Tuesday, April 12, 2011

don't tell me what to do

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Seriously, don't.

It drives me crazy when other parents make recommendations about how I should raise my children.  And it seems to be a compulsion that lots of parents cannot resist. 

"Oh, he sleeps in YOUR BED?!  You should lock him in his own room and let him cry himself to sleep.  It's for his own good.  Swear." 

"You're STILL breastfeeding?!  You might want to stop that before it gets creepy."

I didn't realize that so many other parents are experts on my children.  I still haven't come up with a snarky response for unsolicited advice, but I'm working on it.  It drives me Bananas.  Yes, with a capital B.  So because of this, I don't return the favor.

I think there is a fine line between advocacy and being annoying.  I believe in my parenting practices but you don't have to.  If you think Ferber is a genius, I'm so happy for you.  Whatever makes your household work.  I'd rather lead by example.  Attachment parenting tends to attract a lot of attention and questions, so even if I was a "know it all Mama," I probably wouldn't have to go out of my way too much.  When people ask me about my babywearing and tell me how much they hate their Baby Bjorn, I'll tell them the benefits of whatever babywearing contraption I'm using.  If someone comments on how ridiculously adorable my baby's diapers are, rest assured I will rave about cloth.  I breastfeed in public and I wish more people would.  I never see it, but I know there are more fellow breastfeeders out there.  Maybe a side effect of nursing in public will encourage more mamas and future mamas to do the same.  Actions speak louder than words anyway. 

Compassionate advocacy isn't suggesting to others what to do.  I don't believe my parenting practices are best, but I do believe it's what works for us.  If you are curious and ask, I'll talk about it as long as you'll let me.  But you can be sure I'll never tell you what to do.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • The quiet advocate — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Excellent resources - thank you for giving me a new article from Natural Child Project, I love that site!!
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. I love the balance you are seeking between not preaching, but answering people's questions with compassion when they ask. Just perfect!

  2. There are few things that get under my skin more than unsolicited advice, so I appreciate moms like you who are willing to offer support and information without doling out criticism and advice. You are the kind of mama I seek out when I actually WANT advice on something! ;)

  3. I agree that telling others what to do is rarely if ever effective. And living by example is so much easier :) Keep on keepin' on, mama!

  4. When you do come up with a good remark for unsolicited advice...PLEASE write about it! lol...

    I have to calm my inner dragon when someone says to me, "you're STILL breastfeeding?!" for goodness sakes my baby says Ma, not MOOOOOOOO!

    Great take on the theme!

  5. Cheers for just saying no to unsolicited advice!! Way to be an example. :)

  6. Ha! I love it! I am so with you! A fine line between advocacy and being annoying LOL!

    This has helped me with my writer's block btw. I was supposed to be writing an article on gentle parenting for my local parenting magazine. Problem is, can't stand preaching so couldn't decide what to say. Now I know... will write a purely personal story presented as that and nothing else (with genuine intention NOT being to preach) and that is the end of it. Thanks!

  7. I love this: Maybe a side effect of nursing in public will encourage more mamas and future mamas to do the same.
    I totally agree!

  8. I especially like your conclusion: "If you are curious and ask, I'll talk about it as long as you'll let me. But you can be sure I'll never tell you what to do." When it comes to parenting, I do tell people what we've tried and what works for us. But my mindset isn't to say, Hey, this is what you SHOULD do, but rather to say, Hey, here are some strategies you could try out.

    As for the unsolicited advice — oh, I deal with it so poorly, myself.... The thing that is so weird about it is that even when I 100% disagree with the advice given, I feel bad, because the advice is coming out of a judgment of me or my child.

  9. Another great post! And yes, I think nursing in public encourages others to do the same. I can vouch for the fact that you (and others) blogging about it encourages me when I feel like I'm the only one!

  10. I'm with you on not being pushy. Love this post - brief and to the point. :)

  11. WONDERFUL POST! I totally agree with you.

  12. Wonderful!

    Unsolicited advice is common where I live. Walk around town with a newborn baby and you soon lose count of how many people tell you the baby is too hot/cold, should be more/less covered, head is crooked, hold is too high/low and oh if you forget to shield your bundle from the sun with an umbrella people seem to leap out from everywhere with admonitions that the baby will be burned - in an instant!

    Because it is so common in our culture, most times I took it with the attitude of 'hey thanks for caring about us, I know you want to show us some love and say something so ok, bye' and walk on. Occasionally I'd seethe silently and once I shouted at one guy that 'hey the last time I checked it was not his child!'

    So no I also don't run around dishing out shoulds and unwanted advice either...but oh just mention my wrap, cloth diapers and breastfeeding and the floodgates are open for me to gush all about my joys! But at the end of it all, my choices don't have to be your choices too. Respect!

  13. This is a great CarNatPar post. I also backed way off, unlike when I was a new parent (or even pre-parenting when I knew it all. Ha!) I think if more people advocated this way, there would be less unsolicited advice in the first place.