The 10 most important parenting lessons we learned in 2017

7. It’s okay to re-assess the rules and change them

The 10 most important parenting lessons we learned in 2017

2017—what a year! You have worked so hard, and we must say, you have totally ROCKED parenthood. Raising a child is the biggest job of all, and you’re doing it with grace, energy and love. We are in awe of you, mama.

Here are the top 10 lessons we’ve learned about parenting this year:

1. It’s more important to praise your child’s effort than the outcome

Montessori expert Christina Clemer writes that “praising your child’s hard work, rather than his results, helps instill a growth mindset where he believes he can improve through his own efforts.

“Instead of telling your child, ‘You’re a good boy,’ tell him “’I noticed you being kind to your little brother yesterday when you shared your truck.’ This shows him you see his good behavior, without placing judgments on him. Instead of telling him, ‘You’re such a good artist,’ try, ‘I noticed you kept working on your picture until you got it just how you wanted it.”


For more Montessori phrases to try with your child, check out 7 key phrases Montessori teachers use and why we should use them, too.

2. Affection matters... a lot

When parents show their children warmth and affection, children get life-long benefits including higher self esteem, improved academic performance, better parent-child communication and fewer psychological and behavior problems.

Incorporating affection into your daily routine is super easy (and fun)—simply giving your child a hug or playing with them has a tremendous impact.

To learn more about the amazing affects of being affectionate with your children, read How a parent’s affection shapes a child’s happiness for life.

3. Attachment fuels growth

Deborah Macnamara tells us that “When kids can take for granted that their attachment needs will be met, they are freed to play, discover, imagine, move freely and pay attention. It is paradoxical but when we fulfill their dependency needs, they are pushed forward towards independence.

“As a child matures they should become more capable of taking the steering wheel in their own life and we will be able to retreat into a more consulting role.”

Read about the amazing power of attachment in You can’t love too much: How secure attachment helps kids thrive.

4. We need to remember that kids are humans, too

It sounds obvious, but often we forget that children are entitled to the same emotional swings that adults are.

Rebecca Eanes writes, “So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.”

We have to look at the reasons a child may be upset acting out, and acknowledge that while they may seem small or silly, they are very real for the child.

For the full article, check out Remember: your child is human too.

5. Kids need our help dealing with anger

So often we react when our children have an angry outburst, but experts say that what we need to do instead is to respond with understanding and patience. Children don’t know how to deal with their big emotions yet, and we need to help guide them, especially when the emotions feel scary.

For example, instead of saying, “Big kids don’t do this,” try “Big kids and even grown ups sometimes have big feelings. It’s OK, these feeling will pass.”

For more idea on what to say when emotions run big, read 26 helpful phrases to calm your angry child (and yourself).

6. Focusing on your child’s positive traits is so important

It’s so easy to get caught up in the less than perfect parts of our children—the terrible twos, their neediness, the impossible bedtimes.

But with a little practice, we can start to focus instead on the good aspects of these traits, and that can transform our entire parenting outlook, as well as the way we relate to our child. "He’s so curious about the world,” sets our brain up for so much more positivity than, “Why won’t he stop asking questions?”

To learn more, check out 10 habits to shape a kind, well-adjusted child.

7. It’s okay to re-assess the rules and change them

Carol Tuttle says that “as a parent you have a responsibility to set boundaries. But if a child consistently resists a certain boundary, don’t just force them to comply. Ask yourself and your child, ‘Why? Think of yourself as your child’s trusted and effective guide, not their dictator.

When they experience you this way, they’re more likely to listen, which means less struggle and frustration for both of you.”

For more ideas on releasing the frustrating aspects of parenthood, read Want to be a happy parent? Let go of these 15 things to find joy.

8. You can let your child be the boss sometimes

Children, especially spirited ones, feel empowered when given choices—and this often translates to better behavior and less power struggles. Of course, only present choices that are okay with you: “Do you want to read one or two books tonight?” or “Should we walk to the park or drive there?”

By giving them a sense of authority and autonomy, they’ll feel validated and important, and will be more likely to listen when their are no choices available to them.

If you have a spirited child, check out The strong-willed child: 11 ways to turn power struggles into cooperation.

9. We must teach our children about safety

Teaching our kids about body safety starts at a very young age. This includes teaching them the proper names of their body parts, identifying which body parts are “private,” and letting them know about the different between ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe.’

To learn more about safety, read 8 essential ‘body safety’ rules to keep your kids safe.

10. It’s okay to let them fail

Katie Westenberg writes, “Home is a training ground for life... It’s a place where our children are loved no matter what, a place where their worth is not based on performance, and the safest place for them trip and fall and learn about what it takes to get back up again...

“A cut-throat workplace or college class are not the best place for our kids to be learning these lessons for the first time. Be intentional about giving your children a safe place to mess it all up, to crash and burn, to learn consequences and forgiveness and exactly what it takes to get back up and try again.”

For more, read Raising overcomers: How to teach your kids to do hard things.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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