Parenting advice I want to remember


My wife and I are about to become parents for the first time. In this space, I want to collect a limited number of core pieces of advice I want to remember. They are all from Philippa Perry’s wonderful book The book you wish your parents had read, which I can’t recommend highly enough to any parent.

Stuff I want to remember:

  • A child is not a thing I need to manage and train to behave well, but an individual I’m building a relationship with.

  • All behaviour is communication. Instead of reacting to the behaviour, try to understand the feelings or needs that cause it, and help my child identify and articulate them, so that they learn doing it themselves. To help me do that, I want to get into the habit of seeing the world from my child’s perspective.

  • I want to be a container for my child’s feelings – to accept all their feelings, validate them, and help them identify and express them.

  • I want to talk to my child about what is going to happen so they can mentally prepare for it instead of just having things done to them.

  • I want to praise them for effort, not achievements, and be curious about how they feel, instead of telling them how they should feel and how I feel about things they do.

  • I want to remember that strong emotional reactions to my child’s behaviour are likely to be a reaction to my own past. In such moments I want to ask myself what used to happen to me as a child when I behaved in this way.

  • I want to talk about my child as the individual they are, not as “the child” or – worse – “the children”.

  • I want to poblem-solve with them, not for them: to not rescue them unnecessarily, but help them solve their own problems as needed; to be a sounding board, not an oracle.

  • I want to invest positive time early instead of negative time later.