Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Oct 18, 2023

Image by Piyapong Saydaung from Pixabay


My children are now in their 20s. It really is amazing how one day they’re toddlers and you are their entire world, and then the next, they’re figuring out how insurance works, and you’re thrilled to be invited into their world.

At one level, we know how much impact we have on our children. Yet at another… do we?

Maybe it’s because I used to teach kid’s meditation, or because my children are so amazing (I mean, that’s really what it is, right?), but people ask me for parenting insight. I don’t like to give it because, quite frankly, I’m very superstitious about it. I think my kids have grown up PERFECT. :) I’m afraid that the moment I start acting like an expert about parenting, the Universe will show me how little I know.

So I’m telling you this: I’m not certified in anything therapy or children. But I am a parent to two amazing kids, now 26 and 21. Up through the first 8 years of my marriage, I let my then fiancé-turned-husband know that I absolutely didn’t want children, and that if he wanted them (which he did), he might want to find someone else. He married me anyway, and 8 years later, I changed my mind.

I feared becoming a bad parent because I felt at the time that I didn’t have good parenting role models. So in having children, I committed to staying super intentional about it. I continually asked myself, what kind of parent do I want to be?

Compared with every other venture in my life, I stayed incredibly (and miraculously) consistent and tenacious about it. I didn’t care how tired I was, or how deflated or overwhelmed I felt. I felt that how I behaved in those moments would shape the future of my children and me. I definitely made mistakes, but I don’t regret anything parenting. Including getting divorced when they were 5 and 1.

I did learn one thing fast: be careful about taking parenting advice from others. More than anything, listen inward, take courage, and follow your instincts. You have them.

That said, haha, I found the below list in an email I sent to someone a while back and wanted to share it with you because I do think these are good. These are especially important in a world where we could use more humans that are self-guided and compassionate. 


Here’s my bit, for what it’s worth.  

  1. Children grow up treating themselves, NOT the way you treat them, but the way you treat yourself. So practice self-awareness, exercise self care, flexibility, and healthy boundaries (including with your child). Carve out time to do things that are truly important to you outside of your children. 

  2. Tantrums are children's way of saying they aren't getting their needs met. They don’t have the words yet. To that, nor to many of us adults; we have our own tantrums. We yell and name call. Figure out what they need. Hint: it’s usually just a few minutes of undivided attention where you see them instead of them having to see you. You’ll learn a lot about them as a real person during these moments. Bribery, distractions, and commands are manipulation tactics that teach them to do the same. Speaking of which…

  3. When we always try to make them happy when they’re not (i.e. crying, sad, frustrated, etc), we give them the message that it’s not okay to be anything but happy, and that we are not okay when they’re anything but happy. In fact, we often act like it’s downright inconvenient, thoughtless, and ungrateful for them to be anything but happy. Hold the space for them to safely go through the full expression of what they’re experiencing without looking bothered.  

  4. Stop talking about your kids in front of them. Ask yourself how you’d feel if your mom was talking about you to other adults like that in front of you. 

  5. Accept the fact that you will make a ton of mistakes and don’t pretend otherwise. Let your kids see you owning your mistakes without making a lesson out of it. Be a role model instead of a big shot teacher. 

  6. Drop the myth that because you’re older and pay the bills, you have all the answers. Actually, oftentimes they have the answers. Because they’re fully present, seldom are they confused. Children have a lot of wisdom, and they know what they want (it’s not ice cream or tv). They just may not have the words for it. Combine that with not feeling heard and you got a tantrum. If you give them a chance, they will tell you what they actually want. Here’s my daughter’s purple sauce story. 

  7. Choose your battles wisely. Only a few battles are worth fighting; and with those, stay consistent. 

  8. Create a strong container for your kids to feel safe. i.e. a solid morning and evening routine, what is expected around mealtime, teach them to pick up after themselves as an expression of self respect.

  9. Explain the real reason why rules exist. Rules don’t exist because rules are rules. We know some rules don’t make sense. Here’s a sample rule explanation: “The speed limit on this block is 25 mph because children play in this neighborhood. A child can run out onto the street to go after their ball. When we drive slowly, we can see what’s happening and stop before anyone gets hurt. That’s why 25 miles per hour. The faster you go, the harder it is to react.”  Versus “Because it’s the law, and we don’t want to get a ticket.”

  10. Children need to find their own expression, take risks, experience their own pain, create their own successes, and do things their way. Don’t take those experiences away from them. They don’t exist to entertain you, or to make you proud by becoming who you want them to be. They’re there to make themselves proud to be who they are. You’re a steward.

  11. Give them two choices. And then don’t rehash. I.e. do you want the red one or the green one? More than that is too much (which of these 20 colors would you like?). Unless you want to invite a meltdown. Marketers know this about adults, which is why they never offer more than 3 options. They want us to choose something. They give more to kids because it will prompt a meltdown and then you’ll give in and buy something.

  12. There is no reason to yell, unless to say STOP! when they are about to cross a street or stick a fork in a light socket. And in those rare moments you do, they will listen, because it’s unusual, startling, and relays actual urgency. 

  13. Express what you want from them, not what you don't want from them. 

  14. Rather than telling them you are proud of what they did, first ask them how they feel about it and genuinely care about that. Get them thinking about how they feel about themselves (we call this being self-referred) rather than looking to others for validation (externally referred). 

  15. Give feedback on their actions, not on their identity. Rather than say, "Good boy!" you might say "Thank you for cleaning up!"  "Positive" and "negative" labeling are both damaging. The negative one is obvious. The positive one shrinks a person’s room for error - they’re afraid to show their mistakes for fear of disappointing the room. They are also more likely to feel like imposters.  

  16. Refrain from sarcasm. Children take things literally, and even when they are told it’s a joke, the sting still settles into their precious hearts. And then they imitate that with their peers. It becomes a game of telephone gone wrong.   

  17. Don’t ever gaslight them. Instead, help them develop trust in their own gut feelings. Covering your tracks isn’t worth the cost of your child thinking she can’t trust her intuition. This rolls into future relationships.

  18. Instead of looking at yourself as a teacher or boss to your child(ren), consider looking at them as your teacher(s). Children reflect everything back at you - the good and the bad - and in real time. You won’t get a more powerful and honest feedback about yourself anywhere else. You get to pay attention and make some changes when you don’t like what you see - and they get to learn from you how to develop themselves into the best humans possible. 

These are guidelines that help you see children as respectable humans with legit feelings who are capable of making good decisions. You’d be surprised how well these work. 

Love, Savitree


(much like this blog post!)