When our first child was born, we discovered very quickly that those with the most passionate parenting advice...
Were those who didn't even have children of their own!
You know, those well-meaning individuals in Wal-Mart who look at you like you're crazy when your kid is pitching a royal fit in the middle of the cereal aisle? Then they tell you what you should be doing to "control that child."
Or your friends who just got married, but they just KNOW how you should do things. And they tell you b/c, after all, they have a masters degree - (in marketing or something).
Well, Gregg and I both agreed early-on that we would never give parenting advice to people with children OLDER than our own. We hadn't been there, and had no right to start spouting "well-meaning" opinions - uhhh, I mean advice - to anyone.
Fifteen years and 8 children later, I think we've earned the right to share a few tips. :) We haven't been venturing through the adolescent phase of parenting long enough to warrant a lot of advice there yet, but the infant/toddler years...
Well, we've learned A LOT about those!
So, here they are (in the order in which they came to my mind). A few things we've learned along the way.
10 Random Tips for Parenting:
1. ALWAYS use extreme care when checking for a dirty diaper, and NEVER stick your finger in there!
2. Introduce veggies as first foods. Don't worry, they will definitely love the fruit when it comes along next. If you do this vice versa...it might not work out so well.
3. Let them suck their thumb for the first year of their lives without worry. Cherish it. Ooooo and ahhhh about how cute it is when they put their thumb in their mouth. And take lots of pictures. And, be thankful you saved money on buying pacifiers, and saved countless hours looking for the things....Then, the day after they turn 1, put a Thumbguard on the favored thumb for 3 days, take it off, and they won't suck their thumb again. All done! (It's worked for us twice and we're about to try it for the 3rd time. Pretty confident it will work again.)
4. Consistent discipline is best and sounds SO EASY in every parenting book you read. But, it ISN'T EASY!! Some days you find that you've said your child's name 100+ times when you should've disciplined the first time of disobedience. Don't give up. Remember tomorrow is a new day. Start with clear discipline early in the day and keep pressing on. YOU CAN DO IT!
5. Read to your kids - OFTEN. Teach them to love to read themselves. The sky will be their limit!
6. Having name-brand clothes is nice. They really do hold up longer than some of the others. Believe me, when they're on your 5th son, and they still look relatively good, I'd say it's a good brand of clothes. But, having name brand clothes just to impress others, shouldn't be a priority. It's okay to buy secondhand, and hand-me-downs are God's special blessings.
7. Say "yes" whenever you reasonably can. Otherwise, I have found myself saying "no" to everything - even when I could've said "yes." Ask yourself these questions: "Is this a moral issue?", "Is it safe?", "Can our family afford this?" If it doesn't violate the moral principles you have embraced for your family, it's safe, and you can financially afford it, then you can probably say "yes".
8. Let your children help with basic tasks when they are very little, and instill in them a strong work ethic. Even an 18 month old can help pick up toys, help toss wet laundry into the dryer, carry a bottle of ketchup to the dinner table, etc. When they're little, it's fun! When they're older...it's ingrained.
9. Your little ones will most likely meet your expectations, so EXPECT GREAT THINGS.
10. Compliment and encourage your children often. Don't offer empty praise. (They will most likely pick up on your shallowness before you do.) But, find things about them each day that you find wonderful, and tell them very specifically. (ex: "I really love the way you took your laundry and put it away before I even asked!" or "I know you were really frustrated with your brother, but you did the right thing by being nice to him." or "I really love dandelions when you pick them from the yard and bring them to me. It makes me feel so special."
Good parenting is not for the faint-hearted, but I'm holding tightly to God's word when he says, (emphasis mine)
"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; The fruit of the womb is His reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate." (Psalm 127:3-5)
And, I know all this work is gonna be SO WORTH IT!!