Have you ever sat around late at night wondering . . . does my child poop enough? Have you tossed and turned all night in bed screaming to the nightmare vision of your son not walking until the age of four? Does taking your kid to school in the mornings give you panic attacks from all of the bullies awaiting them on their campus? Is your child reaching that tender age where you feel like you need to talk to them about “the big S” but know showing them the Woody Allen movie would be a step too far? (Think silly putty for grown-ups.) Well, we here at the Guide wanted you to worry about that no longer. We decided to present to you the top ten parenting frequently asked questions.
What was our methodology you ask? Doing a double-blind totally biased survey of people, we came up with ten questions that have been on every parent’s mind. (Yes, a “double-blind totally biased survey” is an oxymoron for those of you in the flat earth society.) We knew you would be beating down our doors very soon if we did not answer these all-important questions. Assuming the Guide had doors . . . or a building. So after hearing from all of you people about the things you desperately needed to know, we threw those questions in the trash and got a whole new random set of questions from Google (which we would tell you were your questions) and you would never know the wiser. Oops!
These ten questions are so significant and so diabolical that even by hearing them your life will be changed. Or you will run away from your electronic device screaming, which will change your life as well. (Hey! You needed exercise and to get away from your computer after staring at the computer screen for ten hours anyway. Your eye doctors had been warning you! So I did you a favor.)
The questions cover a multitude of years of the life of your child. So they should be good for all ages. Because I know those of you with toddlers are wondering when you should have that talk about the birds and the bees. And for those of you with teens, you desperately need to know when they will learn to walk. (After they have spent the last ten hours in bed and all you can hear are grunts and groans from them, you wonder if they have forgotten to talk as well.)
Now after all of this, we did not want you to worry. Having all of these questions in the palm of your hand would be somewhat meaningless if we didn’t actually answer them. Actually, they would be completely meaningless if we didn’t answer them. So not only will you be getting these top ten significant and diabolical questions, but you will get answers as well. I know. I know. The cost of this information is beyond measure. So don’t tell any of the parenting experts out there that we released this information to you. The Parenting Gestapo might come after us. (It’s a thing. Just ask Kris Jenner. No, wait. Bad example!)
So without further ado, The Single Dad’s Guide to Life presents:
The Top Ten Parenting Frequently Asked Questions (Or PFAQ for short)
10) Does My Child Poop Enough?
I know that when you read the introductory paragraph, you were thinking that it was a fake question. In fact, you are still staring at your screen wondering whether or not I have lost what marbles I had. Assuming that this is a question worth posing, what amount of poop is enough, and what is too much? And can there be a not enough poop option? The answer to this questions is 42. Because that is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Or Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. One of those.
Seriously, it depends upon age, consumption, and so many different variables that it’s nearly impossible to say. Although if they are going poop more than 4 times a day after 6 months you need to ask yourself whether feeding your child Big Macs at 2 is a healthy thing. Or if they are two and going less than once a day, you may need to think laxatives. And you need to ask yourself whether heavy metal music to put your child to sleep was a good choice. What you don’t want is your child to get constipated. Because they may end up turning into Weird Al and have their head chopped off. Or something like that.
What you really need to know is whether it’s consistent, whether it’s odoriferous, and whether Elvis or the Beatles is better. That’s all that counts. Which brings us to number 9.
9) When Will My Child . . . (Walk, Talk, Run, Sing, Burp, Eat Cheetos, And Steal My Eggo Waffle)?
While not sure about when you will be able to use the line “Leggo my Eggo,” (and I know you have been waiting), I can tell you the exact hour your child will do all of those various activities. They will happen at 4:00 PM, February 30th, 2018. (So right around the corner for all you Lochness monster believers out there.) The truth is, there is no absolute way of knowing. I actually knew a girl who never said a word until the age of 5. The family wasn’t sure if she were mute or not. But when she started talking, you couldn’t stop her. Was she unable to speak before? Who knows? But did it mean she couldn’t function when she grew up? No! Evidently, she just needed something to talk about.
And if they aren’t walking by the age of two, maybe you need to check something out. But you can’t worry if Jimmy swears his child is walking by 9 months and yours is just 9 months and one day old. Get over yourself. Plus, don’t freak out when they are two and are still needing to use pull-ups. Each child develops in their own time. If they aren’t potty trained by the age of 5, and they don’t have some handicap, there might be something wrong…. with you. See a psychiatrist, stop being weird, and get your child trained. (Trained doesn’t mean they never have accidents. It just means they now can control when they go, somewhat.)
8) When Will My Child Ever Get To Sleep?
“Sleep? We don’t need no stinking sleep!”
I know you imagine your baby’s first sentence being that . . . in your fever dreams. Some kids never seem to want to sleep. How many times have you watched your child fight sleep just to succumb to the Sandman? And then, when you are finally ready to sleep, they pop right up as if they had been sleeping for hours. As parents, we know there are days when we feel like we live in a haze. After having one of those days, if you have a partner, you know you need to trade off on the “baby night shift.” If you don’t have a partner, I feel for you. I know co-sleeping is a big thing now. Maybe that helps. Although you will begin to question that decision when you feel your child’s feet on your back at 3 AM. Ah, tradeoffs.
But you asked when will your baby sleep? It really depends. But the question isn’t when will they sleep. The question is, how will you adapt? You need to change your patterns in order to deal with theirs. Because all kids are different. My brother didn’t take long naps at night. He took short naps throughout the day. My daughter and I were both long sleepers early on. Within the first month, we were already sleeping 6 or more hours in a night. Some parents just get lucky. But don’t count on luck. Adapt. And be as consistent as you can with them. Because consistency is key.
I do sympathize with the parents who have multiple kids, making naps difficult to impossible. Which is why I say you need to trade off. And if you don’t have a partner to trade off with I ask one question. What were you thinking of having more kids without a partner?!?! That’s crazy talk!
7) What Do You Do To Encourage Your Children To Eat Healthily?
Feed your children chocolates multiple times every day until they get so sick of chocolates that they demand you feed them a salad. Because, “I don’t want chocolate, I want a salad,” . . . said no child ever. Although you never know. Your child could be the first. I guess there is only one thing you can do. Feed them healthy food. I understand that as parents we don’t want our kids to starve. Starving es no Bueno! (Look at me go. Me and my Spanglish!) But regardless of the situation, the only way to get them to eat healthily is to feed them healthy.
So what do I mean by this? Does this mean that I am suggesting forcing your kids to eat a Vegan diet? I suppose if you are Vegans that is what you must do. But that is not what I am suggesting. Just make them eat a healthy one. How does one do this? As a parent, the only way to get your kids to adapt to food is to give them the kind of healthy food that is good for them.
Studies have shown that it takes up to 10 times for your palate to change to accept new foods. And with some kids, it feels like 50. Better start that now. And keep at it, or they will go back to the bad habits. It’s possible they will get junk food from their friends and wreck some of your good work. But kids won’t starve themselves. They will start eating what you feed them because they have to.
All of this will be work. One cannot find simple answers that work. Being healthy takes time and effort. Even at 2.
6) How Do I Deal With Sibling Rivalry?
WWF style of course. Get them to body slam each other on mats so often that they are too worn out to be mad at one another. Or if that doesn’t work, put weapons in the room and let them go Hunger Games style at each other. You might want to lock the room before you leave though. And make sure none of the weapons are loaded.
Too violent you say? Ok. Maybe it’s a little over the top. I don’t have any simple answers to that conundrum except to say. Stop at one! I repeat. Stop at one! If you haven’t heeded this advice then here are a few pointers I have to give when it comes to sibling rivalry.
Be Consistent – If you are not, they will play you against them, and them against you
Be Fair – For the same reasons as the first one. Not being fair produces wildly different results in your children.
Be Mindful – Each child has different needs. Try to make sure each child’s need is met. If one is and the other is not, resentment steps in.
Be Encouraging – Don’t lie to them and tell them that secretly their sibling loves them. Kids know that line, even if there is a small kernel of truth there. But encourage them to love each other and to try to see the world from their sibling’s eyes. It may seem impossible but that is your task. And that will help the kids to get along.
Be Parental – Ultimately you will need to step in from time to time. Recognize when play has turned from silly into the 75th Hunger Games. And then step in and dole out punishments. Fair punishments.
5) How Should I Handle Discipline?
Taking your child out to the woodshed of course. What? Don’t you have a woodshed? And you think that might be against the law? Hmmmm…. Have they outlawed waterboarding for children yet? I’m just thinking aloud.
Actually, the first thing that I would do to understand how to discipline children is take a parenting class. Even if you think you are going to be the best parent in the world and raise your kids properly, it’s good to see that there are different ways to parent. They may all be failures in handling your particular child. But it’s still good to see that the way you learned isn’t the only way, and maybe not the right way.
Second, realize that every child you have is different. They will respond to different punishments differently. In order for something to be effective, it needs to work for them. Some people will listen to a stern warning. Some kids will listen with a time out. And some kids need a little more. (I will not get into the efficacy of spanking a child here. I will just say that I never needed to do so with mine.)
Third, try to determine the difference between bad intentions and bad outcomes. Far too often, parents fixate on bad outcomes and punish their children in a way that does not make sense. If your child did something and someone accidentally got hurt in the process, you do need to have a talk with them. Something may need to happen to make them remember what happened and help them think through further actions they may take. But they shouldn’t be punished like they meant to harm someone.
Bad intentions are different. There, the child intends the outcome they got. When Jimmy pushes Billy down on the playground and Billy twists his ankle, Jimmy intended for Billy to get hurt. When Steve is playing with a jump rope and swinging it across the ground causing Michael to trip and twist his ankle, Steve did not mean to harm Michael. Do not punish Steve like Jimmy.
4) How Can I Make My Ex Care For My Child More?
By whining at them until they break down and show up for your child more often. Because whining is our best defense against behavior we don’t like. Hmmm… that doesn’t sound right. Maybe let’s try another. We take them to court and sue them for every last penny they have and then we treat them like they are dirt and badmouth them to our kids to encourage them to fight against all of the badmouthing we have given them. Ugh! Still, don’t like that? Let’s try another. We expose them as a deadbeat dad to the world and guilt them into wanting to spend more time with their child. Because nothing works like good old fashioned guilt.
If you take none of the previous suggestions as law, and I hope you don’t, then you might want to go with a different method. Actually, you may want to go with no method whatsoever. You are not God. You cannot change people. There are things you can do however. I have a two-pronged approach to dealing with the question. One focuses on you. The other focuses on the other parent. Because ultimately, we cannot make someone care for someone else. No one can do that. Not even the Genie from Aladdin.
How does one deal with the feeling your former spouse doesn’t care for your child enough? First, examine yourself. No treats your child the way you do. And no one should do that. You are a unique individual. Expecting others to act as you do is not in their best interest, and may not be in the best interest of your child either. Children get different things from different parents. In that one, comment rests the beauty of the family. Your ex should be providing them with different things. So ask yourself this question: when you say that your ex-spouse does not care for your child enough do you mean that they don’t care for your child the way you would? Because if you mean that, you should adjust your thinking.
Secondarily, if you have still determined that it’s them and not you, remove all artificial barriers to access to your child and encourage your ex to take advantage of the fact these barriers are gone. Some barriers like distance and time cannot be helped. But things like staying up until 8 on a Sunday and not eating any candy whatsoever (aside from allergies) are restrictions you have made up. They may be good and healthy restrictions. And you can keep them on your own.
But what is better for your child? No candy and no father? Or some candy and a dad? I would venture to guess that the answer to the question should be flexing on candy to make sure the child has a father. And if you say having no candy is more important than whether your child has a dad or not, I question whether or not the court has decided on the right guardian.
3) What Do You Do When Your Child Is Being Bullied?
Take out a machete and bring it to school. Talk to the other children about how you love the sight of blood. Give the hand gesture to the bully where you point to your two eyes and then point at them. Finally, show up unannounced at several locations where the bully hangs out so that the bully feels you are following them, which you are. No! Wait! That’s how you handle when your daughter’s boyfriend comes calling. Sorry. Wrong question.
Really, this is one of the most difficult things for you as a parent to handle. We feel so helpless most of the time. And so our inclination is to get involved when we can do something. Unfortunately, stepping in does not necessarily help in this situation. Our kids will experience bullies and bullying for most of their lives. If we step into the situation we take away a learning experience for them. And an experience that will help them handle other situations in their lives.
At the same time, you don’t want to be so hands-off that you allow your kids to face a bully for which they are not ready. This means that as a parent we need to be ever vigilant and watchful over the situations that happen with our children. We need to keep the lines of dialogue open in order to know what is going on in their life. And we need to give our kids the kind of security to know that they are loved no matter what. If they understand that they are valuable for who they are instead of what they do, this will equip them to confront the bullies of this world. The bullies will not be able to destroy the image your children have of themselves, which is their ultimate goal. And your children will recognize the bully for the insecure child he or she is.
2) How Busy Should We Keep Our Kids?
We should put our kids in so many different things that it makes them far too exhausted to get into any kind of trouble. And then keep them so busy that by the time they get to college they are stressed out to the point of not being able to handle school. This stress that we should encourage will make them to turn to drugs and alcohol because they cannot handle it all, because really what we want for our child is for them to grow up to be drug addicts and being taken care of by mental facilities. I know that’s what I want for my child. How about you?
OK! It’s possible that we don’t want them to end up in mental institutions. So I guess we might want to backtrack on the busy. I know we put our kids in all of those sports and activities with good motives. It does keep them busy. It can keep them out of trouble. And it does make it easier to put them to bed at night. These are all laudable goals.
The issue I have is where the activity becomes so stressful that they don’t have time to stop, sit, think or laugh. There are parents who keep their kids on the go all day and into the night. But how much are you engaging with your kids when you do this? And how much time do they have to unwind? I know your kids need to have a relationship with you. And I know that your kids also need time to relax themselves. When you keep them extremely busy you prevent them from having that. You are robbing them. And you are robbing yourself from having the flourishing relationship with your children that benefits you and them.
Furthermore, it robs our children of the ability to handle silence. If you keep them so active all the time, they will not know what to do with a moment of quiet. Whatever you believe in, whether its meditation, prayer, yoga, or finding your center, all require quieting of one’s self and one’s thoughts. If a child is kept perpetually active, the quiet times will feel awkward and frustrating. And they will struggle finding inner peace. Plus, the quiet times give our children a chance to flourish creatively speaking. In order to develop properly, our children need the opportunity to create on their own.
Ultimately what I call for here is balance. Give them stuff to do to keep them active. And give them down time to unwind, create, and reflect. Your children will be happier and healthier. And your relationship with your child will flourish.
1) What Do I Do About The Big “S” Talk?
Hand them some condoms and a book and say good luck! Or let the school hand them condoms, pretend that sex never existed and talk about the stork that brought them home from the magical baby kingdom in the sky. Or… get into such graphic detail about the act that they get disgusted and promise that they will never have sex or get married until they are 96. One of those should work… for a serial killer.
I am not going to pretend that I have the best answer here. There is no one size fits all approach, despite all boxes of condoms having the label extra large. And what you tell a girl is probably going to be very different than what you tell a boy. So you will be navagating a mine field. I do think that there are some basic guidelines and principles when it comes to the talk. Here are the principles I would follow when it comes to the “Sex” talk.
Encourage dialog early and often – Never make fun of their questions about strange topics and always encourage them to talk to you when they have questions.
Frame the dialogue about it – Don’t allow someone else to frame your child’s understanding of it. So talk about it in basic terms early. It’s about love. It produces children. Etc.
Don’t try to have it all in one sitting – It will be a lot to handle. Spacing it out over time allows your child to sit, reflect, and ask positive and constructive questions later. It can even be handled over years. Not just a few hours.
Don’t be afriad of it – It may not be comfortable. But fear is the wrong thing to communicate to our child. They will seek answers elsewhere if we show we fear it. It’s just another life lesson.
Don’t be overly descriptive – While you do need to talk about complementary parts, you do not need to draw diagrams. That will disgust the child and make them embarassed to have the talk. You want to keep their attention.
Make sure they understand its importance – Your child should know that who they do it with is important. You shouldn’t just be with someone because of a feeling. You engage in it because you know you have a future with this person and you trust them. Why? Because . . .
Make sure they understand its consequences – This does not mean make them afraid of it. That is silly and it makes you look foolish in the end. But they need to know what it is meant for and what can happen. They don’t want a child with just anyone. And there are diseases that can be passed on that are serious and life altering.
Don’t talk about pregnancy as a bad thing or a consequence – First, because it is not. And second, because if for some reason your child should become pregnant, you want them to be able to come to you. If you have made them feel pregnancy is a negative, they will go elsewhere. Or if you have a boy, you should make sure they know that while having a child is a responsibility they hold, it is a beautiful one. One which will change their lives for the better.
Continue The Conversation
I think as long as you get through this list and you don’t follow the answers in the first paragraphs you will be fine. But if you like those better or you are already following one or more of them, I will get you the number to a therapist or a good psychiatric hospital. Have you thought of calling a 5150 on yourself? Just saying.
So what did you think? Are there any questions you might have that did not get answered today? What would your parenting questions be? I know that people have a million of them and I have barely scraped the surface. I would love to hear all of your thoughts.
If you liked this post, please follow me here at the Guide. All subscribers by email will get access to the Dad Rules section of the website. These are ten rules that every dad should follow, and every mom should know about.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life