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How NOT to Parent Your Kid (Unless It's a Matter of Survival)

Photograph by Twenty20

Do you want to know what sheer hell is? It's being stuck inside a 700-square-foot apartment in the dead of winter in Wisconsin with an almost-3-year-old who has just quit napping.

Of course, there are days we make it outside, but each excursion involves a) fighting with him over his winter gear, b) wrangling him into a car seat and c) spending money. So many days have gone by where my son and I just stay in our pajamas and fight all day. That’s 10 HOURS, folks. His dad walks out the door, tells us to have a great day, and then my son and I slip on our boxing gloves and just go at it.

Round 1 goes to him, Round 2 usually to me and then we battle to the death to see who takes Round 3. We always both cry hot tears. We always both give way too many death glares. It’s exhausting. I love the little guy and he loves me, but he’s so wild and contentious in his current state that it’s unbearable.

This is why, last week, I decided to take it easy one day. To just throw my normal ideas about what I should and shouldn’t allow him or myself into the toilet. Let me tell you, it was a massive success. We didn’t yell at each other’s faces, there were no timeouts, and he ate happily and plentifully.

While this would never be how you parent forever, a day won't kill you and will probably be 100 percent worth it.

1. Let him have cookies for breakfast.

Kids love cookies. They will eat them and fill their little bellies and will look up at you with chocolate smeared on their faces and between their little teeth, and they will smile so big and so endearingly that you’ll swear to them allegiance for life.

NOTE: Guess who else gets to have cookies for breakfast when your kid is having cookies for breakfast? YOU. Cookies pair beautifully with a hot cup of coffee.

2. Scroll on your phone to your heart's content.

What are you happiest doing? Watching Busy Philips’ Instagram story? THEN DO IT! Do what makes you happy. Your kid will see your happy face and will sidle up to you, and they’ll just watch the Instagram story too! They will be riveted by the fast pace of the stories and they’ll want more!

BONUS: After you and your child watch enough of them, you will have the knowledge and the tool kit to make your very own. You can add hearts and sparkles and images of dogs—the sky is the limit, really. Get to work.

Yes, I know that constant stimulation can be bad for a brain. But guess what? It can also be good for stopping a wild child in his tracks.

3. Keep the TV on.

Yes, I know that constant stimulation can be bad for a brain. But guess what? It can also be good for stopping a wild child in his tracks. The kind of wildling that you caught chewing on the damn iPhone charger last week. They might be walking past the TV, on their way to climb onto the kitchen counter to reach for the candy bag you accidentally left out, but when they hear some weird character giggle, it might be just the thing to make them forget about the candy for the next few minutes, giving you a chance to whisk away the candy. You have to use every single possible ally that you can right now. Let the TV be your biggest one.

4. Let him feed the dog most of his lunch.

This makes the dog happy. This makes the toddler happy. Why on earth would you be unhappy about something that makes these two unhappy?

5. When it comes to nap time, lock him in the bedroom.

It’s not something you’ve really done. Your approach to persuading him to nap has been to beg and beg and scratch his back and promise him cupcakes if he just shuts his eyes for an hour or three. And in the end, none of it works—he hasn’t been napping for you at home for nine months, even though he's supposedly one of the best nappers at daycare. So, even though this day is not about fighting, you are going to do something that may feel like a fist in the face to him. It’s OK. This is for him. He’s tired. He’s supposed to be tired. He’s a toddler. And you’re tired, too. You could handle a stretch of time where you don’t hear his sweet little voice.

So, walk him into the bedroom, ask him to climb onto the bed with you to get cozy and then run the f*ck out of the room, shutting the door behind you. Don’t look back. When he wakes up, he will be sweet as pie, you will be in the final stretch before his dad walks in the door and everything will feel easier.

Until tomorrow.