Unwanted parenting advice 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! What is even worse is when it's non parentings giving parenting advice. In this article I’ll explain what happens and ways you can handle it.
Crazily enough, the types of things that a new mother can expect to get negative feedback about today are mutually exclusive: putting your child in daycare versus staying home with baby and therefore "giving up" your career; hiring a sitter so you can go out without baby versus NOT going out because you’d rather not deal with getting a sitter; breastfeeding versus formula feeding; disposable diapers versus 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!
Let's move on and find out out how to deal with it when someone criticizes your parenting.
Dealing with parenting criticism - practical tips
There are several different ways to respond when someone criticizes your parenting. A brief "Well, this is what works for our family" will suffice in most cases and then quickly change the topic. Repeat as needed. Eventually the person will realize that this is not something that is up for negotiation.
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If it’s someone close to you such as immediate family, you can certainly choose to explain your rationale if you wish to make it easier for them to understand. 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 do NOT need to change what you're doing - merely listen to what they say so they feel heard. You don’t have to justify your parenting decisions to others; however you may choose to do so in some cases.
If unsure, get medical advice
Of course, do be sure that your decision doesn’t go against sound medical advice. Keep an open mind in case the person criticizing you is actually alerting you to a real problem. To clear that up, check with your pediatrician’s office or other medical professional. Do NOT rely on gossip, friends or family, however well-meaning. Overall, if you as the mother are happy with your decision and there is no health or safety issue, then the problem is clearly at the other person’s end, not at yours. As a last resort if they are persistent, you may have to actually inform them politely but firmly that the problem is located with them.
How to stand your ground while still being polite
Most critical people will understand if you say something positive and supportive toward them without changing the way you’re doing things. I recommend saying:
"I can see that it worked well for you to do it that way. There are many ways of parenting that work, and everyone does things differently."
This sends the message that there are different parenting styles and that you are not necessarily planning on doing things the way they did.
Handling when grandparents, friends or in laws criticize your parenting 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!