Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Parenting in of itself is hard without the added irritant of strangers telling you what you’re doing right or wrong. From potty training to breast milk, baby advice to medical care, unwanted parenting advice can come in many forms. Random strangers to advice from coworkers, parents might feel they are never free from scrutiny! 

Unfortunately, unsolicited parenting advice is something most parents have to deal with at one point or another and can either be a huge ego boost or lead you spiraling in self-doubt about your ability to raise your child. Regardless of how the unwanted advice makes you feel, it’s important to know how to deal with these conversations conflict-free and constructively.

Unsolicited parenting advice refers to any individual advising a parent on the parenting strategy of their own accord without the parent’s request. When these situations occur, it is best for the parent to stay calm, listen to what’s being said, and then decide how to merit the advice holds. You can then use other tips to decide how to proceed.

This article will discuss why people feel the need to give their opinions on such a sensitive subject of their own accord and how parents can best handle the situation without either party being driven to confrontation. You might need to take a deep breath. 

Why People Offer Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Whether they have a kid of their own or not, everyone has an opinion on how children should be treated and raised. The problem is, some people are much more vocal than others and might overstep their bounds to tell a parent what they think of their parenting strategies and offer a piece of advice.

Most individuals will provide unsolicited parenting advice either because they relate to the parent or believe the parent is using a strategy that directly conflicts with their morals. 

It isn’t uncommon for a parent to struggle with calming their child from a screaming fit in public and a sympathetic parent gives advice on how they used to calm their own child. While this advice is unsolicited, it is coming from a place of empathy and might be helpful. 

Of course, not every situation is like this, and not every source of unsolicited parenting advice comes from strangers. Relatives are some of the most frequent offenders of this social annoyance because they feel they have more of a “right” to speak up since they know all parties involved. 

Regardless of where the advice comes from and the person’s motives, it’s important to know how best to respond when unsolicited advice is given.

How to Handle Unsolicited Parenting Advice

When someone gives you advice on your parenting without you requesting it, whatever they say can easily feel like a criticism of your ability to raise a child. This is why many instances of unsolicited parenting advice end in conflict. 

While it can certainly be tempting to lash out at the person, especially if you can see their intent is to criticize rather than help, this will likely only upset both of you and lead to bigger issues. Instead, we recommend:

  • Staying calm and listening
  • Setting boundaries with family and friends
  • Recognizing that unsolicited doesn’t always mean “wrong.”

 utilizing some of these tips for handling unsolicited parenting advice in a constructive, conflict-free manner. 

Stay Calm and Listen

By far, this is the hardest tip on the list, but it is arguably the most important. Getting unsolicited parenting advice can be the cherry on top of a bad day or the final tap the pushes you over the edge, so, understandably, the last thing you’d want to be is calm, but for your sake, we highly recommend it. 

If you can stay calm and listen during these interactions, you can more rationally decide the person’s motives and if the advice you’re being given has any merit. Once you’ve done this, you can decide how you’d like to proceed.

We find the best approaches are:

  • find something the two of you can agree on and state your support of that topic 
  • kindly excuse yourself from the conversation and disregard their advice if you deem it wrong or offensive
  • use this as an opportunity to educate yourself or the other person

Of course, which route you take truly depends on the other person. If you can tell they’re pretty set in their ways, this might be the best time to give a curt” Thanks; I’ll think about that” and walk away rather than trying to educate them. 

Pick Your Battles Wisely

Some battles just shouldn’t be fought in the freezer section of the grocery stores but, then again, if you don’t fight them, who will? 

One of the greatest challenges of receiving unsolicited parenting advice is how to know when it’s the time to put your foot down and stand up for yourself as the wonderful parent you are and when to walk away. 

If grandma wants to hold the baby a little longer even though it’s time they went down for their nap, let her have five extra minutes. However, if Karen at Target is complaining that you’re taking too long at the checkout and should’ve stopped at two kids rather than four, she can learn a lesson today, or you can ignore her, your choice. 

Set Boundaries with Family and Friends

Family members and friends are some of the most notorious sources of unsolicited parenting advice, and most parents can agree with this fact. The number of times a stranger has walked up to them and told them how to parent pales in comparison to how frequently they get it from friends and family.

If this resonates with you, it might be time to set some clear boundaries for these people on when they can offer advice and which topics are off the table. Having a standard response helps establish boundaries. 

It’s alright to give advice every once in a while, but if your mother-in-law keeps insisting little Timmy stays away from the family dog or uncle Rick won’t stop pushing his hobbies on the kids, you’re within your rights as a parent to sit them down and tell them that you’re the parent, not them. 

That being said, this tip can also apply to your partner if there is something the two of you frequently butt heads overdue to different parenting styles.

Unsolicited Doesn’t Always Mean “Wrong.”

While we recognize that, more often than not, someone providing unsolicited parenting advice is going about the situation in the wrong manner, that doesn’t always reflect directly on what’s being said. 

For this reason, it’s best not to always disregard the advice you’ve been given in these situations. If the individual is being outright harsh or unnecessarily cruel with what they’re saying, you can definitely disregard them. But this shouldn’t be a habit with every instance of unsolicited parenting advice, as it might lead you to brush aside advice that could help you and your child.  

If an individual is offering advice purely out of empathy or concern and spoken in an amicable and rational manner, there’s nothing wrong with listening to what they have to say and pondering the advice later for relevance. You could also take the advice to your child’s doctor or research it to see how realistic or helpful it is. 

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that unsolicited parenting advice can be a challenge most parents wish they could do without. Hopefully, utilizing some of these tips will help you get through them a little easier without the situation ending in frustration or an all-out fight. 

Of course, the most significant tip for these situations is to remember that, at the end of the day, parenting is an indescribable challenge, and you’re doing the best you can. Not everyone parents the same way, and they don’t have to. What worked for these people might not work for you, and that’s perfectly fine. 

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