It Takes a Village

Criticizing strangers or receiving criticism from strangers about parenting in public may make some squirm; but it seems that may just be conditioning from North American culture.

Recently I came across this answer to the question “Why is the open criticism of parenting techniques such a no-no in North America?” on Quora; and it really triggered some thought.

If I think about a nosey stranger criticizing how I speak to my kids, or parent them in general, I can image that I would be very defensive and probably offended. I’d end up frustrated or annoyed. As the author of the answer points out, this isn’t actually the norm everywhere.

She makes a good point about how we (North Americans) “worship” individual freedom, possibly to the detriment of the whole social group. What I think is going on here, for me at least, is the individual freedom to do things how I want is so ingrained through our culture that the act of someone questioning my choices is seen as a personal offence—I am feeling judged, possibly mis-judged, by a stranger who doesn’t understand the context.

The stoic response would be to be indifferent to their judgement. Further to that, though, I think we should follow Marcus Aurelius’ advice regarding being proven wrong by others:

“If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought or action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one’s own self-deception and ignorance.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.21

What I take from this is; if a stranger calls me out on a behaviour they see that they don’t approve, I will try my best to observe their judgement as fact. They have judged me, period. I will try not to give rise to feelings of annoyance or frustration, but instead examine what they have said to determine if there is truth in it. If there is truth, then I have some thinking to do. If they are false, then the judgement is indifferent to me.

I know some of my readers here are from all over the world, I am very curious about your perspectives on this topic; please share in the comments below.

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