parenting advice from real moms
1. Gather helping hands.
"Enlist everyone you can to help you. Just because you're a mother, that doesn't mean you have to be Wonder Woman. When my daughter was born, I called my sister crying. Hearing how overwhelmed I was, she came in all the way from Alaska and helped me set up a schedule, which was such a lifesaver! It takes a village to raise a child, especially a newborn, and you're a better mother for asking for the assistance that you need."
--Trisha Idoni, 43, mother to Mallory, 8; Pensacola, FL
2. Help homework happen.
"As soon as my kids get home from school, I set them up for homework time, with each child at his or her own station in the kitchen so that they don't mix up their papers. Then I find something to do in the vicinity so that I'm nearby for help if they need it, but not hovering over them. It's a routine we stick to, so the kids know what's expected of them every day."
--Karen Schiff Freeman, 37, mother to Rebecca, 12, Jarrett, 9, and Lexi, 6; Solon, OH
3. Put nightmares to bed.
"When your child has nightmares, here's how to ward off 'monsters': Use a battery-operated handheld fan to chase them away, and fill a spray bottle with 'Go-Away Monster Spray.' Then lie in bed with your child and ask him what he'd like to dream about, suggesting pleasant things like sharing an ice cream cone or building a sandcastle on the beach. This worked with my son, and now he sleeps through the night."
--Lisa Keddy, 43, mother to Nicholas, 6; Ocean, New Jersey
4. Win the sweets war.
"I serve my kids whatever I plan to feed them for dinner, including a small portion of dessert, all together on those plastic sectioned character plates (Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob are their favorites). Each area has chicken, rice, salad and a Popsicle, or something similar. I don't bug them to eat the veggies before the treat, so even if they have dessert first, it's small enough that they don't fill up -- therefore they always move on to eat a nice amount of dinner. It works like a charm."
--Emily Becker, 39, mother to Jonathan, 11, and Madelyn, 4; Belmont, California
5. Get feelings out there, good and bad.
"When I had a cranky child on my hands, I'd swoop her into my lap and say, 'It's time to complain, so let's complain together. Oh, I feel so angry, or hurt, or sad,' hugging her the whole time and letting her be cranky. After a while, she felt soothed and ready to move on. Also, she learned to put words to her feelings."
--Nancy Feingold, 57, mother to Seth, 26, Lindsey, 24, and Adam, 22; Newton, MA
6. Banish boo-boo fears.
"If the sight of blood terrifies your child, use dark washcloths to clean up cuts and scrapes. Better yet, try storing the cloths in plastic bags in the freezer -- the coldness will help with pain relief."
--Betty Miliano, 48, mother to Trevor, 24, and Blake, 17; Belfast, Maine
7. Make bathtime a treat.
"When my kids were babies and it was time to bathe them, I dropped the bottles of soap and lotion into the warm bathwater. That way, when I lathered them up, they felt nice and warm and didn't get a chill."
--Diane Kilroy, 46, mother to Matthew, 21, and Eric, 19; Secaucus, New Jersey
8. Prioritize family dinner.
"I was having problems with my oldest son being rebellious, so I started enforcing family dinner with no TV, no phones, and no guests -- just our family. We talk about school, homework, and other concerns the kids might have, and sharing these nightly times together has really improved my son's behavior."
--Pamesha Robinson-Joseph, 27, mother to Nasheim, 8, Tyrell, 6, and Jocaharia, 4; Chicago, Illinois
9. Sleep easy.
"Put the baby bassinet in the living room during the day, especially if you have other children. Your baby will become accustomed to the noises, and then she'll be able to take a nap anywhere! When we adopted Angelia, we were making over our bedroom, so we had to put her bassinet in the living room. But it worked out great, because now she can sleep through the other kids playing and watching TV. A well-napped child is happier and makes for a happier mom too!"
--Wendy Marner, 42, mother to Wreece, 12, Elijah, 6, Thad, 5, and Angelia, 2; Cedar Rapids, Iowa
10. Teach the value of friendship.
"My daughter is very social, and she's at that age when her friends are on a revolving loop -- I never know who's in and who's out. When she's down in the dumps because a girl at school doesn't like her, I'll ask her about another girl who I've noticed she's treated poorly. I comfort her too, but I want her to truly be aware of her responsibility: Being a good friend is more valuable than any amount of popularity."
--April Wade, 33, mother to Brittany, 9; Ivor, Virginia
Star-Tested Mom Tips
Check out your favorite celebrities' advice, from the pages of Cindy Pearlman's book, What They Know About...Parenting.
"There's nothing better than singing and dancing with your kids. It spreads the joy around the house. I'm also a fan of family bike riding, swimming, art projects, and trips to Denny's and Wal-Mart." --Kelly Preston
"Raising children, for me, was really about listening. I put myself in their shoes for a minute and really tried to imagine myself at that age. I always want my children to know that they're heard." --Kyra Sedgwick
"Make sure to take time for yourself every day. Even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom for two minutes, do it. It's our nature as women to take care of everything and forget about ourselves. It's important to be present and strong for your kids, and to do that, you need some breathing space." --Kate Hudson
Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.