WHEN SOMEONE CRITICIZES YOUR PARENTING
Having children seems to invite unsolicited advice. Sometimes you feel the whole world has already tried and convicted you for being a terrible parent:
- “That child doesn’t have enough sweaters on.”
- “You’ll give her a complex, being so strict.”
- “You’re way too lenient.”
- “You let your kids ‘just play’ and never organize any educational activities for them? Aren’t you afraid they’ll fall behind their peers?”
Whether it comes from a mother-in-law or a stranger on the street, what may be intended to express legitimate concern is far more likely to be taken as a personal insult. Is there anything you can do to keep the self-styled parenting experts from eroding your confidence—and perhaps convince them to shut up?
Know Your Values, Believe in Yourself
First, make sure you believe in your own parenting approach. If you’re one to assume “everyone knows better than me,” of course your self-confidence will take a beating with every criticism. Make up your mind what values you want your kids to grow up believing in; and determine to let these values, not fear of others’ opinions, guide your parenting decisions.
Then, remember that every child has a unique personality, and that whatever some psychology books imply, there’s more than one approach to teaching responsibility or honesty. Never mind what “everyone else” does: you’re the expert on your children and how they respond to specific techniques.
Stay Out of Arguments
However effective your way is in practice, you’ll still meet outsiders with “this is good, that’s bad, period” attitudes. Often, all you need do is walk on or change the subject. A persistent stranger can be dismissed with a firm, “Thank you, and good day.” With a persistent neighbor or relative, you may have to be a little more direct: “I know you mean well, but this way works for our family.”
What you don’t want to do is get defensive or start an argument. Once voices and accusations are raised, all chances of changing someone’s mind or agreeing to disagree fly out the window. Even if you get the last word, the other party will leave convinced that you are unreasonable not only with your children but also with everyone else.
Give Yourself Permission to Be Imperfect
However much you practice sticking to your own values, you will occasionally slip and do the wrong thing. When this happens, don’t beat yourself up: that will only undermine your self-confidence and make you more sensitive to future criticisms. Contrary to popular anxious imaginings, one loss of temper won’t irreversibly damage your children’s psychological makeup. Especially if you set them an example of apologizing and bouncing back.
Ultimately, what makes a good parent isn’t doing every little thing just right. What makes you a good parent is being consistently loving, understanding, and dependable. Parenting trends come and go, but the simple act of being there for your kids holds timeless value.