Thursday, September 24, 2015

Parenting Outside the Box

When my son was first born, I was desperate to do everything just right. I spent a lot of time reading the “expert” answers on sleeping, eating, routines, and just about everything related to my new little family. My son is five now and has been joined by a brother (three) and a sister (seven months.) After five years, and three kids, you know what I’ve learned about the experts? Sometimes their advice is no better than a veteran mom of three you met on a park bench. Here’s the thing with experts; their advice is great in theory. But the reality is that your kid is an individual and a one-size-fits-all approach might not be your ticket to uninterrupted nights of sleep. (Not to mention that many experts contradict one another. Have you read this mom on "expert" sleep training advice? It’s hilarious and so true!)

The point I’m trying to make is this: expert advice can be a great way to get the ball rolling on how you are going to tackle parenting challenges, but YOU know your kid better than any expert, any day.

In my experience, when I’ve thought outside the box and came up with a creative solution to a problem, I’ve had so much more success than when I followed expert advice. These are my favorite bits of wisdom the hubby and I have come up with along the way. They might not work for your kid, but they may inspire you to find the solution that does!

1.       Bounce that baby. Both my sons preferred to be bounced vs. rocked to sleep and most nights it took forever. You’d come out of the nursery all sweaty like you’d been in there with Richard Simmons. Until we started using the exercise ball. Bouncing for 45 minutes on the exercise ball was cake compared to the grueling workout we were getting without it. Best $10 I’ve ever spent.  

2.       Tackling the Teething Trifecta. (Say that five times fast!) Teething sucks. They don’t eat because it hurts. They don’t sleep because they’re hungry and it hurts. And then you have a hungry, tired, hurting baby on your hands ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT long. If you want to beat the pain + hunger + tiredness trifecta, try frozen snacks. The cold foods help numb the pain and fill their little bellies. We started with slicing grapes into quarters and then freezing them. Frozen slices of mandarin oranges were also a hit, as were frozen peas and corn. (Note: Of course, use your judgment in choosing age-appropriate foods. I do not recommend this for children who are not already accustomed to chewing solid foods. Also, make sure you make the slices small enough that they are not a choking hazard.)

3.       The sun is up (or not). It happens to all of us. You wake up at 4am and find your toddler staring at you like a total creep. “It’s time to get up!” they say, cheerfully. You curse that big kid bed with all its ridiculous freedom and put them back to “sleep” 17 times before you finally give up and make coffee. When this day arrived in our house we looked at all kinds of fancy alarm clocks that tell your kid when it is ok to get up, but those things aren’t cheap and had way more features than we needed. In the end, purchased a sun night light and used it with a timer we already owned.

4.       Audio books after lights out. Dash went through a phase at about two when he would not stay in his bed at bedtime. In part, he was afraid of being in his room alone so we recorded our own audio books for him to listen to after we left the room. We still use the audio books as a way for the boys to wind down with the lights off before bed.

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What are your most unconventional parenting hacks? Parenting Outside the Box is a reoccurring series so if you comment with your favorite hacks, they may be featured next time!

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