I am really passionate about this topic. I believe blaming and shaming creates real impediments to families attempting to manage their “parenting” journey. This journey is a road with many twists and turns, adventures and transitions that are a part of family life. In order to travel these sometimes treacherous roads, we truly need a “ village” for support and guidance. While a lot of us have family and friends and perhaps even professional help, more often than not we feel isolated and challenged by the lack of support and feel judged and criticized for our parenting choices and decisions. This leads to self doubt and parenting not from our heart and intuition but from the “fear” of being blamed and shamed.
And sadly, with social media making it so easy for us to vent our frustrations during this pandemic, criticism of parents is becoming more and more common. Stories of everyday parenting events can travel the country in minutes, and anyone can have their say on your parenting skills.
Parent shaming can be loosely defined as: “The act of criticising parents for actions that meant and caused no real harm.” This type of shaming can surface over all aspects of parenting from breastfeeding, to food choices and even what type of clothes kids should wear.
Why do people parent shame?
There is a certain element of superiority that people feel when they “parent shame” someone else. Criticising someone can validate their own parenting skills. It is a way of saying ‘My parenting is good and my child is fine, because I would never do this’. This need to feel superior actually speaks to a deep insecurity over parenting. After all, being a parent is a job filled with fear and worry, and it begins from the moment our child is born and even earlier. Shaming someone else on their so-called “mistakes” allows people to feel a bit more secure that they’re “getting it right” and disaster will not happen to their child. It is a form of protection against uncertainty and lack of control.
It’s also so easy these days...
Once upon a time, if you wanted to criticise someone you would have to do it to their face. You would have to work up the courage to say the thing that was on your mind, directly to the person.
Nowadays, you can say whatever you want online or in social networking sites with a level of anonymity.
You don’t have to see the hurt that happens when you judge someone and see the face of the person you shame. You don’t have to watch the effects on their life or the ripple effects it has on their own family.
Online, you never have to work up the nerve to shame someone, you can do it quickly, easily and effectively with the tap of a few keys. It is very similar to cyber bullying that happens in our children’s world that we are horrified about. Ask yourself - is this any different?
Fear of mistakes
Blaming parents for terrible accidents, and blaming them for things that we have all at one point done, allows us to feel like the world is within our control. That with vigilance and being a perfect parent, nothing will ever go wrong. It appears to parents who criticize to take away their fear and comfort people with the thought that bad things don’t just happen, people make them happen.
Comparison and Competitive Parenting
Parents are constantly being measured against each other. As if a child’s achievements are a direct representation of the parenting they receive and on the parent themselves. Since I brought my child a violin, all of his practice and talent is directly related to my efforts. For some, it provides a measuring rod to see how well their child stacks up against others, to know that they are doing a great job because their child is succeeding.
Poor impulse control
Because the internet is available so immediately, people will often post things in the heat of the moment, not after they have time to stop and consider their words. This poor impulse control and instant access to an audience can have devastating effects.
Let’s put an end to parent shaming
Parenting is extremely difficult. For the most part people do the very best that they can with the tools that they are given. It seems that the more pressure there is to be a perfect parent, the more people turn against each other and point fingers.
One of the best ways to end parent shaming is to practice empathy. No one is the perfect parent. Everyone has those moments where they fall short. Everyone is stressed, tired, and worried. Also, we make a lot of assumptions without the facts. We don’t know all the details behind another’s family situation. We don’t know if a child that’s crying has a developmental problem, we don’t know if that parent is struggling with an illness and lives in constant pain, we don’t know if that parents are not sleeping through the night and are totally exhausted.
Practice compassion and understanding. Parenting is tough. Parents should be supporting each other, not looking for opportunities to pull each other down. Everyone makes mistakes. Most people drop the ball once in a while. And everyone gets tired, sick, sad and cranky. So when something happens that you feel the need to judge and shame another parent, step back and acknowledge that it could have just as easily been you in this situation. And how would you feel if you were being judged and blamed?
Regardless of your parenting style and likes and dislikes, parents should work to support each other, because who else but another parent is going to understand the fatigue, joy, fear, wonder, stress, love and humour that comes from being responsible for the life of another.
When I work with parents who struggle, my intention is not so much to change every single thing about the way they are parenting. My job is to help parents create the outcome they are looking for. Many parents come to me with self doubt and fear that they are not doing a good job. I always want to reassure them that they are already being good parents by asking for help and guidance.
What are you doing right?
How can we increase the times when you feel as though you are handling issues in a way you feel good about?
How can we find ways to increase your effectiveness when you feel you are not meeting your own expectations?
If who you want to be is a loving, compassionate and inspirational parent, then how to incorporate love for your child (which can also include boundaries and modelling behavior) is the doing. Let’s pay more attention to whether we are acting in a way that aligns with our values and vision of a connected and joyful family. I think we ALL are doing the best we can!