If you come from a mild-mannered and reserved family, culture or social group, this concept may seem out of the blue.
People disagree with your choices to your face?
Family members actually tell you why they think you are wrong?
Those of us who come from highly opinionated families or “in your face cultures” know too well the joys and pains of having others disagree with our decisions. To our faces. And in public no less. Having lived in places where opinions aren’t shared as freely (England, Scotland, and Australia) and being an American myself (where they generally are) I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.
We won’t always receive positive opinions, nor can we expect others to agree with everything we do. However, we can develop healthy attitudes and boundaries that help protect our hearts and our family’s choices.
1. Develop some firm but kind responses
If you find yourself hearing the same things over and over again, why not think of a few responses you can give that are to the point and don’t leave you flustered, wondering how to respond. Questions like, “Are you pregnant again?” or statements like “You shouldn’t hold that baby so much!” leave you at a loss for words the first few times you hear them.
However, having some canned phrases actually helps you keep your cool and remain calm and confident. If we stutter, look shocked, and babble, the opinion giver often continues their negative rant because they feel they are “winning” the non-existent argument.
Here are 12 witty responses to the (sometimes) condescending phrase “Boy, you’ve got your hands full.”
2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
I always try to take the positive and constructive element out of any criticism before I brush the whole thing off. People who are older and wiser may still deliver their opinions in an off putting way, but that doesn’t mean there is no merit to their words. People say, “Stop having kids or you’ll never be able to send them to college.” It’s true, it will be more expensive with more children. Does this mean you shouldn’t have them? Perhaps not. But it is a valid concern.
Take a minute to evaluate people’s words and find a nugget of truth, but don’t let yourself stew. I often will acknowledge their concerns in my response. Others might suggest you are health obsessed, and robbing kids of their childhood by not letting them have a lot of candy. Your takeaway might be that withholding sweets completely may indeed cause them to chug Kool-Aid and eat M&M’s by the handful at the neighbors, but that ultimately, health is a day to day choice for your family.
3. Differentiate between concern and arrogance
One of the best ways to prevent yourself from ruminating on negative comments, words, and opinions is to determine their source. If someone I barely know – or a stranger – has given me their opinion rudely I skip #2. If they don’t know me and my family, I refuse to waste precious minutes, hours or days giving room to insecurity based on their words.
However, those who love me and genuinely care about me share their concerns (whether kindly or not) out of a true desire to help. At least that’s how they see it. And because I know the reason they feel compelled to share their thoughts, I am more likely to respond positively and even have meaningful discussions with them regarding our choices.
4. Decide to brush it off
I have a relatively thick skin, so unless someone is actively trying to hurt me, I am usually able to brush things off fairly quickly. I know that’s not the case for many people, but it’s a good skill to learn. Everyone has an opinion about everything, and if you are swayed to and fro by the opinions of others on a regular basis your own heart and home will be filled with turmoil instead of peace.
Know why you believe what you believe, and don’t feel shy to share your own convictions. Kindly, always, but with confidence. Others are less likely to constantly ridicule your choices if they see that you and your family are happy and content with them.
5. Remain teachable
I had a wise mentor once say to notice if everyone else’s opinion was opposite to your own. It must be said, sometimes we will go against the grain and it be the best choice. However, more often than not, if we are the only ones who think what we’re doing is right, we must be open to the possibility that we are wrong.
It is possible to keep a teachable heart that says “I welcome the wisdom and experience of others” even if it seems different to my own. The best parenting practices and strategies we use in our home have always come from others who were farther along the journey and were willing to offer some timely advice. Timely advice I took on board!
6. Put a boundary
If there are certain people in your life who are adamantly against your choices or parenting strategies, there may come a time to put down a boundary. A boundary is where you draw a line and say, “here and no further.” It doesn’t mean you can’t be kind and polite, but it means you won’t engage in any conversation where a person is able to cross over the boundary. You are safe on your side, they are safe on theirs, but no one crosses to the other.
It may require saying, “I’m not going to discuss this, sorry. I know you care, but let’s talk about something else.” At times, it may simply be walking away. Most healthy people will agree to your boundaries and respect you for them. Those that don’t, well, you definitely don’t want their opinions weighing you down!
Go forth in confidence
So, if you are feeling run down and weary from listening to others’ opinions of your own choices and habits, take heart. Follow the above steps and help guard your heart and your family’s choices so you can continue being the mother and woman you feel called to be.
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