21 Surprising Parenting Tips

Over the past few years, I’ve picked up some surprising parenting tips from friends that have been really helpful, so I’d love to share them below (and hear yours!)…

From me:

1. If your child falls, ask him, “Are you hurt or scared?” (Usually they’re just scared/shocked/embarrassed.) Then embellish a story about when you (or Daddy or even Uncle Nick if you can believe it) fell when you were younger. These have become my boys’ all-time favorite stories.

2. Always and forever, SIT APART ON THE PLANE. I’ve recommended it before, I’ll recommend it a thousand times: When flying as a family, have one parent sit with both kids, and another parent sit alone. Switch off every two hours. Actually makes plane travel a joy for everyone.

From my friend Jenny:

3. If you want their attention at the dinner table, or anywhere else, start a sentence with “Did I ever tell you the story about…”

4. The best $24.99 you will ever spend is for a Dirt Devil that lives in the car.

5. At back-to-school night in your kid’s classroom, show up early, and sign up for beverage duty (i.e., easiest job ever) for every in-class celebration before anyone else can.

6. A stopwatch is an excellent motivator if you want your kid to tie his shoes, clear his plate, clean his room, do ANYTHING faster.

7. However excited you are that your kid is finally old enough to play board games and however much nostalgia you may have for playing Candy Land, don’t bring it into your house. You will weep with boredom. (Buy Rush Hour, which involves actual strategy, comes with its own carrying case, and, best of all, can be played alone. Ages 5-8 ish?)

From my friend Kendra:

8. Make a double batch of homemade pancake batter at the beginning of the week and keep it in the fridge in a 4-cup measuring cup. Just needs a stir for a delish, speedy breakfast all week long.

From my friend Abbey:

9. To prevent leaving-the-house-jacket-battles with young kids, instead of saying “Put on your jacket” say “Put out your arms” and then put the jacket on.

10. Create a once-a-week “Doughnut Day” or “Candy Day.” Instead of always having to say “No, you can’t have a doughnut,” you get to say “We have doughnuts on Wednesday,” and then it’s special that day. My son gets so excited on “Doughnut Day.”

11. Ask your kindergarten-aged kiddo to choose and pack a book for running errands or subway rides—it gets them in the habit of taking control of their own entertainment. We like the travel-sized Where’s Waldo? and the Search & Find books.

From my friend Emma:

12. Toddlers are always thirsty and always need to pee. Even if they say they are not, when faced with a glass of water or a potty, they’ll do it.

13. Ignore your mother-in-law. She knows nothing.

From my friend Anna:

14. Being there is a huge part of parenting. Not just being physically present, but mindfully and emotionally present, too. When you come home from work, if at all possible, leave your phone in your bag and just be present for your kid for the first chunk of time (10 minutes? an hour? it’s up to you). Even if you’re stressed from your day and cranky about something, it’s so important to put it aside for some quality time with your kids, before you launch into dinner or bedtime or whatever homework you need to do. Ironically, sometimes the kid is too busy for quality time (playing intensely or doing homework) but just knowing that you’re there and available is enough!

From my friend Jordan:

15. When our two boys were younger, they were always losing socks or mixing them up, and I was spending so much time sorting socks that it was kind of ridiculous. So finally I assigned them each a type of sock and bought 15 pairs of each. The younger got striped navy and the older was assigned striped grey. It simplified everything so we are never “missing” a sock and sorting socks is a cinch. We’ve been doing it for three years now and I’ll never go back.

16. We play a game where every week I take them to the market and say, “You each have to pick two vegetables.” They get really into the decision. Then we go home and figure out new ways to make them. We’ve done pretty much everything you can think of: sweet potato fries, kale chips, guacamole, sautéed squash, green smoothies. When we eat them they announce, “This is my vegetable!” It has been a great way to get them to try new things.

From my friend Linsey:

17. My kids choose a song for us to sing as we brush their teeth. It entertains them and because they know the words, it functions as a timer allowing them to know how much longer they need to be still and keep their mouths open (instead of sudsy complaints of “how much longer!?”).

From my friend Lena:

18. When we were having some challenges with our four-year-old son, my friend suggested I give him a rundown of our day in the morning so he’d know what to expect. It made so much sense! When he was a baby and toddler we toted him around without explaining what we were doing or where we were going…telling him made such a difference! Sometimes our plans are straightforward and fun, and he simply likes knowing what we are doing. Other times I’ll say something that gets him thinking ahead about a situation that could be challenging, like “We’re going to a party where there will be lots of younger kids and you might need to be patient with them.” It feels natural now to include him in discussing our day ahead.

19. When your child takes a nap in the stroller, pull his/her hat down over their eyes and they will nap so much longer.

From my friend Sharon:

20. Find out which chores they like. My daughter loves taking the trash out and my boys love emptying the dishwasher and vacuuming. The one they all fight over? Cleaning the stovetop. I don’t get it either. When I taught them how to do the laundry, I thought their heads would explode in excitement. The chore they hate? Cleaning their room. So that’s always a mess, but the stovetop is usually clean. I can live with that.

21. Buy neon beanies for your kids in the winter. They can run but they can’t hide!

Smart, right? What tips and tricks have you figured out along the way? Word-of-mouth advice from parents can be better than all the parenting books in the world. Please share below! xoxo

P.S. 20 more surprising parenting tips (the first edition!), and six words to say to your child.

(Photo of Anton and me)

  1. LeahaBeth says...

    #13- My mother in law is much more my go to for questions than my own mother, and I try really hard with my own daughter in law. Im sorry that you feel differently. For me, my mother in law can be a wealth of information.

  2. Julie says...

    One piece of advice I have is to never start playing kids music in the car. From the beginning we played our music only when driving. She likes it all. one I took a two hour drive to Disneyland with a good friend whose two year old would only listen to the Tigger song on repeat the entire drive. Omg. You can’t imagine.
    I’ll do anything for my daughter but listening to kiddy music is just torture!

    • Lisa says...

      My MIL drives me crazy but she loves my children more than life itself. So I happily put up with whatever craziness she has in store for me. She lives 7 hours away and it is not unusual for her to call and say she’ll be to our house in 2 hours. When she calls I always do a happy dance with my kids and sing about how Grandma is coming. She ignores all schedules and routines and generally makes my life difficult but I constantly let her know that she is always welcome and that I love having her in my life. My best parenting tip- love your in-laws like you want your children’s future spouses to love you. Be a peacemaker and remember that true love is kind and patient and holds no grudges.

  3. Meghan says...


    I love your blog and the advice from you and other moms is my absolute favorite. I screenshot more and more motherly advice from here! And I’m just so grateful to have the opportunity to try new things with my son!

  4. Stephanie says...

    What do you mean by switching off on the plane? Going to sleep? Listening to music? A bit confusing.

    • Susan says...

      In this context, “switch off” means “trade places”.

  5. Thank you for the tips in this article about parenting. I especially liked the tip about staying calm and not getting frustrated. I know how hard that can be, but children can sense the tension so when you get angry, they fell very defensive. Do you have any other tips or advice on parenting that could help me with my children and that would help them behave.

  6. These are some fantastic tips! I love how specific you got. I don’t think I ever would have thought about sitting apart on the plane. Switching off could really make everything so much easier—hours on a plane with children can be very stressful. Thank you so much for sharing your advice, I will take this to heart!

  7. I love your blog and I love everything in this post as usual. I do have feedback on your friends advice to “ignore your m-i-l she knows nothing”. Mother in laws get a bad rap. Most of my lovely girlfriends have issues with theirs. My sister in law has issues with my mother. I don’t get it. I see what they are reacting to but all these m-i-l’s are wonderful people trying their best just like their daughter in laws. They deserve respect, not shutting out. My m-i-l died the week I was married. I’m sure she might have driven me nuts but since I can only pay an observer role now I would say to readers have patience with your m-i-l, focus on the positive, it’s only advice, take it kindly and then do what you want with it. But be kind to your mother in law which is also being kind to your husband and setting a good example for your children.

    • Tali says...

      This was a beautiful response! I couldn’t agree more, particularly regarding being kind to your partner and setting a good example for your children. I have a mother-in-law who is very different from me in many ways. I often politely decline when it comes to her advice, but sometimes, it’s surprisingly helpful to hear a new perspective (even if I don’t end up following the advice). I also sometimes see my sister in law become very frustrated with my own mother. I totally get it; my mom has a strong personality and although she tries not to intrude, sometimes she does, and that’s tough. But it’s also part of being a family. It’s great to have some boundaries, but respecting our parents is an important value, and unless the in-law is truly a terrible person, I think they enrich our and our children’s lives.

  8. This list was so wonderful, thank you for sharing!

    My toothbrush tip is to buy a children’s electric toothbrush. Makes cleaning a breeze and it’s such a novelty. Toddlers look forward to when they get to turn on and off the ‘buzz’ and preschoolers walkaway with cleaner teeth because it can be so easy to miss all of those nooks and crannies with a regular toothbrush.

  9. As an elementary teacher, something that works well for those school-age kiddos who fall down is to come up to them after they fall/get bumped or bruised and say “Wow, you’re really tough.” Somehow, being told they are handling a situation well mean they do handle it well and go off to play rather than cry.

    Also- in classroom celebrations- if you must bring a sweet, cookies or something without a lot of mess is a live-saver. Slightly more work for the parents, but also very popular with the kids: sliced apples and touch of carmel. Also great for classes where so many kids have food allergies or limitations.

  10. I love the pancake one–doing it! I think granola could be included with that tip. It’s all about planning ahead right?

    For the plane separation, that’s really interesting! We live overseas and had never thought of doing that. One travel trick I totally recommend is finding your Airplane Fairy! Once the little kiddos are on the plane (car, train, or boat), they open their backpacks to find all sorts of goodies–snacks and treats, games and toys. My kids are now older, 11 & 12, but we all still make sure the Airplane Fairy has stocked our bags before we leave on our trips.

    This is such a fun post with so many great ideas.

    Oh, I’ll leave with this one: since my kiddos were real young, I’ve always insisted they are each other’s best friends. It has worked. They play so well with one another and have a real respect for their sibling.

    Thanks Joanna and all the other moms for their tips and tricks!


    Ann of Kremb de la Kremb

  11. My parents has 3 daughters who were all two years apart in age, needless to say there were constant arguments about what TV show to watch, who got to sit up front the car, who got to play with certain toys, who got to sit in the “good spot” on the couch, who’s turn it was to set up the dinner table or clean up afterwards, and the list goes on! My genius parents, tired of the constant bickering, come up with a plan they called “Girl of the Week” – for one week the Girl of the Week would have first choice of everything. She would have preferential choice of seating, setting up of the table but no cleaning, could choose which toys she wanted to play with, etc. We would rotate each week with each sister and almost all arguments ceased immediately! Each sister was far too fond of the week long awesomeness that was Girl of the Week to attack it! What’s funny is that even though we’re all in our thirties now, we still use some of the old rules when it comes to setting up and cleaning for dinner when we’re at our parent’s house!

    • Laura says...

      That is a fantastic idea! I might have to use that for my boys one day!

  12. Julie Mallet! Thank you. I just became a MIL and I’m feeling stifled for fear of being THAT MIL. I will only respond to direct questions. I truly only want a good relationship with my DIL. I know it takes time…willing to wait and just be myself in the meantime.

  13. Great list! loving these.

    I’m pretty sure the Mother in Law comment was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and I’m certainly not meaning to wail on Emma, but this is something I have been thinking about a lot lately (especially having just had my second boy) – would be an interesting conversation to develop outside of a jokey (at least I think jokey!) one-liner?

    I really struggle with how the Mother in Law (can I use the MIL acronym for ease?!)’thing’ has become such a thing in so many circles I am part of. I find it really odd and disappointing.

    So many of my friends have an issue with their MIL. These women cannot do ANYTHING right, with regards to parental/running a home advice and support.

    I just find the lack of self-awareness staggering. I am speaking in generalities; of course there are MILs who are genuinely awful, and mothers who are not helpful. But isn’t it fairly obvious that we like what our mothers suggest because it’s what we are familiar with within our own family culture, and how we were taught to do things, and we dislike what our MILs do/suggest because it doesn’t jibe with our background?

    I am not being very articulate, but I just find the whole ‘waah waah my MIL is horrible/useless/stupid’ thing to be very… easy? a trendy fall-back?

    I think we are all just women trying to do life and get along and support one another, and yes my MIL might suggest something that is different to how something might be done within my own family culture, but that doesn’t make it wrong, and she is probably JUST TRYING TO BE HELPFUL. Like another commenter said – she raised my husband and he is pretty awesome, so kudos to her.

    One day, I hope to be a MIL and I hope that my daughter-in-law knows that I am just trying to help, and doesn’t spend all her time at coffee group moaning about what a stupid bitch I am because I folded the washing ‘wrong’ (read: differently to how the daughter in law was taught to fold it). Seriously, this apparently a grievous offence.

    I don’t know… I don’t mean to get heavy, and I did really enjoy the list! but crikey, I hate that there is this whole social construct around the MIL relationship, and this expectation of not getting along.

    With the exception of a few outliers, let’s get along with our MILs, communicate effectively to resolve issues, and hope that our future daughter-in-laws accord us the same respect.

    Something to talk about further?

    • d says...

      You are right, but people’s egos often get in the way.
      As someone who has lost both parents, I am always disappointed when I see older relatives, in laws, etc (people who I’d normally turn to for a word of practical advice or for wisdom) act like selfish children or antagonize their grandkids for their own kids attention.
      It is strange, but believe me, it does happen more than you’d think…
      This may sound harsh, but a kid or a grandkid is not the glue to fix people’s emptiness or insecurity.
      The fact that someone becomes a mother or a grandmother does not automatically earn them universal respect and authority over anything really.
      Extending common courtesy is advisable, but following one’s own instincts and politely shrugging off unsolicited advice regarding parenting and all family related matters, is the way to go in my opinion…

    • M says...

      I think that you are right that most MIL’s are well-intentioned and trying to be helpful. I know that mine is! What I struggle with is that her unsolicited advice almost always feels like criticism-like what I am doing isn’t good enough. And then I feel inadequate. And then I feel defensive and resentful. In contrast, my own mother almost never offers advice; she just listens. That may be one reason why we have such a good relationship.

    • L. says...

      Hi Everyone, My mother-in-law just passed away. I knew her for over 30 years. It’s a complicated relationship, but kindness and respect has to rule the day. I don’t think we can expect the mother-in-law relationship to have the same warmth as our mom/daughter, partly because the history isn’t there. As I’ve gotten older, I think there are cultural differences for sure in how “older” women are treated. I get along better with young women from European cultures better; American women seem put off (afraid?) by our age difference, whereas European women are more secure and comfortable with the idea of aging. This may have an effect on your relationships with your mothers-in-law. Maybe? Just putting it our there ….

  14. Funny and clever as always. I don’t even have kids, but I still enjoyed reading it :-)

  15. Ooo, at my house we had to make little cards with pictures about things that were happening that day (play school, visiting dad at work, which babysitter was coming that day, play time, meal time). Our little toddler had such anxiety about what was happening, so in the morning we would put the cards in sequence on the fridge with magnets. Then we’d go over it and as the day went on he would go and flip them over on the fridge.

    Work intensive. But, IT WORKED.

  16. #13… i could not have said it better myself.

  17. I couldnt agree less with the ” your mother in law knows nothing” comment… Some of us are VERY blessed with wonderful MIL’s who know a great deal. For Petes sake she raised the man you married. Have a little respect.

  18. I just remembered an amazing tip my Mom gave me: only buy ice cream from one place.

    So we have “our” ice cream shop and (not counting when away on holiday) that’s the only place we get ice cream from. It means that seeing an ice cream cone sign elsewhere in our city never results in begging for ice cream because “it’s not our ice cream shop”. It helps if said ice cream place is not somewhere you pass regularly, so it’s a special outing.

    I have also found the “one finger” rule invaluable for allowing things to be touched, but not damaged or tugged (e.g. jewellery I’m wearing, xmas ornaments, etc). It’s easier for little ones to understand this concept than “be gentle” I think.

  19. Wow, some serious mother-in-law bitterness here. Lighten up, ladies. Maybe you had a good one; maybe you are a good one. But surely you know the feeling of getting tons of unsolicited advice from someone who has a lot of social leverage over you, but whose values you don’t necessarily share every one of.

  20. To introduce a child to taking a shower, roll up a washcloth and have him/her hold it over their eyes while you shower them. Face them away from the shower. They’ll get used to the water running over their heads and faces and eventually the wash cloth won’t be needed.

    There is a great toothbrushing app called Brush Eez. Love it!

    When my daughter was younger and would fall or tumble we wouldn’t react at all. Not even a gasp, because kids sometimes react to your reaction. Instead we wait and see what she does. If she looks like she’s going to be upset we ask her “How are you?” then take her cue. Usually though she’s fine or will simply respond “I’m all right!”, pause then take off to play.

    I used to carry a pair of small scissors (like kiddie scissors). It made it much easier to cut food down at restaurants for her to manage than using a knife (cutting spaghetti with a knife?). Wipe clean with a wipe

  21. During dinner, we take turns around the table playing Roses, Thorns and Unicorns. Each person shares one great moment that happened in the day (Roses), the worst thing that happened (Thorns) and something they wished or hoped to have happen (Unicorn). I find it helps our sons sit through dinner..even if it’s ‘so yucky tasting’…and I like listening to their sincere concerns when we express our thorns…pretty sweet. xo

  22. This one is a life-saver for any mom of a little kid who lives and breathes Lego, and who can’t stand bending over to pick up a zillion little pieces. Buy a Rubbermaid bin and a flat bed sheet. Put all the lego in the middle of the flat sheet. Grab all four corners and twist them together. It will go into the bin nicely with all the Lego inside. When your child wants to play, simply take the sheet out and spread it out on the floor. It’s SO easy to clean up. I give credit to my mom for inventing this one!

  23. I’m not even a parent but I love these all!!!

  24. haha, i love these! i’m not a parent yet but i always tuck these away somewhere. plus i’ve asked my husband to start doughnut day for me ;)

  25. If you are going to a new park or place and your child is prone to wandering off put a bell on your child. My middle sister has Down Syndrome and was a major runner and escape artist when she younger and my Mum always put a bell on her if we were going to a busy place because that way if she got lost she could hear her.
    Once they get older let each child choose a meal once a week which they help cook. My Mum did this when I was growing up and it eventually turned into us cooking a meal by ourselves once a week so she got a few nights off.
    Panadol helps calm a worked up child. I have anxiety and when I was younger I would get extremely worked up over little things to the point where I would be crying for no reason my Mum would always give me Panadol which some how helped calm me down.

  26. These are fabulous! One tip that a friend recently gave me and that works like a charm (for kids who keep coming out of their room at bed time or calling “mama!”): let them know you’ll check on them….but only if they’re quiet. This keeps my kids quiet, in their bed, and asleep:)

  27. A couple that have worked for our 3 kids: We have pretty adventurous eaters, and I think it’s because we make one meal for everyone, and you eat or you don’t. Our doctor used to say you control what and when, and they control whether and how much. Dinner is served. This is the time to eat it, not in an hour. There aren’t substitutes. Whether or how much you eat is up to you. If refusing to eat gets them what they want to eat, then there’s little incentive to branch out. Eating together as a family has definitely helped this, too.

    Also, lay out all outergear the night before. It’s the sudden refusal to wear or inability to locate a hat/scarf/glove that can be the difference between a tantrum-free or a running-late morning!

  28. I love how simple and practical your posts are Jo….. easy to read and follow!!!

    I have a 23 month old…. so its nice to learn these little tips and tricks before he hits the terrible twos!!

  29. I want to do all of these! Right now I’m just trying to convince my 2 yr old to eat something green! I always get discouraged because I’m not a very creative cook- but when he gets a little older, I’d like to try the “pick your vegetable” game! So cute and creative. Thanks Joanna for these posts- I love your blog. xoxo

  30. Love the airplane idea! Will have to remember that for the future. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to just follow my instincts, regardless what the lady at the store, someone else’s doctor or your mother-in-law says. If it doesn’t feel right to you, steer clear.

  31. I’m not a parent yet, but loved “Anything You Want Day” as a kid. It’s in the same vein as “Doughnut Day,” but once a year. Every Labor Day we were allowed to do WHATEVER we wanted (ice cream for breakfast, treasure hunts, sleeping in a fort that took over the whole living room, etcetera.) Instead of saying “no” to ridiculous requests, my mom would say “wait til Whatever You Want day.” And she meant it! I anticipated it as much as Christmas and plan to do the same when I’m a mother.

  32. My hubby and I don’t have kids just yet, but I know that when we do, I’m going to be doing a LOT of #13. Oh man will I ever.

    Seriously though, these are great tips! Trying to commit to memory all the wonderful parenting advice I’ve gleaned from your blog throughout the years for when the time comes to use it :)

  33. Related to the neon hats in winter tip, my mum always had us in matching t-shirts on the beach! They kept the sun off our skin as we kept them on over our swimsuits, and picking the colours that nobody else seemed to want (in the sales I suppose, too!) meant that we stood out in the crowd. We had these odd lime-ish green ones that feature in every summer photo album for years. Your tip about sitting apart on the plane is definitely counter-intuitive but does make sense – saving that one in the memory bank.

  34. This worked on my daughter (20 years ago) and my nephews to this day. Concerning ouchies: A small ouchie can be rubbed off as in, “Oh, are you okay? Let’s rub it off…” A larger ouchie, once the tears have subsided, “Do you know what happens when you get an ouchie? You get a little bit bigger…” which of course can morph into, “Oooh, I think when you hit your head/knee/elbow you got a little bit bigger, I can see it!”

  35. these all all good tips– not just for parents but for all people who interact with children!
    I also believe in always asking open-ended questions that you (the adult) don’t know the answer to. So, instead of asking things like “What color is the doggy? or How many buttons are on your shirt?” actually asking interesting questions where you can learn about the child and they can feel like you really care about them.

  36. Oh my gosh! These are so awesome! Thank you so much. I did laugh my head off at the Candyland advice. – Good one.

  37. I’m not a mama yet but I am an elementary school teacher so I spend lots of time with kiddos. These tips are genius and I will be sure to remember them when I have a baby of my own.

  38. All good advice!
    Here is mine. (momma to two boys and a girl)
    When changing baby boys: Open the diaper, let the cold air hit it, put the diaper back down, wait a few seconds, proceed as normal. ;)

  39. On family trips my parents always put us in the same color shirts daily- it made all four of us easy to find. I have to say, it seems a bit harsh to say your mother-in-law knows nothing though- although I admit I’m not at the stage in my life where my mother in law is offering unsolicited parenting advice, I’m sure she means well, right? ah well. Dare to dream!

  40. #14 is sooo important, yet so hard to adhere to. Thanks for the reminder. I am trying to improve!

  41. This great! Love the veggie one!

  42. Mindy Lee, your comment on guiding them through the swell of their emotions – how beautifully put!

    I feel like I could do with that sometimes, so of course my little one does and for him it’s way more overwhelming. But easily forgotten amongst the physical and practical. Thank you for putting it in a way that’s so easily remembered.

    I’m too new to this to have the retrospect to know what works yet, but love this!! Joanna, can you make this regular, or a semi-regular, post?!

  43. Ha, I love these. They make perfect sense and I would never think of them on my own.

  44. I am not quite at this stage in my life…but I have bookmarked this to send to my friends who are. And I love the vegetable one!

    Annabel ♥
    Mascara & Maltesers

  45. These tips are great!!! I’m a mom of 2 boys. Here are a couple of my best tips:

    When your child starts reading at age 4-6 or so, start paying them a “Penny a Page” for the books they read. It might sound like bribery, but I have found it to be the biggest motivator for early readers! I do this through 2nd grade, and by that time, they are completely hooked on books and do marvelously in language arts. My 4th grade teacher suggested that to my parents, and I went from getting a “C” in reading to developing a lifelong love of the written word. This can also be adjusted for a child with a learning disability… a penny a word or a penny a sentence, as the child’s level allows.

    My second type is for coding holiday items. At Christmas, I put X’s and O’s on their presents. This way, they don’t know whose is whose, so they can’t figure out what’s in a box just by looking at it. At Easter, I color code the Easter eggs. One gets all the warm colored eggs and the other gets all the cool colors. This way, each gets an even amount, and the younger boy isn’t crying while the older one quickly finds a bunch of eggs.

  46. Don’t say please to a child, say thank you when you want a child to do something without negotiation eg. Shoes on! Thank you, well done. Please gives them the “no” option and sometimes, it just isn’t the time for options. Kids love being thanked by adults.
    Plus: junk day. Last day of school holidays should be junk day. Loads of junk food, back to back DVDs and slouching about. Adults too..

  47. Number 9 reminds me of a trick I use with my 2 year old Montessori students: when we get ready to go outside in the cold weather, I lay their coats open on the floor in front of them but turned upside down. I tell them to bend down and put their arms in the armholes and then flip the jacket over their head while they stand back up so that their arms slide in and the coat is on and ready to be zipped up before they know it. They love doing it, it makes getting ready quicker, and it gives them a sense of pride in being able to do it themselves. Once they see how it works, they’re always eager to grab their coats and even learn to lay them out themselves so the only work left for you to do is zip them up.

  48. My mom actually always used the “neon clothes” trick when we travelled. My brothers and I were always dressed in head-to-toe orange, or electric blue, or yellow when we took planes or trains. That way, if we ever wandered off while at the airport or train station, she could easily spot us.

  49. I totally second #21. We have a highly-active 4 year old & whenever we go anywhere, especially a park, the zoo, etc – he wears a red baseball hat. It makes him super easy to spot among other kids, bushes, play equipment.

    And for all the singing teeth-brushers, Raffi has a song specifically about brushing your teeth and my son and I sing it (mostly me since his mouth is full) every time he brushes.

    And finally, we allow our son to watch 1 hour of TV during the day and he gets 2 coins (each one representing 30 minutes) that he can “cash” in for a show. This helps him to know exactly how much he gets, he gets to decide when & how they’re used and also alleviates the begging for more programs once the coins are gone. The coins can also be taken away as a consequence. TV is a privilege, not a right. :)

    I, too, love Jordan’s suggestion about the veggies. We’ll have to try it out!

    Thanks for all of these!

  50. We struggle every single day with getting dressed. Our little dude does NOT like to wear long sleeves and puts up a fight 9 times out of 10. It’s a good thing we live in San Diego and he can get away with short sleeves most of the year.

    I think my best advice would be that the fastest way to pull them out of a tantrum is with a distraction. It’s so easy to get sucked into their fit-throwing, that you might miss the opportunity to re-direct their attention. My husband and I were trying (unsuccessfully) to coax our guy out a mini tantrum last night when I shouted “WHO WANTS A GUMMI VITAMIN?!?!?” Worked like a charm ;)

  51. If I constantly get a battle with getting in the car or going to bed I start with, ‘why don’t you pick out a toy to bring in the car with you’ or ‘why don’t you pick out a book to read before bed’ and then I let them walk over by themselves rather than picking them up. Seems like they feel like it’s their choice then.

    Listen. They will tell you what they need. My son didn’t want my daughter to close the door this morning and was completely freaking out. Turns out it was because he wanted her to come and sit on the couch with him. All I had to do was ask.

    Let them feel all of their emotions and guide them through the swell. When one of my kids is having a tantrum, I keep them company and show understanding until it passes and they are ready for a hug. It’s not always easy but it seems to work.

    I love all the tips, these posts are so helpful! I love the dustdevil idea! And starting a convo with “did I ever tell you about the time…”. I’m trying that one tonight!

    Thanks Jo!

  52. thank you for this! We’re patiently waiting for our little one to arrive (T minus 11 days! maybe?!) and these made me smile :) Definitely remembering the sock tip :)

  53. #13. Thank you. My in-laws are visiting right now. Needless to say there’s been a lot of polite ignoring:)

    One tip that’s been working for us is giving our 2 year old a “head’s up” that our activity is about to change. Usually we’ll start with a ten minute warning, then a five minute warning, and then “in one minute we’re going to go find our jammies… or put on our shoes… or sit down for dinner”. Though lately she’s started to try to negotiate with us – especially during the pre-nap warnings. Clever little thing.

    OH, and we accidentally used your “sit separately on the airplane” tip when we flew home from Christmas a couple weeks ago. It was a full flight and the airline had us sitting apart. I was initially panicked. But it ended up being great! I sat with our daughter for the first part of the flight, and then Dada came to the rescue the second half… it was amazing. We’ll be doing this every time for sure.

  54. I cannot thank you enough for this post. I cannot wait to use them and share them with everyone I know!

  55. When my daughter protests or complains about something, I take a moment to acknowledge her feelings; “I know, it stinks that we have to go home now, when you’re having so much fun on the swings! wouldn’t it be cool if we could stay in the playground all night?” Sometimes she just wants to know she’s being heard/understood.

  56. Which specific model is the Dirt Devil? When I click on it to open the link, it’s not opening, just a blank page. Thanks so much, Joanna!

  57. Love these tips!
    I would add this one: sit back & be quiet. Very young children can do a lot of things by themselves as long as they are given the opportunity. They do not need our constant wording.

  58. I am pretty sure I would also be out the door faster every day if I reminded myself to “Put on my arms” and “Put on my feet”, rather than struggling to figure out what goes with what! :)

  59. If a toddler is about to throw something or hit someone, don’t say, “Don’t hit!” or “Don’t throw!” They hear those words and it’s all they can think about. You have just set the wheels of fate in motion. Instead, think quick and suggest something else that they CAN do. At the moment, we do a lot of hits-redirected-to-high-fives and throws-redirected-to… well, whatever-I-can-think-of.

  60. I love the sock idea! Where on earth do you find striped socks that aren’t in a multi-pack, I wonder?

  61. My latest discovery is the “ONE-FINGER RULE.” Children are so curious about breakables (think fancy Christmas ornaments) and want to touch/grab/poke and sometimes accidentally break them! The one-finger rule satisfies their curiosity, they get to touch something typically “off-limits” or for “adults only” and I have yet to have an accident with only one finger touching.

    Hot Mess Mamas

  62. #13 has my heart. I’m not certain what that says about my level of maturity, but I love it nonetheless.

    I do think the switching off parents trick on the plane is fairly genius.

  63. i’m LOVING these tips! keep them coming! xoxo

    • Cheryl says...

      You might need to remind yourself that you and many of the people giving advice on this site will someday be MILS. MY MIL wasn’t very nice to me but she was my husband’s mother, and we love each other very much (almost 39 years of marriage) so twice a year when they visited, I was respectful. We have cared for and been at the deathbeds of 3 parents. I have gained enough wisdom raising 3 successful children, teaching special needs children, and caring for loved ones, that I deserve more than being “ignored”.

  64. My friend Ann always had a damp washcloth for each child to have while eating so they could really keep their hands and faces clean and avoid the sink (too much water splashing around!)
    My mother taught me that if I really played with my kids for about an hour that they would be satisfied and then I could get things done afterwards (really worked!)
    My trick is to get on the same level as kids-adults are big and tall and so if you need to say something important–kneel down and say it eye to eye :)

  65. Great advice – I will be trying #3 tonight! Our 6 yr old has an attention span of a goldfish these days.

  66. Oh, the CandyLand tip! I geeked out one day and tracked down the 1975 version I used to play on ebay and purchased. So excruciatingly boring! Haha. I do the pancake thing, that’s a winner. And love both of Jordan’s tips. Thanks for them all!

  67. I have two kids with autism and along the way I’ve learned a few things that I think are helpful whatever your parenting situation! Find ways to give specific compliments even in the midst of meltdowns. Hearing what you’re doing right is powerful whether you’re 3, 13 or 43 and changes the emotional dynamic of difficult interactions. Also, trust your gut and don’t feel like you have to defend or explain all of your parenting choices, not because they are perfect choices, but because you’re doing your best with what you have.

  68. Love these! Especially 1, 16, and 20. I think 10 may be a particularly good one for my household – and we don’t even have kids yet : )

  69. #13 is exactly what I needed today!

  70. I just know that when I have kids in hopefully a few years down the line that I’ll be coming back to posts like this to remind me of all these great tips!

  71. We do #17, works great, except we don’t sing we put on a song that lasts about 2 min. Works must better than a timer/stopwatch for us – which leads me to, #6 depends on the child. My oldest (6.5 years) has always had an avid hate/fear of timers or stopwatches as a motivator to get tasks done – even when done with a ‘carrot’ at the end. The bare mention of starting one to motivate her to do a task, sends her into a screaming mess. I think #13 is obviously said tongue in cheek, as shorthand for you don’t have to take everything your mother-in-law says as gospel or try to live up to her expectations of how children should be raised. Feel free to be different and be strong in your belief in parenting and her criticisms will be easier to ignore.

  72. Great tips! We have 3 boys under age 10, and we are frequently complimented on their good behavior and lack of fighting amongst each other. At an early age when arguing would start we would say “remember, you guys are on the same team”. Even as little ones this seemed to really make sense to them. We often encourage them to look take care of each other…and they do!

  73. Fantastic post! Some of these we do, and some are great ideas I am going to implement from today! Thank you!!!!

  74. I so wish sitting apart on the plane worked for our family. My girls would always choose me and my husband would spend the entire flight worrying about how to help…

  75. Emily and Matt McLaren, I feel completely the same! I too have 3 boys. I also have a wonderful mother-in-law so I do have a good role model. She is sweet and laid-back and always happy to help and never judgmental. She usually thanks me for asking her to watch our boys because she just really likes spending time with them. I know this might be unusual but I really do appreciate her attitude and I hope to remember it when I’m in her shoes with my own boys.

  76. Love the “pick a vegetable” tip. My toddler loves “balls” (brussel sprouts). A few weeks ago he began chucking them off his plate onto the floor, and my husband and I realized that our household rule of “we only throw balls” had somehow backfired on us. :-)

    My current favorite parenting hacks:

    * While making batter for our Saturday evening pancake tradition, I fry the entire double batch into pancakes. On breakfast mornings I just pop the already cooked, leftover pancakes into the toaster to warm them. Quick, easy, and saves cleaning a messy frying pan every morning.

    * I put my 2 1/2-year-old and 1-year-old in the same size diapers. A 3 is a titch snug on him and a tiny bit big on her, but it saves so much work for me. Whenever I grab a diaper from the bag or changing table, I know it will work for either of them. If I’m going to have the work of two in diapers, I’m going to make it as easy as possible for myself. :-)

    * Read Janet Lansbury’s “No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame.” A quick read, and so, so helpful.

  77. I don’t have any kids, but I am definitely bookmarking this for the future! Very entertaining AND informative. This will be my bible if I ever have kids haha.

  78. These are all excellent. I am loving the dinner table story teller, Dirt Devil in the car, and stopwatch the most!

    Photo at the top is perfect. Where could I find the same hat for my 18 month baby??

  79. My toddler loves to splash his hands in a soapy “finger bowl” after meals, rather than wrangling him at the sink. I love the sock tip and the airplane tip!

  80. Love all of these tips! It’s so great when you finally figure out how your kid works for a little while ;)

    One thing I had to really sit back and remember is that for kids, everything is enormous and immediate. They really don’t have a concept of the past or the future, so when something happens or they want something, they can’t really place it in any other context than the present. It can be irritating when everything needs to be now, but at the same time, they really haven’t developed future planning skills. It’s important to slow down, listen, and help them learn to plan ahead (such as the Wednesday donuts).

  81. Is it me or is the idea of becoming a mother in law so terrifying? I have three boys and am going to have to figure out how to do it well!

  82. oh, leah, we actually have both kids sit with one parent (in a group of three seats) and then the other parent sits in a single seat many rows away–then we switch off with the children in the row of three. does that make sense? so it should be the same for passengers around us. i think it might actually be easier because the kids are calmer throughout the flight when they have a “new” parent every couple hours. keeps them happier and quieter to have fresh energy!

  83. all great but #13 about ignoring your mother in law cracked me up!

  84. My son is only 7 months old, but I’m trying to get in the habit of NOT saying, “you’re ok!” when he’s crying. I’d never say something so dismissive to an older child or adult who was upset. I usually sympathetically say, “Aw, you’re gonna make it!” or, “you’re sad right now, but you’ll feel better soon.” I know it’s a tiny shift, but I am trying to practice cultivating empathy and conveying hope.

  85. These are great. What I really need is tips on how to get my 19 month old to nap (he is refusing lately) :) but I always appreciate ideas and empathy from other parents, thanks for sharing!

  86. I second the suggestion to tell your child the plan for the day. I teach Preschool and have noticed that, when I do that, things go very smoothly for me – particularly if a part of our day will be different. It is especially reassuring for kids with attention or anxiety issues to know what to expect.

  87. Love these! (Especially Gemma’s wise words;)

  88. “Ignore your mother-in-law. She knows nothing,” that’s hilarious!

  89. I love #16 I’ll definitely keep that in mind!

  90. Put sunscreen on toddlers when they are strapped in their carseats – they can’t escape!

  91. I love all these ideas! So many good ones, especially for new parents like me!

  92. I tried to keep track of which ideas were the best, but these were all complete gems. I have to say “put out your arms” made me laugh, and we don’t even get a cold winter where I live.
    This is a terrific post Jo and I look forward to checking in and reading the comments section later.
    I have no pearls of wisdom to share just now, I am going through one of those phases where I think my every decision might just be wrong.

  93. I’m a new mom, about to be a back-to-work mom :(. These are such great tips! Your friend Jordan’s are especially genius. Thanks for sharing!

  94. I really like the vegetable one!Definately going to try that. Also sit apart on a plane, wow. Brilliant idea.

    What works for us is when something big is coming up (birthday/trip abroad) I will make a drawing approximately 5 to 7 days in advance(crappy picture included) with the amount of boxes it takes until the ‘event’. Every day my son gets to put a stamp (or a cross) in the box. That way counting down becomes a thing and he gets a grasp of when something is. It works like a charm.

  95. Lucky me, my kids aren’t married yet. I’m still relevant.

  96. once when my one-year-old niece was bawling her head off, I pulled out a book she had never seen before and started showing her pictures of insects. crying immediately halted!

  97. This picture is too beautiful. Love the beanie hat on the baby.

    Hope you had a great weekend with the family.
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