Are you one of those parents who always feel like they’re being told what to do by people who don’t know them?
There are times in life when you feel like your parenting is the one thing that you know best, and it’s frustrating to have someone else tell you how to do something. You can politely decline unsolicited parenting advice in a few different ways.
Second-hand parenting advice will come at you like a ton of bricks once you take on the ‘parenting’ role.
Yes, from friends, family, and especially strangers; people from all around will advise on how to raise your child and children.
Despite what we’ve been conditioned to do (likely take advice from the wise), we often, as parents, know what’s best for our children.
Of course, it’s essential to keep an open mind when people inform you what they had done with their children 20 years before the Internet and organic food options; however, some ways will help you politely decline anyone who’s being just a little too pushy.
This may include the self-confidence and shameless nature you automatically take on when you have children.
So, read ahead as we list different ways to politely decline second-hand parenting advice because you’ll indeed receive it in your parenting journey.
Just remember: you’re not responsible for how others react. And, if they believe you’re sarcastic, remind them with good eye contact how serious you are. Welcome to parenthood.
Ways to Handle Unsolicited Advice
Smile and Nod
Ah, the old smile and nod trick. Often, people will not take offence to this. Because, how could they?
You agree with their advice, or so they believe. Whatever they think is not your responsibility.
Your only responsibility is to live a happy, rewarding life where you are in the right place (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually) to raise your child at your own pace with your techniques.
You know them best. So, you’re welcome to zone out the other’s opinions as you politely nod and smile.
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Respond With, ‘oh, I’ve Heard of That.’
A classic response. This one will not only allow the other individual to feel like they’ve been heard, but it will also give them some validation, considering this advice is likely some that they’ve experienced first hand.
We must remember, as parents, that other’s intentions are more than often spoken with good intentions.
No one wants you to fail as a parent; however, many parents believe to know what’s best for your own.
So, respond with “I’ve heard of that one,” along with other relatively similar responses, and you’ve got the job done. Next,
Explain Why You’d Rather Not
You are more than welcome to explain why you instead not take their advice.
Perhaps you’re not eating red meat because of religious issues, or maybe you instead put your kid in ballet despite his gender identity — whatever your choice as a parent is yours and yours alone.
Of course, with the consideration of your child’s wellbeing. But, you’re welcome to keep these answers short to, “Well, that sounds like it worked well for your child. It may just not be the right choice for mine/ours.”
It’s perfectly okay and polite to respond with a short or long answer. Even if it’s “no thanks.” That too is polite, in our books at least.
Say, ‘oh, I’ll Take That Into Consideration!’
Again with the validation. Let’s keep it short.
Whether you want to hear more about their experience with parenthood, or a technique they saw on the Internet, you’re welcome to let the other know that you will, indeed, take what they’ve said into consideration.
How polite! You are potentially going to implement their techniques, but you’ve also actually listened to their tale.
Whether you will use this advice or not, you’re keeping an open mind while not giving into your values and morals to please another individual outside of your immediate family’s circle. Well done.
Inform Them How, Indeed, Times Have Changed
Oh, the beauty of how the elderly often like to give us advice or make remarks like, “My mother would never allow me to do that at their age.”
Well, their mother likely did not live in the day and age where our kids have access to information at their fingertips.
The teacher to child ratio in most schools was so large that many parents decide to home-school their children.
Where cellphones are given to 10-year-olds for safety precautions, not because we “spoil” them.
It’s okay and polite to be as honest as you’d like. Lying is rude.
So, it’s completely acceptable to inform them that times have indeed changed, and your parenting techniques must adjust for them to grow into well-behaving, lovely contributors to their future society.
Remind Them How Your Kids Are Not Their Responsibility
It’s great when you have a support system and people you genuinely value around to answer questions you may have along your parenting journey.
But, when you have unsolicited advice coming at you from all directions, that not only can be overwhelming but uncalled for.
So, remind them whose children they are. Who gets to take them home after a long day, and who moulds them into the beautiful, loving, beautiful people they’re indeed becoming.
Because, my goodness. You’re lucky that they’re your responsibility, not theirs.
- Pretend to Point to a Friend Behind the Individual. Then Walk Away.
Hey, it’s okay to partake in a little white lie once in a while. We mean, that person behind Jane could have been your second cousin removed!
And, if all else fails, you may need a quick and easy escape from the dreaded conversation that you’re in the midst of.
Have a friend concerned about your child’s weight, offering to put together a meal plan to fatten them up? Oh, we think you see your best friend in the distance!
Does your mom think you’ve gained weight and have this perfect exercise involving your newborn instead of consequences?
Dad may be calling from the kitchen. Just. Leave. The. Toxic. Conversation.
Being nice to yourself is the most polite thing you can do in this life. It’s okay just to walk away.
Laugh and Say, ‘that Would Never Work With *insert Name Here*!’
Hey, you’re honest. And despite the previous advice, you want to be as simple as you can.
Not only for yourself, but for your children.
Please show them your confidence, your will and your strength by being the authentic individual you wish they too will become.
If there is some ludicrous advice that you are given, you can laugh.
You can cry. You can react any which way you can and say anything you feel is right at that moment, including: “That would never work with my child!”
Not only will this remind the individual that, hey, the parent must know their child best, it will also give you power in knowing you can stand up for yourself as a parent.
Because heck, you’re a great parent and how you choose to parent your child is, in fact, good enough.
Ignore Their Calls
Again, by catering to your own needs, even if it’s avoiding a toxic situation you know that’s around the corner, it’s okay to scan your calls.
Whether it’s from your parents, a doctor or a friend, if you know that an awkward conversation is just seconds away, we know you have plenty other essential things to do rather than take that call or answer that text.
You’re a parent, don’t forget. They’ll understand. And you’ll be happy you did.
It can be as simple as a “thank you.”
Thanking the individual for advice allows them to know that what they’ve contributed was considered, and whether the information or techniques are implemented is strictly up to the parent.
You do not have to go into detail about anything, bring up reasons why you chose another route or pull the “I’ve got something better to do right now” excuse.
You can thank them for your advice and continue on your way. Because don’t forget, you’re in control of your life—no one else.
Why People Offer Unsolicited Baby Advice
So why do people feel so compelled to put their nose in your stroller? They are just trying to help because they love you.
But it’s not all love. Safety is another factor. And maybe all those people offering advice know something that could be helpful.
Experts say that many times, the advisors need to have their parenting style affirmed.
Some of the backhanded criticism are comments like, ‘You’re not giving him cereal yet?’ Or, ‘Breastfeeding seems like so much trouble — why don’t you just give him a bottle instead?’ Or ‘I’m sure it won’t hurt to give him just a little (fill in the blank).'”
Did You Request Advice?
Before you prickle at a comment that sounds like criticism, consider: Did I open this door by actually asking for the person’s opinion? Or is this genuinely unsolicited advice?
If it is the former, accept that you invited the person to share their thoughts with you.
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Vocalize What Kind of Support You Need
It’s tough when you ask for help and don’t like the response you get. But try to avoid blaming someone for having an opinion when you did ask them for it. Instead:
Please clarify what you need: Instead of asking a friend or family member what they think, ask specifically for their support.
You might say, “I’ve decided to do this. I know you may disagree, but what I need from you is ___________ [to listen, your encouragement, no judgment, etc.].”
If you ask for advice, be ready to hear it: Seeking advice requires vulnerability.
Make sure you can accept that your family member may tell you something difficult to hear.
Seek out people who are educated on the topic: You will find that different family and friends are great resources for other issues.
For example: If you are suffering from a low milk supply, turn to a friend who is a member of the La Leche League rather than a relative who did not breastfeed.
What’s the Intention?
When you receive unsolicited advice that feels like someone squirted lemon juice on an open wound, take a moment.
See if you understand the heart of the person who seems to be criticizing your parenting.
Are they speaking up because they genuinely care for you and your family? Did they attempt to speak their piece respectfully and lovingly?
Set Clear Relationship Boundaries
If they seem to have positive intentions, you may want to restrain an overly defensive reaction.
Weigh their comments: Do they have merit? Apply or (gently) reject them accordingly. It may be helpful to focus on their heart rather than their advice.
You may decide that the person is hurtful or that their advice is well-meaning but simply unwanted.
If you don’t feel you can let go or ignore their comments, set boundaries with the advice-bearer.
As positive away as you can muster, let the person know that you are comfortable with the parenting methods you have in place and not looking for advice on the matter.
Am I Reading Between the Lines?
Sometimes it is easy to make the mistake of misinterpreting advice.
We add meaning or emotion that the giver never intended. We replay the interaction in our minds and sometimes over-analyze what was said.
This is particularly true in our world of electronic conversations (Facebook statuses, tweets, texts, and emails).
We are even more likely to read between the lines, filling in meaning that was never intended.
Especially in discussions of parenting style, engage in active listening.
Use verbal and nonverbal cues to give your attention to the speaker and confirm what you understand the person to be conveying.
If you are unsure, ask for clarification. “Did you mean to say _________? Can you elaborate a little further?”
When you communicate well, it can help build your relationship rather than harm it.
Be particularly mindful that electronic communication makes it very easy to misinterpreting someone’s comments.
We can’t hear our friend or family member’s Inflection and tone of voice.
So, if you read a Facebook status that leaves you thinking, “Was that directed at me?” or an email that starts to make your blood boil, either let it go or seek out the person for a calm, face-to-face conversation.
You might be relieved to learn you were utterly mistaken.
What Would Your Pediatrician Say?
Whether it be any of the many myths about alcohol and breastfeeding or how soon you can turn your baby forward-facing in the car seat, there are going to be times when people offer you suggestions that your pediatrician would advise against.
Ignore Them or Inform Them
In these instances, you have a choice.
You can either drop the subject by smiling and nodding, or you can gently educate the person. Which method is best will depend on the situation and the person.
Often, older family members can get stuck on a phrase like, “Well, when I was a parent…”
You can give a simple, “Is that so?” and let them have the platform (while knowing your information is more up to date).
Alternatively, you can reply with a simple message such as, “Well, nowadays doctors recommend _____, and I am comfortable with that.”
Am I Defensive?
Finally, pause to consider whether there is nothing wrong with what the person has to say.
Maybe this is a sensitive topic for you, or you have an issue with the person and not the advice.
Sometimes as parents, we have our self-defence mechanisms in place. We might be frustrated at our children’s behaviour, so we put our guards up high.
Additionally, we might feel as if our family is constantly criticizing us. Suddenly, every comment feels like a dagger that cuts to our heart.
Listen Without Responding
This is hard, but try it: Listen without feeling like you have to justify your parenting choices.
Simply being honest can help defuse the situation.
You might tell your family member that this topic makes you feel a bit sensitive or let them know that right now, you need to hear encouragement rather than suggestions.
The next time you find the steam rising inside you as you listen to what you perceive is a critique of your parenting abilities, before you do anything, reflect on the situation.
By taking the time to think before you react, you might find helpful insights and avoid an unnecessary confrontation.
Baby Advice Etiquette
So what’s the most gracious, intelligent way to deal with the barrage of baby advice?
Many parents say they smile and tell the adviser that they’ll “think about it” or something similar to that.
In the end, we figured out two responses that seemed to fit our every need.
The first was, ‘We will check with his doctor,’ because no one questions the doctor, and the second was ‘Great! Thanks!’ and then we just went ahead and ignored it.
Here are four other options:
- Thanks! We’ll consider that.
- Thanks! We appreciate your care and concern about our baby.
- Thanks! We know that advice was hard-earned through the years.
- Thanks! Um, that certainly is some advice! (This requires a bright smile, so they miss your sarcasm.)
Doctors recommend that parents be tempted to try out some advice to make sure it makes sound medical sense–significantly since the advice from one, two, or three decades ago might have changed in light of new scientific data.
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