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19 Parents on the Best Advice They Ever Got

published Apr 17, 2022
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Could there be anything more fulfilling or humbling than raising small humans? Every day, there’s something “wow” or “whoa” to navigate. And while expert advice is great, sometimes you want to hear from other parents—people who have been there, handled that. 

I’ll never forget when my son was about to start kindergarten. I was angsting over what to write on those intake forms, when a friend with older kids said, “Don’t volunteer too much. It’s better if the teachers get to know him without any preconceived notions.” That clicked for me. (Oh, and big shout out to the college friend who said before my C-section: “Don’t refuse the painkillers. Keep track of the time. Seriously, buzz the nurses every four hours!”) 

We all know parents get tons of advice. (Some of it is truly terrible, but that’s for another article.) Great advice, though, can be a game-changer. Sometimes it helps in a small way, and that shift makes everything easier. In other cases, it just confirms our instincts and helps us trust them. From how to manage self-care with a brand-new baby to what words lead to less stressed students, here are the little words that made a big difference for these parents and caregivers.

Let It Be

 “I was just thinking of a bit of advice I got through a friend’s mother: ‘Remember that you don’t own them. With some kids, the best thing to do is just get out of their way.’” —Shonna K.

You Do You (First)

“When I was pregnant with my first, my hairdresser gave me a good gem: ‘Get yourself totally ready first—makeup and all. Then go help them get ready.’ (File under practical.)” —Patty B.

Credit: Alix McIntosh

Don’t Buy Into Stage Fright

“‘Every stage is the best stage.’ That just always gives me comfort that there’s something new and exciting to learn about my kid as she grows.” —Danielle L.

Wait a Day

“From a wise teacher: ‘Children are like the weather in NY. Don’t get too worried or too happy because tomorrow, it will be something different!’” —Cristina M.

Just Be in Their Court

“The best advice I got? ‘Your children need to know that at any age and at any time, you will be their staunchest advocate—that you will always have their back.’” —Jessica B.

Credit: Tamara Gavin

Let ‘Em Roam

“When I asked my boss about how he managed to raise such amazing kids while he and his wife both balanced high-powered careers, he said, ‘Here’s the secret—ya gotta run ’em!’ What he meant was—like taking dogs on a run or walk—you have to make sure kids get their energy out (in a positive and productive way, of course) so they don’t have any time and energy left to get themselves into trouble.” —David L.

Don’t Keep Up With the Joneses

“‘Every child and every family is different.’ What works for someone else may not work for you. That’s okay. You are the expert on your kid’s and your family’s needs.’” —Maggie W.

Know Work-Life Balance Is a Work-in-Progress

“When I went back into the office just two months after having my son, it felt so hard. My coworker said to me, ‘It works until it doesn’t.’ She was referring to childcare and work, and it felt so freeing. Like, yes, situations (like babies) can and do change. Nothing is set in stone. Now that my kids are a bit older (4 and 7) and I work for myself, I still find myself turning to that advice. It really stuck with me.” —Marisa I.

Credit: Guille Faingold/Stocksy

Do Micro Talks

“I have older kids, so this comes to mind: ‘When tackling big issues/problems, think of it as a series of conversations, not just one and done. Keep talking, and keep talking even when you don’t think they’re listening.’” —Susan S.

Work That Team D

When I was pregnant with #3, a good friend gave us wise counsel: ‘Forget man-on-man; think zone defense!’ (It really helped when we went on to have more!).” —Ingrid K.

Forget the Firsts

“Don’t be so anxious for the ‘firsts’ (next stages, milestones) or you’ll miss out on truly experiencing the ‘lasts’ of those important stages. I also like this advice: ‘Not everything needs to be a teachable moment’. Sometimes your kids just need you to be present or silently by their side.” —Jenna D.

Take the Pressure Off

“When my older son hit middle school, I told him I didn’t care ONE LITTLE BIT about his grades, just that he learned something and did whatever HIS best was. I think it was something I got from my dad. I’ve kept it up for both kids, telling them that the endless quest for academic steps isn’t what it’s all about. Did you show up? Did you learn? That’s all that matters to me.” —Denise S.

Be Cagey in the Kitchen

“Never let kids know that bread crusts or apple peels can be removed!” —Freddi G.

Push Pause, Even on Crazy Days

“It is not the amount of time but the quality of the time I spend with my children that matters most. The importance of setting aside whatever I’m doing (my phone, my laptop, lists, and to-dos), pausing my day, and being fully present for that 1hr, 2 hrs — even if it’s 15 minutes on a crazy day. It’s to stop running through my days, always on the go, and consciously take time to enjoy the moments with my children and be present — mentally and emotionally.” —Esther W.

Get Grounded Around Teens

“My best advice was on parenting teens: My therapist told me, ‘Get off their roller coaster and be the ride attendant instead.’ That has helped me so much over the years.” —Julie T.

Expect Sucky Moments

“For when they’re little: Don’t buy into the idea that you should ‘love every single moment.’ Some moments, hours, days are long, repetitive, possibly dispiriting. You do not have to love those times. It’s okay to just get through them.” —Jonna W.

Be the Grown-Up

“A very experienced and famous mom says: ‘You are not her best friend. You are her mother!’”—Audrey S.

Skip This Compliment

The best advice was something I read in Psychology Today even before we had kids: ‘Never tell your kids they are smart. Tell them they worked hard.’ The idea is they can’t control how smart they are but can control how hard they work. Kids who are told they’re smart are afraid to disappoint and generally don’t challenge themselves. Children who believe it was their hard work, will challenge themselves knowing they can control the effort they put in.” —Ken G.

Love Their Quirks

“Accept that they may not behave as you would have done at that age they are their own person and embrace their own type of weirdness!”—Jo M.