3 parenting tips that have completely failed me

Some pieces of wisdom get handed down and over, again and again, because they’re just so darn true. Well, I’m waving a flag today to say there are exceptions to every rule.

Here are three parenting tips I have heard over and over again, that have not held up in my individual experience.

1. Engage your child in growing food/grocery shopping/cooking and she will be more inclined to try new things.

Nuh uh. I have not found this to be true. My kids are terribly stubborn when it comes to their food preferences. True, I don’t drive any hard bargains at the dinner table, but I am more committed to having a peaceful meal and keeping power struggles away from eating, so I have not made any progress here.

My son will gleefully plant cherry tomatoes but refuses to eat them. He is exposed to a dirt-to-table gardening and cooking program at school, but will not eat any of the foods they prepare in the Alice Waters-designed class.

At the grocery store, I can show him all variety of grains, fruits, vegetables and beans, but he will only agree to eat from the small selection he already likes.

Yet, everywhere I turn, I read that if I would only engage him more in the food preparation experience, his palate will broaden. I’ve lost faith in this seemingly logical bit of advice. The next person who speaks those words on a morning talk show or to me in person is invited to come over here and prepare meals for us. And good luck to you– if you think you’re serving kale, I might slap you with it.

Scarlett began gardening at age two, apparently too late.

Oh, and the “they like dipping” tip? Not my son. He is fearful of ketchup, forget about Ranch, and never mind soy sauce as a trick to dress up veggies.

2. Play doctor at home to reduce fear of doctor’s visits.

My daughter is absolutely phobic of doctor’s offices and pretty much screams and cries the whole time we are there, even through procedures as painless as having her ears checked. You can imagine how I dread going to the doctor with her. I have taken her with her brother when she’s not being examined; I have taken her to just go to the office, look at the fish and leave; I have taken her with me to my own doctor, all in the name of reducing the terror associated with the office. No dice.

As a result, we are behind on immunizations, haven’t had her hearing tested, and the dentist has not actually gotten a look inside her mouth despite two visits.

If I ask her to play doctor with me at home, no problem! She loves it. What is she going to be when she grows up? A tummy doctor, she’ll tell you. She’ll be the first medical practitioner who has never actually been examined.

Guess we'll never know if that pacifier screwed up your teeth, honey.

3. Sleep training, of any flavor.

Cry it out, you say? After my experience sleep training easy baby Julian, I was a total believer. We broke him of various wake-ups at various stages in his babyhood, with textbook results.

Scarlett was a totally different story. When we felt she was old enough to sleep through the night, we let her cry each night for the allotted time with zero improvement for THIRTY DAYS. It was then that we gave up. I could get more sleep by spending five minutes nursing her back to sleep than forty minutes listening to her cry. Eventually she slept through the night without behavioral training from us. And before her first birthday.

Around her third birthday she put us through another round of insanity with the sleep habits. Again I discovered that introducing a power struggle simply escalated the tension and didn’t help put her to sleep or teach her anything.

For some kids, absolutely. As a tool that works without fail? I don’t think so.

Multiple choice quiz: which baby will respond to sleep training?

Because of my own entrenched gag reflex when I hear these well-meaning tips (over and over and over), I tend to dispense my parenting advice with loads of disclaimers. I feel obligated to say “I understand this may not be your style, or may not work for your baby.” Then again, since no one wants to read a bunch of sentences that start with “If…”, I do frequently throw ideas out there and hope that they help somebody without alienating everyone else.

Tell me I’m not the only one. What parenting tips do you keep encountering that have not worked for you?

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.

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