Giving Other Parents Feedback

crying child

photo by D. Sharon Pruitt, creative commons, Flickr

The other day at the pool I watched this interaction between a Dad and his 5ish year old daughter:

She hurt herself on the concrete. She looked scared and was crying.
Dad’s response? “Oh, don’t cry, you’re okay. Crying doesn’t do you any good.”
Girl keeps crying.
Dad says more firmly, “HEY. I said no crying. Crying doesn’t help.”
Girl tries to shut herself down but struggles to do so. They went back and forth a few more times and eventually the girl got quiet.

This dynamic is the norm and mirrors what I grew up with. The Dad doesn’t know any other way. No one showed him and he probably has had no one in his life modeling a different way. So, he’s “doing the best he can” right? He’s doing the best he can with what he’s been taught and trained to do, yes. And, due to his conditioning and upbringing, he’s not really interested in another way and probably won’t learn one. When he was a little boy crying at the pool, his Dad did the same thing to him.

So, what can I do? Relax and feel the impact having watched the interaction. I felt angry, sad. I saw the girl and I saw myself. I saw the little boy in him and I saw myself. Feel. Then what do I do? LIVE the way I want my kids to be. Allow my kids to cry and feel no matter how small the issue is. Allow myself to cry and feel. Allow tantrums. Allow and make room for all of it. When I reach my threshold, get bigger, heal more of me so I can hold more of my children. Embrace those parts. Love them. Accept them. And then perhaps my way will have an impact on someone like him.

Read the facebook comments to this post here.

Then, I followed that up with this other post below

The untouchable subject for parents?

Giving other parents feedback on their parenting. Yikes.

Yesterday I posted this post ( about a Dad shaming his daughter because she was crying. A few of you wondered what it would be like to intervene. What’s going on when we don’t say anything to other parents?

Here’s my take:

I see that part of the advantage of living separately, instead of living in community, is that we can hide our parenting from other parents. It appears that we parents are quite insecure and pretty closed to feedback (or something…). I think there must be an unspoken agreement among parents that goes something like this: “please don’t criticize me or what I’m doing, I’m doing the best I can. I already feel ashamed and inadequate a lot of the time, and even though I’ve never done this before, I’m supposed to be doing better.”

We all have our own reasons why we don’t talk about what’s really going on as parents. If you’ve never touched your inadequate button, when you become a parent, it will inevitably flare up.

And, I’d like the brave ones to step forward because I believe we need each other. We really can’t raise kids alone, yet somehow we kind of do.

I notice that parents seem to have this “no-fly zone” around them that isn’t open to feedback or input, even if it could really help their family. Sure, some parents will talk openly about some of their challenges, but typically the challenges suggest that the child is the problem. “Oh, he’s so difficult, or “she won’t sleep,” “it’s her temperament.” Or “he’s never be able to listen, right from the start.” Kids are often blamed for parent’s deficiencies. Very few parents are willing to say “I don’t know what to do, my son/daughter is triggering every last nerve in me and I don’t know what it’s about, but I want to.” Parents do take credit when their child is being “good.” This can mean the child is behaving in ways that don’t make the parent upset or uncomfortable, especially in front of others.

Many parents will ask for advice or suggestions on which book to read, etc, but rarely do I experience parents open to in-the-moment feedback on something going on. And, I notice that I’m often scared to give it. I sense the no-fly zone and I collude with their unconscious defensiveness. And, I’m scared my feedback will hurt their feelings thus add to their shame and inadequacy. But the real issue is that I’m scared of what I’m going to have to feel if I tell the truth. This is one area where I still hold back—with other parents. And, what if we started going there anyway? Because I really can’t do it alone and I want what’s best for my children’s development and I might be part of the what stands in their way. You might see something I’m not seeing that could really help me.

**And, here’s my personal disclaimer: I’m not that open to feedback from just anyone. I have to have great respect for the person and admire how they are living their lives in order to be really open to receive their feedback. I’m not open to feedback from total strangers or parents who never look in the mirror. I also feel very secure as a parent and love how I’m showing up, even with the mistakes I make.

And, my curiousity to us parents is this: 1) Is this true for you, and if so why? And 2) why is it that you don’t ask for help directly from other parenting friends (and non parents) in the moment when your family dynamic obviously needs some attention? 3) consider opening yourselves to feedback by asking your other parent friends, non-parent friends (major untapped resource), and professionals and ask what they see.

Perhaps we can love each other more in this way. My guess is it has the potential of us loving ourselves more here as well, which directly benefits our kids.

1 Comment

  • Martin MS

    Reply Reply November 10, 2013

    Uh-huh, touchy indeed. So often I feel I should really give other parents some kind of feedback and it’s a total no-no over here (in Germany), too, at least with strangers.
    What CAN work is a humorous approach that makes the other parent feel he or she is not alone in this and I understand his or her difficulty (like not wanting to buy sweets while waiting at the supermarket checkout and the child throwing a tantrum). What holds me back most times, though, is the thought that I won’t be able to make much of a difference anyway because their toxic pattern will continue at home no matter what I say. Still, maybe it’s better to do/say something anyway, at least for my own peace of mind – so often it really hurts to see how kids are treated by their helpless parents.
    Thanks for the post.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field