Ten years ago, I was much more of a “mom blogger” than I am now, and I regularly shared my kids’ lives with a public audience. Naturally I got flack from readers who thought it was irresponsible of me to write about my kids so publicly, even though I ran each and every post by the kids and hid their identities behind code names. But the comments that really bothered me were those who had something to say about my parenting, how I was living my life, and even offering advice on how I could improve my children, which is crazy because NONE of them knew us in real life.
I mean, imagine this. I’m a single mother, sharing about our single family lifestyle that included low income living, dating, working outside the home, and struggling with kid issues like grades, activities, friends, and more. I was a prime target for people who knew better than me, and boy did I hear it. When I shared about my son’s worn out shoes, one off-topic commenter let me know that my kid needed to go on a diet. When I talked about dating, another commenter said I shouldn’t date anyone until my kids moved out of the house. Any talk about single parenting had people slamming me for leaving my ex.
What is it about parenting that brings out the self-identified experts? One mom friend I know was told how to keep her kid under control when this child is actually autistic and was suffering an anxiety attack. Another mom was ridiculed for letting her toddler swim in the pool with floaties because it was giving her child false confidence. Another was told she wasn’t cutting her toddler’s food tiny enough. Parents of newborns probably have it the worst, hearing all kinds of conflicting advice from every corner just as they’re trying to form their own way to parent.
There is no advice less welcome than the advice that was never asked for. So how do you sidestep these would-be experts on your life? Here are some ways to tackle this issue:
1. Politely let them know you’ve got it under control, and then move on.
2. Stay silent. I mean, nothing says more than the mom/dad stare, ammiright?
3. Let them know you’ll consider their suggestions. You don’t have to, but this answer will allow the conversation to end without getting worse.
4. Share how you’ve heard that it was done like that in the old days. You know, like cocaine was once considered a good idea for teething babies. Wide eyes are necessary on this one.
5. Tell them you’ll check with the doctor. Repeat this one as necessary for those without a doctorate who think they know better.
Most important, stand firm in your beliefs. Who’s the expert on what works with your child? You are. You’ve raised this child from newborn to now, and know who they are, how they think, all their preferences, and more. Those people with their unasked opinion aren’t the ones putting your child to bed or trying to head off their meltdown. As much as would-be experts think they know better, they actually don’t.
However, don’t be afraid to ask for advice when you really aren’t sure about something. None of us have all the answers, but someone out there could have the solution to an issue you’re currently facing.
Finally, understand that most people who offer unsolicited advice (besides anonymous internet trolls) are actually trying to help, as annoying as it is. Often they just want a chance to reminisce about how they parented their own child. If you have the bandwidth to do so, offer them a chance to share their own parenting stories. Your “questionable” parenting will be forgotten as the unasked adviser divulges their own parenting war stories. Who knows, you may even find common ground.
What is the worst unsolicited parenting advice you’ve received? Share in the comments.
Crissi Langwell is a Petaluma local, blended family mom to three young adults, and author of 11 books. Visit Crissi’s author website at crissilangwell.com.