The Case Against Parenting Advice

Mother with young son at the beach.
Back in the day when I believed I was a great parent.

I used to be big on giving parenting advice. I’d talk to newer parents on the pool deck and give them advice about swim parenting. I had after all learned from great parents with older swimmers. Lots of advice gets handed out in the stands — like what to feed your kids between prelims and finals and how to start the college recruiting process.

My advice around the pool deck morphed into a weekly column of sports parenting advice. You can read my five years of articles here. But then the COVID year hit and I no longer believe I have anything valuable to share. OR the right to give advice.

My daughter had a very tough year with being laid off and struggling with anxiety and depression while sheltering in isolation. I looked on without knowing how to help. For a month or two she didn’t want to talk to me and I’d learn how she was doing from my husband or my son. It was beyond hard. When that passed and she texted me, I was so grateful. But, I learned from her lots of things that I’d done as a parent that was awful and wrong. I think I overlooked signs of her anxiety and depression for years. Why on earth would anyone want to take advice from me? Maybe I can share what not to do. If anyone wants to listen.

This hard, hard year makes me understand that most parents don’t want to hear advice from anyone. I know I never liked unsolicited advice from well-meaning parents. We’re all winging it and it’s a job that doesn’t necessarily get easier as our kids get older. We’re trying to do the best we can.

Mother with baby girl.
Me and my baby girl.

What are your thoughts about parenting advice?

12 thoughts on “The Case Against Parenting Advice

  1. 💜 Parent Parents EveryOne; after Advising My Mom of HER!!! Mental Health Issues with The Experience of Dealing with Mine SHE!!! is NOW!!! NOT!!! “Talking To Me”…a Maternal Tantrum I Guess; just Proving My Point about HER!!! Denial regarding HER!!!MMHI (Multiple Mental Health Issues)…to be fair; it’s Crystal Clear Clarity that No Mom wants To Be Seen as a ‘Bad Mother’…yet There is No Such Thing; just Loving “Parenting” to The Best of Current Mental Health State, ‘Mommy Dearest’, ‘Carrie’ et al ~ Movies about Mom


  2. If we were able to get that elusive manual for “Perfect Childrearing” we would all have been perfect parents. I missed mine and had to wing it like most of the new parents. You did good if your kids still talk to you as adults. If they love you and remember your birthday you are a winner!

  3. What an honest and beautiful blog post. All parents are just trying to figure it out. No one has an instruction manual. I too thought I had all the answers at one time, but I don’t. I have a daughter who has anxiety and depression so I feel this post deeply. Thank you for writing it.

      • And that’s exactly what happened to me too. It’s humbling isn’t it?

        Thank you so much for sharing this. It takes so much bravery to be honest on public forum. It truly does. But by you sharing this blog post, you will have helped someone else who is also doubting themselves. 💜

  4. I don’t want it. I might write my experiences here, but I don’t really think of it as advice. If asked, I will give a guarded opinion. The only thing I do tell people is…1) it goes fast 2) it’s your child not your friend and there is a difference and 3) if you laugh at something they do at 2, make sure it will still be funny at 5.

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