Remember how you devoured parenting books when your child was a newborn? You frantically researched every aspect of infant care, from how to clean her belly button to how to cut his tiny fingernails. As a new parent, you hung on to the advice of experienced parents – parents with babies at least three months older than yours. Sometimes it seemed like the experts had all the answers, while you floundered.
Eventually, all parents develop their own style of parenting and adjust to fit the needs of their particular children. Traditional parenting tips provide the groundwork to raise happy, confident children. Then reality hits: The traditional parenting tip doesn’t fit your distinct personality or the needs of your child. Other times you know drastic measures need to be taken to make an impact on your child. That’s when you resort to “Parental Reality,” the highly creative and innovative technique of doing something totally outrageous to catch your child off guard.
Here are a few traditional parenting tips found in books and websites. If those don’t work, read on to see what parents really do!
Master the morning rush
Traditional parenting tip: Eliminate the morning rush by getting your children in the habit of setting their backpacks by the front door, ready for school. Have them lay out their clothes for the following day before they get ready for bed.
What parents really do: My kids dress in sweat pants or leggings and T-shirts for school the majority of the time. Since those clothes are comfortable and don’t show wrinkles, I decided to let them sleep in their clean school clothes. At night, after their bath, they put on clean underwear and their sweat outfits. The next morning, they simply come downstairs for breakfast, already fully dressed. We find this saves about 10 minutes every morning. My kids are in a better mood because there are no clothes hassles to deal with. Now, while they eat breakfast, I read a few headlines from the morning paper and we have an informal lesson on current events.
Traditional parenting tip: Teach empathy skills by asking questions like, “What do you think that homeless man is thinking as he sits on the bench?” and, “Why did Grandma get teary-eyed when she read your poem?”
What parents really do: I work out of my home. This means my kids take it for granted that I get them ready for school in the morning, deliver forgotten science projects, and drive to an assortment of after school activities. In fact, they took it for granted a few too many times. After being unappreciated, I announced, “Next week, we’re pretending I have a traditional job. I’ll need to get to ‘work’ earlier than you go to school. I’ve arranged for before-and-after-school care through the YMCA. I’ll drop you off at the Y an hour earlier than you usually get up. They’ll take you to school. After school the Y bus will take you to the center and I’ll pick you up at 5:30.”
Their shocked faces were priceless! Amid many complaints, they spent a week at the YMCA learning to appreciate the benefits of having a stay-at-home mom. Best money I ever spent!
Let go of the little things
Traditional parenting tip: Don’t be afraid to bend the rules in low-level decisions. Who cares if your son’s pajama top and bottom don’t match? What’s wrong with your daughter asking to eat her broccoli raw instead of cooked?
What parents really do: When my son Ryan was a pre-schooler, he absolutely loved our Christmas tree. He’d touch the ornaments, asking me to explain where each piece came from. The colored lights fascinated him so he’d gently move them around. When it was time to take the tree down in late December, he was crushed. How could we remove his beloved tree? We’d even slept by it on Christmas Eve. So, I ignored the dropping needles and we kept the tree up for several more months, even going so far as to add silver streamers and party hats on New Years. Finally, after a festive Valentine’s party, our red-doily-covered tree came down.
Fun with finance
Traditional parenting tip: Help your child earn money for that coveted video game. Show them how you manage a weekly food budget. Have them help make a savings plan for a family trip to Disneyland.
What parents really do: Our kids always told us we were tight with our money. On our last vacation, we put them in charge of the entire budget. They had a set amount to spend for our 10-day trip through Northern California. The first two days we lived like kings: fancy hotels, extra desserts for dinner, and even room service. Suddenly, reality hit and they saw the money dwindling fast. They adopted a strict budget. We still had fun, but there were no more trips to the souvenir store. We stayed in cheaper hotels and even had to limit our dinner drinks to water. Our kids quickly learned “money doesn’t grow on trees.”
Traditional parenting tip: Have your child brainstorm solutions for dealing with a bully or improving a test score. Throw in a few silly ideas just to stretch their imagination. Teach children to be creative in solving problems.
What parents really do: Our daughter was having trouble with fractions. Somehow, adding one-fourth and two-thirds made no sense to her. My ever-resourceful husband came to the rescue: “Trina let’s make cookies! Then you can see how fractions produce a great treat.” I entered the kitchen an hour later to find cookies and cookie dough on every piece of available counter space. He certainly had taught Trina to multiply fractions. He gave her the original recipe and had her quadruple the recipe.
Beat the clock
Traditional parenting tip: “The bus comes in 5 minutes” means little to a six-year-old. Some children understand time in relation to TV. Try saying, “Our drive to Grandma’s is as long as one cartoon.”
What parents really do: To help my children gain an awareness of time, we play “games” relating to various amounts of time. We might say, “I’m setting the timer. For the next five minutes everyone has to run around the outside of the house until the timer goes off.”
Sometimes, when we’re outside on a summer day, one person has to talk about themselves for 60 seconds straight. If they stop talking long before 60 seconds, or go way over one minute, we dump a glass of water on their head.