8 Parenting "Rules" We've Broken While Raising our Toddler


I’ve always been a rule follower. A goody two shoes. In school, I only knowingly broke a rule once (and got caught) and the whole time I was doing it I felt terrible. So, it’s kind of surprising how many rules I’m breaking while raising my son. Some of them are legitimate rules — ones legislated by the American Academy of Pediatrics and supported by our pediatrician. Others are unwritten, but are somehow understood among parents. And yet, we’re doing something different.

We don’t break the rules to be rebellious or because we think we know better than everyone else, but because our most important parenting rule is to do what works for us. And sometimes, in the pursuit of following that rule, we end up ignoring others. And these are eight such examples.

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    Parenting rules we've broken

    Click through for the parenting rules we've ignored... and why.

  • Not Using a Crib 2 of 9
    No crib

    This wasn't a rule we set out to break by any means, it was one that we broke out of necessity. When we tried (and failed) and tried (and failed) to get Eli transitioned out of the Rock 'n Play sleeper, we discovered that he did not like his crib. Not that he didn't like sleeping or didn't like sleeping in his room, he just hated his crib. After weeks of struggle, we put his mattress on the floor and from that night on, we never had another sleep struggle. We were told that babies HAVE to sleep in cribs and it's not safe otherwise, but we've found that for us, breaking this parenting rule gets all of us the most rest. 

  • Allowing Screen Time Before Age 2 3 of 9
    No screen time before age 2

    There is a wealth of evidence that suggests that children shouldn't be exposed to TVs or other screens before age 2. We are well aware of the research and understand that by allowing our child to have screen time before age 2 we are potentially risking attention problems later in life. But we do it anyway. We allow one hour of "Sesame Street" a day (we have experimented with a few other shows, but ultimately only feel comfortable with Sesame) or a bit of play time on the iPad with specific apps that we've chosen. We don't think we know better than the research, this is just something that works for us. 

  • Not Dropping the Bottle at Age 1 4 of 9
    Not dropping the bottle at 1

    This is another unplanned rule break. We intended to lose the bottle at a year and we tried. We tried sippies and straw cups and a variety of other methods, but Eli absolutely refused to drink milk out of anything else. And while we know milk isn't required, because Eli is not much of an eater, we agreed, with our pediatrician, that it was more important to get the calories and fat of milk into him before age 2 than it was to drop the bottle habit. So our plan is to stop it cold turkey at age 2 when the fat/calorie needs of the nervous system go down a bit and he can stand to cut back on the milk. And also, this mom still loves her daily toddler snuggle time that will likely vanish with the bottle. 

  • No Rigid Bedtime 5 of 9
    No Rigid Bedtime

    When Eli was tiny, he went to bed pretty late, and as he's grown, we've gradually changed his bedtime to meet his sleep needs. And while yes, a rigid bedtime is a suggested way to make sure kids get enough sleep, it's just not for us. Somedays, Eli goes down for a nap at 12:30 PM and conks right out for three hours. Other days, like today, he gets in his bed at 12:30 PM and plays for 45 minutes, which means his nap is going to be shifted and he may not wake up until well after 4 PM, sometimes close to 5 PM. On those days, an 8 PM bedtime just doesn't work, so we adjust the bedtime to the nap. He still gets more than an adequate amount of rest, just not always at the exact same times.

  • Keeping the Pacifier 6 of 9
    Keeping the pacifier

    Eli has been a pacifier lover since birth. Seriously. His first night home from the hospital, after everyone told us not to bother with a pacifier that young because they can't keep it in their mouths, he happily sucked on the pacifier for two hours. And it was love at first try. So now, at 20 months, we haven't made any attempts to get rid of it. We do limit it to bed and car rides (except when sick, that's a pacifier free-for-all) and very occasionally the stroller, but we're not phasing them out anytime soon. Our dentist said age 3 -- and while I don't know if we'll keep them around that long, we have no desire to rush the process. It soothes him and that's not a bad thing.

  • Allowing Treats 7 of 9
    Allowing Treats

    Our eating rules are pretty firm. We don't engage in food battles, no foods (allergies excluded) are forbidden and no short order cooking. The second of those rules means that Eli has had his share of treats. When we go to a birthday, if everyone is eating cake, we happily share some with Eli. If it's a special occasion, he gets to try dessert. It's not a daily, or even weekly occurrence by any means, but we don't want treats to be forbidden or mysterious and we believe in all things in moderation.

  • No Sleep Training 8 of 9
    No sleep training

    We were told that when Eli was still waking up at night to eat at 6 months that we needed to sleep train him. He needed to cry and learn to "self-soothe" and then he would sleep through the night. We tried it once and realized quickly that it wasn't for us or for our child. Eli didn't sleep through the night until he was almost a year old, but now he sleeps as well, if not better than any toddler I've ever met and sleep has never had to be a battle in our house. I think his love of sleep is born from it not being something that we stressed about (in front of him, we stressed plenty) or made a major battle.

  • Having Arguments in front of the Toddler 9 of 9
    Argue in front of the toddler

    Now, let's be clear, we don't yell or name call or use profanity of any sort, but we believe strongly that it is healthy to disagree in front of a child. Eli needs to see that adults can disagree and be civil, that communication is a good thing and that his parents work well together as a team. We know that not all things can be discussed in front of a toddler, but letting him know that arguments aren't inherently bad is something that's important to us.

Do you follow parenting rules? Why or why not?

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