Posted by Duff

I don’t know much.  This is especially true when it comes to raising children. Before I had one of my own, I had never babysat the same child more than twice (apologies to baby Kristen ca. 1990 – you were asleep when I got there and I never even looked in on you because I was terrified of babies).

Now I realize you don’t disturb a baby willing to sleep through the night. Note to self: Stop checking on and waking up your children before going to bed yourself.

Since you shouldn’t trust anything I’ve got to say, the following are some of the most valuable tidbits I’ve picked up from other mothers, seasoned childcare professionals who are worth The Dervish’s weight in gold, and Little Miss Unpredictable herself.  Here’s hoping some of them can help just one person:

Don’t wake a sleeping baby. Unless: it’s daytime and the baby has been sleeping for more than three hours.

To promote nighttime sleeping, feed a baby every 2.5-3 hours during the day. Eventually your baby may eat larger meals every four hours, but s/he’s going to need the calories at some point. May as well be when you were planning to be awake. (Follow this routine and 90% of babies will sleep five hours or more at a stretch, and probably longer, by three months of age.)

Having trouble loading your squirmy child into legholes of baby gear? Hold your child in football hold to keep legs separated, then go vertical, threading feet through the holes.

Let your child guide you on his/her readiness.  Imagine my surprise when daycare told me that The Dervish wanted a sippy cup and table food, ASAP. At five months, she was grabbing food out of my mouth. At four months, Atticus is hungry after 40 oz per day. I had planned to wait six months before introducing solids to both of them, but they became screamy baby birds who grabbed for the spoon as soon as they saw it. So they got their own spoons.

Keep “No” to a minimum. I am not in any way suggesting you be permissive — I’m just saying that “No” is not nearly as effective as other words/phrases. While “No” either went unheard or inspired a stand off in our house, “Not Safe” worked even before The Dervish understood the difference between safety and danger.

A cheerful redirection (Let’s try this over here!) is more effective than an order. For instance, The Dervish rarely wants to stop playing to do something we need to do (usually involving leaving the house). But she is happy to lead a parade to the bathroom where we can brush our teeth as equals.

Invoke Your Child’s Empathy. Kids love to act like grown ups. And you have probably noticed on how frustrated or defeated your child is when s/he tries to do something beyond her skill level. Build confidence by asking your child to help you. You will be amazed at how happy it makes them to help you figure something out or bring you something you need. Your genuine appreciation will bring out your child’s natural tendency to cooperate. 

Pick your battles. The Dervish wore pajamas all day on the weekends while I was pregnant with Atticus because she wanted to, and it hurt no one. She also went to daycare that way a few times.  I felt much better when one of her teachers told me another mother once brought her three-year old daughter, who refused to get dressed, to school wrapped in a blanket.

Don’t set your child up to fail. I learned this gem from Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies. The same principals that work for a dog who has never lived in a home environment apply to a child who is new to everything. Don’t want your child playing in the toilet or unwinding the toilet paper? Easily fixed with a childproof doorknob. We went through a phase where The Dervish was pushing suprisingly heavy wooden kitchen and dining room chairs around the house to access things higher up. Two solutions: remove the chairs until the phase passes, or move belongings to even higher ground.

Enjoy your child, don’t anticipate him/her. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten, and it came from a woman named Cary from a chat board, who will probably never see this and know how much I appreciate it.  I wasted so much of The Dervish’s first 20 months trying to keep her from crying. I wonder if either one of us ever had any fun during that time. Thanks to Cary, I’m taking a much different approach to mothering Atticus.

Feel free to share your own collected parenting wisdom here.