What can we do if people close to us judge and label our kids’ behavior? I’ve had several requests for this topic. While there’s no perfect answer, here’s what I can share from my own experiences.
These tips are for what to do if it’s someone who really matters to you and your family. Otherwise, don’t waste your valuable energy.
Understand where they’re coming from.
A lot of what we know about brain development in young kids was discovered only in the past 10-20 years. How it’s so important to have safe nurturing relationships with loving adults. How living in an environment of fear is actually bad for kids’ brains.
So most older adults were raised to fear their parents. Many were repeatedly spanked and scolded as kids. Even if they learn about the new research, it won’t undo what they’ve believed in for decades.
In the end, though, we all want the best for our kids. If these are kind and loving people, their motivation is to help bring out the best in your child for the long term.
Step back or step out.
It can feel impossible to understand where they’re coming from. After all, we’re the ones who are tired and exhausted, and it seems like they’re just sitting there and judging.
So step back from the situation. You may even need to step out for a while. Go to a calmer and less stimulating environment (a less crowded part of the grocery store, the breastfeeding station of a mall, or even end the outing early and go home if needed). This isn’t just for you, but for your child too.
It can get overwhelming for our kids when they’re surrounded by people judging their behavior. I believe kids take on the energy of people around them. It becomes like a vicious cycle.
People around say the child is naughty, so the child misbehaves more and more, confirming people’s belief that the child is naughty, and so on. If this goes on long enough and often enough, being “naughty” becomes part of the child’s identity – leading to long-term behavioral and emotional problems.
Show that even when you don’t agree, you value them as people.
As parents, we’re often bombarded by a deluge of parenting advice. It’s unwise and impossible to follow them all.
But there may be a valuable nugget in there somewhere. Maybe you can try that hack for removing food stains or that recipe for a yummy snack. Thank them for it. Share with them what happened when you followed their advice, and show your genuine appreciation.
Let them interact with your child in positive ways.
You can plan this one beforehand. Ask your child, “Do you want to tell auntie about what you did yesterday?” Or, “Tell grandpa how much you loved playing with the train set he gave you.”
While you’re eating out, do they want to wipe your child’s mouth (even if you’re normally not picky about keeping your child’s mouth mess-free)? Or do they want to feed your child a cookie? You know your child best. If you don’t think it will be upsetting for your child, go ahead and allow it.
If they say or do something you didn’t agree with, try asking your child, “How did you feel about it?” You may be surprised at how your child may even take the experience more positively than you did!
Be ready with one-liners you can use.
You absolutely don’t need to say anything in response. It’s not your obligation to answer them, and don’t expect to be able to change their minds.
But it may help to be ready in case you feel the need to say something. You can say something like:
“Thanks for your advice. I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Recently, scientists discovered that kids actually need to run around / get messy for their brains to develop well.”
“That’s how she shows she’s happy. See, she enjoys seeing you!”
Talk it over with your spouse or with someone you trust.
While you may not agree on everything, talk it over when you are both calm. This will help you understand their motivation and perspective better. It will also help you find common ground so that you can work together to support your child. They can also be your allies when other people criticize your parenting.
Check out these other articles from the blog:
- How to Discipline Your Child for the approach to discipline that I shared in the recent convention of the Philippine Pediatric Society. During the open forum, guess what one question flooded the Q&A box? “What can we do if the grandparents disagree with positive parenting?”
- What to Do When a Critical Family Adds to Mom Guilt
In the end, you’re the one who’s with your child day in and day out. Research shows that even just having one loving and supportive adult is a strong protective factor for a child. You are their safe haven.
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