Motherhood is filled with an overwhelming amount of joy, but let’s be honest—it also comes with
its share of judgment and unsolicited advice. You’re already juggling so many responsibilities,
from late-night feedings to endless laundry piles. The last thing you need is for someone to
question your parenting choices. Yet, it happens. Family members, friends, and even complete
strangers feel the need to critique your decisions, making you second-guess yourself.
As a therapist, I’ve seen firsthand the emotional toll this judgment takes on mothers. You start to
feel like you’re losing control, which just adds another layer of stress to an already demanding
role. But here’s the thing: You don’t have to let others’ opinions dictate your peace of mind.
That’s why learning to respond effectively to critiques is so crucial. When you know how to
navigate through the criticism—using “I” statements, assertive communication, and boundary
setting—you regain a sense of control and empowerment in your role as a mom. In this guide,
you’ll find practical advice and strategies for dealing with the unsolicited opinions and judgments
that inevitably come your way. So, let’s dive in and take back your confidence in parenting.
The Importance of “I” Statements in Responding to
Moving from the whirlwind of emotions to action, one of the first tools you can equip yourself
with is the use of “I” statements. If you’re feeling cornered or defensive when people critique
your parenting, this simple shift in communication can make a world of difference.
What Are “I” Statements and Why Do They Matter?
“I” statements are sentences that focus on your own feelings, thoughts, or beliefs, rather than
pointing the finger at the other person. The beauty of “I” statements is that they encourage a
two-way conversation, promoting clear, non-defensive communication. Instead of saying,
“You’re wrong,” you could say, “I feel uncomfortable with your observation about my parenting
choices.” Why is this important? Well, when you express yourself clearly and without aggression, you’re
more likely to be heard. This opens the door to more meaningful dialogue and decreases the
likelihood of a hostile or unproductive confrontation.
Crafting Your “I” Statements
Creating effective “I” statements isn’t hard, but it does take a bit of practice. The key is to focus
on three main components: your feelings, the specific behavior you’re commenting on, and the
impact it has on you. Here’s a simple formula to help you out: “I feel [your feeling] when [the specific behavior occurs] because [how it affects you].”
For example, if someone criticizes your decision to breastfeed in public, you might say:
“I feel judged when you comment on my choice to breastfeed in public because it undermines
my confidence as a mother.” Notice how the statement focuses on your feelings and experiences, not the other person’s judgments or beliefs. This makes it less confrontational and more conducive to a constructive
In summary, “I” statements are an indispensable tool in your communication arsenal as a mom.
They help you articulate your feelings in a way that is likely to foster understanding rather than
defensiveness, paving the way for healthier interactions with those who may critique your
Now that you understand the value of “I” statements, the next step is to learn about assertive
communication, another vital skill that can empower you as a mom facing criticism. But that’s a
topic for another section.
The Power of Assertive Communication in Handling
Now that we’ve covered the ground rules of using “I” statements, let’s dive into another crucial
element of effective communication—assertiveness. Mastering this skill not only empowers you
to handle critiques of your parenting, but it also fosters healthier relationships with those around
What is Assertive Communication?
Assertive communication is a balanced way of expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs
clearly and directly, without violating the rights of others. It lies somewhere in between passive
and aggressive communication styles. The aim is to stand up for yourself, express your needs
and wants, all while respecting the perspectives of others.
When it comes to parenting, assertive communication is invaluable. Whether you’re dealing with
a well-meaning grandparent who questions your sleep-training methods, or a stranger who
raises an eyebrow at your parenting choices, being assertive gives you the confidence to handle
these situations effectively.
How to Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive
There’s a fine line between being assertive and tipping over into aggression. The key
differences lie in your tone, choice of words, and respect for the other person’s viewpoint.
Fine-Tuning Tone and Word Choice: Being assertive means expressing your viewpoint clearly
but not forcefully. Your tone should be calm, and your words should be respectful. Instead of
saying, “I can’t believe you would say something like that,” you could say, “I understand where
you’re coming from, but I disagree for these reasons.”
Balancing Your Needs with Respect for Others: Assertive communication is about finding the
middle ground between your needs and the other person’s. It’s not about winning an argument;
it’s about coming to a mutual understanding. When you maintain this balance, even your critics
are more likely to respect your decisions.
For instance, if a family member is persistent about their views on baby-led weaning, you might assertively say: “I appreciate your concern, but we’ve researched and consulted our pediatrician about baby-led weaning, and we’re comfortable with our choice.” Notice how the statement acknowledges the other person’s concern but firmly establishes your position.
In the end, the art of assertive communication is an empowering skill that every mom should
have in her toolkit. It enables you to face critiques head-on without losing your composure or
compromising your values. Next, we’ll explore how to set boundaries, which is the final piece of
this puzzle in maintaining control and peace of mind when faced with parenting critiques.
Setting Boundaries with Those Who Criticize: Your
Blueprint for Emotional Well-being
We’ve navigated the waters of “I” statements and assertive communication; now it’s time to
fortify your emotional boundaries. Setting clear boundaries is like building a protective fence
around your emotional well-being—especially crucial when you’re in the challenging role of
motherhood and facing external critiques.
Why Boundaries are Essential
Boundaries serve as emotional and psychological safeguards that define what you are
comfortable with and what you are not. They give you the space to be yourself and to parent the
way you see fit without being overly influenced by external opinions. Setting effective
boundaries brings several benefits:
Emotional Safety: Having boundaries minimizes emotional stress and conflict, making
conversations less charged and more productive.
Enhanced Self-Esteem: When you stand your ground, you send yourself the message that
your feelings and thoughts are valid, thereby boosting your self-esteem.
Increased Control: Boundaries give you the reins to steer conversations and relationships in a
direction you’re comfortable with.
How to Set Boundaries Effectively
Setting boundaries might sound easy on paper, but the actual process can be nuanced. Here
are some practical steps to guide you:
Clearly Identify Your Limits: Know what you can tolerate and what you can’t. This applies to
physical space, emotional investment, and time.
Communicate Clearly: Use “I” statements and assertive communication to make your
boundaries known. For example, “I feel overwhelmed when you give unsolicited advice. I need
space to make my own parenting choices.”
Be Consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to boundaries. Sending mixed signals can
weaken your stance.
Know When to Be Flexible and When to Stand Firm: Some boundaries are rigid and some
are flexible. The art lies in knowing which ones to bend based on the situation and the
For instance, you might be flexible with your mom sharing her thoughts on child-rearing but
firmer with a neighbor or casual acquaintance. The point is to evaluate the emotional costs and
benefits in each scenario.
Remember, it’s not selfish to set boundaries; it’s self-care. Just as you’d protect your child from
harm, it’s crucial to protect your emotional well-being by setting clear boundaries with those who
criticize your parenting.
Bringing It All Together: Handling Real-Life Scenarios
You’ve got the toolkit—complete with “I” statements, assertive communication, and setting
boundaries. Now it’s time to apply these tools to real-life scenarios. Dealing with criticism in the
real world can be a whole different ballgame depending on who the critique is coming from.
Let’s break it down into two broad categories: family members and people outside your inner
Dealing with Family Members
Critiques from family can be emotionally charged due to the long-standing relationships and
mutual emotional investment. Here are some tips for handling these delicate situations:
Be Honest but Tactful: It’s okay to assert your feelings, but try to do so in a non-confrontational
Time it Right: Address the issue when neither party is angry or stressed, as emotions can
Reiterate Your Appreciation: Acknowledge their concern or good intentions before stating your
boundary. For example, “I appreciate your perspective, but I need you to trust my parenting choices.”
Navigating Critiques from Strangers or Acquaintances
Interactions with those outside your inner circle may not carry the same emotional weight, but
they can still be challenging. Here are some strategies:
Don’t Feel Obligated to Respond: Sometimes, silence is the most powerful response.
Be Polite but Firm: A simple “Thank you for your input, but we’re happy with our approach” can
Decide What’s Worth Your Time: Not all battles are worth fighting. Reserve your energy for
conflicts that genuinely matter to you.
Whether you’re facing criticism from family or unsolicited advice from strangers, it’s essential to
remember that you are the mother, and you know what’s best for your child. The techniques
discussed here are not just communication styles; they’re instruments of empowerment, letting
you reclaim your confidence and peace of mind as a mom.
Motherhood is an incredible journey, but it’s also a path that opens you up to critiques from all
directions. Armed with the skills we’ve covered—such as the use of “I” statements for clear,
non-defensive communication; assertive communication for balanced and respectful dialogue;
and the setting of effective boundaries—you’re well-equipped to navigate this tricky landscape.
These tools not only help you handle the criticisms but also empower you to parent from a place
of confidence and peace of mind.
If you find that the emotional toll of parenting is weighing you down, you’re not alone. And, most
importantly, help is available. I specialize in providing therapy for a range of motherhood-related
challenges such as postpartum depression, anxiety, birth trauma, and more. My practice,
Managing Motherhood, offers tailored therapeutic services in Maryland, Virginia, and
Washington, DC. If you’re outside these areas, you can still benefit from specialized parent
coaching, which can be a lifeline when you’re navigating the complexities of motherhood.
You don’t have to go through this alone. Take the first step in reclaiming your emotional
well-being and peace of mind today. I invite you to schedule a free 15-minute consultation to
discuss how we can best support you in your motherhood journey. Life may not come with a
manual, but it does come with a community, and Managing Motherhood is here to be a
supportive part of yours.