“Why the heck do you let your kids eat with their bare hands?”
“Shouldn’t you put some socks on them?”
“Why are you so harsh on your toddler, just let him eat that lollipop!”
Umm, excuse me, let me stop you there. Why do you think it’s any of your business, stranger?
Maybe they mean well, but it is infuriating when people come up to me and give me their unsolicited opinions and “advice”. People’s comments are enough to make me want to scream in their faces.
But you know what makes it trickier?
When your family doesn’t support your decisions as parents, and basically wants to write their own script about how you should raise your child.
It’s like adding insult to injury – you’re already sleep-deprived, stressed out, and struggling to keep up with the demands of parenthood, and then your Aunt Karen decides to swoop in once in a while with her opinions about your parenting choices.
Maybe you have considered running away to a tropical island where the only opinions that matter are yours and the bartender’s. But before you book that one-way ticket to Maldives, take a deep breath and remember that you’re not alone, and there are ways to fix this.
There are plenty of parents who deal with family members who don’t support their parenting choices, whether it’s the in-laws who think you’re too strict, the grandparents who spoil your kid rotten, or the Aunt who thinks you shouldn’t be promoting Baby-Led-Weaning (Seriously, Karen, can’t we just enjoy our burgers in peace?).
So how do you cope with family members who don’t support how you’re raising your child? Remember that respect should be mutual, and the well-being of your child is always the top priority.
Forget the opinions of strangers, they really don’t have the right to judge you to your face. But when it comes to family, most likely they mean well and just love your child. And sometimes family members criticise your parenting choices simply because they don’t understand them. Take the time to explain why you’re making certain decisions for your child, and how they’re benefiting from them. For example, if your sister thinks you’re too strict with your child’s screen time, explain how too much screen time can negatively impact a child’s development.
Communicate your feelings
It’s important to communicate your feelings in a clear and assertive way. Let your family members know how their comments are affecting you and why you find them hurtful or frustrating. Use “I” statements to express your feelings without blaming or attacking them. For example, you might say something like, “I feel frustrated when you criticise my parenting choices because I’m doing my best to raise my child in a way that feels right for me, and for us as a family.”
Choose your battles
Not every criticism is worth getting worked up over. This may just lead to resentment and unnecessary arguments that will hurt your relationship with them down the road. It really does take a village to raise a child, and you want that village to be peaceful and full of love and respect.
Some family members may just have an annoying habit of nitpicking at everything you do, while others may only express concern over major decisions. Decide which battles are worth fighting and which ones you can let go of. For example, if your mother-in-law insists on buying your child sugary snacks despite your wishes, it may be worth having a conversation about it. But if your aunt comments on your child’s always-messy hair, you might be better off just shrugging it off.
I often hear about parents who complain about family members doing things differently with their kids when they are not around. I mean, for me it’s totally okay if the grandparents want to spoil a child every once in a while. But doing something that crosses the line is absolutely not okay. If your family members don’t respect your wishes and won’t stop criticising your parenting choices, it may be time to set some boundaries.
Let them know that while you appreciate their concerns and love for your kids, you’re the parent and you’ll make the decisions that are best for your child. If they can’t respect your choices, they may need to spend less time with your child.
Keep an open mind
Always stand up for your own parenting choices and what you believe in. But, it’s also important to keep an open mind and consider other perspectives. Your family members may actually have valid concerns or suggestions that you haven’t considered, and listening to them may help you make more informed decisions.
It’s okay to respectfully disagree with your family members, but don’t dismiss their opinions outright without giving them a fair hearing. You might find that you learn something new or gain a fresh perspective that helps you become a better parent.
No one is perfect, and most of the time, your family really does want the best for you and your kids.
Lead by example
Show your family members that your parenting choices are effective by demonstrating their positive impact on your child. For example, if you’ve chosen to limit your child’s screen time, invite your family over for a fun, screen-free activity and let them watch as your child engages in creative play. Seeing firsthand how your choices benefit your child can help your family members understand and respect your parenting style.
Make a joke of it
Humour is a great coping mechanism, so why not turn your family’s criticism into a punchline? The next time your mum makes a comment about your “lazy” parenting, respond with a sarcastic quip like, “Oh yeah, because letting my kid watch TV for 5 minutes is definitely going to ruin their life.” It probably won’t change your mum’s opinion, but at least it’ll make you feel a little better.
Seek support from others
If your family members are causing you stress and anxiety, it would be a good idea to seek support from others who can lift you up. Reach out to friends who share similar views with their parenting styles, join a parenting group, or talk to a therapist who can help you navigate this challenging situation.
Remember that you’re the parent
At the end of the day, you’re the one who knows your child best. You’re the one who has to make the tough decisions and deal with the consequences. You know what your child needs most While it’s nice to have support from family members, it’s not necessary for you to have to follow through with every opinion.
Parenting is a challenging and rewarding journey that is unique for every family. It can be tough when our loved ones don’t see eye-to-eye with us on how we’re raising our children, but with a little patience, humour, and understanding, we can get through these challenges with grace and compassion.
There’s really no one “right” way to be a parent, and what works for one family may not work for another. So don’t be afraid to trust your instincts, stand up for your choices, and do what feels best for you and your child.
And if you really have had enough of it, just book that ticket to the Maldives and enjoy a well-deserved break from the criticism.