Bad parenting advice

We’ve all had it, a stern word of nonsense from a little old lady at the shops, outdated information from our mothers or mothers-in-law, something that might work for some babies but doesn’t work for yours. Just like there is good advice – there is some bad advice too, because strangers know exactly what will work for your unique baby. The real clue that advice will be bad is that it is unsolicited and told in dictatorial tones – Thou shalt never do this, thou shalt always do that…

Here is a little collection of some gems I’ve come across.  Of course, some of them may have been good advice for you and your baby –that is how advice is – there is no one size fits all, however, if you think these are good suggestions, we might not get along all that well.  These are the ones that made my mouth pucker up like a cat’s rear end.  

The junk food home remedy

My toddler had a cough and a colleague told me to feed her a certain brand of soft chips – as it would dry up the phlegm. When I looked at her with incredulity she told me that a paediatrician had suggested this and also said it would help with eczema (which my children don’t have). Ah, the magical properties of junk food.   

Amber teething necklaces

Then there are suggestions from the lentil eating sandal wearers (I shouldn’t talk so loudly, I quite like lentils and have some lovely leather sandals) to use amber necklaces for teething. You ask how they work and get told “well, I don’t know, but they just do, I’ve tested them”. Yes, that settles it for me. You’ve tested them in some undefined way and with no qualifications (or lab) to do so, the half baked testing has not shown how they work, but yes, they work, I’ll just take your word for it then shall I?

Never respond to your child’s need for comfort

The one beloved of old ladies in shops – “don’t pick him up all the time you’ll spoil him” or “he needs to cry to exercise his lungs.”  Actually, my children were born full term so their lungs are fully developed. I’ve also never heard of a NICU making premature babies cry to develop their lungs either. Also, how exactly do you spoil a baby by loving it and meeting its needs? How exactly does having a calm and happy baby and calm and happy mommy become a rod for your own back? I doubt anyone lies on their death bed and wishes they had held their baby less, but perhaps somewhere out there is a mom who does wish she had spent less time holding her baby and smelling the top of its head.   

Alcohol for toddlers

A colleague told me I should give my child brandy to make him sleep. Admittedly he woke me up while I was fast asleep glued to my desk with drool. Mmmm, I don’t think so. Turned out my little guy wasn’t sleeping because he had a tummy bug brewing and I got called home shortly after being woken with that dreadful pearl of wisdom.  

Don’t vaccinate

Don’t vaccinate your children, it’s putting toxins into their system / the diseases are fabricated / it is good hygiene not vaccines that made illness rates go down / no such thing as herd immunity / it causes autism / it’s too much too soon / vaccinated children get sick more often.  This one comes from gullible people everywhere who think that reading anti-vaccine web sites is doing research. If someone actually produces a shred of real evidence (not YouTube videos, lay people’s blogs, quack websites or badly designed studies) perhaps I’ll hear them out, till then, I’ll keep vaccinating my children and listening to those qualified to do research (said research which debunks each and every one of these conspiracy theories over and over and over again ad infinitum). I will however start selling tin foil hats.  

I used to smile and nod, but as I get older, I’m finding my tolerance levels going down and I waste vast amounts of energy trying to explain the logical fallacies to people – to no avail of course. Ah well, perhaps soon I’ll be a little old lady dishing out unsolicited advice in shopping malls, or driving my children and their partners mad with my outdated information.  

What is the worst parenting advice you’ve been given?

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