Respectful Interaction With Other Parents


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.)


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29 thoughts on “Respectful Interaction With Other Parents

  1. Rick

    Great points i totally agree with you on this..Also i love the fact that i have the option to listen instead of read.

  2. 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.
    Kesia’s last blog post ..A Mamatography Challenge – Week Five

  3. 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.
    Wolfmother’s last blog post ..Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions with Other Parents

  4. 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!

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  7. What a great point (that I haven’t read so far in the carnival) – it’s hard to be respectful if you don’t have your own support system. How lucky are we?! 🙂

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  10. Yes – having an outlet and a support system are so important, I am totally with you on that! Thank you for sharing your ideas 🙂

  11. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    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.
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama’s last blog post ..February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Hiding in my grace cave

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