Social Media is great for a lot of things – catching up with friends and family who live far away, watching cat videos, and sharing pictures of your kids with your loved ones, to name but a few. However, social media can be a dangerous platform when people are pointing fingers, making accusations, and placing blame. In most instances, people are quick to share their opinion about someone else’s wrongdoing, even when they don’t have all of the details. But while can be harmful in almost every area, it seems that more often than not, parents get the sharp end of the stick.
According to Dr. Elaine Heffner, psychotherapist and parent educator in private practice, parent blaming has become a social epidemic in America today, and it needs to stop. In a recent article published in a wide variety of online news sources, Heffner talks about the tragedy of parent blaming, in particular the blaming of mothers, and how this phenomenon has developed over the decades. But more importantly, she addresses why it needs to stop.
She points to recent events for examples. Situations like the Japanese boy who was forced out of his father’s car in a bear-infested forest as a punishment for bad behavior, the boy who fell into the gorilla cage at the Cincinnati zoo, and the child who was later found dead after pulled into the water by an alligator. All of these she cites as examples of tragic situations that later resulted in a firestorm of blame for the parents.
According to Heffner, blame for mothers has become such a systemic part of how we operate as a society, that it has influenced our laws and informed our decision making when it comes to parenting. The bias against mothers, she says, can be found in the laws that blame mothers for the harm that their partners inflict on their children, and on pregnant women who are held accountable for what happens to their unborn babies.
The truth, Dr Heffner points out, is that there is “plenty of risk in raising children in every-day living. Unless we keep our children in a cocoon,” she says, “there is a potential for unforeseen accidents and events with negative consequences.” She shares a story about taking her child to the park as a young mother, and sitting on the bench watching him in his red snow suit, and suddenly realizing she had been watching the wrong child in a similar snow suit the whole time. Her child almost left the park unattended as a result.
The question of when to step in, as a concerned parent, and when to allow your child to suffer the consequences of a choice they made in order to learn a valuable lesson, is a difficult one that all parents must face. Part of development and growing up involving curiosity, exploration, and trying new things. Dr. Heffner explains that no parent would prevent their child from walking simply because they fell during the learning process. Instead, we try to be available to provide solace during failed attempts and encouragement to try again.
Parenting is hard. Parents are constantly faced with difficult decisions, and are required to make choices every day with whatever resources they have available to them. For this reason, she says, parents need support. They need to rally around each other, receive advice and help and kindness, not criticism and blaming and finger pointing. Parenting is already one of the hardest things a person is going to do in their life, so we as a society shouldn’t make it harder. Instead, we need to have a little more understanding for other parents, who are facing different but equally difficult challenges, and offer one another our support.