" I wish my child would do that - I would (insert incriminating statement that might require a call to the Department of Child & Family Services)!"
"Your child goes to bed at what time? Pssshh! (insert eye roll) That's bad parenting!"
"That child needs a spankin' that's why they're so bad!"
"See? He spanks his child - that's why they're so violent at school!"
"Ice cream as a bribe??? Tuh!!! They got that child spoiled!"
I want to address something that has been around for a long time, but is rarely discussed: parent shaming. Mercedes Samudio started this wonderful campaign to #endparentshaming earlier this year. You can check out the details here!
According to Mercedes, parent shaming is"... any judgment made by someone towards a parent/caregiver about their parenting that does not help them become more effective in their parenting...”1 The biggest thing to remember about this campaign is that is does not take away from anyone's parenting style, rather it encourages healthy discussion on parenting styles. This also does not negate the fact that child abuse exists, but seeks to empower and encourage all parents to prevent child abuse.
When we cause someone to feel ashamed, their first response is typically to isolate themselves. Since we all need a healthy amount of human interaction to thrive, isolation can be very dangerous. We want to inspire open dialogue between parents and a safe space to share what works and what might need improvement. If you're still not convinced, here are 4 reasons to end parent shaming now:
It doesn't create a safe space.
Imagine with me for a moment that you have been struggling with your child on something very specific. No matter what you've tried, there is no improvement. Now imagine that you've shared what you've tried with your co-worker and they had some snooty response. I can almost guarantee that you would not talk to that co-worker anymore. Why? Because they made you feel ashamed and/or embarrassed.
You might have the exact remedy for the stressed out parent's concerns; however, if it comes off as a snooty comment you may as well have kept silent. Snooty comments do not encourage people to listen to your suggestions. In fact, they drive people away from you. If you're joining this campaign, remember: shaming = silence/isolation.
REMEDY #1: CREATE A SAFE SPACE. We create safe spaces for parents to vent their frustrations when we validate their feelings. Creating a safe space says, "Hey I recognize you're frustrated and/or angry and this is a place to express those feelings without judgment." Only after the person is allowed the space to work through the ugly, uncomfortable feelings can they build on their resilience and press forward.
You don't know the full story.
It's so easy to make assumptions about what people should do with their kids. If you don't live in the same household or have regular interaction with the child, you can't really "knock" a parent for what they are doing. Kids have different needs and most of the time parents are the experts on those needs. It's unfair to pass judgment on that father of a child with Conduct Disorder when you have never experienced working with a child who struggles with mental illness.
REMEDY #2: PROVIDE SUPPORT. Support doesn't always mean sharing what you believe to be the solution for what they're dealing with. Think about the worst day you've ever had.... what did you want? What did you need to hear? What helped you make it through that day? Maybe you wanted to hear someone else's advice or maybe you wanted the freedom to just sit and think. Providing support means following the other person's lead.
Nobody knows everything.
Remember that one mistake you made that you never wanted people to find out about? Yep! That one you're thinking of now that you would be absolutely mortified if someone found out? I'm pretty sure all parents have one of those stories, because when we have our first kid....
WE HAVE NO CLUE WHAT WE'RE DOING! We have reached the point in this post where I will now share an embarrassing parenting moment from my own life (I can't believe I'm going to tell this story): My daughter was about 8 months old at the time. You know - the age where they move incessantly through every. single. activity? Well I had just got done giving her a bath and her nails needed to be clipped. Usually I sat her on my lap and clipped them while we faced the same way. This time (for some strange reason) I decided to face her and clip her nails, because after all I had been a parent for a whole EIGHT months. This clearly puts me at "pro" status. Just when I went in to clip the nail, she moved! I clipped her baby skin and she started to bleed!
I'm pretty sure I cried more than she did. She actually only whimpered a little bit, while I cried and couldn't believe I had cut my precious baby girl. I cried when I told my husband that night - even though he told me it wasn't a big deal, it had happened to parents before and my daughter would live. Well folks - my daughter turned 3 last month! In retrospect that was a very small incident, but at the time it was super important to me. Even the slightest comment would have made me feel worse.
The point of that story was simple. If some parent comes to you and tells you they did something to their child or they are struggling - they probably already feel horrible about it. Don't make them feel worse! Remember your nail cutting story!
REMEDY #3: LEARN FROM EACH OTHER. Life is about giving and taking. You might help me rectify a situation I've been struggling with a vice versa. We would never know that if we weren't open to learning from one another. NOBODY has it all together! Don't believe the lie if someone tells you they do!
Parents are super heros!
Like one of my readers commented "...parents are the real super heros..." Parents are the most resilient people I know! They persevere through sickness passed from one family member to the next, whacky schedules that come with having multiple kids, insane traffic to get your kid to soccer practice and function somewhat normally at work off of relatively low levels of sleep! I don't where the myth of perfection began, but we need to end it now!
Creating this illusion of perfection is what causes people to struggle to keep up with "The Joneses" and keeping up with "The Joneses" is HARD WORK! The more we allow ourselves grace, the better parents we become! Allowing ourselves grace means telling our nail biting stories and sharing that we are not perfect, but that we strive to provide the best for our children!
Before I end this post I want to say something to you just in case you need to hear it right now:
ROCK ON (with your bad self) SUPER HERO!