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jca's avatar

What are some good responses when my mom gives me unwanted advice in reference to my parenting of my daughter (her granddaughter)?

Asked by jca (36043points) September 21st, 2010

I have a daughter who is 3. My mother frequently gives me her advice on how I should parent my daughter. The sentences usually start with the following:
“you should”
“you might”
“you need to”
“you need to control her”
“you could”
and today what was really annoying was hearing her say “so and so down the street has a 3 year old daughter and she is training her to…” That was annoying to the point where I just got up and walked away.

The “advice” is not helpful (at least not presented in that fashion) and just annoys the crap out of me. Just as an aside, my mom speaks this way regarding non-parenting issues, also. We had seen a therapist together a few years ago, and he told me (when she was not present) that she “just can’t help herself.” In other words, she is probably not going to change this behavior any time soon, and she is now 68, so I am not expecting her to suddenly stop it now.

What are some good responses or what are some ways I can respond to this “advice?”

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38 Answers

jerv's avatar

It is a lot easier to deal with when you don’t care about the feelings of the person giving the advice. My mother took a few years to figure out that I ignored most of her advice whereas my mother-in-law only took about three seconds. However, I am still on speaking terms with my mother whereas my mother-in-law hasn’t wanted to deal with me since I told her to eat a dick.

You’re going to get the advice as long as you two are on speaking terms, so it’s all dependent on your coping skills. My wife and I learned to smile and nod long ago so as to avoid alienating those we actually may want to see again sometime before we die. I recommend you learn to do the same unless you want to be disowned.

marinelife's avatar

You can try training your Mom to communicate more healthfully. You can ask her to not use “you” statements, but to use “I” statements.

Such as “I feel bad when you tell me how to parent my child.”

Try reading the book Toxic Parents. I found it very helpful.

JilltheTooth's avatar

With mine, I learned very quickly not to engage, just to say something like, “Gee, that’s an idea” or something. I knew she wouldn’t change or stop, so I basically just acknowledged that she had spoken. My sympathies, that’s a pain to deal with.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Ha, when you find the answer to this q, you let me know. I usually try to reason with her but after many years, I just slam the door.

YARNLADY's avatar

Thank you, Mom, I love that you are here to help me.

iamthemob's avatar

If it gets to the point where it’s just not tolerable, I like to think of this in relation to the transitive property.

If she raised you to be a certain type of person, and you’re raising your child to be a particular type of person, then she is raising your child already to be a particular type of person. ;-)

Basically, it’s this – I appreciate your advice. But you raised me to be what I hope you think is a responsible and mature person. I’m passing all of the good things you taught me onto my child. Please know that I listened to you when I was a child, and now I am the one who has to pass on the lesson.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@YARNLADY Sorry, but that is not helpful in the least. I’ve been in this situation, quite recently as a matter of fact, and letting her mother continue sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong is not “being there to help her”. It’s being there to manipulate her, and to project her idea of parenting onto her daughter, who I’m sure is doing quite fine on her own.

What some people don’t understand is that although “mom” is doing what she’s doing out of love and wanting to be helpful, it’s not helpful in the least. In fact, it’s damaging to the relationship when mom keeps butting in to her adult daughter’s life.

I recently had to have a REALLY long talk with my mother and I told her I know she offers advice and opinions because she loves me, and I’m pretty sure a part of her has regrets about mistakes she made with me as a child and she wants to make sure I don’t make those same mistakes. I also told her I understand her concern, and I know where she’s coming from, but I just really don’t want all the advice and opinions unless it’s something I specifically ask for.

I don’t need her telling me how to raise my children. I’m an adult and my “immediate family” now consists of myself, my husband and our two daughters. This is my family, and if I’m going to make mistakes then so be it, but I let her know that she really needs to back off. I also made sure to tell her that her interference has really damaged my relationship with my oldest daughter and it consistently is a bone of contention between my husband and me.

She actually listened without going on the offensive, and I think it’s because I told her I KNOW she’s doing it out of love and I KNOW she doesn’t realize when she’s pushing too far. That really seemed to help.

It’s hard honey, I don’t envy you at all. But an opportunity presented itself for me to speak up and we ended up talking things over for about 3 hours. It was a much needed conversation, and I felt so much lighter after we got off the phone.

YARNLADY's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate No amount of arguing can convince me that saying thank you is a bad thing. To any child who is not happy her mother is there to help her, you deserve what you create.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate actually, until I read her response, I was going to say exactly the same thing that @YARNLADY said (again).

You don’t have to take her advice. You don’t have to like her advice. You can think (privately is better) that her advice is the worst advice in the world. But if you acknowledge it and thank her (graciously, no matter how awful you think it is, or how awful she is for giving it to you), then she might stop giving that advice or trying to get you to ‘understand’ it.

I understand completely about manipulation and attempting to take control and passive-aggressive criticism. Believe me; I’ve had parents of my own and I am a parent; none of this is news to me. But I also understand enough about communication that if you accept and acknowledge communication, then that particular communication usually ceases.

If you want to try fighting, arguing, discussing, debating or anything else that doesn’t include simply accepting and acknowledging, then you’re the one keeping the thing going.

Smile and thank her and get on with your life.

camertron's avatar

Unfortunately, people change infrequently, and when they do, it’s usually slow and deliberate. In my experience there’s really nothing you can do to stop her from giving you advice. She probably views it as just being herself and isn’t likely to stop. The only thing you can do to avoid offending her and to parent your child on your terms is to nod and smile when she advises you and choose to act or not act upon the advice later. As @CyanoticWasp said, you don’t have to take her advice – you don’t even have to like it. But you can listen and be respectful all the same while doing what you want anyway.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@YARNLADY: To any child who is not happy her mother is there to help her, you deserve what you create.
It’s not nearly that simple. Not every mother is trying to help, many try to control. Mine is all about manipulation and narcissism. Your very broad statement is a bit snarky. Good for you if you had a good relationship with your mother, many of us don’t, and grow up well in spite of our mothers, rather than because of them. I learned a lot about parenting from my mother, all of it falls into the “what not to do” category.

loser's avatar

“That’s nice. Thanks for the input, Mom.”

jerv's avatar

@JilltheTooth I agree wholeheartedly. Just because a person is there, that doesn’t automatically mean that they are there to help, and just because a woman has a child, that doesn’t mean that they are a good person. If you ever met my mother-in-law, you’d know that.

Honestly, I would weigh her good qualities against her bad and see if you really want this person in your life any longer. If she is an overall decent woman with an annoying habit then you need to learn to cope since she won’t change. Otherwise, say your farewells. My wife and I haven’t spoken to “momster” in a few years and our lives are much better as a result.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY Is there a reason a mother is beyond reproach? In friendships and love, we say we must communicate how we feel – the OP is asking for specific things to say…saying ‘thank you mom’ in their case is disingenuous and unhelpful because it will not make their mother’s actions change.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir what’s the awful behavior? I don’t see it.

Parents, mothers in particular, in my limited experience, have been comparing their kids, favorably and unfavorably, to the neighbors and their kids since the dawn of time. You may not always like it, but what’s so awful about it? Acknowledge what she says and move on.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Did I say there was awful behavior? I have been dealing with a mother like the OP has for over a decade – in that time, I’ve gotten married twice, had 2 kids and got 2 degrees. There is no such thing as moving on because some mothers are manipulative and incapable of supporting their children (especially their daughters as mothers) – they’d much rather speak non stop as to how they would parent and what they are thinking. Also, sometimes, it’s hard to acknowledge if nothing you ever do gets acknowledged – I never understood this kind of blind respect..there needs to reciprocity in all my relationship before I acknowledge a single word of theirs.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir None of us can change the behavior of another person, only our own. I get the idea she is trying to avoid the fights and bad feelings, while still maintaining the relatiionship with her mother. The best way to win over any impossible person is with kindness.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY I am sure her daughter has tried that, naturally. And what you’re talking about when you say ‘nod and smile and say thank you’ is not kindness, it’s pretense.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Using kindness is not something you try and then stop, it is a life affirmation.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY – That is true. And, again, has nothing to do with what you and some others were advising. If the OP doesn’t feel kindness towards her mother when she’s faced with this ‘advice’ she gets, this doesn’t mean that she’s incapable of acting kind.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

This isn’t a PC answer and I don’t believe in my heart it’s the way it should be but here it goes: Give her the lip service, say “that’s an idea mom, thanks” and move the conversation along if you can. If your daughter is with you then direct your voice towards her and in gooey goodness talk say, “isn’t that great, grama has such good ideas for you young lady, grama loves you very much…”, stuff like that. I’m guilty of doing this with my grandmother and mom in the last decade where before I would try to respond as I really felt and got absolutely nowhere but agitated beyond belief.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I didn’t know there was a PC answer to this.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: The decades younger me would have argued to find an agreed upon reason with no ruffled feathers. The decades younger me would have worried more about the mom’s sense of importance and security and standing in the family than just taking the path of least resistence/least interaction in front of or with my child.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@jca: If there’s a nice way you can say to your mom, “whatever you say, you’re right” and then get away from her as soon as possible and return to enjoying your own family’s time then I’d do that. Good luck.

Trillian's avatar

Thank you for the unsolicited advice. I’ll give it all due consideration.

Nullo's avatar

In any case, make sure that her advice really is unhelpful before you ignore it.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@YARNLADY and everyone else who says to just thank her and move on and that you don’t have to take the advice, I ask you to not speak about that which you obviously do not understasnd. What the OP and I have been dealing with are mothers who are not displaying behavior that is meant to just help. Their behavior can be quite damaging. My mother interfered SO much that my husband told me I HAD to do something about it.

Her behavior was driving a wedge between my husband and me. And her behavior also caused my oldest daughter to completely pull away from me and to regard me as her inferior, because all she had to do was run crying to her Nana, and her Nana would take me to task, right there in front of my daughter. There was a lot more going on than her just “offering advice” or “giving her opinion”. She was completely manipulating my children and she was causing major marital problems for my husband and me.

When a mother behaves in such a manner, you don’t coddle her and tell her “thank you so much for helping me”, because that keeps her in the same pattern. With mothers like mine, and apparently the OP’s, you have no choice but to say something. Being in this exact situation so recently makes me feel deep sympathy for the OP, not anger or disgust that she’s unappreciative of her mother, like some of you seem to think.

Let me approach this from a different way, so some of you may understand. Let’s say that instead of your mother constantly interfering or berating you, it’s your child. Let’s say your teenage daughter keeps butting her nose all up in your business and telling you what to do with your life. Your daughter watches every move you make and makes clucking and tsking sounds and tells you you’re doing it wrong. Your daughter calls you every single evening and grills you over what you made for dinner and shows her disappointment in you when she thinks you made a bad culinary choice. Your daughter shakes her finger at you when she finds out you stayed up late last night watching a movie and tells you that you should have gone to bed much earlier for your health. Your daughter sticks her nose in your business SO much that you and your husband are beginning to have major problems. Your daughter goes so far as to call your creditors to make sure that you’re current on your payments. Your daughter complains about almost every move you make.

Now tell me the TRUTH. Would you just nod your head and say thank you and let her continue in that controlling pattern? Or would you look at her and tell her “I’m an adult and I’m capable of taking care of all these things, so back the hell off!”

I’ll say it again, because it’s very important that you understand this. If you have not been in this exact situation of putting up with controlling, manipulative behavior… mind you, NOT helpful advice”... then you have no place insinuating the the OP is tacky for being frustrated and angry about her mother’s “help”.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate : I’m really sorry I can only give you 1 GA, here, the other 9 don’t seem to register on the page, but you deserve them. Wonderful analogy.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@JilltheTooth Thank you very much. I only hope that reversing the roles here will help some people better understand that their advice to “thank the mother” is terrible.

YARNLADY's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate I fail to see where tit for tat is better. I stand by my advice.

jerv's avatar

@YARNLADY It isn’t “tit for tat” any more than going inside when it rains, or dodging a car that is speeding towards you. No offense, but if you can turn the other cheek when someone punches you in the face over and over again, and your responses here imply that you are, then you have lead a charmed life and don’t understand what it’s like to deal with truly horrid people.

YARNLADY's avatar

@jerv What you say is true. However, again, I thought the question was how to deal with it, not how to avoid it. I do not believe in butting your head against a brick wall either.

jerv's avatar

@YARNLADY I see, but I am a firm believer in cutting one’s losses when history has shown that you are in a no-win situation. In other circumstances, I might agree with you, but I have found myself slamming my head against this same wall often enough to have learned that sometimes the only way to deal with the situation is to leave/avoid it.

YARNLADY's avatar

Here is an excellent article on how to deal with impossible people.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think this thread is a great example of how it’s hard to deal with impossible people.

Aster's avatar

I don’t recall ever being incensed by my mother making suggestions. I needed them. She said, “do they brush with Crest?”
Was that out of line for her? I appreciated it. She said, “do they take vitamins?” I bought vitamins and gave them daily. She also bought me a clothes washer and paid jr college tuition once, for petessake. Plus showered my girls with gifts at Christmas.
I could really use her ideas now but sadly, she’s gone.

jerv's avatar

@Aster I think it safe to say that your mother was nothing like either my mother-in-law or the OP’s mother though. Most mothers will butt in at least a bit, but there are some that have serious boundary issues. Some are certifiably mentally ill, or at least close enough to make no practical difference. Think Mommy Dearest.

Then again, I suppose you’ve never had your mother kick you out of the house at 2AM with your spouse and five cats after an argument over orange juice.

Aster's avatar

@jerv thank you for opening my eyes to the truth and your sad story. I may have been speaking out of naive innocence and I’m sorry.

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