Why You Should Stop Asking for Parenting Advice on Facebook

Asking for advice online is an exercise in futility

Photo: Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Image

Have you ever stood in a room full of strangers, hopped on a stage, and clapped for attention?

“Hi everyone. Can I have your attention please?” Tap, tap, tap… Is this mic on?

Have you ever asked for advice from hundreds of busybodies who know nothing about you but come pouring into the same room anyway?

“Hi!…*wave*… umm… I don’t know any of you… and… well… this is embarrassing. Listen, I need advice. My teenager spends hours on his phone. I’ve tried everything and nothing is working so can you tell me how to curb my kid’s phone addiction?”

Would you then welcome the surge of strangers who race for the stage, crawling over each other to wave their most valuable piece of advice in front of your face until your eyeballs go cross-eyed?

Advice-giver number one: “Me, pick me! I know exactly what to do. I took away my two-year-old’s favorite toy today and this is how I did it.”

Advice-giver number two: “I don’t have kids but if I were you, I would throw the phone away and elect officials who ban electronic devices altogether because the EMF frequencies contribute to global warming and destroy our planet. Just saying.”

Advice-giver number three: “My husband handles all the discipline in our house, so I’m pretty sure he would take the phone, smash it with a hammer, and spread the shattered pieces in my son’s bed. My son would then be forced to sleep on his broken phone, with his bedroom lights on and a dripping faucet as background noise, for at least nine days if he abused his phone privileges. Hope this helps!”

Wait. What?

You wouldn’t do that?

I know. Asking hundreds of strangers for parenting advice about topics on which they aren’t well-equipped to dispense advice sounds awful.

But that’s what parents do on Facebook. Every day.

And here’s why it should stop.

1. We don’t know you

The first reason you should stop asking for parenting advice on Facebook is that most people don’t know you, your situation, or even the backstory to your question.

Generic questions (like how to handle a kid’s phone addiction or a disrespectful teenager) are ripe for meaningless input. People misconstrue the question because they don’t know what you’ve already tried — or if you’ve tried anything at all. Without a solid, lengthy intro or detailed description, you encourage the public to dispense sweeping generalizations that rarely apply.

For example, my son is doing a stint in juvenile detention for six months. It took three years of school suspensions, drug use, probation violations, incorrigibility, and other general non-compliance to get there.

If I asked random people in Facebook groups about how to handle my teenage son’s blatant disrespect, could anyone provide a dependable, logical answer without knowing about the three years leading up to his detention?

Nope.

When I want to know how to handle my son’s incorrigible behavior, I don’t seek advice from strangers who don’t know that my husband died, that I’m a solo parent, or that my son self-medicates to deal with the trauma of losing his dad.

It would take a lot more than a few Facebook posts to get a full picture of what’s going on behind closed doors in my house.

So I pay a skilled therapist for professional advice instead. We spend our time digging into the history and circumstances surrounding my troubling situations to come up with responsive, realistic plans. This digging takes weeks, months, and sometimes years. And I won’t solicit advice from strangers on topics that have taken me years to uncover in therapy.

Unless you’re prepared to unload detailed, personal, and private information, strangers cannot wax philosophical on your life decisions because we don’t know you.

You should stop asking for parenting advice on Facebook because seeking empathy from strangers is an exercise in futility.

2. The morality police don’t walk in your shoes

Once, a concerned parent in my circle asked about how to track her teenage daughter’s social media accounts because of mean-girl bullies. One of the half-wit responses crushed me: “I don’t spy on my kids because I feel that keeping the lines of communication open works best.”

Clearly, the parent of the bullied teen needed help identifying how to circumvent the cruel social media element surrounding her problem. She did not need advice about how to communicate with her daughter. But other people chimed in and shamed the poster by agreeing that spying is wrong. The morality police were on full Facebook display.

I wanted to respond and help this poor mom but I wouldn’t know how to answer her question. Even though I was a teenage girl many moons ago, my current life experience doesn’t include raising teenage girls in today’s social media world.

I don’t walk in her shoes.

And you don’t walk in mine.

3. Seeking empathy from strangers is a lesson in futility

I stopped asking for parenting advice on Facebook because if your son wasn’t expelled from school for repeated Student Code of Conduct infractions or hasn’t worn a tether because he violated probation more than once, you can’t help me.

Whenever I sought support about managing a disrespectful attitude, the advice included useless gems like, “I’d beat his ass,” or, “I’d never put up with that kind of behavior.” You see, moms and dads are peppered with these replies to the modern parent’s plight all the time. Plenty of advice-givers on Facebook still recommend corporal punishment as if it’s the dark ages, or they swear they’d never put up with something they’ve never faced before.

One significant lesson I’ve learned on my parenting journey is to never say never.

Little treasures like “just keep the lines of communication open,” or, “I would never allow my child to speak to me that way,” are code for, “I have no flipping idea what to do so I’ll offer this useless nugget instead.”

You should stop asking for parenting advice on Facebook because seeking empathy from strangers is an exercise in futility. Most people aren’t that interested in your dilemma. They are more interested in issuing hollow sentiments that sound profound but aren’t.

One significant lesson I’ve learned on my parenting journey is to never say never.

I don’t ask strangers for parenting advice anymore because unless you’ve lived with a non-compliant teenager, you don’t understand what it’s like.

I schedule therapy appointments on Thursdays instead.

4. Blissfully ignorant parents can’t relate

One crucial reason you should stop asking for parenting advice on Facebook is that too many blissfully ignorant parents hang out there. These unsuspecting mortals skip about their days, blind to the cold, dark truth that death, divorce, or abandonment can tear a family apart.

I’m a widow. If you’re not a widow raising teenage boys without their father, I don’t want your advice. In fact, I’m jealous of the oblivious creatures whose living husbands breathe life into their days instead of sucking the oxygen out of every room like the dead ones do. They’ll never know how difficult it is to enforce rules with no backup.

The blissfully ignorant parents live in a world of bunnies and rainbows where their kids belong to the National Honor Society, never vape, and save themselves for marriage. These are the same parents whose trusty “keep the lines of communication open” because doing so will “get your kids to be more open and tell you things in the long run” euphemisms make me want to gag.

Gah! If only it were so simple. Can you even imagine?

I’ve stopped asking for parenting advice from people who don’t know what a bong is or who’ve never found one stashed beneath the guest room bed. I know a reality that these parents don’t: Sometimes teenagers are assholes.

In the blissfully ignorant parent’s world, their teenager never screams, “You have no idea how much I hate you.” They live in a parallel universe where no one is sad, angry, or impolite. They’re too busy posting filtered family photos, displaying their kid’s straight-A report cards, and sprinkling sappy sentiments like fairy dust.

“When you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine!”

Why would I ask for parenting advice from someone who has never found the police at their door at 11:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, doesn’t know what a VPN is, or whose kid hasn’t confessed to his therapist he doesn’t care about your feelings?

Why would you?

If any of this sounds overly melodramatic, you might be one of the blissfully ignorant souls. God bless you.

5. Some parents don’t want to do the hard work

When someone in a Facebook group asks a question like, “Should I let my 16-year-old hang out in his bedroom with his girlfriend?” they’re searching for public validation to avoid the hard work of parenting.

The hard work is saying no. The hard work is setting boundaries, and establishing rules and respect in your house. It doesn’t matter if his bedroom is where the TV or Xbox is. Every adult on the planet knows what happens in bedrooms and on beds.

Is this where a 16-year-old boy and his girlfriend ought to be “hanging out?” I think not. But if enough people say yes to the question, well then, who is the advice-seeker to disagree? I mean, everyone’s doing it!

As long as they get the advice and answers they wanted in the first place, they “like” your replies and respond with, “That’s what I thought!” They include many smiley-faced, heart-emoji-ed thank-you’s.

But the dissenters? They are the ones who say, “Hell, no!” and explain that it’s a respect issue. They believe that what matters most is for teenagers to learn respect at home by following the rules even when they don’t agree with the logic. But the dissenters don’t get any likes or replies.

Do you know what the dissenters get? Crickets.

Another parent asked for advice about her teenage son’s multiple missed curfews. He came home late several nights in a row and she wondered what she should do about it.

One solid reply was to call the police. The police are more than willing to help keep kids off the streets at hours when nothing good comes from being on the streets. Why not scare the bejesus out of the teenager who thought he could get away with ignoring rules and being disrespectful? Send an officer out to deliver a direct message that his behavior is unacceptable.

Well, the original poster and several others thought that was too severe for several missed curfews — likely because they didn’t want to do the hard work of parenting.

So what’s the alternative? The most popular answers (as evidenced by thumbs ups and likes) were to “keep the lines of communication open,” and “tell him how much it hurts your feelings when he misses curfew.”

Good grief.

In other words, “I have no flipping idea what to do so I’ll offer another useless nugget instead.”

Go make an appointment with your therapist instead.

6. We’re all figuring it out as we go along

The final reason you should stop asking for parenting advice on Facebook is that no one knows what they’re doing anyway. As soon as parents figure out how to do something, the rules change or our kids change.

I’m all for seeking advice from close friends, trusted advisors, or professional therapists. Parents need sounding boards to offload some of the more demanding and demoralizing aspects of parenthood.

But asking for parenting advice from strangers on the Internet won’t accomplish your goal. Instead, you open yourself up to advice from someone who’s taking care of toddlers, not teenagers. Or someone whose corporal punishment ideas are straight out of the 1950s. Or worse yet, someone who isn’t prepared to do the hard work of parenting.

Please save your sanity and stop asking for parenting advice on Facebook.

Go make an appointment with your therapist instead.

A widow on a quest to make widowhood suck a little less. Offering practical tips and resources for widows managing grief and loss at www.widow411.com.

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