No parent likes to be at the receiving end of the dreaded, unsolicited “good parenting advice” from others. Whether it’s from your family, friends, other parents, or random encounters, the advice can rank from a genuinely caring tip that just lands at the wrong time, to deliberate and persistent nagging or judging. This type of behaviour from others can really play into all your worst parenting insecurities. So here is our (unsolicited) advice on how to keep your confidence and stand your ground.
First, accept that unwanted advice is part of the parent package deal. It will happen on and off, and you’re not alone in having to suffer through it. When it happens, say a little prayer to keep yourself calm: “Universe, I want patience, and I want it right now.” (Disclaimer: it may take a while before the universe gets the message.) There will be plenty of times in life when your kids will test your patience too, so this is good practice. Then take a moment to decode the intention behind the comment. If it seems sincere and just misplaced, smile and move along. If it seems deliberately passive-aggressive, or you’re dealing with a repeat offender, by all means, feel free to flash your canine tips.
Get regular sanity checks
You already know people who are great parents. Get a sanity check from them once in a while to give yourself a confidence boost! Every parent has to/will want to ask for advice and help from others. Especially when you have your first child, and you discover to your surprise that they don’t behave, poop, eat, sleep, walk, talk, socialise, or play exactly when or how those parenting books said they would, or how other kids you know do. Comparison is the mother of all insecurities. But honest reassurance from other parents you trust, your family or friends can give you back your confidence and help reassure you that both you and your baby are doing perfectly well.
Stay curious and embrace creativity
From infant to school age, your child’s development happens so fast that what works one day for breastfeeding, getting them to sleep on time or bringing them to a restaurant may need to be revised next time. Suddenly your otherwise compassionate child snags an apple from another kid, your brave little explorer falls off a slide on the playground, or your tired toddler has a meltdown in public. It’s natural to feel confused, frustrated, exhausted, or just “I’ll be damned”-struck when that happens. This is your chance to bring your creative powers into play, and you probably do it without even realising that’s what’s happening. You just think on your feet and figure out what to try next. You do the best you can based on your experience with your child (and also maybe based on how much sleep you’ve had recently).
It’s okay if it takes a little time or a few tries to get the situation under control. That’s how parenting works and that’s FINE – you got this! Unless you’re putting others around you in direct danger, let them think, say or do what they want.
Find ways to laugh when you’re feeling hurt
When you’re sleep deprived, your sense of humour can suffer a little. Okay, a lot. But if you are able to turn a hurtful comment into a comic situation in your head as it happens (or maybe after you grind your teeth or yell a little), you can maybe prevent it from destroying your mood or your whole day. Try to imagine that the person giving you advice is talking with a wine bottle cork in their mouth, or while jumping on one leg, or has a booger on their nose. You can also reply “If this turns out to be my kid’s biggest problem in life, I’m sure he/she will grow up to be just fine.” If none of that helps, call a friend after and laugh at it together.
Be a parent team
Parenting is teamwork. If the problem is with your family, stick together and figure out with your partner how you can diffuse the tension. If you feel picked on, flash your distress signal and your partner can come to the rescue by giving a toast to honour how great you’re doing as a parent. (And the other way around, of course.)
Remove yourself from the situation
If you just can’t take it anymore, excuse and physically remove yourself from the situation, if at all possible. Take your baby to another room, go home, to the bathroom, another continent. Then remember, this has nothing to do with you. The person in your face is eager to either be part of you and your baby’s lives, make up for their own insecurities, control issues, parenting mistakes and regrets, or something else. He or she is most likely acting just how others acted towards them when they were in your situation, without even thinking about it. A hurtful comment can never define your full set of parenting skills, your love for and bond with your child. YOU GOT THIS.