The Worst Parenting Advice I Ever Received
When you become a new parent, you’re likely afraid of making a mistake. These sweet bundles of joy seem so fragile, and you want to make sure you get everything right. Even when they get older, you still want to do what you can to make sure your children get the best care. In an effort to give your kids what they need, you may turn to friends, family, and medical professionals for parenting advice.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad advice out there. The Cheat Sheet spoke with some parents and parenting experts to hear about some of the bad information they’ve been told. Sit back, get a cup of coffee, and read on for the worst parenting advice they heard.
1. Don’t hold your baby too much
I was told not to hold my baby too much because she would get too used to me holding her! I trusted my instincts and held her as much as we both wanted. This made for a secure and independent child.
Leigh Anne O’Connor, international board certified lactation consultant
2. Give kids a ‘taste of their own medicine’
The worst parenting advice is to “give kids a taste of their own medicine,” so if they use a disrespectful tone, you speak the same way to them. If they break something of yours, you break something of theirs. It is a better idea to model the behaviors and attitudes you want your child to demonstrate. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, go out of your way to show positive reactions and call attention to your child when they are doing things you appreciate and want to see more of.
Basically, catch them when they shine, and make a point to specify what you like. For example, say, “I like the way you got your shoes on even though you were frustrated and we had to go,” or, “Thanks for picking up your stuff when I asked the first time.”
Stephanie O’Leary, clinical psychologist
3. Hit your kids to get them to behave
The worst parenting advice I’ve ever received was from an “old school” parent who told me that it’s OK to hit your kids when they’re misbehaving. She backed it up with her experience as being a mother of two, and if they misbehaved or threw tantrums, she would spank them to get them to stop. I was a new parent when I received this advice and I was shocked to think that people were still condoning this kind of action toward their kids.
As a parent and a professional parenting coach, I never advise my clients (or anyone I know) to hit their children. There are many other ways to address misbehavior and tantrums that won’t leave a lasting impact on a child’s self-esteem. I teach my clients how to set and enforce boundaries with their children by using communication tactics, such as relating the punishment to the misbehavior. For instance, if a child is not responding to a request to clean up their room because they’re too busy playing a video game, I suggest telling the child that if they don’t clean up, they are going to lose video game playing time.
I’ve also learned that if a child is throwing a tantrum it’s probably because something is wrong: overtired, not feeling well, etc. I’ve had success by walking away and giving the child space to “work it out.” When they realize you’re not interested, they typically stop the madness. The key is to trick them at their own game.
Krista Rizzo, parenting and relationship coach and the creator of the Why Am I Yelling? brand
4. Overparent if you want to keep your kids safe
Worst advice? Coddle and helicopter over your kids. With this method, a child never gets to learn lessons for themselves. And the parents who refuse to give up any aspects of their own personal lives for the sake of their kids end up with children who are primarily raised by either nannies or technology, and end up starved for human affection and interaction.
Being a good parent doesn’t mean being perfect; it just means being present. Our job is to keep our kids safe from harm. However, we aren’t going to be there forever, so keeping them safe also means teaching kids how to take care of themselves. Sometimes that means they will fall and get hurt, and we have to learn to be OK with that. We also have to learn that being a good parent means, at least some of the time, putting our own needs behind the needs of the child and recognizing that if one is working 80 hours a week, no matter how much money that generates, it isn’t providing the child with their most important needs.
Jeff Campbell, founder of New Middle Class Dad
5. Never let your child eat sweets
The worst parenting advice I have heard is to only feed your child healthy food — no cookies, cake, potato chips, French fries, pizza, burgers — you name it! While eating healthy sounds amazing, it is not practical and definitely can have negative social and emotional effects on your child. You would be teaching your child not to touch the potato chips, while every other child is sticking their hands in bowls to get handfuls. This does not allow them to organically build relationships with other children, and your child could end up feeling like an outcast.
Yes, it is great if a parent can have a child stick to a healthier diet with less junk food, but in the world of children — which includes birthday parties and play dates — you will find it seemingly impossible with pizza and cake being offered at many gatherings. Set yourself up for success by trying to achieve balance. Teach your child the difference between the good versus bad — when it is OK to indulge in yummy chocolate cake, cotton candy at a fair, or gummy bears as snacks, while also integrating healthy snacks into their lunches.
Parenting advice is really just an opinion, so listen to your personal maternal/paternal instincts. As a parent, most of the time you already know the answer. Be confident in making your decisions because you know your child best.
If you feel lost, consult a pediatrician or a trusted parent or friend, or you can research mommy blogs, as well. But, ultimately, after all the advice you receive, you are the one who will make the decision. Remember, what works for others may not work for you!
Didi Wong, integrative wellness and life coach
6. Let your baby cry
The worst advice I was given after becoming a parent was to let my baby just cry. I was told it was good for the baby’s lungs and a good way to learn independence. This advice is completely contrary to current research that proves letting babies cry it out actually harms their brains because their bodies create more cortisol. Letting babies cry does not aid them in becoming more independent, but can actually make them more dependent. If a baby stops crying after being left alone to cry it out (or “controlled crying”) it means that the baby has given up hope its caregiver coming back. I believe this advice goes against my own natural instinct and harms babies.
My alternative to this advice was keeping my babies close when I needed to get things done around the house, go for a walk, or spend time with my older child. When it came to bedtime, we co-slept or we would lie down with the baby and child until they fell asleep. The other alternative I found was to simply enlist my husband’s help when he was home. I can’t imagine being left to cry in a room when all I needed was my husband’s comfort. How could I leave my child who was in this big, scary new world dealing with these new feelings and emotions?
Ashley Kusi, blogger at Our Peaceful Family
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published September 2016.