Who knew that when you become a parent everyone seems to have an opinion on how you parent. We are bombarded with advice, warnings, “shoulds” or “shouldn’t.”
It’s completely overwhelming.
This becomes even more overwhelming when we choose to parent in a way that doesn’t align with mainstream parenting (specifically in the Western world). When we choose not to sleep train or we choose to bedshare, breastfeed on demand, put attachment first, etc we are often met with weird looks and even judgmental comments. Family & friends may even feel *personally attacked* by how we are choosing to parent or they may wish to try to convince us that we need to be doing it differently. Navigating these conversations can be difficult.
So, what do you do when your family or friends won’t stop talking about their disapproval of your parenting choices? I first want to say that you don’t owe an explanation for your parenting decisions to anyone. Your child is the person who is directly impacted by your parenting. Not your best friend. Not your parents. Not your siblings. Not your pediatrician. Not your extended family. So, if this is simply something you don’t want to talk about then you simply don’t have to. I’ve laid out some actionable steps you can take to make navigating these conversations (if you choose to have them) feel easier.
Boundaries. Boundaries are healthy and necessary. It’s absolutely OK to set a boundary with your family or friends about what you feel comfortable discussing and what’s not up for discussion. This may look like this:
“Thanks for your concern. We aren’t going to be discussing this as it’s what works best for us.”
“We are doing what works best for us and don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
“Thanks for the input but we are very happy with what we’re doing.”
“That’s not something we want to discuss.”
If these boundaries are not respected it may be time to start setting boundaries around the time you spend with them.
Have an open conversation. You may choose to have an open conversation where you discuss what you’re doing and why but this conversation can still come with boundaries. You can let them know that you’re happy to discuss your choices but that it won’t turn into a debate.
“These are the reasons we are choosing to parent in this way. Telling you this doesn’t mean our decisions are up for debate.”
Keep your responses simple. This may mean giving very basic and generic answers.
“They are sleeping great.”
“They are sleeping just like a baby should.”
“What we are doing is working great.”
“We are happy with our choices.”
Stand firm in the choices you are making. You know your baby best and you also know your parenting values best. These are the most important guiding factors in how you parent. Trust in what feels right to you and know that you are on your own unique parenting journey. Just because someone has more kids than you or has been a parent longer than you doesn’t mean that they know better than you!
Choose who to confide in and have open discussions with. Sometimes we just want to say how tired we are or how hard something is and be validated for feeling that way. We don’t necessarily want someone to fix it or try to tell us what to change. We just want to say how we are feeling and be heard. Get to know who you can be honest and real with and confide in them. If you have a family member or friend who tells you that you need to sleep train after you tell them you are tired, this may not be a person that you want to confide in and be totally open with.
Some resources in case you would like to discuss your parenting decisions and have some research to back you up.
Sleep Training Articles/Resources:
6 Experts Who Advise Against Cry It Out
Psychology Today Article on Cry It Out
BBC Article on Cry It Out
Dr. Gabor Mate on Cry It Out
I also recommend checking out my blog post on Parenting Books if you are looking for more guidance/evidence and research.
You’re doing an amazing job!