It’s been a tough year so far in 2020–COVID, racial tension, financial stress, political polarization–and all of the challenges have put huge pressures on parents. Now, add to that the burden of parent shaming.
I listen to a lot of parents and I’m part of several moms groups on facebook. My motive in doing so is to stay in touch with what parents are thinking, but in the process of seeking to understand, I’ve heard more and more parents bashing each other–a very troubling trend indeed.
Parent shaming comes in all sizes and shapes, from the disapproving looks at the grocery store when your child is screaming to the name-calling on social media when they don’t agree with your parenting decision.
You’ve seen it, haven’t you? It can get downright ugly. And in the past few weeks as parents have struggled with whether to put their kids in face-to-face, virtual, or home school, there’s been more and more of it.
Why Do Parents Do It?
Sometimes shaming another person makes one feel superior. Parents who criticize someone else’s parenting skills may feel validated in their own parenting skills. It’s like saying ‘I’m a good parent because I would never do that.”
This need to feel superior speaks to a deep insecurity that many parents have about how well they are doing their job. Parenting is surely one of the hardest jobs on the planet and it’s natural for parents to question what they are doing.
Shaming someone else about poor choices or questionable behavior makes people feel a bit more secure about how they are doing the job.
It’s easy. Parent shaming can be done with a few key strokes and can even be done anonymously if someone wants to hide. I’m often amazed at the name-calling and insults that people throw around on social media; they hide behind their computers and are brave as long as they don’t have to see first hand the hurt that they cause.
It’s a strange way of comforting ourselves. Blaming parents for terrible things that happen to their kids–things that many parents have done at one time–makes them feel like the world is within their control, that as long as parents are vigilant and practice perfect parenting, nothing will go wrong.
Her child wouldn’t have been hurt if she’d been paying attention.
Their teen wouldn’t have been drinking and gotten into an accident if they hadn’t neglected them.
Parent shaming can dissolve fear as parents conclude that bad things don’t happen, people make them happen.
Parents can be competitive. It’s an easy trap for parents to fall into: parents comparing their child’s accomplishments and as a result measuring their own worth by their child’s success and behavior. Their weapon of choice is to put someone else down, or shame them, to make themselves feel “better.”
What’s the Antidote for Parent Shaming?
I can say it in three words: Seek to Understand.
No one is a perfect parent. Everyone gets tired, hurt and stressed and falls short of in their parenting choices. And besides that, there’s no way for parents to know all the details behind another parent’s dilemma. They don’t know if the toddler that’s crying is teething, if the mother is suffering from depression, or if both parents are under huge financial stress and that’s why they are snapping at their kids.
Rarely do you know the full story of anyone else’s situation. Parent shaming fails to recognize the role of other caregivers, cultural factors, or financial stresses. In its most hateful voice, it shames low-income and single parents.
Can we please just stop with the parent-judging? Every time I see it, I want to yell ENOUGH!
What if you instead were to put yourself in their shoes and seek to understand? Parenting is tough and instead of shaming, parents should be supporting each other. On social media especially, look for ways to encourage and pinpoint what parents are doing right, and if they ask for advice, be truthfully gentle and loving.
Please remember that there is no one-size-filts-all parenting strategy. Every family is unique and requires different parenting tactics.
Build your patience muslces in my August 6th webinar: Learn more.