A Guide for Telling Someone Else How to Raise Their Kids

mean momIf you have friends with kids, you are going to want to read this.

Hey. Hey you. Shut up! Yeah, you know I'm talking to you. The one with the flappy mouth and the fingers that can't refrain from typing when you see a post about how someone else is raising their kid. People like you are the Internet equivalent of the weirdo stranger that comes up and touches a pregnant woman's belly in public. You are a new mother's worst nightmare. 

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Maybe you saw a post on your Facebook feed from a friend about how their baby is doing well after their circumcision and you felt compelled to tell them that it's an unnecessary procedure they didn't need. Or maybe you saw a picture of your friend's baby next to the family cat and you felt the urge to comment and say how cats like to suffocate babies and they should get rid of it.

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Sure, your advice was only intended to save your friend's precious baby from something tragic, but I can assure you that your well-intended advice will most likely be met with an eye-roll.

A general rule for telling someone else how to parent their kids is simple to remember: Don't.

But since this concept inevitably eludes you, here is a set of guidelines to follow if you can't refrain from acting like a know-it-all parent who's never done anything wrong:

  1. Only give advice when it's asked for. If someone says, "Help! Little Sally is teething and there's nothing I can do to get her comfortable and get her to stop crying!" go ahead and offer your advice. But if someone says, "I've been up all night with a teething baby and finally got her to sleep after letting her gnaw on my finger for a half an hour!" your reminder that she shouldn't be wearing nail polish if she's going to let the baby gnaw on her finger isn't welcome. 
  2. Tone is everything. But on the Internet, you can't always tell how something was intended. There's a fine line between sounding like you are giving anecdotal advice and telling someone that they are failing as a parent. Note the difference in these two comments: "When I was breastfeeding, we had a lot of issues. Some were easier to deal with than others, but there are a lot of good breastfeeding forums and websites out there that have great advice, and if there's any way I can help, shoot me a message." And "Breastfeeding is much better for your baby and you should do it as long as you can. I had lots of problems, but I stuck with it and my kids reaped the benefits."
  3. Don't ever imply that someone is a bad parent. You can make kind suggestions at appropriate times, but no matter how much you disagree with someone's decision to pierce their baby's ears, it's not your baby to raise, so it's not your place to tell them what to do with her. (An exception to this rule is if something illegal is happening, in which case it's better to go to the authorities rather than say something to the parent about it anyway.)
  4. If you don't have kids, shut up. I don't care if you've owned a daycare for 20 years or are an award winning child psychologist. If you don't have kids of your own, you don't know how it is, and you have no place to speak your mind. 
  5. Don't assume new parents are clueless. You were a new parent once too, and you managed to get through it and figure things out. Mommy instinct is a powerful thing and helps guide us through the best and worst of times. Throwing in unneeded advice and causing a new mom to second guess what she feels right can just cause more problems.

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The best thing you can do is be supportive. The worst thing you can do is to make someone feel like they aren't raising their kids right. There is no right and wrong way to parent, and each kid, each parent, and each family is different. You are not the parenting police, and your sole responsibility is not to make sure that every child is taken care of properly. Focus more on being a friend, rather than an advice columnist, and you'll get a lot more respect and a lot less eye-rolls.

How do you deal with unwelcome parenting "advice"?

 

Image © iStock.com/chapin31

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