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 it.
Fast forward to today. We still eat a healthy diet, but I have no problem giving my kids Christmas cookies or splurging on cupcakes for special occasions. 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 was just one of the topics, too. Other factors that set us apart were…
- We have rules 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 can watch an episode a day, and 40 minutes of screen time on the computer.
- 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 the adults, 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 first time mom trying hard to hold onto your values and methods, dealing with parenting criticism 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?
1. Remind yourself why you do what you do
Once in a while, people’s unsolicited comments can actually 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 off with “Why do you do this…?” remind yourself why you do. It’ll 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 will support you and your decisions, no matter different. These folks are the ones who understand that you’re doing the best.
They’ll 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. They’ll instead 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.
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 mom might not let her kids watch television and stay up later than another mother would. It’s okay. Those kids aren’t going to turn out into little devils.
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.
It’s never easy when someone criticizes your parenting. 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.
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)
Don’t forget: Sign up for the Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge: