When did we become so afraid to give advice? 58



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As many of you may be, my husband and I are on an extended visit with our son and his wife, and their three children. I’ve heard the adage about house guests being like raw fish, so I’m trying my best to stay out of the way, but something happened the other day that made me think.

My son, suffering a short fuse, was shouting at the children, which made them generally uncooperative, and I could see my daughter-in-law would probably have snapped at him if I hadn’t been around.

Later, once the kids had been sent to bed in tears and we were able to find a quiet moment, it was on the tip of my tongue to say something about how shouting rarely gets you anywhere, even if it makes you feel better at the time.

But I didn’t. I bit my tongue and found a different conversational thread.

The next day, over coffee with my daughter-in-law, she mentioned the shouting and I told her I had considered saying something to my son. She surprised me by saying, “Oh I wish you had,” as tears welled in her eyes. “I’ve tried but he doesn’t listen,” she said.

When did I become afraid to give my son advice? There once was a time when I was the woman who could answer any question – be it the 12-times-table or the best ingredients for a mud pie. I could explain who God was and the best way to get your sister to give you her favourite toy.

But these days, I wouldn’t dare. No one wants to be accused of meddling, do they?

As an young parent, I often turned to my mother for advice, and goodness knows my mother-in-law wasn’t shy about offering it! And while it may have irked me sometimes (okay, a lot), I generally took the advice on board, if not to heart, based on the fact she had been around the block a few times more than me and may have had a better understanding of the potholes.

I remember asking my father whether I should marry my husband. He said, “You’d be a fool not to, and I didn’t raise a fool.”

I remember asking my mother for all kinds of advice when I was learning to make a home, and then to juggle work and family. In this she was no expert, but she still had advice to share.

It’s often noted that, somewhere along the way, western society became closed off and insulated. Many families operate as separate entities, cut off from their neighbours, extended family and wider communities. Is this fear of giving advice symptomatic of this cultural shift?

Obviously one can’t go around doling out pearls of wisdom to this generation that seems to know it all already but, after the incident with my son and daughter-in-law, I might think twice about holding back.

Do you give advice to the younger generation or do you keep your mouth shut? Do you wish things were different?

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  1. I know how she feels have the same with my son. For some reason he doesn’t like me interfering in ” his family” business. He has a strange concept of what family is. Maybe it’s something to do with his own insecurities about himself.

  2. I only give advice when I am asked for it, my son is NOT a child, he is an adult and it is up to him to decide what path in life he wants to follow. I didn’t like my mother interfering and I refuse to do it with my son

    3 REPLY
    • I feel the same way. My mil meddled all the time and I resented it!. So I made up my mind that I would never do the same.

    • My mil was always criticising me. I dreaded her (overlong) visits. I decided that I would treat my daughter in law with respect and over advice only when it was sought. She is a lovely girl and I am fond of her so it has been easy to stick to my decision.

  3. I have a daughter who doesn’t talk to us, because her husband tells her to only speak to his family. He has OCD.

    3 REPLY
    • That is sad Ali and I have seen it happen so often. Hopefully your daughter will see the light sooner rather than later.

    • Barb it all blew up last Christmas. He accused us of saying he was abusing her. We didn’t say that. We asked her (on her own) how she got a scar on her face.

  4. That incident definitely called for advice or even an intervention. Do not ever hold back! It is our God given right as a parent to fish out advice to our own children regardless of their age, especially when they need to pull their head in! I ignore the ‘spin doctors’ they are too text book or politically correct and even non practical , go by your gut instinct. Most parents of grown ups fear their children or do not want to be unpopular, better to say what needs to be said in a calm not patronising way with genuine care and love, better than regretting not having said anything at all .

    4 REPLY
    • Well put Lisa the spin doctors and PC brigade really have a lot to answer for and the worst part is we just let these people spin their rubbish and nothing is said. Sad really

    • Thanks Laurie, as you are well aware of how the spin doctors and PC brigade like the sound of their own voice or flogging a book, it robs us of our rights and application of logical thinking and good old fashioned common sense. When we grow Ann’s flourish in a family, if nuclear or a big extended one, we can share knowledge with trust and respect and love, that should be the ideal mantra of families in our culture.

    • Agree with you Lisa. Sometimes things have to be said, depending on the circumstances. Funny though how when kids are in trouble they want your advice and financial help, then when they do something wrong and you advise them, it’s classed as interference. As for these councillors, they always blame the parents (especially the mother); makes their job much easier!

    • Spot on Christa, it’s the family that have a sound interaction with one another has substance of the family, not only in our DNa but most importantly in character as the foundation of family. I work hard to preserve the characteristic of my family culture, I can’t be aloof, and I see the rewards and that’s a legacy in itself.

  5. I’m certainly not scared of my 3 children however I do respect the fact that life in general has changed so much these days that they need their space and I respect that, however perhaps in a situation such as this I would wait for a private moment when my son and I were alone then have a gentle word with him. Hopefully it would be received in good faith and not take offence.

  6. There are ways and means to get the message across as a concerned parent. We become wiser as we age. My Mum got her message across delicately..not always accepted but often I needed her loving guidance. Timing is important.

  7. I had a parent who interfered and one parent who stayed out of things. I was reduced to someone who could not make decisions and put my husbands ideas 2nd. My m-in-law was wonderful stayed out of things and I felt supported by her. I was almost following in my fa footsteps with my daughter. It was my ego that got in the way. In her teens we made a decision that I would say what I needed to say, put it on the table, she could pick it up or leave it. The good thing was that I would never say “I told you so” or for her to say “why didn’t you tell me”. Although she is in a long and stable relationship I stay out and am supportive like my m-in-law. I also have an analogy that when I was raising my children we were together under a spotlight like “Mr Bean” . When the children move on into their own rel’ship they go under the spot light and parents move out into the “shadows” we are now the “prompters” . There if they need us. They have to have their own lives and decision making as well as consequences. The world is a different place as it was in “my day” different to my parents. Issues of violence ie shouting which could be termed verbal abuse, I would step into the light and tell the adult parents that this is not the way to go. Once said I would step back into the shadow.

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