Every new parent gets a few copies of Goodnight Moon, gobs of bibs and blankets, and loads of advice: You have to nurse … breast is best. Don’t bother nursing … formula is a godsend. Don’t go to your child when he cries at night … let him cry it out. Only parents who hate their kids let them cry at night. And on and on.
Some gems have the staying power of the Rolling Stones even though they seem a bit, well, dangerous. And horrifying. And just plain silly. Call me an uptight mommy, but I’m filing these under Worst Parenting Tips Ever:
1. “If your baby bites another child, bite him back to show him how much it hurts.” A cousin to this is the oldie-but-crazy wisdom about spanking your kid every time he hits another kid. Somehow teaching a kid not to hit by hitting him fails the common-sense test.
2. “Don’t let your baby stand up too soon. She’ll be bowlegged for life.” This one has been around for generations and tends to come from nervous-Nelly types who associate bowleggedness with braces that kids used to wear to straighten out their legs. Smile. Nod. Disregard.
3. “Don’t pick up that baby every time she cries! She’ll be a spoiled little manipulator.” Some grandmas have an intense fear of spoiling that overrides fear of bowleggedness and everything else. These same grandmas believe it’s okay for them to spoil your child.
4. “He doesn’t sleep at night? Don’t let him nap during the day. He’ll be so exhausted, he’ll go right down.” Yeah, good luck with that.
5. “Poor thing, he’s teething. Rub a little whiskey on his gums.” Rejecting this tip from a mom who did it with all three of her kids and “they turned out fine” will get you branded an overzealous mother in need of a stiff drink. The giver of this advice doesn’t want to hear about safer, more modern remedies. She’d probably accept an offer of a stiff drink, though.
6. “I don’t get parents who say their kids don’t sleep at night. Just a spoonful or two of cough syrup right before bed always worked with mine!” See above. And don’t be surprised if some unstable nutcase tells you to try Kahlúa in the baby bottle. That strategy made the rounds a few decades ago, presumably because of its reputation of going great with milk.
7. “Oh no, he’s a thumb-sucker. You don’t want that. He’ll have buck teeth. Put a little Tabasco sauce on his thumb. That’ll stop him.” And then when he cusses for the first time, you can wash his mouth out with soap. And if he watches television after you told him not to, pour bleach in his eyes.
8. “You’re worried she’ll get too close to the stove? Let her touch it just once. She’ll get a bad burn, and then she’ll never do it again!” Great idea. Thanks.
9. “Why don’t you just have a C-section? It’s so much easier than giving birth.” Yeah, major surgery followed by caring for a newborn—a walk in the park.
10. “Don’t let him leave the table until he’s cleaned his plate.” Ah, the prestigious Clean Plate Club. The nation’s obesity rate is 32 percent. A correlation, perhaps?
For me, the worst was advice that seemed to work for every kid but mine. The advice that sounded so sensible. “Just swaddle her at night,” my friend said. “She’ll go right down.” Then there was the great tome, What to Expect the First Year. The authors told me to take away her pacifier at three months. “She’s young. She’ll forget about it in a couple of days.”
I’m not knocking advice—I solicit it several times a day. Sometimes I follow it; often I give it. But much of the parenting advice that comes unsolicited should just be ignored—especially if it involves whiskey or biting.