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It happens the minute you announce you’re expecting, and it comes from every single person you happen upon.
Despite good intentions, advice isn’t always helpful. In fact, sometimes it’s downright awful. I’m not saying advice is bad, in fact I welcome helpful advice, and LOVE to give advice. I’ve had years of nannying experience, and as a mom now, I love to help new moms or even moms with a few kids who may need a little help. But boy, have I been ready to swing at a few people who think the grocery store is a good place to tell a mom who has three kids hanging off of her grocery cart that she’s buying the wrong size pants for her son, or when a mom complains of how hard it is to hear her baby cry himself to sleep, and is reprimanded for letting her child “cry it out,” because someone else believes it’s not ok.
Offer Positive Advice
We parents need to be there to lift each other up, not tear each other down. Sometimes, we have the best intentions but they slip out of our mouths the wrong way. Make sure when you offer advice, you let a fellow parent know that this is what worked for YOU. Remember we all live differently and have different parenting philosophies.
Being a parent already evokes unstable feelings, and to have other parents tell you you’re doing it wrong is an injustice. If you’re looking to offer advice and don’t agree with the way someone is parenting, try telling them what worked for you and why you did it.
It never ceases to amaze me when a mother gets told she’s wrong for a decision she made for her child. I’ve seen it a lot lately in real life, and with social media like Facebook and Twitter becoming a bigger part of our lives, it has become even more prevalent.
Giving advice is about giving options, not answers!
I always try to give other parents the disclaimer that “this is what worked for me,” and if I’ve heard of other options, I’ll add those in too. There are many different parenting beliefs—my way may help another parent, but it may not. So offer a few options! That’s much more helpful to hear than, “Here’s how you SHOULD do it.”
Handling The Negative
Remember that mom at the grocery store who was told her son was in the wrong-sized pants? Yeah, that was me. I was walking down an aisle with my son and the two kids I nanny for, and a lady stopped me and whispered to me that my son (the boy I nanny who she assumed was mine) needed a smaller size of pants because she could see his bottom. You know that part in movies where someone has a fantasy of beating someone down and then comes back to real life, only to answer kindly? Mmmm hmmm. I did not need that woman to tell me about J’s pants. Anyone who knows that boy knows he can’t keep his pants above his butt crack, and he wears pants two sizes too small! Did I want to tell her that he is developmentally disabled and has growth problems? Sure. Instead, I thanked her and walked away.
That’s just a clothing debacle, but I treat all negative advice the same way. I thank the advice giver with a smile, then walk away.
It’s hard to do when your parenting choices are being questioned: being told you shouldn’t give your child processed foods, or you’re too uptight about your child’s nutrition, your child is too old to not be potty trained, or you’re being too overzealous about potty training, or if you don’t co-sleep you’re a terrible mom, and another person says if you DO co-sleep you’ll hurt your child.
Take the things strangers (and even friends and family!) say with a HUGE grain of salt. Try and look for the positive lesson they were trying to convey. If there’s really no positive, then let it roll off you and be happy for them that they OBVIOUSLY have their crap together.
While there are many different ways to parent, there’s only ONE way for you to parent—YOUR way. Be confident in your decisions for your child, and take the positive advice to heart.
What’s the worst negative advice you’ve been given?
Thank people when they give you helpful advice, too. REALLY thank them though. Not the constipated smile “thanks” you give the negative stranger. Let them know the positive advice is really appreciated.
Positive advice is a really great thing. It helps us make better decisions, know our child is ok, and gives us new ways of looking at an issue. Let’s all try and give/take advice in a positive way and build up the parents around us!