Family & Social Child Developement
How to Be Supportive When Parenting Styles Differ
Friends don’t always have to agree, but it can be polarising when your differences lie in something you’re both passionate about: parenting. Here’s one mum’s advice on how she stays supportive of other parents even if they don’t have the same parenting methods. At the end of the day, we’re all parents right? How do you remain supportive of other parents, even when their parenting styles differ?
So you and your mum friend had a recent discussion: your baby is sleeping badly, and you need help. It’s your first child and you are exhausted beyond hope. But to your horror, your friend suggests letting your child cry themselves to sleep. Fast forward a year down the road, your child is touching things he/she is not supposed to, and the same friend tells you how spanking your child’s hand can deter bad behaviour. But spanking seems a little extreme. After all your baby is only a year old.
Both of you then begin to quote studies you’ve read, or examples for the cases you both strongly believe in, and before you know it, the friendship starts to turn sour as you both disagree on how to ‘properly’ bring up your child. Sound familiar? This may not be limited to your friends; even strangers in online forums and Facebook groups can flank you for decisions you make and ways you parent.
Be it sleep training, spare the rod, everyone has their take on what works best. So, can there ever be common ground? Is it possible to support our friends even when we feel that they are making the ‘wrong’ parenting decision?
While it might be difficult, stepping out on the right foot can make all the difference. Try keeping these tips at the back of your mind the next time you disagree (whether online or in person) and you will radiate the support many mums need on their parenting journeys.
Choose the right words
We all know, as mothers, that mummy guilt comes in all shapes and forms. When my baby was born, I felt that no amount of reading or research could prepare me to sustain a life so fragile. And not knowing enough became an easy guilt that many mothers carry. So, while saying ‘Oh you mean you didn’t know?’, or ‘I can never let my child cry like you did’, might be your truth, choose words that are supportive to the other mums. This could just be as simple as, ‘I might not agree, but I know that you know what’s best for your child, and you are trying to be the best parent you can be.’ Allow the love for your friend or empathy for a fellow mum to be your guide instead of trying to steer the mum to where you feel best.
Be Open Minded
While we acknowledge that there are terrible mothers in this world, most mothers are not. Most of us want the best for our child. There are methods that might seem unorthodox, or not based on what you feel is scientific or reliable - but remember that there’s more than one way to be a good parent. You can support her by listening to her view point without shutting her down, or asking questions to learn more about how they arrived at their decision. For example, some mothers in the United States believe in weaning from breastmilk using a Farmer’s Almanac – a calendar that is traditionally used by farmers to wean calves. And although it might seem odd to mothers like me who grew up in cities, it does not mean that the mum is not doing what she feels is best for her child. Often, we let our own experiences overtake the efforts of others, resulting in a more close-minded worldview. If there is a chance you feel that the mother might be seriously harming her baby, you can gently refer her to a professional, but don’t be on a personal crusade or mission to change her mind. In this manner she can hear what’s most recommended based on her situation from someone trained and qualified. It need not be a tug of war between you two.
We acknowledge that as mothers, replying to texts or picking up calls seems impossible when a child or children demand our attention 24/7 (almost). But being there is more than just that. It can take all kinds of forms. It can be as simple as saying ‘Hey I am thinking of you today’, or even just lending an ear without offering up unsolicited advice. This is despite disagreeing about the mum’s parenting methods. Acknowledge the differences in parenting methods, but concur that you all are parents. Parenting can be an extremely emotional and taxing journey that does not need to be made harder by other mothers.
It is safe to say that there is no one size fits all in the parenting world, as every child is so unique. Your first child can be vastly different (in character, preferences, size) from your second child. What worked before might not work again. What remains constant though, is that every mum needs our support. We all went through the sleepless nights and long days. In choosing to be kinder, to support and give, we can be the change we want to see and leave a better world for our children.
About the author:
Elizabeth is currently a full time stay home mum with one active toddler. Her passion since becoming a mum is to support other mothers through this wonderful yet trying journey. In the little pockets of time mothers have, Elizabeth enjoys catching movies with her husband and she can be found at all the popular eats near her.
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