If you’re a parent, chances are you’re used to getting unsolicited advice from people who think they know better. In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to politely decline unsolicited parenting advice.
How to Deal With Unsolicited Parenting Advice
So you’re a new mom at the store with your baby, just minding your own business when suddenly someone comes up to you and tells you that you shouldn’t let your baby use a pacifier.
You feel irritated by this stranger, thinking they know what’s best for your baby, but you don’t know how to respond.
This is unsolicited parenting advice, and it happens all the time, primarily to moms and not dads.
We all know that parenting is hard, and people want to help, but sometimes the advice can be condescending or hurtful. The way you should respond to these comments will depend on the situation and who is giving you the unsolicited parenting advice.
It’s not always strangers; sometimes it’s your own mom or mother-in-law, insisting they know what’s best for the baby.
So how can you respond to unsolicited parenting advice in a way that is kind but also sets a boundary, so you don’t have to hear it over and over again? Read on to find out, plus 19 examples of exactly what you can say.
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Why Do People Give Unsolicited Parenting Advice?
Some people think they have the best advice in the world and feel the need to share their opinions with others. They might even think they are the best at parenting.
Another reason people give unsolicited advice is because they want to make themselves feel better about their own parenting skills. They want to show that they are better than other parents and that their kids are much better behaved than other children.
The truth is there is no one perfect way to parent. Everyone has to choose the parenting strategy that’s best for them. Personally, I advocate for the use of Gentle Parenting but even within Gentle Parenting, there is a lot of variety in how parents do things.
When you get unsolicited parenting advice, the person might be well-meaning, thinking they’re just giving you some extra information to help. Still, other times it’s delivered with a sense of superiority and, “I know best.” This kind of advice is a lot more offensive and can lead to mom-shaming.
How to Respond to Unsolicited Parenting Advice
When someone gives you unsolicited parenting advice (advice you didn’t ask for), there are a few ways you can respond. It might depend on the situation, who gives you this unwanted advice, how often they’ve done it, and what you’re comfortable saying.
There is a big difference between a stranger in the grocery store who you’ll never see again vs your mother in law who is constantly giving you unwanted or even bad parenting advice. One is just a short interaction you can ignore if you want, and another can be a pattern you’d like to see end for the sake of your relationship.
Here are some approaches you can take when receiving unsolicited parenting advice, but it’s up to you to determine what the situation might call for.
Sometimes people that give unwanted parenting advice do it because they want to feel like they are helpful or contributing to the baby’s life.
They might not be saying it because they’re judging you or because they think they’re the better parent.
It also might be that they feel like they have something really valuable to say that might be helpful, like any amazing swaddle technique they wish they had known when their first baby was really colicky.
You can feel free to listen politely, even if you know the advice isn’t right for you and your child.
Agree or thank them for the advice
If you want, and depending on the situation, you could agree with the advice or thank them for you.
“Thanks, I didn’t know that.”
“I’ll try that.”
Tell them you’ll look into it
Instead of agreeing, you could always tell them that you will look into it or ask your doctor about it. This is an easy way to drop the topic as they’ll feel like you’ve accepted what they’ve said (even if you disagree).
Change the topic
You can easily brush off the unwanted advice by changing the topic. This is a neutral way to respond – you don’t have to agree with them or discuss why you disagree.
Thanks, but no thanks
You have the right to reject their advice, and one easy way to do that is to pretty much say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
You can say something like, “Thanks for sharing that with me, but we’re fine with how we’re doing things.”
This can help hold the boundary line while still being polite.
Explain why that advice doesn’t work for you
It can take a lot of time and energy to explain your parenting stance, and sometimes it can be hard to think on your feet, but for some, it does help to explain why you’re doing things a certain way.
If you have any “parenting quirks” that are unusual to others and they always ask about it, it can help to have a quick explanation.
I have an article specifically about how to explain Gentle Parenting to a grandparent or caregiver if that helps.
Explaining why their unwanted advice doesn’t work for you isn’t always practical, because some people will insist they’re right or have a hard time understanding your approach (especially if it is new to them).
It’s also possible that explaining yourself is difficult for you and ends up shaking your confidence, especially if it turns into a debate.
Assure them you have good information – without explaining yourself
You don’t have to explain yourself, but you can always tell them that what you’re doing is in line with what your doctor has advised, according to a specific expert, according to a particular parenting approach, etc.
Bringing in a third party like this can help stop them from disagreeing with you directly.
Avoid parenting topics
You might choose not to talk about your children with certain friends or not talk about how hard bedtime has been lately with a relative if you know it’s going to lead to unwanted parenting advice.
Directly tell them you don’t want advice you didn’t ask for
It is ok to set this boundary with someone constantly giving unsolicited parenting advice, but it’s up to you to determine if this is appropriate for your situation.
If it is appropriate, then you can tell them in a situation where they’ve given you unwanted advice, or you can plan a time to talk to them about it. You can decide how direct you want to be. You can bring it up casually or in a more formal way where they’ll know you have been thinking about this.
You can say something like this:
“I know you really care about [my child] and want what’s best for them, but sometimes your advice comes across like you don’t think that what I’m doing for my child is right. I’ve put a lot of thought into how I parent [my child], and while that’s always open to change, I need the space to decide for myself. If I ever need any advice from you, I will ask, but it would mean a lot to me and make me feel more respected as a parent if you could refrain some giving me advice I didn’t ask for.”
Being Polite Isn’t Always the Most Important Thing When It Comes to Unsolicited Parenting Advice
Many of the above tips are centred on being polite, but being polite isn’t always the most important thing.
I’m not saying anyone should be rude, but the situation will determine what is called for.
If someone is not just giving you unsolicited parenting advice but also trying to take over how you do things, saying you’re a bad parent, etc, then you might need a more direct, blunt or confrontational response.
Depending on what the situation is, you might have to:
- Ask them if they realize their words come off as judgemental
- Block the person from your social media accounts (if they constantly leave unwanted advice in comments)
- Directly tell them you do not appreciate how they’re talking to you, and you won’t be spoken to that way
- Tell them you won’t feel uncomfortable spending time with them anymore if they keep giving you unwanted advice/judging you
- Only spend time with that person when you don’t have to bring your kids
- Stop talking to that person or unfriend them
Not all unsolicited parenting advice comes with judgement or cruelty, but sometimes it does. Your response should match how they are treating you.
If someone is constantly telling you that you’re a bad mom because you don’t do x,y,z, then the tip of listening or thanking them for the advice goes entirely out the window.
Remember that you are also modelling behaviour for your children. You don’t have to be cruel and insult the person in return, but it sets an excellent example to show your children that you won’t allow others to mistreat you. You don’t have to have a relationship with someone who is constantly insulting you.
If you are getting a lot of judgemental comments from in-laws, it might be best for your partner to speak to them instead and show a united front.
If you have difficult family members you might want to read this list of 7 strategies from Psychology Today.
19 Examples of What to Say in Response to Unsolicited Parenting Advice
Here are some exact phrases you can use when someone gives you unsolicited parenting advice. Having a few of these memorized can help if you need a quick response at the grocery store or when you don’t want to engage.
“I want my children to develop emotional intelligence, so I’m not looking for blind, instant obedience.”
“I’m perfectly fine with how I’m parenting, even if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“Hah ya, kids these days, eh?”
“I’m their parent, and I know what’s best for them.”
“Hmm, it sure is interesting how every parent has their own perspective, huh?”
“[Co-parent/partner] and I have worked hard to find a parenting style that works for us based on our own personalities, preferences, and life experiences.”
“I’m glad that worked for you.”
“I’ve tried that before, and it wasn’t best for our family.”
“I’m perfectly fine with just following the advice from my doctor.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for the future if I need it.”
“I’m happy with how I’m doing things right now and will adjust in the future if needed.”
“I appreciate your thoughtfulness.”
“Personally, I’m not comfortable with that, but thanks anyway.”
“Hmm, well, I’m fine, thanks.”
“Hmm, well, that’s something…”
“I’ve got it, thanks.”
“Let’s just respect each other to do what’s right for our own kids.”
“I’ve done a lot of research and have seen positive results from [my child] to feel perfectly fine with how we’re doing things.”
“Thanks for your concern, but I don’t need your advice or feel the need to justify myself to you.”
All Parents Are Different
What worked for someone else might not work for you, and you shouldn’t feel the need to do what other people tell you to when it comes to parenting.
You have to decide what’s best for your family and lean into the fact that you are the expert of your child – not them.
Also, remember your mom friends will do what’s best for them, and they probably don’t need your advice either.
When & how to give another mom advice
You might actually have a fantastic tip you wish someone had told you a long time ago that you want to share with another mom.
If you think it’s appropriate to share with them, you can always preface it by saying something like:
“You’ve probably already thought of this before, but…”
“I know you’re a great mom and don’t need my advice…”
“This worked for me and my child, not sure if it’s best for you, …”
“I wish someone told me this a long time ago…”
“Have you tried…”
If you do feel judgement towards this other mom you should probably just keep quiet because the tone of judgement will come through with what you’re saying and can hurt.
Don’t share advice with another mom if you’re going to challenge what she’s already doing.
Also, pay attention to when you’re sharing the information and if it’s appropriate to do so. You might just be trying to help, but maybe she just needs you told hold the toddler’s hand while she wrestles the baby into the carrier on her own, instead of advice about babywearing.
Conclusion About Unsolicited Parenting Advice
Some advice given to parents can be so random and unwanted. It helps to have a response to shut it down if you don’t want to hear it or set a boundary so that person doesn’t keep trying to dictate how you parent.
Even if you’re sometimes unsure about how to do things, remember that you are the parent of your child, and it’s up to you to make your own decisions. You can read parenting books, talk to your doctor, take a parenting course that interests you, ask a more experienced mom for advice, or do whatever is best to help you feel more confident in your decisions.
A lot of times with parenting, we do evolve and change our mind, and that’s ok. It’s not always easy to figure out what’s developmentally appropriate, what works for your individual child, and what works for you as a parent.
You do not have to accept any unsolicited parenting advice that doesn’t suit you and your family.