Share your funniest Parent Hackfire, win a prize!

Parent Hackfire: when your parenting strategy doesn't work as expected (and then comes back to bite you on the heinie). Thank you, Laid-Off Dad, for coining the term.

Here's one of my many Parent Hackfires: When my son was four, I gave him a time-out in the customary location, at the bottom of the stairs. Set the timer for four minutes (because he was four, and I was trying to follow that rule about matching the number of minutes to the kid's age). Ding! I told my son his time-out was over, and how did he respond? "No! I like the stairs!" Refused to budge for another 30 minutes. Who's in charge now, sucker?

Got a Parent Hackfire you're willing to share? Funniest entry (as determined by ME, of course!) wins a copy of the wonderful book "Daddy Needs a Drink: An Irreverent Look at Parenting from a Dad Who Truly Loves His Kids– Even When They're Driving Him Nuts" (Robert Wilder). Write up your tale of woe and post it on your blog or in the comments here by Sunday, August 20. (If you post your Parent Hackfire on your blog, be sure to include a trackback or a link in the comments so we can all come by and read it…and then laugh heartily at our collective misfortune.)

I'll announce the winner on Thursday, August 24. Have fun!



  1. Amy says

    One of my favorite “hacks” is to carry only what I need – if we’re out to dinner, for example, and the baby needs a change I won’t take the whole diaper bag into the bathroom with me – just the diaper and wipes. It makes it a lot easier to juggle the baby if I don’t also have to worry about juggling her junk… Of course, my kid has always had very polite diapers – we’ve only had a small number of blowouts (knock on wood) in her life. Go Pampers.

    Anyway… I was at the mall with a friend and her 6 month old, and the 6 month old needed a diaper change. I said to my friend, “Why don’t you leave your stroller and bag with me, and just take a diaper and wipes, so that you don’t have to wrangle your stuff through the doors?” (Whose idea was it to put double doors on public restrooms, anyway? Obviously someone without kids…) So, she did. Then she was gone a very, very long time. Turns out that little Amelia had a blown out diaper, and my friend was stuck in the restroom with her. She had poo all over her pants, all over the “clean” diaper, all over everything. My friend had to bring her bare-bottomed baby back out to the food court, grab another diaper, and take her back into the restroom (a good 200 feet away, down a long hall), to get her put back together. She’d forgotten a change of clothes, too, so the poor kid had to ride around the mall in only a shirt for the rest of the day. I guess we start humiliating our kids early, and it only makes sense when they’re teenagers that they want us to walk 15 feet behind them at the mall!

  2. Nicole says

    One of my hacks is to make sure that my oldest daughter, 3, always has something to do so she does not torture her 1 year old sister.

    The other day I was helping my seven year old with something when I suddenly heard, “GEEEE UP!” I turned around to find my oldest daughter kneeling over my younger daughter’s back, almost like she was sitting on her but not quite all the way down, while she slapped her in the head and screamed, “GEEEEE UP HORSIEEEE!” My younger daughter was just looking at me with these big eyes as if to say “Get this crazy chick off of me.”

  3. hedra says

    Most of mine are caused by my kids being smarter than I am…

    In no particular order:

    Hack: “Using a non-personal source to provide ‘guidance’.” Akin to using the timer to determine when it is time to go to bed, instead of mom just ‘saying so’.

    Hackfire: when I used this to try to influence my 8-year-old’s tendency to all-black outfits now that his hormones are kicking in… Like this:

    Me: “Hey, Gabe! This article in this magazine says ‘to make a dark outfit look sharp, try putting a dark blue, green, or maroon item in the mix’. That’s to make it look like you weren’t being lazy about picking your clothes, but put some thought into it. Waddya think?”

    Gabe: (looks at me for a looooooong moment, then speaks very calmly and clearly) “Mom, I don’t need some stupid magazine to tell me how to live my life.”

    Me: “Ummmm… well.. uh… these guys who write this, they know … um … stuff.”

    Gabe: (briskly, with a hint of a stern tone) “Mom.” (pause for my full attention) “I *like* black.”

    Me: “Yeah. Yeah, you do.” (thinking… I’ll just shut up, now!) Bonus, he’ll be MORE likely to wear black to prove the point, now! ACK! Maybe he’ll be bored of it by the time he’s 15?


    Hack: “Negotiating a parental ‘I’ll do something for you’ in return for compliance now.”

    Hackfire: I used to cut Gabe’s hair. He hated it, but it worked. He’d twist and cry, and throw his head around, and I still managed to give him a boy cut with layers that looked even. But the bigger he got, the more the risk of injury from scissors got, with the flinging about.

    So, When he was almost 3 years old, I offered to do something for him, if he’d so something for me. If he’d stay real still, and not move so I could cut his hair, what would he ask from me in return?

    Tears still wet on his face, hair partly cut, he looked at me and said, very meekly: “Drive me somewhere?”

    “Sure! No problem! I can drive you somewhere.” He perked up a bit…
    “Where would you like me to take you?”

    Gabe: (again, quietly) “Somewhere where they cut hair?”

    And yeah, I took him for a haircut that day. I know when I’ve lost.


    Hack: “Toy Time-out” When a toy is misused badly (usually as a safety issue), instead of the child being put in timeout, the toy goes into timeout. We have a timeout box where the toys are kept, now. For a long time, we simply put it on the piano.

    Hackfire: When Brendan was about 2, he loved hitting things with sticks. We had clear rules for what was okay to hit, and what was not, and knew the consequences. I watched him anyway, just in case.

    On this particular day, he was swinging his stick around, oblivious to me sitting there at the table. I saw his eyes light on the cat, snoozing peacefully on the floor…

    He looked at the cat, stick in hand. He then looked down at the stick, swinging it a bit, thinking…

    I smiled in triumph as his eyes next turned to the piano, where a few toys were lined up in time-out.

    Brendan looked back at his stick, and then he strode forward, raised his arm and WHACKED the cat a good one in the side. Without pause, he then turned, reached as high as he could, and slipped the stick up onto the piano. Toy used for hitting. Toy now in time out. All taken care of! Happened so fast I barely managed to get “HEY!” out before he’d gotten the stick in time out. His look in return clearly said, “WHAT? I did it right. What’s your problem?”

  4. anne nahm says

    As a mother of two small children, I could tell FTM’s (first time mothers) a million little stories about how the second child is not like the first. The first child always has her hair combed, always has a clean face, always wears designer outfits … blah-blah-blah.
    This is not that story. This story has actual educational value. I wish someone had warned me……
    Because, Oh My God, I just shaved 10 years off my life-expectancy.
    My first child? Every stinky diaper was reverently placed in the Diaper Genie. For those of you without this creation, the Diaper Genie is a big tube that looks like a nuclear warhead. Considering it’s toxic content, that’s not a bad image.
    Anyway, This tube has a latch top and a plastic liner. You drop a dirty diaper in, push gently down the tube, then twist the mechanism on top so that the diaper is encased in plastic. It’s kind of like creating a big, poop-filled sausage.
    You do all of these things because as an FTM, you can’t imagine anything worse than the smell of someone else’s poop just sitting in a warm room all day. All that plastic and turning and twisting ensures that each diaper is hermetically sealed in it’s own pocket. The fumes are in no way able to get out and offend. Later, at your convenience, you can pull from the bottom of the Genie a big pearl necklace of stinkless diapers
    By the second kid? The smell of room-temperature day-old poop is so far down on your list of annoyances that it barely even registers.
    But here is where you need to pay attention and not fall into the serious mistake I did. As time progressed, I started just dropping the diapers into the Diaper Genie and not bothering with the whole twisty-plastic-encasing business. With infant sized diapers, this was easy – the diaper just kind of slid down the hole.
    But with the passage of time, the diapers became wetter, stinkier and larger. To the point that instead of just sliding down the open throat of the Diaper Genie, I have to give them a little push to get them down.
    I have gotten more and more squeamish as the diapers have gotten more toxic over time. So I am pretty much down to pushing it with one finger, in the area of the balled diaper furthest from the offending ‘ick’ leaking out of it. And still? No twisting off each individual load.
    Until today. Of course, I was palming off a diaper that was so full (early morning diaper) that the plastic on the outside was stretched to bursting – it resembled an overfilled water balloon. And it was warm. Which. Is. So. Gross. I. Can’t. Even. Explain.
    So, for these reasons, this diaper was a little bit larger than most. I set it on the top of the open mouth of the Diaper Genie and used my one finger method of pushing it in.
    It wouldn’t go in.
    I figured maybe the Genie was full to the brim. This happens a lot, naturally. So I proceeded to give it the college try without thinking through the possible consequences. I used my mighty motherly forearms, and jammed that hummer down.
    Turns out, the Genie was half-full of diapers that had been stewing for however long they had been there. Not in a sanitized and air-tight depository, but more like floating in an open sewer line.
    The diaper went down with an “oomph!’ My hand followed. As I tumbled in to my elbow, I recollect hearing a strange noise as the diaper displaced all the sewer gas that had been fermenting in the hole. To be perfectly frank, just as my head got within range, my Diaper Genie farted in my face.
    I am telling you that it was like being at ground zero for a nuclear bomb. Undoubtedly, someone will write and say, “You are very wrong for comparing Diaper Genie mishaps with a terrible nuclear accident.”
    But I would have to write back, “That’s your opinion. This smell split my DNA, confused my chromosomes and damaged my liver. I have been peeing neon green and glowing in the dark since this incident.” And I would mostly be telling the truth.
    After a few minutes of gagging and moaning, I did manage to take the baby off the changer and rest her on my belly as I lay on the floor in a semi-comatose state. The baby laughed and poked me in the eyeball with her fingers. It was good times.
    So, FTM’s, please heed the warning of an STK (surviving two kids). Let the second kid wear mismatched socks. Give up the idea that everyone needs his or her hair brushed before leaving the house. Don’t bother with laundry until you are down to your last pair of inside-out underwear. But whatever you do, don’t give up twisting the Diaper Genie.

  5. Gail Reed (Chakolate) says

    Tristan, my play-grandson, is six and autistic. When he was four, he was overwhelmingly fascinated by pipes, so I promised him that if he was a very good boy, we would have a Pipe Hunt, and find all the pipes in the house.

    We did. Then a couple of days later his dad told me that a couple of pipes in the basement had been disconnected.

    Sigh. It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

  6. Jill says

    annenahm: I’d give you any prize you asked for. I’ve got tears dripping off my cheeks from laughing so hard at your comment about your Diaper Genie! I’ll have to think hard to come up with something remotely as funny as that!

  7. Peter says


    I was going to try and post something, but you have my vote… The toy-timeout is the best. You saw the little wheels turning in there his head, and *wham*.

  8. Charisse says

    Hmm, I don’t know if saving time by doing email while you’re pumping at work constitutes a Parent Hack…but I had quite a hackfire the day I got started without remembering to attach the bags!! Excellent fun explaining to the IT guys what happened to my keyboard.

  9. MacLifer says

    Anne Nahm has my vote for best story so far!!! That was HILARIOUS although i’m sure some of the more prim & proper would be “offended” but, hey, TOO BAD!!

    A diaper genie fart and a laughing baby as the parent recovers on the floor is so funny :-)

  10. LisaS says

    One of our parenting strategies is to always tell the truth, even when it’s hard or not pretty. Needless to say, it is sometimes a challenge to be truthful and age-appropriate. Level of detail is definitely the key. Witness:

    The other day the children (son, 6 and daughter, 4) were playing in my bed when they found my silicon Friend under the mattress pad.

    son: Mom, what’s this?
    me: A vibrator.
    son: What does it do?
    me: It vibrates.
    son: What do you use if for?
    me: To vibrate things.

  11. Julie says

    OK, this one comes courtesy of my mother-in-law. When my husband and his younger brother were little boys, they loved to play in the local creek. Big fun for them, but they’d come home with their clothes soaking wet and muddy.

    Around this time, my mother-in-law was reading a parenting book that claimed that children always remember the last thing they hear.

    The book advised her not to say things like “Don’t play in the creek!”, because the phrase the kids would retain was “in the creek”. Better to say “Stay in the tot lot!” so the phrase they’d remember would be “in the tot lot”. So my mother-in-law tries this out.

    Much to her amazement, the boys came home dry every day that week. She beamed at her boys and said “I’m so proud of you. You haven’t played in the creek all week.”

    They smiled sweetly and replied “Oh, but we *have* been playing in the creek, Mommy! We just took off our clothes so they wouldn’t get wet!”

    After that, my mother-in-law threw the book in the trash.

  12. none says

    OK, this one comes courtesy of my mother-in-law. When my husband and his younger brother were boys, they loved to play in the local creek. Big fun for them, but they’d come home with their clothes sopping wet and muddy.

    Around this time, my mother-in-law was reading a parenting book that claimed that children always remember the last thing they hear.

    The book advised not to say “Don’t play in the creek!”, because the phrase the kids would retain was “in the creek”. Better to say “Stay in the tot lot!” so the phrase they’d remember would be “in the tot lot”. So my mother-in-law tries this out.

    Much to her amazement, the boys came home dry every day that week. She beamed at her boys and said “I’m so proud of you. You haven’t played in the creek all week.” They smiled sweetly and replied “Oh, but we *have* been playing in the creek, Mommy! We just took off our clothes so they wouldn’t get wet!”

    My mother-in-law threw that book in the trash.

  13. oddharmonic says

    When my daughter was a toddler, my parents brought out the wooden dollhouse my grandmother had built for my sister and I when we were toddlers. It was a traditional affair with solid walls on three sides and no wall on the fourth, so most play inside the house would happen from the side without a wall.

    The opposing wall of that dollhouse had several open windows that my daughter kept getting her arms stuck in while trying to reach into the dollhouse through the apertures.

    To hack this problem, we acquired an open-walled dollhouse that made it easy to access the interior from any angle and appeared unlikely for her to get stuck in any part of it with the kind of play that got her stuck in our old dollhouse.

    Instead, we learned that bigger access points meant she stuck things bigger than her arms into them and one night she stuck her head into the back “wall” and out the side, getting stuck.

    We took photos before extricating her:

  14. Marla says

    Can’t beat the diaper genie story. Had to go and change my panties. But I’ll contribute this, mainly as a caution to others.

    Our Josephine has decided that physics experiments at dinner are fun. So dropping things in her beverages is more interesting than actually eating them.

    I got the idea to make her drink her beverage anyway, whatever went in it, because, well – it’s just food and milk or water, so it won’t kill her. Right?! And, my thought was that it might make her stop doing that.

    Nope. “mmmmm….cheesemilk!” “I LOVE beanwater!” “Can I please have some more noodlemilk?”

    When parental logic meets free will, logic’s going down.

  15. Cathy White says

    The hack: to talk about genitalia in a matter-of-fact way to promote healthy attitudes toward said genitalia, sexuality, and the changing body.

    NOTE: If the hack were How To Horrify Daddy in Public, this would not belong in hackfires.

    Hackfire: Mommy takes a shower with 3yo daughter every night, killing two birds with one stone. Two people get clean in the time it takes maybe 1.25 people to shower. Of course, mommy’s genitalia is pretty much right at face level of daughter, so there’s been some discussions about it. I couldn’t care less. She’s got one, she’s going to notice it sometime and ask about it, so why change the subject? Why not be completely open about such things? And finally, why not tell her what they’re really called?

    The first time daddy heard daughter say the word “vagina” I thought I would have to perform some medical procedure on him. His throat seized up and his face turned ashen. Turns out, daddy is squeemish about little girls talking about vaginas. And for the past few months, the subject has not lost its appeal to her. Daughter sprinkles conversations with the word “vagina” pretty regularly.

    Even last night, she was laying under the dog, as if she were changing the dog’s oil or perhaps replacing a brake pad, and when I asked her what she was doing, she said she was looking at Sammy’s vagina. Another meal completely ruined for daddy.

    We packed up the kids and went to the public library for a National Night Out celebration just a couple of weeks ago. They had a horse there that was part of the mountain rescue unit. I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl, so looking back, I’m actually glad the horse was a female, but the horse’s custodian was talking to the kids and parents about the horse, and she was fielding questions. My kid is on her knees looking at the underside of the horse. During that inconvenient lull in the conversation, when even the wind stops, helping to amplify my daughter’s sweet little high-pitched voice, she says, “MOMMY, THERE’S THE HORSE’S VAGINA.”