Updated: Feb 19, 2022
We received two simple pieces of advice when my children were very young. One was pivotal in my being a better parent.
When my firstborn was an infant, I complained to someone about his crying. I was frustrated by this form of communication. She told me that he would be grown in the blink of an eye and for the rest of my life I would long for that moment, crying or not. It brought me a beautiful perspective. I treasured all moments, not just the happy ones, knowing that they were fleeting.
This was the advice with the greatest impact. With my firstborn, I read parenting books. I had no experience with babies or children. When he turned 2, I read the most potent piece of advice I would ever receive. Tell your child what to do…not what not to do. For example, your child is jumping on the couch. When you say “Stop jumping”, they hear “Jumping” and continue to jump. However, when you say “Please sit down”, they hear “Sit down”. It also shifts your interactions to that of guidance, rather than reprimand. For us, the Terrible Twos were no longer terrible. It helped create a more peaceful and positive home.
The “Tell your child what to do” does not work on the dog. After training myself for years to give guidance, our new dog never caught on to instructions. She needed the “no”, so she would stop whatever she was doing.
Yes, I have given this advice to many parents of young children. Some were neighbors or parents of my preschool students. Most of them were complete strangers in public places. I am okay with having given unsolicited advice. My hope is that, like ripples in a pond, this shift in communication changes lives.