Children aren’t born with a manual on how to be raised. Every child is different and thus there is not a perfect way to raise all children. However, there are some best practices for raising children. Below are 13 practical tips that are good bits of child rearing advice for all parents.
1. Believe in your child
Parents need to be their child’s encourager and cheerleader in life. If their parents aren’t doing that for them, then who will?
The power of a parent’s belief in their child’s ability to achieve can help that child feel that they can do just about anything. This empowers the child to try harder and to give their best when they have supportive parents who believe in their abilities.
When parents believe in their child, they are helping their child to believe in themselves as well. Children learn that they are capable human beings who can achieve their goals when they have parents who believe in their abilities.
The belief in themselves begins with someone believing in them first. It should be a parent who shows belief in their child and their abilities from a very young age.
Kids can be very hard on one another. They pick on each other about their appearance, their ability to play sports, and more. The things that kids say to one another can be very damaging and defeating.
However, having a parent who believes in them and their abilities can counteract the negativity from their peers.
For example, your son may be getting ready for field day at school and he is feeling down because another child in class told him that he is going to lose at the 100 meter dash. You know that your child has been practicing for weeks and has beaten all the kids in his class previously.
All it takes is a reminder of those previous wins and a pep talk about how hard work pays off to motivate your child. You tell your son that he can win and that you believe in his abilities. His attitude changes from one of defeat to one that is full of motivation, energy, and positivity. He is now ready to run the race tomorrow and do his best because you believed in him.
2. Let your child get dirty
Let your child have opportunities to get dirty. When kids play in dirt, mud, and nature they are engaging all five of their senses. Don’t miss the opportunities for their creativity to bloom while they play in nature.
Nature is dirty, but that is okay. They have plenty of time in life to be sterile and clean. They need to get messy for the sake of their development.
For example, when they are outside playing in a sand box with mud caked all over their arms and face, with toys strewn everywhere, it looks like a big mess to you. To that child, they may be creating an imaginary meal masterpiece with the sand and mud.
The child is using their creativity, engaging their senses, and they are completing a project that is their own creation. Don’t rob them of these opportunities to flourish and develop, simply because you want them to stay clean. Allow them to flourish by getting in the dirt, mud, and nature.
3. Child rearing is not a competition
Some parents throw the best birthday parents, some have the best dressed kids, and others make healthy, organic meals three times a day. Each parent has a different skill set and passion, just as every child is different.
Do what is right for your child. Don’t do things just because other parents are doing it. An old saying goes “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” The same goes with parenting. Keep your eyes on your own child. Do what is right for your child and don’t worry about what others are doing.
The same mantra goes for milestones. Some kids walk at 9 months of age while others begin walking at 15 months. It doesn’t mean that one will be running the Boston Marathon as an adult and the other child won’t.
It’s okay that children reach their milestones at different ages. Every child is different because they weren’t made as robots. If you are concerned about your child achieving their milestones in a timely manner, then listen to professionals not simply other parents. You will find that there is a considerable amount of flexibility in milestone achievement.
For example, you have a friend whose 24-month-old toddler is using full sentences and has a vocabulary of over 100 words. Your 24-month-old only has a vocabulary of 40 words. You begin to feel that there may be something wrong with your child or that they aren’t smart.
However, if you know that the standard for language development for a 24-month-old is that they should be speaking 40-50 words, you can have some peace of mind. You will have friends with children who excel in a variety of areas. Some will have children who are fully bilingual at a young age, and others will have children who can read by age three or four.
These children are not the norm. Some people are blessed with very gifted children. Most of us are blessed with the norm, which is why it is called “normal.”
Celebrate and love your normal child right where they are at because there are others who wish for a “normal” child. Every child is different with gifts and abilities of their own. Focus on the gifts of your own child. Parenting is not a competition. Simply do your best, raising the child that you have.
4. Safety first
Your goal of the first three years of your child’s life is to keep them alive. My mother once said this to me and I realized it’s true.
Having made it through the first three years with three different children, I know that keeping my kids alive is first and foremost. This means that keeping them safe during those early years is the most important factor in their care.
Of course you need to meet their basic needs. Feed them, change them, love them, but make sure they are safe first, otherwise the care becomes meaningless.
For example, if you are feeding your toddler in a high chair be sure that they are strapped in, so they can’t climb out and fall on their head. Feeding them is important, but make sure they are safe and secure in their high chair first. Safety is always first.
5. Take a CPR and first aid course
Take a CPR and first aid course. Believe me, you never know when you will need these learned skills. When emergencies happen, you need to know how to handle things.
Don’t think you can jump on your phone and YouTube how to do CPR when you need to be administering it to your child. Panic sets in when you don’t have the knowledge. Prepare yourself for potential emergencies by knowing what to do when a crisis arises.
For example, our first born son went into cardiac arrest one evening. My husband began CPR. He had learned CPR years previously and I had learned it more recently. I coached my husband on what to do as he was doing it. We worked together to do CPR while waiting for the ambulance. According to the doctors at the hospital, the CPR that my husband did kept our son alive.
We didn’t know in advance that we would ever be doing CPR on our own baby. However, having the training in our personal tool belt saved our son’s life that evening. There have been other instances where I have had to use the Heimlich Maneuver on my children and thus am thankful I took the CPR and first aid training classes.
Don’t wait to enroll in a class because no emergency has happened in your home yet. Chances are that some kind of emergency will arise whether it is choking, a gaping wound, broken bones, head injury, or some other crisis that requires a level head and the skills to help your child.
Be prepared for those situations by taking a CPR and first aid class. Most are just a few hours. The Red Cross provides a search tool on their website, so that you can find these classes near you.
6. Potty train when they are ready
Kids will start using the potty when they are ready. If you put undue pressure on a child to potty train, it likely will not result in successful potty training. They need to be ready and wanting to use the potty to make potty training a success.
Don’t miss their cues when they are ready. There are some things you can do to help prepare them for the act of potty training, but don’t force the issue.
For example, you can buy them their own potty training toilet for them to practice sitting on it, you can read them children’s books about potty training, and you can let them pick out their own underwear at the store. These things will help them prepare for potty training and one day they will decide that they are ready.
When they are ready you will know. They will one day be a willing participant in the process, wanting to wear big boy or big girl undies and go in the toilet. Until they show an interest or desire, you are more than likely wasting your time.
In some cases, parents extend the time it takes to potty train because it has become a traumatic experience for them with forceful potty training methods. Don’t force your child to go on the potty. It will not help you or them.
Do yourself and them a favor and wait until they appear ready. When they appear ready, help motivate them to be successful by using sticker charts, rewards, or other methods that are proven to work for potty training children.
7. Kids desire structure
Kids have an innate desire for rules, structure, and boundaries. They also do better when routines are established. This doesn’t mean that they need or want parents who are dictators with little flexibility. Instead, they need boundaries with rules clearly explained; to help them grow and thrive to be the best people they can be.
Consistency with the rules is also essential. For example, a child who doesn’t have a regular bedtime and gets yelled at one night for staying up too late, while the next night they stay up even later and there is no consequence, results in confusion for the child regarding their bedtime. Letting the child know that their bedtime is 8:00 PM every school night, so that they can get the sleep they need, sets a specific boundary and rule that helps them be more successful in school.
Setting a specific time makes the rule known and their bedtime is no longer a guessing game. Kids want to know what is expected of them. They also want to have routines that they can reply upon. Routines make them feel secure. Having rules and structure also helps prepare them for adulthood and the real world.
When kids don’t have structure, it makes them feel out of control. This can lead to feelings of anxiety. Teens especially need structure, but many parents think this is when kids need more flexibility and leniency. However, this leniency can lead to teens feeling that their life is out of control.
They need rules and structure, but they also need to understand that the rules are for their benefit because you love them. This is why it is helpful for parents to explain to their child or teen why they have the rules that they have.
For example, you set a midnight curfew for your teen and they ask why, to which you respond “I am the mom that’s why I set the curfew, so you need to obey.” They are likely to rebel to such a parental response. Instead, stating “I set the curfew because I need to know that you are home by that time and safe, because I love you” is likely to help them understand you are setting a curfew out of love and care for them.
8. Character develops by example
What you do matters. Your child is watching you. You are your child’s role model whether you want to be or not. Their morality and character is developed in the home first. They are watching you and your behaviors.
Be the person you want them to grow up to become. Practice good decision-making when it comes to character and morality if you want them to become good, decent human beings.
For example, if you are playing a board game with them, don’t cheat. If you cheat they learn that it is okay to cheat at board games. Cheating can become a slippery-slope. It can grow from board games into cheating in school or on exams.
Don’t set your child up for trouble by being an example of how to cheat. Instead, be an example of integrity and strong character by playing honestly, even if it does mean losing.
9. Let your child be a child
Don’t make your child grow up too fast. Let them experience life at the age they are at; Because they are only little once.
Don’t expect them to act like miniature adults. Kids are different than adults. Children tend to be more physically active than adults, they need more sleep, and they are naturally highly curious.
Allow them to be kids, by keeping your expectations of them aligned with the fact that they are children and not adults. Let them run and play. Requiring a two year old to sit still and be quiet for hours on end is not realistic.
For example, you want to expose your toddler to culture and the arts, so you purchase tickets to the symphony. You take your two-year-old to a three hour concert one evening and are sorely disappointed that they won’t sit still. To make matters worse, they are loud and disruptive to the other patrons. You had good intentions, but it would have probably better served both you and your child to attend a Mommy and Me music class that features classical music.
That way you can expose them to the arts and culture in a fun, child-centered atmosphere that allows kids to act like kids. Therefore, do set yourself and your child up for failure by expecting them to act older than they are in any situation.
10. Use help
Babysitters can help you remain a sane person. If hiring a nanny or babysitter isn’t in your budget then find a friend who can exchange childcare with you. You watch their little one and they watch yours; which also makes it a playdate for your child. This is a win-win situation.
Parents need down time. If you are a full time caregiver for your child, make sure you have a break every now and then. You will be a better caregiver when you take time for yourself.
Don’t think that because you are the parent that you need to do it all by yourself. It takes a village to raise a child. Embrace your village and allow them to help you.
Take breaks for yourself away from your child so you can recharge yourself. You will come back a better person, ready to parent and better take on the challenges of parenting because of the down time you took.
11. Let your child experience failure
Do not rescue your child every time they are headed for failure. Allow your child to fail. Especially when they are young. Let them learn early about how it feels to fail and how to recover from failure. Be there by them to walk them through the experience, but don’t rescue them from their failure.
For example, your child is working on a school project that involves building a tower and you can see that the end result will fall apart because they haven’t made the base strong enough. You tell your child that they should make the base stronger. They don’t want to do it your way. They are insistent on doing it their way.
Do not fix their project after they go to bed. The next day when they go to school and it falls over after they bring it into the classroom they can do their best to repair the structure on their own. You provided guidance along the way and they declined.
Don’t force your way to prevent them from failing. Allow them to fail in this because they need to experience what failure feels like and how to recover. Will your child fall apart, breaking down, and crying or will they pick up the pieces and repair the tower as quickly and effectively as they can? You can help coach them by asking “If the tower does tip over when you get it into school, how do you think can repair it?”.
You aren’t doing it for them. You are helping them mentally prepare for the potential failure before it happens. There will be instances when you can help them problem solve solutions. This is always better than swooping in to rescue them.
Someday you won’t be there to rescue and help your child. You want to help instill in them skills like resilience, so they can help themselves when they do face failure.
12. Don’t miss their childhood
They are only little once. Childhood can’t be repeated. Don’t miss out on their childhood by working too much. Your children want you more than they want stuff.
Make a good balance of work and time with your child so that you are an active and vibrant part of their childhood.
The bottom line
Children grow up in spite of their parents. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
We all make mistakes as parents. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Kids will grow up in spite of the mistakes we make.
Learn and grow from your mistakes. Children grow and we grow with them, just as we learn to do better and be better as parents. Just do your best and that will earn you plenty of forgiveness from your kids.