I want to address a big taboo. Parenting advice from NON-parents. The hesitance of non-parents to give any hint of opinion on parenting matters is diminishing for fear of being verbally impaled by the parent they are conversing with, even when they may be family or close friend.
I’m the mother of two daughters. I am by no means perfect, and some days it is the hardest job I’ve ever had. There have been many times where I’ve searched through various blogs, parenting magazines or just chatting with other parents for helpful ideas for an issue I have had with my children. Dinner, for example, was a struggle every night with my 6 year old. The “tried and true” methods just weren’t working. I was at my wits end. The stress at dinner time was high for everyone in my family. I was beginning to think that my daughter had an eating disorder or the struggle we embarked on every evening would give birth to an eating disorder later in her life.
One of my neighbors, a single guy who has no children on his horizon, suggested, after hearing me lament many times about Bear’s unwillingness to eat dinner night after night, not to make her eat at all. I was horrified at first. Of course I HAD to feed my kid. What the actual hell! Then a moment later I realized two things. His suggestion was given out of true friendship. It was not meant to demean my parenting choices, just an alternative to measures I’ve already tried. Secondly, not making her eat would amount in the same thing at the end of the day. She would go to bed without dinner if she refused to eat her dinner after sitting at the table for hours or if she gets up when the rest of the family is finished. I decided to put his suggestion to work. By not making her feel like she had to eat we have actually seen an improvement with her evening eating habits. Honestly, I’m thankful for my neighbor’s input. Our nights have been much less stressful ever since.
I use this as an example. I have many friends that do not have children. When the conversation turns to children or the parenting aspects of my life there is often a vibe from my friends not wanting to step on my toes figuratively with their own personal opinions. I love conversations where there are different views of the parties involved. I love expanding my mind and learning what others think. Whether someone wants kids or not, there are always certain beliefs on how children should be raised. Non-parents have nieces and nephews, cousins and friends with children. There is a whole sea of parenting knowledge there being untapped because of the stigma that “if you don’t have a child you just don’t get it”. This mentality simply is not true. Honestly, I think it is also dangerous.
Some of the most interesting (and productive) parenting discussions I’ve ever had were done with non-parents in my life. The “when I have kids I will do” statements are not always meant in judgment. Often they are good ideas. Discounting these statements before they are finished can be damaging to the relationship between the two adults that respect each other. I think a lot of parents go about parenting and focusing on doing better where they feel their own parents failed. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see where you yourself is failing. We are all human, we all can improve. Seeing what is important to our respected peers we can only improve how we approach our own parenting and even other relationships in our life.