Parents: How-to Manage Unsolicited Advice

Allie Lane

Contributing parent writer, Seattle-based Mama of 3

Motherhood wouldn’t be motherhood without some good old unsolicited advice, am I right?

My personal theory on unsolicited advice:

Keep an open mind – understand that I don’t have all the answers, and don’t take it personally. These are my approaches that fellow mothers have shared with me and what I find supports me staying grounded in my parenting. I would LOVE to hear yours! Comment below or reach out directly to connect.

Judge by Intention

“We judge others by their actions; we judge ourselves by our intentions.”

I’m sure we can all see the truth in this old adage. “I can’t believe she did that” vs. “I didn’t mean to come off that way.” I try to think about the intent of the person giving me unsolicited advice. I would venture to say that the vast majority of the time, people give me advice because they care deeply for me and/or my child.

People likely feel their suggestion will either help me, be good for my baby, or both. How can I argue with that? Plus, I know I don’t have all the answers, and I think it’s good to have a toolbox of ideas to pull from when all else fails (because all else will fail).

Takeaway: People are just trying to help.

Grin & Bear It

The way I respond to the person or react to their advice doesn’t have to correlate to what I actually do with it.

Do I really need to flex my baby territory muscles when I know that ultimately I get to make the decision? Exchange putting someone in their place for a polite smile and a “thank you.” Besides – reacting negatively may deter the person from giving you advice in the future that you may have welcomed.

Takeaway: I don’t have to prove who’s in charge.

You might be too close

Have you ever found yourself too close to a situation to be able to think outside the box? I have, and it almost blinded me to a perfect solution.

We were at the beach this year for our family vacation and P got the most awful diaper rash you could ever imagine. We dreaded diaper changes because his little butt was so red and raw that he screamed and writhed in pain. We actually had to do changes with two people – someone to change and someone to hold him down. It was torture for everyone involved. As a result, P was sleeping horribly too. He usually sleeps 12 hours solid with no problem, but this week he was waking up screaming at 3-4 AM and from there, up for the day. It was getting really old, and really exhausting.

Someone in my family repeatedly recommended waking him up halfway through his sleep to change his diaper and treat the rash (before it was so full and therefore more painful and irritating), speculating that he may be more likely to then go back to sleep, having had not nearly enough sleep.

Was she crazy? Wake a sleeping baby and start our day at 1 AM instead? Does she know how strong-willed my child is? Once he’s up and angry, he’s up. And angry.

Finally I took the advice just to shut her up and prove her wrong! And what do you know – to my amazement (and a bit of embarrassment) we woke him prematurely at 1AM, completed the grueling diaper change, and he went right back down until 7. Lesson learned!

Takeaway: They might be able to see a solution that you can’t.

Advice from your squad

Putting them in your friend circle kinda gives them full reign on advice-giving, in my opinion. I invite people to give me advice and I know there is no judgment attached. It’s not fair to ask for advice when I want it and mock it when I don’t.

Takeaway: I expect the people I trust the most to help me see a different approach.

Advice from strangers

I don’t have the time or energy to prove that I’m a good mother to the lady behind me in line at Safeway who noticed my baby doesn’t have socks on in the middle of winter.

Takeaway: Who cares?


 

Of course (and admittedly), all of this is easier said than done – it takes conscious practice and can always be considered a work-in-progress. I have committed to adopting this fully as my practice when I come across advice I haven’t asked for, because it’s not if, but when. AND, if practice makes perfect, then bring on the unsolicited advice!

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