Jan 6, 201209:19 AMChina Mom
The best – and possibly worst – parenting advice I’ve ever received
When you’re a new mom, it seems you’re pelted with parenting advice from every angle. I remember flying back from China – a horrific experience I like to call “my labor and delivery.” It was a 15-hour flight and around hour 10, my quiet-up-til-then baby girl started crying and just wouldn’t stop.
We tried everything – we changed her diaper, gave her a bottle, held her, rocked her, walked her up and down the aisle. Nothing worked. Not even looking at “the other baby” in the mirror – a trick that always made her happy. She was just upset.
And everyone knows how much fun it is to have a crying baby on a plane. The only cold comfort I had was that there were a dozen other babies on that plane as well, many who had cried the entire flight.
At one point, a “helpful” gentleman a couple of rows in front of me, turned around and said, “When a baby is crying, there’s always three things that are wrong: they’re wet, hungry or sleepy. Try changing her diaper or feeding her. Or maybe she just needs to go to sleep.”
I just stared at him. My brother, who had joined us on our adoption trip, said, “Or maybe she’s been stuck in this plane for 10 hours and is expressing what the rest of us are feeling.”
The helpful gentleman shrugged and went back to his magazine. Eventually, my daughter gave up her in-flight protest and peace was restored to our row. But I’ve never forgotten that guy. Good, solid, basic advice, yes - but what did he think I’d been doing all that time?
That may not have been the worst parenting advice I’ve ever gotten – it wasn’t like he suggested that I give her a bottle of bourbon to make her sleep. But it certainly was strange.
Now the hands-down best parenting advice I’ve ever received was at at a Parents as Teachers parent meeting one evening. It was during a presentation on the parenting technique, Love and Logic. I don’t remember much about the presentation beyond this advice: Don’t count to three when you want your child to stop unwanted behavior.
That tidbit of advice hit home. I did that all the time. They went on to say, “If your child is in the park running with a stick, don’t say ‘Honey, put that stick down! One…two…three!’”
That comment made me sit up in my chair. We had been in the park that very afternoon! I had said those very words to my child who was, in fact, running with a stick! I was the bad parenting example!
They went on to explain that when you give your child three chances with a stick in the park, you’re laying the groundwork for future behavior. They learn it’s okay to run with a stick three times before you do something about it. Today it’s a stick…tomorrow it could be alcohol, drugs or sex.
What the what? Go on…
Children learn it’s okay to get drunk three times before something happens. They learn it’s okay to smoke meth three times before getting addicted. They learn it’s okay to have sex three times before getting pregnant.
That hit me in the gut. What had I done to my baby in the park? I’d turned her into a drunk, pregnant meth addict!
They went on to explain that if you explain to your child “one and you’re done” you help lay the groundwork that you don’t get three chances in life. Bad things can happen right away when you start unwanted behaviors.
I realized by counting to three, I was being lazy. I was enjoying talking to my friends or just sitting down for a few minutes while Piper played. When she ran with that stick, counting to three was my excuse to sit a few seconds longer.
But I’m the parent. I’m the grown up. When I adopted that sweet girl, I made the choice to get off my lazy…behind and go get that stick the first time she runs with it. I decided that night at that Parents as Teachers meeting that the choices I make now can impact the choices my child makes later.
Ugh parenting is hard.
So I did. No more counting to three. No more second chances. Four years later, my daughter knows our rule is “one and you’re done.” And it was hard. We left a couple of playdates early, walked out of grocery stores and left restaurants with to-go boxes full of barely eaten meals. I hated it.
But it didn’t take long. My daughter hated it too. She learned I meant business. And while she’s far from perfect, she does have a strong sense of what to do and what not to do and often self-disciplines. I hope she keeps it up. I plan to.
*If your child is under 3 and you aren’t involved with Parents as Teachers, I strongly encourage you to check it out. They are an incredible resource for parents!