Parenting is tough. From the day you find out you are
pregnant, you are inundated with information, solicited and unsolicited, about
what to do and what not to do, what to say, what not to say, what will turn
your child into a Rhodes Scholar and what will turn your child into a total
degenerate or even a psychopath. From
the articles you read to the know-it-all mothers at the playground, to the
judging voices in your own head, you are tsk-tsked so much that sometimes you
feel like your head will explode.
In a recent article published by Salon, a
psychologist-psychoanalyst presents a list of “10 Things Parents Should Never Say to Their Toddlers.” These are phrases we should never use because they promote regressive ideas and will undermine
our relationship with our children.
The author states phrases that may
seem benign when used as a quick behavior intervention are ineffective and even
harmful. Never say “time out” because it
is humiliating and scary and toddlers don’t understand it. Never say “It’s not safe!” because the phrase
is too abstract without an accompanying explanation. Never say “Excuse me” because it’s a poorly
disguised “shame on you.” Never say “Good eating” because an abundance of
compliments paves the way for expectations of praise for everything.
I understand that articles like this are trying to offer up
a more supportive and “progressive” approach to parenting. It's trying to educate
us. Trying to help. And a lot of it makes sense to me. But
reading this particular article on this particularly stressful day when I feel
so behind in so many areas of my life didn’t help. Mostly because I’ve at one point used all 10
of the phrases on this doc’s “no fly” list. I’ve given my daughter a time out for
repeatedly hitting her cousin with a plastic croissant. I’ve said “use your words” when she was
answering all my questions with purple minion “raspberries.” I’ve yelled “Don’t run!” when she was heading
toward Ventura Boulevard with “I just saw an ice cream truck” speed.
In a real mom's world, sometimes all we can do is our best.
Yes, advice given in this article is all fine and good, but
not always easy to live by. In an ideal
world, we would all have the patience and clear heads to avoid the “never”
phrases and only use the most supportive and nurturing ones all the time. But in a real mom’s world, one full of little
sleep, a lot of trial by error and aw shit, I didn’t change the laundry last
night so wear your least dirty pants moments—sometimes all we can do is our best.
So as much as I do process and ponder articles just like
these, today, I’d like to focus on a simpler list of parenting
suggestions. This is a list of parenting advice
compiled from my own experiences and from other women I respect and
admire—simple things to remember that
are substantiated by a mother’s intuition, common sense and the desire to raise
happy, healthy kids. If we can try to do
these things, I think we’re all doing pretty good.
1. Say I love you often.
Say it when you are so in love with her you can’t deal. And also say it when you are so frustrated
want to give her away to gypsies. Those three words instantly lift the spirit on
2. Laugh with her.
There is always something to laugh at. Today, it was “Look, mommy has a mustache!”
We laughed and laughed.
3. Give her your attention.
Put down the phone. Close your computer. Take time to
give her your undivided attention. Would you rather she draw “pandas” on every single one of your dining
room chairs with a Sharpie? Wait, where
did she get a Sharpie? Yaaah, maybe pay
4. Help her see her choices matter.
Ask her what she thinks. When you give her a choice, follow through with it. Except for when she chooses Play-Doh. Don’t give her that choice.
5. Let her get dirty.
Let her play in the mud. Let her jump in the puddles. Let her roll down the hill. Fly away,
6. Talk to her.
Explain things to her, tell stories to her, discuss last
night’s results on "Dancing With the Stars."
7. Listen to her.
Even when your ears are bleeding from toddler screams and
hearing her say “What is that, mommy?” on loop, take time to listen to her when
she’s talking to you.
8. Use Common Sense.
Like, don’t leave scissors on the floor, don’t let your
toddler watch "Dexter," and don’t let grandma or grandpa give them a “grandma and
grandpa-type snack” (an entire Kit Kat bar) before bed.