20 Wonderful (and surprising!) Parenting Tips

I recently ran across this great roundup of parenting tips on A Cup of Jo. I loved the hacks and advice on everything from discipline to meal time and I thought, "WAIT! I have the most amazing mommy friends who probably have great tips, too!"

I was right. 

I asked for tips on Facebook and got the most wonderful and thoughtful responses I've listed below, including some of my own favorite parenting tips.

From me:

I check out audio books from the library and load them on old iPhones and iPods. I use them ALL the time to foster independent play, during long car rides, and even at night when one of the boys has taken a long nap and isn't exactly tired. They just lay there and listen until they fall asleep. 

Frozen banana + oatmeal = cooled AND naturally sweetened breakfast!

If I'm sending my children to any type of group babysitting scenario, I call it a KID PARTY! It's all in the marketing after all!

As soon as Griffin was tall enough to reach the water dispenser, I put plastic cups where he could reach them. When he says, "I'm thirsty!" I respond, "Great! Get it yourself!"

I keep a little cosmetic bag in my purse. It has a tiny container of Play-Doh, silly putty, a Slinky, and whatever random cheap toys we've collected recently. When we get to a restaurant or other place that involves waiting patiently, I pull it out to keep the kids entertained. It's better than always using an iPhone (which they never want to give up) and I really enjoy the few moments of peace and quiet. 


From all my super-smart mommy friends:

I have a rubbermaid container full of fun travel games that we use only for long car trips. This keeps my kids from solely relying on screen entertainment. We have Melissa and Doug bingo, hangman, and license plate games...activity pads, blank paper, colored pencils (crayons melt and markers get everywhere and dry out), stickers, etc. The kids only see these items a few times a year, so they always look forward to playing with everything.

- Becky, mother of 3


The best advice I received was, "a lot of people will give you advice, listen, take it in and use what works for you." You get really good at smiling and nodding

- Ashley, mother of 2


Explain decisions so your child's can learn how situations/issues are handled.

- Amy, mother of 1


My husband taught me early on to tell our son what I want him to do rather than what I don't (or, in addition to what I don't). He also taught me the importance of teaching RJ what to say in response to instructions I give him. I've probably said the phrase, "please tell me, OK mom" about a hundred billion times in the past 3 years. Oh, and "quiet hands/quiet feet/quiet mouth" for time out (instead of some predetermined amount of time)....the kid then controls when they get out of time out and causes much less arguing about "stand still! face the wall! stop crying!" Once they're quiet and still, they can get out. Teaches self-control and discipline.

- Jessica, mother of 1


Learn to say 'no consciously ....instead of breaking under whining negotiation. It can develop trust/honest communication that will last your relationship for life...and help them in other relationships.

- Nicole, mother of 2


Since John was 2 I've been using my own negotiating method called "make a deal." I tell him something like "bed in 10 minutes." He says "no." I say "bed in 5 minutes now, you'd better make a suggestion or make a deal or it's going to be even sooner." John learned quickly to propose an alternative and to support it. He doesn't whine and his "deals" are very creative.

We have had issues with John sleeping in his room alone. Something scares him and he suddenly won't sleep alone. Both times this happened we put the dog in there to protect him. It works like a charm.

- Emily, mother of 2


Give the kids "jobs" and responsibilities starting from a very early age. My kids are much more motivated to do things if they know it is their "job." For example, my kids are responsible for feeding the dog dinner every night. We talk about how they feel when they are hungry and how the dog must feel when she is hungry and what it would be like if no one gave them dinner, etc.

One more to add -- the Teach Me Time clock is the best thing I have ever spent money on for my kids. I don't care what the hec they are doing in their rooms, but if their clock is still yellow, then they stay in their rooms (except for going to the bathroom) until the clock changes to green. BEST INVENTION EVER. of water outside their doors so they can watch cartoons and we don't have to be up crazy early with them.  Ok - last tip -- Amazon Prime is worth every single penny. I wish it existed when Sam was a baby. I streamline EVERYTHING in my life. Going to a store with 3 kids = miserable. Amazon = wonderful!!

- Rebecca, mother of 3


One of my favorite time savers I have come up with is putting shoes and socks by the door. We always kept shoes by the door (seems obvious, right), but when it was time to go, kids all had to go back to their rooms to get socks - my kids love to go barefooted, no matter the season. With 7 kids, anything I can do to speed the getting out the door process is huge because if one slows down, they all slow down and we just keep getting exponentially later. I was able to score an old set of lockers from the break room at my mom's workplace. They were just going to throw them out so I got them for free. Bonus! I spray painted them a cute color and put them in our mud room right by the door. Every kid has a sock locker and a shoe locker. I also have a hook on the wall in this room for each person's backpack and coat. It has helped us tons.

- Shana, mother of 7

We have a ton of cold weather accessories. this is in our coat closet and works so well because the girls can just stuff it in a holder and can go get their own mittens/hats/scarves for school.

- Sara, mother of 2


I have entirely too many ideas, but I'll share the one thing that has served me well for every child, and through every age and stage. When your child is 4 or 5 (because that's about the age they can process what this means), decide on something physical they can carry to you when they want to tell you something they are a little nervous or scared to tell you. When they're little, it will probably be about something they broke or a naughty thing they did, etc. When my kids were little, it was a small yellow chair from a table set they had. They would sit on the yellow chair, and that was my cue to stop and carefully listen to them. My promise was that I would not freak out, but that there would still be appropriate consequences. Over the years, they stopped bringing the yellow chair, but it was more of a demeanor and a serious, "Mom, can we talk?" For the kids, it gave them the freedom to get things off their chest with the guarantee that I would listen, and not fly off the handle. For me, it was a reminder that I need to STOP (hard for a mom of many to do) and honor their courage in coming to me. It has continued to work through the teenage years, and several important confessions and cries for help. Because, in my heart, I truly believe children (even teenagers!) WANT their parents' help, and don't want to be burdened down by guilt, or fearful of their parents' response.

ps: maybe it's not a physical thing they bring, maybe instead it's a physical place. Like "Mom, can we go for a drive?" or "Mom, can we talk in your room?" Just establish a key item or place or phrase that creates a safe place to communicate.

- Stacey, mother of 5

The two things that have been my biggest sanity savers both involve "rest." First, a consistent bed time. It's gotten a little later as they've aged, but it's still early enough to give my husband and me an hour alone and ensure that our kids are rested for the next day. Second, a consistent "rest time" in the early afternoon. Once our kids give up naps, "rest time" involves listening to an audio CD for 45 min or so in separate rooms. It's good for our introverted family members to recharge during the time alone, and it's good for our extroverted family members to learn to play by themselves. (I'll add that "rest time" for the older kids involves some quiet building toys while listening to the books on CD. Legos are a favorite right now.)

- Michelle, mother of 3

What tips and tricks do you have?