When I’m caring for other people’s children, I sometimes get unwanted and unnecessary advice and/or commentary. I’m told that this happens to their actual parents as well, so I feel like it’s good practice for becoming a mother. My favorite is the commentary: “Oh, no! He’s so unhappy!” Wow, thank you. Is that what the crying means? Good thing you were here, random lady at the park! So here are my top five tips for dealing with Random Park Lady, Opinionated Relative and I-Don’t-Have-Kids-But-I-Have-A-Dog Neighbor.[hr]
- Listen/pretend to listen to her, if at all possible. Smile and nod. Or not. She probably won’t notice if you’re frowning. She just wants to feel like you heard her, in my experience, and probably gets more out of dispensing advice than anything else.
- Do not say “I tried that, but it didn’t work.” Even if you did exactly what your “friend” advises, she will claim that her tip is brand new information
- Along the same vein, do not point out that she is wrong. Example from real life: she says “Oh, he’s so unhappy!” but he is actually very happy and screeching and squawking just for fun. I learned from previous experience that this particularly obnoxious woman loves to argue; so I shrug. I do not commit to agreeing or disagreeing with her. She usually looses interest. If I argue and try to convince her that he is happy, she will argue back, whether it makes sense or not.
- If she’s going to be around consistently (like a relative), do not back down, even if it makes you uncomfortable. “No. Thank you. No. Thank you.” Rinse. Repeat. Back down now, and she’ll feel all the more eager to dispense advice in the future. “No. Thank you.”
- If it’s absolutely necessary that you not offend this person (or, I suppose, if you’re just really keen on avoiding confrontation), fall back on a higher authority. For the babysitter, that’s Mom. With my own kids, I plan on using The Doctor. Pediatrician, child psychologist, real or imaginary. “Oh, his doctor feels really strongly about that.” It’s vague, and I can always go to “It’s really hard to talk about it” if I feel like making things really awkward.