Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parental Disagreements

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions with Other Parents. 
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are
 focusing on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately. Share your tips, challenges, or experiences with communicating nonviolently during disagreements, commenting or communicating without being judgmental, or responding when you feel judged or criticized.
 Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Baby wearing? Isn't that dangerous?
Most people that adhere to natural parenting ideas such as co-sleeping, no (or delayed) vaccinations, no circumcision, baby led weaning, and the like meet with everything from puzzled looks to outright hostility from others, especially other parents. I am no exception- especially when you combine natural parenting with a minority religion that is deeply misunderstood, a family that is not exactly "normal", and my outspoken politics- and well, I get disagreed with a lot. I expect people to say things about my religion, my politics, and my even my relationships. While I don't welcome it, I do expect it. I even expect it from relatives. But the comments about my parenting surprised me.

After all, I am a dedicated mom who is doing a great job most of the time*. My son is healthy and thriving and ahead developmentally of most of his peers (he just turned two and is counting to ten, learning the alphabet, knows his colors and numbers, can speak in 4-5 word sentences, can tell me what he is feeling (the latest new named emotion is "excited"!). He is happy, loved and has never been struck. We are teaching him to be respectful, polite, and empathetic. I have done research every step of the way and all my decisions that affect his future have been weighed carefully, never made on a whim or without information.

Why don't you dress him "like a boy?"
Yet it seems that everyone seems to think that they can do a great job parenting your kid(s), especially if they are parents themselves. "Advice" lurks everywhere, whether you ask for it or not- and that's when the "feedback" is not overtly hostile. Many times people take your parenting choices as a threat to theirs- because they have chosen differently, they feel defensive (even when you are not on the offensive).

My goal, when confronted with other people's values about how I should raise my son, is to first protect my son, second, not let it ruin my day, then and only then possibly educate others. Depending on the circumstance ad context, I take a variety of tactics with other parents:

1. Asking questions. When someone make a comment laden with assumptions (these often happen when someone hears of my decision to not vaccinate Rowan, at least for now), I try and step back and ask questions instead of reacting. If you can mold your questions to get to the heart of the assumptions made (that I am ignorant or uneducated, a dupe, dangerous to others, etc.), often people will have to start thinking and engaging in dialogue instead of speaking on auto-pilot. When a relative who works in western allopathic health care "called me out" on not vaccinating recently, I asked her if she had information that I have not read already. Then I asked her of she had read the things that I have. Turns out, I was better educated on the issue and she learned something from me!

You took him to the Queer Pride parade?
2. Humor. Nothing diffuses a tense situation like humor. When someone "girls" Rowan repeatedly, even after we refer to him in front of them with male pronouns (People just do not hear what they cannot understand, I guess. His long hair negates anything else most people see.), sometimes we make a joke out of it. I try and be educational about my remarks- letting people know in a gentle way that boys can have long hair, and that colors, patterns, clothing, and hairstyles do not actually "have gender".

3. Pointed remarks. When my son is experiencing an overload of emotions (often called a tantrum by others), particularly in public, we often will get dirty looks or remarks about how I don't have "control" of my son. Or we get looks, sighs, or comments in restaurants that say, "This is very disruptive to our lives". To my mind, it is not my son that is the problem. The problem is a culture that assumes adults have more rights than kids, and assumes that children should do exactly what the adults around want. I usually say something like, "I'm sorry my son's emotions are inconvenient for you." While that could sound snarky, I say it in such an "innocent", pleasant way that most people smile and nod, until they take in what exactly I said. By then, we are usually gone.

4. Silence. Often I let the remarks slide. If I do not think the person is open or receptive enough to dialogue, I let it pass. After all, these remarks are not even about me as a parent or my son as a child. They only reflect the insecurities and mindset of the person and I choose not to take them personally.

*While that sounds arrogant, it's not. Stating things you know to be true and taking pride in your accomplishments is never arrogant. Women especially are told never to do this and I do not agree with that "ideal". 


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it's from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural - Just Don't Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother's groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the "Mommy-space" online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God's Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles... — Jenny at I'm a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents' worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting - Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she's learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others' parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can't — We've all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you're stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think "Gosh, I wish I said…" This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought "Gosh, I wish I said…"
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don't Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she'd want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won't care — Cassie of There's a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don't know what to do when you're confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky - Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert's Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.


  1. I love how confident you are in yourself and your values. I'm sure your son will grow up just as self-assured, knowing you're in his corner, particularly in these early years.

  2. Just discovered your blog through the Carnival here and am totally in love! Awesome! Keep up the good work. Can't wait to read some more. :)

  3. "They only reflect the insecurities and mindset of the person and I choose not to take them personally." This sums it up quite succinctly - we make a choice about how we respond, consciously or not. We can acknowledge that the speaker is revealing his/her own experiences/insecurities and respond in kind, or we can respond out of our own baggage.

  4. It's important, in order to avoid unnecessary confrontations, to simply be comfortable ourselves with our decisions. The need to be defensive melts away when we allow ourselves to consider that the person criticizing or simply offering advice is most likely well-meaning, but is of course using their own experience and knowledge as a base for their opinions, like us essentially. Asking them questions to feel out why they feel that way about whatever topic is interesting because you discover some of their deeply ingrained beliefs that are holding them to whatever opinion they have. Then it is far more pleasant to share some new information that they may be lacking and discussing it from there. In the end you always go home and do whatever you feel is right for your family regardless, so might as well just let your actions speak for themselves.

  5. As always, a great post from you! I really liked how you stated "My goal, when confronted with other people's values about how I should raise my son, is to first protect my son, second, not let it ruin my day, then and only then possibly educate others." I actually encountered a situation yesterday where my parenting was called into question by a stranger at the store. She felt I was spoiling my daughter with the positive attention I was giving her. Seriously?

    It just boggles my mind that parents think that they KNOW how to raise your child better than you do. Sure, there are some parents who really do need help but really, most of us do ok.

    You are also spot on when you say that our culture is the problem - not children. Uggg...I could go on a rant about how children are still supposed to be seen and not heard...and sometimes not even seen!

    Thanks for a wise post!

  6. Hello Momma :) I appreciate your confidence and agree wholeheartedly with the value of asking questions, humor, and silence. Humor is one I'm working on since I can be a bit serious at times. :)


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