13 Ways To Be An A-Plus Parent

Many of my friends have kids and I learn a ton through watching them parent—what works, what doesn’t. In reading up on parenting tactics lately, I found lots of solid advice out there, from places like Real Simple and Parenting to Dad or Alive (a great blog if you haven’t read it).

This Real Simple article provides lots of how-to tips on parenting advice. I took their advice, in quotes, and found real-life examples where it came into play.

1. Let Your Kids Fail

Basically, kids need to learn things for themselves. (After all, you won’t always be around to hold their hands, right?)

“Most parents know what their children are capable of but step in to make things easier for them,” said Sheri Noga, author of Have the Guts to Do It Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence.

I know I was surprised when going to a friend’s house and seeing that her ten-year-old had thrown her clothes all over the stairs instead of in the cute pink hamper in her room. Another friend of mine had her seven-year-old sorting her dirty clothes (colors vs. whites).

So, we need to see kids fail (not sort their clothes and see the result) before we see them excel (and become master clothes-washers).

2. Abide By the Three Rules Of Homework

  1. Eat the frog: i.e. (“Do the hardest thing first”), said middle school teacher Ted Theodorou in Fairfax County, Virginia. Sure enough, when babysitting my friend’s kids, we started with their hardest subject, math, then moved on to easier ones, reading. Getting those subtraction problems done was a great feeling of accomplishment for them, and when it came to reading, they were happy to do it.
  2. No phones: Homework doesn’t need the phone to be done (unless the kid in question is texting his or her friends for answers). (I wish more adults would abide by a phone-free social/work environment, too.)
  3. Get ready for school in the evening: Preferably right after homework is finished, prep the backpack for school tomorrow and even put it by the door. This one’s pretty easy and a great time-saver so no one has to scramble looking for the bag—and its contents—in the morning.

3. Memorize The Acronym H.A.L.T.

Real Simple gave this advice, and my therapist often says it, too—no good comes from HALT, when you’re Hungry, Agitated (or Angry), Lonely, or Tired. (It’s true!)

4. Plan Not-So-Random Acts Of Kindness

A couple I know was helping their nine-year-old son with his homework the other day and had to list a few volunteer activities and charitable things the son had done in the last two weeks.

His parents looked at each other, blank. They thought of (annual) charity walks they’d done as a family, and of a monthly food drive at church where they volunteered, but when it came to day-to-day or week-to-week things, they were stumped.

From that moment on, they decided that they needed to get their son, Ben, more involved in everyday random acts of kindness.

5. Be Strict About Bedtime

I live in L.A., where careers in entertainment abound and where one parent often works much later than the other, way past their kids’ bedtimes.

I know some parents who take a quick break from work to go home and tuck in their child, then leave again, while others FaceTime (ah, technology). “We all make sacrifices,” said psychologist Heather Taylor, Ph.D. “Call or video-chat to say good night. Just be part of the routine.”

Plus, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) conducted a study and found that children with a bedtime routine slept an hour more per night. These children also had less “daytime behavior problems” and sleep issues, according to their moms.

6. Let Them Read What They Want

It’s not about what they read, but that they read, experts say. Reading aloud to them from an early age is key, according to Reading Is Fundamental. They, too, recommend no phones or TV during this time. They also recommend going on trips to the library together.

7. Don’t Pay Your Kids To Clean Their Rooms

Yes, every kid likes an allowance, but this doesn’t go with #4 above, how kids need to learn to do things out of want not out of expecting something in return.

In a Real Simple article, parenting expert/author Alyson Schafer said, “If you give them a buck to make their beds, then when you ask them to help you carry in the groceries, they’ll say, ‘How much? Why would I do that for free when you pay me to make my bed?’”

An allowance isn’t completely off limits, but isn’t recommended for regular house tasks.

8. Model Brave Behavior

If you face your fears, your child will probably face his/her fears, too, says Anxiety BC. It’s that simple.

9. Repeat: I Am Not A Short-Order Cook

When I was visiting a parent friend of mine, I saw that she constantly gave her kids choices of what to eat—mac and cheese or hot dogs (and they would want neither).

Instead, I wondered why she didn’t just make a healthier option and tell them that’s it; eat or nothing (after all, that’s how my blue-collar family in Chicago had raised me).

Real Simple suggested that parents offer a child a variety of foods, but after spending a week with my friend and seeing the (negative) results, I beg to differ.

10. Pay Attention At Age 14

Developmental Psychology says that 14 is the age when kids think more for themselves versus listen to you, i.e., their parent(s). The solution? Ask questions. Ask about their friends, school, etc. and, hopefully, your kid(s) will share with you instead of shun you.

11. Tackle Fears With Common Sense

This is similar to #8 above—if you exude confidence in scary situations, you child is likely to do the same.

12. Lower Your Voice To Get Little Kids To Be Quiet

That’s right, try the opposite of the most common tactic and whisper instead of yell. You’ll see.

13. Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Yes, you have to be your best you before you can be the best for your kids.

So, remember to take care of yourself first (get enough sleep, eat right, be healthy, etc.) and then you will have all the energy you need to take care of your kids in the best possible way, as well as teach them (even through osmosis) to follow your positive habits.

Photo by Jacob Haas