The most stressful time of parenthood is the first 5 years of your children’s lives. This is a time when they are learning and are the most helpless. Of course, I am a fairly new parent—only 4 years at my job—so I have yet to tackle the notorious adolescent years. I will remind myself to write a blog about that stage when the time comes.
These are my parenting tips on how to make life easier for you during your children’s first 5 years.
1. Take your toddlers off the bottle by their first birthday.
Teach your children to drink from a straw or cup (no sippy cups with spouts, please! The sippy cups with straws is fine). The sooner your children learn to drink from a cup, the better it is for you! Drinking from a cup helps your children develop their fine motor skills. Additionally, you will no longer need to make bottles, look for stray bottles hidden around the house, or clean dirty bottles. And, your children will have lower chances of getting baby bottle tooth decay.
It’s hard to take your children off the bottle because it’s easier to console your children’s cries with a bottle. And you don’t want to deprive your children of milk. My mom got angry both times when I took my children off their bottles at 12 months. She yelled, stating that I’m not feeding my children. Hmong grandparents are the biggest advocates for bottles—They will offer a bottle to their grandchildren until they say no.
Please keep in mind that milk is different from breast milk or formula. The latter is a food and the former is a drink. So, if you feed your children food, they will not starve without a bottle of milk. Offer milk in a cup instead.
2. Potty train your children as soon as they show signs of readiness.
If you’re like me, you’d hate to change dirty diapers. The older your children get, the stinkier the poop gets. Once your toddlers get curious about the toilet or is old enough to speak a couple of words (usually around 16 months and older), you start training. Slowly start. Buy a little potty and introduce your children to it. Have your children sit on the potty with clothes on. Have your children mimic you while you use the toilet, even if they are not pooping or peeing. Don’t scare your children by initially putting them on the big toilet. The hole is too big for their tiny bottoms and the flush may just scare them away.
Of course it’s going to require a lot of effort and patience on your part at first, but it’ll pay off in the long run. (Don’t give up. Do a lot of positive reinforcements and please don’t punish). They will graduate from the tiny toilet to the big one and pretty soon, all you’ll have to worry about is helping your children up onto the toilet and wiping after they’re done. Then, once they can reach behind to wipe, your children will do it all by themselves. You’re a free parent! No more stinky diapers!
During a discussion about potty training, my aunt told me that she doesn’t have time. And it’s more convenient for her if her child wears a diaper. If her child needs to poop or pee, she wouldn’t have to rush to the bathroom. She could change the dirty diaper whenever she has the time to. I find this quite backwards. You’re going to have to potty train anyway, so why delay it? The sooner you potty train, the more time you will have on your hands.
3. Make sure your children have regular sleeping patterns.
I cannot stress this enough. Your children need their sleep. A toddler needs about 12-15 hours of sleep per 24 hours. This is a time for your children to grow and recharge their energies. Make sure your children have a regular bed time, usually around 7pm or 8pm. Sometimes your children may not want to go to sleep because you’re not sleeping, especially if you share the same room. They will most likely cry and fuss—and it will be hard at first—but they need a set bedtime. Tuck your children in, turn off the light, and leave the room. Don’t worry if they don’t fall asleep right away. And make sure they stay in bed. This will condition your children to sleep at a certain time.
Naps are also beneficiary in the same way that sleep is, so do not discourage them. Naps are also a parent’s down time. This is when you can get things done around the house and/or recharge your energy as well. If your children no longer nap, make sure they have a quiet play time. Sleep is essential. When your children are well-rested, they are more likely to listen and behave.
That’s it! Those are my top 3 parenting tips for fairly new parents like myself. No bottles. No diapers. And regular sleep. If you have any tips yourself, please leave them as a comment below.