Should Parenting Be Discussed?

January 22nd, 2009

I recently had a conversation regarding whether or not parenting is a topic that is open for discussion. I’m of the opinion that parenting is a topic that should be discussed (and among several of my friends it’s one of our most exhaustive subjects) but I know others feel that it is a topic not open for discussion.

I should clarify when I say ‘parenting’ I’m referring to all aspects of parenting – from the abstract styles of parenting (what do you think of this style parenting vs. that style) to the specific (we do _____ with Lexi because….I noticed you do ______with little Stanly. Does that work well for you? Why did you decide to do that?)

I tend to lean towards the philosophy of “It Takes A Village” when it comes to parenting my child. I want to know what others do and why they do it. I also appreciate it when people ask me why we do things with our kids the way we do. Often times those are tough questions to answer but having to answer them makes me re-evaluate what I’m doing as a parent and decide if it’s something I should keep doing or if changes need to be made.

I don’t think a person can tell someone how to raise their family. But I think discussing parenting and even offering advice on the topic can be beneficial. And if advice is going to be given it has to be received as well. It’s a package deal. It also needs to be done carefully. Don’t give me advice on how to handle a temper tantrum when I’m wrestling a screaming and kicking 3-year-old into her coat and carrying her out the door. But when we are hanging out and things are peaceful feel free to bring up that time you saw me wresting her into her coat and tell me about when you had to do the same thing and how you handled it.

Personally, I learn best from watching others and hearing their experiences than I do from reading all kinds of parenting books and articles. What about the rest of you? How often do you discuss parenting with others? How personal do you get when you discuss it?

12 Responses to “Should Parenting Be Discussed?”

  1. Maggie on January 23, 2009 9:13 am

    I do not have any children and I never presume to tell parents anything about how they are raising their children. Recently, however, I was at the deli a few weeks ago and this woman kept smacking the hands of a small girl. The child was two or three years old. I finally told the woman that if she wanted to hit someone she could come over and hit me. At least I could defend myself.

    I never thought that I would say such a thing, but I’ve been thinking more and more about having a child and I just couldn’t handle that woman hitting that child. She stopped and the girl didn’t have any more outbursts.

    I haven’t told anyone that story because I always bite my tongue.

  2. Jessica Martin on January 23, 2009 10:02 am

    i’m sorry maggie, i don’t know you but if you came up and told me that i may just take you up on your offer. you don’t know me or my child and like you said, you don’t have children (not that that would make you an expert).

    as for advice from people i DO know…i am an intelligent person and i read plenty of respectable books on parenting as well as learn from my child what works and what doesn’t. when i complain about a problem, i just want to vent, i don’t want advice. if i want advice, it will be implied or i will ask for it. if a friend told me they don’t agree with spanking, bribes, time outs, or whatever (not saying if i do or don’t agree with these discipline techniques) then that makes for a good discussion about parenting but if they tell me i shouldn’t spank, bribe, etc, that is very insulting. i am parenting my child to the best of my abilities and it works for our family. it’s no one elses business unless it is a social services issue. then, by all means, report me to the authorities. there are plenty of things other parents do that i don’t agree with (either i think they cause some minor harm, don’t work or it’s just not something i would do/have the patience for) but i am neither that child’s parent nor do i live with them every day to know what that child’s particular needs are. it’s plain ol’ none of my business.

  3. Maggie on January 23, 2009 7:06 pm

    I see now that this is not a discussion or a confession to make in an internet medium.

    Jessica, I’m sorry that I upset you.

  4. abby on January 23, 2009 9:38 pm

    @Maggie – please don’t feel like you can’t discuss this topic with us.

    @Jessica – I agree. I don’t want someone telling me how to parent. But I do like to know why people do things differently than I do them. And I think that’s where being able to discuss parenting is a positive thing. It’s hard because as a parent when someone asks us why we do something we often jump to the conclusion that they don’t agree with our choices or think we are doing a bad job and we get very defensive but really most people just want to know why. They aren’t trying to change anyone’s mind or change their actions. They are just trying to get some clarification.

    As for me personally, I want people to ask me “why”. And I especially want them to ask me ‘why’ when it’s something they see me do that they don’t agree with because (at least I hope) many times if you know the rational behind why I am doing something it clears up any concerns you may have about it.

    And back to not wanting someone telling me how to parent…I also wanted to add that while I don’t want someone telling me I can’t do this or I should do that I don’t actually mind someone stepping in an telling my kid what to do. (It’s back to that “It takes a village” mentality). For example if my kid is running laps after church and while I’m talking with someone I have no problem with another adult stepping in and telling her to slow down/stop running/etc. And there have been lots of times when I’ve stepped in with someone else’s kids. But that only applies to adults I know. Strangers are a different story.

  5. Jessica Martin on January 24, 2009 12:56 pm

    the only time i would step in to tell another child what to do is if it was hurting my kid in some way (older kids playing rough) and i will ask someone else’s kid to “be careful for the little kids” even if i don’t know them.

    i just honestly can’t think of a situation i’ve seen that’s been “bad enough” to step in, or even bring up where it would be worth bringing it up. if someone’s giving a 1 month old solid food, well the damage is already done and going over there and explaining what the experts say is just going to make me look like a jerk or make the mom feel defensive.

    it’s a totally different story when it comes to someone asking advice. that person is open to a suggestion and is not going to take it as hostility. i do mom/baby education for a living so i do know something about what i’m talking about. an example would be a mom who wants a circumcision. if she’s not looking for advice on whether or not to have it done, me suggesting not to do it (even if i give her “proof” that it is unnecessary) will probably upset her. most parenting topics are very loaded and there is a lot of gray area involved. there is no right or wrong way to parent and i by no means know the “right” way. even if i know the right way to parent MY child, doesn’t mean i know how to parent someone else’s.

    if it was an abuse or negligence issue, i would report them to security, social services, 911 if i had to. i would never approach that person myself. that’s just me.

    and maggie, i do apologize for getting defensive. i could just imagine how i would feel. parents spend a lot of time trying to control their children. that’s obviously not sugar coated but it is the truth. out of control kids=a bad thing. to have someone step in and take away control from the mother and give it to the child over something as minor as a slap on the hand puts that mom in a very awkward situation. i hope you can understand that.

  6. Jessica Martin on January 24, 2009 12:59 pm

    oh and my point about upsetting someone is that when someone is angry or defensive, they are not open to learning or suggestion. someone has to be in the right state of mind to take advice.

  7. abby on January 24, 2009 1:53 pm

    Very true. People have to be willing to accept advice and when people give advice they should be aware of what’s going on at the moment. When I’m wrestling my screaming toddler into her coat and she’s going limp in protest, it’s not the best time to discuss techniques on handling temper tantrums. When she’s playing nicely with a friend then I’m more than willing to discuss the topic with you.

    I think the grey area you were talking about is the reason parents should be willing to discuss parenting. You’re right there is no right or wrong way to parent a child. There are so many books and “experts” to weed through and the experts change their opinion every other week, I find it helpful when real parents (as opposed to the author of a book) tell each other what they have tried, what works and what doesn’t and why.

  8. abby on January 24, 2009 1:54 pm

    @Jessica – what type of parent ed do you do (if you don’t mind sharing?) Do you work for ECFE or something similar? Just curious.

  9. Kevin D. Hendricks on January 25, 2009 4:34 pm

    I think parenting almost needs to be approached like cross-cultural studies. When interacting with a different culture you’re going to see a lot of things you don’t understand. But you never say, “That’s weird, why do you do that?” But it would be completely appropriate to say “I don’t understand this, can you explain it to me?” Mutual respect has to be there, and if it is, a lot of valuable insight can be gained on both sides.

    And to continue the cross-cultural point, parenting styles and techniques differ wildly across cultures. People in other cultures do the opposite of what the “experts” here tell us to do. That’s not evidence that one approach is right or wrong, but that there is a great diversity of approaches. Learning about all the different ideas can only be beneficial, especially for the poor parent who finds that the “expert” advice doesn’t work for them.

  10. abby on January 26, 2009 12:59 pm

    I like the cross-cultural analagy. That makes perfect sense. And it seems to me that if people are able to discuss and learn about other cultures in an understanding way than we should be able to do the same with parenting techniques.

  11. Jessica Martin on January 28, 2009 2:23 pm

    sorry, i’ve been sick and haven’t checked back.

    i am an RN on a postpartum hospital unit. i teach basic newborn and post partum care to new moms, whether they like it or not :) there are a lot of things that parents of other cultures do that is just plain “different” or harmful and as a health care professional, it is my job to tell them what the current research says. ex. some cultures believe in giving newborns water but we now know that this is dangerous and can even kill a newborn by causing electrolyte imbalance or malnutrition. as a less severe example, many cultures, incuding many well-educated americans, co-sleep with infants. research says co-sleeping causes an increased incidence of SIDS which in many cases it does (co-sleeping on a couch, with many blankets, with a intoxicated parent). in order to protect these few babies that could be effected by this type of co-sleeping i have to tell parents to avoid it and why. i also encourage them to do research on it and speak with their pediatricians if they haven’t already as well as consider how safe it is to take percocet and sleep with an infant on your chest or to share a full-sized bed with another adult and a newborn. how would i feel if a new mom goes home on narcotics and accidentally smothers her newborn in a drug-induced sleep?

    this is far different from telling or “suggesting” (to put it nicer) another parent how to handle a tantrum. or would i tell my well-educated friend not to co-sleep? no. her doctor or nurse will tell her the statistics and chances are she has looked them up for herself. when newborns co-sleep, there is also a lower chance of post partum depression and lower chance of breastfeeding problems/failure to thrive. parents all have to weigh the risks vs benefits. it may be my job as a nurse but i don’t see it as my job as a friend to be negative and critical, rather to be supportive. maybe i’m being naive; this is just my experience thus far.

  12. abby on January 28, 2009 5:05 pm

    There is a very distinct line between your job and being a friend. I’m more interested in the friend aspect of parenting. Personally, I don’t see talking to my doctor or a nurse about parenting as the same as talking to my friend about it. And I take the advice of my friends more seriously than I do my pediatrician (Don’t get me wrong, I love my kid’s dr. but hearing stats and what the experts say is not really what I want to hear when I am talking about parenting techniques.)

    Again, I’m not so concerned about telling/suggesting what other parents should do, I’m more interested in hearing the “why” part of the choices they have made. And I’d like to be able to ask lots of people why they do things a certain way without the other parent becoming defensive.

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