How to Deal with Unwanted and Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Something strange happens when you have a child: suddenly you are public property.  Your baby bump can be grabbed and cooed over by complete strangers, then everything from your diet to your birth plan, to your choice of sling or pram can be closely scrutinised and queried.  Somehow, having a baby seems to give everyone a green card to tell you how you should and shouldn't raise your child.

And it doesn't stop there.  As your baby grows everyone from your mother-in-law to the postman has an opinion, and they will be more than happy to give it to you!  Every parent I know has had to firmly bite their tongue on a number of occasions and, when you've been up half the night with a teething baby, the temptation to let rip at the next bit of 'helpful advice' that comes your way can be immense!

Whether it's breastfeeding, sleep patterns, playing, what clothes to wear and how many layers, washing or even how to talk to your baby, there's a self-proclaimed parenting expert out there willing to offer their opinion.  If you only had a pound for every "Well, in my day..."!  Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, no-one needs all that extra pressure from family, friends, acquaintances and strangers.

Luckily, before you have a huge blow out at the next well-meant but oh-so-infuriating comment, Nelsons Teetha have come up with some useful tips and tricks that will help you to navigate those uncomfortable situations.  So next time someone starts giving you unsolicited parenting advice, you'll know just what to say.  Whether it's your own parents, your in-laws or a stranger in the street, here are the non-confrontational ways you can manage the conversation and walk away without seething or feeling overwhelmed.

Here's how to negotiate all the potential minefields of parenting advice coming your way:

From Your Parents

The classic "Well, that's not how we did it with you" can work two ways.  Either they're interested to hear how things are different now, what the research says, and why ideas have changed (think Baby Led Weaning, sling wearing or breastfeeding on demand) or they're put out and think you're criticising their own parenting.

This one is difficult to manoeuvre, as they undoubtedly love you and raised you to be an intelligent loving human being capable of raising a baby of your own.  And their advice comes from a place of love, as well as decades of you asking for their opinion, approval and advice.  What happens if they now disapprove of how you are choosing to raise your baby?

Try to calmly explain that, while you appreciate their help, you'll ask them when you feel you need advice.  Being so close you should be able to explain yourself clearly without causing too much offence.  Be honest with them, they are your parents and putting off telling them how you feel might make you grow to resent them.

From Your In-laws

Always a trickier relationship, dealing with your partner's parents may prove more difficult.  They have also raised children OK - after all, you've chose to raise a baby with one of theirs!  They will probably have a whole range of things to say about how they raised their children and be super helpful at telling you how you should be raising yours.

Tempting as it may be, try to avoid getting snappy with them, and instead try asking questions.  By switching the focus to them you'll change the conversation around and hopefully turn it into a trip down memory lane rather than a series of "I think it would be best if…" statements.

If all else fails, talk to your partner about presenting a united front.  Just as you might be more comfortable telling your own parents not to give unsolicited advice, so might your partner be to their own parents.

Friends Who Are Parents

Most of us aren't the first in our friend group to have a baby, so there may be plenty of aghast "Are you really going to do that?" comments.  (We had way too many of these!)  Friends who have been there and done that already will be more than happy to chime in with comments on your parenting choices and skills.

Like your in-laws, they will have their own set of views that might differ completely to yours, especially if they had their babies a few years ago.  Agreeing to disagree might be the best option here.  Handle it in a way you might other tricky topics like religion or politics.  Simply tell them that you have decided to do something in one way, that you are totally fine with them doing it in another and that you should leave it at that.

Friends Who Haven't Had Kids Yet

OK, I've got to say this one is a no-go.  Friends, brothers, sisters who haven't had children yet don't get to offer an opinion.  They may know other people who have babies or young children and have seen how they did it, they may watch TV programmes about it, but if you don't have a child yourself, the phrase "I’ve heard that you should…" should not be escaping your lips!  But if you are more patient than me here's how to handle it.

It can be frustrating when someone who does not have children decides to tell you how you should raise yours, however try not to take it personally.  Know your facts, trust your instincts and maybe try to educate your friend.  Counter the point they are making with your own research, an expert opinion or something your doctor said.  The more they know, the less likely they will be to make a comment again.

From Strangers

Yep, if you haven't encountered it yet, lucky you!  But yes, complete strangers will come up to you to offer an opinion on what your baby is wearing, eating, holding or doing.  There are a number of online threads where parents share the craziest things strangers have said to them, many starting with the hysterical "You’re putting your child at risk!"

When a stranger approaches with their (usually incorrect) advice, it's hard not to get defensive.  But far better for you and your baby if you can just ignore them and keep walking.  After all, you don't owe them anything, and you don't need to explain your parenting to a stranger.  If this isn't possible or they persist, you could just politely thank them for their interest but tell them you know what you are doing.  If this doesn’t work, then you have every right to kindly tell them to mind their own business.

Modern parenting, for better or worse, is awash with a vast array of conflicting advice and information from health professionals, books, friends, family and even strangers.  Everyone has their opinion and their own way of doing things, but ultimately how you raise your child is your choice.  The best thing you can do is educate yourself, make informed choices, and trust your instincts.  As long as you know that you are making the best decisions for your child, you are doing the right thing!

Nelsons Teetha® is the UK’s number one homeopathic teething relief brand, trusted by parents for over 30 years.  Available from available from Boots, Holland and Barrett, Amazon, selected grocers, independent pharmacies and health food stores.  Join their Facebook community @TeethaUK for some more parenting tips and tricks.

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