Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Keeping Mum: Do parenting tips grind your gears?

When you are a mother there is no end of well meaning advice tossed your way. 
Photo / Thinkstock
When you are a mother there is no end of well meaning advice tossed your way. Photo / Thinkstock

Admittedly the Daily Mail is not quite the New York Times for the quality of its reporting, but it was easy to believe that one of it's more contentious stories, published recently, was true.

Apparently one third of mothers have fallen out with someone over comments made about the way they raise their child or children, with one quarter getting the pip to such an extent they don't talk to former friends and family any more.

The study - conducted by so-called 'potty training experts, Pull-Ups' - was obviously meant to assure mothers (and fathers) that allowing their kids to wear nappies for a while and not be pressured into potty training too early was a good thing (and lucrative for the good people at Pull-Ups). But besides potty training, other issues that really got on the goats of (especially) mothers were things like the use of dummies, developmental milestones ('he should be eating/sleeping through the night/crawling by now') and comments about size.

Mothers-in-law were pointed out by the mums as causing offence with their well meaning advice.

It's true that when you are a mother there is no end of well meaning advice tossed your way. But I also think it is true that many mums are thin-skinned to the point of lunacy over anyone saying anything about their beloved loin fruit. As children get older, women that continue to have highly protective and over-correcting natures when anyone dares to say anything about their children actually do their kids a disservice.

It's at the point that kids go on playdates and start socialising that children may be shunned because other parents don't want to deal with difficult mothers.

That's not to say comments should be given out willy-nilly. I recall a random mother and daughter making a huge song and dance about how small my son was when they walked past me feeding him in a park. "Oooh, he's small isn't he?" they whinnied. "My Amelia was never that small," said the younger. "No, he's really tiny!!" said the older, and on it went. They allowed that my son had a nice skin colour, but claimed their children had even better skin because they were half-Maori. They talked about Tahir and I like we were exhibits in the zoo. All through this I didn't know quite what to say, although I was thinking to myself I was so glad Ali wasn't there as he tends to take comments about the size of his children quite poorly.

After quite a bit of listening to the women's dissertation about how large and olive-skinned their own children were I was saved by the fact the father of this master race of children came by to collect the group. I was astonished to see he was about 5'5" - hardly the type that would be siring the 6'4" potential All Blacks I was being ear bashed about!

In short, a sense of humour is always necessary when parenting, and never more so then when child rearing becomes a competitive sport. As Emma Kenny of Pull-Ups tells the Daily Mail: "Parents shouldn't worry about off-the-cuff remarks as what is normal for one child might be completely different for another."

Hear hear!

How do you feel about giving out and receiving parenting tips? What sort of advice have you received? Have you ever phased out friends or family because of their advice?

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

Read more by Dita De Boni

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