Why do we get so defensive?


May 29, 2014 by Alicia


I was chatting with a new friend recently and I told her I wanted to hear her birth stories of her kids. She told me she is passionate about natural childbirth and mentioned she sometimes holds back when telling her birth stories for fear that her passion would be misunderstood as judgment on those who don’t go the natural route. I told her I didn’t go that route and I still wanted to hear her stories. We then began to discuss why people get so defensive in parenting conversations. Why, when someone is simply sharing their life with us, do we feel the need to jump to our own defense if our life reflects different choices?

I had a c-section with Little Miss and a VBAC with a wonder drug an epidural with Little Mister. Now, if my friend said, “I think anything other than natural childbirth is shameful, unbiblical, and not a true mark of motherhood,” then yeah, I would get defensive. But I’ve noticed that people feel the need to defend themselves, even when the other person is not making personal attacks. Why do we automatically assume that someone will cast judgment on us just because our stories are different? Why can’t we just L I S T E N to someone else’s life instead of making it about us?

What’s even WORSE is when someone shares a parenting choice they’ve made and the other “friend” actually puts them down– declaring their decision inadequate, inappropriate, or inferior to their own. I recently shared a parenting decision of mine with someone and was basically told that I was stupid (not in those exact words, but it was pretty clear). I just responded with, “Well, it’s what we have chosen.” I let it go. I couldn’t help but wonder later why we do this to each other. Why do we tear down each others’ parental decisions? Why do we feel the need to make someone else into our idea of a good parent?

I think there are three main reasons. Two obvious and one not-so-obvious. The first obvious one is pride. We put others down to build ourselves up. Didn’t we learn this in elementary school? Isn’t this the rationale we taught to the bullied child to make them realize the bully was really the one with the problem? I think being a mom in our current culture can be more demeaning than the school yard ever was.

The second obvious reason is ignorance. This is when the “listener” is not a parent and makes uninformed judgments about a life they have not yet experienced. Don’t let this get your panties in a bunch. But do not say anything like, “well you’re not a parent so you wouldn’t understand.” That’s unnecessarily harsh and not edifying at all. Take it with a grain of salt and move on. They’ll understand if/when they have children.

The third reason is insecurity. I would say this is the most difficult for anyone to admit. We jump to our defense because we are afraid our decision is not “right” enough to stand on its own. We are– consciously or subconsciously– insecure about our own parenting decisions. When we are defending them to others, we’re really defending them to ourselves. We are trying to find that reassurance somewhere that we’re doing it right.

I completely understand being unsure about parenting choices. We’re all shooting in the dark here. It’s normal to feel insecure. But it’s not okay to push that onto someone else. It’s not okay to make them feel worse to make yourself feel better. It’s also not okay to constantly make the conversation about you. Whether you breastfeed or formula-feed, use daycare or stay home, wean at 12 months or 24 months, let/don’t let your child use technology, potty-train at 2 or 3, give/don’t give your child an allowance, public vs. private vs. homeschool, pay/don’t pay for your child’s college– the list goes on and ON! Here’s the deal – there is no one right way to parent. Yes, I do believe the Bible sets our standards for parenting (although I’ve yet to find the verse about when you should get rid of their morning nap). What I’m saying is – there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Every day, a [seemingly] million choices have to be made for our children. We parents have enough to exhaust us and fry our brain cells- we shouldn’t also have to worry about how our decisions line up with everyone else’s. Don’t assume someone is going to judge you. Don’t assume you’re going to offend someone because you chose a different route. Don’t assume your way is wrong because it’s different. Don’t be defensive about your choices. You are the mom (or dad) that the Lord has chosen for your child, biologically or not. You know your child(ren) better than anyone else. Be confident in your parenting. Be honest about your shortcomings. Be the friend that listens. Ask for help when you need it.

Someone can only beat you in a competition if you agree to enter it.



Linked up with: The Modest Mom Blog, A Mama’s Story, Raising Homemakers & A Wise Woman Builds Her Home


4 thoughts on “Why do we get so defensive?

  1. What a positive notion, fantastic. You are right, we are so quick to defend our choices even if no one is “attacking” us. I will try and be more confident from now on. Thank you 🙂

  2. Alicia says:

    It can be hard, but stifling insecurity can have great benefits. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Julie V says:

    Thanks so much for this post.
    I’m not a mom yet, but I’ve been a nanny and so I had done some research on getting toddlers to sleep better. I read through online information and found people judging each other terribly with name calling and everything. I came to a distinct opinion:
    It is not anyone’s business which options you choose when you parent!
    Even when I was a nanny and the 2-year-old wasn’t sleeping well (he was jealous of a new sibling), the mom would want me to try some different methods to get the toddler down for his nap. She wanted me to use the same methods she was changing to at night so he knew the routine.
    I realized that even as the nanny it really wasn’t any of my business what she chose.
    As long as other parents are doing what they think is best (and aren’t harming their children) it’s not my business. And when I have kids I hope I can remember it’s no one else’s business to make me feel bad when I choose this or that about parenting.
    Personally, I plan on having kids that sleep through the night from day 1.
    Just kidding 🙂

    • Alicia says:

      Julie, you sound wise beyond your years 🙂 The Lord created all moms and all kids unique – thus requiring unique parenting methods! Thanks for stopping by!

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