(and by “do” I mean “way / path”)
Parenting. There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only different.
Kids are different. Parents are different. No matter how many books or blogs you read, no one is an expert at “parenting”. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and you just have to wing it! The facts are: There is no one size fits all. There is no recipe for success. There is only going with what works. Eventually and with any luck, you become somewhat proficient at parenting your own child or children (and even then your style will likely vary between children).
We teach our children to grow up, and they also teach us to grow up, even if we thought we were grown up before we decided to bring them into the world. We don’t do a course or have to earn a degree for our new “job”. We are suddenly responsible for this little (and demanding) person 24/7.
Parenting doesn’t get harder or easier from that moment on; it just gets different. From carer and protector, our role also then incorporates: teacher, law enforcer, referee, counsellor, and don’t forget all the background stuff like: nutritionist, chef, cleaner, laundry operator, personal trainer, assistant Pokémon hunter…….. It’s a multi-skilled job for which you get paid nothing……at least not in terms of compensatory income. Parenting is the most challenging and dynamic role you will ever take on. Parents are all doing the best they can, and hopefully adapting along the way.
Everyone does things differently. That’s perfectly OK, and perfectly natural for the reasons outlined above. It’s also natural as a parent, to observe people’s parenting. Who knows? You might even pick up something useful! It’s inevitable to compare your own style of parenting to others’ styles and it’s OK to reflect on that in the privacy of your own brain. However, when you consider presenting an opinion on someone’s parenting style to them directly, it’s probably best not to or at the very least do so with utmost caution. An observation is an observation. It’s a snapshot of their parenting. You have no idea what happens outside of that context or on a particular day. You don’t know what is going on for the child or the parent.
Drawing conclusions (even inwardly) about someone’s parenting style is therefore fraught. Firstly, even if your perceptions about someone else’s parenting style or philosophy does not sit well with you, it should not impact on you as a parent, (and doesn’t need to if you don’t let it). Secondly, most (if not all) of us find it uncomfortable when others tell us how to parent or prescribe what we should or should not do based on what works for them. We tolerate it sometimes in our parents because they are, after all, still parenting us, still teaching us….and we them. However if others (or even our parents) tell us how to parent our own children or even question our parenting methods, it’s quite unsettling.
A more helpful approach if you are truly concerned about someone’s parenting style, or the well being of a child, or if for some reason, it is affecting you personally, might be to show solidarity and support, by asking if them if they are OK, or if they need a break. Let’s face it. Parenting is a tough job, from which we can’t resign, and we could all use some solidarity.