"Beats Me" Parenting
One night, our boys were washing dishes, and one of them turned on the disposal without first clearing out all of the utensils. A fork ended up rattling around in the disposal, and instead of turning off the disposal, our dear son’s first instinct was to stick his hand into the drain to try and get the fork and also, you know, chop off his entire human hand.
His parents reacted by calmly and collectively telling him to flip the switch.
We both started screaming at him, “TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!” He did, but something was up with the switch, so the disposal didn’t turn off. So then, both Tyler and I ran to the kitchen, shoved the boys out of the way, and Tyler unplugged the rogue disposal.
The kids stood huddled together, hugging, like they had just survived a bombing. We both informed the son in strained calmness, “Next time. You turn off the disposal first.” To which he said, “I know, but the switch…” “Nope. Nope. Nope. Next time, you go to the switch first."
Meanwhile, Tyler and I started to trouble shoot the disposal. He was under the sink, and I was manning the switch. So, of course, right when he started to plug in the disposal again, I fake screamed to make him jump. I laughed. The kids laughed. Tyler did not laugh. But everyone’s shoulders came down off our ears.
In the middle of all this, I looked around and asked, “Where’s your brother?” And my other son said, “He left. He’s probably up in his room … crying.” It was not our best parenting moment. But, we made it right, and by the end of the night, when I said goodnight to my sweet son, I apologized again for scaring him, and he said, “Eh. It’s okay.”
I remember when our oldest was about five months old, Tyler and I were bouncing him on our bed. He was such a giggly baby and loved bouncing and being tossed in the air. We bounced him too hard, and he hit the mattress and rebounded his forehead on the window sill. His precious head swelled up. He screamed at us for betraying him.
We called Tyler’s sister, our go-to “What the crap did we just do to our kid?” Adviser. I was describing the goose egg over the phone, and she said, “It’s probably fine but take him to the ER just in case.” The ER patted our heads and shoulders and tickled our sweet baby and eventually, we paid $150 for being new parents.
Our second son tried to toddle up some concrete steps a year and a half later, landed on his forehead, screamed a sweet forever. I picked him up, kissed him, and said, “You’ll be alright.” And he looked like Hellboy in profile for a couple of days.
So, parents know this, right? We freak out the first time we go through something, and then the second time something similar happens, we react a little better. And then, we become super chill and zen about parenting after we’ve gone a couple of rounds, except our kids keep growing and entering phases where we don’t know what in the world to do. Like, how do I calmly react when my son attempts to chop off his hand with a disposal to save a $2 fork.
Tyler and I are proponents of “Beats Me” Parenting. (This has nothing to do with corporal punishment.)
Here’s how “Beats Me” Parenting works:
[Child does something weird, and we don’t know what to do with it.]
Tyler (looks at me): Soooo, what do we do with that?
Me (looks at Tyler, does one of these 🤷♀️): Beats me.
Tyler: Right. So, maybe you could talk to her about expectations, and I’ll take her stuffed animals for a week.
Me: Sure. Let’s try that.
That’s it. That’s our parenting model.
Sure, we seek advice. We go to parenting conferences and seminars. But, when it comes to the day-to-day grind of parenting decisions, the “who is going to be the adult in this room - oh, right, we are supposed to be the adults in this room” situations, the “Beats Me” Parenting Model is the best one we’ve got. We try something, see if it helps, and move on to the next thing. We apologize when it doesn’t work.
Modern parents have put more thought into parenting than any other generation (or it seems we have), and for the most part, this is a good move. People are aware of the effects of bad parenting. We know that shaming is bad. We want to build relationships with our kids. We know that parenting is a group effort. There are more ways to parent than doing what our own parents did.
But I also think that a lot of parenting strategies end up turning kids into science projects. Or, good parenting methods seem like a sticker chart for adults. Follow these steps. Check off your boxes, and at the end of 18 years, you can get a prize from this Oriental Trading treasure box.
So, you understand the basics of the Beats Me Parenting Model. What Next? Here are some strategies worth trying:
1. Good Parent Radar.
Develop radar for finding good parents. I love finding good parents whose children are just one stage ahead of mine. That’s like the golden ticket of good parent radar. I even take notes when I talk to them.
2. Get to Know Your Kid.
Try to observe your kids out in the wild when they think you aren’t watching. Ask them open-ended questions when you’re driving somewhere. Stare at them weirdly while they watch TV. Try to spend time together in their room. Find things to do together. Try to make them laugh.
3. Remember that Kids Have Their Own Brains.
Kids have their own brains and might go completely rogue. I mean, in some ways, parenting is a crap shoot. We have no idea if our investment will pay off with a fully functioning adult by the end of the journey, but good intentions and listening to one another goes a long, long way to building a relationship that will weather the unexpected.
So, there you go, friends. Gather your people around you. Watch your kids, and when they start to do weird stuff, try to correct course before having to make an ER visit. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Find other parents for guidance. Apologize when you mess up.
Kelly, if I follow these steps and do what you do, will it work? 🤷♀️ Beats me.