20 Parenting Lessons I've Learned

My older daughter just turned 20, which is hard to believe. (Fortunately, I also have an 8-year-old to keep me feeling young.) To mark this milestone, these are 20 things I have humbly learned along the way.

  1. Your kids save their worst behavior for you. At least they are on their best behavior with teachers, babysitters, relatives, and their friends' parents.
  2. Wake up a little earlier. Drinking your coffee alone and getting organized for the day before anyone else is awake is a peaceful way to start the day. (Then it's also helpful to go to sleep a little earlier too.) Try these other ways to de-stress.
  3. Always have a variety of different types of bandages at home. You never know which kind you'll need—sometimes you want one that is thin and flexible; other times you need it to be thick and waterproof.
  4. Use an even more pleasant tone with your kids than you think you need to (and smile). It's amazing how often they think you're angry at them when you're not ("Stop yelling at me!").
  5. Never stop buying baby food. They are a pantry staple: I always slip a jar of pureed carrots or sweet potatoes into pancake batter, for example.
  6. Keeping two kinds of liquid soap at your sink makes kids more likely to wash their hands. They love to have a choice, especially if the soaps have interesting scents.
  7. Always be nice to your own mom when you're around your kids. They're watching.
  8. Candy (in moderation) makes kids happy. It is one of the joys of childhood.
  9. Cook tomorrow night's dinner after the kids are asleep and put it in the fridge. It'll ready to heat and eat and you'll be less rushed when everyone's hungry and tired. Try these easy dinner recipes.
  10. Getting along is more important than getting everything you want.
  11. Breakfast is a perfect time to read to your child—even after she knows how to read herself.
  12. If you have a daughter, diet is a four-letter word. Even when I've been trying to lose weight, I only talk about how the point of eating well and exercising is to be strong and healthy.
  13. Volunteer to drive. You learn a lot when your child is chatting with her friends in the car.
  14. When your child complains about something that happened at school, try not to take the teacher's side. Often, the best response is simply, "Wow." (Thanks, Dr. Wendy Mogel.)
  15. Summer camp is magical.
  16. If you're not crazy about one of your kid's friends, think twice before you say anything critical. This can make her even more appealing in your child's eyes.
  17. Timing is everything. When you need to share disappointing news with your child or ask her to do something she won't want to do, don't bring it up when she's tired or hungry or rushing. Wait for a moment when she's calm and generally content.
  18. Toddlers and teenagers have a lot in common.
  19. Put a little clock in the bathroom. It makes it much more likely that you'll all get out of the house on time.
  20. Choose to be in a better mood. It's easy to be grumpy, but good moods are contagious.

Please—tell us one of the most important things that you've learned.

Image via Shutterstock

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