I've often reflected on my inability to comprehend some of the choices some parents make in regards to their children. Sometimes it baffles me as to why some mothers defend some practices that I find obviously harmful to children and I wonder how stable they are mentally. In my mind there are different ways to parent but few that respect children’s needs and anything that deviates from my idea of how a child should be honoured angers me.
The problem does not always lie with other parents, but with my own beliefs that conflict with the family values they have chosen to follow.
I have to tell myself that everyone’s experiences are different as well as their needs and I cannot allow myself to judge them based on the same rules I judge myself. I realize that disliking others for not wanting the same things as me is silly and pointless. Besides, even if they knew what I know, it wouldn’t guarantee that they would make the same choices within their families as I have anyways. And that is ok.
My panic when it comes to some parenting behaviours comes from the perspective of my inner child who would abhor being treated a certain way. I find that some practices neglect the fact that children are people that deserve to be treated with respect, patience, and honesty. Children are not ‘other’ and need to be micro-managed so much as to simply be honoured at whatever developmental stage they are at. Many parents have inappropriate expectations and those children struggle to meet them, reacting in ways that typically gets them punished rather than being acknowledged and re-directed. They depend on us to make the right choices for them.
I have seen so many messed up children/adults because of the choices their parent’s made for them based on THEIR needs and I find that selfish. Not because the parent’s needs are not valid in themselves, but because in my mind the needs of a child who depends completely on them are far more urgent since they cannot help themselves. We can delay gratification to an extent but children cannot and should not have to. It scares me to think that I could abuse the power I have over my son and damage him emotionally/physically if I so chose. I refuse to do so willingly so I try to make conscious choices as much as possible, but like everyone, I am prone to making mistakes too.
The thing is, I don’t always act in accordance with the highest view of my own self either, especially if I am sleep-deprived or frustrated. This must be true for other mums too who are only doing what they can with what they’ve got, as I am. Already I have done some things that I will change for the next child because everything is a learning process in the end. I am so judgemental with myself that it bleeds into others and I dislike this aspect of myself. I think that children do well despite some of the things we do to them since they are far more resilient than we give them credit. However this does not give us license to not take responsibility for our actions, far from it. We are given a sacred calling to honor our children the best way we can. I have to learn to forgive myself for my own parenting mistakes and to allow other mothers around me to do the same. Their parenting choices are also valid even if I don’t agree with them, because they’re on their own journeys too.
Do you also struggle with being judgmental? What do you consider the line to be between child advocacy and accepting different parenting choices?