Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Parenting Styles

A Facebook friend shared a blog post on FB today.  The friend on FB liked the main point of the article (which I agree with), but it elicited some deeper emotions from me and I'm trying to sort it out.  It all comes down to one day for me ...

In short, the article was written by a mother who is (rightly) trying to teach her (supposedly small) children to take on challenges and accomplish them on their own without too much help from her.  At the playground she is wanting them to climb the ladder of the slide on their own, and when one called for help from Mom asking to be lifted to the top of the slide (instead of climbing up on her own), another woman helped her daughter up.  Mom is (rightly) upset at this woman - but I say "rightly" only because I read the comments where she clarified that the woman had definitely heard her and had given her a nasty look as she lifted her child up.  (What we don't know for sure is how loud her daughter had been, how long she'd been calling, how long a line-up there was for the slide, nor how bad a day either mother had had.  Because, let's face it, mothers of young children are not the most stable lot).

Alright - so that's not okay.  You don't go helping the kid if you've heard the mother encouraging her to do it on her own.  But it also isn't a federal offence.  And I will agree whole-heartedly that children should try and fail sometimes (as long as it isn't a danger to them or someone else).

One of the things that bothered me I suppose, was the fact that this blogger was ragging on Moms who pay too much attention to their kids - "Helicopter Moms" they call them.  That is a group I think a lot of people might put me into - I am the mother of one child - a wonderful child - and I pay pretty close attention to him.  But when he was young I was also an exhausted, anxiety-ridden, depressed mom.  Sometimes we went to the park so I could sit and he could play - on certain days I might have been seen as neglectful because I just really did not want to push him on the swings or even get up off that bench.  Just because someone helps your daughter up a slide doesn't make you neglectful or her too doting.  It just was a single interaction on a single day.  On another day it might not have bothered you.  On another day, she might not have helped. 

This blogger was saying that unless you make your kids challenge themselves, they will fail in life.  And I agree with this.  But it doesn't all have to be learned at the playground - or in every single interaction.  If you want them to learn only the way you want them to learn, then you'll have to keep them at home all the time and not expose them to other people.  Because other people are going to teach your child.  Just remember that your kids are with you most of the time and they will learn your lessons over the long run.  So if someone helps out your kid (either to spite you, to speed up the line, or because they just want to help) - or tells them "no" because something is dangerous - they are not undermining your parenting style.  They are doing what humans do - looking out for each other.

A few years ago we belonged to a play group.  It was a pretty good group most of the time and we met twice a week.  Lots of inside toys for kids to play with/on.  The kids generally went and played and we had coffee or tea and chatted.  We all looked out after each other's kids.  Well, one of the last times I went was an Easter Party and this woman showed up with her child who was too old to be there.  He was a little terror of a red-headed chubby kid.  And he was much larger than the majority of the toddlers there.

Between myself and a couple of other mothers we saw him push kids off of toys, threaten them and throw a punch at a kid's face.  This got me worried and angry.  I was worried that he would truly hurt another kid and mad at the mother for either not noticing or allowing this behaviour.  I told him not to throw punches after he came within an inch of a kids nose, he sassed me and walked away.  When I asked him who his mother was, he stuck his tongue out at me and ran away.  When I asked the moms who the mother of the red-head was, I got no answer.  So I went and grabbed his hand and expected him to come with me.  Well, he dropped to the floor and I had to yell at the mothers to find out who's little terror this was.

Short story long, I was the one who got chastised for disciplining someone's kid.  The mother said "he just doesn't react well to that kind of discipline".  Well, lady, you need to watch what he's doing, because he's going to hurt someone. 

I was also privy to behaviour in a household that had the earmarks of sexual abuse against a 4-year-old.  I had to decide whether I was going to call the authorities or not.  I was tormented by it because, in one way or another, we all need to look out for other people's kids - if I called, I might be putting undue stress on the family - if I didn't, something might continue to happen to that child.  I talked to several people before making the agonizing decision to call family services.

I didn't just help some kid up a slide - I almost dragged him across a floor.  For good reason, but probably not executed well.  And I didn't ignore a situation where I thought a child was being abused.  I butted in.  So what would this mother think of me???

Just because you know what you are trying to teach your kids doesn't mean that someone else does.  Sometimes the mother who tells her daughter to do it herself is actually an abusive, neglectful parent, not a caring person who has a certain parenting style.  As much as this blogger is judging that woman, that woman might be judging her right back.

So when I read a blog post where a mother is upset because someone tried to help her daughter and was disrupting her parenting style, it bothers me.  Because we all need other people to watch out for our kids sometimes.  I understand her frustration.  And if the woman who helped the kid up the slide knew her mother was trying to get her daughter to learn to do it on her own, well, she stepped over a line.  But we're all in this together.  Cut each other some slack.

I suppose I should cut the mother of the little red-head some slack, too.  Obviously she has some incredible challenges with her son.  What bothered me most was that I became the bad guy because I did something about it and tried to stop his violent behaviour.  I'm sure her side of the story is very different from mine.  But, what is it, 5 years later ... and thinking about that day still upsets me.

I guess that's why it bothers me when I read posts where one mother is so clearly judging another - because I've been judged.  We don't all have the same life experiences, we don't all have the same kids, and we don't all have the same level of energy to parent our children.  Some days are better than others.  But we should all understand that mothering is hard.  It's not always about your parenting style.

And, yes, I'm over-thinking this, in case you were going to comment.  But over-thinking because I over-reacted.  And when I over-react, there's usually a deep-seated reason that I need to sort out.


  1. As you go about your day to day life, you will come across all five different parenting styles at one point or another. There are parents who hover and are constantly on top of their children to make sure they never fail. In Parents Toolshop, this parenting style is called "Perfectionistic Supervisor." There are parents who teach children skills and then give them room to try things on their own and learn from their mistakes as long as there is no danger. This would be considered the "Balanced" parenting style. However, if the parent was ignoring the child's pleas for help this would be more of the "avoider" parenting style. Since we were not at the playground and do not know the parents involved personally, it is hard us to say which of the parenting styles these moms have. Was the mom of the little girl watching and giving encouragement or was she flatly ignoring the pleas for help and the situation was dangerous?

    1. Thank you so much for your input, Parents Toolshop. I personally just follow my gut where parenting is concerned, but it is very interesting to hear about the different parenting styles.


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