6 Sanity-Saving Parenting Tips (AKA: My very best mommy secrets!)

Do you want your kids to grow into excellent humans? If so, today’s post  with parenting tips is for you.

Tony Bear and I have raised three kids that we think are pretty great. Lots of people have assured us this is true. So how did we do it? By the grace of God. And with some cool parenting tips picked up along the way from teachers, parenting magazines, and/or other parents.

For your benefit, here are my six favorite parenting tips.

The Timer Game

This trick worked really well on our firstborn child. Since firstborns don’t have siblings to interact with, they can be a bit needy. To make sure our first child got lots of love during the day AND I got some stuff done, I invented this system. Here’s how it works:

  • Say to your child, “Let’s play the Timer Game. I’m going to set this timer for 20 minutes and for that whole time I’m going to play with you, whatever you want—Candyland, Barbies, Legos, hide-and-seek. When the timer goes off, it’ll be Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) turn to do what I need to do.
  • Set a timer from the kitchen or The Dollar Store (or your phone) for 20 minutes.
  • When the timer goes off say, “Now it’s my turn. I’m going to do my work for 20 minutes until the timer goes off. During that 20 minutes, you need to play by yourself with whatever toys you want. When the timer goes off, you and I will play again.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is a great way to teach your child to entertain themselves.

The Magic Bean Box

I didn’t come up with this parenting tip until baby #3 was born, our little guy. I wish I’d come up with it sooner, because it is fantastic.

As long as you’re SURE that your child will not put these things in their mouth and choke!

Here’s how this parenting tip works:

-Start with a shallow storage box with a lid. An under-the-bed box works well.

-Dump in bags and bags of dry beans and rice.

-Add a set of measuring cups and spoons.

-Add several toy cars and dump trucks.

Each evening when you get ready to make supper, and your little human wants to be with you in the kitchen, fetch the Magic Bean Box, take off the lid and seat your child beside it.

He or she can measure and dump beans and rice. Or he/she run cars and trucks through the rice and beans. And fill up the dump trucks and dump them over and over. Or make mountains out of beans and rice.

When supper’s ready, a broom and dustpan makes quick clean-up of this activity. Oh, and make sure to put the lid on when your child is finished. To keep out moisure and critters.

The Button Jar

This idea came to me from Mrs. Taylor: our oldest daughter’s first grade teacher.

The cool thing about this system is it rewards positive behavior and gives (gentle) negative reinforcement for poor behavior. Here’s how it works.

Each child needs a button jar. Make it a small one so it doesn’t take FOREVER for them to earn their positive reinforcement. I used a glass baby food jar for each kid. Back when glass baby food jars were still a thing.

-Label each jar with a child’s name.

-With your child/children’s help, come up with the list of “Buttons Added” and “Buttons Removed” behaviors. Here are some examples:

Buttons Added

Trying a new food

Taking a nap without whining

Random acts of kindness—to Mommy, Daddy, your siblings

Cleaning up a mess you made

Playing nicely with your sibling(s)

Buttons Removed

Hitting another person (or the family pet)

Refusing to go to bed

Speaking hatefully to another person

Interrupting Mom or Dad when they’re on phone

You and your child(ren) will also need to determine how many buttons each behavior adds or subtracts. Big blessings or infractions should have higher button counts.

Then, when your child does something on the “Buttons Added” list, you count out the designated number of butons and add them to the jar. When they have a “Buttons Removed” moment, you’ll take buttons out of the jar.

If your kids are like ours, they will start pointing stuff out to you. “Hey, I tried a new food. Put 5 buttons in my jar please!”

When the Button Jar Is Filled—Joy to the World!

This is when your child gets to enjoy the positive reinforcement for their good behavior. When a child’s button jar is filled, they get to pick the reward of their choice: a trip to Dairy Queen or the playground, a parent-child date, etc..

The Boredom Buster List

Q: What are two words every parent hates to hear?

A: I’m bored.

I always hated to hear this whine. Because:

  • How can anyone possibly be bored in this great, big, beautiful world?
  • The child is effectively asking me to be their eternal fountain of entertainment.

Still, it happens. And whenever one of my kids uttered the dreaded phrase,  my response was always, “Only boring kids get bored.”

Then I’d point them to the side of the refrigerator where one of my favorite parenting resources, the Boredom Buster List, lived.

This list included a couple dozen activities the kids could do WITHOUT a parent’s involvement. Things like:

  • Color in a coloring book.
  • Draw on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.
  • Blow bubbles outside.
  • Read a book.
  • Play a game.
  • Play with play dough.
  • Have a tea party.
  • Host a musical parade with musical instruments.
  • Create a village with building blocks.
  • Play in the Magic Bean Box.
  • Play dress-up.
  • A game of hide-and-seek.
  • Go outside and throw frisbee.
  • Play kickball.

I’m sure you can come up with oodles of other ideas. Add your cool activities in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.

Restaurant Games

These days, when families go out to eat, lots of parents take digital devices to entertain their kids until the food comes. However, there are other options.

I Spy

Did you ever play the game “I Spy” when you were younger? Each person in a group takes turns saying, “I spy with my little eye, something that is … yellow.” Then everyone else takes turns, one at a time, guessing what that person is talking about. If you guess correctly, you get to be the next “I Spy” person.

20 Questions

This is another great game for a group. The first person says, “I’m thinking of something.” And one by one, the other players ask one clarifying question.

  • Are you thinking of a person?
  • Is it big?
  • Is the thing in this room?

The goal is to guess what the thing is before the 20thquestion is asked. If someone guesses what the mystery item is, they get to lead the next round.

Besides passing the time, both of these games: help family members interact, sharpen reasoning skills, and more.

Family Fun

I’m talking Family Fun magazine.

This is one of the best parenting resources EVER. My kids used to cheer when a Family Fun magazine showed up in the mail. Then they’d spend an hour or so going through the magazine to decide what they wanted to do first. And second. And…

Family Fun magazine offers ideas for:

  • Crafts
  • Games
  • Meals
  • Family vacations
  • Birthday party
  • Halloween costumes
  • And more!

Okay, precious parents! These are all my favorite tried-and-true parenting tips. For more parenting wisdom, make sure you read my Mother’s Day post.

And by all means, if you have great parenting tips, please comment below!

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