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5 tips to handle uninvited parenting advice

I regularly comfort Mamas who've received unwanted parenting tips or advice. At best these can be irritating but at worst they can really sting.

Most recently a Mama had her confidence knocked when a Nursery Worker confidently advised her not to hold her baby so much at home as it was making life difficult for the Nursery Worker caring for the child. This was based on 2 days with a child experiencing nursery for the first time. 

Whilst there's so much I'd like to write about this advice (how does the Nursery Worker know what is happening at home with a family she doesn't know well? She can only be making assumptions. Why is there blame shifting on to a Mum going through the stress of using a Nursery for the first time, for a struggle the Nursery Worker has? What could be the affects on a baby going through a challenging transition if Mum suddenly withdraws her comfort at home?) But here, I want to concentrate on how we can respond. 

When 'advice' like this is confidently given when we didn't ask for it, it can knock our own confidence and feel like a criticism. But it may not be intended that way.

So what can we do in the moment if our brain is fried by these comments and all we want to do is run, cry, yell or all 3?

1. Say nothing and take a deep breath. 

2. Consider letting it go. Do you respect this person's opinion a lot? Does the person definitely have the qualifications, experience or knowledge for the unsolicited advice on parenting that they've given? Do they understand and respect your parenting style, you and your child's unique needs? If not, perhaps just let it go with a polite 'thanks for your thoughts!'

3. Postpone the conversation. If you're not sure about letting it go but can't have a discussion with the person in the moment, say so: 'I'd like to discuss this more but it's not a good time for me/ I don't feel good right now/ I need some time to think. Can we talk tomorrow/on the phone/by email.'

4. Ask questions. When you do feel able to discuss it, try questions like these:

  • 'I'm curious, what would be the benefits of me doing that?'

  • 'Are there any downsides to that approach for my relationship/energy levels/bond with my child?'

  • 'Can you explain a bit more how you feel that would help the situation'

  • 'Whats the evidence/research for that, I'd like to read up on it?'

  • 'Thats really different to other advice I've heard, are there different ways to handle this?'

Often people have spoken without much thought, perhaps from their own stress or past experiences, and they may just be repeating something they've been told but never stopped to think about.  It may also be that they didn't explain what they meant properly and when they do, you actually feel much happier. Or they might just back down completely!

5. Own your parenting style. Be confident to reiterate your right as a unique parent to care for your unique child in the way that feels right to you.

  • 'As their parent, I'm not comfortable with that approach'

  • 'That approach doesn't sit well with me, do you have any other suggestions?'

  • 'I wouldn't be able to do that, are you able to support my parenting style?'

You can find your own way of saying these types of things in a way that feels comfortable for you. But you know your child and family best and there's rarely only one right way to achieve a parenting goal. You got this!


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