I have two kids: one is 19 and the other is 16. I am not new to the parenting game, nor am I new to people offering up their advice and opinions on how I parent. While I am fortunate enough to finally be at a stage where people feel less welcome to offer up their thoughts, it does still happen.
Regardless of where you are in your parenting journey, you likely have to deal with it, too. It’s frustrating, sometimes embarrassing, and often uncomfortable. So how can you deal with it in a way that’s productive rather than destructive?
I suggest trying these tricks.
Own your reaction to what they said
Your mom tells you you’re being too hard on your little one. Or your neighbor calls over the fence that you should spank your kid for what they just did. Your immediate reaction is to feel insulted, offended, outraged, or maybe embarrassed or guilty. Whatever your reaction is, own it.
When I say own it, what I mean is to accept that the reaction is yours. They didn’t make you feel that way. They merely offered their opinion. This is no different than offering you a glass of water. Your reaction to their opinion is on you.
So ask yourself why you feel that way. Maybe you’re outraged because you don’t believe in corporal punishment. Maybe you feel insulted and offended because you’ve always felt your mother is overly critical of you. Identifying the underlying reason for why you react the way you do to an opinion is a first step toward dealing with it appropriately.
You also need to ask yourself why this particular person’s opinion could create that reaction — of if it even should. Is it the opinion of someone you love and respect, like a parent or close friend? Or is it the opinion of someone you barely know or don’t even like? If it’s the first, it makes sense. But if it’s the second, you should dig deeper to find out why their opinion should matter to you at all.
Evaluate the opinion’s validity
Sometimes the person offering their opinion has a valid point. They might have years more experience as a parent and recognize something that they once did wrong or that they missed. Other times, they’re just a know-it-all who likes to spout off all the time, whether they truly know anything or not.
But before you write someone off, consider the validity of the opinion. Is there any truth to it? As an outsider looking in, is it possible they see something you missed because you’re too close to the situation? Could they know something, through experience or education, that you don’t?
You might ultimately decide the opinion has no validity. If that’s the case, simply ignore them. Or you might decide that there is some validity to it and you should listen. Keep in mind that choosing to listen to someone once doesn’t mean you have to listen to them every time — and vice versa. Evaluate each opinion on its own.
Also consider whether the opinion is valid in other ways. For example, if your spouse says you’re giving your new baby too much attention and will spoil her, you might decide it’s impossible to spoil a baby so he’s wrong.
But maybe he’s not. Maybe what he’s really trying to say is that he feels neglected and wishes he had more time with you. And that might be a very valid opinion.
Consider the opinions at face value, but make sure you also dig a little deeper and see if there’s something more to them.
Pay attention to the positive opinions too
We tend to pay much more attention to the negative than the positive across all aspects of life. It’s no different when it comes to people offering their opinions. We’ll pay more attention to those who tell us we’re doing parenting wrong than the ones who tell us what a great job we’re doing.
Make sure you don’t do that. Make sure you listen just as hard when someone tells you what you’re doing right. These will help you when you get battered with negative opinions and start to feel defeated.
If you feel like you’re surrounded by nothing but negative opinions, it’s time to seek out more supportive people to surround yourself with. Join some Mommy & Me groups, parenting support groups, or look for other ways to make new parenting friends who will be happy to give you positive support and guidance.
Remember there are no perfect parents
It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you: there are no perfect parents. I don’t care how perfectly coiffed they are, how spotlessly clean their house is, and how well-behaved their children are. There are no perfect parents. We all make mistakes. We all make bad decisions. We all do things that we regret and wish we’d done differently.
Your kids don’t expect perfection. They expect love and that you’ll do the best you can. If that’s what you’re doing, then you’re good. If anyone tries to tell you it’s not enough, that is definitely an opinion to ignore.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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