When People Criticize Your Parenting Choices: How Do You Handle It?

Posted January 24, 2012 by

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Why is it that people don’t hesitate to give out unsolicited parenting advice, no matter how much it offends the recipient?

Someone recently told me how people made her feel bad about using formula instead of nursing. I think that as parents, we know what’s best for our own kids. Some women are unable to nurse in the first place, and  it’s not anyone else’s place to judge how a baby should be fed. Feeding choices are between a mother and the baby’s doctor. If doctors didn’t want their patients having formula, they wouldn’t be giving out free samples.

Then there’s the judgment that comes with the choice of whether to work or stay at home. I recently read a Facebook post from a stay-at-home DAD who had someone comment to him that he was just babysitting. When he told her he did this full-time, she reacted strangely, like there was something wrong with a dad staying at home with the kids. I even get comments, as a working mom, that it’s somehow “so easy to just arrange my schedule to accommodate my kids.” It’s not easy at all! People assume so much about a parents’ choices when it comes to this heated topic.

I think there are some topics that should just be avoided altogether when discussing parenting. Nursing vs. bottle feeding and childcare vs. work are just the tip of the iceberg. In the community where I live, school choices somehow end up being everyone else’s business, in regards to public vs. private school. Then there are people who make rude comments when a child doesn’t behave well or a baby is crying in a store. Nothing is worse to top off the stress of a crying baby than a cashier or patron telling you (by giving a look or making a subtle remark) that you are a bad parent. ALL babies cry! They don’t care if they’re in a store or safe in their crib.

There’s also religion. That’s definitely a topic where outside opinions are not welcome. With raising our kids as Modern Orthodox Jews, we’ve gotten questioned over why we can’t just take our kids into a McDonald’s or if they’ll be missing out on too much socially if they don’t attend Friday night football games when they’re older.  Unsolicited opinions about how parents handle their children’s special needs are yet another taboo discussion. (We had someone do this to us once about our child and they’re lucky I didn’t answer back!) Other topics that shouldn’t be touched are the amount of kids one has, if they’ll be trying for the opposite gender the next time around (when they only have kids of one gender), if they should get genetic testing done (if the child is born with a disability), if they can financially afford to have kids, etc.

Kids can’t always contain their curiosity, but adults definitely can and should contain theirs. There are plenty of safe topics to talk about with other parents. These taboo subjects don’t even need to be brought up in the first place.

What have other people said to you about your parenting choices? How did you handle it?


Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.

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