The crazy parenting checklist

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October 3, 2013 by Bill

This mom force-feeds gum her baby, I think.

This mom force-feeds gum to her baby, I think.

BBC America today has a story that lists six maddening, crazy parenting trends that drive people bonkers.

Do these trends drive me nuts? Sure. Do I love reading about them? Definitely. I have to admit that weird parents make me laugh. I obviously don’t want their odd decision-making to affect their children, but I guess that since we as parents help shape our kids, it’s inevitable.

As I read through the list I started a personal checklist: How many of these am I guilty of? Let’s try a little self-analysis, shall we?

1. Unacceptable baby names: We very purposely chose what we thought was a classic name for our daughter. We decided on her name while having dinner at a nearby restaurant. We’ve been able to show her the specific table where her name came to us, and there have been no regrets since that day.

At the same time, I take a strange joy in reading crazy baby names. Trendy names drive me up a wall. I’m not going to list the tags that get me laughing, because I realize it’s kind of mean. Although parents, please remember: That name that seems cute on a newborn could someday scream “don’t judge me, I’m working my way through college” in her 20s and sound downright silly in her older years.

My general guidelines work like this: Don’t name your kid after anything you’d find in a spice rack, don’t name your kid a profession and don’t name your kid after a state.

Let’s just say we have a friend who is a teacher, and she has told us about more than one student named after a Star Wars character (not Luke,) and another named after an exclamation of approval that became quite popular in the 80s.

Let’s look at our names: Bill – a solid, normal name. Thank you, parents. And my wife, Amy – again, a nice, pretty, normal name. We passed that along to our daughter, I think.
Verdict: Not guilty.

2. The kids make the rules: No. No way. Everyone will claim they don’t get pushed around by their kids, but in reality it happens. As the parent of an only-child, it can be easy to let her get away with things. This was pointed out to us when we visited a Montessori school a few years back. She was playing with some toys and then moved on to the next thing. I went over and picked up what she had been playing with to put it away. The teacher pointed out that we need to have her pick up her own toys. Sure, it was just easier and quicker for us to follow her around and clean up, but it wouldn’t be helpful to her in the long run. It was an eye-opener, and something I would not have otherwise noticed. After that, we watched how we interacted with her and tried to make sure we weren’t letting her make the rules.
Verdict: Not guilty. I think. I hope. Smack me if I’m wrong.

3. Incessant snacking: When my daughter gets home from school, she’s hungry. She’s old enough to get her own snack so she does. It’s usually Cheez-Its or Goldfish crackers. Thing is, if I don’t really pay attention, she’ll snack straight through until I’m getting supper ready. Thankfully she’s skinny and takes after her mom physically. She also plays hockey and gets good exercise at this point – but I was once the same way. I don’t remember snacking, but I was thin and athletic. That was a lifetime ago. Now I could play Barbapapa in the live-action film. She’s got some of my genes in her, so there is that. We don’t bring snacks with us when we go out, though, and we do get apples, spinach and other veggies in when we can.
Verdict: Guilty, but just on the misdemeanor level. 

4. Huge kids in strollers: Our daughter was always very small for her age. When we’d travel to Walt Disney World – which we do quite often – we’d bring along her stroller. For the first few years of our trips, her little legs just couldn’t keep up or keep going, so we’d pack that stroller. Then one trip we brought it with us and decided to leave it in our hotel room one day. She did fine. That was the last time any of us saw that stroller.

I do get a laugh when I see giant kids stuffed into strollers, but then I remember that every time I go to Walt Disney World I wish that they made adult size strollers that I could fit into. So, no judgement from me.
Verdict: Not guilty.

5. Over-complimenting kids: Who doesn’t want their kid to feel good about themselves? I like to compliment my daughter when she does something good. But I have to be careful when critiquing her, because she seems a little fragile in that area. I’m not a fan of going nuts every time she puts the dishes away, but I think it’s OK to let them know you’re proud if they get a good grade. I try to balance compliments with criticism, especially when it comes to the next category.
Verdict: The jury is still out.

6. Over-emphasis on sport: I have loved hockey my entire life and Amy thrives on playing. We come from a hockey family, you could say. Between Amy and I, we love to watch, play, volunteer for and coach hockey. We also watch every Patriots game and plenty of Red Sox games. (I only care about the Celtics in the final game of the NBA Championships.) But spend a lot of time talking about, watching and playing sports.

Our daughter started playing hockey last year. We were very excited because we didn’t want to be those parents that force their kid to participate in something just because we love it, and she came to that decision on her own. Again, there’s that balance: Show enthusiasm for her hockey, yet don’t bury her with advice and coaching at home.

The writer of the BBC America article says over-emphasis of sport is a reserve of American parents. I think the writer probably got picked last in gym class. Will my daughter play hockey on a professional level? No. Do I think she can learn a lot about life by playing? Absolutely. I think the writer keyed-in on parents who think they’re buying a college scholarship by putting their kid into year-round sports camps, but it’s not what we’re looking for.

I hope she gets out of hockey what I got out of hockey. I made friends that I played mite hockey with in 1972 that I’m still in touch with today. I hope she learns the importance of hard work, persistence, being a good teammate, and how to win graciously and how to lose graciously. So far it seems to be working.
Verdict: I don’t care. Just drop the puck.


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He’s just this guy

Father, husband, rap sensation. Following a lifelong dream, I wrote a book. Then I wrote another one. To keep my house I write features for a Boston newspaper and columns for Parenting NH Magazine.

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