(NEW YORK) — One mom’s viral Facebook post in which she recounts telling her kids they were being “annoying” has drawn some very heated comments — both of support and backlash.
Kristen Hewitt’s Facebook post has been shared almost 30,000 times.
It reads, in part: “I was at the grocery today with the kids when I probably said a little too loudly, NOT in my nice mom voice, ‘You know I love you very much, but you’re REALLY annoying me today.’ Right then a young couple walked by, presumably with no kids because the man uttered, ‘Well that was brutally honest.’ To which I replied with a sickening sweet smile, ‘Well they ARE being brutally annoying.'”
She went on to write that an older woman told her she would someday miss this, which Hewitt does not agree with.
The Florida mom of two told ABC News’ Good Morning America she didn’t expect her post to go viral and was surprised by the more than 4,000 comments: pleasantly by the vast majority that were in support of her and shocked by the vitriol of the ones that weren’t.
“If your kids don’t behave any better than that in public, maybe you aren’t being that great a mom,” said one. “Put some real effort into parenting. Yes I’m being judgmental, I had kids and I like to shop and eat without having to put up with kids like yours.”
Another wrote, “Children are a product of their environment so how you’ve raised them to behave is how they will behave.”
Hewitt told GMA the negative comments won’t change the way she parents.
“This is who I am, an honest person who doesn’t sugarcoat everything,” she said. “If telling my kids I love them but they are annoying me is the worst thing I ever say to our girls, then I think I’ve won motherhood.”
Alexandra Sacks, M.D., a reproductive psychiatrist and the host of the Gimlet Media podcast Motherhood Sessions told GMA, “Asking another mom if and how you might be able to help is much more supportive than critically commenting from the sidelines. And, unless you’re worried about safety, it generally is viewed as intrusive to comment on the behavior of strangers or even acquaintances in public settings. Trust that if someone wants your input they can always ask for your advice.”
So what do the experts say? Is it OK to call your kids annoying?
First, there’s a big difference between telling your kids they are annoying and telling them their behavior is annoying, said Dr. Stephanie Samar, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.
“Telling your child that their behavior is annoying will not cause long-term issues,” she told GMA.
“With that said, it is important to distinguish between evaluating behavior and evaluating the whole person when providing feedback – saying ‘this behavior is annoying to me’ can be constructive while saying ‘you are annoying’ is not and leads to all or nothing thoughts like ‘I did a bad thing which means I’m bad’. Providing corrective feedback is an incredibly important parenting tool; however for it to be effective you need to notice and provide feedback on what your child is doing well,” Samar added.
For example, she said, try catching them the 30 seconds between bickering among siblings to say “I love how quiet you both are being.”
Samar also suggested parents look at where their own frustration is coming from.
“If you find your child is ‘annoying’ all of the time, that could mean you are burnt-out,” she said.
If that’s the case, it’s time to find time for self-care.
One thing both experts and Hewitt agree on is that judging parents isn’t helpful.
“Parenthood is hard enough. Most moms are so tough on themselves, they may not have the bandwidth to productively use outside unsolicited advice from others,” said Sacks. “Before you judge another parent because you think you know better, remind yourself that there’s no way to know what any other family’s circumstances and emotional experience are, even if it looks like yours from the outside.”
Samar told GMA that judgmental comments usually have the opposite of the intended effect.
“Judgments often leave parents feeling unsupported and misunderstood which then gets in the way of them being effective parents,” she said. “If we want to help each other be better parents then offering support or validation is more likely to lead to ‘better’ parenting than criticism.”
Hewitt hopes that parents who have been in a similar situation to the one she found herself in at the grocery store will feel encouraged by her post.
“I want people to know that it’s OK to not love every single part of motherhood,” she said. “It’s OK to not be the perfect parent. You can be angry at your kids and love them at the same time. There is no one-size-fits-all kind of parenting, we all are walking life in different shoes, on different paths to different destinations. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s OK. Let’s offer more kindness and less judgment to parents.”
“And also,” she added, “it would be great if grocery stores could offer daycare like at the gym.”
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.