39 million, 100 thousand. That’s how many results come up in a Google search for “parenting strategies.” Good Lord.
Admittedly, I have only been parenting for four years, seven months, and two days. Still, there are a few things I thought I would share that have really helped me along the way.
- Most importantly: Every child is different. Feel free to look at what I do, but by no means think it’s a guide you must follow to raise a decent human being. Like I said, Monkey is only four.
- Solidarity. This was a new experience for me, being raised by a (wonderful) single mother. One of the most comforting things about raising Monkey is knowing my husband has my back and I have his. No matter what. Even if he doesn’t agree, we side-table the issue until we are able to discuss it — without Monkey. This really helps when she is whining… which she does… daily… at length.
- Appropriate punishment. It’s inevitable. Kid steps out of line, parent must respond. We’ve tried a bunch of different things. Time out never worked because it became a game to see how many times she could escape. Also, as right now she’s an only child, it’s not like she’s missing out on that much; we have yet to go in her room and play with her toys without her. Spanking… very controversial. We’ve tried giving her open handed swats on the but. She might cry, but then moves on. Her attention span is that of a gnat. In ten minutes, she’s forgotten what she did and why she shouldn’t. Also, she was one of those babies that liked her bum patted, and has yet to grow out of it. I truly think that the best way to correct behavior is to get inside your kid’s head. What does my kid want? To please people and not missing anything. Which means that as long as she’s been able to comprehend what we’re saying, we’ve been telling her when her behavior disappoints us. I can’t believe how well it works (I would’ve just said sorry and kept it up. She gets devastated.). Now that she’s “big” something that really helps is moving up her bedtime. She never wants to go to bed, convinced we throw all night parties the moment her door shuts. So now, when she doesn’t want to listen, her bedtime gets docked 30 minutes. The best part: we’ve never had to dock bedtime more than once.
- You and, if applicable, your partner are the ones who decide what’s good for your kid. It took me a while to get this one down. I come from a family of outspoken women, and at least one outspoken man. Which means on more than one occasion I’ve been told I’m too strict, not strict enough, no fun, not serious enough, an alcoholic, and a bad mother. What the hell ever. You know what? I have never had to leave a restaurant due to my child’s behavior. She’s never that kid. Not only that, she’s a legitimately good kid. Which means I’m doing something right. You know what else? I bet you have a good kid too. If anyone starts telling you you are raising them wrong, or not “right enough,” they can back the f up and worry about themselves and their crazy suppressed kids that are someday going to go postal.
- Kids have terrible memories. This is especially important with your first kid. You get pregnant, have a baby, and the next day they send you home with a human being and tell you, “Have fun! Don’t raise a serial killer!” With that pearl of wisdom you arrive home, put the tiny human in some contraption that Parent’s magazine told you buy and then you stare at it. Breathing, yes. Asleep, yes. Soooooo… now what. Here’s what: you will mess up. A lot. I did. This tiny human will make you want to punt them between the goalposts and bring you to tears. You will call your parents and apologize for being the little $hit you know you were, because it must have compounded and made your child a demon baby. You’re folding laundry when the baby picks that moment to learn how to roll… right off the couch. The good news? They will forget. (Also, they bounce and are surprisingly resilient.) I don’t want to sound harsh, but I don’t want Monkey to see my parental failures. All that’s important is that she knows I tried my best. She doesn’t remember the day I had to put her in a pack n’ play, go in the other room, and cry for a half an hour because of how angry she made me. As if that weren’t enough, then I felt guilty for being angry at a toddler. However, she’s not going to remember this until I tell her, which I plan on doing when she calls crying to apologize to me.
If any of this helps, awesome. If nothing else, you can take my advice from #4 and tell me to mind my own beeswax. Just remember, there are plenty of people you know who have been through this before and survived along with their children. If they can, so can you.