Monday, February 14, 2011

Unsolicited Advice?

How many of you have had strangers come up to you and tell you how to raise your children? (or maybe even worse, relatives and friends telling you how wrong you are at your parenting strategies?) I'm sure there are stories out there that could stretch 1 million miles long!

But, sometimes it can be a very sweet compliment. For instance, today while shopping at the area grocery store, an older man around 95 years old comes up to my husband and I asking in a strong Italian accent if our daughter is my husband's.

Of course he was joking, and trying to make a point. The point being as he turned to us stating, "if this is your daughter (then something in Italian) then you need to be careful and remember to tell her every day that she is beautiful. That she needs to be reminded of this each and every day! Am I wrong? Please tell me if I am and I will stop." He was so cute and genuine that we agreed with him. Then he smiled, and said, "Have a nice life," and walked away.

Awh, I thought that was very sweet and even sweeter that he thought it was the Dad's job to remind his daughter of this.  Kind of old Fashioned but still nice.  Now since my daughter is still non-verbal and still restrained in the grocery cart with a seat belt, I don't think there is a whole lot to complain about at this point.

But I am waiting for the melt-downs, screaming fits and temper tampers in public and the grimacing stares from strangers that we will no doubt be getting in the future.  Why is it people feel compelled to tell you what you are doing wrong and how to fix it?  So many friends have told me they have melted in tears from the criticism of others in public and from relatives. Unsolicited of course.

You hear it from veteran parents, but then you also hear from the other side. Other people that don't have kids. Much like the title of the book, I Used To Be a Perfect Mom, and Then I Had a Baby. They apparently know first hand what you are doing exactly wrong! And I mean exactly. Because if  "only they would do this..." or "why doesn't she just...". Like it's that simple.

Even with people who know my counseling background, it never fails, I still have to provide some sort of research study and article to prove a point about some particular parenting technique I am using.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and even though some people have good intentions, it can end up being hurtful.

How do you handle it? Well, as much as we would like to go off on these well intentioned people, doing so will only make us more upset.  Or, on the flip side, being sarcastic by saying something like, "Gee, I've never heard of that one before!"can probably guarantee the other party to continue with their wonderful advice.

For intrusive well intentioned family members, saying something along the lines of, "I appreciate your concern, but my husband and I have a different approach to XYZ and are working on it."  Or just a basic counseling response such as, "I hear your concerns and I will take what you have to say into consideration."  There is nothing they can say against that one.

And hopefully it will quiet them down. Now, I know there are a TON of comebacks we are all secretly wishing we could say back to them, but for our sanity we choose to keep our mouths shut. After all, we have enough to deal with and worry about with our own kids than having a family drama start to unfold.

And for the annoying jerk well-intentioned stranger, what do you say when they tell you how to keep your child quiet or what your child needs?  As I would love to just pretend I don't hear them, and start speaking in another language or just try signing to my child so they will hopefully leave me alone (I am tempted to try that one day), a casual "thanks" will hopefully do the trick. Depending on where you are or what is going on, you can just politely say, "excuse me, but I am in a real hurry to leave this store and I need to get going, thank you," can get you out the door fast!

What I used to do and still appreciate when I see a mom struggling in public with her child, is to try to get the child to smile or laugh.  Sometimes a distraction is all that they need.

I've heard some moms say it helps them when strangers try to intervene to help a tantrum child, but others would prefer to be left alone.  Some people can be very sensitive, even if you compliment a parent on a job well done of disciplining their child in public, they can be very thankful to you or just the opposite. They can get pretty annoyed you were even listening in the first place. So if you want to help, just remember it's not always taken politely :)

With that being said, I would love to hear about any stories about unsolicited advice given, and where this has happened to you, or someone you know??


  1. I never get good advice! But that man was right... and your daughter is a peach. How did you get that bow to stay in her hair??

  2. I know, good advice is hard to come by! My poor little daughter has little bows clipped to her 1 strand of hair so people stop calling her a boy :)