My Top Ten Parenting Tools

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


My Top Ten Parenting Tools

After two-and a half years of parenting my lovely, spirited little girl, I’m sure I still have a lot to learn. But the following are tools that I think every parent and child would benefit from having in their “parenting toolboxes.”

10. ConfidenceYou have to feel comfortable with yourself and your skills in order to be a successful guide. A wilderness guide wouldn’t be very effective if he told you “I think this is the path we should take” or “I’m not sure if you should eat that leaf” – parenting with confidence is important in gaining the trust of your kiddos.

9. ResolveDifferent than confidence, this is a tool that allows you to try and try again – to persevere in your efforts to do what’s best for your kiddos. In my experience, none of my parenting techniques have worked beautifully the very first time. Parenting requires the resolve to stick with what’s emotionally and developmentally best for your child, even when a “quick-fix” technique that may not be as healthy for your child calls out to you.

8. Attention- I find that if I spend just ten minutes giving Abbey my full attention, it makes a much larger impact in the general scheme of things than a whole 12-16 hour day full of half attention. I have heard this from other moms as well. Set aside time specifically for your child, and when your child asks for your attention, give it 100% if circumstances allow you to “put down” whatever else you are doing. I assure you, your days will be less hectic and more enjoyable, and your parent-child relationship will be much stronger. My friend Gwen is an excellent example of this. She is a crafter, and sometimes I wonder how she has the time to make the amazing things that she does, given she parents 2 kiddos under 5 with a husband on shift work in the Navy. And then I noticed the concentrated attention she gives to her kids. They are able to allow her time to work on her crafts without vying for attention because she devotes periods of time specifically for them- doing kids crafts, going to the park, or making special outings where they have her full attention. We moms are always multitasking, but it can be our worst enemy. If you try to go about your day multitasking all the time, it really doesn’t work. Yes, children need to learn to play independently, and moms do need space to get other things done. But giving your kids your full attention at least for a part of the day and when they ask for it makes such a difference.

7. Consistency - We all know that kids respond well to consistent routines, and this is also true for consistent language and consistent modeling. I strive to use the same language pattern to help Abbey through similar situations, and my husband and I strive to maintain consistency in our modeling.

6. FlexibilityYou cannot hold yourself to a firm set of expectations, and even though it is a staple in the traditional methods of parenting and child care, you cannot hold children to a firm set of expectations either. Expectations are really truly awfully detrimental to a parent-child or child-caregiver relationship. Even as adults, we are ever-changing, ever-developing human beings. Children are even more so. They go through stages, and they need our guidance. Being flexible and compassionate helps them to move through these learning phases with confidence instead of shame.

5. Communication- Finding methods of communication that work for your child is vital. It changed my parenting completely when I realized that I could sing instructions when Abbey wasn’t listening, and suddenly, it was like I was speaking her language! Your child might prefer different methods of communication for different situations. This is another place where flexibility and confidence are important. You might be the only mom singing “It’s time to go home” at the playground. But if it works for your child, it’s the way to go!

4. Patience- Patience with your child, patience with your parter, patience with your friends, and patience with strangers in general. This is the hardest one for me. I am such an impatient person. Which is so funny, because people always comment on how patient I am with Abbey. But when you are patient, it reflects in the behaviors of your child. Your child wants to be like you.

3. Calm- So hard some days, but so important – our children feed off of our emotions, just as they follow our lead with behaviors and language. In my line of work and study, I find that I think a lot about emotional transfer with nursing dyads (usually infants and moms) as it relates to milk supply and nursing strikes. But it applies to toddlers and older children as well. If mom and dad are calm in a situation, there is a much greater chance that their child is going to be calm, and vice versa. Keeping calm has been something I’ve focused on . . . oh, forever. And it’s not always easy! If anyone has some research on this subject, I would LOVE to get my hands on some!

2. RespectI talked about respect in detail earlier in the Fall of 2010, and I still feel the same way, if not more so, about the importance of respecting your child and not patronizing, shaming, or trying to control in parenting. Children are little people, and it is our role to be loving guides for them. We need to see them as emotional equals – their needs are just as complex and important as our own. And these needs are what create the behaviors that they exhibit, whether good or bad. Respecting children and using compassion to help determine the root of the need allows us to parent in a healthful and promotional way.

1. Compassion - If you look back to any of the previous Top Ten, I’m sure I used the word compassion multiple times. Makes sense, then, that it’s my number ONE tool that I think parents should have in their parenting toolboxes. It’s something I have been really focusing on in my life recently, and I have seen an enormous change in the effectiveness of all of the other parenting tools that I find important and use on a daily basis. When you utilize compassion, it means that you see the inner need and sometimes the inner suffering within another, and you feel compelled to help. This may seem like a really demeaning way to go about parenting – lowering your own expectations and rules, and catering to the needs and desires of your children. Some would say it makes you a doormat. But that’s not the way that it works. When you use compassion, not only is it easier to release expectations (remember that expectations make us want to control our children instead of guide and teach them), but it’s so much easier to communicate with your child and to help them fulfill the inner need that is causing a behavior. I’m going to be talking about compassion a lot more very soon, so I think I’ll leave this post’s discussion with that point. But I would love to know how you feel about compassion, as it relates to any of the relationships in your life.

So, What do you think? Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear what parenting tools YOU find most useful!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. I think trust could go right up there with the rest! otherwise great list

  2. This is a great list! I love the idea of singing instructions and will have to implement that at our house. I so often forget to simply get down on my child’s level. Things go so much smoother when I do!

  3. Thank you for some wonderful insight on what tools are ACTUALLY important — and none of them cost a penny!

  4. I like your point about resolve. It can be easy to give up once you’ve “failed” once or twice — to stick with it and try to make good on your ideals is harder but well worth it.

    I’m working on the attention one as well; I find it does a lot to build healthy connection and keep Mikko from bouncing off the walls in order to force attention from me. It can be hard to admit that my urgent tasks can wait, but I really have to learn that!

    And I’m totally going to start singing to communicate transitions! :) I bet it’ll work for us, too!

    As for compassion, I absolutely agree. I think it goes hand in hand with respect, because we can’t respect other people (including our children) as individuals with their own needs and feelings until we can feel compassion for them and put ourselves in their shoes.

  5. Great list! I struggle with some of these as well sometimes, but I would agree that they are the best tools when used properly.

  6. Trust! Mamapeokie, that is a good one! I guess if you read into the ten I chose, trust (mama trust and child trust) is in there, but it could stand alone for SURE. Good point!

    Those of you ladies who are contemplating using songs to communicate, it really is a great way to do things! (and they don’t have to rhyme or be original tunes, either) I felt totally silly at first, but Abbey jumped on board right away. She responds so well when I sing things to her. Following directions turns into a fun game when you’re singing the directions together. I have to credit my own mommy for that idea. Kudos, mom!

    Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed reading! I can’t wait to tackle the whole group of top ten lists from this months carnival- they all sound so awesome :)

  7. This is a good list. It can be hard to find some of these in my toolbox, from time to time, but I try to keep them there for when they’re needed.

  8. Great list of tools. I really like the one about attention. We’ve been having a difficult time with my 3 1/2 year old, partly I’m sure bc of her age and bc she has a very needy younger brother. We’ve been making sure we take time to really, fully be present with her every day (and do bigger things like mom-daughter dates once a week) and it has made such a difference!

  9. Flexibility and patience are two things that I have had to learn the most as a mama, but they are two of the most necessary tools for me – especially with a preschooler. Great list!

  10. This is a fabulous list – there is so much wisdom here!

    Respect and compassion in parenting are two ideals that are very close to my heart, but everything you have mentioned is incredibly important.

  11. This is lovely! Confidence is very important- I totally agree. I agree with all of your “tools”. Great post mama!


  12. Amazing list of tools!

  13. Very insightful! I love all the things you mention but resonate with this especially:
    “Parenting requires the resolve to stick with what’s emotionally and developmentally best for your child, even when a “quick-fix” technique that may not be as healthy for your child calls out to you”, since it is something I am dealing with. This is exactly what I needed to hear right now.

  14. Wolfmother, I am so glad that that phrase resonated with you and can be inspirational for ya. I find myself in that boat often. . . especially when around friends that don’t share the same beliefs about what constitutes responsible parenting.

    It’s hard sometimes to watch someone use a technique that fixes a behavior (while smothering the child’s sense of self) and think, “man, that looks so much easier than what I’m doing!” But we have to remember that as parents it’s our responsibility to do what’s appropriate and nurturing – not what makes life easier for us, or pleases those around us.

    Abbey is very energetic and curious, and recently I have gotten some comments that shook my resolve about nurturing her enthusiasm – a bit. I have to remind myself “this is appropriate and healthy for your child, Amy. You are doing the RIGHT THING!” :)

    And everyone else, thank you for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed this post! I wrote it when I was sick as a dog. . . so I am so glad that it came out as meaningful and articulate!

  15. Great list! I enjoyed reading your post and linked on FB but couldn’t tag for some reason. Thank you so much for sharing this. :)

  16. Thanks, Dulce! . . . hm. I wonder why you couldn’t tag. . . I’ll go check it out. maybe I can tag myself? I’m not too smooth with FB actually. They keep changing it up every time you look around. At least blogger/google stays relatively the same. I appreciate the support!

  17. Great toolbox. I often am amazed myself with how just a little undivided attention goes a long way too. If I’m splitting my attention too often Little Man reminds me that he is here and needs me. Thanks for sharing with us. Sounds like you are doing a great job!

  18. Thanks, ArtsyMama! :) I may not do a perfect job of everything on my list everyday (especially as pregnant as I am!) . . . but when my 2 1/2 year old can come up to me, hug me, pat me on the back, and say:

    “Poor mommy, you’re sad. Are you tired? A little angry? Feel better, mommy!”

    I know I’m doing SOMETHING right ;)


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