We’re all just trying our best in parenting, and then it happens: unsolicited opinions or advice about our parenting. Whether it’s an older sibling or your partner’s parent, it can range from difficult to navigate to downright annoying to get your parenting scrutinized, especially in front of your kids. We asked our experts, and here's what they had to say.
How should parents deal with unsolicited opinions or advice about our parenting?
According to Dr. Natasha Burgert...
When we get unsolicited advice, we have to remember that this behavior is part of our nature. Passing advice from one mom to another is how our species survived for hundreds of thousands of years — so it may not be all bad!
In the heat of the moment, try to receive the advice with calm and grace. Try to distract or change the subject. Deflect the focus of the conversation to another person in the room. Or, simply leave.
This is demonstrating to our kids that even though people make us angry or uncomfortable, we don’t have to react with hostility or meanness. These moments are translatable lessons for our kids who may experience bullying or unkind comments from peers. They need to see adults manage these situations with respect and calm to get a framework for their own behavior.
Meanwhile, be confident in your parenting choices. Remember how the experience made you feel and consider how you might change your approach if you feel the need to make a suggestion to another parent in the future.
According to Wendy Rock...
Often when people give this type of unsolicited advice they mean well, but not always. The first thing to consider is where they might be coming from. If they do mean well, generally a thank you and change of topic are all that is needed. When my daughter was 13, I was allowing her to watch Glee, but I had to watch it with her and we had conversations around many of the mature topics presented. I felt this was a good way to introduce and discuss topics around sex, sexuality, drugs, alcohol, and other challenging topics. At Christmas Eve dinner, my brother-in-law's father was very critical about me allowing my daughter to watch the show. I had to smile, thank him for his input and change the discussion. Sometimes, we may be getting feedback that we need to hear. Before we get angry or defensive, we may want to reflect on what the other person is saying to us, perhaps we need to consider if there is some truth in what they are telling us, even if we don't want to hear it. Sometimes others who are a little more distant from a situation may have a unique perspective compared to our own when we are so close to the situation our views can be biased. If you feel embarrassed about something someone said in front of your children, you can talk about it with the children candidly at a later time. You might even ask what they thought about what the other person said, depending on the age and maturity of the child.
According to Amber Coleman-Mortley...
As a parent, you have the power. You’re an adult. You’re an adult that is responsible for cultivating lives. A lot of times when we get around family, we shrink into the role we once played as a child or teen, but that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Be confident in the way that you’re bringing up your child, especially if you’re doing a great job. Listen to the advice that makes sense and throw out the advice that doesn’t work for your family or where you live.