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Grandpa Is Gonna Kill Your Kid

His ideas about medical care are as old as he is

There’s something seemingly harmless in your house right now that could kill your child, and it’s not the cord from the window blinds! It’s those pesky doting grandparents you’re making babysit for free, who are still using old wives’ tales to treat their grandchildren’s injuries. The Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York surveyed 700 grandparents and found that they still cling to medical advice about parenting that was popular when Jimmy Carter was president, The Guardian reported.

For instance, 58 percent of the old-timers thought you could treat a burn with ice (it can injure the skin more). Forty percent thought you still treat a fever by immersing a child in an ice bath (it lowers their temperature too much). A quarter had no idea it’s not okay to put an infant to sleep on their stomach or side (a known SIDS risk). Another 13 percent thought butter would treat a scald (it won’t, but it sure will make it taste delicious).

All 700 surveyed thought The Love Boat was still a popular TV show (probably).

While grandparents are often a sure source of non-nonsense wisdom in the rearing of their grandchildren, not to mention very cheap babysitters with nothing but free time who theoretically love your children more than a paid professional, Andrew Adesman, the doctor who ran the study, told The Guardian the results were “concerning.”

“Although grandparents may be experienced at raising children, some important things have changed in the past 20–30 years,” he said.

The solution here is obvious: Grandparents should be taught updated infant care, most of which can pretty easily be found online. But not all old dogs can be taught new tricks. While some of this medical oversight is purely inadvertent, some grandparents just refuse to believe the new ways are better, as evidenced by examples on parenting forums about babysitting grandparents who don’t respect that the parents don’t give their child a pacifier, for instance. Or the ones who forget how frequently diapers must be changed and simply don’t change them. Other standard-issue horror stories involve grandparents who give the kids too many sweets, discipline them too much or too little and tell inappropriate stories about your childhood hijinks.

Some parents recommend actually paying grandparents for their babysitting duties, which, among other things, demonstrates the value of the service, but also turns them into an employee, thereby giving the parent the power to enforce modern parenting rules that put an official ban on, say, giving a fussy baby whiskey.

But by the time you factor a fair market rate for such a service, you might as well just pay trained professionals to do it for you. Research shows that, compared with staying home and being raised by family members, daycare has its pros and cons (pro: cognitive and social development, CPR training; con: strangers, other shitty children). Unfortunately, the average daycare in the United States will run you about a $1,000 a month. And they’re not going to let your kid watch The Love Boat. Maybe Grandpa (monitored by nanny cam) is looking more appealing every day.