Saturday, March 19, 2011

Parenting and Judgment (Kate Altman, M.S.)

As I recently mentioned, I've been attending a New Moms Group each week. Some of the members and I went out for milkshakes the other day, and the discussion turned to the topic of parenting and judgment. None of us have been parents for more than three months, and yet all of us have experienced judgment of our parenting from someone--often strangers. One of the moms told us about how she brought her son to the mall when he was 6 weeks old. As she was changing him in a bathroom, a woman came up to her and asked her a barrage of questions about her son and his age, and concluded by admonishing her for taking him out of the house at such a young age. Many of the moms reported receiving judgment from parents and in-laws ("You shouldn't pick her up every time she cries--you will spoil her!" "You are feeding him too much. He will get fat!").

When I began working as a family therapist, I was, of course, not yet a parent. Perhaps because of that fact, I did not naturally judge my clients' parenting. And often (in fact usually) parents seemed to be doing much more right than wrong. So I spent a lot of therapy time validating parents' choices and pointing out all of the positives in their approaches. Parents were often shocked by this, and a couple were actually moved to tears when they simply heard from a professional that they were doing a good job with their child.

I'm not sure why so many of us judge others' parenting. Perhaps doing so helps us validate our own choices when they differ from someone else's. Perhaps the root of a lot of judgment is, indeed, that we all want what is best for children. But evaluating our parenting makes us extremely vulnerable and nothing can be as painful as feeling criticized for how we raise our children. Parents of children with special needs (especially "invisible" disorders, like ASD) tend to experience even more criticism than other parents. These parents, like all parents, need support and understanding as we navigate one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

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