While vacationing with family friends, our toddler had a meltdown on the beach. The volume of his come-apart was louder than the ocean and elicited stares from everyone in the tri-state area. We were embarrassed and didn’t handle it the way we had previously decided best. Instead, we got loudish and controlling, but it only made things worse—for all of us!
Later that night, we talked about the scene with our friends. Their kids are older, so we asked for their advice. They said simply, “Don’t parent to please others, especially when your child misbehaves in front of others.” The words “don’t parent to please others” quickly became a parenting staple for us and has served our family well. The next time parenting feels like anything but a day at the beach, here are 5 tips to avoid parenting to please others.
1. Remember you will never see most people again.
While we all want to be considerate to strangers, it’s freeing to remember they are of no consequence to our lives, unless we allow them to be. For instance, that day on the beach we knew by experience that ignoring our child’s tantrums was the way to go. We allowed our brief embarrassment to override our better judgment. Don’t trade what you know is best for your child for what you think is best for a stranger.
2. Remember most people don’t have the full context of your child or the situation.
Our friends’ son is autistic, and they have countless stories of people offering all kinds of advice regarding therapies, diets, vaccinations. The common denominator of suggestions typically starts with, “Have you tried…” This type of advice is always unsolicited, sometimes well-intended, and never helpful. They have learned to graciously disengage and toss this advice where it belongs—in the never-to-be recycled bin.
3. Remember to explain yourself only when necessary.
Occasionally, our kids need a consistent approach in certain areas, e.g., bedtimes, technology, diet. So we may need to explain our parenting approach to childcare workers, grandparents, teachers, and coaches. But don’t think you must explain your parenting to someone who doesn’t need an explanation. For instance, you don’t need to explain why your child has a phone to the parent whose child doesn’t.Do what is best for your kid regardless of who’s watching.
4. Remember you sometimes need a moment to determine your best response.
Be it family friends, grandparents, or total strangers, it’s tempting to want to respond immediately to our child’s attention-grabbing behavior. You may be tempted to look like you instantly know the appropriate response. But let’s get real, sometimes we need a moment, a few minutes, a few hours, or even longer to consider what’s best. When your child misbehaves in front of others, taking a breath before responding is never a bad thing.
Do what is best for your kid regardless of who’s watching.
Sound off: How do you avoid parenting for others?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Do you think I’m a better dad at home or in public?”