The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Ever Heard
I recently had the privilege of spending a morning with a group of pediatricians and pediatric health educators. Most of us had never met. As an icebreaker, our moderator asked us to introduce ourselves and answer a few questions, including one about parenting advice. I said:
I’m Kate Land, a pediatrician who has worked for Kaiser Permanente for 17 years. I have 3 kids and the best piece of parenting advice I have ever heard is…
As I listened to the others at the meeting, I realized their answers formed a collection of wisdom that any parent should have in their tool kit. Here’s what we shared:
- Know that a child is not “bad” or “good.” Their actions may be. When you need to discipline or find an opportunity to praise, be sure to comment on the actions – not your child as a whole! Try saying, “It’s not okay to hit!” rather than “Stop being such a bad boy!” Or, “It was so kind when you shared the truck with Isabelle,” rather than “You’re such a good girl!”
- Start by asking a question. When responding to their questions or talking with them about a difficult subject, start by asking: “What do you think?” I really like this piece of advice – our kids are smart and often able to solve their own problems! Asking a question first allows you to be sure you’re answering what they really want to know.
- Listen more than you talk. After you ask, sit back and listen. This also applies to carpools – when you drive, turn the radio volume up and the sound to the speakers in the back of the car. The kids will have to practically yell when talking to each other! Then just sit back and be a fly on the wall.
- Understand each child is different. Be open to learning new ways to parent with each one. Boy oh boy – this could not have been truer for me! Each of my 3 needed a very different approach to discipline – I had to learn on the job each time.
- Trust yourself. You know your child best. Advice is just advice – and you’ll hear a lot of it! Take what works for your family and leave the rest.
- Remember how young they are. It can be frustrating when kids dawdle and get distracted. It can drive us nuts that they still have accidents or can’t tie their shoes! But try to remember that so much of this big beautiful world is new to them. And they’re seeing it and learning how to walk through it for the first time. So things that seem mundane to us may be really interesting or really hard for them.
- Remember that – whatever it is – this too shall pass. If you’re facing challenges – a baby who won’t sleep or a child who isn’t potty trained for preschool – they’ll soon master this new skill and you’ll be on to the next challenge. And perhaps more importantly, if you’re enjoying good times, treasure them because those kids never stop growing up.
- Don’t be a slave to your kids. If they don’t like dinner, don’t make them something else. Teach them how to wash laundry and how to cook the basics.
- Don’t sweat the details. We have collectively, been successfully raising children for millennia. So when you hear the latest trends in parenting, try to take them with a grain of salt. Baby-led weaning? Third-child parenting? Whatever techniques you choose, it’s likely that, if you trust your good instincts, they’ll lead to success and your child will be fine.
- Pick your battles. Don’t let the first word out of your mouth be no. Sometimes kids need to try things and then learn their own lessons.
- Put on your own oxygen mask first. Sleep, eat well, exercise often. Find a babysitter you trust so you can connect with your friends and your partner away from the kids. However you do it, take care of yourself because only then can you be the parent your kids deserve.
And my answer?
- You don’t need to wear a cape.And they don’t need you to either. As a parent, I’m not much of a yeller. There’ve been a few times though, when I’ve lost my cool – and always immediately felt awful for doing so. After each time, my best friend has stepped in with some wisdom and told me to have some self-compassion. She figures it’s okay, maybe even good, for a kid to see they’ve pushed your limits. Maybe they’ll understand their actions are simply not okay? And that it’s okay for you to not be perfect – no parent is. My kids don’t need me to be a superhero – they just need me to be their mom.