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10 Of The Most Valuable Parenting Tips To Save You Tantrums

Despite the fact that you will never receive a raise, a day off or even a salary at all, parenting is the most rewarding job. There will be days when you will feel tired and overwhelmed, other days when you will cry on the floor screaming that you can’t handle it, but the moment you will see your children’s smiles as they run towards you to give you a hug, everything will be forgotten. Children are like band-aids for the soul. They are adorable in their own individuality, albeit the uniqueness factor is also one of the reasons why parenting is so difficult.

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When you go to a store and buy an appliance, you know exactly what to expect of it. You know how to handle it, because it comes with an instruction manual. And just in case it ever malfunctions, there are service centers to fix it. Children don’t have any of that, so for the most part, parenting is intuitive. There are no secret formulas, no reset buttons – and this is both wonderful and frightening. However, being a parent doesn’t always have to be a guessing game. There are many books to use as guidelines on child discipline or development of self-esteem, if your child lacks confidence. Not to mention that you are not the only one who has no idea what she/he is doing, which means that other parents ‘who’ve been there’ know a thing or two about the problems you are facing . While not every piece of advice is applicable, because times are changing, there are some oldies but goldies, which will never stop being relevant. We compiled 10 of the most important parenting tips to help you along this bumpy, but ultimately –joyful ride.

1) DON’T CHASE PERFECTION

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Society in general gets so hung up on the idea of perfection, that good things in life are often overlooked, because of this silly idea that it can get even better than this. You can do more, you can push yourself harder, you can surpass yourself and the competition. Chasing perfection is like chasing unicorns – it sounds cute, but it’s not achievable by any means. Parents are probably the most perfectionist people out there, never satisfied with what they are doing and providing for their children. They feel like a failure because the child played on the iPad for more than one hour or because they dared to go outside wearing yoga pants. And don’t get me started on Pinterest. You feel so demoralized when you see other moms being so crafty, while you barely get to bake a cake for your kids every two weekends. As a matter of fact, Pinterest stress is very real – according to a survey, 42% out of the 7000 U.S. mothers who participated in it say they feel stressed out because they are not as ingenious as all the other mothers out there on Pinterest or because they stay up all night to try some of the DIY projects, only to fail miserably at them. Don’t try to be a perfect parent – just try your best. Love your children, care for them and listen to your intuition. If your baby doesn’t fall asleep with your first attempt at sleep training, relax and welcome to the club. If he/she does – tell us your secret. Embrace the inevitable failures, because as long as you are a parent who is present in his/her children’s lives, you are doing it right. Don’t let the unsolicited parenting advice convince you otherwise.

2) MARK YOUR WORDS

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As a parent, be always aware of what you say and especially HOW you say it in front of your kids. “Words will never harm me”? You can forget about that saying when you are a parent, because while words can give your children wings, they can also cut them and harden the fall. Negative statements, no matter if they are aimed at them or at another person, carry a tremendous amount of weight which can completely sink the relationship you have with them. The power you give to them is what makes them so harmful for your kids. They can repeat those words and they can remember the meaning and the context. It’s even more worrisome, since scientists claim that a child can recognize speech as early as 9 months old. Even before they learn how to speak, they are capable of recognizing speech patterns, aided by visual cues. The same research even concluded that babies are capable of differentiating between imitations (like a talking toy or parrot) and actual human voices. Your words, just like your actions, can have long-lasting consequences, so use them wisely.

3) DON’T BE A HELICOPTER PARENT

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There is a huge difference between being a protective parent and being a helicopter one. Helicopter parents hover around their children every time. They check every single homework and go to their kids’ school on a frequent basis to ask if they are doing fine, even though they are aware that if they would be in trouble, they would get that phone call. They are suffocating their children with their attention and they leave little to no room for them to become independent, because they are actively sabotaging their every attempt at doing things on their own. Mom/Dad knows best, but this doesn’t mean that the child doesn’t have the right to try things his way. Even though helicopter parents justify their actions by saying that it’s a way to prepare children to face the world, statistics contradict them. It’s the exact opposite, because by trying to protect your child, you are actually creating a bond of co-dependency, so once your child is ‘out there’, he/she will constantly call you to ask what the next step is. A 2012 study shows that 33% of millennials claim that their parents are actively involved in helping them find a job. At this point, one wonders if those parents still prepare them lunch boxes and maybe even go to talk to their bosses about their job performance. Furthermore, Adecco’s 2012 Graduation Survey revealed that 3% of college graduates admit that not only do parents take them to job interviews, but they even stay there for the whole process. And if this is not enough, even if the interviewer is pleased with the candidate’s response, 7 out of 10 graduates actually have to ask their parents if the job is OK, before signing the contract.

Let your kids play, let them fall and teach them that there is nothing shameful in falling and crying about it, as long as they get up. Parents have to nudge, not to push. Over-parenting creates addictions and is seriously affecting the psychological well-being of the children, to the point that they will even become fearful of their surroundings. For instance, when a child climbs a tree, a helicopter parent will stay millimeters away, shouting: “GET DOWN OF THAT TREE! IT’S TOO DANGEROUS! YOU’LL GET HURT!”. The distress they cause by making children feel that there is a reason to be fearful might in fact provoke a fall, which would inevitably be followed by: “I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!”. Instead, the right approach isn’t to forbid them otherwise fun activities, but to make them aware of their surroundings, like reminding them to watch their steps or to not stay away for too long. While the technological progresses are clearly amazing, they can become dangerous tools in the hands of helicopter parents. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, cell phones and other communication devices are the new umbilical cords – 86% of first-year students are in constant communication with their mothers, 71% with their dads. While communication is vital to a good parenting relationship, the nature of it also has an important significance. Parents call their children in college because they miss them and want to know if everything is all right. Hovering parents call them to: know if they had something to eat, if they have clean clothes, if they changed their bed sheets, brushed their teeth, checked their car’s brakes, if they look both ways before crossing the street or just to let them know that they will go there to discuss with the professor about that D+ grade they received.

Since hovering parents try to eliminate the feeling of struggle from their children’s lives, the downside to that is that they will end up fearing the struggle. After all, we often fear the unknown and for such kids, failure doesn’t even have a bitter taste – it has no taste at all. Fear of failure descends into a lack of confidence, which can lead to depression or anxiety. When parents micromanage and put pressure on their children, trying to define their lives and career choices, they practically force them into following a path they don’t identify with – and such scenarios have a negative psychological impact.

4) TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO EAT THEIR VEGGIES

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While you can indulge a pizza once in a while, because – let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to just throw dough with pepperoni in the oven and call it a day, don’t turn it into a habit. Teach kids that fruits and vegetables are the way to go, because the sooner they get used to them, the more likely they are to follow this pattern as grown-ups too. A proper nutrition should actually begin as soon as you become pregnant, because getting the needed nutrients helps with brain development. A diet which is rich in protein (egg, fish) improves the attention span, while carbohydrates (not processed ones though!) from fruits and whole grains give children the boost they need for logical thinking. The introduction of the My Plate guide(Replacing the Food Pyramid) by the Federal government makes it easier for parents to know what it takes to have healthy eating habits. The simplified guideline looks like this: half of each meal (at least) should be represented by fruits and veggies, while grains can occupy a bit more than half of the remaining space on the plate. What’s left should be filled with lean meats, eggs, fish or beans. However, the best way to convince children that this is how their plates should look like is to practice what you preach. No matter how busy you are, make it a habit to eat together and try as much as possible to eat the same food. Preparing a different meal for everyone isn’t only time-consuming, but also counter-productive in terms of healthy eating habits.

5) HAVE SOME FAMILY FUN TIME

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Busy parents often come home late at night, when the children are already asleep or about to. However, no matter how much work you have to do, it’s important to schedule at least weekly a day dedicated to having fun with your kids and partner. You can organize an outdoor activity, watch a movie, play board games (like Monopoly) or even play video games. If the time constraints don’t allow you to participate in long activities, even a daily 15-minute game of cleaning the kitchen, with everyone involved, is enough to strengthen the bond with your family.

6) TEACH YOUR CHILDREN THE VALUE OF MONEY AND HARD WORK

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There is a difference between spoiling and rewarding children and that key difference is what separates financially-independent children from those who still ask their parents for money. When you spoil your children, you practically tell them that they can get anything without effort. When you reward them, you are doing it because they did something right, thus earning it. The key to raising independent children is consistency and a clear outline of their responsibilities. However, you have to do your part as well and invest as much as you can in their education. Don’t leave student debts hanging above their heads, like dark clouds, especially since a 2013 survey conducted by Junior Achievement showed that 25% of teens aren’t confident that they will be able to earn enough money to support themselves before they are well in their late 20s. The percentage has the tendency to increase, since in 2011, only 12% of the questioned teens thought they wouldn’t be able to pay all their bills before hitting the late 20s. These results are a mix of lack of motivation, misunderstanding of finance and high college costs, without many job prospects. As a parent, save every dollar since they are in their cradles, so that when the time comes, you can prepare them for their future. Invest in college-savings plans as soon as each of your kids has a Social Security number. Because high schools unfortunately don’t offer classes on finance, it’s up to you to teach your kids about savings, budgets and good deals.

7) NEVER MAKE IDLE THREATS

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Be consistent and keep your word when disciplining your children. Never discipline them using unrealistic punishments that you might not keep, like for instance, no TV for a whole month. If your children learn that you don’t go with your punishments all the way, they will defy you and you will lose credibility in front of them. Discipline teaches acceptable behavior and self-control; set limits and guidelines, being clear about the rules of the house and about what’s expected of them. However, teaching children about discipline isn’t something that you should do when they misbehave. Instead, if they are playing and you have some spare time, interrupt them occasionally to ask for help around the house. If they throw tantrums, deal with them calmly and firmly. If not, great, let them help you with the chores, then they can go back to their games. By doing this from time to time, you will teach them to respect you and do what they are asked to.

Speaking about discipline, no parenting tips list should omit the harmful effects that yelling has on children. Never yell at your kids. It might sounds like an impossible feat, but seriously – don’t. A study by the University of Pittsburgh tracked almost 1000 middle-schoolers for a year and surveys showed that constantly yelling to children increases the chances that they become depressed later on in life and they are also more likely to develop anti-social behaviors, as well as to display violent conduct. Yelling has no power, because when you yell, children don’t hear the words, but just the sounds of your voice.

8) READ BEDTIME STORIES TO THEM

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Reading should start even before children know how to speak in sentences. According to the director of the Achievement Gap Initiative, combining reading with other interactions like gesturing or singing, helps foster a desire to learn. Moreover, reading stories to your children gives them background knowledge – it’s the story around the story which gives power, the way you answer to your children’s questions of ‘Whys’ and ‘Hows’. Kids who have a fondness for reading also have an appetite for knowledge and tend to do better in school. The vaster the genres, the more will he be able to grasp areas normally seen as difficult, like history and science.

9) IT’S OK FOR YOUR CHILDREN TO BE BORED

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Usually, you don’t see this listed among parenting tips, but it’s really worth mentioning. So many parents worry about offering their children an activity ALL THE TIME, as if enjoying a quiet reflection was something wrong. Not only is it OK if you don’t have 3 activities scheduled for them from Monday to Sunday, but it’s also recommended not to. If you don’t always find ways to provide entertainment to your kids, you will actually have them in imaginative play mode, since they will need to remember how to entertain themselves without your input. When a child says “I’m bored!”, it basically means that he wants you to play with him, because he forgot that creativity is always a source for entertainment. Don’t feel bad if you refuse his request – after all, you can never stretch your imagination and ingenuity too much.

10) LIVE AND LOVE

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Parents sometimes worry too much. They run from one place to another, they work endlessly, they try to get the dinner on time and prepare the clothes for school before the kids wake up. Pause, rewind and play in slow motion. Relax, breathe and take it easy – but most importantly, enjoy the moments. We rush so much that in our hurry, we miss our children’s laughs, their first walk or their first day of school – which are all meant to be cherished. And always tell your children that you love them, no matter if it’s the 4394th time you are telling them this…in the same day. Tell you love them even if they know it already and even if they don’t feel like loving you, because you didn’t let them have ice cream and French fries for breakfast. There is no such thing as too many smooches!

What’s the parenting tip that helped you the most?

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