When you’re pregnant, you spend your time reading up on all sorts of parenting books (in between bites of whatever you’re craving that very second). But once baby arrives, finding the time to read even ONE parenting book is a Herculean effort. Plus, you’re super focused on the task at hand, whether it’s your little one’s very first wellness check up or you’re taking daycare center tours, so the idea of what to do when your child actually understands the words coming out of your mouth seems far fetched RN. Whether you’re a brand new mom or proudly look after a toddler, bite-sized parenting tips are the best. To help you navigate all of those parenting strategies, we chatted with author and parenting expert Erica Reischer about her book What Great Parents Do: 75 Proven Strategies for Raising Kids Who Thrive and simplified it to the basics so you can get back to hanging out with the cutie pie(s) in your life!

Soft glowing sunny moment between a young african-american mother and her cute curly haired baby boy blowing colourful bubbles on the meadow.

1. It’s okay to make mistakes. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Really. You’re going to screw up, and it’s totally okay. Phew! As Erica puts it, “Trying to be one of those mythical creatures, aka the perfect parent, is going to give you feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Making mistakes can be a good thing when it gives us the opportunity to model for kids what to do when they’ve made a mistake, and how to respond with integrity and responsibility,” says Erica. Instead of berating yourself for “being a bad mom” (you’re not), look at it as a way to let you know in what areas you might need more support or practice.

2. Avoid fights when your little one is hangry or sleepy. You know what you’re like when you’re starving and sleep deprived (basically Lord Voldemort), so you can’t expect your kid to be any better when they’re hungry or tired. If you’re trying to discipline your kids when they are hangry, you’re not going to get your message heard. Save the lesson for when they’re ready to listen.

3. Use the right kind of praise. “Great job!” and “You’re so smart” come out of our mouths so often because we love our kids and want them to feel special and loved like the magical creatures they are, but research shows that these types of generic compliments actually can hinder your kid. “Pioneering psychologist Carol Dweck calls this a fixed mindset. Children who have a fixed mindset often become reluctant to take risks or try new activities, for fear of looking dumb or losing their status as special and talented,” says Erica. Be more specific and praise the effort your child made to achieve something like a good grade.

4. Make a date for you. Sure, you’d love a few hours off from parenting or even a spare hour to get your nails done, but you think it’s a waste of time. It’s not. Making time for you is a vital way to be a better parent. Don’t wait to find some much-needed me-time. Schedule it like you would a work meeting. “If you’re worn out, your reserves of patience and energy are diminished. Being in a depleted state makes it much more difficult to respond calmly and skillfully to the daily challenges of raising children,” says Erica. So, schedule a spa day, meditate, hang out with your BFFs or go for a walk alone — you deserve it.

mother reading a book

5. Tell kids what to do, instead of what not to do. The word “no” and “don’t” are often the most used words in the parenting world because we want our kiddos to make good choices. But if we simply say “Stop that,” or “Don’t do that!” we’re not telling our kids what they should do instead. “Next time you find yourself telling your kids that their behavior is not okay, be sure to pair it with a discussion (for older kids) or instruction (for younger kids) of what would be a better alternative (and why),” recommends Erica.

6. Handle whining with care. Kids are naturally curious, so they’re bound to test boundaries and see how far they can go. They’re simply figuring out the world and experimenting. “The next time your toddler is whining for a toy or a special treat from the grocery store, see it as an experiment for your kid to see how to interact with you to get what they want. Then respond accordingly. If you don’t want to reinforce the whining, then don’t let the whining work,” says Erica.

7. Practice empathy. If you’re expecting, one parenting skill that you can practice before your little one arrives is empathy. It’s a powerful and essential parenting skill. “Empathy is the power to make someone else feel understood, and that feeling can defuse any number of otherwise unpleasant situations and power struggles — in any relationship,” says Erica. No matter what age your kid is, empathy is a great tool to parent better.

What are your best parenting tips for raising awesome kiddos? Tweet us @BritandCo with your tips!

(Photos via Getty)