My friends Scott and Kelli are expecting their first baby. Here is my wholly unsolicited parenting advice.
-Parents Magazine is to parenting what those wedding magizines are to marriage. In a word, unhelpful.
-Also, Babywise is crap. Uh... I mean, some people have differing views on this parenting technique, and we are all entitled to our own opinions.( But, really, Babywise is crap. Do not read this book. Someone just published a guilt trip, and you don't need to go on it. )
-Breastfeed if you can. It's cheaper, and easier, and better for your baby. If you're struggling find a good lactation consultant. Really. (Also, if you try, and you try hard, and it is still not working and you feed your baby formula - whatever - no guilt - it's fine. The big perk of bottlefeeding for moms is that dads can easily take the night shift.)
Money on a good nursing bra is well spent.
You mostly don't need all that other junk they sell you. You can buy it anyway, because it's fun. But, mostly, you don't need it. Babies have simple needs.
Breastpumps are weird and make you feel like a Gurnsey Cow. You might need one anyway. Well, Kelli, not so much Scott.
Co-sleep if its easier and it works. Don't co-sleep if it doesn't work for you.
Babies cannot be spoiled. They cannot. Crying it out is bad from a neuro-developmental standpoint. (Babywise=very wrong on this one)
Expect not to sleep. This is sad. Grieve it now. It's kind of pointless to sleep train a baby before a year old. Whenever they get a tooth, or a cold, or an ear infection they wake up during the night anyway. Just plan on not sleeping, get over it, and move on. You'll be surprised at how well you'll learn to function. Also, coffee is our friend.
Wearing babies is handy, and hands-free, it is also really good for attachment and infant development. Find a good wrap, or a good Ergo. Maybe, get both.
Don't haul that infant car seat around with you everywhere. Leave it in the car if it is at all practical. Carrying that thing will mess up your back. I secretly think chiropractors love infant carriers; they are good for business. But it's better for you and your baby to just unsnap him and wear him, or set him on your hip.
Postpartum depression is a real thing. If you get it, treat it. With drugs. As soon as possible. Pomise?
Christian parenting books as a whole suck. The best parenting stuff I've read comes out of the theraputic parenting field. But my guess is that there are some good attachment parenting books out there, possibly even from a Christian perspective. Looking back I wish we had started out with a more attachment parenting paradigm.
The exception to crappy Christian parenting books that comes to mind is "Good and Angry" by Scott Turensky. That's a good one.
At the end of the day we cannot control our children or their choices. We can only hope to influence them. Our influence is proportionally related to how connected, loved, understood and cared for our children feel. Attachment matters. Punishment is overrated. Also, Babywise is crap.
Play cars. Read stories. Snuggle. Listen to long, pointless stories. Do this even when it is excrutiatingly boring. It will sometimes be excrutiatingly boring. This is the deal: your child is sharing his world and his heart with you. If you want him to share his world and heart as a teenager, you earn that right by entering his world and listening to his heart through childhood. Suck it up and play hot-wheels and build lego towers. Even when your tired. Even when your stressed. Even when you have 100 other things that feel more pressing. I try to do this, and regret not doing it more.
Make your home a sanctuary.
Buy "The Jesus Storybook Bible" , and "Runaway Bunny", and "Guess How Much I love You" and "Goodnight Moon." These are books worth having.
Tell family stories.
Go on dates. Your marriage is still the foundation of your family. Protect it. Honor it. And let your baby feel the safety of your love for each other.
Be selfless. Then be more selfless. Parenting is not about you. You do not get to live vicariously through your child or work out your own baggage through parenting. Do the work. Take care of your stuff. Be the grown up. Obviously. Also, this is more difficult than it sounds.
Do not let your child triangulate. Practice saying, "Well, what did Mom/Dad say? I agree with that decision." Good cop/bad cop is not a recommended parenting practice. That being said, my kids still know to ask dad to serve dessert, because he knows how to "dish it out" generously.
Relax, children are resilient. Also, sometimes when they screw up its their own fault and not yours.
Parenting feels like having ones heart walk around outside of ones body. There is nothing quite so vulnerable or scary. I don't think that ever really goes away, or at least it hasn't for me, and my mom says it hasn't for her.
Do chores together. Give responsibilities. "You are a part of this family, and we count on you to do your part." should go into the big book of parenting sayings.
Also, ask, "Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?"
One and two year olds have limited impulse control, this is a known feature of what it means to be little. Try never to punish immaturity.
Do-overs are better than time-outs. They are redemptive and build new and better neuro-pathways.
Spankings don't have to be abusive, but I also think they are not usually the best discipline tool in a parent's bag of tricks. If you find yourself spanking often, you need a better bag of tricks.
Discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline is redemptive. It molds, teaches, trains, shapes, and encourages. Sometimes it allows for consequences, but at it's core discipline is not punitive.
The best way to limit bad behavior is to avoid situations where it is likely to occur. Kids act out when they are tired, hungry, sick, scared and lonely. It is always worth asking what is behind the behavior. Sometimes you give a naughty kid a granola bar, not a time-out. Because sometimes a naughty kid needs a snack not a punishment.
Trust your gut.
Sad kids act angry. Scared kids act crazy. This truism is money in the bank.
Buy kids clothes at thrift stores, or on clearance for as long as possible.
Coats and lunchboxes will be forgotten. Dishes will be broken. Doorknobs will be sticky. Fingerprints will decorate your walls. Pretty much kids mess up your stuff. Remember you love your child more than your stuff. Try to remember to act like it when he loses your favorite sweater, and floats your cellphone in the bath. You might not succeed, in which case ask for forgiveness. Which reminds me...
Ask for forgiveness, as necessary. It lends credibility.
You can do this, and of all the people in the whole wide world you are best suited to parent this brand new little person.
You're gonna be awesome. Well, you already ARE awesome, but your awesomness will extend to parenting.