What does it mean to be a perfect parent? Perfect parents always listen to their children, have time to go for a walk and to read to them. They feed their children only with organic food and don’t allow watching television during family lunch. They also do not exist.
In the age of the Internet, we have created a space for parenting discussion. There are multiple experts for upbringing, including other parents. Whilst it is great to have a support in difficulties of parenting, sometimes it seems like the discussion transforms into a competition or unfair criticism. This increasingly popular phenomenon is called parent shaming.
Criticizing somebody because of their different parenting choices or publicly judging one’s choices is becoming a big problem in our society. Recent studies show, that majority of mothers have been criticised for the way they are upbringing their children. It influences parents and their children in their everyday life. Of course, it is not only an online centred issue. Research shows that those who shame a parent are usually the closest family members: grandparents or child’s other parent. Although this criticism is probably driven by good intensions, it can be incredibly harmful for multiple reasons.
First of all, it impacts the parent’s confidence. It is impossible to be perfect, no matter how hard we try. Constant striving for perfection can be exhausting. Even though it is important to learn new parenting skills, it is equally important to feel support from your loved ones. Studies show that parent shaming may increase anxiety and depression. High expectations towards parents make shame stronger and difficult to treat. It can also affect relationships between family members. Criticized parents may have a tendency to avoid people who are too critical.
Moreover, parent shaming impacts children. For example, in order to avoid criticism, a parent may refuse to seek help when they really need it. They can also be too critical towards their own children and even somehow refuse to let them fail. This may interfere with raising self-assure and resilient children.
In that case, is there any way to cope with parent shaming? It is important to remember, that it is impossible to be a perfect parent. Sometimes being a good parent is just enough. Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how hard we try. Being a good parent means constantly growing and learning. Furthermore, try to spend more time with those who support you, and build a trusting relationship with the other parent. If you face criticism from your loved ones, especially child’s grandparents, try to be understanding. They probably are trying to feel involved in your life.
It is almost impossible to avoid criticism. However, we all should react when we encounter parent shaming. It is high time to understand, that parent’s mental health can affect the child. We should take care of parents the same way we care of their children.
Ann Arbor, (2017). Mom shaming or constructive criticism? Perspectives of mothers. University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Mott Reports, 29(3).
Magda Domańska is a master’s-degree student at the University of Warsaw, Poland. She is interested in educational psychology and family therapy. She is participating in a summer internship programme at Willingness.com.mt.