Parenting is a journey, not just for your child but for you as well.
You can’t know what it’s like to be an adolescent until you’ve been one yourself. You can’t know what it’s like to be in the middle of potty training when all your friends have moved on to preschool. There are milestones at every stage of development, and as parents we’re constantly learning and adapting along with our kids.
So let me share some parenting hacks that will help make parenting more manageable: from infancy (or even before) through adolescence. These hacks are tried-and-true methods that work for thousands of families around the world – including my own! Some are practical tips; others might seem more touchy-feely, but they’re all based on my experience (as well as feedback I’ve received from other parents) and can be applied to your family.
What are parenting hacks?
Parenting hacks are clever techniques or tricks that make parenting easier – sometimes dramatically so.
Some of these hacks can be used from infancy (though some do require more maturity). Others are intended for later stages, but I think they make sense to share now because they’re easy and can be adapted depending on the stage you’re at. Some of these I have used for my own children (usually with great results).
I think it’s important to share them now, because you can implement them right away and see the benefits.
Some are based on my own experience but a lot are from other parents I’ve met along the way; they’re shared here with permission. I’m happy to help spread these hacks in any way I can – knowledge is power!
What are the 4 types of parenting styles?
You’ve probably heard of the Four Tendencies framework for personality types. It’s a system created by Gretchen Rubin (of The Happiness Project fame) and it classifies people based on how they respond to expectations or outer obligations (like commitments to family, friends, work, etc).
The four tendencies are Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. I won’t go into details here because there are already awesome resources about those tendencies available online. You can find a lot great articles on parents.com.
This framework is useful for parents because there are specific tendencies that work better with certain parenting styles.
Today’s child psychology differentiates between 4 main styles: Authoritarian, Permissive, Authoritative (or “Indulgent”), and Uninvolved (Neglectful).
For each tendency there is a parenting style that will most likely be effective – or even enjoyable – for your child. These are the styles I’ll focus on below with specific advice to help you implement them. Of course, it’s important to remember that no parenting style is right or wrong – it’s all about what works best for your child!
Authoritarian (or “Push”): This parenting style is characterized by being strict, firm and quick to discipline. Rules are compulsory and there is punishment for noncompliance. Outcomes are important over process, so children may feel that their input doesn’t matter. The parent sets clear expectations and provides little in the way of explanation or choices. This style works best for Obligers; anyone else is likely to rebel against it despite that being the very behavior this style is trying to eliminate.
Authoritative (or “Friendly”): This parenting style is characterized by being encouraging but also making rules clear and consistently enforced. Parents are warm, loving but have boundaries that they enforce without anger and with empathy. They also give a lot of choices and explanations to their children about why rules exist and what the results of breaking them will be. This style works best for Questioners; any other tendency is likely to rebel against it.
Lack of responsiveness and communication are very damaging to a child’s development, but so is over-responsiveness and lack of limits in the early years.
Permissive (or “Laissez faire”): This parenting style is characterized by being lax, not having clear rules or applying them inconsistently with little to no discipline. Parents are loving towards their children but they also don’t expect maturity, explanations or cooperation from them. This is a very uncommon – and possibly damaging – parenting style because it sets children up to fail by not giving them the structure they need for healthy development.
Uninvolved (or “Lax”): This parenting style is characterized by being detached and providing little in the way of support or discipline. Parents don’t set clear expectations, show warmth or respond to their children’s needs; they aren’t affectionate and they’re detached from their child’s activities and interests. It’s a passive style where parents don’t actively involve themselves in their child’s lives, so it will be challenging for children to develop into healthy, happy individuals.
But loving and nurturing isn’t all there is to parenting!
Here are some parenting hacks I’ve picked up along the way from my own experience with the 4 tendencies; from friends & family, and from books & research.
How to make parenting easier by using various techniques and tricks
Remember: this is not meant to be a list of reasons why one parenting style is better than another, it’s just explaining how there are different options that may work for some people depending on their child’s tendency.
Note: I’ll be referring to children somewhat interchangeably with kid/s since I don’t want to use the word baby/s when talking about 7-year-olds!
1. Don’t give in to tantrums
Obligers will always test boundaries and push their limits, even after they’re set – because that’s just what Obligers do! This is a testing of your boundaries as much as a need for attention from your child.
If you give in to the tantrum, you’ll be teaching your children that if they throw enough of a fit, they can get what they want out of life – and this is not the lesson you want them learning!
2. Time out!
Questioners will respond well to time-outs because it gives them a chance to step back, calm down and think about why they lost control. They’re highly likely to stop misbehaving when given the opportunity to do so by themselves – at their own pace.
3. Explain the reasoning behind your decisions
Give an explanation and state the consequences clearly beforehand. This is especially important for Questioners but will help to ensure that Obligers aren’t confused or hurt by seeming injustices.
4. Label or identify emotions & behaviors
Use words like “angry” or “upset”, not euphemisms like “moody” – let your child know you know what they’re feeling, and that you love them no matter how they choose to behave.
5. Read up on child development
There are some great books out there about each tendency and the developmental stages your children will go through from infancy until adolescence – it’s helpful to read about these so you can understand why your kids are acting the way they are.
6. Read all the parenting books you can get your hands on!
After all, the more you know about parenting styles and developmental stages of your children, the better parent you’ll be!
7. Find a good support system for yourself
It’s really helpful to have an outside opinion when dealing with your kids – I highly recommend using one of those forums on Facebook where parents post questions & get feedback from other parents. This can be a great way to get answers and support!
8. Don’t compare your kids!
It’s natural to compare our children with other kids from time to time, but try not to do this in front of them. Comparing will make them feel small & inferior because they’ll sense that you think one kid is better than the other, and this can be harmful to their self-esteem.
9. Get your children involved in activities they enjoy
Find something that makes them feel good about themselves & get involved yourself – it will help you feel connected as a family!
10. Be patient with your child’s questions (and yours!)
Keep an open mind and be as patient as possible – you’ll be glad you did!
11. Have a set bedtime & stick to it
Teenagers need a lot of sleep like babies do, but they’re not always going to listen or stay in their own beds. If your kid is physically capable of staying in bed and keeps getting out, put a lock or a barricade on their door.
12. Lay out their clothes the night before
Teens will not be happy when you wake them up early to go somewhere, especially if they’re in the middle of a groggy “I-don’t-really-want-to-go” phase. Try to lay out their clothes the night before or at the very beginning of their sleep cycle so they’ll be more likely to get up and get dressed.
13. Educate yourself on your child’s developmental stage
Be aware of what kind of learner your child is – what works well for one kid may not work for another!
14. It’s okay to ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member for advice. They’re there to support you, and may have some good ideas on how to deal with your kids that you haven’t tried before!
15. Don’t feel like you need to follow the latest trend in parenting
The latest parenting trends are like every other fad – just a bunch of hype that will be gone in a few months. It’s important to remember that “trends” are trends for a reason – they don’t last!
What parenting hacks worked great for me and others?
Here are some examples from my own experience as a mother and from other fellow Moms I’ve met throughout the years:
- The “white noise” trick! When our kids were babies, we used this trick for nap time and bedtime. We put on a little white noise in their room – a fan or an air purifier or just the television being very low – to drown out any other noises so they could sleep more soundly. It really worked!
- The “pick your battles” hack: I may not always win when it comes to parenting – in fact, I can’t think of a single thing that my kids do that I ALWAYS get on their case about. But if there is something relatively minor that they’re doing consistently (for example, throwing every toy they pick up, or yelling and screaming), just let it go if you can. They’re kids and they have a lot going on at that age; they don’t need another thing to worry about!
- Sleep training: My husband and I put our babies into their own beds when they were six months old – yes, even the 4-month-old baby (who was a little squirmier than the others)! Your child won’t die if they’re left in their cribs, and it’s a development milestone that every baby goes through.
- Throw away the spoons: Okay, so I haven’t tried this one myself, but it has worked wonders for other parents. This method works really well with babies who won’t stop eating out of the jar! All you have to do is put a lid on the jar, take off their spoon and tell them that there’s no more food for now. Babies don’t like to be denied things, so it’s a great way to get them to stop eating.
- Pacifiers: Babies love pacifiers because they remind them of the comfort that their mothers provide while feeding. It’s a very natural reflex for babies to suck on something when they’re being fed so be prepared for a stubborn struggle if you try to take it away from them! You may need to both give a pacifier and teach your baby how to use one correctly.
- The “bath” hack: Our babies loved taking baths when they were younger. It was a great way to bond with them and help them learn how to communicate through play. Sometimes we would put their toys in the water, and other times we would just let them splash around.
- The “big kid” hack: Get your kids excited about the milestone of moving from a crib to a regular bed by talking about what it means. They’re becoming big kids who have responsibilities like getting up and going to sleep by themselves – let them know that they can do it! Let your kids help pick out their new bed. Explain the rules that they’re going to follow in their new big-kid bed, and make sure that everyone agrees on how you’ll handle situations like staying up late or needing a glass of water in the night.
- Cleaning: Make cleaning fun by setting up a routine that includes music and a chore chart. Hit up your local Dollar Store for fun toys and cleaning supplies that they can use, and make cleanup part of their routine like eating or going to bed.
- The “it’s for a good cause” hack: Have a garage sale and donate the money to charity! Encourage your kids to help pick out toys that they want to sell (and let them keep the money they make from selling), and let them know that they’re helping other kids by selling toys that they don’t want.
- The “early bird gets the worm” hack: Start setting up a routine for bedtime early on, and stick with it in order to make it easier on you and your child later on. Do the same thing for naps too if you need to.
- The “sport the color” hack: We went to watch my husband play hockey one night and all of the players on both teams were wearing their jerseys, which had red sleeves. My son pointed out that I was wearing a red shirt with black jeans and asked why our team wasn’t dressed in black! Hilarity ensued as we discussed that teams usually wear shirts of similar colors so they look like a cohesive unit.
- It’s okay to cry: We have a saying that “the sun will come out tomorrow” (it was my father-in-law’s favorite catchphrase) but it works for more than just the weather! It is perfectly normal for kids to get upset and cry over something, but they will get over it. You should always try to help your child through the situation that’s causing them distress rather than shushing them or sending them off to their rooms. If they’re crying because of a bad dream, for example, then sit with them until they calm down – other people don’t usually comfort them in their dreams and it can be stressful for them.
- “Yucky” vegetables: Vegetables are a great source of nutrients that your kids will need as they get older, so you may find yourself going through a lot of battles before they’ll agree to eat their veggies. Make sure that you’re including vegetables at every meal – even if your kids won’t eat them. After a while, they may decide that they don’t want to pass up the chance to get a bite of broccoli or some carrots!
- The “diamond in rough” hack: Explain to your children how everyone is different and unique from one another. If you look closely enough, you can find something special about everyone. For example, you can say that someone is like a diamond in the rough because they have hidden potential just waiting to be discovered. (Make sure to use it as an opportunity to teach your kids about good manners!
How to implement these parenting hacks into your family’s lifestyle
Consistency is key . If you implement a new routine at bedtime and then you give in the next night, your child will catch on to what’s going on and realize that it doesn’t really matter. That’s why we use our bedtime routine almost every night, even if my son gets a little grumpy about it.
Consistent rules are important too. Your child won’t be able to learn anything if they don’t know what the boundaries are! Set up a schedule for nap times and bedtimes as early as possible rather than trying to read your toddler’s mind, and let them know that you’ll stick to it even if they complain.
I have to admit that we’re not perfect. My son has a habit of climbing up the backs of the couches and chairs, which isn’t allowed in our house so I try to gently remind him every once in a while that he should get down. Sometimes he listens and sometimes he doesn’t! Either way, it’s important for us to keep our routines intact so that he can learn what’s expected of him.
As for the vegetables, I just tell him that kids should eat their greens because they’re good for them!
Even if you don’t implement all of these parenting hacks every day, you can use a little bit of each one to make your child’s learning process easier. Remember to keep it clean and age-appropriate so they understand, and keep it consistent so they can learn!
How can I be the best parenting?
There is no perfect parenting, but we all need to do our very bests. We don’t need to be our kids’ best friends in all situations. All of our parenting goals lead to growing good, self-reliant, optimistic and happy little human beings.
In short, here are nine effective parenting steps you should always follow:
- Show your kids that your love is unconditional
- Be a good role model
- Communicate well and often
- Be willing to learn and adapt your parenting style
- Make room to spend quality time with your family
- Boost your child’s self-esteem
- Act and talk about the positive things in life – not the negative ones
- Set limits and be consequent with your discipline
- Know your own boundaries, needs and limitations as a parent
What is the hardest age for parents?
In general I think all ages are difficult for parents. Children demand time and energy from us, so the less children you have, the more free time and money you have. On the other hand, if you have 9 kids like me (not really haha), it’s definitely a challenge to find enough time for each of them.
I feel that the hardest age for parents is when kids are around 5-7 years old.
Why? Because they are very active and curious about everything, so they discover their great abilities to explore the surroundings by themselves. Also at this age we need to communicate with them a lot more than before in order to teach basic life skills (like how to deal with emotions, how to be respectful to other people etc.). So it is a very difficult age for us. Sometimes kids can be so stubborn and their tantrums are the worst!
However I think we need to see every stage of child development as a challenge and opportunity for our children. It’s never easy, but at least it makes life more interesting.
As a great optimist, you should look at all the potential that life brings to you and your family. And don’t forget – no matter how hard parenting gets, when we look back and compare it with our childhood years later on, we realize that everything was worth it!
Parenting is an irreversible decision. It’s a commitment that won’t end when your child goes to college or starts their first job. Parenting isn’t just about teaching manners, keeping them safe, and instilling values; it’s also about being there for emotional support when they’re feeling down and celebrating with them on their successes. Whether you have one toddler or three teenagers at home–or in between!–you’ll see how this blog post can help make parenting easier by using various techniques, tricks and parenting hacks from infancy through adolescence. What are some of the ways that you’ve made life with kids a little bit easier? Share your thoughts below!