Simple tips for parents

The majority of my parenting wisdom has not been found in a book or from searching online, but from other parents. Friends, teachers, and grandparents make up my proverbial village, and I’m always listening and looking around to see what new tips I can pick up. The other day, I sent out an email to a group of them asking for some of their favorite random advice. In other words, we’re not talking big-picture suggestions like “the days are long but the years are short.” We’re talking “park near the cart-return at the grocery store” so you don’t have to go far from the car once the kids are buckled in.

So smart, right? In other words, we’re talking simple tips that make you think [forehead smack] ‘Yes!’

Here are a few things we came up with. What would you add? 

“[My mother-in-law] taught me this one. If they get close to the stove or street, you yell out ‘Danger’ in a loud voice to stop them in their tracks. It can be kind of obnoxious, but it works.”

“If they’re having trouble concentrating, try spinning him around, hanging him upside down, or playing on a swing set. Something about inner ear stimulation works magic.”

“Get yourself a tangle teezer, stat—especially if your child hates hair brushing.”

“Make picking out clothes for the next day a part of the bedtime routine.”

“Keep baby powder and sunscreen in the trunk all summer long. The baby powder is like magic for getting all the sand off (painlessly), and the sunscreen… you can never have enough.”

“Always say goodbye to your child when you leave, even if it means some tears.”

“If a crying baby is setting you on edge, put in earplugs while you rock and try to soothe her. You’ll still be able to hear her (sorry), but it will make a tremendous difference in your ability to remain calm and pleasant.”

“We keep a record of gifts received, then put these lists in a file.  When it is time to buy a gift for a much younger child, say a friend or a cousin—we review the lists and the kids point out their favorite items from years past.  It’s easy to forget what was treasured when your children move on to a different stage.”

“Have the contacts for at least two trusted babysitters in your phone, just in case. And never feel guilty, if you need to call on one just because. It’s not a bad thing to let your child see that more people care for her, and you need to take care of yourself.”

“When we buy a birthday gift, we often buy three.  There will be many more birthdays ahead for 7 year old boys, and we dislike the mad dash to the toy store two hours before the event.”

“I always have a treat in my purse for bribes (lollypop or gum). While I don’t use it daily, it definitely comes in handy.”

“Establish routines. Set specific times to practice reading or violin (1-2pm daily). Pack school lunches the night before. Pick two books before bathtime. Etcetera.”

“My kids love bananas, but rarely eat the whole thing. I keep a container in the freezer where I add random pieces of leftover bananas throughout the week. Perfect for banana bread, pancakes, smoothies and their all time favorite, banana ice cream. (3 frozen bananas and a tablespoon of nut butter in the blender to serve two.) If they are really sweet and nice, I might add some chocolate sauce on top.

“When my kids were really small and had the impulse to touch everything in a store, instead of staying no I would tell them ‘one finger.’ They still got to touch something but in a more controlled way.”

“Time to clean up? Play race-the-clock with an egg timer. Make the job a game.”

“Don’t rush into potty training. It just means more time cleaning up accidents. When they’re ready, they’re ready. Spend a weekend doing ‘naked time’ at home and take them to the bathroom every 30 minutes.”

“Use your phone to record the first conversation where you rehash a trip or where your child recounts the highlights of a family vacation. We often do this when grandparents pick us up from the airport.”

“The less I count on being able to multi-task, the better time we both have. This even includes turning off NPR in the car, if I find myself getting pulled into the news.”

“Our main thing is to encourage the kids to do as much as possible for themselves. It is amazing how much they can do on their own! [Our youngest] can get himself dressed every morning. His outfit is often crazy but we just roll with it. [Our daughter] is good at helping him brush his teeth and hair. [Another son] is responsible for taking out the trash. He does it with gusto. Both big kids do all their own laundry. We make fancy check-off boards for the morning jobs with fun alternate names, like superhero alter-egos. It has all their morning routine on it: make beds, clear dishes, brush hair and teeth, pack bag, yada yada.”

What are your favorite parenting tips? 

P.S. Family travel tips. And my favorite parenting books for the first year.

Also, some of my favorite tips appear in this post from Rachael; things like “Here’s what the hours of Googling inevitably results in: Yes, other babies do it. No, no one knows why. Yes, it will stop soon.” and “Start dinner in your early afternoon lull. If it’s 5pm and happy hour has kicked in, abandon ship. Opt for cheese and crackers or cereal. Dinner never seems to be worth it in the end.” So true, so true.

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