Are You a Good Mother?

We all know those people, the Parenting Peanut Gallery, strangers and friends who are "experts" in parenting, and as such quick to give a meddlesome opinion, a disapproving eye, or an outright countermand.

While these digs don't leave visible scarring, they can undercut your natural mothering instincts and leave you plain old fighting mad. "There is no shortage of people ready to pick apart your parenting skills," says Michele Borba, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know. "It can be hurtful, but when you let them shake your confidence in who you are as a mom, that's when the real damage is done."

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The secret to being a great mother is believing in yourself. And one of the best ways to do that is to silence that Parenting Peanut Gallery, once and for all. Here's how:

Stand up for yourself.
Address criticism as soon as it happens, so you don't hold in your anger and let it fester. "We women spend a lot of time questioning whether something should or shouldn't make us angry instead of confronting our true feelings," says Borba. "Don't be rude, but let a criticizer know they've crossed a line." Not so quick with a comeback? Bria Simpson, author of The Balanced Mom: Raising Your Kids Without Losing Yourself, suggests using this easy script: "I know you have different ideas about parenting. I respect yours and I need you to respect mine."

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Use ammo from the experts.
Your instincts are your best handbook to mothering. But it doesn't hurt to arm yourself with informed guidance. Read a book or two - but not 20. Consult your pediatrician. Talk to friends whose parenting styles you admire. And when you really want to get the quibblers off your back, never underestimate the power of these three words: "My pediatrician says...." With that preface you get instant cred, even if you say that your baby is allergic to mauve. Seriously.

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Get your guy on your side.

"Spousal sabotage is a big complaint from moms - who often play 'bad cop' by default when dads just want to have fun," says Simpson. Avoid chastising your partner in front of the kids in the heat of the moment. "That kind of squabbling undermines both parents' authority and teaches kids to play you against each other." Instead, pull your guy aside and quietly explain that his actions undercut your efforts. Then suggest alternatives to his rowdy behavior, such as reading a book with the children or participating in what you're doing so he's not sabotaging you. Later, follow up with him - make sure you're still on the same page about house rules and remind him how crucial it is that you maintain a united parenting front.

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Stay true to you.
All mommy, all the time isn't good for your kids, and it isn't good for you either. To keep your own inner voice from being drowned out by the cacophony from underminers, you have to stay connected to the woman you were before you became a mom. Taking just 15 minutes a day for yourself for some quiet reflection will help you hone and trust your instincts. "You're much less affected by what others say if you trust your own gut," says Simpson. And while you'll never be totally free of folks who carp about your parenting choices, the only critic who really matters is the one you tuck in at night.

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Have you had people pick on your parenting? How did you handle it?

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.