parents

KATE: What parenting advice to take and what to ignore.

Kate with her daughters

By KATE HUNTER

How do you know whose advice to take when it comes to raising your kids?

It used to be so easy: you just had your mother, your mother-in-law, your sisters and the lady at the shops to either listen to or tell to pull their heads in.

Now, the whole entire world is joining in the chorus of people telling you you’re doing it wrong.

Some are highly qualified teachers, doctors, nurses and academics.

Others, like me, spout stuff for no other reason than it’s interesting to talk about.

So how do you evaluate which advice you listen to?

Whose criticism do you take to heart?

And whose opinions do let bounce off your brain straight into the bin?

Here’s a handy guide to help you sort through the oceans of advice and opinion out there.

Q: Is the advice coming from someone who stands to make money from dispensing it? Are they selling a book, DVD or software program guaranteed to create healthy, happy kids with Rhodes scholarship potential?

A: Ignore. I know a family who turned out three Rhodes scholars. There were ten kids in their house and neither parent had time to read parenting books. They were too busy parenting. Also they were working, gardening and enjoying a fine social life. Incredible but true.

Q: Is the opinion on whether or not your child’s lunchbox contents are appropriate coming from a blog commenter who calls herself militant_macro_mom ? Are there three or more links to her various blogs? Does she tell you to ‘educate yourself” ? Hmmm. What to do?

A: Ignore

Ignore lunchbox shame from anyone who blogs under the name militant_macro_mom. Just no.

Q: Is the advice coming from someone who at some point has hung out your washing?

A: This is someone you should listen to. In my experience, no person handles the laundry of another (hotel staff excepted) unless there is genuine care and concern at play.

For example, if you have a baby and a toddler , and your sister clears the washing backlog while you sit on the couch with your baby and a cup of tea, then said sister has earned the right to suggest a few tips for getting your toddler to eat something other than popcorn for dinner.

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Conversely, if the man next door (who has never so as much brought in your wheelie bin) says your toddler needs to ‘learn some manners’ and not yell so much, you are free – indeed, you’re encouraged to reply with nothing more than a withering stare.

Q: Did you ask for advice on Facebook?

A: Take any advice with a fistful of salt – especially if you have a lot of Facebook friends you have never met. You might post something like: ‘My husband is a chef and he’s keen to teach our kids aged 4 and 6 to cook, but I worry about the sharp knives and the gas burners. Am I being silly?’

Put that out there and you’ll get comments like, ‘Oh, how great he wants to spend time with them. I’m sure he’ll be super-careful. Can’t wait to see pics of their creations!!!!!’

But you may also get comments like, ‘Follow your MATERNAL INSTINCT you stupid woman. My idiot ex decided to teach my son to make damper over an open fire and he ended up with third degree burns. It was not my fault but I have never forgiven myself.

If you were to walk through the casualty department of a public hospital you wouldn’t even consider it. Grow up and act like a real mother and tell your husband to stop showing off. FIRE AND KNIVES ARE NOT TOYS!

Facebook is probably not the best place to seek advice.

If you find this kind of comment upsetting, I’d recommend not soliciting advice on Facebook.

Q: Do you like the children of the person offering advice?

A: If yes, then I’d say sure. The proof is in the pudding. If their kids are happy, kind, polite and enthusiastic about life then someone’s doing something right.

If, however, their kids are rude, sullen, pasty and aggressive, possibly let their advice sail on through to the keeper.

Q: Do you really need advice?

A: Think about it. If your family is muddling along pretty well, if you have more good days than bad days, your kids don’t have scurvy and no one’s on an Interpol watch list, chances are you’re doing just fine. 

How do you decide whose parenting advice to take and whose parenting advice to ignore?

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