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Unsolicited parenting advice

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I've seen lots of posts about relatives and friends offering unsolicited opinions or advice or even directives about parenting. I've always though HOW OBNOXIOUS and was really glad I didn't have to deal with that myself from family. But suddenly I feel bombarded and scrutinized by my younger sister, who is very manipulative and controlling anyway. She has always claimed to be non-intrusive, but the last time we were together, I realized how constant the subtle criticisms and "suggestions" are (and not just about parenting, but every aspect of my life).

We invited her to come over Christmas morning so she wouldn't be alone for the holidays, and I was going to wait until after the holiday to talk to her about my feelings so I don't "ruin" her Christmas or get accused of being emotionally manipulative, but this is bugging me to the degree that I don't know if I WANT her negativity (and now my negative feelings about it) to be part of our Christmas celebration!

Any suggestions?
post #2 of 12
Well, in wouldn't uninvite her - that would be a bit harsh, considering she'd be alone otherwise and you've already invited her. If it were me (and I have a cousin who is very much like a sister to me who sounds a lot like your sister!) I would just do my best to keep the day light - change the subject quickly if necessary, whenever she says something you don't like, offer her something - a drink, food, whatever. Just to change the mood and the subject. If she gets too obnoxious about it, just say "You know sis, this is Christmas and I'd like to keep the day light for the kids' sake. If you'd like, we can chat about this later."

I know, easier said than done. Been there. But I think family arguments in front of kids at Christmas are unnecessary and terribly unpleasant.
post #3 of 12
My first feeling is that, if this criticism is extending beyond just parenting to all aspects of your life, that she really has an underlying issue here that is manifesting itself at your expense. Perhaps deep down she is jealous of you, your family, your children, etc...and this is how she expresses it.

Second, I think that you are going to have to let her come over for Christmas, now that you've invited her. It would be really hurtful to her, I'm sure, to be "disinvited".

My suggestion is to try and "grin and bear it" while she's there. Steel yourself mentally for the criticisms that you know will come, and come up with some "mantra" or repeat response you can give to diffuse the situation and hopefully gently let her know that this isn't getting her anywhere. Try to put on a smile and say things like "well, we're happy with doing it that way", or "well, it works well for us", or "I used to think that way before I had children", etc. Just brace yourself to ignore what she says, put on that smile, and try to let the comments slide.

Then, after the holidays, you should definitely have her over for tea and talk with her. Don't make it a criticism of her, focus on how it makes YOU feel. That way the conversation is about you, not an attack on her. For example "you know, when you always comment about how we should let DS do [blank], it makes me feel as though you think I'm a lousy parent". Or something along those lines. Hopefully she'll just feel so bad that she is coming across that way (which she may not realize) that she'll just cut it down a bit.

Good luck!
post #4 of 12
I wouldn't let it slide if she was in my home. I'm assuming that she says little that is actually helpful, and I also assume that she doesn't have kids and isn't in a relationship.

What I like to do when I'm subjected to the advising of an ignorant is say stuff like "I'm not sure what you're saying, can you explain a bit more?" or "You should write that down, that's gold!" or "Oh, remember that for when you actually have some experience with kids!" I will also ask for sources, like where did you read that? or can you quote me a source, I find what you're saying really interesting.:LOL

Nothing really offensive, but snide, undercurrent remarks really piss me off and I like to drag them into the center of attention. On the off chance that it sparks some useful conversation, well then, twice good for me!

post #5 of 12
I have a sil who brings up these kinds of things (thought not the the same extent you're experiencing) To avoid the inevitable debate/argument, I've just started saying, "Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one." And I leave it at that. When my ds was tiny, I often felt defensive and would always take her bait and get dragged into an argument over whatever parenting issue it happened to be. Then I'd be angry and feel horrible for a few days. I've made a conscious decision to refuse to get into it with her. So I just acknowledge that we don't and won't agree on it and change the subject. She gets the hint, but if she didn't, I would say something like this: "You know, we have such different perspectives that no matter how much we talk about this, we're never going to agree. So I need you to just realize and accept that I've given my choices a great deal of thought and this is what I feel is right for my family. Let's please not "go there" anymore." Easier said that done, I know. I've rehearsed this potential conversation in my mind many times.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hi Lisa. Fun to see you on a different thread. :-)

Thanks all for the suggestions. I think "going through with" Christmas really is the right thing, too, and hope and pray that it can be a positive day, but will likely need more support and advice before I actually tell her how I feel about her constant criticism and negativity (on some other occasion). I've tried to just deal with each interaction independently, and set boundaries and take care of business as it arises. But last time was just too much! After she last visited here w/ my kids, even my 4 year old said he didn't like her visit! (Out of the mouths of babes!)

The tough thing with this sis is how she "uses" anything and everything against me... If I say I don't want to talk about it, she assumes I'm "going into denial" or "hiding" something. : I if I do tell her how I feel, she accuses me of being insensitive. As far as parenting goes, you're right about the need to not become defensive. It helps to remember that she majored in sociology to try to help right wrongs and serve the underserved and repressed in the world--noble aims although sometimes a bit misguided.

So, I'll try to keep Christmas light, but if I get the same crap from her as last time about how I must feel really guilty for something in order to have agreed to buy my kid the mega bloks truck he wanted for Christmas, and the criticism that I need to buy them fewer toys and more clothes, I am telling her in no uncertain terms that it is none of her damn business!
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Oh, and Alstrameria--he he he--Wish I had the guts! :-) Maybe with your encouragement I will!
post #8 of 12
Whatever she's saying has more to do with her & her life. It's a reflection of how she's feeling.

If you remember that when she's saying things, maybe you'll realize that for whatever reasons she must be feeling low about herself or something. It really helps. If you see her in the light of "she must be hurting" it's much easier to let the comments slide. However, if you take it on, that's your choice, but it really is more about her.

At the lowest I ever was (regarding my self-esteem) I was so critical of everyone and everything. I thought I knew it all. I was oh so great & everyone else, so wrong & small. I was totally judgemental. If anyone approached me, I felt even more attacked and even lower.

Perhaps you could use the holidays to focus on some really positive things in her life to try to build her self esteem up a bit.
(I realize it's not always easy to do this, but maybe it will help you both.)
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
You are so right, and I am so much less mature than you are!!!!
post #10 of 12
I am even less so, it would seem, but I'm ok with that. At worst, the conversation usually ends, and at best, my point is taken.

I could also say something like "You seem really negative, is everything ok?" If they say yes, then fine, or even if they say "No, I'm having a hard time", then you can talk about it and maybe get to the root of the problem.

Or maybe not, but I can almost always amuse myself this way, and so then I don't take it too seriously. I only have one or two buttons, but I don't like people pushing them.

post #11 of 12
but will likely need more support and advice before I actually tell her how I feel about her constant criticism and negativity
Idsmama, I have been there with my cousin. She has no children (except one dog) and tries to give me advice based on her dog knowledge i.e. "Well the vet told me...blah blah blah." I have been so tempted at times to say something like "You wouldn't understand - you don't have kids." but I would never say that b/c I know she wanted children and couldn't have them so it would cut her to hear that. And despite the fact that she p*sses me off sometimes beyond belief, I love her immensely and hurting her would do nothing for me, except make me feel lower than hearing her criticism does. I have found the occasional "You know what, this works for us. We are a very happy family. I'm sticking with what works." to work fine. If she's especially feisty and keeps on and on after that, I've said "Enough. I don't want to go there. We're doing fine. Enough said."

In the end, the fact that you have a happy family should be proof that you are doing things right. And if she really thinks about that fact, she'll see that. I'm sure she has her own baggage. I don't think fighting her will do anything but put a fissure between you two and that will do no one any good. One day when she has kids, she'll eat her words, and she'll love you all the more for putting up with her arrogance!

Good luck!
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Christmas visit went well

Well, I contained myself and the Christmas visit went comparatively well. I'm sure in part because potty training is now clearly in process and that has been one of her "issues" (why I hadn't potty trained him yet, in addition to why don't I have him in day care or preschool). Among other things, she wanted to cut his hair while she was here (I said no thank you), and checked out the bedrooms (to check on the sleeping arrangements since that's been another big issue for her) : But I just ignored that. I did ask her to not look through my stuff without asking or use my computer this time, though.

As far as talking about her interference goes, I think I will just wait for the next opportunity as I have in the past instead of springing it all on her at once.
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