Parenting Choices: Give Your Thoughts or Not Your Business?

I’m curious about something. If you notice that your friend (or even an acquaintance) has their child in an unsafe situation, when do you speak up and say something? When does it become helpful/educational and when does it cross the line as being nosy and butting into someones parenting choices and life?

Example’s:

  • A friend has their kids in the car seat’s but the straps aren’t on correctly, are too loose, or are in another way that is clearly not safe for the kid. 
  • A friend has a child riding a bike but without a helmet
  • A friend has a child in a boat but with no life jacket. 
I suppose those are things that are more serious and can literally save a life.

What about “less important” things? 
  • A friend gives her 1 year old soda in a bottle.
  • A friend allows her child to watch an (in your opinion, of course) violent and inappropriate movie. 
Those are just some random examples. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where you see a friend – even a stranger- make a parenting decision that you don’t agree with. Some matter more than others, obviously, and some choice are clearly their choices as parents and we have no place to butt in and provide our own personal thoughts on the matter. 
However, I’m not sure where we stand on providing our thoughts and opinions on more serious things like having a child in a car seat where the straps are super loose. Is there a way we can say, “hey, did you realize these straps are way too loose? I know this is a high-end nice car seat, but if you get in a car accident when the straps are like this, your child will not be safe!!”

I think, most of the things we do as parents we do because it’s our way of doing it.  You know? It works for us, it’s what we believe is the best thing to do, it’s how we were raised, it makes the most sense to us… whatever. I’m all for doing your own thing and making the best choices for you and YOUR family.

But when I see a kid in a car seat who is practically falling out of it, I literally cringe. (And of course, my kids aren’t always in their seats perfectly either. I don’t want to come across as a know-it-all or like I’m judging anyone. But straps that are really loose just seem like a DUH thing to me.)

Do we keep our mouths shut?
Depends on who it is?
Depends on how we say it?
When does it come across as educating someone or being nosy and telling someone how to parent?

I know I mentioned a lot about the car seat thing, but I want to know what you think about other things too. 

This is a “totally depends” topic, but for the majority of circumstances — what do you think?

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

15 thoughts on “Parenting Choices: Give Your Thoughts or Not Your Business?

  1. The person you are speaking to will take it as they will. Other factors fall into place here as well, like whether or not that person is just having a lousy day and lacks the patience to take constructive criticism.
    When I was a new mom I was told about having the handle up on your car seat being super dangerous. This after driving around with it up for almost a year. I wish someone had mentioned it sooner. My child was never hurt, but I think about what would have happened if he had been.
    Other times I simply can't take the criticism from other people, particularly those in the generation above that are not used to our generations gadgets. Sometimes they know and other they're just think they do, naturally that makes me reluctant.

    As for things that aren't immediately life threatening I don't feel other parents should “butt in” unless they can see a direct consequence that is obvious, but the parents are oblivious. EX: Parents complaining of a child having nightmares but letting he/she watch CSI before bedtime.

  2. Oooh, good question! I have a hard time biting my tongue about MOST things- car seats, FOOD (seriously, no 2 year old should be eating POP TARTS!), so I typically resort to sarcasm or say it in a joking sort of manner. I've also tightened another kids car seat straps if they're too loose. Sometimes, just doing it as if it were “natural”, it'll help!

  3. I'd also like to say that we don't always know what the other parent overall choices are. You mentioned the soda bottle. Though I hardily disagree with this as a long term thing, we get soda at our house no more than once a month. I have often given my child a small amount of root beer in a sippy. But if this is a long term thing (obviously this means you know the person well, as I would never do this to a stranger) I might mention an article I read about caramel coloring and let it become a discussion that will make that parent think about that choice without imposing my ideals.

  4. Really quickly, since I'm cooking dinner:

    On car seat safety I almost ALWAYS speak up. Even if it is a stranger. If I have observed someone doing something unsafe, then I speak up.

    Now, if I'm walking through wal-mart & see a baby in a bucket w/ loose straps I won't say anything, because I never know if they just loosened them in the store or if they actually drive like that.

    But, if I see a seat inproperly installed, used incorrectly, or not in use I either say something or call 911 & report it.

    (even going so far as to trail someone so that the cops had a better chance of catching them)

    I'm not pro-government as far as them being able to tell us how to raise our kids, but I think if anybody is allowed to HAVE a baby, then there should be a certain amount of gov't intervention in keeping those babies safe…car seat laws are ones I cannot STAND to see broken, because those babies can't do anything for themselves & their parents ignorance or defiance (either not knowing and making a mistake or being educated and choosing the less safe options) is not fair to the children who will be put at risk.

  5. I think the car seat thing I'd speak up, or anything really life threatening. But anything less important I'd probably not say anything. I'd text a friend and say “You would NOT believe what I just saw!!” But I wouldn't say anything directly, lol!

    I have an older relative that drove me nuts with “oh, you're still breastfeeding?” (a SIX MONTH old, thank you.) “Boy, you sure do carry him a lot, do you ever put him down?” etc. and I would hate to be that person to someone else…

    And I have to say, my then 2yr old had pop tarts, I am guilty of that, lol! So it just goes to show that with things like that each person has their own ideas of right and wrong.

  6. Just read the other comments–to me unless its a dangerous food to be feeding a child, I would NEVER say something about what a kid was eating/drinking.

    Sure, Pop Tarts & soda might seem wrong to you, BUT, you might not know that that kid has low blood sugar or eats so few calories in a day that ANY fat that can be added to his diet is good for him. So, on things where it could be misinterpreted I keep my mouth shut.

    My son has severe food issues and I have definitely included half a Pop-Tart as part of his breakfast on a regular basis…but its FOOD and he would otherwise not eat, so yea, I'd rather he have the processed JUNK in PTs than nothing at all…. you know? And if you just happen to see the Pop Tart on his plate in a FB picture or in his hand walking through Wal-Mart, you won't know our story.

    As far as the boat/lifeguard did you really mean life guard or did you mean life jacket? I don't know that I've ever been boating & known there to be lifeguards present. Life jackets on a boat IMO are a must & I would not let my children participate or participate with others if anybody failed to wear a life jacket (even adults). My child does not go NEAR water without a life jacket on, bc I am TERRIBLY afraid of drowning.

    Age appropriate television I only monitor in my house on my t.v. If we are at someone else's house & my kid would be watching too, I'll either say something or leave. But if it is my house, I control the remote.

    Anyway, this is SUCH a touchy subject & each situation is going to be different.

  7. Some people have a touch of OCD and it really shows in these types of conversations. Trailing someone until the police come b/c of a loose seatbelt? Wow!

    I usually don't butt in but I also don't see much b/c I mind my own business. I don't even notice how people put their children in the car b/c I don't look in other folks cars.

    I just think that unless the child is in immediate danger (like about to hit by a car or something) I just keep my mouth shut.

    As far as on a boat and no life jacket, I would still keep shut. People know about life jackets and they know the danger in not wearing one so if they still choose not to wear one, well that's on them me saying something isn't going to change their minds.

    That's like going up to someone who smokes and telling them the dangers of smoking. They know the dangers, they just choose to ignore them.

    Same with obese people. I'm not going to tell someone “Hey you! Don't give your child that burger from McD.” They know they're obese but, still choose to eat there.

    Okay sorry to rant but, I just think people need to mind their business. Where are all these nosey folks when children get abused, kidnapped and such? No one sees anything then…probably too busy looking at a 2 yr old eating a poptart…sadly.

  8. tough call, but I might say something like, “omg, so you have your seat straps loose too? i used to do that and a police officer checked our car seats and told us they HAD to be tighter.” perhaps you could make something up like that. or maybe you have an actual story you could tell. just a way to tell the the SAFE way to do it without sounding pushy.

    But like the others, i probably wouldn't say much about soda, or food. especially if it was someone I didn't know.

    now the life jacket… then YES! I might say something!

  9. please be nice everyone. 🙂

    I meant life JACKET. ha! I will fix that, thank you!

    I don't say anything about food either, or stuff like that. Not my business.

    I don't notice car seats usually in other people's car's. This seat was in my friends.. she stopped by my house for a minute and I went to the car and saw her kids in the seats. I didn't say anything..

    The pop tart thing– mmm, I don't want Lucas eating those, and I don't have them in my house. However, if he DID eat a little bit, I wouldn't freak out. It's not going to kill him.

    Great thoughts everyone!

  10. I think that it is our job to advocate for children. They can't speak for themselves so we need to be their voice. If I see something that is unsafe or could harm a child I definitely say something. You don't have to be rude or jump all over people. Just put a smile on your face and say it politely. When it comes to “less serious” issues like food choices I don't think its as necessary.

  11. I would never tell another mother how to do something with their child. It's never going to be taken the right way and I don't feel like anyone is a perfect mom that should tell others what to do. If you think something is abusive or neglectful then yes we have a duty to report that.

  12. I wouldn't say anything about most things unless it was dangerous. I have a hard time directly confronting people in general. BUT I did have a friend post a picture of her then 6 month old in his new FORWARD facing car seat. I wrote a blog post about laws and extended rear facing (http://thegnomesmom.com/?p=316) and then tagged her and a few other new mothers in the post on Facebook. Every other mom responded positively about the article and she didn't comment at all. I'm sad for him but she's an old friend of my husband and I can't really push it any further than that.

  13. I would for sure say something about the life jacket. That scares me to death. Ofcourse, I can't swim, so I worry about drowning. Like another person said, my kids don't go near the water (deep water) without one.
    But, I would say something like, “OMgoodness, that would scare me to death if my kids didn't have a life jacket on.” I wouldn't tell them to do it, or make them feel bad about it. Maybe they are expert swimmers and feel confident that they can handle the situation.
    About a bike helmet. I wouldn't say anything. We always rode bikes as kids with no kind of protection. I don't think that would be an immediate danger.
    About food, I wouldn't say anything. I used to get mad because people would tell me what to feed my kids. For example, someone tried to give my 3 month old baby icecream and I said no.. The person got mad at ME… So I guess people have different opinions about food. (they thought it was perfectly normal to feed an infant all kinds of things (even french fries, OMG).

    Also, about the carseat… Not sure. I may make a joke about it, “Dang, he/she is gonna slide outta there if you don't tighten the straps… hahaha.” But I wouldn't tell them outright to fix it. Another thing… not everyone is the same with the whole rear facing debate… My youngest was younger than 1 when we turned him around… But he met the weight/height requirements. And, he was/is fine.

    I think every parent is different. Most of us do what we think is best for our kids… Just because it is not the same as someone else doesn't make it wrong.

  14. If a child's safety is involved, I ALWAYS speak up. If its just a matter of different parenting, I weight the situation. How well do I know this person? Instead of telling them what THEY should be doing, according to me, I tell them what *I* do just to give them something to think about. I'm not going to make another parent feel bad about their decision to formula feed, cry-it-out, circumcise, spank, or fully vaccinate their children, BUT I am going to share with them why *I* don't think those are good choices for my family. I'm all about educating differences 🙂

  15. Ugh….this is a hard one. I really struggle with the carseat thing, because I want to run up to everyone and yell at them because they are so stupid as to have their child in an unsafe situation. But that's probably not the best option. 🙂

    I've found that I can't worry about parenting other kids. I have my own and I can't stress too much about everyone else. I have to concentrate on mine.

    That being said, I DO make it a point to be very proactive about points that I think are important-like carseats. We have both of our kids, a 2 1/2 year old and an 11 month old, in rear facing seats. They will remain that way until they are too big to fit into a RF seat. I am very vocal about carseat safety, and I talk about it a lot. A lot of people ask me why they are still RF, and I use that opportunity to talk about it.

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