From the September 2018 issue

Half-Baked Parenting Quotes, from Cliches to Celebs

Boiled down to a one-liner or two, well-intended advice can often just wind up sounding like half-baked parenting. We think these 10 quotes make the cut.

Will Smith and Gisele Bundchen in chef hats

In the parenting “kitchen,” there are so many dishes – and countless ways to tweak the ingredients. Every “cook” puts his or her own spin on the classics, too.

Which is all fine and well. It adds flavor – which always tastes better than mom shaming, in our recipe book. But sometimes, the results can yield a bit of, shall we say, half-baked parenting.

Not that the advice is all bad. It’s just a little too sweeping. Or shortsighted. Or simply outdated. In other words, you won’t find them on our list of classic parenting tips that stand the test of time.

So, from timeworn cliches to the questionable celebs and public figures, here are 10 quotes we think qualify when it comes to crummy counsel for moms and dads – and some fully cooked insight to even things out.

Discipline

“We don’t do punishment.”

Will Smith, Fresh Prince, actor, musician, rapper, songwriter and comedian 

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“They are responsible for their lives,” Smith argues. Fair enough. But it teeters on half-baked parenting. Psychology Today counters parents should use punishments, but make sure they’re effective. Be specific and keep it short term – days vs. weeks, it notes – and don’t “take away a pillar of self-esteem.”

Gender stereotypes

“Boys will be boys.”

Chalking up aggressive behavior to gender does a long-term disservice to young boys and girls (#MeToo). Instead, as author/activist/mom Soraya Chemaly notes in a post on RoleReboot.org, talk to boys about impulse control, boundaries and other people’s rights. It’s all part of raising a good guy.

Breastfeeding

“There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”

Gisele Bundchen, model and actress

While the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous and it’s strongly encouraged by the USDA, “Sometimes there are medical reasons not to breastfeed (illnesses, medications, etc.) or a woman is not able to produce a sufficient amount of breast milk; these are understandable hindrances to breastfeeding,” notes the American Pregnancy Association.

Screens

“We always think of (videos) as being for adults, but my theory is you certainly see the beauty in these things if you are exposed to them in the right way, no matter what age you are.”

Julie Aigner-Clark, founder of Baby Einstein 

Back in 1996, Baby Einstein marketed videos to kids as young as 6 months (it now sells toys). Today, screen time is ubiquitous from birth – still, minus video chat, babies should be shielded from them before 18 months. That’s when some high-quality media, like Sesame Workshop, can have educational value, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

Co-sleeping

“There is nothing inherently weird or wrong about sleeping with your children. It feels good to cuddle, doesn’t it? Babies and kids think so, too. It’s normal.”

Mayim Bialik, Big Bang Theory star and neuroscientist 

Research suggests infants should sleep in the same room as parents for at least six months, but in their own crib or bassinet. It’s an important factor when it comes to parents co-sleeping with kids. After all, 3,500 infants die each year in the U.S. from “sleep-related deaths,” the American Academy of Pediatrics notes. “There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing.”

Emotions

“If your child bites, bite her back so she knows how it feels.”

This one’s a half-baked parenting no-brainer. Tit-for-tat doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. “Separate the biter from the bitten child,” says the American Psychological Association, “and then help the biter understand what emotions prompted the bite and how to handle them.” Helping kids in embracing anger and negative emotions can be a valuable life skill long-term.

Caffeine

“‘Drink this Coke. Drink this Coca-Cola. Drink it all. Right now! Drink it! Drink it! Drink it!’ Just so we could get (the kids) up and going.”

Brad Pitt, actor and film producer

Caffeinated and sugar-packed beverages can have ill effects for kids. “The dose of caffeine delivered in a single can of soft drink is sufficient to produce mood and behavioral effects,” the American Psychological Association notes. “Children who haphazardly consume caffeine are at risk for going through alternating cycles of withdrawal and stimulation.”

Praise

“Always praise kids.”

“Constant and perhaps undue praise for our kids’ tiniest accomplishments, or non-accomplishments, may have the unintended side-effect of creating an over-inflated ego,” an Ohio State University study notes. Instead, focus on fostering a growth mindset and praising the process – “I can tell you’ve been practicing!” vs. rote “Good job!” and “You’re so smart” comments.

Potty training

“Infants who are left in their diapers all day get out of tune with their bodies. … So – step away from the Pampers.”

Alicia Silverstone, actress and author 

Silverstone potty trained her bare-bummed 6-month-old son by holding him over the toilet when he gave cues he had to go. But “diaper-free training” can result in chronic holding – and accidents, bed-wetting, infections and more, experts say. Most kids start toilet training around 27 months, Johns Hopkins Medicine notes, and give clear signs they’re ready.

Grades

“It’s your job to make sure your kid gets good grades.”

Parents should care but not pressure when it comes to ways to help your child succeed in school. “Especially if they emphasize grades and achievement over things like compassion and social skills,” notes a 2017 study of U.S. middle school students, “it can have a negative impact on kids’ well-being and success” and bolster stress. That “A” really isn’t everything. Better if kids are learning in the process – and being kids.

Illustration by Jay Holladay

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