How to respond when people tell you you’re parenting all wrong

woman with brown baby carrier and little kid in white jacket

Three times this last month I’ve been told by three different people that my daughter is “too much”. I’ve been told that she’s “too emotional”, “too demonstrative”, “impolite” and “inconsiderate”. Although it’s true that she can sometimes be these things, she is often emotionally aware, capable, polite and thoughtful too. She’s only 6 and she’s still learning (who of us isn’t?) so to expect her to have it all sorted by now is just (to use her words) ridonculous.

Two of these three people tried to tell me that my parenting needed to change and I shouldn’t be allowing her to express herself or behave the way that she does. One suggested that she will grow up with problems as a result of my not forcing her to be different. Ouch.

I allow my daughter to express how she’s feeling (even if it makes me feel uncomfortable), I allow her to cry when she’s hurt herself (rather than encourage her to pretend that she’s OK), I allow her not to give hugs to people when she doesn’t want to (even when they expect her to). And I’m confident in the choices that I’m making around this.

I don’t know how things will pan out in the future. I don’t know if my choices will result in her being the “best” version of herself, but I’m confident in my choices because they’re a result of conscious deliberation and doing what I think is the best right now.

I’ve based my decisions on the research I’ve read and what I know about mental health development and how difficulties can be instilled in the early years (and how we can avoid these). As a CBT therapist every day I help clients recognise, experience and process their emotions – many of which originated in their early childhood experiences, which they’re still working through as adults. So I’m choosing to do things differently. And not everyone will understand that.

I know I’m not the only one in this boat, so here are some thoughts on how you can manage when others question you on how you’re choosing to parent or just straight up tell you you’re doing it wrong:

Smile and move on.

You can choose whether you want to engage in a conversation about your parenting choices or not.

Have confidence in your own opinions

It can be tempting to try and get others to see your point of view, it feels good to be validated and if you struggle with your own self-belief this can feel particularly important. Focus on what you know is right for you and your family and have confidence in your own opinions.

Don’t try and win anyone over

The fact is that we all do and see things differently and trying to change other people’s minds or hoping that they understand your viewpoint will only work if they are open to learning your perspective. Many people aren’t open to new perspectives and it’s not your responsibility to try and make them change their mind. Trying to do so can just create more stress and frustration for you.

There are so many (often conflicting) views on how to raise children. We can’t expect others to always understand and back us and this can challenge even the strongest of relationships. Stay strong in your own beliefs, accept that there will always be others who see things differently to you and have tolerance and compassion for them despite this. Love breeds love.

If you are interested in a gentle, attachment-based or conscious parenting approach but your own traumas still trip you up so you’re snapping at your kids more than you’d like, download our practical tips on keeping cool when your kids can’t here

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