Is it ever OK to tell someone they’re parenting wrong? I can feel the creeping unease just at the thought of it. Awks!
In the purported chaos of the ‘mummy wars‘ there tend to be two clear camps – those that will happily and vociferously judge and those that keep their heads down and say ‘each to their own‘.
I tend to fall into the latter camp, and have written before
about how every family is living their own story so we shouldn’t judge without knowing all the facts.
However, I’m not a total believer in ‘each to their own’, and this is why…
I’m not a total believer in ‘each to their own’, and this is why…
The summer after my daughter was born, the headlines
started being shared across social media about how it was dangerous to cover to a buggy with a blanket or muslin in the heat as it can make the temperature inside the buggy rise to dangerous levels.
My sister (who has no children) saw one of these articles and shared it with me. A few weeks later, she was out on a hot day by the seaside, when she saw a mum with a blanket over her baby’s buggy to protect it from the sun. With the article still fresh in her mind, and with her super strong moral compass, my sister went over to the mum and told her about the article and why they said it was dangerous.
She basically told the mum she was parenting wrong.
Now, it could have gone one of two ways – she could either be grateful for the heads up or fly off the handle at the fact a stranger was telling her how to look after her child.
Luckily, she took it really well and thanked my sister for letting her know as she hadn’t heard the warnings. I really admire that. It isn’t easy being criticised, however gently and constructively, particularly about your parenting.
I also admire my sister for having the guts to say something when it could have been received badly.
But here’s the thing, and the reason I think it’s OK to call parents out on occasion….
We all have to be advocates for children who can’t help themselves if they’re in a potentially dangerous situation.
I’d rather tell a mum gently that putting a blanket over the buggy holding her sleeping child in the heat of summer is not recommended and the reasons why, and face her potential wrath knowing I’d at least tried to help.
Finding the line
However, like all things, it’s not black and white. I think there’s a line between informing, telling and reprimanding that goes some way to determining how well the comment will be received. There’s also the issue of individual judgement of when a situation is serious enough to be considered ‘dangerous’ for the child, and what level of action needs to be taken.
(I’m talking here about things that are clearly just a passing error of judgement rather than serious concerns about a child’s ongoing safety. If you’re really worried about a child, seek official help
Another example -a mum took her baby out in the car to drive around seeing some Christmas lights. She took a picture of her baby in the car seat wearing a sleepsuit and posted it in a mum’s forum with a comment about the fun activity they’d just enjoyed together. She then came under fire from lots of mums telling her that the baby wasn’t wearing warm enough clothes, and that even if the car was warm, the baby should be dressed warmly for the journey to and from the car to the house, yadda yadda yadda…
Of course this sparked a big, trashy Facebook argument, where everyone was firmly digging in their heels and getting more and more wound up. I doubt anyone took much positive away from that encounter.
If, however, the other mums in the group had been more respectful and diplomatic when voicing their concerns, it could have been a really productive and informative discussion. Less of the mum bashing and more knowledge sharing!
The internet is a strange beast though and full of trolls and keyboard warriors (plus a good helping of twats – let’s face it). It’s much easier to type undiplomatic comments with the safety of a keyboard and anonymity between you and the recipient. There’s not much we can do about this other than rise above it and shut it down early if we have the power.
Think before speaking
What I intend to do however, is endeavour to think before speaking (or typing), make sure my concerns are really valid, and if so, express them in the gentlest, most constructive way possible.
We’re all making this parenting thing up as we go along. We’re all doing the best we can. Don’t slam a parent for a poor, or just uninformed choice… let them know what you know and they can make their move from there.
Basically, if you do feel the need to tell someone they’re parenting wrong, don’t be a nob about it. 😄