January 17, 2024

Practical Parenting Advice for Babies and Toddlers

Personal, Toddlers

I have read some great parenting books and read some great parenting blogs, but to be honest, reading is not my forte and I just feel like I don’t have time. Where I’ve learned the most about parenting is in conversations with other parents, brainstorming with friends, sharing the hard moments and the wins, and being in young mom groups.

And as a mom of a 6-year-old, 4-year-old, and 16-month-old, I am certainly not claiming perfection. But I have learned some really helpful and super practical parenting tips over the years and wanted to share my top tips!

So in this post, I will be sharing the top four parenting tips I’ve heard for babies and toddlers, including:

  • Say “yes” as often as possible
  • Teach your babies and young toddlers, “No eat” and, “No touch”
  • Teach your toddlers to “stop” and “come”
  • For Christian parents, try to use specific words from scripture

1. Try to say “Yes” as often as possible!

I wasn’t actually there, but my roommate in college was at a baby shower and I remember when she came back she said one of the wise mamas there shared her favorite piece of parenting advice, which was, “Try to say yes as often as possible.”

I was maybe 20 years old, but this really stuck with me. Fast forward to 13ish years later and I still think about this often.

It’s so easy to say no. And sometimes we absolutely have to, but other times we say no because we don’t want to be inconvenienced, or we have a different agenda.

For example, my daughters are asking for hot chocolate. Am I saying no because it’s really not best for them right now (maybe they’re lactose intolerant, or already had 3 chocolate bars that day), or because I just don’t feel like making it?

Or maybe my little one is asking to take her shoes off at the playground. Am I saying no because there are glass shards or she’ll get frostbite? Or because it’ll take a few extra minutes to put them on when it’s time to leave?

Or they want to paint today. Am I saying no because I don’t feel like messes, or because we have to leave the house in five minutes?

Saying no is NOT wrong; in fact, sometimes it’s necessary. And sometimes it’s also okay to just have an off day and not want to do some things. None of us is perfect. But when we TRY to say yes as often as possible, it makes a difference! It also helps your no really mean no.

My girls were in a big Bluey phase several months ago, and after one of the episodes, my oldest said something like, “Mom, Bandit and Bingo aren’t very good parents in this episode.” (Which is funny, because I feel like most parents adore them and dads joke about wanting to be more like Bandit.)

So I leaned in and said, “Tell me more!” And she said, “They let their kids do whatever they want.”

So I just asked, “What do you think makes a good parent?”

And she said, “You have to say no sometimes. I mean, you have to say yes, but sometimes it’s good to say no.”

Talk about wisdom out of the mouth of babes! I feel like I’ve seen trends of, “you shouldn’t say no to your child. You should frame everything positively.” And while yes, framing things positively whenever possible is great! Instead of, “Don’t stand on the couch,” you can reframe it to, “Remember, we sit on the couch!” And I think that’s great.

But there’s absolutely a time and place for “No,” and that’s okay! And good.

This segways us into the next pieces of practical advice…

2. “No Eat” and “No Touch”

Shortly after Olivia was born, two moms in our church started a discipleship group for young moms. There were probably 8-10 of us, most of whom had just had our first babies within a few months of it starting. And it was so pivotal in both our parenting and marriage journey.

Some of the unplanned, more “off the cuff” advice they gave was super practical and I really think helped us have more confidence entering the mobile baby and toddler years.

First, “No eat,” and “No touch”. These two simple phrases kind of kicked off how we started navigating obedience, if you will, or teaching, training, discipling our kids.

And they’re also directly connected to safety, so they’re important!

When our baby started crawling and reaching for the outlets, or grabbing chords, or heading toward the dog poop at the playground, rather than saying something like, “Outlets aren’t for touching!” Or, “Uh oh, there’s this thing called electricity. We’re so thankful for it, but sometimes it can be ouch! So we can’t touch those, silly goose.”

We say a simple and firm, “No touch,” and either move her hand away or move her away altogether.

Similarly, as she started putting things in her mouth, like mulch or a dried macaroni noodle from lunch the day before, rather than saying, “Ew, mulch is for the playground, put it down!” We say a simple, “No eat!” And we take it out of her hand or swipe it out of her mouth, and move on.

These are very simple phrases that will be repeated often in those mobile baby and young toddler days. And while a 9-month-old won’t understand what those words mean, the moment they do understand those words, it’s normal – they get it. They’re not surprised. They’ve heard them enough and have been redirected enough that they’re starting to catch on.

So now as your 14-month-old is starting to open the garbage, you can quickly say, “No touch!” And you’ll see that pause – she knows what’s going on. It doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll listen, but she knows exactly what you’re communicating, and that you’re going to follow through.

And guess what? Sometimes that 14-month-old will hear you say, “No eat,” or “No touch,” and she will actually choose not to do those things!

And we might start adding, “Blah, no eat!” Or, “No touch, hot!”

These two little phrases have helped us so much! And with a 16-month-old, we’re in a space where she absolutely understands what we’re telling her not to do, and she probably listens about 70% of the time.

3. “Stop” and “Come”

The next two “phrases” we really focused on our toddlers understanding and becoming second nature are, “Stop” and “Come.”

It is SO important that our little ones learn to stop as soon as they hear us say, “Stop.” If they’re about to run into the street to catch a ball, we want them to stop the moment we yell, “Stop!”

Or if we’re playing on the field and they’re getting a bit too far, we need to be able to call out, “Come to mama,” and know they’ll come. Or if we’re helping siblings through a conflict and tell them both to, “Come here,” we need to know they’ll both come here. Not, ”On the count of three I need to see you come” – they need to come right when I say come!

So for our little ones who have no idea what, “Stop” and “Come” mean, we’re teaching them. And it can be fun! Think of it like the game Red Light Green Light.

I remember having our oldest, Olivia, who was maybe probably between 18-24 months, on a little walking trail. We were in the midst of practicing stopping and she had just not stopped when we said, “Stop.” So we played a little game right then and there on the trail.

“When we say, ‘Go,’ we’re going to run run run! And when we say stop, we stop!” So we’d say, “Go!”, and run together, and then we’d say, “Stop!”, and we’d help her stop. We didn’t give her the option to keep going, we helped her stop. And then we’d clap and celebrate, “You did it!”

Then again, “Go!” And then, “Stop!”. And we’d make a big deal that she stopped (even when we helped her stop).

It’s not, “You must stop, do it like this, or else,” it’s fun; it’s a game! But also we mean it, and we’re going to physically help you stop as you learn what it means.

And then we give you lots of practice during the day, and as you do it, we celebrate big!!

Same with, “Come”. When we say, “Come to mama!” We are ready to physically help her come to us so she starts learning that when mom or dad says, “Come,” I come to them. And again, make it fun!

And give them lots of opportunities to practice, which also means lots of opportunities to celebrate.

I still see this paying off with our older girls, who are currently four and six. When we say “Come over here,” they just know to come right away. And if there’s any pause or any grumpiness there, with a, “When mama says come you come right away,” they are on their way. They’ve been practicing for years!

Or now that they’re older, if they’re trying to finish something before they come, we’ve taught them to ask, “Is it okay if I finish putting these last few legos on my tower?” They’re acknowledging they know what we’re asking, and they’re asking if they can come in another minute or two. Like an adult would do!

Similar to, “Please come fold these towels!” Instead of, “Whyyyyyy,” we’ve taught them instead to say, “Can I ask why?” And they do, most of the time 🙂

And with, “Stop,” they are pretty darn good at stopping when dad or I say stop, and now they’re learning when your sister says stop, you stop right away. And we celebrate when they listen to each other.

It’s not all of a sudden learned for the first time at age six, it’s been built on since they can remember!

This might all sound elementary, but I’m telling you, my mind was blown when these moms were talking about this so nonchalantly. I don’t think I would have thought to teach them how to stop! I would have just been frustrated they weren’t stopping!

4. Use Words Directly From Scripture

This last piece of advice was specifically helpful as a Christian mom. These moms recommended using words from the Bible, as often as possible, to help our kids make connections to what they’re saying and hearing and learning.

So rather than talking about being nice to each other, we talk about being kind to one another, as kindness is spoken about in scripture. Or instead of talking about whining, we talk about complaining, as the Bible says, “Do all things without complaining or arguing.” Rather than smart choices we talk about wise choices.

Conclusion

Parenting is an amazing and beautiful and a gift of a journey. AND it’s really hard. And there are so many unknowns, and each season seems to be new, and we’re constantly pivoting and changing and falling and getting back up.

And I don’t share all of this to say I’m the best parent ever, or you should do what I do.

I share this because, for me, it’s always so helpful to hear from parents who have gone before us, those that we look up to, and hear what’s worked for them (and what hasn’t!).

And you know what’s super powerful? Apologizing to your kids – tell them the way you responded wasn’t patient and you’re sorry. That you responded in anger rather than taking a moment to pause a collect your thoughts. Show them you’re not perfect so they know they’re not perfect and learn to apologize, as well.

If you’re reading this and know another mom or dad friend who could use some practical parenting tips, please share this blog post with them!

With Grace,

Lauren