I live by a very strong “each to their own” philosophy.
We are all individuals with very different backgrounds, values and lifestyles. I try not to judge others just because they live by a different set of standards to me.
If someone wears something that isn’t to my taste, it’s really not my business. If someone posts something on social media I don’t agree with, I just keep scrolling.
Life is too short to go around being a Judgy-Mc-Judger and I don’t need to waste energy getting my knickers in a knot about what other people are doing. I need to concentrate on my own circus full of monkeys!
HOWEVER, one area where it is difficult to withhold judgement is other people’s parenting.
Now, I’ll preface this by saying I believe raising children is a very personal thing and none of us are perfect. We all have our struggles and challenges. It is a darn tough gig.
I won’t judge the mother in the shops who buys her toddler a Kinder Surprise because they are chucking an epic tanty in the lolly aisle. Nor will I judge the hot mess mama who sends her kid to school with mismatching socks and cold pizza for lunch occasionally. Most of us have been there!
But there are those occasions when we witness or hear about another parent doing something that is way beyond our own boundaries.
We’ve all watched another parent in action and thought: “That’s not right!”
Maybe it’s regularly not sending a child to school, exposing them to age inappropriate material, or even worse, risky situations.
Which begs the question: Is it ever ok to judge other parents?
Like most things in relation to parenting (and life) the answer is far from black and white.
The thing that makes judgement on the area of parenting so tricky is that we all have our own moral framework.
Some people might think I’m neglectful for letting my kids eat ice cream for dessert on a school night or letting my 4th and 6th graders ride the 1km to their school alone.
Meanwhile, I see it as letting them enjoy the good things in life and fostering their independence.
These are some examples things NOT to judge another parent on:
- Their economic status
- Their family makeup or relationship status
- Their belief systems
- Their appearance
- Whether their kid does extra curricular activities or not
- How their kid dresses
- What they chose to feed their kid (within reason – see below)
- How involved they are at the school, playground, recreational activity
But the reality is that some parents make some very poor choices that can result in negative outcomes for their children. None of us like to see that and I don’t think anyone could be blamed for judging a parent who:
- Makes lifestyle choices that disadvantage their child
- Knowingly puts a child in unsafe situations
- Neglects their child’s emotional, educational or health needs
- Consistently provides poor nutrition
- Is verbally or physically aggressive towards their child
Of course, one definitive time it is ok to judge another parent, and even intervene, is if the child’s life is in danger. And that danger is immediate – through abuse or neglect.
For example, leaving a toddler in a locked car on a hot day to duck to the pub or constant unexplained bruises and injuries.
If you are genuinely concerned about the welfare of a child due to the actions of their parent, here are some things you could do (other than pass judgement):
- Reach out. The parent may be really struggling and needs some support or assistance.
- Discuss your concerns with someone who knows the child such as a teacher. Remember they are bound by privacy laws so won’t be able to disclose any information about the child’s circumstances (and nor should they!) but they have mandatory reporting responsibilities so can act on any legitimate concerns.
- Read these helpful guidelines from ACT for Kids about what to do if you have welfare concerns for a child.
- Call 000 in an emergency.
So, as far as I’m concerned, in answer to the question “Is it ever ok to judge another parent?” the answer is: only if the parent is putting the child’s health and wellbeing in jeopardy.
As a general rule, unless you are prepared to intervene and take action to stop the behaviour in which you think is detrimental to the child, you need to take a deep breath and move on.
If the child is safe and well, leave the parenting to their parent and withhold your judgement.
After all, the world would be a boring, predictable place if we were all raised exactly the same, wouldn’t it?
Have you ever felt judged as a parent? Do you judge others on their parenting?