By Sarah R. Moore
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.