Different viewpoints. It seems like a simple enough concept. It’s something parents introduce to children early on and then spend a lifetime trying to explain. Even to themselves. Not everyone agrees. That doesn’t mean one person is wrong and one is right. That also doesn’t mean that someone should be criticized for their viewpoint. No matter what sort of public, technology-based platform it’s expressed on. For the most part, viewpoints deal with opinions, and everyone is entitled to their own.
If you asked, 92 percent of moms would tell you there’s nothing harder than being a mom. Yet, Moms everywhere allude to things like Mommy Wars and how working moms think stay-at-home moms are lazy, or stay-at-home moms think working moms don’t care enough about their kids.
Then there are the fathers everywhere who care less about a child’s dress and eating habits and more about them gaining confidence in themselves and their abilities. They teach kids to take risks and then risk being criticized for pushing them a little too far. Or, some dads are labeled as too focused on teaching boys to be boys and girls to be the fairer sex.
Parents can’t win. But, whoever decided parenting was about winning? What exactly would parents win for doing things perfectly anyway? The only time parents should ever truly care about whether they’re right is when they’re using the proverbial line, “Because I’m the parent and you’re the child.” Insert technology, blogs, social media, and mass media and there’s a whole new element to this parenting thing.
Parenting in today’s society is under a constant microscope. More often than not, it’s the criticism from other parents on the web that make it so difficult. Take a look at some of the comments from other parents around things like the gorilla incident at the Cincinnati Zoo, Victoria Beckham kissing her child on the lips, or the horrible accident that claimed the life of a toddler at a popular family destination hotel. It’s impossible to post your viewpoint on a popular subject, parenting or not, without either being supported or criticized by the masses.
As adults, it might be called criticism, but if everyone is honest, it’s just another form of shaming or bullying. The anonymity that technology offers gives people a pedestal to stand on. They feel that it’s warranted, somehow. That someone’s opinion on a public platform gives them right to comment, berate, pick on, dissect, and judge. It is hard to parent with so many different opinions shouting from every direction about what is right, wrong, shameful, neglectful, and downright unloving.
What it boils down to is that parenting and the use of technology has become another avenue for bullies to make a mark on the world. However, the behavior of some adults online is a great tool for teaching children how to navigate the waters of technology and how to handle people they don’t agree with.
The Golden Rule is always a great place to start. But, it’s also important to teach kids how to have a polite and effective dialogue with people that see things differently. Let kids know that it’s a great time to learn something new, to bring attention to something the other person had never thought of, and an opportunity to learn how to move beyond disagreements politely. It is possible. It’s also important that kids realize that the things they put out on social media or other public forums is permanent, and that group mentality is a powerfully positive or negative thing. Teach them to not always get caught up in what the crowd is saying or doing, a powerful lesson for the rest of their life.
Learning to show grace to one another as parents doing their best to raise the next generation could be the most powerful lesson for everyone in this age of criticism online. Parenting is hard enough. Doing it on someone else’s terms is even harder. But, it’s those differing opinions, those new viewpoints, those new thoughts that can bring the whole village to a new level of graceful parenting.