How welcoming a site should Parenting.SE be? Are we as welcoming as you want this site to be?

In this question, there was some expression that the site was negative enough to put off at least some users.

One user stated in his answer:

Frankly, it has been my experience that a LOT of questions get a negative first response... This is made materially worse by the fact that a lot of the long term users are then upvoting this non-answer (despite such an answer violating Meta guidelines AND the OP's comments stating that the answer is extremely unhelpful).

We can't tell who up votes bad answers - sometimes people have admitted in comments to signing up solely so that they can upvote an answer, so I suspect some of this is done by people who aren't regular users - but when I see offensive comments being up voted, it does distress me. I had to edit an unkind answer and am hoping the community will delete it.

I do believe Parenting needs to be unwelcoming sometimes (trolling and offensive posters are not welcome here.) However, often it's simply a difference of opinion that brings out the negativity.

I'd much rather see comments like, "Thanks so much for editing" and "+1 for covering everything" and updates like "Thank you all for your advice, it's really helped me and you don't know how much it means to me" Than some of the answers and comments out there.

What can we do to avoid causing users to feel unwelcome here?

  • 3
    I don't have an answer in me ATM, but I have been trying to make my comments more friendly and educational where I can, to try and head-off negativity. Typically, though, I feel like the constraint of being concise in a comment tends to make me come off as terse. Here are two comments where I tried to make extra effort to be welcoming: parenting.stackexchange.com/a/19984/11394 parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/20113/…
    – user11394
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 2:13
  • 3
    I think it's an issue that I felt like I needed to "intervene" in that Cinderella question. I was worried he'd be met with hostility because of the way he worded his question. It may have been unwarranted, but something in my experiences here has led recognize that certain questions will have answers that focus less on an answer/solution and more on reprimanding the asker (usually about content that's not pertinent to the core question).
    – user11394
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 2:18
  • Should I simply copy/paste from my answer that you linked to? :)
    – user3143
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 17:24
  • @user3143 as long as you use > to signify it's a quote and cite where you copied it from, always link to your references! XD
    – Acire
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 19:57
  • @Erica sigh more work... I just don't want to repost the same rant over and over in zillion places, like a grumpy old parent :)
    – user3143
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    Also acceptable is "I wrote an excellent rant here(link) about this" ;)
    – Acire
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 20:36

8 Answers 8


It seems to me that there are two basic use cases to consider:

  1. The people who are committed to this site as a source of long tail information about parenting.
  2. The people who have questions or opinions about parenting but are not committed to this community.

I don't have a lot to say about the first group except to note that the Be Nice policy covers a lot of ground. If you see a comment that's on the rude side, just flag it for a moderator to delete. When in doubt, downvote rather than commenting.

I'm going to split the second group into two more:

  • Parents with questions.
  • Parents with opinions.

The pathological case is when these two groups get together without any assistance from the people most invested in the community. When it comes to opinions, insist on getting them backed up. If someone "read somewhere", ask them for a reference. If they make a generalization, ask for specific experiences. Rather than just providing a conclusion, we should ask answerers (of all types) to make the connection from their assumptions (which should also be specified) to their results. Many people will have a rough time on the site until they bridge the gap between opinion and science. Put thoughtful comments and edits into your toolbox for this group of users.

Finally there are the parents who just have a concern or difficulty with their children. To pick an example that's been on my mind, consider: My 13-year-old son made a foolish and wasteful donation. How can I teach him he was wrong? The first bit of good news is that 4 different people took some time to revise the question so that is could be useful to many people and not just the original asker. It's a delicate operation and I think the final result reflects the asker's query and reads a lot better than the first draft.

Overall, the answers seem useful to someone in a similar situation and the voting looks reasonable to my eye. It's good to see that one of the answers was accepted by the original poster. But a lot of the comments fell short of what I'd hope for with a site that welcomes questions from parents. Whatever your expectation for how much a pair of shoes for a 13-year-old should cost, it's too late to tell the OP they spent too much. While that may be a valid critique of their budget, it's both insensitive and irrelevant to mention in a comment. Try to make comments relevant to the actual question and try not to get diverted from side issues.

Doubly troublesome: most of those comments were unbacked opinions. So while the question was helpfully improved and the answers (I flatter myself to include my own) are generally helpful, the comments are not. With an answer, regular users of the site could mitigate the problem with comments, downvotes or edits. (See above.) With unsupported comments, the only alternative to ignoring them is deletion. On that front, the moderators have been active, but it would be better if people didn't leave such comments in the first place.

In a sense, I'm preaching to the choir on meta. I recognize that this particular question got an extra measure of attention via the "Hot Questions" sidebar around the network. This is an exceptional case. However, I've seen small-scale examples of the same sort of comments on other, less-popular questions.

  • 1
    I agree that there are very many problematic comments. The mobile site makes flagging comments really hard.
    – DanBeale
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 19:35
  • @DanBeale - what browser are you using? I think doing almost anything on the mobile app is harder (but I'm a technophobe), but flagging isn't very hard. I'm using Safari (because it came with the phone!) Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:27
  • Hello @anongoodnurse - I can flag questions and answers, but not comments. I'm using Chrome on iOS and the mobile site. I think this is a known thing. Here's an old meta q meta.stackexchange.com/questions/213709/… I don't know if the app allows comment flags. :-)
    – DanBeale
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:44
  • Re shoes ("While that may be a valid critique of their budget, it's both insensitive and irrelevant to mention in a comment. Try to make comments relevant to the actual question and try not to get diverted from side issues."): I disagree, I think since the value of the shoes were important enough to the question that it was appropriate to ask why so much was spent on them. Especially with the relaxed comment culture on parenating SE, I think the comment is fine. It's a perfectly logical thing to wonder in that situation so I don't see it as attacking or insensitive.
    – bjb568
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 3:49
  • 2
    @bjb568 most of the comments (and there were many) were not constructively phrased. A dozen variations on the theme of "OMG Y U SPEND SO MUCH ON SHOOZ" doesn't really help the OP reach a solution to the dilemma.
    – Acire
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 15:24
  • Sure, I guess, but one of them, constructively phrased, isn't that bad.
    – bjb568
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 15:41
  • There may be some differing cultural biases at work in this particular question. Here's an extreme example: in Spike Lee's film, "Do the Right Thing," a racial conflict develops in connection with a white character being oblivious to the importance a black character gave to the newness of his expensive new shoes. I'm not saying it's easy to suspend our judgmentalism... but it's worth the effort to keep trying to do so. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 0:30

What can we do to avoid causing users to feel unwelcome here?

Great question!

I think the best way to help people feel welcome is to take out all the judgmentalism. This is a site where participants will be especially vulnerable to it.

Interestingly, this has a parallel in parenting. As parents, our feedback to our children is most helpful in the long run when we avoid being judgmental.

In addition, I think that we should be very careful to downplay our personal views about morality, or at least qualify the moralistic portion of an answer.

I think a good approach when writing answers is to focus our answers on the OP's needs. Imagine the OP is your sister-in-law or brother-in-law, and is a very different sort of critter from you, but comes to you with a question or a request for advice.

I will write a separate post with some suggestions about moderation.

Thanks for opening up a very interesting, constructive discussion.

  • +1 - "I think the best way to help people feel welcome is to take out all the judgmentalism. This is a site where participants will be especially vulnerable to it." I agree with this up to a point (sometimes we need to judge.) Can you give concrete examples of how this can and should be done? Commented May 20, 2015 at 17:02
  • Thanks for giving the example thread, parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/19474. Great example. That's a situation where I think we really need to start at where the parent is, and try to talk in a way that will allow him to listen and hear what we say. (I'm not saying the thread participants didn't do that, at least part of the time.) We feel empathy for the child, and we feel frustrated that the parent has so few tools to bring to bear that it feels necessary to effectively imprison the child. We may feel shocked. But we will get farther if we try not to show it.... Commented May 20, 2015 at 21:14
  • 2
    And by the way, I think that it was unfortunate to close the question. - - Thanks for asking for concrete examples, and I will post a list soon. Commented May 20, 2015 at 21:15
  • A couple notes about that Question, for context: (1) its original form didn't sound like it was actually written by the parent in the situation, and it was closed as too broad in an attempt to focus it to an answerable form; (2) closure was by community vote (available once you reach 500 reputation), not moderator fiat.
    – Acire
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 19:50
  • I too dislike the closure of that question. It's pretty easy to answer generic questions like that (long term grounding does not work; the parent should consider something like Webster Stratton and should have meetings with the school to work out what's happening; the child possibly needs some helpful intervention not more punishment)
    – DanBeale
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:08

I think @CreationEdge hit the nail on the head with his comments - Parenting is an area where almost no-one could be considered an expert, but everyone knows something about it.

For many, the first training in Parenting is once it happens. Those luckier ones gain experience with cousins and relatives first, and have supportive role models in parents, relatives and friends.

So it is an area everyone has an opinion on, and many can feel that their experience is the only right way - which I think generates some of the 'attacks' against the asker, rather than answering the question. That example @anongoodnurse mentioned had various posts hinging on age of consent - which isn't the issue. Age of consent varies the world over. Let's get over things like that and look at the questions.

In my opinion, mods and high rep users should be the role models here at guiding, steering new members of the community towards positive behaviours, and coming down quickly and firmly on posts that attack the OP.

In order, these are the things you can all do:

  • Comment: guide the OP if their question needs help
  • Edit: many new visitors do not realise how collaborative this site can be. Help by editing if needed
  • Vote: let's get good posts upvoted and bad posts downvoted
  • Flag: community powers are pretty strong, but for posts that are offensive or spam, or just need mod powers, flagging helps get things done

As a question asker: it feels pretty unwelcoming. I would probably find somewhere else to ask my parenting questions because of that. (Other reasons too - the answers don't feel trustworthy; there's frequent inconsistant ignoring / blurring of the No Medical Advice rule; there's a definite cultural bias that does not reflect my culture at all)

As a question asker: the site doesn't feel welcoming. Answers can be very long, talkative, opinionated, use bizarre sources for cites, unclear, and just not useful. There are about three or four people who provide answers that I do not hate.

My role: I'm nowhere near as welcoming as I could be. I used to be a lot better. The site is sometimes infuriating, which is decidedly off-putting. It's something I'm trying to work at. My recent answer about keeping glasses on was good; my answers to the questions about fairy stories and stories about lying are poor.

As someone who's been here a while the site feels a bit cliquey; some of the mod decisions are hard to understand and I'm grateful that I'm not at the end of them.

In my opinion ParentingSE failed.

  • 2
    Dan, this answer (please excuse the irony) might be better with examples. I can fully understand your feelings of disappointment. I gather we can be more welcoming. Would less talkative answers and better references (always to be desired) make this site more user friendly? I understand that it would certainly be a better site for it. What other ways can we make this more user friendly for you? Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:23

Maybe voters on this site should remember that just because you disagree with an answer does not make it bad advice or worthy of a down vote. I do think a couple of my answers are voted down if not solely, largely about my Non-PC / not liberal stance on children.

An answer can still be good even if it disagrees with your views, this site should not just devolve into a popularity contest.

  • This is true, and I hope users are mature enough to allow answers that are different from their own thinking. Down votes, though, are common for people who disagree with the premise of the question, who don't answer the question asked, or which users see as "unhelpful" (one of the primary reasons for down voting.) When I receive down votes, I check for these things first. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 16:08
  • Whilst I appreciate it's not nice to be downvoted, I downvote if I feel the answer is not useful. That alone merits a downvote. So unfortunately you might feel you are giving good advice whilst others don't and it's their free will to downvote if they so wish.
    – Bugs
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 9:12

(mostly quoting from my own answer here)

It has been my experience that a LOT of questions get a negative first response, but not quite the usual negativity. To elaborate:

The worst kind of first response from my POV is "this is not a real problem, you shouldn't care about it" in response to "Q: how do I address problem X" (and more general form of "your assumptions are wrong" responses which may be OK but frequently degenerate into that specific bad approach).

  • This is made materially worse by the fact that a lot of the long term users are then upvoting this non-answer (despite such an answer violating Meta guidelines AND the OP's comments stating that the answer is extremely unhelpful).

I'm far from a newbie at either SE or even this site, but this type of response basically drove me off of this site as an asker; after a rigorous attempt to participate.

Please note that this is somewhat orthogonal to antagonistic response to specific question types/topics (which Joe's answer on linked meta question discussed in a very thorough detail, so there's not much to add).


Well, my answer changed since 24 hours ago.

Specifically, as a result of this comment: Was this edit handled appropriately?, I don't feel welcome on this site at all, since apparently openly questioning a specific action by a moderator on Meta is not welcome despite that being the suggested policy and approach. I generally like the other 2 moderator's style (despite that one action being disagreed with), but that commend by a 3rd moderator makes the site highly hostile.

  • @user3143 The other meta thread being locked is because much of the question relates to a different user's participation that is an ongoing moderator issue that will not be publicly discussed. I am sorry if the response was not thorough enough or welcoming enough, but it isn't because of you or your question.
    – Acire
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 17:02
  • Comments purged. If either user would like to continue their conversation, I strongly encourage them to do so in chat.
    – Acire
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 17:04
  • 1
    @Erica - it wasn't the locking that set me off [1]. It was the wording in the comment by a 3rd moderator "a very thinly veiled attack on the activities moderators and SE have taken regarding a particular issue"
    – user3143
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 17:04
  • OK, I misunderstood.
    – Acire
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 17:06
  • @Erica - [1] I disagree that shutting people up is a proper response (note that I was very specifically discussing things about the post, not a user and their suspension, which I agree I don't know enough info to have opinion on). But if people fail to see that handling a publically happening situation in a way that somehow makes discussing it worse, means you didn't handle it correctly, whatever, I can't force you to see that and that's that. The locking was wrong but didn't make me feel threatened on the site. The comment wording did.
    – user3143
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 17:07
  • @Erica - BTW, what you (based on above comment) and Rory both failed to notice that I very carefully did NOT mention the user related moderator actions. For a reason (I'm friendly with some moderators and aware these things require non-public forum from private disussions about moderation in general). 100% of my Meta post was about the edit and the lock.
    – user3143
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 17:08
  • I've answered you in your previous meta question about the optics already.
    – Acire
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 17:11

Edit: I should be surprised to see the down votes for taking the time to honestly answer a question about my own feelings as to how welcoming this site is, but I'm not. Did you want me to say how wonderful it is here so far? It isn't.

So far my experience has been not welcoming. Down votes seem to be rather unreasonable and I often encounter a negative attitude against conventionally accepted and scientifically supported suggestions offered for the asker's consideration. Comments that follow don't come from the asker, but always from some third party that offers no constructive criticism or direct comment on why they believe an answer to be wrong. These are answers which are on topic and considered in the context of the question. I get the sense that people become emotional about topics not quite related to the question and feel the need to assert their opinion even if it's not the appropriate place to do so. For example, if you bring focus to the importance of a father figure in a child's life, somebody will inject a diatribe about how a single woman can raise a child and start flinging accusations at you about how you have disrespected every woman who ever lived. It's not fair to the person asking, the person answering, or child in question to derail like that.

Imagine you're answering on a food Q&A. "Which wine pairs well with steak?" You give a well thought out and researched answer about why certain red wines are generally paired with red meats. Then you get a down vote and the only thing close feedback in the comments is "How dare you! White wine can be good with steak!" Does that make red wine any less conventional or any less suitable as a pairing? No, it does not and it comes off as extremely silly and immature.

These type of nonsense comments can be exploited for any reason on just about any post here. "Citation required." Yeah on a parenting Q&A where parents are offering their personal advice and experience we should can an on-topic, helpful answer based on one user's failure to find elementary information on the topic? Nah. Nobody wants that. Please don't be obtuse here and ignore that I'm talking about people who displaying zero effort to contribute whatsoever. I am not referring to people who genuinely request additional information after making a valid attempt to find it themselves.

Maybe I've just had some bad luck with encountering trolls and they don't represent the general atmosphere here. For me it feels very unwelcoming to take time to try to help people and then have people on a parenting Q&A become negative just because I suggested that a child not having a stable home environment can result in the behavioral problems being asked about. That's been researched and well demonstrated so why does it inspire such hate? The more this happens, the more it feels less like a parenting Q&A and the more it feels like a site for attacking functional, healthy families. If this site is supposed to be some sort of single motherhood only Q&A the please change the name to accurately reflect this. If that's not the case then we need to be prepared to be more inclusive and encouraging to those seeking a healthy environment for their children. It shouldn't be a surprise that a lot of single moms don't actually want to be single and are literally praying for the support of a good man. I can direct you to plenty of real single moms on social media who want this. Thousands of them. There are, sadly, a large number of them and I hope I am wrong in my early impression of this site that the prevailing sentiment here is that single mothers should be struggling by themselves and that anybody here who shows support for or suggests ways in which they can build a more stable family situation is not welcome. Who here can really say they are against a healthy, nurturing environment for children? It's not fair to the community to say "Just because the child is in an admittedly unstable living environment doesn't mean we should address this issue which is likely the root of the behavioral problem in question." Why do we have this Q&A if we are not here to sincerely answer these questions? It really makes you feel like genuine answers aren't welcome.

I also don't really understand how down votes works on a Q&A where many things are a matter of opinion. Am I supposed to be down voting any parenting opinion I disagree with? That's the sort of thing that makes me afraid for religious posters who have religious aspects of their question regarding parenting. Sadly, when I see such a question, I am already bracing myself to see the user get attacked because somebody else has a different opinion.

To address the elephant in the room, I recently read this blog post and it gives the impression that the site is largely concerned with enforcing certain narratives which are often inconsistent, contradictory, and hard to follow. That's not very welcoming. The post is very much focused on select, but not very well defined, groups feeling unwelcome. It does not go into much detail about why they feel unwelcome or what SO is actually doing about it. Meanwhile, they are blatantly marginalizing everyone who doesn't fit into their cherry picked groups of people who's feelings matter. I'm not sure where the lines begin and end for those groups exactly, but there is a clear assertion that people not view as included in these groups are privileged and SO does not need to be as concerned with making these people feel welcome. It really sets a broad tone for the site as a whole.

As a user, I don't want it to be assumed that I belong to a particular group that is either the in group or the out group. I certainly don't want to walk on eggshells and withhold helpful answers because some other user imagines a suggestion of A to be disrespectful to B. I don't want to see somebody posting a genuine answer relating to a relationship between a mother and father derailed and attacked because someone feels that having a heterosexual relationship is inherently exclusive towards gay parents or something completely off topic. This is not meant to be the place for that. It is supposed to be a welcoming community for all and the effort to make it welcoming to some hurts the overall quality of the site for everyone. So I sincerely hope my experience so far has not been the result of this nonsensical group vs group social warfare that seems to derail just about everything these days. If you can't understand where I'm coming from on this one then it's time to check your perspective.

Before you smash that down vote under the assumption that I'm not a member of one of the right group or that I'm not of the right faith or that I'm not of the right political alignment and then proceed to tell me why I am wrong to feel unwelcome here, take a moment to reflect of what Jay says:

Feelings have no “technically correct.” They’re just what the feeler is telling you. When someone tells you how they feel, you can pack up your magnifying glass and clue kit, cuz that’s the answer.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .