PARENTS

Do You Worry That Other People Judge You As A Parent?

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
Do you worry that other people judge you as a parent?

So, we're sat there at the dinner table: my wife and I, our two sons, my mum, her fiancé, my sister and her boyfriend. We're eating roast chicken, if you must know, and it's rather nice.

But I'm on edge. This is the first time that my mum's fiancé and my sister's boyfriend have met my sons, and I want them to be on their best behaviour. The two-year-old can get away with a bit of cheekiness; but the four-year-old received the lecture in the car on the way to our meal, the one where both parents turn around in the front seat and grill a rather bemused child in a car seat.

"Now, remember, be good." we urge. "Remember your 'please' and 'thank yous', don't be rude, try not to sneeze everywhere without covering your mouth..."

I can imagine our words echoing into the distance as our son looks at us vaguely, whilst the other one gleefully wipes snot around his face. And so we exit the car, hoping that at least some of what we've said has sunk in.

Which brings us to the dinner table, and my son, who has just announced in front of everyone that he "doesn't like the food." There's an awkward silence. A couple of people squirm uncomfortably, others suddenly seem to have developed a close fascination with whatever's on their plate, staring at it intently until the awkwardness goes away.

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Like Derek Zoolander, I've perfected the 'Magnum' look: a glare so withering it singes paper. But it's useless if the child you're glaring at isn't looking at you.

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"Isaac," I say. "That's rude. Just sit and eat."

"It's OK," my mum mumbles in my ear. Cue uncomfortable squirm.

As human beings (and British people) we tend to focus only on the one or two bad experiences which sit within an overall time frame. Looking back on that evening, it's clear that my son was on his best behaviour for ninety per cent of the time; but in the moment I found myself anxious that people would think my son was a naughty boy.

But, on further reflection, I don't think that was the real cause of my concern. It wasn't whether my mum's fiancé or my sister's boyfriend would think Isaac was a naughty child that bothered me; it was whether his bad behaviour was a reflection on me as a parent, and that I would be judged.

Think of the last time you were in a supermarket and you saw a child having a tantrum. Yes, you would tut and reflect on how naughty the child was; but, more so, you would judge the parent for not being in control, for not raising the child to sit quietly as he trundles incessantly through aisles and aisles of food.

This is a sentiment echoed by other parents. One friend said, "I feel embarrassed if my daughter has a paddy outside, because you feel people are judging you for not having a handle on the situation...when your child is a toddler or very young, you can't put too much blame on them for rudeness."

Another friend agrees. "It is definitely a reflection of the parent," they say, "as the child is born as a blank canvas, but it is for us to teach them right from wrong."

Perhaps it goes further; the judging is not on how good you are as a parent, but how you react to your naughty child. "I think it's how you handle these kinds of situations that people might judge," she says, going on to recall a story about how a mother in the local park failed to discipline her daughter after she had hit another child.

It's only natural to worry about what other people think of you, and your kids. But, at the end of the day, it's how we react to their naughtiness that matters. And, if they persist in their naughtiness, you can always scoff their roast chicken yourself.

Do you worry people will judge you for your child's one-off naughtiness? What's the most embarrassing one-off your child has said or done?

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