When browsing through parent forums and Facebook group pages I am shocked by the amount of posts stating how unsupportive and negative people are. There are a lot of requests to post positive comments and not negative view points. The general consensus seems to be ‘If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all!’
There are people who shoot from the hip and say the first thing that comes into their minds, no matter how hurtful it might come across. This is not nice to see and I certainly do not condone attacking other mums just because they wish to bring their children up a certain way, whether you agree with it or not.
However, this is generally a minority, nowhere near the numbers that are implied. The comments that are labelled as ‘negative’ mainly occur in posts regarding the most controversial subjects, breast vs bottle, sleep training, smacking etc. The more I read, I realise the majority of people are just speaking their minds.
I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve seen and heard that end in parents laying into each other because parent ‘A’ posted or said something that went against what parent ‘B’ advised.
So many times comments are made about supporting each other, requests to not challenge each others choices and to not disagree. These requests are not realistic, nor conducive to what the forums stand for. If someone asks for advice, surely everyone is entitled to their say. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your view or is giving an opinion you may not like, it doesn’t make their opinion negative. It’s only negative if it is in no way constructive, therefore even constructive criticism is relevant to the conversation.
Instead of asking everyone to agree, why can’t we be open to discuss our choices, the reasons behind them and be open to have those choices questioned in an adult manner. In opening ourselves up in this way we can learn to stay objective and critical of our own parenting choices. Maybe there’s a consequence you hadn’t thought about or an angle you hadn’t looked at. Looking at our choices in another light, someone else’s light, may help us improve on our parenting and lead us down a path we never knew existed or had contemplated before. On the other hand, it might cement our belief in our choices and allow us to rationalise with another parent who is struggling to see our point of view.
These forums and Facebook groups are there for parents to ask for and be offered advice, they are meant to help people. It’s sad that because of a few tactless people hiding behind a user name and keyboard we are all seen as judgemental, hurtful, know it all busy bodies!
A harsh truth for many parents is they are unable to stand firm in their choices with their head held high, and instead feel guilt for their behaviour and choices. Is it fair to blame that feeling of guilt on the person questioning their choices? Offence can only be taken, not given. If we are not willing to be open and honest with ourselves about our choices, how do we develop and improve ourselves? Being able to acknowledge the consequences of our actions, learn from any mistakes made and move forward is a part of life and running away from that is impossible.
We need to accept that no matter how hard we try, we will fail our children at some point or another, to act like we have not or will not is to live in denial of being human. To have our flaws pointed out by others can hurt, but if we make our decisions based on evidence, instinct and what we feel is best for our child at the time, with the available information, then why should it matter what someone else says?
On the other hand, to plough through with a stubborn and thick headed attitude only serves to be harmful to not only your children, but to other parents. For example, advising a mother to do something that you’ve not looked at objectively, i.e. backed up by nothing more than “I did this with my child and she’s fine!”, is irresponsible and not helpful. When giving out or taking advice I always look for the evidence behind the decisions, if there isn’t any then I’m wary of what has been suggested. However, with a balance of opinions we all stand a chance at improving the way we raise our children.
Wouldn’t it be better if we accept that we’re not always going to agree, learn to be judgemental of ourselves before someone else is and remain objective about our choices and others opinions? If everyone took a step back and a deep breath first, rather than lashing out in a defensive manner without a seconds thought, we could have a constructive conversation, beneficial to all parties, without being destructive to each other.