From announcing your pregnancy to bringing home your newborn to your child moving out of home, you’ll likely be receiving advice from others whether you asked for it or not. Most advice is well-intentioned, but not all advice feels helpful.
Maybe your mother-in-law’s suggestion about how to change your little one’s nappy comes across as critical, rather than constructive. Perhaps a stranger suggests you save breastfeeding for when you’re at home. ‘Advice’ can range from insulting to life-saving. So, how should you react when you feel people are meddling in your parenting style?
Develop a few standard responses you can rely on when feelings like anger or anxiety may be taking over. Perhaps other parents are suggesting you approach something the way they approached it. Other parents are an awesome resource for support and parenting tips, but sometimes they’ll make suggestions you rather they hadn’t. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for children. Practice calm, respectful responses to unwanted advice, such as ‘What works for us may not have worked for you – what worked for you may not work for us’.
‘Thank you for your suggestion’ could be a good way to end a conversation you wish had never started. This response could help keep the peace between you and the advice-giver, but it is far from a commitment. You don’t need to follow up on everything. Remember most people are genuinely trying to offer a helping hand, but you’re the best judge of what works for you and your baby.
Not all suggestions are criticisms. If you’re feeling tired and spread thin, a gentle nudge may feel like a violent push. Take a breath and keep your cool. New parents are on a steep learning curve, and you can’t already know everything. Maybe the woman from your mummy group really does know some feeding positions which could help with latching. Receiving this kind of advice doesn’t mean you are incapable, or even being criticized – it just means there’s still lots to learn!
Remain open to exploring unsolicited advice. Some comments won’t be worth a second thought, and you don’t need to waste energy agonizing over a stranger’s comment or your sister’s eye roll. Some comments may be eye-opening. Avoid writing off advice just because it makes you feel inadequate or frustrated at the time. Practice patience with yourself and your learning process. Parents usually know best – maybe this time it’s someone else’s parent!