Dealing with parenting criticism – how to handle it

Parenting criticism from family, friends and in-laws

Sadly, some of the most accurate warning advice anyone can get when they are pregnant is to expect criticism on almost any of the “big” parenting decisions, and to expect it regardless of which way the decision went. Worse, it’s mainly other women in the community who are doing this kind of criticism – the very people who should understand how hard it is to be a mother! Here I’ll explain what happens and ways you can handle it.

Almost hilariously, the types of things that a new mother can expect to get negative feedback about today are mutually exclusive: putting your child in daycare, staying home with baby and therefore “giving up” your career; hiring a sitter so you can go out without baby, NOT going out because you’d rather not deal with getting a sitter; breastfeeding, formula feeding; disposable diapers, washable cloth diapers… and the list goes on.

Yes, it’s very important that someone speaks up in cases where neglect of baby, abuse, lack of medical care or an immediate safety issue is concerned. But, if none of these are the case, mothers often still receive parenting criticism or unsolicited advice, usually by other women such as grandparents or in-laws. This can be from a myriad of reasons, such as “I didn’t do it this way, therefore it must be bad” or just a lack of perspective. These people fail to take account of the fact that a “big” parenting decision is not made lightly. Big parenting decisions are usually made by both the mother and father after careful thought, not at the toss of a coin!

How to deal with parenting criticism

Ultimately, how you handle such criticism is up to you. A brief “Well, this is what works for our family” will suffice in most cases and then quickly change the topic.

If it’s someone close to you such as immediate family, you can explain your rationale if you wish to make it easier for them to accept. If you want to be as nice as possible you can ask for their point of view in more detail to hear where they are coming from. You don’t have to justify your parenting decisions to others; however you may choose to do so in some cases.

Of course, do be sure that your decision doesn’t go against sound medical advice – if in doubt check with your pediatrician’s office (do NOT rely on gossip, friends or family, however well-meaning). Overall, if you as the mother are happy with your decision, then the problem is at the other person’s end, not at yours. As a last resort if they are persistent, you may have to actually inform them that the problem is located with them.

Usually though, most people will understand if you say something supportive toward them without changing the way you’re doing things, like “I can see that it worked well for you to do it that way. There are many ways that work, and everyone does things differently.”

Handling parenting criticism is not always easy, but the phrases I mentioned above can go a long way to dealing with it positively. Above all, do your best to maintain your sanity and peace of mind – even though it’s easier said than done. You deserve it!