I am a parenting editor and a mom. This means that all day, every day, I read about how to raise better children, and then go home and mess with my own. You know, it’s all fun and games until the therapy bill arrives! In full acknowledgment of how little my advice will help any parent out there, I’ve decided to stick to letting the wonderful experts on this site tell you what to do, and give you this handy picture guide on what to DON’T:
1. Don’t ask, “Why did you do that?”
Why did you bite that boy? Why did you hit your sister? Why is there spaghetti in your ear? Why am I asking you a question you can’t possibly answer in any way that will make me feel better? Oh yes, because it’s easier than accepting the idea that I am in charge of a tiny lunatic.
2. Don’t be surprised by the number of things that can end up in your toilet
This includes shoes, spatulas, cell phones, small animals, keys, and a whole eggplant that looks an awful lot like a human head to your middle-of—the-night eyes.
3. Don’t be surprised by the number of things that can NOT end up in your toilet
Number two, for example, can occasionally end up in your purse.
4. Don’t assume that repeating directions increases their likelihood of being followed.
More importantly, DO NOT assume that repeating directions increases their likelihood of being followed.
5. Don’t over-explain adult situations
“Sorry, honey. Mommy is just in a bad mood because she doesn’t understand why she chose to make a living on the Internets. And taking out a second mortgage to fund your preschool appears not to have been the prudent thing to do. And wow, your sitter is expensive! That noise? Oh, that’s just Daddy weeping through the wall.”
6. Don’t say, “Let’s wash your hair!”
This is akin to saying, “Let’s put this large needle in your eyeball.” If you really feel like you have to warn your toddler about the upcoming sudsing, consider something relatively benign and tangentially related, like, “Let’s put this large needle in your eyeball.”
7. Don’t wear a short skirt to a toddler birthday party
You know that fantasy you have about being unintentionally violated by giddy elves? Yeah, me neither.
8. Don’t let a boy shorter than the toilet try to pee standing up
Too late for that? Try not yelling helpful tips like, “Point your penis up!” Too late for that? Wipe your chin.
9. Don’t ask your toddler if he wants to do something you need him to do
This includes Do You Want To Wear A Jacket? Do You Want To Eat Something? Do You Want To Hug Grandma? Do You Want To Wash Your Hair? and Do You Want to Keep Me From Running Out The Door To Jamaica?
10. Don’t try to catch vomit in your hands
A) It doesn’t work. B) You don’t get points for trying. C) You get vomit in your hands.
11. Don’t say things like, “Mommy is getting rid of her mustache with cream” or “this is a tampon”
Unless you’d like them repeated to your mailman, your grocer, and your neighborhood crush, grooming habits and toiletries are best left completely unexplained. Can’t help yourself? Go with something that will make your toddler sound like a nutcake upon repeating. “This is mommy’s Santa Fun Face! Now can you please hand back Cotton Mouse and close the door?”
12. Don’t assume that asking “why?” expresses genuine interest
The biggest toddler trick in the book! You think your kid cares that much about why cars go? This is a tactical maneuver that actually means something closer to: “I will wear you down with talking to the point that you will offer me ice cream to shut me up.”
13. Don’t use ice cream as a reward
Hyper, sugared-up kids are more dangerous than a 20th Duggar pregnancy.
14. Don’t make idle threats
Telling the small one that you are going to get rid of his favorite toy if he doesn’t put it away and then not doing it telegraphs one thing: That you are the weaker species. And yes, for the record, this is exactly why I was disemboweling Elmo in the middle of the street this morning.
15. Don’t forget that this too shall pass
That’s what they tell me. I don’t believe it, but I’m telling you anyway, because that’s what good parents do. They lie to get each other through the hard parts.