We ™ve all gotten it.
˜She still uses a pacifier? ™ accompanied with raised eyebrows and a glance downward.
˜He sure is ¦active. My boys were not allowed to run around the store or else we left. ™
˜You know you should try ¦ ™
Sigh. It's easy to want to get defensive. Most likely, your first instinct is to reply with something like, ˜Who are you? You really think you know me? Want to try living my life? I ™ve already been puked and peed on today, I ™ve refereed three brawls, popped the heads back on two Barbies, cleaned red nail polish out of white carpet AND I put dinner in the oven. Still want to give me advice? ™
Sigh again. But we don't say that. Don't want to make a scene. Don't want to set a bad example for the kids. So we just give a half smile, look down, and silently curse the parenting ˜expert ™ in line behind us.
But what can we say that makes us feel vindicated and like we stood up for ourselves, our kids, our way of parenting (without coming across as a maniacal, clearly out of control mother)? One thing to keep in mind is that you do not owe this person an explanation of your parenting choices. My tendency, when someone questions my way of doing something, is to proceed with an entire narrative of my rationale, incorrectly assuming that the person will see my point of view, switch theirs, and leave agreeing with me. Wrong. So don't even waste the effort.
Also, repeat this to yourself during and after the encounter: I am the best parent for my child. Whoever gave you unsolicited advice, even a family member, does not know your child as well as you do. You have been there since the beginning. You have changed the diapers, celebrated the achievements, wiped the tears, and been the cheerleader. Therefore, you are the best person to care for and make decisions about the needs of your child.
So what do you say? My favorite is simply, ˜This is what works for us. ™ It's generic enough to be applicable to lots of situations yet directive enough to let the other person know that you aren't interested in discussing it further.
Then change the subject- to something other than kids/parenting/advice. I would suggest changing the subject with a statement rather than a question, since asking a question puts the conversational ball back into other person's court.
– ˜I just can't believe hot hot/cold/rainy/windy it's been! ™
– ˜I ™m sure glad the checkout line isn't very long today. ™
– ˜I saw that the high temperature is supposed to be ___ tomorrow. ™
Think this conversational shift is awkward? Not as awkward as offering someone unwanted parenting advice.
Another option is to divert your attention away from the person. An easy way to do this is talk to your child.
– ˜It's almost our turn to check out! Can you count how many people are in line in front of us? ™
– ˜What would you like for dinner? ™
– ˜Are you excited about soccer practice this evening? ™
Whatever happens, leave the encounter with your head up and shoulders back because you stood up for yourself in an appropriate way. Bonus: you ™ve set a great example for your children.