Photo: Colin Reed

It’s well established in the parenting world and in humanity as whole that no two people are exactly the same. This is no different with small children and obviously rings true when talking about parents as well. Even identical twins raised in an identical environment will establish their own interests and thus, their own behaviors as a result of that. What’s been made quite clear with the so-called parenting experts is that you, the parent, are the one taking charge of the situation. You’re the adult and what you say, do, or imply by example is doctrine. Essentially, don’t take your advice from a 3-year-old.

But why not? Children are intelligent and astute. Certainly they haven’t been poisoned by adult society yet so they’re also pure and innocent. They are untainted humans and surely their behaviors, albeit unpredictably erratic at times, are normally not in pursuit of some ulterior motive and almost never are they intentionally deceitful. In fact, children tend to be brutally honest in every situation especially when their honesty is of severe inconvenience to their parent.

Advice from a 3-year-old is perhaps the best untapped pool of parenting genius around. A 3-year-old, and young children in general, have innocent intentions that almost always orbit something fun and/or required for basic survival like eating or urinating. Be the caretaker over the welfare of your family by taking advice from a 3-year-old.

If you and your child are hungry, let them decide what’s for dinner. It won’t matter much that you’ve already had pizza three times this week because pizza is delicious and obesity is now socially acceptable. Remind yourself that only a hundred or so years ago morbid obesity was a symbol of status – a sign of wealth and prosperity. Loosen up that belt and have a few slices. Don’t worry about your expanding waistline and increasing blood pressure. Instead think about how modern society embraces people of all shapes because being politically incorrect in social settings is now so stigmatized that no one will ever poke fun at you right to your face. Additionally, improve your emotional solace by knowing that if modern society adhered to 19th century social dictums of wealth and happiness, you’d be considered a robber baron. By making an important meal decision for the family your child will be happy. More importantly, your child made a choice. Advice from a 3-year-old has benefitted everyone.

If it’s raining outside and you’re confined indoors for most of the day with your 3-year-old, just go with the flow. Let them stare at the iPad all day. In the modern developed world there are a myriad of learning apps and games that can fill in for you as a source of education and learning. Kick your feet up while your child stares into a screen positioned literally inches from their face for hours on end. No biggie, modern medicine can cure any vision impairments these days anyway. When they get sick of the device and need to blow off some steam, maybe engage for a bit and play like the child you are inside. 3-year-olds have the energy of a puppy on a coffee binge and perhaps a good game of ‘chase me around the table for two hours’ will benefit your ever-expanding waistline since all you do is eat pizza now. Remember, the peak of human physicality is age thirty and your metabolism isn’t what it once was.

When your child is noticeably tired but refuses to sleep, just let them stay up. Take your sleeping advice from a 3-year-old. Eventually a young child will get so completely exhausted that they’ll crash literally anywhere. No worries. If he or she feels the need to stay up to eleven doing nothing at all, let it go. Children fight sleep at every opportunity even when they are clearly fatigued beyond repair. You child will eventually sleep at some point and then you too will get to rest. It doesn’t matter much that you have to be up at four the next morning to go to work. Laboring tireless for your pitiful salary isn’t nearly as important as letting your child make a mistake that they probably won’t learn from and will likely choose to repeat again the very next night. The human body might not function as well when exhausted but perhaps your performance at work will start to slip and you’ll have that extra motivation you need to excel after your boss threatens to discipline you. In extreme circumstances you may even fall asleep at your desk and be fired at which point you can collect unemployment and spend more time with your family. There is nothing but silver lining here.

Quite clearly it is of paramount importance that you, the parent, allow your 3-year-old to make the calls. Everyone is eating, everyone is playing, everyone is sleeping and there is no way any of these tactics can at all backfire ever. When given the chance to make an independent decision, you’ll find that so long as they have the proper information and are shown an example even once, a young child will make the right one. While you as the parent will need to intercede in the best interests of health and learning from time to time, you can do it in ways that are not evident to the child. They might not like when you put cucumbers on their pizza or replace YouTube Kids with science and math games but that won’t matter much because ultimately you are the parent and what you say goes, even if you have to be sneaky to achieve these means. You’re letting your child make the decisions and feeling like an autonomous being and not a subservient house guest is of the greater good for your precious angel.

As time passes and you’ve ate enough pizza, played enough iPad, chased them enough around the table, and stayed up all night making oatmeal on various occasions, the methods you’ve employed to limit their scope of freedom within their ‘autonomous decisions’ will bear fruit. Put their favorite apps back on the iPad. Put some vegetables on the plate. The options of independent decision making that existed all along still exist and now you’ve integrated some choices all of which you know have healthy, productive and unhealthy, nonproductive alternatives readily available. The advice from a 3-year-old tactic will shift just enough to see a result. The choices the 3-year-old makes this time around will be of appropriate balance and you can retire for the night at nine thirty like a totally normal thirty-something-year-old geriatric.