August 7, 2018
Artist and business mogul Jennifer Lopez sat down for an interview last week and was asked what advice she’d give to first-time mother and music video costar Cardi B. Hip-hop superstar Cardi trended on social media earlier this year by following her playful denial of pregnancy rumors with a fashionable confirmation that she was expecting on Saturday Night Live. Lopez, mother of 10-year old twins, had this to say:
“My advice to anybody, as a mom, is to not give advice to new moms. Because nobody likes it. When I was pregnant, everyone was like ‘this’ and ‘that’ – please just stop telling me all these things! I kind of just want to figure it out on my own. I know I’m not going to be perfect but let me just do my [thing].”
Parenting Knowledge Gap
Although unsolicited advice to new and veteran parents – especially mothers – shows up frequently in online, onscreen and on-the-street conversations, the phenomenon is not really studied. According to the nonprofit Child Trends, research rarely examines what parents know, and want to know, about parenting and child development. The lack of knowledge is surprising given the strong evidence that parents with more knowledge of child development engage in higher-quality parent-child interactions, use more effective parenting strategies and participate in more developmentally supportive activities with their children.
To begin addressing the gap, Child Trends conducted a study. You can view the summary and the findings here.
Is J Lo wrong?
If you go by the anecdotal evidence of the parents in your life, well-intended but unwelcome feedback from strangers and loved ones alike is clearly an issue people face. Moreover, one short-term, small-scale study found that 80% of millennial moms say they’ve been judged or shamed by someone they know. Despite these cringe-worthy experiences, Child Trends’ data found that parents generally do want advice (54-79% of parents), especially from those familiar with their child and individual circumstances (63%). Although parents feel informed, they do have many questions and know that knowledge is necessary but not an end-all in the every-day practice of parenting.
When it comes to the age-old art of parenting, everyone’s a critic. Despite the skills and expertise of our staff, we partner with parents on equal footing. We understand that each has an innate wisdom about their own child. FamilyWise is here to nurture the development of that wisdom into a safe and successful bond. According to the data, parents themselves sense this: 57% of parents use a “gut” instinct when weighing conflicting advice they receive.
“Advice is a really individual thing,” says Ann Gaasch, FamilyWise’s Executive Director. “Some people love getting advice, but others may just find it confusing or conflicting. I recommend asking what someone needs. Are they asking for advice? Do they just want someone to listen? Are there specific things we can do to support them? In my 20-some years in the field, I’ve never met a parent that doesn’t love their child. Everyone wants to be a good caregiver.”
If you want to offer some advice to a parent, it may be best to think twice. However, at the end of the day, we do find Lopez’s final piece of advice to be universal: support mothers and parents.
“Everyone has so much advice for you… I would not give her any advice. I’d just see if she needs anything. ‘Do you need water?’ Like, when we were doing the video and she was preggies like that, I was just like ‘Are you good? Do you want to sit down?’ That’s what they need. They need a little pampering. Take care of them. No advice.”
You can view the full clip and resources on unwanted parenting advice below.