Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Parenting with Optimistic Self Delusion

There was never a less terrifying moment in my life than the one when I packed my firstborn in a car seat and left the hospital.

They let me... just LEAVE... with an infant?!?!

I felt really unqualified to take charge of that tiny baby.
Probably because I was unqualified.

I compared my pregnancy and most of my baby's infancy to that of a farm animal, because that is my comfort zone.

I thought that raising a child would be like training a dog. (Note: My dogs are highly untrained)

I made the nurse show me how to change a diaper because I had NO FRIGGIN' CLUE.

Almost six years, another kid, 7,654 popsicles, countless articles and at least the first three chapters of multiple parenting books later, I am probably still unqualified to be a parent; but I have learned some no-fail child rearing methods. These are little helpful tricks that I discovered through my own adventures in parenting. They are possibly the kind of "little helpful tricks" that will keep you out of therapy but may later land your kid there. I don't yet know! We'll have to wait and see! Wheeeeeee!

 Johi's Parenting Tricks. Because Trickery Itself is a Valuable Trick.

1. Never underestimate The Art of Distraction.

When (not if) your child is throwing a tantrum in Target because they want that big red truck with the flashing lights and the blaring siren, you have some options:
  1. Give into the tantrum and buy your kid the toy, thus paving the way to raising a spoiled brat that uses you like a damp bath mat until the end of time.
  2. Leave the screaming, awful child in the aisle, clench your butt cheeks and bolt.
  3. Sharply tell them No! and wait until they run out of energy for the wailing to subside while you try to ignore the judging glares from those around you.
  4. Show them how you can juggle clementine oranges while singing and slowly pushing the cart away from the tantrum triggering toy! No one can look away...Tada!
I choose number 4 every time. Okay, so I can't juggle, but that will distract them even more! Redirect their attention to something else fun and exciting and you will exit the store with your mental faculties in tact.

*I am not responsible for the consequences of your juggling.

2. Bribery is a harsh term, I like to call it Positive Reinforcement!

Much like giving a good dog a biscuit, there is nothing wrong with giving a well-behaved child a treat. Not that I am comparing your kid to a dog. I would never do that... *cough*
What I am trying to say is the one time I stopped Black Dog from mowing me over in the doorway, I did so with bacon.


I do "make deals" with my kiddos.

I makes deals with them at mealtime, "Eat four more bites and you can have an extra story at bedtime."

I strike bargains with them in the car, "If you can use your 6 inch voices until the clock says 5, I will play the Alphabet frog song for you." (while I hack out my eardrums with an icepick)

I offer positive reinforcement to them when we are in the grocery store. I tell them that if they listen to me, are calm and act appropriately that they can have a ___________ when we get home. Usually ____________ is a popsicle or a "tiny orange". Sometimes it is to skip quiet time. Sometimes it is a viewing of "Max and Ruby".

And then, listen up mom and dad because this is the tough part, you follow through with your part of the deal. If Junior displayed naughty behavior, Junior gets no reward. PERIOD. I share a quality with kids and dogs. We are predators- we can smell weakness. If we sense that you feel like a victim, we will victimize you.

I don’t allow people to be victims, because if they’re victims, they’re not in control of their own destiny. – Jillian Michaels <<< one smart lady.

Now, who wants a biscuit?

3. Sibling Rivalry can be nasty. Don't pit them against each other. Instead, empower them to work as a team.

Unfortunately, that could mean that they gang up on you, but look how well they are getting along! So what if they put a toad in your Prada bag? They are totally enjoying each other's company. As a bonus, when they get older they are going to commiserate about all the ways you tried to screw them up and it will bring them even closer.

Remind them how lucky they are to have a sibling. Not everyone gets to be a brother or sister! There are so many lonely kids that wish for a sibling of their own! They write letters every year to Santa, asking for a baby brother or sister. Then Santa never delivers said sibling, thus filling the poor child's heart with an eternity of sadness, rage and disappointment. Then the lonely child becomes one of those bitter store clerks that won't even say "Season's Greetings!" to you while you are buying happiness for everyone on your Christmas list. Geez, Santa can really be a dick sometimes.

4. Ponies!!!!!

Not everyone can have a pony and that is understandable. Sad, but understandable.

The point here is that, unless your child is deathly allergic, introduce them to animals. It is good for a child to learn how to act appropriately around animals. Monitor them at all times to ensure that they are being respectful, quiet, attentive, gentle and kind. When they have mastered this, they are totally ready for the library, school and dining out in restaurants.

(P.S. If I see your child trying to rip the legs off a baby goat while you stand by and obliviously prattle on about how much your little Betty LOVES animals, I will side with the goat. EVERY TIME. Every damned time.)

5. Certain types of black mail may be illegal, but pictures of your kid in the tub or learning to use the potty are for you to use at your discretion during their teenage years. It's called Incriminating Evidence, and it's your parenting right.

My kids are 2 and 5, but I like to plan ahead. I'm collecting as much photographic documentation as possible. It's my plan B in case the rest of this garbage that I am telling you doesn't work out for my children.

Always be prepared with a camera, snacks, earplugs, a change of clothes and a Plan B.

6. When reprimanding, Never Name Call.

While it is fine to tell Little Johnny that he is kind, he is smart, and he is important; it is not okay to call him an asshole (to his face- save that shit for girl's night out, when you all talk about how you secretly think there might be something wrong with your kid because he keeps tying up Barbies , or getting into the duct tape).

When your precious treasure is behaving badly, tell them that they are not acting like the nice child that you know they truly are before you take away all their toys and their TV "rights" then send them to solitary confinement (i.e. TimeOut). Do not call them names, tell them they are stupid or mock them. You're an adult, save that crap for reality TV (when your kids are in bed).

7. Read to you kids and read in front of your kids.

Books offer entertainment, education and escape. Reading to your kids is a great way for non-kid people to bond with their offspring. In addition to reading to them, allowing them to see you doing something quiet and cerebral, such as reading a book (or my blog) is setting a good example. It will make up for all those times you laughed at farts and pretended like you were falling down. Plus, if you are reading something funny and are laughing out loud, they are going to be curious and more inclined to motivate themselves to read. Win, win.

In addition to taking this time for yourself (because you NEED to take care of yourself), it is OKAY to let your kids play on their own, without your involvement. Trust me. My kids are masters of this, and they are very happy and independent. I use that time to shower, to unload the dishwasher, to write, or to do important things like look at facebook. Sometimes I even plan dinner. It's a good thing.

8. Fresh air and sunshine fixes almost any problem; for both parents and children alike.

This is a staple for us. This is also why I loathe winter.

Help me! I am trapped in a glass case of emotions! Oh wait, no. We've all just been inside WAY TOO FREAKING LONG.

9. Realize that you need to listen to the important things that your children are saying. How do you know what is important? EVERYTHING they say is important.

This can be exceedingly painful when they are babbling about Transformers or My Pet Shop or Blue Squirrels that eat soup and live on the moon for what feels like an eternity, but it is your job to make your kids feel like they matter. It is your duty to make them feel like their opinion counts. It is your responsibility to empower them in life. It all starts with listening to them~ even when you want to stick your head in the bathtub to stop the noise.

You made it through that awkward health class in high school. You listened to the endless droning from a friend who wouldn't stop talking about her uterus. You survived that economics professor with the monotonous voice. You have even tormented yourself with the Top 40 hits of the early nineties. (Ace of Base? Billy Ray Cyrus? kill me now) You've got this one. You can withstand it! You will persevere! You will be victorious!

Your kids are counting on you.

10. Consistency, Consequences, and Tender Loving Care.

It's your job to love, guide and teach your little ones EVERYTHING. It never stops.

You teach them courtesy, respect and manners.

You teach them kindness, empathy and tolerance.

You teach them everything from learning to use the toilet to learning to become a functioning member of society.

This involves a lot of repeating yourself. So so much repetition. A LOT OF REPETITION. And then the follow up! Ugh!
Are you exhausted yet? I am.

Dude, it's your job to model yourself through your actions. It's your job to show them how great life can be with the a respectful, can do attitude. It's your job to allow them to fail and to help them pick themselves up. It's your job to love them, and to tell them that you love them EVERY DAY. It's your job to be the person that you want them to be. It's a big job, but it is yours.

Good luck with that. No pressure.

Now go hug your baby, tell them you love them, give them everything you have while attempting to remain true to yourself and mix up a cocktail. You're gonna need it!

Peace, Love and Dirty Diapers,


  1. I think I need fortification . . . ahhh, that's better. Ok, I've got my wine . . . let's do this thing.

    And I DO make sure I tell my kids I love them every day. EVERY. DAY. I believe this makes me a good parent. We won't talk about all that other stuff I do to them. They'll need SOMETHING to talk about in therapy in their 30's afterall!

    1. Affection is such a good thing- for kids and adults alike!

      I'm too sick to even drink wine. How pathetic is that?

      Happy Birthday!

  2. Positive Reinforcement works!
    I used to bargain with my boys to behave and they got rewards, an extra bedtime story, make a tent with blankets in the dining room etc. My younger son even made me sign off on contracts with him for his study time and test results.

    No name calling too, behind their backs they were (are) occasionally big shit and little shit, depending on what they did that day.
    I must have done something right though cos they are all grown up now and well mannered, polite, decent young men

    1. See? I'm doing SOMETHING right! We do A LOT of blanket tents in this house. :)

      Both my husband and myself have been heard calling the kids "turds", but it is totally done with affection. It was pretty funny when we heard our oldest giggling and calling his little brother "Baby Turd". We laughed then we vowed to stop using that word.

  3. Another reason I should learn how to juggle!!!

    Also, I clicker trained my dogs... I wonder if this approach would also work.



    1. Juggle schmuggle, tell me more about this clicker...

  4. I have given a similar piece of advice to many new parents.

    ALWAYS follow through on any promises or threats that you ever make toward your children.

    Of course the follow up to that is, don't EVER promise or threaten anything that you are not willing to carry out.

    Kids catch on real fast that they don't really have to listen to you if you don't mean what you say.

    Great list. I believe a huge chunk of our societal problems could be wiped out in one generation if everyone would raise their kids the way you proposed.

    1. Gee, thanks Brett! It seems like you did a fine job with parenting your daughter. The fact that she wants to hang out with you, doing things like planking, speaks loudly.

  5. PERFECT post. You got this sh*t DOWN! And we may be the same person.

    1. :) Thank you. Some days it doesn't feel like I have anything abour parenting figured out!

      I received a package in the mail... haven't had a chance to read it but I am so excited! Love the coffee stain (and the drawing), for the record.

  6. My parents told me that I couldn't have a trampoline because I needed trampoline insurance. What category does that fall under?

    1. Haha! The "blatant lie for their own piece of mind" catagory!