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7 Parenting Tips That Don't Work

by Claire Caprioli

How many times have you read parenting advice and thought: “Pshht. Yeah, right. Like THAT would work on MY kid!”

Me too. Ironic coming from a writer of parenting articles, eh? Nothing works all the time or on all kids. And, often times, the writer adds a disclaimer about you knowing your child best (thanks for the affirmation, stranger!)

So, here are some parenting tips that didn’t work for me (plus one tip that threw me into a fury.)

Tip 1: When the baby is resting, you rest. This tip is ubiquitous and excellent advice. For the first kid. This may be obvious, but I rarely ever read any acknowledgement of that fact. It didn’t matter too much, since my darling first child was a terrible napper who would frequently be awake for 14 hours, with only a 15 to 60-minute nap all day. Also, she had colic. Also, she gave up napping entirely by the age of 2. When my son came along before she turned 3, he nursed 8 times a night, every night for the first month, and she would race into my room full of vim and vigor by 6:30 every morning. The only napping I did was when I visited my parents (thankfully nearby!) and fell asleep in the guestroom while they played with the kids.

Tip 2: Plant a garden in order to get your kids to eat veggies. What gets me about these articles is the certainty with which the writer asserts that a kid can’t resist eating a crop she has grown herself. My husband plants a significant garden every year. My youngest daughter will happily sow carrot seeds with her father and later joyfully harvest them. My eldest son willingly weeds and pinches tomato hornworms into oblivion. A lot is gained from these childhood experiences (quality time, learning how plants grow, self-sufficiency, fresh air, etc.) But…my daughter has no interest in eating carrots and my son will not eat tomatoes.

Tip 3: Delegate responsibilities. This is also good if you can do it. You know, without having to explain at great length how to do everything. Without chipping your teeth when you can’t find a single thing in your kitchen the next day. Without biting your tongue when someone vacuums for you and there are dust bunnies the size of tumbleweeds skittering across the floor while you nurse (did they actually plug in the vacuum or just run around with it?!?) A tad Type A, you say? Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s only one way to correctly fold a bath towel.

Tip 4: “Ticket” your kids on a vacation. The writer had two kids who were fighting on the way to the beach. She handed them tickets and with the loss of a ticket there was a temporary loss of a privilege. With the third ticket they lost beach access for the day. It worked beautifully because neither of her kids tested the theory too hard. They lost one ticket, saw mom was serious, and behaved for the rest of the trip. This one gave me a good laugh. If you have a “hard data” kid who thinks seeing is believing, then you have to decide which parent (assuming there are two) gets to stay in the hotel staring longingly at an ocean when junior inevitably tests this method out. Feeling relaxed and happy on vacation yet?!?!

Tip 5: When your kid is misbehaving in a store… calmly leave your half-full cart, and return to the car to sit with her until she agrees to behave. This is assuming that you have no other time constraints, you can keep your cool if your kid finds this funny after multiple tries, you’re not in a doctor’s office, the car isn’t 120 degrees, and on and on. I’ll admit that we did this on two occasions in a restaurant: one parent stayed with the well-behaved kids, one sat in the car with the less-than-ideally behaved toddler. I will also add that our four children are routinely complimented by waiters (and patrons!) for their good behavior, and have even been offered free dessert as a result. I’m just saying that having the right conditions for this to work are far and few between.

Tip 6: The best way to slip on ice. I read a parenting article that suggested teaching kids to put their dominant hand in their pocket when walking over ice. It won’t be used to break a fall, and is therefore less likely to break. This was a real head scratcher for me. I confess, I haven’t tried it. Now, I’m no expert, but it seems that whenever I see a gymnast walking across a balance beam, she has both arms out to keep her balance and keep from falling. At any rate, how a cloth pocket is going to keep your hand from breaking once you fall on it in some twisted pretzel-like formation is totally beyond me.

Tip 7: Allow your child to sleep all night in his own vomit. Yeah, I really read that. In a parenting magazine. This one nearly threw me over the edge. The story was about a child that screamed from his crib until he was picked up. If a parent didn’t show up, the child would cry until he puked. The advice was that the puke wouldn’t kill him and to clean it up in the morning. Show the kid who’s boss! Okay, let’s assume that you want to teach your child that the world is so cruel and harsh that he can’t even rely on you when he is this upset. There's ample evidence that soothing your child actually teaches him to self-soothe faster, but let's pretend that is wrong. Further still, let’s say that you see nothing wrong with your child sleeping in his own filth (something even wild animals don’t do to their off-spring.) From a strictly selfish and practical point of view, do you really want a nursery that smells like vomit? Do you really want to look forward to cleaning up bedding, flooring, clothing, and a baby with dried vomit all over him? REALLY??? Yes, there are times when you absolutely need a break, or need to leave him unhappy in his crib for a time. But don’t for a second believe that knowingly leaving your child in filth overnight is good parenting advice.

Bottom-line: don’t be discouraged when you read parenting advice that doesn’t work. And if you ever get advice that makes you wonder in your gut whether it really is good or not, it’s not.