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'Hell is Other Parents': A book and a reality - Part 2


A great read by Deborah Copaken Kogan

It may come from a friend or a complete stranger.  It can happen at the park, in line at the grocery store, or at a family gathering.  It may be condescending, snide, offensive or just plain mean.  Whatever the case, unsolicited advice or comments from other parents can leave you feeling incompetent, disheartened and hurt.

Deborah Copaken Kogan knows just what it feels like to be on the receiving end of unsolicited comments and parenting advice.  In her new book, Hell is Other Parents: And Other Tales of Maternal Combustion, she candidly writes about the judgmental reactions she has received from other parents while raising her three children.  

But what should you do if a friend or stranger decides to give you their two cents about your parenting skills?  Dr. Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist, recently appeared on the TODAY show with Deborah Copaken Kogan to discuss how to tactfully handle unsolicited advice and comments from other parents.

•    Do they have a point?:  In such situations, Dr. Peters says you must first ask yourself, “Do they have a point [in terms of safety]?”  In other words, if your child is doing something unsafe to himself or another child, a parent may be warranted in saying something to you or your child.  

•    Change your behavior:  Next, Dr. Peters says consider changing your behavior if it might make things better, but do not get defensive.  Getting defensive with the other person will only make matters worse.

•    Prepare your response:  To end the discussion, Dr. Peters recommends saying something such as, “Maybe you have a point, I’ll consider that.”  This reply is effective because you are not admitting they’re right and you’re wrong; you are simply getting yourself out of the situation while still being tactful.

•    Use common sense and be polite:  Do not make a mountain out of a molehill in terms of how you respond.  Remember, your child may be watching to see how you handle the situation, so it is important to be a good role model.  

•    See if there is a teachable moment:  Although an unsolicited comment is just that—unsolicited—it may nevertheless open the door for you to talk to your child about the situation that brought on the comment or his or her feelings about what just transpired.  

So the next time you find yourself in line at the grocery store, baffled by the fact that the lady behind you just commented on your three-year-old’s thumb-sucking habit and her eventual need for braces, resist your urge to grab the bottle of Lysol off the conveyor belt and spray her in the eyes.  Instead, be tactful and end the conversation as quickly and politely as possible.  And later, if it will make you feel better, you can always picture her face as you’re wiping down your kitchen counters.