on is center stage and being scrutinized.

It’s just not that much fun to be in the spotlight in uncertain and embarrassing situations.

I am learning to be more patient with young parents. I’m also the type of person to come to a young mom’s defense in stores whenever her child is acting up and other people around her are being rude or hostile. Whenever I see a frazzled mom, I try and catch her eye, give her an encouraging smile and simply say, “I’ve been there.” It’s my way of offering help without being in her face. If it looks like she wants to talk, then I will pause to talk. If she wants advice, then I will give her advice. But often times, she will simply return the smile and I can see the relief in her eyes that someone knows what she’s going through and she’s not alone in her frustration and exasperation.

It’s a lesson that once again, we parents need to be encouraging to one another and to control the judging. Especially when we don’t know the whole situation or the people involved.

Parenting doesn’t come with a manual – we’re all winging it – we’re all in this together. It’s time we started supporting each other.

ADDED: Here’s a really good article about judging moms right here. Seriously ya’ll, I know some of your hearts are in the right place, but it’s time to stop with the over-the-top judging. Children are not made of glass – thank God.

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