Full disclosure…I feel really awkward writing a blog post about my parenting “wins” or “successes” because, honestly, it seems like I’m bragging or saying that I’m doing an Instagram-worthy job of parenting at all times. So, here is my reality: sometimes I win and a lot of times I’m in learning mode and then I have moments of TOTAL FAILURE parenting. I think we all have these three modes, but I have recently found three parenting tips that are totally working for my family and I thought it would be worth sharing in case they can help another mom or dad move into the win category for one more moment of their week.

Parenting Win #1: The Family Breakfast

When my kids were little, we sat down for dinner together every night we possibly could at just about 6 p.m. I read all the studies and I know that family meals have huge correlation to a positive family connection, fight childhood obesity, better academic performance, higher self-esteem, etc. But, now that my boys are older, their afterschool activities consistently encroach on the 6 o’clock hour and those activities are super positive for the boys. But, my four-year-old can’t wait for dinner until after 7 p.m. when the older boys are finished at the pool or the gym. 

So, what’s a mom to do? Enter the family breakfast! If we can’t sit down for family dinner consistently, why not breakfast? We started by piloting one week over the summer when there wasn’t a time crunch to get to school. We all gathered at 6:45 a.m. And it worked! We all sat down and connected at the beginning of the day. And it was delightful!

When the school year began, we really went for it. At first, it was hard to get the rhythm going—the kids had to wake up 15 minutes earlier. But, once we figured out the ins and outs, this has become a routine that is really working. 

Some things we learned that I hope are helpful for you:

  • Don’t try to make anything fancier than a normal school day breakfast. If your kids like Cheerios, they should eat Cheerios.  
  • If you have one naysayer, do it anyways! Positive peer pressure will win the day.

Parenting Win #2: Conversation Topics Assigned to Each Day of the Week

This win is directly connected to family breakfast for my family, but it really could be any time of the day like afternoon pick-up from school, family dinner, or part of a bedtime ritual. We have a different topic of conversation for each day of the week and the kids helped come up with these:

  • Monday: What are you looking forward to this week?
  • Tuesday: What are you reading or writing?
  • Wednesday: What is something interesting you heard or learned recently?
  • Thursday: What is something that happened recently where you learned from making a mistake?
  • Friday: Gratitude Friday

Why is this a Win? Well, for starters, since implementing these questions, we have a more varied and interesting conversation as a family than we have had in years. It’s so easy to get stuck in the “What are you doing at school?” or “How is work?” rut. Those questions are important, but how do you peel back the onion layers to get at something new or different? These questions also give space for the adults to be vulnerable in front of our kids and to connect with their kids on shared interests. I would say that for us, having the structure of pre-determined conversation topics has opened the door to much more freedom in how we are all conversing. 

Parenting Win #3: Audiobooks and Podcasts

We are all battling the world that is technology these days. What is a good use? What is inappropriate? What is educational? How much is too much? I don’t know any parent who isn’t struggling with this to some degree as kids are getting phones and iPads younger and younger. So, my recent parenting win is that using the iPhone app screen time settings by limiting our kid’s ability to access anything other than audible and podcasts. And, wouldn’t you know it, the kids have taken to listening to all sorts of fantastic shows and books I don’t feel guilty, they think they are getting screen time and they are listening to something that often I enjoy too….a big win all around. Listening to stories is a tradition as old as time, why not embrace our modern versions of that? We are using these in the car, before bed, on lazy Saturdays, and on boring shopping trips that kids get dragged on.

Here are a few of our favorites that will entertain a span of ages:

Harry Potter Audiobook

Inkheart on Audiobook (a little scary for the 4-year-old)

Smash Boom Best

Brains On

Molly of Denali (more popular with the younger 2)

Circle Round