Ask the Experts: How to Gracefully Handle Unwanted Advice




We asked local experts to weigh in on their tips for navigating unwanted parenting advice.

To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.


Thai-An Truong: People are often coming from a good place of wanting to help when they give advice. However, it can be pretty annoying. Two communication techniques that I teach my clients are to disarm and praise. 

Disarm means to find truth in what they're saying, and focus on parts that you genuinely agree with. For example, if they tell you you have to breastfeed your baby for them to be healthy, you can say, yeah there are a lot of benefits to breast milk. Resist the urge to say "but" this and that...which will likely lead them to come on stronger with their advice. Then transition to step two.

Praise - shift the subject to something about that person that you genuinely admire in relation to the topic discussed. It could be they've done so well with their own kids. People love praise, and this often will shift the topic. If it's someone you're close to with a consistent pattern, then I'd recommend the book "Feeling Good Together" by Dr. David Burns for practical communication tips.

Thai-An Truong is a therapist and mother who is passionate about helping pregnant and postpartum parents overcome depression and anxiety so they can feel like themselves again and enjoy life with their baby and family. After overcoming her own battle with postpartum depression and anxiety, she opened Lasting Change Therapy, LLC in South Oklahoma City to dedicate her counseling services to helping families recover. For more information, visit  www.lastingchangetherapy.com


Kathryn Konrad: People love to help and want to offer stories and advice. While this can be helpful, it can also be annoying and unwelcome. You likely noticed this as soon as your pregnancy started showing. Cue the “You’re pregnant? Let me tell you about…” This will continue throughout your baby’s life.

While you may want to scream at people when they offer unwanted advice, there are ways to handle it gracefully. Listen calmly. You do not have to follow their advice but they may say something that you agree with, something that makes you think differently or that encourages you.

If not, consider the following responses:

“Thank you. I/we will think about your advice.”
“I/we considered that, but I/our family decided to go a different way.”
“I/we really appreciate your input, I/we will think about it.”
“That is a really interesting story.”

If your in-laws, friends or co-workers are firm on an area of parenting that you feel differently about you do not need to discuss it. Remember that it is ok to agree to disagree. It is ok to say, “I think/feel very differently than you do.” And, change the subject.

Do not take unwanted advice personally. People are often well-meaning but there is more than one way to raise a child. You have to decide on the way that works for you. Remember, this is your baby, your family and your life. You make the decisions.

Kathryn Konrad is a maternal newborn nurse, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and an assistant professor at The University of Oklahoma Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing. Since 2000, she has worked in labor and delivery, childbirth education, community education/outreach and nursing education. Konrad loves working with moms and babies and lives in Edmond with her husband and 9 year old son.


Dr. Kelly Stephens: People seem to feel entitled, almost obliged, to tell pregnant mothers and mothers with young children all the bad stuff they can think of that can happen in that situation. Sometimes we just have to grin and bear it. But, humor can help. ‘Why, thank you for your concern for my baby’s head shape while we’re standing in line to pay for our groceries, I’ll talk to my doctor about that’.

Dr. Kelly Stephens, III has been practicing for 30 years and specializes in pediatrics at Mercy Clinic Primary Care I-35 Edmond.  He says, “seeing kids grow up and overcome problems, while watching parents get more adept at handling their little bundles of joy, these are the true rewards of my calling.” Learn more about Dr. Stephens at www.mercy.net/doctor/kelly-stephens-iii-md.


Sunshine Cowan: When it comes to how you raise your children, whether they’re 6 days or 16, everyone seems to have advice. Some of this advice comes from people without children, people with grown children or the people who raised you. Some advice is casually shared between parents facing similar stages and phases with their children. Almost without fail, the advice is well intended and shared with our (or our children’s) best interest at heart; however, it sometimes conflicts with current research, pediatrician advice, best practices or our own parenting philosophy.

I remember reading a fable when I was a child about an older man, a young boy and a donkey traveling on a long trip. Wherever the trio went, everyone had advice on how they should be doing things. When the man and boy walked alongside the donkey, people they passed along the way felt they were silly for not making use of the donkey. One group of townspeople believed that the little boy should ride the donkey, as his legs were little and the trip was long. In the very next town, villagers would loudly criticize the boy for riding the donkey while the older man walked. Finally, another group felt the donkey was too overburdened and abused for carrying such a heavy load when both the man and the boy were on his back.

We can’t please everyone, and we will add undue stress not only to our own lives, but to our relationship with our children when we try to follow advice that does not work well for us. Handling unwanted advice is like traveling with the trio across a long trip. If we take time to reflect on our situation, knowing what we know about the journey ahead, our map, advice from experts and our own goals, we can make decisions that best meet our needs, despite any criticisms we receive from others.

If this is an area where you find yourself in constant struggle, I would like to recommend Brene Brown’s book "Daring Greatly". This book reminds me to make time for and connect with my children, own up to the difficult job parenting is and the vulnerable place it takes me, and then focus on a relationship with my kiddos where I am authentically myself.

Dr. Sunshine Cowan is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma where she coordinates the Community/Public Health program. Although she teaches many courses in her role with the university, one of her favorites is a course on human development. Sunshine has been married to the love of her life, Jerel Cowan, for more than 20 years; together they have two children, Canyon and Ponder.


Amy Pomerantz: When unwanted advice is received I find less tends to be more and respond, “Thank you for your suggestion.  I will consider it.”  If advice keeps coming from the same person then it might be time to add, “While I appreciate that you have our best in mind and want to help, we are overwhelmed with suggestions right now.”

Amy Pomerantz is a postpartum doula and baby guru.  She started out babysitting at age 11. She then helped care for over 160 foster infants and toddlers when she was 18-24.  From there her passion for babies led her to nannying positions and, finally, postpartum doula work.  Her baby experience includes medically fragile, special needs and multiples.  She currently owns “Belle Bebe Doula” located in central Oklahoma.

To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.

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