As parents, I think we all have a tendency to be critical of other parents especially when we observe children misbehaving. This is especially so when we perceive our own children to be better behaved than those that we see. However, I think the harshest critiques of parents with difficult (or shall we say high-spirited) children, would be the ones who have never had any children of their own.
Indeed, my thoughts of parenting and child rearing back in the days when I was young, naive and single were definitely very different to the way I think now. I used to think spanking was not only okay but necessary to keep children in line. Now I hold the opposite view. I also used to think that parents who kept children on leashes were barbaric and inhumane. Now I think toddler leashes are a handy little invention.
Before I had a toddler of my own, it was hard to imagine how quickly a toddler can disappear from sight in a crowded shopping mall. Even with constant vigilance, toddlers somehow manage to get themselves into all nature of fixes. If you have never had a child of your own before, you cannot imagine the fear a parent faces with the thought of losing a child. And if you are a parent with a very compliant child, you should thank your lucky stars you’ve never had to deal with a “high-spirited” child.
Just as our lecturers used to tell in when we were studying dentistry that it is unfair to criticise another dentist’s work because we are unaware of the circumstances with which that dentist had to work with, likewise, it is unfair, even of other parents to criticise other parents without understanding what it is like to live with the children of those parents.
An excellent example that one mother shared was how she used to be critical of parents with children who bite. She used to think it was poor parenting that resulted in children who bite. That was until her second child turned out to be a biter. Likewise, we can be as critical as we want to be of other parents and the way they raise their children, but be warned – what goes around comes around. Don’t be surprised if your next child develops the exact habits you criticise other parents for failing to correct their children for.
That’s not to say that there are no parents who are too lenient or too harsh with their children or those that fail to raise their children properly. These parents do exist. However, before one becomes too critical of the parent, one needs to understand the situation and the kind of child that the parent faces. Given those circumstances, are you so sure you could have done a better job? Maybe you could have, but maybe, just maybe, you would have done worse.
That doesn’t mean we’ll never be critical of another parent. However, I do think that empathising and showing a little understanding towards that parent goes a long way. I do recall reading somewhere that some of the best parents are not the ones with the angel child – they are the ones with the high-spirited child and who still manage to keep sane in spite of it all.
Being a parent is a tough enough job on its own. It is easy to comment and criticise from afar – especially when you aren’t handling the responsibilities directly. If a parent is genuinely trying, cut her some slack and butt out. Additional criticisms that serve no purpose achieve nothing but add to the frustration of raising a spirited child.