Monday, November 21, 2011

Judgmental Parenting (I'm a total hypocrite and here's my confession)

Sometimes I feel like parenting is a competitive sport. Yes, I called it a sport. Sometimes I feel like we're all in competition to raise the best child be the best parent. Parents can be judgmental and competitive. Obviously that's a huge generalization. But that's how I feel at times. 

And I'm a hypocrite. Let's just get that out of the way. I judge just as much as anyone else. I wish I didn't but I do. I'll be the first to admit that I watch Toddler and Tiaras when I'm feeling like a bad mom. It makes me feel better because at least I'm not that kind of mom...not that there is one kind of that mom.
This is L.'s first birthday crown. I thought it was an appropriate photo for this post.
Every single person has an image of that mom in her head and I bet every single one of them is different. Which is why it's so frustrating when people are judgmental of other people's parenting style or preferences.

I've sat down to write this post several times and so far I haven't managed to finish it. I think this is due in part to the fact that I get anxious because I know I'm a hypocrite. Once I publish this post, people will read it and then everyone will know I'm a hypocrite. Consequently, I keep editing and editing and editing. But the fact remains I'll never write this post in such a way that everyone agrees with me.

I honestly try not to be a hypocrite. I try so hard to be sincere. 

I try REALLY hard to keep my thoughts to myself and to banish the negative thoughts completely. I remind myself that I don't have all the answers. I haven't walked in their shoes. I don't know the whole story. I'm not necessarily doing any better. I struggle too. We all have our bad days.

But it's always there. That pride in our personal decisions that taint conversations.

My child has never had any processed sugar.

I've never used disposable diapers.

We eat all organic.

We co-sleep with our six children.

We would never co-sleep, it's not safe.

My child started sleeping through the night when she was two months old. 

We don't have a television.

We have DVD players in our car. It's the only way to travel.

My daughter has never been out of my eye sight.

We don't have the word "no" at our house. 

We'd never tolerate
that behavior.

Whenever I hear people say things like this, or when I read it in an article or book, I start justifying our decisions in my head.

L. didn't really have any processed sugar until she was a year old. She doesn't eat it all the time. But I want her to know balance. I don't have to make things more desirable by outlawing them. I don't want to promote extreme eating habits...everything in moderation right?

We used cloth diapers except when we were traveling and a few times when her eczema was really bad and we had to use this ointment...

I buy as much organic as I can. I try to make sure L. doesn't get any milk or cheese with growth hormones.

She only watches educational programming and no commercials.

I hate that this is my immediate response. I shouldn't have to justify our decisions to anyone. And I don't want anyone to take our decisions personally. If I do something in a different way than you it doesn't mean I think your way is wrong. It's just not right for us.

For example, I try to feed L. unprocessed food because I think it's good for her. It also makes it easier to figure out what caused the problem if she has a reaction. If you give your kids candy, I'm not going to assume you try to feed your child unhealthy food all the time. I'm not going to assume you think candy is healthy food. I'm not going to assume you only feed your children candy.

I assume you want what is best for your child.

What you think is best may be different from what I think is best.

But I'm human. I get frustrated when people act like their decisions make them better than me. If you want to have lots of kids, don't look down on me because we only want to have two. Don't tell me I'm failing to give my daughter consequences because I held her and let her cry when she threw a tantrum. Not getting what she wanted was consequence enough for a just-turned-two-year-old in my opinion.

In return I'll try not to act like I think you're carelessly endangering your child's life by turning their car seat forward facing before they're two years old. I'll assume you didn't know the guidelines had changed...and I'll probably casually mention the new guidelines just in case you hadn't heard about them. 

I told you I'm a hypocrite.

I desperately want people to be supportive of one another. I want people to help each other instead of shaking their heads in disgust when someone handles a situation differently.

Who is to say my way is better than yours? All the parenting books in the world certainly don't know which way is right. I've read more than two parenting books that contradict each other. Which one is right? Are any of them right?

Of course one of them is right. Obviously the parenting book I like and use as a reference is the best one. You should read it.

Just joking.

But no really, it's a great book. Let me know if you want the title.


  1. I can relate to this. It's easy to get hung up on what others are doing, and to have anxiety about how others perceive what you're doing. I wrote today about establishing good eating habits for my son, as a person who has used and abused food. Food is definitely a delicate area when talking with other parents.

    There are so many hot-button issues, but I think you have a good idea to start by assuming everyone is working in their child's best interest.

  2. I wrote about this a while back, and I had a hard time dealing with my own hypocrisy too. It can be hard to spend so much time deliberating and researching and trial-and-erroring and then not have strong opinions. But the fact that you are aware is good. All of us parents have to support one another, but gosh it can be hard at times.

  3. Love this post! And... You've won an award! No really! Really... Okay, well, it's just from me... and there's no money or trophy or free cookies, but at least you know I think you are great. If the link doesn't work, just go check out my blog.

  4. Tastydiet--yes, totally agreed. Food and so many other things are really difficult topics. I think we have to let our own experiences guide how we teach our children since they learn so much from watching us!

    thismummaslife--well said! I research everything and can't help but feel if everyone else read what I read they couldn't help but reach the same conclusion...which is totally not how it works but it's hard not to feel that way!

    Nicole--you're awesome! Thank you so much for thinking of me! I totally don't think you're a stalker : )

  5. It's so hard to not think those things sometimes - I was the same way about car seats, and still am when I see my daughter's 5yo friend riding in the front seat sans car seat! But I know the parents are good parents and are doing the best they can with what they have. And I'm quite sure their house is a whole lot cleaner than mine, anyway, so who am I to judge?!

  6. I still worry I turned her around too soon. I think I just worry about cars in general...and I would worry about your friend's daughter too. We're only human...

  7. I ditto that, Emily, "we're only human".

    With that being said, I don't think you're a hypocrite for trying to give advice on something you think is healthier or safer. In my opinion, that's being helpful.

    Maybe the problem is with the delivery. We tend to use words such as "never", "always", and "should", which can come across as judgmental rather than the suggestion we actually intended.
    Just my 2 cents! ;-) Have a super weekend!

    P.S. I found you thru BlogHer.

  8. In my line of work we call this approach "assuming positive intent". I think we can safely do this with most parents.

    From my vantage point as a grandmother, I have to say my generation and yours have agonized over good parenting more than any previous generation. As I grew up, parents just turned their kids loose on the neighborhood (NEVER had a play date), fed them whatever (Although there was less processed food available) and drove them wherever without even a seatbelt. Somehow most of us survived all this "negligence".

    It's a different time, but I think what we can take away from those days of nearly blissful ignorance is the fact that our best is almost always good enough. I figured this out when we homeschooled: after about 6 years of it, I decided it was a 6 of one half a dozen of the other whether you sent your kid to school or tutored at home. Kids are going to learn what they want to learn regardless. (I don't regret homeschooling; it was fun family time. But I not longer think it's the way to create geniuses--although the author of this blog turned out pretty wonderful!)

  9. In the book THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS, the author talks about "maximizers"--the folks who always seek the VERY BEST alternative or decision, and "satisficers"--those who just settle on something that is good enough. The latter group is happier. I've spent the last several granny years trying to become a satisficer, and I have to say it saves a lot of time and energy.

  10. Pam, I think you're right about the's hard to take it as friendly advice when people are absolute about their way being best. It doesn't come across as a suggestion and it's easy to get defensive.

    Mary, I like the "assuming positive intent"! I'm going to have to look up the book you mentioned!



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