How to Handle Annoying Advice
Graceful ways to handle unsolicited parenting advice, even if it comes from your family
Meddling mom friends
Since they're so often the victims of unwanted advice themselves, you'd expect other moms to think carefully before they speak. But sometimes they can be the worst offenders -- maybe because they have so many of their own experiences to base their opinions on.
When my friend Alice Smith* had her daughter Jenny* five years ago, strangers would occasionally comment on how the tip of infant Jenny's tongue often protruded from her mouth. "I didn't think it was a big deal," says Smith, but because other people kept mentioning it, she shared her concerns with her friend Mary*. Rather than reassuring her that Jenny was fine, "Mary went on and on about how her sister had the same problem as a child and had speech problems and eating issues, and ended up needing reconstructive surgery on her mouth!"
Jenny's tongue eventually retreated into her mouth without any intervention at all. It took years for Alice to come to un derstand why Mary (who has given her less than supportive advice on a few other occasions) had upset her so much. "I finally realized that she has the best intentions and is only trying to share information that she has found useful," she says. "She just doesn't stop to think that what happened in one case, or what worked for one person, doesn't necessarily apply to me."
Kate Cook, a Palo Alto, California, mother of three, had a similar problem with a friend whose older son suffered from several health problems. "She would just give me so much advice based on what happened to her and her son that it would send me into a tailspin," Cook says. "I've come to see that this is just her deal -- not mine. My kids aren't the same as hers."
Another strategy: Depending on the relationship you have with your friend, be honest.
Tell her you're sharing your worries because you want a sympathetic ear, not necessarily advice, and certainly not criticism. Chances are she'll respect your wishes.
*Name has been changed.