Learn more about gentle parenting HERE
Trust is huge for me too because it goes both ways, right? Yes, I want my kids to trust me, but I want them to know that I trust them too and that they deserve the same trust I ask of them.
In our home, trust comes from giving space for communication, leading by example, and having freedom within appropriate boundaries. Growing up I always felt like my parents were just waiting for me to mess up and they didn’t inherently believe that I was going to make good choices on my own. I also had incredibly strict rules that often made no sense or just seemed unnecessary (obviously I was a kid but even looking at them now as an adult some of them were ridiculous). This made it really hard for me to trust my parents because I felt like they didn’t trust me at all.
With my little family now, my husband and I try really hard to show our 2 year old that we trust him in little ways like letting him try to clean up his mess on his own without micromanaging or being curious about why he chose to play with something we don’t think he should play with. In the latter scenario, instead of assuming he’s trying to get into trouble or be disobedient, we assume that he’s curious about something he’s not familiar with or has an unmet need. We get down to his level and say, “what did you find, buddy?” or “what are you doing, buddy?” and give him a chance to tell us what’s going on.
A really good example is when I was getting ready in the bathroom one morning and I look over to find Hyrum at 20 months old with his baby shampoo unscrewed and open. He was holding the pump in one hand and the bottle in the other. Obviously I knew this was going to make a mess and I didn’t want him playing with it, but instead of running over and saying “hyrum you can’t play with that!” and grabbing it out of his hands like I wanted to, I calmly walked over, sat on the floor next to him, and said “wow hyrum you got the lid off! You’re so smart!” He looked at me with a smile and tried to show me that he was really interested in screwing and unscrewing the lid and learning the mechanics of the lid. He wasn’t even trying to dump the soap everywhere! So, what I said next was “that’s so cool that you learned how to take off the lid. Can you put it back on too?” Once he did, on his own I might add, I said, “that was so much fun to learn about the lid. Let’s see if we can find you another lid to play with that won’t make a mess!” and he was totally happy. No meltdown, no angry mom, and no mess.
Now, obviously my 20 month old can’t look at me and say “thanks for trusting me mama” but I truly believe with all my heart that these smaller, simpler moments when Hyrum is little are perfect opportunities for both of us to practice trusting each other so when he is older and doing bigger and more impactful things, we both trust each other and know how to communicate.
Ok so that was a long introduction but hopefully you get a sense of where I’m going with my parent hacks. These are hacks that have helped me live my values as a parent and minimize the meltdowns and tantrums that my kids will have. The hacks also go perfectly in line with the 3 values I talked about too! And above all, if there’s one hack I want you to listen to, it’s number 3, so stick around to the end of the episode to hear what my best parenting advice is.
My first parenting hack is using baby sign language. Now before you freak out or roll your eyes, please please know that this is WAY easier than you think and you do not need to be fluent in ASL to do this.
In fact, Tyler and I only taught 3 or 4 signs total. That’s it! But those 3 or 4 signs made all the difference when Hyrum was approaching his first birthday and I truly believe they saved us more tantrums and meltdowns than I can count.
Why I love baby sign is because babies mimic body language before actual verbal language. Think about peek-a-boo or saying hi or gasping for surprise. Baby can wave hello long before they actually say hi, right? So baby sign is a great way to encourage and elicit communication before they can speak.
Let’s dive into what signs we introduced. We didn’t want to do too many because we wanted Hyrum to master the ones we did use and we wanted to be very intentional and very clear about what we were communicating.
Now because sign is a visual thing and it’s a little nuanced, I won’t bother trying to describe how to sign each sign. You can just look it up if you want to learn it!
One important thing to note is that when you introduce and practice baby sign language, you always want to verbalize what you’re signing. So when you sign “all done” you should also be saying the words “all done” out loud. This helps connect everything and truly make it a communication thing.
“More:” great for meal times if you’ve introduced solids. Obviously it can be applicable for so many different circumstances, but I found it most useful at the dinner table.
“All done:” the other half of “more.” This one was more widely used throughout the day like all done with toys or all done with tickles or really anything we were doing.
“Help:” probably the most useful out of all the signs. Like if there’s one sign I think you should learn, it’s this one. Do you know how many times Hyrum didn’t scream or cry because I knew right away that he needed help?
“Thank you:” this one isn’t necessary, and if I’m being honest, we taught it more because it was cute when Hyrum signed it to other people. I also liked it because it didn’t have to be attached to any other words to make sense, like the word please does.
Now you might be wondering why we didn’t bother teaching please. In all honesty, the thought didn’t cross our minds. But, as time has gone on, we didn’t really introduce the word please in our verbal vocabulary with Hyrum or pressure Hyrum to use the word please until he was almost 2.
This is because there are so many other facets of language development and psychological development that need to take place before a little kid can learn about manners. We felt it was more important to prioritize the correct vocabulary and learning to speak period before worrying about whether or not our 1 year old was being polite. Because at the end of the day, I didn’t want Hyrum to only use the word please when I can’t even figure out what he’s politely asking for (if that makes sense).
Now, I know this isn’t how every parent does it, and I’m not saying my way is better than yours, but this is why we didn’t bother with the word please or even correct him when he asked or commanded something without “being polite.”
This one makes me laugh because one of the most common pieces of advice new moms get is “sleep when the baby sleeps” or in other words “do what you need to do when baby is sleeping.” And I’m totally telling you to do the opposite haha. But I have some very solid reasons (and evidence) behind my parenting hack!
First of all, nap time is precious. Obviously. If we’re spending the rest of the day taking care of our kids and our spouse and whoever else, why would we use that precious time to do more work for other people? Why not take that time to do something for yourself?
Now this can’t be the case 100% of the time obviously, but I try really really hard to save chores for when the kids are awake because I’d rather spend my free time doing things that I want to do like working, sleeping, watching a TV show, or whatever else I want.
But here’s the bigger reason why I clean when my kids are awake: THEY’RE WATCHING. What better way to teach your kids about hard work, doing chores, and how to clean properly than to show them?
Let me give you an idea of what I mean: right after Hyrum, my son, turned 1, he watched me sweep the kitchen one night and thought the broom was the coolest thing. So he asked if he could play with it. He loved it so much we got him a little toy broom from Target for his room and now one of his favorite chores is sweeping. He sweeps his room every night before bed and always wants to help me when I’m sweeping the kitchen too.
Now, by the time Hyrum turned 2, these are all the chores he’d learned how to do consistently on his own without my help:
And these are the chores that he could and wanted to do with my help:
Bottom line: Hyrum watched me work around the house every single day and learned how to do chores with me. And the best part? Most of them he wanted to do on his own. I never forced him to do any of them (with the exception of washing hands or throwing away garbage) so whenever he showed interest I helped him learn!
My last reason for doing chores while your kids are awake is how it teaches them to play independently. By definition, if you’re working, you’re not actively playing with them, so if they’re bored, you’re too busy to fix their boredom. Hyrum has become such a great independent player because he had to get creative and find ways to occupy himself while I was getting things done.
Now some kids create trouble when left alone, so always pay attention haha, but for the most part, this is a great chance to help your kids learn how to be bored. And if they are still having a hard time, turn chores into a game and get them involved!
Ok this last one is not intuitive by any means and I guarantee that you were not raised this way. So bear with me.
My last parenting hack is to avoid saying no as much as possible.
I’m gonna say that one more time: try not to say no.
Now, before you get all uppity at me, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m NOT saying you should be permissive and let your kids do whatever they want whenever they want and not have boundaries or consequences for their actions.
What I mean by not saying no is trying to only phrase things in a positive way. And when I say positive, I’m talking about the grammatical affirmative in the English language.
(And in case you’re curious, this does fall more in line with the gentle parenting approach)
Here’s a few examples:
I know it sounds like you’re saying the same thing, but you’re really not. One, when you use the negative, you’re only saying what not to do, you’re not providing an actual tangible solution your kid can understand. All they’re hearing is no no no but they don’t know where to redirect their energy or attention. And two, imagine how many times you say no to your kids throughout the day and then imagine how you would feel if every time you went to do something you were told no? I’m sure after a while you’d either feel very discouraged or angry and your tolerance for doing the right thing slowly disappeared.
Now I don’t bring this up because I want to shame you if this is how you parent. It’s usually pretty effective to firmly say no to a little kid in your big scary voice, but what I’ve learned is that it’s only thinking short term. You’re only focusing on the immediate result in the very moment instead of connecting with your kids and helping them truly change their behavior in the moment and in the long run.
It took me months and months to retrain my brain to use the affirmative instead of the negative but let me tell you, if you keep at it I promise you will see major results. I’ve noticed Hyrum’s temperament is much much more cooperative and mild and it takes a lot for him to get upset. He’s also really good at taking direction because he knows I’m on his side trying to work with him instead of just stopping him in his tracks.
So what do you say when your kid says “I want a cookie!” and it’s 10am? Well, if you don’t want them to have the cookie right then, you could say “thanks for telling me! Let’s have a cookie after lunch.” See what I did there? I’m still holding the boundary of “no cookie right now” but I also acknowledged his feelings, connected, and redirected to a later time.
Ok Brooke, what if my kid comes to me and says “mommy hold me!” and I’m nursing their baby sibling? I would say something like “I would love to hold you after your sister is finished eating so I can use both arms to hug you” or “I’d love to! Will you come sit by me so I can reach you?” Here, I’m acknowledging his need to be held and finding a way to make it happen with the circumstances.
Now, of course this can’t work every time. You will have to say no sometimes and there’s no better way to get your point across than saying no. BUT. What I want to emphasize is the idea that you’re saying no as little as possible. This way, when you do have to say no, your kids are much more likely to listen because they know you’re being serious.
So you’re probably wondering how these parenting hacks fits into the “well nourished mama” theme. I’ll make it really simple for you: by focusing on your mindset with your relationship with your kids, you are prioritizing your mental health. A well nourished mama is more than just a mom with a healthy diet; it’s a mama who is thoughtful and intentional with all aspects of her health, including her mental health and her relationships with others.
And while some parent hacks are things like keeping your kids quietly entertained on an airplane or how to clean dirty white shoes on a budget, I truly believe that the hacks I shared today go much deeper than that. They get down to the roots of how we interact with our kids and how we approach our parenting as a whole.
That to me is just as important and impactful for our health as what we eat or how much we exercise.
So I hope that you feel empowered and encouraged to try something new today that might help improve the family dynamic in your home and keep you a little more sane as a mom. These hacks have completely transformed my temperament and my kids’ responsiveness, which means I have that much more energy and patience to show up and be the mom I want to be for them.