Appreciating classic parental wisdom


As I go through the daily job of parenting, various nuggets of “wisdom” from my own parents pop in my head (and roll off my tongue, much to my dismay). Many of these phrases fall into the category of misguided advice or empty threats that, although well-intentioned, lack something in the veracity department. Maybe you recognize some of the following:

There are starving children in China who would love to eat that.

I doubt any kid on the planet would want to eat my mother’s “creamed chipped beef on toast” – a regrettable combination of packaged meat topped with a “cream” resembling wallpaper paste which saturated a perfectly good piece of toast. Why a kid from China, in particular, should be subjected to this, I don’t know.

Don’t make that face or it will freeze that way.

It’s funny this phrase had any credence at all as many kids purposely made awful faces just to see if it would stick. The related “Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay that way” was another adage that was more challenge than threat.

Never wear holey underwear – what if you’re in a car wreck and they have to cut your clothes off?

Are paramedics allowed to refuse treatment to patients with questionable undergarments? If I’m in a car wreck serious enough to require the removal of my clothes, I’ve got bigger concerns than dying of embarrassment.

Eat your carrots. They’re good for your eyes.

Actually all vegetables are good for your eyes in the sense that eating healthy is a smart idea for every part of your body. At the time this phrase was coined, moms must have found carrots to be a particularly hard sell to kids.

Of course, some advice does stand the test of time.

If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?

This is a perennial favorite because parents understand there is no other answer than “No” to this classic peer-pressure question. It’s one of the few phrases in our arsenal for which kids have no reasonable comeback.

Go play outside.

This one has particular weight today as many kids’ relationship to their iPads far surpasses any connection to the great outdoors. As evidence, a childhood condition called Nature Deficit Disorder actually exists now. Seriously, I couldn’t make that one up.

Always do your best.

Not the easiest advice to follow – at any age. If there was one phrase to live by, though, this one’s a keeper.


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