The best parenting advice I've ever received

Parenting can feel like an uphill battle at times. As a father of three young children (including twins!) I’ve received some invaluable advice over the years which has made life that little bit easier. Here are five of the best parenting tips I’ve come across.

1.  Ask yourself: Do I want to do this for the rest of my life?

No, I’m not referring to raising children. I love my kids. What I’m talking about here is their behaviours. Children grow and learn every day, pushing boundaries whenever they can. 

The very best advice I’ve been given came from a mother and colleague. She warned me to always be mindful when something new comes along, to consider if this behaviour is something you want to live with for the rest of your life. If the answer is ‘no’, then you’re probably going to have to address it, and the sooner the better because the longer you wait the harder it can be to break bad habits. 
Some examples include:
 
  • Rocking my babies to sleep in my arms. No, help them learn how to fall asleep on their own in their cots.
  • Giving in to my children’s food dislikes. No, persist with those fruits and veggies to ensure a balanced diet.
  • Cleaning up after my kids. No, teach them to clean up after themselves.
  • Providing my child what they’re pointing to and making strange guttural animal noises about. No, teach them how to voice their needs.

2.  Routine is key

Routine is not for everyone. But with twins screaming under each arm wanting different things all at once, the second best piece of advice I was ever given was from a nurse who said, ‘Routine will help you manage and it will put your child at ease. Get your newborn into an eat-play-sleep routine as soon as you can and stick with it’.

It wasn’t easy, with one twin always hungrier than the other and the other twin always falling asleep while feeding. Then we had one twin refusing to sleep in her cot and needing less rest than her brother. But we introduced some consistent (parent) behaviours early on and it has paid dividends. Even when said ‘bad-sleeper-twin’ refused to go to sleep, we kept putting her down at the same time as her brother, we persisted through the crying and carrying on, and eventually she adjusted to our routine. Now she’s the one who calls me out if we’re past bedtime, ‘It’s time for sleep, Dad!’

3.  Sleep when you can, eat when you can, and cleaning can wait!

This advice was provided to my wife by a friend of hers just before the twins were born, and relates especially to getting through those first six to ten months. New mothers tend to put all their efforts into their newborn’s wellbeing while they’re awake and then try to do everything else while the baby is asleep. But sleep for mum is important too!

Sleeping when baby is sleeping, eating when baby is eating - it really can help take some of the pressure off. And cleaning really can wait. You’re probably noticing it a lot more than anyone else and, if it’s really bothering you, see tip number four!

3 kids making breakfast

4.  It’s your time to be selfish

For many new mums this is a tough ask, but if you can put yourself first, above everyone else (except baby of course!) it might just help make those early months a little less stressful for you and bub.

My experience has been that as soon as a new mother arrives home from hospital, well-meaning invites tend to come in for coffees and lunches. Not to mention the long list of eager, well-meaning, visitors wanting to come and see you and your newborn. But it’s important to do what’s right for you and your child. If you need to cancel coffee because you’ve had a bad night, don’t sweat it. Friends will understand. If a planned visit doesn’t work, let your visitors know and re-schedule. And most importantly, if a friend or family member offers help, take them up on it and get them doing some of those cleaning chores you’ve committed to leaving until everything settles down a bit.

5.  Define roles early

Rounding out the top five is a piece of advice given to my wife, again during our lengthy hospital stay with the twins, and one, as a dad, that’s especially dear to my heart. Define roles early.

For us, with twins, it was as much about survival as anything. But I think it can work for singleton parents just as effectively. By us defining roles early on - I was chief burper, nappy changer and bather, while my wife was chief feeder, health advisor and sleep-whisperer - it helped me get in amongst the action, bond with the children quicker and feel more useful than I might have otherwise. Clearly defining roles meant we were working together as a team and, within weeks, functioning like a well-oiled machine.

So that’s my top five. What’s yours? Every child (and parent for that matter) is unique and advice is just that, something to be considered and adopted only if it seems to work for you and your situation. 

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