As parents, we strive for perfection.
We want the best for our kids, which is where all that mom/dad guilt usually stems from.
We have experiences, set expectations, and even teachings that shape our parenting decisions and styles, and we strive for the best.
The problem is that parenting is tough and it challenges us in ways we probably never thought it would or could.
While focusing on the little day-to-day stresses, we can often end up missing the big important things.
I mean, take a look at your own childhood, for example.
I like to think that our parents probably started like us, wanting to be the best parents, but we can point to things that they missed, be it little things or big things, that we felt were important enough to remember.
Now I’m not saying you won’t miss anything at all with your own kids.
We aren’t perfect, and that’s ok.
But I’m sure you’re hoping that you won’t miss what matters most and that you are wondering what are the important things that you should care to focus on and strive not to miss?
That’s a question I like to ask empty nesters, especially.
These experienced moms can carry a lot of wisdom and insight, and listening to their learned lessons, I feel, can help us, new moms, better understand the bigger pictures of parenting.
Of course, every child is so different and usually requires a completely different approach (and I’m not saying any list is comprehensive enough), however, I’ve found a pretty common trend of valuable parenting lessons with the empty nesters I have spoken with that I felt were valuable enough to share.
Here is the list of 7 parenting tips that the moms I spoke with felt, retrospectively, really positively impacted both their children and their relationship with them.
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1. Emphasis On Eye Contact
They say eyes are windows to the soul, and there’s good reason to believe it.
Even before I heard this parenting tip, I noticed the power eye contact had in my own conversations with my toddler.
Specifically, when my toddler spoke to me about something she felt really excited or passionate about.
Whether it be when we were talking about her day or when she was showing and explaining something to me, I noticed how much she wanted my full attention whenever she spoke or on whatever she was doing.
My eye contact told her that I was listening, that I cared about what she was doing, and that I was fully focused on just her.
She wanted nothing less than my undivided attention.
I, on the other hand, didn’t always work so hard to get her attention.
Sure, not all conversations require eye contact, but the important ones do.
One of those important conversations is the disciplinary one.
The one where you talk to your child about what they did wrong, help them self-evaluate their intentions for doing it, and tell them the negative consequences of their actions.
Looking back, my daughter always avoided eye contact when she was in trouble, and, honestly, I didn’t really press her for it either.
She would sometimes even begin to act distracted, like she didn’t hear me, or go so far as to try and distract me while I’d be trying to talk to her.
She would act this way either because she felt shame for her actions, she felt uncomfortable due to the nature of the conversation, or she intentionally disregarded my boundaries (often for the purpose of seeking my attention!).
Without eye contact, I wasn’t able to address any of those, and consequently, her bad behavior would persist.
Eye contact during disciplining is very important if you want to make sure that your child is paying attention and listening to you and that they understand why they are in trouble and what exactly they did that was so wrong so that they know not to do it again.
It is also an important way to show your child that both boundaries and the discipline for crossing those boundaries are an expression of your care and concern for them, and that even when your child crosses those boundaries, your love for them doesn’t diminish.
Eye contact during discipline was exactly what a mom of teens emphasized to me as one of the parenting strategies that she felt worked exceptionally well in her experience parenting her eldest.
When she was a nanny, she would see this put into practice by the mother of the child she used to watch.
The woman, who was also a practicing physician, would make sure she would have her sin’s undivided attention before she scolded him.
Once she became a mother herself, she put this into practice with her eldest.
She would see that despite sometimes acting up, as normal children do, he would understand the reason for her boundaries, that in disciplining him she was showing her care and concern for him, and would listen to her.
Now in his teens, he has an excellent relationship with his mother and they are able to relate on a wide range of topics.
She didn’t do so with her younger daughter and says that she now notices a huge difference.
I understand that all children are different, but I have read in multiple articles that almost all children respond well to eye contact.
Eye contact not only helps you know whether your child is actually listening to and understanding what you’re saying, it also helps your child see that you care and are genuinely concerned about them.
It also allows you to work on establishing and building a genuine, understanding relationship with your child while they’re young.
You want them to understand the reason for your boundaries and that there are consequences once those boundaries are intentionally crossed.
I want to also emphasize that although it’s important for our children to see our raw emotions through our eyes, we should avoid expressing any form of hostility.
You want your children to feel safe and secure even when they do cross even extreme boundaries, that way they still come to you even when they do something wrong.
You want your kids to always run to you, not away from you!
2. Make Time To Talk With Your Kids
Many moms that I spoke to said that taking the time to talk with your children (make sure you maintain eye contact with this one as well!), even if it’s just at bedtime because you have been too busy working throughout the day, is also incredibly important to developing a strong and lasting relationship with your child.
I can vouch for this myself as my own childhood is proof.
My mom and I had and still have an incredible relationship, even though she was not a stay-at-home mom growing up.
What was her secret?
Well, she knew how to listen to a child’s heart.
Cheesy, but it is so true and boy did it mean the world to me growing up!
My mom was interested in my thoughts and she really did want to know about how I was doing.
She would ask questions and give me her undivided attention; full eye contact, acknowledging my feelings, and giving me constructive feedback.
This became vital during my teen years when we would sometimes have difficulties understanding one another.
Our established relationship through those intimate talks that started when I was a child was one of the things that really got us through the tough patches of the teens.
As moms, we can get carried away with our day-to-day tasks.
The cooking, the cleaning, the churching, and the working, not to mention the fact that once your kids get older they’ll have their own list of weekly obligations, and then you’ll also have to drive them around to those, on top of everything else you are already doing.
By the end of the day you will be exhausted, but try not to rush to bedtime before you engage in a meaningful conversation with each of your children.
Take at least 10 minutes before bedtime to ask your child about their day.
Watch how their eyes light up as you ask, reminding them, about everything they did that day!
I see my own little girl’s excitement as I ask her about her day.
I never thought that something so simple would give her so much joy!
It might seem simple and insignificant, but it’s incredibly important to your child.
They need it!
They need you!
3. Get Down And Play With Them
Another big lesson that my mom taught me about parenting was the importance of getting down to a child’s level and actually playing with them.
My mom was always very good with kids.
They loved spending time with her, and she with them, sometimes more than with other adults.
I never understood why exactly that was until I had my little girl.
I always knew my daughter would have a great relationship with my mother, her grandmother, because of the fact that she loved kids so much, but I never thought my daughter would actually prefer spending time with my mother to me.
I was invisible when my mom was in the room.
I never understood this, and frankly, I was hurt tremendously by this.
So, I began to really watch how my mom spent time with her, and it quickly made sense why this was the case.
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Not only did my mom give my daughter all of her focus, but she would always find new ways to play with her and make her laugh.
My priorities as mom were different.
Sure I played with my daughter when I could, but I definitely was not invested in it as much nor was playtime my primary focus when it came to taking care of my daughter.
I was always busy cleaning, cooking, running errands, and working, when I’d have some extra time.
And while I did all those, my daughter, very often, would end up playing by herself.
I would rarely play with her and her toys, and when I would it would be for brief moments as I would, in all honesty, get bored or get distracted by some other task.
Yes, I know, writing this makes me feel like a terrible mother, but I know I’m not alone in this.
This is what makes motherhood so tough.
We get so carried away taking care of all the things that don’t matter as much and end up neglecting the things that matter most, and usually, those are also time-sensitive.
It made sense to me why my daughter gravitated to my mother.
When we were over, my mother never did any of those things (they were done by the time we would be over), she would only play with my daughter and only pay attention to her needs.
How can we as parents compete with that, especially if we stay at home and are with our kids almost all the time?
Of course, it’s not like any of us can drop everything and give our kids 100% the entire time they’re awake, but we can make sure that we do give them a set amount of playtime every day and make sure that it is meaningful.
Our children crave our attention.
It’s one thing to talk with them, it’s another to actually enjoy spending time together, and that starts when they’re teeny.
Well, and this matters to them a lot more when they are small.
I would even go so far as to say that it is one of their love languages.
Children really appreciate playtime!
Getting down and playing with your baby or toddler, though, isn’t always gonna be easy.
It’s a conscious effort and choice that you have to make and fight for.
In the beginning, I honestly forced myself to stay for at least thirty minutes and play with the toys my daughter wanted both of us to play with.
But over time, you will see how this time you spend with your child really becomes something you both enjoy and look forward to.
So, don’t be discouraged if playing with your kid feels intimidating and overwhelming at first.
Whether it be playing with toy cars or dolls for a half-hour of your busy day or being the only adult running around the playground and going down the slides, making the extra effort to be present and not always distracted or in your own bubble will go a long way and tell your kids that they really do matter, even in the midst of the chaos.
I promise they’ll appreciate it!
4. Set Aside Time For Each Child
When you have more than one child, creating a special bond with each can get a little more complicated.
You can talk with them and play with them, but if you don’t give them that when one on one time, separate from everyone else, they won’t feel like they’re all that special.
I have heard this from many moms and dads many times, and I’m sure you have too.
Do “mommy dates” ring a bell?
Well, that falls within this category.
I even remember a ‘Super Nanny’ episode back in the day where Jo tamed a toddler’s tantrums by having the mom spend at least 30 minutes of time just with him, away from his other siblings, each day.
How instead of acting out, he looked forward to that half hour where only he would have mommy’s attention.
I never forgot that episode.
All kids want to feel loved and special, and they all need their mom for themselves even if it is for as little as thirty minutes (definitely do more if you can!).
When their attention needs aren’t met, they will oftentimes resort to other methods of getting it and usually that ends up being through bad behavior.
Any attention, even if it’s for the wrong reasons, is better than no attention for a child.
This is why this is one of the biggest culprits of bad behavior!
But it’s more than just keeping your kids behaving.
It’s about building up that bond and strengthening your relationship with them.
That’s what all these points are really about.
You want to make sure that your kids run to you in their most difficult moments, not away from you (like I already pointed out).
Setting apart time for each child shows them that they’re that special to you that you set apart time in your busy schedule just for them.
It also makes room for a whole lot of bonding as there are no extra distractions; you are able to focus solely on them.
Best of all, even if you do have a very busy schedule, if you do make this time a recurring event, then it is something each of your kids could look forward to.
This, of course, looks different at different stages of your kiddos’ lives.
If your little ones are younger than three, then making playtime that one on one time, where their siblings are taken care of and won’t distract you, works very well.
You could also make this a daily occurrence where, for example if you have a toddler and a newborn, your toddler knows that although throughout the day they share you with their newborn sibling, at baby’s naptime you are all theirs.
If your kids are older than three but younger than twelve, then biweekly or monthly dates could be even more exciting.
And, if they’re older than twelve, then refraining from the term ‘mommy date’ but keeping the same idea, where you set aside designated time to do an activity you both enjoy, might be more successful in generating excitement and anticipation and help strengthen your relationship.
5. Don’t Forget That Your Eldest Needs To Be Babied Too
I recall a mom of seven mentioning this tip saying that she heard it at a mother’s seminar.
And for me, the eldest of two, it resonated especially.
I know what it’s like to be the oldest.
The one that doesn’t get as much attention as their younger sibling because they’re not the baby.
Not only are you given a lot more expectations and responsibilities, but a lot of the time, affection can be hard to come across because you’re older.
But the oldest deserves to be babied just as much as their younger siblings.
Does that mean that your oldest wants to be babied?
Sure, that isn’t always the case.
And, you don’t necessarily need to literally baby them, but giving them a little more attention like you give to your youngest, sometimes unknowingly, is bound to make some sort of positive impression on them.
I guarantee you they do notice how you treat their younger siblings versus how you treat them, and although there are perks to being older/oldest that doesn’t mean that you can’t baby them every now and then.
That could mean more cuddles, kisses, or one-on-one time, whatever your child seems to like most and what helps them feel a little like the youngest.
Now, don’t try this with your older pre-teen/teen kids if you haven’t done this before.
They might find the extra attention weird and suspicious!
The best time to start is when they’re little, and from then it’ll grow into their teens.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Strict
Yes, this was emphasized a lot by the empty nesters I spoke with.
Discipline is necessary.
With this we teach that bad actions have negative consequences; a necessary, real life lesson.
Application, though, varies from household to household, and I do believe that every child requires a completely different approach.
Important things to emphasize, though, is that discipline should never be carried out in a spite of anger, nor be aggressive, violent, or humiliating in nature.
Discipline should be done out of love and with a goal of helping your child become a more responsible adult.
As a new parent, I was nervous about the entire idea of discipline.
I feel like there is just so much emphasis placed on how you should and shouldn’t discipline, that a lot of the time parents don’t understand the point of discipline and they either approach it through one extreme, too much discipline, or the other, little to no discipline at all.
I believe it is absolutely necessary to make sure that we set age-appropriate/fair boundaries, and that we emphasize that there will be some sort of disciplinary action taken when those boundaries are intentionally crossed.
This is necessary if we want to raise confident, responsible, and secure children.
I was surprised to discover that children raised by very permissive parents often struggled with anxiety because they had to make adult decisions on their own, since their parents refrained from guiding them through set boundaries (1).
Similarly, children that were disciplined by punishments (disciplinary action that often involves humiliation and/or violence) rather than consequences learned to avoid getting caught when they misbehaved/made mistakes rather than learning from their misbehavior/mistakes (1).
So, application and approach is very important.
Discipline is good and necessary, but it should never be violent or humiliating.
7. Spend Time With Mommas With Other Kids
Last but most definitely not least is to make an effort of spending time with other mommas.
Not only is this super beneficial for you, socializing with other adults (yes!), but your children can reap loads of benefits from this as well.
In a way, these children would become your child’s first friends.
Together, they would learn to socialize and play, and, best of all, you would be able to supervise these first social interactions.
You can reinforce good social behavior and discourage the bad.
You won’t necessarily have a similar chance like this down the line when they start daycare or school.
Another advantage of continuously spending time with other moms is that you are able to foster an incredible support network and tightly knit community between one another for your children to thrive in.
Your children would be able to grow up together and reap the benefits of knowing each other for, potentially, the rest of their lives.
This stable community can be almost as socially valuable as direct familial relationships.
I have already emphasized this point a number of times throughout this article, but that’s just how valuable I believe it is.
If there is anything that can be considered the most important aspect of parenting, it is that we establish an intimate, personal bond with each of our children.
We cannot get absolutely everything right always, though we could try.
However, making sure that each of our children know and feel that they are loved and supported is very possible for a parent who is absolutely willing to do it.
This really does start in the very early stages of childhood, and it should last well beyond that.
You want your children to trust you and find comfort in you even when they mess up.
You want them to be confident in who they are and to never doubt their worth.
You as a parent have great power in helping them establish their identity, my belief is that you should take that absolutely seriously.
It’s more than just about your relationship with them.
It’s about who they will grow up to be, and whether or not you will help them be the best they can be or not.
Sharing Is Caring
I really hope the lessons from empty nesters that I found to be valuable were equally as valuable to you.
If you have any other lessons you feel are also incredibly important to add to the list, please leave a comment below.
I am sure the hundreds of thousands of moms that read LoveLiliya.com every month would appreciate it!
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Until next time mommas!