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You know that you want to raise your children differently than how you were raised—with compassion and connection, instead of punishment and reward. Except the only thing is, friends and extended family just don’t seem to get your parenting choices.
You can feel their spoken and unspoken judgments, and it’s really putting you on edge, but you don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations or tension. So what do you do, mama?
Here are 10 positive phrases you can say to family and friends who just don’t seem to get your parenting.
1. “I appreciate how much you care about our kids, but I’m really happy with how we’re doing it.”
This response finds the common ground. Both of you care deeply about your children, and that’s the main thing to acknowledge. It sets a limit and lets the other person know you are not looking for help and advice, but appreciate their intention.
2. “I’ve thought and read a lot about parenting and I’m really happy with what I’ve learned.”
Parenting nowadays can look pretty different from how it was in previous generations, and there are so many resources giving contradictory advice. A friend or relative may make the mistaken assumption that you are doing it all wrong simply because it’s not how they did it, or are doing it. This response lets them know you have made a thoughtful choice.
Gently pointing out that you have read and thought about their parenting style may surprise them. Perhaps your confident response may even make them curious about what you have read, and why you decided it’s the right way for you to parent.
3. “We’ve tried different methods, and this is what works best for us.”
Let your friend or relative know that you aren’t looking for advice, you’ve tried different styles of parenting and are content with what you’re doing.
4. “We find that they’re more responsive when we set limits gently.”
If you are taking the more peaceful route, then you’ll find that it’s pretty common for parents to mistake gentle parenting with permissive parenting. Pointing out that you are setting limits, even if they look a little different, can be reassuring to a relative who thinks you are not in control.
5. “I’ve noticed that if we listen to the crying rather than distracting or ignoring them, then they let out their feelings and are less likely to be upset later.”
A lot of people have a huge misunderstanding about crying. They think of it as a negative that needs to be stopped instead of as a healthy and healing way to express emotions. This is a simple way to tell them that there is a purpose in allowing feelings, and it’s actually better in the long run for your family.
6. “Every family is different, but this is what works best for us.”
Parenting differences can often bring up strong feelings between friends because one person may assume you are judging them and think that what they’re doing is wrong. Acknowledging that every family is different is a peacemaker. It shows that choosing a different path doesn’t mean you are judging or critical of others, and you get that everyone makes different choices.
7. “Kids are so different. This is how my child responds best.”
Everyone is the best expert on their family and what their children need. Nobody on the outside looking in can tell you how to parent. This phrase lets the other person know that what you are doing is based on what your understanding of what your child needs and ensures they won’t need an explanation.
8. “Don’t worry, I can handle this!”
If a friend or family member wants to step in and parent for you, this is a polite way of saying “no thanks.”‘ A lot of people aren’t comfortable around big emotions so perhaps they see your child crying and want to give them a lollipop to cheer them up.
This phrase gently lets them know they don’t need to fix or solve the situation. It can be reassuring to them that despite the wild emotions of your child (or their challenging behavior), that you are feeling calm and under control.
9. “Thanks for your advice. I’ll give it some thought.”
This is a conversation closer. It lets the person know they’ve been heard and you aren’t just dismissing what they say. But it also ends the debate, so it’s perfect to use with someone you know will never understand what you’re doing.
10. “I guess this must look a little different to how you were parented?”
This might not always be appropriate, but if the timing seems right it can open up a discussion about the roots of why the other person might feel the way they do about parenting. Sharing stories about how you were parented can help both come to an understanding that everyone chooses their own parenting path based on their own complex histories, and personal choices.
It also gives the other person a chance to express how they feel about their own childhood, which can help them feel heard, and more relaxed and flexible in their attitude to how you are parenting.
Plus one more that isn’t a phrase: Just listen.
Sometimes, no response is needed. Often when people give advice or have strong feelings towards other people’s parenting, it’s because they feel a sense of responsibility. Perhaps your children’s big emotions triggered memories from their childhood, and how they would have been treated if they acted out or expressed themselves.
In those moments, their unheard feelings get ignited and they respond from their own sense of hurt. It can be helpful just to listen to them, to accept that their reaction has nothing to do with you and your parenting, but is about their own history.
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Let’s talk about the support system that helps us mamas get through this complicated life. Whether it’s the grandparents who get it or the friends who are just a text message away, we couldn’t do this without them. And if you’re still trying to find your people, here’s a reminder that not all villages look the same.
PS. Have you heard of ‘snowplow parents’? Here’s what we can learn from them. Plus, Brené Brown is coming to Netflix and we can’t wait.