I was asked about my philosophy of parenting yesterday.
I hesitated to answer for a moment. Even though I am asked about parenting advice quite often, nothing annoys people more than implying that there may be a preferred and ideal means of parenting that does not match their own.
The people who ask for my advice have never attacked me for expressing the idea that some forms of parenting may be more effective than others, but bystanders are often enraged by these conversations, and whenever I write about parenting advice, I often receive responses like:
“Only a fool would believe that he knows more about parenting than any other parent.”
“There is no right way to parent, jackass.”
“Every child is different, so parenting must be different for every child.”
“The only thing I know for sure about parenting is that you can’t know anything for sure.”
“What makes you an expert?”
In response to that last question, I explain that I am often asked for parenting advice because:
- I have been a teacher for 15 years. In addition to working closely with hundreds of children during that time, I have also been witness to the types of parenting styles and philosophies that repeatedly produce the most capable and effective students.
- I raised a stepdaughter from the ages of 5-17.
- I have two children of my own.
Does this make me an expert?
Probably not, though I’m not sure what would be required in order for me to be considered an expert.
Do I need to have more children?
Do I need to study the science of parenting at the graduate level?
Do I need to raise my two children to adulthood before I can be deemed an expert?
A rhetorically convenient response to my question would be, “When it comes to parenting, there are no experts. Only survivors.”
That sounds clever, but it’s also nonsense. Some people have more effective parenting strategies than others. Some people understand children better than others. Some people are capable of making more informed and reasoned parenting decisions than others.
So why do parents become so enraged when someone expresses opinions that do not match their own parenting methods? Or when someone believes that certain parenting strategies are universally more effective than others?
If you don’t agree with someone like me, just ignore my advice. Move on. Assign me to your mental list of idiots and morons and continue doing what you believe is right.
We do this everyday, for many different reasons. We discount experts as quacks. We ignore advice that sounds foolish. We turn our backs on blowhards who think they have all of the answers.
But when it comes to parenting, people often seem less capable of hearing or reading alternative viewpoints without becoming angry.
There is no need to bear your claws. There is no need for an angry, lip trembling verbal assault. I’m simply stating my opinion, forcefully.
Yes, I think that some ways of parenting are universally more effective than others, regardless of the child.
Yes, I think that my experience as a father, a stepfather, and a teacher has given me some insight into parenting.
Yes, despite the inability of many to understand why, I am asked for advice quite often.
But even if my opinions on parenting are correct, that doesn’t mean that your parenting decisions are ineffective. It doesn’t make you a bad Mommy or Daddy. My differing opinion does not constitute an attack on your way of life or the future prospects of your children.
It’s just my opinion, probably solicited by another person.
There’s no need to get upset.
So I answered that person’s question yesterday, providing advice similar but more nuanced to advice I gave someone on the golf course three years ago, which, of course, also caused people to feel like I was attacking their parenting decisions.
I’m not asking you to agree with my position or follow my advice. I’m merely asking that you try not to become enraged when someone presumes to know something about parenting and expresses an opinion different from your own.
There are a lot of idiots in the world. I may even be one of them.