Another Parent Asks for Your Opinion
The number one clue that you can give parental advice is when you are asked. A direct invitation to share your opinion is a privilege. When one trusts us enough to seek our guidance, our role is to share with love, grace, and truth. If we handle the opportunity to give advice haphazardly, we risk causing more damage.
In her article, “How to Give A Parent Unsolicited Advice,” Casey Huff shares the importance of choosing a tone that is not condescending. She suggests starting your conversation with phrases like the following to create a sense of camaraderie and understanding.
“I read such-and-such on this topic; what are your thoughts on that approach?”
“What all have you tried so far? If you’ll let me, I’d love to help you come up with a plan.”
This tone allows the fellow parent to feel like an equal as they are being talked with versus being lectured to. It is important when your advice is being solicited that you share from a place of teamwork versus pure expertise.
Overall, when faced with an opportunity to share advice, remember the following.
1. Your experience may not reflect theirs:
Every child is different. How they react, respond, and behave will vary. There is no one-size-fits all. Even the most similar situation, we may never be privy to all the information. When in doubt, allow the parent to be the expert on their child.
2. Your job is to inform not to persuade:
Our role in communication is to provide information. The same is true even in counseling relationships. Therapists don’t seek to just change behavior. Instead, they seek to highlight the issue at hand, provide possible solutions, allow the client to take the lead for change. If you find yourself frustrated that your advice is not being taken, remember we cannot change others, we can only provide information.
3. Seek to validate what they are doing right versus pointing out what is being done wrong:
When sharing advice, be sure to give more praise than critique. Although there may be an area of struggle, there are far more areas your friend is succeeding in. Rather than making them feel like a failure, seek to uplift and encourage in all that you do.
4. Check your heart on the matter:
Often, we have our own conviction about a topic. Rather than seeing this as the way God is leading our home, we may assume it is the way to do things. In doing so, we may want to give advice to anyone not complying with what we believe is best. For instance, I once had a friend insist that I fed my children poison when I gave them a package of fruit snacks. Their conviction about gluten and food dye created an uncomfortable scenario for all. Although there may have been truth to the snack being unhealthy, a better approach could have been taken on the matter to not cause offense.
5. Pause and pray:
Whether you are invited to share your opinion or feel like the Lord is leading you to give advice, do so with care. Rather than speaking without a filter or without regard, make a choice to choose stillness and prayer. Reserve the right to give your advice after you’ve had time to think and pray about the situation. This will help you to speak from a place of wisdom and not emotion.
6. Offer advice sparingly, and only when absolutely necessary:
In most cases, we should not share parenting advice. You will find there are more resources on how to respond to unwanted advice than there are encouraging you to share your opinion. Many will find offense with any suggestion on how to parent. Unless there is evident danger in someone’s parenting, how one parents is very personal and should be honored.
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