By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/LEPISODE 91


As parents, we’ve all experienced unsolicited advice or passive aggressive remarks from friends and family about our parenting style or our child’s behavior. In the moment, we might freeze, blurt out whatever comes to mind, but then come up with an absolute zinger…the next day.

We all know how much it can help to have a few phrases locked and loaded. So in this episode, I’ll provide a variety of polite, informative, and sassy responses you can have in your back pocket for common comments like “My parents would never let me get away with that” or “Why don’t you just try XYZ intervention?” You’ll learn different ways to shut down shaming, set boundaries, and educate others without losing your cool.

Whether you need neutral ways to handle helicopter relatives or spicy one-liners to use on particularly judgmental family members, this episode has the perfect comebacks to empower you to engage effectively while still keeping the peace.

This episode pairs well with episode 31, which is where I give you “the big picture” talk about how to handle judgmental loved ones who make comments or don’t respect your boundaries when it comes to your parenting style around your neurodivergent kid. I also include a script on how to set specific boundaries- so check that one out after this.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

Be prepared

Many of us have that aunt, grandparent, college friend, sister-in-law. You know the one. They just can’t keep their unhelpful comments to themselves and have no idea how their passive-aggression is putting a strain on your mental capacities.

We’re trying our best, accepting our children as they are, meeting their needs, using strategies to help them stay regulated, honoring connection over compliance, trying to stay regulated ourselves. It’s a lot. And if you don’t hear it enough, I want you to hear it from me: You’re amazing for doing all of it.

But sometimes that one unhelpful comment, that one “she should know better” can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. (The camel is your sanity.)

Being armed with an informative response or sassy comeback (you just gotta read the room) can empower you to engage effectively while still keeping the peace. Scroll on and be prepared with these comebacks and more.

“If I acted like that, my parents would never let me get away with it”

“Do you ever discipline her? You’re letting her walk all over you. ”

“How are they going to learn? The real world won’t cater to them.”

“But she’s 6. She should know better by now”

“I told you she’d be fine, you were worried for nothing she did great!”

This one is particularly difficult to respond to because there are a lot of layers of belittling and dismissing going on.

“I would never let my kids behave that way”

This comment is just full of nastiness and is meant to be purely a criticism. But a carefully crafted response can make this comment backfire beautifully.

“Wow, I could never parent a neurodivergent child. I don’t know how you do it.”

How can we address the patronizing tone of this comment?

“All kids are like that sometimes. Aren’t we all somewhere on the spectrum?

“Why don’t you try [insert unproven or potentially harmful intervention]?”

And some other great multi-purpose one liners:

By providing you with these responses, I want to honor all the work you’re putting in to be a neurodiverse-affirming parent, a parent who sees the need beneath your child’s behavior, who knows that kids need a bigger dose of our understanding than any punishment.

I hope that you’ll feel the confidence to challenge, outwit, and reveal the ableism beneath some of these comments.

Episode Links

Short, Sweet or Sassy Comeback Responses for Every Judgy Relative
Laura Petix 0:00 But these a ballistic people who think the world is only one way and think that you should be doing your due diligence to make your child fit and conform to the standards that are super unrealistic and just ableist at their core. We're trying to get the point across as like...

Laura Petix 0:00 But these a ballistic people who think the world is only one way and think that you should be doing your due diligence to make your child fit and conform to the standards that are super unrealistic and just ableist at their core. We’re trying to get the point across as like yeah, I would love for one day the world to be more neurodiverse affirming and that’s kind of like a day get like, why aren’t you this person in my family more neurodiverse affirming, right. Welcome to the sensory wise solutions podcast for parents, where parents can get real actionable strategies to support kids with sensory processing disorder. I’m Laura, OT and mom to Lilyana a sensory sensitive kid who inherited my anxiety and my love for all things Disney. Consider me your new Oh, T mom, bestie. I know my stuff. But I also know what it’s really like in the trenches of parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Speaker 1 1:01 Okay, mom, enough about me. Let’s try the podcast. Laura Petix 1:08 Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. This is I think going to be a short and sweet one. But a very actionable one. Something that you are definitely going to take something away from, you might want to write some of these tips down. It is a lot of scripts, and one liners and specific ways to respond. When you get those backhanded comments, those passive aggressive, maybe not even passive, maybe just aggressive, those comments that you get from loved ones from friends, particularly around this time of year in the holidays when we see people the first time since last year. And so they’re not really around you that often. And they just say things about your parenting about your neurodivergent child that just rubs you the wrong way. And maybe in the past, you’ve never known how to respond and you ignore maybe this year, you’re like, you know what, I want to make sure I have something in my back pocket to know how to respond. And so that’s what this podcast is about. It’s inspired by a recent presentation I did for a parenting group, who asked how to navigate conversations around neurodiversity with family and friends. And I included a section of like how to respond to the most common statements and things that people say to you, and they loved it. So I was like, You know what, I think this deserves to be its own podcast episode. But this episode pairs well with episode 31. So if you just go to the OT 31 That episode is where I give you the more of like a big picture idea of how to handle judgemental loved ones who make comments or how to handle it when they don’t respect your boundaries when when it comes to your parenting style and your neurodivergent kid and I also included a script on that one on how to set specific boundaries ahead of time, like either by calling someone or sending them a text and you’re like preparing for the next time you’re going to see them. So that is in Episode 31. This one is more targeted to the like the in the moment responses to those comments that we talked about. So I’m just going to jump in, I’m going to call out the most common phrases that we get colored with a little bit of my own, like, commentary on why I hate those things. And then I’m going to give you have a variety of responses. And I’m gonna say it here, the variety, the responses range from polite and informative to sassy, and snarky. So use these at your own discretion depending on who you’re talking to, depending on how spicy you’re feeling that day. Whatever you feel is appropriate. I’m giving you a range of ways to talk, right? Because the way that you correct or talk to your great aunt Nancy is going to be different than your sister in law or your cousin. So that’s my that’s my warning for you. Alright, let’s just jump into it. The first one. If I acted like that my parents would never let me get away with it. Usually this is in response to you know, maybe your child hitting you or your child back talking to you or your child, you know, insisting that you give them something and not saying please and thank you. Right. So how a few ways I would respond to that one. Yeah, well, we do know more now about how the brain works. So I’m fortunate enough to understand that Judy’s reactions to things are not always within her control. Or you could say, oh, wow, that’s interesting. Isn’t it cool how there are so many different ways to parent. Or you could go in with the validation and find a connection and say, oh my gosh, same here, my parents use old school discipline. And I’m actually just trying to break that cycle now that we know better. Or you could go in and actually defend it and explain more, you could say, well, you know, she’s not getting away with anything. She is having an involuntary reaction to feeling overwhelmed in the moment. So it would be like saying, I’m letting you get away with sneezing. Okay, next one. Do you ever discipline her, you’re letting her walk all over you? These are for the people who misunderstand the accommodations that we make for our neurodivergent kids based on their sensory needs, maybe it’s like their special food preferences. Maybe it’s like me understanding that my child really can’t use polite words right now. But she’s trying her best. So people say like, do you ever discipline her? We always see you letting her get away with things, you’re letting her walk all over you they think you’re being a permissive parent. So you could respond by saying, Did you know that the word discipline comes from disciple meaning to teach? When we were growing up, I think we always conflated the word discipline and punishment isn’t that interesting. Or you could say, I do actually discipline riaan. But it looks different than what you’re thinking of, because you’re thinking of punishment, I actually hold strong boundaries. And I accept all of Ryan’s feelings that come with it. You could also lean into it again, try to build a connection rather than jumping into a conflict. So leading with saying, I could totally see why you think that it’s because I don’t believe in publicly shaming my child or addressing things in the moment when he’s still in a reactive state. So we save all of those lessons and talks for out of the moment, you really never get to see those because we do that at home. Here’s another one, you could say, I’m not letting her walk all over me. I’m having compassion for her nervous system that’s completely dysregulated. And in the state of stress, I find that when I’m more compassionate towards her and give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s trying her best, she’s more open to advice and problem solving to talk about the behaviors later. You should try it. I love that little end line, you should try it. You’re giving me parenting advice? Let me give you some. Okay. Last one, I would say in our house, we value connection over compliance. And if they ask what that means, I would say I’m not just trying to get my kid to obey every word, I say I’d rather spend the time to connect with them and understand where they’re coming from, and deal with talking about those behaviors later. So I would always value connection over compliance. The next phrase that we hear often, how are they going to learn the real world won’t cater to them? So these are referring to people that they’re asking us, like, if you don’t teach them now, like, if you’re not going to give them consequences? How are they going to learn that they’re not supposed to do that, like the real world is going to be harsh? Right? That’s what they’re trying to say. So I have four different kinds of responses here. So the first one, you could say, that’s true. I do wish the world were kinder to neurodivergent people. I focus on teaching my child about their brain and body as well so that they can learn to self advocate and ask for the things that they need when I’m not there and surround themselves with people in jobs that work for their lifestyle, basically saying, like, Yes, I get it. I wish the real world were as kind and loving and caring at my house. But I’m not going to decrease the love and caring and accommodation in my house just to match the real world. I would rather teach my child what their body and brain needs so that they can try to create a lifestyle that actually complements and affirms that rather than trying to like build calluses around the world. Right. The second response you could say is, at this moment, I’m choosing to accommodate my child’s needs, so they can be present and regulated for this party. We’re working on it in OT and at home. You may not see it but we’re working on it. Basically saying what this is trying to get to is like, look, we’re at a family party or whatever gathering you’re at. I am, this is not the time for me to discipline my child or work on skills. In the moment, I am accommodating them so that I can have this conversation with you and peace. That is why they are over there on the iPad. That is why they are over there eating their favorite snack, right? So like, in this moment, this is not my moment to teach them a skill. I’m just trying to get them to stay as regulated as possible to get through this holiday party. Why am I getting so riled up? But this hasn’t even happened to me personally. Like, I don’t, I don’t even think the last I can’t remember the last time this has happened to us. But I hear it a lot for you all, and I, I’m fighting for you and your corner. Okay. Next way you could respond. Remember this, let me remind you of the phrase because I kind of started getting on a tangent, the phrase we’re talking about is how are they going to learn? The real world won’t cater to them? So here’s another response to that. You could say, well, punishment won’t actually teach them the skills they need, if that’s what you’re referring to. Right? So you’re, you’re assuming that I need to punish my child in order for them to learn so that I would say, would you expect your child to learn how to ride a bike by punishing them every time they fall? Or would you spend extra time helping them to learn to balance and pedal last way that I would respond, you could say, this is assuming you’re like at the table, right? You could say, oh, you know, that is a great question. I’m actually more concerned about them staying calm at the dinner table right now than how the world will treat them. 15 years from now, I do hope that by then the world understands neurodiversity better, so the responsibility isn’t fall on my child to meet these neurotypical standards, can you pass the butter please? Such a spicy response. I love it. But it’s true. And that also kind of gets to the fact of like, these neurotypical people in our families, who knows, maybe some of them are neurodivergent, they don’t even realize as well. But these a ballistic people who think the world is only one way and think that you should be doing your due diligence to make your child fit. And conform to the standards that are super unrealistic and just able us at our core, we are trying to get the point across it’s like, yeah, I would love for one day the world to be more neurodiverse affirming. And that’s kind of like a day get like, why aren’t you this person in my family more neurodiverse? affirming? Right? That’s a that’s a really good response more for like, maybe a cousin or like an in law? Not not, maybe not for like grandma, right? Grandma might not be able to handle that one. Okay, another one. But she’s six, she should know better by now. Or whatever age the kid is right? I have a few options here, you could say, I would argue that knowing better and doing better are two separate things. If you asked her right now she knows she shouldn’t hit. But if you could see inside her brain, you’d see there’s a disconnect between the logical part of her brain that she knows that rule and the impulse control part of her brain, we are working on it. Another response. Being neurodivergent means that you may have different areas of need and different areas of strength that don’t always align with their chronological age. For example, she’s six, and she shouldn’t know how to divide fractions yet she can. She’s six, so she should know not to hit yet. She’s still learning how to properly control her body when she has big emotions. And another little Zinger one liner, use this appropriately. You could say, well, you’re 45 Do you ever have a bad day and yell or curse or slam a door even though you know better? Okay, another thing that we hear from people from parents and other parents, grandparents, whatever. So this is like, you know, maybe this is a family member or cousin or someone that you talk to often and you’re like, I’m really worried about the party on Sunday. You know, my child has a hard time around busy environments, whatever. Or maybe they just hear you talk about how hard and dysregulated it can be for your kid to be out at family events. And maybe this is towards the end of the family event or something and you’re talking to them after and someone says, I told you she’d be fine. You were worried for nothing. She did great. I really don’t like hearing that. And I actually have heard that one a lot. So a few responses. Thank you. We put in a lot of accommodations and supports in place and I have been working on it at home for a few days now. I’m glad you noticed her progress. I think that one really gets to the fact that like, Look, I know what you like she performed well for you. Great. I’m so happy that you notice that she was regulated and calm. But like, you have no idea what it took to get her here, like this right now, like if we didn’t just like wake up like this, it just got to the party like, Yes, she did great. And I’m so proud. And we had to put in a lot of work to get us to this place. Another way you could respond is, it’s actually really common for kids to mask their behaviors in front of others until they return to a safe space and let it out. One other way you could respond is you could say, thanks. I’m going to take that as a compliment for all the hard work we did preparing her and getting her ready for today. All right, let’s talk about another one another phrase I it’s sort of similar to the first one I shared where you’re like, where someone says, My parents would never let it get let me get away with that. But this one is now comparing your parenting style to this own person who’s judging you to their own personally personal parenting style. So the phrases, I would never let my kids behave that way. So here are some. So this this phrase is so judgmental at its core, and the fact that it’s the person saying it to you like basically like shaming you, for you, quote, letting your kid behave a certain way. Oh, this rubs me the wrong way. So much. So here are some responses for you. The last one, there’s 12345, there’s five, the fifth one is my favorite, and is the sneakiest and the shortest. Okay, the first way you could respond is you could say, well, my kids aren’t neurotypical. So I wouldn’t expect your kids to behave the same way as mine does. You could say, Would you ever tie your child’s hands back and not allow them to scratch an itch? That’s the equivalent if I force my child to stop spinning, right? This is assuming if you know your child is doing some sort of like sensory regulation behavioral thing or a stem, something that they need to do, and you understand that, but this person doesn’t. So you’re trying to get the point across that’s like, dude, their body is doing this out of a way to regulate like it is the same as someone trying to hold you back from scratching an itch. How ridiculous. Would you look? If you were trying to scratch an itch, and they tied your hands behind your back and you’re like writhing and trying to scratch it? That’s that’s the same thing. Another phrase, the third one would, another response would be? Oh, you know, my favorite thing about parenting is that there are so many different styles because the kids are really so different from one another. That one starts to teeter a little on snarky. Another one. I’m glad you found something that works for you that allows you to control your child’s behavior. Ready for the last one? I love that for you. That’s like my favorite phrase. Oh, I love that for you. Great. You would never let your kids behave that way. Oh, wow. Love that for you. You might even do like a slow clap, depending on how you’re feeling. These responses, I’m not saying that this is going to lead to productive conversations. I know. That’s why I’m keeping some in there. That’s like, maybe it’s a conversation starter. Maybe you can insert a little bit of education. But I know there are some people in your family who you’re like, I just need a way to respond that shuts it down. Or lets them know that it’s not okay to talk this way. So I’m not here to to provide you with the most neutral PC ways to respond. Okay. Hopefully you guys can appreciate that. Another phrase, wow. I could never parent a neurodivergent. Child. I don’t know how you do it. So this one was suggested by someone and she was talking about how how, you know, people mean, well, at the core when they say this, right? This isn’t like all the other phrases I’ve shared up until this point, were very clearly judgmental. This one is meant. I think it comes with good intent. But to some parents, it can come off as patronizing a little bit. So we included this one and some ways to respond. Okay, you could say it’s funny how you think you can’t do something until you have no control and rise to the occasion. You could say, I bet you’d find a way to make it work. You’d learn to adapt. It’s not an easy to turn into navigate. I agree but you’d be able to do it. You could say Oh, I’ll take that as compliment. Thank you Parenthood has been so unexpected for me. And so I probably would have thought the same at one point, but honestly, I don’t really have a choice. I have to get up and do it every single day. There’s no opting out. Okay, two more phrases that we often hear. All kids are like that sometimes. Aren’t we all somewhere on the spectrum? Oh, this one makes me cringe so hard. People are getting at the point, you know, when you when you maybe open up an event and you’re like, oh, you know what, she had a really big meltdown this morning. She refused to put her shoes on. I couldn’t get her buckled in the car. And then she complained about what snack she had. And then you hear from someone usually, usually, this is a more quote, like seasoned parent who has like older kids or has multiples. And they’re just like, oh, you know, those are kids. All kids are like that. We were like that as kids. Nothing happened to us. Or? Yeah, like, aren’t we? Don’t we all have a little bit of stuff like that? Are we all dealing with issues? Are we all a little bit on the spectrum, which is, oh, not the best thing to hear as a neurodivergent? Parent. So here are some ways you could respond, you could say, I think what you’re referring to is the fact that we all have specific personalities and traits and experience a wide variety of emotions, which is absolutely true. But these are far different than what it means to be autistic or neurodivergent. You could also say, true, neurotypical kids also have tantrums and can get hyperactive, but not to the level that it impacts autistic individuals or other neuro divergent neuro types. You could say, I’m sure you meant this to be helpful. But I have to be honest, this kind of thinking and assumption is hurtful and minimizing to the neuro divergent community. You could say, well, this is okay. This is the one that you have to be careful who you’re saying it to. So you are warned. You could say, well, there is a large percentage of the population that go undiagnosed until adulthood, so there’s always time to find out. Okay, last phrase or comment? Why don’t you just try and then insert some unproven or potentially harmful intervention, or maybe any other intervention, that’s not really harmful, but just like, they’re just giving you this unsolicited advice. And usually it is after the word just why don’t you just blank? Why don’t you just try this. But a lot of people will talk about, Oh, I heard someone who did ABA therapy, or I heard someone who changed their kids diet to this gluten free, die free, something like why don’t you just do that? Or whatever it is, right? As if it’s that simple. So a few ways to respond to this one, you could say, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We’re on a different path. But I appreciate your concern. Another one you could say is, oh, yeah, you know, that is a really popular parenting strategy or therapy that has really been uncovered lately as problematic and even harmful to neurodivergent kids. So it’s not something that we’re utilizing. I appreciate where you’re coming from, though. You could say that approach doesn’t align with my values as a parent. Or you could say, I know you’re trying to be helpful, but I’m not looking for any advice. Thanks. And, on this note, this is why I’ve learned to preface a lot of my like venting sessions or talking about stuff that’s going on if I have someone that I talked to, who often ends up giving me advice. I I’ve learned to start out by saying, Oh, I had the hardest day. I just want to vent though I don’t really want any advice. Can you just do you have space for me to just blurt this out? So I kind of have to say like, I’m not really looking for advice. I just have to say how much this sucks right now. And I’ve learned over time, there are people that I can feel safe doing that around and there are people that I pick and choose what to say or when I say it so yeah, I’m going to leave you with some other great one liners that I’ve picked up along the way that you can say almost to any comment if you just need something to say back. These are these are all sassy and snarky. These are not meant. These are meant to like shut it down or make them like no like what you said was not cool with me. Right? So you could say what an odd thing for you to say out loud. You could say was that comment intended to be helpful? Like, and the good thing about these is you have to like, leave it as a question and just see how they respond. Because the more that they think about your question, the more they realize, Oh, what did I even say? So it’s really, really great. Another one, just thanks for sharing your opinion. And just like leaving it at that. And my last one, my favorite line from Liliana, who used it on me recently, when I told her that she probably doesn’t need to pack that many lovies to go to my mom’s house for a few hours. She looked me dead in the eye and just said, I’m not taking comments from you right now. So that humbled me real quick. And it stopped me I was like, okay, fair, that wasn’t even rude. She was just setting a boundary. I’m not. I’m not here for the comments. All right. So I know this episode wasn’t my usual content, but I hope it was still very helpful. And again, it kind of teetered on the edge of snarky and sassy because I to be honest, I feel like a lot of us parents have the right and deserve to deliver these, these kinds of statements. Because we’ve been hearing a lot of the same things over and over and we’re tired of it. And we don’t always have to come at this from a very, like, even keel PC. Let me tell you every single thing about neurodiversity. We don’t always have to do that. And sometimes the family gathering is not the place for that and you still want to come across as like, this conversation is not okay, so I’m going to shut it down. But I’m going to leave you with something to think about. So anyway, use this at your own discretion. I hope it was helpful. I hope at least it made some of you laugh. Even if some of you are the kind of people who are like I could never say that to so and so’s face but like you really want to, maybe you can just like envision it happening and just feel good about it. Alright, I will be back next week. If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider rating it and leaving a review which helps other parents find me as well. Want to learn more from me. I share tons more over Instagram at the OT butterfly. See you next time. Transcribed by




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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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