We’ve all gotten parenting advice that didn’t sit right with us — it went against our intuition or simply didn’t feel right in our gut.
Writing this, I’m reminded of the time my daughter’s pediatrician told me to never pick her up when she cried. Ever.
I mean, what? No. That doesn’t fly here.
There’s plenty of bad parenting advice out there, and much to our dismay, it sometimes comes from those we otherwise respect and trust. That’s a hard situation to be in.
We know it when we hear it; the truly bad parenting advice goes against our intuition and we’re sure we’re not going to take it. At the same time, we don’t want to insult the person giving it, and we often want to maintain the relationship.
Regardless whether the bad parenting advice comes from someone we see infrequently or with whom we spend time on a regular basis, it’s awkward, to be sure.
Here are five ways you can respond to bad parenting advice without damaging the relationship with the advice-giver.
Ask for the science to back up their parenting advice.
When somebody gives you parenting advice that you don’t plan to take, you can say to them, “Interesting. Do you happen to know the science behind that? I’m researching a lot about this topic and I’d love to know if you have a reference for the science behind what you’re suggesting.”
More often than not, that person will say, “Oh, no, I don’t actually know the science behind that,” or “It’s just what I’ve always done,” or some similarly easy-to-discredit “validation.”
You can then respond, “Oh, okay. Well, I’ll research that a little more or you can let me know if you find a resource that supports it. I’d be curious to see it.”
Then you can let it go. It puts the onus back on them to show you that the parenting advice they’re suggesting is actually scientifically valid when it comes to child rearing.
Thank them and change the subject.
Tip number two is a simple, “Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.”
And then you move on — perhaps to “Pass the crackers,” or “Hey, it’s really getting warm – shall we open a window?”
Change the topic to whatever you want. Often, it’s most effective to change the topic to something else that the other person is passionate about and happy to discuss at length.
“Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind” is a nice way to acknowledge that they’ve said something to you without committing to it. You don’t have to make it a bigger discussion unless you want to.
Be forthcoming about your preferences.
The third option, if you feel like standing your ground but in a way that won’t be off-putting to the advice-giver, is you can be forthcoming and say something like, “That doesn’t feel quite right to me, but there might be some parts of that that I would consider. I will give it some thought.”
It’s similar to the last option in that you’re saying “I’m going to think about it,” but you’re also letting them know that there are parts of it that don’t sit right with you. That might open the door to some mutually respectful dialogue around the basis of your perspectives.
Related Course: When Someone You Love Disagrees with Your Gentle Parenting Style
If you’re comfortable discussing parenting advice with that person, it’s a good opportunity for you — in a non-confrontational way — to give the person some feedback about why you are choosing a different path than the one they are recommending. Perhaps they’ll be open to another way that they simply hadn’t known about previously.
If there’s no part of their parenting advice that you’re open to considering, you can try a gentle and philosophical-sounding, “Hmmm. We’re not doing that, but isn’t it wonderful how we can all do things our own way and still love and support one another?”
Many of us have loved ones whose styles differ from our own, but we still find ways to maintain the relationship.
Handling bad parenting advice gracefully
“Blame” a neutral third-party expert.
You can blame somebody else if you disagree with the parenting advice you’re receiving. You might try, “You know, that’s interesting, but I read that there is a different way that we’re supposed to be handling this topic these days” or “My doctor told me that I should be handling it this way, instead. Thank you for your input, but I’m going to go with what my doctor told me to do.”
That said, if your doctor is the one giving you the parenting advice that doesn’t sit right with you, by all means, do your own research and consider consulting another doctor whose guidance is more in line with your belief system.
While many medical professionals are wonderful and give sound advice, some perpetuate outdated beliefs about certain topics related to positive discipline.
Set boundaries in a firm and loving way.
Although it can feel tricky to establish and maintain boundaries with those with whom we disagree (especially if we value their opinions), it’s okay to say sincerely, “Thank you. I am going to make my decisions based on a combination of the research I’m doing and my intuition of what’s right for my family. Still, I appreciate knowing your perspective.”
If they push, simply and gently reiterate what you’ve already communicated.
Be open to the possibility that their parenting advice, or parts thereof, might be worth considering.
All of that aside, do listen to the feedback that you get to see if any of it does resonate with you. Despite our gut reaction to automatically reject unsolicited advice from certain sources, it’s possible the advice-giver might know something accurate and/or beneficial to you.
Take the parenting advice that feels right to you when you can validate its accuracy. Leave the rest. Sometimes there is perfectly good advice woven throughout the “rest” and it behooves us to consider it. Having an open mind is always beneficial.
You get to decide how much you are willing to consider; how much you are willing to discuss.
Most importantly, as always, this is your child. You know best what is appropriate and what feels right to you. Trust yourself.