My kids like to wear pajamas, dirty clothes, and mismatched socks in public. My daughter is very introverted and struggles to look at people when they are talking to her. I don’t talk my kids into doing sports or extracurricular activities and my oldest decided he didn’t want to go to college.
I know people judge me for this and there are many who think it’s poor parenting. I know this because I hear how parents talk about other parents and there’s no way they are leaving me out of that conversation when I’m not around.
I was not prepared for the judgment of other parents
Something I wasn’t really prepared for when I had kids was other people’s opinions. It was bad enough when they were younger and crying in the grocery store and we’d get dirty looks. All the times I went to an event and one of my kids had a meltdown (which was often because I had three very close together in age) was enough to make me stay home, which I often did.
The judging doesn’t stop when your kids get older either. In fact, I’d say it gets worse. You can no longer say things like, “They are just tired” when your teenagers aren’t talkative, don’t make eye contact, or neglect to hold the door open for the person behind them.
About six years ago we were at a family party. I had just gotten divorced and the entire way to the party I was all over my kids. I reminded them over and over to say thank you, to be polite. I admonished them to look at anyone who was talking to them and not shrug their shoulders. I was wound so tight that my kids didn’t actually hear a word I said.
I gave my kids the message that what others think is very important
These kinds of situations and events made me very anxious and my kids could feel the tension oozing out of me. On the way home, my oldest son told me that I always think the worst of them, and that I care too much about what other people think. He was right. The message I was sending them was that the most important thing to me was what others thought of them and of my parenting.
There were many times when I made it a point to reprimand my kids in public so that other people would hear. I was hyper-concerned that people not think I was one of those parents: the kind of parent who lets their kids do whatever they want. In hindsight, my behavior only served one purpose. It hurt my relationship with my kids. Not to mention that it always made me feel horrible and guilty.
I realized that I had the wrong perspective on parenting
That’s when I realized I was handling my kid’s behavior and their choices all wrong. Yes, I am their mother and I want to raise them to be respectful and aware. But I realized that my parenting was coming from a place of “What will other people think?”
The truth is that as parents we going to be judged no matter what we or our kids do. I’ve been called too overprotective by certain people, and too relaxed by others. Some think it’s great that I don’t force sports on my kids while others tell me I let them give up too easily.
But, the proof is in the result. I know I’m a good parent because I have great kids. I also know there is a time and place to reprimand them and it’s not for other people’s benefit. I can do it in private which is far more effective. If other people want to think I’m not doing enough or I’m doing too much for my kids, that’s fine with me.
I have to parent in a way that feels right to me
We have to parent in a way that feels right to us regardless of what other parents are doing. That looks different for everyone and that’s okay. Just because I don’t give the same consequences other parents do, or my family doesn’t see me talk to my kids about something they’ve done, or I don’t make my daughter look at everyone who talks to her, doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent.
And when I finally realized that and stopped taking into account what everyone else thought about how I should parent my kids, I can’t explain the freedom that came with it. Not to mention a much better, open relationship with my kids.
We all know when it comes to things like a partner, a career, or how we make the bed, not everyone is going to agree with our choices. Parenting is no different.
The best thing you can do is ask yourself what feels right for you and your family and ignore what other people are going to think about you.
More Great Reading:
When Raising Teens, ‘Go With Your Gut’ Parenting Is the Way to Go