98% of advice is crap. Even worse. It is often more harmful than helpful.
When I was 6 months pregnant with my first child, my husband and I were both looking through cute baby outfits at a local store (can’t remember which one) and we saw a simple onsie with the message, “My Mommy doesn’t want your parenting advice.” on it. We thought is was hilarious and had a little laugh over it and moved on.
Fast forward 1 year and we wished we had bought that stupid onsie. No, we wished we had invested in a 10-foot neon sign that would flash that message for the world to see. Why? Well, I am sure you have noticed that the world is full of people who are quick to give advice (often unsolicited). I swear if I had a penny for each time I have received unsolicited advice (especially on parenting) I am sure that I would finally be able to afford to build my dream home (secret passageways and all). I wouldn’t mind it if more of the advice constantly given to was actually helpful. But sad the truth is, that most of the advice I have been given over the years has been pure crap (pardon the language) and is more harmful than good. Let me explain why.
There are 5 kinds of advice people give, and only 1 of them is actually helpful.
1- The Sarcastic unhelpful advice.
“You should put chloroform on your baby’s teddy bear or doll so you can finally get some sleep tonight.”
“If you duct tape your kids mouths closed when you get them in the car, you will have a more peaceful drive”
“You should hire an exorcist for your kids because they are obviously posessed.”
Ok, so obviously, this type of advice is not meant to be taken seriously (if you did it would be child abuse) but the people making the advice often think they are being hilarious. Let me tell you, cracking jokes or being sarcastic to a parent who is struggling is NOT funny. All you do is frustrate and annoy that parent who has enough on their plate already.
2- Judgemental/Corrective advice.
“Circumcizing your child is tanamount to mutilating your child.”
“If you don’t let your kids cry it out at night you will end up having your children sleeping with you till they are teens.”
“If you let your children eat fruit snacks and granola bars they are going to get fat and have all their teeth rot out.”
I like to refer to this sort of advice as the “I don’t agree with how you are parenting so I am going to jump in and save you from yourself” advice. Often times, it is not a matter of right vs. wrong. It is more a matter of opinion on what is right vs. wrong. This is the kind of advice that the infamous MOMMY WARS were started from. It is easy to become opinionated on what is best and to become judgemental of those who do things differently. What we need to remember is that every child (and parent) is different and just because something is right for you and your child, does not necessarily make it right for someone else.
3- The Educated Elitist Advise.
“Studies have shown that if you don’t put your child in Preschool they will never be able to catch up with their peers and will not get into a good college.”
“Studies have shown that there is no benifit for children to go to preschool (expcept in underprivilided areas) and can lead to unhealthy peer dependence.
“According to ———– You need to have your kids cry it out so they can learn to self sooth and be indipendent”
“According to ———– responding to your child right away and not having them cry results in the child feeling safe which leads to more indipendence in the child.”
I like to call this the, “I have no personal experience with children, but I studied this in school, read a parenting book, or was told by so and so advise.” I get this all the time from acquaintances who are either unmarried, married without kids, or had kids so long ago they have forgotten what it is like to still be in the trenches of parenthood. This sort of advice often is similar to the Judgemental/Corrective advise.
The difference is that the advice giver always states a source for their information to show how educated on the subject they are (appealing to authority..blah). The problem is that the studies are so contradicting that they are often worthless. There are extensive studies that back up or prove almost any parenting style/choice. It’s a lot like diets. There are soo many different diets that all contradicts each other. Each diet has plenty of research to back them up and a loyal following who swear by it. However, while that diet (or parenting style in this case), may work wonders for one person, another may find it completely worthless.
4- The build myself up by insulting you/your child advice.
“I let my children play in the dirt and don’t worry about the mess because I am a good parent.”
“I never let my children eat anything even slightly unheathly because I am a good mother.”
“My baby has slept through the night since she was 4 months because she is a good baby”
This is the kind of advice that bothers me the most. Why? Probably because it isn’t actually advice at all. It usually comes as a sort of a biting statement that is really nothing other than an insult that is just clothed as advice. The only purpose is to point out perceived deficiencies in your child or parenting choices/abilities while highlighting a perceived strength in the advice giver or their child. It has nothing to do with actually being helpful. Sadly, I have a few people in my life that whenever they see me feel they have to bestow this sort of “advice” on me, my husband and my children.
5- Sincere Advice with the sole purpose of helping.
“You are a better parent than you think, just be patient with yourself.”
“All children are different, trust yourself to know what is best for yours.”
“Have you tried ———-? It helped my baby when he was going through that and might help you.”
“What worked for me? Well, ——————————“
This is the most rare kind of advice and the only kind that is really helpful. Often this kind of advice if given in response to an inquiry for help or is given solely for the sake of comforting encouragement. Never is it forceful, condescending, condemning, or judgemental. The motivation behind this sort of advice is a simple desire to be of help, and to support. On the rare occasions, I receive this sort of advice I always treasure it.
So even though I am tired of getting all the unhelpful and unsolicited 1-4 kinds of advice it is still going to happen. People are people. Instead, I have decided that the next time someone gives me those kinds of advice, I am not going to get angry and frustrated. Rather, I am going to remember that they have probably been bombarded by similar advice themselves and just don’t know there is a better way. At the same time, I am going to make the conscious choice to make sure that I am only giving that 5th sort of Advice/Encouragement, and maybe other’s will follow suit.