Can Parents Really Be Like This?

I can’t believe what I read in today’s Family Almanac column in the Washington Post. A mother of a 10 month old is asking how to get her toddler to listen to her and stop being so curious. I especially like this:

When we were on vacation, the rental home was full of objects he shouldn’t touch and I was bothered by all the “no’s” we had to give him. I also get upset when he won’t sit in his car seat.

What!? This has to be a joke. He’s 10 months old! I’m sorry you were so “bothered” by your kid on your vacation. Maybe you need to read about my vacation. If I had a dollar for every “no” I’ve given in the last 4 years, I would be RichDaddy instead of SuburbanDaddy.

Seriously, can someone be this clueless about raising a kid? I can’t wait until this parent has to deal with the terrible two’s, potty training, and all the other goodies waiting for them.

Getting a preschooler to finish their dinner

I have written about using bribes (uh, incentives) to get my kids to do what I want. Here’s a twist on conventional wisdom that I’m eager to try out. Usually, we use dessert as the incentive for eating their dinner. “Finish your vegetables and you can have a cookie”. This worked for a time, but now it seems, to a preschooler, that the work involved to finish all the vegetables isn’t worth the wait for a cookie.

So, throwing convention on its head, I’m ready to offer the dessert up front to get it out of the way. Then, as long as he’s hungry, he’ll eat the vegetables anyway. It’s just twisted enough to work, especially in the mind preschoolers, who are so honest and trusting.? After all, who else would admit to stealing their brother’s toy if I just ask?

Superhuman Parents

We’ve all heard the stories where parents perform amazing physical feats, bordering on the superhuman, when their child is in need. For instance, the mother who lifts a car to get her baby out. I had my own superhuman experience this weekend, and while maybe not as impressive as lifting a car, it was still extraordinary by Suburban Daddy standards.

Suburban Mommy and I took took the boys (a.k.a. Thing 1 and Thing 2) to the park to fly kites. We bought them months ago and were waiting for some warm weather to try them out. Thing 1, never having flown a kite before, instantly took to it and before long had his Spiderman kite at full height.

After a while, the inevitable happened. He lost hold of the string and the kite took off on its own. It began drifting away in the steady breeze, drifting over a baseball field. It was well into the outfield when I realized it was headed over the home run fence, which, if it reached, the kite would be lost forever. I had to catch that kite!!!

At that point, Suburban Daddy took on almost superhuman powers. Seeing that the gate to the baseball field was locked, I scaled the huge, four foot fence in a split second, and made an all out sprint for the dangling string, hovering just off the ground and headed over the home run wall. I knew I would get just one chance to make a diving grab at the string. I ran as fast as I could (running itself is a superhuman feat these days for me), but it wasn’t enough, and the kite went over the fence.

Luckily, the string got caught on the fence, so all I had to do was walk over and pull it off. All the superhuman climbing and running was unnecessary. In my son’s eyes, Daddy saved the day. In the eyes of any bystanders (hopefully there weren’t any), I was the idiot who climbed a fence and ran across a field to save a $1.99 toy.

Negotiations and Payoffs

The two parties sit down at the table and arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. Later, as emotions run high and tempers are flaring, a small, unmarked package exchanges hands and crisis is averted. Middle East peace negotiations? Shady lobbyists bribing corrupt politicians? No, this is just a regular day in the life of Suburban Daddy.

How is it that young kids are such expert negotiators? Bedtime becomes a negotiation of how many books to read, who gets to brush their teeth first, whether to wear the soccer or baseball pajamas, and if the pajamas have long pants or shorts. As a parent, the only bargaining leverage you have are the many rewards at your disposal. Did I say rewards? That’s the politically correct way to say bribes. Yes, I bribe my kids. And so do you, according to this poll.

Apparently, rewards are good but bribes are bad. I say there isn’t much difference as long as it works. Bribes – oh, I meant rewards – don’t need to be much to be effective. The trick as a parent is to get the behavior you want, with the smallest possible payout. Potty training is the perfect place for bribes. Suburban Preschooler was 98% potty trained, then regressed where he started to have daily accidents. Now, anytime he goes poop in the potty, he gets an Oreo. Bribery you say? I say three days without accidents. Sure, it works against you sometimes. Like when he asks What am I going to get? before going potty. But, I don’t have to clean poop.

What do you use to bribe your kids? Let me know in a comment.

7 Things Expectant Parents Worry About But Shouldn’t

New parents, understandably, have a lot of things to worry about. The truth is that most of these worries will, in retrospect, seem silly, trivial, or downright funny.

1. Birth Plans – There are many resources about how to “plan” your child’s birth. All the details are prescribed, from music selection and lighting in the delivery room, to birthing position and pain relief choices. The Truth: The only plan is that there is no plan. All the assumptions you used to come up with your “plan” will be off, and you’ll want a completely new plan the moment contractions begin.
2. It’ll All Be Over After The Delivery – There is great anxiety and focus on the “event”. Baby showers, getting the nursery ready, birth plans (see #1). Dads especially are prone to this worry, after living with a pregnant women for so long and all that entails, they think, Ok, once the baby arrives it’ll be back to normal, exept now there will be another person. The Truth: The pregnancy and delivery are the easy part. It’s what comes next that you should really be worried about. Sleepless nights, uncontrolled crying, bathing, endless feedings, flaring tempers. After a few months, you’ll both long for the peace and quiet of pregnancy.

3. All Cribs Are Created Equal – There are fancy cribs with French and Italian names. Princess Cribs with canopies. Not to mention the special, upgraded, high-tech crib mattress so junior can sleep like a baby. The Truth: All new cribs sold today must meet certain safety standards. As long as you are buying from a legitimate retailer, it is safe. Babies will sleep (or not sleep) just as well in a basic crib without the deluxe mattress.

4. Clean Enough – New parents are obsessed with cleanliness. Bottles must be free of bacteria and anything that drops on the floor goes in the garbage. Sterilizers with digital displays that “communicate each phase of the sterilization cycle” are commonplace. The Truth: Soap and water gets bottles and toys plenty clean. Babies have been born all over the world for thousands of years before sterilizers came about, and somehow the human race managed to survive. The best advice when it comes to cleaning bottles? Buy a couple dozen so you never run out, and let the dishwasher do the washing for you.

5. All Carseats Are Created Equal – See #3.

6. Warm Enough – Bottle warmers are right up there with sterilizers. If you are bottle feeding, don’t get your kid hooked on warm milk, because that’s all they’ll want. Instead, mix the formula with room temperature water. There is a huge payoff when you go out with the baby, because you can keep a bottle of water handy and mix some formula anyplace, anytime, without worrying about warming it.

7. Disposable Is King – Thinking about using cloth diapers because they are better for the environment or baby? Get over it. Disposable diapers are up there with electricity and the automobile as something that made modern life better (that is, until the effects of global warming are upon us), and people will think you are a neanderthal if you choose not to use them.

Do kids have it easier today?

Last week, after yet another “snow day”, I wondered if kids today have it easier than I did. It’s a common joke that parents tell their kids When I was your age, I walked to school 3 miles. Each way. In the snow…” Cliche, yes. But when I was a kid, they didn’t cancel school at the mere prediction of snow. They actually waited for there to be snow on the ground. And if it started snowing while we were in school, they put chains on the bus tires and waited until school was over to take us home!
I think every generation of parents probably thinks they had it the hardest. And each generation of kids thinks it’s hardest now, and that their parents just don’t understand modern pressures. In the end, kids have it about the same in every generation. It’s never easy being a kid, especially if you are one. But it isn’t that hard being a kid either. Would I want to be a kid again? Probably not. So maybe it is hard. Though I wouldn’t mind being, say, twenty five again…