he internet, your friends and family, the pages of your favorite magazines, and every celebrity with an Instagram account--they all want to give you their parenting tips, but sifting through all this well-meant advice can add to the stress of parenting.
While there are any number of lists out there giving you vague advice and lengthy lists, this particular list is short and comprehensive. Here, you’ll find clear-cut advice and detailed explanations about what it means and how to use it.
Read on for the 10 best tips every parent needs. Whether you’ve recently adopted, are welcoming a new infant, or looking for updated info on dealing with the toddler years, we’ve got you covered.
The Best Tips for Parents
Stop Scrolling Through Parenting Blogs: We Have All the Advice You Need
Identify your helpers. The key to preparing for a transition to parenthood is making sure you have people around you that will help guide and support you throughout your parenting journey.
Helps are the people in your life that you can count on to help you manage parenthood. They provide guidance, care, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or a home cooked meal. Helpers can be friends, parents, and neighbors. Identifying these people early on will ensure you have a helping hand through every step in the parenting process.
Parenthood can be confusing. Thankfully, it’s nothing new--which is why there’s so much advice out there on how to do it. There are plenty of people out there able and willing to give you the help you need.
Remember: you’re a role model. Your children, even as infants, literally and figuratively are looking up to you.
Parents are a child’s first teacher, and it’s important to keep in mind that the behaviors you model are the behaviors children will mimic. Any behaviors you want them to display, you must first show them.
The most important behaviors to model are patience, kindness, respect, and a healthy lifestyle. Infants aren’t born knowing how to choose healthy foods or treat their friends with kindness. This is why it’s important for you as a parent to develop good habits and then share them with your family.
Involve your children in a healthy lifestyle by letting them help with meal preparation, taking family walks, and talking openly about healthy decisions.
Develop empathy. As an adult, it’s your job to remember that children are often experiencing things for the first time. The frustration you feel when a restaurant is out of your favorite food hopefully doesn’t drive you to a temper tantrum--but for children, crying is the only way they know how to vent their feelings.
Because children have no established way of reacting to novel stressors and no knowledge of the coping mechanisms adults use to overcome frustration and anger, these are skills they learn from you. As a parent, you provide your children with the mental toolbox they need to calm themselves, entertain themselves, and develop independence.
Doing so requires you to scaffold their learning. Used frequently in an educational setting, scaffolding looks like this: first, you model the behavior you want them to display and then provide them with an opportunity to use those skills themselves, providing help if they need it.
For an infant, you can scaffold their self-calming behavior by cuddling them when they cry, showing them that physical contact can help reduce feelings of stress and anger. This is a behavior they can model themselves by hugging stuffed animals or clenching their fists to replicate that calming touch behavior.
Don’t overwhelm children with options. Babies and young children don’t have the capacity to make difficult choices, but they do need to make decisions in order to learn independence and feel like capable human beings.
Parents help children make their own decisions by presenting them with limited options. Providing two choices gives kids the opportunity to exercise their ability to choose without overwhelming them with too much to choose from.
With infants, although you want to stimulate their development with toys and games, you don’t want to overwhelm them with a constant riot of sounds, colors, and toys to choose between. It can seem like there’s a fine line between developmentally appropriate choices and overwhelming scenarios. Remember: just keep it simple with two options at a time.
Set aside time daily to interact with your kids. Play, talk, and hug every day. For infants, this stimulates proper physical and mental development--they need touch in order for their bodies to develop a proper metabolism and grow, and they need to be talked to in order to learn how to communicate with others.
With toddlers, daily interactions provide them with a way to learn more about their world and how to interact with it. They learn traditions, communication strategies, interpersonal skills, and basic knowledge from simple conversations.
Playtime is an important component of parent/child interactions. Playtime is how they process information, test ideas, and develop motor skills. It’s also a great time to learn about who your child is as a person--what are their likes and dislikes, what’s their sense of humor?
Listen to your children. It takes time to become acquainted with a new friend--children are the same. You may not immediately feel as if you understand everything about your child.
Listening to your child’s needs and wants will help you better understand their behavior. It’s normal for new parents to feel confused by their children. You won’t immediately understand why they’re crying or what they want--it takes time to learn these things. Daily interactions are the best way to learn your child’s individual quirks and temperament.
It’s important to encourage your children and to acknowledge them and validate their emotions. By listening when they speak, you teach them that what they say is important and you also show model good listening behavior in the process.
Encourage their curiosity. It can be tempting to keep your child close. You may be tempted to keep your infant strapped into a seat at all times and your toddler safely inside, but interacting with their surroundings is how children learn best.
Babies need to reach and touch and bite things to stimulate their development. While you definitely shouldn’t let them put everything in their mouths (no scissors or paper clips!), it’s perfectly normal and healthy for a baby’s first impulse to be to put something in their mouth.
Toddlers need to interact with nature--playing with leaves helps them learn about plants (a famously difficult concept for children, who don’t understand at first how something can be living and not move or breathe or speak) and it’s also integral to their motor development. Outdoor play is the perfect opportunity for them to develop gross and fine motor skills.
Keeping your children in a safe and structured environment doesn’t mean completely removing any potential obstacles--stairs can be safely navigated with a parent instead of avoided entirely, and having your child help prepare meals in the kitchen is a great way for them to learn about safety. Safety and structure should leave room for exploration and curiosity.
Consistency is key. Consistent reactions to specific behaviors--such as smiling when your infant babbles--is important for children’s development.
It’s incredibly confusing for children to have to deal with the rules of their world constantly shifting. They need stability, and as a parent it’s your job to make sure your children understand how the world around them is functioning and feel safe and secure within it.
Babies rely on consistent behavior to develop knowledge about the world and its patterns. Consistently reacting to crying won’t spoil your child--they learn that their parents are dependable and will care for them.
Consistently enforcing specific behaviors is also important. You can’t prohibit television one day and then cave into crying and demands the next. Although it can be tempting to vary the rules that govern your parenting, keep in mind that to a child with no understanding of the factors influencing how their world works, such changes can be incredibly confusing.
Setting limits goes hand in hand with consistency. Structure is incredibly important for young children--they don’t have the capacity or ability to deal with inconsistency, confusing changes, unclear rules, and constant uncertainty.
When you make a rule or set an expectation, make sure to support it. Follow through with warnings--don’t make idle threats. Idle threats or repercussions for misbehaving that you can’t follow through on reinforce unwanted behavior and confuse children.
Don’t disagree in front of your children--sometimes you don’t have the luxury of deciding when a touchy subject comes up with your co-parent. If you do end up having an argument of any kind in front of your children, stage a make-up conversation for their benefit.
When you have disagreements or model behavior with your partner that you don’t want your kids emulating, it’s important to then model positive behavior to teach them how adults handle these things. Show them what a healthy conversation and apology looks like.
Along with this--learn how to apologize to your children. Remember, they’re people too. They deserve to have their feelings and validity acknowledged by being treated with respect, and this means that when you make a mistake (hurting their feelings, overreacting, yelling) you need to acknowledge it so that they learn that that type of behavior isn’t okay, even for adults.
Be honest with your children. You might think that white lies and fibs are fine, but in the long run children learn to associate being a grown up with dishonesty.
Telling your child fibs to get them to eat their vegetables (“if you don’t eat your veggies your hair will fall out!”), get ready faster (“I’ll leave without you!”), or misleading them about how long you’ll be out of the room (saying it’ll be a minute when really you’ll be gone for an hour) sends a conflicting message.
Parental dishonesty can lead to distrustful children--and it can result in children who lie more. Lying can seem like an adult thing to do, something fun and novel that gives you a measure of power over someone else--you want to avoid sending children the message that lying is good or useful.
The alternative to lying is, of course, to tell the truth. It may take a little more time, but explaining to children what they need to do and why they need to do it is better in the long run. A white lie to get them to eat their vegetables will only work for so long.
Keep Calm and Parent On
Remember That Tomorrow Is A New Day
Parenting 101’s most important lesson is this: every parent/child relationship goes through tough times. There will be days when parenting feels overwhelming and days when it feels like the easiest thing in the world. Make your peace with the rough days and look forward to the good ones.
The best advice for new parents is to take it one day at a time. Work on integrating these tips into your life--but don’t worry. No parent is perfect! There’s a learning curve for everything, especially parenting.
Have fun and relax--with so much parenting advice readily available, you’ve got more than enough resources to tackle any parenting question.