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10 Parenting Advice We Actually Want to Hear

Parenting is tough. From the day you find out you are pregnant, you are inundated with information, solicited and unsolicited, about what to do and what not to do, what to say, what not to say, what will turn your child into a Rhodes Scholar and what will turn your child into a total degenerate or even a psychopath. From the articles you read to the know-it-all mothers at the playground, to the judging voices in your own head, you are tsk-tsked so much that sometimes you feel like your head will explode.

In a recent article published by Salon, a psychologist-psychoanalyst presents a list of “10 Things Parents Should Never Say to Their Toddlers.” These are phrases we should never use because they promote regressive ideas and will undermine our relationship with our children.

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The author states phrases that may seem benign when used as a quick behavior intervention are ineffective and even harmful. Never say “time out” because it is humiliating and scary and toddlers don’t understand it. Never say “It’s not safe!” because the phrase is too abstract without an accompanying explanation. Never say “Excuse me” because it’s a poorly disguised “shame on you.” Never say “Good eating” because an abundance of compliments paves the way for expectations of praise for everything.

I understand that articles like this are trying to offer up a more supportive and “progressive” approach to parenting. It's trying to educate us. Trying to help. And a lot of it makes sense to me. But reading this particular article on this particularly stressful day when I feel so behind in so many areas of my life didn’t help. Mostly because I’ve at one point used all 10 of the phrases on this doc’s “no fly” list. I’ve given my daughter a time out for repeatedly hitting her cousin with a plastic croissant. I’ve said “use your words” when she was answering all my questions with purple minion “raspberries.” I’ve yelled “Don’t run!” when she was heading toward Ventura Boulevard with “I just saw an ice cream truck” speed.

In a real mom's world, sometimes all we can do is our best.

Yes, advice given in this article is all fine and good, but not always easy to live by. In an ideal world, we would all have the patience and clear heads to avoid the “never” phrases and only use the most supportive and nurturing ones all the time. But in a real mom’s world, one full of little sleep, a lot of trial by error and aw shit, I didn’t change the laundry last night so wear your least dirty pants moments—sometimes all we can do is our best.

So as much as I do process and ponder articles just like these, today, I’d like to focus on a simpler list of parenting suggestions. This is a list of parenting advice compiled from my own experiences and from other women I respect and admire—simple things to remember that are substantiated by a mother’s intuition, common sense and the desire to raise happy, healthy kids. If we can try to do these things, I think we’re all doing pretty good.

1. Say I love you often.

Say it when you are so in love with her you can’t deal. And also say it when you are so frustrated want to give her away to gypsies. Those three words instantly lift the spirit on both ends.

2. Laugh with her.

There is always something to laugh at. Today, it was “Look, mommy has a mustache!” We laughed and laughed.

3. Give her your attention.

Put down the phone. Close your computer. Take time to give her your undivided attention. Would you rather she draw “pandas” on every single one of your dining room chairs with a Sharpie? Wait, where did she get a Sharpie? Yaaah, maybe pay attention, mom.

4. Help her see her choices matter.

Ask her what she thinks. When you give her a choice, follow through with it. Except for when she chooses Play-Doh. Don’t give her that choice.

5. Let her get dirty.

Let her play in the mud. Let her jump in the puddles. Let her roll down the hill. Fly away, helicopter mom.

6. Talk to her.

Explain things to her, tell stories to her, discuss last night’s results on "Dancing With the Stars."

7. Listen to her.

Even when your ears are bleeding from toddler screams and hearing her say “What is that, mommy?” on loop, take time to listen to her when she’s talking to you.

8. Use Common Sense.

Like, don’t leave scissors on the floor, don’t let your toddler watch "Dexter," and don’t let grandma or grandpa give them a “grandma and grandpa-type snack” (an entire Kit Kat bar) before bed.

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9. Be Respectful.

Be kind. Listen to her feelings. Don’t be an asshole.

10. Be Easier on Yourself.

Parenting is not easy. Especially parenting toddlers. We are all human. We all make mistakes. Your children feel your love. You are doing your best.

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