New parents these days are bombarded with information about raising children. From bottles to breasts, cribs to co-sleeping, and organic homegrown to processed store-bought, the choices and guidelines are endless. My husband and I have two small children and have been parents for 3.5 entire years; obviously, we are now experts. We have also come to realize that we are always in agreement about the best way to handle all the various child-rearing situations we have navigated.
So, new parents, you can put down the parenting books and stop scratching your head! We’ve put together a handy guide for the correct ways to handle five routine tasks, based on our own actual experience in the parenting trenches.
He Said, She Said: A Dual Guide to Parenting
How to Potty Train Your Child:
Don’t rush it! Children know better than anyone else when they are ready to stop using diapers, and it can be an intimidating change for them. Besides, if sitting in their own waste every day isn’t motivating them to use the toilet, then nothing will…yet. So forget about the stickers, the potty charts, the intensive weekend training. Just touch base with your child frequently to see how she’s feeling about it, and keep casually reminding her that the toilet is there when she’s ready to use it. She’ll get there in her own time, and you will have built trust that you will be there to support her in times of uncertainty and change.
Bribes, bribes, and more bribes. Use candy, stickers, Frozen, a petting zoo filled with mythical creatures. If your kid wants it, you can hold it over their head until they have nothing left to poop. Just be aware that this has high backfire potential. Some kids (mine) are willing to sit on a toilet for hours for a handful of gummy bears.
How to Give Your Child a Bath:
Fill the tub to approximately belly-button height (when the child is sitting), with water that is warm but not hot. Use of a bath thermometer is preferable. Add 2-3 teaspoons of bubbles and at least 15 toys that are either educational or promote imaginative play. Let your child dip their toes in and sit down as slowly as they feel comfortable. Carefully wash the child with a hypoallergenic, non-toxic soap, remembering to clean any creases, nooks, crannies, folds, and armpits. Gently scrub the hair with tear-free shampoo. Rinse very carefully, leaning the child’s head back and using your free hand to divert water away from the eyes and ears. Ensure that all shampoo is completely rinsed out before ending the bath. Wrap the child in a nice, soft, hooded towel, fresh from the dryer, and squeeze in plenty of snuggles and giggles while you dry her off.
Place child in tub. Pour in liquid soap under the running faucet. The force of the flowing water will produce plenty of bubbles. Fill the tub until the filthiest part of your child (the butt) is adequately submerged. Proceed to soap up everything as quickly as possible from toe to head. Next comes the tricky part, the rinsing of the shampoo. Ask your child what that thing is up there on the ceiling. When your kid looks, because they always look, rinse out the hair like you are putting out a fire. Repeat this 3-5 times. Then let them play for a while. If your kid tends to scream and cry when it’s time to get out of the tub, I have a foolproof way to get them to decide bath time is over. Open the drain while distracting them with whatever that thing was on the ceiling. Then let them continue playing. Before long the tub will be empty, and not long after that, your child will get cold and ask to be removed from the tub. Politely oblige them.
What to Pack in a Diaper Bag:
Put age-appropriate items for each child in separate pockets, for ease of use while you’re out and about. For a toddler or preschooler, include a spill-proof cup with cold water, snacks, toddler eating utensils, a water-resistant bib, diapers or training pants, a change of clothes, extra pants and socks for any potty training accidents, face/hand wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, light jacket for chilly evenings, extra hair ties, a brush or comb, 2-3 small toys or books, and a travel pack of crayons. For a baby, include pacifiers, diapers, baby wipes, a travel changing pad, receiving blanket, change of clothes for baby, change of clothes for Mom, bottles or other feeding supplies, teethers, baby-friendly lotion, a sunhat, and a handful of soft toys. Put the diaper bag by the door, so you don’t forget to take it with you.
How to Feed Your Family Dinner:
Plan a week’s worth of nutritious meals on the weekends, and head to the grocery store for the necessary ingredients. Cook everything you can ahead of time by either freezing or using a slow cooker before you leave in the morning. After work, whip together any last-minute preparations, have everyone wash their hands thoroughly, and sit down together to eat as a family. If the weather is pleasant, hold a picnic in the backyard. Have a nice conversation about each person’s topics of interest. At the end of the meal, gently wipe down the children’s hands and faces to make sure they don’t spread anything sticky onto the walls or furniture. After dinner, take a nice walk around the block before going home to brush teeth, take a bath, and get ready for bed.
Let your child choose the entrée. It will usually be PB&J, spaghetti, chicken, or something with cheese. That’s fine. The trick is to only serve a small amount of this item. What you do next is put a vegetable and some kind of fruit on the plate as well. When they finish the suspiciously small portion of whatever entrée they decided on, tell them they can’t have any more until the less desirable fruit or vegetable is consumed. You’d be surprised what they will eat. A toddler’s love of cheese is strong, my friend.
How to Get Your Children Dressed for the Day:
Before going to bed at night, pick out each child’s outfits for the next day, and lay it out neatly. Be sure to consult the weather forecast so they will be comfortable. In the morning, wake them up slowly with snuggles, back rubs, and gentle lighting. Change their clothes while engaging them in pleasant conversation and anticipation for the day, paying special attention to move the shirt over the head quickly, as that part makes them nervous. If appropriate, let the child dress herself to foster her independence. Brush her hair and style it so that it is out of her face. After breakfast, brush teeth, apply sunscreen, and put on socks and shoes before heading cheerfully out the door.
Open the closet. Pick a shirt. Short sleeves for summer, long sleeves for winter. Open the dresser. Pick some pants. Short pants for summer, long pants for winter. Don’t worry about matching. A toddler is infinitely more concerned with pant and sleeve length than a color coordinated outfit. Try to get your kids dressed and teeth brushed while they are still a little groggy and easier to handle. Walk out the door with the understanding that, sure you probably forgot something, but at least your child is clothed.
On second thought, new parents, maybe you’d better get those books back out.