An entire encyclopedia could be written about the topic of how to raise children. And it probably wouldn’t be complete.
But I can tell you a few things I’ve learned that will hopefully shed some light in the topic.
I also may be writing this as a reminder to myself as I prepare to welcome my second child into the world. Oliver is due anytime now.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned about raising a kid…
1 Practice matters.
As I grew up, I had exposure to many kids of different ages, I helped family and friends taking care of kids here and there. Now that I’m a father, I know it made a huge difference.
Observing how things are done, and why things are done is almost as important as getting hands on experience. Get some practice before and understand what you’re doing.
An example of this, I think I changed one or two diapers in my life before Claire was born, but I watched hundreds of diapers being changed. Not always by choice by the way. The results are that I instinctively knew how to put a diaper on correctly.
2 Learn how to put a diaper on.
Most people don’t know how to put a diaper on. The diaper sags, or comes loose or worse, leaks. Claire has had a total of 0 blowouts under my watch. I know how to put a diaper on. Parents used to tell me that “blowouts happen” and there’s “nothing you could do about them.” They’re wrong.
If your kid constantly has “blowouts” then they are ill (diarrhea, or a lack of essential nutrients), or you’re putting the diaper on incorrectly.
3 Talking to kids is huge
Listen always seeking to understand not to be understood. As a kid I was the quiet type and still am fairly quiet. I like to listen to people first and for some reason, people confide in me a lot. I ask questions when they tell me things so that I can understand better. It is because of these questions and this experience that I feel I’m well equipped to guide my own kids through life.
You can’t anticipate how a situation may turn out if you haven’t at least talked about it. Talk to people about their feelings, their emotions. Ask why they do the things they do.
Don’t judge while you do this but take mental notes, it could be the key to understanding how your kid reacts to a particular situation later down the road. And of course, have conversations with your kids!
4 Kids like routine
Setup a schedule, a routine and follow it but break it whenever it’s necessary. Many parents are crazy rigid with their schedules. Literally, they will not do something or do something based on 5 minute intervals. This is ridiculous! If only life was so predictable then I could agree with this.
The reality is that life is unexpected, it throws curves at you and there is only so much planning you can do. Instead, I like to setup a structure for learning and playing and basic needs, then roll with it.
If Claire isn’t feeling up to taking a nap then she won’t. If she wants to sleep 3 hours instead of 1.5, then she can. I find this to be helpful to their development and also sets up a structure for responsibility.
5 We worry way too much.
I worry a lot, I get anxious when Claire goes to the pool without me. I’m a nervous when she goes to Disneyland with a family member and I can’t join them.
I’ve watched too many movies, heard too many horrific news stories and experienced too many tragedies from friends and families to not worry.
But the reality is that statistically, your kid will be fine. Teach them, train them, talk to the other care givers about your concerns and do everything you can to prepare everything in advance. Realize you’re going to worry, but also let it be.
6 Talk to them like adults.
From the moment they are in the womb and at least when they first arrive. Talk to them. It is true that “baby talk” is good for them to relate to you and feel confident. Funny, silly voices are great too.
But don’t try to dumb down words or concepts to them. Ever since Claire was born, I have been talking to her. I would talk to her about whatever I’m doing, and explain what I’m doing.
I talked to her about whatever she was doing and as she gave me inquisitive looks I would explain more. Nowadays When I talk to Claire, I use the same vocabulary as I use with other adults, I don’t shield her from this. This helps her strive to understand more and to speak faster.
I also don’t correct her too much if she uses the wrong word or can’t pronounce it right. That would hurt her self-confidence. Instead I repeat whatever she said correctly and move on to doing what she asked, or what she’s talking about. I know she’ll get it right eventually but it’s more important that she understands that I understand.
Remember they understand and learn way faster than they can act upon that understanding and learning. Remember the graphic I posted a while ago about the sounds that kids can pronounce at different ages? Don’t worry about the fact that they can’t pronounce seemingly easy words like “Sam” or “Can” it takes time for them to master their tongue.
I wrote a full blogpost about this before. You should read it or just read more about the topic. Letting kids cry out is terrible for their development. They are crying for a reason and it isn’t to bother you or to test your patience. It’s because something is not right. It’s your job to figure out what it is. If you’re having trouble about this, I recommend reading Happiest Baby on The Block.
But what if they are trying to manipulate you with whinny crying. If you’ve done it right, you’ll know when they are faking a cry just to get their way (doesn’t happen until 1.5 or 2 years or more), or there is really something wrong.
7 Expose them to normal everyday life.
As soon as Claire was cleared to go outside and she had her first round of shots… maybe even a little before, I took her with me wherever I went. This is how they learn about their environment the most. Let them see, hear, feel, and smell every day life. This is fundamental to language and motor skills.
8 Enjoy the little things.
The little things that are cute, or funny disappear quickly. When they’re infants, they change those things on a daily or weekly basis. Later, you will realize things change completely month to month.
Many parents tend to get attached to how it should be instead of enjoying how it is. Enjoy the moments while they last because when they’re gone, you may end up wishing back that “annoying” thing they did or that “trouble” they caused.
There’s so much more but I’ll have to compile another list for another day. Now how about you? What tips do you have to share? Let me know in the comments!