"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
April 11, 2013
Bad Advice
by Hannah Bird

I am a compulsive reader of books on parenting, child development, home management and homeschooling. I figured I needed all the help I could get. Some of those books were duds but some were chock full of fantastic ideas I use to this day. But recently, when I sat down to read a new book full of help for the inexperienced mother I realized that I had, in fact, been parenting more children for longer than the author. It suddenly hit me. I should write a book of parenting advice. Or at least a column.

So here is my best parenting advice:

Once your child is old enough to go on church activities you will spend fully 1/5 of your life filling out permission slips and looking for lost permission slips. So take one permission slip, fill in the ward and basic information, scan it into your computer and then print it out and add the particulars.

And that’s it.

It is a little unnerving that 19 years into this endeavor I don’t really have anything useful to pass on. By my count I should be chock full of wisdom by now. But I still go to bed most nights thinking, “Whew, that was a close one.” I am not sure how the wisdom-filled advice types get there. I am clearly not traveling that road. But I do have a list of parenting advice that you should hand back immediately if someone tries to give it to you.

So here is my parenting anti-wisdom list, a small survey of things that parents should never do or stop doing immediately.

Make no effort at all to build your child’s self esteem. Either you will have a child who is cynical enough to catch on to the con or you will have a child that ends up convinced that they are a gift to world. The first kid ends up bitter and disillusioned. The second kid ends up on reality tv until they also become bitter and disillusioned. Either way, no es bueno. Teach them to be competent.

Stop teaching your child not to be a quitter. I learned this miraculous bit at dinner with friends once. There are a good many things that you may want your child to quit. So teach them how to know when to quit and the right way to do that.

Don’t tell your kids that they can be anything they want to be. You are lying. I cannot be the Pope. My 5 ft. nothing daughter cannot play in the WNBA. If you cannot pass chemistry you are not going to be a doctor. Help them figure out what they like and what the can do with that. Not only will your kid be happier, but American Idol auditions will be less cringe worthy.

Don’t tell your kid to just do their best. It is not, in fact, good enough. In all of life they will be held to standards of what is required rather than what they can do. Teach your kids how to bridge that gap. We bridge the gap between our best and the Lord by the Atonement of our Savior. How they bridge that gap in employment and family life pretty much determines how successful they will be. No one wants to hear a pouty 40-year-old excuse stupidity with “I did my best.”

In short, there is a real world. It is not run by the Disney Corporation. Tell your kids now or watch them slowly learn it later. It’s not as fun as telling your kid that they and everything around them are perfect. But it is kinder.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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