Best Parenting Advice I've Ever Received
One Word: Babywise.
If anyone reading this has never heard of the book On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant The Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Buckman, I would highly recommend they go out and read it, especially if you are about to have a baby or have a newborn.
I was blessed with a colicky baby that would not sleep more than 30 minutes at a time when we brought him home. My mother-in-law would come and stay up all night with him just so I could sleep during those first three months. It was she that gave me the Babywise book and I finally read it when my son was three months old. That very day, I applied the methods described in this book, and that night and EVER SINCE, my son has slept all night and taken good naps. It was a miracle to me. I was so very grateful she showed me this book.
From the time I was pregnant to now, five years later, I have asked for or been offered advice on everything from illness to behavior issues to sleeping habits. Some of the advice I received I let go of, mostly because it just wouldn't work for me and my child. But I am so thankful that I've received some spectacular insights into parenting from some seasoned mothers whose children are grown. I wanted to share these with any mother that might find them helpful.
Let Your Child Be Themselves
Sometimes, we can work against our child's personality without even realizing it. If we have an energetic, outgoing boy then trying to always teach him to be calm and sit still probably will only cause animosity between the two of you. If you have a quiet, intellectual child, don't force anything on them that will develop a negativity or fear inside of them, like trying out for sports if they don't want to.
The number one absolute best advice I've ever received is that the relationship between you and your child is more important than teaching them to be perfect. If you are constantly criticizing and punishing your child, obviously your relationship is suffering. I'm not saying there isn't a time and a place for teaching manners and other important life skills, but I am saying that encouraging your child in their natural personalites and inclinations is one of the best things you can do. My son and I's relationship got so much better after I realized that he would never be what I was trying to push him to be. I've also learned that dicipline issues are greatly reduced whenever I spend quality time with him everyday doing things I know he enjoys.
No Judgement Here!
What is your primary discipline technique?
Discipline Should Be Cause and Effect, Consistently
A child therapist told me that I should never discipline emotionally, but that my methods should be cause and effect. Give my child the choice to obey and be rewarded for good behavior or to disobey and be punished. View discipline as training instead of dictating your child's life. After all, we are actually training them for life. At some point they will enter the real world where the laws of cause and effect apply. Don't get up and go to work on time, lose your job. Work hard and be honest, get a raise. Eat right and exercise, feel good. Eat junk food and be lazy, become overweight.
There is an extremely important addendum to this advice which is consistency. Your child will never learn anything if you aren't consistent. They need to know that if they hit their sister, they go to time out every time, no exceptions. If you drop the ball and fail to invoke the consequences even just one time, the child will pick up on it. And they will even test the boundaries every once and awhile just to make sure they are still the same.
Kids Need Time; Not Toys
I worked with a child specialist that told me, "Just aim for spending thirty minutes a day playing with your child." I remember thinking how little time that seemed and how sad it was to aim for so little. But now that my son is four, I see how the day can pass by without me spending five minutes of time focused entirely on my child, let alone thirty minutes.
She was also the one who told me that a child doesn't need a lot of expensive toys for them to learn and grow and be entertained. Kid's love boxes and blankets and pillows, hide and seek, finger paint and paper towel rolls. These kinds of things encourage a child's imagination and their brain development in ways a computer or DVD cannot. But most of all, they want you. What a priviledge to be their whole world for the small amount of time that we are.
The Local Library Is A Lifesaver
Whether it's just to get out of the house or to take advantage of the library's numerous programs, it's never a bad idea to take a child to a library. It is free, it is fun, and, a lot of times, child-oriented. I know many library's offer preschool storytimes and events geared for children. I have yet to meet a child that does not love going to the library. They can find new books to read and explore the children's area. You might even pick up a few good reads yourself.
In the winter, if you live where it gets cold, this is such a great go-to place for cabin fever. When you can't go outside but desperately need to get out, the library is a great place to go. Not only is it educational but it is free. For me, it keeps me from going to stores and spending money that I don't need to spend.
In addition to the library, here are some fun, cheap activies you can do with your child:
- If they like animals, take them to a petstore or humane society. They will love looking at the pets, and sometimes the humane societies will let you play with the animals. It benefits both the child and the animal!
- Visit the local fire station and talk to a firefighter, or call ahead of time and ask if someone could give you and your child a short tour. Most of the firefighters I know would be more than happy to do this.
- Write a letter with your child, have them stamp it and then take it to the post office so they can put it in themselves. This is so exciting for a child, and even more exciting if they get a reply. It's like magic to them!
- Go to a park and take a nature walk. You can create a nature journal for some extra fun and make memories for years to come...the best park? It's all free. Here is a great website for how to make a nature journal: http://www.greatstems.com/2013/05/wildlife-projects-for-kids-making-a-nature-journal.html.
Keep Your Eyes On The Goal
Hopefully, most parents goal with their children is to raise them up to be self-sufficient, productive, successful members of society that are in a career field they love. Sadly, this is so easy to lose sight of.
We just want to bathe our child, brush their teeth and get them in bed. It's easier if we just do it ourselves. Then when they get to school, we just expect the school to teach them everything they need to know. Unfortunately, school cannot teach a child life skills like working hard, handling money wisely, integrity, good manners or how to handle relationships with other people. As parents we are the number one influencer in our child's lives, including when they are teenagers. It is so important that we are proactive in that role and don't get bogged down by daily life hassles.
Here is a great article that includes research showing the need for proactive parenting throughout a child's life: http://www.education.com/reference/article/benefits-parent-involvement-research/.
Being a parent has been one of the most wonderful, hardest, most rewarding, most exhausting things I have ever done. I have discovered it is a wise move to learn from others who have gone before me and incorporate the positives into my own parenting style.