How Do You Deal with Unwanted Parenting Advice?

Posted July 24, 2009 by

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Why do strangers try to scare parents with random, negative comments? I’m a new mom, and I’m already tired of unwanted parenting advice and snide remarks.

It happened to me again this week while I was walking in the parking lot of the grocery store, my 10-month-old Olivia tucked against me in her Snugli.  It was one of those moments I love as a parent, when your child is happy and content and you’re enjoying the peace and simple pleasure of that moment.  In spite of this, while loading my bag of groceries into the car, an older gentleman commented that it looked like I had my hands full.  I replied, “Not so bad,” which in turn elicited a response of “Just you wait!”  The phrase seemed to transform into a curse when it was concluded with a sinister laugh.

It is amazing to me that strangers will so happily take the opportunity to be harbingers of doom.  Perhaps it sounds like I have a huge chip on my shoulder about it, and maybe I do.  But come on, tell me I look like I have my hands full when I’m accompanied by a caravan of over-tired, cranky children ranging from ages 10 months to 10 years, wheeling 2 carts full of grocery bags, preferably filled with heavy items so a couple of bags just bust right open, and a set of hungry St. Bernards waiting in the car.  But apparently, this older gentleman was just looking for any handy point of entry — a calm baby sucking her thumb contentedly, in our case — before imparting his words of wisdom.

It seems like I’m learning that this is part of some initiation to parenthood that others impose on the newbies in the parenting circle.  I have no control over what other people say and do, but I just wanted to say, “If you’re going to say something obvious and/or negative, save your breath.”

Don’t get me wrong,  I’m all about hearing other people’s stories and experiences and I’m very interested in their (and my own) learning and growth as a parent, but there’s a time and a place to talk about parenting struggles — and it’s not the grocery store parking lot!

I think it ruffles my feathers when I perceive that some people are more focused on being nuisances to one another than being supportive.  And to them I want to say, “If you do want to share your parenting misery, offer some reassurance that it is at least encouraging or practical — or at the very least, give one measly example of how it was enjoyable in some way. ” Without that, I see passing comments as merely as grown-ups acting out.

I wanted to share this annoyance with all you parents out there and see if you’ve had the same experience.  In the end, I realized that it was unacceptable to allow this stranger to have the power to whittle away any satisfaction or pleasure I had in that moment with my daughter.  Because the truth of the matter is, we need to fight for and hang onto those times of peace and success.  They guide us and keep us steady in moments of uncertainty and discomfort.  In fact, I try hard every day to make those experiences visible to the parents I talk through 1-on-1 Coaching, because I know they can become hard to detect when you’re tired and frustrated.  That’s why I love going into the Empowering Parents forum seeing how parents in the EP community encourage and support each other every day. Too bad all parents can’t understand the simple truth — when you’re cutting someone else down or being negative, no matter how benign it seems, it doesn’t do anything to help, and often it actually can hurt. (Or at least make one mom very annoyed!)

Do you remember something another parent said to you in passing that you found to be out of place or even down right insulting that you will never forget?  How did you respond?  Did you find it gets worse as your child gets older?  I want to know!

About

As a 1-on-1 Coach, Tina Wakefield coached parents on techniques from the Total Transformation, as well as Empowering Parents' other programs, for over 8 years. Tina is also a mother and stepmother.

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