Thursday, June 12, 2008

Handling Unwanted Advice

By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Gentle Baby Care

“Help! I’m getting so frustrated withthe endless stream of advice I get from my mother-in-law and brother! No matterwhat I do, I’m doing it wrong. I love them both, but how do I get them to stopdispensing all this unwanted advice?”

Just as your baby is an important part of your life, heis also important to others. People who care about your baby are bonded to youand your child in a special way that invites their counsel. Knowing this maygive you a reason to handle the interference gently, in a way that leaveseveryone’s feelings intact.

Regardless of the advice, it is your baby, and inthe end, you will raise your child the way that you think best. So it’s rarelyworth creating a war over a well-meaning person’s comments. You can respond tounwanted advice in a variety of ways:

Listen first

It’s natural to be defensive if you feel that someone isjudging you; but chances are you are not being criticized; rather, the otherperson is sharing what they feel to be valuable insight. Try to listen - youmay just learn something valuable.


If you know that there is no convincing the other personto change her mind, simply smile, nod, and make a non-committal response, suchas, “Interesting!” Then go about your own business...your way.


You might find one part of the advice that you agreewith. If you can, provide wholehearted agreement on that topic.

Pick your battles

If your mother-in-law insists that Baby wear a hat on yourwalk to the park, go ahead and pop one on his head. This won’t have anylong-term effects except that of placating her. However, don’t capitulate onissues that are important to you or the health or well-being of your child.

Steer clear of the topic

If your brother is pressuring you to let your baby cry tosleep, but you would never do that, then don’t complain to him about your babygetting you up five times the night before. If he brings up the topic,then distraction is definitely in order, such as, “Would you like a cup ofcoffee?”

Educate yourself

Knowledge is power; protect yourself and your sanity byreading up on your parenting choices. Rely on the confidence that you are doingyour best for your baby.

Educate the other person

If your “teacher” is imparting information that you knowto be outdated or wrong, share what you’ve learned on the topic. You may beable to open the other person’s mind. Refer to a study, book, or report thatyou have read.

Quote a doctor

Many people accept a point of view if a professional hasvalidated it. If your own pediatrician agrees with your position, say, “Mydoctor said to wait until she’s at least six months before starting solids.” Ifyour own doctor doesn’t back your view on that issue, then refer toanother doctor - perhaps the author of a baby care book.

Be vague

You can avoid confrontation with an elusive response. Forexample, if your sister asks if you’ve started potty training yet (but you aremany months away from even starting the process), you can answer with, “We’removing in that direction.”

Ask foradvice!

Your friendly counselor is possibly an expert on a fewissues that you can agree on. Search out these points and invite guidance.She’ll be happy that she is helping you, and you’ll be happy you have a way toavoid a showdown about topics that you don’t agree on.

Memorize a standard response

Here’s a comment that can be said in response to almostany piece of advice: “This may not be the right way for you, but it’s the rightway for me.”

Be honest

Try being honest about your feelings. Pick a time free ofdistractions and choose your words carefully, such as, “I know how much youlove Harry, and I’m glad you spend so much time with him. I know you thinkyou’re helping me when you give me advice about this, but I’m comfortable withmy own approach, and I’d really appreciate if you’d understand that.”

Find a mediator

If the situation is putting a strain on your relationshipwith the advice-giver, you may want to ask another person to step in for you.

Search out like-minded friends

Join a support group or on-line club with people whoshare your parenting philosophies. Talking with others who are raising theirbabies in a way that is similar to your own can give you the strength to facepeople who don’t understand your viewpoints.

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care byElizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)

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