How to Handle Parenting Advice

From day 1 of motherhood (and even before), we are inundated with suggestions, warnings, and even criticisms from just about everyone. As if filtering through all the articles that pop up in our Facebook feeds and the emails that flood our inboxes wasn’t enough, we also have to face the not-always-so-subtle words of wisdom from loved ones and sometimes even strangers. It can be incredibly uncomfortable fielding some of these questions and comments. So what’s a mom to do?

image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

First and foremost, remember that YOU are Mom. No one can replace you, and no one knows your kids like you do. At the end of the day, you make the decisions that you feel are in your children’s best interest.

When it comes to handling parenting suggestions, whether welcomed or utterly unsolicited, there are several important things to keep in mind.

4 things to keep in mind when processing parenting advice:

  1. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
    • As upsetting as it can be when you feel someone is attacking your parenting, you and only you choose your emotional response.
  2. Don’t read into motives
    • People give advice for a variety of reasons:
      • To feel intelligent, important, or helpful
      • To show concern or to be of service
      • To make you feel bad (refer back to #1)
      • To fill dead space in the conversation
      • And many many more reasons
    • It doesn’t matter why someone is giving you advice. When you read into motives, you can easily become suspicious, which prevents you from responding graciously. Your best bet is to assume the individual has good intentions. It’s terribly draining when we’re cynical of others.
  3. Don’t immediately dismiss or accept
    • It’s super easy, especially for brand new moms, to either immediately dismiss advice that doesn’t completely align with their worldview OR to immediately accept advice that seems like it could revolutionize their parenting experience. Neither response is healthy.
    • You don’t have to decide then and there whether to incorporate this tidbit of info into your parenting. Simply store it away to revisit later when you have time to yourself to evaluate.
  4. Swallow your pride
    • Humility goes a long way when it comes to handling criticism. Remember that there’s no need for your to prove a point or come out looking good.

Now that we’ve looked at how to internally handle advice, let’s consider how to externally respond.

6 tips for responding to parenting advice:

  1. Listen
    • Most people simply want to be heard. If you listen intently, you could walk away without saying a word and the conversation would be a win for both of you.
  2. Breathe
    • You may not have a ton of control over your physiological response when you’re feeling attacked, but you can control your breathing. Focus on taking deep, focused breaths.
  3. Smile
    • Smiling may be the last thing you want to do if you feel like someone is criticizing you. Smile anyway. Smiling will help you breathe and breathing will help you smile.
  4. Maintain eye contact
    • It’s tempting to lose focus if you are feeling irritated with someone and start looking around for an escape. Instead, stay intently focused on the person speaking.
  5. Keep your response simple
    • Acknowledge what the person has said. You don’t have to verbalize your agreement or disagreement (refer to #3 in the previous list).
    • An “Oh, okay” or “Mmhmm” will suffice in many cases.
  6. Be gracious
    • You may think someone is giving you the dumbest advice you’ve ever heard. You might think the individual is a complete idiot. Doesn’t matter. Respond graciously and thank the person for his/her input.

While there are some sour apples who want to make themselves look good and bring you down in the process, most people truly have good intentions when they give you parenting advice. Forget the haters. They’re not worth your energy. Instead, consider it a blessing to have so many people with loads of experience who are eager to help you along your way.

Remember, you are your kids one and only mom. You’re an intelligent, competent mother capable of doing your research and making informed decisions. Believe in yourself, and you can handle anything that comes your way.

 

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