ABCs of Parenting – A – Advice

Today’s word is: Advice.

Something about being having a child means that you are instantly open to a world of advice and opinions from just about anywhere: family, friends, strangers, people who have kids and those who don’t, shelves and shelves of books at the store, teachers, doctors and other professionals, – heck, even TV shows and commercials. It’s everywhere.

And on just about any topic! From food choices and birth options when you are pregnant, to parenting styles, to “the big controversies” like vaccinations, breastfeeding, and circumcisions, to even the little things like how to pick a day care or how many kids you should have.

It’s overwhelming. Some of it is really helpful. Some of it is not. Some is exactly what we agree with and some is completely against our ideals.

Here’s 5 steps on how to handle parenting advice:

1. Filter.

I think there’s potential to learn and grow from almost every source. For example, I have read many parenting books. I don’t always agree with what they say, but I’m usually able to pick out a few key words or ideas that are applicable to me as a parent. I’ve learned to filter through what I’m reading, keeping what’s of value and letting the other stuff pass me by.

This is a very important skill – especially as a new parent when you are completely innundated with advice when you are already overwhelmed. Learn to put filters on so you can take back only what is important/relevent and save yourself the stress of trying to live up to everyone’s expectations.

2. Educate Yourself.

When you are making a big decision in regards to parenting, take the time to research your options and choices so that when someone comes in your path that will offer you advice on that topic – you already know where you stand. For example, vaccinating: whether you choose to vaccinate or not is completely your choice. There are strong advocates for whatever side of the line you decide and it’s important to know why or why not you made your choice. Don’t be swayed by convention or peer pressure – research it yourself and make a decision to stand by. Read books, reports, medical pamphlets, websites, and whatever else you feel will help you make that choice. You can talk to people on both sides of the debate to see why THEY feel what they feel. Be informed. Educate yourself so that when unwanted and unsolicited advice comes up, you are ready for it.

3. Ignore the opposition.

No matter WHAT choices you make on just about anything related to your children, you are going to come across someone who completely disagree with that choice. Sometimes people are so passionate about their position that they will push and push and push. You do NOT have to engage with them in discussion. Sometimes ignoring or blocking the discussion is the best solution. One strategy that has been well-known over the years is something referred to as “Pass The Bean Dip.” It’s the idea of changing the subject – so that there’s little/no confrontation or need to discuss further.

For example:

Friend A: “Why would you ever breastfeed past the age of 6  months? That’s so… WRONG!”

You: “It’s our decision. Please pass the bean dip.”

It’s all about putting a clear, definitive end to the discussion and moving on. Another great skill for parenting!

4. Remember it for later.

Sometimes, it’s easy to just dismiss the advice given to you because it’s not relevant or important at the time. But, try to remember to keep it tucked away for the future. You never know when that small word of advice and experience from the little old lady next door will come in handy. If you keep it stored somewhere, you can process it later to research and even to apply.

5. Be careful advising others.

Think of all the things that you’ve had said to you and be careful when approaching other parents. Although 99% of advice is well-intentioned, remember that that parent is going through all the same lessons you have over the years and they are learning how to handle all the information thrown at them. Try to avoid unsolicited advice when possible. If they ask, offer your suggestions/experiences/opinion and respect the fact they might not agree or follow through with the same choices you have. Be courteous and polite. Most importantly, be sincere.

I know there’s irony in offering advice about advice…. but hopefully this is helpful to someone!

Have you received a lot of advice over the years? What has been a key piece of advice you have been given? What steps would you offer a new parent as they find themselves overwhelmed with advice and options?

Lisa Marie Fletcher

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