No matter what we do, why we do it, and how we do it, there will always be someone out there to tell us we’re wrong. If you want to know how to handle unsolicited parenting advice and criticism, and maintain the relationship, this article is for you.
We are who we are. We have our set of values and beliefs, we carry our personal histories, likes, and dislikes, we’re aware of our rights and wrongs and we build our lives in accordance to these mental and psychological possessions. We partner up with those who (we hope) share ideas similar to ours, we find friendships and relationships where we hope to be understood, accepted and respected.
But what about the relationships we don’t choose at adulthood? What about our loved ones, our parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends who are active parts of our life, but don’t share our values and beliefs? Those who don’t speak the language of compassion and empathy, who don’t practice Attachment Parenting and believe cuddling and holding our little ones spoils them? Those who keep repeating co-sleeping is an unnecessary dependency at best, and a bad habit at worse? Those who say that leaving your little one with a babysitter to join the dinner party is OK because she’s already 10 months old? There are so many other examples, but I’m sure you already know what I mean: those who are constantly sharing unsolicited parenting advice and criticism.
Of course, what they are all offering you is the easy solution, but if you’ve made it thus far, easy solutions are not what you are looking for. Keep listening to your natural, parental instincts and doing what you do best – unconditionally loving and raising your children.
Parenting Advice? Thank you very much 🙂
When I first started learning the universal human needs, everything seemed to fall into place. It made so much sense to me, I just couldn’t fathom the reactions of others when the discussion came up. But then, I understood that since I’ve always lived in compassion, to myself and those around me, I had always been attentive to my needs (even before I could name them).
To me, it was as if I finally received the dictionary to my life. Through observation without evaluation, I learned that most people around me are not the same. Most of them are not aware of their needs, that they live the life of sabotaged needs. Most are not aware that everything they do, everything we do, are strategies for meeting our needs. Most don’t know that needs never collide, but strategies do. Most don’t know that they can meet all their needs with a slight change of the strategy.
With this understanding, the arguments stopped. Instead of them laying their philosophy and me answering with mine, I started addressing their needs in every communication. Instead of trying to educate, I modeled.
Reply to the Unspoken Words
When my mother tried to pressure me into leaving Ilay over for the weekend (she doesn’t do that anymore – she knows it will only happen when he makes that choice), her strategy of meeting her need of proximity clashes with my strategy for meeting Ilay’s need for proximity. Instead of arguing, I address her needs, and the fact that these needs will remain unmet for now. I empathize with her pain. “It’s so hard constantly wanting to be next to someone you love so much and not being able to actually be there as much as you want. I can imagine how it makes you feel, mama. Would you like us to come for dinner?”
When you begin your reply showing understanding and acknowledgment of the other person’s needs, their reply can no longer be really negative. When you continue by offering a variety of alternatives to meeting their need – they are most likely to choose one and be happy about it.
Parenting Advice or Criticism? That’s Okay. I Know Who I Am.
When Ilay was significantly younger and needed us to rock him to sleep and later on started sharing our bed, my parents were very much against it, and were very comfortable sharing their thoughts. I know their need for sameness wasn’t met; they couldn’t understand how we chose strategies so different than the ones they would have chosen. Their need for being known wasn’t met either, as, in their eyes, our decisions shed a light of critique on their past decisions. Their need of significance, too, remained unmet as their suggestions weren’t accepted. I then chose not to react, but today I would have told them that the fact we are different, doesn’t mean we’re not the same. That we can choose differently and still respect and cherish everything they have done for us. That the fact we’re not taking this particular advice doesn’t we will never again listen, and remind them about the advice given by them that were accepted.
It Works Even when You don’t Know Them
When a passerby at the park tells you that your child is really too old to be breastfed, tell him that you know he wants to help and that you really appreciate his advice. He’s looking to fulfill his need for significance and you really don’t need to do much to make him feel good. You can then continue breastfeeding, I promise he won’t say a word 🙂
Making people happy is much easier than we think; and the truth is, that making people happy also makes us happy, so this is a win-win situation that reminds me every time how different our world would be if everyone just practiced Nonviolent Communication. Next time someone provides you with unwanted parenting advice, don’t take it to heart. It is not really about you, it is about them and their unmet needs. You don’t have to accept the parenting advice either, you can label it and put it in the “Unwanted Parenting Advice” box, wrap it, close it, and forget about it.
I have a million other examples and I’m sure that you do, too. Join my Facebook group and tell me what you’ve heard lately and how you chose to react. I’ll be happy to help you look for future alternatives 🙂