January 15, 2020
For the first six months of my daughter’s life, I was on edge, perpetually convinced someone was going to tell me I was a bad father. Even at the pub, I was ready for someone to walk up and tut at how dreadful I was. I expected criticism at every turn, convinced everyone was judging my parenting ability.
A Stranger Confronted Me Over My Parenting. Here’s How I Should Have Responded
It never happened, of course – most people are far too busy to stick their noses into other people’s business, plus my daughter is so adorable that she makes me look good. So I relaxed.
But then, it happened – at Winter Wonderland in London. I took her to the toilet with me, and as we left a man told me how appalling it was. “She shouldn’t be in there. It’s not appropriate,” he said. “But that’s the room the toilets are in,” I replied.
“It’s the men’s toilets,” he hit back, aggressively.Related... Is It Ever Acceptable To Discipline Other People's Children? My daughter had accompanied me to the men’s toilets for two reasons: firstly, to use the toilet; and secondly, because she is two – I was hardly going to wander off and leave her on her own. So I said that. “She’s two, man. What should I have done?” 
“Just don’t take her in there again,” he said. 
At that point, I became extraordinarily angry. It had finally happened: someone had judged my parenting and I didn’t know how to respond. Ending the conversation made me feel like I was agreeing with him, so we went back and forth. I’d been in a good mood that day – and tried to calmly get my point across – but he swore (in front of my toddler) and stormed off.
I was livid for the rest of the day. I rode the ferris wheel with clenched fists, and kept replaying the conversation in my head as I danced to an incredible one-man band with a keytar. Even now, more than two weeks later, thinking about it makes me incandescent with rage. 
So what should I have done, or said? Was it normal to be so angry by the situation? “Strangers commenting on your parenting style can be very intrusive as well as upsetting,” acknowledges Siobhan Freegard, mum, parenting expert, and founder of ChannelMum.com.Remember, you’re the parent, you set the rules.Siobhan Freegard“By the time you’ve registered ‘did they actually say that?’, the person has gone, and you’re left feeling shocked. Being a parent is tough at the best of times, and when you’re doing your level best to protect and care for your child, of course it’s going to hurt when a stranger still finds reason to criticise you.”
She hits the nail on the head – and I’m not the only one who has suffered, far from it. Research by the parenting site shows 72% have been on the receiving end of some form of unsolicited advice from strangers. 
Freegard believes the best approach to take is a calm one. “It’s key to remember that the person commenting may genuinely think they are helping you, or they may just be in a bad mood and unfortunately you’re the person they took it out on,” she says, adding that we can’t control every aspect of our lives, so the best way is to “move on and forget it”. 
Or, she advises, simply smile and say, “You’re entitled to your opinion, but we prefer to do things in another way”.
“Remember, you’re the parent, you set the rules so if a stranger goes low, you go high and set the best example to your child,” says Freegard. 
Easier said than done, but worth a shot. And who knows, maybe that guy will have a child one day and, when helping them go to the toilet, remember our little encounter and think, “Oh, maybe I was in the wrong”.Related... Why Dads Deserve A Break. No, Actually. A Real One. Grown-Up Cuddles': 10 Hilarious Ways Parents Had The Sex Chat With Their Kids 7 Signs You've Raised A Spoiled Child (And What To Do About It)
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