The moment the little pink line appears on your home pregnancy test – you suddenly fall victim to the world of receiving unwarranted advice about parenting. It’s endless, and annoying and often uncalled for. The pregnant woman can barely make it through a shopping trip without someone, often a perfect stranger asking her about whether or not she is going to breastfeed, or if she is eating enough dates. The bigger she gets, the bigger the advice gets, and much of – especially for an expectant parent is frightening. People will tell you about their miscarriages, their sisters husbands sisters still birth or the horrific 27 hours they spent in labor before being sliced open and having a C-Section.
Really, is this necessary?
And then once the baby comes, suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harry (And Harriet too) feel that they just must share with you what they know. If your baby has a pacifier in his or her mouth, people will tell you how to take it away, or how horrible of a parenting choice it is. If you are caught breastfeeding in public, you risk the wicked eyes of condemning strangers. Worse, if you bottle feed your baby in front of a La Leche League Member, you will be made to feel like the most selfish mother on the planet for not giving your child’s natures bounty, a.k.a breast milk.
Sometimes, you just want to say….”If I want your advice on parenting, I will ask!” But most of the time this advice comes from well meaning friends and family and is a culmination of every thing they ‘know’ about parenting from their own personal point of view. It is hard to tell your Great Auntie or your mother in law that you don’t want to listen to their advice. It’s considered rude to tell your sister in law off when she is rattling on about parenting expertise, especially when her kids are heathens at best. And, then there is your own poor mother, who likely tries to intervene and give you the best way to do everything, who is truly trying to help – but still insists on putting your newborn to sleep on his or her belly. If you hurt her feelings, or think that your three weeks of being a mama is going to stand up to her 27 years of being one, you might just be without a babysitter. And friends. Sure, they are trying to help, but why does it feel like they are trying to engage in a game of, “I’m a better mother than you are?” You can almost here the ‘neener, neener, neener in their voices.
Then of course, there are the ever so popular parenting books that will teach you how to get your child to sleep at night or the best way to avoid having an unruly brat for a two year old, among other things of course. Each comes with some stamp of approval from other parents who have tested and tried the method and some quack with a PhD, who likely doesn’t have a child of his or her own. Let alone a relationship that involves sex. And any deference from the method outlined in the book, makes parents feel like they are destined to thwart a life of psychological issues and counseling on their children, becoming the root cause of all their lifelong problems. How warm and cozy is that?
As kids grow older, which they always do – and start developing their own personality and mindset – you will find that every time your child embarrasses you in public or makes a mistake, there is going to be some know it all there to give you advice. Sometimes it’s a friend or family member with a little bit of, ‘I told you so,” in their voice. Other times it’s a teacher or principal that looks at you as if you are pond scum. When the truth is that our children, just like us – have to make mistakes in order to learn from them. That is what growing up is all about.
The giving of unrelenting parenting advice is nothing new. The moment a man or woman (and mostly women) become parents, they feel like they have suddenly received their degree in parenting and can push all their ideals on every one else. Parents also seem to be one of the most judgmental groups of people on Earth, and feel like nearly everything that goes on with you and your child, directly involves their child. Is it competition that makes parents this way? It’s hard to imagine that everyone truly wants to be helpful.
More than likely people throw out parenting advice with reckless abandon because they too are looking for some sort of validity that says they are a good parent. They subconsciously think that if you do something they did, and get positive results – it adds some credibility to their parenting quality. And most parents fail to realize that kids are not cracker box toys and instead come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, personalities, and mindsets. Every child is an individual, just as every family handles things in an individual and personal way. This is what makes our children (and us) unique.
You have to wonder with 6 million parenting sites on line all directed at giving insight and advice on how to do one of the most natural things, have, and raise children, if far too many people are over thinking the whole raising children niche. Perhaps it would be smart to get back to a little thing called intuitive parenting. Years ago, it was considered rude to talk to other parents about their children, or to give advice to someone on how they should raise their child. Today, it is check out aisle conversation between strangers.
The best bet for all involved however is to remember, that when someone wants advice, they will ask for it. If they don’t ask, perhaps you should save your insight for someone else.