Real Simple readers share their best tips. 

By Real Simple
Updated September 01, 2016
Illustration: Mobile of butterflies, one flying free
Credit: Dan Page
Illustration: Mobile of butterflies, one flying free
Credit: Dan Page

Illustration: Mobile of butterflies, one flying free

“Communication doesn’t always require words. When my kids were very small, I taught them the sign-language symbol for “I love you.” It’s a wonderful tool when you want to let your child know that you’re their biggest fan but you aren’t close enough to say it out loud. And it feels great when they send the sign back to you.”
Carolyn Clark, Staten Island, New York


“When splitting something, let one child divide and the other choose which piece he wants. This keeps fighting down and helps them appreci­ate sharing.”
Lori Bussa Moore, Mason, Michigan


“Remember that you set the tone. Several years ago, a very wise counselor told me to “be the thermostat, not the thermometer.” I was struggling with our family’s move to a new town for my husband’s job with our four boys, then ages nine, seven, three, and one. One of those light bulb moments stuck and challenged me to be the constant, steady gauge for the family atmosphere.”
Holly Kirkland, Vancleave, Mississippi


“Talk about sex, and use clinical terms. Peers and pop culture can create a storm of misinformation, with potentially dire consequences. Starting a dialogue with correct and complete information will empower kids to resist some of the worst kinds of group think about body image, popularity, harassment, and bullying.”
Trysh Travis, Gainesville, Florida


“Let natural consequences happen when it is safe to do so.”


“Let them pick their outfits. It doesn’t mat­ter that you like it or it matches. This allows them to make choices that have minimal consequences.”
Erin Davis, Tomball, Texas


“Trust your instincts. I learned pretty soon into reading parenting books that there’s a parenting expert who thinks you are going it the right way and one who things you are doing it wrong. Decide on your approach, then find the right read to support it.”
Louisa Quittman, Gaithersburg, Maryland


“Breathe, just breathe.”


“Make sure their first car is a stick shift. It’s a good skill, since it forces them to pay attention. But, more important, gear shifting makes it too hard for them to text while driving!”
— Theresa Wagoner, Golden, Colorado


“Run your own race, and avoid falling into the 'I can top your parenting' trap. Families are unique, and to com­pare your style to others’ will only bring heartache.”
D.M., Lebanon, New Hampshire


“Know when to shhh! For parents of adult children: Don’t give advice unless asked.”
— Sandy Doyle, St. Louis, Missouri


“Treat your kids like intelligent aliens. Intelli­gent, because they’re wired to learn at an incredible rate of speed and can process far more complex information than many people realize. Aliens, because they don’t know the first thing about our civilization and need a lot of instruction to learn to live well in it. Parent long and prosper!”
Rachel Billings, Holland, Michigan


“Don’t say 'OK?' at the end of a sentence when asking a child to do something. For exam­ple, 'Clean up your room—OK?' implies that you’re asking permis­sion, and it doesn’t make the same impact.”
Tish Sharen Marti, Erie, Colorado


“Follow your intuition. It’s the most hon­est and reli­able thing that you have.”
Amy Pinaud, Cobalt, Connecticut


“Institute a 'no telling' rule. When one child tells on the other, remind them of it and tell them that they will have to work the problem out themselves. Their reaction to this is usually confusion—so much so that they might even forget what they were telling on in the first place.”
Linda Nemec, Silver Spring, Maryland


“Trust me. Always have tissues with you—always.”
Katie Weitzel, Asheville, North Carolina