5 Parent vs Parent Debates That Should End Already

5 Parent vs Parent Debates That Should End Already

multicultural moms with children
Mom vs. mom battles are inaccurate, inflammatory, and annoying. Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

What is it about parenting that makes some people act like there's an open invitation for unasked for opinions and criticism and things being called "wars" (as in "mommy wars" or "helicopter parenting" versus "free-range parenting")? When our children are babies, there are the supposed debates over letting kids cry it out, whether moms should breastfeed exclusively, whether we should co-sleep our baby, and more. (Yes, some parents choose one thing over another but most of us are way too busy trying to cope with night feedings, exhaustion, and trying to figuring out the baby care thing to sit and "debate" with other parents all the choices we think they should be making.)

But when parents do buy into the hype and get all judge-y about one approach or another or about each other's choices, it's especially sad; parenting is one of the toughest jobs there is, and we can and should support and help each other as much as we can instead of criticizing or putting each other down. We are all in this together, so we should try to be helpful rather than hurtful.

It may be human nature to want to categorize and label things, but the problem with labeling parents as one thing or another reduces people to behaviors that fit the label and ignore the fact that most of us actually would fit in one category or another at various times and situations, maybe even in the course of a day or an hour. (You could give your child extra supervision while he does his homework because his grades started to slip and then let him work out a conflict with his sister on his own, for example.) Labels not only don’t work, but pegging someone as one thing or another ignores the fact that parenting is much more grays and rarely either black or white.

A bigger problem is that these labels always lead to discussions about who’s right or who’s better.  In other words, these trumped up "mom vs. mom" battles are inaccurate, misleading, inflammatory, and annoying. Here are some so-called wars that are trotted out all-too-often and why they really should end already.

Stay-at-home moms vs. working moms

working mother juggling children and work
Parenting isn't always easy, and making up things like "Mommy Wars" don't make things any easier for anyone. KidStock/Getty Images

This is one of those annoying "wars" that are hyped up whenever someone wants to prey upon the insecurity and self-doubt that all parents experience from time to time as we make decisions about big and little things every day. To them, I say: You know what? All moms work, and all moms have to deal with boogers, making endless snacks, shutting down defiance and other bad behaviors, and reffing sibling fights; whether or not they work from home, stay at home, or work outside of the home doesn’t change that fact.

Furthermore, moms today often toggle from one classification to another. Some moms choose to stay at home with their kids when their children are younger and then go back to working outside the home once kids reach preschool or school-age, or perhaps even wait until they go off to college; others choose to work from home or work part-time, or opt out of the workforce altogether. Many moms have no choice but to go back to work full-time because their family’s finances require them to do so. Other moms choose to stay at home because leaving their jobs makes more sense economically than choosing the childcare options they have available to them, or because they make the personal choice to be home with their children.

Bottom line: Each situation is unique, and mothers often have to make tough choices, whether it’s stepping away from a career they love or leaving their kids with a sitter. But one thing is for sure: We can use a lot more support for all working mothers and fathers, starting with increased flexibility in the workplace for parents, more vacation time for families, and better systems that allow for telecommuting. And we can do without the judging and pitting parents against one another for the personal choices they make.

Helicoptering vs letting kids figure it out themselves

Mother and father helping son and daughter with homework
Homework help does not helicoptering make. Squaredpixels/Getty Images

Here’s another example of labels that could apply to one parent in different instances. For example, a parent might decide that he doesn’t want his 9-year-old son navigating a busy street and walking to school by himself, but that parent may expect that same child to be responsible for the trash being taken out whenever the bins are full and making sure that he not only keeps track of his own schoolwork and homework assignments and extracurricular activities, but supervises his younger siblings as well. To label this parent as either “helicopter” or "free-range" is not accurate—he is just being a parent making choices about how much responsibility and independence to give his child in different situations.

Bottom line: If you’re cutting your 6-year-old’s food and spoon-feeding him every night during dinner or doing all his homework for him and calling it “helping,” you are definitely and firmly in hovering/helicoptering territory and it’s time to consider what you can do to give your child more room to develop as his own person. But if you are giving your child age-appropriate chores, giving him room to make mistakes and figure things out but still guiding him, and letting him feel confident and independent, then you are on a middle-of-the-road path that balances support and letting your child sort it out on his own.

Letting kids sleep in bed with mom and dad

family bed - mom and dad with children and dog in bed
Stephanie Rausser/Getty Images

This is another issue where what works for one family may not be what works for all families. Some couples may not mind when kids climb into the bed regularly or they prefer sharing a big bed with their kids, while other parents may have a hard time getting enough sleep or may believe that regularly sharing the bed with kids cuts into their time as a couple or makes kids less independent.

Bottom line: Safety and co-sleeping is the main concern, especially for babies and younger children (if a parent has too much alcohol or is so exhausted that he or she may roll over on a sleeping child without realizing it, co-sleeping is dangerous). Otherwise, sharing the bed with kids is a family's choice. Whatever works for them is what works for them, and not everything is for everybody.

How to handle bad behavior in children

child discipline - mother talking to son
Tetra Images/Getty Images

When you look around at kids who are allowed to behave badly, are overindulged, have affluenza, or are spoiled, it’s clear just how important it is to discipline children. But while it's usually agreed that children need discipline, just how that discipline is handled is a matter of constant debate.

The one thing that is often the subject of particularly heated debate is whether or not parents should spank or use other forms of corporal punishment. While this is something that some parents still believe is a method that works (and some schools even practice it here in the U.S.), extensive research has shown that there are lots of downsides to corporal punishment and little benefit, including increased aggression, decreased empathy, and damage to the parent-child bond.

Even non-physical aggression, such as yelling, has been shown to have a negative effect on kids. Some research has shown that yelling may be as harmful as corporal punishment. Doctors say that yelling teaches kids that aggression is okay and that you are not in control of your emotions. Most of all, it loses its effectiveness over time.

Bottom line: When it comes to what child discipline approach is best, it's time to really take a look at what the research is saying. Even if you argue that you are fine even though you were spanked as a child, that doesn't mean the risks and minimal rewards of hitting and yelling at a child should be brushed aside. After all, what does it take to build good communication habits with your child every day and teach your child that you and she should both treat each other with respect and love?

When and how much to let kids have access to technology

children on sofa with cell phones and tabliets
Jamie Grill/JGI/Getty Images

Kids are using cell phones, tablets, computers, and other tech devices at an unprecedented rate, and are doing so at younger and younger ages. They're texting on cell phones, connecting on social media, and accessing media content.

For parents, that means trying to constantly navigate what to let kids access and when. Some parents may want to allow their children to have cell phones in early grade-school, around age 6 or 7; other parents may want kids to hold off on smartphones till they’re older, around ages 9 or 10. Some parents may allow their kids to see “R” rated movies when they're 7 or 8 while others may wait until much later, around age 15 or 16.

Bottom line: When kids access what is often a safety issue (Read "15 Cell Phone and Internet Safety Tips Every Parent Must Know"). Parents should always know who their kids are talking to, both online and off. Minimize your child's access to media (make sure cell phones and TVs and other screens are kept out of your child's bedroom), and look for signs that your child is anxious or may be in danger online. Whether a parent thinks her child should have a smartphone at age 7 or sees a relatively-tame "R" rated movie at age 9 isn't worth getting into an argument over--they key is to remember how to keep kids safe and healthy, no matter what a parents' individual decision is about a piece of content or media device.

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