Over & Under Parenting

Guest post by Jenna

I struggle with feeling condemned. I worry about how I look to other people. I compare too much. Keep reading if you’ve ever felt this way.

I was at a playdate recently and one mom’s discipline strategy (or lack there-of) frustrated me greatly. I didn’t say anything, for fear of hurting her feelings, but I felt as if she were comparing my children to hers. And I’m sorry, that’s just something you don’t do in parenting. She thought her child was the most brilliant one in the bunch, so she didn’t need to discipline, because he could do no wrong. Never mind the fact that her child bit my child while she was watching (and she said nothing), when he disobeyed her by climbing and fell down, she comforted him as if he was wronged by the tall object. Are you as frustrated as me?

And let me tell you about another mom who Only says the word No to her kids. “Mom, can I go outside?” “Mom, can I have some juice?” “Mom, can I go to the bathroom by myself?” I really don’t think this mom knows how much she says no. At least I hope not. Her kids hardly say a word to anyone except each other, for fear of being told No. They are well-behaved, but I wonder how broken they are on the inside? And, are they this way only in front of others or at home too? (Meaning, were they threatened within an inch of their lives when they got out of the car?)  My kids are afraid to play with hers because when she turns her back, they hit my kids. This mom acts as if I don’t want my kids to socialize with hers.

I realize too much freedom and too much “NO” are just too much. I’d like to say that I have a middle-of-the-road parenting style, but it’s actually a best-fit-for-the-child style. I can’t judge these other parents for their parenting style, because I don’t know their kids. But when their styles affect other parents and their kids, it gets personal. I know I can’t change anyone’s mind, I can only tell them what I think. I wish I could have said something to defend myself, but it wouldn’t have done much. I don’t know either of these moms well, so “calling each other out” or offering parenting tips wouldn’t have worked here. [Plus, I was too hacked to listen to anyone else’s so-called advice.]

It was a rough playdate.

What about you? Have you had any run-ins with other parents, and were you too chicken like me to say anything?

jenna blogs at kevinandjenna [dot] com and is working on condemnation, vanity, and self-comparison. As if you couldn’t tell.

9 Responses to Over & Under Parenting
  1. Michael
    April 9, 2010 | 12:31 pm

    Lots of chapters in my latest book touch on this topic, but I’ll save you the $11.99….

    First, not commenting isn’t being “chicken.” It could be what we like to call discretion, or judgment, or maybe even facing reality.

    People raise their kids the way they think best. You can voice an opinion or suggest a different approach, but you don’t really expect them to change, do you?

    If one of these moms came to you and said your parenting style is too wishy-washy and you should be firmer, or looser, would you change? Really?

    So here’s my favorite lesson from the book:


    Stay in the play group or leave. Ignore the parenting styles or seethe. Find new connections for your children or let them pick their own friends.

    Whatever you do, you’re making a choice. If you decide you can’t stomach that choice, you can always make another one.

    Your choice. Your Power. Enjoy it.

  2. Christie
    April 9, 2010 | 12:58 pm

    Few things stress me out more than playdates — for all the reasons you’ve discussed in your post.

    I really could have used Michael’s wisdom when I was a new mom with a toddler and was under the impression that playdates were required by law.

    With my second child, I’ve done things a little differently. This time, playdates are more casual and involve mostly the children of good friends and neighbours. We know each other’s kids and how they play and we’re comfortable with each other’s parenting styles, even though they may be different. It’s been a lot easier this time around. (Especially since I too am a huge chicken when it comes to confronting other parents . . .)

  3. Jennifer
    April 10, 2010 | 10:39 pm

    Been there. Done both. Regretted both. Figured I was better off just focusing on my own little people and letting them be screwed up by me as best as only I can =)
    Seriously. I think if we just all admitted how we enjoy, but are scared by it all, we’d be better off, don’t you think?

  4. Alexandra
    April 12, 2010 | 2:36 pm

    Sigh. Nothing feels worse than feeling you didn’t stand up for your kids.


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