Frustrated with the criticisms of the way you raise your kids? Here’s how to respond when someone criticizes your parenting methods.
One glaring fact had set me apart from my extended family: I didn’t let my little toddler eat sweets. He had no first-year birthday smash cakes or Christmas cookies, and it was years before he had his first taste of candy.
I became more lenient with the twins, but compared to most parents, still not too much. Coming from a family where dinner can include five desserts, this was sacrilege. And sometimes, I felt it.
“Don’t you feel bad for him, though?” Someone said as everyone ate cake except for my then-two-year-old. “We’re all eating cake except him.”
I even heard another person say, “That’s so sad. I would hate to grow up without having tasted any sweets.” As if not giving a two-year-old sweets meant a lifetime without them.
Fast forward to today. We still eat a healthy diet, but I have no problem giving my kids cookies or splurging on the occasional cupcake. The best part? They monitor themselves, knowing that eating more than, say, three pieces of Halloween candy in a day won’t make them feel good.
I love my family (we’re like the Big Fat Greek Family, minus the Greek part). But back then, I’d get annoyed when people criticized my parenting. Sweets were just one of the topics, too. Other factors that set us apart were…
- We had firm boundaries about bedtimes and naps. We’ve missed out on traditions like midnight Christmas because the parties were past bedtime. And we’ve had to turn down invitations because the event was right in the middle of a nap.
- We limit screen time. They usually watch an episode a day, and 30 minutes of computer time on the weekends.
- We sleep-trained. People were baffled why we weren’t going in to pick the baby up the minute he cried.
- We don’t force them to hug and kiss others. Although some may think it disrespectful not to hug and kiss relatives, we don’t make our kids do so. We encourage and ask them to, but we don’t make it an issue if they don’t want to.
- We didn’t baptize them. Out of everyone in our extended families, we’re the only ones who aren’t raising our kids Catholic.
What to do when someone criticizes your parenting
When you’re a new parent trying hard to hold onto your values and methods, dealing with criticism of your parenting can feel terrible. It’s even worse when you have to deal with other parents who criticize, considering that they might understand you a bit better.
You start questioning yourself or feel like you have no support. You’re the topic of conversation at parties once you leave (for the early bedtime, of course!).
So, what do you do? How do you respond when someone criticizes your parenting? Take a deep breath, friend. Here are a few things to tell yourself:
1. Remind yourself why you do what you do
Once in a while, people’s unsolicited comments can help you decide what to do. We get so caught up in ourselves that hearing opposing views can add a fresh take on it.
Other times, people’s criticisms just further cement your beliefs, which isn’t bad either.
You’re reminded why you don’t feed your three-year-old dessert an hour before bed. (You’re the one who has to deal with his crankiness the next morning, not them.) You know why co-sleeping is best for your baby, or that making your own baby food is important to you.
Whenever you hear a comment that starts with “Why do you do this…?” remind yourself why you do. It can give you the reserve to keep going and tune the criticism out.
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2. Surround yourself with positive people
Notice I didn’t say “people who agree with you.” Positive people are those who can support you and your decisions with warmth and understanding, no matter different. These folks are the ones who know that you’re doing the best.
They can listen, not judge. They might offer their views, but only because it’s what works for them, not because you should follow suit.
And they won’t make snarky comments or jokes when you breastfeed your 18-month-old or rock your baby to sleep once again. Instead, they can offer to help whenever you need it.
As I say in my book, You Are Enough:
“Here’s what I learned about unhelpful criticism: People’s criticisms say more about them than they do about you. In other words, negative criticism has less to do with who you are or how you’re raising your child, and more about the person who said them.”
3. Learn along the way
Parenting is a learning process, a “learn-on-the-job” role where you’re making up the rules as you go along. Trial and error play a huge part in deciding what to do, and each family is different. We’ll often change points of view along the way, as if we did a complete switch from our earlier opinions.
That’s why no one is factually right and should criticize your parenting. Other than outright abuse or neglect, we’re doing what’s best for our families. One mommy might not let her kids watch television and stay up later than another would. It’s okay. They aren’t going to turn out into bad kids.
It’s what works for their family. Through trial and error, they realized this works for them, which can be different from what works for you. Take their feedback and see if you can learn from it. If not, let it go.
Learn why parenting is harder than a typical job.
It’s never easy when someone criticizes your parenting, even with all the patience you try to muster. You put so much heart into this role—to hear someone brush aside your rules, make a joke, or criticize how you raise your kids doesn’t feel good. You want to trust your own instincts but feel shame and guilt from others.
Instead, remind yourself why you do what you do. Use their comments in a positive way to improve your parenting. Surround yourself with positive people who support you, even if they may not agree.
And most importantly, be kind to yourself when someone criticizes your parenting. In the end, what others say won’t matter if you don’t let them.
Get more tips:
- How to Be a Good Mom (Even When You Feel Discouraged)
- On Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood
- 8 Remarkable Parenting Goals Every Mom Should Have
- 14 Funny Things People without Kids Say
- The Best Advice for New Parents (From Parents Who’ve Been There)
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Touched my heart as usual Nina (L)
Nina Garcia says
Thank you for your kind words, Noemie! I’m glad the article resonated with you!
I have neighbor, whom I’m kind of close with. We haven’t known each other very long. Less than a year. She can be really nice and if I need something she’s always willing to lend a helping hand. Here lately she’s been saying these comments about the way I parent. That I don’t discipline my child enough. To me, I think I do a good job. Every child is different… Hence as to why you have to parent every child differently. I really don’t know what to say when she makes these inappropriate comments. My thing is her child is very mean and hits other children. But yet she does nothing about disciplining the child. She only laughs about it. So I feel like she has no room to say the way I parent my child is wrong, when she doesn’t do anything when her child is being mean to other children. So I’m just unsure what to do. Just take it with a grain of salt?? Or should I be nice about it and say something? I have NEVER made a comment to her about ge way she parents. We’re all new at this parenting thing. So why should I make it harder on them.
Nina Garcia says
That’s definitely tough, Veronica. One thing I definitely don’t think you should do is comment on the way she raises her kids. Don’t go down to her level, no matter how tempting it may be.
As far as what to say when she says something to you, I’d say it depends on your relationship. She’s your neighbor, so you’ll likely run into her again and wouldn’t want to make things awkward. Maybe try and communicate with your facial expression without even having to say anything that you’re bothered. Otherwise, you could also try to say it casually or even jokingly if that’s the kind of relationship you have about not saying those kinds of things to you.
Sometimes people don’t know the effect they have on others, so she might be oblivious to how she sounds. If the relationship is important to you, then you can talk about it and focusing more on how you feel and less about making her feel defensive or attacked.
Thank you so much! I knew I couldn’t say something about how she parents. That’s her every right you know. It’s not my place to tell her how to raise her children. I just wish everyone was like that. The first time she said something it just surprised me and caught me off guard. I just couldn’t believe she did that. Once again, thank you!
Hello dear Nina,
Well I am usually criticized by my mother about the way I raise my daughter.
She is 2 years old and she started now watching what I choose for her to watch and that happens not often I must admit since I am against TV. In her second Birthday i let her eat a small place of her cake and usually don’t offer her sweets other than pure honey. Moreover, I am against toys as presents and generally mountains of toys. I prefer books and diy things that I do with my kid in order to promote her creativity and imagination . Something else I do is teach her good manners and way of speech.
Well, because of these I get a lot of criticism from my mother who calls me „Hitler“ meaning I am too strikt. Talking with her doesn’t work so I tell her „that’s my child and that’s what I think is good for her „ and then I try to ignore her. In fact I don’t keep a lot of contact with her since she is a bad influence to my daughter.
Well that’s what I do with the people who criticize my parenting .
Nina Garcia says
So sorry to hear you’re going through this, Rosa. It’s definitely hard when we butt heads with our parents in particular, since they helped shape a lot of the way we raise our kids (whether that’s doing what they did with us, or going completely the opposite direction). I think you’re doing the best you can by simply asserting your stance, especially if she isn’t receptive to listening or hearing your point of view.
Lynette Fisk says
thank you for this article. I actually had a person from a support group criticizing my parenting. It was really upsetting. it wasn’t based pn ny fact either. what he did was just read thing into what I was writing and try to find fault. it was very frustrating. and that was supposed to be a support group? crazy, thanks