Parenting AdviceParenting is hard.

With the arrival of children comes a LOT of new responsibilities, fears and frustrations.

You are almost guaranteed to get less sleep, and your personal time will be cut dramatically.

When I reflect on my least-proud moments over the past five years, many are related to a loss of patience or a moment of great frustration where I didn’t like the way I acted around or reacted to my kids.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a perfect parent, and it’s tough sometimes.

So, with all of these issues attached to the stork-drop, why in world do we keep having more children?

Because they are best things in the world and they add a priceless value to our lives.

Kids are awesome!

Parents Need Quality Advice

Parenting is probably both the toughest and most rewarding role that we can fill in the world.  To help navigate the waters of father and motherhood, I think we can all use some wise counsel from others who are in (or have been) in our shoes.

And I’m the first in line to the well of parenting advice.

Trust me, I’m thirsty for knowledge on how to both handle and help my five-year-old son, almost three-year-old princess and the little one that’s about six months from joining the family.  Fortunately, I have a wise and patient wife to help lead me along the right path most of the time.

I would certainly not consider myself a child-rearing expert.  So, you can imagine how shocked, humbled and excited I was when my friend Sherri from Zen Family Habits recently asked me for my own top parenting tips.

When you are done with this post, I suggest you click that link and go read her great article.  There is some excellent advice from the other contributors (Samantha from Mama Notes, Tsh from Simple Mom and Vera from Mom Grind) as well as Sherri herself.  And there is some valuable insight provided in the comments, too.

My Top Three Parenting Tips

I have written previously about How Children Teach Us About God, how Kids Enjoy the Simple Things and even the Questions Engaged Couples Should Ask Each Other About Children.  However, I’ve never dared to offer any parenting advice.

I found it fitting that out of the four contributors to the Zen Family Habits article, I was the only guy and (naturally) I used the least words to share my tips.

I’ll use even fewer here to share them in case you don’t make it over to Sherri’s post.

1. Your kids don’t come first.

2. Be consistent.

3. Have fun.

Ask the Community

Okay, so it’s time for the real reason I wrote this post.  I want your best parenting tips .

I know some of you may not be parents, but I’m betting you were a child once and you may be a cool aunt or uncle now.  I think everyone has something to add to this discussion.  And I’m really anxious to gain your insight.  I need your help! 🙂

Please leave your best tip or three or ten in the comments.  Thanks for being an active part of the Engaged Marriage community!

P.S. – If you haven’t joined us already, I’d encourage you to check out the Engaged Marriage Facebook page.  We have a lot of fun and share a lot of great times there!

Photo by Tony the Misfit (back slowly)

About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. My number 1: Mom and Dad love each other, openly. The kids feel “safe” and the home is happier! Even though they make comments like “gross” or “eeewww” as they get older; they don’t mind that much as long as they know mom and dad are happy!
    .-= Shawna Cevraini´s last blog ..An Ode to My Dad =-.

    1. I totally agree, Shawna! That’s the basis behind my #1 tip…your marriage and faith life come first…not the children. And I don’t think we need to be overly shy to show our kids what it looks like to be in love.

  2. In addition to those tips: I remind the children that yes, they are in control. However, mom and dad are IN CHARGE.

    This means the children control their lives by choosing their behaviors. If they make good behavior choices, they get good consequences. If children make bad choices, they get bad consequences. Mom and Dad’s job as far as “being in charge” is to administer those consequences so they learn from their choices! This will make them better choice makers as adults and they learn it’s okay to learn from “mistakes.” We’re all human and we all make them and it’s OKAY! As long as you learn from the experience.

    God does the same thing for us 🙂

      1. It worked magic for my niece (whom I had custody of) when she first came to live with us. My boys had always been told that and acted, for the most part, with that in mind. My niece had never experienced someone willing to let her have control. She was 14 and used to power struggles and control issues.

        Let’s face it.. we do NOT have 100% control over our children EVER. We’d like to, but it’s impossible. So, we teach them how to handle that power that they have over their lives. This way, when they are grown up and on their own, they’re already equipped with self-confidence AND ability to analyze situations and make proper choices. It’s teaching and not dictating : )

    1. Wow! This is really practical stuff! I never thought of it this way. Thank you! (1st time mommy of a 1 year old girl)
      .-= Sara´s last blog ..My DIY Valentine! =-.

  3. The best parenting tip is lead your kids by example.Kinds learn more from what they see so if they see “moraly” uprigt people in their parents,they can easyly follow that…

  4. How fun to be where the kids are so young! Our Firstborn is headed to college in the Fall, our little girl is going to prom with one of his pals, and our baby twins turn ELEVEN this weekend. Wow! That said, I am most proud of the way they treat each other and others.

    I have to agree that we teach by example and then sometimes point it out. Like when they would fight with eachother and I would ask?

    “How would you honestly feel if your Dad and I fought and yelled at each other all the time?” (Their faces would be priceless)

    As they thought about it, I got to explain that the best life lesson I could teach them was to live out their love for God by loving each other, especially when we don’t feel like it.
    .-= Gina Parris´s last blog ..In Desperate Need of a Romance Rescue =-.

  5. Parenting tip: don’t take things personally. Kids are feeling out their power to manipulate when they are cruel. The less of a reaction they get, the more difficult it is for them to learn it. Example:

    I hate you and I am leaving home!

    Okay. I will always love you.

    It’s not okay!

    I’m accepting your decision.

    You can’t do that!

    Take about any conversation and plug in different words. BTW: this topic never arose again.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..The Promise =-.

    1. Thanks, Emily! I can pretty easily shrug off some of the “verbal abuse” that comes from the mouth of a 2-year-old since I reason they don’t understand fully what they’re saying. I am not looking forward to these “discussions” when they become teenagers!

  6. Although I’m not a parent yet (not so patiently waiting to the adoption agency to call us and tell us they have a baby for us!) I am an aunt and have friends with kids that I spend a lot of time with. The number one thing that has helped me is knowledge. Knowing why a 2 year old behaves like a 2 year old makes it much easier to understand what is going on and I can control my reaction. Kids don’t act out for the fun of it, there is almost always an underlying reason, and knowing what stage they are at developmentally and what types of emotions they are dealing with and new things they are learning helps me to understand the why behind the behavior. It has made me a much more patient person around kids.

    1. This helps me very much to deal patiently with my 18 month old too. It’s neat to think about things from her perspective–everything is so new and exciting–she has much more enthusiasm for trying new things.

    2. I totally agree, Jen. This was one of the earliest (and toughest) lessons I learned as a parent. You are going to be great as a mommy!

  7. Will you write a post on “kids’ don’t come first.” I am working on this one. I always thought kids DO come first. I’m trying to think of it differently now but it’s hard.
    .-= Samantha @ Mama Notes´s last blog ..Ask the Moms: Do You Homeschool Your Kids? =-.

    1. I probably should have worded this differently. I think I KNOW that kids DON’T come first always but I’m still learning HOW to do that and what it means to do that in a marriage. 🙂
      .-= Samantha @ Mama Notes´s last blog ..Ask the Moms: Do You Homeschool Your Kids? =-.

      1. Yes, it seems to me that kids do come first so that parents can salvage some time…

        Honestly, though, nothing makes me love my husband more than seeing him love my daughter.

      2. I would love to write a post on this topic, Samantha, and I definitely understand what you are asking. I still struggle with this, too, so maybe writing about it will help me, too! 🙂

  8. I’ve written about this topic before and of the several tips I gave there are 2 that I feel are the most important:

    #2 Don’t talk to your child in the typical baby talk. When they’re really tiny, and I mean less that 6 months, they don’t understand anything but it doesn’t take long and they do understand. Why teach them words like “baba”, “binky”, “dipey” etc. when you’re just going to replace those words later with the real word? My theory is that talking to your child like the little person they are will allow their vocabulary to grow that much faster.

    #1 I wrote “Your kids can give you the single most joy in your life, if you let them” and once you get that in your head it can change the way your raise your kids. They’re a gift. They love you in a way that no other person on earth can. To them, you’re dad (or mom) and if you learn to enjoy that then you and your child will benefit greatly.

    Dustin has linked to the post before but just for funsies here’s the link again:

    1. Speaking of unconditional love, our little girl, Adria, who is 18 mos. old, said “I love you” to her dad yesterday for the first time–he was sitting on the toilet!!

  9. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a mother yet but intend to be and this is something that I personally hated as a child. I notice that a lot of mothers especially like to chit chat and “commiserate” with other mothers, often bringing up negative or private things in front of others. If your child has some kind of quirk or annoying habit, you don’t need to tell everybody about it, especially when your kid is within earshot. I think a lot of women understand that it is disrespectful to complain about their husbands in front of others and it is equally as disrespectful to do this to your kids.
    .-= Carolyn´s last blog ..Emotional Maintenance =-.

    1. Carolyn and other “non Mom and Dads”….

      Just because you have no children yet do not mean you are without intelligence and the power of observation. Therefore, I do not think you need to preface comments with “I’m not a mom but… or I’m not a dad yet but…” It’s opinions based upon your experiences, same as ours. Sure, some of our experience comes directly from raising our kids but that does not some how detract from your experiences. I DO hope you’ll have the chances to experience parenthood in all its glory and challenges…. if that is your desire but it is not required to know children!

      I was a nanny long before I became a parent and tried not to judge my clients too bad but some of them were hopeless! They had babies without knowing or bothering to try to know what to do with them. So, just because a person creates and gives life, sadly, that does not make them any more knowledgeable than the next person without kids.

      I’m glad y’all contributed your thoughts as they ARE good ideas!!

    2. I agree, speaking negatively about children, or anyone for that matter, in front of other people, where the person being talked about can hear, is a huge problem.

  10. actually spend time with your children. no phone, no TV, just you. your kids will really appreciate your attention.
    .-= julia´s last blog ..Five Question Friday: Valentine’s Edition =-.

    1. Absolutely, Julia! We have a “no computer time” rule at our house. I don’t look at the computer from the time I get home from work until the kids go to bed. That’s strictly family time. So, I tend to my Engaged Marriage family outside of that time. 🙂

  11. Put family first. Don’t overschedule to the point where every person is going a different direction every night. Time together as a family is precious, don’t allow soccer, ballet, piano, etc to take control of your family and steal all your time together.

    Come up with fun family traditions. Every Sunday is game day for our family, each child chooses a game to play. Those are precious moments. We also have date times where one parent spends one-on-one time with each child.

    Read to your children. Not only is it a special time to be close, but it is the best start you can give your child for school. Keep reading, even when they can read to themselves.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. Even at their young age, I can see how over scheduling can become a real problem. My wife and I have talked about this and decided, like you, that we have to put some firm limits on their extracurricular activities.

  12. I feel a little late to the party here. Anyway, I’d say my number one piece of advice as someone who has been a parent for about 10 days is this: Try to have as much talked through before your have kids. Try to decide on a parenting style, discipline style, what kinds of rules you want the house to be run by, etc. And write it down in journals so you both have a place to remember what you decided because you will forget.
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Say Exactly What You Mean =-.

    1. Hey Dan! You’re not late to the party, I hope we still get comments here years from now. 😉

      I love your points on planning. And congrats on the baby!

  13. I’ve been parenting for almost 21 years and I JUST learned this from a wiser, older parent of 59 years! This wonderful lady is 76. She got married when she was 16! Anyway, I asked her a few weeks back if she could share any advise on marriage and she told me to make decisions out of ear shot of the kids because it’ll spare you and your spouse alot grief. For instance, my 2 youngest wanted to tag along to the bowling alley with my husband tonight. Before the advise, I would’ve just said, o.k. Then when hubby came home it might not be “ok” for whatever reason, and there’d be a bit of discussion with the kids chiming in and maybe some unhappiness depending on how things worked out. But instead, I told my children that I’d talk to their father and we’d let them know. Which I did. And as I type they are leaving for the bowling alley! Yay! A bit of quiet time for me.
    Now, this seems like common sense, but I didn’t do it! And honestly, my home is calmer because of this simple advise.

    1. Thank you, Laurie! You know, I think my wife and I have actually done a good job with this. We hadn’t really given it much conscious thought before, but we will now!

    2. I failed to do this in my first marriage in the correct way. What I ended up doing was undermining my own authority. It became “Dad’s word” was law. My son would NOT listen to me unless his Dad specifically told him “Listen to your mom today” before leaving for work.

      So make sure the flip side of this is also going on. When they start going to Dad and skipping the “middle-man” in this scenario, make sure Dad’s response is also “Well, I need to talk with your mom about this first. We’ll let ya know.”

      I am doing this with my current husband (my first husband is deceased). And let me say, showing a “united front” is much easier this way. 🙂

      1. You are most wise Heather. I will make it a point to talk to my husband about the “united front” going both ways. And I liked what you mentioned in your comment about children and control.

        Dustin, you probably have more common sense than me.=) And I thought I’d naturally become more sensible with age! So not true.

  14. I’m not a parent yet, but a couple weeks ago I happened to interview my mom for a blog post that was scheduled for yesterday. I asked her questions about discipline and allowance and privileges because I wasn’t sure I was remembering my childhood clearly. See the CommentLuv link below.

    What I do know so far is to be consistent and on the same page. What I thought was interesting from my mom’s answers was that in hindsight, she thought it was important to work with each child’s personality, preferences and motivations rather than instill Family Rules.
    .-= Newlywed & Unemployed´s last blog ..Mom Discusses Discipline and Privileges =-.

    1. Thanks Newlywed & Unemployed! Yep, I have to agree about consistency both with your kids and with each other. It’s so cool that you interviewed your Mom for your blog! 🙂

  15. For my wife and me, our top tip is consistency. It’s not always easy to be consistent in how you parent, but if your children cannot see discipline in the parent, they probably won’t be able to develop it on their own.

    We are still learning too, and found this article and comments to be most helpful.
    .-= Tim´s last blog ..A New Parent’s Guide To Saving Time and Money =-.

    1. Thanks Tim! I’m glad you found the article helpful. As you know from the post, I definitely see consistency as a top trait of successful parenting.

  16. Some great tips here. Parenting was probably the final nail in the coffin for my marriage because I lived with a man who wanted to be their friend, rather than their parent.

    For me it would be the United Front of Parents at position Number 1, which would include kids not coming first all the time and helping them to understand that Mum and Dad are a complete unit who are openly affectionate to each other, not two disparate parts that they can play off against each other.

    Consistency, consistency, consistency… allowing for a gradual learning curve one step at a time towards allowing them to do the big things.

    Having fun but retaining the element of authority. As I said above, far too many parents want to be best buddies with their kids and this impedes their ability to make the right choices when implementing the learning curve because they dont want to have unpleasant confrontations. As a parent, you have to be the responsible one and sometimes that means saying ‘no’.

  17. Joanna,

    I’ve always been the softie in my relationships when it comes to the kids. But I did realize that I wasn’t doing my kids any favors by going easy on them. They need to learn to hear the word “No’ since the world will tell them that too and they need to learn to cope with it. I had always thought, well the world will be the soon enough telling them no, I want them to hear yes now… but saw the folly of that. I can be friendly with my kids without being their friend. It’s worked.

  18. From this post, I understand one thing. To be a parent, hold your freedom, time and rest. Be patient, enjoy the fun with the baby each moment. Parenting is a never-ending learning and hence listen to all great guidance from the seniors. Thank you for sharing. Helps a lot.

  19. We all parents will agree to the point that parenting is the toughest and most rewarding role. This never ending learning has it’s own happiness. Each moment with the baby is priceless. The patience we learn helps us in achieving many things. Thanks for the great advice.

  20. My parenting tip, even though I am not a parent, is to understand your role as a parent, the parents’ role is to provide guidance for their children so they can make the correct choices and to support the kids even if they are not choosing the choices that we recommend as long as it’s not going to the extreme and they are not harming themselves or others.

    Having free choice is incredibly important for us human beings on the psychological level if you are doing something you didn’t choose you would hate it even if it is awesome, the idea that your not able to choose freely can kill us from the inside.

    Parents fall into that trap from the love of their children, they want to protect them, they want to guide them to the best route and to let them have the best lives, but it doesn’t always work well for the kids.

  21. Thanks,I can pretty easily shrug off some of the “verbal abuse” that comes from the mouth of a 2-year-old since I reason they don’t understand fully what they’re saying. I am not looking forward to these “discussions” when they become teenagers!

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