You are here

Our Best Advice from 20 Years of Parenting

More than two options can overwhelm a toddler. So offer a limited range of choices: "The blue shirt or the red shirt?" The key is quantity control.

When you feel in your gut that all's not right with your baby, even if the doctor says nothing is wrong, get a second opinion.

Instead of shouting "No!" try "Wait!" The word wait gets your toddler's attention, is more specific than no, and usually stops the misbehavior long enough for you to decide what to do next.

Take a snuggle break when you get home from work: Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, then curl up with your child and read a book together or just listen to her talk about her day. That way, you'll both get some needed bonding time before you have to go make dinner.

When you're out with your baby, it's not enough to stow several changes of clothing for him. Always stash a clean T-shirt for yourself in one of the diaper bag's deep pouches, for the day he throws up all over you.

Babies don't care if you sing well—they're soothed by the soft, crooning quality of the human voice.

It may seem easier to sneak away in the morning while your child is distracted. But a better way to say goodbye is to create a simple ritual: You could make a habit of parting ways after, say, two kisses and a high-five.

Not every minute of the day has to be used in some quantifiably productive way. You have to be loose enough to do some things on the spur of the moment, or life isn't fun.

A judicious sweet touch can be just the remedy for picky eating. Add some rainbow sprinkles and kids will eat everything from oatmeal to yogurt.

The least time-crunched parents are those who don't feel guilty putting their kids to bed at a reasonable hour so that they can enjoy alone time in the evening.

Instead of keeping a to-do list, write down everything you've accomplished that day. When you reflect on what you really do every day, you'll realize you're a lot more efficient than you give yourself credit for.

Even young toddlers can learn the basics of polite behavior, but keep it really simple. Start with one rule, such as "When you're eating, you're sitting," or "No feet on the table."

Take a time-out when you're steaming mad: Tell your child you need a few minutes to be alone and calm down.

Keeping your orders simple and direct is the best way to make sure that your child understands what you mean. If you say, "Are you ready to go to bed?" your very literal child may well think, No, I'm not, but thanks very much for asking. And if you say, "It's your bedtime," your child might nod in agreement but be no closer to turning off the TV and putting on his pajamas. In this scenario, what you should really say is "Please turn off the TV and go to bed."

When you need to run errands, try asking only one of your kids to come along. It's often during moments like these—when it's just the two of you but there's no pressure to have a heart-to-heart-that you're likely to get the scoop on school or problems with friends.

Just about anything that allows your child to slow down and reflectat his own pace—qualifies as downtime:
* Sitting in the high chair watching you make dinner
* Lying in the crib babbling to himself
* Looking at a board book alone
* Riding in a front carrier as you go about your routine
* Staring into space

An easy rule for stopping sibling fights: Never intervene on one side or the other unless there's a possibility of harm.

Babies and toddlers need picture books, starting with the chewable kind—not to teach early reading but to help them love books.

Before talking to your child, get down to her eye level. This lets her know that the information you're about to share is important.

Let your child go diaperless for ten minutes a day. Fresh air and sunlight (even filtered through a window) can help ease diaper rash.

Kids crave attention, positive or not. Annoying the grown-ups can be just as good as pleasing them, and maybe even better (it's more fun, and gets a stronger reaction). Sometimes, overlooking minor infractions can be the best and quickest route to restoring peace.

It's your turn: What's the best mom advice you've ever received—or given?