Unsolicited Advice: The "Let Me Help You"s vs. the "Let Me Do It"s
Every Tuesday morning, I blanch a green tea bag, grab a honey stick, plop down at my desk and before opening any emails, I check SoundCloud for the latest and greatest from my favorite podcast, “Gettin’ Grown” with Jade and Keia. I was absolutely delighted to hear that this week’s “Kitchen Table Talk” topic was about unsolicited advice. This topic is especially top of mind for me because, as a first-time mom, I know all mothers experience this.
Unsolicited advice is not necessarily bad advice. It’s just usually bad timing or not your (the adviser’s) business. If you had given me the chance to ask for your input, or waited until I opened a discussion about an issue, then we could’ve talked without me feeling like you’re being intrusive. Maybe you do have something life-changing and phenomenal to say that I’ve never heard or considered, but just be forewarned that my initial reaction may be one of ‘who asked you?’ and if your advice is trash, that reaction stands. When talking to a parent about children you’re not helping to raise, please proceed with particular caution.
I have received unsolicited advice on all things mommying since I started telling people I was pregnant.
Topics include but are certainly not limited to:
- Choosing names
- Epidural vs. natural delivery
- Breastfeeding vs Formula
- Disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers
- Crib in parents’ room or crib in baby’s own room
- Forward-facing car seat vs. rear-facing car seat
- Black girl hair care
- Potty training (panties vs. pullups)
- Activities child should/shouldn’t participate in
- Best schools for toddlers (private vs. public school)
- Toddler bed vs. twin bed
- Pierce baby’s ears vs. letting daughter get earrings when she chooses
- Baptism and religion
- Flu shots or nah
- Discipline: love taps vs. time outs
- Me going back to school with a baby at home
For every piece of advice I’ve received, I can recall getting advice that was the exact opposite. As my daughter gets older, I know that the list will expand. I also realize that advice on these topics often comes from a good place, but Gettin’ Grown’s Keia made a very good point about how “advice can be crippling.” There are too many opinions and too much contradictory information. Everyone thinks that they know best. With so much advice floating around, you learn to really focus on what’s best for you and your lifestyle. Advice that other people give is usually based on their experiences and lifestyles, which may be totally different from yours.
Inevitable Unsolicited Advice
One thing is for sure. Parents give the most unsolicited advice and ain’t nun you can do bout it! This is especially true if your parents offer any significant support to you or your baby. With parents, I’ve learned to just listen-- like, actually listen. I may still disagree after listening, or they may open my eyes to something that I hadn’t taken into consideration, but disrespect is not an option. Hear them out, and then be discerning in how best to proceed.
Moms usually want to jump in with the advice, so I am trying to be more understanding of my mother now that I am one. My daughter taught me an amazing lesson (out of the mouth of babes) last week when I attempted to give her my unsolicited help. She was sitting in my lap, playing a game on her tablet which involved her dragging puzzle pieces to their designated spot. I saw her struggling for a minute or two, and decided to take my finger and drag the piece to the right spot for her. My 2-year-old then turned around, looked me in my eyes, and said, “let me do it.” I was taken aback, and low-key hurt. Did I just get told? Did my daughter just tell me, “I got this?” I JUST WANTED YOU TO WIN.
But guess what. I watched her play the same game while she sat in my lap yesterday, and she was completing the puzzles all by herself, like she had created them! When she did finally encounter a puzzle that was difficult, she asked me to help her. This small lesson in which I wanted to help, and she wanted autonomy, inspired the title of this post. Unsolicited advice is often well-intentioned, but there’s a balance between helping someone and allowing that person to learn on his or her own.
Do You “Invite” Unsolicited Advice?
Here’s my unsolicited advice: stop inviting everyone into your business. People can’t advise on matters they’re not privy to. People are inclined to give advice when they have a front-row seat to every issue going on in you and your child’s life. I try to not use social media to air out the woes of my personal life. I don’t need everyone’s unsolicited, uninformed advice in my comments.
I also limit who I allow to come to my home. Anybody and everybody doesn’t need to come into your space and see how you and your family live. All it takes is an hour at your residence before someone sees your child watching tv and concludes that your child is addicted to television and never plays outside.
I’m thankful for all of those who care about my family. I appreciate that you feel comfortable and close enough to me to offer your advice, but unless you really see me out here just being plain awful in the care and keeping of my kid, please, please “let me do it.”