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Helping Parents Deal with Parenting Advice
Authors: Rajeswari Natrajan with Judith A. Myers-Walls, Ph.D., CFLE

Lots of people want to give parents advice. Other parents, grandparents, teachers, doctors, and people on the street have suggestions. They will share ideas about everything from the hiccups to toilet training to curfews. Some people are gentle with advice. Other people are pushy. As a childcare provider, you may also give advice to parents. You may send them to other professionals who will give them advice. It is important to support parents when you give suggestions. You can also help parents learn how to respond when people give advice.

By the time their first child is a few weeks old, most parents know they do not have all the answers. Most parents welcome new ideas. But sometimes those ideas can be very confusing. One person may say that a parent should always pick up a baby who is crying. Another person may say a parent should never pick up a crying baby. Advice about spanking can be very confusing. And every person seems to have different ideas about what and how children should eat.

The first thing you can do to help parents deal with advice is to help them get to know themselves. Help parents to understand that they know more about their children than anybody else. They also know more about their goals and values, and they should be the ones who decide on those things. Also help them learn what kind of people they are. You may talk to one parent about how active she is and point out to another that he is very patient. Listen when parents tell you about themselves. Help them understand that they are special and unique.

You also can help parents understand their children. Each child is unique, too. Some children need lots of help and support. Other children are very independent. Some children like new things and get used to changes quickly. Other children have lots of trouble with change. Help the parents think about and understand their children and what they need.

Encourage the parents to talk about their goals and values in parenting. They should talk with someone they trust. Most of the time it would be good for them to talk with a partner or close friend. Sometimes you may want to talk to them about these things. You could give parents some ideas about how to identify and talk about their parenting values.

When you give parents advice, there are other guidelines you can follow. You also can think about these things when you and the parent are talking about advice from others.

         1. Think about the parent’s needs. Does the advice fit this parent? Does it fit the child(ren)? Is this a problem the
             parent has talked about before? Is the advice or information just making the parent feel guilty? Should the parent
             feel guilty? Does the parent want to change?

         2. Look for good quality information. Make sure the advice is coming from someone or an organization you can
             trust. Does the person have training in the right area? Have you gotten useful information from this source in the
             past? Be careful if the source uses lots of numbers to make a point. Numbers can be used to support many
             different ideas. Ask someone who understands research to help you. And be careful if the source claims to have the
right answer. Family life is not simple. All parents and children are not alike. One answer will not work for

         3. Help the parent apply the information to his own life. Parents and children do not come with owner’s manuals.
             Parents need to make their own decisions about how to do things. That is good, but it is hard work. Parents need to
             shape advice to fit their needs.

                     a. Help parents decide if the advice fits their values.
                     b. Ask parents if the advice is really better than what they are doing now. Could they change back if the advice
                         doesn’t work?
                     c. Help parents understand the advice. They might want to change the advice and do things a little differently,
                         but first they need to know what the ideas were.
                     d. If parents decide to try the advice, help them think about the change. Do other people in the family need to
                         change, too? If others need to change, they should be part of the decision.
                     e. Help parents set specific goals. Help them decide exactly what they want to change. They could set small
                         goals to start.

         4. Help parents decide if the change is working. After they try new ideas, parents need to decide if they were
             successful. Remind the parents about the problem they were trying to solve. Help them look at the outcome. It
             would be good to write down how things were going before and after the change. Then they could see if there was a
             difference. Also help the parent decide if the change felt comfortable. If the change didn’t work, help the parents look
             for new advice that fits them better.

How to deal with parenting advice

What are my goals in parenting?

For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at

Please feel free to link to, print off, redistribute, or reprint
  any of these materials as long as the original credits remain intact.

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