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Unwanted Parenting Advice: How Do You Respond?

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Kate Tuttle: In last week's Motherlode blog in the New York Times website, Lisa Belkin printed a letter from Lillian, mom of 3-month-old Alice, who went on a crying jag during a trip to the grocery store. As they were checking out, another mother leaned over, tapped Lillian on the shoulder and told her that "long-term crying" was very bad for her child.

baby crying

As Lillian recounts it, her first reaction was to wave it off ("I've got it"), and her second was rageful tears. That sounds about right.

Belkin goes on to recount times she has both received and offered unsolicited parenting advice, and the dozens of comments after the piece tell of even more. It seems that every mother out there has been on the receiving end -- and a lot of us, though we admit it somewhat sheepishly, have also been guilty of giving unwanted parenting advice to total strangers. Why on earth do we do this? And is it ever, ever helpful?

What's the best or worst parenting advice you've ever given or received?

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley July 20, 2010, 5:35 AM

The best advice I ever got was when my son was about 2 weeks old. I was exhausted from breastfeeding all night long and home alone and just really wanted a shower. A friend of my mom’s called to check on me and I was telling her he would cry if I left him to shower and she said “Did you hear about the baby that died from Crying??” I said no and she said “exactly, go take a shower!!”

Lisa R. July 20, 2010, 7:12 AM

Being a mom is hard. No one tells you that, though. They tell you how wonderful & fulfilling & gratifying it is, how it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do in your life. It IS all those things…MOST of the time…but it is also the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Once your child gets older & you get “better” at it, maybe, well, maybe we start to think we can help younger mothers avoid the mistakes we made by offering them our unsolicited parenting tips. As the mother on the receiving end, it’s so frustrating, plus it makes you feel like a bad mom. When I see mothers struggling in public, I smile to myself because I know they feel like everyone is staring at them & judging, and I know all of us moms are thinking, “Been there, done that. Good luck.” The very best thing we as moms, and as women, can do is support each other.

Shannon July 20, 2010, 7:34 AM

My son is about to turn 2 & my mother in law & her bestie yelled at me over letting my son keep using his bottle (tried breaking him of the habit, but failed terribly). It’s not like he gets it a lot though, just before nap/bedtime. Also it’s the only time & way he will drink milk. Toddlers need at least 16oz of milk a day I don’t care how he gets it as long as he gets it! My hubby agreed with me : )

sarah July 20, 2010, 8:09 AM

best advice I have ever received is also the best advice I’ve ever given… “it gets better, I promise”. it does not make a parent feel like they aren’t doing a good job, it encourages us, gives us hope and is honest.

JoAnne July 20, 2010, 10:12 AM

worst advice I ever received was from a Pediatrician. I was a first-time mom with a VERY colicy baby who had reflux and wanted to eat every 90 minutes. I went to the doctor for advice and he told me “happy babies eat every 3 hours” (he even said it with a smile and it sounded to rehearsed). I burst into tears (and found another Pediatrician). My next pediatrician helped me through the colic and told me to feed him when he’s hungry (duh!) and use common sense instead of listening to crazy advice!

Rachel July 20, 2010, 12:29 PM

The worst advice I ever received was to read “Baby Wise” and use its methods. I read the book and decided, “No, thank you!”

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