Thanks, But No Thanks

I have a problem that’s bothered me for over four years now. The longer it sits and festers, the worse I feel about it. The worse I feel about myself – and certain others. I want to make this problem go away, but have no idea what to do, without hurting someone.

While pregnant with our first we were given advice. Unwanted advice. Advice that went against all current research. Advice that was at least twenty-five years old. We smiled and nodded and figured it didn’t matter if we listened or not, it wasn’t anyone’s business, but our own, how we parented.

It never occurred to us that we’d have to deal with that decision for the next 4+ years. Why, I ask myself, didn’t I tell the person they were wrong and that we neither appreciated, nor wanted their advice?

I didn’t, because my husband has a more gentle soul than I do. He requested that I just keep quiet. This approach worked well with other advice givers. No point getting anyone upset with us when we’re entering a period of our lives when love, help, and support would be really beneficial.

Ryan really is wise sometimes. Though this decision has backfired a hundred times over. Even to the point of creating a lot of tension in our relationship. Now instead of merely trying to TELL us how to parent, the person in question tries to show us how to parent our own children.

Once Ella fell and scraped her hand (there was blood). She started to cry, so I picked her up and started to cuddle her. This person steps in and says, “Oh, no need to cry, you’re not hurt. Show us you’re a big girl.”

Ella rarely cries when she falls over, when she does it’s a big deal. She might be tired or hungry, unable to cope with spills as easily, but she could also be hurt. Either way, if her first reaction is crying, I respond. She might be hurt more than seems apparent to me. Even if she isn’t, I can’t tell her how much pain she feels. Telling a crying child there’s no reason to cry is cruel. Obviously they feel like there’s a reason. Who am I to tell my child whether she should feel sad, angry, happy, or indifferent?

Personally, if I fall hard enough to bleed, I cry. So why is a toddler expected to ‘suck it up’?

I can understand waiting to react, until you know what a small child’s reaction might be. Some children look to mom and dad to find out how to respond in a certain situation. I do the same thing. No point in panicking if my little girl isn’t upset. However if she is upset, I respond.

There are other ways this person tries to show, or tell us how to parent. We have very different ideals. We also want very different outcomes. But even if we wanted the same outcome, it doesn’t mean we’d have to do things the same way. After all science has since proven certain methods of parenting are more successful than others.

Ultimately it comes down to the fact that these are my children. I am their mother, I might take advice from some people, but it is my choice to accept or not. Just as others can take my advice or not.

My question for you is: When someone (close friend or family member) doesn’t take the hint to back off, how do you tactfully tell them to mind their own business and to respect your way of parenting?

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Thanks, But No Thanks

  1. I don’t know. I tend to be of the nod my head and carry on as I want to variety. Often their advice is about them, not you. But it is more difficult when it’s a family member, or close friend.
    What I do know is that people who aren’t good at processing their own emotions aren’t very tolerant of anyone else showing theirs, even small children and babies. Perhaps you could rationalise it that way?
    I agree with you whole heartedly about cuddling a child who is distressed. Hope you get some better advice than this. 🙂

  2. My wife and I have been dealing with this exact thing for about 12 months now and our son is only 3 months old! Her sister doesn’t agree with everything that we have been doing and feels like she knows best since she is raising two kids of her own. She gives us advice and never agrees with anything that we do! She didn’t agree with our decision to stop breast-feeding (it just wasn’t working for both mom and baby), she doesn’t think that he should already be sleeping through the night, and so on.

    We’ve told her time and time again that each baby is different and we are doing what works for ours, she just doesn’t get that through her head. But we are getting the final laugh as he is reaching his milestones a month ahead of schedule and if we were doing something wrong he wouldn’t be hitting them early right?

    Keep doing what your doing despite what the advice giver is saying or advising you to do. You know what is right for your child and you are the only one who knows that. Someone may think they know, but they don’t. That’s my little piece of unsolicited advice! 😉

  3. Thanks!
    Our biggest problem is not so much the receiving of unwanted advice, we won’t take what we don’t agree with. The problem is more that this person has started trying to ‘parent’ our children using their ideals. So if we say our children can do X,Y, or Z in our own home and this person is over, she will tell our children, in our home, that they can’t.

    We’ve tried being ‘gentle’ and saying something to our children (in front of the person) alone the lines of “Oh, So and so misunderstood – it’s okay to do that, since you always do that and we know you’re safe.”

    But the person doesn’t take the hint. Instead we find them taking it a step farther, and trying to scare our children in to doing things their way. But they don’t do it in front of us, they do it while we’re not in the room so the opportunity to say something in the moment isn’t there. Instead we find out when we notice one of the girls refusing to do something they normally do. Refusing because they’re frightened.

    Kloppenmum – I agree with you about the emotions! This person has major issues with emotions of any type. I do believe it is her issue, not ours.

    However, we would like it to stop. We are young parents – as in we have 4 years experience – but we read, we research, we talk to parents with more experience who have children that’ve turned out roughly the way we’d like ours to turn out (happy, self confident, basically well adjusted). We listen to our children. Obviously we’ll make mistakes, we’re human, but they are our mistakes to make and I really don’t want someone else making mistakes with my children.

    The problem is I have no idea how to tell this person to back off, without creating a huge rift in the relationship.

  4. bjbillinger – I am a firm believer that breast is best. I BF my girls for close to 2 years each. However, I know more than anyone that if it is not a positive experience than no amount of ‘it’s better for baby’ will help. A mom unhappy breastfeeding will have less attachment than a mom happy to bottle feed. As for sleeping through the night – I think it depends – if you’re spiking baby’s bottle, then not a good idea. But if baby just naturally sleeps, and you respond when baby does waken, then no harm no foul. Don’t wake a sleeping baby, unless absolutely necessary.

  5. I’ve had a night to consider, and the only thing I can think of is to meet on neutral ground: a cafe, or playground perhaps. If it’s someone in the family, it does make it a very difficult situation and I can only suggest that you and hubby sit down together and work out the pros and cons of standing your ground firmly with this person. In the end, only the two of you can decide. It’s an awful position to be in, and I don’t envy you one bit.
    I’m with you on the breast is best, don’t wake a sleeping baby ( except in the early days with very low birth-weight), and some children are naturally good sleepers, while others are a not.

  6. I should have specified, healthy term and older babies. I was blessed with babies that nursed non-stop for 3 hours, then slept for 5 the first night and most nights after that as well. I personally enjoyed that sleep time. Of course this baby could turn out to only sleep for two hours at a time. I have no idea what I’ll do then! : )

    We’re still trying to figure out how to approach the subject. We know we need to firmly tell this person they have to stop, but we also don’t want to alienate this person.

  7. wow, I never know what to do when people give unwanted advice. I usually just say, “Oh, OK.” and then ignore it.

  8. I’m supposed to be tactful?!

    No, really, I’m honest with people. I do not tell them how to parent, I do not insult their decisions, I do not undermine their authority in front of their children or friends or relatives and I do not hand out unsolicited advice willy-nilly…and I *expect* the same courtesy be extended to me. When someone cannot help themselves, I call them on it after three strikes. If they persist, I point out an example of a time where I disagreed with them but let it go. If they still continue, I take them aside and explain my perspectives and ask if there is some way we can compromise. For example, one of my relatives had a problem with my nursing my baby without a blanket – and a really big problem with me continuing to nurse beyond twelve months. I struck a deal that I was completely willing to consider their perspectives if they were completely willing to consider mine. They gave me theirs and I dropped off a book about breastfeeding politics and told them that was mine.

    I know it isn’t tactful, but the way I see it is this: I am a good parent and I deserve the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been lucky in that my family and my husband’s family are incredibly supportive of our parenting choices, but when we disagree I don’t feel that I should have to sit back and take criticism of the most important job I will ever do just because it’s polite. So I stand up for myself. I haven’t had any problems long-term because I really do try to excuse people when they don’t mean anything by it or whatever, and I always explain that I value discussion and ideas and love that they are interested in my child’s well-being even if they aren’t always tactful about it with me – so maybe we can find a middle-of-the-road solution that works for everyone, etc. It’s not pretty and it’s not perfect, but if I can’t be honest with family (and so far it’s usually just family that I’ve had a problem with) then who can I be frank with? What sort of family lies to each other just to save face?

    Strangers I just ignore, though. Usually. Except for once or twice when I haven’t lol.

    I sound like a miserable person now so I’m going to move along!

    • Thank you for the comment!

      I’m not the most tactful person in the world – someone recently asked if I’d write a guest post on being tactful and my husband laughed. I am capable of it, but a lot of times I don’t see the point. Tactful can cause the problem we’re in right now. We’re upset and angry at the liberties this person is taking, and this person seems to have no clue. However, based on our most recent experience we’re not sure where the miscommunication happened. I spelled everything out, and the person disregarded us and did what they wanted anyhow. However, this person is also – shall we say – sensitive. Coming out and telling them that we don’t do things that way and do not want to ever discover they’ve treated our children that way again, would result in a lot of difficulties with an entire group of people (based on previous experience). After talking about it between ourselves we’ve decided that’s a risk we’re willing to take – we’d rather create a rift than risk our children’s happiness or well-being.

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