Tuesday, August 27, 2013

5 Ways to Streamline Parenting

I'm not an expert in child development, but I do have 10 years' experience as a parent. In that time I've made plenty of mistakes. But I've also made enough observations about what works and what doesn't to streamline and simplify the process. (At least little bit.) Here are a few things I've learned along the way, and if you're in the mood to share, go for it! I'd love to hear your tips.

Buy two identical loveys.
Specific, I know, but this piece of advice will save a lot of stress. Children are not known for their flexibility, plus they don't particularly care about cleanliness. If you buy two loveys and switch them out regularly on laundry day, you'll have peace of mind knowing that your child is snuggling with a clean lovey, and your child will never have to give up her security - not even for a couple of hours.

Introduce new foods at the start of the day.
Children are at their best after a good night's sleep. Conversely, they're at their worst at the end of the day (re: dinnertime). So I've taken to serving my picky eater dinner leftovers for breakfast, when my little one is feeling more adventurous. That way, when dinnertime rolls around, I don't have to feel guilty about defaulting to cereal. Cereal also has the added benefit of being simple to prepare, so I feel less like a short-order cook. Once he's more accepting of a diverse diet, I'll transition him to eating what the rest of us do at the dinner table. I figure before long he'll naturally start wanting to eat what the rest of us are eating anyway, like my daughter did.

Wait and see.
I've written about this subject before, but it definitely bears mentioning here. If I had one piece of advice to offer a new parent, it would be to take the "wait-and-see" approach. I'm a planner, so this goes against my nature, but childhood really is nothing more than a series of phases. It's like the weather: If you wait long enough things will change. So whatever the issue, give it a week or two, and you might find you're in a whole new place. All this stress we parents take on about doing away with the pacifier or transitioning to a Big Kid Bed or learning to eat new foods, it's a waste of time. It also places unnecessary stress onto both the parent and child. If you picture yourself and your child 15 or 20 years into the future, you'll see that your worry is likely unfounded. After all, how many teenagers have you seen with their mommies trailing them in case they need a diaper change?

Give up.
I don't take 'no' for an answer. Except when it comes to parenting dilemmas. I've found that if you can't find an answer to a parenting dilemma it's because there isn't one. Sometimes there's no real solution and you just have to wait it out. Take sleep, for example. Or eating. Or potty training. You can ask your fellow parents for their sage advice. You can read parenting manuals. You can ask your pediatrician. But after you've tried try every trick in the book and you're still not making any progress, it's time to admit defeat. If the milestone isn't coming easily, then your child isn't ready. I've found that if I give up and let my child lead the way, things will work themselves out without much intervention from me. My advice: Just hold on and enjoy the ride, you'll be on to the next big issue before you know it.

Leave your child alone.
Obviously I don't mean literally, children need adult supervision. I'm talking figuratively. Children learn very quickly from two things: Doing things for themselves, and failure. Neither of those things can happen if you're there, guiding them along all the time. I struggle here because it's hard for me not to share my rich life experience and infinite wisdom. But seriously, following this tenet requires patience. It takes a lot longer for my children to accomplish a task on their own. The hardest part is finding the fortitude to practice staying uninvolved. The heartbreak of watching them fail, especially when some simple advice could have prevented it, is hard to bear, but they probably wouldn't have listened anyway. Inaction really is the best teaching tool in your parenting toolbox.