4 awkward parenting moments, PLUS expert advice on how to handle them

Posted on May 14th, 2018

Parenting regularly requires spur-of-the moment responses, which often leave you kicking yourself as you ponder what you should have said. Here’s some expert advice to help you be better prepared for various scenarios. By Lynne Gidish


Friends who don’t have children offering advice

What’s happening: They mean well, but they don’t really get it – do they? They’re not members of the parenting club and while you’re dealing with a headstrong toddler who has you at your wits’ end once again, the suggestions keep flowing.

What you find yourself saying: Nothing at all! “What they’re doing is similar to standing on the sidelines and shouting out what the players on the field should do (when they’ve never actually played the game),” says clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde. “It’s hardly surprising that you would find yourself at a loss for words and filled with rising anger.”

What you’d love to say: “Butt out, you have no idea what it’s like to start and end each day with a power struggle. The child you think is so cute has not slept or eaten without a tantrum in days, and even simple tasks such as getting her into the car seat are accompanied by a screaming battle.”

How you should handle it:

With a few prepared stock statements, you won’t be caught off-guard again. “Remember that this is like trying to describe tea to someone who has never tasted it,” says Colinda. “If you’re not in the thick of things with your child, you could respond with a swift ‘Its not as simple as that; if only it were’, followed by an even swifter topic change. You could also try pointing out that nothing prepares you for massive life changes like having children and that they’d need to experience it to understand. If this fails, agree to disagree and move on.”

ALSO SEE: Dealing with unwanted parenting advice

Your mother-in-law is interfering − again!

What’s happening: There seems to be an unspoken rule that grandmothers become invaluable advice-givers, says clinical psychologist Candice Cowen. “It may start off with which baby products you should use or advice on wardrobe planning for your little one based on practicality. While the advice may be welcomed initially, it can soon develop into telling you how to parent, discipline and care for your baby.”

What you find yourself saying: Again, nothing at all. Despite being fed up and annoyed, you bite your tongue in order to keep the peace. You’re increasingly frustrated about her unwelcome advice and end up in conflict with your husband.

What you’d love to say: “Back off! I want to figure stuff out for myself; you’ve had your children, this is my child not yours!”

How you should handle it:

With a well-thought-out plan. Remember, says Candice, “During this time, everyone’s emotions are generally running high. With your mother-in-law respecting neither space nor boundaries, it’s important to find ways to express your feelings in a constructive way. A good option is to work out what you wouldn’t mind her helping with and to then ‘employ’ her advice and services. If you delegate wisely, you’ll be able to soothe some of her need to nurture and be involved, which may then reduce the constant interfering and your increasing resentment.”

ALSO SEE: How to set boundaries with grandparents

Your child hits or pushes another child at playgroup or playschool

What is happening: Your child is displaying “acting out” behaviour and his teacher has called you in.

What you find yourself saying: A stern “Hitting or being mean to someone is not nice,” with an embarrassed apology to the teacher. However, says Candice, “Young children don’t understand what ‘not nice’ means and will most likely continue to behave this way, leaving you feeling frustrated and helpless.”

What you’d love to say: “Come on, aren’t you overreacting? Children will be children, this doesn’t mean he’s a bully!”

How you should handle it:

By responding instead of reacting. “Remember that verbal communication is limited at this stage of development, so toddlers and young children naturally communicate through their actions and play,” explains Candice. “Your child may be expressing that the feeling of anger, frustration, sadness or anxiety he is experiencing is overwhelming. Children of this age need concrete and simple explanations or illustrations. Try to give real feedback in real time and compliment him when his behaviour is appropriate. Also give him the opportunity to speak about emotions and social rules during play.”

ALSO SEE: What to do if your child displays undesirable behaviour

You need to leave work early because your child is ill

What’s happening: You’ve just received the dreaded call that your child is not well so you need to pick her up from playgroup, now!

What you find yourself saying: An overly apologetic and garbled ‘why-I-need-to-leave’ excuse, because you’re feeling torn between your responsibilities. You’re extremely anxious about your child who needs you, while also feeling that your boss thinks you’re a neurotic mom who is completely overreacting. So you apologise profusely, promise to make up the hours you’re taking off and rush out of the office riddled with guilt.

How you should handle it:

“Be brief, specific and factual,” advises Colinda. “Use ‘I’ statements with facts, like ‘I’ve received a call from the playgroup supervisor because my child is vomiting and has a raging temperature. I need to go right now, and will complete the project this evening’.” You’re not begging or asking, but simply stating the facts. Then walk out of the door, without a shred of guilt!

ALSO SEE: Is my child too sick for school?

Lynne Gidish

About Lynne Gidish

Lynne is a freelance journalist and content writer who has worked in the magazine industry for many years. A regular contributor to Living & Loving, her main passions are people and health. She holds the Pfizer Mental Health Journalism award for 2012/2013 and specializes in lifestyle and wellness topics for both the print and digital worlds.