Having a child and taking them out into the world can sometimes feel like an invitation to have others comment on your parenting decisions. With parenting, as with any endeavor, it’s important to be open to new ideas, to listen, and reflect. At the same time, we all know that a lot of the advice offered out there isn’t coming from a place of deep reflection, but rather knee-jerk reactions representing the way someone else’s parents did things, and their kids “turned out fine.” For those of us going for more than “fine” for our kids, here are eight ways to deflect unwanted advice.
Embrace your choices with confidence.
If you are a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, peaceful kind of parent, chances are you’ll be asked at some point, “are you STILL breastfeeding?” or “are you STILL using a carrier for that child?” Confidence goes a long way in these confrontations. Answer with a smile and an enthusiastic YES, as if someone had just asked you whether ice cream is still popular in the summertime.
“Is that how you did it with your kids?”
This works especially well for older relatives, especially those who have already raised several children. It’s nearly impossible to raise children to adulthood without learning a few things along the way, and many veteran parents are very eager to share their knowledge with newcomers to the parenting club. Let them share their knowledge. Then do what you feel is best for your kids.
“I’ll give that the consideration it deserves.”
This is one of my personal favorites. Most of the unsolicited advice I’ve received strayed so far from what is best for my kids that it deserved zero consideration. And that’s exactly how much I gave it.
“That would be one way to do it!”
If someone pressed you on whether you should get your baby used the crib, or start using time-outs to deal with those toddler tantrums, you can pull out this phrase. It acknowledges that yes, one way deal with the situation is as this person suggests. It doesn’t mean it’s the right way, or your way.
“This is what works for our family.”
You can alternate this with, “we are happy with how we are doing things.” If you sound like a broken record for long enough, people will stop arguing with you.
This works well for the pestering questions that start with, “shouldn’t you…” Shouldn’t you wean already? Shouldn’t you put your child in school instead of homeschooling? Shouldn’t you go back to work? Shouldn’t you cut back on your hours at work to spend more time with your kids? There are no right answers to these questions. Each parent has to do what is right for themselves and their family. Instead of listing all the reasons why you have chosen your current path, which makes it sound as if your decisions are open for discussion, shut down the conversation with a “maybe so.”
“Could you pass the bean dip?”
A great follow-up to #6. Change the subject. Then ask about their kid’s soccer season, how Aunt Martha is doing, or whether they’ve seen the latest season of House of Cards.
“Well, great chat! I gotta go.”
If all else fails, end the conversation. Hang up the phone, pack your belongings and leave, or show the interloper the door.
What is your favorite way to respond to unsolicited parenting advice?