In celebration of my first grandchild arriving, I feel the urge to unload some of the more successful parenting lessons we have learned.
I once declared that parenting advice probably shouldn’t come from anyone who isn’t a grandparent. Well, now I qualify.
Calling this Round 1. Planning to add more, as I think of more useful advice. So, here’s the good stuff for you new parents out there.
Getting the kids to sleep.
Kids don’t tend to sleep when they are excited, hungry, scared or sugared up. Once those issues are dealt with, there’s a few tricks we used to get the little ones to sleep.
Most of the time, holding them while gently rocking was enough. If not, we would very slightly rub their temples with our fingertips until the snoring started… Ours or theirs.
As they got older, we had to get smarter. I eventually discovered the greatest trick for them, once they got into the 3-6 year range.
When my kids announced that they were not tired and refused to go to bed, I would challenge them. “Prove it.”
The game was, if they could keep their eyes closed for five minutes without falling asleep, they could get up. If they peeked, the clock was reset. As of today, not one ever beat that five minute mark. Naps and bedtime without a war. Yep.
My oldest was the toughest. With her, we discovered that she was afraid that she might miss something. After assuring her that we would wake her up if anything amazing happened, she quit resisting. A week later, after getting her up to see a fresh snowfall, the deal was set. Never had another issue with her.
Two things saved our sanity when they hit those accident prone seasons, tripping and falling as their little feet adjusted to growing bodies.
We learned to let them react first. We learned to stay calm and see how bad it was. If we cried or panicked before they did, our reactions influence theirs. When we were calm, they were calm. If we panicked, they figured it must be a tragedy deserving of a justifiable freak-out.
We developed a magical treatment we called “baby medicine.”
The application of baby medicine, to completely insignificant bumps and ego bruises, involved wetting a q-tip under the tap and rubbing the boo-boo. It worked so well, none of them ever questioned the fact that we always left the room to get it and never showed them a bottle.
When my oldest was about 15, we offered the baby medicine to her little brother. “You still have that stuff?” She asked in disbelief. “Sure. Want to see it?” We asked.
It might have been the funniest reaction in history, when she realized that we had been applying tap water to her for years. It was even funnier the first time she was caught using the same trick on her brother.
One more? How about materialism?
We never had any issues with our kids always wanting or needing more and more stuff. My kids never begged or demanded anything. They have always been pretty amazing kids, in the gratitude and generosity arenas, too.
Want to know why?
Every year, in the days leading up to birthdays and Christmas, we would purge their stuff. Any toys or clothes that had been outgrown or become obsolete were bagged up and given away. We had to make room for the new stuff by giving the old stuff a new home.
It wasn’t a fight, because we started when they were little. It was just part of the routine by the time they were old enough to question it.
For the new stuff, our kids were asked if there was anything they really wanted. At Christmas we would ask them to pick 2 or 3 items they would like as presents, promising that we would do our best to get at least one for them.
This required some thought, they were very selective. If the list was cluttered with random stuff, the important stuff might be ignored. Reducing it to a few items made it more likely that they would get something they really wanted. Something that would be taken care of and considered precious.
Every day, my kids give me new reasons to be proud of them. Looking forward to watching the new guy grow up now. Pretty excited to be a grand parent.
If you need more, sign up for the mailing list and wait for the next random installment of whatever drifts through my elderly brain. You can also check out some parenting advice from my wife here.
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M. Erik Matlock is a self-professed recovering knucklehead with more than 500 articles and four books in print. He shares his hard-earned wisdom at ErikMatlock.com, ProSoundWeb.com and through his books, which are available at Amazon.