It’s an annoying phenomenon that comes with becoming a parent, from the moment you conceive (or even beforehand) you become bombarded with advice. From being told how to settle your distressed newborn by a passerby, to being told when to wean by the lady at the green grocer, to friends and family what essential values to instill in your children.
I believe there are four main reasons people give unsolicited advice (which is very different to “solicited advice” – discussions where the questions has been asked can be very helpful)
Reason 1. The person genuinely means to help the parent. They think the piece of advice they have to offer will make your life easier, better, settle the unsettled, train the untrainable, solve all of your parenting issues! Sounds lovely? Sometimes it is. Sometimes a gentle “have you tried….?” Is a blessing!
When it’s not so helpful is when there isn’t an issue, Or when you scoop up your crying baby from the pram and a older lady offers the sage advice “your making a rod for your own back” Or a relative informs you that if your baby sleeps in your bed now they’ll not get out until they are 21. The issue is – there is no issue. Someone else has launched into “solving mode” while you are totally content in your choices.
Reason 2 – The person genuinely believes there is a risk of harm to the child. They feel the must speak up before damage is done! Again – sounds good? In fact, sounds like it is imperative that they do take action! And if the advice is “that’s not how to fit a car seat” or “the floor is not the best place to keep sharp objects” – absolutely – speak up! If a child is at direct risk of intentional harm from their parents you may need to contact authorities or if it’s a friend who’s losing control ask if they need help.
When it’s less essential is when the advice giver is mistaken, when there is no risk, no harm, no danger.
While grocery shopping I’ve had a middle aged couple rush up to me – flustered and upset – to inform me the baby I had in a Ergo carrier, was too little for the carrier and to quote “would do irreparable damage to her brain”. I don’t handle confrontation well and when the lady started pulling at the back of my babies carrier trying to lift it over her head – at which point my baby started screaming – I turned and walked off! They were mistaken but they were obviously very stressed by the situation, for whatever reason genuinely believing my baby was in imminent danger – so while the situation was bizarre and confronting, their intentions were pure.
Reason 3 – This, I believe, can blur through the first two reasons, but the reason for their advice is to validate their own parenting choices.
I’ve breast fed both my babies and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to wean, that I don’t NEED to breast feed past a certain age, that they or their babies weren’t breast fed and “they turned out fine”. And in no way do I dispute that! I personally was breast fed a fraction of the time I have breast fed my own children and I bare no grudge nor feel any ill effects from the lack of breast milk.
If you feel yourself doing this maybe take a breath and explore why you feel that your friend or relative must parent the same way you have – and if you suspect this is why you are being given advice maybe try to give the advice giver some space to say what they need to say, smile nod and agree to disagree.
Unless you believe they fall into category number 4.
Reason 4 – this is where the intention of the advice giving is causing hurt. Its passive aggressiveness in its finest form. Its the haughty “WELL I would NEVER have a csection, did you try XYX?” days after a traumatic birth where to save baby a csection was necessary or any number of cruel statements or suggestions intended to make the recipient feel like crap.
Sometimes it is hard to spot, sometimes I’m sure it has threads of the other 3 reasons woven into it. Try to pay the advice no mind. It may come from a space of hurt or anger, or maybe they simply are an unkind person – either way whatever they say it’s not about you or what you are doing, you unfortunately were just standing in the way.