April 11, 2016
Many of us take our mothering role pretty seriously. We look at it as our profession and our calling. We love being parents and should probably have some masters level degree based on how much reading we’ve done, the classes/conferences/seminars we’ve attended and the hours we’ve invested in perfecting our craft. When you are this passionate about something, you want to share what you’ve learned with others.
I am incredibly thankful for the women who have helped me along in my parenting journey. I’m glad there have been mothers who offered me wisdom, recommended a great book, or flat-out questioned what I was doing. I have learned by watching these women navigate the tricky relational waters of offering parenting wisdom in a way that doesn’t feel shaming, but encouraging.
There have also been times when a relationship was altered or severed because of unfriendly, unhelpful, judgmental parenting “advice” given at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Along with all the regular parenting issues and conversations, when you become a parent first through adoption (or especially through group home work), some people feel compelled to offer you tips or they feel entitled to question you because those kids obviously aren’t “yours” and you are perceived as not knowing what you’re doing the way a biological parent would. It’s hurtful and frustrating to try and explain to others why you may have to parent the unique way you do.
If you want to have your parenting advice heard and you want to still be friends with the parent you’re talking to, here are some tips based on what I’ve seen work, what I’ve seen flop and my own successes and failures in “talking shop” with other parents:
Be a friend first. It’s the old “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” If your parenting philosophy is about grace for your child’s mistakes or about building love and attachment and trust or about treating your child with respect and kindness, people will find that a lot more believable if you approach your friendships that way, too. There are few things more head scratching to me than women who advocate gentle parenting tactics with ferociousness and hostility. I hate to break it to you ladies, but nobody is buying that. If you can’t treat your friends with love, respect, and grace for their choices, then nobody is going to be interested in your parenting wisdom.
Keep the main thing the main thing. Is this parent abusing their child? If they are, then it’s time to make a report. If they aren’t, then let’s not get too worked up about feeding, sleeping, potty training, flash card usage, etc. Having been a foster and adoptive parent for over a decade, I have seen ACTUAL abuse and neglect so it’s kind of hard to get me rattled about different parenting styles from women who love their kids and are seeking to do right by them. If a parent is really struggling, help connect them to good resources or offer to watch their kids for an afternoon so they can decompress. Giving them a lecture on what they’re doing wrong is not likely to be helpful.
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