Just because we’ve “seen it all,” we think young parents must want our advice on handling parenthood. As experienced parenting pioneers, we’re all a bit too eager to give advice on everything from babies’ sleep habits and how to hold or not hold them, to whether or not we should allow them to cry, to whether we should lay them on their stomachs, backs, sides, or upside down. We also think it’s okay to instruct young newbies on discipline, failing grades, and curfew violations.
However, it’s really not okay to offer up unsolicited advice. Young parents don’t want us advising them to pick a “normal” name like Thomas, instead of a unique moniker such as Bay, Kael, or Plum. They don’t want to hear that daycare isn’t a good option when kids get sick, or that kids in daycare get sick all the time. Young parents don’t want our help because they believe it’s going to be different for them, and it may be… until it isn’t.
No matter what you think, keep your opinions to yourself, as you may otherwise permanently damage your relationship with young parents. It’s important to identify early on that your role is to support them on their journey through parenthood, rather than intervene or second-guess their decisions. Keep in mind: it’s now their turn to be parents.
Young parents today must navigate through all aspects of child-rearing, including but not limited to: feeding, bedtime policy, playtime issues, socialization, rules of sharing, and good health habits – not to mention wrangling with teenage issues. You can be a valuable resource when asked, but remember: you must fit in with their family culture rather than challenging it. You may find it difficult to keep your mouth shut at times, but be prepared to buckle up and take a back seat.
Dos and Don’ts:
Do defer decision-making to the parents and adhere to their rules. If the children ask if they can have a snack before dinner, consider telling them that it would be best to ask their mom or dad. This conveys respect for their parents’ position.
Don’t criticize how the children are being parented in front of them as this may undermine the parents’ authority. You won’t help the situation.
Parenting can be difficult, so do let the parents know when you think they’re doing a great job.
Do compliment them on things that are working well, and be available to relieve the pressure when you can.
Above all – do enjoy the children!
The role of grandparents, family members, and friends is to relish having young children in the flock, not fuss about them. Leave the parenting to the parents. You aren’t the coach anymore – you’re now the raving fan, so just cheer them on from the sidelines and enjoy them!
Lisa Alexander is a freelance writer