How to avoid being a Stupid Parent

Most people try very hard to be good parents. Whether they opt to learn by the example of other parents in their lives (including those whom they do NOT wish to emulate), or they read every parenting book available, I truly believe most people think they are doing their best when it comes to decisions involving their children.

There are, however, so many people out there that are complete idiots when it comes to parenting.

If that sentence offends you, then you might as well stop reading this post now. I’m simply telling the truth as I see it, day after day after day.

You might be wondering just what makes a person a stupid parent. We can start with the decision to become a parent in the first place. There is no good excuse in this day and age for anyone to become “accidentally” pregnant. While I won’t include one hundred percent of all pregnancies into the “preventable” category, you cannot deny that probably 99.9 percent can be avoided. There are too many birth control methods out there so that even our teenagers should know how to prevent pregnancy. If they choose not to use any of those methods, then they are being stupid.

What is also stupid, is a woman treating her uterus like a clown car when she cannot afford to have children. In a society that is devolving away from traditional homes where mother and father are married and plan to stay together (at least until the kids are grown), no woman should even contemplate trying to raise a child, let alone a stable-full, if she herself cannot afford them. Relying on guys to always be there and always have the money to invest in kids is stupid. Relying on the government to provide for you and your kids is stupid. You may disagree, and that’s okay. I will just assume you are stupid.

Once a woman is knocked up, there are hopefully nine months during which time she can opt to be stupid or not. Eating right, exercising, getting prenatal care, and avoiding the things that are bad for you is a CHOICE you must make if you are pregnant. Choosing to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or ingest illegal or prescription medications (without your OB’s express approval and monitoring) is stupid. All of that stuff is bad for a fetus and can cause all sorts of problems that most people can’t afford, physically, emotionally, and financially. Put down the bong, pour the booze down the sink drain, and stub out your cigarette butts. If you really want this kid and want to do right by them, don’t be stupid!

Listen to your doctor. That’s assuming you’ve made the smart choice to actually go to one. Obstetricians know what’s good for you and your baby and if you think you know better, you’re being stupid. Same goes for when your baby is born, especially if it is premature. Even if you’ve had kids before, this one is different – no two kids are exactly alike, not even identical twins, so you don’t know them well enough yet to assume you know more than the doctors and nurses taking care of your new baby. It irritates the hell out of me when I and my colleagues must repeatedly tell a premature infant’s parents and family that their actions are detrimental to the well-being of their baby. I’m not allowed to tell them to their face that they are being stupid, but that is the fact. I have been a nurse for about 25 years, most of that time spent with premature and ill newborns. I have a plethora of experience in what such infants need in their first days and weeks of life. I know more about caring for such infants than the majority of parents simply because this may be their first and only preemie or ill newborn, yet parents always think they know their baby better than I. I completely understand that it is your baby, not mine. I totally get that you are in an overwhelming situation and feel completely out of control so are grasping at some way to exercise your parenting muscles. I know that you are stressed, hormonal, hurt and angry. I know that you are grieving for the loss of your expectations of a perfect delivery of a perfectly healthy baby. I know that all this makes you stupid. What I ask is that you try your best to stop being stupid as soon as possible so your infant can get the best care possible.

While you are gleefully awaiting your eminent bundle of joy, please don’t be stupid when choosing your baby’s name. I respect that people want their child to be a unique individual and so try to give them a name no one else will have, or perhaps a “unique” spelling of a more traditional name. Please stop and think about what your child will have to put up with once in school. I know you already get angry when I pronounce your child’s name wrong because I have no idea which vowel is going to get the emphasis when there are too many. You get mad when I call him “her” or her “him” because the name isn’t giving me a proper indication of gender. You get frustrated that no one seems to spell your child’s name right when sending a birthday card. So, think how hard it’s going to be on your child, especially once he or she starts school. Most kids don’t want to be different from their peers. They don’t want to have to explain why their name is so weird. Don’t give them stupid names with stupid spellings because YOU think it’s cool. I find it hard to believe that the child whose parents named her (him?) “Hashtag” is going to grow up loving her name (his?). He’ll probably think his parents were stupid.

Like I noted in the beginning of this post, most parents want to do everything right so they have happy, healthy children. There are simple things you should be doing around your home before your new arrival graces the world with her presence. Child-proof the house. Start with where the infant will sleep – and that is NOT in your bed. Falling asleep with your baby in bed with you is stupid. You’ll suffer a life-time of guilt and remorse if you were to roll over on top of your baby, smothering it in your sleep because you were “too tired” to put her back in her crib. Remember, you wanted children, so sleepless nights come with the territory. Being “too tired” is no excuse when your stupidity has injured your child in some fashion.

Make sure your infant’s bed is constructed properly and that you utilize all safety features in the manner they are intended. Keep side rails fully up, don’t pad the rails or have other things littering the bed that can suffocate a newborn. Place the mattress in its lowest position BEFORE your infant starts pulling himself up to standing.

Invest in AND USE a high-quality car seat. If you don’t know how to properly install it in your vehicle, your nearest local fire department should have qualified car seat experts who can help you for free. Don’t allow ANYone to drive your child anywhere without his personal properly fitted car seat installed correctly in their vehicle. Make sure that your baby-sitter understands and complies with this rule. Do not accept their stupidity in assuming they don’t need your fancy contraption to make a quick run to the market for a jug of milk.

Crawl around your house…yes, crawl around your house and see what dangers are down there at your child’s level. Most folks are good about covering outlets and keeping certain toxic cleaning products out of a baby’s reach, but what else is down there? Can your baby choke on some dog or cat kibble left in a bowl on the floor? What other objects are on or near the floor that can injure? Dropped staples torn off a piece of mail? Carpet tacks or nails sticking up from floor boards? Don’t leave that bucket of mop water unattended with your child crawling around. Is that bookcase anchored to the wall? Is the cord to the Fry Daddy dangling over the counter? Your child will start pulling himself up to stand before you know it. Don’t be stupid…be ready.

As your child matures, there is no definitive resource that will give you all the answers about raising them right. The best you can do is trust your gut. And trust your child. Often, our children try to tell us something important and we are too stupid to listen. Oh, we tell ourselves that we are “busy”… busy cooking dinner, busy paying bills, busy writing a report for work, busy watching Oprah… busy, busy, busy. But what we’re really being is stupid. When we stop listening to our kids, they stop talking to us. It’s not their fault. Kids can grow and gain independence while still keeping open communication with their parents if we don’t do anything stupid.

One place where we let our kids down most is not believing them. If you’ve done a decent job keeping the doors to communication open with your child, don’t close it because something they tell you seems farfetched or hurtful or embarrassing. If your little girl is afraid to visit with Uncle Joe, don’t make her until you’ve ensured both yourself and her that the fears are ungrounded. But the point here is to make sure your child believes that you take her concerns seriously enough to properly investigate the situation before just blowing them off with condescension.

Be an involved parent. The stupidest thing you can do is to think your children function on auto-pilot. Put down your phone, stow away your tablet, turn off the TV, walk away from the computer. None of your gadgets is as important as your child. You may feel stupid because you can’t help them with “new math” or maybe you yourself didn’t graduate high school so can’t correct spelling or grammar mistakes. But feeling stupid and being stupid are two different things. Learn WITH your child and reinforce your belief that education is important. Give your child all the opportunities you didn’t have. SHOW them you are interested and that you care.

Be a responsible human being. Like it or not, you are a role model for your children. They will watch you closely and mimic your actions, if not your words. You are stupid if you think you can tell a child “do as I say, not as I do.” The old cliches are the best, and the most annoying because they are so true. Actions speak louder than words. You don’t have to make a ton of money or live in the best neighborhoods to be a decent person. How you treat others matters to your kids. If you talk crappy to a waitress, your kids will think it’s okay to talk that way to people. If you want respect from your kids, show it – to them and everyone you meet. No, not everyone deserves respect, but not everyone deserves disrespect either. Until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, you don’t know what another person deserves. Live by the Golden Rule if you don’t live by any religious belief. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Teach that to your children. Make it an expectation.

When your children fall short of your expectations and discipline is in order, make sure the crime fits the punishment. Don’t arbitrarily ground them for every little infraction, or constantly take privileges away. There’s never any hard and fast rule that works with every kid every time, so you will have to work to find the style of discipline that works best in your home. Generally, it’s agreed that spankings are detrimental. Without being stupid, I would say that sometimes, a well-placed and well-timed slap is quite effective and possibly the best teacher of a moment. If I saw my young child reaching to touch a hot burner on the stove, I have several options for this experience. I could let them touch it and learn the hard way that it’s a bad idea to come into contact with heat. Of course, then he’ll have a very painful injury that will take days to heal, and cause more suffering to him than the situation warranted. I could use verbal communication and say “don’t touch”. That may work while I’m physically present and able to monitor the child directly, but what about the next time I turn around? Was the “don’t touch” enough to dissuade a curious child from trying it again? That leaves me with the option to slap their hand away before they touch the burner. They understand that what they were doing was unacceptable, yet they didn’t incur any injury. Of course, some folks will disagree with me. I again reserve the right to think of them as stupid. (It is my blog, after all).

I never saw the movie “Forest Gump” but even I’ve heard his infamous line “stupid is as stupid does.” Most people who do stupid things are not, in fact, stupid people. They simply made poor choices, and usually out of laziness. After a hard day at work, it’s so much easier and more desirable to turn on the TV, relax on the couch and get lost in this week’s episode of “Real Housewives” than to pull up a chair at the table next to your child and review their homework or find out how their day has been. I get it. Your brain is already over-loaded, you’re stressed, you’ve got so much to worry about just to keep a roof over your head. But you chose to bring one or more kids into the world and it’s your responsibility to see to it that they become productive members of society and not a drain on an already fragile economy. They say “if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” Well, if you can’t handle parenthood, don’t get pregnant. It’s not that hard to prevent…

…unless you’re stupid.

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