Connection parenting can seem unfamiliar, daunting, and even strange to family members and friends.
Unless you have tried the power of play and giggles to ease away tension and stress, joking with your moody child can look to them like you are bending over backwards. Sweet, loving limits can appear like you are being too soft or even permissive. And there's nothing like the sound of crying to jangle the nerves of those around you. When you let your child cry it feels, to some, like torture!
“We are taught to hush, shush, distract, rock, jiggle, joke, or, when we hit that low point on the patience meter, to scold or punish,” says Hand in Hand Parenting founder, Patty Wipfler, in her recent post on Staylistening Versus Cry it Out.
So when you do things differently, you can expect some comments, whispers, frowns and stares. And you can expect well-meaning advice. Lots of it.
Parents on the receiving end of such “advice” can react in a number of ways, says Hand in Hand Instructor Emily Gray Murray. You might become defensive. You may just freeze, and when you replay that moment later wish you'd reacted differently. You may be embarrassed, so embarrassed you begin to conform to expectations. Then you'll feel conflicted, torn between your beliefs and what others think.
Or, says Emily, you may lash out and get angry.
Preparation can go a long way in helping you deal with these challenging situations. Taking the trigger points to your Listening Partner is always a first step, and a great place to get some flexibility in your thinking, but when you feel under fire, here are five go-to strategies for when you feel judged in your parenting.
When Someone is Sarcastic or Makes a Pointed Comment:
You set a limit gently, and your child arches his back and bellows. Cue sarcastic remark from your dad.
A gentle “Ouch!” said with a playful look in your eye, or taking the heat on yourself can help diffuse these situations. From, “I know it seems silly that I do this, but it tends to really work for us,” to “I know I'm a total whack-job, but hey! We like it,” sweeps away the judgment, shows you have room to laugh at yourself and also says, “I can handle this.”
Replay the situation later with your listening partner to work through any stressors or anger that the remarks triggered in you.
When You Disagree With Their Parenting Style:
Your friend is proudly holding up a completed star chart and beaming with pride about how her little one has started to eat his veggies. “He is so desperate to get his reward,” she says, laughing.
You, on the other hand, do not view star charts and rewards as an ideal parenting choice and prefer to look at any underlying issues. No-one wants a lecture, though, plus you really like this mom, your kids play great, and you are invested in both friendships. What do you do?
Try being appreciative. After all, this mom, like all parents, is doing her best. Taking that moment to appreciate her efforts can soothe the tightness of judgment you might feel about her doing something different.
Then try laughter. “Well done! I know I'm the crazy mom that doesn't do sticker charts, but I'm so happy you had a breakthrough,” is supportive while showing your stance.
When Others Intervene with a Mainstream Response:
You are on a playdate and your child wants to play with the car that another kid has. Your style is to say that you'll wait with her until the car becomes available, knowing you'll stick with her through any upsets. (You can read more about sharing like this in There is More to Sharing Than Taking Turns.) But as her tears start to fall, another parent comes over and offers her two other toys. Or the parent tries to coerce her own child into handing over the much-wanted toy.
It can be really tough to keep calm when your child on your mind and another parent hovers and moves in with advice that conflicts with your thinking.
When you want to maintain your parenting style, try gentle deflection. Two phrases work well to show that you have a handle on things.
- “I think we are ok just now.”
- “I'll let you know if we need help.”
Said with warmth and a smile, these words can really disarm the strain and allow you the space you need to connect with your child.
When Your Child Loses It:
Which brings us to crying. Nothing seems to solicit more responses – from family and friends to well-meaning strangers and passers by – than a child's howls or cries. Many of us take it as a distress signal and something that requires immediate attention, others think crying is unwarranted, attention-seeking behavior.
You might hear:
- “You are being silly.”
- “You can't always have your way.”
- “Stop crying.”
- “Don't cry.”
The desired result is the same: Crying should be stopped, which is at odds with the connection parenting view that supported crying can be a useful release of a child's fears and concerns.
When you want to respond to this particularly prickly issue, calm and clarity rule out.
Saying, “Thank you,” or “It's ok, we got this,” can help.
“People seem to really get that,” says Rachel. “It doesn't seem to land as criticism.”
But if words aren't enough, scooping your child up and taking them out of the limelight is another good strategy. While you know that you are offering your child space for warmth and connection, it looks to others like you might be giving a time out or offering consequences. Many times this answers their need to see a punishment happen.
You can return when the crying session is done to find everyone more content with the situation.
When A Child and An Adult Has Needs:
A little understanding goes a long way for children and adults alike. Empathy is a great reliever when there is a stand-off or power play between an adult or child. If your mom has spent all morning cooking a lunch that your son refuses to eat, her feelings may be ruffled. She lashes out with a “he never does as he's told,” kind of comment and suddenly things feel really uncomfortable. In that disagreeable environment, you know that your son is even less like to come to the table.
Breaking the tension with an empathetic response shows you are hearing both sides , and that you aren't choosing one over another. It also shows that you might be smarting too. Try:
“It's so hard for everyone isn't it?”
“It's just so frustrating, isn't it?”
Ending on a high note, “You enjoy this wonderful lunch, and I'll see what we can do,” puts a positive slant on things, as you go off to reconnect.
Having go-to responses like these takes away a lot of the guess work and puts you in control of your parenting style. Your conviction shows, without treading on another parents' toes, and that can feel empowering.
Listen to Rachel Schofield and Emily Gray Murray talk through more strategies on how to make peace with your parenting and your family in this free replay. You'll learn how to respond to criticism with warmth, how to talk through your differences and how to explore the trigger points with a listening partner.
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