I hope you saw my first post on this topic title, “Moms, Stop Judging Other Moms.” If not, I would encourage you to click back to get the introduction to this 3 part series. This is the second post dedicated to the topic of judging the way other moms are doing things. The third post will focus on HOW to stop judging. Today I want to focus on 10 ways we need to stop judging other parents. This post focuses on 10 of the hot topics when it comes to parenting. The main point I want to drive home is that are kids are individuals, our families are unique and no one solution works for every family. Therefore, we need to learn how to build one another up rather than rip them down with our judgements.
10 Ways We Need to Stop Judging other Parents
Sleep Decisions – Co-Sleeping. Sleep Training. Ferber Method. Cry it Out. Swaddling. Noise Makers. Self-Soothing. Attachment Parenting. Oh, the choices, and that’s just trying to deal with infant sleep methods. Now my kids are older, and we deal with them not wanting to go to bed. Do you let them stay up as late as they want, knowing they’ll learn to self-regulate? Are rewards given staying in bed? Is there discipline for getting out of bed? Should bedtime be 7 or 10? Are they expected to be quiet at bed time or can they talk, play and sing to themselves or siblings? These are the decisions parents are making every day for their children. The biggest advice I can give in this area is research. Research both sides of the argument. Think of your baby and your child. Part of being a mom is learning to sacrifice some of our desires for our children, and sleep is a sacrifice you make in those early months. Recognize that there are some good arguments on both sides of the table. Know that some kids respond really well to certain methods while others don’t. I have talked to enough parents who had a plan a very specific going in, and their experience had to make them adapt their plan. Just because your child is sleeping through the night at 3 months doesn’t mean you were genius or that every baby will respond to the method you used. There is no one answer. Stop judging.
Eating Strategies – I have a picky eater. A really picky eater. She won’t try anything new. Anything. It doesn’t appear to be a sensory or texture thing. Yes, it is a bit of the battle of the wills, but it has been her nature since she was a baby. We would put the spoon in front of her face, and she would turn her head away and purse her lips. We have tried many techniques. We have received oodles of advice on all sides of the spectrum. Many people think they have it figured out. One side says, “When it comes down to it, she needs to learn to obey. She thinks she is in control. She is not. Force her to try a bite.” The opposite side of the argument says, “Food is not a battle in which to engage. You will give them food issues down the line. Offer a variety of healthy options, and let her pick and choose from those.” The other camp says, “Just give the kid some food. Be a short order cook. It won’t last forever.” Oh the camps. They are well meaning, and I enjoy hearing all the sides, but it can get obnoxious too, right? I have tried making this eating thing work while taking in everyone’s advice. Twice, I have given my child no other food until she tries a bite of what I am offering. This lasted 28 hours each time. It was ugly. Some might say it’s child abuse. Yes, she eventually broke with us stuffing the food in her mouth. Was it worth it? No. One time we decided to make her stay in her seat at the table until she took a bite. She could get up to go to the bathroom or to bed, but that was it. We did give her other food in between, but she couldn’t move until she had a teensy tiny bite. She was there for four days. Was it worth it? Not so much. We now do healthy family style meals focusing on a positive environment at the table. We serve the food, and the kids can eat as much or as little as they want from the choices on the table. Is it a perfect method that suddenly has her trying a variety of food? Nope. It is what is working for our family right now. Does that mean it will work for other families? Nope. Other potential divisive food related topics include: food allergies, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, no sugar, no dyes, no fast food, organic, etc. The choices are endless. Parents are going to have a variety of experiences and studies they have read, and we all want the best for our kids. I’ve had enough parents, in a condescending way, judge me on both sides of this argument. Stop it. It’s not helpful. I’ve read a lot on this particular topic. Trust that parents are doing their best to figure it out and offer “works for me” moments when asked. Can you share what you are learning? Of course, but work on doing it in a non-judgmental and tactful way.
Breast Feeding vs. Bottle Feeding – This is another area where we need to stop the judging. This is another area where I could have been quick to judge without my particular experience in this arena. I was going to breast feed for a year. No questions. I was determined to carry out my plan, but to my disappointment, it didn’t work. “It always works,” is what I heard. It didn’t! I went to Le Leche League meetings and met with lactation consultants at the hospital. I tried different methods that I was given. I had a baby that was at the breast trying to suck and then turning away and screaming. Trying. Screaming. Nothing was coming. I would breast feed and then pump while staring at my baby or a picture of my baby to get the hormones going like suggested. There would be very little milk accumulated after being on that cow pumping machine for quite a while. I would then give my baby what I had pumped from the previous awful session. Breastfeeding was taking an hour, and then I would have start all over again an hour later. It was miserable. Eventually, (6 months into it…not all bad) I supplemented, and she downed 10 ounces and actually slept well, which hadn’t been happening. My baby was suffering because of my determination to keep breast feeding. I would then do the same procedures for the next few months – try to breastfeed, pump, supplement what had been pumped and then supplement with formula. At 9 months old, I was fully bottle feeding. I have talked to more and more women who have felt so deficient in this area. “Everyone can do it. It is what is natural,” are the voices we hear. When your own body isn’t creating the milk your baby needs despite all your efforts, then you might understand. I was humbled early on in this parenting area as well. Apparently, God had a lot of humbling to do in me. Please stop judging other moms in this area. We are struggling enough.
Behavior you See from a Child – We all see all sorts of behavior come out of kids – screaming, getting into things, disobeying, strong willed behavior, biting, hitting, and lying, to name a few. Do these behaviors reflect a child’s parenting? Perhaps. It takes a lot of observance to know for sure. Is it always a reflection? No. Kids are sinful. Period. Further, there are kids that are born with certain deficiencies, special needs or even…stay with me…personalities. Guess what?! Our children are a work in progress, just as we are as parents. As a parent, I don’t know why I constantly expect my children to have arrived. They are 3, 5 and 7. I am a work in progress and I am almost 40 (gasp!). How can I possibly expect them to have it all together when I don’t? I never will. It is a lifetime of learning for me AND my kids. There are certain kids who take the baby powder or the poop in their diaper and decide it makes great wall paper. Other kids would never consider that. Some kids fall into line when you look at them with disappointment in your face, and other kids dig in their heels ready to battle at any given moment. Children can be even keeled while others will be Jekyll and Hyde with behaviors swinging from perfect child to spawn of Satan. We are all working hard to parent through these. We are all trying to figure out what works with our kids. It is a process. Your kids may be easy to parent. Not all kids are like that. There are some parents who are doing it all wrong, and they may need some guidance. If you really want to have a voice in their life because you care about their children, invest in them. It will be messy. However, you will earn the right to be heard rather than being a stranger ready to give your two cents. If you are not willing to invest, please shut your mouth. There are good parents who are raising hard kids. I know parents first hand that seem to be doing everything right, but you wouldn’t know it as they are carrying their screaming child under their arm through the park. You don’t know that child. You don’t know that mom. This job is hard, and it’s not always cut and dry. Being compassionate will speak volumes to other moms.
Discipline Methods – There are a variety of ways to discipline, train, reward and punish children. Some of you cringe at the word “discipline” and “punish,” while some of you wonder why they have become four letter words. I wrote a post called “Teaching Kids to Obey with the ‘Yes, Mommy’ Game.” You’d think I was abusing my kids with some of the responses. Some people don’t like the words “obey” or “train.” I do. Some people are appalled that others find it awful to NOT teach kids to obey. I do believe in discipline, and I think it is very important to teach kids to obey and have self control. What does that look like? Well, that’s the big question that can lead us to judge. Some of the people that were against the word “obey,” believe in teaching kids respect. You know, that’s not bad. When I first heard that they didn’t want to teach obedience, I believed their house might look like a nightmare. However, if they are just using a different word to mean the same thing, it might be just fine. I could judge them, but perhaps their children are being raised up to really “respect others,” which would include obeying teachers and parents. Some parents have successfully raised kids simply through modeling. Some kids respond to a punishment that includes taking away screen time or a favorite toy. Sticker charts work for some kids. I have…ack, hold your breath…rewarded with candy before. Send in the firing squad. Families have chosen to spank in a way that is very controlled and thoughtful. Other families have found time-outs work for their child. I know that many of you will gasp in judgement at a variety of these methods. However, I need to let you know that I have seen stable, successful, well-balanced adults come out of a variety of discipline methods. There needs to be love, consistency, grace, purpose and strong parenting in whatever method you choose. I do think there are a variety of thoughtful ways to reach the goals you have for raising productive and healthy members of this world.
How Someone Keeps their Home – Has having kids changed anyone’s else standard of living? I see other moms that seem to maintain a perfectly clean home while raising little ones, and I don’t know how they do it. My kids seem to think the floors are their domain. Drop toy…walk away. They are building forts, eating crackers that seem to shed like mad, doing crafts, and brining home school papers, while I’m trying to keep up with meals, laundry and house cleaning. I do an OK job, and my friends that come to visit probably think I do a REALLY good job. They just don’t see the frantic tidying up that occurs when I know I’m having people over. I walk into some houses where everything has its place, surfaces are uncluttered, floors are perfectly swept and there aren’t fingerprints all over the windows. You know what? It feels really good. I walk into other homes that have little piles of papers everywhere, kids artwork hanging half-hazardly on the fridge and toys are strewn about in a respectable amount. You know what? It feels really good too. It’s lived in and has the life of a family. People can live successfully in a variety of settings, so unless there is a health risk for the kids, don’t judge. Let them be. People have different levels of comfort in terms of how they live.
Schooling Decisions – The difficult decision about how to educate your kids is yet one more choice parents have to make. There are so many factors to take in including your own philosophy, your children’s personalities, cost factors, a parents’ abilities, schools in your area, if both parents need to work and more. People can be judged on school choices from parents who chose something different. Historically, homeschool parents have received a lot of flack, but the trend is homeschooling is becoming more mainstream. That said, homeschool parents still do face critics all the time. I am aware that some homeschool families feel passionately about their decision and might judge others who haven’t made the same choices. Private school might be an appealing answer for some, and some parents in that setting might believe they are better than others because of their choice. Others are choosing charter schools. The fact is, there are judgement flying every direction. It’s a hot topic. Who is right? Parents in each one of these settings can do things amazingly well or horribly wrong. I have seen children come out of a variety of these schooling options while excelling, loving the Lord, and going on to make a difference in this world. Our good friends and mentors, the Pritchards, wrote the book Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School (affiliate link provided for your convenience), which has greatly influenced our choice. Perhaps you can ask a homeschooling friend to recommend a book that supports their decision, as I don’t want to recommend books I haven’t read. We are taking our schooling choice year by year as we decide what is best for our kids. I would encourage you to really pray about this decision because God knows where he wants your family to be placed. I wouldn’t be surprised if we transitioned to private school in the Jr. High years when peer influence is more prevalent, but I’m not sure. Many friends of mine are choosing to homeschool their children with very valid reasons and experiences. I respect that. This is a personal decision that families need to make together. Listen to people and hear their reasoning. Engage in conversation and discussion that is thought provoking. Do this respectfully, knowing that whatever the choice, there is no guarantee that your child will become exactly what you want them to be simply because of your schooling decisions.
Overprotective vs. Lenient Parenting – When I am talking about this, I’m not really referring to the parent who is smoking pot with their kids vs. not letting them date until they’re 30. I’m talking about a different level of comfort with everyday things. There are parents who are going to freak out watching another monkey kid climb higher than they think they should in the neighboring tree. There are going to be parents who look down on you because you won’t let your child go to a sleepover. Sometimes we can get overprotective, not letting our children out of our control enough. We can also be too lenient and ignore real dangers out there. I grew up in a neighborhood where we had a lot of freedom. We would disappear, and our parents wouldn’t know where we were until we returned home to eat. We’d be playing kick the can or capture the flag with neighborhood friends. I was pondering this the other day because I don’t have the kind of neighborhood where this feels safe. I won’t let my kids ride their bikes by themselves to the closest market to buy goodies. Are my kids going to feel too claustrophobic without the freedoms I had as a kid? Am I too protective? How high should I let my kids climb on the play structure without my arms outreached to catch them should they fall? Are a few broken bones healthy for kids? Do we protect them so much that they don’t learn to have healthy bumps and bruises, both physically and emotionally? There’s the flip side too: Are we being too lenient and allowing too much? Too much time on the iPad? Too much freedom? Letting them climb too high at that park? Making them work out problems with other kids on their own? Not protecting their online world from predators and damaging images? The questions we parents face in terms of leniency could go on and on, and we weigh these questions heavily. At times we arrive at the same conclusion as other parents, and sometimes we reach a different conclusion. This is healthy discussion to have with other parents. It’s a healthy thing to be weighing as you make decisions. Know there are well-intended and purposeful parents who will think differently than you.
Those are my 10 areas where we should avoid judging other parents. I know it’s just a starting list, and there are more examples. I asked my readers in what areas they have felt judged. On top of the things I already mentioned, their experiences included: being a teenage mom, having an au pair, how they dressed their child, lack of income to do certain things for the kids, having “me time,” going back to school, choice of cleaning products, vaccination choices, how to diaper, when to go to the doctor, the number of children to have, dressing their kids in warm enough clothing, allowing natural consequences, being a working mom, and I’m sure you can add to this list based on your own experiences. One mother was even allergic to her child and broke out in hives. She was judged by the appearance of exposing her child to something she may have had. Come on people. Parenting is so hard. As moms, we should be creating supportive and understanding communities that learn to build one another up.
Parents have enough choices and struggles. How does your condescending attitude, words and actions help that situation at all? Stop judging and learn to start building one another up in positive ways. So how do we do that? The final post in my series will be live tomorrow and will address that very issue.