By Shoshanna Silberman
Want to know the secret to nurturing good values in your kids? Putting yourself first.
Promote good eating habits. When your kid’s not eating her dinner, just turn that obstinance into a teachable moment. Make a big show of putting away her dessert in the kitchen – once you’re out of sight, run the garbage disposal to mask the sounds of you scarfing that cookie down. But be quick about it – you’ve got to get back out there and show your charge who’s boss. Rinse out your mouth, brush off those crumbs, and return to the table with a stern look conveying “I hope you learned your lesson, young lady.” That night, while everyone in the house is asleep and you’re reexamining your upper arm cellulite in the weak light of the bathroom’s single bulb, reassure yourself that you didn’t stray from that week’s diet because it wasn’t your food you ate. Besides, calories don’t count when it comes to good parenting.
Teach gratefulness. Hide unopened birthday gifts deep in your bedroom closet and dole them out one at a time over a period of two to seven years. Your child will grow to appreciate the value of what he has, and you’ll have less crap around the house to trip over. So what if he’s six years old by the time you get around to presenting him with the teething ring Grandma (thought she) gave him for his 1st birthday? You’re encouraging imaginative play.
Create a bedtime routine. When bedtime comes and goes, and the little brat’s throwing a tantrum over turning off the latest episode of Daniel Tiger, Fireman Sam, or Whatever-the-fuck Kalamazoo, just remove yourself from the situation. Go to your room with a good book, get under the covers, and enjoy the silence. In about 10 minutes, Junior will realize he doesn’t have the audience he craves and will make his way to your remorsefully. Except you won’t know any of this, because you passed out five sentences into Chapter 1. You’ve successfully sent yourself to bed, and are finally getting those eight hours you’ve been missing out on for years.
Start sleep training from an early age. That is, teach your child that your partner – not you – is the go-to person for all nighttime crises. Bad dreams, parched throats, and peed-in beds are not and should not be your priority. Some good subliminal messaging delivered during your child’s REM cycles works wonders. After four months of consistent hypnosis, she’ll be conditioned to shriek like a banshee whenever you cross the threshold of her room to offer nocturnal support. Next time your little angel calls out for someone to put her blankie back on, don’t even bother getting up. (Disclaimer: This plan may backfire when your partner’s away on a business trip.)
Encourage good sportsmanship. Help your kid play well with others by never letting him win a board game. He needs to learn that there are losers in life, and it’s never too early to find out the truth. Be sure to throw him a bone every once in a while, but don’t let him get too comfortable. When a game’s getting close, just make up a rule that helps you get back on track. If he demands to know where you’re getting your new intel from, shove the instructions in his face. Who cares – he can’t read! When he’s older, store the game in the attic until he has kids of his own and you can set the next generation up for success.