Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The right to stick your bloody nose in

A poster on a forum I visit was complaining that someone told her off for allowing her small child to mouth a balloon. When she argued about the danger-level, that person retorted angrily that as a paediatrician, she'd had to resuscitate kids who've choked on balloons. The OP seemed furious and distraught to be confronted in this manner.

~ Is it nobody else's business what you allow your child to do?
~ What right has someone to interfere in your parenting?
~ Where does social responsibility begin and end?
~ Do we look out for other people's children or do we keep our bloody noses out?
~ Is there a particular level of risk at which we should intervene?
~ And where is that line drawn?
~ Does being questioned on your behaviour as a parent automatically mean you're being foully judged?
~ Is every criticism a personal attack that deserves to be met with eff off, (as Lynne Truss alleges it has become in Talk to the Hand)?
~ Or can you phrase something in a such a way that it is non-confrontational/judgemental but still expresses concern and awareness of social responsibility?

When I see a small child trying to take some nuts, is it ok for me to say "Oh, is he allowed those?"

Should the answer be "Yeah, he can have them", would it be ok for me to follow up conversationally with "Oh, it's a worry about choking/the onset of nut allergy due to early exposure to them, isn't it?"
(if I phrased it better) or should I just keep my fricking mouth shut (and shoot laser beams from my eyes :P)? (I have a thing about allergens due to young Mr T :D).

Maybe the parent is fully informed and thinks the risks acceptable: but should we assume they are? But how patronising is it to assume they don't know?

Of course, most parents are hyper-sensitive to possible implications that they are doing badly by their children: I've some experience of being challenged in my parenting abilities, and it was devastating. :(

But can it be good for us to get a metaphorical slap round the chops to rethink the way we parent, once in a while?

What worries me at times about the emphasis on support and being non-judgemental on this particular website, is that perhaps it could allow that which is abnormal, cruel or simply badly-handled to seem ok and defensible.
(I'm not particularly thinking of balloons at this point :)). It's like the sites for anorexics which were on the news a while back for being supportive to the point of enabling and making anorexia 'normal' & even desirable. Surely it has to be ok to say: I think you handled that badly, I think there are other options, maybe you should try such-and-such?

I remember a possible troll starting a thread in which they claimed to have kept their 3 year old on the naughty stair for 6 hours (SIX, count 'em), into the night, over a piece of uneaten apple. If true, that was wrong and on the point of cruelty and stupidity. I guess it doesn't help anyone to say that was cruel and stupid, but I don't think glossing over the fact it was a bit of a mistake is all that helpful either.
Also, there's a thread that stays with me from a looonnng time ago, about someone who constructed a unclimbable side for their child's bed, so that he couldn't keep getting out of bed - it was wooden and bolted. Although it was painted nicely, from her account, (and I suppose it's not that far from having a cot with sides... Then again, a cot has sides to prevent the child rolling out of bed, for his/her safety)... Anyway, I was uncomfortable about it. Most people responded positively about it, as though it was a great idea, and weakly, I joined that kind of tack in a facetious way. But it still nags at me in the back of my mind - apart from the caging aspect of it - would they be able to get him out quickly if there was a fire? If he was scared and hiding in a rear corner of his bed, would they be able to reach him? I feel I should have asked about that, at least, but I didn't.

Saying these things doesn't mean I have never made a mistake with my kids, never lost my temper, never let a situation get out of hand, but I hope that I would accept where I have messed up and be ready to make amends.

Clearly people heaping blame upon my head and telling me how awful I am, would not help me. But are understanding and compassion wholly incompatible with criticism?

I suppose I'm talking about the difference between constructive criticism and the ripping someone to shreds kind.

1 comment:

Abby said...

Erm... difficult... all depends on the motivation of the critical voice, and why they are speaking out about your parenting. If it were a young single person who believes all children are scum, I would reject any advice they had whatever it was. Because there are people like that - small minded, heartless people who go to child friendly restaurants and then whine about the noise of children around them! Duh! And then if it were a parent speaking out, I might well stop and listen to what they say. But then I'm not all that defensive about my parenting skills, and am open to criticism. Some people are insecure and thus anything someone else says is assumed to be a personal attack.

Difficult question, there are no easy answers!