On the giving of parenting advice to parents by non-parents

I very recently engaged in a brief and testy exchange on Facebook.  I feel slightly idiotic even admitting to that because first of all I don’t do conflict and second, I don’t do conflict on Facebook.  Before long, I took the whole thing down so that I would not feel compelled to continue to respond to a quickly escalating debate.

I won’t go into it – much – but what you need to know is that several childless friends with very strong views on Parents and Kids Today and Common Sense and Discipline voiced their views to me and I, feeling provoked, came very close to playing the You Don’t Even Have Kids card. And this got me to thinking about the time when I Didn’t Even Have Kids.  I had the card pulled on me a few times.  It’s annoying and somewhat insulting.  And yet, it is true.

Having started motherhood rather late in life, I had a good number of years prior to that to work myself into a state of sanctimony over How Things Ought To Be.  Maybe I hadn’t had children, I reasoned, but I had younger siblings.  I had friends with kids.  I had even been a kid. When I was around other peoples’ children, my focus was on their misbehavior, and my inner mantra became focused on the discipline!  And that children need discipline!  And discipline! And this is the mantra of my child-free friends.

But for all their theorizing, there is one factor that they don’t consider, and that factor is love.

Of course people know that parents love their kids, but the depth and extent of that love is hard to fathom if you haven’t experienced it.  It is that love that keeps a good parent striving for ways to deliver discipline that will not leave their child feeling beaten down.  It is the love that has us considering the connection that we have with our children, and it is the love that has us nurturing that connection as we search for ways to teach our children.

I had many years to theorize about parenting, and now eight years to practice.  And I can tell you, the theories are not equal to the practice.  Parenting is a complex operation, and there is scarcely a moment of the day that my children do not somehow factor into my thoughts, whether consciously or subconsciously.  In short, I practice being a parent far more than a child-free person even thinks about parenting.  And for that reason, I consider myself the expert.

Tell me, parents…do you play the card?


About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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19 Responses to On the giving of parenting advice to parents by non-parents

  1. Sofia says:

    I don’t have children (though am trying!) and I have to admit I do theorize, but I do keep my mouth shut because I’m very conscious that being a parent must be very different to theorizing over what would be the best things to do. I do respect their situation to the upmost more that what I would be thinking now. xx

    • Joyce says:

      I tried to phrase this carefully because I don’t want to appear dismissive – I know that not having a child doesn’t mean that you don’t have a brain. There were a few thoughts that I had prior to having children that still ring true to me. For example when a friend bragged to me that she was so strict that when her son was in trouble, grounded, etc, she would also punish him by not speaking to him much. I gently started out saying that while I don’t have kids…to which she responded with a very audible snort on her end. Well I now have kids, and I still don’t like what she was doing.

      What I had in mind when writing this blog, more than anything, was the zeal of some in insisting that parents dish out harsh punishment on a regular basis. Knowing my children as I do, I can tell you that while it may get immediate results it would have the longer-lasting effect of making one miserable and the other angry.

      Good luck on the trying! Will your food blog turn into a mommy blog? Or maybe you can show us new baby food recipes 🙂

      • Sofia says:

        Thanks, we’re still trying, nothing happened yet! If anything does happen I really don’t thing I’ll make a mommy blog, however my blog captures many thoughts not just food, so we never know.
        The only time I’ve ever dared to give parenting advice was when a some friends and I saw how a couple who are friends of ours takes everything to the extreme. Examples: still breastfeeding while the children are 6, sleeping with the children in their bed since they were born, etc. Their life is looking for extremes for the children and nothing for them anymore. They are on the verge of the d word, miserable big time, and the children had a terrible sadness too. Of course the answer was that shut up how would we know as we don’t have children… The thing is that for now I respect it totally, but I suppose if I ever do have them, I will put some of my theories and thoughts into practice. I mean, I suppose you do respond to some things differently once you have children, but will also want to put into practice your own beliefs. What a ramble! xx

      • Joyce says:

        Oh dear, that is extreme. I can see where that would wear a couple to a frazzle. I hope they make it.

        I hope everything works out for you soon! I know that you would cover it beautifully, like you do all your blog topics. “Papaya Puree”…that has a nice ring to it!

  2. It’s hard. I haven’t played it yet but sometimes you want to. Thing is I don’t even know what’s best sometimes and I’ve got two. Every week I learn something new and revise my opinion. It’s nice to get a fresh outlook from anyone in all fairness on the “threenage” year we are currently trying to navigate.

    • Joyce says:

      I think I’m willing to take advice as long as it doesn’t sound like judgement. Parenting is so sensitive like that. By the same token, I don’t want to play the card because it sounds like a cop-out.

      You have a three-year-old?

      • Yes, family is always a sensitive subject and kids especially. Yes a 3 year old and an 18 month old. It’s all a little mad at the moment.

      • Joyce says:

        Oh my! You are a strong, strong woman! I can imagine how busy you must be with such little ones.

        My SIL had her two almost exactly one year apart. It wasn’t how she would have planned it but once they got a bit older they occupied each other and play together really well. Hang in there – they’ll never be this little again.

  3. Sasha says:

    I have an older relative who never had kids yet never ceases to give me parenting advise. I try to mostly ignore her. It is so true though, the only advise any of us can give is simply one: love.

    • Joyce says:

      Ha! My older relative who has never had kids doesn’t even particularly like kids. I think he definitely is deserving of the card 🙂

  4. I think you are right. It’s too big a thing for people without kids to truly get it completely. It’s easy to sit back and say I’d do this or I’d do that.

  5. I agree! Even down to ages of children. I don’t take advice well when some even with a kid have not experienced a particular age/stage. It can be as touchy as politics and religion.

  6. Sheryl says:

    Maybe I missed some good ideas, butI tended to ignore the advice of people who never had children.

  7. st sahm says:

    I would have loved to read/see your sassy rant!

    I haven’t played ‘the parent card’ but have thought it many, many times. Plus the fact that people who don’t have children might actually have time to play cards and have more fun than me (ha!)

    • Joyce says:

      I really like to keep things positive on FB. I don’t get political and I don’t start debates or any of that. I was a bit annoyed that I let myself get pulled into an argument before I came to my senses.

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