Parenting

Don’t take parenting advice from people who don’t have kids

Ian responds to some parenting criticism he got from people who don’t have kids.

Photo: LeoGrand/iStockphoto.com

In this space last week, I wrote about our family’s decision to try and attend church on a more regular basis.

When the piece was posted, I knew it would generate a significant amount of discussion. I knew that a lot of people wouldn’t share my viewpoint on this issue, so I was prepared for a lot of negative responses.  

But what really blew me away was the barrage of personal attacks that came my way. I especially took some shots on Twitter, where many followers were genuinely upset with my stance. I was called narrow-minded, primitive and a control-freak.

I rarely get bothered by personal attacks on the Internet because none of these anonymous posters really know me on a personal level. But this round of attacks was different and it made me upset that other moms and dads would be so critical of a fellow parent. We all have different parenting methods, but why do we choose to undercut each other so harshly?

So on Twitter, I responded to a few of my detractors with a simple question: Just out of curiosity, do you have kids of your own?

Here is a sampling of responses I received from the people who were the most critical of my church column:

“I do not have kids. But if I someday do, I hope I can avoid ever becoming such a complete hypocrite in front of them.”

“No — thankfully no kids. I was just writing from the perspective of someone whose parents did that to me through church.”

“Nope. I don’t have any kids.”

So the posters who spewed the most negative, hate-filled responses turned out to be people without kids. A handful of people refused to answer my question, which led me to believe that they also didn’t have any children.

All of this leads perfectly into this week’s blog post about why we shouldn’t take parenting advice from people who don’t have kids.

For a little background for those couples without kids, we used to be just like you. We enjoyed sleeping in on Saturday mornings. We loved spontaneously going for dinner and a movie. And we used to have a leather couch without milk stains.

Life was great.

And when we decided to add kids into our lives, it was going to be smooth sailing. Parenting is easy, right? Just eliminate all of the things from your own childhood that you didn’t like and presto — you will get one happy, well-adjusted and completely normal kid.

Before we had kids, I knew I was going to be the perfect parent. My kids wouldn’t watch TV. They would never eat junk food. And they would never, ever be whiney in public.

Fast forward eight years later and this is a brief snapshot of our life with kids:
1. I am constantly complaining that our cable provider doesn’t update their on-demand TV selections for kids often enough.
2. There might be some Dunkaroos frosting on our ceiling.
3. Our kids have thrown so many tantrums inside the mall that we’ve been politely asked to stay 100 feet away from Aeropostale at all times. (On the plus side, Walmart welcomes us with open arms. In fact, I think it’s a prerequisite that you enter the store with a screaming child.)

When you don’t have kids, parenting looks like a breeze. And it’s really easy to start a lot of your sentences with “Our kids will never…”

But trust me, once you have kids, a lot of your predisposed notions go out the window. Other than being detained in Guantanamo Bay, nothing beats you into submission quite like parenting.

And that’s why you should never take any parenting advice from a person who doesn’t have kids. They just don’t know what it’s like to be doing this on a daily basis. Just because they’re a great
auntie or have looked after some kids for a few hours doesn’t make them an expert.

Would you take driving advice from someone who doesn’t have a license? Of course not.

As parents, we are flooded with unsolicited advice from people on a daily basis. Grandpa thinks you should let the baby cry it out. Your sister thinks your child is spoiled. And the neighbourhood mom up the street says it might be time for your daughter to get braces.

We’ve got enough to worry about without having know-it-all childless couples tell us how easy parenting is. (There’s a reason why some clever parent created the acronym DINK to describe couples that are Dual Income, No Kids).  

My issue isn’t with people who decide to be child-free. I think that’s a great choice and, trust us, there are a lot of mornings when we wish we could trade places with you.

It’s your inexperienced and unsolicited advice that we could do without.

Have you ever received advice from people who don’t have kids? How did you handle the situation?