Sunday, May 15, 2011

Control, Criticism, and Contradiction

When it comes to parenting, everyone is a critic. I am certainly not without guilt in this area. Especially before I had kids, I wasn't afraid to talk about what other people were doing wrong (although I think I rarely expressed it directly to them). If you are a parent, chances are, you have been accused being a bad parent at some point.

Maybe you have been accused of giving your kids either not enough freedom or too much freedom. Because people like to put other people in neat little boxes, they want to put you in either the box marked: HELICOPTER PARENTS or the box marked: LAZY NEGLECTFUL PARENTS. Just for the sake of convenience.

These are bee boxes. But you get the idea.

One interesting part of being an unschooling parent is having lots of opportunities to be accused of being too controlling AND not controlling enough, sometimes by the same person, in the same conversation. Here's how it goes:

Person: Where is your daughter going to school next year?
Me: She is not going to school.

Person: So you're homeschooling?
Me: Sort of, in that we aren't sending our kids to school.

Person: Aren't you worried about socialization?
Me: Nope. I'm not worried about socialization.
Person: Don't you think you are being too controlling by not giving her the freedom to go to school? To get exposed to different people and ideas?

Me: She can go to school if she wants to. She doesn't want to right now. And she will be exposed to many different people and ideas through real life experiences.

Person: So you will buy a curriculum and teach her at home?
Me: Nope. My kids have learned everything so far from just living. We are going to continue on that path.

Person: Don't you think you are giving her too much freedom by letting her choose what she wants to learn?

Wait a minute... What exactly IS this person's objection? Am I giving too much freedom or too little freedom?

Maybe he is just confused because I don't fit into either one of his neat little boxes. If this person insists on putting me into a box, I would suggest he get a new box and mark it: OTHER. Or maybe we should all ditch the box system, because judging other parents isn't really ever that simple. 

What's the most common criticism you get about your parenting style? How do you respond?


  1. Mark calls me a hippie for using cloth diapers, wooden toys, tooth soap, etc while others say that my extended breastfeeding is on the verge of being weird. Otherwise I get positive responses to my parenting style although as you said rarely does someone criticize you to your face.

  2. I have to laugh at this post because I totally get what you are saying! People are so quick to say 'stuff'. We as a family decided to send our kids to our churches little school after having a HORRIBLE public school experience. Before that we were praying about home school or the Christian school. people in my family thought I was unqualified to teach my kids at home because I had no formal training. Are we not our kids first teachers? I taught all my kids to talk and walk and go potty and get dresses etc... it can be pretty frustrating but you know in your heart what is best for your kids :)Sorry this comment was so long!

  3. I think some people just don't like when other people do things differently than how they were raised/how they raise their own children. It's almost like going a different route offends them or the way they did/do it is/was wrong. WHAT!? ARE YOU TOO GOOD FOR SCHOOL 'CAUSE I WENT TO TO SCHOOL AND LOOK AT ME!?!?!?! Kinda like that.

  4. @ extended? I LOVE to tell people that the world average is 4 years. What we like to call extended is TOTALLY normal for our species. Some people think extended is 1 year....or 2 years.... lol.

    @ Gregory. Too true. People ask a question and then get defensive about the answer because it challenges their choices...

    As for me and my choices.... All of them would probably come under scrutiny by the predominant paradigm. I joke that I have to go to the state house to fight for my rights every year it seems...midwifery, homeschooling, organics, NAIS (livestock big brother) etc etc... Tiring. Just leave me alone already!

    If and when I choose to answer any questions - I keep in mind my desire for positive interactions with people but I also make it clear that I am not looking for validation/ permission of any sort. I am not even obliged to satisfy the curiosity of others if I don't feel like it...mostly this is so because they are not merely curious....they want to ask and then judge. I pick and choose when to engage and how. I direct the conversation so that it doesn't become an interrogation. We are happy and well adjusted and don't feel the need to prove it to anyone! Not family, friends, strangers.... Not anyone! :)

  5. @Gregory, That is definitely true. I know I might have felt the same way before I jumped out of the box. That's why it's important for me to try to disarm people. I really think lots of people just don't think about WHY they do things anymore. You actually inspired my latest post. :)

    @JenO, Jessicas, and Melissa, Thanks for the comments. I find it's easier not to get upset about what other people are saying lately, because I know I have thought through my decisions and I am very confident. I don't mind when people criticize, because I like to look at my decisions critically as well. Talking things over with others helps me develop my thoughts even more. That's why I am loving this opportunity to blog and bounce ideas off other people.

  6. I find this whole thing about criticising parents really interesting. And not from the angle "why do people do it and can't they just mind their own business" but I find it interesting why people get so upset when they were questioned as parents. I am a new mother and I haven't been criticised yet, at least not what I have noticed anyway and I can't wait. I would love to hear what people have to say about me as a mother. I agree with Vickie above that it makes me look at my decisions. I feel that I have a lot more to say on this subject, so I might write my own post on it :)

  7. @Brave New Life, I think just in general, people don't like unsolicited advice... but parenting is like religion to some people. People take criticisms very personally. It's like when people criticize your parenting, they are accusing you of not doing what's best for your kids. It's not a comfortable feeling, but as I said above, I feel a lot less defensive now that I am more confident in my own parenting choices.

    The problem with the criticism that was the subject of this post, is that it is unclear exactly what the problem is... I just think it's interesting.

    I would love to see your post on the subject. Come back here and link to it if you want!

  8. Hiya! I have written a post now and would love it if you had time to read it :)
    I can't figure out how to put it down on this page where it says "links to this post"...