Parent Shaming – We’re all just doing our best
Written by Elisabeth Duncan
The other day I heard a radio host say, “if you’ve ever been embarrassed by your kid that’s on you and your parenting because you didn’t do something right.” If you’re like me that boiled your blood. I was angry and I out loud said, “that is completely not true”. Another time I read someone else say, “I am baffled by why adults are scared of these children.” You wonder why there is parent shaming? Look no further than comments like these.
I have been in many public moments that I wish went vastly different than what they did. I have cried several times in my car because of how a simple errand turned train wreck because of a child that had their own agenda. I have left places feeling defeated and lost truly not knowing how to change things.
What I’d like to ask people that think every child can be controlled is have you dealt with a strong willed or defiant child? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no because anyone that has knows that isn’t always possible. You can go in with the best intentions. You talk calmly and rationally to the child explaining the rules set out. You don’t have unique or crazy expectations. You ask them to stay with you, be nice, be calm, all seemingly doable things. You explain the agenda for the event/errand. The child agrees and complies with what your saying. Yet, somehow between your conversation in the car with an agreeable child and when you are in such event something shifts. The child that seemed so reasonable and understanding all of a sudden is screaming, kicking and yelling at you. They won’t listen to reason, even though the exact thing they are wanting is attainable if they can calm down. You as the parent are bewildered. You try to reason, you try to compromise, you try to rationally negotiate and none of that works. Then you try being firm. You try “to be the parent”. You start giving consequences. Nothing is working if anything it’s escalating. Your only options are to continue through the event/errand with a screaming child or carry a screaming child out of the store, both of which I have done. The stares that ensue are heart wrenching.
As the parent you are riddled with emotions. You feel sad that you don’t know how to help your child. You feel embarrassed because everyone was staring at you. Angry because you just wanted to do XYZ and that couldn’t happen. Depleted because you don’t know what else to do. You’ve tried everything and no amount of love, affection, firm boundaries, set rules, consequences, negotiations, compromises, rational talk or anything in between those has helped.
What I would like to tell anyone that thinks parents aren’t doing their job if a child is acting out is; that parent is doing their best. You don’t know the love that that parent pours into that child. You don’t see the happiness that child exudes 90% for the rest of the time. You don’t see that parent crying in their car because of another outing that ended like that. You don’t see the questions running through their mind of what they could do better to help their child in those times. Give grace. Give help. Give encouragement.
I’ll share two interactions I have had in public with my kids. One was as a family we were grocery shopping. The kids weren’t being out of control and were actually being pretty good. They, like any kids can be, were a bit over enthusiastic about being in public after the pandemic but nothing crazy. After we grabbed milk I heard a lady tell her husband, “let’s get out of here before THESE people attack us.” She was serious. My heart sank. I thought, “these sweet children who are just happy, wouldn’t attack you with anything but love.” My heart broke for being judged for nothing but being happy to be out in the grocery store.
My other story is I was at the library with two of my kids. One of them decided they weren’t liking something and starting throwing the mother of all tantrums. It was all I could do to carry this child as they were fighting me with everything they had. I was trying to collect our things and get out as fast as we could. I was embarrassed as we were obviously the center of attention. Another mom (a total stranger) came over and said, “I want to tell you you are doing a great job. Can I do something to help you?” I was shocked and grateful. I said no but thanked her for her kindness because her encouragement alone meant the world to me.
Be like that mom. Offer help not judgement. Offer encouragement instead of hurtful words. Each of us parents are doing the very best we can to raise these little humans to be kind and beautiful big humans. What better example for them to have then when we uplift and help each other in this amazing yet hard journey of parenthood?! If you are a parent of a strong willed child we can do this! Those tiny people will grow up to become leaders. They will stand strong for their beliefs and values. They will be influencers and the ones people look up to. Keep pressing on in the hard days knowing your work now is sowing seeds of leadership, strong minds that won’t be swayed and so much more. Also I’m totally here for you on those hard days and I got your back!
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