4

I ask because there are some horrible, abusive, and sick parents that are in no way entitled to parenting, nor are they allowed to give good parenting advice when they have a history of childhood abuse, neglect, etc. Also, being a parent doesn't grant one automatic child psychology or behavioral expertise in raising a child as well, so there are parents that can be horrible and that's a fact.

Why I'm asking is, some people give lots of advice and opinions on how kids should be raised, yet some don't have kids. They may have experience babysitting, etc., but never actually had any of their own.

In this regard, is it okay for one who doesn't have any kids to give advice and opinions on raising them, etc.?

  • 4
    This is kind of a weird question. Who exactly are you seeking permission from? Most people would agree that everyone is entitle to their own opinion. If/When you should share it is entirely circumstantial. – Philip Oct 2 '14 at 21:51
  • 3
    Entitled? Certainly, if you know what you're talking about. Will people like it? Almost certainly not. In all cases "In my opinion..." is your best friend. – wavemode Oct 2 '14 at 23:38
  • 2
    Experienced babysitters have valuable info that parents will never get: How children behave when the primary caregivers are not around. – Mindwin Oct 3 '14 at 12:46
  • I don't have any kids, but I throw my advice and opinions around all the time :P I feel qualified though, because I nannied for a family for 4 years, and also have 2 nephews that have lived in the same house as me their whole lives, so I've had a hand in their upbringing. – Bobo Oct 3 '14 at 23:58
9

The first question is: when is it right to give advice? The second question is: what qualifications must you have to give advice when it's needed?

In most circumstances, it's not wise to give any advice to people who have not asked for it. If the recipient doesn't think they need it, they aren't going to listen to it anyway. All the advice giver will do is make the recipient upset.

Advice carries with it an element of judgement, which often makes both parties feel bad. We're told not to judge someone until we've walked a mile in their shoes. I don't think that's translatable into "don't give advice unless you've been there". I think a better interpretation of this is have compassion for people. Don't rush to judgement. Be kind to them when you do have something critical to say.

I can't tell exactly from your question what you're asking, but I think it's safe to say, advice that isn't asked for is unwelcome. If you're receiving such advice, you can answer with, I've got this covered, thanks, or I think we're ok, but thanks.

But sometimes people should speak up when they think something is wrong, and in that case, they don't need any special qualifications, just courage, compassion and wisdom.

7

Well, I suppose they're entitled to give advice, but unless they have worked with children long-term, like a nanny or a teacher, or are highly credentialed, like a child psychologist, no one will pay them any attention.

The reason is kids have a sort of "honeymoon period," that a babysitting experience isn't long enough to trigger. They manage to behave okay and the babysitter manages to hold their temper okay during that time. It's a short enough that the babysitter can pretty much continually entertain the child. The tough decisions and the tough discipline get saved for when the parents get back. The parents can advise on the best ways to keep their particular children under control.

Parenting is a completely different experience. You can't call in sick. You can't hang in for a couple hours until the cavalry arrives. You are the cavalry. If you can't figure out how to get your baby to sleep, he doesn't sleep, and neither do you. People tell you what worked for their kid and your kid might respond completely the opposite. That goes double if your kids are adopted, or special needs, or gifted, or ADHD, or something else your friends and family have no experience with.

That difference is something you can't communicate to someone who hasn't experienced it, and it's all the difference in the world. When people tell you you'll understand when you're a parent, they're not being dismissive. All of us remember what we thought we knew before becoming parents ourselves.

Even professionals who have formally studied child development don't always have the answers. When my son was refusing work and crying for hours at school, his teachers couldn't fix it. They expected us to do so, because we know our son better than anyone.

5

Absolutely yes, 100%.

Main reason being, everybody has been a child, and thus has a unique perspective on how to deal with children. Doesn't make them an expert by any means, but it's one of the few things I think everybody can have a valid opinion on. I know some very wise people who haven't had kids.

Does it mean it's going to be 'good' advice? Or the right solution for the specific child in question? Of course not, but when it comes to what you consider 'common sense disciplines', everybody's advice is worth considering. To think otherwise is to just limit your available pool of knowledge.

Long ago, I freely gave (mostly unasked for) advice to my girlfriend who had a child, even though I hadn't had any. The conditions I grew up under made me contemplate the parent-child relationship, things like trust. I had friends who had never been 'punished' in the ways I had. Most were malcontent and spoiled, but one of them was very wise and well behaved. I learned a lot from his parents, simply by observing how they treated him. I also had cousins, which I was responsible for, and took that responsibility seriously.

Basically, I had more experience interacting with children than she did. However, she felt since I didn't have kids my advice wasn't really worth considering. Pair that with her degree in Early Childhood Education, and I was lucky to get her to even listen to me when it came to her daughter!

I understood having a kid didn't come with an infusion of knowledge. Ooh, that'd be cool though, like a Matrix kind of upload.... "I know parenting"... But like OP says, there are terrible parents out there. Kids who had little experiencing handling children, and just ended up pregnant. It comes down to relevant experience, which while being a parent can give, isn't the only source of it.

Maybe it was the arrogance of youth, but I met adults who just seemed so foolish to me. I vowed to never do things I hated as a child, like answer "why?" with "because I said so!". (I'm proud to say that I encourage my children to ask me "why" when they don't understand something, and I take the time to explain to them. Alright, this is getting away from the question...

Years later, we had a child of our own. I've changed my mind on some of the things I gave advice on. For example, I was firmly against the habit of letting her child sleep in bed with us. I explained that she'd become dependent on our bed to fall asleep in, or just have a harder time sleeping in her own bed when it came time. Tear the bandaid off in one go, right?

Now, with our own child, I've noticed that I've been faaaar more lenient with letting him sleep in our bed. Was I wrong before? .... Yes, but not because my point was wrong, it was just coming from a different place. It's a valid point, and it has been harder to get him to sleep comfortably in his own bed, because I let him sleep in our bed more.

So I was right in that sense, but I was wrong because I didn't account for the... unselfish compassion that I wasn't even aware existed until I had a child.

That said, there are things my opinion hasn't changed on.

  • You make a good point, +1. Even if non-parents can't solve a problem, they can often bring a valuable perspective. Thanks for the answer and welcome to Parenting.SE! – Karl Bielefeldt Oct 3 '14 at 17:28
1

Short answer: Yes, you can give parenting advice without having children.

Having children doesn't automatically make someone a good parent - and not having children doesn't mean you'd make a bad parent. Having children does however provide a way for the recipient to assess how much weight to give their opinion (they're unlikely to have much credibility if their own child could have inspired The Omen though...).

Be careful, there are several considerations to make before dishing out your wisdom:

  • How well do you know the parent?

If they're a stranger, any 'advice' will often be unwelcome. This should generally be avoided unless you want to risk a less than polite response from the parent.

  • Try and make your advice passive.

For example, asking a parent "What age are you planning to start socialising your toddler?" or "Aren't you worried about the germs from that dropped dummy?" gets a parent to think about the subject, without it coming across as an instruction.

  • Consider what makes your approach 'better' than their current approach.

Everyone is entitled to raise their own children as they see fit (within reason), so you not agreeing with their approach isn't their problem.

  • Is your advice up to date?

Some people recite advice that may have been the accepted practice in the 60's, 70's or 80's - ask yourself where the source of your advice comes from and when the last time you validated it was.

Importantly, remember that they don't have to take your advice.

1

Is a never-been-married person entitled to give marriage advice? Is a young man who hasn't entered the work force entitled to give career advice? Is a female virgin entitled to give pregnancy advice?

Yes, we live in a free country (for now) and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But it seems like you're real question is, "How do I make them respect my parenting advice even though I'm not a parent?"

The important thing is to cite your source. If your source is a well established entity that specializes in and has shown results in parenting, your advice may be better received because you're making an appeal to that entity's authority, not your own. This can be something like "Well my parents used to do X and it worked out great" or "I read an article where if you do X with your kids they might do Y."

If your source is your own inexperienced, bloviated opinion, your listeners are not likely to respect that source as authoritative.

1

No, everyone imagines that they would be a certain kind of parent, its one thing when you know that since its not your child he/she will go home sometime, so you throw your perspective out there from some idea logic scenario.

Once you become a parent all those ideals and concepts are off the table. Unless you have been there and walked in a parents shoes, you are clueless. Just because you were once a child or even if you were raised by the best parents in the world, until you are a parent with those responsibilities you have no grounds for giving advice that is regurgitated from some book or certification class. It's not the same and kids don't come with manuals, not is any make or model the same. Sorry no cookie cutter solution for raising a wee one. Even if you do have children this doesn't necessarily make you qualified to give out advice, no 2 children are the same nor are the issues or solutions. Give me advice on how to raise my child and I will send them home with you, call you in another month and see how your advice has changed ;)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.