Almost nine years into this parenting thing, I’m convinced that fully half of the job is learning from — and forgiving yourself for — all the mistakes you will inevitably make. Recently a thread on Reddit posed the question: “Parents…what are mistakes that you feel that you made that others could learn from before it is too late?”
While not all parenting advice is worth taking, there’s something to be said for taking lessons from others’ mistakes. Here are 10 of the best answers we found.
Pull those onesies down, y’all (not up)
Despite the typo (“grows” is supposed to be “gowns,” which most of us call “onesies”) this is solid advice for new parents. Because when your baby wakes up with pure shart running up its back in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to do is pull the onesie up over their head. It will only compound the disgusting mess you find before you. Instead, avoid spreading it all over the upper body and roll the soiled garment down, parents. Roll it down.
Know when to give in, and when to hold your ground
Any parent who has given a firm “no” and endured several minutes of badgering knows that changing your mind and giving in while a child is mid-tantrum is an invitation to the devil. Sure, it will get them to stop the nonsense they’re pulling in that moment, but as this Reddit user points out, the lesson your kid just learned was that if they stomp and whine long enough, they’ll wear you down. Then the behaviour will likely be repeated ad nauseam until you re-teach your kid that “no means no” and you will not cave if they amp up the hysterics.
Spend quality time with each kid
Making time for your kids may be a cliché, but it bears repeating. (Especially making time for each child separately. What a behavioural difference that makes.) It’s been said that you only really “have” your kids until they are 12 or 13, at which point their world switches from being focused on their parents’ input to that of friends and the social world outside the home. While we have the gift of these formative pre-teen years, during which they look to us for comfort, companionship and advice, we need to use them wisely. Before we know it, they’ll be begging to meet their friends at the mall rather than play Crazy Eights after dinner.
Switch up the “good cop, bad cop” roles
Speaking as the default disciplinarian in the house, this one hits hard. Besides putting an unfair portion of “bad cop” duties on one parent (who wants to be fun sometimes, too, dang it!), it can cause children to behave better around the parent who is vocal about their expectations and follows through on consequences of unwanted behaviour. Which leaves a lot of room for kids to play the “easygoing” parent off the hard-arse one, causing tension, resentment and potentially even worse behaviour.
Take a deep dive into your own emotions
Here’s something they don’t tell you in What to Expect When You’re Expecting: a large percentage of parenting is simply managing your own emotions and reactions to all the stimuli. Noisy, dependent, emotionally immature beings can trigger many knee-jerk bad habits and subpar coping mechanisms we have buried underneath our polished adult exteriors. Learning to identify and productively manage our own anger and impatience instead of unloading them on our kids will, as the Reddit commenter says, save your child years of therapy. We hope.
Don’t try to do it all yourself
As a stubbornly self-sufficient, independent person, I can confirm that doing the baby/toddler thing largely by yourself is not the way to go. The sleep deprivation, isolation, and emotional adjustment to being a round-the-clock feeder, healer, emotional soother, playmate, and housecleaner is intense and overwhelming. Seize, accept, ask, search, and pay for any help you are fortunate enough to acquire. Do away with the false notion that you “should” be able to do it all. Raising humans is hard and it’s not meant to be done in a vacuum.
Buy baby gear on the cheap
The list of fancy baby products new parents don’t actually need is long. While the baby gear industry (and some friends and family) would have you believe your baby needs the latest ergonomically-designed, rhythmic, “sway-safe” bouncer with breathable mesh, you do not. You can find most everything you need from discount stores like IKEA, online secondhand marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook, consignment shops, and hand-me-downs from friends and family. There’s no need to spend tons of cash on gear they grow out of it in a matter of months, anyway.
Give up those mealtime battles
We work hard to plan for and provide endless meals; and little kids need nutrition. But they are also picky, recalcitrant, and sometimes, just plain not hungry. This combination of factors can lead to many mealtime battles. But forcing a child to eat can lead them to more resistance and a negative relationship with the parent — and with food as they grow older. Try easing up, trusting that kids eat when they are hungry, and if it’s a persistent worry, checking out resources online for how to get small children to eat more healthily, minus the struggle.
Talk money with your partner
There’s no two ways about it: Kids are money-suckers. This comment suggesting to have frank, detailed, and potentially uncomfortable conversations with our partner before having kids is stellar advice. Find out if you’re in agreement on how kid expenses — from diapers and piano lessons to back-to-school clothes and family vacations — will be budgeted for and prioritised.
Apologise, apologise, apologise
“It’s all in treating them like people and not objects you own.” True words — and we’d add, “and not as things you control.” Approaching little kids as human beings whose emotions deserve respect is the way forward. When we mess up as parents, it’s important to show them that we are fallible and sorry for any hurt we caused. After all, we’re raising eventual adults who we want to include us in their lives, right?
Go easy on yourself when you kid has a public tantrum
All kids have emotional meltdowns. (I mean, don’t we all?) While as a parent, our first instinct may be to get embarrassed at the disturbance, or fret what it means about us that we can’t manage our kids — the fact is, no matter what we do, we can’t control what people think about us or our kids. So stay calm, ride it out, give your child what they need and tune out the negative self-talk. We’ve all been there.