Shame, Judgement, and the Comparison Trap

If you haven’t heard of Brené Brown, google her (after you are done reading this of course). She is a shame researcher who has a famous TED talk, has written several books, and recently released a Netflix special. One of the things that she discusses is shame that parents experience. Parent shaming is a real thing and it has to stop. We see parent shaming online, we see it in our schools, we see it at the grocery store, we see it on planes, and we see it in restaurants. There are many parenting styles and you don’t have to agree with all of them, but can we stop judging each other for every little thing?

While we love to give advice and tips on specific areas of raising balanced children in the 21st century, we never want to come off like we are shaming people. Our main advice is always balance. Balance means you do what you can when you can. We find that along with shame are judgment and comparison.  Neither of these are good for your health or your family’s health.

Let’s start off by talking about judgement. It is easy to judge other people. Especially if you don’t know what their day has been like. If a child is throwing a tantrum in a store, most people will immediately judge the parent for it. However, we do not know what the situation is. Perhaps the child missed their nap, maybe they are sick, or just maybe they are a child with special needs. Kids also have a mind of their own and can sometimes be unpredictable. We do not know, so we must not judge.

Shaming a parent is when you put your judgment into action and decide you want to give a parent a look, a piece of your mind, make passive aggressive comments, or even talking behind their back. Your intention is to make them feel like they are doing a bad job, being a bad parent, or have something to be ashamed of.

Before judging a parent (or anyone really) ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I know them or their situation?
  • Am I trying to help them or shame them?
  • Does it affect me?
  • Do I have good intentions?

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The other side of judgement and shame is comparing yourself to other people. In the age of social media, we are all bombarded on a daily basis by perfection. People most often will post and share the perfect moments in their lives. The idyllic family hike, the children baking, or siblings playing happily. What is not seen are the fights, the mess, the arguments and struggles that are a part of real life. And yet, the perfection is what we compare our lives to. We feel less than because our house is a mess, we aren’t hiking, and the cake is store bought.

If you are feeling less than, then perhaps take time away from social media. Take your family to the park to play, order a pizza and have a family night in, or have game night with your children. Remind yourself that “This too shall pass,” that the messy, crazy, and hard parts of parenting are only temporary, that no family is perfect, and that all of it is okay.

We as a society have to take the mantel for ending parent shaming and judgement. It is up to us to model for our children to respect and accept others.

Your Child is Not Your Friend

There has been a recent trend of parents proclaiming their child as their best friend. These parents will proudly call their child their bestie or best friend and post about it on social media.  While we understand the underlying sentiment that is being conveyed, we do not believe that the parent and child relationship should be friend like.

Your child is your child. You love them, enjoy spending time with them, and have a blast creating memories with them. However, it should always be remembered that this relationship is not on equal footing. As the parent, you should have the power in the relationship. The parents job is to set boundaries, because as a developing child, they do not know what is best for them. They need guidance and support as they mature and develop. The adult knows what’s best for them, and as such they are in charge. Unlike what friendships are like, this relationship is not equitable.

Telling a child that you are friends confuses them. Children have friends at daycare, school, or around the neighborhood. Within these social groups the power dynamics is often shared between the children. No one child is in charge of the group, setting boundaries, or telling others what to do. Children can choose to not play along, or to not listen to what their friend tells them to do. They have the power in their social groups to choose and do as they please. However, if a parent asks a child to brush their teeth or pick up their toys, a child usually does not have the power or ability to disagree and not complete the task. A child cannot interact or react with their parent like they might with their friends. If parents are constantly calling their child their friend, then when it comes time to dictate a rule or set a boundary children will not understand why they have to do it. While at first it might be cute, in the long run this will create challenges for the parents as the child grows up.

This type of adult-child relationship sets up confusing expectations at school for children too. Teachers are not their students’ friend. In an elementary school classroom, the teacher is in charge of the classroom and the students. While they might have fun together, it is very clear that that authority figure is the teacher. There is no bargaining with the expectation that the teacher sets for his or her classroom. When the directions are to work on an assignment, line up, or clean up students must follow the directions. Students who have the idea that they are friends with the adult in the room have a challenge at school where the power dynamic is not equal.

At the end of the day, remember, your child will grow up, and eventually the parent-child relationship will evolve into more of a friendship. When children grow into adulthood they are more equipped to understand and share in certain conversations and responsibilities that are common among friend-like relationships. But when they are young and developing, you are in charge. You are the parent. You are not equal to your child, and they need to know that.

That does not mean that you can’t hang out, talk with, and experience things with your child like you would with your friends. All of these moments will add up to a close and long lasting friendship with them when they do grow up.