How do you deal with unsolicited advice?
Am I the only one who notices an insurgence of people who feel the need to vomit their unsolicited parenting advice? I’m not talking about valuable suggestions from loved ones that help me become a better parent or improve the lives of my family (like where is the advice to help me shed a few pounds or make a ton of money overnight?!?!). I’m talking about the nasty, snide, and judgemental comments from the peanut gallery that aren’t really meant to build me up or encourage me in my parenting journey. They are pointed comments made for a purpose - not out of concern for me or my children - but to cut me down and control me.
So what do we do when that unsolicited advice is about our personal choice to homeschool our children? That’s definitely not an easy situation to be in. I completely understand what it feels like to be judged for parenting choices. It’s not easy and it’s not fun - especially when that advice comes from people who are supposed to love and support you in your parenting journey.
I have a few suggestions that have helped me to sift and sort through all of that junk. Hopefully, these help you sift through yours.
The first thing I try to do is filter the information through the following lens (courtesy of Brene Brown in her book, Daring Greatly):
“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgment at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you're criticizing from a place where you're not also putting yourself on the line, I'm not interested in your feedback."
I love it! This thought process has helped me sift through a great deal of unsolicited advice from people on the sidelines. The people who are not with me, investing in me, doing life with me on a daily basis have no right to judge me. They can keep their opinions to themselves. Why have I spent so much of my life “listening” to people who aren’t on my team? I’m not doing it any more - neither should you.
But what if the “advice” and judgment is coming from people who are close to you - people who are supposed to be on your team? That’s a tough situation, for sure. It hurts more and can be more stressful than the comments from those on the sidelines. When I am facing this type of situation, I attack it like this:
Ignore. If I can ignore the comments, many times they will go away. It may take a bit of time, but once people see that they are not going to get a rise out of you, they go away and find another victim. I smile, nod, and thank them for their advice. But I make no plans or promises to change or alter my decision.
If ignoring is ineffective, I kindly explain that I’ve made a decision that is best for my children and I have no intentions of changing it. I let my loved ones know that while I appreciate that their advice and comments are coming from a place of good intentions, they are unsolicited and unwelcome. I kindly ask them to keep their comments and opinions to themselves.
Distance myself. If the problem still exists after I’ve ignored the individual and have asked her to stop, I distance myself from that person. It’s not fun or easy. It hurts. But my primary responsibility is to my immediate family. If I’ve made a decision that I feel is best and my children are not in danger and are not being neglected or abused, others need to respect that decision. If they can’t, perhaps we need to spend less time together...if for no other reason than I need to keep my sanity!
The good ole “come to Jesus meeting”. This is where I lay it all on the line. I suppose others might call this an “ultimatum”. But sometimes I just need to assert myself because all of my other attempts have failed. This is where I put my foot down and basically tell them it is my way or the highway. Do you want to continue having a relationship with me? Then back off. Is it harsh? Absolutely. Is it necessary? 100%. The problem either stops, or that person is no longer a player on my team. Do I still love them? Yes. But if they loved me, they would stop with the attacks. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
If the person you are at odds with is your spouse, that’s a whole other situation (and a whole other blog post). I am a firm believer that spouses need to talk together and come to at least a middle ground of agreement before making any major decisions. Homeschooling is definitely a major decision. If you are struggling to get your spouse on board, I’d suggest collecting data and evidence in favor of homeschool and positive homeschool outcomes (or lots of prayers...or wine... just thinking outside the box, here).
Parenting is tough. It’s even more challenging when the people who are supposed to be playing on your team are trying to fight against you when you are making decisions that you feel strongly are what’s best for your kids. Work to filter out the people who are on the sidelines from the people who are on your team. Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations with your loved ones. You might be surprised to find that your conversations produce powerful results that actually strengthen your team in the long run.