General Question

jca's avatar

Everyone (not just parents): What suggestions and parenting tips do you have for other parents?

Asked by jca (36046points) September 1st, 2013

I always feel that everyone can benefit from the experience of others. I am a single mother of a young child, and fortunately she’s well behaved, but I know it won’t always be Nirvana. There are always new circumstances, new opportunities, new challenges that parents face and could share with others.

I was at a restaurant with a friend last night and she was discussing her young adult children. I just came from vacation where my parents shared their vacation rental home with my daughter and I, and my mother and I are a bit different in how we parent (she is “grandma” so her role is different from mine, now) and this is what made me curious enough to ask Fluther.

Please share your tips, advice, suggestions for parents.

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31 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar

Spank, spank, and spank.

drhat77's avatar

You are going to screw up your children somehow. There’s no avoiding it. If you don’t let that issue paralyze you into indecision, or turn you into a hover-parent, then you can probably minimize the derangement that occurs.

drhat77's avatar

@Blondesjon I wanted to say “Don’t leave a mark. The authorities get their panties in a wad over it.” But then I didn’t want the first post to be smarmy. ass

longgone's avatar

Off the top of my head…
1. Don’t say no if you don’t mean it – choose your battles.
2. Set an example.
3. Think about how you were raised, and focus on what and what not to copy.
4. Don’t be violent.

dxs's avatar

I have no parenting skills, but when I was much younger, it seemed like yelling at me only made things worse. It augments the tension already set between both of you.

ragingloli's avatar

You must dominate them with an iron fist.

Headhurts's avatar

Not a parent. From a childs view, I would say to make them feel secure. Not just in a financial way, but secure to be able to come to you and talk. To be able to talk to you about absolutely anything. To not be scared to ask questions and advice. A troubled child, leads to a troublef teenager, leads to a troubled adult, leads to a troubled life.

dolinsky296's avatar

Having babysat children for several years, (disclaimer, I don’t have any of my own), I’ve gathered a couple important tips:
1. Don’t discourage creativity. If it looks like a pointless task, it may be a learning experience.
2. Answer all questions, and don’t sayjust because.” If it’s something they won’t understand, trying to explain it anyway can lead to curiosity.
3. Always be understanding. Being aggressive and disciplinary only separates you, so always talk things out calmly.

spiritual's avatar

Children prefer love and time being spent on them than any amount of money.
We lead such busy lives now, but commit to spending a certain amount of time with your children and do it.
Do something together and really make an effort and you’ll see how much kids love it. Show them and tell them how much you love them.
Any threats of punishment should be followed through so the child knows you are not someone who can be played or messed around.

Aethelwine's avatar

1. You need to be their parent, not their friend.
2. Spend time with them doing things that they enjoy.
3. Give lots of hugs and always let them know that they are loved.

Parent of 3. Age 9, 19 & 21. (for anyone who doesn’t know)

hearkat's avatar

I was/am a single mom to an only son who is now in his early 20s.

Consistency is key. As previously noted, choose your battles and be prepared to follow-through with discipline when the kid(s) push their limits.

Make the child your priority, and let them know it. I used to tell my son, “Mommy isn’t my name, it’s my job description, and I have only 18 years to get you ready to be a responsible adult.” Because he knew I took that job seriously, he did feel secure and even when he tried to argue (and boy, did he argue), he eventually conceded to my authority because he knew I would not back down.

I tried not to just say “Because” as a reason since I hated hearing it as a child, but there are times when there is no way to logically explain the reasons in a way that the child will accept. I would sometimes say, “Because I love you and I want you to be safe.” or something to that effect.

Use every moment as a teaching tool. Sometimes my spidey-sense wasn’t too keen on some kids he befriended, but I hated when my parents didn’t like friends of mine, so I let him choose his friends, but kept close eye on what was going on. When a friend of his became seriously injured while playing unsupervised, I made sure he understood that was the reason why I was strict with him. That same kid was out our house shooting hoops late one evening, and I asked what time his mom wanted him home, “She don’t care.” was the response. When we were alone, I told my son that he will never be able to say that his mother doesn’t care, because I make sure he knows what time he’s supposed to be home and that I expect to be informed of his whereabouts. When he told me a friend of his pinched money from his grandmother’s purse, I warned him that he couldn’t trust that friend – he balked, but don’t you know that when they were teens, the kid stole my son’s ATM card and cleaned out his savings.

Recognize that at some point you will have to let go. I found that a gradual approach worked best in that he learned and earned rights and responsibilities as he got older. He hated having chores and such, but once he got older and saw how clueless and needy a lot of his friends were, he thanked me. A friend is all distraught because her child is homesick at college, and she feels helpless because she’s not there to help. I told her that it is normal and expected for the kid to be homesick, and I suggested that she be available but not to try to help because the kid is now an adult has to become independent.

Now, as for the difference between boys and girls (of course there are exceptions, but this has been my observation)… Boys seem to need more close supervision in the single-digit ages, while girls at that age tend to be more mellow and self-motivated. However, I observed a shift when the double-digits and hormones started to hit. The boys stay focused on their hobbies and interests. The girls who had been so quiet and needed little supervision seemed to start being devious and aggressive. At 10–11 they were calling after 9 and 10 in the evening and even knocking on the door looking for my son with the eyeliner and lip gloss. When picture phones first came out, I found sexting images on my son’s phone – young teenage girls sending pornographic images of themselves to my son. Where the heck did they learn that from, I wondered? So while they seem so quiet and self-reliant, they must have been finding adult content around the home, on the TV or computer. I’m guessing that the parents were clueless and couldn’t imagine their sweet daughter seeking that stuff out – but again, they had to learn it from somewhere. I could go on and it gets worse, so just learn how to use all the parental controls you can (they were just being developed back then) and use a super-strong password.

Once they are teens, learn to listen but not judge. When I found those pictures or learned about other inappropriate behavior, I used those as opportunities to talk about responsibilities and what my concerns were. I usually didn’t punish, because I knew that would push him away and he wouldn’t talk to me anymore. I wanted him to know that he can open up to me and that I am the person who cares about him the most and genuinely have his best interests at heart.

He knew he had to earn my trust through those years by proving himself responsible, and he gave me plenty to worry about – like being in the E.R. three times within a few months’ time, once for his intentional overdose and twice for motor vehicle accidents. But he’s stabilized and we remain very close.

DigitalBlue's avatar

Worry about how much you can teach them, not how much you can give them.
I’ve become pretty convinced that spoiling your children is one of the worst things you can do to them. Don’t give them everything that they want, teach them how to develop the skills to get what they need and then hopefully what they want will also fall into place.

DominicX's avatar

One thing I’ve noticed is that some parents seem to have this idea that their children are perfect and can do no wrong, and when their child is accused of something like bullying or other wrongdoing, they refuse to acknowledge it and the bad behavior just continues. It might be hard to accept that your child could do something like that, but don’t refuse to even entertain the idea. A lot of bullying goes unnoticed and unpunished because of this.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that parents often don’t take what they should from how they were raised. My parents’ parenting style was largely based on the way my mom was raised. But there were a few things my mom’s parents did that my mom didn’t like, so she eliminated those and used the rest as a basis (my dad’s childhood was kind of dysfunctional, so his wasn’t much of a source). Too many parents just repeat the mistakes of their own parents and don’t learn much from the way they were raised.

zenzen's avatar

Listen to your kids.

Love them unconditionally.

Keep them warn in winter, hydrated in summer.

Make enough money so they can have as many extra-curricular activities as their little hearts desire.

Take care of yourself; if you’re too tired to throw a ball (any ball) around – not good. You’re also cranky and no fun either.

Finally, keep musical instruments around the house. et them discover them for themselves. Don’t press upon them to srudy anything, but start with piano at 5,6,7….

Drums are not an instrument. That comes after five years of piano as – a reward (they’ll have forgotten by then, thankfully.)

Ok, drums are cool, too, if your neighbours don’t mind. Soundproof the basement.

jca's avatar

Another thing that made me think of this question is a recent conversation I had with my cousin. She has a young son and she was talking about how they were going out and she told him to bring his gloves, and he didn’t want to. She said he had cold hands all day and would learn a lesson, to bring his gloves in the cold weather. If it were me, I would have brought my daughter’s gloves out, so as not to have her cold or asking for my gloves. I wonder which is the best way to go? I thought her way seemed harsh, but I am not sure.

hearkat's avatar

@jca – I tended to be a tough-love parent, because in my own growing up, the lessons I learned best were the ones I learned the hard way. However, I am doubting and defiant by nature and my son is a lot like me, so I knew I’d have to watch him fall down and let him learn to pull himself up. I’m sure some people can learn differently, but I think that making decisions and dealing with the consequences is the best way to develop critical thinking skills.

longgone's avatar

How old is he? If we’re talking younger than six, I’d bring the gloves. And I’d avoid fighting about it.
Choose your battles…

tedibear's avatar

Be consistent in your discipline. No means no, and you only hear it once before there’s a problem for the child.
Teach them to be pollte. Please, thank you and you’re welcome go a long way.
Do what you can to help them become as educated as possible.
Make sure they learn the value of work.

longgone's avatar

^ Polltness does go a long way.

nikipedia's avatar

When they poop, clean it up.

When they cry, pick them up.

That’s all I’ve figured out so far. I am taking notes on what the more experienced parents in this thread have to say.

@jca, can I borrow your thread to brag on how cute my kid is?

Coloma's avatar

Don’t stay in an unhappy marriage/relationship for the “sake of the kids.”
Cop out and very damaging.

Be prepared to ADMIT your screw ups and don’t take the authoritarian approach with your kids that just because you are, supposedly, the adult and bigger and older, that their perceptions, feelings, thoughts and opinions, don’t count. They do.

Teach your children to love, care for and have an awareness of their natural world, educate them that ALL creatures deserve to be happy and healthy just like humans do.
Teach them to have a keen, observational eye and to be curious rather than fearful of their environment and it’s inhabitants, from rats to roaches. lol

Encourage love of art, music and other creative pursuits, give them room to explore and discover their talents, overt as well as hidden.

Do not expect them to be clones of yourself, respect they are their own person and just because you gave them life does not mean they owe you or your ego anything in return!

Do not take on wanting to be the “cool” parent when your kids reach adolescence, your job is not to be cool, it is to guide your kids and help them make good decisions. “Friends” comes later…after the age of 20 or so, when they are launched and on their own and their lives are no longer any of your business.

Pandora's avatar

Keep your promises. All of them. They remember the promises you break and believe you to be a liar. It then makes it easy for them not to follow through on their promises and see no problem with lying.

If I told them they would be punished for doing something wrong. I followed through.
If I told them I promised to take them to the park that day, I would follow through. But I would usually tell them that I promised to take them if they promised to behave before going and if the weather permitted. If the weather was bad I would take them out when it was good again or make up for it by taking them to an indoor event place.

muppetish's avatar

One note that I would like to mention from the child’s perspective is: don’t feel pressured to hide the bad times from your kids. I know that the temptation to allow kids to believe that everything is completely fine and proceed with life as usual, but when times are hard, it can be beneficial to reach out to your kids and let them now—maybe not the full extent of the problems, but to let them know the cliff notes.

When I was growing up, my parents were always on the cusp of financial ruin. Times were really hard, and we were completely kept in the dark about it. In order to maintain this facade, my parents spent too much on us—even if it was only little things here and there. If we had known, we would have insisted on doing more, helping out more (even if it was just picking up more chores around the house or cutting back on treats, etc.) My parents insisted that we would simply be happier not knowing.

Looking back at all the hardships my parents had to endure for us makes me feel incredibly guilty. All those happy memories of Christmas feel a bit tainted in retrospect because my parents needed that money more than I needed those toys. I would have felt just as happy with far less.

So clue your kids in when things are stressful. You aren’t going to ruin their childhood by letting them learn that times get hard. You can get through it together.

Kardamom's avatar

Do not be a “Tyler” mom. This is the woman who takes her kid into a store and the child immediately starts mis-behaving, and then you hear this, “Tyler, honey, put that down, Tyler. Tyler come back over her, Tyler. Honey! Put that down. (you hear a crash). Tyler, honey, what is that in your hand? Tyler, put that down! Tyler, mommy’s counting! Tyler, honey I said to put that down, now what have you got in your mouth? Tyler mommy’s counting, one. Tyler, please come over here. Mommy’s counting, one, two! Tyler! Honey put that down (you hear another crash and a spill of a drink). Tyler! OK, I’ll get you another Fanta, but you have to put that down first (you hear screaming from Tyler).

And it goes on and on and on. Before they entered the store, Mommy should have told Tyler exactly what he should do and not do (such as keep your voice down, stay with Mommy and the cart, and not to pick up anything) The first time Tyler picked up the item, Mommy should have firmly told him to not only put it down, but to put it back exactly where it came from. If he refused or started to scream. She should have told him firmly that they were leaving, and she should have left. When they got home, she should have told him exactly why they left the store (because he refused to follow instructions). Then she should put him on the Naughty Step ala Jo Frost from the Supernanny.

I really admire Jo Frost’s way of teaching and disciplining children. She’s firm, but loving. No one gets hit, no one gets screamed at, and there are age appropriate explanations for why the child is receiving the punishment he/she gets. I’ve tried this technique with some of my young friends and relatives (I don’t have kids) and it works. One of my cousins is an elementary school teacher and she uses these techniques. Because of this, she is both loved and respected.

Of course you, yourself, must lead by example. If you don’t want your child to be a slut or a player, or irresponsible with money, or selfish or mean, don’t be those things yourself. If you want your child to be kind and polite, be that way yourself. If your child attempts to act in a way that would not make you proud, let them know ahead of time exactly what you think is acceptable and what is not, and have age appropriate punishments lined up for them if they go against what you think is appropriate behavior. Be open to listening to them, so they can explain why they might think it’s cool to behave in a certain way. I remember my early teenage years as having influential peers making shaming comments to me, such as, “So do you always do everything your parents tell you to do? You must be a goody two shoes.” or hearing other girls say stuff about other girls, such as, “God did you see Liz, she’s so lame, look at her dorky clothes and greasy hair.” Peers can have a really negative effect on your kids, if your kid is especially sensitive or shy (like I was back then) to try to fit in, or at least blend into the background, and not be the center of attention in a negative way (to be made to feel ashamed of themselves). That’s why some young pre-teen girls will starve themselves or dress like Miley Cyrus. Because if they don’t, their friends will tell them they are lame and drop them. Be very aware of this situation, especially with girls.

Have your information ready at hand to explain why it’s neither cool nor appropriate to behave in certain ways. Never say, “Just do it!” or “Because I said so.” Because that will just make you look stupid.

Having said the above paragraph, know that I think you are a wonderful person and a great parent. I think you are very wise and would never do something stupid or mean. I think the hardest part (I’m guessing) about being a parent is becoming tired of having to manage it all, ever day, never being able to take a vacation day off from being a parent. So there is always the danger in becoming too tired to do the right thing by way of your kids. I see it every day. With parents who have the best intentions, but their day to day lives are so busy and tiring, that sometimes it’s just easier to use the TV as a babysitter, and it’s easier just to let their kids eat soda and chips for dinner, because they’re simply too tired to shop for and prepare a nutritious meal.

Sometimes it’s good to have charts, depends upon what kind of kid you have. Some kids need charts to be able to complete their tasks and remember what is expected of them. Some kids just need reassuring comments every now and then from their parents. You have to know what kind of personality your particular kids had, because some kids need more encouragement and micromanaging than others. But if you get your kids mixed up and use the wrong kind of technique on one, rather than the other, it’s going to be a difficult battle for both you and the child. An easy going child needs different techniques than a more defiant or independent minded child. An easy going child may only need you to let her know that you expect her to clean her room and make her bed. A more difficult child may need a chart with very exact specifications as to what it means to “clean” a room or make a bed.

snowberry's avatar

It didn’t matter what I told my son about learning from other people’s mistakes. He insisted he had to make the mistake himself in order to learn from it. He’s mostly settled down now, but I used to pull my hair a lot.

I know that’s not advice, but understand that there are some kids who are simply very difficult. Others are dream children.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Love them, have patience with them, read to them, spend all the time you absolutely can with them, and let them make their own decisions where it’s relatively safe. And above all let them know they can always come to you with anything.

DWW25921's avatar

Random trips to the park and various stores helps break up a routine.

whitenoise's avatar

Just some random thoughts:

Don’t punish. Don’t spank.

Ignore negative behavior, as much as possible.

Reward positive behavior, as much as possible.

Don’t ask questions when you wont accept the answer. (That is… don’t ask “Shall we go eat?”, but rather say “Let’s go eat”)

Offer choices, but in a way that benefits the process. (Don’t ask “what do you want to eat”, but “do you want two or three potatoes”)

Talk to other parents.

Don’t believe anyone that says they know the absolute truth about how to raise a child.

Don’t shout, curse, yell, manipulate etc… In other words… don’t set a bad example.

Say and show that you love your child.

Be forgiving and supportive even if you knew ahead of time, things would fail.

Don’t spank or apply other means of corporal punishment.

Don’t play mind games with your child.

Not all kids are the same!

And enjoy

SomeoneElse's avatar

1. Just do your best.
2. Do not read every child-raising book in print.
3. Sprinkle the love about liberally.
4. Laugh a lot.
5. Read their favourite books until they are telling you that you have missed out whole pages.
6. Number 1 again.

mattbrowne's avatar

Don’t let children watch tv commercials.

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