Tired Of Getting Parenting Advice? I’m Not.

We home school. And wear our babies. And cloth diaper them. And you might see me strolling through Wal-Mart with 7 children and a very obvious pregnant tummy sticking out. So you can imagine the comments, questions and parenting advice I get. Some of them are real zingers.

It’s popular these days to warn new mothers about all the unsolicited advice they will be subjected to. We are educated in mommy magazines and websites about how to stand our ground and own our decisions. And that’s all great. But there’s another side to all this, too.advice1

Tired Of Getting Parenting Advice? I’m Not.

Unsolicited advice isn’t really the boogeyman we make it out to be.

It can actually be a very normal and healthy sign of a civilization that values connection and continuity among generations.

So I’m suggesting the radical idea that you actually try to stay positive about those comments. After getting over my new mommy defensiveness, I had to admit that most people really are trying to be helpful. Granted, another person’s way of helping might not be your idea of helpful, but isn’t it possible to just smile, say “thanks” and be on your way with your hemp diapers, ring sling and hat-less newborn?

Let’s face it, we have a love-hate relationship with advice.

Dear Abby is an American institution, and has been followed over the years by advice-givers on TV, radio and now the Internet. We eagerly anticipate what someone else has to say about any given topic. Who among us doesn’t love to share a clever meme or saying on Facebook or Twitter in hopes of influencing our circle of friends? How often do we ourselves use the words “If I were you…” and “Have you tried X yet?” Yes, we give a lot of unsolicited advice ourselves.

 How To Control Any Conversation: Simple Ways to Deal with Difficult People and Awkward Situations

Now we all know that some people just go too far. I was asked once by a man in Taco Bell when I was going to see a doctor about my “problem” (the number of children I have). But outright rudeness and or mean-spiritedness are rare, and in those instances one can just walk away. Ask yourself if you’ve become so sensitive that most comments come across as rude. It’s food for thought.

Most advice can be handled with a kind and respectful response. And isn’t that what we would like to receive from others?

Realize that other people may feel just as strongly about an issue as you do. Realize that the way people are brought up, or the experiences they’ve had in life, may give them a desire to educate others. Realize that their way of bringing up the subject may or may not appeal to you. Realize that all of us are knowledgeable about some things and ignorant of others. The mother of famous pioneer author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, loved to say “It’s takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

Now we all know that some people just go too far. I was asked once by a man in Taco Bell when I was going to see a doctor about my “problem” (the number of children I have). But outright rudeness and or mean-spiritedness are rare, and in those instances one can just walk away. Ask yourself if you’ve become so sensitive that most comments come across as rude. It’s food for thought.

Most advice can be handled with a kind and respectful response. And isn’t that what we would like to receive from others?

Realize that other people may feel just as strongly about an issue as you do. Realize that the way people are brought up, or the experiences they’ve had in life, may give them a desire to educate others. Realize that their way of bringing up the subject may or may not appeal to you. Realize that all of us are knowledgeable about some things and ignorant of others. The mother of famous pioneer author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, loved to say “It’s takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

In dealing with most unsolicited advice, charity and patience will bear more fruit in the end than put-downs, smugness and sarcasm. 

Finally, be willing to listen. Maybe an 80-year-old woman with twenty grandchildren really does have a pearl of wisdom for this 30-something mother of seven. Perhaps I should re-think my decision to sleep train my baby or not sleep train my baby. Maybe if I keep the conversation going rather than shutting another mother down at the play group, we’ll both learn something from each other. Heck, we may even become great friends.

My mother has been giving me unsolicited advice my whole life. And now I’m doing it to my own children! 

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Do you find unsolicited parenting advice and questions to be very stressful, or do you find it easy to get on with your life? Is there a particular piece of advice you are really glad to have gotten?

Have you discovered a way to respond to people with kindness while still standing up for your choices?

Note: Portions of this content was previously published at the Kelly Wels blog; it has been revised and updated.

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One Response

  1. sabina Edwards October 26, 2016

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