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Parents: Here’s the ONLY advice you really need to follow, in “certain” OR “uncertain” times

Functional, healthy children come from functional, healthy families, but you will make mistakes, you will feel guilty, and your path will look different from other families' paths.

Mona Qafisheh and her niece, Samira Bingham (8), of Chandler.

Did you know there’s a handbook for kids?! It’s true.

It’s called Safe Baby Handling Tips and it’s written by David and Kelly Sopp. The book promises to be a simple list of do’s and don’ts to keep your baby safe and healthy and keep you incompetence free.

Take a minute and look it up. I’ll wait. Babyproofing your home is one of my personal favorites.

Now, before we get into the important stuff, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Mona and I am your local early childhood educator. I spent more than a decade as a professional diaper changer/nose wiper/tears soother/back patter working with toddlers in early childhood programs.

During my teaching and administering of those programs I saw a lot — and I mean a lot — of different types of families and various ways of raising children. You must be thinking to yourself that because I have seen thousands and thousands of diverse families I must have all the answers for how to build functional, healthy children.

You’re right, I do. But the answer might surprise you.

The truth of the matter is that there is no one right way to raise a child. Functional, healthy children come from functional, healthy families, but you will make mistakes, you will feel guilty, and your path will look different from other families’ paths. You already have what it takes to raise your precious little nugget to be a fulfilled, productive member of society, but I have some reminders that may help you along the way.

You know your child best.

Everyone’s an expert on everything, but you are the only one who truly understands your child. Listen to experts and seek advice from those you trust, but at the end of the day recognize that you know your child inside and out and that level of expertise can’t be learned or purchased.

When you do seek advice and information, stick to reliable sources.

There are two major categories of advice you should be seeking: (1) what science and research say and (2) what personal experience says. For category one, look up what the American Academy of Pediatrics, Zero to Three, National Association for the Education of Young Children, and First Things First say about the topic. For category two, ask your parents, your friends, Google, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. about the topic. Here’s an analogy about advice: science is tequila, personal experience is lime juice, and knowing your child best is cointreau. All three ingredients are fine on their own, but you only get a delicious margarita by blending them together. Make mine on the rocks.

You are your child’s first teacher.

Your children will have so many important people come in and out of their lives. Some of those people will be fleeting childhood memories and others will sustain, but you have the important distinction of being your child’s first and best teacher.

Imagine you’re in your neighborhood park and you can see young children crawling, toddling, and running all over the place. What’s the first thing that happens when one of those children wants to try something new? Let’s say they’ve made their way to the top of the climbing structure and are hesitant to go down the tall slide for the first time. What happens next? More often than not, they look toward a trusted adult. If you panic, run over, and insist they be careful, they learn that new things are scary and are to be avoided. If you calmly nod your head and smile, they learn that challenges should be faced head on and you will be an encouragement and support for them. Don’t forget that your children are always watching and always learning from you. Believe me, as a toddler teacher I could watch children play with toy phones and know exactly who yelled at someone on the phone recently.

Understand your child’s cues.

We have a saying in early childhood education that “behavior is communication.” Your infant isn’t just fussy, your toddler isn’t just hitting, and your preschooler isn’t just throwing things; they are telling you a story. They want something or need something or are expressing complex emotions in the only way they know how. Pay attention to your child’s behavior and seek to decode their cues.

I want to close with three quick reminders: You already have what it takes to parent your child. Ask for help often, and take a moment for yourself everyday. Even better if a margarita is involved.

Mona Qafisheh
Mona Qafishehhttp://azaeyc.org
Mona Qafisheh serves as the director of grants and contracts with the Association for Supportive Child Care and is the board president-elect of the Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (AzAEYC).

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