If there is one area in which friends or family can not offer advice, ideas or even pose open-ended questions it is usually when dealing with parents and their children. For all the non-parents out there who have ever tried to offer parent/child counsel and then found themselves staring into the eyes of a seething mother, I feel for you. Broaching the topic of parenting is as touchy as talking about religion or politics.
It is very difficult to live among people you love and hold back from offering them advice. ~ Anne Tyler ~
People, in general, can have an unwavering attachment to their own beliefs and be horrible about accepting advice from others. Advice on parenting can be dispensed if you are asked “What do you think?” or after observing certain behaviours or after the more common scenario of listening for hours on end about their children’s activities and some of the challenges. If you are close to that person, or couple, you understand this is the nature of your relationship.
However, besides being good listeners, non-parents (as well as other parents) might also be able to offer ideas that possibly the parent hadn’t considered. Childless adults are not experts but they do have enough distance from emotion to provide a different perspective.
Other so called experts in the area of communication and parenting say, ‘when offering advice or ideas to parents you must be aware of your delivery’ but rarely have I seen a parent remain open to any analysis of their personal situation. The parent/child bond over-rides everything, even if it is at the expense of respectful or practical counsel. What a parent may be looking for is just a sounding board, their minds are already made up and all they seek is validation.
Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t. ~ Erica Jong ~
It is important for all of us to remember that great ideas can come from many different kinds of people. We do not need to live as someone else does in order to see the writing on the wall. It helps, but it is not a prerequisite for support, teaching or learning. If a parent asks for advice the answer can be hard to hear and that is a strain few are wanting to put on their relationship. Between parent and non-parents subtle jokes or little white lies become the way to skirt around sensitive topics.
From my perspective I have seen many parents in a pattern of existence that is sounds like CD playing on an endless loop of the same song. They no longer hear the lyrics anymore, the tones or instruments. The minute you suggest a different song they get defensive and fearful. What advice offers is the opportunity for change and a wider viewpoint than our own. It can also give rise to rebellion rather than courteous acceptance.
Whether a parent chooses to accept someone’s offering or not is their prerogative but, I don’t think anyone should base their decision solely on another person’s ability to be part of “a group.” If an idea can be a positive or life-changing force then what does it matter who it came from?
Would you take advice from non-parents? Are you a non-parent who offers advice or ideas?
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