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The Internet Can’t Decide If This Mom’s Parenting Hack Is Genius Or Cruel
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The Internet Can’t Decide If This Mom’s Parenting Hack Is Genius Or Cruel

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Parenting is an incredibly sensitive subject, and pretty much everyone you meet feels like they know what’s best not just for their own children, but everyone else’s munchkins, too. However, something that many of us often forget is that there’s no such thing as being a ‘perfect’ parent. Moms and dads are constantly under a ton of pressure.

Recently, mom and TikTok content creator Gabrielle Lynn Dunn, @mrs.gabidunn, went viral on social media and in the news after sharing a parenting ‘hack’ she got from TikToker Abby Franco, @abbyfranco6. The hack involves putting your kids inside a cardboard box for them to draw and keep them busy, giving the parents some time to rest or do chores. This sparked a huge debate on the internet with many people totally for and absolutely against the idea. Scroll down to see what people thought. Odds are that you might have some strong opinions one way or the other, dear Pandas. Remember to keep the discussion civil.

Bored Panda reached out to Cara Goodwin, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, mother of three, founder of Parenting Translator, and best-selling author. She was kind enough to explain to us why the cardboard box ‘hack’ seems so controversial and how parents can manage their exhaustion. Read on for her insights.

A new parenting ‘hack’ has been sweeping the internet recently. However, it has split the internet down the middle

One mom, inspired by a video of the hack, filmed herself trying it out as well

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She grabbed a cardboard box, put her kids inside, and gave them some art supplies

She then used the time to catch up on some chores

Image credits: mrs.gabidunn

You can watch the full viral video right over here

@mrs.gabidunn #stitch with @abbyfranco6 PURE GENIUS. Glad we hadn’t broken the box down yet!! #toddlermom #babysitter #nanny #mom #momlife #momsoftiktok #cleantok #toddlerhack #parentingtips #parenthack ♬ Gangsta’s Paradise (feat. L.V.) – Coolio

The ‘hack’ immediately went viral online and started a debate on whether or not it was something parents ought to do

TikToker @mrs.gabidunn’s video had over 11.2 million views at the time of writing. She filmed her video after being inspired by another mom, TikToker @abbyfranco6, whose video has 3.7 million views.

Both moms showed how plopping their kids in a cardboard box and giving them some art supplies can keep them busy for around half an hour. This then gives a bit of free time to do what they want: whether it’s catching up on a few quick chores around the house or having some quiet alone time to rest.

The idea itself (giving your kids something fun to do so they can stay busy while unleashing their inner Picassos) isn’t what’s up for debate. Pretty much everyone agrees that kids can sometimes be a handful and that moms and dads need time to rest, recharge, and get some work done.

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There were some fiery arguments on both sides of the fence

Image credits: Anna Shvets (not the actual photo)

What split the internet right down the middle is the way this is done: putting your children in a literal cardboard box. Some internet users thought that this was a fabulous and smart idea to give the parents some breathing room. Others, however, believe this was a tad lazy and undignified.

On one side of the fence, you have parents who see the cardboard box as just a different version of a playpen, and that it’s just a spin on an old idea. (Expanding a bit on this, aren’t all playpens/rooms/apartments/houses just different-sized versions of boxes? In that sense, there’s nothing revolutionary going on here.)

On the other side of the fence, you have people who are iffy on the whole ‘put your kids in a box so they don’t disturb you’ approach. There’s the whole question of human dignity to consider when you go outside, grab a box you’d thrown out, and then bring it back into your home for your kids to play in.

Then you have to consider how often you’d use the box ‘hack’ for some alone time and if this wouldn’t create some emotional distance between the parent and child. Lastly, some internet users wondered whether the kids weren’t being taught to draw on walls, a habit that might come to haunt the parents in the future.

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Bored Panda anonymously asked half a dozen people in our social circles what they thought about the box ‘hack,’ and the opinions were split, just like on TikTok and the rest of the internet. On the one hand, you had parents who pointed out that “kids don’t care” if they’re in a box or a playpen and that practicality is what’s important, not aesthetics. Some people we spoke to even praised the moms for having such an eco-friendly and sustainable approach. Others, however, were concerned that something might happen to the kids while they were in the box unsupervised, or were concerned with the lessons about human dignity that these hacks are teaching others. In short: there’s no clear-cut answer (at least, according to the public)!

“Parents likely feel chronically exhausted and stressed due to the expectations placed on them by society”

Image credits: Ketut Subiyanto (not the actual photo)

Dr. Goodwin, the founder of Parenting Translator, shared some of her thoughts on the video with Bored Panda. We were interested as to why so many people on the internet found the entire situation so controversial.

“I think that the controversy behind this video reflects the enormous amount of pressure on parents right now to be constantly present and engaged with their children. However, research shows that independent play is very important for children’s development,” the clinical psychologist explained.

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“Recent research has shown that when parents are overly involved in their children’s play, they do not learn important skills of self-regulation. It is also important for our children to understand that we have responsibilities and chores that we must complete throughout the day.”

Bored Panda also wanted to know what parents can do to fight back against chronic exhaustion. “Parents likely feel chronically exhausted and stressed due to the expectations placed on them by society,” Dr. Goodwin said.

“There is so much pressure to be a ‘perfect’ parent. Parents can manage this stress by practicing self-compassion and recognizing that no one can ‘do it all.'”

Something else that parents can do is involved their children in chores “in order to teach them these important skills and accomplish what they need to at the same time.”

Parents are living, breathing human beings and they need time to rest and recharge

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Image credits:Keira Burton (not the actual photo)

What lies at the core of it all is that moms and dads really need some space for themselves: they can’t be in 100% Parent Mode, 24/7. The exhaustion is real. They might need a bit of space to take a nap, a snack, or even something as basic as a shower, too. And let’s not forget about things like doing housework, working your side-hustles, spending time on your beloved hobbies, and even taking in the latest episode of that new show that you love (you know the one, everyone’s talking about it).

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In short, we all need breaks to feel like an individual again: taking care of your kids is a wonderful calling—but you need to feel like you’re not just a parent at some points. When you reenergize, unwind, and get through your to-do list again, you’re then much better prepared to take care of your kids and entertain them. The box (or the TV, or books, or anything else, really) is just a temporary distraction. Unfortunately, not everyone has a partner, family, or friends who can babysit the kids at a moment’s notice to give the mom some breathing room.

What do you think of the cardboard box ‘hack,’ dear Pandas? Are you all for it? Or do you think there are better ways to keep your kids busy? Share your thoughts in the comments! Just remember to be kind—remember that these moms are human beings just like you and us.

Some parents thought that the box ‘hack’ was brilliant. Here’s what they had to say

However, others disagreed with the idea. Here are some of their thoughts

A few parents have even tried using the box, but it didn’t quite pan out right

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lorih47 avatar
Lori w
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The comments about how dangerous this is are making me roll my eyes. A child getting a hold of a bottle of cleaner is much more dangerous. This is fine in short periods- just don't leave the house or do this by stairs. If I was small enough to fit in a box, I'd enjoy this.

bb_20 avatar
Clown fish
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Lol same here. I was always in boxes as a kid and my mum had to bribe me out of them.

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wj_vaughan avatar
Anyone-for-tea?
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

“Wouldn’t the box tip over and the child suffocate?” Really? What a donut.

blacke4dawn avatar
BlackestDawn
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yeah, that one stood out to me as well. Cardboard boxes don't form a perfect seal with the floor, and many have "carrying holes" in them. As for the other two "scenarios" the box is effectively irrelevant since as far as I know the box adds a minuscule risk.

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ayelet-cooper avatar
perstephone29 avatar
Persephone
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That's what I said... not as sturdy, but they can be creative and draw on it... usually not something they can do in a play pen. My kids always wanted to use boxes as forts and what not. No one should be criticizing this lady for keeping her kids entertained when she is trying to multi-task. They are less likely to throw fits or hurt themselves when they are content.

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lorih47 avatar
Lori w
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The comments about how dangerous this is are making me roll my eyes. A child getting a hold of a bottle of cleaner is much more dangerous. This is fine in short periods- just don't leave the house or do this by stairs. If I was small enough to fit in a box, I'd enjoy this.

bb_20 avatar
Clown fish
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Lol same here. I was always in boxes as a kid and my mum had to bribe me out of them.

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wj_vaughan avatar
Anyone-for-tea?
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

“Wouldn’t the box tip over and the child suffocate?” Really? What a donut.

blacke4dawn avatar
BlackestDawn
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yeah, that one stood out to me as well. Cardboard boxes don't form a perfect seal with the floor, and many have "carrying holes" in them. As for the other two "scenarios" the box is effectively irrelevant since as far as I know the box adds a minuscule risk.

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ayelet-cooper avatar
perstephone29 avatar
Persephone
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That's what I said... not as sturdy, but they can be creative and draw on it... usually not something they can do in a play pen. My kids always wanted to use boxes as forts and what not. No one should be criticizing this lady for keeping her kids entertained when she is trying to multi-task. They are less likely to throw fits or hurt themselves when they are content.

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