Those other parents.
On the outside looking in, it’s easy to see how other parents should change the way they parent. It’s easy to condemn them and point out their flaws. That’s what we tend to do, especially if we are insecure in our own parenting or are experiencing an empty nest. We give subtle (and not so subtle) hints and clues and wonder why those parents can’t get it!
The trouble is that other parents don’t walk in your shoes or deal with the same kids. For that matter, their child might be more strong-willed than yours, but you’ve never witnessed the battles that take place behind closed doors. It’s also true that sometimes it’s easier to note a problem when we’re on the outside looking in. Sometimes, if we are honest, we notice flaws in other parents because they resonate with our own parenting mistakes.
Sometimes parents are more like vultures than fellow-pilgrims. When a parent or family is in duress, it is sad when suddenly, from nowhere, parent vultures appear, cawing their advice or proclaiming what those parents should have done differently. They have ideas, opinions, and methods to deal with the problem and are just waiting for a time to swoop in and lay their talons on weary parents.
What to do about other parents
So what’s a parent to do when another parent tries to tell him how to parent? You, the parent, get to choose.
- Ignore the parent and continue on your own way
- Listen to what they have to say (even if it was unsolicited and you’d rather not consider their thoughts because of who they are or how they handle themselves). In listening, you can look for the thin strand of truth hidden in their advice. Instead of bristling, consider that we can often learn by listening to what others observe.
- Recognize that that parent doesn’t know the things you’ve tried that have worked. That parent doesn’t know how you’ve struggled and succeeded even though it seems (to that parent) that you’ve still got a long way to go.
- Choose to not allow that parent to make you feel incompetent, insecure, and a failure because of one or two remarks that parent made.
- Stop comparing yourself to that parent and make your own path.
Finding your support
Parenting is difficult enough without the support of other parents or family members who could help but choose to hinder instead. That’s when you need to find other parents who will walk with you instead of against you. Find parents who will get down in the trenches with you. If you are honest about your frustrations and failures, you will be able to find parents who are walking that same path.
Find parents whose parenting style appeals to you, and whose children exhibit the qualities you’d like your kids to possess. They can help you – or certainly encourage you to keep trying as you commiserate together.
Don’t despair of the parent vultures who care more about showcasing than being helpful. Ignore their caws, resist their talons, and stay the course. Recognize that, oftentimes when someone has all the answers, he is hiding insecurities he is not willing to share. The vulture who caws the loudest is not always the one who is right.
Find a support system that cares and encourages. Find other parents who truly believe in you and will find ways to help instead of hinder. Ask God to give you wisdom in your parenting and help you find supporters. Find folks who will play with you and pray for you.
If your kids are grown and gone, step up to the plate and provide encouragement and support instead of acting like you never made mistakes. If you’re still in the storm, then take note of what it’s like. When your kids are grown and gone, remember what it was like. Remember – then become the kind of older parent you needed when you were raising your kids.