These tips were not scored easily. There were years of tears, anxiety and more than a little guilt along this journey. I've read tons of materials and learned by trial and error.
This has left me with a few tips that always work. Almost always.
7 Tips to Parent a Child
1. Are you listening to me? When talking to a young child (if you actually want them to get the message), get down on the floor face-to-face, close to them, eye contact, calm voice. This is extremely effective, especially when the message you want to impart is important. If you want them to cooperate, change a behavior or understand your instructions, this is the best maneuver. It's also an effective way to show affection to your young child. It creates a bond. We all reach down to hug our kids, pick them up for a kiss, hold them on our lap, tell them we love them. Each is special in its own way when expressing affection and should be done often. But, getting down on the floor to share ourselves...that's very personal. A big hug and an "I love you" while sitting in their personal living space has impact. It's their world. They will welcome you there. I've found this to be a great way to meet new children with whom I want to develop a rapport. This is important in my line of work as a caregiver/nanny. At first meeting, I sit down on the floor while I'm speaking with the parent. Typically, within a short period of time the child is either sitting near me or on my lap or is bringing me a toy or a book to share. It's magical. It's your child's world.
2. Buy me that! It's a jungle out there when it comes to shopping with young children. It can be an obstacle course. When it comes to the toy aisle at a store, I have tried avoiding it, speeding through it and pretended not to hear the voice of my child imploring me to buy something. While shopping with my youngest daughter, Savannah, one day, I tried something new. Sitting in the cart, she showed interest in a particular toy, a doll, I think. I said, "I can't buy it for you, but would you like to hold it and look at it for a little bit?" She agreed. I insisted that she be careful with the doll and not remove or damage any packaging. After a couple of minutes, I asked her if she was done. She was not. So I told her I would wait another couple of minutes and then the doll would have to go back on the shelf. She agreed and the doll went back. That little experiment was a total success! It worked with her every time. Now this particular child was always considerate, rarely asked for anything for herself and never had a tantrum. Rather unusual, I admit. So, I wondered if it would work with other children who were not so easily convinced. Years later, while caring for one of my foster children, I tried it again. This little girl was a mess. She was two years old, angry, defiant and qualifies as the most difficult child I've ever in my life encountered. Although she required a little more convincing the first time I tried this, bantering back and forth with me a couple of times and giving me the pitiful face, she finally agreed to the conditions. After the first time trying this, shopping became a positive experience for both of us. I have used this tactic many times with many children with absolute success. Often, I just continue shopping, periodically checking with the child as to whether they have finished holding the toy. When they are ready or when it's time for me to check out, whichever comes first, we return the item to its designated shelf space. This also teaches children civility and respect for other people's property. This technique has not failed me yet.
3. Yeast infection on a baby's butt. Many parents know the painful battle zone of yeast infection. It's awful. Often, we don't realize that it is yeast lurking behind our infant's diaper and try different products to heal the dreaded diaper rash. By the time we realize that nothing is working, that poor little baby's butt may be covered with painful, bloody, blister-like lesions. If you've seen it once, you recognize it. The baby is in excruciating pain and is being tortured with each diaper change. Here's a solution that came directly from the mouth of a licensed pediatrician, so I am not practicing medicine without a license. This physician deserves a medal for sharing this magic formula. Mix together in a small container with lid, in approximately equal amounts: Desitin Creamy Diaper Rash Cream (remember the 'creamy', not the original thick version), A&D Ointment and Lotrimin Antifungal Cream. First, don't allow your baby to hang out in a wet or poopy diaper. When you diaper, CLEAN that little tush very gently, with as little wiping as possible. Don't use baby wipes as most of them have alcohol in the solution, which burns. Ouch! The best solution is to dangle your baby (bottom half naked) under a faucet of barely warm water. While holding this wiggly, sometimes slippery little person securely, use your hand to wash away urine and any leftover poop debris. This creates the least amount of friction on that wounded skin. Use a mild soap then rinse well. Gently pat dry with a soft cloth. VERY CAREFULLY dry baby's butt with a hair dryer. Air should be cool or barely warm. USE CAUTION. It's convenient to just keep the hair dryer by the changing table, as long as it isn't accessible to children. The blowing air dries out the skin and lesions, which helps with healing. Now for the MAGIC! Spread a thin coat of the preparation onto the skin 3-4 times per day.You should see improvement the first day and complete healing likely within three to four days. Your infant will thank you.
4. Maintain boundaries. To some parents, this seems a monumental task. It's not. It's easy, especially if that is how you begin parenting your little toddlers. There's no pain involved and no harsh discipline required. But even if you didn't start the process at a young age, start now. It will be more challenging, but kids are smart and they figure out what makes their life more pleasant. I was not always so enlightened and have parented without the boundary solution and with it. I guarantee the 'with' is so much easier on everyone. All that is necessary is that one get off of one's butt when one wants one's child to do or not do something. Go to the child and speak kindly and clearly. Yelling across the room is pointless for the most part, no matter how many times you repeat yourself. Change their direction, remove them, remove the item. Every time. No room for laziness. No room for being a couch potato or just too busy. If you follow through every time, even when it feels inconvenient, your child will 'get it'. He/she knows that when you say it, you mean it. Just remember that toddlers until about age two and a half to three forget rules and need more consistent reminders. The younger they are means inconsistent understanding and recalling of consequences. By consequences, I DO NOT mean hitting, spanking, embarrassing or humiliating. Children need their parents to parent them. They should not have to parent themselves and figure out what is best for them. The result is confused, angry, miserable children who will make their parents' lives a living hell. They will cry, scream, demand, throw tantrums and, in general, be pretty obnoxious. All that is required is consistent expectations and follow-through from parents/caretakers. The process of setting boundaries may seem exhausting or difficult, but it isn't. And the outcome is a child who feels safe, knows how to operate successfully in his world and who can function happily. Here's an example. While working as a full-time, live-in nanny, my little guy would go marketing with me. During this one trip (I believe he was three), he wanted to walk instead of be in the cart seat. I told him that he could walk only if he stayed right next to me. He proceeded to wander ahead of me. I returned him to my side and told him that if he left my side again, which was the safe place for him to walk, that he would be riding in the cart. He wandered again. I picked him up and placed him in the seat. He was furious! Cried, pouted, stuck out his tongue and tried to kick me. This was not the usual behavior that he exhibited with me. I told him if he kicked again, he wouldn't get his cookie. Background...We shopped at Safeway, who always had a free cookie to give out at the bakery counter. This was his treat after all the shopping was done and before we headed to checkout. He always got a cookie. Back to the story...he tried to kick me again so I said, "No cookie for you today." He didn't believe me until we were standing in checkout without a cookie. He was stunned and couldn't believe it was happening. He apologized. I accepted. He said, "Now can I have a cookie?" Still no cookie. Again, he was furious. Even as we got to the car, he thought I would give in. He remained angry for the ride home. At no time during this difficult trip did I exhibit anger or frustration, though I surely felt both, and I didn't respond to his cries on the way home. By the time we got home, just a few minutes away, he was over it and moved pleasantly through his day, as usual. Never again did I encounter any crankiness, obstinate behavior or angry faces. Never. He always got his cookie. And my 'cookie' was that he knew that if I said something, about anything, I meant it and I would follow through. It was easy to be with him. Always. I spent five full-time years working with this delightful little boy. About a year after retiring from full-time work with this family, I returned for a week's stay while the parents traveled. At one point, this little boy wanted to do something (I can't remember what) and I said , "No, we're not going to do that." He was all ready to argue then he stopped. He sighed and said, "Okay, Ronda." It's two years later and I still fly to their home to provide care a couple of times a year. I always look forward to spending time with this marvelous person, now age seven.
5. Choices. This one is simple. Too many choices without guidelines is confusing and overwhelming to a kid. It also opens the door to parent/child conflict. When we begin to give our toddler/preschooler choices, make it between two things only. For instance, if it's about choosing a clothing item, pick out two outfits or items that you are happy to have them wear. Let them pick. No wrong answer here. If it's a choice between food items, same applies. Make sure you are okay with either decision. No wrong answer. How about whether to go to the park or play with a friend. Again, make sure you are willing to accommodate either decision. The choices can become more complex or significant as they get older. The child feels successful and learns to trust their own decisions. The parent is not stressed. No arguing required.
6. So much crap! Toys, books, papers, markers, crayons, boxes, bins, dolls, puzzles, toy pieces and parts. Young kids love to dump and run. Then move on to the next dump and run. Many children have so many toys, so much stuff, that all they do is empty one basket of toys, walk away and do it again with the next basket. Even the most organized solutions become pointless if there is too much crap. Too much is confusing and overwhelming. A smaller toy selection and fewer choices makes it possible for a child to actually enjoy the toys they do have. And clean up is so much easier. Try it. Trudge through the accumulation when your child isn't with you. Deciding alone is easier, faster and avoids drama. Toss and organize toys, puzzles, etc., placing all like parts together. Leave just a few things out and available. Place the rest in bins or boxes (well marked as to contents). Store them away. On occasion, box up items that aren't used much and bring something out from storage. My suggestion is to not let the kids know what you're doing or what's stored. They will typically play with what's available. I believe that less helps kids to be more creative, calmer and much happier with the toys and activities they do have on hand.
7. Clean up your room! Sadly, it took many, many years for me to realize that when I said, "Go clean up your room", my kids had no idea how to accomplish it or how to translate my vague expectations. They would go to their room, look around, move a few items around, get distracted, shove a few things under the bed or in the closet and haphazardly cram stuff on their shelves. Naturally, I'd walk in and still see the mess. What I discovered, finally, is that I needed to be a helping supervisor, some balance between being a drill sergeant and just doing it myself. To begin with, the 'less is best solution' (see number tip #6 above) is helpful. Also helpful is having a designated room or location for kid stuff, rather than allowing crap to fill every room of the house, every room a toy zone. What is your job as a helping supervisor? It is to tell your child what needs to go on what shelf or other location. One item or type of item at a time. Work together, having your child find and bring to you certain things. Example, "Help me find all of the little cars. We'll put them in this drawer. Let's put all of the books on this shelf. Would you please bring them to me and I'll stack them." As your child grows, he/she will begin to recognize a "clean room" and will understand your expectations. They will also find their own order and solutions. Your child will also appreciate your willingness to problem solve and to be part of the messy room issue. And what a great opportunity to create fun and to spend quality time with your children. Remember Mary Poppins!