Having a child and taking her out into the world can sometimes feel like an invitation to have others comment on your parenting decisions. With parenting, as with any endeavour, it’s essential to be open to new ideas, to listen, and to reflect. At the same time, we all know that a lot of the advice offered out there isn’t coming from a place of deep reflection, but rather from knee-jerk reactions representing the way someone else’s parents did things (and, of course, their kids “turned out fine”). For those of us going for more than “fine” for our kids, here are eight ways to deflect unwanted advice. Finding the right nursing chair for your baby nursery is an important decision. Check out our range of the best nursing chairs at My Baby Nursery.
Parenting by committee might work for some, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept unsolicited advice if you’re set on doing things differently. Believe it or not, there are ways to deflect relatives’ seemingly well-meaning words, and you can do it while still managing to keep the peace.
Ways to handle unwanted parenting advice
Just as your baby is an integral part of your life, he is also important to others. People who care about your baby are bonded to you and your child in a unique way that invites their counsel. Knowing this may give you a reason to handle the interference gently, in a way that leaves everyone’s feelings intact.
It’s natural to be defensive if you feel that someone is judging you, but chances are you are not being criticized. Instead, the other person is sharing what they think to be valuable insight. Try to listen—you may learn something useful.
If you know that there is no convincing the other person to change their mind, smile, nod, and make a non-committal response, such as, “Interesting!” Then go about your own business, your way.
You might find one part of the advice that you agree with. If you can, provide wholehearted agreement on that topic.
Pick your battles
If your mother-in-law insists that Baby wear a hat on your walk to the park, go ahead and pop one on their head. This won’t have any long-term effects except that of placating her. However, don’t capitulate on issues that are important to you or your child’s health or well-being.
Steer clear of the topic
If your brother is pressuring you to let your baby cry to sleep, but you would never do that, then try not to complain to him about your baby getting you up five times the night before. If he brings up the topic, then distraction is definitely in order, such as, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
Knowledge is power; protect yourself and your sanity by reading up on your parenting choices. Rely on the confidence that you are doing your best for your baby
Educate the other person
If your “teacher” is imparting information that you know to be outdated or wrong, share what you’ve learned on the topic. You may be able to open the other person’s mind. Refer to a study, book, or report that you have read.
Quote a doctor
Many people accept a point of view if a professional has validated it. If your pediatrician agrees with your position, say, “My doctor said to wait until she’s at least six months before starting solids.” If your doctor doesn’t back your view on that issue, refer to another doctor—perhaps the author of a baby care book.
You can avoid confrontation with an elusive response. For example, if your sister asks if you’ve started potty training yet (but you are many months away from even beginning the process), you can answer with, “We’re moving in that direction.”
Ask for advice!
Your friendly counsellor is possibly an expert on a few issues that you can agree on. Search out these points and invite guidance. She’ll be happy that she is helping you, and you’ll be glad you have a way to avoid a showdown about topics that you don’t agree on.
Memorize a standard response
Here’s a comment that can be said in response to almost any piece of advice: “This may not be the right way for you, but it’s the right way for me.”
Here are the other responses you can use:
“Is that how you did it with your kids?”
This works well for older relatives, especially those who have already raised several children. It’s nearly impossible to introduce children to adulthood without learning a few things along the way. Many veteran parents are very eager to share their knowledge with newcomers to the parenting club. Let them share their knowledge. Then do what you feel is best for your kids.
“I’ll give that the consideration it deserves”.
Most of the unsolicited advice you could receive will stray so far from what is best for your kids that it deserves zero consideration, and that’s exactly how much you will give it.
“That would be one way to do it”.
If someone tells you about getting your baby used to the crib or using time-outs to deal with those toddler tantrums, you can pull out this phrase. It acknowledges that, yes, one way to deal with the situation is as this person suggests. It doesn’t mean it’s the right way or your way.
“This is what works for our family”.
You can alternate this with, “We are happy with how we are doing things.” If you sound like a broken record for long enough, people will stop arguing with you.
This works well for the pestering questions that start with, “Shouldn’t you….” Shouldn’t you wean already? Shouldn’t you put your child in school instead of homeschooling? Shouldn’t you go back to work? Shouldn’t you cut back on your hours at work to spend more time with your kids?
There are no correct answers to these questions. Each parent has to do what is suitable for themselves and their family. Instead of listing all the reasons you have chosen your current path (which makes it sound like your decisions are open for discussion), shut down the conversation with a “Maybe so.”
“Could you pass the bean dip?”
Please change the subject by asking about their kid’s soccer season, how Aunt Martha is doing, or whether they’ve seen the latest season of House of Cards.
“Well, great chat got to go!”
If all else fails, end the conversation. Hang up the phone, pack your belongings and leave, or show the interloper the door.
Try being honest about your feelings. Pick a time free of distractions and choose your words carefully, such as, “I know how much you love Harry, and I’m glad you spend so much time with him. I know you think you’re helping me when you give me advice about this, but I’m comfortable with my approach, and I’d appreciate it if you’d understand that.”
Find a mediator
If the situation puts a strain on your relationship with the advice-giver, you may want to ask another person to step in for you. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
Search out like-minded friends
Join a support group or online club with people who share your parenting philosophies. Talking with others who are raising their babies in a way that is similar to your own can give you the strength to face people who don’t understand your viewpoints.
Embrace your choices with confidence
If you are a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, peaceful kind of parent, chances are you’ll be asked at some point, “Are you still breastfeeding?” or “Are you still using a carrier for that child?” Confidence goes a long way in these confrontations. Answer with a smile and an enthusiastic, “Yes!” as if someone had just asked you whether ice cream is still famous in the summertime.
How to negotiate all the potential minefields of parenting advice coming your way
From Your Parents
The classic “Well, that’s not how we did it with you” can work two ways. Either they’re interested to hear how things are different now, what the research says, and why ideas have changed (think Baby Led Weaning, sling wearing or breastfeeding on demand), or they’re put out and think you’re criticizing their parenting.
This one is difficult to manoeuvre, as they undoubtedly love you and raised you to be an intelligent, loving human being capable of raising a baby of your own. And their advice comes from a place of love, as well as decades of you asking for their opinion, approval and recommendation. What happens if they now disapprove of how you are choosing to raise your baby?
Try to calmly explain that, while you appreciate their help, you’ll ask them when you feel you need advice. Being so close, you should be able to present yourself clearly without causing too much offence. Be honest with them; they are your parents, and putting off telling them how you feel might make you grow to resent them.
From Your In-laws
Always a trickier relationship, dealing with your partner’s parents may prove more difficult. They have also raised children, OK – after all, you’ve chosen to raise a baby with one of theirs! They will probably have a whole range of things to say about how they raised their children and be super helpful at telling you how you should be growing yours.
Tempting as it may be, try to avoid getting snappy with them, and instead try asking questions. By switching the focus to them, you’ll change the conversation around and hopefully turn it into a trip down memory lane rather than a series of “I think it would be best if…” statements.
If all else fails, talk to your partner about presenting a united front. Just as you might be more comfortable telling your parents not to give unsolicited advice, so might your partner be to their parents.
Friends Who Are Parents
Most of us aren’t the first in our friend group to have a baby, so there may be plenty of shocked “Are you going to do that?” comments. (We had way too many of these!) Friends who have been there and done that already will be more than happy to chime in with comments on your parenting choices and skills.
Like your in-laws, they will have their own set of views that might differ entirely from yours, especially if they had their babies a few years ago. Agreeing to disagree might be the best option here. Handle it in a way you might other tricky topics like religion or politics. Tell them that you have decided to do something in one way, that you are lovely with them doing it in another and that you should leave it at that.
Friends Who Haven’t Had Kids Yet
OK, this one is a no-go. Friends, brothers, sisters who haven’t had children yet don’t get to offer an opinion. They may know other people who have babies or young children and have seen how they did it, they may watch TV programmes about it, but if you don’t have a child yourself, the phrase “I’ve heard that you should…” should not be escaping your lips! But if you are more patient than me here’s how to handle it.
It can be frustrating when someone who does not have children decides to tell you how you should raise yours; however, try not to take it personally. Know your facts, trust your instincts and maybe try to educate your friend. Counter the point they are making with your research, an expert opinion or something your doctor said. The more they know, the less likely they will be to comment again.
Yep, if you haven’t encountered it yet, lucky you! But yes, strangers will come up to you to offer an opinion on what your baby is wearing, eating, holding or doing. There are several online threads where parents share the craziest things strangers have said to them, many starting with the hysterical “You’re putting your child at risk!”
When a stranger approaches their (usually incorrect) advice, it’s hard not to get defensive. But far better for you and your baby if you can ignore them and keep walking. After all, you don’t owe them anything, and you don’t need to explain your parenting to a stranger. If this isn’t possible or persist, you could politely thank them for their interest but tell them you know what you are doing. If this doesn’t work, you have every right to ask them to mind their own business kindly.
For better or worse, modern parenting is awash with a vast array of conflicting advice and information from health professionals, books, friends, family, and even strangers. Everyone has their opinion and their way of doing things, but ultimately how you raise your child is your choice. The best thing you can do is educate yourself, make informed choices, and trust your instincts. As long as you know that you are making the best decisions for your child, you are doing the right thing!
While you might be tempted to hold your tongue when dealing with family members, unchecked criticisms can confuse kids who receive mixed parenting messages, and this can lead to strained relationships in the long run.
In a deteriorating situation, setting boundaries can help you assert yourself as a parent. You have to make it clear that you’re the authority figure. The key is to communicate effectively. To do that, you’ll need to create a clear parenting road map with your partner if you haven’t done so already. Ask yourself, “‘What do we want for our kids? What does family life look like for us, regardless of who else is around?” That will help you find your footing. Then, when a disagreement with a relative arises, you can both stand firm in your beliefs.
Use Honey, Not Vinegar
Don’t wait for a conflict to arise before talking to loved ones about your parenting style. By casually bringing up how you want to raise your children and asking them how they handled specific scenarios, you’ll get to a point where you’re comfortable discussing differences.
Being different is not a bad thing. It’s about learning to stay true to your families’ values while also developing your own. So next time Mami critiques your discipline techniques, take a deep breath and validate her input.
Often we go straight into confrontation mode instead of saying, “I understand where you’re coming from. I know that you did it one way when I was a baby, but now there’s a new thing I can use.” It’s an indirect way of saying, “I think you did a great job, but times have changed”, without being combative.
If the relative keeps pushing, cut them off gently by saying, “I appreciate your opinion. I’ll talk to my husband, and we’ll figure it out.” Then move on to another topic. There’s only so much effort you’re going to want to put into bickering.
Stand Your Ground
You have to draw the line when meddling relatives start affecting your ability to parent effectively. If the kids are lashing out because they prefer Grandma’s rules to yours, it’s time to tell her that things need to change or you might not see her that often.”
This conversation can get even trickier when you live with a stubborn relative. But that’s the time to double down. Get stern and lay down the house rules. Say that you want them to be part of the kids’ lives, but meddling won’t work in your home. Leave them to choose whether they’ll abide by the ground rules or opt to set some distance. After all, this is about you, your spouse, and your child; that’s the family.
One of the best ways to help the person giving you unwanted parenting advice is, to be honest with them about your feelings.
Try sitting down with them and explaining how it makes you feel when they are stepping in and telling you how to parent without giving you a chance to learn by yourself. And in many cases, they don’t realize that they are overstepping. But being honest with them keeps your lines of communication open and also strengthens your relationship. My Baby Nursery has the best baby nursery products to help create your dream baby room.
Parenting is hard. Of course, no one said it would be easy. But it’s tough to figure out how to parent your child as it is without getting criticized or receiving unwanted parenting advice all of the time. But try to remember that you are doing the best that you can and pat yourself on the back for that.