There’s a well known saying that only three things in life are certain: “death, taxes and unsolicited parenting advice.” Ok so that’s not really how the saying goes but as soon as you bring a new baby into the world, or even share a pregnancy, EVERYONE suddenly seems to have an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
Whether you’re a first time parent or fourth timer, advice often comes thick and fast which can be challenging especially if it doesn’t align with your own parenting values. Having a baby can be emotionally and physically draining so the last thing you need is so called ‘parenting experts’ – be they strangers, your own parents, friends or your in-laws – coming out of the woodwork and adding a whole heap of judgement and pressure to the plate. Read on for our best practical tips for handling unsolicited parenting advice like a pro!
How to handle unsolicited parenting advice from your parents
Let’s start with the big guns, your baby having a baby is a big adjustment on both sides. They’re adjusting to you in your new role as well as their own new role as grandparents and often the ‘parenting’ lines can get a little blurry. Unsolicited parenting advice from your own parents can often sound like “that’s not how we did it with you” or “we never did that or had that in our day” and dealing with it can be difficult to manoeuvre, especially if you disagree.
The advice most often comes from a place of love and first hand experience but the first thing to establish is, is this a case of offering suggestions because they genuinely want to help or are they offering comments because they disapprove of what you have chosen to do with your baby?
If it’s the latter, our best advice is polite, yet firm, honest communication. Start your reply by reinforcing how much you appreciate all the help and guidance they provide (think of future (free) childcare needs!) but that you will be the one to turn to them if you need advice. It might feel uncomfortable to set out some clear boundaries but trust us it will keep you from resenting them.
It’s also worth noting that research and official guidance has likely changed drastically since we were kids, so you can always point them in the direction of the new and updated facts.
How to handle unsolicited parenting advice from your in laws
Potentially even trickier to navigate is unsolicited parenting advice from your in-laws, especially as their parenting decisions and how they raised their children had nothing to do with you.
Comments from this camp often begin with “I think it would be best if…” which on very little sleep and a bucket load of hormones can be like a red rag to a bull.
Instead of snapping back at them and causing an uncomfortable rift, try to reframe your frustration into a conversation. You can ask them about their experience parenting your significant other – they may just want to reminisce! A polite but firm “Thanks so much for sharing that with me, we’re doing X for [baby’s name] right now but I’ll make sure to remember that advice.”
If all else fails, lean on your partner. Just as you might be more comfortable talking to your own parents about unsolicited parenting advice they may well feel more comfortable to tackle their parents 1-on-1.
How to handle unsolicited parenting advice from your friends who are also parents
Friends who are also parents themselves may be prone to adding in their two pence, especially around a subject that they might have struggled with or still feel emotional about. Feeding, sleep, and discipline can be big target areas here and like your in-laws, they have their own set of views that may differ completely to yours. Once again, it more than likely comes from a place of love. A “I wish I’d know that” but it’s still frustrating.
Responding to potential “Are you really going to do that” comments by agreeing to disagree might be the best option here. Try to take the emotion out of the situation by remembering to respond as you would with any other topics you might disagree on. Don’t let it come between you, no experience is ever the same because as we know “all babies are different” – which incidentally, is a great statement to fall back on!
How to handle unsolicited parenting advice from your friends who don’t have kids
Arguably one of the most well meaning but down right infuriating situations is when someone who hasn’t experienced raising children decides to tell you how best to raise yours.
However tempting it is to respond to the “I’ve heard you should..” and “have you tried…” comments with the equally damning “just you wait until you have kids” DON’T. No one wants to fall into the ‘just you wait” brigade especially not when your friends are probably just trying to help and get a peep into your new world that they’re not a part of yet.
Perhaps try a “oh yeah i’ve heard of that” to acknowledge noncommittally, without dismissing them.
How to handle unsolicited parenting advice from strangers
Pregnancy and new parenthood seems to be a green light for strangers to engage you with conversation which can be lovely depending on what’s said. Dubbed the ‘mum police’ these individuals often like to point out if you’re doing something ‘wrong’ in their eyes. This often sounds like “you’re putting your child at risk” or “I just wanted to make you aware…”.
Though getting defensive or rude might be your first reaction (totally understandable), there are ways to combat these comments without causing a scene.
You could simply continue about your day with a quick “I’ll bear that in mind” or a “thanks for sharing your opinion, but I know what’s best for my baby” and if those don’t work you have every right to politely tell them to mind their own business!
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