If there was ONLY one tip I could give new and expecting parents it is this:
START AS YOU MEAN TO GO.
Meaning, start doing things right from the beginning, as you want to be doing them forever (or for as long as they are relevant!). Of course this advice needs to be tempered because there are certain things this won’t apply to. There are just some needs that new babies have that need to be tended to until they grow out of them, but you get the idea hopefully.
If you don’t plan for this concept ahead of time, often what happens is, in the moment, you make a “temporarily” convenient solution and then, later on, you realize that was a mistake and you try to backtrack, and by that point, the child isn’t having it and it becomes a fight. Most of the time when we end up in a battle with our kids, it’s OUR fault because somewhere along the way, we didn’t set the expectation well enough.
I often use the example of eating in the car. No offence to anyone who doesn’t mind a messy car or lets their kids eat in their carseats, but I know so many parents whose cars are disasters. Some of them don’t care but many of these parents have said things to me like “sorry about the car, you know kids” Or “ya, I don’t like the mess, but they always get hungry so what can you do?”. Hmmmm. Most likely the culprit here is not the kids. It’s the parents who allowed this habit to begin in the first place. Personally, mealtime is very important to me, for many reasons but mostly because I am a foodie and I think home cooked, healthy meals should be something to be enjoyed calmly, sitting down, in the right environment. My hubby and I never eat on the go-we like to sit down and enjoy mealtime, so, it was always important to me that meals never be given to my kids “on the go”, or to pacify. Also, I’m a neat freak but that’s another post. And finally, I think very small children eating in the backseat of a moving vehicle, when you can’t keep an eye on them all the time, is also a safety issue but maybe that’s just me.
In any case, this isn’t something that is a fight for us today. My kids are 4. They have never even asked to eat in the car because it’s not even a THING to them. Will I ever allow it in the future? Possibly. I know that as they get older and busier with school and various activities-this may become a necessity but it will be the exception and not the rule. And because they haven’t grown up with it being normal, they won’t expect it. And my car is clean (my dad would be proud).
Now, if you don’t mind a crumby mess and this isn’t important to you? Great! Eat away! That’s just an example. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. My clean car may actually creep people out. I get that. The point is, parents should take stock of their lives and really think about how they want to go raising their kids, and then plan from there how they will handle certain things. This includes things like discipline, eating habits, sleeping habits, manners, etc. It is much easier to start early and make tweaks, than fix mistakes later. Whatever is important to you, talk about it with your partner and have a plan in place on how you’re going to handle it. Are you going to succumb to the “please mom can you buy me that toy?” every time you’re at Target? It is so hard to resist buying them a little treat for being so “good” while you’re shopping! OR, if they are whining that you’re taking too long so you bribe them with said toy. But guess what? If you do it, you are setting up an expectation. That’s a first class ticket to meltdown city. You’ve all seen it. The kid, on the floor, screaming and crying because his mom suddenly decided this time he can’t buy a toy. Yikes.
The point is, many parents blame circumstances or a child’s personality for certain things that can actually be nurtured properly ahead of time. They just didn’t realize they could affect those things by preparing well. I always say, when you have twins, you are a little more qualified to talk about what is attributed to personality and what is attributed to environment. Because moms of twins are raising two little humans in exactly the same way at exactly the same time, it is very clear what is truly innate in them and what has been nurtured. This is why I truly believe in this principle of starting as you mean to go. Both my children, despite very different personalities, respond very well to the intentions my partner and I have set out ahead of time.
YOU are the parent. Your kids will be counting on you to set expectations, boundaries, rules, guidelines. They CAN handle it. They WANT and NEED it! YOU create their life. If you don’t start as you mean to go, or, with the end in mind, you may end up somewhere you didn’t want to be!