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Advice for New (and Experienced) Moms

July 9, 2008 · Filed Under Behavior, Parents' Corner · Comment 

I attended a baby shower last weekend for one of my daughter’s friends, and of course, we played all of the silly games that people do at those events.  One activity, though, got me to thinking quite a bit.  I’ve never actually done this one before, but I hope it catches on.  I was really impressed.

After the silly games were over, several pieces of note paper were started around the circle with brightly-colored gel pens, and all of the guests were asked to write down their best advice for the new mom-to-be.  There was a wide range in ages of the guests, from other young girls her age (22ish, I think) to grandmotherly-types and everyone in between.  Some of us had numerous children and loads of experience, and others were just as new to the mothering game as the guest of honor was going to be.  Still, I’m sure she ended up with several pages of keepsake snippets that will remind her of her friends and family for years to come. 

I hope I gave her good advice.  I just sort of wrote off the cuff, the way that you do when you’re not planning to write. 

On her paper, I wrote about the importance of being careful what funny baby actions you allow.  What’s cute at six months, I wrote, may not be funny when the child is still doing it at two years old.  Things like spraying the beets by blowing raspberries when eating are hilarious at the time, but if we applaud or smile or show approval, baby can easily get the wrong idea and repeat the performance ad nauseum.  Then parents have a hard time breaking a bad habit.

So what else would I say to new moms if I could?  Like all experienced parents, I suspect I could write a book.  I’ll limit myself to a post instead.  Here are some of the top things that came to my mind.

Children begin to learn responsibility for their behavior as soon as they can do things voluntarily.  So we adults need to begin teaching the word ‘no’ just as soon as they try to choose unexceptable actions.  And it’s important to teach the word ASAP, preferably on something that’s not life-threatening.  For this reason, I told my babies “no-no” for tearing books and taking things that didn’t belong to them.  They tried these things long before they tried to mess with outlets or pull cords or touch hot stoves.  By the time they were tempted to put themselves at risk, they already knew the meaning of the word NO and what consequences awaited disobedience.  It worked.  No one was seriously injured whilst toddling.

I really hate the trend of ‘baby-proofing’, too.  I removed the really dangerous hazards, like put plugs in the outlets and moved the cleaners higher up, but I didn’t ‘baby-proof’ the house.  Number one, I saw way too many friends who became complacent about safety that way.  They felt that their home or room was baby-proofed, and so they didn’t need to keep as close of an eye on the little one as they should’ve.  One particular mom scared me to death when she suggested we leave our toddlers alone in the other child’s bedroom.  After all, it was ‘baby-proofed’, she said.  I was far more used to watching for hazards and one look told me it wasn’t a good idea.  She didn’t notice that the small trash can near the changing table had a plastic diaper sack in it.  It was just right for suffocating or choking.  But because she had babyproofed, in her mind, the room was safe and didn’t need any further inspection.  Whew!  The second problem I had with the practice was that it limits where you feel you can take your children.  Your babyproofed house is one thing, but how will you manage when you go to visit Great Aunt Sylvia whose house isn’t one bit baby-proof?  Watching out for your little one is a habit that needs to be developed.  You can’t turn it on and off like a light switch.

My last bit of advice to parents would be to follow through on consequences.  If your child misbehaves and you promise a certain outcome, you had better be prepared to make sure it happens that way.  That’s the only way to build credibility, and the only way to end up with well-behaved kids.  If you’re not willing to ‘throw all the toys in the trash,’ then don’t say it.  If you can’t follow through with ‘we’ll leave here this instant’, then don’t say it.  Whatever you DO say, be sure to follow up with action. 

Just my two cents, but I hope someone benefits.  Good luck, parents!

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