Is there a way to get concerned friends and family members to back off and stop telling us how to raise our child? My spouse and I are new parents and are overwhelmed by all the tips we've been receiving. Sometimes people even contradict each other. I feel like telling them to mind their own business. Is that wrong?
For better or worse, lots of veteran mothers and fathers are understandably eager to share their hard-won wisdom with those who are a little less experienced in the field. This is a common frustrations that just happens to go with the territory.
What you and your wife need to remember is that most people who offer advice are simply trying to help. They've raised their own kids, and have "been there and done that." They see no reason to reinvent the wheel, and they'd like to see you benefit by the precious bits of knowledge they've picked up through a process of trial and error. For the most part, they're acting out of genuine concern. So try to be gracious when they come knocking at your door with their tips and helpful hints. In the final analysis, they're actually on your side.
We're speaking here of the sensible majority, of course. There will always be a few "know-it-alls" whose motives are somewhat different – individuals who take pleasure in boosting their own sense of superiority by pointing out your mistakes and telling you the "right way" to parent your child. As you've discovered, dealing with these folks can be exasperating.
When responding to this latter group, you might find it helpful to say something like this: "Thank you so much for your helpful advice. We will certainly consider it." This phrase can be especially useful if the unwanted counsel is coming from a close relative such as a parent or an in-law. Remember to say it with a smile, and follow it up with a silent prayer that the Lord will enable you to love the self-appointed mentor in question with patience, kindness, and a spirit of grace (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5).
Another useful technique is to thank the advice-givers and then let them know that you are basing your parenting methods on the advice of respected child-development experts. One place to find that expert advice is Focus on the Family's Complete Book of Baby and Child Care, an extensive volume written by twenty-six family physicians and pediatricians associated with our Physicians Resource Council. When somebody pressures you to adopt their approach to a particularly challenging parenting problem, it can be a great relief to refer them to a book like this and simply let them know what the professionals have to say.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.