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Oh my god, I’m a parenting hack hoarder! Seriously. I just spent months cleaning out my house in preparation for our family’s recent move and my trash pile looked like a time machine for bad parenting hacks gone by. I came across an endless bag of tricks. And as I looked at my son’s sticker chart and my daughter’s chore chart, I realized just how many parenting hacks I tried based on the advice of friends or experts, only to find that they didn’t work. Or worse yet, those supposed gems and tricks that someone swore would change my kid’s behavior and my life were actually just a total pain in my a*s. Here are the worst of the worst…

1. Chore charts

For me, a chore chart meant I had to reward my kids for going simple helpful household tasks, like taking in the garbage cans or clearing their own plates. I don’t want to teach my kids they get a reward for being helpful. So I chucked the chore chart, but not the chores.

2. The smart night light
I got one of those night lights where the sun lights up when it’s the time you’ve set for your child to wake up. Sounds great except my kids would play with the clock and mess up the time I’d set. That meant I either had to be vigilant about constantly checking the clock or risk my kid waking up at 5 a.m. saying, “But the clock told me it was time.” Turns out, it was easier just to teach my kid how to read the time on an actual clock.

3. The bracelet-pool alarm
When my daughter was 2 we rented a vacation home that had a pool. I was panicked about pool safety and so I got a pool alarm that had two parts, one of which was a watch-like device that she wore. It sounded an alarm if she walked past the other part of the device, which we placed near the door to the pool. Sounds clever had I not given birth to baby MacGyver who figured out how to take the watch piece off within seconds. No matter where I put it, on her arm or her swimsuit strap, she got out of it. Fail!

4. Poker chips as an incentive
A friend suggested using poker chips as incentive for good behavior so I tried it with my son, who was 4 or 5 at the time. The idea was great, the chips seemed like money to him, and he could earn a toy or treat with a certain amount of poker chips in hand. But he’d lose them, play with them, or forget how many he had, to the point where I felt like I needed poker chips as incentive to keep track of his poker chips. It was exhausting!

5. An allowance for chores
My kids are still just 5 and 8, so maybe when they get older they can have allowance for chores. But for now allowance, like chore charts, has me basically paying my kids to do what I already expect them to do. Plus, there is always the inevitable, “I don’t have enough allowance to buy what I want to buy,” thing that happens at the toy store. I want my kids to learn the value of money, but not by getting paid to be a helpful member of the family.

6. Toilet training bribes and tricks
I easily trained one child and painfully toilet trained the other. That’s because I toilet trained my second child when she seemed ready. Therefore, it was a pretty easy process. With my first child, I assumed there was a right date to toilet train him. So I tried all the tricks from rewarding him every time he peed or pooped inside the actual toilet to trying to anticipate when he’s going to have to pee or poop.

7. Sleep Training
Let me explain. I was adamant about sleep training my first born on the very day my pediatrician said I should sleep train him. It worked, but it was a bit gut wrenching for me. My second child never needed sleep training. She just put herself on a schedule and her sleep followed suit. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if I had just waited a month or two with my firstborn, maybe he would have put himself on a schedule, too. Now I’ll never know, but at least they both sleep well!

8. Hiding veggies in favorite foods
I love the idea of sneaking healthy veggies into a smoothie or cookie so my kids get those harder to get used to veggies in their diet without the food fight with me. Except my kids have the noses and taste buds of a detective and can easily spot any foreign object in their food. So after I’ve spent an hour making broccoli/blueberry muffins, they won’t eat them. It’s a pain. So now I just make veggies they like and call it a day.

9. Seat and stroller covers
When my kids were babies I saw the world through germ colored lenses so I bought every high chair or grocery store cart cover known to momkind. In theory, those covers are a great idea except when you try to put one on while holding a squirming baby. My grocery store covers spent more time in my trunk than under my kids’ butts. And yet, my kids still lived through whatever germs they touched on that cart.

10. The sleepy manicure
I applaud the parent whose baby sleeps soundly enough not to notice mom or dad is cutting his or her nails while he sleeps. But, when I tried cutting my son’s nails while he slept one of two things happened. One, I’d wake him up after I’d worked so hard to get him to sleep. Or two, I couldn’t see because my kids actually sleep in the dark. I quickly learned that it was much easier to trim my kids’ nails after they’d soaked in the tub than risk waking them or cutting them while they were sleeping.

So if you’ve been feeling like every other parent but you runs a tight ship with chore charts and poker chips, they don’t. Turns out, sometimes patience is the only parenting hack you need.

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