Summary: Advice for young parents is pretty easy to come by these days. Even still, I didn’t get nearly enough of it when I was working with my young kids. Although, it’s very possible I would have ignored it anyway. I was very stubborn. At any rate, I thought I’d take a bit of what I’ve learned over the years and turn it into some advice that, I guess, I could have used.
I was 19 when my son was born. And I’ll be the first to admit that I struggled with way I handled the situation or the first couple years of my son’s life. But there are some lessons I took from those experiences–and from the 14 years since–that I think have helped me to become a better parent.
My Advice for Young Parents
And I think those lessons can help you become a better parent too. That doesn’t mean my parenting skills are somehow better than yours and you should listen to me because of it. Instead, I simply mean that there are things I wish I would have known when I was younger.
Which also means this advice isn’t going to be universal. Some of it will work for you and some of it might not. That’s just how human children are! Anyways, here are some of the tricks I picked up along the way.
Discipline is Necessary; Spanking is Not
I’m not meaning to start an age old debate here. I know there are people who are firmly on the side of spanking and firmly on the side of not spanking. But here’s what I’ll tell you. For me, spanking was not necessary. Any discipline involved putting the child in a timeout.
I know that a timeout might not seem like a big deal. But there are actually good reasons why it seems to work:
- Timeouts are proportional: 1 minute for every year your child has been alive. A two year old, for example, would get a two minute time out
- They’re easy to enforce: You can give a child a timeout anywhere.
- Kids really don’t like them: My kids hate timeouts. And I think that’s not because the timeout itself was such a drag, but because they knew they were in trouble
- It gives you, as a parent, some time to cool down as well. I mean, let’s face it, when you’re raising kids, sometimes your temper can flare as well.
- Timeouts are easy to enforce consistently, which means that kids will know there are always going to be consequences for negative actions.
Is a timeout going to work for every child in every situation? Of course not. But for young kids, I’ve discovered that it’s a good default consequence to start with.
You Need to Have Your Own Life
The other bit of advice I have–and it’s going to be difficult for a lot of people to digest–is that you need to have your own life too. This is especially true for parents of younger children (and, also, especially harder–I know child care is often a challenge). But here’s the advice: It’s a good thing to have your own life.
This means spending time away from your child or children. It means pursuing your own hobbies. It means going to back to work, eventually. Because here’s the deal: if you spend all of your time with your child, you’re going to get burned out. But if you can also pursue your own interests and your own life, you’ll have more energy for spending quality time with your child. And that quality time is going to be infinitely more important than spending all your time with your kids.
Besides, as you explore your own interests and passions, you’ll be bringing more to the table, expanding the world of your kids. It’s a win-win.
Teenagers Need a Safe Space
The last bit of advice I’ll give is about older kids–once they become teenagers. Because teenagers are tough. And they’re tough for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, your failings as a parent become suddenly quite visible. And your instinct is going to be to start over-correcting like a maniac.
But here’s what’s really important, here’s what your teenagers really need now: a safe space. I know, I know, that sounds corny. But your teenagers are going to need a place to go where they feel accepted just as they are, where they feel loved.
That doesn’t mean you can’t, you know, lay down the law when they’re missing a homework assignment. But it does mean that home should always be a refuge–someplace that they can come and feel comfortable and stay out of trouble.
Do the Right Things When You Can
Ultimately, as a parent, you’re going to make mistakes. But it’s important that you do the right things when you can. Pay your child support. Don’t put your kids in the middle of arguments that aren’t theirs. Be respectful. Model good behavior. You get the idea.
This advice for young parents comes from my own experience, so it might not suit everyone. That’s okay.