A Little Light Conversation


Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.


Only Compassionate Speech

Only Compassionate Speech

When I was growing up I often heard the phrase, “You’ve got to give respect, to get it.” The message was that respect was something that has to be earned, unless you’re in the power position, of course, then you can command respect.

I don’t buy into these messages of respect. I come from a place of giving respect and expecting nothing in return. It took me a long time to get here and I wasn’t always so nonjudgmental.

I was educated to have an opinion on everything, preferably a well-researched one, but the opinion was the important thing. This led to a fair amount of judging when other people made decisions different than my own. I wasn’t afraid to be challenged on my opinions or to change them, but I loved an argument.

Then I had kids. And I finally understood what it meant to give and receive unconditional acceptance. It wasn’t something that was earned. It just is.

But, I still had a way to go because I was still finding ways to judge other parents’ choices. I used excuses like, not being informed or not caring about their families enough to make an informed decision. It wasn’t a good place to be and it took me a few months of conversations before I wised up and let it go. I’m ashamed to say that I probably made a few parents feel negatively about their choices because I questioned whether they were educated enough.

I had plenty of the same thrown at me. I still do, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. When making choices outside of the mainstream, like homebirthing, homeschooling, breastfeeding 3 kids (and one of them is 5! Shocking) and not vaccinating, those preconceptions and probing questions will always be asked. And they’re usually not done in a respectful way, either.

The only thing I can control is how I act and react to things. I choose not to take offense at the questions or the judgments. It is a conscious choice and one that helps keep me responding calmly instead of emotionally.

I choose to treat everyone with respect. I don’t make excuses for another parent’s decisions when they’re different than mine in order to rationalize it. I accept it and give them respect. For example, when I hear a mother flippantly say that she is scheduling her c-section because her doctor says so or because she wants to be in bikini shape by the summer or because she doesn’t want to ruin her vagina (or whatever reason,) I accept that without judgment. I support women. I support birth. Period. Once I have that clear in my head, I’ll ask questions from a place of sharing and support. I won’t offer advice, unless clearly asked. And even then, I’m very careful. I will share evidence, resources, or experiences if the mother is looking for it.

The same goes for tricky issues like vaccinations. I truly believe that two people can read the same research and come to different conclusions for their families. We are choosing not to vaccinate because our interpretation weighs the cost-benefit to be that way. But, I can see the other side of this. In fact, I welcome vaccination debates in the hope that I will refine my understanding.

We chose to homeschool. But, formal schooling can be great for many families. I don’t think one is superior to another. The point, as with birth, vaccinations, and other family issues in general is that there should be choices and full information freely available.

Okay, those are the easy things to be able to respectfully talk with parents. But what about spanking? Sexual abuse? Circumcision?

My belief holds that respect needs to be given for no other reason than they are human beings. I feel I could be on a jury and convict someone of a crime that harmed someone else and still see them as a fully feeling human being. It is a lot more painful for me to see another person this way, but that is for me to deal with and doesn’t change their humanity.

Someone who harms a child is still a human being. They’re not evil. And their mental state doesn’t change their humanity either. I was sexually abused and tortured. The thought of one of my children going through what I did is almost enough to break my brain in two. I still see the humanity of my abuser. I’m still working on it, but it lessens my experience if I write him off as subhuman or evil. And the focus of abuse should never be about the perpetrator. It should be about the survivor.

Non-medically necessary circumcision is a violation of a child’s humanity and there is nothing that anyone can ever say to me that will change my opinion on that. I make no distinction between boys and girls. They are both equally horrific.

In order to speak respectfully to parents who support circumcision or are abusive, I remember their humanity. I can protect the children who need protection and still be respectful of the parents. I don’t need to make excuses for them or accept their reasons. I can listen to the needs behind their words and move from a place of compassion.

This is the only true way to create change in the world.  To listen to others. To speak from a place of peace. To protect those who need protecting. Most of the time people need protection from themselves, but they have to come to that realization on their own by getting unconditional acceptance.

And it is the parents who choose differently than I do that I most desperately want to speak this way to. Because those parents who never received unconditional acceptance themselves, might just become curious about a new way of thinking about how they speak and think about others.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it’s from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural – Just Don’t Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother’s groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the “Mommy-space” online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles… — Jenny at I’m a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents’ worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting – Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she’s learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others’ parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can’t — We’ve all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you’re stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think “Gosh, I wish I said…” This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought “Gosh, I wish I said…”
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don’t Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she’d want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying “I’m Right and You’re Wrong” Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won’t care — Cassie of There’s a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don’t know what to do when you’re confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky – Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert’s Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.


28 thoughts on “A Little Light Conversation

  1. Pingback: Judgment Is Natural – Just Don't Condemn Hybrid Rasta Mama

  2. Pingback: Not Holier Than Thou

  3. I wanted to respond to your comment on “opinions” and how you were taught to have an opinion on everything. I think this is quite dominate in our society. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion” and “you must have an opinion on this” sort of thing.

    The way I see it, opinions are trouble. When we have “opinions” we attach to them, and suddenly they are no longer opinions but how we define our selves. It’s harder to change bad/old opinions that no longer suit us when this happens. And we feel more need to defend or argue against them when we attach to them.

    That’s why I try to remember to qualify my opinions with “right now.” I feel this way “right now.” This works for me “right now.” It explains my feelings or thoughts but doesn’t tie me to them forever and ever. It gives me room to change my mind.

    Now, along the lines of what Dionna was saying, I too struggle with facing people who I think are abusing their children – and these are hmm, how do you say it, “socially acceptable” abuses, or time-outs, shaming, blaming. When people talk to me about their struggles with their kids and how they respond, I know they’re not looking for advice from me. But it’s so hard to know the children (and the parents!) are suffering because they don’t know any alternatives. It’s like, what do I do? Send them a website link?? How do you teach unconditional love to another parent?

    Nevermind the deeper, more violent and violating abuses. They make my heart still and teeth clench and blood run cold.

    But I just shared this on another site, today. Oprah’s quote: “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed.” I have to meditate more on it, but I think the key here, for me, is that forgiveness is like acceptance. Acceptance is accepting something happened. It’s not *approval* of what happened, it’s just accepting. And maybe, so is forgiving.

    And I can totally see how labeling an abuser as “evil” or subhuman can diminish the ordeal and healing the abused go through. I never thought if it like this before.

    Phew, this turned into quite a ramble! But there was so much to respond to. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself. And for being an example of forgiveness and acceptance to me.

    • Thank you for this thought-provoking comment, lovenotesmama. Yes, how often do you see the retort in a discussion, “that’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.” It really has nothing to to with the discussion and actually causes harm. Opinions are often unexamined and it’s easy to pretend that you’re being silenced than to actually challenge yourself.

      That is so true. Forgiving and accepting are not approval, if anything they assist one in taking a strong stand against abuse. To give an excuse of evil or subhuman is another way of denying the truth and extent of what happened.

      By the way, I came across this idea when I encountered Anne Frank. The absolute humanness of her words about the horrifying situation and atrocities that were happening allowed me to understand what survivors say when reminding us to never forget. Never forget that they were human beings just like I am. They were capable of doing these things to other human beings. It is part of what it means to be human to accept, no matter how much I abhor and rail (and I cannot express my extreme hatred of the idea) that I am also capable of these things, too. I have to accept that if I’m to keep it from happening again.

      And I know this is even more radical than what I wrote in this post, and it’s fine (I encourage!!) to disagree or balk short of this extension, but I accept that potential abuser is within me just as potential transcendent being is in me-and all the variations therein. I need to allow for this in order to make sure I never become the abuser. I need to allow for this and, perhaps, one day I might be a millimeter closer to enlightenment (or whatever there is…)

      Anyway, I’m rambling because I appreciate and welcome your comment.

  4. Pingback: Why I used to hide the formula box «

  5. Pingback: How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment | Natural Parents Network

  6. Zoie, I always love reading your posts, and today’s was no different. In particular, your statement: “The only thing I can control is how I act and react to things. I choose not to take offense at the questions or the judgments,” is so important, and something I strive to improve upon regularly. Thanks for sharing your insights….

  7. Pingback: Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars | The Artful Mama

  8. Pingback: Respectful Interaction With Other Parents | Diary of a First Child

  9. Pingback: The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents | MUMmedia

  10. I really appreciate where you are in this. Saying you come from a place of acceptance, trusting women and birth, before talking with someone about birth choices, really resonates with me. That’s what I want to do. I also find that even the things that hurt my soul, like spanking or circumcision (I’m not there yet with other forms of abuse), I find ways to look beyond the action and see the construct of society that led the person to that choice. I grew up thinking both were ok, so I can see how someone else would, too. Now just to (a) extend that compassionate awareness to other things and (b) figure out where to go from there in advocating for the children who are affected by their choices.

    In any case, I agree with you on not liking that phrase about giving & getting respect. Too often, I hear those in authority use it as justification for being disrespectful to people in their care.

    • Thank you, Lauren. Yes, it is an exercise to train the compassion, especially when a “larger compassion issue” gets in the way. How to balance all the needs without leaving the most vulnerable, unprotected?

      Yes, that one and “once you know better, you do better” really bother me-and the crunchy community tends to use both of these phrases to bully. Facts on someone’s side give power, to me that means an even greater responsibility for gentleness.

  11. Pingback: Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to Eliminate Judge/Be Judged Mentality | MudpieMama

  12. Pingback: Hybrid Rasta Mama: Judgment Is Natural – Just Don’t Condemn

  13. Awesome! I hear this a lot, Love the sinner hate the sin- more of a church quote. But it’s really love the person dont like the action. Some people make mistakes, some people don’t know things are wrong yet and some people think those things are right. I think of circumcision. I’m so against it, but I almost did it to my son because I didn’t know any better. Thank goodness I didn’t. But some people do it unknowingly. Some people think its right. But like you said, they are still people. They aren’t evil. It’s hard sometimes to get past that but it’s really awesome when you can.
    Great post

  14. Pingback: Navigating Parenting Politics | the other baby blog

  15. With as much as I yearn to advocate compassionately and speak respectfully to others, you’ve hit on some situations which are still so very hard for me. It is hard to overcome that gut reaction of fear and anger when the subject of abuse or violations of children’s rights are discussed. On an intellectual level, I completely agree with you – without respecting everyone, even those we don’t agree with – how can we move toward a deeper understanding and broader human rights? But on an emotional level, I struggle with respecting anyone who would harm children. It is something I’m working on, and I appreciate you for helping me become a more understanding person.

    • Thank you, Dionna. I hear you. When I wrote this, it seemed like I’d be ignoring the elephant in the room, if I left them out. The harder issues could be written about endlessly. It was difficult to just touch on them. Having been abused myself, I found when people labeled him as “evil” or something less than human, it belittled my experience and recovery. It excused the fact that he is human like me, like us all. It’s ugly to think that I am like someone capable of what was done to me. Once I looked at this (and the pain was terrific) I ranted and cried about it. Since then, I can see that he was a man who raised a family, had people who loved him and he did these horrible, inexcusable things to at least one child.

      What do I do this knowledge? I have to find compassion somewhere. For myself and my own children. This has nothing to do with him at all. It is all about my experience. Compassion is quite selfish, in this respect. I cannot heal if I can’t admit shared humanity. There are no absolutes (even this sentence)

      Anyway, I am sure I’ll be examining this in future posts. So, I’ll stop here before I start going. I hope it makes a little sense.

  16. Pingback: Different Rules for Different Families « living peacefully with children

  17. Oh Zoie I love you dearly! What an amazing perspective and way to look at life. I’m on the journey but I maybe far from this station yet. I love how you have discussed harder topics like spanking, circumcision and abuse by stating ‘I can protect the children who need protection and still be respectful of the parents.’ I pray to infuse my every interaction with this understanding. Onelove

    • Thank you, childofthenatureisle. Yes, there’s no hope to reach the abuser if they’re not approached as a human being. And there won’t be true, lasting healing (both on the personal and the larger, societal sense) until this is recognized.

  18. Pingback: If You Can’t Say Something Nice… | LivingMontessoriNow.com

  19. Pingback: Doing it my way but respecting your highway. - Child of the Nature Isle

  20. Pingback: Kind Matters | lovenotesmama

  21. Pingback: Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love « high needs attachment

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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