I’ve been writing about parenting for more than 10 years, and all the books, expert advice readers’ tips and my own common sense have not only guided me with my own journey as a mom, but have helped me help other moms.
If I were to write down my golden “rules” or must-dos for parents, these would include:
1. Get some me time
If you’re not looked after, it will be difficult to look after your kids successfully. Where possible, take a nap, go shopping by yourself, get your hair done, or watch some series.
There’s nothing wrong with making yourself a priority and taking care of yourself, so don’t feel guilty about having some time off, or escaping a bit.
2. Tell your child how you feel
I tell my kids daily that I love them, and I also tell them when I’m feeling sad, tired, angry or happy. I’m hopefully teaching them that emotions are healthy and normal, and that it’s helpful to talk about them so we can work through things, or just understand each other’s behaviour.
Aside from the developmental benefits, reading to your kids is an excellent bonding activity, and a lovely thing to do before bedtime. You’re unlikely going to be distracted or on your phone, so your child is really getting the “best” of you before you go to sleep.
4. Always kiss them goodnight
This is a reminder how much you love them, and I don’t know what it is, but I love kissing my kids while they’re sleeping, and before I go to sleep. Weird? Or wonderful?
5. Save money for them
Set up a university fund for your kids, or start investing for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small amount – just get started, and down the line, you’ll be grateful you did.
6. Don’t buy into gender stereotypes
It’s okay for your boy to bake cakes and dress up dolls, and your daughter can play with trucks and science kits.
Buying into gender stereotypes can rob children of what they love doing, and restrict their full development.
As a parent it’s difficult to not intervene when your older child is about to make a mistake, but sometimes it’s the best way for them to learn.
I’m not saying you should let them do something irresponsible and dangerous, but letting them learn the consequences of their behaviour (the non-dangerous type) can build confidence, and increase their independence, resilience and self-reliance. Also, by making mistakes, kids can accept responsibility for them, and learn that it’s completely normal to make them. Don’t forget to carry on showing love even when they do make mistakes.
8. Say yes to ice cream in the morning
I know many moms will disagree with me on this, but the reason I have kids who love veggies and fruit is because they’re allowed to eat the occasional cupcake or ice cream for breakfast, if they so wish. By giving them the choice, I’m avoiding conflict. I also don’t believe that some foods are “good” and others are “bad”, so nothing is really off limits, and they pretty much eat everything as a result.
This is the hardest one for me as I feel very out of control when my home is dirty, or when my toddler needs a good cleaning.
However, dirty play is not only fun, but it’s been shown to increase their immunity, improve their motor skills, and foster a love for nature and the outdoors if they’re outside.
I can see when my daughter plays outdoors in sand and water, she’s so happy, and equally so with finger paints and messy crafts.
10. Have fun
Sometimes I’m so busy trying to keep my kids safe and happy, that I forget to have fun. Being a responsible parent doesn’t mean being a boring parent, and it’s okay to be a cautious parent AND a fun one.
If that means jumping on the bed with your child, having impromptu parties, building forts or playing dress up, then do it. Parenting is so much more enjoyable when you’re laughing and having fun.