Based on my little girl’s behavior—or, often, simply looking at her—I can tell you exactly what kind of day we’re going to have, what kind of play date she’s having with a friend, and what I need to do as a parent to meet her needs and ensure we have as peaceful, fun, and productive day as we can. When you’re with your child as much as most primary caregivers are, you can’t help but pick up on these things.
There are plenty of people, however, who just don’t get it. These are often people who only see their kids or children in general for part-time. Maybe they work in a daycare, or maybe they’re once-a-month parents; maybe they’re a well-meaning relative or friend. Whoever they are, they often give you advice from a place that’s pretty far away from your child. Maybe they read it somewhere or heard it on the news or used it while babysitting, but you know it certainly doesn’t fit you and your lifestyle.
It’s perfectly fine to thank someone for their advice (unsolicited or not!) and then promptly ignore it. You can offer explanations if you want but it’s not your obligation. You know your child better than anyone; if someone tells you to do something that you know won’t work, or that will bother your child, or conflict with your very conscience, why do it?
Now, I am known to ask my own mother about her advice now and then. She’s been there; she had three girls and came from an even bigger family of children. We don’t always agree on everything, but if she confirms something is OK, I know it’s going to be OK (which frustrates my husband; I just can’t help it!). That said, I’m the mom, and I have the final say.
You are the parent. Believe it or not, you are the expert on your child. Sure, you can read studies and learn about the best way to treat a cough, or how spanking and smoking and bottles in the crib are all detrimental for your child—but during daily care, your own parental instincts come into play much more often, and it’s that you need to listen to, not your neighbor’s brother’s sister’s ventriloquist who says you need to let your kid cry it out, you need to use tough love, you need to cut the apron strings.
You know what you need to do? What your child needs you to do. And only you know that.