I love looking through peoples’ pictures they share on Facebook and Twitter. If I see a car seat photo, I do notice installation, harness tightness, etc. When I notice something wrong, I really feel like I have to say something. After all, most moms just don’t know they’re making a mistake. However, approach even an honest mistake with an attitude, or without respect for the mom’s feelings, parenting, and privacy as well as her ego, can cause more harm than good, and definitely make no progress towards your actual goal: making their child safer.
But how DO you talk to someone about car seat safety without making them defensive?
Send a PRIVATE message.
I learned the hard way that posting public criticism, no matter how constructive or nice, is the worst mistake you can make when trying to help someone is to do it publicly. It’s hard enough to have your parenting skills questioned at all, but in front of others? It often embarrasses people, and makes them defensive. This step alone can prevent a lot of backfire. If it’s a group or fan page where you can’t address the parents individually, offer to, and tread very, very lightly and politely.
Warning first: this can sound contrived if you aren’t careful. But even then, it can still help ease the message. What I mean by a ‘compliment sandwich’ is this: Compliment – Correction – Compliment. For example, let’s use this picture of my son before I knew half of what I know now:
If I were going to send myself a private message, it might sound something like this:
I was looking through your pictures and I’m just amazed how big Rowan has gotten! Wasn’t he just a little baby not that long ago?
It looked like the straps on his car seat go in behind his shoulders. Probably about time to bump those up to above, since he’s forward facing, right? Oh and hey, did you know the AAP now suggests they stay rear-facing until two as a minimum now? I’ve been reading a lot on car seats lately and would love to share with you what I’ve learned!
Anyway, I love his little blue sweater. That’s so cute, where did you get it? We’ve got to get together sometime soon. It’s been way too long! TTYL!
Compliment things in the picture she’s chosen, or compliment her child, or just make positive comments in general. I love complimenting peoples’ pictures anyway, but doing so when trying to offer help, and commenting on multiple pictures in their album that aren’t just about car seats lets them know you’re interested in more than just trolling for car seat mistakes.
Play dumb… or at least humble.
Even if you’re a technician, don’t wave the fact that you’re more educated in someone’s face. Avoid using the words “inform” or “educate” because that implies they’re uneducated… and people don’t like that. It makes them feel like you find them stupid. Note in my example message, I didn’t TELL the person to move the straps up, I suggested it. I also said I was learning and wanted to share info, not “I know lots if you want to learn.” Think about it in terms of if it were new to you too. “I found a really great article that explains a lot. I learned a ton from it!” or “I found a really awesome and helpful article I love a lot.”. Even if you feel you’re demeaning your own knowledge by not saying that YOU know these things, your goal here isn’t to boost your ego — it’s to help another mom learn how to make her kid safer. If you have to play dumb to make another kid safe, it’s worth it.
Don’t correct right away.
It’s tempting to try to get all the mistakes you see in the first message, figuring that even if they turn you down for advice, you’ve still said everything they need to do. However, all it’s going to do is overwhelm them and increase the likelihood that they do turn you down. Start out slow. Maybe just, “I did notice, however, that both kiddos weren’t quite secured safely in their car seats. Chest clip too low and so on. I’d love to be a little more specific if you’re open to it. Don’t want to step on any toes!” The benefit here is if they respond positively, they’ve opened the door to you providing them with information AND pointing out flaws. This is really the hard part. Past this, you don’t have to tread nearly as lightly (though you always still need to be polite and humble!).
NEVER insult them.
I don’t care how mad you get, how much they refuse, how much your effort backfires… do not resort to insults. You will totally turn them off not only to learning from you, but possibly the topic in general. They might respond negatively because someone else before you was really rude either to them, or to someone else they know. If someone just won’t fix things, leave them with some information, NOT in a “final jab” kind of way, but maybe with a, “Well, if you would ever like to look at some resources, here’s a great one: (link). Sorry to bother you,” and drop it. We can’t save ‘em all.
Share stuff on your wall regularly.
While for some people, it can be annoying to see repeated posts on a topic, make an effort to just talk about individual points of safety regularly. For example, share The Pinch Test and write, ” ‘Two fingers under the strap’ is outdated! Remember to pinch the strap at the collarbone to make sure your harness is tight enough. This is the most common mistake! ” Remember that 9 out of 10 times, people just look at the link, read what you write, but don’t click it.
Good luck, guys. You win some, you lose some, but it’s worth the effort. Honey, vinegar, flies and such. You know the drill.
Do you have any more tips for success in trying to help others?