Katie is a freelance writer living in the midwest with her husband and six kiddos. She loves writing, of course, and wandering about her city with her family. When she’s not doing either of those things, Katie likes to crochet, watch reruns of the Golden Girls, and pretend she knows how to paint with watercolors.
Easy Phrases to stop shaming and put an end to unwanted criticism
Years ago, our little (at the time) family made a move to Florida. We moved south in July, and let me tell you July in Florida was a new level of heat and sweat and slap-you-in-the-face humidity for all of us!
One day I had my kids in Publix (the grocery store). My daughter (18 months at the time) was perched in the top seat of the buggy, and my son (5 months at the time) was in his infant carrier in the basket. My daughter was wearing shorts, a tee shirt, and sandals, and my son was wearing a one piece shorts romper with no shoes or socks. You can already tell where I’m going with this, right?
As we were perusing the yogurt section, an older woman came up to me and with zero small talk or cursory conversation told me that my baby was going to get sick if I insisted on taking him out without shoes and socks on. I’m pretty sure the shock was all over my face!
Not only were we still feeling super new to the community, it was July in Florida and I think he was more likely to fall ill had I insisted his little feet roast in socks and shoes! As I remember it, I said nothing or likely mumbled an ‘oh, it’s so hot outside’ and moved on, feeling ashamed and scolded like a child.
Why do I tell you this little story, you wonder? I share because I’m sure that you can relate. It’s a universal rite of motherhood – thou shalt be criticized. Here are a few phrases that I have found to be key in responding to the unwanted advice and criticism I receive! (Trust me. As a mom of six young children, I’ve had plenty of criticism and unwanted advice.)
I’ll keep that in mind! This phrase, my friends, is solid gold when it comes to criticism. Not only are you able to save face and keep it moving, you still sound kind in front of your kids. This isn’t for those times someone is off their rocker mean or really goes on and on, but it would have been ideal for a situation I encountered by the dairy cooler. I could have replied to the woman with a swift “I’ll keep that in mind!” and moved along. Now, she might have known I was just brushing her off, but there’s really no rebutting someone saying they will your advice in mind. There’s no quiet mumbling about it being 105* and what the heck, and there’s no awkward moment that the criticizer feels the need to convince you of what she just said. ‘Kids need to drink dairy milk for their bones.’ I’ll keep that in mind! ‘That baby is too small, you need to feed her more.’ I’ll keep that in mind! ‘They shouldn’t be outside without their shoes on.’ I’ll keep that in mind! Boom. (P.S. – all things that I’ve heard.)
Generally criticism aimed at you has nothing to do with you. There seems to be (especially among mothers) a vicious comparison trap that inevitably means that someone is doing it wrong. If I’m breastfeeding and she’s formula feeding, one of us is wrong. If I’m working and she’s staying home, one of us is wrong. If I’m giving time outs and she’s doing time ins, one of us is wrong.
Enter the need to reassure yourself that you are actually the one doing it right, and criticism against those doing it the ‘other’ way is born.
Additionally, sadly enough some people really do feel better about themselves when they are putting others down. Neither of these things has anything to do with you.
I’m so glad that works for you! If necessary, you can add on “and __________ is what works for me / our family.” This phrase is awesome for unwanted advice. Here’s the thing – people often have found something that works for them and become convinced that it will work for everyone.
Let’s be honest here – I’m 100% guilty of this, and just the other day proclaimed the merits of using a menstrual cup to my unsuspecting new neighbor. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves!
Odds are the unsolicited advice givers fall into one of a few categories. Some have found something that they think is truly remarkable and that has made their lives so much easier and they truly can’t wait to share it with you, like me and the awkward menstrual cup conversation. Others parented in a totally different generation and time, and feel as though the way things used to be done is the right way and that these ‘new fangled ideas’ are worthless. Finally, there are those people who just don’t have a filter and say everything they think.
Regardless, that doesn’t mean the advice is warranted or welcome, and it’s okay for those on the receiving end to politely shut it down.
Sometimes, though, politeness isn’t going to work and flat out isn’t the right choice. If there is someone who is in your life on a regular basis consistently criticizing you or your parenting, you might consider if it’s time to make some changes. Boundaries are a good thing! It can be as simple as “My pregnancy weight gain is between my doctors and me, I won’t discuss it with you.” or “My discipline techniques are not up for debate. You can decide for your family, my husband and I have decided for ours.” or as intense as taking a break from people in your life who are only bringing you down.
Bottom line, though, is to not let unwanted advice and criticism bring you down. Stay in your lane, sister! You’re killing it over there, I can tell.