Dummygate, schmummygate!
Leave David Beckham's parenting choices up to him, says Nicola Whitfield.

So how did you feel when you saw pictures of Harper Beckham with a dummy in her mouth while out and about with dad David? Outraged, like so many people out there? The child is four-years-old, they protested – she’s too old for a dummy! Childcare experts weighed in too: dummies are only for young babies, they said. Prolonged use can damage children’s teeth and affect their speech.

"You have no right to criticise me..."

David was annoyed. He took to Instagram to write this (rather long) sentence: “Everybody who has children knows that when they aren't feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it's a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people's children because actually you have no right to criticise me as a parent.”

You tell ‘em, Becks! Although you probably won’t have much luck getting them to back off. What Dummygate has proven is it doesn’t matter how famous you may be – if you’re a parent, you’re fair game for critics.

Take your newborn out in her pram and strangers will tell you she’s too hot or too cold. Park your fractious toddler in a supermarket trolley seat with a lollipop and shoppers will tut-tut about sugar. Let slip in a weak moment that your three-year-old goes to bed with a bottle and you’ll be berated for spoiling him.

A four-year-old sucking a dummy may be a bit off and the experts are no doubt right about the dangers of dummy addiction. But there’s another issue here: Harper is the Beckhams’ fourth child. And as most parents know, you become more laissez-faire the more tots you produce.

Happy parents, happy kids?

When my first child was born I tried to do everything by the (old-fashioned) book): three hourly feeds, potty-training at two, dummies sacrificed to the fairies in toddlerhood. When the second one came along it was feeding on demand and potty training when she was ready (she wasn’t into dummies). By the time the third was born it was pretty much anything goes. People didn’t like it, they could lump it. She’d come home from pre-school and demand “dummy, bottle, Lion King movie”. And she got it. Peace prevailed.

Which is why I find UK parenting expert Fi Star-Stone’s comment about the Harper business so pleasing. “It is very easy to hand out opinions on others’ parenting skills – but my goodness, is she happy? Yes? Leave the child be!”, she stated on Twitter.

You said it, Fi.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Is there ever an appropriate time to tell a parent how to look after their child?

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