In the article on HuffPost today called “The Hypocrisy of Parenting,” Dr. Kurt Smith makes a point that until we are a parent ourselves, it’s very easy to judge our friends and strangers during small snapshots of their parenting life.
“There often seems to be something about not having children that makes everyone a parenting expert. Many of us quietly have thought to ourselves, “I can’t believe they…”
“Let him watch TV that late! or,
Sleep in their bed, or
Scream in a store, or
Wear THOSE clothes, or
Eat nothing but mac-n-cheese and Cheerios
This list could go on and on.”
I have several memories of being judged or having my kids judged by relatives and friends. I was judgmental before I had kids, too, so I get how easy it can be to think you know best if you’re removed by years from the toddler years — or never have been a parent.
What annoyed me was I knew there were times I made a decision to bend or compromise my rules because we were in public. It was a conscious and I felt necessary choice. Sometimes it’s easier to give in rather than create a scene in front of the sister-in-law or friend you’re trying to hang out with while juggling the demands of both a toddler and an infant. Maybe it’s not the best decision, but seriously aren’t we doing the best we can — at the moment? It isn’t helpful at that moment to be judged on your parenting.
My good friend who came and stayed with me couldn’t believe how uncooperative my two-year-old son was when I was trying to get him out of his comfy PJs into clothes. “I never!” I remember hearing her say under her breath. I believe that was followed with great parenting tips from her, who wasn’t pregnant yet with her first child. What she said was correct in theory, but practicing parenting is a whole other animal.
Flash forward a few years and she apologized to me in a restaurant where her firstborn wouldn’t sit still in his high chair. “I am so sorry!” she said. “When I was criticizing you, I had no idea!”
That is truly a good friend.
I know other people in my life who were critical and not very kind with their opinions and judgments. Seemingly, they had forgotten when their children threw temper tantrums on the department store floor or when their kids didn’t come straight home from school and had to be hunted down. Those days were before I had kids and I was judgemental and amazed at the lack of parenting skills — until I had my own kids that is. Then I understood that it’s best not to judge.
I haven’t forgotten how hard those years can be on parents when kids act out. Usually, it’s when children are tired, hungry or sick or in a new environment. Please remember they are not little adults who know how to act perfectly in public and can control their emotions.
Here are three things Smith writes in HuffPost to help us out:
When children enter your world you have to remember that friends that haven’t taken that step have no idea what you are feeling, whether it is frustration, joy, embarrassment, elation or just desperation not to scream. When they offer an opinion it is likely coming from a good spot. And, if your friend hopes to become a parent someday, or is having trouble in that regard, be kind. They may have preconceived ideas about what would work. You very likely did.
As a parent it can be difficult when your friends are trying to offer advice or ‘parent’ your child. Generally they do this because they are close to you and likely want to feel included and important in your life and your child’s. Whenever possible it is important to take the opportunity to make sure friends, especially the ones who haven’t decided to have children yet, know the important role they play in your family’s life.
Parents need to remember that your friend was likely your friend before your child was born. That doesn’t mean they take precedence, but try not to forget them. Your new role as a dad or mom means that they may feel theirs has changed or is no longer important. Make sure you occasionally find time to let them know what they mean to you and that your life is better because they are in it.
As silly and simple as it sounds, before we were parents, we weren’t. And although it isn’t listed in many places (if any), becoming a parent will make you almost instantly a hypocrite. When maintaining friendships across this new terrain, both parties would do well to remember that.
Have you experienced friends or relatives who were judgemental about your parenting techniques? In what instances have you judged others because of the behavior of their kids?