Dave Ramsey, a 22-year-old named Emma and what not to say to parents

About a month ago, a dad came to Dave Ramsey for financial advice and mentioned the thousands (upon thousands) of dollars he was spending on child care. The radio personality said, "They're not even in school and you're paying $25,000 a head? Come on dude, that's just dumber than crap." Parents quickly tore apart Ramsey's response, saying they've been screaming at the top of their lungs – for years – that child care is too expensive and we need a solution.

"People like Dave, pretending that this isn't happening is wild to me because it is documented that this is indeed the cost of daycare," a TikTok user wrote in the caption of her response to Ramsey.

Then, this week, a 22-year-old named Emma on TikTok piped up with the fix: Stop prioritizing your career. Stay home! The reaction was swift. Scathing. "I'll just tell the mortgage company that we aren't prioritizing our careers anymore," a user clapped back.

USA TODAY reached out to both Ramsey and Emma for comment; the latter has since posted an apology video.

The rapid, raging rebuttals to these videos illustrate just how frustrated parents are feeling.

Experts say parents who are very bothered by this content may be better off channeling their energy into their (in-person) communities if they want to create tangible transformations and keep their mental health intact. The responses also serve as a reminder to content creators that if you don't share a community's lived experience, it may be best to mind your own business.

'There's not an easy fix'

The truth: Annual child care costs vary dramatically around the country. The average cost of school-age care in small counties runs about $5,000, while in very large counties the average cost of infant-age care is more than $17,000, according to Department of Labor statistics. Some states, however, are far worse. In Massachusetts specifically, for example, nearly $20,000 as of 2021.

Marla Brassard, professor emerita of psychology and education at the Teachers College of Columbia University, said the TikTok users labeling Ramsey as "out of touch" are "right on the money."

"People are trying to listen, but there's not an easy fix," says Robin Gurwitch, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University. "And that leads to more frustration." And videos like this get "very triggering for many parents," says Regine Galanti, a clinical psychologist. They can especially sting when the comments come from those who aren't in the trenches as parents day in and day out.

As for Emma's suggestion to deprioritize your career: "Women have been dealing with this guilt for generations," says Anna Marcolin, a psychotherapist and personal development life coach. "We feel guilty, many of us, even if we want to work, we feel guilty at times, leaving our kids home, whether with a nanny or having to put them in daycare. And it's OK to want to work."

Money and the social media vortex

It's easy to spout whatever you want on social media with little concern for the consequences. "We're happy to sound off on social media about our real feelings about each other with money," Marcolin adds. "And we don't even know who each other is." Who actually knows the financial difficulties families face?

If Ramsey's words in particular made your skin crawl, you were in good company. "If I'm watching something, and that's not my lived experience, then it can become very frustrating," Gurwitch.

Those frustrations could in turn harm your mental health – so it behooves you to take some action.

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'Back off and reserve judgment'

Brassard believes the TikTok user who rebutted Ramsey "is an excellent model of how to educate without escalating a misunderstanding." If these TikToks are bothering you that much, of course, you can always stop watching them. Plus, solutions exist away from phone screens.

Parents looking to take action beyond TikTok can take turns watching each other's kids attend community events and advocate for solutions to the child care crisis, Gurwitch suggests. Or maybe start a letter-writing campaign. "It won't change overnight," Gurwitch says. "But at least I feel like I'm taking an action." Without action, you might feel increased hopelessness – which won't do you any good.

That said, if you're not a parent but somehow feel the need to weigh in, do your research first: "Unless you have or recently had a preschool-age child you are likely to be ignorant of the current child care situation; things have changed so much in the past decade and even worse since the pandemic," Brassard adds.

Also, don't shame parents for their child care choices. "Back off and reserve judgment for why people are choosing to put their kids in daycare," Marcolin says.

The bottom line here: Don't post without concrete knowledge. You'll save yourself – and viewers – many a headache.

In case you missed: Kourtney Kardashian, Travis Barker welcome baby. Let the attachment parenting begin.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dave Ramsey remarks on child care costs spur TikTok beef