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Dealing with other people parenting your kids

Dealing with other people parenting your kids

Being a parent can feel a lot like performing in a circus – you’re constantly juggling things, bending over backwards, and jumping through hoops for Baby. And of course, there’s the most dreaded trick of them all: the tightrope walk, where you’re forced to walk the line between yours and other people’s parenting styles.

Every parent toes this line at some point, and it’s never easy! Adults are bound to interfere and tell Baby how to behave, especially when you’re both out in public. How you decide to react depends on a couple of different factors – how helpful the advice is, for example, and who’s giving it, and how politely the advice is offered. Here are some common situations where you might find yourself wobbling that fine line.

When you and Baby are a visiting act

If you and Baby are at a friend’s house, the host might have specific rules that they prefer to enforce. If these new rules are reasonable, it won’t hurt to hand over the ringmaster’s top hat and give Baby the chance to learn that every home has a different set of rules. If you start to get uncomfortable with the amount of parenting the other adult is doing, on the other hand, you can either speak to them about it or choose to visit less.

Out in a public space, it’s less socially acceptable for a parent to tell someone else’s child how to behave, so it is more understandable if you want to respond or react to a stranger’s interference.

When a well-meaning stranger steps into the ring 

Oftentimes an adult might be trying to prevent an accident or keep your child safe. Some statements sound overbearing, but have good intentions. If you can step back and figure out the reasoning behind someone’s advice, you might see that the adult was coming from a good place, which will de-escalate most situations.

For many parents, disregarding another adult’s parenting advice has to do with wanting to establish consistency with their children. Consistent guidelines from caregivers help children understand consequences, establish their own personal habits, and feel like they’re secure and taken care of. You can choose to use this as an opportunity to remind Baby what you expect from her.

When you’re made to feel like a clown

No ringleader should ever feel like they’re walking around with a painted face, but it can happen if comments from other adults are just plain critical or mean. As they say in showbiz, you can’t choose your audience – but you also don’t owe anyone a response. You can respond to the adult as simply as possible or not at all, and then move yourself and Baby out of the spotlight and into a different arena. Some good catch-phrases to use are: ‘Thanks, but we’re fine,’ ‘everyone’s different,’ and ‘we’ve tried that already, and now we’re trying something new.’

If you start to feel like the audience is filled with critics, don’t. This is a common experience for parents, and unfortunately it will probably happen again, but there are a lot more people out there quietly wishing you well than there are critics. Understand that it probably isn’t about you as much as it is about the hecklers themselves. And remember that everything you do sets an example for Baby, including how you respond to these people.

Parenting is a lifelong learning process, and the sense that other parents are watching, judging, or taking over can feel stressful. Sometimes you will want to respond to an adult who steps in, and other times, your judgement will advise against doing so. No matter what, try not to get discouraged or take anything to heart. The show must go on!

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