For some reason, when you are pregnant or have a new baby, people feel the need to give some parenting advice. Everyone from friends and family, to complete strangers in the mall are ready to give an opinion or to tell you how you should actually be doing it (as they did it and it worked just fine).
But why do people do this?
Why do people think it is okay to give unsolicited parenting advice?
I believe it is for two reasons:
Firstly, a new baby is such a wonder that people can’t help getting excited and involved. A big portion of the village can’t wait to raise the child! And this is how it should be. You also don’t want to raise your baby without any support and input. Most of these people actually mean well, and you should simply learn to filter out what you don’t need.
The second motivation is slightly less wholesome, yet tells us something about a part of motherhood that people often don’t talk about. And that is that deep-down, most women have insecurities about their parenting abilities, and many struggle with guilt and feelings of not being good enough. By telling a new mother how it should be done, they are actually affirming to themselves that they did a good job. Of course in the process they make her doubt herself, even though that may not be their intention.
Here are a few ways in which you can deal with unwanted parenting advice:
Smile and wave
If advice is given by someone not close to you, it’s often easiest to just say thank you and move on. You can acknowledge to yourself that they are actually being rude and that how you choose to do things are none of their business. Considering how much unwanted advice you are going to receive over the next twenty years, this method is a good one to master early in the game, for the sake of your own peace and happiness.
READ MORE: 11 Reasons Parenting Gets Easier
Be assertive (in a nice manner)
If the advisor is someone in your closer circle, it may be more difficult to just brush them off, as they may notice that you are not following their advice and may put pressure on you to do so. You should deal with them in a nice manner though, as this is someone that is part of your life. Acknowledge them, but then explain to them nicely that you really appreciate the advice, but that you feel it is not the best thing for you or your baby. You don’t need to offer any explanations. An example would be:
“Wow, you have done such an awesome job with your own children, and I really appreciate all your support. I must tell you though that this specific method was not really working for me, and I have chosen not to follow that route”.
For some people you may need to repeat this sentence a few times before it fully sinks in.
Tell them what they want to hear
It’s always good to be honest, and if you are an honest person by heart you may not feel comfortable with lying. But sometimes it can get people off your case without any conflict, and without causing harm. For example, if someone is giving you grief over co-sleeping, you can simply tell them that baby mostly sleeps in their cot. It’s in any case no one’s business what happens in your bedroom I the middle of the night. Wham, problem solved.
Blame it on a professional
If someone is pressuring you over something like which formula or skincare products to use, you can simply say that your doctor prescribed it. They are unlikely to pressure you against the advice of a healthcare professional. In fact, many parents follow the advice of friends and family on topics like formula or medication, not realising that you actually need the input of a healthcare professional before choosing these products.
Lastly, if all else fails, put your foot down and say no to any parenting advice you didn’t ask for
In some cases one really needs to be firm with someone, and will need your partner’s support for this. Sometimes people interfere and force advice on a new mother to the point where it really negatively influences her self-confidence and her parenting experience. You may need to ask someone outright to stop doing so, and make sure that they understand that they won’t be allowed to be involved with you and baby if they don’t respect this boundary. This is not easy to do, and will cause some short-term conflict and unhappiness. But hopefully in the long run it will enable you to have a better relationship with this person and to have this person involved without all the conflict and stress.
I do believe that one of the first lessons that you need to learn as a parent is that no one loves your baby more than you do and that you are the best parent there is for your baby. You should be the one making choices and deciding what works for your family. Find a few people whose opinions you value, and listen to their advice. But try to filter out the rest for your own sanity.