Listen, we all want to be the best parents in the world, but parenting is exhausting. It’s impossible to be a perfect parent and do it 100% right all the time, and THAT’S OK! But, eight years of parenting and four young children deep, we’ve come up with some go-to parenting hacks that make it a little easier. Our parenting hacks are simple tricks to pull out on a rainy day or when you are just over it.
Just Add Water
We can’t claim this parenting hack as our own, original idea, but we use it ALL THE TIME. When the kids are fussy, when everyone is bored, when we’re so tired we can’t see straight, we just add water. This can take so many forms, but some of our favorites are putting them into the bathtub, letting them play with the hose, hooking up our sprinkler, and scooping some snow from outside and letting them play with it at the counter. Our personal favorite is a scoop station, featuring bowls of various sizes and contents (soapy water, dyed water, water with little plastic characters, etc.). We equip them with different scoops, spoons, and cups to pour and dump to their hearts’ content.
When we are at our wits’ end and ready to lose it, we sing. Improvising a silly song about how no one is listening, for example, lets out our negative energy and is scientifically proven to release endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin for an automatic mood booster. It also makes our kids laugh and the change in tone makes them listen more. We use this parenting hack so often that we see our kids using it, too!
Similar to singing, we’ll use silly rhymes as a way to break up frustration either in ourselves or our kids. For example when our kids are SCREAMING that they “need” oatmeal right away or they will “starve,”we’ll look at them with a confused look and say, “You want BOATmeal?! You want to eat a boat for breakfast?!” This usually gets them laughing and breaks up the tension in the room. Every once in awhile this parenting hack backfires when they are way over frustrated, so you have to read the room. But using silly rhymes can make everything a little more fun and is a great language builder. So it’s a win, all around.
Use Positive Actions instead of “Don’t Do…”
Have you ever told your kid not to do something and they just do it more? Yep. Same. This parenting hack changes that around every time. Instead of saying, “Don’t jump on the couch!” try, “Can you show me how high you can jump with your feet starting on the floor?’ This gives them a positive action to try instead of something negative to fight. Young children’s brains don’t always process the “negative” part of a command, so they just hear, “jump on the couch,” or they notice that they’re getting attention for something. With a “negative” instruction, young children have to process three action steps: stop doing something you don’t want them to do, figure out what you do want them to do, and start doing that. But with a positive instruction, they just have to respond to one step and start doing something equally fun. We use this parenting hack with our own kids and in family photo shoots all the time!
We set timers for everything. When two kids want to play with the same toy, we set a timer for five minutes for oneto finish playing with it and pass it on when the timer goes off. Nine times out of ten the first kid freely shares the toy before the timer even goes off. We also use timersk to let the kids know when one activity is ending and another is beginning. For example, “We’re going to set this timer for 20 minutes. When it goes off, it’s time to turn off the TV and start getting ready for bed.” This sets clear expectations and limits fights about moving on when it’s time.
We use warnings in tandem with timers. It’s so important to give your kids a heads up about what is going to happen. Imagine you were watching your favorite show and someone just came and turned it off and said, “show time is over”. You’d probably be upset. So we’ll give our kids a couple of warnings before we tell them it’s time to stop. This parenting hack comes in handy too when preparing to leave a fun place. We’ll either give them a timed warning, “In 5 minutes we’re going to get ready to go home” or a bench mark warning, “After we see the lions we’ll be heading home from the zoo”. This gives their little brains a chance to process and prepare and avoids abrupt endings that always lead to meltdowns.
Say “Yes” When You Can
Lastly, and most importantly, this parenting hack improves the overall tone and culture of our home. If our kids ask for a small piece of candy, or an extra 5 minutes before bed, reasonable small requests, we say yes! When we do this, it sets the expectation that we respect their wants and needs and we’ll hear them when they make a reasonable request. Now, we definitely don’t say yes when Amelia asks us to buy a dog all day every day. But when she asks for a couple extra pages of Harry Potter at bedtime, we’ll typically say yes. Beyond showing our kids that they are respected and heard, this also makes our “no” more meaningful. When our kids feel like they can trust us because we listen to them, they know that our “no” has a purpose and we aren’t just arbitrarily saying no to them all the time.
We’re not saying it lightly that these parenting hacks have changed the game for us as parents. Don’t worry, we definitely still yell and get frustrated. But overall, these are our best PasterHacks that keep us from feeling completely overwhelmed by parenting.