A college student working on a research paper contacted me with an interesting set of questions and I finally had a chance this morning to respond. Since my response explains some of my parenting philosophy, I thought it would be interesting to post it here on GoFatherhood too, inviting you to read and response. So… have at it!
Here’s her set of questions, which I kinda respond to:
I was hoping to know how has social media effected your thoughts on parenting. Has it changed your ways of parenting? Has it been easier to find information and share information with other parents? Such as how to go about the first day of school, medical immunizations etc. How do people respond to your blog? Does it bother you when people respond negatively to what you have posted?
And my response…
I don’t think that social media has changed my view of parenting, but I have found that there’s so much about my parenting experiences and decisions that I want to keep private to my family (and perhaps a few close friends) that I often go weeks without posting on my Dad blog. It’s also the case, as you suggest, that just about every time I post about a decision I made that there’s someone who tells me I made the wrong choice and have done something ghastly or immoral :-), even when it’s benign.
One issue is that there’s a continuum of beliefs about what we can call children’s rights for lack of a better term. Some adults believe that children should have all the rights and freedoms of adults, be able to set their own bedtimes, make their own rules, pick their own meals, do chores or not, etc. Others, myself included, believe that children do not have the maturity to make wise decisions and so part of the responsibility of parenting is to lovingly shepherd them, to make decisions on their behalf and to create a safe container, a set of rules and expectations that help them thrive while they know that they’re also safe and healthy.
This plays out when I post an article about, for example, bedtime problems with my teen. Left to her own devices, she’ll stay up incredibly late, then be exhausted — or get sick — the next day. Living in the moment is good and “natural consequences” are fine, except when I then have to change my plans because she’s sick or can’t get ready for school in a timely fashion, or we have to work with the school-imposed consequences of her missing too many days of lessons. If I post about my frustration over bedtime one evening, I’ll inevitably have some people sympathize while others will tell me I’m doing it completely wrong and should just let her do what she wants and learn the result.
Since that’s not my philosophy of parenting, it’s really not very helpful. It’s like asking someone “How do I make meatloaf” just to get a lecture on why you should be a vegan. That’s not what you asked, why are they answering a different question?
And does that bother me? Sometimes. The thing of it is, it’s really easy to offer judgments and advice for a situation that you’re not in the middle of, and doubly so when you aren’t actually a parent in the first place. It’s the “walk a mile in their shoes” situation, and as a single Dad with three kids of very different ages, it can be extraordinarily difficult to keep the peace and have things move along smoothly if they’re fighting, tired, cranky, upset, disappointed, etc.
I think I do a pretty good job, but it’s not always the optimal path.
But that’s part of life: making the best of things, not waiting for everything to be perfect.
And in that sort of situation, yes, it’s upsetting when someone smugly posts a comment about how they would have done something completely different and maybe I need parenting classes or need to change my approach or philosophy. Walk in my shoes for a bit, then tell me how to do things. Oh, and if you don’t even have kids? You really have no idea how to parent. Just theory.
But that’s my perspective. What’s your experience with social media and parenting?