let’s talk about advice

I think I need to set the record straight: I don’t hate advice. I am just not crazy about overzealous givers of advice, especially when said advice-givers don’t know much about the subject on which they are offering advice (as in the case of my poker buddy) . Basically, I like advice that is well-researched. As someone who has spent a decade and a half in academia, I love information. I enjoy hearing about people’s lived experiences and the lessons they have learned. I love it when someone shares a new book or an article with me, even if it might challenge some of my previously held parenting theories. I am a researcher at heart, and the more material I can find to help me arrive at a decision, the better.

But because I’m a persnickity academic, I want sound information from credible sources. When I mentioned the author of the Baby Wise book, I did so to make a point: this guy is a hack. He’s someone who is working to forward a religious agenda  through his baby training guides, and he is someone who doesn’t have a lick of education that is relevant to child-rearing, and he is someone who rabidly promotes CIO. When I mentioned our friend, once again, I was referring to someone who isn’t a reliable source when it comes to infant care because she lacks both experience and basic knowledge, and once again, she was advocating a parenting method I’m not fond of.

Honestly, I think a lot of new parents have a difficult time with the overabundance of unsolicited advice we are offered simply because it’s a lot to process, and it can be challenging to find any sort of happy marriage of that advice and our own values. Because others have experience with this mysterious ride that is parenting, they want to share it. I know I want to share what I’ve learned, but I want the people I share it with to want to hear it. I think, however, that we as parents and aspiring parents and members  of the greater community have a responsibility to assess the situation, to determine whether or not the person is seeking advice or simply a sympathetic ear.

I suppose some would say that blogging about problems with one’s baby is an invitation to any and all advice, but I’m not sure that’s what all of us are looking for. There are those occasions when I just want to vent my frustrations with having a baby who won’t nap or a relationship that is struggling , and I know many other bloggers out there have the same experience. On the other hand, there are those desperate times when we want nothing more than to benefit from the experience and wisdom of our community. There are even times when we specifically ask for it.

I love the wealth of wisdom that is present in our community. I drew from it throughout my TTC experience and my pregnancy, and I hope to continue drawing from it as a new parent. I think when it comes in the form of anecdotes and experiences, it holds a great deal of value. And when it comes in the form of “This is the one and only way to raise your child,” it may as well be an infomercial for a chia pet in my mind.

So I’m curious, how do you like advice to be packaged? When you write about problems on your blog (or on Facebook or elsewhere), do you expect advice to follow? Do you welcome it? How do you think members of our community could more effectively share their wisdom and experience?

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12 Comments

Filed under advice, parenting

12 responses to “let’s talk about advice

  1. N

    I am right there with you, even though my own personal choices about parenting differ a bit. I actually get so sick of advice that I usually just research myself and make a decision. I’ll ask people sometimes about their own experiences or opinions, but that’s just to add to my research. I’ve said on my own blog a few times that, unless I specifically ask for it, I do NOT want advice. Of course, that doesn’t stop it from coming, but at least I’ve put it out there. My blog is mostly for venting, and connecting with a community.

  2. vee

    On our blog, I quite like to receive advice and anecdotal wisdom, but I don’t have a problem ignoring it or disregarding it if I don’t feel it has value; if I rate it, it gets added to the mix. Sometimes I wish people would proffer it more. I like it less face to face, but again it I find I can let it wash over me most of the time.

    Jay, on the other hand, can’t stand it unless specifically requested.

  3. K

    I really value the give and take of ideas that blogging facilitates for me, in addition to the support. I LOVE receiving well-intentioned advice from other mommy bloggers because even if only one out of every ten comments resonates with me, it’s one tool I didn’t have up my sleeve before then. The trick, for me, is not allowing myself to feel defensive or get bogged down by the rest. Ultimately, my preference is to keep an open dialogue and do the filtering on my end. I prefer that to the thought of a reader hemming and hawing over whether or not to share a tip that has worked for them. I mean, it’s not hard for me to read something and think “hmm, no thanks” if the advice doesn’t fit with our style.

    I’m a researcher too, but I also recognize that research can only take me so far in this parenting business. It seems that so many important lessons can only be learned in the trenches, so I am truly grateful for ANY mommy bloggers who give their precious time to share hard-earned tips with me.

    I hope BG’s sleep gets better soon. We’re struggling through some rough nights in our house as well so I can empathize with your sleep deprivation. Hang in there!

    • reproducinggenius

      I suppose I should say that research, to me, takes many forms. It isn’t just reading; I think that would be naive. It also consists of listening to the stories of those who have been in the trenches and also applying some of the strategies that they tried to see what happens. I find those experiences incredibly valuable, even if I don’t take a similar route myself.

  4. When it comes to almost anything EXCEPT for my kids, I’ll listen and sometimes take to heart the advice of people around me. When it comes to my kids… I disregard pretty much all of it. Having babies isn’t easy for ANYONE but we all get through it. Somehow we get them from these tiny helpless creatures into self reliant people without too many scars along the way.

    I’ve always said to every woman I’ve known who is having a baby, or has a baby… just do what YOU need to do with YOUR baby. No one else knows whats right for you.

  5. This is exactly the reason I’m hesitant to blog about our TTC efforts. Advice is tricky and abundant. I’ve seen it happen with a friend of ours who just had a baby. She gets an overwhelming amount of advice. What I think more parents could use is support and less advice. I especially get all riled up if advice is presented in a way similar to “I did it this way . . . and so should you!” It’s as if all families and all babies are the same. My personality and my experiences reject this type of advice instantly.

    Advice that is presented in a way such as, “Here’s what I did . . . and this was the result . . . “ is much easier to swallow. I think this is why I enjoy reading your blog. It’s not direct advice but it’s something we can take information from and then use or disregard depending on what works for our family. There have been times when we’ve read a post and discussed how a decision your family has made wouldn’t work for us. Different strokes for different folks is all. I don’t feel as if the decision you made was wrong or that my decision is SOOO right that I need to tell you to do it my way.

    Added into this whole mix is that I’m not very good at asking for advice at all. Depending on the situation, I will either make a mental pro/con list, research the topic to death, or just keep trying something different until I get the result I want.

  6. m

    I’m a lot better with advice digitally than I am in person. Being a little removed allows me to process the words/intent and not get frustrated. In person I’m much less successful. I’m mostly accepting of advice but I can’t stand it when someone is overly passionate about “their” way. Well-reasoned advice is welcome, but the eye-rolling, how could you not have known to do this, advice is a trial. I imagine it will get worse once Vegas is born. In the meantime, I try to approach it like I do with everything else, assume the person has the best intentions and complain as little as possible.

  7. Hmm. I like advice – well intended advice. K’s response resonated with me. I feel like even though I may do things differently, hearing the well intended advice of experienced moms can at the very least give me options and show other possibilities for approaching a situation. I consider myself a liberal – not just politically. I like to think that I have an open mind and am open to a broad spectrum of beliefs and practices. I don’t want to be a narrow minded mother. So I guess it’s a rude follow up to some other comments you’ve got in the last week, but I think the “advice” to not listen to anyone, ever, about your children and to only do what feels right to you, is not sensible. I don’t know about you, but sometimes what feels right to me is to flip off the day, ignore my calls, stay in bed and watch people’s court. I realize I’m being flippant, but you get my point. We should be informed so that we can make educated decisions about our behavior. There is bad research and research that has taken us evolutionary steps ahead in terms of understanding why children and parents do what they do. It isn’t cookie cutter and that’s why one piece of advice won’t work for all families. But if we all try to be informed, open minded, and well intended, I think advice in it’s many forms IS research. And having choices can make us confident. In essence, it makes us free.

    I really should edit this, but I’m tired too. I hope you know I adore you and J. xoxo

  8. What a good question! It prompted me to think about how I seek (and share) advice.

    I like advice, as Yvette put it (mental note, get to ‘know’ Yvette’s blog), in the form of “This is what I tried, and this was the outcome.” I’ll strive to follow that format more in my own advice sharing.

  9. lyn

    This is interesting. While I love parenting advice and commiseration (getting and giving), and have gotten so many ideas from our peers that have helped us a TON with our kids, there is some advice that pushes my buttons. By far the most useful advice I’ve found is on the ground info from parents. It usually comes with the caveats folks mention above. Most parents get that kids are different, families are different. Condescending “Expert” books (all of them, I don’t care if it’s Sears or Babywise, I hate them all) or advice from friends without kids drives me crazy, even if it’s well-meaning. Gail does all of our parenting book reading for this reason.

    Blog advice falls into a middle ground. I tend to assume that if I write about a dilemma or difficulty, the advice will come, so if I don’t want it, I say so. We did that on a difficult sleep post a couple months ago, requesting only empathy, but no advice, and our kind commenters obliged. I know when I read about someone else’s difficulty, the first thing I want to do is share what worked or didn’t for us, so I try to say if that’s not the response I need or want.

  10. I like advice when I ask for it, which is often. I like it from people who did a good job with whateveritis on their own. I don’t much like it from folks who have not actually done whateveritis. I hate it unsolicited on the street from strangers. “This is what we did…” is always more appreciated than “You have to…”

  11. I also do not appreciate it from people who have not parented since back when it was perfectly acceptable to smoke a cigarette with your martini while pregnant. Unless I ask.

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