Opinion

Forget kids—parents need to stop bullying each other

"Often we don’t act like parents who are all on the same team; instead, we divide ourselves into little cliques and take shots at each other on social media."

Ottawa=shooting-school-parents-news

Photo: iStockphoto

As a sports reporter, I’m used to getting nasty feedback about my work.

A few weeks ago, an angry hockey fan came right up to my face when I was doing a broadcast in Ottawa. He was rather irate about something I had just said on the radio. “Get out of this city—we don’t need your type around here!” he yelled at me in front of a large group of people.

A group of hockey fans once started a Facebook petition to have me fired because of a blog post I’d written. When I was on television, I would routinely get nasty tweets that I blinked too much when I was on camera or that my eyebrows were too big. Now that I’m on radio, I get hammered with comments that my voice is irritating and my personality is pretentious. And it’s always fun when I’m simultaneously accused of loving and hating the team I cover.

But that’s all part of the job in the world of sports. I rarely take offence to these nasty comments because they aren’t personal attacks on me; rather, they’re a reflection of a passionate fan’s love of his or her team. I’m often the pincushion for people’s frustrations because I’m on the front lines, so to speak.

However, I am genuinely blown away by the personal and hate-filled stuff that comes my way when I write parenting articles and blogs. Last week in this space, I wrote a piece wondering why our kids had a PD day in early June with the school calendar coming to a close. It was an honest question and one that wasn’t meant to be laced with any nefarious undertones, yet the comments sparked from that piece certainly dictated otherwise. And it really got me thinking about the way parents deal with each other on social media and chat boards. Here are a few comments that were directed at me:

“You really shouldn’t have kids if you’re so bitter about taking care of them or sending them to daycare for a day!” (This was one of several “Why does this guy have kids?” comments.)

“I can’t believe the ignorance of the person writing this article! Get over yourself! Mind your own business or at least sound intelligent when you complain. Ridiculous.”

“You complain? You work four hours a day blabbing about sports!”

“Another offensive article. Do your research, Ian.”

“This is truly a stupid, whiny rant and it’s quite ridiculous that it was even published.”

So, in this little snapshot, I’m called ignorant, unintelligent, stupid, offensive, whiny and lazy—because I apparently only work four hours a day. I’m also made to wonder if I ever should have had kids in the first place. This is hardly the worst stuff written on the Internet, but in an age when we’re trying to teach our kids about bullying and an online code of conduct, we need to look in the mirror ourselves. Is it completely impossible to tackle tough parenting subjects without tossing mud at each other?

Back in 2012, I wrote about how we were switching our kids from the public school board to the Catholic one so they could have some faith-based learning. The cyber-garbage that was tossed my way that day was unbelievable. Several parents accused me of “brainwashing” my children, while another person wrote a comment along the lines of “This guy is a reason why parents should have a licence to have children.”

Family-related topics are a lightning rod for criticism because, as parents, we have a deep-rooted, personal investment in this area. But too often, we don’t act like parents who are on the same team; instead we divide ourselves into little cliques and take shots at each other on social media. There are digital mobs that circle around mothers who breastfeed too long—or not at all. Parents who let their children co-sleep with them are either hailed or vilified, depending on your perspective on the issue. And good luck to the next person who tries to weigh in on a working mom versus stay-at-home mom debate.

Too often, we have legitimate topics of discussion here at Today’s Parent that simply devolve into a “you are ignorant/no, you are ignorant” shoutfest that doesn’t lead anywhere. As parents, we should be able to tackle controversial and polarizing topics without accusing others with a dissenting viewpoint of being stupid, lazy or offensive.

As parents, we need to be on the same team more often—we’re all raising kids and doing it the best way we know how. My methods and viewpoints aren’t going to line up perfectly with a lot of other parents out there. But do I know that my approach is the best? Of course I don’t. We’re all just playing a massive guessing game and hoping our kids turn out OK. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all proven parenting method that works for everybody. Yet, we seem hell-bent on making sure everybody knows that our approach is the best and that anybody who disagrees is completely in the wrong.

When I read stories of online bullying involving teenagers, I can’t help but think of the stuff I’ve seen tossed around by parents on the Internet. We need to be better role models when engaging in online dialogue with each other. Remember, you are leaving a digital footprint with all the comments you write on the Internet. And when your kids are old enough to Google your name, you need to be proud of what you’ve written and the way you’ve conducted yourself online.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising his daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

Read more:
Wait, why is there a PD day in June?>
Stay-at-home moms versus working moms: Can’t we share without being attacked?>