How Can I Tell When to Follow Parenting Advice?
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D. 

Parenting experts share what they’ve learned, offering strategies that go beyond what most parents have been able to think of. Before you follow advice, consider whether it addresses your particular situation, fits with your belief system, and works with what you know about your children, yourself and your shared parenting beliefs with your spouse.

There’s so much advice available, and we often don’t feel it addresses our specific issues, or we aren’t confident that it will help. When it works out, we’re pleased. When it doesn’t, we feel let down and frustrated. We may wonder how these people can call themselves experts when they don’t seem to know what they’re talking about.

 Evaluating the parenting advice can head off your wasted efforts and your disappointment with guidance that doesn’t fit. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Look at the writer’s education and experience. Look for a background in pediatrics, mental health, or education.
  2. Make sure the writer is also a parent – with children older than yours.
  3. See if most of their examples specifically address your child’s age. Advice aimed at a wide range, such as ages two to 12, is less likely to be helpful because children change so much with age. An expert who addresses  preschoolers or elementary school children or teenagers can advise you better.
  4. Ask around to see if your friends or your child’s pediatrician or teachers have found this expert’s advice especially valuable. Find out why.
  5. Notice whether the advice fits with your beliefs. For example, you may not agree with the advice that a child should be rewarded for doing basic tasks such as dressing or tooth-brushing.  If the advice doesn’t make sense to you and the expert’s explanation doesn’t change your mind, then don’t even try to follow the advice -- unless you have already discovered that your parenting approach is extreme in many ways compared to those of most families in your community and at your child’s school. That means you may need to talk to your pediatrician or a mental-health professional about your parenting goals and methods so you don’t go so far that your approach will come back to bite you.
  6. You can be more prepared to evaluate parenting advice if you put some time and thought into understanding your child’s individuality. A wonderful way to do that is to start writing down the many things you know about him and keep adding to the list. Ask your spouse to do the same, and then talk about who your child is at this time in his life. Think about his personality, sense of humor, activity level, ability to focus, outgoingness, emotionality, the kinds of things he likes to learn, the extent of his willfulness, etc. This conversation naturally leads to discussing areas you feel he may need some help with and helps you to be better observers of your child. Then you can start generating your own ideas for problem-solving in regard to your child’s issues.

As you strengthen these parenting skills, you’ll be able to see what areas you need parenting advice in and judge the value of the parenting advice you’re hearing, rather than being at the mercy of the expert. This type of approach between you and your spouse makes you more of a parenting team.

Most advice, however, will not work if you and your spouse have child rearing beliefs very different from each other or from the experts. Sometimes parents with continuing major parenting disagreements need professional counseling.

Something else to remember: Since most parenting advice is meant to be helpful for typical kids and parents, you may find it doesn’t apply if your child is exceptionally strong-willed, angry, distractible, non-communicative, very reserved and/or worried by nature, or otherwise unusual among his peers. In that case, you should seek out advice focusing on children like yours.


Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and child development for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,  I Don't Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and I'm Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for preschoolers and a manual for parents. Her new series is for elementary school childen and their parents. The first book is Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me? (2015). For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to

Perfecting Parenting Press 2015