You were there to conceive this kid (probably), and you were there to see him destroy your wife’s flower on his way into the world. You took paternity leave, you read the books, you cried at all the appropriate times…you did everything right. But being a dad doesn’t stop there. In the words of some father’s day craft I did in kindergarten, “anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”
There’s unfortunately no entrance exam into the world of fatherhood. Anyone with a mostly-functioning penis can find a place to plant his seed. It’s called the “Law of Averages“…or at least, it’s a nice misinterpretation of it (basically, if you keep wearing that t-shirt with the NES controller on it that says “I like to score,” eventually some chick will think it’s hot). When that seed you planted enters the world, you’ve got a 24/7 responsibility to make sure this kid thrives in a meaningful way…despite you.
Welcome to the list of things you’ve done to ruin your child.
1) You Gave Your Kid Juice – You moron. Your baby came out not knowing a damn thing about the world. For all he knows, there’s no such thing as juice. Your baby doesn’t care what he’s drinking until you let him know that there’s choices. For God’s sake, once you’re past the formula-only phase, give him water. There’s no “good” juice. Even if something is 100% “real” “fruit” “juice,” it’s still way too sugary for a baby. It’s actually not amazing for adults to have constantly either. Even if you’re technohippie and have one of them new-fangled juicers that juices whole apples – it’s too much for a baby, infant, or toddler.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a couple of recommendations, the most important of which are (paraphrased) that: juice should not be given to kids before 6 months old, and in kids aged 1-6 years old, you should be limiting them to 4-6oz per day. They didn’t go so far as to say that you’re a dumbass for giving your kid juice before the age where he specifically asks for it himself, but you could tell they wanted to.
2) You Treated Your Kid Like a Hidden Treasure – Hey, I get it: your child was a gift from God and it’s your responsibility to build a wall around your life and keep the outside demons from your new treasure. Every parent thinks this way. But your child was (hopefully) born a human, and humans are social animals – you need to get your kid out, even at the baby stage. Now, I’m not talking about taking a poor, defenseless newbie out to a state fair. But once your child has been out a month or so, it’s time to start (within reason) introducing him to the world.
Start a habit of going to a local park on the weekend, and invite your other parent friends. If you don’t have other parent friends – get some. Whichever parent is staying home with your child needs to find a mommy or daddy group. These groups are all over sites like Meetup.com, and are a great place to meet like-minded parents in your area. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find multiple groups, so if one isn’t your style, you’re sure to find another. You may not end up making friends for life, but there will be at least one other person in that group that you can shoot-the-shiitake with and compare notes about local preschools.
Socializing your kid early will really give him a good temperament and believe it or not, lets your baby/infant/toddler see and mimic other kids his age, which helps development. Kids are fiercely social and competitive – if another baby is crawling, they want to crawl. If another is talking/singing/screaming/crying, they want to also. Do yourself a favor and get out with that baby. A nice side effect is that you won’t go insane sitting inside every day.
3) You Threatened to Punish, But Never Punished – Once your child is old enough to make his own decisions, he’s going to decide to test his limits. So, you and your wife need to get on the same page about what you’re allowing and disallowing in your household. Are there certain rooms that are off-limits (bondage room, champagne room, etc.)? Do you still have your video game systems in a low, reachable place? In addition to these, you’ll have to nail behavior-correction to the wall before your child gets the idea that he runs the household. Remember that you are the parents. YOU make the rules.
So, if there’s anything you can learn from Supernanny, it’s the use of naughty chairs, corners and mats. As a father, you’re going to have to man-up and be the oil that keeps the discipline machine running smoothly. Come up with a process for you and your wife for letting your child know what’s right and wrong – and what the consequence is for it. For a week or so, you can threaten to put them on the “naughty chair” if [TERM AND CONDITION], but after that, it’s all business. A lot of parents get caught in the mentality of “terrible twos” and actually let their kids hit them, kick them, bite them and throw toys at them. It’s unacceptable at any age, even if it’s got a cute, alliterative name. If it takes you carrying your kid to the naughty chair and holding him there, it’s important to, in the worst-worded way possible, break your kid’s willpower. Otherwise, he’ll test his limits over and over, and as you threaten to punish him, but never do, he’ll learn that you’re just a fountain of words.
Now, (again, this is from Supernanny), there’s a right and a wrong way of executing a naughty chair. You’ve got to get the kid on there and kneel down and explain what they did wrong, even if they don’t know how to talk. You’ve got to explain it, then just sit there with them. They’ve got to be uncomfortable, so a little eye contact and silence is all it takes. For a 2 year old, this should break them of a behavioral issue quickly, as long as both parents are executing the plan, whether or not the other one is around. The second your child knows one parent is the “weak” one, your system is broken and he wins. When he wins, your kid becomes a lifer.
As a counter-point, check out Strollerderby’s take on not using a naughty chair.
And fathers – make the punishment fit the crime, and remember they’re kids. Don’t go hitting your kids because that’s never cool. Pinning them down to the chair might not actually be cool either. Check with your local law enforcement.
For older kids, god I don’t know – I’m not there yet. But I’m sure reasoning with them is worthless. Hopefully you’ve nailed it before they get to the age where their toys really start to make a dent in things (and you).
4) You Gave Your Kid Your Palette – This one goes along with #1. This is, let’s be honest, not the worst thing in the world, but is definitely a doorway to a life-long picky eater. Your baby is born not knowing anything (see #5) and that includes tastes and preferences. It’s up to you to build your child’s palette in an unbiased way. If you don’t like mushrooms or brussel sprouts, it’s not up to you to pass it along. In fact, you should make sure you consciously give your baby those foods since in your normal day-to-day meals, you won’t be offering them.
All kids are picky, and it’s a part of their natural development in both nutrition and personality, but there’s no reason you should sabotage it by withholding tastes. Scour the frozen vegetable isle at the grocery store and make a healthy recipe for the whole family. There’s a million different things you can cheat more vegetables into, from omlettes to enchiladas to calzones to meatloaf. If you’ve been dodging veggies your whole life, now’s the time to get reacquainted as well. Never had spinach on a pizza? Time to buck up. Never tried corn in your enchiladas? Adelante, amigo. If you need help thinking of ways to trick your family into eating right, check out Weelicious – they feature meals and snacks that your kid will eat. And in the off-chance that they won’t try them, you probably will. If you weed through the recipes, you can try something on Parentsconnect.com – but be wary, they are the site we lambasted for trying to elvis-style kill your kids.
However you do it, nutrition is important. Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, and it’s kind of our fault.
5) You Forgot That They Were Born Tabula Rasa – Here’s something we’re all guilty of forgetting: our kids were born “tabula rasa,” the latin term for “blank slate”…or, in modern english, “your kid was born a frickin’ know-nothing.” Your baby came out knowing exactly two things about life – that it’s cold, and it’s big. As time goes on, your baby will learn everything from you. Remember that silly ass “I learned it from you, dad” PSA? It’s totally true – and as a parent, it should blow your mind. Your baby will learn to cough and laugh like you. They’ll eat like you, they’ll talk like you. They’ll get skinny like you, they’ll get fat like you. They are you.
So now that we’ve got that clear, it’s up to you to teach them what you want them to know. It’s a huge responsibility, but you signed up for it, you big dummy. If you want your kid to be patient and kind to others, you’ve got to teach him. If you want your kid to ignore you, then make sure they see you ignoring your family so you can play video games or watch a sporting event on television.
If you’re unhappy about anything, your kid will find out. Your worst demons will swallow your child. If you do drugs, get drunk in front of him, or get into yelling matches with your wife in front of him, then your kid will too. A lot of people just don’t realize that.
And remember, you can’t yell at your kid when he does something he doesn’t know about. If he gets food all over himself while he’s eating – it’s because he doesn’t know that common decency says to keep it in your mouth. If he dumps out a bin of toys and swims through them on your carpet (five minutes after you picked them all up), it’s because he thought it’d be fun to do – it wasn’t an insult to you. If your kid wants to sit on your lap while you’re at the computer, it’s because he’s curious and idolizes you – if you’re surfing the web, it must be cool.
This is your child and he’s learning every single thing from you – from talking to thinking and everything in-between. Why do you think so many people go into the family business, or enjoy the same sports as their parents?
6) You Tried To Live Your “Old Life” – Look, you had a kid. You decided, physically and emotionally to put this responsibility on yourself. So, I don’t know who lied to you, maybe some other men’s site, but your life is not going to be the same ever again. Your daily routine is now family-centric, and with good reason – you’ve got a child. It’s not a dog or a cat. This is a human being that you’ve got to take care of 24 hours a day, whether you’re in the mood to or not. You think other parents like to get up at all hours of the morning? You think they like to get up at 6 or 7am now, when before, they got up at 8 or 9am? I bet there’s a lot of parents who can’t wait for their kid to be a lazy teenager that actually wants to sleep in.
Just remember that you chose this new life, and that everything you do now should be in service to your child. Animalistically-speaking, you’re done on Earth – you served your biological purpose. If you were a black widow spider or a praying mantis, your wife would have killed you and eaten you to provide nutrients for your baby. So consider living to see your kid walk, talk and throw a football a gift from nature to you.
In light of this, your job is to now integrate that kid into as much of your life as you can. Whatever sport you love watching on television can now be something you play with your kid. If you’re not a sports fan, you can, I’m sure find something to take its place. If you like gardening, teach your kid how to plant flowers and care for them. If you’re into car shows or old muscle cars – time to take up building scale models. If you love finances and Microsoft Excel…well, maybe you should take up a sport.
And that’s that. There’s definitely more things you can do to ruin your kid, but I’m not in the business of telling you obvious stuff like “cocaine is not a sugar substitute” or “coyotes are not house pets.”
Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear about it in the comments!