Sunday, December 6, 2009

Unsolicited Advice


Author John Gray, PhD is most well known for his contemporary book, Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus. I read this book some time ago, and although I was not greatly impressed by it, I came across the following quote from Dr. Gray that I absolutely love.

He says, “To offer a man unsolicited advice is to presume that he doesn't know what to do or that he can't do it on his own.”

Advice is such an interesting thing – I think it is fair to say that all of us are generally much better at giving it than receiving it. Perhaps this is an exception to the old cliché, “tis better to give than to receive.”

I never thought a lot about unsolicited advice until my husband and I started our family. Never have I ever received so much unsolicited advice as when I was pregnant with my first child. Friends, strangers, and professionals were all determined to tell me what to eat; what not to eat; how much weight I should gain, or not gain; how to sleep; what to wear; when to seek medical advice; what type of car seat to buy; and in my case, how to hurry along the labor when I was first a few days overdue, then a week overdue, and then a full two weeks overdue.

But the unsolicited advice didn’t stop there. Now, as a parent of two, I find parenting advice around every corner. Some is solicited, I love to read books about child psychology and child behavior; parenting strategies; and what to expect during different stages. On the other side of the coin, I still find myself bombarded with unsolicited parenting advice. Sometimes I even get advice from well meaning people who don’t have children yet – really, as if there is any way they could possibly advise me!!!

Seriously though, parenting is hard, and as parents, we often need advice, or at least consolation or confirmation that our experiences are not terribly unlike that of other parents. And sometimes, especially when we are novice parents, we really need to know what to do. I have some very dear friends who have saved my life by being there for me when I wasn’t sure what to do – the flu that came with a 104.9 fever and hallucinations at 3 am on a Saturday morning; the 18-month old who thought it was funny to take off her pajamas and diaper and then make a mess in the crib; the two-year old who bit a friend; or the three-year old who put a bead up her nose –really, the list goes on and on. Solicited advice from trusted friends is at least comforting, and often a real life saver.

On the other hand, unsolicited parenting advice – not so much! The most difficult and most awesome thing about parenting is that we all get to decide for ourselves what works and what is appropriate for our kids, our circumstances, and our families. It can be deeply burdensome at times, and completely liberating at other times. But when it comes to giving others unsolicited advice, especially about parenting, I would say it is generally best to keep Gray’s perspective in mind, but I can’t really say that without giving unsolicited advice myself. Hmmm – quite the paradox.

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