We asked you to send us your best parenting advice, and boy, did you respond with some wonderful, heartfelt words of wisdom! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared the advice that’s helped them along the way as parents. And congratulations to our 10 lucky winners, who will each receive our top three programs: The Total Transformation by James and Janet Lehman, The Calm Parent: AM & PM by Debbie Pincus, and The ODD Lifeline by Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner.
The best advice is threefold: I’m the mom, not their friend…there will be time enough time when they are older to be a friend. Rules and structure are wanted and needed…even if they fight with you. And don’t let them pull you into an argument….say what you expect and walk away. I got this advice from not only your website but my mom, as well, and I’m finally heeding it. As with any child who grows onto adulthood, I didn’t necessarily believe my mom was right until my girls were out of control. Reading your words (the same as my mother’s) really hit home. Thanks for setting me straight and proving my mom right!”
2. Amber K., mother of a (nearly) 7-year-old son: When You Don’t Have an “Easy” Child
“My husband and I have used many of the articles from the Empowering Parents website over the last couple of years, and we’ve seen a great deal of change for the better in our family. However, I don’t think I could have even had the will to seek out help and to work for our family if I had not received the following advice when my son was about 3 years old. A friend and coworker of mine, who had no children of her own, gave me a copy of Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley. The piece is meant to describe what it’s like to be a parent of a child with a disability, but it fits with the challenging behaviors we’ve seen over the years in our son, who is not disabled. The gist of story is that it’s like being on a plane flying to this fabulous vacation spot in Italy. You’re excited, prepared, and you just can’t wait. However, when the plane lands, you’re told you’ve landed in Holland. It’s not a bad place, but it’s a different place than you expected, and you’re not prepared. The story is really descriptive, and it plays up the positive aspects of not having an “easy” child. It inspired me to work, to learn, and to make my family the best it can be.
3. Jen D.: When Your Kids Think You’re Not Being Fair
“The best parenting advice I have received is in regards to parenting multiple children. So often, children look for everything to be ‘fair’ in their eyes and they do not have the understanding of why rewards/consequences may vary, especially among differing age groups. The advice I have been given is telling the children, “because you are all loved equally, you are treated differently – according to your talents, strengths, and needs.”
4. Rebecca A., mother to 2 girls, age four and nine: A Perfectionist Child or a Well-adjusted Child?
“At a parenting class, the instructor was saying how it was important not to criticize our child’s work when they help around the house….that the outcome was not as important as the process. I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t it my job to teach them to do things RIGHT?’ She answered, ‘That depends, do you want a perfectionist child or a well-adjusted child?’ Of course I knew what my reply should have been, but inside I couldn’t help but think to myself that perfection was the utmost desirable trait, one that I had clung to dearly all my life. By contrasting perfectionism as the opposite of well-adjusted, I was forced to re-evaluate not only my goals of parenting but also the goals for my own life.”
5. H.H., teacher and parent of four kids: If You Do It, Own It — and Make It Right
“My best parenting advice came from a friend who is not only a parent, but who is also a teacher, just like me. I use her advice in the classroom and at home as well. She says, ‘If you do it, own it. Make it right, and then move on.’ This advice has come in handy in both locations for me, and it has really helped my 4 kids, and my students, be more accountable and responsible for their actions. It is amazing how it shuts down an argument and the blame game so quickly. Even the person who feels wronged by the incident, whatever it may have been, feels better after the wrong-doer takes these steps. The wrong-doer even seems to feel better, too, knowing they have taken responsibility for something, and then made it right. Knowing that everyone can move on once the incident is ‘made right’ is liberating for everyone.”
6. Corynn G., mother of two: Parent the Child You Have, Not the Child You Wish You Had
The best parenting advice I’ve ever heard was, “Parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had.”
I read it here on Empowering Parents and remind myself of it daily! One kid with ODD and the other with a brain injury can make for a lot of wishful thinking, but I need to be here and now to deal with the issues we have.”
7. Angela O., mother of teen boys: Hug Your Kids
“The best advice I have ever gotten about parenting would be: Even though my teenage/young adult sons act like they don’t want me to give them hugs anymore, I give them one anyway! (Not in public of course!) One more thing that helped me was to give positive encouragement and not correct them, but let them make their own decisions and mistakes.”
8. Screen name: “Mural mouse,” mother of 4 kids, age 9 to 21. Listen, and Choose Your Words Wisely
“Listen to what your child has to say and let your child speak their mind, whether you agree with them or not; give them a voice to be heard; no matter what their age; unless of course it is abuse. Be consistent in what your expectations are with them in regards to the family rules you set and enforce. There are certain times to be flexible. Be their parent not their friend, they usually have plenty of friends; they need you more as a parent than as a friend. Each child is their own individual, treat them that way and allow them to grow independently in who they are; give them support and guidance, but allow them to make their own mistakes and allow them to learn from them. Learn from your own mistakes. Don’t be their enabler. Don’t react to their reactions; give yourself a time out if you are going to react in a way you will regret later. Choose your words wisely so they don’t wound the spirit. Most importantly, show them you love them unconditionally through both your words and actions; through their trials and joy.”
9. Sheila S., mother of 6 adult kids, grandmother of 15: Age-old advice from Mrs. Dan Gerber: Learn Together
“I am the mother of 6 children, ages 42, 40, 37, 34, 31, and 26. We’re also blessed with 15 grandchildren. The best parenting advice I ever received came from ‘Mrs Dan Gerber,’ of Gerber baby food fame! As a young mom expecting my first baby back in the 1970’s, I knew very little about baby care or raising children, so I was eager to acquire any information that was available in books and magazine articles about parenting. Somehow, a copy of Mrs. Gerber’s book, Bringing up Baby arrived in my mailbox one day. It must have been heaven-sent, because I hadn’t ordered it.One phrase has stuck with me for more than 4 decades now…’You have never been a mother before, but your baby has never been a baby before, either.’ Just realizing that both baby and I were going to learn together what to do and how to do it took a lot of pressure and anxiety off me, and allowed me to relax and enjoy my children as they each came along.”
10. Katherine B., mother of young adult children: I Wanted My Kids to Be My Friends
WHY WAS MY BEST as a parent not GOOD ENOUGH? Because feelings got in the way. I wanted my child to like me back. I wanted him to accept me. I wanted his friendship. But without a compass to guide my parenting course, I strayed into the land of disrespectful kids, high school dropouts, grown-up irresponsible adults, failed marriages, and one big fat broken heart. I played my inner tape frequently, ‘Just love them more, then they will feel drawn to you. . . Just love them more (work harder) and they’ll share their inner-selves.’ But while I was doing my best, I was sabotaging my own parenting and encouraging problem behaviors which would take an act of God to set into reverse. Enter The Total Transformation, and James Lehman’s words, “Parents don’t need to improve their feelings with their kids in order to change behavior; they need to change their behavior in order to help their feelings.” This mother, after 30 odd years, is finally getting it down!
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.