When it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion, especially when it pertains to children that don’t belong to them! Probably the most frustrating thing about unsolicited advice is that half the people you meet tell you one thing while the other half tell you another…if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, every person you meet who has “valuable insight” into what you should do with your child will tell you something COMPLETELY different! Even worse, while most of the people who offer you advice have amnesia when you actually ask them for advice about what they did for their child for a particular issue, they seem to have perfect recall of memory when you’re not asking for help.
My daughter Sydney is now 18 months old and I’ve been dodging unsolicited advice for about that long and it doesn’t seem to be abating anytime soon. I’ve gotten so much unsolicited advice from everyone ranging from family and friends to random people that I meet in the grocery store. Its literally advice about everything ranging from how to get her to take a bottle to how to dress her to what to do to get her to sleep through the night to what to feed her. On one hand, it's nice to see that so many people care…in addition to that, as a new parent, you have zero clue what you’re doing and very much so rely on more seasoned parents to clue you in on how babies work. But on the other hand, its usually useless because the advice is given with the assumption that you haven’t already tried a solution or it's about a topic that you don’t really care about.
As annoying as it can be, I completely understand how it’s easy to fall down the unsolicited advice rabbit hole. You see someone struggling and your instinct is to help. If you see someone stumble and fall while walking down the street, you’ll give them a hand and help them up, so why isn’t it okay to do the same thing when it comes to parenting? There are many times that I see a pregnant couple arguing in public and I want to say to them…”It only gets harder after the baby comes.” Or I hear a parent complain about a baby that doesn’t sleep and I want to tell about what worked for me. Or I see a parent wrestling with a toddler having a tantrum at the playground and I want to tell them all about the great book I just read on setting boundaries and discipline…but at the end of the day, I don’t. Why? Because it’s absolutely none of my business!
I’ve also learned that every child, every parent and every situation is different so what worked for me is not guaranteed to work for someone else. That’s not to say that I never received any good advice. I received a lot of great advice and some of it came in unsolicited form, but most of it did not. Most of the solutions that I found most helpful came from people that knew a great deal about what I was dealing with, usually because I complained in depth about it to them and they know the ins and outs of what I’m dealing with. Giving someone advice without knowing all of the details is like a doctor diagnosing you with a disease without hearing your symptoms first.
So what’s the moral of the story? Navigating the world of unsolicited advice gracefully is a skill that it pays to learn early. Should you take advice from others or not? We don’t want to reinvent the wheel when it comes to raising kids and want to take advantage of our community but we should listen to the input we receive with a grain of salt keeping in mind that raising kids is a continuous task with ever-changing challenges. While our friends and family have the best intentions at heart, it's important to understand that the same way we wouldn’t want to use a laptop from 1998, we might want to think twice about taking advice from someone who had a baby 20 years ago! In addition to receiving good advice from people who’d I’d exhausted with my complaints about a particular issue, I found that the best advice I received came from parents who had kids recently who were close to the age of Sydney and parents whose kids had similar issues with their children to the ones that I was experiencing.
The problem that you may run into with this is that you may not have anyone in your network that has a kid close in age or with a similar issue. This is why I love being a mom in the age of information and honestly don’t know how anyone raised kids before the internet existed and you could google everything! I’ve found invaluable advice online through different parenting groups that I belong to. The benefit of these groups is that it expands your network and gives you access to people across the country or even world who are experiencing the exact same issue at the exact same time that you are. You may not solve your issue, but there is a great comfort that can come from knowing that you’re not alone.
Finally, always use your gut. As a new parent, I found myself doubting my parenting skills quite a bit. Babies are constantly evolving and changing and it often feels as if the minute that you’re getting the hang of parenthood, whether it be getting your baby to sleep or eat or just not freak out on you, your baby switches it up on you! These doubts are normal and every parent has them in one way or another. The time that you spend with your child gives you insight into what your child needs more than anyone else can ever possess and shouldn’t be discounted. Just like with anything else, your intuition should take precedence and all of the other information should just be a supplement.