Tell me about unconventional parenting practises that worked for you
February 5, 2015 7:27 AM   Subscribe

What's something you did (or are doing) as a parent that's different from "the way everybody does it" that worked really well for you?

I'll start with one of my own: No bedtime stories. I noticed that bedtime stories made my daughter super-energetic - even if they were supposed to be calming - and sleep schedules became unpredictable. So now we do breakfast-time stories instead, which is the perfect time for energization.
posted by clawsoon to Human Relations (66 answers total) 186 users marked this as a favorite
Homework in the morning. In the evenings, my kid is tired and hungry. She wakes up a little before 7, has breakfast and does her homework. I know this won't work for everyone, but it works really well for us.
posted by mogget at 7:38 AM on February 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

No potty training. Around age 2 1/2, I'd start asking here and there if they wanted to go potty. But no formal potty training. Each if my three kids did it 100% on their own when they were ready. No fuss. No turmoil. No messes.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:40 AM on February 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

Best answer: We had three children, the youngest two were only a year apart, when they would fight, as siblings do, we would send them to the OTHER's room this happened EXACTLY ONCE after that it was a simple: "Do you want to go to eachother's rooms" threat.
posted by mrgroweler at 7:41 AM on February 5, 2015 [54 favorites]

Well, I don't know, because for some people this is conventional, for others unconventional, but I have literally never made my daughter a separate meal from the rest of the family. I serve her what we're eating. If she doesn't want to eat it, she doesn't have to eat. If she seems super hungry and won't touch the dinner (very rare), she can have a carrot or something.

Incidentally, I also never made her baby food. Babies can eat people food. I would kind of mash soft stuff with my fork and just not feed her the choking hazard portion of the meal.

My child will now (and always has) eat(en) anything but I can't totally attribute that to my parenting: she also has a weak sense of smell and not subtle palate. Some kids are clearly extremely sensitive to smell, texture, etc and just cannot tolerate a wide range of foods. So your mileage may vary.

I really agree with the homework in the morning one BTW. When we are occasionally able to do this schedule-wise, it works much better.
posted by latkes at 7:42 AM on February 5, 2015 [35 favorites]

We decided not adopt a "each child gets an equal thing" for every moment or event. It created too much infighting when gifts, snacks, etc. were compared. They were inevitably different, as not every child would want the same toy, eats the same amount of food, etc. Still, there was often jealousy. Instead, we let our kids know regularly that we give each child what she needs, based on who they are as people. So, sometimes a child will get special time with a parent, a new shirt, etc., at times that others don't. But we will rotate that attention around and makes sure that each child is given what they need to thrive, but generally not all at the same time, to emphasize this general notion.

There may be exceptions to this where all kids get some attention at the same time, as we do think that's important sometimes too. But we've moved away from notions of justice or fairness at any given discrete moment towards needs and sometimes special individualized attention, which gets shared more diversely over time.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:45 AM on February 5, 2015 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Another thing I have mentioned here before: For her first and second birthday I specified no gifts (she did not care about gifts yet), however, for her second birthday party I asked people to bring a picture of an animal. We put all the pictures in an album and she would pour over that album when she was little and animal obsessed.

The cool thing was that even years later she would look through the album and have all these sweet, nostalgic feelings. Some people had made hand drawings of cute animals which she loved, but even the simple magazine cutouts had all these fond memories for her.

I don’t think most kids remember any of the more conventional gifts they got for their second birthdays.
posted by latkes at 7:46 AM on February 5, 2015 [145 favorites]

Almost every parent-friend we have is appalled... Shocked and appalled.... That we put our kids to bed at 7pm and leave then there until 7am. And our bedtime routine is: "well goodnight. We love you. (Backs out turns off light)"

We always hear "oh that would NEVER work with our kids". Like what, they're super human or something? Get in your bed kid or else lose something (stuffed toy etc etc). We only had to get them all the way down to panties and a mattress and sheet once (no blankies, stuffed animals etc) before the threat works.

Oh and my most important one. We NEVER bluff. Ever. So if we say, misbehave one more time and we call and cancel the sitter (who they love to play with) then we do it. Sure we ruin a date night but we guarantee the threat of nuclear war always works after that.
posted by chasles at 7:47 AM on February 5, 2015 [52 favorites]

I didn't have a bedtime. Apparently I haaaated being put to bed as a baby, so my parents just let me stay up. They put a blanket on the floor of the living room, gave me books and toys, and let me tire myself out (had to stay on the blanket). There are lots of pictures of me asleep sitting up with a book on my lap.

As I got older they still didn't bother with the bedtime thing. As long as I was in my pjs and had my teeth brushed, I could read or play quietly by myself and the formal going to bed process happened on my schedule.

Of all of the strife-causing things in my childhood, I don't remember once ever having a disagreement about bedtime.
posted by phunniemee at 7:48 AM on February 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

Inspired by Jean Liedloff The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost we carried our kids around in baby slings instead of wheeling them about. Only when my son got too heavy for us, we bought a stroller to occasionally switch around.

Also - at least for the first year or so - we didn't worry too much if they slept together with us if they so preferred. No stupid night-time crying conundrums! Later, my son would occasionally wake up when he had nightmares or something, sure, but if I went there and turned him over and said something nice to him, he usually just slept on.

In general, we tried to encourage our kids to engage with us by discussing (and if necessary questioning) whatever was going on, instead of subduing them into compliance. I cannot say that I regretted that.
posted by Namlit at 7:53 AM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm a teacher, teacher trainer, and not a parent.

I'm not sure how unusual this is these days in the west, but the parents where I live are surprised when I share this with them. In my class and with the kids in the classes I oversee, I aim for zero empty praise. No 'good job' for two stickers stuck to paper or even completed homework. Accomplishments are addressed specifically: "you finished the ten math problems; I see flowers in four colors; the stack of blocks reaches my knee."

Over time I see the difference, as the kids understand the importance of completion and work for the sake of learning and exploration.

To comment on chasles' point above, many of the issues with kids I work with stem from lack of sleep... Right on!
posted by maya at 7:54 AM on February 5, 2015 [22 favorites]

I cosleep with my eight year old (at his request). It reduces his anxiety and makes him sleep much better, which, in turn, makes the whole day go better.
posted by anastasiav at 8:11 AM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

We really are guessing as parents.

Oh, amen. I let my kids play in the dirt, and limit hand sanitizer use to days when someone in the house is sick.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:16 AM on February 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

We almost never punish our son. I think he's had one traditional time out in 4 years, no withdrawal of dessert or game time as a consequence of making a mistake. When he does misbehave, I express sympathy for how bad he seems to be feeling and give him a hug*. His own guilt and bad feeling about the thing he did wrong is more punishment than anything I could do to him without getting arrested. Getting mad and punishing him just makes him double down on the bad behavior. I don't think it would be effective for a less sensitive kid, but it works well for us.

*I'm not perfect in this, but the hug works better than the stern talking-to about 99% of the time.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:18 AM on February 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

Elimination Communication - teaching your baby to pee and poop in a potty (or other receptacle) instead of in diapers. (You can still use diapers, but they're just there for backup, and eventually you get to the point where they don't seem necessary.) EC worked really well for my kids. It might sound messy, inconvenient, or just plain crazy if you haven't tried it, but I found it a practical, common-sense approach that wasn't any messier or more inconvenient than diapers.
posted by Redstart at 8:20 AM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

My mother never bluffed with a threat. If she made it, you knew she would follow through, as such she also never made them in vain. By the same note she always kept any promise she made, and at times this wasn't easy when life got in the way, but if she said something you knew she stood by it. It made us feel very secure. If Mum said something was going to be OK/wasn't scary you knew it was going to be OK because Mum didn't lie. So many of my friends who are parents seem to offer quick answers/threats/promises to grease the wheels & make the day easier and it just seems to become background noise to the children it's aimed at.
posted by wwax at 8:23 AM on February 5, 2015 [26 favorites]

Here are some things my folks did:

1) "Go sit on your bed!" This was our version of Time Out, and it was truly terrible. My parents knew that I was an energetic kid with a short attention span. Making me sit still was legit punishment.

2) "Writing sentences" The first time I remember doing this, I was probably about four. I'd started a fight with my brother, so my mom parked me in the kitchen and made me write "I will not hit my brother" a bunch of times. It stopped the fight, distracted me from whatever hurt feelings had prompted me to start the fight, and helped me get better at reading and writing.

My parents didn't spank us. They used words, and taught us to use them too. Upshot: we could both read and write before kindergarten. Downside? None, as far as I can tell.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 8:36 AM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

We've let all of our children have "screen time," since they were very little. They're going to grow up into a world in which their aptitude at screen-based activities will largely determine how successful they are, so we have intentionally ignored all those "no screens until they're 3 or 4" studies that come out every so often.

(We do limit it to X-number of hours/minutes per day, based on age, of course.)
posted by jbickers at 8:40 AM on February 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

I am not sure this is unconventional, but we would encourage our kids to fail. Not screw up, but to try something even if it does not work. Jump off the playset, ride the bigger bike, attempt making the model, etc. There were a few broken bones and a few tears, but they are generally adventurous kids. Our goal too was to make them independent from a young age. We let them walk to friend's houses on their own, we let them ride the bus to the mall at an early age, we let them pick their own schedules. We also gave them one or two "days off" a year. Assuming it worked with our schedules, we would let them have a day off from school no questions asked (unless there was a test that day), we would let them eat whatever they wanted such as pizza and milkshake for breakfast and we would let them watch tv (or play video games) all day.

We were adamant about contributing to the community even if that was just our household at times. They all had to volunteer locally whether that was collecting clothes, serving meals, or playing with special ed students at this one local school. Ut prosim.

Oh, as your kids get older you may appreciate this, and I think it is unconventional, but we would not do our kids homework for them. Many parents will essentially write papers, do math, etc in the guise of teaching. We would help explain the project or HW, give feedback on what was produced, but never did it for them. We even got an email from a teacher once that said our son's paper was the only one she could confidently say was written by the student. He got an A.

I also agree with the back up any threat and any promise you make. I think consistency is real important.

The bottom line to me is that many parenting styles "work". I think at a younger age the key is to convey love and security and as they get older love, trust and independence.
posted by 724A at 8:42 AM on February 5, 2015 [19 favorites]

I've got three kids and because I'm a teacher, I've given them a few school survival hacks:

1. Yes, it's entirely possible that your teacher really doesn't like you. And that's no reflection on you; some teachers just take an immediate disliking to some kids and you should still do your best, but don't knock yourself out for their approval. I swear this is true: one of my kids was convinced she was being graded extra harshly because the teacher hated her, so for the hell of it, she submitted an A paper that I wrote in college; she got a D. The teacher really didn't like her.

2. Conversely, some teachers are going to think you're the greatest no matter how much of a weenie you are.

3. If you really screwed up and didn't do homework or study for a test, go to the teacher and explain you screwed up, ask for extra help, because then they'll think you care. It's about gaming the system.

4. Teachers say there are no stupid questions, but there are. So if you have what you think is a stupid question, see them outside of class, explain your thinking and help them understand where you're stuck.

5. If you do nothing else in school, keep your damn phone in your locker.

6. Teachers love a nice end of year letter.

7. Find out if your teacher likes certain cultish tv shows/sports/whatever and use that information to your sucking-up advantage.

8. If a teacher is being a super punitive jerk to you, then you need to go to the Dean/Admin. They'll listen to you a lot more seriously than they will me.

9. No matter what your teachers tell you, you're not going to be a rock star in every single class. And if you tried and got a C, that's actually a really good thing. Life isn't measured by how many A's you got in school.
posted by kinetic at 9:02 AM on February 5, 2015 [34 favorites]

My wife lets our 9 year old act like a 3 year old sometimes. My daughter throws tantrums when she is really tired and short-tempered, and will literally roll around on the floor crying about how badly she wants something she has asked for and not received, and she's going to be ten years old soon. I used to get really upset by this and began devising ways to make sure it never happens again until my wife said we should instead let her do it. As awful and immature and silly it seems to let a grown kid throw a tantrum, we don't give in or cave to her demands, so it's basically an outlet for my daughter's frustrations. She's a model student everywhere in her life, and never gets to lash out in any way, so at home, with no consequences (and no upside since we don't give in), we just let her freak out a bit a couple times a week when she can't keep it inside.

I've come around on this and agree with my wife on it. My daughter can't really express extreme anger or frustration in public life so it's good to let her get it out privately.
posted by mathowie at 9:02 AM on February 5, 2015 [21 favorites]

We do few things that are mentioned in this thread (7pm-7am sleep time, no special meal) and they really work for us even though other parents think we're crazy. One thing we do that people in our peer group think is crazy is that our 2.5 year old has chores. They're age appropriate and simple but they're teaching her how to be a contributing part of the family. Every morning she helps me make beds (hands me pillows and straightens duvets on big beds and arranges the covers and stuffed animals on her bed) and helps to make sure all of the shoes make it into the shoe rack. They're small responsibilities but she definitely has a sense of pride about it and as she gets older chores will be something she's always done and hopefully not as big of a struggle.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2015 [35 favorites]

I have more or less abandoned strict monitoring of "screen time" (my children are now 8 and 11). I did limit it when they were little.

They do have reasonable bedtimes and I don't allow computers in the bedrooms; laptops stay in the office where I can keep an eye on activities.

Like someone else mentioned above, being surrounded by tons of screen time is the world we live in now. Also they are super into Minecraft and I'm fairly impressed with what they've learned about world-buildling, cooperation, communication, and even basic internet and programming stuff from that game. They know more about being careful when downloading and installing sketchy software than many adults.

I try and model healthy limits on my own activities and invite them with me (like "It's time for our walk!" or "The leaves really need raking.") It works to varying degrees. When they DO binge on screen time, they feel listless and irritable and often have a headache. Consequences! My 11 year old has gotten pretty good about self-monitoring; my 8 year old is getting there. They are smart, healthy, do chores, and are good students with appropriate social skills, fwiw.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:16 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

When my cousin's oldest girl was just a baby, they also had a boat - and they used to let her take her nap on an old boat cushion set on the floor in the living room. It was the perfect size - big enough for a baby, and also just a few inches up off the floor, "so if she rolls off it's nowhere NEAR high enough for her to get hurt." It saved them the hassle of having to schlep her upstairs to her crib and keep trooping upstairs to check on her; usually someone was either in the living room or in the next room, so they could just poke their head in the door. It also saved someone having to hurry upstairs to collect her out of her crib when she woke up and was crying because she wanted out; when I was visiting that one time, she was on the cushion in the living room and we were all in the kitchen, and we saw her wake up, crawl off the cushion onto the floor, and then crawl across the room to her blocks and start playing. My cousin's wife was elbows-deep in a turkey at that point, so she just looked up, noticed it happened, and was able to finish what she was doing and wash her hands before heading in for "hi, baby, how was your nap?"

In the absence of a boat, someone could probably use a pet bed to the same purpose.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Did not use/do/etc: toilet training, 'baby foods' and spoon-feeding anything at all in for them, parent-led weaning from nursing, a crib, a baby bath ('co-bathing' works great), bottles and sippy cups, a stroller until age 2-something when my knees got wonky, a set time for bedtime, pre-school and (so far) school, 'time out' and other punishment/reward schemes

I was happy to see Sassyfras' comment on toilet training. I had assumed it was a bit of a racket and that all that was required was an example to follow and access to appropriate facilities. A few months after the kid turned 2, she was delighted by a neighbour's gift of a hand-me-down potty, and within days of that showing up I gave all remaining diapers to another neighbour. The only hints I made were installing a little flip-down seat on the toilet and saying 'and there is underwear here in your drawer if you want.' We were both really proud and happy with ourselves over how that went...
posted by kmennie at 9:33 AM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I refuse to entertain my almost 5 year old. He has plenty of toys and an imagination, so I point him in that direction and say, "Have fun."
posted by tafetta, darling! at 9:42 AM on February 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

My 10-month-old has never had any baby food, or anything specially pureed or mashed up. She doesn't get spoon-fed either - we hand her some of what we're eating and she picks it up and gnaws away at it herself. Big success, if a very messy one.

She also doesn't have a nursery or her own room in any sense. Sleeps with us, either in a 3-sided cot attached to the bed or just in the bed. She is not a great sleeper and this way I get to keep hold of my sanity.
posted by Catseye at 9:59 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I feed my 3-year-old son one coffee bean most mornings, at his request. I have no idea if this is good or bad for him. I just want someone to share coffee with and my husband hates coffee.

(Downside: my son will also steal my mug of coffee and drink it if I leave it unattended within reach.)
posted by daisystomper at 10:10 AM on February 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

When my kids were toddlers, if they bumped their heads on a table or hit their shins on a shelf or had some other temporarily painful but non-injurious mishap, I told them I could suck all the pain into my thumb. Then I set my thumb beside the point of contact and counted to ten, wincing and grimacing and gritting my teeth more and more with each passing number, until I got to ten and jumped up, shaking my pain-filled thumb. This worked astonishingly well with all three of my kids, so minor injury drama never lasted more than 10 seconds, and they went back to playing happily.

They are now 8, 5, and 3. Only the 3 year old still needs an occassional magic thumb pain transfer treatment, and the older kids do it for her. In fact, my son, the five year old, told me recently that he discovered if you use your finger you only have to count to five. My progeny are building on my foundation and refining my technique.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:12 AM on February 5, 2015 [203 favorites]

We did a mix of baby food and baby-lead weaning . Now at one - Typechip eats what we eat, cut or smashed into smaller pieces. We have tacos, he gets a mildly spiced one and picks it apart. We have grilled chicken, he has grilled chicken. He's allowed to try any food he points at or makes curious noises at - we don't make a big deal out of it being grown-up food. Sunday he ate brussels sprouts.

We also made all our own baby food and had him on solids at 5 months because he was Really Interested in Food omg.

Now - I let him do independent play most of the time. I supervise, if he wants me to play with him, he brings me toys, but he entertains himself more often than not. I want a kid who can do that, so I don't end up with the kid going "Mommy play with meeeeeee" every 5 minutes while I'm trying to do dishes.

Typechip does not wear shoes (or socks most of the time) - we live in San Diego, so the weather allows for it and it's better for his little feet. People seem to freak out about this a lot though - we get some "omg his cold tooooooes" in the store (it's 65! degrees, his toes are FINE. Lady if I could go barefoot I would too)

We aggressively do not hand-sanitize, use anti-bacterial Anything and he gets a rinse more often than a real bath unless he's actually Dirty. Dirt is good for babies.
posted by FritoKAL at 10:17 AM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We do not teach our (soon to be five year old) daughter that there are "bad words". IInstead, we teach her things like "this is not a word you should say in school because it will upset other people", or "if your [very Christian, when we are very not] Nanny hears you say that she won't like it", but try not to be too harsh on inappropriate words at home.

Part of this is due to a firm belief belief that there is no "bad" speech, just inappropriate speech, and that one should feel free to express himself in any way that is situationally appropriate, but that one must also take responsibility for the same. And part is because my wife and I both have foul mouths and it would be high hypocrisy to take her to task for saying stuff around that house that we freely will.

For stronger profanities we'll let her know that it's not a very nice thing to say, and even if mommy and daddy say it sometimes it's something that only grownups really know when the right time to say it is. Milder things, like rude words for body parts or functions, we categorize (literally) as "potty words", and allow her to say them either in the toilet, or in her room. Within those confines she has much looser reign on her vocabulary.

And we hold ourselves to the bargain. Just recently she was sitting on the toilet giggling like mad and going "fart fart butt fart poop hahaha fart butt". I called out to her to remind her that she was saying some rude things. "I can say it, I'm in the bathroom." ... Dangit, kid, you got me there. Go right ahead. She'll also hold us to task on occasion when we say things outside of the acknowledged "free speech zones", and I've more than once had to apologize "Sorry, you're right, I shouldn't have said that here."

So far it's worked pretty well. She'll say things at home that I certainly don't mind but wouldn't want her saying in public... but never in public.
posted by jammer at 10:28 AM on February 5, 2015 [24 favorites]

I tried to make parenting decisions with the goal of "How will this help them be functional adults?"

So I did a lot of things that were not convenient for me in the short run and some folks thought that my kids just ran the place or something (something my oldest son found humorous even as a child, as I was the parent who kept the discipline and he lived in dread of things like having his story checked when he went through a stage of habitual lying). But now that they are adults in their twenties, I am very pleased with my handiwork.
posted by Michele in California at 10:33 AM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

One other that just hit me that I think is (sadly) rather unconventional is that I'll never be the one to terminate the "why" game. No matter how long it goes on, or how ridiculous it gets, I'll keep responding to any chain of "why" questions with age appropriate answers, until she gets bored of it. I never want her to feel like she should be discouraged from questioning anything and everything in front of her.
posted by jammer at 10:35 AM on February 5, 2015 [23 favorites]

We didn't force our super-taster, super-picky son to eat stuff he didn't like. If he didn't like it, he could have oatmeal, plain pasta or a sandwich. He's now in his 20s, and a very adventurous foodie. (My husband is a chef, and this went against all his instincts and everyone's advice.)
I also let my kids go to Guatemala with their nanny to visit her family. In the 90s.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:46 AM on February 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

I don't fight with my little one about food. There's something funky with her palate, I don't know what it is, but there are very few foods whose taste/smell she can tolerate and I let her be and don't worry about it or cajole. If she doesn't want what the rest of the family is eating for dinner (which is about 80% of the time) she has some cashews or a banana or some cherry tomatoes, etc. The rule is that she is not to express disdain for the food on the table (no "eww" etc) and the substitute needs to be a healthy food and not make more work for me. It works well for us. It seems to dumbfound many relatives.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:05 AM on February 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

We also do elimination communication. It's of those things that other people think is utter lunacy, but I have a 1 month old who pees and poops on the potty most days and I think it's cool. I just give him 30 seconds on the potty with each diaper change. Why not? Sure beats having him pee on the changing pad!

I also have a lot more trust in humanity than most folks do these days. I know a lot of people don't let their kids hang out with other people unless they're fully vetted, investigated, etc, don'tet babysitters drive them, etc. I let our nanny bring our daughter to hang out with her family and friends and go to their family parties, etc - she loves to socialize, and she's learning Spanish! Along the same lines as some others above, I'm into free range parenting and letting my kid play in the dirt.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:50 AM on February 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

My parents let us read whatever books we wanted and watch TV pretty much whenever we liked. While I'm sure they got tired of Babysitters' Club and Rugrats at the time, I credit their approach for the fact that both my sister and I are avid readers of both high- and low-brow stuff (and that I don't own a TV or watch it much at all).
posted by ferret branca at 12:33 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know whether or not this counts unconventional wisdom, but don't have separate food for kids and parents. When I moved to [Western country], I was completely baffled by this (rather pervasive) notion that little kids are "supposed" to eat chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and other tasteless food, while adults ate actual food, including food from other places. Kids are supposed to eat actual food like other human beings. How else do you develop a palate?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:08 PM on February 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

When my toddler falls or bumps his head I laugh. He usually laughs with me. There's pretty much no whimpering in my house and it makes him look like a bad ass on the playground.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 1:46 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

we never set a curfew for our teenagers. Our oldest often came home before i would have set the curfew for on her own, occasionally stayed out late, but always let us know where she was. She regulated herself on her own. We will see how this works on current teenager - i am prepared to adjust.

We also did not "potty train". I am kind of in the camp of thinking if you have to ask them every 10 minutes if they need to go to the bathroom, then they really aren't potty trained anyway. Both of mine just one day around 2.5 or so were done with the diapers and that was that. No accidents, no battles, just success.
posted by domino at 1:47 PM on February 5, 2015

Best answer: We homeschooled both kids K-12. The results? Two well adjusted kids at public colleges, both competitive athletes in their favorite sports, neither with any drinking issues, no trouble with the law, and not even a parking ticket. One kid is a junior on pace to graduate with honors, the other is a freshman that earned herself a full-ride academic scholarship and had a 4.0 in her first semester.
posted by COD at 1:58 PM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

We try not to take sides when the kids fight. Basically if they are fighting over something, we tell them to find a solution or we will take it away. If they negotiate a solution, then they can keep it. If not, it gets taken away. If they are fighting and we don't like it, we separate them, but we don't tell them it is someone's fault.
The reason is that as a parent, you never actually see the whole thing or really know whose fault it is. Intervening just tips the power balance and spreads bad feelings.
posted by jazh at 2:20 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Our son had "body books" (everything from basic anatomy to good-touch/ bad-touch stuff) from the time he was 3 or 4 years old. At that point they were no more and no less interesting than his other books. As he began to show more interest, we let him know we could talk about anatomy and sexuality freely as family and let other families do the same on their own, not because these things are embarrassing, but but because they're personal. Partly because of the books, and partly by virtue of being human, he understood that.

This isn't how I grew up, but still I've been surprised in recent years when friends talk about having "the talk" with their kids and are shocked that we never had any one "official" talk, just an honest and open arena for questions and observations all along the way.

As a preteen, my son is knowledgeable and comfortable, instead of being icked out and embarrassed by any suggestion of sexuality (I can't think of one family TV show or PG-13 movie that doesn't contain something of this nature, and I've seen too many kids squirm uncomfortably like I did at that age).
posted by whoiam at 3:00 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Kids have different temperaments. What works really well for some may not have any good effect on others. Don't feel like you did it wrong; just accept that your kid might be different. There are always parents excited about their kid being on honor roll, or being a soccer star. Listen, too, though, for the quiet parents whose child may be terrific kids, just not in the measurable ways of school. I like your morning story example, obviously you're paying attention.

I used to keep about half the toys put away, and rotate toys every month or so. Kids with a room with a foot deep of toys on the floor really can't see what to play with, because it's a disorganized overwhelming mess. Limit the toys, and they end up actually playing with the weird science toys Uncle Rob sends. Refrigerator boxes were genuinely fantastic in our house.

Teach kindness and not-bullying by example. I kept the tv mostly off, and even more so now, because there is so much meanness and violence, and other unpleasant cultural values. TiVo shows whose values work for your family; kids don't mind watching an episode of MacGuyver 12 times.

We had a lot of family jokes, I think it would have been fun to have even more family traditions. Things I remember as mundane, my son remembers as magical.
posted by theora55 at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Another one:

Like jammer, we haven't used the term "bad words" and we haven't censored his music, etc.

Instead, we've explained that certain words can upset and offend people. We also explained that sometimes using those words makes a person seem less creative, and that he can always come up with a better choice (e.g., "It is blazing hot outside!" sounds smarter and more descriptive than, "It's effing hot outside!").
posted by whoiam at 3:08 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

While I DID potty train, I did not do the "you have to wait until they wake up dry to night potty train." Double sheet the bed, accept that you're going to have to do some extra laundry, and take the diapers away all at once. Less than a week later, it was done.

I also encourage my kids to be independent out in public when they want to. My daughter was crazy outgoing, and she loved to chat and do her own thing. If she wanted to take the mail up to the counter and give it to the postmaster, she could. If she wanted to know where something was, well, ask the nice lady that works here. I'm not big on 'don't talk to strangers.'
posted by checkitnice at 4:39 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Most of my kids toys are out of reach (the children are only three and twenty months, it stops them pulling them out themselves and having toys scattered everywhere) so as a result they have to ask for toys that they want to play with. This means that I a) make them do chores by packing away their previous toys before they can play with the next one and even the baby can put her things in a box b) sometimes I really limit what they can play with and refuse to entertain them myself in a deliberate attempt to force them to play together and to be creative with very little. Boredom tends to inspire creative play but if you never get the chance to be bored, it will never happen. I'm sure that makes me mean mummy but it does actually work.
posted by Jubey at 4:49 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing not forcing the kid to eat what she doesn't like, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding and babywearing.

I didn't force her to do activities when she was young. We tried soccer, dance, swimming, gymnastics, etc., and she really didn't like any of those things, so I let her quit. I was worried about her now having activities, but now that she's in middle school, she has selected several things to do on her own that she likes and is dedicated to (Lego robotics league, winter guard, art, Girl Scouts). In retrospect I'm not sure kids need a lot of activities in elementary school.

I also don't limit screen time. She likes to participate in an anime-based role-playing forum. I keep an eye on it to make sure nothing untoward is going on, and we talk about appropriate behavior online. She has relationships on the forum that she values, and I think having virtual friends who share her interest in this obscure anime has been good for her. It honestly freaked me out at first, but I noticed that she got a lot happier when she wasn't just relying on the girls at school for friendship. It seemed like it took the pressure off of those relationships, and some of the strife she was experiencing seemed to resolve itself. She's also a very fast typist and very skilled with computers.
posted by jeoc at 5:00 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I will not fight about food. If my picky-eater son, 11, doesn't like what's for dinner, he is free to prepare a microwaveable Indian meal of his choice, and clean up after himself. He likes these dishes, so we keep a selection on hand. He gets a healthy meal, but I don't have to make something separate. Everybody wins.

I grew up under a Clean Plate Club/starving children-style regime, and will not do the same with my kids. They have always been allowed to stop eating when they feel like they've had enough.

My daughter, now 7, has been watching a Great Courses lecture series on cooking. She gets her mise in place before making herself cheesy eggs on the stove.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:21 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I often make separate meals for my kids if they don't want to eat what I've made for the adults. I've never made them eat so much as a single bite of food that they didn't want to eat.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:53 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't make my kids read. When they bring home "reading logs" from school, I tell the teacher they're not going to do them. I let them read whatever they want, even if it's nothing but comic books, so long as homework gets done.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:55 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: When my son was a toddler and we lived in New York, I walked him on a leash (ahh, it's good to get all this off my chest). Half the parents I passed would give me the stink-eye, a quarter would ignore me, and a quarter would run up and ask where they could buy one for their kid.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:57 PM on February 5, 2015 [12 favorites]

- Like some people upthread, we haven't used a stroller. Unlike them, we stopped even carrying shortly after our son (now 2 years old) was walking reasonably well. By 12 months old he just walked everywhere. We'd put him on our shoulders if he got really tired or haste was important but walking is always the default. It helped that he is really active, but we found that: (a) it tired him out (yay!); (b) he interacted with the environment far more; and (c) it just made going out a lot more fun, if substantially slower at times.

- Like others, we never used baby food, never made him special food of his own, and have also never made mealtimes a battle. If he doesn't want what's on the table, that's okay, he can have fruit or bread or excuse himself. He's a very good eater; I have no idea if this is because of our policy or if our policy was possible because he's a good eater.

- We didn't officially potty train, just always had the potty around and got used to placing him on it on occasion, starting at about 9 months old. He was pretty good about using it for poo starting at around 18 months. Then around 25 months he just decided he wanted to wear underwear, and that was that: problem solved within a few days. He has had some accidents but they are due to either inattention or the lack of usable toilets nearby (if we are out and the only toilets are in a bathroom with dryers (scary noise!) he will just refuse to go); he has no problems with control. I was very pleased with how easy potty training was.

- We also almost never punish him. We used to do time outs but we found that they just made the bad behaviour more salient and irresistible. For the most part natural consequences work -- if he doesn't share, then he doesn't get to play with the toy either; if he won't put a toy away, we won't do anything else with him until he does; if he shouts indoors, he has to go outside because it's irritating us; etc. He is by and large very well behaved. Again, I have no idea if this would work with other kids (we'll see -- #2 is on its way!) but it definitely works better than punishment for this kid.
posted by forza at 6:54 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I stopped pumping at work at 10 months, which in my breastfeeding obsesssed circle was unusually early. If I had to do it over again I wouldn't have pumped at all at work.
posted by yarly at 7:42 PM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: True confession and this one really flies in the face of convention. My kids were around 11, 9 and 6 when I got divorced and we had shared custody. Over the course of the next few years, their dad, who lives down the road, slowly stopped seeing/calling them and it's now been over 7 years since they've had contact with him. So my kids grew up without a father, because their dad couldn't be bothered.

After it became clear that my efforts to get him to see his kids were falling on deaf ears, I felt strongly that the conventional post-divorce wisdom of never saying anything negative about the other parent wasn't going to work. I knew my kids would probably feel abandoned by him and because I was concerned that this could play out badly in their lives, always searching for approval, I decided to be honest with them.

I told them that they're wonderful kids and they fill the world with their joy, and the capital T Truth about their dad is that he is an asshole. It's more nuanced when we talk about it and I don't go around slamming the guy, but I've always made it clear that their dad's choice to live without his kids speaks to what a moron he is, someone who truly isn't worthy of a second thought.*

*This feels good to get off my chest.
posted by kinetic at 2:40 AM on February 6, 2015 [68 favorites]

Our 3yr old son has his own iPod (an old bricked iPhone of ours) full of age appropriate apps. He's allowed more or less unlimited access to it - but only on non-school days. His father is an electrical/software engineer, so technology is a big part of life. He's really and truly learned a lot from some of the educational apps and it makes our phones uninteresting so he doesn't touch them except to ask to listen to music. (Which... his favorite is Katy Perry. We're not big on "children's music.")

My husband cosleeps with our son. This wasn't really intentional - and he didn't cosleep as a baby - but here we are. We even invested in a double bed for this purpose.
posted by sonika at 4:31 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

We have always required a "Thank You" bite of a new or different food. As a thank you to the person who prepared it. If said child didn't care for the food, they didn't have to eat it, no questions asked but 99.9% of the time, their little eyes will light up with a new discovery of something they really enjoy. Has worked really well. We also have never limited screen time and now have two, very savvy, very smart techno-literate children.
posted by pearlybob at 7:24 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I not only allowed my children but encouraged them to talk to strangers, with the caveat that they should never ever go anywhere with them. I also encouraged them to, early on, learn the bus routes and take the bus alone. When my daughter was a teenager, I would come and pick her up from wherever she was, at any time of the day or night, no questions asked. I allowed them both unfettered and unmonitored internet access but reserved the right to talk to them about anything they had seen, why it may be problematic, and warned them not to post anything they wouldn't want read back to them in the future. I talked to them openly and frankly about sex and how sexual desire was not the same as love. I walked with them through the downtown Eastside of Vancouver and we talked about why people might end up passed out on the street or begging for money for crack. My daughter started dressing herself and picking her own outfits before she was two and I rarely criticized or altered her choices. At the age of nine, she travelled alone to the UK to visit my parents. In short, I raised them to be autonomous, thinking people and chose not to shelter them too much from life's harsh realities. I ended up with two bright, interesting, and brave adult children, with strong social consciousnesses, who are very independent and strong-willed.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 11:02 AM on February 6, 2015 [14 favorites]

Here's what's working for us (two boys, ages 10 and 5):
  • If they're fighting, we say "work it out" rather than trying to to figure out who shot John. We mediate, they have to solve the issue.
  • They sleep in the same bed (by their request). We feel like it's helping them figure out how to co-exist in a small space.
  • We've emphasized that the household is the four of us, and that we can't do it without them. They each have essential chores that contribute to household functions, that are done without expectation of reward or praise.
  • A "three bites" rule for any new or unusual food. That way, if they decide they don't like something, they've at least given it a fair shot.
  • Dinner is this or nothing, your choice.
  • Sit-down restaurants ("places without kids' menus") from the age of 4 for both of them, and independent ordering as soon as they feel up to it. Hearing the 10-year-old order coq au vin in mangled French is always a bright spot.
  • Absolutely uncompromising toy and game organization: everything has a place, and no more than one toy or job can be out at one time. Our house is maybe 700 square feet, so this keeps us from feeling like we're living in a Lego dump.
  • A Bissell Sweeper that gets used only to clean up scattered toys of Lego size.
  • A hard bedtime of 8pm for both, since birth. Reading books, singing songs, etc all takes place between 7:30 and 8:00, and lights out at 8.
  • "Shake it off" approach to battlefield injuries.
  • Interpreting acting-out behavior from the 5-year-old as "I need you to help me" instead of "WHY ARE YOU MAKING THAT INFERNAL NOISE".
I'm sure there are more, but these are kind of the main ones.

Thanks to everyone who's posted in this thread: I've picked up a bunch of new ideas from it.
posted by scrump at 2:34 PM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, thanks to everyone. The response has been amazing.
posted by clawsoon at 6:36 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have (probably) identical twins. They are, obviously, alike in many ways, but living with them without other kids for comparison, I often notice the differences more than the similarities.

But my wife and I have promised ourselves to never talk about these differences with other people. I love talking about my kids, but I never say things like "This one has [personality trait X] and that one is more [personality trait Y]" or even "This one likes [hobby X] and that one likes [hobby y]."

I wanted to avoid putting labels on them or, worse, helping other people put labels on them. It's silly for either of them have [personality trait X] become part of her identity just because her sister is slightly more [personality trait Y], especially when they might both be far more [personality trait Y] than most other kids.

The same goes for interests. I didn't want one of them to abandon something just because her sister liked it a little more or was a little better at it and got labeled as "the one who likes X," when maybe they both like X. Maybe they'd both like X-themed presents from the grandparents.

Of course, people do all this labeling anyway, but at least they have to get to know them and make those observations themselves, rather than getting the labels from us. My daughters are often frustrated at the way people always compare them with each other. Once when they were complaining about this, I mentioned our policy to them. They were a lot more grateful and appreciative of it than I would have expected.
posted by straight at 11:49 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

If I give my boys a candy bar or something else to be shared, one of them does the splitting/cutting in half. The other one chooses which half he wants. If there's any disagreement, whining or complaining, I take one of the halves for myself and tell them to start over with the half that's left. It's been years since they've lost anything to me this way.

When they bring home their candy on Halloween night, they have to pay me the "Daddy tax". I get all of the Almond Joys and Milk Duds (which they don't like anyway.) There's no life lesson here. I just like Almond Joys and Milk Duds.

Nobody eats or drinks anything until the animals are fed and given water.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:53 AM on February 7, 2015 [10 favorites]

When my kids were toddlers and they'd fall or otherwise injure/-but-not-really, there was always that split second where they'd come to me holding out their non-injury and look at me with HUGE EYES and wait for my reaction. The idea that if I looked completely freaked out, they'd know to start howling.

So when they had small booboos and would stop and look at me, I'd usually make a deeply horrified face and scream "OH MY GOD! ARE YOU OKAY I THINK YOUR ARMS AND YOUR LEGS ARE GOING TO FALL OFF!!" in such a way that they knew they were fine and I was just being silly mommy.

They'd usually tell me to cut it out and go play.
posted by kinetic at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by grouse at 10:27 AM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, this hasn't come up yet, but yeah, we feed our 6-month old daughter formula, and have for awhile. It's working out fine. She's happy and healthy.

Because of the stigma against it, we arguably waited far, far too long; lots of moments with a screaming baby and a very frazzled mom, plus a dad (me) who couldn't help in any way.

(If you're going to ask, "did you try x?", the answer is yes, yes we did. Pumping, consultants, different places, setups, food for mom, vitamins, prescriptions, yes. Yes, we did.)

Afterwards, we found this article in the NY Times, which pointed out the differences between breastmilk and modern formula... might not actually be that formula is bad, but that the people who feed their kids formula have other problems in the mix.

Summarizing: poor kids get asthma more often. Poor moms don't have the time to breastfeed, and feed formula much more often. But it's tied to other things related to being poor, not to the formula; most studies don't control for that. They looked into math, reading, memory, obesity, asthma, ADD, and a few others; no differences for siblings where one was fed breastmilk and the other formula.

I'm not even assuming that study is correct, and it might be utter bullshit, but it helped me sleep better at night, and the formula helps *all* of us sleep better at night.
posted by talldean at 10:35 AM on February 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

Oh, talldean, I didn't even think of that. Hell yeah I formula fed. My kids would have starved to death if I hadn't!
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:44 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

You don't want to eat that? Great! More for the grownups. Next time we don't even offer the kid any what ever it is. Mmmm, this is grownup food. My kids and grandkids try everything and eat 99.9% of what's new. Dang, that some how backfired. Not as much for the grownups.

Pets. If you take care of the pet, it's your pet. If I take care of the pet, then it's MY pet. Pets give kids love, discipline, and an awareness of the world that nothing else can give them.

Nobody eats or drinks anything until the animals are fed and given water.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:30 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

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