'To Each Their Own' Is A Terrible Parenting Philosophy

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Delmaine Donson/Getty

“To each their own” is a lovely concept, in theory. How nice to think of us all living our lives in peace, independent of one another’s judgment, not interfering with each other’s way of doing things — respecting one another’s different backgrounds, different belief systems, different outlooks on life. We simply live and let live, like that “COEXIST” sticker with all the letters made from symbols from different religions. What a beautiful, tolerant world that would be!

While we absolutely should respect each other’s differing beliefs, let’s get one thing clear about “to each their own,” especially when it comes to parenting: This is not a free pass to act like an asshole, make up your own alternative scientific facts, or ignore safety rules.

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You do you, I do me, and we respect each other’s different parenting styles, religious beliefs, etc., but, as with everything else, we need to pull up a chair for our old friend Nuance, who is feeling super left out of the conversation these days.

Anti-vaxxers, hear me: You don’t get to use “to each their own” to justify your decision not to vaccinate your children. Your defense that it’s your choice to leave your children unprotected from dangerous diseases and that you can do what you want with your children is bullshit. You’ve fallen victim to junk science and think vaccines will give your kid autism. That’s not a thing, first of all, and second of all, autism is not a death sentence. Many of the diseases we vaccinate for are.

Your decision not to vaccinate does impact others besides just you and your kids. You are not on your own here. Herd immunity is critically important to the efficacy of vaccines because it protects the vulnerable members of our society who can’t be vaccinated due to legitimate medical reasons (not made-up reasons or fear) like infants, people with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. Unless you live on a deserted island or somewhere deep in the woods where you never come into contact with other humans, “to each their own” doesn’t work as an anti-vax defense. So quit it.


“To each their own” also isn’t a pass to ignore safety regulations. There are good reasons behind the specific guidelines for car seats, seatbelts, helmets, and sleep safety. Please don’t say “to each their own” as an excuse to put your child at risk. Yes, that’s your child, but your child has a right to be safe based on regulations that have evolved from a long history of scientific testing and research. We’ve learned over time that taking certain precautions helps keep our children safe from injury or death. We need to heed that science.

Likewise, foregoing helmets while riding bikes isn’t just “your way” of doing things. Don’t defend yourself with “Well, I did it, and I survived!” That’s not scientific. We have helmet rules because many children didn’t survive. Literally that is why helmet rules exist — because a bunch of kids died or suffered brain injury from bike-related accidents, and helmets prevent those injuries and death. Your anecdotal evidence that includes you and the few neighborhood kids you grew up with isn’t valid science, so get out of here with it and quit putting your child at risk. Put the damn helmet on your kids so they don’t give themselves a concussion.

Same for sleep safety for infants. Babies die from unsafe sleeping arrangements. Maybe you didn’t die. Maybe your kids and your nieces and nephews didn’t die. But a lot of babies did, and scientists researched how to prevent sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), and now we know safer ways for babies to sleep, so for Pete’s sake, do your absolute best to follow those guidelines.

Also, allergies. People. If only I had a dollar for every time I read in the comments someone using the “to each their own” argument to justify sending their kid to school with a fucking peanut butter and jelly sandwich despite there being a child in their kid’s class with a deadly allergy to peanuts. You don’t get to say “to each their own” and send your kid to school with something that could kill another child. Your child’s pickiness, no matter how extreme, does not trump another child’s right to live, sorry not sorry and do I really have to say this? You don’t get to tell other people “to each their own” because you can’t be bothered to figure out a substitute food besides peanut butter to feed your kid for lunch.

Even in smaller, less significant ways, “to each their own” can be hurtful or at least a ridiculous pain in the ass. I recently read this thread on social media where parents who don’t do Santa were using the “to each their own” argument to defend that their kids, who don’t believe in Santa, were going around blabbing to other kids that Santa isn’t real.

Come on, folks. Don’t be an asshole. And better yet, teach your kids not to be assholes. It’s not that hard. Explain to your child that although you don’t do Santa in your household, for a lot of kids, it’s a magical part of the holiday season. Your kids are certainly free to say that they don’t believe in Santa, but crushing other kid’s Santa dreams by arguing about it incessantly or making other kids feel stupid for believing is so unnecessary. It’s really not hard to tell your kids to chill out with insisting to every kid they run into that Santa isn’t real.

“To each their own” is a great concept, but it isn’t a free pass to be a jerk. We do have to look out for each other a little. We live in a village and are involved in each other’s lives, whether we want to believe it or not and whether we like it or not. “To each their own” is meant to be a concept that helps us respect each other’s differences, but not the kinds of differences that can hurt people. It’s talking about respecting each other’s different ways of worship or believing (or not believing), the kind of food we eat, who we love, how we present ourselves to the world. It’s not a pass to be thoughtless. It’s not a pass to be needlessly unsafe. It’s not a pass to hurt others.

Because it really does take a village — and part of what that means is that we must care for others in our village. Sometimes that means adjusting our behaviors and making ourselves slightly uncomfortable in order to protect the health, safety, or well-being of our child or someone else’s. So, unless you live on a literal island, save “to each their own” for cases where it actually makes sense.

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