Over the years, I’d had plenty of scenarios played in my head of how I’d raise my future children, what it would be like, and how receptive family and friends would be. Those preconceived notions were naive. Frankly, looking back on them now, it’s sort of humorous. I’d offered advice to friends and I hadn’t had children. It was so easy to do because I took courses in child psychology and had done plenty of reading on the subject of raising children. Heck, the few times I babysat, I rocked it.
Yes, humorous. Because being a parent, I now realize just how naive I was. Almost nothing I thought about really worked out the way I expected. Further, in my first two years as a mother, I learned just how much advice parents like to give and just how little of it has actually applied to our family. I’ve come across those who dole out unsolicited parenting advice at random just because they feel compelled. They see something they don’t agree with and just blurt out their thoughts. They give you funny looks if you don’t see it their way. It’s as if you should just up and change your ways because it doesn’t seem right to them.
Worse, to me, are the ones who offer unsolicited parenting advice but haven’t reached this milestone they’re commenting on. Then there are the ones whose parenting skills you may otherwise find lacking yourself …
Why You Shouldn’t be Giving Unsolicited Parenting Advice
You don’t know everyone’s situation
I can’t tell you how much advice I was given in the first year of my daughter’s life. She was constantly crying, not sleeping, driving us crazy, and I was at my wit’s end in just a couple short months. We were living a nightmare. I was a wreck and I looked like it. That sounds terrible, but it turned out my daughter had issues that couldn’t be easily diagnosed. Any unsolicited advice at the time came off harsh and made us feel as though we were terrible parents, when in fact, there’s no way anyone could really have grasped the situation to be making appropriate suggestions or criticisms. People just didn’t know.
You don’t live with the child
I know, I know, you’re an expert because you’ve had 10 children OR you’ve had one spectacular child. Really, you’re the expert with your own children because you live with them. You know what makes your kid tick, his motivators, things that set her off, etc. What works for one may not work for another.
You won’t end up reaping the rewards or suffering the consequences
One point I try to remember, personally, is that every parent has to figure out what works for them by trial and error. At the time I was trying to get baby girl to sleep more as an infant, I went against the grain and put her to bed about 6:30 every night because, it turns out, that’s what her little body needed. I learned to follow her cues, not written schedules. She quickly became a wonderful 12-hour a night sleeper. If I listened to those who said keep her awake later (and I tried) I might have suffered much longer.
It feels like you’re judging
This one is big in the world of parenting as there is already enough judging and comparing. I especially find it funny (read “annoying”) when I receive unsolicited advice from someone whose parenting I don’t respect. Yes, I may think negatively of people’s choices, but I aim keep it to myself because what they do with their children doesn’t effect me or my child. Even with the best intentions, you can come off as judgmental or make a good mom feel like she’s doing a poor job, when, in fact, she’s likely doing a damn good job for her family.
Still feeling the need to give advice?
Advice is best received among people who respect you and your opinions. In the midst of a conversation with a friend or someone who has sought out your opinion is a great time to unload your wisdom. Even then, it’s still better when you can pose things as “experiences” rather than stating in a matter-of fact manner the way you believe something should be done.