The Best Expert Parenting Advice Ever

What your doctor, babysitter, preschool teacher, and all the other pros in your life really wish you knew -- but wouldn't dare say to your face!

  • Alexandra Grablewski

    Preschool Teacher

    Okay, tell us the thing you'd never say to our face.
    If a parent doesn't follow my directions, I'll assume her child won't either. I give parents specific instructions -- fill out these forms by this date, e-mail instead of calling, don't put candy in your kid's lunch. As soon you break my rules, that creates an immediate bias against your child. And most teachers feel the same way.

    Ouch. What else?
    The six most lethal words to a teacher at the end of class: "Hi! Do you have a minute?" We hate that. Make an appointment. Likewise, don't pretend you're in my classroom to volunteer and then try to use that time to chat about your child's progress.

    What's the biggest secret among teachers?
    Just as you have a preferred teacher you want for your kid next year, we have preferred students we want for our classrooms. How to become a preferred family? Start each school year by sending your teacher this e-mail: "Please provide me with a wish list of 10 things you would like for your classroom." She'll ask for things like Post-it notes, a chess set, a 50-cent deck of cards. When you spend maybe $20 on these items, it goes through the grapevine that you are here not just for your kid but for the entire class -- that this is the family that cares about the community, whose child is probably a team player too.

    P.S. The people pictured here are all models -- we had to swear to protect our sources.

  • Alexandra Grablewski

    Pediatrician

    Please speak for all doctors. What is the most annoying thing we parents do?
    Overreact to the little ills of childhood. American kids are the healthiest humans who have ever lived. But their parents often fear they're one sniffle away from certain doom. So, please, have confidence that you can handle most of the little throat itches, earaches, goopy eyes, and low fevers your child has. You don't need me; you just need a little chicken soup and love.

    But what about medicine?
    As much as you want a prescription to fix everything, your kid probably doesn't need antibiotics. For example, 80 percent of ear infections go away without them. It's a dirty little secret of pediatrics that ear infections pay our bills. Doctors are nice, and sometimes we write prescriptions because we want to feel like we're doing something to help, even though you'll be fine without it.

    What's another secret?
    There's a syndrome called "Sick enough to see the doctor, but well enough for baseball." The kid absolutely must see me on Sunday, but just not until after his game. If your child is well enough for school or practice, he's really not sick enough to see me. On the other hand, if your kid is sick enough to see me, he's probably sick enough to have an adult stay home with him. I can't magically make him well enough to get back to school or daycare.

    P.S. The people pictured here are all models -- we had to swear to protect our sources.

  • Alexandra Grablewski

    Daycare Director

    You've seen it all. Your biggest beef?
    I call it Rule-Bending Acrobatics. You have 66 reasons why your kid shouldn't have to eat what everyone else does, nap when everyone else does, and should be allowed to wear her princess costume every day. But it's really not good for her to feel like she's special in the group. Everyone has to follow the rules.

    What else would you like us to know?
    I ain't Grandma. Pick your child up on time. I love her, but I'm overworked and underpaid, and I want to get home too.

    Any advice you can't believe that you have to GIVE?
    At pickup, get off the cell phone, make eye contact, and say hello nicely. It's a long day for a little kid, and he misses you. Give him all your attention. Say, "Hi, I'm glad to see you. I've missed you today. How are you? What have you been doing?" You'll be rewarded with a kid who's less clingy and whiny all evening.

    Runner-up for most obvious advice that isn't listened to...
    Quit negotiating! If it's cold outside, don't discuss it with your toddler. Put his jacket on, for goodness' sake!

    P.S. The people pictured here are all models -- we had to swear to protect our sources.

  • It Worked For Me: Parent Hacks
    It Worked For Me: Parent Hacks
  • Alexandra Grablewski

    Kids' Dentist

    Most people don't like going to the dentist. Do kids know that?
    You may fear dentists, but there's no need to make your kid be afraid of them. Tell him, "You'll meet some nice people, they'll shine your teeth and count them. They'll have some neat special tools they'll show you. And at the end you'll probably get a sticker!" Don't hold him tight in the waiting room, whispering consolations. Don't call out, "Be brave!" as he walks toward the chair. That makes him think there's something terrible awaiting him.

    Don't make promises I may not be able to keep. Don't tell your kid, "The dentist won't take x-rays" or "You won't feel a thing," because it may not be true, and it undermines both parent and dentist. If he asks a question you don't know how to answer, say, "Good question, sweetie. Let's ask the dentist together." Also, it's not funny to joke with kids about having a tooth pulled.

    So how should we prepare?
    It's fine to read your child books about going to the dentist, but review them alone first. Most of them have at least one really scary picture of a dentist wielding a needle, even though three pages later everyone lives happily ever after. I had an otherwise good dentist book in my waiting room, but it had two pages that talked about yankers and scrapers, so I taped them together.

    P.S. The people pictured here are all models -- we had to swear to protect our sources.

  • Alexandra Grablewski

    Parenting Expert

    What's one thing you wouldn't say in one of your books?
    Becoming a parent is like contracting a debilitating disease. Imagine a disease where you couldn't sleep, you couldn't have sex, you couldn't travel, you had aches and pains all the time. Now, this doesn't mean you don't love your kids. In fact, the more you love them, the harder it is. Nobody tells you what the pull of loving your kids will do to the rest of your life -- including your relationship with your spouse. Even if you had a relatively healthy sex life before kids, after the second kid it's just kind of done. There's not always as much love to go around.

    Let's say you could make one rule that no parent could violate, what would that be?
    Don't give your child an annoying name. Especially, do not name your kid after a character in a movie. Nobody wants to end up being named Morpheus because his dad was really into The Matrix. That's just plain idiotic.

    P.S. The people pictured here are all models -- we had to swear to protect our sources.

  • Alexandra Grablewski

    Babysitter

    What is the worst thing parents do?
    Babysitters hate it when the mom hangs around. For example, when we're having fun and laughing, and you come in to see what we're doing, it spoils the momentum of our play. And if your kid's having a tantrum or being disciplined, don't come in either! It undermines my authority. I know it's hard to hear someone else discipline your child. If my kids were acting up with my sitter, I'd want to go see what the problem was. But trust me, or hire someone you do trust.

    P.S. The people pictured here are all models -- we had to swear to protect our sources.

  • Alexandra Grablewski

    Children's Entertainer

    All those kids in one place! Yikes!
    It's not the kids who are rude, it's the parents. You expect your kid to be quiet when you take him to adult events. But when you go to a kids' show, you chat loudly with the other adults. You're not showing the respect that you expect from your child. I even had a woman chat on her cell phone during my whole show. Also, don't bring babies who are too young to enjoy the performance. You'll feel torn when they start to cry -- even kids don't want to listen to a sobbing baby.

    P.S. The people pictured here are all models -- we had to swear to protect our sources.

    Originally published in the July 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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