Mom Advice: The Best and the Worst

Great and not-so-great advice from their mothers: Anna Quindlen, Alec Baldwin, Sissy Spacek, Nicholas Sparks, Garry Marshall, and more.

from Reader's Digest | May 2012
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    "You did it—deal with it, learn from it."

    "Sometimes, I thought Mom was being unfeeling. But in her own way, she was holding me tighter than I could understand—she was teaching me the lesson I needed."

    Read more in "Deal With It!" by Vanessa Williams »

    "Find the humor in anything."
    "Playwright Bertolt Brecht, known for The Threepenny Opera, once said, 'From the start is has been the theatre’s business to entertain people... it needs no other passport than fun.' My mother would have agreed. She didn’t know Brecht, but she always said the goal should be to entertain people, and make them laugh hard."

    Read more in "Make Them Laugh Hard" by Garry Marshall »

    "She showed me that in every little occurrence, there was a story, a funny story. One with love and humanity, that could change the moment or even your life for the better."—Steve Guttenberg, whose book, The Guttenberg Bible: A Memoir, is out this month.

    "It's your life, plus social commentary."

    “My mom had a wonderful way of helping you grow up and realize that your life is going to be what you make it. She had this circular way of making sure you took responsibility for your decisions and the person you would become."

    Read more in "How to Grow Up" by Nicholas Sparks »

    "I want you to be able to dine with the president."
    "Mother would set the table properly for every meal and instruct us on the correct use of silverware, which seemed kind of useless to me. 'Why do we have to learn stupid manners?'"

    Read more in "How to Be Proper" by Sissy Spacek »

    "If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all."

    "My mother’s best advice was also her worst: 'If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all'—advice closely linked to her perennial goodbye, 'You be sweet, now,' administered with a bright red lipstick kiss on my forehead as I went out the door."

    Read more in "How to Be a Lady" by Lee Smith »

    "If you aren't happy at home, you aren't happy anywhere."—Angie Harmon, star of TNT's Rizzoli & Isles.

    "Find a man who can dance and makes you laugh."

    "My mother was a reserved and gentle person who I suspect was a little disconcerted by my fractious character. Perhaps that’s why most of her advice revolved around who I would marry and under what circumstances."

    Read more in "How to Marry Well" by Anna Quindlen »

    "Men just do that."
    "The refrain could refer to a wandering eye (her brother ran off with his secretary) or too much bravado (the time my stepfather won big in a poker game and came home to throw all the cash into the air for us, his kids, to claim as it fluttered to the ground). It could refer to an emotional stiffness or a love of pranks. It could refer even to a sentimental gesture: the time my stepfather sent my mother gardening seeds in the mail with a note reading, 'I’m still thinking about you.' It was March; he’d died in November."

    Read more in "How to Fathom Men" by Martha McPhee »

    "Never tell a man you don't like his gift."

    "It was the best advice. It was the worst advice. My mother gave it using her favorite method, The Cautionary Tale: 'On our first anniversary, I couldn’t wait to see what your father was giving me. I imagined the long flat box meant a necklace. Pearls perhaps. But when I opened it, there they were—sock stretchers, two wooden paddles the shape of a foot so his socks would dry without shrinking.'"

    Read more in "How to Fib About Gifts" by Patricia Volk »

    "Never look a gift mattress in the nose."

    "My mother often gave bad advice but not in the sense that she would recommend a course of action that would prove ill advised. It was bad advice because it was hard to know what she meant—she was prone to malapropisms."

    Read more in "How to Mix Metaphors" by Pete Nelson »

    "Who's going to remember 100 years from now?"
    "She said it a lot, often accompanied by a world-weary shake of the head. I was a bit of a perfectionist, not an easy child. So when I went overboard, my mother would throw me the lifeline of pulling back, getting a grip, gaining perspective."

    Read more in "How to Keep Cool" by Patricia J. Williams »

    The Worst Advice:

    Queens are people too! Marie Antoinette’s mother offers a grab bag of bad advice that includes: Don’t think for yourself, obey commands, and always ask for more advice:

    “Have no curiosity—this is a fault which I fear greatly for you; avoid familiarity with your inferiors. Ask Monsieur and Madame de Noailles [the first lady of honor], and even exact of them ... advice as to what ... you should do ... Do not be ashamed of asking advice of anyone, and do nothing on your own responsibility …”—Empress Maria Theresa. (Source: Great Men and Famous Women, Vol. 6, edited by Charles F. Horne, FQ Books)

    "Drink diet soda every day for 65 years. Preferably Tab."—Alec Baldwin, star of NBC's 30 Rock.


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    Your Comments

    • Karen

      I am sorry but doesn’t anyone know how to create proper sentences these days?I have been reading the comments and cant really understand most of them…..

    • Gin Heedneeds

      Text 3060402 to 69937 for ‘Night Time by Tyler Shemwell…G-ESTEEM

      /I’m i doing too much/Or losing my touch/

      …a brilliantly written song about “can’t wait until night time to party,” with lines like,/Riding through the slum/Where i’m from/A place where crack fiends and fat girls love me the most/Some never made it home to take their work clothes off/Afraid they gonna miss something/.

      -”Real and A Good Time”

      G-ESTEEM-A tenacious confidence;mental toughness”If god is with me than who can be against me? I can do anything. G-ESTEEM Go hard,we dying soon.G-ESTEEM “The game is in belief”

      STAY BOW-LEGGED & THICK. G-ESTEEM (Presidential Election Nov 6, 2012) 44-Life

    • julmavec

      they said mother knows best cause there the first here in the world.,for there wanting to make the life of there children happy future they don’t notice sometimes that they chuck there children.,mother love their children to much they don’t want to let there child get hurt, or be said something not good.

    • Year26una

      I only want the free sample of Grace.  Made a mistake on not clicking properly.  I am 85 years old, but money is scares due to fixed income and high prices.  Just the free sample please
       Una M. Gray

    • Ronkhill

      How could you quote anything that Alec Baldwin says, especially around Mothers Day. Do you not remember that Baldwin left a message on his ex-wife’s phone for his 13 year-old daughter who was acting like a 13-year-old — being unreliable.  Baldwin’s message included calling his daughter a “fat pig” among other things.  How stupid of  Readers Digest to quote Baldwin.

      • Djr71

        Actually, Alec Baldwin called her a ‘rude little pig’ and any parent of a 13 year old girl can attest that they can indeed be rude little pigs. Leaving on vm wasn’t the best decision, but any parent who says that haven’t been exasperated by their children’s behavior to the point of saying something thoughtless is just flat out lying. Give the guy a break.