“Never raise your hand to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected.” – Red Buttons
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks, one of my favorite blogs.
Parenting is equal parts skill and art. The skills — diaper changing, nightmare soothing, gentle encouragement, the “Look” (what I call that piercing glance that stops misbehaving children in their tracks) — can be learned well enough. But the art…now there’s the tricky part. We all have to find our own way with our children, and there are times when only another parent’s “I’ve been there” advice can point us in the right direction.
At Parent Hacks, we swap parenting tips we’ve stumbled on through experience (and sometimes dumb luck), often with a twist of the unconventional or the surprising solution. Parent Hacks is collecting all those hard-earned nuggets of wisdom in the hopes of building the ultimate “back fence” where parents can get real-world advice on the stuff that rarely makes it into the books and mags.
Leo’s asked me to round up twenty of the best tips at Parent Hacks, and, while it’s impossible to define “best” (so much wisdom and smart discussion!), I dug through the archives and came up with some favorites in a few Zen Habits-friendly categories:
The key to finding more time is to spend less time on the stuff that doesn’t matter. Getting rid of, or at least reducing, mental and physical clutter creates room for our goals and dreams, or, some days, simply an extra 15-minute tickle session with the kids.
- Follow the Law of Conservation of Toys. Create a simple trade-in system to keep toy clutter to a minimum. Read more.
- Match secondhand clothes before you leave the store. Create outfits to get the best value. Read more.
- Digitize your kid’s artwork and school papers to reduce clutter. Hang onto those art treasures without having to save all of the bulky paper. Read more.
- Over-the-door shoe organizer as small toy collector. A little tip with a big impact. Turns messy piles of Barbies, Beanie Babies, and action figures into sleek, easy-to-play-with collections. Read more.
- “Chore board” helps postpartum visitors help you. During those first couple weeks with a new baby, few of us have the brainpower to delegate tasks to well-meaning visitors. With this hack, you won’t have to. Read more.
- Fashion a no-build “closet” out of a curtain rod and a bookshelf. Keeping a kid’s room tidy is so much easier when everything has a place. This hack works well for kids’ clothes or for the dress-up collection. Read more.
- Keeping Lego sets organized: Ziplocs and cookie sheets. Everyone needs a good Lego hack. Read more.
- Getting organized: Do the small stuff NOW. Life with kids can feel like one distraction after another, and often, the little tasks we intend to do later never get done. Follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done advice: if it takes two minutes or less, do it now and get it off your mind. Read more.
Basic “kid optimization”
Teaching kids independence does more than create a mini household labor pool (although that’s certainly handy). Competence and problem-solving skills are the building-blocks of self-esteem and set the stage for a proactive, “can-do” adulthood.
- Help kids organize their own schedules. Draw up a simple paper schedule with cardstock tasks (homework, computer time, soccer practice, etc.) kids can arrange and tape to the schedule as they see fit. Not only does it help kids learn to organize their time, it teaches them the relative length of different tasks. Read more.
- Homemade ‘calendar’ helps preschoolers understand their weekly routines. Calendars and schedules are helpful for younger kids, too. Pictures help them internalize their weekly routines. Read more.
- ‘Toy library’ promotes cleanup AND creativity. A toy trade-in system is smart for many reasons: kids get in the habit of putting their toys away, toy clutter isn’t as much of a problem, and toys feel “new” after they’ve been out of circulation a while. Read more.
- Ticket system helps kids track their own TV and game time. “Screen time” is hard for many kids to regulate on their own, so it’s nice to have a fair and neutral system for agreeing on limits. It helps that this system is fun! Read more.
- Kitchen timer: Multi-purpose tool of the gods! Bedtime, homework time, any time is timer time. Read more.
- Do rewards kill motivation? This is less hack and more thought-provoking discussion. How does one teach a child to develop intrinsic motivation? Read more.
No amount of life hacking will add minutes to your day, but thinking about those minutes differently may be the key to success.
- Tell strong-willed toddlers what they should DO. This simple twist on how to give directions may revolutionize how you communicate with your little one. Read more.
- Spouse hack: Work off the same to-do list. Good co-parenting requires good teamwork. Here’s a simple tip for staying on the same page. Read more.
- Getting organized: Start with your brain, sort of. Overthinking (my favorite form of procrastination) has killed many a good to-do list. Just get started already. Read more.
- Use Google Calendar to remind yourself to get a life. Sometimes the stuff that’s not on your calendar is the most important. Let your tools remind you to fulfill your goals and follow your dreams. Read more.
- ‘The Problem’ is the problem — not the kid. Every parent would do well to read this golden advice to be on your kid’s side, even when you disagree. Read more.
- Toward less perfectionist parenting. Most of the time in parenting, there are do-overs. Read more.
For more from Asha Dornfest, see her incredible blog, Parent Hacks or subscribe to the feed.
Also see: my guest post on Parent Hacks — Ten ways to find time for your family no matter how busy you are.
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