(This post is part of The Myth of Perfect Parenting series. Catch up, starting here.)
We’ve all had that moment. That instant when someone determines you are in desperate need of their parenting insight. Whether they roll their eyes as you talk to your child about his feelings or abruptly suggest your child needs “a good spankin”, it’s uncomfortable to feel on the defensive about your parenting choices.
So how do you react?
In my opinion, there are two ways to approach it depending on the circumstances.
There are times when you simply recognize that people are going to say what they’re going to say. But you don’t have to listen. These are the people with no stewardship or stake in your child’s interest. Smile. Say thanks for the concern. Then keep on walking. Don’t waste your time and energy battling. It’s OK to agree to disagree and to simply move on. Not everyone gets a seat at the table for your parenting discussions.
Then, there are times when you can approach their comments as an opportunity to talk about your parenting decisions and let them know why you do what you do. This is the group of people with whom you can feel comfortable opening your mind and your heart.
If you decide to discuss your parenting with another person, you have to be willing to make it your purpose to inform them of your view, not to change theirs. You can control how you parent, and (to some extent) what kind of role other adults have in your child’s life. But you can’t control the opinions of others. You can teach, inform, share, but you can’t control. So stop trying.
You also have to be willing to do some of the learning too. When your heart hurts because you realize that there just might be a sliver of truth in what they’re saying, let the guilt go and decide what you can learn instead.
Be Kind to Yourself
Often, the biggest parenting critic is the one in our own head. That perfect mom down the street doesn’t have to say a single word. We already know she thinks we’re doing it all wrong. She’s appalled that we would bring our toddlers to the store without shoes on (though we could swear there were shoes on his feet when we put him in the car). She’s shocked that we would put so much processed junk in our kids’ lunchboxes (there are just so few things we can get her to eat these days). And she’s embarrassed for us when our little ones make too much noise in the library (again). Or is she? (And would it really matter if she was?)
That supposedly perfect mom is fighting her own battles right now, and probably doesn’t have the time to notice our parenting foibles. But we are constantly, heart-breakingly aware of our own. We carry plenty of unnecessary guilt for all the things that seem to fall far short of everyone else we see, or miss the mark of every parenting book we’ve ever read. There may be some perfect parenting principles, but there are no perfect parents. We have to stop using perfect principles to beat ourselves up and start using them to lift ourselves up. One day at a time.
Whether the criticism is coming from without or within, it helps to remember one thing.
You are your child’s parent.
No one knows your child like you do. No one loves your child like you do. And I believe no one is entitled to inspiration about your child like you are.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for learning and improvement, but you have to trust yourself. Believe in yourself. If you are truly trying to be the best parent for your child that you can be, you will still make mistakes, but I sincerely believe you will be more than good enough.
So change the dialogue in your own head. Give yourself the grace and encouragement you need and deserve. If you need some help to get you started, here are a few quotes to quell your inner critic. Print them out, and hang them up to get your mind back on the right track.
You can get a preview with the thumbnails below. Click here to open the PDF with the printables For the Inner Critic.
***This popular series has led to the transformative ecourse, Letting Go of Perfect: The art and science of being an awesome mom without losing your mind. This course only opens a few times a year, so be sure to get on the wait list to be notified as soon as it opens again!