10 Tips for New Parents on Raising a Healthy Connected Kid
We are often so focused on the challenges at hand, we forget to acknowledge all that we have learned along the way. As a veteran parent of two nine-year old girls, it’s often hard to remember how simply crazy the world became the day I became a mother.
Hearing questions of new parents, I realize I have come along way since the days of diapers and playdates. My girls get ready for school, pretty much on their own, do their homework, tire me out with new books they want to read, and can’t wait to tell me all the crazy amazing things they want to do in their world and in their future. All that, and I still get hugs and kisses (LOTS!) each day. I am truly blessed!
So now, as I see several friends having their first babies on the way, I feel like I’ve come out the other end, so to speak. As I approach the edge of tweendom, I’ve learned the answer to “this parent thing” is really pretty simple if you remember a few basic rules. Notice, I said BASIC, not EASY… (being a parent is hard and can be TOTALLY FREAKING EXHAUSTING!!!)
Advice for New Parents of 0-5 Year Olds
Based on this, I have some simple, helpful advice to offer new parents of the 0-5 set to ensure happiness and closeness with your children as they grow into awesome loving tweens and beyond!
1. Give lots of hugs and kisses, every day. No exceptions. When your child gets older, and tells you it’s uncool to get kisses during school drop off, threatening to sing Taylor Swift songs (or whoever they are listening to at the time) at the top of your lungs is guaranteed to get results. It works every time.
2. Read and snuggle every night before bed. Your voice represents love and affection. When they are older, they will connect these positive feelings with a love of reading on their own. When they are older, they may even read TO YOU as my daughters did when I had cancer and was too tired to read each night.)
3. Tell them why you think they are special. Focus on behaviors you would like to encourage (things they can actively do) not labels. Say: “I love how you use color in this picture.” and “I like how you kept trying to draw that even though it was difficult.” not, “You are a good artist.”
4. Talk to them about what you are doing together and explain the world to them… Even when you think they are to little to understand. You are building language which will give them a strong base for reading and learning when they go to school. YES. You will be one of those crazy parents, but I promise it will pay off.
5. Be silly with them. Sing, dance, tell jokes. This can even be a good tactic when dealing with discipline issues. (Interested in more on this topic… read this book: Playful Parenting by
6. Feed them a wide range of foods and don’t worry about what they eat/don’t eat. They will constantly disappoint you on this. Expect it. Food is one of the ONLY things they have control over outside of wearing (or actually NOT WEARING) clothes. Just when you think you have their eating habits dialed, their need for “independence” will kick in and mess up all your menu plans. Just accept it and eat what you want (with options.) When they are old enough, let them cook with you.
7. Establish a routine. It should include: “when we wake up”, “when we nap”, “when we go to bed.” Never argue about this routine… it just exists. Like the sun rising and setting. Structure reduces confusion and creates a sense of safety in the world.
8. Whenever you set a consequence, follow through on it. Don’t set consequences you can’t keep. If you do set a consequence and don’t follow through… you. will. pay.
9. Give manageable choices. (E.g. “Not “what do you want to eat?” but, “Do you want apples or bananas?”) I swear I’ve had to bite my lip so many times at cafes and restaurants when I overhear parents of toddlers “negotiating” with them about how they want their applesauce prepared… SERIOUSLY?!? 2-year-olds are basically programmed to be insane! With cheeks like that she’s obviously NOT starving. The world doesn’t need more deranged psychopaths. Just give her the damn applesauce already!
10. When they start talking… listen. And this one is important… really important. Because if you don’t listen to them now, when they want to talk … and talk and talk and talk. Believe me. I. Have. Talkers. And when they do, ask them questions and REALLY listen. (Put down your smart phone.) What are their favorite foods, animals, characters in books? What super power would they like to have? What is their favorite game to play? Give them your full attention even for a short time every day. You will be happy you did when they turn into teenagers and, for a while, stop sharing every single detail from a weird dream they had last night.
Does any of this make sense to you? Veteran parents, do you have any more advice to add? New parents, what other parenting questions do you have?
- Hidden Gems of Northeastern SF,
- Most Loved Board Books for Babies and Toddlers,
- Free Printables: Family Checklists Make Going Back-To-School a Breeze