The picture represents how I feel about unsolicited or absolute advice: angry and annoyed. I often ignore advice, shake my head in agreement, and move on my way. I wasn't always that way, and I was reminded of the havoc unsolicited advice can reap on a family when reading a message board this week.

A first-time mom was having trouble with her 10 month daughter sleeping. Until now, she had been rocking her baby to sleep (which really wasn't an issue for her). But, after much criticism and absolute advice, she was trying her had at letting her "cry it out". After a week, it was still going horribly. The baby was still crying for over an hour each night. The mom sat there, and bawled listening to the uncontrollable sobs of her child. After the baby passed out from shear exhaustion, she was up once a couple hours later, and the process was repeated.

Mother, father, and child were simply miserable. It wasn't working for them, wasn't their style, wasn't their desire. They were simply listening to those who suggested that they were creating "monster" by rocking their child to sleep. Please.

My "advice" to her. In parenting, there are no right or wrong answers. Our job as parents is to provide security, a healthy environment, an education, self-awareness and discipline. If we do this, we are doing our job. How we go about doing it is not important, as long as we are doing it and succeeding. If you try to do things the way others tell you to, but is in a manner in which you are not comfortable, it will never work for you. Listen to suggestions, take from it ideas that you are comfortable with, and ignore the absolutes. Nothing in life is absolute anyway.

So, if you are a mother who believes that letting your baby cry until it passes out from exhaustion is the only way teach a child to sleep, keep it to yourself. If you are a mother who thinks that "wearing" your child until the age of five is the only way to promote security and reliance, wonderful. Do that in your own life, but don't suggest that others are unloving parents for doing otherwise. These absolute suggestions are causing more stress and havoc in the lives of overwhelmed parents (particularly first-time parents).

Instead, offer an ear and some actual help. And if you find yourself asked for or wanting to give advice, avoid speaking in absolutes and using scare tactics (i.e. you are going to raise a spoiled brat if you rock your child to sleep). The scare tactics and absolutes extreme, and are simply a lie. Alternately, give suggestions like, "Try this and see if it works for you...." or keep your mouth shut. It is much more helpful, causes less stress, and promotes good will.

And if you are a mother on the receiving end of such absolute advice, simply nod your head in agreement, and do it your own way.