Worried About Others Judging Your Parenting? Tips to Stop

Here's how to put your focus back on the highest priorities

How often does worry affect your parenting?

Your toddler throws a tantrum in public. Your child wants to wear an outfit that looks insane. Your grade-schooler refuses to do their homework. In those scenarios, how much do you worry what other people think?

In this episode, Carol and Anne share tips to help you let go of worry and prioritize what’s most important—your relationship with your child.

This week’s Parenting Practice

Consider your most recent parenting decisions. Which ones do you make to prevent people thinking or saying something negative? Consider your priority. Do you care what other think of your parenting, or your child’s welfare? Do those priorities prompt you to change any behavior?

Transcript of podcast episode

Carol: I said, “You know, that would’ve been a great opportunity to shake your head and go, ‘Thanks. That’s the look I was going for.'” We’re messier the next day. Welcome to The Child Whisperer Podcast. I’m your host, Carol Tuttle, author of the best-selling parenting book, The Child Whisperer. I’m with my co-host, Anne Tuttle Brown.

Anne: Today’s topic was started from a success story that we had shared on “The Child Whisperer” Facebook group. And the mom says, “Maybe one of the most beneficial parts of “The Child Whisperer” is to just let them be and make their own decisions. My Type 1 daughter left for school in a light blue Christmas shirt and baseball pants on backwards. I didn’t mind. It covered her body. And she was told that she had time to fix her pants, but she chose not to. If she’s okay, I’m okay.” Then she added, “PS: my mom would’ve never let me out of the house in an outfit like this. And I make sure my mom sees these crazy outfits, and that it’s okay.” When I shared this with you, you started to chuckle. You loved that last part that she’s showing her mom…

Carol: Oh my… It’s a little deep for the mom, like, “Oh, yeah, Mom?” So maybe that wasn’t such as big of a deal as you made it. I dissected this story, you know, and I thought, “Well, good for her,” you know, that the child is clothed. She made choices on her own. She gave her a chance to switch her pants. She chose not to. She might get some derogatory feedback from peers. And so the mom’s willing to let that play out to see if it happens. She’s not trying to prevent that because that’s an opportunity if it happens to then work with your child. What would be your motive to want them to change if their primary needs are met at a physical level? It’d be because you’d be worried about what other people think. And you’d be…

Anne: What are some of the scenarios that would come up in your mind?

Carol: Well, I think you’d be worried about maybe what other adults would think? That you’re a negligent parent, that, you know, “Look at your child. They aren’t even dressed…”

Anne: You don’t have a good sense of style.

Carol: “…or your child’s out of control. The child is…”

Anne: Or you’re totally overwhelmed, didn’t have time to help your kid get ready.

Carol: Yeah, you know, she could put a lot of stories on that. That you’re trying to prevent a certain judgment from other people that say, “You just don’t have it together as a parent or you just let your kid do whatever they want,” which a lot of people perceive as an error, and be half a parent. You know, a parent should have a say and control, and that’s showing that your child’s out of control. When she said it in her success story, that she’s more willing to let her child be her true self through…

Anne: And just let them be and make their own decisions.

Carol: Well, when it comes to clothing. Now, there’s a lot of area…

Anne: And she says, “When not harmful,” of course.

Carol: Yeah, when not harmful. That’s the addition. If it’s their health is concerned, their safety is concerned, you need to have a bigger say. That’s on that… Now, you’re thinking about the welfare of your child. Where what your child wears to school falls in the category of “I’ve got to be more concerned about what other people think than the welfare of my child.” And, so, it’s a good example to start looking at that in your life to say, “How many things am I correcting or enforcing because it’s more about me trying to prevent people having a negative or judgmental opinion of me, or our family, or my child?” or is it, “Am I making this on behalf of my child’s welfare?” That’s a really good distinction to know.

Anne: What’s the leading motivator?

Carol: “I’m correcting this because of my child’s benefit and welfare.” “Oh, I recognize now. I’m making them do this different because I’m worried about what other people think. And I’m trying to prevent that.” Those are the ones that…I appreciate this mother’s example of letting that go by the wayside. She wasn’t even… Some parents may say, “Well, I don’t want my children to be teased.” Like, “Well, let that happen and deal with it.” And then you can teach your child… That’s an opportunity. Let’s say the daughter goes to school and she gets some derogatory feedback. Some kid makes fun of her outfit or she gets teased, put on the spot that her pants are on backward, which could happen. So she comes home and she’s sad and she’s upset. Say, “Well, you get to now decide how much you care about what other people think.”

Anne: Good learning. Teaching them some…

Carol: Yeah. Whereas she now can help her child make a discerning decision to say, “Well, what matters to you? That you have the freedom to be creative in your clothes and you can wear what you want regardless what other people say?” Or, “Do you now need to change that to keep someone from saying something to you?” That’s a huge learning opportunity to say…to help nurture your child to say, “I want you to make decisions that are really favorable to what we value in life, what we consider moral, treating people…being civil, good human beings to really be discerning and distinguishing what your values are,” and to make decisions based on that rather than, “Well, you better not wear that again, so you don’t get teased.” You know, the fact that she… You could teach your child to have enough confidence to say, “Go ahead and wear it. And in fact, wear your shirt on backward next time. Can you show them?” We had a woman in our “Dressing Your Truth” Facebook group who I know I was part of encouraging her to change her hairstyle. What we teach in the “Dressing Your Truth” world for a Type 1 hairstyle is to match the words of messy, buoyant.

Anne: Random. Random.

Carol: Random.

Anne: Upward.

Carol: Upward.

Anne: Animated.

Carol: She chose her hairstyle, had a big hair makeover, went to work the next day. And one of her male work colleagues said something derogatory to her. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it was rude. It was sarcastic.

Anne: “You didn’t get your hair done today. It’s too messy.” kind of something?

Carol: Yeah. Or, “Oh, you know, did you forget to comb your hair today?” Yeah, it wasn’t nice. And all the Type 3s and Type 4s in the group were all like, “Where is this guy?”

Anne: “Let me at him.”

Carol: I said, “Tell him you’re bringing Carol Tuttle to work tomorrow. And tell that guy, ‘What for?'” I said, “You know, that would’ve been a great opportunity to shake your head and go, ‘Thanks. That’s the look I was going for.'” And wear it messier the next day because those are those scenarios where we start to correct ourselves based on…

Anne: You have to know that those comments though…I mean, that’s coming from something that like in his life and his background, you know?

Carol: Well, you know, you need to sarcastic…

Anne: It’s like…you just got, like, throw it back, like, not let it get to you. Move on. Yeah.

Carol: But how many times have we been…The whole, whole reason our parents… I come from an era where my mother was more concerned about what everybody else thought than being wise in that and saying, “What’s important for my child, for our family? And we’ve got to put aside what other people think and do what’s correct based on our morals and values and where we stand in life. And that we make our choices based on that.” Not, “I gotta keep that person from saying something rude to me.”

Anne: Mm-hmm. Which is probably a totally made-up anyway. Like, in grandma’s scenario, I’m thinking she’s worried about things that are just not even my kids.

Carol: Oh, yeah, shoot. She’s still my mother. It’s kind of disheartening to me that at 86, she’s aged. She’s had heart failures. You know, pacemaker keeps her alive. And to this day, she will not go places…she can’t go a lot of places, but she could do a little more than she does. But she won’t do it because she’s worried that people will think she looks old. She’ll voice that still. I grew up with a mother that was very verbal about her worries of what other people thought. And that’s been a big, huge opportunity for me to see that my own parenting practice for you now, with the next generation to say, “How can we keep eliminating this as part of our culture, so that we make choices that honor ourselves, honor other people.” And we respect the fact that people are different.

Anne: This is something as a parent that I’ve continued to develop. Even this morning, definitely my daughter dresses herself. She’s almost 7 now. I’d say for the last three years, she’s been in charge of what she wants to wear.

Carol: Yeah, you learned real fast. It’s not worth the conflict it can create.

Anne: Well, and also, it’s a safe area for her to develop her own authority and her confidence.

Carol: Be expressive. You know, she has a right to express herself.

Anne: And this morning, she had on a Hawaiian floral dress over a blue shirt with red floral pants, like “boom” explosion of pattern. And I was like, “Well, it doesn’t match.” It’s obvious to see, but I just told her she looked great. And she likes to do her own hair now. Now, if it was up to me, I would want her hair bouncy curly every day because she has the most amazing curls. But she likes it in a ponytail and to brush it out. And, you know, and that’s great. And I go to her school, and I can see the other little girls who are picking their own outfits out and doing their own hair.

Carol: Oh, good. There’s others then in her…?

Anne: Yes.

Carol: So that’s nice.

Anne: It’s her little Type 3 friend.

Carol: So you’re not alone. Not everybody’s an Instagram family.

Anne: And then…

Carol: Because you’re up against that.

Anne: Yeah.

Carol: More than ever. You’re seeing…

Anne: And she’s so… Oh, my goodness.

Carol: …well-groomed, well put together children in family groups through Instagram.

Anne: And their mom’s buying the…

Carol: And it’s their mothers that are doing that.

Anne: …the latest trends and dressing them.

Carol: I don’t know. Maybe the kids love it, but it’s the mothers that are stylizing their children. And, so, you’ve got this kind of extreme you’re now dealing with to say…

Anne: And I’m not just, like, letting her lose. I will have times where I say, “Do you want me to help you put some outfits together or give you some advice?” It’s not in the moment where like, “Why don’t you go change your pants?” Unless it’s like you’re going to be cold. You need to choose something different and…

Carol: Now, you’re thinking about her though.

Anne: Yes. Yeah, I’m not thinking, “Oh, my gosh, what an embarrassment.” But I’m also coaching her and, you know, teaching her like these are fun things to put together. And I do a lot of the shopping for her, for her clothes. She’s involved in that.

Carol: She dresses her truth, so it’s not too challenging to mismatch color.

Anne: That’s true.

Carol: I mean, she’s got a wardrobe…

Anne: She can mix and match a lot.

Carol: …that works.

Anne: We were at the store the other day, and she did want to buy a black shirt. Type 3s don’t wear black, so I did put my foot down there.

Carol: Oh, you did?

Anne: But I say that’s for her well-being. Her school colors are red and black, and she really wanted a black shirt. We compromised and got a red and black plaid shirt which really worked well for a Type 3 for that scenario.

Carol: Oh, okay, okay. It’s not an all-black shirt.

Anne: And my little 2-year-old is now getting himself dressed. He’s been wearing Mickey shorts and a Mickey shirt.

Carol: And he was… Sunday, it’s like 20 degrees outside. And he’s running around in Mickey Mouse boxers and a Mickey T-shirt, but he wasn’t outside…

Anne: No.

Carol: …with his rain boots.

Anne: Yeah. And he’s been wearing that for three days straight, so…

Carol: He’s in a Mickey period right now, huh?

Anne: He is. Yeah. So and, you know, I think it’s fun to see what they put together. And I think it’s just so expressive of who they are. It’s a fun…

Carol: Well, my Type 1 grandson, he’ll change his outfits six times in a day. And that’s a little boy because he’s like on to the next little…and every shirt he has is a graphic theme shirt.

Anne: And cute.

Carol: And he’s so cute because he’s like…wants me to see every…when I visit anyway, he changes his clothes a lot because he wants me to see his next thing, his next outfit.

Anne: Now, I know some parents that does cause stress for them because it’s like, “Oh, there’s so many clothes everywhere.” So I would just create guidelines around that.

Carol: Well, he…yeah. He has a…

Anne: “If you’re going to change your outfit…” just make it a bin of clothes so they don’t have to fold and…

Carol: He just throws it back in.

Anne: Yeah.

Carol: Yeah. They’re very small clothes.

Anne: Make it easy for them. Yeah.

Carol: He’s not a very big child. But I just thought… It was interesting. I knew that little Type 1 girls did that. It was my first experience with a Type 1 little boy having fun changing his clothes frequently.

Anne: And here’s my Type 2. He just likes to wear the same thing for days in a row.

Carol: That’s his grandfather. My husband, he prides himself on taking one pair of pants for a 10-day trip. He buys the shirts that apparently don’t require…

Anne: I’m sure they’re the most comfortable pants.

Carol: Yeah. And he buys the travel shirts that supposedly don’t ever have any odor. The fabric is special. He won’t change. He wears the same thing.

Anne: Is it working?

Carol: Yeah.

Anne: Do you travel with him?

Carol: Yeah.

Anne: Oh, that’s impressive.

Carol: I’m with him a lot. Most of the trips, I am. And I joke. I say, “Well, I’m bringing 10 pair of pants. One for each day.”

Anne: Make up the difference.

Carol: I have a lot of clothes. I have to put them to use.

Anne: That’s right.

Carol: That’s my Type 3.

Anne: Awesome.

Carol: So parenting practice this week is to look at your decisions. Which ones are to prevent a negative of what people might say? You’re trying to prevent what other people think, or you’re making that behalf of your child because of their welfare, their benefit.

Anne: Am I worried about what others are going to think about me as a parent, or am I concerned for my child’s safety, health, and/or well-being when I’m making this decision?

Carol: Thanks for listening. For more support, go to thechildwhisperer.com where you can purchase the book, subscribe to our weekly parenting practice email, and find a transcription and audio of the “Child Whisperer” podcast.

Anne: If you’re listening on iTunes, thank you for leaving your review. If you have a parenting question, please send it to [email protected].

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