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To The Strangers Who Criticize My Parenting

I wish I had thicker skin. I do. But when complete strangers criticize my parenting, I'm left rattled. Here is my plan for the next time I'm criticized by a perfect stranger


It doesn’t happen often. Thankfully, in fact, it is quite rare. Nonetheless, every now and then, I’ll be out with my toddlers bouncing, distracting, warning, counting to three, and trying to appear sane. My number one goal is getting from point A to point B with the least amount of failing, zig-zagging, and whining as possible when a stranger pops out nowhere to criticize my parenting.

My most recent encounter with a disapproving outsider was certainly more of a passive-aggressive demonstration of disapproval than anything else. Though, I’ve also experienced the anything else. We were in the children’s section of a bookstore. A frequent hot-spot for toddlers on rainy days, it is a place we love. I’m a huge fan of children’s books. Plus, the store has demo toys available for kids to try out. As usual, my kids were having a good time. My daughter was lining up a set of mini cars. My two-year-old son decided to put on a Star Wars mask. Now, I will be the first to admit his boyish nature can seem borderline deranged at times.


Despite his Godzilla-like behaviour, I encouraged his imaginative play.

It’s pretty awesome when he can get in character (albeit a growly and monstrous one) at such a young age. I had just finished telling him he looked cool when a mom, who had overheard me encouraging his play, looked at her school-aged daughter and asked, “Are you okay? I can’t believe she’s letting him act like that!”


My blood started to boil as the mom locked eyes with me and very clearly proceeded to ask her daughter again if my son’s growling was bugging her.

I bit my tongue and breathed deeply as the woman’s daughter told her mom to stop and that she was, in fact, fine.


I wish I had thicker skin. I do. But when complete strangers criticize my parenting, I'm left rattled. Here is my plan for the next time I'm criticized by a perfect stranger


As my heart rate decelerated and the moment passed by, the experience got me to thinking of run-ins with other parenting haters in the past.

There are a handful or so that come to mind. Like, the time a friend of a friend asked if my four-month-old was sleeping through the night, laughed, and then proceeded to ask me what I was doing wrong. Or the time I was scolded in the grocery store because my nine-month-old had taken off her socks for the umpteenth time. And that particular time, I had decided not to put them back on.

Oh, and there was the time a store clerk very sternly lectured my daughter for using the turnstile to get into a chain store one too many times. He then told me I would have to pay the bill for its repair if she broke it. Ummm really? Or the time a woman yelled at me saying I was raising animal abusers because I let my kids chase seagulls away from their food. It’s real shame birds can’t just fly away from a kid isn’t it? But I digress…


Sure, each of these encounters present in different ways. Nevertheless, when my day is interrupted by the disapproval of a complete stranger, I feel upset, flustered, and wanting to defend myself.

I want to give context to whatever was taken into question. I want to tell say to these parenting critics that the only appropriate form of interaction with a parent, and complete stranger I might add, is support, empathy, encouragement, or, all of the above. But I have a seeking suspicion the people who criticise strangers feel like they‘re on the right side of humanity. They feel they’ve imparted wisdom or discipline, or a life lesson on me. So even if I did find the proper retort, I have a feeling that I wouldn’t really be heard anyway.


So instead, I’ve decided to challenge myself.

The next time I have someone criticize my parenting, I’m going to take inventory of the random acts of kindness I’ve experienced. I’ll try and count how many people who have offered me a dry grocery cart on a rainy day; the number of times  people have let me in front of them in the grocery store line-up when they see me trying to lasso my two kids in line without losing my spot; or, of all the people who have held the door open for my double-wide stroller. I’ll remember the woman in the candy store. While my son was tantruming, she put her hand on my shoulder and told me she had been there too. Or, I’ll reflect on the day my daughter got lost in the dollar store. The cashier who found her bought my kids treats with her own money to help turn their day around. I’ll take a moment and think of everyone who is kind enough to compliment me or my kids as I’m clawing my way through the day, in dire need of sleep.

[bctt tweet=”The next time my parenting is criticized by a stranger, this is what I will do.”]
When I do take inventory of these acts of kindness, it becomes apparent that the critics represent such a small fraction of the people out there. I can’t even begin to recall all of the warmth bestowed on me and my kids, but I can count the hate.

Even if the haters rattle me momentarily, it’s pretty clear they’re an anomaly.

So the next time a perfect stranger meets me with anger, I’ll take the opportunity to be thankful. will take the moment of brief upset and take a moment to be grateful for the majority.


  1. It’s so tough receiving unsolicited comments on your parenting. I’ve been pretty lucky (well lucky or just obvious haha) to not have to deal with too many comments. I’ve gotten a few comments about my son sucking his thumb. I usually just smile and nod. I’m sure they feel like they are doing me a favor, and not trying to come off as rude (at least I hope they aren’t!). You’re doing a great job! Don’t let silly bystanders who don’t know you or your kids make you feel bad!

  2. I loved this post! I could actually feel my face turning red with anger as you described the stare down! Let that boy play already! Anyway, I respect your putting into perspective that the kind and beautiful outweigh the angry strangers by a landslide! Still, letting your child be creative and encouraging his imagination is good parenting so good for you! He’s blessed to have you!

  3. Good for you to take it in stride. I hate back seat driver parents. So annoying. It’s so easy to judge someone else. I love that you let your kiddos explore their imagination. It is so important, even if he is a loud scary monster. I swear people forget normal kids play and have fun and run around. These days most parents would rather they sit quiet staring at a tablet. Sorry end of rant…

  4. Glad you posted this. I think every parent can relate to it on some level. My first child has anxiety (and not the age typical kind) and I have had the looks & comments about her behavior in public many times (she’s manipulative, controlling, etc). I’ve come to realize the people who comment or who are looking on with disapproval simple can’t relate or choose not to because it’s easier for them. Of course they also choose not to think for a moment that there might be another issue underlying her behavior either. I’ve accepted this & don’t expect them to relate but it sure would be nice for people to show more kindness (even if they never learned how to emphathize). Definately focus on the acts of kindess!

  5. Great article! I love the time I was at Target and the cashier wanted to give my daughter a sticker and my little one wouldn’t say thank you so I gave it back to the cashier and said thanks anyways. The cashier was so upset. Sorry but I want to teach my daughter to be polite and thankful when someone gives her something.

  6. Great post! I always get SO embarrassed when my THREENAGER acts up in public and I feel like everyone is just staring at me, thinking of what a bad mother I am. However, I have never had an encounter with any people during a melt down…knock on wood!

  7. You handled it well. I try my hardest to be a non-judgmental parent. If the woman had a problem with you or your child, she should’ve just walked away. By commenting to her child aloud, she was also indirectly teaching HER to be judgmental, too! Such a shame.

  8. I can’t believe the audacity of people sometimes. Everyone thinks they are some how the better parent. I deal with someone more direct before, and was totally thrown off. However, in the past if anyone said anything passive aggressive I went right back at them. Not my circus…not my monkeys…just my kids lol

  9. I’ve been meaning to read this since you first posted it, but seriously what is wrong with people. I honestly can’t believe that people would step in and comment on how your parenting, especially when your kids are doing nothing but being kids. I have yet to come across this and its probably for the best as I would probably tell them where to go.

  10. This is beautiful, Alana! It’s been one of my biggest concerns since before becoming a parent dealing with unsolicited advice and/or criticism about my parenting. So far I’ve been fortunate to not have it happen (not because of my unbelievably amazing parenting skills – ha! — more luck than anything, I suppose) but when that inevitable moment does happen I hope to take it with as much grace as you do and remember to focus on all the random acts of kindness instead.

  11. I can’t stand unsolicited “advice” or rude comments. Parenting is hard enough, and we are harder on ourselves than anyone else could be . I think you have a great plan. Luckily, one good thing can outweigh ten bad ones.

  12. Sadly there will always be the critics, those who jump to conclusions before even knowing what is going on, etc it’s frustrating. I like your plan. I may need to try that too.

  13. Wow, I can’t believe people said that crazy stuff to you! Well, actually I can! People be crazy! Anyway, I really love that you intend to remember the angels and search for new angels in your life when the crazies come out to comment on your parenting. There are really so many good and supportive people in this world. I’m reminded of that every time we leave church exhausted from toddler interventions and someone behind us will say, “They were so good today.” Huh? Who are you talking about!? Of course I just say thank you and book it to the donut line! 🙂 Love ya!

  14. Ughhh judgy parents drive me insane!!!! Being a parent to a kid with a delay I get stares a lot because I encourage some things that other parents don’t understand. When my daughter gets excited about things she gets more vocal and most of the time since she’s excited it can be kind of loud. I’m just haopy she’s saying something so I get excited and talk back ect… In public places however I’ve had parents literally look at me like really?!?! You should be telling her to quiet down and here you are encouraging her to be loud. My hubby gets embarrassed by the looks but I’m good at ignoring… Wish people would mind there own business because we don’t know the reason why parents do the things they do & the things they allow a kid to do.

  15. Looking at the good deeds and support vs the criticism is a great outlook. It’s hard when you get unsolicited advice or criticism, however looking at the good in the world can definitely turn the day around. *Hugs* Keep up the great work Mama <3

  16. Oh we have all been there. I do not understand the people who feel it is okay to make harsh comments. I could never do that. I love your idea of holding onto the love and releasing the hate. It can be tough but it probably the best way to deal with it. My mom always told me to kill them with kindness so thats what I try, even if sometimes it is VERY sarcastic kindness. HUGS!!! You are doing great.

  17. I applaud you for standing your “parental” ground. It’s so easy for others to stick their nose into someone else business. I am just in awe of how ridiculous people can be when it comes to what they think they can say and do to other parents.

  18. I could feel my heart accelerate and I felt upset with you as I read this post. I remember similar encounters as well as my youngest is quite busy., It breaks your heart and makes you angry all at the same time. But I keep reminding myself that other peoples drama and judgement is not mine to manage and try and move. Life is hard enough – so the judgement of others is one of those things I try and let go off

  19. I so needed this today. I was harshly judged for a parenting decision I made and it made my blood boil. I think this is a good way to think of things and actually I wish I read this earlier.

  20. I think criticizing someone’s parenting is probably one of the deepest-cutting things someone can do to another person. It’s such a personal topic. Thanks for sharing your insight into it.

  21. Thanks for sharing. My blood boiled today and I’ve been reading about others’ experiences to vent. I’m on vacation with my family. I was alone with my 18 month old daughter in the rain trying to get in touch with the owner of our vacation rental to get the key. My daughter was splashing in puddles. I blame Peppa Pig, but she was in waterproof boots. I glance up then back down at the phone and glance up again and notice a woman standing there staring. I look at her. She says, “She has a cough and is not wearing a hat in the rain.” I said, “She has a hat but she won’t keep it on her head.” It’s true; it was in the stroller. She then mumbled something about me being responsible for her and walked away. I also got a pity smile from some ladies passing that overheard. I was in shock at the audacity of a woman to walk up and assume she knew exactly what was going on and everything about my parenting in the few seconds she was standing there. I was left to assume she was childless or had children that hated her because she’s so mean. I wish I had had the clarity of mind to tell her where to shove, but that’s not the case. Maybe she was just having a very bad day and needed to take it out on some stranger. At the very least I’ll try to use it as a reminder not to judge because we rarely know the whole story or maybe offer help and support to a mother that looks like she’s juggling.

  22. I am glad you found a way to focus on the positive people rather than the negativity. Sometimes people believe they are being helpful when really they should keep their criticisms to themselves.

    1. Thank you Shelah and I agree. Many people do figure their unsolicited advice is in the best interest of the recipient. Thanks so much for reading.

  23. Well said! I have a hard time not flipping out on mommy judges, but I know it’s not great for my son to see him mom flip out at strangers haha. I had the sock one recently: he took his socks off for the millionth time, so I just stuck them in my pocket. This woman came up and started rubbing his feet and telling me he needs socks and shoes, “his feet are so cold!” Meanwhile while she was judging me, she was sending my son into a panic! He’s in the stranger danger phase and his face said “What is this woman I don’t know doing to my feet?!”
    UGH, makes me so frustrated! I like your method of dealing with it though, I’ll have to try that next time.

  24. Thank i needed to read this today.

    I have 5 yo twins. I do it alone – no family support – not even extended. They’re excited about learning how to cross the road.

    Today, I told the kids we’d go out for lunch. When we got to the plaza the shop was shut so we walked to another to buy similar food. My hands were full with the bags. I had one kid fairly close – the other took off. Of course I was telling him to slow down, to wait before crossing.

    He stopped at the road, he did look both ways, a car came round the roundabout and tooted him – he was already on the footpath, the next driver yelled abuse at me for not controlling my kids – yeah, I bet his parents would say he was a perfectly behaved angel since he’s such a critical, judgemental man.

    Trust me – if your kid does wrong there’s no one more annoyed than the parent, no more more concerned than the parent.

    I run on 1 hour sleep as I work all night to pay the bills while my kids sleep. I suffer severe depression and anxiety. Yet today I had gotten up and taken my kids out.

    Stop judging parents of young kids. We’re doing our best. If you’re not prepared to come and help me, sit with my kids do I can eat a meal from start to finish, watch my kids so I can pee in private, teach my kids all the things they need to know like talking, reading, writing, maths, crossing the road, stranger danger, how to eat properly, how to treat others, how to go to the toilet…and the list goes on – if you’re not willing to help me do all that – then keep your opinions to yourself.

    No parent needs to criticised. Say something nice or shut up.

  25. I’m so happy I found this blog! I have two boys, ages 5 &4. I’ve had a few people, mostly strangers make judgmental comments to me. It happens more when I’m trying to discipline my kids when they are doing something I don’t think they should be doing. I suffer from anxiety and depression. Comments regarding my parenting make me feel like I’m doing everything wrong. I try to let it go, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

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