I found myself in an interesting situation recently. A friend, in a moment of toddler-induced rage reacted in punishment towards her child in what I – and several laws – would consider child abuse.  This isn’t a bad mother, and isn’t a social welfare case, but in that moment, she lost control of herself and the consequences could have been dire. She is uninterested and unwilling to learn about gentle discipline or attachment parenting.

I have another friend, one of my closest friends, historically, who I never visit with her children these days, because I cannot bare the way she talks to and interacts with them. On the few occasions I’ve had to see her with her children, I’ve walked away feeling saddened and disturbed as there is no joy in her mothering. It’s all punitive and tiresome – just being in their presence is tiresome; I can’t imagine actually living with their relationship. Our friendship as it was has ended, because we can’t share the biggest part of our lives – all we have is our past.


Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.


Then I have other friends who, like me, are open to discussion, have a desire to learn, to do better and to be the best mothers we can be. We can sit down and discuss, debate and share. In fact, between us we’re constantly evolving and learning.  We ask each other for advice, for good thoughts, for assistance in the day to day. We agree with each other’s parenting styles. We might have little else in common, but this one large part of our lives, motherhood, is a common chord that binds.

When you choose a style of parenting that is different to the mainstream, and different  to the way so many others do it, you can not but set yourself apart and sometimes even make yourself a target.

It can be so easy to feel isolated, threatened and become defensive, but I find that the best way for me to deal with people I don’t agree with is to stop talking and start listening. Sometimes this can be exceptionally difficult. Especially when I feel that ‘my way’ could really help, or at least lessen harm (for instance in controlled crying conversations.)

In my ‘day job’ as an infant massage and toddler development activities instructor, I’m regularly faced with mothers who do things in ways I simply wouldn’t. Sometimes the things mothers believe or are led to believe can make me cringe. Sometimes I can plant seeds, other times they’ll be open to a whole discussion. But there are those occasions where they simply don’t want to know.

So the question becomes this: how do you remain respectful, while maintaining your sanity.

For me the answer is simple: have an outlet, a support system, somewhere you feel heard.

The volunteers for the Natural Parents Network are such a system for me. Any time of the day or night, I can drop a question, a rant, a fear, a thought on our team ‘wall’ and someone will respond with their wisdom. They’re my online support network. And it’s an amazing network – women from diverse backgrounds and a wide scope of experience and belief.

I’ve also been incredibly blessed to find a local community of attachment parents. For me it was a ready made community, but a year ago, it didn’t exist. One mama put an ad in a paper for families, calling all cloth wearers, home birthers, and so on to meet up – and within a year it’s grown into a community of mothers, all different, but all supportive to each other and respectful of each other in areas where we do disagree and differ – such as politics and religion – because of the things that bring us together.

And finally, I have this space. Here I have no concerns saying what I think. I don’t mind coming across as judgemental, and it doesn’t bother me if someone finds my thoughts too rigid. They are my thoughts. This is my space. Here I can say what I feel, think and believe. Here I don’t have to apologise for having strong opinions, because here it’s not directed at any one person, and no one is forced to read. Having this outlet for the ‘ideal’ – my ideal – means that I can work through my frustration and find evidence or otherwise for my opinions, and sort them out in a (hopefully) logical sequence.

Because I know I can come home and ‘offload’ my thoughts onto a screen – whether I ever publish or not – helps me interact with other mothers through gentle suggestion, seed planting, information sharing, without having to be on a soap box all the time. Having a community where I can nurse my two year old without having to explain, or ask questions about co-sleeping without needing to justify it is a beautiful safety net, it’s my ‘time in’ so that when I’m around people whose views do differ, I can bite my tongue and at least try to be a gentle advocate for gentle parenting.

How do you cope with friends and family who do things very differently to you?



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it’s from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural – Just Don’t Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother’s groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the “Mommy-space” online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles… — Jenny at I’m a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents’ worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting – Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she’s learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others’ parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can’t — We’ve all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you’re stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think “Gosh, I wish I said…” This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought “Gosh, I wish I said…”
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don’t Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she’d want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying “I’m Right and You’re Wrong” Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won’t care — Cassie of There’s a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don’t know what to do when you’re confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky – Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert’s Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.



Respectful Interaction With Other Parents

  1. You are so fortunate to not only the support of fellow bloggers through this community, but one in the real world as well. I know from experience it makes parenting so much easier. With Riley I do not have this avenue, as I did when I was parenting toddlers some twenty years ago because all of my real world friends have adult children. I guess if I still lived in Texas, my Little Man could play with their kids and we could share parenting views – or not. I have been here ten years and really have no support outside of my DH and as you know, you are my only real follower in the blog world since I just stepped in recently. I would imagine it is just as difficult for you as it is for me to bite your tongue when faced with some of the parenting styles out there. Hold tight to those places you can vent without fear, My Friend – they will serve you well throughout the years.

  2. There are some families that I rarely visit because of the way that they behave towards their children which I find is inappropriate and it makes me uncomfortable. I cannot relax and enjoy the outing when the household is wrought with such distress and tension because of how they choose to relate as a family. It is a toxic environment and my son at his age absorbs people’s behaviors very quickly and don’t want to expose him to behaviors that I have to then alter. So I stick to surrounding myself with the people that share the same values and who work towards healthier ways to nurture their relationships instead.

  3. Such a great point and post!! I totally agree that having the support is the key difference in being able to stay sane through any tough time, whether in parenting or otherwise. We are seriously a very lucky group of women to have one another!! I honestly don’t think I knew how much I was missing before!

  4. Yes! I totally agree and practice the same time-in concept as you. When with other parents who do not share my parenting style (so everyone I know), I bite my tongue to keep the peace and only offer advice if asked.

    Thank goodness for the NPN community, what would we do without each other? 🙂

  5. I am so with you on this one! I’m thrilled to finally feel part of a support system, both online and coming together in real life, where I know I can relax and be myself. I also like the way you characterize your blog as your own space — very true.

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