Welcome to my weekly Bad Mom Advice column where I attempt to answer all of your parenting questions as only I know how — with zero degree in early childhood development, but with the experience of raising four kids and not having any of them in prison – yet! Plus, I back all my advice on numerous scientific research, which may or may not include me making fun of your dumb kid behind your back and drinking a bunch of wine! Welcome to Bad Mom Advice!
My daughter is 2 1/2 and wakes up 2-3 times a night without fail. She screams and cries each time, which is upsetting for everyone (including our neighbors within the apartment complex). Her father and I are at our wits end and do not know what to do. We have a nighttime ritual to get her ready for bed where she spends time with both of us and gets a small snack plus enough to drink. When she wakes up she screams for food, milk, or her dad. Any advice on how to handle her poorly timed tantrums or stop them altogether? Thanks!
Your neighbors are going to hate you, unless you follow my excellent Bad Mom Advice for this situation. First of all, at two and a half your adorable daughter is too old to be pulling this manipulating nonsense, especially considering she has such a lovely bedtime ritual. She is playing you and your husband hardcore. I’m not sure how big your apartment complex is, but you first need to do some damage control for your neighbors. If your area is surrounded by under ten apartments, like if you live in a small enough building where you can do this, I would suggest making a flyer that reads something like “Hi, we are your neighbors in Apartment 4B! We have a young daughter we will be sleep training and I’m sorry to disturb you, but she will be making a lot of racket for the next few days. We apologize in advance for this, and we would like to invite you over between the hours of 6-8 on ____ to meet the child disrupting your sleep, eat some pizza, and pick up your emergency supply kit!” Go to the dollar store and pick up some candy, some ear plugs, some of those travel sized packets of Tylenol and hit the liquor store and grab some of those airplane sized bottle of booze. Print up some little cards that read “Thank you for understanding, if you need your plants watered or your mail picked up when you go on vacation, consider this your IOU.” Stick all these little prizes in a ziploc and hand them out when people stop by. I think having pizza and soda or beer is a nice gesture too. Explain to your daughter that she is a big girl now and that everyone needs their sleep. Hell, you can even pick her up some cheapy coloring books and bubbles and stuff for when she stays in her own bed for a few nights. Introduce her to her neighbors and say “Hey, ____, this is Mr. ____ and we need to be quiet and not wake up the building so he can get his sleep.” If you make it like a party I think your daughter will be a lot more willing to cooperate.If your neighbors are creepy, I would just leave the goody bags and the flyers without the stopping by invitation at their doorsteps. Now, your neighbors may have kids or know kids and they were once kids themselves, so they should be understanding without all this pomp and circumstance, but being woken up is not fun so all of this extra junk is just so they don’t complain to your landlord. Let us know how it goes!
I have two wonderful, amazing–no, okay, I have two regular cousins who are good kids overall, but not spectacular. Due to some logistical arrangements, we’re fairly close, and I spend time babysitting them. Between one girl (9) and one boy (7), neither one likes old Disney flicks or books or nature walks–but that would all be okay if not for the bitchiness. And by bitchiness, I mean saying things that are intentionally mean-spirited and acting cruel to others. Examples: Calling people ‘slow’ when they don’t come up with more content (another story, a funnier joke) for you. Tricking people so that you can get what you want after they have denied the direct request. Lying about people’s actions–usually saying they broke a rule or acted up, but it could be anything disparaging. The girl used to walk up behind people and swat them on the butt, then go around bragging that she ‘spanked you’. I know these are all petty behaviors, but they add up (and combine with sibling rivalry) until both of them have spent the day insulting everyone around them, including each other, which causes more than a few fights. None of it seems to be improving with time; in fact,the girl has progressed to pretending she doesn’t care about things to seem cool, which is infuriating to me, and the boy is beginning to pick up on his sister’s bitchy habits. I’m starting to dread spending time around them due to this behavior; my other relatives usually do not have that luxury. What can I do to get it stopped? Thanks.
Oh man, I hate kids. I am so glad I don’t have any. Oh..wait. Okay, they are pulling this crap with you because they are allowed to get away with it at home. Since you aren’t their parents and they aren’t with you full-time, all you can do is instill your own rules and hope they start behaving better at home. The next time they come over I would line ’em up. Explain to them that you are done with all of this bickering and tattle-telling and nonsense, and that you find it amazingly boring and they are ruining any fun you could have with them. Give them a choice. Hand them some of those Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and tell ’em they can either hang out and have fun with you or else clean your baseboards. I wouldn’t put up with this. They are lucky to get to go over to your house, especially when you are offering them magic like nature walks and Disney movies, and if they want to act like assholes you should explain you won’t have them over again. Tell their parents that you are tired of the attitude and it won’t fly at your house. The next time they give you lip or fight with each other put them in time-out. I STILL do this with my older kids, and let me tell you, seeing a teenager sitting in the corner for calling his younger brother a “Buttface” is rewarding in itself. It sounds to me they act this way because no one in their little lives is telling them they can’t. You be this person.
Dear Bad Mom Advice,
It’s come to this. The seven year-old daughter has whined and cried enough that this morning, my wife and I locked ourselves in our bedroom – afraid to come out.
Questions aren’t the issue. Kids should be allowed to ask questions constantly, even if your only answer to the particular question is “Because I said so.” The whining is a whole other jam, and I would curb that shit right now. Seven is way too old to be whining. The next time she does it, do what I did with my own kid when she suddenly decided it would be cool to start baby-talking in this weird sing-songy falsetto that was the perfect depiction of nails-on-a-chalkboard coupled with a creepy sounding alien baby: Just reply with “I do not understand you.”
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Make your wife do the same thing.
Just say “This is not your usual lovely speaking voice and I cannot understand you.” Then pick up a magazine or book or a bottle of vodka and ignore her. If she persists, hand her some crayons and say “Can you draw me a pretty picture of what you are saying?” That will keep her busy, give you a few minutes of peace, and every time she decides to whine if she is met with being ignored or given a job to do (drawing out what she is saying) she will get bored pretty quickly. Tah-dah!
Let me know if this works!
Need some Bad Mom Advice? E-mail me, tweet at me, or hit me up in the comments. As usual, I am not a licensed therapist, but I’m really into the new Hannibal show on NBC. That should count for something.