Do you need to be a Parent to express a view on Parenting?
A couple of weeks ago I penned a post bemoaning what I saw as overly indulgent parenting - it was always going to be a little controversial - let's face it - posts expressing opinions on parenting inevitably are!
I think it's probably fair to say that the commenters on the post were evenly split - two nods of agreement, a not quite sure and this:
"I am sorry, Lucy, but until you have a kid yourself you shouldn't criticise the way other people choose to bring up their children..."
Just for the record I do have two children, so I'll take it to mean that Jane (the commenter) didn't agree with my views - which of course is absolutely fine - I welcome debate. However her comment really got me thinking.
Do you really need to be a parent in order for your views on parenting to be valid?
Like most parents from time to time, I do get irritated by people who aren't parents themselves expressing their views on how to bring up children. I might perhaps argue that they don't know how hard it can be but - and here's the important point - does it really render their views invalid? Or just harder to swallow?
With a calm and clear head, I'd say of course you don't need to be a parent in order to express a view on parenting - the fact that someone is not a parent shouldn't automatically invalidate their argument. But when confronted by someone who doesn't have children giving me advice about my kids, sometimes my hackles rise ...
You see it's really very easy to hit back with the 'until you've kids of your own, you just don't know' argument - isn't it? It's the ultimate put-down. But is it really fair? And, most importantly, is there any truth in it?
For example, much is made of the fact that "Supernanny" (Jo Frost) doesn't have children of her own. Now, I don't personally hold with all of her methods and techniques. However, would I hold with them more if she did have children?
No, of course not. I disagree because I disagree. She could have 25 children and I still wouldn't agree (probably especially if she had 25 children!). There are plenty of parenting 'experts' who have children that I disagree with too and plenty who don't whose opinions are very similar to my own.
I don't believe having children gives you a special knowledge about what's right and wrong in bringing up a child any more than, say, using electricity gives you an insight into how best to generate power in an environmentally friendly way. It might give you stronger opinions but not necessarily more valid ones. After all, once you get past all the generally accepted mantras, it just comes down to a matter of personal choice and conviction and that's got to be a good thing, right?
But, perhaps us parents should think twice before we trot out the 'wait until you've got children of your own' line; as there are possibly more constructive ways in which we can add to the debate.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this too...