Being a dad is joyful, invigorating, purposeful—as well as the day-to-day chaotic state of affairs of being a parent. Which is why the smart dad has shortcuts that save his sanity when it’s under siege by exploding diapers, bedtime stories, and temper tantrums that seem to never end. Compiled below are all the sneakiest tricks in the dad handbook. Always remember that the best dad is a sane dad.
1. Believe In The Value of The Dad Hack.
With every parenting decision you make, you’re weighing your child’s emotional well-being against the need to not lose your mind. The first hack you must learn is recursive—using dad hacks are a part of being a dad. No, you are not cheating your kid—you’re preserving your own well-being and saving physical resources for the important moments. Like when she starts dating. At 13.
2. Fatherhood Is A Battle of Attrition, So Stock Up On the Dad Basics.
There are a few things as a dad you can’t do without. Snacks are kid currency, so keep them handy at all times. You might also want to have a smartphone in a kid-friendly case for dining out in peace. Parenting is tiring, so keep a 5-Hour Energy drink on hand. And bourbon is for coming down off the 5-Hour Energy.
3. Show Them The Money.
Every parenting book tells you that you shouldn’t bribe. Don’t believe those books. Children are immune to threats, and when the threats don’t work, the carrot-shaped cookie becomes a necessity. Bribe unapologetically—using snacks, stickers, money, whatever it takes—and everyone will be happier in the end.
4. Make Certain Toys Disappear.
Your kid will be gifted toys that make unholy noises— high-pitched sounds and piercing chirps that grate on your ears and, eventually, your soul. Trust me when I say you’ll want to destroy—cough—I mean remove these things at all costs. But the moment you try to do so in view of your child will be the moment when that stuffed abomination becomes his favorite toy ever. Do the proper adult, manly thing, and raid the toy bins under cover of darkness. Then dump the karaoke microphone and singing robot where he’ll never find it—like at the bottom of the Red River or North Dakota. No kid under the age of three will remember that toy, and older kids can always be blamed for “losing” the toy.
5. Ignore The Tantrum.
Children are smart—smarter than we give them credit for. They know they have the upper hand. All they have to do is cry or be cute or maybe throw a little mini-tantrum to get what they want. And, yes, most times we cave in. But there comes a point where we become smart as the parent. We allow them to cry themselves to sleep. They realize tantrums no longer work when the father sits back and says, “You know what? You can cry all you want. This house is soundproof. No one will hear you, and no one will care. I’m going to go watch the game.” That’s when you get the upper hand.
6. Master The Sneaky Double-Page-Turn.
This one is critical and easily mastered. Yes, reading to your kid is essential, but so many children’s books are brutally boring and have the plot of a National Lampoon movie. Speed things up by turning two pages at once. Just press the pages together very tightly with two fingers. It’s stupidly simple but comes with a caveat—you have to do it the very first time you read the book. Otherwise, kids—of any age, even the non-verbal ones—will know that you’ve skipped words. Yes, they are that observant!
7. Protect The Nap…
This one only works until age 4, when you have to cut the nap out so they sleep at night.
8. But Give Up On Bedtime.
There’s no use being legalistic about bedtime. For one thing, most little kids can’t tell time. To them, the word “bedtime” has about as much meaning as “gravity” or “calendar” … they have no idea what it actually means. But also, think back to your own childhood—when the most vivid flights of imagination tended to happen between lights out and the pass-out. I say let them read a book by flashlight under the covers. Let them have tea parties with stuffed animals. Just insist on one rule—they don’t have to be asleep, but they do have to be in bed. And there’s a steep price if they break it because this is Mommy and Daddy’s only time to be alone.
9. Outsource The Areas Where You Are Weak.
You and your wife probably have complementary skill sets. Use that to your advantage. Say she’s calm and organized, whereas you’re stylish and a better-than-average line cook. Let her handle buying the clothes while you whip up a bomb grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.
10. Strategically Time Your Daily Chores.
When it seems like a tantrum is coming, dive into kitchen cleanup. When your wife looks at you to take care of the tantrum, you glance back like, “See? I’ve got my arms submerged in dishwater right now! You got this, honey!”
11. Say No To Pre-K Algebra and Language Lessons.
In most societies, children are left to grow up at their own pace. In our society, most parents can’t wait to turn them into dutiful little pupils. It’s amazing to see perfectly normal middle-class parents using flash cards to teach arithmetic to 2-year-olds. STOP! STOP! STOP! That is insane. We’ve developed this idea that we must optimize our kids—and all that is doing is stealing their childhood. It’s ok to them be kids—after all they are, in fact, KIDS!
12. Whatever Mom Says Is CORRECT.
A happy wife is a happy life!