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How To Be A Cool Parent With These 15 Parenting Tips For Toddlers

“So much to do, so little time!” is the most frequently uttered phrase by workaholics. However, once those workaholics become parents, ‘little time’ basically becomes an understatement – there is absolutely no time to handle both family life and work in a successful manner. Or is that really the case? What if I told you that it all comes down to something which might sounds clichéd, but is actually key to work-life balance: time management. That’s right – you’ve probably heard it a million times, but really – it’s not the time itself, but what you do during that time. Without sacrificing any of the two, you can actually have your cake and eat it too. Here are some great parenting tips for toddlers, for those who don’t want to skip work, but don’t want to sacrifice the family life either.

1) CHOOSE AT LEAST A DAY FOR A FUN ACTIVITY

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Yes, I know, your busy work schedule doesn’t really allow you to take a day off for a fun activity with the family, but there are ways you can work around it. Work doesn’t have to be from Monday to Sunday – if you spend a bit more time in a day to get things done in advance, you can free up precious hours you can spend with your family later on. Group activities are a vital part of the family dynamics, because this allows you to connect with your kids and significant other. Make sure that you think of something that can involve every single member, no matter if it’s watching a movie, play games or go camping. Not only is this a good opportunity to get distracted from work, but also one to be involved in your children’s lives.

2) TURN OFF YOUR PHONE

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I remember when I stepped into a restaurant and it had a sign outside saying: “We don’t have Wi-Fi. Just talk to each other.” Such messages stay with you. We get so absorbed by technology, which can be both a blessing and a curse, that we feel more comfortable texting than just speaking to each other. When you disconnect from work, make sure you disconnect from the laptop, phone, computer, etc. as well. This rule isn’t just for you, but for the whole family engaged in the activity. There is no such thing as ‘together time’, if you look at your phone all the time, chatting or – even worse – talking for hours. Keep your priorities in order – the world won’t end if you don’t check your e-mails every 2 minutes. What’s more, you can actually turn not looking at your phone into a challenge. Whoever breaks the rule should receive negative points on the parenting worksheet or maybe even have to place a few dollars in the jar.

3) DON’T ENJOY THE SILENCE

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Even if you are just taking your kids to school or to the grocery store and it’s a 5-minute carpool, don’t let time pass without knowing how is everyone doing. A simple “How are you?” or “Do you need help with anything?” can not only give you a quick update on your children, but it’s also a way for you to show them that even when you are stressed and on the run, you put their problems on top of your own. There is no reason to think of work ahead of time, so enjoy that moment and don’t get caught up in your thoughts. Learn if your kids have a problem, if they need anything, if they don’t know the answer to an Algebra problem. Encouraging them to have a conversation sends them an important message as well: that no matter how busy you are, there is always room for a chat with them.

4) HAVE FAMILY DINNERS

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It’s hard to gather all your family members for dinner. One kid is playing Xbox, the other one wants to go outside and play with friends, while you want to finish eating as quickly as you can, just because you have to some paperwork afterwards. Don’t be that parent. Traditionally, Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners are always seen as a good opportunity to reconnect with your beloved ones, but there is no reason why you couldn’t have Thanksgiving any day, albeit with fewer family members. This is one of those parenting tips for toddlers which often get overlooked, because people think that having dinner means exactly that – eating, so what difference could it make? However, precisely because eating is one of those stress-free activities, it allows you to discuss the events of the day with your kids, creating meaningful connections. As the Extension Family Science Specialist Sean Brotherson puts it, the reason why family meals are so important is because they create experiences which trigger all of our 5 senses, to create a special kind of shared experience. As research shows that children who don’t share family dinners are more likely to be truant at school, it’s particularly worrisome to know that 30-35% of families living in the United States share less than three meals weekly. Moreover, the CASA 2011 report also says that children who eat with their families on a frequent basis are 4 times less likely to consume alcohol, smoke or take drugs than those who have fewer than 3 family dinners per week. Family relationships matter – even if you don’t get to spend as much time as you would want with your kids, make sure that it’s quality time.

5) IF YOU ARE ORGANIZED AT WORK, YOU CAN BE ORGANIZED AT HOME AS WELL

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Once your children grow and are able to handle basic tasks, like cleaning the house, make sure you create lists of chores and responsibilities for them. There are two important reasons why having such a plan is useful: 1) it teaches your kids not to take anything for granted and to appreciate work and 2) if you delegate such tasks to them, instead of doing them yourself when you come back home, you will actually be able to use that time to enjoy with your family. You can create individual timetables and even reward them if they finish the tasks before you come back home. Note that I said reward, which is one of the elements of positive parenting, and not bribe.

6) DO ERRANDS LIKE A PRO

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This happens often – you are in a hurry to buy everything you need and get back home – except, you don’t actually buy everything you need. And because you really need that item, you go back to the store to pick it up, thus losing more time in the process. It’s quite ironic to know that the faster you are, the more time you lose, because chances are that you will forget something in the process. One efficient way to avoid that is by creating checklists either before leaving the house or even days in advance. Checking every item off the list as soon as you have it, is a simple way to keep track of your errands.

7) DON’T LET PHONE CALLS INTERRUPT YOU FROM YOUR CHORES

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Cleaning the house is one of those mundane tasks that everybody hates, but which needs to be done. If you are a busy parent, you try to postpone it for as much as possible, but the more you postpone it, the more time you will need to clean. What’s worse, when you’re finally ready to do your chores, you get interrupted by numerous phone calls which completely kill the momentum; instead of getting things done in 1-2 hours, you will actually finish 4 hours later, thus limiting the time you spend with your family. One way to avoid that is by simply not answering your phone and just focus on the task at hand. Another way to make life easier for you is by storing sponges and cleansers in each bathroom, so that you don’t have to move from one bathroom to another. Make sure that you clean your kitchen counters at the end of every day, because otherwise, they get too cluttered and if you want to prepare something to eat, it will take you significantly more time. Same thing applies to the drawers and closets – just get rid of the clothes you are not using anymore and don’t pretend to ever use again. If all this sounds too overwhelming, you don’t have to do it all at once. Dedicate a day for the closets, another day for the bathrooms, another for the living room and so on.

8) WEEKLY MEAL PLAN

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Here’s how to master meal planning 101 with a very simple parenting hack. Sure, it might seem time-consuming, but in the long run, it will save you precious hours. Busy parents often think about dinner around half an hour before they are actually supposed to eat. This sounds logical – after a long, tough day, your food creativity is fading away. Not to mention, even worse if after a brainstorming session, you do figure out something to cook/eat, but you realize that the ingredients you need have not been bought in advance. Therefore, prepare a meal plan at the end of every week, FOR a whole week. Make sure to write down the ingredients you need, so that you know exactly what needs to be bought from the grocery store. You can actually turn this into a fun activity and have your family members vote for their preference. Even when it comes to something as basic as meal planning, you can still engage the entire family. And if none of this works, you can always count on the Internet to save the day.

9) DON’T NEGOTIATE BEDTIME

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Bedtime is probably one of the few moments of the day that both parents and children hate. Children, because of course, they want to stay up all night. And parents, because it just takes way too much time to convince your kids that they shouldn’t watch TV anymore. Here’s the thing: don’t negotiate bedtime, not even once. The moment you give in, they will never forget it and will always try to keep the lights on for as much as possible. When it’s time to go to bed, it’s time to go to bed. Luckily, if you organize yourself well enough throughout the day, when you get to this part, you would have already released the stress, so you can convince them in a calm manner, without raising your voice. A better way to make sure that they listen to you is to actually prepare them for bedtime 15 minutes before they are supposed to go. Tell them it’s time – they will ask you for 15 more minutes and you agree, because that was the intended time anyway. So, when it’s 8:15, you can remind them that their minutes are up.

10) BE AN EARLY BIRD

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If your day starts bad, it’s only downhill from there. Many times, a brutal wake-up contributes to that – you are grumpy and stressed out even before doing anything at all. One way to avoid that is to simply wake up 15 minutes before anyone else. You can do yoga stretches, meditation or just read a chapter from the book you started yesterday. Reports show that morning people are more proactive and feel more positive about the day, also feeling in charge in regards to their goals. Having those minutes just for yourself helps you see things in perspective, by taking a step back, even if that step means to just lie in bed for 15 minutes more.

11) IF YOU ARE LOSING IT, HAVE INNER MONOLOGUES

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Does it sound silly? Self-talk is what either helps you make progress on your goals or gets you closer to a miserable failure. When you talk to yourself, you are creating your own reality and the way you see yourself in it is reflected in your everyday interactions. The moment you tell yourself: “I CAN DO THIS!”, you probably can and WILL do it. When you tell yourself: “THIS IS TOO HARD!”, you probably can, but WON’T do it, because of your negative mindset. Telling yourself that you can’t go out with the kids, because you will be too busy is pretty much like working for 48 hours straight. Even if you are not the person you tell yourself to be, what you think about yourself is what will take over your own persona. Positive thinking leads to better stress management, better performances and even better relationships. No matter how overwhelmed you feel, don’t let yourself fall through the rabbit hole, because once you let negative thoughts take over, you will have a tough time coming back on track. See the positive in the negative – instead of thinking: “I’ve been working for 10 hours and I am not home yet!”, think: “I’ll be home in one hour!”. It might seem like a minor change, but it does miracles.

12) BE ONE WITH THE NATURE

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Going with the family camping, to a resort or to the beach helps you disconnect from all your other problems. There is something magical about the outdoors, something that fills you with serenity. It’s a soothing experience that you need once in a while – it’s the kind of freedom that you can’t possibly get at home and it’s probably the best work refugee that you could possibly find.

13) SHARE HUGS AND KISSES

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You know how they say that sometimes gestures are more precious than words? Now there is even a scientific proof to support the claims that they are beneficial for your children in more ways than one. A busy schedule sometimes makes you race against the clock, without getting to have meaningful conversation with your kids, but kissing and hugging them when they leave for school, come back home, go to bed or get that dreaded knee injury can actually help them develop a larger hippocampus. A larger hippocampus means that they have a better response to stress and are also prone to have a better memory. A study conducted at the Washington University scanned children’s brains and those who had the most nurturing parent had a hippocampus 10% larger than the rest. No matter how busy you are, there is always time for such a simple sign of affection – and there are no parenting tips for toddlers more powerful than love. Just love – plain and simple.

14) LISTEN AND LET IT GO

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And no, I am not talking about the songs from “Dreamgirls” and “Frozen”. As a busy parent, remember that work should stay at your workplace. Don’t bring your problems home and don’t start complaining to your kids about the hard day you had and how Boss X treated you like crap, while Co-worker Y was not having it. It’s a selfish thing to do, because when you are away, they know it’s because you are working – they don’t need you to be in ‘working’ mode even when you are with them. It’s even worse if you complain about them, then you have them over for dinner, just to have your children slip information which could possibly put your job in danger. Children aren’t particularly reliable when it comes to keeping secrets, so don’t even go there. Instead, listen to what they have to say. Challenge them to say something good and something bad that happened during the day. Cheer them for their ups and help them find solutions and explanations for the downs.

15) READ BEDTIME STORIES

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The New York Times talked about a journal called Pediatrics recently published a study about the brain activity of 3-5 year olds, when stories are read to them and the results were astonishing. Those children whose parents read bedtime stories to them on a frequent basis had a region in the left hemisphere of the brain which showed increased activity; that region, called parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex, is all about sensory integration, dealing especially with the visual and auditory perception. Its activity is triggered both when children read books themselves, but also when others read books to them. The skills these children develop are significant, because they learn from a young age to associate words with pictures, thanks to the mind’s eye which instantly paints a mental picture whenever the parents read them stories. They will also become better readers, able to read books without having any pictures, since they had already managed to develop that part of the brain which helps them understand the way the story is moving along, thanks to their own imagination.

If you think that it’s enough to play a video for them to watch, think again. Studies show that children (babies in particular) have a better brain response if they engage in gaze shifting, when people actually interact with them. Interactions with people go both ways – you say something and they respond to your words. Instead, if it’s only the child and the screen, it’s a passive interaction, which leaves no room to imagination, because what you see is how it is. A video shows the whole story, while a reading lets them fill in the blanks. It’s impossible for them to imagine and develop that side of the brain, if we are practically serving them the story on a plate. Reading expands a child’s vocabulary, who is more likely to hear unique words from books than from everyday conversations.

The stories don’t have to be long – most short stories can easily be read in 15 minutes. And there is hardly something more beautiful than seeing your children fall asleep as you are reading to them. And no, don’t feel bad about your oratorical skills – if they sleep while you are reading, it’s a good sign (for once). It means that your words are so soothing, that they instantly feel relaxed. And so will you. After a long day of work, the image of your children slowly closing their eyes and looking like tiny angels is all you need to help you get through the next one with a smile on your face.

How do you deal with your busy parenting life?

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