First things first, this is probably the only piece I’ll ever write which is titled after a Girls Aloud lyric (however tempting, and accurate, it would be to write one titled “I’m Just A Love Machine”) It seemed apt as, if there’s one thing I don’t need any more of as a parent, it’s advice.
Ever since I’ve been a parent, conversations with others have become inadvertant invitations for unsolicited advice. If, making small talk in the office, I happen to mention a bad night’s sleep, it’ll be “have you tried this” “my daughter swears by so and so” etc. etc. Thinking that I’m looking for an answer, rather than just making conversation or blowing off steam.
Of course, generally speaking, the advice is well intentioned. Although it can come across as patronising at times, most people are good natured and trying to help. The problem is that I tend to either receive the same piece of advice again and again, or alternatively two pieces of advice that completely contradict each other, so not really all that helpful. It is also both helpful and unhelpful that the internet contains a million contradictory pieces of advice on every possible problem you might come across with your child. It’s kind of reassuring to know that others are experiences the same issues, but it rarely gets us any closer to a solution.
So, whilst I think there’s no great need for people to add to the world’s advice mountain, it only particularly bothers me when the advice crosses over from helpful suggestion to “you must do it this way”. There are a surprising number of people out there who think that their way is the only way, and spend a lot of time trying to force their views on others. To those people I say “Just because something works for you and your children, doesn’t mean it is objectively correct. Every child and family is different, and what works for your children may not work for mine” Blindingly obvious you might think, but apparently not for everyone.
One of the worst examples I’ve come across of the “I know best” school of advice was when a friend of mine asked for advice on Facebook, because her baby son was sleeping particularly badly and she was nearing the end of her tether. The comments immediately filled with people insisting that controlled crying was the only answer, and equally many insisting that controlled crying is cruel and shouldn’t be used in any circumstances. I’m not going to get into my opinions on that particular matter. The point is that the last thing an exhausted new mother needs is people angrily arguing on her Facebook page and vehemently insisting that she follows two contradictory pieces of advice.
So, if you have advice to offer anyone, particularly on parenthood, my advice is this. Just preface it with something like this “This worked for us, try it if you’re comfortable with it and you think it might work for you too”, and don’t assume you have all the answers, as none of us do (especially me).