Can you recognise unsolicited parenting advice?
Unsolicited parenting advice to parents-to-be can come in several forms:
- ‘Helpful’ tips "You just need to sleep when the baby sleeps”
- Stating the obvious “I think he’s tired”
- Concerned questions “Should you be running if you’re pregnant?”
- Their lessons learned “We found out that Olivia has a lactose intolerance, it sounds like Noah might have it too”
- 'Harmless’ observations “She hasn’t started potty training yet? You should…”
- Comparisons to how other parents do it, or did it years ago “Baby-led weaning didn’t exist in my day. You ate what you were given, and you turned out OK.”
It seems like people with tips are genuinely trying to help, but then you wonder why you’re left feeling irritated, judged, undermined and generally a bit confused. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely you’ve been on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice.
Who are the culprits giving advice to parents-to-be and new parents that they didn’t ask for?
It might feel like everyone has an opinion on your pregnancy or parenting style. That’s because there are a lot of people with experiences to share, it’s a global conversation. This means advice can come from all corners of your world, with well-meaning friends and family members, fellow parents, people without kids, and even strangers on the street or online all having something to say on how the next generation is raised.
The effect of unwanted parenting advice
While most advice to parents-to-be and new parents comes from a good place and is intended to bring reassurance or make your life easier, it can sometimes do the opposite. For example, in Saudi Arabia, where it is common for extended families to live close by and there is high pressure to conform to expected social norms around the ‘right’ way of doing things, 84% of parents in this country believed that everyone has a point of view on how to raise their child. In addition to this, a worrying 64% said that it is stressful to know what to do as a result. In comparison only 17% of parents in Sweden felt that everyone had an opinion on their parenting and just 9% said this caused them to feel stressed.
Parenthood is a journey that involves both finding things out for yourself and asking others for help. We’re all learning on the job, but as your confidence as a parent grows you may find it easier to let other people’s opinions wash over you and not let it affect how you parent. It’s worth bearing in mind that every baby and family is different, so what works for others might not work for you. It may take a village to raise a child so seek out supportive networks and leave the judgement behind. If you are feeling unsure or for expert advice, talk to your health professional.
The Parenting Index, First Edition 2021, theparentingindex.com
Last revised: June 2022