How to Kindly Bring Safety Issues to the Attention of Other Moms

Several months ago my husband and I were visiting with another couple when the wife mentioned she was eager to turn her daughter’s car seat to face forward once she turned one year old. This statement concerned me because I’m familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that babies remain rear-facing in their car seats for a minimum of two years. Additionally, the law in the state where we lived at the time mandated that children remain rear-facing until age two.

Despite my concerns, I was very hesitant to say something. I knew my friend was a wonderful mother who took excellent care of her children; she would never willfully do something to jeopardize their safety. I did not want to voice my concerns and have her believe that I was being a “sanctimommy.” (A sanctimommy is a know-it-all mom who looks down on the parenting decisions made by other moms.)

What should we do when we see well-meaning moms do things that could harm their kids? How can we gently and respectfully communicate our concerns?

This isn’t the only time I’ve wondered if I should speak up about a safety issue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of children who were improperly secured in their car seats. I also recall a time when another friend allowed her baby to teethe on a closed stick of lip balm. I was concerned the whole time that the lid would slip off and choke the baby.

In retrospect, my hesitation to gently voice my concerns seems foolish. Was I really more concerned with how I would be perceived than with the safety of these kiddos? Unfortunately, sometimes I was. However, during the conversation described at the beginning of this post, I did speak up about the rear-facing car seat recommendation. My friend was unaware of the recommendation and the law. She later expressed gratitude that she now knew the recommendation and was better equipped to keep her baby safe.

Given how large a role the mommy wars play in our culture, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation. What should we do when we see well-meaning moms doing things or allowing activities that could harm their children? How can we gently and respectfully communicate our concerns?

How to humbly offer advice to other moms

  • Determine if the advice is genuinely needed. We all have preferences, but we generally shouldn’t impose these upon other moms. Just because I believe it is best to breastfeed and give my baby homemade foods instead of purees from jars doesn’t mean I should speak up and tell another mom that she shouldn’t use formula or feed her baby jars of baby food. Just because I believe it is best to limit my child’s screen time doesn’t mean I should tell another mom that she should change her child’s media viewing habits. These aren’t matters of life and death. Something like the improper use of a car seat, on the other hand, is a genuine safety issue that warrants our concern. A litmus test of sorts to determine if we should really say something is to check our motives (Philippians 2:3-4). Why are we wanting to offer advice? Is it to make a child safe or is it to boast about our own choices and put down another mom’s choices? If it’s the latter, then we should probably remain silent.
  • Share the advice privately. Let’s be honest: None of us like to be corrected. This aversion is even greater when the correction is given publically. If we choose to offer advice to other moms, it’s often best to do so privately. Instead of embarrassing them by writing on their Facebook walls or sharing it in front of friends, we can pull them aside and share it quietly or send our concerns in email messages.
  • Use a gentle and respectful tone. A harsh statement (e.g., “I can’t believe you don’t know that you’re not supposed to….”) will likely elicit a defensive response, but a kind statement (e.g., “I recently read about the benefits of…”) can lay the groundwork for a constructive conversation (Proverbs 15:1). We should always begin with kind statements and then proceed to share our advice gently and with respect. This is, after all, the approach I would want another mom to use if she were to advise me.
  • Share expert resources with other moms. We should scrutinize the advice that others give us about raising our kids. These individuals may have good intentions, but they can share advice that is outdated or that is otherwise unsound. The same is true of us, so we should try to provide other moms with references for the advice we give. This allows them to verify if we’ve provided good advice and provides them with resources that they can use in the future to learn about related topics.
  • Be open to the advice of others. One reason we worry that other moms will be upset if we give them advice is because we would be upset if they gave us advice! This is due at least in part to the reality that our relationships with other moms are sometimes characterized by competition, criticism, and judgment. If we make an effort to be receptive to the advice of others, then we won’t automatically view their advice as an attack on our parenting. Additionally, we may actually learn something (Proverbs 19:20)! Being open to advice can help us foster supportive and encouraging relationships. If this happens, then perhaps other moms will not view the advice we give them as an attack on their parenting.

What do you think? Do you speak up when you see other moms do things that could jeopardize their children’s safety? How is this received?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Coffee and Conversation, Titus 2sday, Titus 2 Tuesday, The Art of Home-Making, Living Proverbs 31, Motivation Monday, Saturday Soiree, Funtastic Friday and Shine Blog Hop.

Comments

  1. Good tips here. As a mama to 12 all differing ages, 28 down to 13 months with 8 still in my home I am raising, and a grandmama to five ages 4 down to 4 months, I try to walk carefully in this area. If it is a safety issue, yes, I would speak up. However, in the instance of the carseat, I would have casually mentioned it is better to wait until two because in our state, there is no law as of yet. If we were in a state where it was law, I would be sure to mention the law as well as the reason why.

    One dd gives the same limited shots I do on a schedule we discussed. One dd gives no shots whatsoever. My dil gives every shot they offer at the ages they offer them. They all three have asked my opinions and reasonings and I have shared.

    I don’t know if you mentioned it above, but another good tip is to mention it once and let them decide. Don’t keep bringing it up. Parents do what they want to do….and it is their right to do so. They are the ones who will have to suffer the consequence of their decisions. All of us do.

    • Hi Christi,
      Thanks for sharing from your wealth of experience! I agree that it is best to walk carefully in this area and limit your advice to safety issues. As you noted, though, when people ask, it is obviously appropriate to share your opinions. 🙂
      Your reminder to let parents decide for themselves is great! You’re correct–parents have the right to do what they think is best for their kids. I’m so grateful this is the case! Once we mention something, we shouldn’t nag them about it.

  2. This topic is so important. I’ve been on the other side of someone always pushing their view of safety concerns on me. Perhaps if she had taken one of your tips, I would’ve been responsive to her advice. It does nobody any good to push your views on people. A gentle and respectful tone can go a long way!

  3. Nicely written. I will definitely be sharing this post. It can be hard to be told you are not doing something correctly but I agree when it comes to safety, it is essential to find a way to connect with the other parent to share the pertinent information.

    • I think your use of the term “connect” is key here, Hil. It is a lot easier to give and receive advice when we are connected and care about others!

  4. This is all good advice. I especially like the point you brought out about not calling someone out in public. No one wants to be embarrassed. Thank you for these tips! Pinning.

  5. This is such a tough subject. It’s like giving parenting advice; it can be so hard to do! I usually try to just play dumb when it comes to safety type stuff. 🙂 Then they will usually say “Oh, I better check.” or “Oh, I thought it was xyz.” and it usually works. 🙂

    • I suppose subtle hints like that would get the idea across to many moms, Tiffany. If I had a serious concern, I’d likely choose to be a little more direct–I don’t want to be dishonest (playing dumb when in fact I know something to be unsafe isn’t being straightforward) and I want to avoid confusion. However, I can see how a subtle suggestion would be better received by many moms. 🙂

  6. Yes, this is a tough one… When to be silent and when to speak. Thank you for sharing this list on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! Very helpful 🙂

  7. I am not sure if you saw but I loved your post on safety and approaching other parents so much I featured it in my monthly Blog Love Round-Up last month.

    http://www.raisingfairiesandknights.com/blog-love-round-up-1/

    Thanks for a nice non-confrontational method of approaching people!

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