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Why Tragedy Makes us so Quick to Criticize Parents 

WHY are we so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? What is it about alligators, gorillas and car seats that turn rational human beings into armchair parenting quarterbacks moments after tragedy strikes?(Last Updated On: June 18, 2016)

WHY are we so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? What is it about alligators, gorillas and car seats that turn rational, compassionate people into cruel, armchair parenting quarterbacks moments after tragedy strikes?

When I hear about a child’s death, I immediately imagine the pain of losing my sweet girl. Even in the middle of the night, I’ll go scoop her up, kiss her face, smell her hair, knowing it is only by the grace of God my girl is healthy and alive.

It certainly isn’t due to perfect parenting. I fail daily.

So why are people so quick to criticize parents?

Because we’re afraid.

In the wake of tragedy, we see their pain and grasp at any straws to prevent our own losses. Just the thought of such grief horrifies us, clutches at our hearts, stops our breath.

Irrationally but passionately, we believe our love for our children would have been enough to protect them.

So we pretend.

Why so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? We want our illusions of control. Click To Tweet

We pretend our parenting is the difference between joy and grief, that our constant vigilance is completely responsible for our children’s health and well-being, forgetting split-seconds can bring disaster.

All we can do is our HUMAN best. And that scares the snot out of us, if we’re honest.

WHY are we so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? What is it about alligators, gorillas and car seats that turn rational human beings into armchair parenting quarterbacks moments after tragedy strikes?

Because we know how utterly flawed we are.

We criticize so we can pretend our parenting choices are the difference between joy and grief. Click To Tweet
We criticize parents because we want to believe it was their fault.

If it was their fault, we can believe we could have done something differently to prevent the tragedy.

Because we are terrified to acknowledge we are largely powerless to protect our children from every possible danger in the world.

Honestly, there’s no hope in believing it is all on us. We’re left manically trying to control everything.

My only real hope is God’s sovereignty and His love for His children.

Learning to trust Him with MY life is hard; it’s a daily letting go of my plans and hopes in exchange for His.

Trusting God with my daughter and stepsons means understanding bad or terrible things may befall them. It is scary.

But God has used even the most tragic circumstances in my life to reach, change, and use me. I have to pray for peace, knowing He won’t let anything be wasted in their lives either, even tragedies or my parenting failures.

Genesis 50:19-21 ESV /  But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good .  .  .  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

God comforts and reminds us not to fear. He will provide for us and our children, even beyond our understanding.

Instead of being so quick to criticize parents, what if we recognized our deepest fears and just grieved with them, prayed with and for them?

Maybe, we could demonstrate God’s peace and grace to those facing the most unspeakable grief, losing a child.

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19 thoughts on “Why Tragedy Makes us so Quick to Criticize Parents 

  1. Judge not others, lest we be judged….

  2. I think this post is beautifully written and much needed right now. It’s funny both times, with the gorilla and then the crocodile my first thought when I heard of the tragedy was, “Where were the parents?” I wasn’t feeling hateful or angry towards them but my first reaction was to judge them. Then once I saw all the people outwardly judging and angry at the parents I felt awful for them and ashamed of myself for judging them too. You put into words exactly what I was feeling. Like somehow, if I can make it their fault then something like that would never happen to me. Kind of like trying to control everyone and everything around me so that I feel like I have some type of control in my life rather than trusting in God and the process. Great post that gave me a lot to think about. Thanks!

    1. I think you exactly understood my heart on this.

  3. Maybe we become the quarterback parents because we missed the sermon on Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged. I’m with you..all I can think about is the horrific panic, heartache and sorrow let alone the guilt that any parent feels when something happens on their watch. Instead of judging….we need to be praying for these families. I have to ask myself, how would I want people to respond to me if something horrible happened in my family? I have a coffee mug that has a quote from Benjamin Franklin, “What Good Shall I Do Today?” that I have been asking myself everyday. I say we need to be different than how the world reacts and DO what Jesus would do.

    1. You are so right! Nothing we say can undo the horror, but if we can make it better, soothe a broken heart, shouldn’t we?!

  4. This is sadly true even with criticizing ourselves as parents. Some of us blame ourselves too often for whatever it is that happens to our children, even when it really isn’t our fault. There are wayward parents out there who actually don’t care as much as they should when caring for their children, but that isn’t really the case with all. Most often, our natural instincts as parents prepare us to be vigilant and responsible for the safety of our children (perhaps their well being is not part of our instincts but definitely ensuring safety is). So when tragedy strikes, prayer and not criticism should our response be!

    1. Absolutely. Our instincts only go so far. We can’t stop every bad thing ever. And living in constant fear isn’t the answer either.

  5. The longer I parent, the more I realize I make certain decisions based on fear instead of God’s sovereignty. You are so right that we have this illusion of control as moms and dads, as if we alone could stop a tragedy from befalling one of our kids. We believe it could never happen to us because we would have done something differently or been more careful, so we judge and blame others for their “faulty parenting”. Thank goodness our children’s future and well-being is in God’s hands!

  6. This is an interesting take on parenting and the criticism that can come after a tragic event. I enjoyed reading your viewpoint.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.

  7. Beautiful, grace-filled post. I *so* wish this was a more common response.

    1. Thank you. God has worked mightily in my heart to give me such grace.

  8. Thanks for sharing, so true. We should not criticize but understand. Everyone does their best =)

    1. Even those who are at fault need to grieve and be comforted.

  9. This is great insight. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you are right. I have been just as disturbed by the reactions of others as I have been by the tragedies themselves. Thanks for shedding some understanding.

    1. Some people might truly lack compassion, but I think most just can’t emotionally deal with the tragedy.

  10. Very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing. So sad for the parents who have suffered recently and been so openly criticized. They’re suffering far more than we could ever imagine.

    1. They are already suffering so greatly and then the collective internet dumps coals on their heads. It is too much.

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