Guest post by Joanne Ketch
A long time ago, as a developing parent educator, I found many new moms uncomfortable and frustrated with unsolicited advice – or inadvertently soliciting advice and then feeling uncomfortable with the discussion that followed.
As a result, I developed a summary lesson on boundaries that eventually become known as “The Bean Dip Response”, “Pass the Bean Dip” or even used as a verb “Bean dip” someone.
I wrote the summary from the perspective of an attachment or homeschooling parent – but the principles are transferrable to any constellation of parenting choices.
The “Bean Dip Response” is best used when you do not wish to defend or engage with a person over a parenting choice. If you are discussing issues with a person and you welcome their feedback, the Bean Dip Response is not needed.
I've found new moms often confuse boundaries and trying to convince someone of the rightness of their choices.
The best thing is to assert your boundary and not try to defend your choice.
Parenting choices should be on a "need to know" basis. Most people don't "need to know". If asked "how is the baby sleeping?" Answer: "Great! Thanks for asking! Want some bean dip?"
"Are you sure you should be picking her up every time she cries?" Answer: “Yes! Thank you! Want some bean dip?"
"When do you plan to wean?" Answer: "When she's ready. Thanks! Want some bean dip?"
Now, with some people you will need to set firm boundaries. The offer of bean dip will not be sufficient to redirect them. They are either not intuitive to gentle redirection or they have emotion tied to the issue and a desire to “go there” more deeply. In such a case, a stronger “Bean Dip” response may be needed. You may be able to anticipate persons for whom this is true, if it's a pattern of intrusion, for example, seen in other circumstances. In these cases, the redirect will need to be backed up with action (like hanging up, leaving the room or even the event, unfriending them). Remember, boundaries are not about forcing another person to comply. You cannot “do” that. Boundaries are about what YOU will do/not do.
Practice kind but firm responses:
"I know you love us and the baby. We are so glad. Our sleeping choices have been researched and made. I will not discuss it again.”
Also, don't confuse setting boundaries with trying to convince someone of the rightness of your choices. It’s a common and understandable desire to present the same information that lead you to your choices. The problem with that in dealing with a person who has boundary issues is that engaging with content invites discussion. New moms often struggle with this. The boundary is that no one else has an inherent right to tell you how to parent. You set boundaries by doing the above. Where new moms often invite problems is by citing authors, studies and sites to "defend" themselves. Each time you do so, you create more time for discussion and rebuttal and send the message that your decisions are up for debate. Don't defend your choices beyond generalities, and then only once or twice. "The doctor is in support of our choices. Want some bean dip?"
Finally, look them in the eye and say simply "I want us to have a good relationship. I want you to enjoy the baby. I'll parent the baby - you enjoy them. Let's not discuss this anymore. If you bring it up, I will leave the room."
Finally, an important corollary to the “Bean Dip Response” is reciprocity. The content of the parenting choices should not dictate the interaction. You may be totally convinced that babies should co-sleep, never be left to “cry it out” and that they should be allowed to follow their own weaning path. But if you post those opinions on Facebook (or communicate them in other ways), you invite (and therefore solicit) feedback and advice. You need to give the “other side” the appropriate respect in the same manner you’d like the respect.