There have been a couple of instances when I've been around other parents (or caregivers) and their children and the parent or caregiver has stated something to the effect of, "He isn't normally like this, he must be showing off." or "I'm sure you think we just don't discipline, but we're really trying." I've been told I have a rather standoffish look sometimes, and I do have a big fat J in my personality, but I truly don't use it against people anymore.
I've learned, since being a parent, that we aren't the main person responsible for our child's behavior.
Yes, parents are extremely important, and discipline is extremely important (if used properly). However, controlling a child's behavior hasn't been in vogue since the Victorian times when children should be "seen and not heard" and even then, the parents didn't take responsibility for that.
So, why do we feel that our ability to parent our children is being judged when we go out somewhere or when someone else is watching our kids?
I think part of it comes when non-parents chastise us. For example, in the library, when my children are running (despite the fact that they have 3 library rules that they know by heart and we review every day before going in and I put them in timeout when they disobey). They've gotten reprimanded by the librarians before, and I felt my heart sink. Was I a bad parent because I couldn't get my kids to stop running in the library, because they get so excited by story time? The answer is, that I am not a bad parent. I have rules, I enforce them consistently, and 95% of the time my kids are on the children's side of the library. The librarians were not trying to be mean to my kids, they were genuinely concerned for their safety and wanted to try to help me out by having a third party enforce the rules. It didn't really help much, and we avoided the library for a couple of weeks, but it was genuinely a positive attempt rather than a judgement attempt.
On the other hand, one of my neighbors mentioned to me that they haven't even tried the library with their almost 5 year old boy in over a year because of his behavior. I'm sure that's not what the librarians intend when they try to help enforce the rules.
Sometimes, it may be best to avoid a situation if you know your child will misbehave. I think we've pretty much given up taking our kids out to a restaurant except for a very special occasion (or Chic-fil-a or McDonald's). In general, however, if it's a kid-style location, kids will be loud and active, as they should be, whenever they get excited or overwhelmed. It happens. Even adults can throw a fit or be a little loud in certain situations. A friend of my husbands scared my kids almost to death when we tried to go to their house to watch a basketball game together. I've seen adults have a throw-down match with a cashier or telemarketer before, and it's not pretty.
So, why do we expect our kids to have better behavior than we do? Sure, everyone posts the happy pretty pictures of their supposedly well-behaved children on Facebook, but we've all seen them at times when they were hyped up on sugar or excitement or new friends. Let's not expect our kids to be mini-adults or to be like someone else's kid. They have their own personalities, some of which may be stronger than others, but those same strong personalities are the leaders of tomorrow, whether they look or act like it today or not.
I admit I did wonder briefly about the mini-van that had driven past while my youngest and another friend about the same age had run 5 houses down into our garage when the three adults had their back turned for just a minute. But the beauty of not judging other people as much, is that I can brush off the possible judgment from other people a lot easier than I used to. God has not called us to judge each other. Instead, he's called us to work together in community and extended family. So, rather than expecting to be judged, I assumed that the people in the mini-van were driving cautiously to avoid the children in the cul-de-sac and watching to make sure the adults figured out where they went. Which we did, pretty quickly. And then admired the speed at which those tiny legs can travel.
So, the next time you think that you're being judged for your parenting, assume the best. If you have questions about discipline, ask a fellow parent. And let's all work together to raise our kids in a happy, welcoming, judgment free zone.