Relativistic Parenting 3

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about When I WAS the Smug Mom and I want to expand a little on it. 

As I shared there, I’ve grown up a lot through these parenting years and have come to realize and accept that there are many different ways to parent and just because I’m doing it one way doesn’t mean others who are not doing it the same way are any less of a parent than I am and vice versa. I accept that I WAS (and still am sometimes) the Smug mom for a good part of the early years of my parenting, mostly due to my own insecurities. These days, I try not to spend as much time pointing fingers and judging the errors of other parents and spend more time encouraging other parents and trying to be a good mom to my own kids. This change in attitude has provided me – and our family! – peace and the freedom to enjoy our family as we are. 

Besides, smug hurts πŸ™

– Can you believe she’s not using cloth diapers?
– Yeah, she must have missed that study on the long-term harmful effects of plastic trash bags….

However, I’d like to revisit this part of the Smug Mom post:

As parents, we make decisions for ourselves, our kids, and our families. Part of the decision making process involves researching options, observing what has or hasn’t worked for others and then, through trial and error, finding what works for our own family in each situation/time and with each child. That said, not all parenting decisions (or life ones for that matter) are β€relative”.

Aye, there’s the rub:

“Not all parenting decisions..are relative.”

We live in world controlled by relativism. “Anything goes’ and “whatever is good for YOU” is the motto spelled out loud and clear by the cultural cheerleaders.

Usually, when we think of relativism, it has a negative connotation in reference to moral/ethical relativism. Indeed the effects of this prevailing philosophy reach far deeper and guide even the simplest decisions. Even, and especially in parenting.

After all, parents make decisions based on what their relatives tell them is best, right? πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

Har, har, har. 

I jest but there’s probably some – or a lot – of truth to that. Parents make relative decisions all the time in relation to or in comparison to something or someone else. Whether it be in relation to other people’s kids, their other children, or even themselves. 

These comparisons start from the get go…

He looks JUST like his great grandpa Polly’s second wife once removed’s little nephew (who was actually adopted).

Poor little “Polly the Third” will hear all about how he compares and contrasts to his relatives his whole life.  

Sometimes making relative parenting decisions is good when parents embrace their children’s strengths and talents even though they may differ compared to their friends’ and relatives’ kids. Sometimes, things really are relative and what works for one person really would not be a “good” thing for another.  

And sometimes what works for others, really IS a good thing for everyone:



– Even though some things are relative, not all things are relative. There really are some decisions, behaviors, actions, choices, etc that really are NOT good and really should NOT be tolerated (<– another popular overused word).

There are some things that one might assume every parent knows – instinctively – not to do, or at least know that they shouldn’t do.

Of course, people will continue arguing over what is in that list for the rest of time but it doesn’t change the fact that Truth does indeed exist.

It seems as if we – in this modern parenting culture – have backed ourselves into a corner where both relative and absolute parenting philosophies tug at us from all sides. So what do you do? Do you toss your hands up and give into the sweet beckoning voice of relativism; or, do you go Clint Eastwood and arm yourself with the sturdy face of absolutism?  Either way, it seems you can’t pick one without rejecting the other. 

It’s easy enough to say, “Well as for me and my family, we’re going to do it this way and I really don’t care what others do.” But unless you turn your house into a prison and never let anyone in or out, there’s a high chance you’ll find that you can’t avoid the “Others” and you care more than you might think about what other families do and how their decisions affect them and your family as well. 

Enter in social awkwardness:

– Hi, we’re new in the neighborhood.
– Welcome!
-So, what does your family like to do for fun?
-We’re cannibals.
– Oh…um….that’s…um….hey kids, time to go….heh heh. It was nice meeting you and I hope we never see you again.

And whatever decisions we do make for our families are ones we hope our children understand and accept…

– Honey, everyone is different and we all make different choices and we have to love people where they are at.
– Does this mean I can hang-out with the Cannibals now?

…and we teach them what {we believe} is acceptable, safe, and healthy. This is particularly embarrassing when our kids very loudly and publicly point out others’ “bad choices”.

Ewwww! Mama, mama, mama!!!! That man is SMOKINGGGG!!!! He’s making a BAD choice!!! Yucky!!!!!

So what DO you do in those moments when you and your family find yourselves in an uncomfortable situation which you do not agree with and would prefer to protect your kids from? Especially when this happens with family or people you otherwise like hanging out with? How do you politely bow out while also making it clear – to your kids mostly – that cannibalism {insert your own example here} is not OK without sounding like the morality police? And, how can we raise smart and confident kids who can make good and healthy decisions without creating self-righteous little monsters at the same time?

I look forward to hearing your suggestions/thoughts. {But no rude gossipy ‘smugness’ allowed in the combox, please!}


{p.s. don’t worry that I’m talking about anyone or a real-life event or any specific ‘controversial’ issue because I’m not. This is a general conversation about relativism in parenting.}

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3 thoughts on “Relativistic Parenting

  • Erika Marie Post author

    chirp, chirp…
    my doodles are feeling lonely… πŸ™ I can’t be the only who struggles with this right?
    It’s alright, don’t be shy…I promise not to feed you pig eyeballs. πŸ™‚ Unless, of course, that’s your thing… πŸ˜‰

  • Monica DeGraffenreid

    You know, I think it comes down to being able to say “such and such is not right, but we can (and should) still love”. After all, God loves us, even when we do wrong, and we are called to replicate that same love for others, no matter the choices they make. And I think if we can convey this to our kids, we will raise a new generation who knows right from wrong, but more importantly who knows how to love in spite of all the bad in this world.

    And please, no pig eyeballs. Not even organic ones.

    • Erika Marie Post author

      Thank you for your comment! You are a great friend. πŸ™‚ Yes, I agree, it’s a fine balance we have to teach our kids (and ourselves) to speak the truth and do what is right – with humility AND charity. It’s still hard to know exactly what to say/do in those situations we find ourselves in sometimes that both removes our children/protects them from something we believe is harmful without at the same time offending the host/friend/family member, etc.