Habitot Children's Museum                                                                                                                             May 2016
"Stop Shaming Parents"
May 2016 Parenting Topic of the Month
We’ve all seen it: a parent casting a critical eye, saying something negative about your parenting, or in an extreme case, even publicly video-shaming a parent.  This has to stop.  We parents are all doing the best job we can and need mutual support especially when dealing with challenging situations with our kids.
Let’s start an Empathy Revolution!  Anyone who has raised children knows that parenting is hard.  Even the best of parents get frazzled and overwhelmed at times.  Yet for some reason, many parents forget all of this when they see another parent struggling in public.  It is all to easy to judge or shame other parents who are dealing with screaming or hitting kids, who are making different parenting decisions than we think we would make, who may even snap occasionally and yell at their kids.  However, our judgment does nothing to support the other parent, and in fact just increases their stress and makes the situation worse.
Empathy, on the other hand, actually helps.  Even when we don’t approve of someone else’s parenting, could we choose instead to feel the camaraderie of one who has been just as frustrated, just as reduced to being temporarily mean or too-easily manipulated?  Can we reflect on the moments in our own parenting journey when we made less than ideal decisions because our nerves were wracked, or we were just too tired?  Think about what you may have needed in those moments.  Something as simple as a knowing nod can calm the nerves and help you recalibrate during a difficult moment.  Or even better, and offer to help clean the mess when the storm has passed or keeping an eye on siblings while one child melts down can have a profoundly positive effective on a parent at a time when they need support the most.
Here are some ways you can be part of the Empathy Revolution:
  • If you see a mama struggling, smile at her.  Tell her she’s doing a great job.  Tell her you’ve been there, too.  Do something to make her feel better.  
  • Offer a helping hand.  Ask simply what you can do to help.  Or if there’s something obvious you can do, like keeping an eye on a child that’s running away, simply do it.  We all need an extra set of hands sometimes.
  • Support others’ parenting decisions.  With the exception of cases of abuse or neglect, keep an open mind to a wide variety of parenting styles.  Each family is unique, and different styles work for different families for a wide variety of reasons.  Also keep in mind that there are many things you may not see in the moment such a child’s special needs or a recent tragedy in a family.  Assume best intentions and look for the good.
  • Give advice only when asked.  If you are not asked (but still have advice to offer) you may humbly ask, “Do you want to know what is working for us right now?” Acknowledge that each kid is different, and what works for you may not work for them. You might have great ideas, experiences and knowledge, but people respond better when they actually ask for (and are open to) your opinion. 
  • Lead by example.  Do you have a method that is working for you?  Model it. People are watching.  All that some people need is a good example on how to do things that work.  Often, people learn more from watching then being told.  Let others see your methods in action.
  • When in doubt, listen.  Some parents just need a moment to vent.  Feelings of frustration and overwhelm can be scary for parents, but those feelings need to be expressed.  Be a safe place.  Listen without judgment.  A empathic ear can go a long way toward helping a parent feel sane in this crazy journey of parenting.

--Habitot Staff
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