July 24, 2018
Do you feed your children sugary treats? Do you stop your child from grabbing other toddlers’ toys? Do you have a “family bed”? Do you breastfeed? Do you use a pacifier? Do you have the proper car seat? There are seemingly endless reasons why new parents can become the focus of negative attention from family and friends, according to findings of a poll conducted in 2017 by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan and published by Science Daily.
Six in 10 mothers of children ages 0-5 say they have been criticized about parenting, on everything from discipline to breast-feeding, based on a report based on the hospital’s National Poll on Children’s Health. The report used responses from a national sample of 475 mothers.
“Our findings tap into the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticized than supported,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark, associate research scientist, Department of Pediatrics at C.S. Mott.
“Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the ‘best’ way to raise a child,” she adds. “Unsolicited advice—especially from the people closest to her child—can be perceived as meaning she’s not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful.”
Unlike some celebrity parents who receive anonymous blasts on social media, most moms seem to feel that their greatest critics lie within their own families. The most frequent offenders? A mother’s own parents. Thirty-seven percent of poll respondents have felt second guessed by their mother or father.
That tally was followed by a spouse or their child’s other parent (36%) and in-laws (31%.) Mothers report far less criticism from friends, other mothers they encounter in public, social media commentators, their child’s doctor, and child care providers.
Discipline is the most frequent topic of criticism, reported by 70% of mothers who felt shamed. Other areas of concern are diet and nutrition (52%) , sleep (46%), breast- vs. bottle-feeding (39%), safety (20%), and child care (16%).
“Family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety,” Clark says, “and ‘what we used to do’ may no longer be the best advice.”
Although 42% of mothers say the criticism has made them feel unsure about their parenting choices, it has also pushed them to be proactive.
Many of the mothers in the Mott poll said that they have responded to “shamers” by consulting a health care provider for advice. In some cases, new information prompted mothers to make a change in their parenting but other times, research validated a parenting choice.
Mothers who responded to the poll were much less likely to report being criticized by their child’s healthcare provider than by family members.
“This indicates that most mothers view their child’s healthcare provider as a trusted source of accurate information and advice, not as a critic,” says Clark. “Child health providers can help by encouraging mothers to ask questions about any parenting uncertainties, and offer reassurance and practical advice that helps boost mothers’ confidence and reduce anxiety around choices.”
Sixty-two percent of moms in the Mott poll say they get a lot of unhelpful advice from other people, while 56%t believe moms get too much blame and not enough credit for their children’s behavior.
“It’s unfortunate when a mother feels criticized to the point where she limits the amount of time she and her child will spend with a family member or friend,” Clark says. “To guard against that situation, advice to mothers of young children should be given with empathy and encouragement.”
Research contact: email@example.com