How do you handle advice that you didn’t ask for?
Ignore it? Take the advice even if you don’t agree just to keep the peace? Engage in debate with the advice giver, politely explaining your point of view while listening to their reasons with an open mind? Give a sharp, quick-witted retort on why what you’re doing is more reasonable?
Not so long ago I was holding my friend’s baby girl. Baby was enthusiastically chewing on my long, gold necklace when an older lady pointed out that my necklace could be poisonous. Now, hopefully, you are more mature than I am, but in these moments I want to roll my eyes, point out that my two daughters survived infancy, maybe tell her to mind her own business. Fortunately, all of these reactions were only internal. My mama taught me better than that! I asked my friend what she’d like me to do.
I think in the end we found an alternative toy for her little girl to chew on. It was just easier that way. Especially since the lady was standing right in front of us at church during a sermon. But what about the grandma or friend who gives unsolicited advice constantly? Maybe it’s my own insecurity peeking out, but I was privy to much advice-giving with my oldest and it tended to make me feel incompetent. Yet, if I try to be objective I realize that the person giving me suggestions is often full of goodwill. They’ve typically raised a few children. That doesn’t mean that their advice stands up to scientific scrutiny: I really doubt that Nordstrom sells jewelry made of lead. But I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.
Let’s be honest: it’s hard to take advice (at least for me) from someone when you didn’t actually ask for it.
And, I know it’s not emphasized like it used to be, but I believe we should respect our elders. They really have much to teach us. However, I don’t know about you, but I parent quite differently in some areas from the way I was parented. I was raised in a more structured environment. I think we were bathed every night. My children are more like free-range wolf pups. They’ve been known to go out on our front porch and howl at the moon. They are way more into getting grubby than having nightly baths. Cleanliness next to godliness? Not in this house.
What is the balance between respecting the giver of advice but also forging your own path into motherhood?
I believe that these givers of unsolicited advice probably just want to be helpful and feel heard. I mean, we all want to be admired for our wisdom, right? Even if the advice isn’t taken. Maybe a simple, “Oh, thank you for pointing that out. I hadn’t thought of that!” Or even, “That’s interesting. I’ll have to give that a try sometime.” Or, “We’re doing this right now, but I’ll keep that in mind.”
Learn the art of acknowledging the person and respecting them. You don’t have to change what you’re doing. You may be annoyed (I often am), but unless it is just blatantly rude, I think most people just want to be helpful. Or they are busybodies…say a silent prayer of thanks that you didn’t marry their sons and have their grandchildren.
It’s important to be teachable. Otherwise, we will never learn and improve. On the flip side, it’s important to trust yourself and what you think is best for your baby.
There are a million different opinions out there on diapering, sleep training (or not), food, stimulation, allowing children to chew on necklaces dripping with poison.
You can’t possibly follow all the advice. And, you know your baby better than anyone else. But, as new mothers and even not-so-new mothers, there is much we can stand to learn.
Originally published in July 2018