Experts weigh in on parents who get shamed for giving kids freedom

Hamilton's medical officer of health has laid out initial guidelines for daycare centres in the city in part with stage two of Ontario's reopening plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

TORONTO — Regardless of how you choose to parent your child, not everyone will agree with it. And there are people out there who will also voice that disagreement, whether you care to hear it or not.

Many recently publicized cases of parent shaming seem to happen when children are given certain liberties.

In a recent case in Calgary, for instance, an 11-year-old boy’s father said his son was detained by security for shopping by himself at a Lego store. The father claimed the guard and the store’s manager told him children under 12 are not allowed in the store without an adult because of safety concerns.

He also said they called him a bad parent for not accompanying his child.

Another case in Maryland, in December 2014, saw child protective services open an investigation after two children, aged six and 10, were found walking home by themselves. According to media reports, the investigation found the parents were responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect for letting their children walk home alone.

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READ MORE: How young is too young for kids to walk to school alone?

And just last week in Squamish B.C., the RCMP paid a visit to a home after a neighbour complained about a four-year-old playing nude in his front yard a couple days prior. Safety was reportedly the concern, but RCMP have since apologized for the situation.

The situations beg the question: has our society become too overprotective of children?

Calgary-based parenting expert Gail Bell thinks so. She explains that kids need responsibility to have purpose and develop. After all the ultimate goal of parents, in her eyes, should be to raise capable and independent children.

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“When we don’t allow them to go out and risk in a safe and age-appropriate manner, and possibly stumble, the results can be laziness,” says life coach Erica Diamond. “We’re seeing helicopter-parented kids lack problem solving skills. They are not independent.”

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Bell adds that parents know their children best and know when it’s time to give them more responsibility. Having said that, she acknowledges that parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

“I do still think it takes a village to raise a child.”

She thinks another parent has a right to speak up if it seems like a child’s life is genuinely in danger, if the child could harm someone else (even if it’s not intentional), or is about to do something illegal. But, it’s how you voice your concerns that matters. Rather than “tattling” to law enforcement, share your concerns to the child’s parent. And try to use the “I” pronoun – “I’m feeling concerned that…” rather than “Did you know your kid…?”

Diamond doesn’t believe it’s ever appropriate to shame another parent, especially in public.

The psychology behind parent shaming 

So why do people do it?

“Parents shame other parents because it makes them feel better about their own parenting skills, from a Psych 101 perspective,” Diamond says.

“Before we start judging, remember one thing: You don’t know what it is like to walk in another [parent’s] shoes…So next time that screaming child in the grocery store starts to annoy you, stop, think about how you would feel, and then smile compassionately at that [parent].
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“A smile and a kind word can help more than you know. We have all either been there or will be there at one time in our lives.”

WATCH: Breastfeeding vs. the bottle, coddling vs. discipline. Erica Diamond helps decipher the true meaning of the Mommy Wars shown in this viral video.

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