This post was previously published on In the Powder Room.
Looking to save time? Looking to raise polite kids who can floss, problem-solve, and spell on their own? Looking to be the laziest parent you can possibly be?
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then read on for five useful parenting hacks:
1. Take “uni-tasking” to task.
Before anything enters your home, you should already have multiple uses for it in mind. Consider storing your Goldfish® crackers in a terrarium, for example—you now have the easiest pet on earth AND a handy snack.
And guess what? The utility doesn’t end there! When you stumble home late after a wild night out, the babysitter can help you move the tank right in front of your kid’s bedroom door. In the morning, breakfast is served! Your little love can eat for hours while you sleep your hangover away. (40 count variety pack right here people.)
2. Mind your manners.
When my kids were younger, I taught them that being polite was an effective shortcut to getting what they wanted in life. We practiced saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” We gave each other firm handshakes while maintaining steady eye contact. We walked around the house appreciating each other. Victorian high society had nothing on us.
When the time came to release my children into the world, all reports came back positive. My kids cleared their plates after meals, and thanked their hosts for having them. They asked servers at restaurants how their shifts were going, and complimented their Uber drivers on the cleanliness of their cars. They were pronounced “angels,” and free desserts rained down upon them. Not one person guessed that we’d swapped years of nagging about manners for a single conversation about how a simple handshake can help you get what you want in the world.
3. Make “Hmmm” the workhorse of your parenting lexicon.
Why answer your kids with logic when it will never be heeded? That just wastes everyone’s time. Instead, you should “Just Say Hmmm.”
The list of “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…” should include everything your children say, except perhaps “I love you.” (Unless, of course, you sense they are saying it sarcastically, in which case “Hmmm” works VERY well.) As a bonus, using a noncommittal grunt instead of doling out advice or judgment allows your kids to solve their own problems. That is a real time-saver down the line, and it’s sort of the goal of this whole parenting thing.
4. Sibling spelling lessons.
Give that younger sibling the power of the professor in order to push through homework time more quickly. When my younger son has no homework, he gets absolute authority over his older brother’s spelling list. I tell them it’s the dining room table version of Wheel of Fortune.It’s a little awkward to set the table around the giant wheel at dinner time, but as long as I am not on the “Bankrupt” space, I am fine with it.
5. The tortoise and the toothbrush.
In our house, whichever child brushes his teeth the longest gets to pick the book for bedtime reading. After all, what’s life without a little competition? As parents, we have all worked the “Race you to the car!” challenge to our advantage. Let’s take it to the next level and try something with a longer-lasting effect. Encourage your kids to floss each tooth twice, brush through a lifetime of renditions of “Happy Birthday to You,” and swish their mouthwash until they are dizzy.
I’m beginning to wonder if I am preparing my kids for Wheel of Fortune rather than life. They will be great spellers, their teeth will be better than Vanna White’s, their smiles will be sweeter than Pat Sajak’s, and traveling to tapings will be a cinch! After all, they’ll only have Goldfish®crackers for pets, and those things are really low-maintenance.