Any mom can tell you that parenting advice is everywhere. Strangers on the street will walk up to comment and criticize your choices. When I was a new mom, I found it all very frustrating and discouraging. After all, my husband and I put a lot of thought into how we raise our children. How and where we decided to birth, how and what to feed them, when, where and how they should sleep…the list goes on and on. There were no snap decisions on the big stuff. Our decisions were made after extensive research, thought and prayer. As parents, we all want what is best for our children but the truth is, what is best will frequently be different for every family (and sometimes every child.) So, what should our response be when someone tells us we are wrong?
- First, ask yourself what this person’s credentials are. Are they someone you trust? Are they someone you respect? This criteria alone will weed out the majority of strangers on the street or internet. If you don’t know them, there is no reason to believe them. I found it most effective for my own sanity sake to not heed advice from people I don’t really know. I try to just let it roll off. There is no logical reason for me to care what a stranger thinks. But if their words haunt me, I bring it up to Ben later and we hash it out together.
- Second, if you trust the person, parallel their advice with their circumstances. How many, what ages and what genders are their children? What is their living situation? How involved is dad with the children? What are the different unique needs in each of your families? There are many variables that will change what works for each individual. Perhaps, extended kangaroo care may be the best thing for one mother and her child, however another mother has chronic back pain so that method is simply impractical for her. Even when there is nothing morally wrong with extended kangaroo care. It’s just a different situation. No moral or legal reason to decide either way. And then sometimes there is no back pain and the second mother simply doesn’t believe extended kangaroo care is what is best for her baby. This is just a difference in opinion. Nothing worth arguing about. We are all moms. Being a mom is hard work. If you can’t offer support in someones method decision, offer love. I’m guessing it’s good practice for when our children grow up and choose different things then we did. The classic rule in Bambi that Thumper’s mother taught him comes to mind, “If you can’t say something nice….”.
- Third, if their opposing opinion is actually worth examining, ask questions. Explore it, check sources and facts, then re-evaluate your thoughts on it. There is always room to grow as a parent.
If the opposing opinions are being offered aggressively, and you start to feel attacked, remember that you are your children’s mother. You and your spouse are the ones responsible before God for your children. And remember that God is good.
As a general rule, I tend to think offering unsolicited advice is a bad idea. We aren’t talking about sin or illegal concepts here (and even then, it might be wise to tread lightly, especially if you aren’t a bff). We are talking about different ideas and methods on child training. We all have reasons for choosing what we choose and that is good. We should know why we do what we do. Yet, I find it helpful to remember that what is best for my family is not necessarily best for everyone in these situations. If someone asks, by all means, explain. But take care not to do so in that crazy judgy-judgy way we women are so talented at. Who listens to a raving lunatic, anyways? Aggression goes a long way when you are attacking mold in the bathroom, but can be very harmful to people.
(NOTE: My kids are still young and so am I. These are just my thoughts this far. Feel free to share yours.)