Have you ever noticed that a lot of parenting advice, which was once insightful, has now been reduced to bland clichés such as, “Learn to pick your battles,” and “Enjoy it while you can. They grow up so fast.” We’ve heard them repeated so many times that the words blend in with the background as white noise and the meanings have lost their impact.
Perhaps if we flip advice on its head, turn it into anti-advice, the impact will be stronger. Changing our focus to what we should not do, rather than on what we should do, may give us a fresher perspective of our parenting choices. To get a robust assortment of ridiculously bad parenting advice, let’s turn to the beloved anti-hero, Homer Simpson. Here are 11 of his biggest doozies:
- Well, it's 1am. Better go home and spend some quality time with the kids.
- Kids are great, Appu. You can teach them to hate the things you hate and they practically raise themselves now-a-days, you know, with the internet and all.
- Dr. Zander: Wait a minute! You strangle your own son? Homer Simpson: Yeah, strangling. It’s not the only tool in my parenting arsenal, but it's the sharpest.
- Then I figured out we could just stick them in front of the TV. That's how I was raised, and I turned out TV.
- Homer Simpson: I tried my best. I know it's hard to find out your father isn't perfect. Bart Simpson: Perfect father? That's for sure. Homer Simpson: I'm trying to be a sensitive father, you unwanted moron!
- It's not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day.
- Lisa Simpson: You promised to take us to the lake. Homer Simpson: I promise you kids lots of things. That's what makes me such a good father! Lisa Simpson: Actually, keeping promises would make you a good father. Homer Simpson: No, that would make me a great father.
- The code of the schoolyard, Marge! The rules that teach a boy to be a man. Let's see. Don't tattle. Always make fun of those different from you. Never say anything, unless you're sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do
- Son, this is the only time I'm ever gonna say this. It is not okay to lose.
- Homer Simpson: Bart, I'm going to ask you about something I read in a magazine. Are you boys in here cyberbullying? Jimbo Jones: How could we? We're all together, and we're not using computers. Homer Simpson: Marge, I parented!
- Kids, you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
If you find Homer Simpson hysterical, it’s because he touches upon a bit of truth in all us. Perhaps he reflects your affection for doughnuts or beer; mirrors how much you despise your monotonous job; portrays your love/hate relationship with your children—you love them, but sometimes dislike what they do; or mimics your own feelings of inadequacy as a parent. His character takes these negative, often unspoken thoughts, brings them to the surface and then pushes them to extreme absurdity.
Every once in a while, try to take a closer look at how you interact with your own kids by blowing up your actions to cartoon-size. For example, if you yell at your kids, imagine steam coming out of your ears, your eyes popping out of your head and your face turning fire-engine red. Ridiculous? Exactly.
But also keep in mind that we often blow things out of proportion unnecessarily. We panic that one wrong reaction will scar our kids for life, and we raise our kids out of fear rather than love. So the next time you start to beat yourself up for saying the “wrong” thing, ask yourself, “What would Homer Simpson do?” Then laugh and take comfort in the fact that you’re not nearly as bad as that.
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Dr. Cameron Caswell is the founder of the Fuel Center, a family coaching program that specializes in helping parents and teens rebuild their relationships.