Non-parents Shouldn't Try to "Educate" Parents

We interrupt this pop culture parenting update to bring you this public service announcement...

So you've never raised kids of your own and never even been or gotten someone pregnant, but you've got a lot of time on your hands? How about you fill that gap with coming up with creative ways to unleash parent anger -- like by trying to educate parents (you know, real parents, not wannabe parents or dog parents) on how to raise their kids?

Actually, DON'T. As annoying as it is when someone with actual experience gives unsolicited advice and/or suggests their way of doing something personal and subjective (such as.... whether to formula feed or breastfeed, maybe?), there is nothing worse than someone with no practical hands-on experience trying to "educate" parents with things they learned by reading some parenting book.

Oh... How cute! You know how to read! Chances are, so do the people you are trying to "educate." It is quite arrogant to assume that just because someone reaches a different conclusion from you - whether out of a conscious and calculated effort or out of necessity - that their decision was ill-formed or made based on no research. Most efforts to "educate" parents, particularly those who come from non-parents, are just offensive.

I realize that everyone makes this mistake at some point. I'm sure before I was a mom, I made some ignorant suggestion to a friend or family member based on something I've read or heard. And I'll be the first to admit that sometimes, some person's well-researched tip comes in handy. This blog post is not aimed at those sort of blips. This advisory is for those repeat offenders -- those smart cookies who think that just because they know how to read several books and process information, they know what is best in most, if not all, situations, and for all people.

Reading parenting books and medical articles alone does not make one qualified to educate parents with their medical "knowledge" or "well-researched" parenting advice any more than reading the Constitution makes me a Founding Father. People make these mistakes in all walks of life. There is nothing funnier and more aggravating to us lawyers than when some yahoo spends time "researching" on and then walks into a courtroom, thinking he now knows how to actually be a lawyer. Ever heard "the man who represents himself has a fool for a client"? There's a reason for that statement. It's true.

The steep learning curve attached to being a lawyer is nothing compared to that of being a parent. There is more on-the-job training for parenting than one could ever imagine -- I know I certainly didn't. Most parents find that sometimes even their past experiences can't prepare them for their next. It's all trial and error, and most of us are doing the best we can.

People should read parenting books and parenting blogs... for useful tips and to figure out the type of parent they want to be. But no source(s) should ever be taken as gospel. And under NO circumstances should research uncoupled with field experience ever be deemed as proper credentials entitling you to educate parents.

Posted from my iPhone, so please forgive any ducking typos.
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  1. Zhay said...

    Or even better, how about advice from a non-parent based on their experiences with other people's kids. And other people's formula-fed, scheduled kids when you're a breastfeeding, semi-attachment parent. Irritation is an understatement.

  2. Blogger said...

    Agreed! Nothing like the "well, so-and-so does it this way" advice or the Babywise parent counseling the AP mom to make her baby CIO. We all do what works for us, and I think MOST of us (the actual parents, that is) get that. But there are always a few who just think they've "discovered" some "right" way that's going to make their kids happier, more well-adjusted, and more productive members of society. LOL.

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