Parenting Advice

Obviously I have nothing better to do with my mind than to mull over topics of little or no importance, because I’ve been thinking about receiving unsolicited parenting advice.  Since Nina brought up the topic in Friday’s Spotlight, I thought we should discuss it.

I have the kind of face that causes people to talk.  I’ve had women in Wal-Mart tell me about their failing marriages, I’ve listened with tears in my eyes as a family in Kohl’s recounted the recent death of their mother, and I’ve been given parenting advice.

When my son was approximately seven months months old, my cousin and her boyfriend came up to Maine for the weekend.  We spent a day on the coast, had dinner, and we were walking along a path on the ocean’s front called the Marginal Way.  Stopping at a bench for a few minutes, we took some pictures and enjoyed the sunset.  It was then that I was assaulted by the baby police.  I had no idea that I was ruining my child’s life, ensuring he’d never potty train, and thwarting his chances of getting into graduate school.  All because he wasn’t settled snug in his crib by 7pm. 

She scolded me as well as any nun had in my kindergarten class and left me with the title of book written by some baby whisperer type expert.  Since I was afraid she might show up at my house the next week and inspect my bedtime rituals, I purchased the book and even read it.  FringeMan and I lost two week’s sleep attempting to follow the baby soothing rituals.

My first-born didn’t not sleep through the night once until he was well over one year-old.  He still doesn’t always sleep through the night, but I do.

My second memorable bit of advice came from a well-meaning mom’s group leader.  Our young family left our home and friends in order for my husband to attend Bible school.  We moved from Maine to Florida and our three-year old did not acclimate himself quickly.

During this mom’s group a nursery was provided in an adjacent room, and each week I’d schlep my children along in hopes that they would make friends, steal cheerios, and bite our neighbor’s kid.  Each week, I peeled my three-year old off my body attempting in vain to keep my shirt securely in place.  The nursery worker knew two things about me – I wore a white bra and my son was psychotic.

Since he’d never had separation anxiety before, I welcomed advice and tried many tactics to no avail.  Moving had a bigger impact on this young child than I thought possible. 

As we sat eating, talking, and listening to wail of my son through the uninsulated walls, the mom’s group leader pulled me aside and suggested I have my son screened for autism. 

Believe me, you cannot diagnose my kids with any disease, disorder, or syndrome that I haven’t already tried to have the doctor’s diagnose.  As a new mom, I was well-read and paranoid.

Over the years, I’ve realized that offering to babysit for two hours is much more helpful than any advice I could give or receive.

So, what about you?  What kind of memorable parenting advice have you received?  Or, perhaps you give parenting advice with the same frequency hospitals dispense Tylenol.  Tell us about it! 

Comments are officially open.


31 thoughts on “Parenting Advice

  1. vintagesue

    i love your blog!! just found it. anyway….i’m married to an army man…enough said. my, my…the advice i get. i will say enough said there as well. my blog has lots of blips and whatnots of folks not being ‘people’ trained. i just adore it when folks tell me they had their child potty trained at 12 months and what not….or that i shouldn’t nurse my daughter anymore (whatever)…i know…sad…she’s two.
    my son does have autism, and let me tell you…you can’t fix it…but it does get better and it HAS….but it would have…with or without all that needless advice i got from strangers.

    i can’t agree more that 2 hours of babysitting is the best advice you can give somebody….i know…i know…STOP JUDGING AND START HELPING. i am a strong believer that you need to walk a mile in someones footsteps before you can understand their feet. don’t wear their shoes until you know how they stepped into them first.

    i will put you on my blogroll. you are wise and funny….and best of all…YOU ARE FROM MAINE. i spent all my summer and winter vacations there growning up. my mom is from bridgetown and she still has tons of family living there now. i love maine…it’s mysterious and beautiful.

    thanks for the great thoughts….

  2. Castal

    Well, as I am not a mom, I can’t really give mom advice, especially for really young children.

    One thing I will say that worked really well for my family was to have the punishments fit the crime… and the child. I was never motivated by money or material things so the worst punishment ever was to hear “I am dissappointed in you”, while my brother could have cared less if parents were dissapointed–his wallet and electronics were the ticket to his behaving.

    Not always possible to do, but definately effective on some older kids.

  3. Alyson (New England Living)

    I think, in general, that east coasters are much more open about approaching strangers. They seem much more at ease at offering advice to a person they bump into at the grocery store. Since I had all my babies out west, I never did get angry women telling me I was ruining my kid’s life by keeping him up. Thank goodness, because if I did, I would so have yelled right back.

  4. Nikki

    I’m not sure if strangers ever did that to me. Although i remember quite a few making snarky remarks about popping babies out like pez. I had a 3 yr old, 2 yr old, and 1 yr old and when I’d take them shopping people would ask me if I was crazy having that many babies so close together. Sheesh it’s not like I planned it! I tried NOT to get pregnant and used birth control of various kinds…and I still couldn’t stop it. I was a human baby making MACHINE until I got fixed at the ripe old age of 22. I figured if I didn’t do something drastic I’d have a whole herd of them! I’ve never looked back at that decision with an ounce of regret.

  5. Grace Rinaldi

    Oh, parenting advice! I got the best back in 1974 when I was told you MUST have a family bed. If you are not familiar with the term, it means the babies sleep with you. Yes, it made nursing a lot easier. But I don’t think that me or my husband actually ever slept. 2 kids and the dog. What was I thinking. My daughter graduated to the floor next to my side of the bed when she was 5. I had to hang my arm down so she could hold my hand. My arm got numb. Great. The kids turned out quite well, despite it all.

  6. Pilar Stark

    I usually take advise from others, if I like it I listen to it and figure out how it would work best for our family. If i don’t care about it, I just smile and wait until they are done… but I do that with many other things :). I may have the kind of face that in the contrary of yours say “I don’t need advise” because people usually don’t get in my bussiness…. 🙂
    One time though someone told me I needed to spank my little baby…she wasn’t really doing anything…. I didn’t say anything…. a couple of min later her boy was acting up (he wasn’t a baby), I just had to smile at her… never heard anything again. 🙂

    If you are the one that told me and you are reading this… sorry, it was just the only time that something like that ever happend to me 😦 🙂

  7. sarah

    Oh my lands! I live in the South and people here give out baby/parenting advice like they are free samples at Sam’s Club on a Saturday! Especially in church!

    I get comments about my child not wearing long sleeves and tights (in 80 degree weather, and she is very hot natured)

    comments about my child going to bed “too early” (7:00, she sleeps 12 1/2 hours and we both work so she has to be in bed by then)

    I got numerous comments about the type of bottle/nipple I was using with her when she was a newborn. (which was so irritating)

    but my favorite of all time is that every old lady in America associates every single ailment children have with teething. If they have a cold it can never be just a cold they caught at daycare or the church nursery – it HAS to be teething. 🙂

  8. Mama Belle

    I must have a different type of face because no one (except my mother … whom I ignore most of the time) gave me parenting advice. I think I have the face that says, “I will punch you if you dare say one thing or give me any advice about anything my child is doing.”

    But, I was OCD about “BabyWise” with the first child and did everything by the book. She was sleeping through the night in about 2 weeks. The next child in about 4 weeks. I was way more relaxed with the second child and did a lot of things that “BabyWise” said not to do and loved it … like falling asleep with the baby in the bed on my breast (oops!) and holding her way too much. Oh well, so what.

  9. David

    I try not to dismiss advice too indiscriminately. Wisdom is sometimes found where you least expect it. Discernment is key, right? 🙂

  10. Laura

    Before I read the comments my first thought was the underdressing/overdressing story I have. Then I read the comments and feel so much better about my similar experience. I was 28 and I look young for my age so when I brought my toddler daughter at the time to the doctor to have a second lead test/blood drawn (first one was false positive btw) the nurse spoke to the other as if I was not even in the room like this… “these young mothers these days! can’t dress a baby warm and she should have a onesie on underneath this outfit.” Since I had just come from a BSF Bible study where the topic of the day was biting your tongue, I didn’t say a word. But, if I could go back I would’ve stuck up for “young mothers” even though I wasn’t one.

  11. Old Mommy

    Just happened to find your blog this morning. I am an old mommy. Started adopting when I was 23, older children of course which makes our family one big old mess now. 25 years later I have 9 children….all adopted and most special needs, ranging from 33 to 8 months. To this day I get parenting advice. The best is I get it from my 19 year old daughter who has a 7 month old son! My mother told me yesterday that the baby needed a hat on. It was 65 degrees here.
    I just got some “wonderful” advice from a woman at church on Saturday. Our 5 year old was badly abused and has suffered more trauma in his 5 years than most adults. Due to this he has post traumatic stress disorder, reactive attachement disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, severely ADD, he was a crank baby, spent the first two years of his life with an addict and all her special friends. When he was placed with us as a foster child at age 2 he had over 100 bruises, a broken arm, busted front teeth that ended up being pulled and three mending breaks on various bones. He’s a mess to put it mildly. He can flip from being the meanest kid on Earth to the sweetest in a heartbeat. He’s even tried to kill me. Seriously. He tried to shove me down the staircase backwards because I sent him to his room for stealing. He isn’t safe to leave alone for a moment. I was told by some well meaning lady that all I needed to do was be more patient with him ( he was spitting on our 7 year old while we were waiting for church directory pictures, and to show him more love ( I made him stand with his nose on a door while we waited) because as far as she was concerned he’s an angel. She told me this right in front of him. I was torn between having a Jesus In The Temple Moment or handing her all the literature and doctor bills we’ve had to get him to this point. I just smiled and told her I appreciated her advice but she was mistaken and to please never to say disparing remarks to me in front of him again. And I walked away.

  12. Dani Joy

    I try not to give advise unless it´s asked for anymore. It´s often not taken too well. 😉 The only thing I recommend for new parents is a book called On Becoming Babywise, which worked wonders for our family in the beginning but it´s not for everyone. I offer it with that disclaimer.

    When we first came to Spain, I think I had “Foreigner, don´t know how to raise kids” Stamped on my forehead. Everyone and their Mother told me what to do with my babies. And because I wanted to get to know them and wanted to tell them about Jesus, I listened and used what I could.

    A big issue was, dressing for the seasons. They really bundle up their babies here. I just wasn´t into making my babies sweat but I was always being told to put a coat on them, layer them more, or something. At least that´s how it felt. And now that they are older, and we have been In Spain for 9 years, they still seem to think I don´t know what I am doing. I was just told to layer my boys clothes and dress them better. I took it, but inside it started to fester a bit. Especially, seens how I don´t “dress” my boys anymore. I thought, “You know I can´t always be dressing them till they are 30 like you all do sometimes.” but of course I did not say that and held my tongue. 😉

  13. Mom

    Good blog today. I was told by Fringebanker’s Kindergarten teacher that he had learning disabilities and that he would probably not amount to much, so I should “just do the best you can with him”. This brilliant special ed teacher was so wrong. Turned out the child needed glasses!! He also had an ongoing hearing problem and his speech was a little off for the first few years but soon corrected itself once his ears healed from surgeries and his hearing returned to normal.

    I am glad I did not heed to her advice and sought out real professional help.

    And Nina—I so hear you about the “layers” of clothing needed for Portugese kids. I have to admit, I failed in the department of properly clothing my kids.

  14. Cher

    Take a tip from gerbils and eat your children when they’re young! Takes too much ketchup if you wait until they’re older!

    The Texas Woman

  15. cathy

    Living in a small community in rural Georgia, I had many experiences with “helpful advice” from well-intentioned(?) onlookiers. This one involved our firstborn, and left me speechless. . . but a little wiser. He was born in the middle of July, and it was toward the end of August before I ventured to church with him for the first time. After the service my husband and I made our way outside and headed toward the car with little one safely buckled in his carrier, eyes shielded from the sun. Mind you, it was probably 95 degrees in the Georgia sun by this time of day, but one of the little old ladies stopped me and scolded me for not having our baby’s feet covered with a blanket. She quickly threw a receiving blanket over our son, head to toe. I smiled and walked on, and as we reached our car another lady stopped to admire our new addition, and then chastised, “Get that blanket off that baby–don’t you know it’s almost 100 degrees out here!?” What’s a new mom to do?
    From then on, I learned the art of diplomacy when dealing with “experts;” and for the most part, when dealing with the children, I relied on common sense, my Mom’s experienced wisdom, lots of prayer, and a ton of Dr. Dobson books.

    Love your post and your wonderful writing style!!

  16. caprik

    I don’t remember receiving a lot of advice, I probably just wasn’t listening.

    I remember watching some people parent, especially if I liked the interactions between them and their children, and incorporating some of their ideas.

    I do find it hard not to subtly give advice, especially when the person does not exhibit the sense that God gave a goose.

  17. Nina in Portugal

    I think…in my humble opinion…that most foreign countries over dress their children. Same as Stonefox, here in Portugal we receive all kinds of comments about our kids not being properly dressed. I’ve visited Mexico also where the children, especially babies, were never seen without hats and jackets when it’s 80 degrees outside. Even if we allow our kids to go to school with short sleeves on, they must always have a lightweight jacket to hide their nakedness until it’s time to play at recess. We’ve been called at home and told we needed to bring another coat to school for our daughter, cause she was ‘cold’.

    Any who….America’s church nursery’s are the best place to receive unsolicited parenting advice if you need any….or it seems that most mom’s in the nursery want to ask me advice. I NEVER want to give any, cause my kids might turn right around and make a fool out of me. Just because I have 5 doesn’t mean I know any better than the mom of one.

    My best advice….cause you asked, right??

    Is to love them fast, cause they grow up even faster.

  18. Jo@Mylestones

    Great post!
    I will generally accept advice from anyone who accompanies their priceless words of wisdom with at least three hours of babysitting. In addition, those who “cannot bear to let a child cry” were enthusiastically welcomed to come over to my house during the witching hour to comfort my infant while I tried to make dinner consisting of something other than chicken nuggets for the 2 yo (at least one night out of seven)!

  19. Stonefox

    Living overseas, one of the ways the locals show “concern” for you is by giving you endless parenting advice. It is REALLY annoying. One of their favorites is to tell you your baby or child is not wearing enough layers of clothing. If it is 80 degress outside but the calendar says it’s March, it is not time for short sleeves. You still should be wearing sweaters and jackets. I don’t know how many times I’ve been reprimanded for not baking my child inside layers of clothing!

  20. Debbie York

    Two pieces of advice have served me well, both given to me by my mother:
    l. Hope for the best and expect the worst.
    2. Never say never!

    My own personal reply to well meaning advisors is to ask “Just exactly where were you in the delivery room when I was THE ONE IN LABOR!”


  21. JanMary, N Ireland

    First child – I soaked up advice like a sponge.

    Second child – I was a little more selective, but still worried.

    Third child – I KNOW my child, I just nod and agree, then do my own thing!

    Great post – too much mummy-guilt out there, without “helpful friends” adding to it.

  22. Janna Qualman

    Are you kidding me?! Wow, the nerve of that woman and her “diagnosis.” I’d have flown off the handle. I get SOOOO worked up about these type things.

    The first (I have many) that comes to mind is when my two girls and I had gone to Wendy’s for dinner. My oldest was 4 at the time, just happened to be wearing a leotard and tiara, and had her wand in tow. A nearby woman kept looking over, and finally asked Emma if she had a dance recital. Emma said no and went back to her dinner, easy peasy. The woman continued to stare, asking AGAIN if Emma had a concert. When she still didn’t believe Emma and heard from me, “She’s just dressed up for the sake of dressing up,” the woman huffed and had a fit because it just wouldn’t do to have a little girl dressed so with “no reason.” Gah!

    Ooh ooh! Sorry, I just have to share one more. We’d gone to Florida in the spring, and it was in 60-some degree. My daughter (2 then) was in just a tee. Two women who passed us outdoors made faces and gossiped that we should have her in a jacket, poor thing. So I responded by saying, “We’re from Missouri, where it’s 30 degrees. She’s quite warm, thank you.” Gah!

    Wow, I get too bent out of shape.

  23. Erin

    I don’t give parenting advice unless asked ’cause it’s not easy, is it? Nor is it set in stone. Every family is different and even child is different. Oh, I hear it every now and then but mostly I turn my ear when it grates. No one knows ’til they’ve walked that proverbial mile.

  24. robinaltman

    I’m embarrassed to give parenting advice in my office. I think, “What if they know my kids?” I preface any advice with, “Look, I’m not saying I do everything perfect…” or “It’s a lot easier to look from the outside and suggest things, than to do it yourself…” I always feel really pompous and silly.

    Once, it was summer, and I had walked to the grocery store with my first born son, to pick up some snacks and get exercise. He was sitting in the stroller with bare feet. Some lady came over, grabbed his foot, and said, “Oh, you poor little thing! Mommie didn’t put anything on your little tootsies! You’re probably freezing!” It was about 90 degrees outside. I just smiled, but thought about a million sarcastic things that would have been really fun to say.


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