22 votes

A letter to other parents

Dear almost all other parents with kids between the ages of 2 and 5 years old,

I appreciate all you're doing. You are taking an active role in raising your children, and I applaud you for that... it's hard to do nowadays.

But this is a rant that I won't say to your face because I largely believe in parental autonomy. You need to hear it though. It's important, because many of your good intentions are crippling your child's development., and my own kid's. If at the end of this rant, you agree with it and aren't horrified or offended, PM me cause we could be best friends.

So let's start with the basics: If you take your young child to a children's play area, stop with the hovering. If your child can walk for more than 5 steps without falling on their face, give them some space (like more than 15 feet). Even if they get hurt, that is a teachable moment. If nobody is going to the hospital, don't worry about intervening. Sure they might get some scrapes and bruises, a couple of hard falls....but they will learn and they will grow. Shielding them from everything teaches them nothing. Hovering over your children also scares other children that are not yours, and discourages social interaction. I know this, because I am a very tall man who easily and accidentally terrifies anybody more than a foot shorter than me. It took me a few months to learn this lesson.

Next, let's talk about sharing. I know everyone wants to instill in their child that it is important to share. It's generally a good principal. But sharing is a two-way street, and every time you intervene whenever there is the slightest possibility of conflict, you're teaching your kid that 'sharing means to give whatever someone else wants to them no matter what' and you're teaching my kid 'you can totally take what other people want with 0 consequences.' My child can utterly dominate children twice as old because of this. I do my best to prevent that from getting instilled, but it's a long uphill battle when myself and my spouse are the only two teaching that lesson.

Children need to be able to have conflict with their peers. They need space from adults, and learn to interact with others their age. Yes there will be conflict, pain, and suffering. But there will also be joy, reconciliation, and fun. It's part of learning to be a human with empathy. My child learns far more about socializing in 5 minutes of interaction with your kid than 5 hours of interaction with me.

Next up: Potty training. My kid potty trained at 2 years old. They showed signs of being ready at 18 months, but couldn't quite verbalize well enough at that point. By 2 years, they were completely potty trained during the day. Took a while before being able to get through the night without accidents (tiny bladders have trouble going 8+ hours without peeing), but during the waking day 0 accidents for months on end. I see many of your 4+ year olds still wearing diapers and shitting themselves in the aisles in the grocery store, and it's one of the most depressing things ever. If your kid isn't potty trained by 3, it's your failing, not theirs.

I know my spouse and I are not the best parents (our stance on screen time is very controversial), but I also can blatantly see when development issues are forming as a result of hovering parents, both in my child and yours. Do these things, and everything will be better for everyone.

Signed,

A parent who is judging you harshly.

30 comments

  1. [5]
    Grendel
    Link
    Confession time: I wish I didn't have to hover. I'm sometimes envious of parents that don't have to do that. My wife and I are foster parents to two wonderful boys (ages 4 and 5) and we have to...

    Confession time:
    I wish I didn't have to hover. I'm sometimes envious of parents that don't have to do that.

    My wife and I are foster parents to two wonderful boys (ages 4 and 5) and we have to have eyes on them every second that they're not asleep. They came from a home with extreme sexual abuse that went on for years. If we turn our heads for even a second they try to act out sexually towards each other. It's so bad that we had to put cameras in the house so my wife can see them in the living room while she's in the kitchen or bathroom when home alone with them. It's exhausting.

    For a while we could send each of them to their own rooms to play for short periods of time, which was a nice break for us. Unfortunately that's no longer an option because two weeks ago one of them attempted to start a fire in his room with the electric outlet. We know it wasn't an accident as he clearly told us "I wanted the house to burn down and everyone to die".

    We are desperate for a break for us to take care of ourselves but with their extreme supervision needs and the nature of their behaviors (people get freaked out by sexual behaviors in kids) it's hard to find someone willing to watch them that we also trust.

    Sorry for the long comment, I'm honestly feeling a bit emotionally drained by everything at the moment.

    10 votes
    1. [4]
      vord
      Link Parent
      Oof, I'm proud of you. Fostering is a much tougher gig simply because the odds of a foster child coming into your care well adjusted are not very good, otherwise they wouldn't be in the system....

      Oof, I'm proud of you. Fostering is a much tougher gig simply because the odds of a foster child coming into your care well adjusted are not very good, otherwise they wouldn't be in the system.

      Sadly, I have no advise to give other than seek out a psychologist that specializes in treating children. Trauma is hard to deal with as an adult, let alone as a child.

      And lastly: you're not hovering. You're legitimately doing what it takes to prevent your kids from receiving or inflicting serious harm. That's the primary duty of a parent.

      5 votes
      1. [3]
        Grendel
        Link Parent
        Thanks very much for the encouragement! The kids have a great therapist that they now see weekly, and they are both working really hard on everything. I know given enough time things will get...

        Thanks very much for the encouragement! The kids have a great therapist that they now see weekly, and they are both working really hard on everything. I know given enough time things will get better.

        I appreciate your validation that we're not "hovering" in this case. Few people understand the complexities of fostering so we tend to catch some judgement from family/other parents.

        Thanks again for taking the time to respond with kindness.

        6 votes
        1. [2]
          vivaria
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Amen. Not just fostering, but trauma and abuse, too. There's a big tangential conversation to be had about, as an example, topics like DID (helpful link here) w.r.t. the sheer amount of...

          Few people understand the complexities of fostering so we tend to catch some judgement from family/other parents.

          Amen. Not just fostering, but trauma and abuse, too. There's a big tangential conversation to be had about, as an example, topics like DID (helpful link here) w.r.t. the sheer amount of misconceptions/ignorance held by the general public.

          I imagine it must be difficult at times to try and find support and understanding in others. I hope your family hasn't experienced much alienation... it's tough. :(

          2 votes
          1. Grendel
            Link Parent
            I agree that the lack of understanding is a huge issue. Even people's common language reflects this ignorance. For example I'll often hear someone say "He's so antisocial" in reference to one not...

            I agree that the lack of understanding is a huge issue. Even people's common language reflects this ignorance. For example I'll often hear someone say "He's so antisocial" in reference to one not wanting to socialize. Antisocial has nothing to do with avoiding people, it's one of the steps before the full blown sociopath diagnosis. Extreme avoidance of people would be closer to schizoid disorder, but, you also hear people calling someone a schizoid when they are "acting crazy", which has nothing to do with schizoid disorder.

            These may sound like small things, but collectively they have a big impact. I want to point them out when I hear these terms used incorrectly but I think I just come off as pedantic when I do.

            Thankfully mine and my wife's immediate family have been pretty understanding (at least to the best of their ability) about everything. It is hard for people to understand without the proper education, and that's just not common. I think public schools should include more detailed information about mental health in their physical education classes. That could be a real game changer given enough time

            2 votes
  2. [2]
    Kenny
    Link
    I don't get the point of posting public rants like this. Your tone wouldn't budge a person in a position opposite of yours as it's so condescending - something you seem to embrace with your...

    I don't get the point of posting public rants like this. Your tone wouldn't budge a person in a position opposite of yours as it's so condescending - something you seem to embrace with your signature. You seem to have a few successes and you're judging others without any context. As others have said, everyone has varying circumstances. This inexorable and discompassionate view really just sheds light on how we are all the primary character in our own life and rarely afford the grace to others that we often afford ourselves.

    10 votes
    1. vord
      Link Parent
      Because if it makes even one person considers themselves a target of this rant, and does even a hint of self-reflection, it makes it 100% worth it. It's cathartic to vent as well. Otherwise I...

      Because if it makes even one person considers themselves a target of this rant, and does even a hint of self-reflection, it makes it 100% worth it.

      It's cathartic to vent as well. Otherwise I wouldn't bother ranting to my spouse about any of my other problems in life.

      Those 20+ votes also feel pretty good for my own validation. It suggests that I am not isolated in these feelings. Perhaps one of those folks will be inspired to write their own post, perhaps less condescending and better written which reaches a larger audience.

      1 vote
  3. [3]
    mat
    Link
    I mean... I sort of agree with you, kinda. But my first thought is that you never know other people's situations. I've spent the last week or so hovering over my toddler whenever he's out and...

    I mean... I sort of agree with you, kinda. But my first thought is that you never know other people's situations. I've spent the last week or so hovering over my toddler whenever he's out and about because he's recovering from surgery and while he has no idea and just wants to run about - a fall could split his stitches. I'm not saying everyone doing that has reasons like mine but y'know. It might be more people than you think.

    The other thing is how sure are you that these parents are causing developmental issues? I know some kids who weren't potty trained by four, whose parents had some weird thing where they didn't ever tell them 'no' and a bunch of other apparently dreadful parenting things and now they're teenagers and they're lovely, social, pleasant kids. I have friends who have parented in all ways from 100% helicoptering to letting their offspring run entirely feral and all their kids have turned out just fine. Kids are super resilient and will become their own people despite (or because of) what their parents do. The social skills you think they're not learning now will come. So it might be a bit later than your kid, so what? All kids are different and do everything at different times.

    So no, I'm not horrified or offended but equally I don't think we're going to be friends.

    fwiw I wish my kid liked screens. Little fucker won't sit and watch TV when I just need five minutes of him not enthusiastically exploring everything in sight.

    14 votes
    1. [2]
      vord
      Link Parent
      This was a rant, and I totally get that there are circumstances that justify these behaviors. But the specific people I'm thinking of are people I've seen on and off multiple times over the years....

      This was a rant, and I totally get that there are circumstances that justify these behaviors.

      But the specific people I'm thinking of are people I've seen on and off multiple times over the years. It's repeated and consistent. Their children are afraid of moving more than a few feet from them, always looking back, and never forward.

      And I also get that it's not a gaurenteed thing, but at a young age (prior to 5), you're helping your children build a map to help interpret the world around them. They may deviate from that map as they grow older, but laying out bad foundations can make that process harder in the long term. And it's not even that I'm terribly concerned about other children's development (other than them not instilling concepts of concent, but that's another rant). I'm more concerned that my child, who is yearning for interactions with other children their age is being hampered by the fact that almost all of their peers are unable to interact without parental involvement.

      Interaction with peers goes a long way towards building a foundation of empathy. There's a world of difference between 'I must share with adults' and 'I must share with my peers,' and not just at the surface level, but having a deeper understanding about why it's important to share. Understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others.

      And the friends thing was mostly a joke, but it's harder to convey that in text.

      5 votes
      1. envy
        Link Parent
        I was a highly reluctant hover parent. Everything seemed to come out in the wash once the kid hits school.

        I was a highly reluctant hover parent.

        Everything seemed to come out in the wash once the kid hits school.

        5 votes
  4. [2]
    AnthonyB
    Link
    Is this real? Are there any daycare/pre-k teachers that can back this up? It's not even 9 am, dont ruin my day already. I'm with you 100% on the falling/getting hurt thing. There's nothing more...

    I see many of your 4+ year olds still wearing diapers and shitting themselves in the aisles in the grocery store, and it's one of the most depressing things ever.

    Is this real? Are there any daycare/pre-k teachers that can back this up? It's not even 9 am, dont ruin my day already.

    I'm with you 100% on the falling/getting hurt thing. There's nothing more annoying than seeing a kid take a minor fall then some frantic adult run in saying, 'Oh my God! Are you OK?' A simple 'Oops! You're OK, right?' will suffice and wont cause any unnecessary tears.

    5 votes
    1. vord
      Link Parent
      Daycares actually strive hard to potty train early, as they're heavily motivated to not have to change diapers anymore. The worst offenders tend to be the stay at home parents that seem to be...

      Daycares actually strive hard to potty train early, as they're heavily motivated to not have to change diapers anymore.

      The worst offenders tend to be the stay at home parents that seem to be waiting for their child to come tell them 'I don't want to poop in my pants anymore.' People gotta teach their kids...they won't be able to figure everything out on their own.

      5 votes
  5. EscReality
    Link
    Hovering parents and hovering teachers. It's just as much a problem in kindergarten classrooms as it is at home. I have found as my son gets older, when it comes to parenting, I become more and...

    Hovering parents and hovering teachers.

    It's just as much a problem in kindergarten classrooms as it is at home. I have found as my son gets older, when it comes to parenting, I become more and more conservative. I think the current sociopolitical climate in schools is doing more to appease hover parents than it is to actually help the children.

    4 votes
  6. [2]
    archevel
    Link
    This seems colored a lot by a few assumptions: that there is a goal for parenting that everyone has (or ought to have) the same goal that not doing the things prescribed by OP has some measurable...

    This seems colored a lot by a few assumptions:

    • that there is a goal for parenting
    • that everyone has (or ought to have) the same goal
    • that not doing the things prescribed by OP has some measurable negative impact on kids in the long run to the implied goals

    As others have touched on, does it matter if a kid isn't potty trained before age 4? Most kids learn that stuff at some point, so why be judgemental about it?

    What if I as a patent want to foster a sense of dependance on me in my children (for clarity I don't)? Then helicopter parenting might contribute to that goal?

    I believe most kids will be alright despite of what their parents try to instill in them, for better or for worse is a matter of perspective.

    4 votes
    1. vord
      Link Parent
      You're god damn right there is, and there's only one: To raise a functioning, self-sufficient, well adjusted adult. Very few succeed, and I'm convinced many haven't even tried. Because it's an...

      that there is a goal for parenting

      You're god damn right there is, and there's only one: To raise a functioning, self-sufficient, well adjusted adult. Very few succeed, and I'm convinced many haven't even tried.

      As others have touched on, does it matter if a kid isn't potty trained before age 4? Most kids learn that stuff at some point, so why be judgemental about it?

      Because it's an easily rectified problem that is perpetuated by poor parenting (including support systems like family and daycare). It gets sadder and sadder to see any child over 2.5 still in diapers, to the point I personally consider it a (mild) form of child abuse.

      What if I as a patent want to foster a sense of dependance on me in my children (for clarity I don't)?

      Then you've got the wrong goal, and you're likely a bit of a narcissist and your kids will suffer for it when they eventually have to stop being dependent for one reason or another.

      I believe most kids will be alright despite of what their parents try to instill in them, for better or for worse is a matter of perspective.

      We probably wouldn't need a tiny fraction of the current therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists if that was true.

      1 vote
  7. [4]
    wundumguy
    Link
    What's your screen time policy

    What's your screen time policy

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      vord
      Link Parent
      Basically 0 for the first year or so, which is fairly normal. But as they developed an interest from there, we allowed it more and more, especially when we were sick. I think at the peak we hit...

      Basically 0 for the first year or so, which is fairly normal.

      But as they developed an interest from there, we allowed it more and more, especially when we were sick. I think at the peak we hit about 5 hours a day, about 5x more than recommend, and even more than we were comfortable with. By contrast, many of our peers implement a strict no-screens policy.

      But, after a few months of hitting max, the interest faded away quickly. After less than 4 months, we were back down to an hour or less daily, with virtually zero struggle.

      But now, my kid doesn't really pay attention to screens at all unless they're very interested in the content. Disengaging is rarely a struggle. Meanwhile most similarly aged kids that come from no-screens households are straight up mesmerized by them, and they throw tantrums when parents try to remove them from it.

      So I think our path was the right one, at least in a society dominated by screen presence. We supervised content heavily (whitelist only youtube, PBS (videos and games), and curated netflix). We also didn't let it be completely passive... singing along, counting, talking about before,during, and after.

      I learned so much myself during that time. Daniel Tiger taught me way more about empathy and the importance of emotions than my parents ever did. And so did my kid.... alphabet, counting, colors, several songs. A fairly advanced understanding of the distinction between reality and fantasy. It helped to provide a common context that was relatable for all of us.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        wundumguy
        Link Parent
        I don't think this is very controversial. I'm curious though: do you think your little one's ability to regulate their screen time is because of this, or that's just how your kid would've been anyway?

        I don't think this is very controversial. I'm curious though: do you think your little one's ability to regulate their screen time is because of this, or that's just how your kid would've been anyway?

        1. vord
          Link Parent
          It's fairly controversial in the sense that almost every source says to limit screen time to no more than an hour or so a day. I get why... an hour spent staring at a screen is effectively an hour...

          It's fairly controversial in the sense that almost every source says to limit screen time to no more than an hour or so a day. I get why... an hour spent staring at a screen is effectively an hour lost if there is 0 interaction.

          I'm very much a proponent of nurture over nature. We all have our genetic predispositions, but part of being human is overcoming those.

          It's hard to say how much was agreeable child vs parenting prowess. No first time parent really knows what their doing, myself included. All we can do is reflect and try to do better going forward.

          My rant was borne of seeing these problems in my own parenting and correcting my behavior. It does well by me, but it does quell anger when I see others still doing what I saw as terrible behavior in myself.

          I'd like to think that my child readily discarded screens since we built a foundation that enabled them to do so with minimal intervention. Reality is I probably got lucky and I'm suffering from confirmation bias.

          3 votes
  8. [11]
    envy
    Link
    Are you planning on having a second?

    Are you planning on having a second?

    1 vote
    1. [10]
      vord
      Link Parent
      Was originally one and done. Now about 60/40 on the no still, but may get more likely if things start getting better in the world.

      Was originally one and done. Now about 60/40 on the no still, but may get more likely if things start getting better in the world.

      2 votes
      1. [9]
        envy
        Link Parent
        Every child is different. Each child have their own timelines. Whenever I forced my timelines on my strong minded child, I ended up regretting it.

        Every child is different.

        Each child have their own timelines.

        Whenever I forced my timelines on my strong minded child, I ended up regretting it.

        2 votes
        1. [8]
          vord
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Oh definitely. I know no two children are alike. Averages are largely meaningless, as are most benchmarks. But I decided I'm shaming those who don't potty train by 3. Potty training in particular...

          Oh definitely. I know no two children are alike. Averages are largely meaningless, as are most benchmarks.

          But I decided I'm shaming those who don't potty train by 3. Potty training in particular is different from other milestones because after 2 or so, it's a failure of the parent to teach, not of the child being unable to learn.

          1 vote
          1. [5]
            clem
            Link Parent
            Are there actually problems associated with not being potty trained by 3? My son is two and a half, and the doctor was impressed recently that my son had awareness and control of when he was able...

            Are there actually problems associated with not being potty trained by 3? My son is two and a half, and the doctor was impressed recently that my son had awareness and control of when he was able to urinate. So was that just BS?

            We've taken the approach of following my son's lead with potty training, as we feel like keeping the pressure off of him will be better in the long run. But perhaps you disagree. I'm only almost offended--I'm pretty sure you're being a little tongue-in-cheek about shaming other parents. But either way, if there are actually problems with not rushing my son into potty training, I'd be interested to hear it.

            1. [3]
              vord
              Link Parent
              We found two books immensely helpful: Oh Crap! by Jamie Glowacki Potty training in 3 days by Brandi Brucks Both have variant methods, but we found a blend of both helpful. Both generally agree...

              We found two books immensely helpful:

              Oh Crap! by Jamie Glowacki
              Potty training in 3 days by Brandi Brucks

              Both have variant methods, but we found a blend of both helpful. Both generally agree that 18 months is sufficient to learn daytime potty training. Night training is a separate issue, as the demands are different (knowing to use the bathroom vs waking or holding for 8+ hours).

              Learning anything can require a bit of pressure. The pressure itself isn't inheritly a problem, but attitudes, tone, and patience are things to mind.

              I can't speak to any confirmed development problems forming from late potty training, but the selling point for me was: Remember your life before diapers? Think about how much easier your life will be and how much money you'll save by potty training. The only things you need when you leave the house are a spare outfit and maybe a foldable child-sized seat insert (and snacks, but those never go away).

              It was only after training that my wife and I started looking at similarly aged children and being mortified that they were not potty trained. If they're old enough to form a sentence, they're definitely old enough to potty train.

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                envy
                Link Parent
                If you read the one star reviews of both books, you can see that bad things will happen if you push a child too hard who is not ready to potty train. Be proud of your kid. And your parenting. But...

                If you read the one star reviews of both books, you can see that bad things will happen if you push a child too hard who is not ready to potty train.

                Be proud of your kid. And your parenting.

                But successfully having one child does not make you an expert.

                1. vord
                  Link Parent
                  Maybe. But.... 88% of those 2,016 reviews for Oh Crap are 3 stars or higher. I read the first page of 1 star reviews. Every one of them is a result of people not actually reading the book. 90% of...

                  Maybe. But....

                  88% of those 2,016 reviews for Oh Crap are 3 stars or higher. I read the first page of 1 star reviews. Every one of them is a result of people not actually reading the book.

                  90% of those 1,110 reviews for Potty Training in 3 days are 3 stars or higher. Every one of those 1 star reviews is a result of the people not actually reading the book.

                  The 3 and 4 star reviews are much more reasonable criticisms of both books. I agree with many of those, because no one source is the holy grail. We found a mix of the techniques useful.

                  I fully acknowledge I am not an expert. But I can sum up why I judge the vast majority who don't potty train by 3:

                  If your kid is meeting more than half of the development milestones of a 2 year old (per the CDC), or at least 2 of the milestones for a 3 year old, they have the necessary mental capacity to learn to potty train. A 3 year old is expected to speak 2-3 sentances at a time. If they can do that, they can certainly learn how to listen to their bodies and control the release of urine and feces.

                  Everything else is a matter of learning to teach without being an overbearing monster, and that is 100% on the parents.

                  1 vote
            2. envy
              Link Parent
              The mayo clinic states

              The mayo clinic states

              Many children show signs of being ready for potty training between ages 18 and 24 months. However, others might not be ready until they're 3 years old. There's no rush. If you start too early, it might take longer to train your child.

              2 votes
          2. [2]
            Gaywallet
            Link Parent
            Except when is a developmental issue which is more common than you think. Speaking in absolutes is dangerous.

            Except when is a developmental issue which is more common than you think. Speaking in absolutes is dangerous.

            1. vord
              Link Parent
              What I mean to say about benchmarks and averages is that they're not a lesson plan or a timeline. It's not a major problem if your kid isn't hitting benchmarks as listed, it's more if there is a...

              What I mean to say about benchmarks and averages is that they're not a lesson plan or a timeline. It's not a major problem if your kid isn't hitting benchmarks as listed, it's more if there is a repeated pattern of no advancement in many areas.

              1 vote