How to Deal When Someone Criticizes Your Parenting Style

Do you feel like you have support for your positive parenting style?

It can be exhausting to face criticism of your parenting at every turn. Sometimes it’s extremely lonely if you’re the one breaking patterns in your generation. Your parenting choices might be totally different from people in your immediate family or your neighborhood.

In this interview I talk with Amanda Morgan, author of Parenting with Positive Guidance, about handling criticism and finding support for your parenting choices.

Handling Criticism of Your Parenting

What can parents do when they are criticized for choosing a positive guidance parenting style? How can parents gain confidence in their parenting style?

This is often the hardest part of parenting in general. No matter what you’re doing, there’s someone to tell you — directly or indirectly — that you’re doing it all wrong.

If we’re looking for everyone else to affirm our parenting style it will never come. Disagreement and criticism abounds, largely because there are a million “right ways” to do it. I believe there are certain principles of parenting that are consistent and true, but their application will look different with different parents and different children.

I think when someone confronts you directly or gives unsolicited advice, you have two choices:

You can make a brush-off type comment, that essentially shows you love the person commenting, but the topic isn’t one you want to discuss with them. So, something like, “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” or “That’s one way of doing it. We’re trying a different approach.” Or simply a smile. That may be the hardest of all.

The second choice is to actually engage and try to educate someone to your perspective. This doesn’t mean you’re trying to change their opinions, that would likely be a losing battle. Approach it with the intention to merely explain your own basic concepts.

  • Avoid a full debate and use simple phrases like, “I’m really trying to emphasize his own problem-solving skills rather than simply telling him what to do,” or “I believe it’s more important for my child to learn from choices and consequences than it is for me to control his every move.” “We choose to teach through means other than physical punishment,” or “The APA statement shows spanking is a tool with diminishing returns.”
  • If they want to know more and you feel you can have a respectful discussion, go for it. If you can tell that emotions are too high for either one of you, simply say, “I appreciate your concern/interest/love for my child. I’m parenting him/her in the way that I truly feel is best for our family. Please respect my choice. We may simply have to agree to disagree on some of the details.”
  • In any parenting discussion, it is so important to monitor your tone and try to be sure that you aren’t turning the tables, passing judgment on a parenting style that is different from yours.

Is it important for parents to have a “parenting community”?

Support goes a long way in parenting. It’s too easy to question yourself over and over. And because we’re each so emotionally involved it’s sometimes hard to see some experiences past our own filter.

Your first and best partner in parenting is your spouse or co-parent. Someone who has a vested interest in your child. When you have a unified front, you not only handle the job of parenting with consistency, but you can help each other through your weak spots, and tag-team when you’ve maxed out your patience.

Friends and family can also be a good sounding board, borrowing from their own experiences and fresh perspectives. It’s important, however, to recognize that each child is unique as are the dynamics of your relationship with them. It can be very useful to hear what worked for someone else, but be sure to recognize the different factors in play and adapt or even disregard their advice if necessary to meet the needs of your child.

There are plenty of experts out there, but no one knows your child like you do. You are the expert on that topic. The best way to build your parenting confidence is to look at your own child and follow your own “gut”. I personally believe that parenting is a sacred stewardship and that each parent who sincerely seeks to understand their child’s needs is entitled to a more sensitive awareness than anyone else out there. Educate yourself, of course, but feel how the information resonates and watch how your child reacts to its implementation.

Confidence in your parenting can come only from you, your parenting partnership, and your relationship with your child.