Help! My Mom Criticizes My Parenting – Practical Tips for Dealing with Your Critical Mother
Hey, mama. Look, if I had a dollar for everytime I’ve seen or heard the words, “My mom criticizes my parenting! How do I get her to stop?” . . . well, you know the saying . . . I’d be rich.
No matter how you choose to parent your child you’ll meet with criticism from someone at some point.
Welcome to parenting in the real world.
Actually, I don’t think that being judged by and judging other moms is always a bad thing. See my article One Reason Why Moms Judge Other Moms (And Why It’s Okay)
However, when your own mother judges your parenting and becomes critical nothing positive follows.
My Personal Experience with Criticism of My Parenting
I practiced attachment parenting and then gentle discipline and I certainly received my share of criticism concerning my parenting style. Many of my parenting choices – such deciding to breastfeed while pregnant and then having a miscarriage, choosing to homeschool, and not using physical punishment – brought criticism from friends and family.
The criticism stung at first. It made me mad at times. Fortunately, as time went on and others saw that my parenting style worked for my family, they backed off.
For instance, after I went on to have two successful pregnancies while nursing (see my Tandem Breastfeeding story), no one had too much to say about my choice. As my children got older and we continued to homeschool, no one worried about their socialization anymore. In addition, as my children moved on from the difficult toddlers/preschooler ages into the big-kid ages and continued to display good behavior, no one questioned our decision use alternatives to spanking.
Unfortunately, criticism can be difficult to combat in the early years of parenting, especially if you’re the parent of an only child. I remember those days all too well. I got through them, though, and you can, too.
Here’s how . . .
Remember that Criticism = Worry When it Comes from a Loved One
If your mom criticizes your parenting, she’s probably worried about you or your child. If you decide to assign positive intent, you can see her criticism as concern. This softens it and allows you to deal with it differently.
When your mother criticizes your parenting, for example, tell her in a genuine way that you appreciate her concern. She will feel heard. This is the first step to diffusing the situation.
Appreciating her concern does not mean you agree with her or that you’ll take her advice. It simply shows her that you’re not looking for a fight and that you appreciate that she cares enough to speak up. You give a nod to the knowledge she obtain over years of being your mother. You still get to decide if her wisdom applies to your own family.
When I am at my best, my response to unwarranted criticism is, “Thank you for sharing your concern. I will consider that.” (Note: If you use a sarcastic tone when you say this, you negate everything, so be genuine and be kind.)
Be Confident in Your Parenting Choices
Confidence in my parenting choices helped me avoid losing sleep over criticism of how I parented. I didn’t come by my parenting choices by blindly or by following the latest parenting fads. I researched everything. I talked with mothers who’d parented children in the ways I thought were best for my kids. I also talked with mothers who’d made different choices than the ones I made. I knew why I chose to parent the way I did in each situation.
If you aren’t confident in your parenting decisions, you question yourself. Then, when someone criticises you, you wonder if they might be right. If you don’t know why you chose a particular parenting style or if you don’t feel confident in that decision, you may falter.
When you feel shaky about your choices you tend to spend a lot of energy defending yourself against criticism. When your mom criticizes your parenting you might feel like deferring to her or shutting her out completely. Neither response shows confidence in your parenting style.
You Don’t Have to Explain Your Parenting Choices
One of the biggest steps in learning to deal with criticism over my parenting decisions happened when I realized I didn’t owe anyone an explanation for my choices. My parenting choices were between myself and my husband. No one else had a right to an explanation of why we parented the way we did.
Of course, telling your mom to buzz off will not promote a healthy relationship, so please don’t do that. Instead gently refuse to entertain repeated criticism after you’ve heard it once. If a family member or friend is getting too involved in how you parent, kindly tell them that you’re not interested in discussing your decisions right now. You can promise to let them know when you are ready to talk about it.
Learn How to Change the Subject
Changing the subject helped me avoid questions and criticism when my children were younger and my parenting choices were unpopular.
When another mom at a playdate asked if my son (then two-years-old) still breastfed after she’d expressed her disgust with nursing past six months, I answered that, yes, he still breastfed. Then, I swiftly complimented her necklace. The compliment was genuine and I had quickly established a boundary with her.
Often, you’ll see this tactic referred to as “bean-dipping” in the world of attachment parenting. As in, “Are you still nursing?”, “Yes, we are. Will you please pass the bean dip?” It answers the question in a gentle and kind way, but does not leave room for further questions.
Don’t Mistake Interest for Criticism
Not all questions about your parenting style will lead to criticism. You may certainly receive your share of criticism, but don’t let that cause you to miss an opportunity with someone who is truly interested in how you parent.
If you are questioned about your parenting style a lot you may become tense when anyone approaches you about it. In some cases the asker may have a sincere interest in what you are doing and how you do it. Don’t miss these opportunities to share your story.
I wrote an article about How to Answer Annoying Homeschool Questions that touches on the importance of embracing an opportunity to share your uncommon choices with people who are genuinely interested.
Set Appropriate Boundaries with Critical Loved Ones
This step might be the most difficult one of all. Setting boundaries with friends and family is hard. Sometimes boundaries shock loved ones or hurt their feelings. Often, though, boundaries are the only way to stop overly critical people in your life.
Your boundary can be as strict as telling your mom that you won’t talk about your parenting with her unless she can listen without verbalizing judgement. Or, it can be as simple as letting her express her criticism once and then asking her not to mention it again.
Remember, you are an adult now. Your relationship with your parents (and other adult loved ones) must be an adult to adult relationship. Other adults who knew you as a child may have trouble adjusting to treating you as an adult. Gentle reminders of the facts are necessary sometimes.
Always be kind, but don’t allow people to cross your boundaries without consequences.