“What’s that rash on your baby’s face? You should use… If you want your baby to sleep through the night, what you need to do is…
What do you mean you don’t give your newborn water to drink? That’s cruel, they need water!”
Does any of this sound familiar? These are just a few examples of parenting advice I, and I’m sure many of you, will have heard before. As I’ve mentioned on my Instagram page a few times, (@melissalikes by the way #plug), the modern mum has so much more to deal with on her own than mums of previous generations, what with families being more dispersed than before and our parents and extended family often still in work themselves so perhaps not as able to get involved with childcare or being as available to call on for help and advice.
This has led to many modern mothers becoming more and more used to working things out by themselves through trial and error, possibly with the help of Dr Google or forums like Babycentre, Mumsnet, Netmums and a plethora of other online parenting resources.
There are going to be times when every mum, no matter how many children you may have, will need some guidance.
Good parenting advice can be hard to find online, though, as there’s basically every Thomasina, Ricki and Harriet sharing all sorts of ‘tips and hacks’ which may have worked for them but may not suit you or your child. Some of them are downright bizarre and, quite frankly, irresponsible (“Oh, your baby has severe eczema? Just use coconut oil and THE NEXT DAY, it’ll be completely cleared up! That’s what I did and it worked!” Cue feelings of self-doubt and failure when this advice doesn’t work for you).
Speaking with other mums you know and trust is always a good bet when looking for advice on all things parenting-related and I’ve picked up so many pearls of wisdom from my mum friends. I often ask them questions about what they give their similarly aged baby for breakfast, how they approached toilet training or when their baby’s bedtime is to try and see what’s working for them and could maybe work for us. Again, you can take what you find useful and leave out what you don’t, but at least you can count on them to be sensible (hopefully!) Some of my mum friends do things very differently with their own children and that’s ok; we’re all just doing what works best for our little ones.
Advice, when you’re looking for it, can be an invaluable help to every parent.
The issue here is when you get advice which wasn’t asked for.
Buckle up ladies, it’s about to get real…
So, how do you respond when you’re doing things your way, it’s working for you and your child, then someone pipes up that what you’re doing is wrong and you need to do it differently? Or how about when you are perhaps struggling with a certain area of your child’s needs and while you’re figuring things out, along comes Mr/Ms Expert On All Things Parenting to point you in the right direction?
I’ve given various responses to unsolicited advice, ranging from forcing a smile and counting to 10 under my breath in an attempt to control the urge to dropkick said advice-giver out of my line of vision (Lord, forgive me, I know You understand), to just simply saying: “as interesting as that sounds, that’s not how we roll, but thanks though,” and moving on.
Advice from other parents is one thing but what I find hilarious is when someone who isn’t actually a parent yet thinks they know what to do because they knew a kid once who – stop right there. Listen, I’m sure you mean well but, until you know from experience what it’s like to have to somehow function on two hours sleep or less after being up all night with a baby who just won’t settle for the last however many nights in a row, or how to control a screaming toddler who’s rolling around on the floor in the middle of the supermarket when your arms are full with your baby’s pushchair and your groceries, then please don’t tell me what you think I need to do.
You may well have babysat your little brother/sister/cousin/cat/whoever on countless occasions but parenting and babysitting are EVER SO SLIGHTLY different.
One thing I will say is beneficial to remember when responding to unsolicited parenting advice is to bear in mind who the advice is coming from. You don’t want to burn bridges, especially if the advice is coming from someone you may rely on for childcare… Ouch. Parents and parents-in-law will of course have their opinions on how certain things should and shouldn’t be done; they want to help and that’s one of the ways in which they try to. The problem is that it can feel as though your parenting abilities are being criticised – which is the last thing a burnt out mum who’s trying her best but running on empty needs to hear – which can then lead to some, shall we say, heated exchanges.
In this instance, which I have experienced myself, you have a number of options in terms of your response. You could:
- respectfully agree to disagree, knowing that the other party is potentially offended that you snubbed their advice;
- tell them things have changed since they had their kids, and then have to endure a lengthy lecture on how your generation always thinks it knows best;
- silently seethe with rage to the point where you feel you could burst because of their interference;
- have a full blown argument and start telling them what they need to be doing in their lives, never mind about you and your child.
Not good. OR you could take one more bit of (possibly) unsolicited advice from right here on the MelissaLikes blog, and use this fool-proof response, guaranteed to diffuse any potentially awkward situation. Keep reading!
You are about to receive, quite possibly, the best, single most useful line to any and all unsolicited parenting advice there is – which I have tried and tested to ensure its ability to stand up to some seriously tricky conversations. You ready? Ok, here it is:
The next time you have someone giving you parenting advice you didn’t ask for, just try responding with this simple line:
“thanks, I’ll keep that in mind”.
“Is that it?!”, I hear you cry. Yep, that really is it!
This line works beautifully as it shows whoever gave you the advice that you’ve acknowledged their input and shown some appreciation of it, but you didn’t actually say what you thought of their opinion – brilliant!
I discovered this gem of a response by total accident, when a lovely older lady, who I’d just met and really didn’t want to offend, told me not to put my baby on the swings in the park because it’ll affect his balance and delay him learning to walk (anyone else heard this one?!) That’s when the “thanks, I’ll keep that in mind” line was born and I saw in her smiling face that she liked that I appeared to have taken what she had said on board. The upshot? She left happy and I continue to put my boy on the swings, which he loves and are not detrimental to his development in any way. For the win.
I also used this line recently when a member of staff in a shop we go to regularly commented on the fact that nearly every time he sees my oldest boy, he is reading a book. His advice? “Why is your son always reading? He needs to do other things aswell, like sports!” Out came my trusty line, albeit after I looked at the guy like he was from another planet.
We shouldn’t become pushovers and bend to every bit of advice we’re given to appease people we’re reliant on (or anyone, for that matter) and, similarly, any differences you and your parents/friend/in-laws may have in how you look after your child don’t have to be points of contention. You can just pull out your new best friend of a response and thank me later.
At the end of another long day of parenting, all you can do is your best. Seek advice from sound and reliable sources when you need it and learn to trust your mummy instincts. God placed those in you for a reason! Mum doesn’t always know best but, actually, a lot of the time, she does.
You’ve got this mama,
PS. If you decide to try this line out, do let me know how you get on with it!
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