BTDT* Moms Talk Best Parenting Practices

It is easy for us, as moms, to get down on ourselves about our parental transgressions.  All too often we remember the days when we shrieked at our kids for, truly, little more than being kids.  Focusing on our missteps as moms and dads has become almost a national pastime, as we berate ourselves for not being the perfect parent.

While I am happy to leap onto the bandwagon of self-indictment, and admit to more than my share of errors in judgment and practice, I am going to search out the glass half-full here. I have asked a few experienced moms to jump in and, without crowing, just reflect on what went right. Here are eight of their best parenting practices that we can all consider.  After all, as we like to say, parenting never ends.

mom and baby at zoo, a family visits the zoo, elephants at the zoo


No Pity Parties:

We support, but we don’t do excuses.  We are all kinds of available. Whether our kids need a ride, a good meal, help conjugating a verb, or advice, we make the time to listen and be there. We are their shoulder to cry on. But if they skip practices and don’t make the team or they blow off studying and get a “D,” we are here to tell them they got the results that equaled the effort they put forth. No pity parties.

We respect their successes as THEIRS alone. NOT ours. We revel in their achievements and are thrilled for them, but when it’s their moment to shine, we step out of the limelight. We have chronic shoulder injuries; we refuse to tweak them by straining to pat ourselves on the back.

Ellen Williams and Erin Dymowski, Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Let’s Go:

When my youngest was 8 and my oldest 12 I decided to travel as much and as often as we could.  I saw a window between the time the youngest was fully able to keep up and the oldest wanted less and less to do with us and decided to leap through the opening.  The benefits of travel, whether it was to the next state or further afield, was that it broadened all of our worlds and kept us in a family bubble, bound close together for days or a week. Memories often seem sharper against an unfamiliar backdrop and my recollections of our trips stand out as some of the brightest.

Say Yes to the Dog:

Dogs, with the furry, messy and wonderful companionship they provide, were not only our children’s playmates but were also their guides in life lessons. I would like to say that owning our four chocolate Labradors (over 20+ years) taught our children responsibility but that would be a falsehood as, in truth, my husband and I shared most of the duties. But what the dogs showed our children about life exists at both ends of the happy/sad spectrum. On the bright side, there are few joys greater for a child than being on the receiving end of their dog’s unquestioning and constant affection. As for sadness, our first two dogs died at 14 years old, a very old age for Labradors. Learning to endure the grief caused by the death of a loved one (dog or human) and having the knowledge that time dulls the edge of sadness is one of life’s most important coping skills.

Lessons of Money and Priorities:

I now see that my husband and I did the right thing in making our three daughters pay for “the extras” when they were teens. We helped them get their first cars, but they were required to have a job to cover the cost of upkeep, insurance, gas and such. If they wanted something above and beyond what we could afford when it came to clothing and extracurricular activities, they knew it was up to them to earn the money. Because we also required them to have good grades and participate in at least one sport per year, I worried at times that we may have been asking too much of them. Now that they’re all adults with a strong work ethic and appreciation for spending their hard-earned dollars wisely, we all — including our daughters — feel that though it was tough, it was right. Lisa Carpenter, Grandma’s Briefs 

Offer a Choice, But Make it a Tough One:

Spring break 2013, finds our son on the sofa…”How’s the internship search going?” my husband and I asked.  “I’m working on it, don’t worry,” he replied.  He was under the impression that if he didn’t have an internship, he could come home for the summer and, well, sit on the sofa. Oh, and, being newly 21, run around with his friends.  We told him if he didn’t have an internship or a job he could stay in Tucson, in the heat, and find a job. We had never been so stern with him in 20 years. He had never been so angry at us.

Guess what? He got an internship, and he’s having a great summer. Sharon Greenthall, Empty House Full Mind

First, Let’s Eat:

We made sure at least one, if not both of us, had breakfast and dinner with our kids almost everyday, which often meant passing on our own social activities. Now that one is in college and the other in law school, they still love to spend time with us. Clearly, as parents, we did something right. Linda Wolf, Carpool Goddess

Dinosaurs to the Rescue:

My husband and I would often share the juggling of picking the kids up from school, various activities, parties, etc. Every once in a while our plans would change (often my husband’s !) and someone else would volunteer to do the deed. If we hadn’t told them beforehand (the kids were still too young to have phones at this point) the boys knew we had a code word that the person who was picking them up had to know before they would get into the car with them. (I can tell you it now, since I don’t think they use it any longer–it was “Stegosaurus.” ) They didn’t have to use it too often, but we (and they) felt more comfortable knowing we had, a not very scientific plan, but a plan nonetheless, in place. Mindy Trotta  Better After 50 

A New School:

When my older sons were 9 and 10, I switched their school.  They were not at a school that suited them and there was another school that I knew would be much better for them.  They screamed and yelled.  They said that if I was doing something that made them so unhappy, I must not care about them.  I teetered on giving in. I told them if they were unhappy after a year they could go back to their old school.  But in truth, I covered my ears and disregarded their pleas.  I bet on the fact that I knew what was better for a fourth and fifth grader than they knew themselves.

We began this list with eight ideas of the best parenting practices from a small group of experienced moms.  Will you consider adding your own tried-and-true advice in the comments below?

*Been There, Done That



    • says

      Your ultimatum with your son was inspired. How hot IS it in Arizona in the summers????? So glad things worked out and he is having a wonderful summer at home.

  1. says

    I think the thing my husband and I are most proud of as parents is that we never tolerated the idea that siblings being obnoxious to one another was just some sort of given. We taught our kids to work together and to look out for one another, and they are very close and respectful. My greatest hope is that that lasts their whole lives.

  2. Sheli says

    these are wonderful :) My son (an only child) is a recent college grad and I am most proud of the fact that I raised a self-sufficient, independent, productive member of society (that is the whole object of the game, isn’t it?). The best advice I have to offer is first, keep your sense of humor, and secondly, don’t be afraid to hurt your kid’s feelings. My son grew up knowing that, unless he was going to start paying the mortgage, he had zero expectation of privacy, and he often heard the word no. It’s important that children are taught to be accountable – our job as parents is to lay the foundation, and what they choose to build on that foundation is all them. When they leave the nest, the choices are theirs and so are the consequences of those choices so they better be equipped to cope with that.

    • says

      Sheli, it sounds like you have every reason to very proud of your self-sufficient son. Congratulations to him on his recent graduation.

  3. says

    I love this! My son is only two, and I can’t even begin to offer too much parenting wisdom of the quality being offered here. My major piece of wisdom: find lots of babysitters. Find a favorite one and then a few spares. Right now we’re “babysitter”-less. Our babysitters all graduated from the local college, and we’re fairly new to our city. We should have figured out some backups!

    • says

      Very important to find babysitters! We remember those days and you need help with small children. Even when they begin pre-k, they are there for a very short period of time. Maybe when a new crop of students arrives in September you will have some additional help.

  4. Carpool Goddess says

    Thanks for including me in your Best Parenting Tips! Lots of great information here.

    • says

      Thanks for offering such a good, common-sense idea. The power of food is never to be underestimated!

  5. says

    From the time my boys could understand, we told them in advance of going anywhere what we expected of them once we got there. It didn’t always work, but 99% of the time if they were about to have a meltdown in a store, a restaurant or another public place, all we had to do was gently remind them of what we talked about. Of course, I can say now that they’re in their 20s they are “well behaved” but when they were very young they sat calmly in nice restaurants and were great company like they are still today.

    • says

      Sitting calmly at a restaurant sounds heavenly to me – there were many times when our kids were little that my husband and I vowed to give up going out to dinner ever again. Well done!

  6. says

    great posts. as a mom who tended to go to sleep every night thinking of the missteps, it was my kids who finally made me see that that was wasted energy. i think part of wandering through the empty nest is remembering the times that our instincts were right and the results were good and to take a little pride in that and sometimes even a lot of pride. if we hadn’t done more right than wrong, our children wouldn’t be the people they are today.

    • says

      Very kind of your kids to let you off the motherhood hook – bet you have slept much better in your later years knowing what a solid parenting job you have done.

  7. says

    I recently attended The Scream-Free parenting class and it did wonders for me. I would constantly yell at the kids and this program surely helped. I typically give them their space but not too much and it’s been working.

  8. says

    Along the lines of “paying for your own extras” was the idea of not trying to control my son’s hairstyle. If he wanted one, he was welcome to wear a hot pink Mohawk, BUT… I would only cover the cost of a “regular” type haircut, at regular intervals. He would have to pay for anything extra out of birthday money, side jobs, etc. Likewise on clothes shopping: the budget for shorts was XX dollars. He could buy two pair of the trendiest shorts at shop Y, *or* he could buy six pair and keep the change at shop Z.

    We ended up never, ever, fighting about his hair or his clothes, because HE made the choices, I only set the parameters.

  9. Deni Loritsch says

    I once read that we must give our kids the
    pleasure of their own company. As the baby
    napped, the 2 tear old played by himself in his room
    looking at books, drawing, listening to Star
    Wars over and over. Now, he is a writer and filmmaker. The “baby” could always find a playmate, and is doing well in a family of his
    Alone time is good for the soul, even for children.

  10. Risa says

    I found a terrific book when my kids were young, called “Pick Up Your Socks, and Other Skills Growing Children Need: A Practical Guide to Raising Responsible Children.” (It’s still available.) I was always a firm believer in having my kids participate in the household by doing a few age-appropriate chores, and this book had some great strategies. I learned how to break down the tougher ones (“Clean up your room!”) and get buy-in on the whole concept of pitching in. (And the more recent “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” backs me up on this too!) The result is that now all three of them are responsible grown-ups who understand the joys and the responsibilities of being adults. They have systems for getting things done–I’m amazed and impressed! One other thing I’d like to share: every now and again, we had a “Just Say Yes” day–the kids could decide what they wanted to do, which treats to get, etc. It was fun for all of us, and I got a break from the routine too.