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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# parents panel
8 mums and dads share the parenting rules they thought they'd never break - until they had kids
‘I swore I wouldn’t be one of those parents who uses bribery to motivate their children…’

BY THE TIME your little one reaches toddler and preschool age, they’re well able to tell you what they want. And that’s where the trouble starts, from dealing with tantrums to navigating playdates. That’s why it can be so helpful to hear how other parents are getting through it all.

Our Toddler and Preschool Parents Panel is made up of parents with little ones from 24 months up to age five.


This week, we asked parents about the things they swore they’d never do before they had kids – that have somehow gone by the wayside in the face of real-life toddler parenting.

If you’re a parent, you’ll probably identify with at least a few of these…

What’s one thing you said you’d never do as a parent – and then found yourself doing?

Giving my baby a soother: I was such an amazing parent, making all the right decisions – until I actually had children! My twins weren’t going to have a soother…until I pulled the house apart looking for the two free ones I’d been given when they were two weeks old. My babies would only eat homemade, healthy unprocessed food….which went out the window after their first birthday. My children won’t watch TV on my phone in restaurants…I try to hold firm on this one but often end up resorting to some Paw Patrol to give everyone a bit of peace!

- Joanne Burke

Feeding my kids anything but the best homemade dishes: I had grand intentions of only ever giving my children the finest fresh, homemade meals… they’ll never even know what a sausage is… chips, forget it… ketchup, not over my dead body. Cut to restaurant scene five years later, “Sausages and chips all round please, oh and don’t forget the ketchup.”

- Juliet Ward

shutterstock_128684540 Shutterstock / BestPhotoStudio Shutterstock / BestPhotoStudio / BestPhotoStudio

Talking endlessly about my kids: Before I had kids, I never thought I would do two things: speak endlessly about my kids, and drink coffee. Now I do both, excessively. Best done together – bore an acquaintance to death with a long rambling toddler tale while fueling your stories with a caffeine hit, and hope you get to the bottom of the cup before they flee.

- Sadhbh Ni Ogain

Offering up the iPad to keep them quiet: I think my big thing before entering the parenting world was No Excessive Amount of Screens. I wasn’t going to be that parent. Now I throw out the iPad whenever I need a few more minutes of peace in public and offer RTÉ Junior as a bribe to get pretty much anything done: tidy up the toys, eat your dinner, get into your PJs, get out of your PJs, get dressed… the list is endless. Parenting fatigue wore me down and my noble goals were quickly abandoned.

- Emily Lewis

Dressing my kids in matching outfits: There are 18 months between my younger sister and myself, and growing up, we were often dressed in matching outfits. As a moody, hormonal teenager looking back at family photo albums, I swore that I would never put my kids through the embarrassment of wearing matching clothes. I mean, how dare my mother have curtailed 4-year-old me’s uniqueness and independence by putting me in the same yellow Minnie Mouse dress as my little sister!

Fast forward to thirty-four-year-old me and I get disproportionately excited when I find matching t-shirts for my 3-year-old daughter and 9-month-old son in Dunnes. I also surprised my husband with matching Christmas pyjamas for the whole family this year. He was not impressed.

- Deirdre McCormack

Letting my twins sleep in our bed: Before our twins were born, we splashed out on a lovely cot and imagined how they would soothe each other to sleep. That cot didn’t host a lot of sleeping, and became a glorified clothes rack for us.

Meanwhile a single bed was pushed against our double to create a family bed! Despite our great intentions, we ended up doing whatever we could to get some much-needed sleep. The cot has been sold on to a new family and we wish them all the best with it.

- Ger Lowry

Bribing them with chocolate: I swore I wouldn’t be one of those parents who uses bribery to motivate their children, but it’s amazing how quickly kids can tidy up toys when they know there’s a kinder egg waiting!

- Nichola Barry

Letting them play with ‘ugly plastic toys’: Before I had kids, I simply could not understand how parents bought their kids clothes with cartoon characters on them. Fast forward to my four- and two-year-old boys wearing matching Spider-Man merchandise from head to toe.

Another thing I swore I wouldn’t let into our house was a collection of massive plastic toys, as surely my children would only enjoy playing with aesthetically pleasing wooden toys. There is currently one wooden toy in our house, a Brio train set, and I would argue it is one of the least played toys we have.

- Kaisu Healy

More: ‘Mam came to the door with dinner’: 13 parents share one lovely gesture that helped with a new baby

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