A crying or demanding child (or simply a different style of parenting) is like a green light for other people to become experts about your kid. Judgement and criticism – whether direct or indirect – can chip away at your resolve and make you feel vulnerable so that it becomes a challenge to "roll with the punches." But with practice you can become adept at recognising the characteristics of these self-appointed authorities and counter their attacks, or at least create a diversion until you can gather your reserves.
Facing the enemy
Here are some typical "child-rearing experts" and what you can do to handle their unwanted advice.
Their flag is either black or white – no grey areas here. They give direct orders, as in "You must/should/shouldn’t . . ." Don’t let anyone put "should" on you. Make eye contact and stand firm. You don’t need to defend your actions: just try saying, "This works well for us." If you smile as you respond, they might assume you are a complete twit, which can be a strategic advantage: nobody can argue with a fool, so they’re likely to back off.
Characterised by ready offers of criticism. They usually need to increase their feelings of self-worth, and do so at your expense. Take a deep breath and count to ten (slowly). Or pretend you are standing next to a window: imagine opening it and letting the negative comments blow away. If you are exposed to this person on a regular basis, it could help to get into bed with the enemy – so to speak, not literally, of course. Just try to understand where they are coming from.
Include your partner’s name when you respond to a Power Ranger, as in "[your partner’s name] and I have decided . . ." If you are desperate, why not bring out the big guns: "My doctor [or other relevant authority] says . . ."
Masters of the Universe
They wish. Often wannabes or has-beens, these are the moralisers – legends in their own lunchbox, though they would prefer a soapbox from which to expound their theories. Sermons are usually general (as in "Parents these days . . .") rather than personal attacks. It’s your choice whether the beret fits. Don’t engage unless well armed (with information) or supported by reinforcements such as a supportive friend or two.
Intelligence-trained, they infiltrate under cover when your guard is down, camouflaging their attack with phrases such as "Some mothers have found . . ." These squads could be delivering useful information, so listen and then develop your own manoeuvres. If you have been ambushed by veiled criticism, try smiling and say (with enthusiasm) "Thanks, I’ll remember that!"
Photo by Aislinn Ritchie via Flickr