How to Ruin Your Kid

I have been reading so many books on parenting and specifically discipline.  When I was pregnant with Lola, I read a TON of books.  But they started to freak me out.  So by the time she was born I had sworn off books about motherhood altogether.  It served me just fine for a long time.  Then I lost control of my child.

When she started pushing 3, I realized that I needed some sort of instruction.  I can’t so much as adopt a damn kitten without obsessively checking out EVERY book on the subject at the library.  So the fact that I made it two and a half years relying solely on my own instincts is a testament to what an absolute PEACH of a baby/toddler Lola was.

Has a sweeter kid ever lived?  I think not.

So, when things started to go downhill on the discipline front, I figured it was time to seek out the advice of the experts.  Which expert to turn to?  Love and Logic, EVERYONE is doing it.  It had been made very clear to me that Love and Logic is the key to every struggle.  If you just follow this instructive tome, your child will behave, and if they don’t, it’s simply because you’re not doing it right.  So I eagerly read at least 3 of the roughly 14000 Love and Logic books.  Yet somehow, they didn’t work for me.

Give choices?  Okay, but what do you do when you’ve told your manic daughter that she can choose to walk to the car or to be carried to the car, and instead she chooses to smack you in the head?

Natural consequences?  Okay, but what exactly IS the natural consequence of this?  If you ask me, the NATURAL consequence of smacking somebody in the head is a good ass kicking.  But mommy don’t play that; that’s one I DON’T need a book to explain to me.

So I continued reading, finding many books.  I even BOUGHT one when my library didn’t carry it, which is a big thing for me.  Here’s the thing- I was looking for some explicit instructions on what exactly to say and do.  If I’m gonna shell out 6 bucks in late fees to the public library, I better not ALSO be expected to think for myself.  But instead, I was repeatedly made painfully aware of everything I SHOULDN’T be doing, much of which I was already guilty of.

In case anyone else is wondering, here is a brief summary of all of the things you are probably already doing that the parenting books think someone should call CPS on you for, or at least that you should be putting aside money for your kid’s future therapy for.


– Don’t bargain or bribe.  Um, do you mean don’t potty train?  Because candy and temporary tattoos are my child’s SOLE motivation for using the toilet.  And frankly, I would probably give her a flippin PONY if it meant I didn’t have to clean poop out of her clothes or my floors ever again.

-Don’t make empty threats.  All those times you told your kid that if she didn’t come with you right this minute you were going to leave her at the store/zoo/pediatrician’s office, and she was just going to have to live there forever?  Yeah, don’t do that.  Apparently after a few rounds of this, they figure out that your desire to teach them a lesson will be strongly outweighed by the possibility of someone calling the cops on you.  Also, maybe it’s just my kid, but it seems this is not a negative threat anyway.  Sometimes I feel like she’d rather live ANYWHERE than at her home.

-Don’t forget to lavish them with praise.  Apparently you shouldn’t tell them what they do wrong.  Just make sure that you acknowledge cheerfully EVERY time they do something RIGHT.  I really try to do this. There are a lot of utterances of “great job getting in the car without a 15 minute wrestling match!”  Though, I willingly get in my car every day and I have yet to receive a cookie for the act.

-BUT Don’t praise them too much.  A book I recently picked up warned me to BEWARE the dangers of praise.  Lest my child begin to resent the praise (huh?) or grow up to be an approval junkie.  Seriously?

-Don’t yell.  UGH!  I totally fail this one.  Are there actually people who are able to NOT scream “Lola stop sticking that toy drumstick down your brother’s throat, he’s choking!”  Because a light and breezy tone eludes me pretty often.

 Here’s my favorite:

-Don’t make ANY consequences for your child.  Okay, I quit.  I am not for harsh punishment.  But no consequences? Perhaps a really GOOD parent would be able to raise a happy, healthy Lola without ever giving her a timeout.  I am not that parent. 

 Now, this is just a small sampling.  I’m sure you’re doing MANY things wrong that I’ve left off my list.  Lord knows I am. 

funny New Yorker cartoon:


16 thoughts on “How to Ruin Your Kid

  1. That resonnates with me. As the father of three wonderful children I sometimes just wish for a manual. It dosn’t help that they act the way I use to. My parents despaired for me and now its my turn. My only defense is that I’m smarter than they are; well OK, the youngest (3 yr old) gives me a run for my money but I think the other two just humour me. When they grow up, I hope they look back and realise I did the best I could.

  2. And, that’s why I don’t read parenting books. I tried (meaning I looked at them on the bookstore shelves but never bought any). They were over the top or completely unrealistic.

    I do the best I can with what I know. That’s all I can do. Though, I completely hear you on the ass-kicking….

  3. Fantastic! I used to reviewing parenting books/manual for the parenting publication I edit, and I couldn’t stand it–one book says don’t do this, the next says don’t do that. I decided to focus on reviewing children’s fiction instead. That, and learning to beware of open windows in this house when I’m yelling at the kids… (summers cramp my style.)

      • ALL babies cry, LOL! And I’m beginning to realize that almost ALL moms yell! The worst was when we were living in Alabama, and I realized I was hearing my NEIGHBOR’S baby through my monitor. That mom was sweet and calm, etc. The horror when I thought, she’s been hearing ME and MY screaming baby?! Up here, I’m okay. Kids are 8 and 10. Just occasionally, I yell. And when the windows are open and the neighbors are outside, I’m embarrassed. Yikes.

  4. Love this! I am sure you are doing a great job. Books don’t know every kid out there. My two are complete opposite and therefore are parented differently. My favorite – Lest my child begin to resent the praise (huh?) or grow up to be an approval junkie. Funny! Oh, and by the way, we all fail that yelling thing – even the genius that wrote the book – unless, they don’t have kids…

  5. I yell. I admit it. I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with yelling, as long as you’re not yelling about completely stupid stuff or yelling all the time. I don’t think it’s super terrible for my child to know that I am a human being and I do experience anger… which makes me yell sometimes. And I tell him it’s okay for him to be angry and yell when he needs to!

    • I think that’s healthy. My husband and I disagree here, he thinks she shouldn’t be able to yell and scream just because she’s upset. I think she needs to let the emotions out somehow, and she usually keeps it brief, so fine by me.

  6. We are all doing it wrong, I yell, I threaten to leave him in the car if he can’t stay with me at the store, I buy the ocassional sucker so he will sit quietly in my cart. My kids are well taken care of and well loved as are yours.

  7. Pingback: Not one size fits all « Almost Super Mom

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