I listen to a lot of parents and more and more I hear parents bashing each other–a very troubling trend indeed. Whether they are putting each other down for sports parenting behavior or parenting strategies, you’ve seen it. It can get downright ugly.
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 the 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 keystrokes online 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.
Their young athlete wouldn’t have been out for the season if his parents had waited for the doctor to clear him.
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. This is common in youth sports. 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.
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.
What if you instead were to put yourself in their shoes and seek to understand? Parent-ing is tough and instead of shaming, parents should be supporting each other.
Please remember that there is no one-size-fits-all parenting strategy. Every family is unique and requires different parenting tactics.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.