One of the trickiest parts about parenting is handling the comments, questions, and judgements that come as a result of your choices. Whatever philosophical parenting path you choose (or don’t), there is bound to be someone you’ll come across who disagrees with you.
The choice to free-range parent definitely brings up issues that will, at some point, require you to address the way you parent. In my experience, I find that there are three ways people will raise questions about your parenting:
This is the ideal situation for all parties involved. Asking questions implies a willingness to learn and an open mind. I know for myself, if I’m intrigued by the way someone else parents, questions are the best way to delve deeper into the subject without offending. It’s natural when someone asks you a question about your parenting to assume that they’re questioning your parenting. Don’t! Those are two different things, and by getting defensive right away you lose the opportunity to educate someone about the benefits of free-range parenting. I try to answer questions with the reasons why free-range parenting works for our family, examples of how we free-range parent, and provide stories of the benefits we’ve seen as a result.
This is a grey area. Some advice truly is meant to be helpful. An acquaintance once told me a story of how her daughter was approached at the playground by a suspicious person. She related the story and gave some advice on how they handled the situation. It prompted me to rethink whether or not I was comfortable sending Elena to the playground without me (I was), and to have a conversation with her about how she would handle herself in the same situation. Some advice, however, is really just passive-aggressive judgement trying to cloak itself in helpfulness. In these situations I find that it’s best to just politely say, “Thanks. I’ll take that under consideration.”
3. Rude Comments and/or Judgements
These are the critics I just never seem to know how to handle! Comments like, “I would never let my kids do that, I love them too much,” or “You’re a terrible parent, you’re lucky I don’t call the authorities.” (Both of which have actually been said to me. To my face – not even in YouTube comments!) These are the worst because they bring up so many emotions that lurk beneath the surface of any parent’s mind. Am I a good enough parent? Am I doing the best thing for my kids? You want to lash out in anger or defend yourself, but in all actuality, it’s not worth the energy. You won’t be changing anyone’s mind.
I’m curious – what’s been your experience when dealing with critics or those who question your parenting style?