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Unwanted Parenting Advice

Um, Thanks? How to Deal With Unwanted Advice

It seems as soon as you become a mom, your relatives, friends, and even strangers start offering unsolicited suggestions on how to best raise your children.

"Every mom deals with loads of unwanted advice," Circle of Moms member Dorsha S. attests. And as Savannah J. shares, it's no fun to deal with: "The whole unwanted advice thing is the biggest negative about being pregnant — even over the vomiting, backaches, and charlie horses in the middle of the night."

Many moms, including Evelyn M., aren't sure how to respond. "How do you deal with it?" she asks the Circle of Moms community.

Similarly, mom Kate R. is wondering how to handle a know-it-all relative "who thinks they know more than you do about how to raise your own children." She adds: "I know I have to say something, but it is family and I don't want to hurt feelings as I know they mean well." 

If you, too, are wondering how to handle unwanted parenting advice, consider the following tips offered by Circle of Moms members.

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1. First, Smile!

When someone offers unsolicited parenting advice, Circle of Moms members generally agree that as annoyed as you might feel, the first thing to do in most circumstances is to smile.

Samantha B. shares: "I always respond to those busybodies who know nothing about me and my personal circumstances with a big smile and say, 'Thank you so much for your suggestion, I will be sure to take it on board,' and I just walk away." Even if you feel comfortable being honest with family and friends, she still recommends saying the same thing and trying to change the subject to avoid any hurt feelings. "I know how much you may want to let fly with a few choice words," she says, "but you will feel satisfied with yourself with this response."

Yurena L. agrees, suggesting parents "smile and thank the other person," while trying to discern if the advice is well-intended or just a criticism. After all, the person offering the "words of wisdom" may very well be trying to be helpful. As Yurena cautions, "You may find yourself doing the same to other mums soon!"

Meanwhile, Meagan C. says answering advice with a simple smile may eventually lead family members to stop offering it. She used to smile and ignore her mother's advice, and eventually the advice stopped coming. "I actually got a chance to ask her for some advice when needed because she was no longer always putting in her two cents," she says. 

2. Unsolicited Advice Can Be Good Advice

Keep in mind that there's no harm in accepting someone else's advice, Circle of Moms members say. "While advice may be unwanted," Rebecca L. shares, "sometimes you might find something useful out of it." After all, she notes, "Some people give advice because they think they know better than everyone else, others give it because that's what worked for them."

Tina B. agrees: "Sometimes we resist others good intentions because of the way they deliver the message. It may sound bossy or like an order, rather than a suggestion, and sometimes we don't want to hear it because we didn't come up with the solution ourselves. Whatever the reason, it can be helpful to be open-minded, listen and take on board what 'feels' right for you. . . . We assume that the other person is criticizing us, but they very well be just trying to help in their own way and make themselves feel useful."

3. Politely Voice Your Opinion

In some circumstances, it's perfectly fine to express that you don't plan on heeding the advice, but do so politely, Yurena L. recommends. "If the advice comes from someone that helps you around with the children, do appreciate it even if you don't follow it. You can be honest and tell them your reasons (much better than just agreeing and doing something else, [which] is misleading)," she says.
 
In fact, Carolyn S. doesn't believe there's any reason parents should be silent. "Expressing your feelings is just as important as what they have to say. Do not be silent and trying to cover up what could turn out to be clearing the air to better family communications with more respect. . . . Be strong and stand up for what you believe, just as they have done," she says.  

Talking things out worked for Angela C. In her case, she says her mother-in-law didn't even realize she was constantly offering advice until Angela brought it to her attention. "That may be many of others cases too," she says. "How often do we do something we don't even realize until some one says something . . . For the in-law that's always around and trying to take charge, it's good to let them know what they are doing and that you need to learn how to be a mother on your own, that you'll ask if you really need their advice or help. Don't do it in a rude or disrespectful way, but as nicely as you can."

Tina B. agrees. "Many people aren't even aware that they can sometimes be controlling or bossy like their parent (guilty of it myself )," she says. If necessary, you also can thank the person for their advice, and let them know you'll talk their suggestion over with your child's pediatrician, says Christina K. 

4. Remember Who's the Parent

No matter what advice you receive, keep in mind that you are the parent, and you should raise your child the way you feel is best. "You know your child best," Appalania W. says, and "every child is different." 

Amina B. recalls how she thought her mother-in-law was nuts when she suggested she shave her baby's head to give her thicker hair. "I seriously believe she crossed the line there, so I just didn't make any contact with her for two weeks . . . and she never spoke of it again," she says, noting that probably wasn't the best tack, but that it helped to emphasize who should be making parenting decisions.

In the end, summarizes Milcah L., moms have to "do what your heart tells you is right, and ignore the rest."

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