Stop Parenting According to Popular Opinion

Why popular opinion, social media, and online advice can derail parents
Stop Parenting According to Popular Opinion

It’s election season, and the news is filled with pollsters and predictions of what the nation thinks. However, a different form of polling happens every day throughout America. Moms poll their friends and social media community on everything from how long to breastfeed to whether they discipline their children too harshly.

Motherhood has always been filled with guilt. There are endless ways to feel as if you don’t measure up, fueling the fears that you are irrevocably messing up your child. No one gives you a formal parenting evaluation, but almost daily you are confronted with evidence that someone else seems to be handling motherhood better than you are. Your neighbor only feeds her children homegrown vegetables. Your friend’s child has mastered the violin by age six. Your mother-in-law gives you that stoic look that says more about her disapproval than she could have written in a novel.

There’s no manual for motherhood, so we muddle through, hoping our best effort will be enough. How do you know what to do when your toddler throws a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store or refuses to eat anything other than mac and cheese? Is homeschooling really better for your child than traditional schooling? As the middle school and teen years approach, the stakes seem higher. Should you let her go to prom with that guy? How do you know if your son is looking at porn? The questions are endless, and so are the opinions.

In the wake of insecurity and uncertainty, the online world provides instant advice and feedback. You can create your own straw poll on Facebook on any parenting issue you face. If you’re brave enough to voice your questions and failures, an army of women is available to tell you how to do it better next time.

How Reliable Is Public Opinion?

One of the most entertaining and depressing trends in our country is the ambiguity of public opinion. Fickle American citizens flip flop on issues and candidates for no apparent reason.

That same ambiguity exists if you parent by public opinion. Most people form their parenting opinions on their own experiences and the pressure of what’s trending in the moment. What makes us think that likes on Facebook and comments on a mom blog will help us make wise decisions? Here’s a shocking truth: The majority is usually wrong! Jesus taught that the road to destruction is wide, while the road that leads to life is narrow and few find it (Matthew 7:13–14). His words not only apply to salvation, but also to living wisely.

Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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May 25

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