10 Surprising Parenting Tips for Parents of Young Children

As the mom of a two-year-old, I’ve experienced many magical moments with my daughter. But this stage of parenting can also feel confusing and overwhelming. Hungry for guidance, I asked 10 mothers to share the pearls of wisdom they’ve returned to the most…

“If you can’t get out of it, get into it. For me, that meant creating a chicken nugget tasting bar rather than stressing over my kid’s picky palate. Or pulling on my swimsuit and blasting Carly Rae Jepsen during baths with my child that leave us soaked. Basically, babies and toddlers are bonkers! Get into it!” — Kathleen Donahoe

“When my kids were little, I tried to remember that these were their real, actual lives. Not an audition or prologue or prerequisite for adulthood. But actual here-and-now life, lived inside a small body and young consciousness. It helped me treat them respectfully — or try to, at least.” — Catherine Newman

“I’m part of a Families of Color parenting group, and we often share the ways our cultures respect and prioritize elders. But not everyone is healthy for our children — one mom in the group said it best: ‘Not all old people are elders!’ She gave me the permission and clarity to choose whom we invite into our child’s life and also whose advice I listen to as a new parent.” — Sukhie Patel

“We get stumped on presents for classmates’ birthday parties, and the parents don’t want a bunch of junk. So, now my daughter draws a homemade card and we tape in a $10 or $20 bill. Kids feel so powerful when they have cash. Honestly, it kills.” — Lucy Kalanithi

“Embracing the ‘fed is best’ concept saved my relationship with my first baby, who was born with a complex congenital heart condition and became feeding-tube dependent for two years. I needed formula (and that feeding tube) to keep her alive, and I had to work through all sorts of feelings of failure. With my second baby, breastfeeding ‘worked,’ yet I still switched to formula after a few months because I wanted my body back to myself. Understanding that both of our needs mattered, and that there’s no such thing as ‘failing’ if your baby is getting fed and loved, made me a better and happier mother. And it’s a concept I use now even as they are older. Pancakes for dinner again? Fed is best.” — Virginia Sole-Smith

“Always have doubles of the lovey. It’s good to have insurance when they inevitably lose it at a park or leave it on the bus.” — Jenny Rosenstrach

“Ask for help. We can feel pressure to figure things out on our own. But raising kids in a community actually is good and natural for us as humans. I loved reading about the Kraho village in Brazil, in which their children actually call multiple women ‘inxe,’ or mother, which is so beautiful. If others are willing to lend a hand, let them.” — Valerie Metz

“Anticipate the three R’s: Rupture, Repair and Regulate. Ruptures will happen because we are human; you will disappoint your kids and they will disappoint you. So, dive into repairing. We are all trying our best. With our kids, model apologizing to others — and to them. And, finally, regulate. Parenting can be triggering on many levels. If we learn how to slow down, notice our frustration, and take a minute to breathe or drink a glass of water before we respond, then we can approach difficult parenting situations without adding to the chaos.” — Mel Wiggins

“We gave them fruit first for breakfast to make sure we got the good stuff in them. To this day, my daughter still eats fruit first — she just texted me a photo of a pile of pineapple next to her bagel — and she’s a sophomore in college.” — Jenny Rosenstrach

“Parenting is not a juried activity. When you have young kids, you get feedback from so many sources — in-laws, friends, parenting experts, strangers — on what you should be doing differently, and it can feel discouraging. What helped me drown out the noise was realizing I could be the filter for all this advice. The unhelpful stuff, the things that rang untrue to me, went right down the drain. Our instincts are powerful; we only have to clear some space so they can emerge.” — Thao Thai

What advice would you give to a parent of young children? Also, to my fellow parents of little ones, you’re doing a good job.

P.S. 20 surprising parenting tips and trying out slow parenting.

(Photo by Valerie Metz.)