It's pretty easy to become a parent, isn't it? A bit of fun and maybe a tad of forethought and then boom all of a sudden you have this perfect little being to look after (or if you are really lucky like me, the little one might come packaged as part of a set!) and nature kicks in a bit, you fall in love, you soon learn how to change a nappy and bath them but the hard bit I always think is knowing how to parent those babes and later children.
So as a mother of 3 I thought I would share some great information that I have learnt along this 7 year journey that I have travelled. By no means do I assert myself as an expert or guru but I think some of the best advice comes from average people who have been there and done it!
1. There is no such thing as normal!
When it comes to children every one of them is unique and whilst the manuals and text books that you may have devoured when pregnant said that your babe should be X weight at 3 months and that they should be sitting at 6 months, crawling at 8 months and walking at a year this is just utter rubbish. Do not compare with your friends, it really does not matter if their child weans first or get a tooth first. By about the age of 2 years it all evens itself out and most children are at the same stage. Take my children and being dry at night, you can not rush this, it is not learned behaviour but an actual physiological change that happens in their brain which allows them to wake when sleeping if they need to wee. Miss M was 2 years 6 months and dry at night, Miss E is practically 4 and still not dry at night, JJ was 5 years 6 months before he was dry at night. Three children with the same parents and the same upbringing and completely different results - this is what is normal!
2. You know best, trust your instincts
I have said this time and time again to many friends of new babes, do not let other people tell you what to do with your baby. Yes, of course listen to advice and read up if that is your bag but if something does not sit right with you and makes you feel uncomfortable then the answer is it's not for you and your family. You completely and utterly know what is best for your own children. Learn to listen to that inner voice and be strong enough to say something when it needs to be said.
3. Remember you are a parent first and friend second
Do you ever recall your parents saying 'this will hurt me more than it hurts you?' and I do not mean in regard to a smack! Being a parent is not easy and it certainly is not painless. Your primary job is to parent, this mean enforcing the good with the bad. Positive discipline is a must. When you toddler tests those boundaries, make sure they are firm and stick to your guns. Decide what discipline method will be used and stick with it, consistency is absolutely the key. What is the ultimate aim of parenting? To help your children grow up to be independent and responsible adults who are a pleasure to spend time with.
4. Present a united front
On the subject of discipline it is imperative that you work with your partner to ensure consistency and a united front. I have a friend with a wayward teenage daughter, the Dad is pretty firm and when she has been naughty he will give a consequence for that behaviour. The Mum then comes along and ruins all his hard work and she retracts whatever the consequence is as she is scared that the daughter will then not like her. Newsflash, sometimes your kids will not like you! However, they will still always love you, it is exactly the same for them as it is with you. If you were the man, would you stay with this woman? I know I would not, talk about making someone feel as if their opinion is not worthwhile. Basically whatever you and your partner decide to do is fine (you are the parents, it is your child) but you just need to stick together and make rules and changes to those rules in partnership. Even if you really want to disagree, you do that out of earshot of the kids.
5. Let your children learn for themselves
How easy is it to do everything for your child? Far easier than teaching them to do it for themselves. But which will make your life easier and their self-esteem better in the long run? For sure it is helping them to grow in their independence which will in turn give them a sense of confidence. We had a child here yesterday, the same age as my near 4 year old twins. She was using our large trampoline and wanted to get off, I told her to use the ladder and she stood there and shook and said she could not, I should carry her down. We had a chat and I assured her she could do this, she was a big and capable girl. With some coaxing and me being there as her security blanket she came down the ladder and then we clapped her efforts. She then proceeded to climb up and down that ladder about fifteen times (I kid you not!) her sense of accomplishment was immense and it was the first thing she told her Mum upon collection. Empowering your children and giving them responsibility for their own actions is very powerful.
6. Offer your child the gift of acceptance
Many people believe that the greatest gift we can give our children is love, but I dispute that. Read this example: A beautiful 14 year old girl came into the room, she was a little overweight. Her mother, a 40 year old slim and attractive woman is trying to get her daughter to be more careful with what she eats, in front of guests she comments 'gosh Daisy, I am more than twice your age and in better shape, you need to drop a few pounds'. This woman adores her daughter, she would give her life for her as she loves her so much but she can not just seem to accept her. If you ask Daisy she will tell you that her mother does not love her as much as she could as she is always critical and she has never felt accepted or good enough. Isn't that sad? Think on it.
7. You won't always feel in love with each other
Being a parent is hard, like really tough! Anyone who has a baby to mend a broken relationship is on a path to a break up. Children add an extra dimension to a stable relationship and are a complete blessing but they never work well as a sticking plaster. As brand new parents, or those dealing with the terrible two's in triplets or parents looking after a challenging teenager there will be times that you will not feel in love at all with your partner. You may dream about life being easier without them (one less person to clear up after- sound familiar?) or not having to listen to their opinion but do not give up. Marriage takes work and lots of it. Have regular times to sit down and talk, be honest with each other. Schedule date nights, make time to cuddle, try not to view sex as a chore. Think about a time when you were really happy together and aim to recreate that. You may not have a babysitter but cook for each other at home, bring a duvet downstairs and cuddle up with a movie. It is simple but it works.
So what about you, what would you say is your top tip for new parents? What bit of advice would you like to pass on?
Please leave a comment and I will amend the post with your input and add a link back to your blog or facebook page.
Adding in the feedback...
Karen says Always be consistent and anyone involved with the children needs to be too. You need to share a united front and that way everyone knows where they are. Also read the baby whisperer... Amazing results!! (I'll just add that if you read any of the parenting guides then do add a good dose of common sense to them. I also loved the Baby Whisperer, but combined it with some Gina Ford methods and my own instincts, Mich x).
Honiebuk says A big yes to the 'acceptance' point - in your ideals to seek the perfection you wish to create, remember they are still learning and blossoming into the person 'they' are to become - which is not a mini-me (or you).
One thing I see lot of and OMG I hope I don't do it too, is that 'if you are divorced' please don't pass your dislike or loathing of your X onto them. They probably 'do' still love them and you should not disapprove that love if you want them to have the same consideration for you - they won't thank you for it and lets face it, we don't all like all of our relatives - but we often still love them!
Anthea said Make plans by all means but don't expect everything to 'go to plan' Babies are human beings with their own personality and will. They are also not yet in control of their bodily functions and you can almost certainly guarantee that nappies will be filled at the least convenient moment! Oh, and always carry a clean top for you in the changing bag. Just in case... (See I am so far past the baby stage now, that I forgot all this but excellent advice,all true!)
Live Otherwise said Savour them. Cherish the good moments, remember to enjoy your children and each other. Life isn't supposed to be all about hard work. A couple of years ago out it really snowed here, and dp got the kids togged up and took them into town for a snowball fight. They still remember that evening and talk about it fondly, and all it took was time. (I love this advise, it is so true. Kids will forgot all those expensive presents in years to come but the times they remember mostly cost nothing!)
Thank you all xx