How to handle unwanted parenting advice without the eye rolls

Kinderling News & Features

Unwanted advice tends to go hand-in-hand with having a family. It doesn't matter if you're a single parent, partnered or pregnant - everyone has an opinion.

Friends, family, co-workers and even random people on the bus think they’re helping when they weigh in on how we parent. And when they open with "When I was growing up…" or "It might help if…", it's hard not to audibly sigh in their face. 

Kinderling Conversation asked relationship counsellor Ginny Lindsay what to do when you're ambushed with advice you didn't ask for.

Acknowledge their intention

As frustrating as it can be to have every  man, woman, child and dog chipping in with their two bob, Ginny says it’s important to remember they're often trying to help. If it's someone close, she says the best tool is to remember "they're coming with the best intentions and they mean well."

Sometimes, friction arises because the advice giver's beliefs and practices are different to your own. If it's coming from someone you care about, telling them to mind their own business isn't an option.

Listen to Ginny on Kinderling Conversation

Be wary of your own defensiveness

In order to avoid completely shutting down and hurting someone, Ginny says we need to make the conscious choice to be open, even if we disagree.

"Our defences can immeditately come up and as soon as they do, you might as well have dropped a brick wall between you and them," she reasons. "You're not going to hear anything and there's just anger in the room."

Take what is useful and then say this

Ginny adds that you can engage without agreeing. "[Allow yourself] to become quite open in your listening, ask lots of questions, and take whatever out of it... and thank them!"

She suggests some simple phrases to fall back on, like 'I really appreciate you sharing that with me - I’ll think about it.'

This lets them know you're considering it, but minimises the chance of them giving more advice (hopefully).

Relationship counsellor and Kinderling Conversation regular Ginny Lindsay

If you want none of it...

If you just want it to end, Ginny recommends saying something like the following: 'I really appreciate what you're saying, but I have my own thoughts or a different way of seeing this. I really respect that you're stepping forward, and it has given me something to think about.'

Negotiating with the in-laws

It's well-known the most infuriating advice can come from our partner's parents, who have a million and one things to say about how we raise our kids. While it usually comes from a good place, it can be overwhelming and constant. 

To avoid it blowing up, Ginny advises to first set boundaries with your partner and communicate what is being said and by whom, and how it is affecting you. A scenario Ginny illustrates is where you could say 'I'm really struggling every time I go over and see your mum or dad.'

She says it gets even trickier when your partner defends their parents out of loyalty, which then makes you feel unheard or unacknowledged. 

Before discussing with your in-laws, Ginny advises making sure you and your partner are both on the same page. "Put a bubble around yourselves and ensure everybody else stays on the outside," she recommends. "Say 'How can I support you? Are we going to discuss this with them together?'"

It should also be the child of the interfering parent who sets the boundary with that parent, not the son-in-law or daughter-in law. It's up to them to tell their mum or dad 'This is how we see it and how we're wanting to do it in our family'.

If you want to shut down advice from an in-law that makes you uncomfortable, Ginny suggests being firm but diplomatic. "Say 'I hear you're coming with the best intentions, thanks for your time and we’ll have a discussion about how that fits in our family so you don’t have to take that on.'"

Don't let it get to you

If all else fails, and frustrations are running high, Ginny says you don't have to take it on. Just be kind and respectful to each other, and thank them for their contribution without being patronising, and move the conversation on. End of story (we hope!).

Tune into our parenting show Kinderling Conversation weekdays at 12pm for more interviews and helpful tips.