dos and donts

How to (Not) Mess Up Your Kids for Life

You cannot mess up your kids for life if you:

  • 1. Have pain relief during labor and delivery
  • 2. Have a caesarean section
  • 3. Don’t use a doula or midwife
  • 4. Give birth in a hospital with a doctor
  • 5. Don’t breastfeed
  • 6. Bottlefeed formula
  • 7. Breastfeed and give formula
  • 8. Don’t pump your breast milk
  • 9. Give a pacifier
  • 10. Let the baby “cry it out
  • 11. Don’t let them sleep with you
  • 12. Don’t make your own baby food
  • 13. Let them watch TV
  • 14. Don’t use organic products
  • 15. Give them occasional sweets
  • 16. Give them apple juice
  • 17. Work outside the home
  • 18. Get divorced (but don’t divorce the kid)

You may mess up you kids for life if you:

  • 1. Obsess over, feel guilt or shame about your caesarean or not breastfeeding
  • 2. Are often preoccupied with something else while you are with them
  • 3. Are unhappy being home all day with a baby/child
  • 4. Don’t teach them manners
  • 5. Don’t make them feel like the most important thing in the world to you
  • 6. Don’t have realistic expectations of them and yourself
  • 7. Do their homework
  • 8. Spoil them by giving them everything they want, when they want it
  • 9. Don’t read to them
  • 10. Don’t admit your mistakes
  • 11. Expect them to live the life you want for them or would have wanted for yourself
  • 12. Want to be their best friend
  • 13. Don’t teach them to clean up after themselves
  • 14. Don’t discipline consistently, firmly, and kindly

You will mess up your kid for life if you

  • 1. Fail to impose order on the chaos that is their world
  • 2. Don’t immunize them
  • 3. Don’t use a car seat
  • 4. Humiliate or diminish them
  • 5. Withhold your love (which is not the same as withholding your approval)
  • 6. Ignore their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs

Remember: You’ll make mistakes. Lots of them. It’s OK. Luckily, resilience is hard-wired in kids. Don’t be hard on yourself.

Also remember: You will be the one with gray hair. You will never see a kid with gray hair that their parents gave to them.

Renee SeptimusRenée Septimus is a social worker and Jewish educator. She lives with her husband Joe on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and is the very proud mom of four married children and a savta (that's Hebrew for grandmother) to a (growing) bunch of absolutely perfect grandchildren!

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