Motherhood

16 Surprising Parenting Tips

16 surprising parenting tips

Over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed that the best ideas always seem to come from fellow parents. So, I asked friends to share their tried-and-true tips for raising kids, and here’s what they said…

From Grace:

I’m always desperate to do arts and crafts with my kids, but they are usually not very enthusiastic (to say the least!). A few weeks ago, I bought paint pens and we spent a long time painting faces, thunderbolts and patterns onto rocks. This ended up being a really fun project that kept the kids busy and involved minimal effort on my part. I think in business this is called a win-win-win.

From Brooke:

Ada (12) is the opposite of a morning person and always wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Instead of fighting with a grumpy kid, I started waking her up by reading a favorite book. She loves stories and would get into the book before she could remember to be in a bad mood. I started doing this when she was around two with favorite picture books and still wake her up this way today. (Recent books have included Rebecca, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry… I enjoy the books as much as she does!)

From Liz:

I carry a couple spare lollipops wherever I go like most people carry Band-Aids. They take up no space in your bag and can really save the day.

From Hetty:

Our kids’ openness to eating different foods changed when we started serving our meals differently — rather than setting out their meal on individual plates, we put all the food in the middle of the table and allowed them to help themselves. (This is how I ate as a child, growing up in a Chinese family where ‘banquet’ style eating was the norm.) Once we did this, we found that they actually ate a lot more veg and were open to trying whatever was on the table. I guess they didn’t feel ‘pressured’ by what’s on their plate.

From Abbey:

These TravelJohn portable urinals have saved us a few times during COVID when we didn’t feel safe using a bathroom.

Toy rotating! Every six weeks or so, when my kids are generally not playing with their toys, I take a few bins out of the closet and swap out the toys. I arrange a new set of old toys on a shelf and put the other toys away for a while. Less is more with toys when you do it this way.

When my kids say something surprising/shocking (“I hate my brother” or “my teacher is so mean”), instead of reacting right away I say “Tell me more” which gives me time to think and come up with a response.

When you have two kids, or are giving a gift to a family with multiple children, consider just giving multiples of the same gift. It cuts down on so much fighting. For example, we gave these colored pencils and pads of paper to some close friends with three kids before a long drive home.

From Erica:

John Lewis said, ‘Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it,’ and I’ve learned this the hard way. Whenever I begin to lock horns with my boys, we both immediately get more stubborn. In that moment with my anger rising, I visualize my kids as eight-month-old babies and count to ten. The fury passes, and we’re able to give each other space. Sometimes I do this when I’m in conflict with an adult, too!

From Tina:

Whenever anything related to sexuality/bodies comes up, I talk about it. Ever since they were little. Without any awkwardness. No matter where we are. This has led my kids to be super cool about all of this to the point that Ella once pointed out around 11-years-old: “Mom, you talk about all of this as if it wasn’t a big deal!” To which I responded,” It isn’t!” There is serious trust and comfort around all of this. I am proud of that. (I was raised by parents who NEVER talked about sexuality.)

From Jenny:

If you’d like your kids to eat fruit, slice your nectarines, strawberries, apples, melons and place it all in their line of vision.

To help kids learn conversation skills: Encourage them to look their servers in the eyes and order their own food at restaurants.

When they’re ready, and with supervision, teach them how to use the sharp knife. It sounds counterintuitive, but a sharp knife is the safest knife.

From Kavi:

As our kids grow and gain autonomy, I really want to support them in that. So, I always try to give a choice, even if it’s thinly veiled, like, ‘Do you want to take a bath before or after your snack?’ so they think they are making a decision but really I’m getting them to internally commit to a bath. One day I aim for ‘do you want to take a bath before or after you clean your room?’ Then I will have mastered parenting!

From Reagan:

Parenting a child with special needs has come with new challenges at every phase, so I do my best to embrace our relationship and situation for how special and different it is. My advice is to have a sense of humor about as much as you can. Some of my most frustrating parenting moments have turned out to be my favorite stories to share. There was one Christmas where I stayed up cutting paper snowflakes until my fingers blistered so that I could decorate Piper’s bedroom in her facility like a wonderland for her to wake up to (a la the department store scene in the movie ‘Elf’). It turned out magically, and I was so excited to see her reaction. She woke up in a terrible mood, tore down the snowflakes and actually kicked a present out of my hand! She could not have been less interested if she tried. Luckily, I caught it all on video so that I could send it to my family, which I did, along with a punk rock Christmas song as the soundtrack. The video is a family favorite and is true to Piper’s unpredictability and mischief-making personality.

From Erin:

There have been so many big feelings and frustrations for the kids (and us) during quarantine. My only mantra has been to Give More Hugs. I’ve been learning that every outburst and crisis in our home is solved best with more tenderness.

Thank you so much, parents! What would you add?

P.S. More surprising parenting tips, and Toby and Anton in conversation.

(Photo by Anya Brewley Schultheiss/Stocksy.)

  1. k says...

    As a teenager who was most definitely Not a morning person, my mom used to wake me up each morning with a hot chocolate. I would drink my HoCho and then drag myself out of bed. She still does this when I go visit and I’m 33 (actually now its a Mocha) <3
    Moms are the best

  2. J says...

    Respect that your kids are teachers too. I’m a music teacher, and one thing I strive to do with my students is empower them to feel that they have a role in creating their own educational journey. Whether they’re 4 years old, or 17, I always try to respond to their comments and questions with affirmations such as “thank you so much for sharing that with me! I love learning new things from you.” They always light up after that. It also encourages them to delve deeper outside of class into topics we’re learning about. I’m a big believer in showing that I’m human too, and that I make mistakes. I had a pretty strict, traditional music teacher growing up who never said more than “hm, good” in terms of praise, and would NEVER be caught dead admitting to a mistake. With my own students, if I get asked a question I don’t know the answer to, I’ll say “that’s a wonderful question! I don’t know the answer to that, so let’s look it up together right now.” I also make it a habit to apologize for mistakes I’ve made – I’ve noticed that this helps my students feel more at ease with me. It helps me model positive self-talk for them. So many of my students are incredibly tough on themselves, and I think a lot of it is modelled behaviour from parents! I hear lots of “ugh, I’m so bad at this,” or “why can’t I do anything right?” And the thing is, because I teach in-home/online lessons, I hear family members in the background saying the same types of things while doing their work. Instead of saying “you played that part wrong” or lecturing them for not practicing enough, I tell my students “that was a great effort! Now, let’s look at xyz part and work on it together to make it even better.” One last thing: a lot of times, I see my students tying their worth to their grades. I often hear “I’m so stupid” or “I suck.” This is why I try to congratulate them on their practice or their work specifically: “I’m so proud of the work you have done this week.” I also tell them I’m proud of them overall (because I truly teach some incredible little humans & I can’t help but be awed by them all the time) but I try to remind them that their value is not dependent on their grades or their examiner’s comments. Those things are reflective of their work, not them as a whole.

    • Congee says...

      Love this, thank you!

  3. Em says...

    Thank you Brooke for the wake-up tip! My girls (almost 4yo) have been having a hard time getting up and getting ready in the mornings so for the last two days I have woken them up by reading a story and it has made a world of difference for all of us!

  4. Jane says...

    One of my children was struggling to learn to read. I was talking to their teacher about how we were working on reading at home, and she said, in the kindest way, “Remember that your relationship with them is number one”. It was a really good reminder, and I think it can be applied to a lot of different parenting challenges.

  5. Julia says...

    During homeschooling here in Switzerland, I tried to find a balance between fun and useful tasks by offering my two sons (11 and 8) to earn coins for “good things” like 10 minutes of cleaning, of reading, of moving, playing the piano and spend those coins for movies and computer games. During this time, screen time never went out of control, and arguments about screen time stopped completely. Plus: I had a break from all the nagging about reading a book or practicing the piano etc. Each time a task was done, I would hand out coins from a board game (Roulette). The boys became incredibly engaged in all kinds of activities (and of course competed with their brother who possessed more coins), it was a pleasure to witness! The kids ask me sometimes if we can repeat this game in the fall holidays again :-)

  6. vivian says...

    Wonderful post, wonderful blog. My advice is to make it easy for your kids to be good. If you’re going somewhere where you will have to sit and wait, bring something quiet for them to do. Carry snacks wherever you go – hunger does not promote good behaviour. Car trips, long bus trips, etc., are smoothed out with a travel bag of new activities, snacks, etc. Routine in the morning that does not include any tv or screen time on school days, and quiet winding down activities before bed make those transition times largely conflict free.
    When you mess up, forgive yourself and use it as a learning opportunity.

  7. Ellen says...

    I love all the advice, but I am sad to see no fathers included in that list. When you say you asked tips from your friends/fellow parents, I would assume you have some friends who are fathers too, no :-)? It seems like a small thing maybe, but making a list of parenting advice all given by mothers (while that’s not specified in the intro) is reinforcing the stereotype of mothers doing the emotional labor of raising the child. Talk to the dads and let them share their tips too! And actually just mixed in with the moms, not as a special post about dads.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for your note! I just asked women because this is a women’s lifestyle site so we focus on women, but I hear your point and will ask more dads next time! xo

    • K says...

      I want to echo Ellen’s comment! I’d love to hear from dads on all parenting topics that you cover, even though this is a “women’s” website. Not only do dads sometimes have a different approach that can be helpful to me as a female parent, but I feel like excluding dads from parenting topics unintentionally reinforces carework as female work. Obviously that’s not your intention, but mixing it in would be great!

  8. varina says...

    I only have young kids, but I feel like this will forever be true: prioritize sleep. I can’t be a good parent unless I’ve slept, and my kids fall apart when they haven’t napped/slept adequately. As a parent of a newborn, this meant sleep training, as a parent of a toddler, consistent routines, as a parent of a preschooler, introducing a “green light” for the morning and quiet rest time instead of a nap. Everything changes, and so does what “prioritize sleep” looks like, but no matter what, we try to make it so that we’re all as best equipped as we can be to practice our best selves throughout our day.

    • Denise says...

      100%. I’ve implemented all of the routines you’ve listed here and it has made all of the difference in our lives ❤️

    • Kimberley says...

      Varina I really appreciated your comment (and have noted it down for when I become a mother for the first time next year). There is A LOT of talk/jokes/scaremongering about “not sleeping for the next 18 years” blah blah, and generally much less about people who really did prioritise it. I prioritise it now and don’t see why I wouldn’t when I have babies, and feel disheartened when people laugh at me for saying this. Thank you :)

  9. Angela says...

    Cup of Jo, any chance of doing a ‘parenting tips for teenagers’ post….they’re really tricky to come across.

  10. caitlin says...

    these are all amazing! the lollipop comment is true for me, too. when asked what my secret to parenting is i always respond with a big bag of dumdums! :)

    the other tip i try to embrace every day is to say yes as much as possible. especially with toddlers there are many reasons to say no so I try to say yes whenever it is safe. you want to put your green beans in your milk and try it? sure. you want to wear the rain boots in sunny august heat, go for it. you want to eat your snack in your play fort (aka amazon box in the living room)? feel free.

  11. Devorah Backman says...

    I try to keep my toy selection pared down to the stuff my 3 YO really uses all the time:
    – Magnadoodle
    – Magnatiles (expensive but 100% worth it in play hours per dollar)
    – Dry erase activity books
    – Melissa and Doug beading and shoelace kit
    – dollhouse and dolls
    – Melissa & Doug metal play pots and pans (we have food too but he mostly uses them to fill with beads, cars, etc. for various “soups”)
    – Micro scooter

    • Alison says...

      My 7 and 9 year old still play with magnatiles almost every day. Lately the game is to build all kinds of structures and little walls in the hallway to see what can withstand nerf gun darts/balls. Whatever works! limitless building and easy cleanup.

  12. Christi says...

    All these comments are bringing tears to my eyes. I’m having SUCH a hard time lately. I recently went back to work after quarantine, which has been much needed. My kids are 4 and 6 and I feel like I get frustrated and yell all the time. They’re back to school, which I’m so grateful for, but being back in the thick of it has been so stressful. There just isn’t enough time in the day and I don’t have enough hands. There are always dishes to be done and laundry to fold and all those 4,000 other things I need to remember. Does it get easier?

    • E says...

      Sending love your way! This sounds so hard. I don’t know if this will help, but I was an au pair (2 and 5 year olds) and babysat a ton… a lot of this came with “light housekeeping” responsibilities. As an au pair, I didn’t want to give up more of my personal time to cleaning than I already was, so I tried to either clean around the kids playing or get them involved and I learned so many ways to make household chores into games! Almost anything can be a race (who can put the spoons away fastest?) or a treasure hunt (can you find allll the socks on the floor?) or an “arts and crafts” activity (folding towels is not unlike origami). GOOD LUCK! You got this.

    • Allison says...

      Christi,
      Just here to say I feel you, sending big hugs. Being home has been such a gift for my family, and I am dreading when I have to be back in the office full time. It is SO.HARD. Go easy on yourself and just let go all the things that don’t “need” to be done. Such big changes for everyone this year, and a lot to adjust to. Also, I just leave the clean laundry in the bins and take the clothes from there :-)

    • Agnès says...

      Christi, folding takes too much time. I put all my underwear in baskets (one for each sort), and I let all the tops and dresses dry on hangers so when it’s dry I just put the hangers in the closet; I also never ever iron (that’s the criteria when I buy new clothes). I have tons of hangers for adults and small people.
      Also finger food is great for dinner and even cereal; and if it’s 4 days in a row, it’s okay.
      Also, batch cooking.
      Much love, your kids love you.

    • Mallory says...

      Christi- I totally feel you. No advice here, I just relate. My girls are the exact same age, and my husband and I are currently both wfh full time. Luckily my little one can go to preschool, but my eldest is distance learning at home. It’s madness. And we live in SF so on top of the regular madness, we’ve barely been able to go outside the last 3 weeks with all the wildfire smoke, so we are extra cooped up. I get so frustrated almost every day. My friend and I were just saying we can tackle certain zones per day: work/school or house/laundry/food but not all zones every day. At least one zone per day is a total disaster. I try to remind myself that this is not normal, give myself breaks, lower my standards, etc. But yeah. It’s tough :/

    • Kayla Butler says...

      Christi! You spoke the exact same words that are on my heart, I’m back at work after maternity leave with baby #2. There’s not enough time for anything! Juggling work and little kids and a commute and a house filled with dishes, laundry, dog hair. Desperate to find the time & space to just LIVE and enjoy my family! Love to you from Minnesota.

    • Christi says...

      Thank you for all these comments. It helps a little to realize I’m not alone : )

    • Alison says...

      I hear you, I feel like I’ve never yelled as much in my life as I have the last few months. and I’m not mad at my children yet I take it out on them?! it feels awful. But there is still joy and happiness in our days, and over the years I’ve lowered the bar so many times for what needs to be done around the house. One tip I was given on laundry before going back to work from mat leave was to get a floor steamer with a detachable head for steaming clothes. It was a big purchase at the time, around $160 I think and that was 9 years ago, but I’ve used that thing on my work clothes probably 3 days a week for all those years with zero problems. It was totally worth it! Plug it in, take a sweater or blouse that’s rumpled and wrinkled, 30 seconds later it looks amazing. Only used it once on the floor in all that time :) You’ve got this! You’re a great mama, and we’re all trying our best.

  13. M says...

    At first, I think, I saw family life as building blocks for stability. Everything was a noun: husband, son, daughter, dog, car, home, career, routine, meals, school, hobby. That is, until, the blocks began to crumble: hospitalized daughter, anxious son, alcoholic husband, housebound dog, collapsing career. My blocks were becoming rubble and I was buried at rock bottom, so I did the thing that any mature, independent woman would do: I called my mom. And she said, “Family life is not blocks, sweetie, they are variables. They are always changing. Always fluid. It is your job to adapt.” That’s when it hit me: there is no such thing as stability in family life. Everything is water. You swim, you float, you somersault, some days you feel close to drowning. But the one thing you can’t do is dig, the thing that is impossible, is digging in your heels because no matter what- eventually- the current will win. Family is not a noun, or a structure, composed of parts. It is a verb, and mostly for me, I’ve found the sweetest and hardest and most beautiful part of the journey is learning to let go.

    • Kay says...

      This is so beautiful; I’m sorry you went through so much. You don’t know me but this Internet stranger is wishing you all the best in these difficult times.

    • Christi says...

      wow, this is so powerful.

    • MJ says...

      M,

      I loved what your mom said. I wish I could count on my mom for reassuring words. I can relate to your family, my son has anxiety and my husband is an alcoholic too. It is hard to juggle it all and remember about taking care of yourself too. This year has been specially hard for moms. We will get through his. HUGS

    • Kayla Butler says...

      everything is water. wow. love this.

  14. Ceridwen says...

    I was reading this post this morning after, having coffee, my 11 year old eating cereal. We had had a slight disagreement when I first got up. She was already up and I had a go at her for getting up too early, on screens at the start of the day. She was then in a huff, as was I. Then I went for a run and felt bad for being grouchy when she was just seeking some quiet time alone- we all need it in our long stage 4 lockdown. So when I came back, and felt better, she felt better too, we chatted and I told her about the post. I asked her, “what is your tip as a kid of a parent? To a parent?” She thought and said, “Well, I’d say don’t be too over protective like worry too much about bedtime. Let the kid have a bit of their own time. And, let don’t be too strict about screen time!”

  15. When I had my son (22 years ago!), I was determined not to lock horns in the same conflicts me and my mother had. Basically, this is “pick the hill you’ll die on” time! Teeth cleaning – hill picked. Not liking a food – hill avoided. It saved us so many rows and because he felt he had a greater deal of autonomy over his person, we have a lovely relationship now, one where respect for each other’s decisions plays a big part.

  16. Michi says...

    I’m gonna have to add this trick to my play book. It’s excellent!

  17. Kay says...

    Here to say I relate to Hetty’s advice on communal eating during mealtimes so much, except my Chinese family took it one step further by having everyone address their elders before starting to eat. It’s really old-fashioned and in my experience hardly anyone really does this anymore, but ever since I can remember we’ve gone around the table acknowledging other family members with a simple “Dad, eat” and “Mum, eat” (it doesn’t really translate that well from Chinese so just bear with me here) and so on in order of seniority (oldest siblings right down to the one closest to you in age, siblings younger than you don’t get addressed but instead must address you) and waiting for them to respond with “pls eat” before tucking in. It’s one part table manners and one part a sweet daily reminder or affirmation of everyone’s place in the family and how they belong and relate to each other. I know this practice has fallen out of favour because it seems hopelessly anachronistic but whenever I’ve addressed elders at mealtimes with friends’ parents or really anyone not in my immediate family, they’re always taken aback but then are charmed by the old-fashioned display of table manners. My in laws for example prefer to keep it simple by having everyone say “everybody dig in” regardless of seniority, so to each his or her own. But my siblings and I find the practice a good way of keeping familial ties strong and have implemented it with the next generation, so it gets really fun at extended family gatherings with all the nephews and nieces addressing not just their parents but grandparents and uncles and aunts! ♥️

    Another cunning purpose to this practice is settling sibling rivalry by reminding them of their ranking within the family — for example after a whole day of my youngest nephew bullying his older siblings and getting his way all the time, mealtimes is the one time he has to acknowledge their seniority to him and accept that he must address them but not the other way around, and that some things were incontrovertible no matter how much he might fume, haha.

    • Jennifer says...

      We practice Sik Fan (I’m Cantonese) with my 2yo every meal! Even my husband, who is white, has learned to say it when sitting down to the dinner table. XO

    • Lizzie says...

      Thanks for sharing, Kay. This sounds like a lovely tradition. I enjoyed reading about it. : )

    • Kim says...

      My family is Vietnamese, and we practice the same! Although we’ve gotten out of practice on the naming 5 siblings part, I still find it endearing when my youngest sibling still list every single person in hierarchy.

  18. Annie says...

    So many of these comments made me cry. The beauty of parenting is how much you get to (and kind of have to) learn at every chapter. For me, it also means realizing how much my parents did and gave to me, and continue to do because being a parent is a never ending story.

  19. Em says...

    I’m not a mother–always thought would be. My husband and I always thought we would be, but then, we just never did. I tell people, “It never seemed like our adventure…” which is true in every way. But I love this blog and particularly these posts. I don’t know if it’s a kind of voyeurism or a way to satisfy lingering maternal longings, but I love hearing about all the collective parenting wisdom. I am a teacher, so some of it does apply, but in many ways, I think we’re all still raising ourselves too.

    • Agnes says...

      I am in the same boat, Em. I work with families too and love reading these kinds of posts even if I’m not (yet? Still hoping) a mother. You all are amazing.

  20. Jenn says...

    When the kids go wild … get a large locking playpen and climb inside.

  21. Sara says...

    My new discovery for quarantine has been a kid to-do list. Mine are 6 and 8 now and do so so so much better when they’re allowed more independence and choice. One afternoon we sat down and wrote out a short list of things they need to do every day in any order they choose: there are things like make your bed, empty the dishwasher, but also play outside, read for fun, and create something. They LOVE to check off the list each day. I love that when they’re restless I can just point them to the list for options for what to do next!

  22. K says...

    That John Lewis quote reminds me of this quote: The greatest remedy for anger is delay. – Seneca

  23. Elliesee says...

    I have 4 kids and love all of the advice especially if it sticks with me, like ”add water”. I don’t like giving advice though. I like when my kids problem-solve and they often have great ideas. I do have mantras that pop in my head like ”tomorrow is a new day” so we don’t hold grudges and ”there is always the next load” when I find more laundry to do than I thought:)

  24. Kirsten says...

    Being the primary parent two a toddler and a baby while my husband is a resident during COVID times was/is wearing on me. My toddler wakes up too early at level 1000, and so to facilitate my actually being able to consume a cup of coffee in the morning I started leaving out a little “invitation to play” activity in the kitchen the night before. A highlighter tracing game, a color sorting blocks problem, some play dough and stuff from outside or around the house to stick in it. She gets to work on something engaging and surprising and I get to actually eat breakfast and I’m calling it my best parenting move of the year.

    • Erin says...

      This is genius!

    • A Med Student says...

      I see you, Kirsten! I’m so glad you are getting a little time for yourself. Med partners make it all possible. <3

  25. AMK says...

    My parenting tip isn’t really about kids but rather about family dynamics. My spouse and I only deal with our respective families. If my in-laws say or do something I don’t agree with, my spouse has the conversation with his parents. Likewise with my parents and family. I take care of all those tough conversations on my side.

    Same goes with gifts. I manage all gifts for my family and friends. My spouse is in charge of managing gifts for his family and friends.

    This has been a non-negotiable for me. I take care of my people. You take care of yours. I have a wonderful relationship with my in-laws because of this and their relationship means the world to me.

    • Agnès says...

      such a healthy advice!

    • Mallory says...

      100% agree with this. Also if it wasn’t this way in a man/woman partnership, it would almost certainly be the woman taking on the additional responsibility of handling in-law relationships. It’s tough to even imagine a husband proactively engaging/handling issues with his wife’s family on her behalf.

  26. Elizabeth says...

    Any tips about digital usage? I’m not sure how I feel about a three year old on an ipad watching youtube for example. It is very addictive and difficult to engage them in other activities instead. They only want kids video’s but still I wish I’d been able to delay the interaction a bit longer. I do put it away but when I need to use it as a tool for work they don’t understand that difference. Tips or an entire post would be so welcome.

    • Kirsten says...

      I know every family handles this differently, but I ended up cutting back my three year old’s screen time dramatically after I noticed how agitated it made her. Like the freak out when I turned it off and how amped up she was afterwards just weren’t worth the 20-30 min distraction. We never watched a lot, and screens aren’t very central in our home in general, but we now just have pretty strict boundaries. She gets to watch two shows on Sunday (we used to watch daily), sometimes we have family movie night, and that’s it. I guess I say all that to say that you CAN backtrack if you feel like you want to reduce with your kids. You set the boundary. They might be upset or not understand why you get to use it and they don’t, but also that’s ok. And that it will become a new normal for them!

    • Agnès says...

      I’ve worked a lot on the topic (I read a lot, talked with doctors), for our family and made decision of a almost no screen education. I am SO glad I made that choice. It doesn’t mean no screen time at all; my son is 6, he watches cartoons for 15 minutes a day and an hour or so on sunday morning. He is an only child; we don’t own ipads (based on that choice) and keep the cellphone for us parents or it is used by our son as a telephone, not as a screen (there are exceptions, of course). It’s never been a problem (until now), and at his friends he plays on ipads. My friends have so much problems with the screen addiction. I heard Kate Winslet talk about the topic in an interview, she is very strict aswell, no screen, I felt reassured. I have to add: my son is an avid reader and every time we go to a library, he can pick a book. We have a projecter so we watch movies on the wall and it’s a big event. You can still avoid the screens, you’re the parent. Your life will be so much easier, even if the transition can be tough (imagine cutting off sugar). Images are important, they should not be treated lightly. In France, doctors and schools constantly repeat this mantra “pas d’écran avant 3 ans” no screen before 3 y old… Hope it helps.

    • Lisa says...

      Elizabeth, try setting a timer. They get the iPad for x amount of minutes and then you put it away. Give warnings “5 more minutes” and “1 more minute” to prepare them. Your child will likely cry and throw a fit. Have something ready to distract them- a game, a coloring activity, a favorite book, go for a walk outside and turn it into a treasure hunt (let’s find all the leaves/yellow flowers/sticks), have a dance party, bake something. TV has always been easier to turn off than the iPad in my opinion so if you can try that (Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street, and Oomizumi are my favorites). It’s a lot easier to turn the TV off than take an iPad away. Again, she will likely cry, but use a soothing voice and tell her you know this is hard. And then distract! Good luck!

    • Heidi says...

      Set boundaries that work for your family. We have a no YouTube policy at our house. We also choose not to have a video game system. Each of my three boys have one of our old iPhones or iPads. But there are strict limits on the use. We try to limit it to when we are in the car on road trips or as a special treat. Devices aren’t for after school days either. Now that they are old enough to be left at home for small periods of time while I run a sibling to an activity we will let them play a game on it while they are home alone. Once the limits are set it makes it so much easier on the parent. Before the kids were constantly asking to play on a device. Now they know what the answer will be and it’s not worth asking.

    • Skye says...

      Heidi, I applaud this approach. My sister used to negotiate screen time with her kids when they were little, even while they were supposedly being punished with restricted video game/YouTube time for various transgressions like not doing their homework/chores etc, and it drove me crazy because her phone would be blowing up literally every other minute with one child after the other constantly calling to whine endlessly about not being allowed to play longer than their allotted time!! (I know this because she’d put the calls on speaker while driving with me in the car, and she’d get more and more agitated with her uncooperative kids until she was quite literally shouting at them! No way to avoid overhearing!) Ordinarily I’d say it was none of my business but she was constantly doing this every time we were together for a sisters’ day out, which happened rarely if ever when her kids were younger. I know she never took the “because I said so” stance to shut them down because she hated it when our mother used to dismiss her with that exact line when we were kids ourselves, but there’s a difference between calmly talking to kids who are old enough to understand cause and effect/consequences, and kids who are so young they’re only fixated on getting their own way no matter what you say to them, and who know that whining can and usually does get them what they want!

      To wit, I wished she would’ve just been more consistent about screen time and then just enforced it, instead of constantly moving the goalposts every time her kids pressed her buttons or guilted her into letting them have their way.

      For my own kids, they have our old iPads for long car rides etc (with only YouTube Kids and games that we’ve approved like Candy Crush, etc, definitely *no* endless runners or MMORPGs or FPS like Fortnite or PUBG) but no videogame consoles, because they’re just too distracting and addictive for use on a daily or even weekly basis. I might bust a console out in the summer IF they kept their grades up but otherwise it remains under lock and key. Reduced exposure to video games seems to make them less interested, or at least they don’t ask for them because they know they’ll be told no. We relaxed the rules a little at the start of the pandemic lockdown but now that we’ve settled into more of a routine, we’ve cut back on the screens in favour of family activities like board games or family movie night, which the kids actually seem to be enjoying more, fingers crossed it lasts!

    • Carla says...

      Hi, I get info from screen free parenting (I think it’s called?) for ideas for alternatives to screen time although I don’t exclude it entirely like they do. I also really love Susan Stiifelman who is a family therapist and she has webinars on this topic.

  27. I’m not a parent, but the rock painting idea really struck me. A friend of a friend’s teenage daughter in Massachusetts was painting rocks and leaving them to be found during the pandemic as a way of spreading joy. Late last month, she sadly died by suicide, and her family has started sending beautiful painted rocks to people as a way of remembering her. Please join!
    https://celebratezoeslife.godaddysites.com/

    • h says...

      what a beautiful legacy. thank you for sharing this. sending love to her family and loved ones <3

    • M says...

      This is beautiful.

    • Isabelle says...

      Beautiful and so moving! Just ordered a rock to place by the lake in Geneva.

  28. Janan W says...

    I love the HUGGING and talking openly about everything advice. We are an affectionate and talkative family, and it’s actually one of my favorite things about us!:)
    My kids are almost all gone now, the youngest is a senior…:(
    I had them close together, my oldest was almost 6 when my 4th and last was born! I had 3 girls, then 1 boy.
    A favorite piece of advice was from a mother of teenagers. We were talking as the kids played and she leaned over and whispered…”Don’t listen to anyone who says differently, but teenagers are the best! You will absolutely love it” It really clicked for me and honestly I have adored the teenage years, we have had so much fun together!
    Besides sharing that the other piece of teen advice I like to give is somewhere during puberty some sort of reset occurs!
    I had to reteach them how to clean their room, sweep, vacuum, stay on top of homework etc… there’s a whole host of things that their brain just dumps. If you’re expecting it, instead of getting angry or frustrated, you just reteach! At their level of course. Works miracles I tell you!

    • Agnès says...

      thank you so much! (am I commenting every comment here? sorry, this thread is so interesting!)

  29. Anna says...

    Sort of like tell me more, my sister taught me “what do you think?”. When kids ask the hard questions, like “what happens when you die?” Or “what are people protesting about?” Or “why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to…” “What do you think?” gives you insight to what they are actually asking, what knowledge they have coming in, and teaches them that their thoughts and opinions matter. And sometimes answering you distracts them long enough that you are off the hook for the moment if you need more time to think

    • M says...

      Brilliant. I’m going to start using this. Thank you!

    • Mallory says...

      I have used this on so many questions the kids have that I don’t have a solid answer for! “Is Santa real?” “What happens when we die” etc. It’s kinda a get out of jail free card lol

  30. Emily says...

    This is lovely!

  31. laura says...

    I am all about the tootsie pop- we keep them in the glove box of our car- they are the perfect solution to car sickness- anytime anyone starts to feel a little green one or more comes out to make the windy roads that we live near tolerable. It works like magic and I think I have figured out why…. we all make some extra saliva when feeling pukey…. and we do the same thing when we put a tootsie pop in our mouths…. tricks the brain into thinking it is doing the right thing and no one pukes- which is the best thing.
    also in a previous post there was a suggestion- adding water to whatever problem is occurring is a gem- bath, shower, dip in the kiddie pool, ice cube, giant cup of water with a fancy straw……. big healing in that magic.
    parenting is hard, sharing wisdom is kind, we are all on this tiny planet together- why not help each other out.

  32. Kimberly Locke says...

    When they’re in a rage:
    1) go outside
    2) I massage their hands with coconut oil. Slowly they exhale and we chat

  33. Kate Z. says...

    I can’t remember where I heard this (maybe on here?!) but as the mom of a 5 year old, 2 year old, and newborn, there are days that make me want to lose my mind. Some of the best advice I’ve heard and given is: “when your kids are losing it, either take them outside or put them in water (bath, shower, pool, etc.)”…SO SIMPLE. But it works.

    • Abesha1 says...

      “If they’re cranky, put them in water.”
      -SARK

  34. cg says...

    My parenting tip isn’t about parenting the kids at all (mom of a 15 year old daughter). In retrospect, as a new parent, I was that unbearable green mom who felt she had already known it all and gave out restrictions like nobody’s business: no bright pink, no plastic, no sugar, no toys that requires a battery, no girly things, no frilly things… you get the picture. I was fuming when I saw my MIL spoon ice cream into my not even 2 year old without talking to me, and blatantly breaking a family rule. I kept my mouth shut because I was brought up to respect my elders, but I certainly let my husband know I disapproved. I complained to my mom and she said “You know, you weren’t born an adult, and you are the first for me. Do you think you didn’t turn out all right? Did feeding you some cake at your birthday ruin you?”

    She went on to say, “…perhaps some of the advice your parents or well meaning aunties are out dated. But know it all comes from a place of love and experience. Be open to, assess which parts are actually useful and helpful, then adjust to your needs. But you should never simply shun something just because you think it doesn’t fit in your overall agenda. Because if there’s one true thing about parenting, your child will grow and change, and you will have to adapt your parenting as well. It never stops.”

    Stopped.me.in.my.tracks.

    • Julie says...

      Let them play. And don’t entertain them so they can learn how to be with themselves. And give them time to do it. Don’t overload their schedules with sports and mind enriching activities. Play and using their imaginations does that.

    • Claire says...

      Very true, CG. Thank you for sharing this. Your mother is wise.

    • M says...

      Very true.

  35. Laura says...

    Wow, I love this! Fascinating!

  36. Brandi says...

    I have never left a comment, anywhere about anything! I’ll spend time reflecting on why I feel compelled to do so now…but in the meantime, here goes! I do not have children. For most of my life (I’m 48) I was desperate to have a child. Notice I didn’t say adult life, I mean, more like my whole life. There was a time where anything parent or child or pregnancy related would destroy me. That being said, I love the parenting posts and always make a point to read them as well as the comments. You might be wondering why in the world as I’m not a parent. Here’s the deal….parenting advice is just good advice. Really specific childcare tips might not find a place in my life, like the best diaper brands or how to keep shoes on babies. But parenting advice is actually the very best people advice because it has to work with a population group that is unruly, challenging, demanding, charming, stubborn, sensitive, willful, and always hilarious. When talking about current events (pick one!) with friends, family, coworkers, etc., keeping my sense of humor, responding with “tell me more”, counting to ten, hugging it out or as a last resort, sharing a lollipop might just make all the difference in the world.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Brandi, I love this so much.

    • Maggie says...

      Brandi! This makes me so happy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Kerry says...

      Brandi, we’re two sides of the same coin! I’m also 48, kind of always knew that I wouldn’t have a kid but I still love other people’s kids. I also make a point to read these posts because so much of the advice is just useful in general.

    • NH observer says...

      This is amazing! Brandi, I’m 48 as well, and continually reflecting on the same concept — parenting advice is about working through struggle and conflict with love. I wish we and the other 48-year-olds who have responded could form a group!!

    • Brandi says...

      Geez, why on earth did I wait so long to join the conversation? So glad I didn’t overthink it. Thank you, Joanna, Kerry and Maggie!

    • Megan says...

      Comment of the week, right here. Thanks for such wisdom and grace.

    • Agnès says...

      You’re so right Brandi! I’ve used the ADD WATER advice for myself more than for my child ahaha! (and the popsicle would work also)

    • Anne M Damon says...

      This is wonderful! You are so right. My kids are grown now and I still read the parenting tips for just this reason. Thank you for expressing it!!

    • Claire says...

      I love this wise comment. Thank you, Brandi.

    • Mallory says...

      Brandi I don’t know why, but your comment made me tear up. We should all treat each other and ourselves with the grace we allow children, ESPECIALLY in these difficult times. Lollipops for all!

    • Sera says...

      What a beautiful comment. Made me cry, in fact.

  37. Many, many years ago, I distinctly remember a friend talking about how difficult and naughty her young-ish dog was behaving to which her dad– a lifelong dog owner and, not to mention, a seasoned parent of grown, seemingly well-adjusted kids– told her very matter of factly: just “love him harder.” He then explained that every time she or her brother felt a little harder to like (TRUTH: we all know we don’t always LIKE our children and it’s okay), he and her mother would simply love them harder. His belief was that when a person (or animal) acted in a way that made it harder to love them, that’s when they needed to be loved the most and shown that love wasn’t conditional or dependent on their “good behavior.” And, according to him, whatever behavior or tough phase or rebellion my friend or brother (or canine siblings) were going through almost always resolved itself. I found it endearing then but, now as a parent of three young kids, I find it impossibly beautiful and try to keep it as a bedrock of our family dynamic. Not always easy to do but always worth the effort.

    • Charlotte says...

      Thank you !!

    • Amanda H says...

      I really needed to hear this today! (Mom of an 8 year old kiddo who has been challenging since day 1.) Thank you for your wonderful story and advice, Christine! xx

    • Kristie says...

      This has me in tears as I’m cuddling my tearful two year old off to sleep xx

  38. Megan says...

    In our house, popsicles solve so many problems. Most people think of them as a hot weather thing, but they are a 4-season comfort for my girls and I. It takes about 10 minutes to properly eat one. When a day is good, we sit down together and share. It’s almost meditative to be forced to eat something delicious so slowly. When things go bad, they have a familiar, comforting affect. About 1/2 way through, things start to settle, moods shift, and most things get talked through. We are never without them.

    • patricia blaettler says...

      Popsicle related: I was waiting outside for takeout at a bbq restaurant and the weather was kind of hot. The staff brought me out a sweet tea popsicle in a cup with a lemon wedge edged in sugar. Unexpected and delightful!

  39. Britt says...

    All the hugs! So here for this! We have all needed more hugs and love during these times, and it has just really proven to bring our family closer together. Our son says he is the cheese in the sandwich, and that my husband and I are the bread! If someone is having a tough time, inevitably someone says – sandwich time! – and we all get together for a hug.

  40. Hilary says...

    One of the best parenting lessons I’ve learned is to give kids time–your time, their time, as much time as I can. I realized, when our oldest went to kindergarten, that she needed space/time after school to do whatever her mind/body/soul needed to do, and THEN she’d talk about her day. I could ask a million questions when she got into the car at pick-up, or I could just say, “Hey! I’m so glad to see you!” and give her the silence she so clearly needed. Either way, she wouldn’t pipe up until she was ready. She’s now 11.5 and her brother is 8, and I’ve realized that they’ll choose the oddest moments to talk, so I just have to be patient. One of them will ask, “Mom, can we go on a walk?” and we’ll be moseying around the neighborhood, laughing at squirrels, and then my child will ask a big question or confess a big fear or tell me a story that hurts their heart and mine or tell a hilarious story from school. (They also tend to bring up important stuff in the car, when it’s just us, or right before bed, of course. :) )I just try to be as present as I can when we’re together, so they know that when the time’s right for them, I’ll listen.

    • Fabiana says...

      I loved this. Thank you for sharing!

    • h says...

      so beautiful. my first is six months old and i’m storing nugget away <3

  41. Nina says...

    I once read the best advice for parenting on this blog (I think). It is short and simple: Always aim for yes!

  42. shelley says...

    This is for when families start traveling again. When my kids were little and we were traveling, I’d alway have them pick out some postcards along the way. (I purchased postcard stamps before the trip too.) Then when we were at a restaurant waiting for our meal, it was a great time for them to jot a quick note to grandparents or family back home or even a note to themselves!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so smart!

  43. Kate says...

    A million times yes to Hetty’s advice about meals. This is actually recommended as part of Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility,” and I am not being dramatic when I say that it – the whole framework – is a GAME CHANGER. The premise is that parents are in charge of what, when, and where a child eats, and the child is in charge of if and how much they eat. (Virginia Sole-Smith has written a ton about it in the NY Times if you’re interested in reading more. And she has a podcast called Comfort Food that goes into even more detail.) I am a different, more relaxed parent around mealtimes, and food in general, because of this. And the best part? It’s been shown to help kids develop healthier relationships with food and increased trust in their bodies, helping them navigate all the sticky food and body issues that can creep up as they age.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, thank you so much, Kate!

    • Kirsten says...

      Oooh this! My pediatrician recommended Ellyn Satter when my first was a newborn and it was such a lifesaver for us. I don’t yet serve food family style, but I do let my toddler choose if and how much she eats of what’s available. We never really have food battles and it is amazing.

    • Amy says...

      I can vouch for this – Ellyn Satter’s “division of responsibility” has made me and everyone else at our table way more relaxed at dinner time.

    • mamabird says...

      Yep! We do this. I learned this when my eldest was about 2 and mealtimes were SO STRESSFUL. Giving them the choice took away the stress, and I could actually enjoy my mealtimes too. We eat family style- food in the middle, plenty of vegetables. I encourage them to try everything but don’t stress about it. My kids are now 10 and 12 and they are way better eaters than I was at that age- not that I would tell them!

    • S says...

      I’m a little bit confused about how this works. What do you do if you have a picky eater who will just pick out the potatoes or noodles or whatever, and not touch anything else? Thank you for your thoughts!

    • Laura says...

      S- I also practice this with my kids. I think the keys I have found are modeling healthy eating (so making sure I and my husband are clearly choosing and enjoying the vegetables) and making sure there is at least one thing on the table your kid likes every meal. You let them eat whatever they want of the food that’s served, and while there are definitely times that my six year old will just eat bread for dinner, she often chooses vegetables. She recently tried spinach again and actually liked it, after many times of not wanting to touch “leaves”. Satter’s book talks in more detail, if you have more questions.

  44. Andrea says...

    I know the bulk of this is geared towards younger kids, I’m the mom of four grown kids who were all teenagers at the same time (I could seriously write a book) but one thing that worked so well for me was picking and choosing my battles. I started that when they were younger because they were so close in age and it could be overwhelming. And that worked really well! I also learned as they got older not to take things so personally and that literally changed my life. Tweens and teens have so much hormonally going on etc and have horrific moods and everything that goes with it but I found out if I tried to keep a sense of humor it helped. Our oldest especially, he’d be in turd mode and would kick a door and I’d calmly ask now what on earth did that door do to you???? It helped ease the tension. And I learned very quickly not to ask what’s wrong or God forbid what’s wrong with you. I’d just say tell me something good that happened to you today. Again, eased tension and got them talking a little bit.

    On another note, I’m very very proud of the fact my husband and I never ever yelled at our kids. My middle son came to me one day and said well, I’ve broken it of with my girlfriend. He said she would get mad, fly off the handle and scream and yell. He said you know mom, we did not grow up in an environment like that and I’m NOT going to start living in it now. So yay, we did something right!

    • Agnès says...

      Thank you for your great advice; I was raised in a very passive agressive environment and it is hard to undo bad habits…

    • Erin says...

      I’ll just push back and say part of relationship is learning how to disagree with each other. My now husband and I had to learn to meet in the middle. We both grew up in houses that yelled, but my family was also louder and more talkative than his. As a result, he avoided conflict and held grudges, and I yelled but forgave faster and more fully than he did.Through good conversation and a lot of work we have found healthy ways to navigate conflict that fit our boundaries. He no longer holds grudges but sometimes takes longer to talk about things than I may. I still yell on occasion, but overall much less, and I’ve reigned in the intensity. I just think the statement “we did not grow up in an environment like that and I’m NOT going to start living in it now.” is really judgmental and not at all helpful for navigating the MANY ways that humans deal with conflict. Not everyone grows up or has the same life experiences. My husband and I have a great foundation, open communication, and a really happy life because we put the work in.

    • NH observer says...

      Andrea, can I please call you for advice when my six-year-old becomes a teenager?? I loved what you wrote.

    • T says...

      I am very impressed by the “not yelling”. As a pregnant mother of 2 young kids, I congratulate myself if I make it through the day without yelling. For the record, I am not proud of that method of parenting and it is something I work a lot on! Anyway, kuddos to you and your husband!!

    • Anon says...

      Andrea, I admire your calm and measured approach to parenting. As someone who grew up in a tempestuous household with constantly feuding parents, I often wish I had been able to grow up in a peaceful environment like the one you’ve created. My dad especially both yelled and hit us kids (and his moods turned from sunny to vicious on a dime), so much so that now whenever a male voice is raised in anger anywhere in my vicinity — it doesn’t even have to be directed at me — my heart involuntarily skips a beat and the flight-or-fight instinct kicks in. Honestly, I think I suffer from a form of PTSD…

      I get what Erin is saying but in my experience a calm approach to parenting doesn’t automatically mean repressing anger or negative emotions — my dysfunctional parents weren’t shy about venting their anger or jealousy or envy or whatever, but it doesn’t mean our family learned to express or resolve our negative emotions in anything close to a healthy way.

  45. Catie says...

    I’m not a parent (#auntlife) but Jennie’s tip about getting kids to eat fruit works like magic for adults, too! I hate wasting food, and I use this when I’m visiting my parents’ house with fruit and veggies that are nearing the end, and also on fieldwork projects for work when there’s always loads of super ripe produce around a team of people. You can mention to folks that something ‘needs to get eaten up today’ until you’re blue in the face, but if you slice it up and put it out in their line of vision? It disappears in ten minutes!

  46. Megan Kongaika says...

    I know you’re not supposed to reward people with food, yadda yadda yadda but one thing I do with my 4 and 8 year old at restaurants is this: If they are so polite at a restaurant that the waiter/waitress comments on their manners and overall “decorum” (ordering their food, manners, respecting the waiter/waitress), we get to share a dessert!

    • Lizzie says...

      Love this!!

    • Ashley says...

      Megan, thanks for bringing up the “food as a reward” idea – I always feel so conflicted! Do you tell your kids that it’s a reward for their behavior, or just surprise them (I guess in a Pavlovian sort of way, lol)?

  47. Maggie says...

    Just brought a new baby home and our toddler is having a heck of a time adjusting to it on top of alllll the other adjustments he’s gone through this year (including getting evacuated from our posting overseas!). The last one is a n especially timely reminder for this beautiful difficult time in his life.

    • Ruth says...

      Same here–new baby and a toddler, and that last bit of advice resonated quickly and deeply. Thank you for sharing!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sending you all so much love. those early days are no joke!

      here are a few sibling rivalry/closeness tips I learned when we transitioned from one to two kids, in case they’re helpful at all. (otherwise ignore!:)
      https://cupofjo.com/2014/06/sibling-rivalry-5-tricks-and-tips/

  48. JDMD says...

    Just want to add that friends *without* kids can wonderful sources of wisdom and perspective when it comes to difficult parenting moments. I have two friends in particular who are so patient and generous when I confide in them about challenges with my kids. They tend to sympathize with the kid perspective, often helping me see things from a new angle.

    • Danielle says...

      This! This! My best friend does not have children, and I go to her often with issues we’re having with our three. Friends without kids can also encourage you to think outside the box – they bring a really fresh, unique perspective.

  49. Alexandra says...

    Rotating toys is the single best piece of parenting advice I’ve read, and the only one I give to other parents of young kids. The paradox of choice is as real for kids as it is adults. Plus they forget quickly and suddenly what’s old is new again! Even just rearranging or setting up a “scene” for my 4yo to come home to can breathe new life into old toys again.

  50. jdp says...

    “more tenderness.” YES.

  51. Madeleine says...

    Fully agree with the “giving more hugs” piece of advice. Our (already very temperamental) toddler has been acting up even more (especially since I’ve reached the later stages of my pregnancy) so my husband and I have agreed to remain totally placid instead of screaming at him. It requires a lot of mind training but we’re happy to have made calmness our strength when faced with his crazy tantrums. So I’ll kneel at his level and ask if I can help him, give him a hug or pick him up. It solves the issue a lot quicker than entering the rage with him.

  52. Madeleine says...

    Hahaha Reagan / Piper’s story made me laugh and sigh. Love the idea of a punk-rock Christmas.

  53. Marie says...

    ‘do you want to take a bath before or after you clean your room?’ Then I will have mastered parenting! – makes my day ! laughing out loud and hope to get there some day !

  54. amber says...

    There’s a huge park with miles of walking trails and a lake in my neighborhood and I am always finding smooth stones with little pictures painted on them in entirely random places like the crook of tree at eye level. Once I found the prism from the cover of the Pink Floyd album, on a rock about the size of an egg, sitting in a large tree stump.

    Also one of my friends gave me a portable urinal called “You Go Girl”. I keep it in the glove compartment of the car – just in case.

    Try waking kids up by ethereal low volume music – either classical or new age – it’s just the gentlest entry back into the day and personally I love it. Slowly increase the volume if necessary. I think jangly rude awakenings are the worst way to start the day.

  55. Jordan says...

    I have an almost two year old who is not a fabulous eater, but is almost always willing to take a bite if the food is presented to her at the end of a pair of chopsticks. She has even learned how to use her own trainer chopsticks, which work better for her than a fork.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so cute!

    • Alexis says...

      Echoing all the building toys! Duplo was a great intro to Lego. If you’re a member of neighborhood BST (buy, sell, trade) groups on FB or elsewhere, someone is bound to always be getting rid of some!
      Our kiddo, now 6, also loves trains. We started with the pricier Brio sets, but IKEA makes some that are just as good and much cheaper. AND they are compatible with Thomas & Friends. Just make sure you’re buying the correct size/series. I’ve bought a set of blank wooden trains to paint ourselves and that went over very well, especially after he saw the train with his name on it!

  56. Rachel says...

    Kavi’s tip reminded me of my mum. I really loved broccoli as a kid (still do!) and I remember my brother and I pleading “Mum! Can we have broccoli for dinner?!?!” and she would put on a serious face and reply “Only if you are really good”.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha so sweet.

  57. Ruth says...

    I second the advice about giving kids choices. I empowers them (when you’re little, there’s so little that you have control over!) and also teaches them responsibility (ie. “you chose this…”). We started this with picking out clothing when our daughter was about 2.5. Works great!

  58. Sarah says...

    An earlier childhood educator once told me not to jump in and fix every little thing. This applies to literally everything related to parenting.

    So lately, I’ve been letting my toddler figure stuff out on her own whenever I can. Its been amazing at developing her self-esteem, judgement and creativity. It also brought out this fierce and hilarious little girl. I couldn’t have dreamt she’d be so amazing. All I needed to do was step back and let it happen!

    • Sarah says...

      Ooh this is good. I’m so quick to jump in rather than let them try and figure it out.

  59. Sally says...

    Hello,
    I thought I’d try to mine the commenters a bit here – does anyone have toy recommendations for a 4 year old? We don’t have a lot of toys at home because I’m always doubtful they will be played with but now that we’re spending so much time at home I feel like we need some really good ones.

    Thanks for any suggestions :)

    • Allison says...

      Magnatiles are the hero of our quarantine (my son is 4 also). Also a mini-trampoline.

    • K says...

      My 4 year old loves legos, k’nex, and magnatiles. I think they’re great, too, because they can be played with over and over.

      He also loves tools so he has his own tool kit and we occasionally buy him a piece of lumber and some nails/screws. Cheap and he gets such a sense of accomplishment from playing with it. We also bought some PVC pipe and connectors this weekend that he is having a good time rearranging and building with.

    • Christina says...

      Lego without instructions.
      Beads that you iron together.
      Lots of wooden blocks.

      If your child is the imaginative kind: any little figurines for role playing, could be Little People or Playmobil or whatever.

      Good material for crafts like kites, first a craft then a toy!

    • Jessica T says...

      Second magnatiles. My daughter is also really getting into legos too (as is my 6 year old so this toy has a lot of longevity). I also just recently bought her a Spirograph (the jr version) and though it took some practice at first, she loves it. Lastly we’re deep into jigsaw puzzles here too!

    • Lori says...

      My four year old has played with her Melissa & Doug Take Along Show Horse Stable set every day since Christmas. No lie. Every.Single.Day.

      Picasso Tiles are also dragged out pretty much every day around here (my kids are 4, 8, and 10). They’re a bigger investment but as an open-ended toy they have a zillion uses. My kiddos have built every structure their minds can imagine and also use them to “make” colours by holding two or three up to the light together.

    • Sarah says...

      Our kids love magnatiles’ cousin magformers, and I have decided they are the toy I will keep forever and ever, so that if we ever have guests with children, we can get them out. They are truly worth their weight in gold. Depending on where you live, you might be able to get a used set in great shape off Craigslist. Cheaper and better for the environment!

    • Alexandra says...

      +1 for magnatiles and legos/duplos, both of which I panic-purchased back in March. We’ve been happy with the PicassoTiles, which are about half the price of the name brand version. And buy a giant box. 15 magnatiles isn’t going to cut it.

    • Leslie says...

      Flashlight! Or a safe with a key (just keep the spare bc they will loose the key!). My preschool aged kids also loved random stuff like old (not working) cell phone, computer keyboard, and real keys on a key ring.

    • Whitney says...

      Duplo Legos. All three of my kids have loved and played with them for years. My almost 9 year old and 6-1/2 year old still sit down to build with their little brother. Single greatest toy (collection) we’ve ever owned.

    • D says...

      Any way you can add a tent, reading nook, or a suspended chair/swing? Even a sheet or blanket over the end-table was a great secret hideout for a 4yo.

    • Julie says...

      Magna tiles. They’re expensive, but have so many possibilities (and I like playing with them too).
      And not a toy, but we put aside old spices and a little bit of flour and oatmeal, and my 4 year old can help herself to this stash when she wants to make a “concoction.”

    • Jordan G says...

      My 4 year old boy/girl twins love to play with:
      – Magnatiles (always my #1 recommendation)
      – Coloring books with all sorts of crayons, colored pencils, gel pens, markers
      – Scissors, paper, tape, ribbon — messy, but they could play with a box of this stuff ALL DAY
      – baby dolls and stuffed animals (they love to have picnics and play house)
      – Hot Wheels tracks and cars

    • Paige says...

      Duplos!!! (or any building toy). Also, dress up clothes! Second hand stores are great for this or the dollar store or right after Halloween for sales. Busy Toddler (on insta or here has other great ideas: https://busytoddler.com/best-toys-for-kids/)

    • KA says...

      The most useful tip I got about kids and toys is from Lizzy Assa of The Workspace for Children (a great IG to follow) She says to ask: can it be played with in more than one way? The idea being that toys with a very specific action will get played with less. Open ended toys like blocks and imaginative toys will get played with more. I have found this to be very true. I think, too, there’s a hierarchy with imaginative toys. Very specific imaginative toys won’t get played with much unless it’s somethng your child really loves (trucks, a doll house). For me, a set of blocks you can add on to over the years is the best way to spend my toy budget. Mangatiles are worth every penny. Wooden blocks are great. Duplos are great too, but I think kids grow out of them (and want legos) faster than magnatiles and blocks.

    • laura says...

      cardboard box and markers and tape….. so many hours of magic, and then you can recycle it and start fresh again.

    • liz says...

      Just on case you’re still on the fence – magnatiles! My now 10-year-olds have played with magnatiles more than any other toy, use them with other toys (like building epic homes for playmobil or calico critters), and have played with them nearly every day for all the years we’ve had them. They aren’t cheap but they are a great value!

    • Laura says...

      I have an almost four-year-old and at the beginning of quarantine I took a large, flattened cardboard box from Target and drew a big roadmap on it. We spent several days coloring in the road and quickly progressed to adding a dollar store with parking spots, a pumpkin patch, a doughnut shop, etc. It folds up so we can store it out of sight. I thought it would last a few weeks but now it’s “my road” and he adds to it and plays with it several times a week. It has a train track, a watermelon stand, a rainbow bridge, and today we added a river. He even made color-coded parking spaces for his toy cars!

    • Katie says...

      In January, my husband and went to Kenya for my 40th. I’m so lucky I got that trip in before Covid hit. We were also lucky enough to ride first class. I decided to not open the Dopp kit I received on the plane and instead gift it to my 3 year old nephew. I gifted that and a wooden giraffe. He went crazy over the Dopp kit. He loved the comb and toothbrush and socks and everything. Every time I visited, he’d pretend he was going on a trip to Grandma’s or to Africa. We also went on adventures while FaceTiming.

      Seriously one of the best gifts I ever gave.

      So I guess I’m saying think outside the box. Act excited about the toy. Let imaginations run wild.

    • Amy says...

      My kids are now 9, 7, and 4. The other day I noticed the 9yo playing with the duplo we still have around; it lasts longer than you think.

      When you branch out into Lego, I highly recommend avoiding the sets and buying the classic assorted boxes. At young ages they get really frustrated with sets and you end up with a lot of pieces that can only be used in very specific ways and isn’t very open-ended. The flat Lego boards (you can get them in green, “sand”, and roads) are also useful for helping them build vertically without so much frustration at young ages.

      The other toy that got a TON of use was a set of quality plastic stacking cups. We had no idea they’d be used past age 2, but they’ve become a million things – stilts, stuffie homes, toy sorting containers, restaurant supplies. They even go from the bath to the playroom gracefully! If we’d had to downsize to one toy, that’s the one that would’ve made the cut.

    • MV says...

      My 4 yo girl recently received a marble run for her birthday after enjoying playing with it at a friend’s. We play with it every day and my 20 month old son also loves trying to put the pieces together (I take the marbles away when he’s playing with us and we only ever have 3 marbles out at a time and they’re always accounted for). My husband and I have really been enjoying it too!

  60. Emily says...

    Thank you for these tips! Bookmarking this post for the years ahead (I have a 7 month old at the moment).

  61. Taylor says...

    Hi all! I have a seven week old baby (my first) and we are moving to California from DC in a month—can someone provide me some/any context for how to fly with an eleven week old baby? We didn’t buy her a seat so we know she‘ll be on our laps but I’m so anxious! She doesn’t like to be held “like a baby” (I think because I’m exclusively pumping?)-her favorite positions are to be on her back flat or against our shoulder (like she’s being burped, she loves looking around perched up)—not sure how to swing these on a plane for long periods—maybe I can lay the portable changing mat on my lap and have her lay on that?? She‘ll settle down in the ergobaby or solly wrap after we walk around for a few minutes but if I try to sit with her in them she doesn’t like it. I’m hoping all her preferences change in the next month and she suddenly wants to be held all the time or sleeps more than 3 hours at a time—but in the off chance she doesn’t please give me your tips for flying with newborns!!!

    Also if anybody has any ideas how to pump on a plane, let me know, other than throwing a giant blanket over me I think I’m just going to be nips out? I looked into how to bring frozen milk and the cooler and dry ice and bringing it through security and it was too much information for my sleep deprived brain to handle

    • Sarah says...

      My daugther loved the plane as baby. I gave her undivided attention for hours on end. Strangers smiled at her all day. The plane was a giant white noise machine. I also brought my breast feeding pillow so she could lay on that while she slept. I remember being terrified but it turned out to be a very positive experience. Definitely give your baby some milk during take off and landing. Air line staff and passengers will usually do anything to keep a mom and a baby happy. Book a seat at the back of the plane if you can–you’ll be close to help should problems arise. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Good-luck!

    • Rachel says...

      Hi! I took my daughter on her first big cross-country flight at exactly the same age. I, too, was nervous, but it went really well. (1) Just put your breastmilk (frozen or not) in a separate container to remove at the TSA checkpoint and tell the agent you’re flying with milk for the baby. They might — but probably won’t — screen the liquid. If it’s solidly frozen, they won’t test it at all. You’re supposed to take only a “reasonable” amount, but there are no limits on what constitutes reasonable, and you can store it in bags or bottles that exceed the otherwise enforced 3oz limit. (2) If you can select an aisle seat, do. It’s nice to be able to walk the aisle if baby needs a change of scenery, or gets fussy, or whatever. By 11 weeks, I found my daughter to be much more observant of the world than she had been and she seemed totally content to be upright, observing the world. It’s wholly new stimulation for such a tiny babe, so hopefully that helps ease her want to lay flat on her back. :) I have found, too, that other passengers are generally great, which eased my nerves. You’ll be awesome, mama. You already are.

    • Babes in Plane-land says...

      Use the galley! You can put the babe up on your shoulder and bounce her around, and she’ll love to see all of the new sights. Plus, flight attendants are typically so sweet with kids. Of course, always ask if it’s OK, and leave when you’re comfortable going back to your seat (or if it’s otherwise necessary), but that’s an option.
      I also always took the aisle seat, so that I could get up with my kid without asking anyone to move. Sometimes just standing and rocking next to my seat (so I could step out of the aisle when someone passed) helped them fall asleep when nothing else would.
      Good luck, and remember, any crying/screaming will bother you WAY more than it will the people around you. I’ve been on more than two dozen flights with my kids — some much, much worse than others — and I’ve never once had someone say a nasty thing to me. People have been there. You can do this!

    • K says...

      Wishing you a tail wind and lots of empty seats!

      My kids loved to be held like a football at that age—face down with their heads in the crook of my elbow and my hand on their tummies. Might give you another option. Also gives you forearms of steel!

    • Catlin says...

      My tips:
      – Nurse/bottle feed/give a pacifier during takeoff and landing. Babies can’t pop their own ears, but sucking on something can relieve the pressure changes.
      – Be the last one on the plane, and if possible, board with a sleeping baby and a white noise app playing on your phone. My kids were always happier once we got settled and the plane was going, so I try to minimize the time that they’re awake and on the plane during the boarding process.
      – I am unapologetically Team Nips Out
      – All flights end. Most of the time they are just fine, but if not, it happens. You will get off the plane eventually.

      You can do this!!!

    • Erin says...

      Oh just pump nips out with your shirt kind of hanging over.
      1. You’ll never see these people again
      2. Remember that if they’re weirded out, that’s their issue, not yours!
      3. Plane bathrooms, especially during COVID, are just not a place you want to be in. Avoid them at all costs!

    • Isabella says...

      In my experience, this is the best and easiest time to fly with a child. They sleep a ton because of the vibration/ white noise, they’re on you the whole time, they’re small… Some tips:

      + Use your carrier (some airlines make you take them out for take off and landing but most don’t.) if she falls asleep in the carrier, keep walking for a bit longer, but then do try seating. Everything is easier because of said vibration/ white noise.

      + If she’s awake with no turbulence, lay her flat on your knees and play “pass the rattle” or whatever other nonsense game a 3 month old is into ( i don’t think you need a mat for this)

      + hand pump is your friend here, the kind that the bottle attaches right into. Maybe consider ready made formula as an exception ( I say this lovingly as someone who used to think a drop of formula would poison my baby… soon she’ll be eating dust off your shoes, it’s ok.) and pump just for comfort?

      + one thing about pacing back and forth: there’s some regulation about not standing in your seat in the first 6 or 7 rows, you might want to look that up. I flew with a baby on Southwest once and because you can choose your seat, I stayed right in the front and then couldn’t get out of my seat.

      + finally… it’s temporary, it will end, you’ll get there.

      Happy travels!

    • Grace says...

      It may be too late to choose an airline, but whenever I have a choice I fly Southwest. If the flight is not full (and I assume almost none are these days) they will always let you bring on the infant car seat for free. You just ask the gate attendant. I’ve never had anyone be anything but helpful and kind.

    • Hilary says...

      Oh man, I did a big flight with my 3-week old and it was daunting, but ended up being fine! Whoever above me said a plane is a huge white noise machine is right. Here’s what we did:

      – feed upon takeoff and landing. Even if it’s not on schedule or you have to stretch them a little bit, time-wise, the suction will keep their ears from hurting.

      – Walk the aisles and galley. I had my babe in an ergo carrier so she was propped up (she liked that, too!) and it worked well! Yes, I spent more of the flight standing but the flight attendants were so nice to me and always checked in if I needed extra water or a hand.

      – Trade off who is holding baby between you and your partner, if they are flying with you.

      – Have 3-4 extra outfits with you (seriously) and some plastic bags to seal up dirty outfits. Blowouts occur at the MOST inconvenient of times :)

      – Let people help you! I am often the lady on the plan who sees a parent struggling with a baby. I wouldn’t offer to hold the baby if I didn’t truly want to. If someone offers to hold the baby and they don’t seem like an axe murderer, let them.

      – Finally, I pumped for 8 months on planes, in taxi cabs, everywhere you can think of because of work. I bought a nursing hoodie from latched mama (the BEST) https://latchedmama.com/collections/all-nursing-tops/products/the-latched-mama-hoodie and would put on a nursing cover like this: https://mylittlebabybug.com/products/sloane-udder-covers-nursing-covers-for-breastfeeding?variant=31327808290885&currency=USD&utm_medium=product_sync&utm_source=google&utm_content=sag_organic&utm_campaign=sag_organic&utm_campaign=gs-2020-02-06&utm_source=google&utm_medium=smart_campaign&gclid=Cj0KCQjwqfz6BRD8ARIsAIXQCf1bXbRZz2OFUKqmp64UPHrQHfxViyqH_g5WUQNjoTeOH8EQbfBPMWAaAglWEALw_wcB and I don’t think anybody could see, especially if I sat window (great when alone, but better to sit on the aisle when traveling with bebe) Make sure your travel cooler is frozen for any you end up storing, have sanitizing wipes at the ready, and off you go!

      Good luck – you’ll be great!

    • Fabiana says...

      Hello Taylor,

      First of all let me begin by saying that I am by no means an expert, but I am a mum with 2 kids and have flown with them on a fairly regular basis since they were both 4 weeks old. With my first I remember being so nervous and anxious too and to my surprise she found being on an airplane quite soothing and slept and was at least quite contempt for most of the flight. My first tip would be (and I know it is way easier said than done) to try and relax, she is with with you and that is all she needs. For me it is always soothing to make a list and make sure that I have everything I need for the babies, now kids at hand. So bottle, pacifier, formula etc and a soft blanket for both of us to relax in. Regarding position, I would try and not worry too much about it since after take-off you will be able to walk a bit and carry her in her favourite position for a while (my second one LOVED the burping position for ages, so I completely get what you mean).
      Regarding pumping on a place, Ive always done it under a blanket and never felt self conscious about it since I am doing it to feed my baby and anyone else can mind their own business (and also the pump does make I noise I know, but can barely hear it given all the cabin noise).
      I am sure everything will be ok and you are already doing a fantastic job :) Best of luck with your move!

    • Eli says...

      I don’t use the nursing cover to nurse, but I did just use it to cover up while pumping in a car! A billowy button-down or nursing top would also mostly cover you.

      And check to see if the airport on either end has a Mamava pod or other nursing room, those are lovely.

    • alexis says...

      I think most of my tips have been covered by previous commenters but this one: if you’re inclined to bring a nursing pillow, consider instead just bringing the cover and stuffing it full of extra tee shirts or other items of clothing – makes packing just a little bit bulkier when you already have plenty of extra stuff to lug around. Good luck! Little babies are often not as bad on planes as we fear (and even if they are – this too shall pass).

    • RBC says...

      Congratulations on your new baby! Burping position is perfect – most airlines will tell you that you must hold your baby in this position during takeoff and landing (even when they’re a 23-month-old “lap infant” lol). Don’t stress – the noise of the airplane both calms the baby and muffles the sound of their cries. An 11-week-old will hardly be heard! (hopefully you are not like me, but I was always afraid of being ‘that parent’ with a crying baby on the plane. Not sure why I cared so much). I haven’t flown during the pandemic but have 4 kids under 10 and have flown with them a fair number of times in their infant years. Good luck with the flight and the move! You’re gonna do great!

    • Anna says...

      If you are flying Southwest, choose a seat in the back – those fill up the slowest so you’ll hopefully have space to spread out.

      During a hellish first flight with my baby, who, like yours, did NOT like to be sitting down and screamed for what felt like the entire 4 hours, the man sitting next to me looked me dead in the eye and said, “After we land, you’ll never have to see any of these people again.” God bless that man and his kindness, and good luck to you.

    • Taylor says...

      Wow, thank you all for the replies and reassurances!! I’m definitely booking an aisle seat and will wear a loose top to drape over the pumps–was planning to play hot potato with the baby if she still has an affinity for being held while being walked so its lovely to hear that flight attendants are cool with us walking around if it’s safe to do so.

      Love the COJ community–feeling a lot more confident reading all these replies!!

    • SD says...

      Taylor, you have got this! I don’t have kids, but have nannied a ton, including flying trans-Atlantic with a friend and her very young children. Give yourself and baby lots of space. It’s okay if she cries. And since you won’t be able to see facial expressions from your co-travelers, just assume that everyone has a giant grin on their face behind their mask and is cheering you on, because they get to share a flight with a cute baby and they know it’s not easy traveling with an infant. I know I’d be smiling if I was on your flight, whether your baby is fussy, sleeping, or somewhere in between!

    • beth says...

      I took my son on a long plane ride years ago, and it was fine, I remember walking with him on the aisle and lots of bouncing on my lap, and I definitely remember nursing him actually probably more than normal (I was “nips out” all the way, haha!). Remember to nurse/bottle/pacifier upon takeoff and landing so her ears don’t pop. Good luck on your move!

    • Lisa says...

      I agree with Isabella that this is actually one of the easiest ages to fly with (worst is around 18 months old. Oh. My. Word) but it is so daunting for the first flight! We took my son on his first flight when he was 7 weeks old and I was completely freaked out the whole time, the taxi there, on the plane, car to my in law’s house.

      Feed as much as possible. You do actually have a lot of privacy unless someone is really interested, and it will help pop the baby’s ears and give them comfort. In my experience airline staff are wonderful when you’re travelling with babies, particularly if you tell them it’s your first time (like the wonder American Airlines check in woman who gave me a role to myself).

      Many changes of outfits for the baby and you! Learned from bitter experience when my son threw up on me 15 minutes into a flight.
      If the baby is being very fussy / difficult before take off and you can’t get the seatbelt on them, there are two dings before the plane takes off (which tells the airline staff when to be in their seats) so you do have some wiggle room on that.

      Babies love love love playing with and “reading” the airplane safety card, and airsickness bag and pretty much any rubbish thing. Just wipe them down first with a disinfectant wipe.

      Finally, make sure you take care of yourself. If you’re nursing drink a lot of water, and if the baby sleeps during the flight really enjoy that downtime

    • h says...

      There’s excellent advice here. Babies love the attention on airplanes, and if they are too cranky, just remember you’ll never see these people again! :-) Also, remember to pack a change of clothes for yourself as well!!! (Speaking from unfortunate experience!)

  62. Laura says...

    I’m struggling with the irrational and illogical toddler stage right now. Any advice? My almost two year old was just playing with the electrical outlets so I told her to stop and back away a few times, which she obviously completely ignored. Next I tried the “count to three” trick and told her if she doesn’t come to me by 3, she would lose her movie before her nap. When I got to 2.5, instead of running to my side she shoved the entire outlet cover in her mouth while looking directly into my eyes. I had to laugh while I fished it out because she is SO headstrong. It’s like fighting with a tiny drunk version of myself all day long. Needless to say, there was no Daniel Tiger watched in our house this afternoon. HELP!

    • Sally says...

      Oh boy, I have been there! Little kids are hardwired to push our limits and repeatedly poke at boundaries, especially when something they do gets us riled up. They are just becoming aware of their autonomy and while they explore that they are really needing to know that we are still there, that we are paying attention, that we can handle whatever they’re throwing at us.

      I would recommend Janet Lansbury for really wonderful parenting advice, especially for young kids. She has a podcast called Unruffled, A blog and a couple of books.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “It’s like fighting with a tiny drunk version of myself all day long” = hahaha. just wanted to say, we hear you and we’ve all been there! sending strength!

    • K says...

      Ohh that age is so maddening. One morning my son literally banged his head against the wall because I wouldn’t let him touch raw chicken. I thought it was just us, but then one night at church another mom told me she had been googling toddler bipolar disorder and realized wait toddlers are just emotional roller coasters.

      My best tip is that when I wanted to scream, I tried to hug them. A lot of times that made it better for both of us. They will still push every button you’ve got, but it helps remind you and them that you’re going to be there no matter what.

    • Liz Slyh says...

      Haha, toddlers are wild!!

      One of the most helpful pieces of advice I was given when my kids were toddlers was to use positive statements rather than negative, so instead of: “don’t run with that stick” say “please walk with the stick”. They are still new to language and pick up mostly on the subject and verb, so in that first example they hear “RUN” and “Stick” as opposed to “walk” and “stick”. It was a really simple change to implement but made a big difference with my kids. Hope it helps!

    • D says...

      Try an immediate, tangible consequence after one verbal warning. I realized this when my son came home on his bike after dark. Instead of lecture about it (like I had already done 100 times), I wordlessly put his bike on the rafter hooks and went inside. No fight, he didn’t get mad at me, roll his eyes, anything. It’s made me try more non-talking options, and for him they work really well. Good luck!

    • Erin says...

      Use lots and lots of distraction — not-quite-two is the age of the gnat-like attention span, so you can often substitute something the kiddo likes for something she isn’t supposed to have. Also, consequences should follow as closely and naturally as possible from problem behavior: Not coming when mom asks you to move away from the electrical outlet = getting picked up and carried away from the outlet. (“No movie a few hours later” is not a consequence that a toddler brain can connect to the original bad behavior; it’s too much abstract thinking for that age.) And give yourself some kid-free breaks if at all possible. Having to constantly think three steps ahead for a tiny, irrational person is really exhausting!

    • C says...

      At that age, everything seems to play out as a power struggle. In our family, especially with things regarding safety, we don’t give our kids a choice to listen or not. We just simply take their hand and say “I can’t let you do that. You might get hurt. Let’s do _____ instead” while walking her away. I find that when I present it as a test of obedience, their instinct to rebel is heightened, but when I just calmly and confidently remove them from the situation there is less of a power struggle because I have established that I am the parent. I will admit that it takes a lot of wisdom and failed attempts to determine when to not give your child choice b/c you don’t want to be a dictator.

    • Kristen says...

      “fighting with a tiny drunk version of myself” – this description is FANTASTIC. Best of luck to you in this endeavor, I wish I had a kiddo of my own to offer some advice!

    • KA says...

      It’s exhausting, but the best thing to do—I’ve found—is redirect and distract. It’s takes so much more mental energy than giving consquences but you’ll be much happier. She’s probably only touching the outlet to get your attention. If she’s touching the outlet, just try saying, “hey, have you felt how soft my sweater is” or give her a job “hey, can young line up those shoes for me” or invite different activity. The more it feels connected to you (can you help me…vs can you go over there and play with your own toys) will get better results. It’s very annoying to always have an idea of something else to do on the tip of your tongue, but it’s much more pleasant for everyone. Good luck. Young toddlers are hard!

    • Emily says...

      Laura! I’ve found so much help through the “Big Little Feelings” instagram account. They provide scripts for every toddler interaction/fight you might have.

  63. Kim says...

    We’ve started painting rocks on our trips to capture their memories. We collect the rocks from the beach, the campsite, whatever place we’re visiting….the paint pens are so easy to bring along, and it’s a fun activity to bring everyone together during a trip. On our last camping trip the night sky was AMAZING and the Big Dipper was HUGE and BRIGHT, so one person painted that on their rock. We camped near a stream, so one rock depicted that. We have a beautiful collection of the rocks and their memories on a shelf and it makes me so happy to have an actual solid, tangible piece of each place.

  64. Tyler says...

    My mom got me out of bed by singing “wake up flowers” from rainbow bright. When that didn’t work she threatened that she’d pick out my school clothes and I’d have to wear whatever she picked.

  65. Kiana says...

    I have two kids. An eight year old boy and a four year old girl who is on the autism spectrum. Here’s my advice: Stick to a routine and constantly remind them of it. I’ve said, “take off your shoes and put them in the basket” at least ten times a day, every day, for like, seven years. But like clockwork, my kids take their shoes off right when they come inside, put them in the basket in their cubbies, and go wash their hands (another house rule).

    Also some kids, but especially autistic children, feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations, so try to talk to them as much as possible about what is coming. For instance, “we’re going to a restaurant, your cousins will be there, the restaurant looks like this, they have this food you like, when we wait for our food you can color or play with some toys quietly, etc etc.” My daughter loves predictability and hates surprises so if something is going to be a surprise, I try to make it fun for her. Like guessing with her how her food is going to be served,” Do you think the French fries will be skinny or fat? Will the tomatoes be on the top or on the side?”

    Hope this helps someone. And love Reagans advice so much!

    • Michaela says...

      I just wanted to say you sound like such a good mom.

  66. Diana K. says...

    These women are brilliant.

  67. Liz says...

    I was surprised by the “creative idea” of setting the food in the middle of the table and letting people serve themselves, because . . . isn’t this how food is served at home? Do most people really plate it each family member’s plate up in the kitchen and bring individual plates to the table? If so . . . I had no idea!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      We always plate it at the stove!

    • Christina says...

      I got surprised too!

    • Cynthia says...

      We’ve always put the food in the middle of the table. This way, you can serve yourself as much or as little as you wish.

    • Andrea says...

      I hate the extra serving dishes! And it’s too crowded at the table….

    • Elliesee says...

      I thought I did it the American way to get everybody to pitch in a bit more: we each plate our own plate and bring it ourselves to the table, including the children. When they were younger, the food was at the table and one kid would set the table. I possibly got tired! Also, how are the younger ones able to get away with less work? They are learning though.

  68. Jeannie says...

    The secret to feeling like a great parent is to never be in a hurry to get anywhere… a big part of this is to not over-plan and have lots of white space in your calendars. If I have a choice between having to rush through something (a quick stop at the store, for example) or skipping it for another day, it’s so much better to just skip it. My daughter and I don’t like the version of “mom” that is rushing to get home or rushing to get out the door… we much prefer the version of mom that is open to a meandering walk to the car. Which leads me to my next tip…

    Have external prompts for moving to the next thing/activity. We have our living room lamp in a smart plug on a timer (controlled through an app in our phone)… when the lamp turns on, it’s time for bath. It has GREATLY reduced the haggling, because there isn’t anybody to haggle with really… the light turns on and then it’s bath time… it just is. When the light turns off later, it’s time for brushing teeth and stories. When the rainbow light in her room turns on it’s time to get up, and when it turns off it’s time to leave.

    • amber says...

      What a great tip!

    • Rachel says...

      This light trick / external prompt idea is GENIUS. Thank you!

    • Amy says...

      Yes to timers!! When it’s an inanimate object telling us it’s time to leave, or counting down to the end of quiet time, etc – there’s no one to argue with haha. We have a visual Time Timer so they can see how much time is left and it’s been so valuable for us (it’s up on a wall where they can’t fiddle with it as I do find them a bit fragile).

  69. Lisa says...

    One piece of advice I’ve been repeating to myself over and over the last few weeks is “if they’re giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time”. My son has just started big school. The last time he was in a classroom environment was nearly 6 months ago when the nursery had to close overnight as there was a case of covid, and he never went back. He can be so grumpy / disruptive when he comes home, but I have to just remember it’s because he is having a hard time, and he’s releasing tension from having to be good at school all day

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Love that advice.

  70. Rue says...

    I learned self-parenting as a therapy tool, and it can be magical for those of us who grew up in difficult family environments or with parents who were unable to serve their parent roles for any reason.

    The parenting book I worked with, on my therapist’s recommendation, is centered entirely around the “do you want a snack before or after your bath” method! It’s called “Parenting With Love and Logic” and the idea is that you lovingly provide choices until the child is confident making their own decisions in complex situations.

    You never make it about your own emotions as the parent (other than your love for the child), and you always reframe it around the decisions the child is navigating. You do this by strongly affirming wants/needs/wishes/desires, and then helping the child think through the choices available. So: “of course you don’t want to take that bath! it’s never fun to be cold. we all have to take care of our bodies by cleaning them, so let’s do this together, and then we can eat that awesome snack.” And any further “nooooos” are just met with reiterating the choice available, and if necessary providing a time-out style consequence.

  71. Mouse says...

    Brooke, I’m 60 years old and I still don’t feel “right” if I don’t begin the day reading something for awhile. :)

  72. Elise says...

    JUST ADD WATER. Amazing advice I got from this blog.

    Also echoing the rotation of toys and I will add that “staging” them also goes a LONG way. Whenever I display toys/materials artfully in an open space — on a clean shelf or table — my kids are so intrigued and immediately start exploring on their own. I might set up their toy dinosaurs in a line by size, or put out some colorful counting bears with matching cups nearby … they see the order in the display and start making their own discoveries and variations. But if I just said “Let’s play with counting bears!” they’d be like, “BORING!”

  73. Erin says...

    I agree with Erin 1000%! Honestly, we should all read and re-read her tip. So many behavioral problems are solved by the application of a little love.

    I have to share a story from our bedtime the other night. My oldest was annoyed with his brothers. As I was tucking him in, I told him he was a great big brother and I loved him and was so proud of him. Then I crossed the room to give his younger brother his goodnight hug and kiss. My younger son said, “He gets those touching words and I just get a hug and kiss?” Haha! Needless to say, I found “touching” words for him too. So sweet! I have been smiling about it all weekend.

    Great tip Jenny on the conversation skills! I have done that too, but I am going to make a more conscious effort of doing it in the future. I gave a group of grade 9 students a tour of my office one day and not a one of them looked me in the eye the whole time!

  74. Meg says...

    “crisis in our home is solved best with more tenderness.” So lovely and applicable for crisis anywhere I’d think.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      <3

  75. d says...

    I love the comment about talking in the dark. Another one that always worked for my kids was talking to them with hand puppets! Even though I was right there giving the puppet a voice, my kids would tell the puppet things about their day that they glossed over with me!

    With teenagers who still need rides–be the mom who volunteers to drive the carpool and just be quiet while your kids and their friends talk about all the things important to them.

    • Naomi says...

      Yes D – your last comment :)
      When I was pregnant, at my baby shower, a friend’s wise mom said – if you ever get the chance to be a stay-at-home mom or have a flexible job, have it be when your kids are teenagers. That’s when they need to talk… You will drive them places, and they will talk. They talk to their friends in the backseat, and they will talk to you. There’s something different about talking when you don’t see the person’s face (in the dark, with hand puppets, in the backseat of a car) that naturally allows you to let your guard down…

    • Jeannie says...

      Yes – car rides with teens are awesome! If their friends are in the car, it’s important to just be quiet (as you said)… don’t chime in with your own stories… they don’t care lol.

      Also, if I feel like there’s something going on with my niece that she wants to talk about, I try to get her in the car for a long(ish) drive… she totally opens up in the car! I think because there’s so much less pressure because she doesn’t need to make eye contact <3

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “be the mom who volunteers to drive the carpool and just be quiet while your kids and their friends talk about all the things important to them.”

      “don’t chime in with your own stories… they don’t care lol.”

      hahah these are such brilliant tips!

    • beth says...

      Absolutely agree on the teens in cars- I had so many great conversations with my son when it was just us, on the way to piano lessons, or even better, to his volunteering gig because it was a longer drive. I was happy for him/sad for me when he got his driver’s license!

    • Karin says...

      The car ride is golden for parents of teens, especially boys. SOOO many good conversations. My son STILL doesn’t drive (he’s 19) and I happily drive him places just to get that time!

  76. Emeline says...

    I so agree with the racing idea. I often challenge my kids, especially my 6-year-old son, to race me to get jammies on at bedtime. (I like getting into my comfy clothes before we read stories.) Sometimes I win, sometimes they do. But either way, we’re sure to get ready for bed quickly! Only challenge is calming down our bodies after that. :)

  77. Rebecca says...

    I also hated mornings, and when I was a teenager my mom started doing a new thing where she’d throw open the door to my room and jubliantly yell, “Get the fuck out of bed!” Her joyous cursing was absolutely hilarious to us both and started the day on a ridiculous note that really took the edge off.

    • Christina M says...

      OMG, this is hysterical!!

    • Elise says...

      I am so doing this once my kids are a little older (only 4 and 6 now). LOVE IT

    • Abby says...

      My child is two, but I so so so hope I remember to do this when he’s in high school!

    • Kiana says...

      Lol! I love this so much!

    • Yolanda says...

      This might be my favourite comment ever on COJ. I love your mum! This is brilliant, hilarious and right up my street.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha

    • Agnès says...

      Oh your mum is great! kids remember when we’re a little crazy!

    • laura says...

      I used a similar technique with my then middle schooler when doing math homework support- during that time and only during that time we could both curse a blue streak……. when the homework was done, our potty mouth was turned off- but it relieved so much frustration on both our our parts- and we usually giggled and did not fight with each other…… child has graduated from college and has proper use of the english language….. and I am no longer helping him with his math….. it is more likely to be the other way around

    • Casey says...

      This isn’t advice but rather site feedback. I love this top and adore the comments and the community you’ve fostered. The pop up ads keep resetting my place on the site every 2 minutes or so forcing me to the top of your post out of the comments. I appreciate you testing ads to support your great work, but it’s providing a miserable user experience. Thought you’d like to know, not sure if others are experiencing this as well but it’s a real deterrent.

    • M says...

      I just spit out my coffee reading this. Hahahahah!

  78. Allie says...

    Once we were adults, my mom revealed to us that her philosophy was “Say YES as much as possible.” That way, when she told us no, we really took it seriously.

    Green eggs and ham for dinner? Yes. Skinny dipping? Yes. Costumes to the grocery store? Yes. Teenage road trips (sans parents) to see our favorite band? Yes. It made us feel like she trusted our judgement, which, in turn, developed in us a really mature sense of judgement.

    • Melissa says...

      I totally credit this approach with how chill my two year old is (and has always been) and how rarely he has tantrums. As long as what he wants to do is safe and age-appropriate, he can do it. And even if it isn’t 100% safe, he still gets to do it if he can show that he can do it in a safe way (and with lots of supervision, obvs).

      But because he doesn’t have a lot of frustration and resistance built up over the course of a day of hearing ‘no’ all the time, he’s just a super happy-go-lucky little dude! He also finds boundaries fascinating and endlessly hilarious–a good example was Sunday night at dinner, where he decided to test out where he was allowed to put his sweet potato fries. On his head? Sure. Up his nose? Nope! And those nopes always make him laugh SO HARD.

  79. Annie K says...

    I love these. I especially appreciate the reminder to be tender and give hugs – my brand-new 4 yr old can be such a beastie that it’s hard to remember in the moment. When I do, an invitation into open arms almost always diffuses the situation.

    I also remember reading in a CoJ post somewhere the advice to “Just add water” – a special iced drink, a tub of water with toys to dunk, a sprinkler. This tip has given me a little anchor of sanity and just enough umph to get through some really challenging moments in this really challenging time.

    And of course, let them be bored! Which to me is really a reminder not to hover and insert myself to entertain them. They need me intensely so much of the time- I’m really capitalizing on the moments they don’t and just letting them be.

  80. Tiffany says...

    re: Jenny’s tip about kids ordering in restaurants
    my best friend’s family made a rule that you had to know the server’s name and eye color. Pop quizzes would check that it actually happened!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love that!

  81. Abby says...

    I think the best advice I would give to a new parent is to empower yourself to make decisions. YOU’RE the mom, it’s YOUR choice how you want to handle each and every situation – – from waking up a baby to feed them vs. letting them sleep to giving a toddler extra screen time. Once you give yourself that power, the weight of having to make so many small and big decisions each and every day feels a little bit lighter.

    • Sarah says...

      Can I request a column how parents are handling working from home with kids at home? It’s so hard! But I bet this amazing community as figured out some wins that don’t involve letting my 3 year old daughter watch hours of PBS Kids or having her climb all over me and try to dominate my work zoom calls.

  82. L says...

    The best thing I’ve learned as a parent: Play with your kids first, then do chores. Even a few minutes of dedicated attention sets kids up for a lot more independent play. There’s science behind this, although I can’t remember the study now. When I had toddlers, starting the morning with floor time was the best way to prevent tantrums all day. Now that my kids are older, we begin each day with 15 minutes of cuddling and chatting, then we move into the kitchen. At that point, they’re ready to be on their own for a longer stretch while my husband and get things ready for the day.

    • Annie K says...

      This is a great one! I’m really seeing this with my 4 and 1 yr olds.

    • Jeannie says...

      YES TO THIS! Joanna wrote about this too: https://cupofjo.com/2016/09/how-to-stop-tantrums/

      PS – I’ve long known that COJ has positively shaped how I parent, but realizing now that I’ve shared TWO past COJ blog posts in these comments clearly shows that I’m a fan of Joanna’s parenting tips <3

    • Lynn says...

      Jeannie – I’m right there with you. I’ve learned so much here! I don’t tell my husband where I learn these things so he just thinks I’m a frikkin genius.

    • amber says...

      @ Lynn wouldn’t your husband feel more empowered as a father if you DID tell him that you get help from online forums? It’s so difficult being a single parent, when you could instead have help as well as allowing your husband to develop a relationship with the children.

    • L says...

      Hahaha. I just saw Jeannie’s link to a previous COJ post on tantrums. That’s probably where I learned this trick and now I’m sharing it back!

    • Lynn says...

      No worries, Amber! He adopts what works for me and I learn from him as well. He knows I seek parenting advice from numerous books and online resources. I make no bones about continuing education! It’s always the COJ tips though (and the Baby Whisperer) that pack the most punch for us.

    • Amy says...

      Oh this…..we are homeschooling this year and I’m finding they don’t listen to their “new teacher” (me) as well as they did their public school teacher. I’m going to start the day off with UNO tomorrow and see if that helps! Thanks!

  83. Mallory says...

    Organizing my kids’ toys by category leads to them playing with their toys SO MUCH MORE! We have a bin for magnatiles, a bin for doctor toys, a bin for music stuff, etc etc. very granular. I thought clean up would be easiest with a big bin they could dump everything into, but turns out that hasn’t been the case at all. When everything has its own specific home, clean up seems less daunting to my girls somehow. It’s been a game changer.

  84. Toni says...

    When my infant is crying, I take a deep breath before I do anything. I’m calmer, my head is clearer, and I can truly assess her needs with zero panic or frustration. Before I started with “the breath”, I would always assume she was hungry and give her a bottle. She’d always take it. And then I started thinking that if my favorite human held me and gave me a milkshake every time I cried, I wouldn’t necessarily need to be hungry to accept it either!

  85. Kate says...

    I work long, late hours AND my kid hates mornings, so it’s quality time pre-COVID was really at a premium.

    Last winter, I started making breakfast as cozy and homey as I could: I lit candles to warm up the cold, dark mornings, and put on some chill Canadian folk rock.

    I won’t say Grumpy Pants McGee started greeting the day with a smile EVERY day after that, but it was a good 2/3, and I will take it!

    I think it’s the only thing we are both looking forward to with the return of shorter days and longer nights…

    • Amy says...

      Candles and coziness on a dark morning!! Brilliant! I am incorporating that here this winter! Thank you for sharing that! <3

  86. Juana says...

    I’ve got two small boys, but as a stay at home mom I was beginning to feel as if they were already expecting « Mom » to do everything for them. I don’t want my boys to grow up thinking that they don’t have to participate and help, so now we’ve become a TEAM. When we go somewhere each one carries their own bag, each one helps with setting the table and cleaning up their toys, each one has a list that we drew together and that they look at to reference every morning to see what they have to do “to help the team” get moving. This has helped enormously in making sure everyone has a role and that “Mom” is now a respected teammate and not just someone who does things for them.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      juana, this is awesome. going to use your advice myself and am grateful!

    • Sonja says...

      so so so smart!! you sound like an amazing mom, Juana.

    • Juana says...

      Thanks for your comments, it’s a wonderful feeling to feel supported!

  87. Naomi says...

    Great article. Here are a few of mine:
    – to the first comment above: everything can be a race! My daughter is 9, and she will still agree to race us for anything…
    – sliced fruit. My dad always sliced up fruit for me (still does) and I do now for my family… everyone loves sliced fruit!
    – talking in the dark. It’s amazing what topics come up, when you’re in a dark room getting ready for bed… And it’s the only time I’ve heard “mom, I wish COVID was over soon”. During the day, she’s tough. But she let’s her guard down in the dark.

    • cristina says...

      Naomi – your comment just reminded me of the epic “PJ-races” my dad used to get my brother and me ready for bed. First one in pyjamas and in the bathroom to brush teeth won!

  88. Agnès says...

    (Oh but you still have to mention the water tip, because it’s so good!). Great great tips and can’t wait to read the comments! I SO agree with Erin and Tina on their tips about anger and frustration. Love is all; I’m trying to be more gentle and loving. About Art, I’ve noticed that if I ask my son to do an art project together he will usually say no, but if I start drawing or painting he immediately wants to do it too. Which is great. Action is, with water, a great answer to many problems.
    Love to all parents here,

  89. Michelle says...

    Spend time outdoors every day – even in the rain (above freezing and no lightning!). It’s exercise, exploring, problem solving, socialization, etc AND it’s good for me too – I notice how my own mental health (or sometimes just mood) is better overall with a dose of outdoor time each day.

    • M says...

      Yes, yes, yes.

  90. Maclean Nash says...

    I was NOT a morning person throughout all of elementary school.
    It was a huge struggle for my mom, who worked and had to be ready and out of the house by 8a.
    After weeks of us butting heads when grade 1 started, she had the genius idea of letting me pick out clothes for the next day before I went to bed and in the morning she would RACE me to see which one of us could get our clothes on the fastest! It was so exciting and I always won! It wasnt until I was in high school and we were reminiscing about “the morning game” that I realized she always let me win!

    • suzie says...

      This is the sweetest story. Your mom sounds amazing.

    • Agnès says...

      Love your last sentence. :-)