Fight the Clickbait

I read this week about a cafe near where I live that has made statements on their Facebook page about their kids area being misused and the subsequent decision to remove said play area. I read these sorts of articles frequently, and so I wasn’t surprised at the wave of support from people all over Australia for the cafe owners. I’m not going to comment on the events that lead them to take this step; I think enough has been said about it. The cynic in me believes this to be a pretty well planned publicity stunt, while the mother in me wonders why the cafe felt the need to berate its past customers to the point of Facebook shaming them.

What disturbs me though is how easily this parent judging exercise has generated mostly positive publicity for the cafe in question. A savvy marketeer would have known that this type of story gets traction and gets a business plenty of shares, likes and comments. Nastiness sells and this incident has reminded me that people are all too willing to let it. Whether it was intended to be or not, this was a smart move by the owners and their publicity team. Inevitably, a large number of parents and non parents alike are itching to wear their prejudices like a badge of honour. The resulting attention creates momentum, and more and more people jump on the bandwagon.

For those of you up in arms, saying, “But do you really think its okay for children to behave like that? What are the parents thinking?” I pose you these questions by way of response. Have you bothered to consider the parents’ side to this story? Why is it a national news story when a small business removes a few toys from its premises? And do you wonder why so many parents are so very eager, (giddy in some cases) to instantaneously judge other parents that they’ve never met without even knowing the full circumstances?

I’ve written about judgement before, but every week someone somewhere gives me the opportunity to say it again. There is no good that can come from shaming another parent. No parent, and in fact no person, is perfect but moreover it is folly to judge a person without knowing the full extent of the circumstances that lead to an action or inaction. And in cases where parents are truly letting their children run amok, being rude or embarrassing them does absolutely nothing to change future behaviours. It does, however, contribute to the ongoing sport of parent shaming which in turn creates unreasonable expectation on parents and constant anxiety around being perfect and raising perfect kids.

No doubt, our children have begun to notice that parenting has become one of the most high stress and over examined vocations around. So next time you feel your inner superior parent buzzing through your typing fingers, remember that the cumulative effects of the ongoing microanalysis of what parents should or should not be doing and exactly how they are failing is damaging to us all. And by the way, it really isn’t the place of anyone judging from afar to criticise parenting decisions. In the case of a business, there may be times where the behaviour of a child does not meet their guidelines and that is fair enough. But if the owners of the cafe were serious about changing the behaviours of their patrons they had many avenues to do so without resorting to nastiness and shaming. Without generating widespread judgement.

I’m not going to name the business – they’ve already received far too much publicity for a pretty nasty facebook post. Instead of a simple message letting patrons know they were removing toys from the cafe, they chose to shame parents in an effort to garner sympathy and it has worked. I won’t buy into that. Instead, I will recall a far more interesting story about parents that live in the same area as this cafe.

This week we had a small family emergency. Nothing too dramatic, but for a day or two it has caused significant disruption. Life would have gone on as normal if it weren’t for the wonderful community that I live in. Like a coven of white witches they surrounded us with positivity and I have been inundated with support from every angle. It doesn’t change the situation, but we have a fully stocked pantry and I’m reminded of the good that can be done when we work together instead of against each other.

And its not a one off. I’ve seen communities rally on the back of small hiccups and huge tragedies alike. From bunches of flowers delivered at opportune moments to charities created in the interest of fostering that community spirit and helping others when they need it. What a great lesson for our children it can be when we unite.

These are the stories that should go viral. Everyday acts of kindness that really make a difference in other people’s day to day lives. I’ve seen it many, many times but read about it in the media very rarely. Parents, most of the time, do a fantastic job at something no one is trained for and even when they don’t they are almost always doing their best with what they have. In any other vocation, that would be admirable. But parenting is becoming a social media bloodsport. So today, instead of commenting on a post that pits parents against each other, or sharing a post that makes some parents seem superior to others, or even liking a comment that puts other parents down – share these stories. Choose to support other parents and make a concerted decision not to support the gutter journalism, shortsighted click bait and keyboard judgements of other Mums and Dads who are doing their best.

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