Joanna Goddard and Anton

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 $29.99 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, when needed.

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)

Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years, so we’ve decided that every week, we’ll be highlighting one of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on January 12, 2015…