24 One-minute parenting lessons it took a lifetime to learn

by | Jul 11, 2019 | Featured, Parenting

We had 3 babies in four years. Then when those 3 were teens, we started fostering babies. And while I may have thought I was ready to be a parent with that first pregnancy, I was not. No matter what you think you already know going in, the experience of being a parent is like no other.  Here are some things I learned along the way…

1. Mom guilt is real. And 95% of the time unfounded. Ignore the inner accusations and thoughtfully consider if that thought could be a nudge of discernment.
2. When you’re driving and the babies are screaming in their carseats, open the windows to let the noise out. Sometimes opening the windows even made them stop crying! But if it didn’t, at least it eased some emotional pressure for me.



3.  Every child eventually learns to speak legibly, feed themselves, use the potty alone, dress themselves, tie their shoes and read. Relax about when it happens. It will happen. Remember that the windows of typical developmental milestones are based on broad averages. Which means that some may fall outside those windows a little bit. But most kids eventually catch up. And if your child doesn’t, you’ll figure the best way to help.

4. Decide what you’re going to stick to your guns about. For us, one thing was meal preparation. I made one meal and everyone either ate it or not. No making separate foods for kids. And that meant planning meals I thought they’d like most of the time. But we certainly didn’t only eat kid foods.
5. Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules. And for me that was the “back to sleep” rule that said never put a baby to bed on their tummy. I remember when one of my babies simply wouldn’t sleep and after days of no sleep I was exhausted, weepy and feeling helpless. I talked to a good friend who’s a pediatrician who said, “Ann, if the only way he will sleep is on his stomach, then put him on his stomach. It’s more important that both he and you get some rest so you can be healthy.” So I did. He slept better, I slept better and life was good again. I just needed permission from someone I trusted because I happen to be a big rule follower.
6. Bored kids are more creative. Eventually. 
7. Try to find some humor when your kids get on your last nerve. One of my pet peeves was when I’d fold the clothes, have them stacked in piles by who they belonged to and then when I turned my head a toddler would come undo everything I just did. GGGGRRRRR!!!  Seems so silly now looking back at it but at the time I would get so mad! So try to laugh. They’re just being toddlers. That’s what toddlers do. They undo things. It’s what they’re best at.
8. Temper tantrums don’t last forever. They usually don’t even last 5 minutes.
9. Need to get a baby to sleep? Cradle them in your arms, sway side to side, pat on the back rhythmically. Faster at first while they’re crying, then slow, slow, slow it down as they begin to drift off. Lay them in the crib while they’re ever so slightly awake, then keep the rhythmic pat going, slow, slow, slow it down. Then TIPTOE out of the room. Or just put them in the crib with a lovey and some soft music. Eventually sleep will come. Or at the very least, you can breathe for a minute.
10. Thumbs don’t get lost. Pacifiers do.  Yes, they might suck that thumb too long. And do you know any healthy adults who suck their thumb? Unlikely. So relax.
11. We don’t do tit-for-tat at our house. Sometimes somebody gets something that another person doesn’t. Trust us to treat you fairly as individuals.
12. Keep vacations simple. Away from long lines, crowds, and vendors hawking expensive crap at kids’ eye level. Our favorite vacation was a cabin rental at the river with another family. I know lots of people love Disney. We tried it once, for us it was the antithesis of relaxation (long lines, crowds, vendors hawking expensive crap).
13. When your kids tell you how bad/mean/ugly another child was being, respond with an attitude of care. “He sounds really upset. Something must be going on to make him feel so angry.”  Or “I’m sorry the other kids were making fun of _____. Someone has taught them to be mean.”  “Hurting people hurt people.” This fosters empathy and understanding not criticism.
14. Keep the ingredients on hand to make two important recipes: chocolate chip cookies and homemade play dough. When the mood strikes, and it should strike frequently, bake cookies together. Insist on a big glass of milk with their warm cookies to curb the sugar high. And play dough soothes cranky kids. Here’s the recipe.
15. Protect your kids from information that is beyond their ability to make sense of or that would elicit fear. Protect them from violent tv or movie scenes, distract them when you drive by a nasty car accident, turn off the news, etc. You can’t undo scary images. Give just enough information to satisfy their curiosity. During the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, my 8 year old asked, “Mom, what did President Clinton do wrong?”  I said, “He kissed a woman who wasn’t his wife and then lied about it.” She really didn’t need the details. None of us did for that matter.
16. Shoes are overrated. Let ’em go barefoot. Babies learn to walk easier, preschoolers climb better and turns out walking barefoot supports brain development.
17. No TV or screens during meals. If you have nothing to talk about, play a game. We played speed scrabble during dinner a lot when the kids were teenagers and didn’t want to talk. Because that’s what teenagers do, they go fully inward. My husband called it ‘cocooning’. It doesn’t last too long.
18. If you’re around a swimming pool, never ever take your eyes off the pool. I still shudder as I recall seeing our child bobbing underwater. It happened 2 times that I remember. Those pictures will never leave my brain.
19. Teach your little kids to cook. They love to help and will eat what they make themselves. This served us well in the teen years, when everyone’s favorite dinner was “make your own”.
20. Don’t cuss in front of your kids. Unless you want them to.
21. Taking care of young children is lonely business and gets quite mundane. Figure out what you need to bring yourself joy in the midst. For me it was exercise videos and playing the piano.
22. I was secretly glad when my kids were sick and I could get out of going places. Yes, I’m a bit of an introvert. And I’m talking about just sick enough to warrant staying home – like a fever of 99.9 or a bit of a green runny nose… not bad sick. I’m not an ogre.
23. Trust your mama/papa bear instincts. They are there for a reason. Kids need our protection.
24. Just when you think you can’t stand another minute of a challenging behavior, like biting, hitting, whining, tantrums, sulkiness and so on, it changes. Those behaviors are indicative of movement to the next stage of development. It takes a lot of emotional energy to grow up. Eventually maturity happens. 

So there you go. My top 24 parenting lessons. For today that is. Even though our kids are grown, I continue to figure out how to parent them. 

Love on those babies! You’ve got this parenting thing. You are exactly what your child needs. 

Until next time,

Meet Ann



I'm a child development specialist, parent coach and teacher trainer. I've cared for countless babies in child development programs, plus 3 kids, 3 grand babies and 5 foster babies! I LOVE babies and would come hold yours if I could. ❤️

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