Mom shaming and dad shaming are a real thing. According to a 2021 global survey published on Statista, 82% of parents feel judged by other parents. The survey shows that more than 90% of parents in the United States experience some form of judgment.
If you’ve ever been in this position, you already know how hurtful it feels when someone criticizes your parenting. But what you may not know is how to handle the situation appropriately.
It is normal to retort in defense when other parents judge your parenting.
But what if there is a better approach that doesn’t necessarily involve slinging retorts or getting into a full debate?
There are more ways than one to handle criticism from other parents.
In this article, I’ll share some helpful tips on what to do if your parenting ever comes under harsh scrutiny.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Other Parents Judge Your Parenting
First, it is crucial to distinguish between unhelpful criticism and useful advice. Understanding this difference is the key to figuring out the best response to criticism.
By asking yourself the following question, you’ll know what to tune out and where you should adjust.
1. Did I Ask for an Opinion?
Did I encourage this person to tell me how to raise my kids? Did I request advice, or are they giving unsolicited advice?
Before you feel judged, try to figure out whether you directly or indirectly invited the critic to air their views about your parenting.
Decide whether or not to accept the criticism if you paved the way for the judgment. Otherwise, you can simply ignore them or follow any response tips I’ll share in subsequent sections.
2. Am I Being Defensive?
Being objective when you feel hurt can be difficult, so going into defensive mode is a normal reaction.
While it might be difficult to acknowledge, parents have their self-defense mechanism activated most of the time.
When other parents judge your parenting style, take a moment to consider what they are saying instead of automatically putting up your guard.
Is anything wrong with what they have said? Perhaps you feel hurt by how they said it, and there’s actually nothing wrong with what they said? Or maybe they offered sound advice, but you just don’t like the person?
3. Am I Misinterpreting Advice?
It is easy to read between the lines and take an honest piece of advice the wrong way. This is especially true if we allow our emotions to get in the way and blindside us.
Sometimes, we just over-analyze what was said by replaying it repeatedly in our minds. Then, we add all kinds of meaning to the interaction, even when that wasn’t the intention of the person who gave the advice.
When someone shares their thoughts about your parenting, it is usually best to take it at face value if it is something you want to work with or simply ignore it completely.
4. What Is the Intention?
Lastly, pause a bit when you receive criticism and consider the other person’s intention.
Is this person genuinely showing care for your family? Were they respectful while sharing their thoughts?
See if you can figure out their intention. They may not be out to hurt you in any way, even if their opinions seem like they are judging your parenting.
Before You Respond to Criticism
Slinging a well-timed rejoinder or witty reply may make you feel better, but think about it for a minute.
Does your reply align with your core values? What character traits do you really want to be defined by, and how does this response fit in?
Also, think about your child before responding to parenting judgment, especially in front of your kids.
If someone criticizes your parenting when your kids are present, make an effort to set a good example for your children. Remember that kids learn more from their parents’ actions than words.
Demonstrate to your kids how to respectfully reject other people’s hurtful remarks without slinging back insults or coming off as overly defensive.
Besides, you want to focus on your child’s needs instead of worrying about what someone else thinks. For example, if your child has an angry outburst in a public place, focus on calming them down instead of arguing with a stranger who says something you didn’t like about your parenting.
How to Respond When Other Parents Judge Your Parenting
Everyone has their opinion about the best way to raise children. It is usually pointless to try and change another parent’s perspective.
Yet, many parents still go around throwing verbal jabs at other parents.
Remember that this behavior isn’t about you; it is about the other person. Knowing this, you must avoid reacting but respond intelligently instead. This shows that you are emotionally stable and resilient.
Here are my top tips for you if you ever come under fire for your parenting style.
Don’t React At All
Sometimes, the best response is to say nothing at all. Simply ignore the critic and move on or change the topic.
Being overly critical is a character flaw in some people. Engaging with such persons is a complete waste of your time and energy. You will not likely change their perspective no matter what you say.
If any of your relatives have that type of behavior (your mother-in-law, for example), remember that their criticism isn’t about your parenting. It is rather about an issue with their character. Avoid engaging such persons; it simply isn’t worth it.
Respectfully Speak Up For Yourself
Sometimes, you need to let others know that you are in no mood to be mom-shamed or dad-shamed.
However, it is important to do so without fighting fire for fire, even when you don’t want to be seen as a people pleaser.
Have a few go-to statements up your sleeve and use them whenever you feel the need to tell someone that you don’t like being judged.
Here are a few suggestions:
- “Thanks, but no thanks.”
- “Thanks for your opinion. I’ll consider it.”
- “Thanks for your thoughts, but this is how I do things.”
Set Relationship Boundaries
If you get unsolicited advice, there are two ways you can respond to an advice-bearer who you’ve decided has positive intentions.
One way to respond is to consider applying the advice if it has merit. Being overly defensive doesn’t improve your parenting in this case. After all, no one knows everything there is to know about parenting, right?
Another way to respond is to gently reject the advice if it is unwanted, regardless of how well-meaning the giver is.
Here’s the most important thing to do if you feel the other person is being hurtful: set boundaries with them.
You will indirectly encourage them to continue this hurtful behavior if you don’t set relationship boundaries with them.
However, you want to be as gentle and positive as possible when you do this.
Make the person know that you are happy with your parenting style and prefer not to receive any advice.
Avoid Doing It Back
When you feel judged for your parenting, the easy way out is to immediately throw another parenting comeback at the critic. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
You already know how hurtful it feels to be judged, so avoid perpetuating that pain. Instead, be a part of the solution.
Okay, I know that it is easier said than done, especially in the heat of the moment when a random stranger makes an offhand comment about your parenting style.
However, it is usually beneficial to take a moment before responding in such situations.
Indeed, it can be difficult to muster any self-control at such times. This is why it is important to have a plan of action beforehand to avoid being caught unawares. One good way to do this is to learn how to focus on the good in every situation.
What Kind of Support Do You Need?
Sometimes we get parenting advice that we don’t like because we asked for it.
To be clear, you are not making any mistakes by asking for help or support. However, you need to vocalize exactly the kind of support you need.
If you don’t do this, you give room for all kinds of opinions – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!
You may end up blaming yourself or, worse still, blaming the other person for sharing their thoughts, even though you did ask for it.
To avoid this misunderstanding:
- Clarify the kind of support you need: Asking someone what they think gives them a blank check to dish out personal opinions that may sound like judgment. For this reason, you want to be specific when asking for help. For example, you might ask a relative or friend to give you a few pointers (without judgments) on something you have decided to do about your kids.
- Look for someone with the right experience: Seek out a friend or family member who has had the same experience you need help with. For example, if your child has a health condition that affects their behavior, turn to someone who has dealt with a similar situation instead of a relative with zero experience in that regard.