Much of my parenting style, from the very start, has been trial and error. I never read any formal parenting books or took any classes, I mostly just sat down with my husband and discussed the kind of person we hoped to raise and sort of went from there. We want Eli to be all the things most parents hope for — polite, well adjusted, adventurous, creative. And of course, happy. Finding a way to balance all of that has already proven to be tough at 15 months and we know it will only continue to get more difficult as we pass through the next few years and the challenges they bring. We are far from perfect parents and we have already made and will continue to make our fair share of mistakes, but we’re trying our best to raise a good kid.
Along our way, we’ve started to work on some habits to help guide Eli as he grows. Some of our new habits are his and some are ours, but all of them are ones that we’re really happy to have instituted early. For everyone’s sake.
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Click through for our 9 habits and then add your own in the comments!
Saying "please" 2 of 6
Right around a year, I noticed that Eli was struggling to communicate his wants/needs without yelling and grunting. It was then we decided we needed to give him some tools to help. From that point on, we put a big focus on the words "please" and "help." Help hasn't really taken hold much, but within a month, he was using please (okay fine, "shees") whenever he wants something he can't reach or get to, or if he wants more food, without any prompting. This doesn't mean he never grunts or yells or gets upset, but it has dramatically decreased the number and frequency of those moments.
The Bedtime Routine 3 of 6
Everyone told us that the best thing we could do for Eli's sleep was to form a solid bedtime routine and so, at around 8 weeks old, we started with a very loose one. These days our bedtime routine is rigid in the good kind of way — Eli knows what to expect each night and once it gets started, all signs point to sleep. He gets a bath, lotion and pajamas, we read books (finishing with our prayer book) while he drinks milk, brush teeth and then it's lights out. We maintain this when we're out of town, at home and though occasionally we cut out the bath if we're out late, we try very hard not to deviate. I know that Eli's good sleep isn't solely because of the bedtime routine, but I the predictability of the routine seems to help him know what to expect and has eliminated bedtime struggles.
A well balanced diet 4 of 6
Food was an area where my husband and I both felt pretty strongly about certain things. He and I are not terribly picky eaters, but we have friends and relatives who are and really wanted to avoid that as much as possible (obviously it's not completely avoidable and I don't mean to imply that picky eaters are anyone's fault, just that we want to try to mitigate that risk as much as possible). We offer Eli a diverse menu of proteins, carbs, fruits and veggies each day and so far he is a pretty adventurous eater and will try almost anything. There are, of course, things he doesn't like, but at this point, he eats virtually everything we do, with the exception of things he can't quite manage without molars.
Cleaning up 5 of 6
This is one that we probably actually started a little late, but at around 13 or 14 months, we began doing clean up with Eli. We started small — the bath toys that we had to collect each night, and have gradually moved to the living room toy disaster area. He knows when we sing the clean up song that it's time to put things in their place and will help us clean up. This doesn't mean he never takes them back out immediately, but it's a work in progress.
Praising the good stuff 6 of 6
At Eli's age, discipline is tough because he's a little too little to understand a time out, but he's not too little for positive reinforcement and we use it as much as we can. When we were teaching him to say "please", we used to cheer every time he said it. When we were trying to break his standing on the couch habit, we made a HUGE deal of every time he sat down after we asked him to. The positive attention makes him want to do things more and allows us to spend less of our days frustrated trying to teach him not to do something instead of teaching him to do something else.
What habits did you start early with your kids?