3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.


Sometimes talking about parenting philosophies with others can feel like you are navigating your way through a minefield. Almost all parents believe they are doing what is best for their children, and it is only natural that they would take offense if they sense their parenting style is being criticized.

How do you keep interactions respectful when you know you are talking to someone whose parenting philosophy is at the other end of the spectrum from yours? Here are 3 guidelines that I always keep in the back of my mind in these situations:

1. Every interaction is a learning opportunity.
Just because you learn something from another person does NOT mean you agree with them. It just means that you have opened your mind enough to take in some new information. Don’t discount the things that you can learn from a person you don’t agree with. It could be something as simple as: “So that’s the name of the book where that theory originated…” or “This is a good example of why it is important to use XYZ approach when trying to articulate your thoughts…” or “Although I don’t agree with her choice, now I understand that her heart is in the right place”. If you feel like you haven’t learned something new in the conversation, then ask the right (respectful) questions until you do.

2. Model the behavior that you would want your child to see and utilize.
Ask yourself, based on how I am raising my child, how would I want her to handle this situation? My guess is that your answer will typically be something that feels calmer, more aware, and more respectful than what you might like to unleash at the moment. Every situation is a teaching opportunity for children, whether we want it to be or not. We never know when they are honing in on our words and actions, and even if they are not present for the discussion, it doesn’t mean that they won’t pick up on your vibes, your mood, or even your retelling of the story later.

toddler making muffins

What would your little one think if he could see you in this moment?

3. Pick one small detail about your parenting philosophy that you would like to convey, and don’t sweat the rest of it.
I don’t know about you, but my parenting philosophy certainly did not come to me as a complete package overnight. Every day and every minute more of mama experience helps me refine my thoughts on parenting, so how can we expect to make someone else understand all of our thoughts, experiences, and ideas in one single conversation? It’s impossible, and it’s an unnecessary burden to think that you are capable of doing it. It’s also unfair to any other person to quickly understand something that you have put tons of time and thought into. This is why I never try to sell other people on my way of doing things, but if I am having an open conversation about parenting with someone, I’ll pick one thing to share about my philosophy. I also choose to present that one thing from the perspective of when I first learned about it rather than from my current perspective, which might feel to me like I have believed that certain thing forever. I’ve found that if I demonstrate my road to realizing something, it takes the other person off of the defensive and it tends to come off in a more relaxed way.

To me, parenting is a journey. We can never really be experts at it, and the only way to truly become better at it is to stay open to new possibilities. Although we can’t help but feel emotional responses to things, we can still put in the effort to choose how we want to handle situations.

How do you handle situations where you disagree with someone about their parenting philosophy?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it’s from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural – Just Don’t Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother’s groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the “Mommy-space” online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles… — Jenny at I’m a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents’ worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting – Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she’s learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.

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  1. Julie says

    Great subject to talk about and learn more about, Charise! I do handle situations where I disagree with someone about parenting in a wrong way, I am too pushy, I am telling the person how it should be done correctly (my way :)), but I always regret it. I should definitely be better at this. :)
    Julie recently posted..dentistry cosmeticMy Profile

  2. says

    Charise these are brilliant tips! I love them all. Number 1 is great advice – I do try to find common ground with other parents but actively finding something that I can learn from them is a wonderful way to have a conversation. I think number 2 definitely applies to how I communicate with my partner more than any one else. It’s all too easy to say things without remembering that we are the model and the children are picking up on it all. Number 3 is inspired -‘I also choose to present that one thing from the perspective of when I first learned about it rather than from my current perspective, which might feel to me like I have believed that certain thing forever. I’ve found that if I demonstrate my road to realizing something, it takes the other person off of the defensive and it tends to come off in a more relaxed way.’ I sometimes have a challenge with this as many of my parenting philosophy’s stem from how I’ve lived my life for many years so it’s not really like anything I just discovered. However there is always a way to explain my views in a context of ‘this is just my opinion and I recognize that there are many other options’ and keep it playful. I also humble my strong opinions by recognizing that another person has strengths in areas where I am weak in and I always have something to learn. I’ll be rereading this over again and again!
    Terri recently posted..Doing it my way but respecting your highway.My Profile

  3. says

    All excellent points – especially about watching tone and rhetoric with little ones about (or even without). It’s so important to set good examples, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult topics, like disagreeing. You’re totally right – parenting is a journey; our philosophies should always leave room for improvement, and we should always (try to) have an attitude of adaptability.
    Ana @Pandamoly recently posted..Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from AnaMy Profile

  4. says

    Charise, You are describing the way I WISH I could remember to act more often. SO thanks for the reminders! Especially number one about keeping a learning frame around difficult conversations.

  5. says

    Love this! I feel like you’ve gone into my mind and written about what you saw! That’s what I love about this community–it’s so nice to be surrounded by like-minded parents! I love these tips, so simple but yet so hard for many of us to remember, hopefully by living by example more and more people become inspired!
    Kat @ Loving {Almost} Every Moment recently posted..Saying "I’m Right and You’re Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause…My Profile

  6. says

    LOVE this post Charise! Agree with everything you are saying so much – especially modeling the behaviour – I would really love to have that motivation more at the forefront of my thoughts and actions. Really appreciate your word ands how obviously they came straight from a place of true passion and compassion – I can easily say you’ve been one of the mamas who’s made a huge difference in my life through your loving interactions. Thank you! 😀
    Kelly recently posted..The Thing You Don’t KnowMy Profile

  7. says

    I found this post very sympathetic to new parents who are learning their way in their new world. I especially liked the tip to explain your perspective from when you first learned it. The person you’re talking to will most likely relate that much easier, and also find it less intimidating. I know I pressure myself thinking “should I have known this all along?” and I like that this approach removes that implication.
    Thanks for sharing! :)
    Carrie recently posted..Kind MattersMy Profile

  8. says

    Charise,this post is a great resource for all parents, thank you!
    In my experience however, when our children become teens and other people’s parenting decisions have greater baring on our own children, then on occasion it can become pretty tough to know when and how to say something, despite dealing with the issue in a sensitive and emotionally intelligent manner- parents will seek out the criticism, however well cloaked, if it’s there.
    It’s hard not to challenge a parent friend when for example they condone the deplorable behaviour of their son toward your underage daughter- inter-parent relationships just get a lot trickier as our children get older and in my opinion the solutions are not as clearly definable.
    On a lighter note I would like to thank you very much for sharing this post on Natural Mothers Network and would be delighted if you to choose to link another of your fine posts from tomorrow onwards. http://naturalmothersnetwork.com/category/seasonal-celebration-sunday/ Have a great weekend!
    Rebecca x
    Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network recently posted..Clear Your Mind and Simplify Your LifeMy Profile


  1. […] 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey. […]

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