Parenting expert reveals the five REAL tips that every mom and dad should follow

Parenting can be a controversial topic – as UK-based daycare owner Bright Horizons found out last week after publishing an International Women’s Day blog post that featured a series of ‘woke’ parenting tips that sparked fury across the internet.

The post was titled ‘Raising Strong And Confident Girls’ and suggested parents ‘reflect’ on how they raise their daughters, and had the intention of ‘inspiring strong voices, boosting self-confidence, encouraging risks, and celebrating differences.’

It also told parents to avoid calling their daughters ‘pretty’ or a ‘princess.’

Now parenting educator Laura Linn Knight, from Arizona, has weighed in, saying that despite Bright Horizons’ best intentions, a child’s interests needed to be considered when it came to this issue.

She added that the post and the controversy surrounding it was a good opportunity for families, schools and communities to have ‘some healthy conversations about raising girls who are brave, curious and have equal opportunities.’

Parenting educator Laura Linn Knight, from Arizona, has shared her top tips for raising ‘happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children’

Laura, a 39-year-old mom-of-two, is pictured here with her family. Her tips include spending quality time with your children, defining your family values and practicing self-regulation

Laura, a 39-year-old mom-of-two, is pictured here with her family. Her tips include spending quality time with your children, defining your family values and practicing self-regulation

‘I believe most parents want for these things for their children,’ the 39-year-old mom-of-two told

‘What is tricky here though (and what the controversy seems to be centered around), is we need to consider what our child’s interests are.’

Laura asked what if you had a daughter who loved playing princesses, ‘does that mean you cannot foster that love?’

She continued: ‘I would say that a child who adores being a princess can celebrate her princess-spirit and still be assertive, strong and have wonderful leadership skills.’

Laura said people needed to be careful about how they were stereotyping girls who enjoyed what society had labeled as ‘girly.’

‘It is okay to play princess and mermaids, just as much as it is okay to play construction workers and dragons. And, at the same time, let’s not lock girls into a specific role just because of their gender, which was much of the intention of the Bright Horizon article,’ she added.

‘In my experience as an elementary school teacher and now a parenting educator, I believe that you can raise strong and independent girls no matter what their interests are. Fostering these attributes will come less from the semantics we use in the home, but more from what we model for our children, the opportunities we give them in the classroom and the leadership roles they have within their communities.’ 

The guide caused quite a furor, with critics labeling it as ‘woke.’ 

As this Bright Horizons post has shown, there’s many differing views on the right way to raise kids.

So to help you out Laura, who is also the author of Break Free From Reactive Parenting, has shared her top five tips for raising ‘happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children.’

Laura says there's more to being a parent than making sure your children are fed, clothed, and safe. She's pictured with her children, Oliver and Grace

Laura says there’s more to being a parent than making sure your children are fed, clothed, and safe. She’s pictured with her children, Oliver and Grace

Tip #1: Put down your phone and spend quality time with your child

Laura says there’s more to being a parent than making sure your children are fed, clothed, and safe.

‘With so many important items that need to get done each day, it is easy to forget about one of the most important for well-being: quality time,’ the parenting educator told

Looking for inspiration? Laura’s ideas for daily play time 

  • Draw
  • Shoot hoops
  • Write a story together
  • Build Lego
  • Make dinner as a family
  • Play with dolls
  • Break out the old monster trucks and army guys
  • Read a book
  • Tell silly stories
  • Cuddle on the couch
  • Lay around for awhile and just be

And she says parents don’t need to devote hours every day.

‘We do, however, need to set aside at least 10 minutes with no devices and be present to play, draw, talk, or listen,’ Laura said.

‘Of course, we need to make sure that our kids are fed, clothed, and kept safe. But beyond that, parents are often not prioritizing connection.’

Laura says daily play will not only be good for your child’s growing mind, but it will also making parenting ‘so much easier.’  

Toddlers’ play is often built into their daily routine, but as they get older that part of their day starts to disappear.

‘Most parents understand the importance of play with their tiny ones. But, once your child hits kindergarten, and especially starting in second or third grade, it can seem like play has left your child’s daily life and made way to video games, television shows, other devices and sports/extracurricular activities,’ Laura explained.

‘It is not to say that these things are wrong or bad, we just need to find time for our children in the distraction and other obligations they have.

‘Play will look different depending on the age and temperament of your child.’

Spending quality time with your child will also have short- and long-term benefits.

‘This connection will help in the short-term with decreasing arguments (remember, children who feel undervalued often act out more) and it will also help in the long-term relationship with your child because your attachment will be strong,’ Laura said.

‘When parents understand where each of their children are in their social-emotional development, we can better understand how to handle situations that arise.’

Tip #2: Hold weekly Family Gatherings to check in on your kids, and teach them life skills such as problem-solving and communication

Want to establish Family Gatherings – but don’t know where to start? Laura shares her advice

  • See where you can set aside no more than 20 minutes of time
  • Discuss the Family Gathering at dinner with your family and share your enthusiasm for the new routine
  • Have everyone agree to commit to them the best they can
  • Make a list during the week about what will go on agenda – try to stick to your list and don’t drag it out

Laura recommends carving out some time on weekends for weekly Family Gatherings where parents can ask their children if there’s anything they wish to discuss or important topics that you’ve been meaning to bring up.

Make sure everyone is in a calm mind space to take this on.

‘For example, have you noticed homework was difficult lately or chores were not being done? Do your children want to talk about a concern they have?’ Laura said.

She continued: ‘Do your children need extra emotional support and you want to problem-solve as a family? Do you want to take time to celebrate things that have been going well?

‘Having family gatherings once a week opens up communication with everyone, and it’s a chance for your child to express themselves and discuss important topics with you.’

Laura says the gathering doesn’t need to last any more than 20 minutes. 

She added: ‘When you hold a family gathering, you are teaching the life skills of problem-solving, listening, communication and empathy. 

‘These gatherings will help you raise happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children.’

Tip #3: Define your family values so everyone is on the same page

‘What are your overall family values?’ the parenting educator asks.

Laura says if you don’t have an answer to that this might be a good time to create a ‘Family Values Chart’ with your children. 

‘To make a Family Values Chart, sit down and write all of your priorities as a family. What do you all value most? Let everyone chime in and write all your values down,’ she told

Some of things on Laura’s family values include communication, playtime with her children, outdoor time and dinners together.

'What are your overall family values?' the parenting educator asks. Laura says if you don't have an answer to that this might be a good time to create a 'Family Values Chart' with your children

‘What are your overall family values?’ the parenting educator asks. Laura says if you don’t have an answer to that this might be a good time to create a ‘Family Values Chart’ with your children

She says when families are on the same page about what each member sees as a priority then those values inform their daily actions.

‘For example, if your family values quality time together, then it would make sense to prioritize a family game night over children playing on devices alone in their rooms,’ Laura said.

‘If you value happiness and good health as a family, then you will take actions towards making those values a priority.

‘Remember, the first step before action is awareness, so let this new awareness of family values help set your family on a path you feel good about.’

Tip #4: Practice gratitude as a family every day

Make gratitude part of your daily routine, Laura advises.

With busy lives, it’s easy to forget about the good things that happen throughout the day and the parenting educator reminds people that it’s important to acknowledge the positive moments.

‘Regular gratitude practice that is intentional can help change our perspective on situations,’ Laura said.

Make gratitude part of your daily routine, Laura advises. Pictured is a stock image of a mother and child hugging

Make gratitude part of your daily routine, Laura advises. Pictured is a stock image of a mother and child hugging

How to help your kids reflect on being grateful: The gratitude flower and the rose, bud, thorn exercise 

Gratitude flower

Draw or color your own five-petal flower and then:

  1. In the center of each flower, write each person’s name
  2. Pass around one paper at a time and take turns writing or drawing something you appreciate about each of the people participating inside one of the petals
  3. Repeat this until each flower is complete, and if you have more than 5 people in your family, you can add more petals to the flower
  4. At the end of the activity, each person will have their own flower that shows their family’s love and appreciation for them

Rose, Bud, Thorn 

You can get the exercise sheet here.

Here are the steps laid out by Laura:

  1. Everyone takes a turn to share aloud their Rose, Bud and Thorn of the day
  2. Rose: something positive that happened to you that day (can be anything like a success that happened, a small win, a big win, etc.)
  3. Bud: something that is a work in progress and going well, new ideas you want to try out, something you want to learn more about
  4. Thorn: something that caused you sadness, stress, difficulty, etc. A not-so-good part of the day. Note: the thorn is a good way to practice empathy and offer extra encouragement and support to one another as a family

‘It is easy for our minds to slip into negative thoughts or miss out on all the good that is happening throughout each and every day. 

‘When we set aside time to pay special attention to the things we are grateful for, we begin to notice more and more things that make us happy, feel good, and give us appreciation for all the small things that are going well.’

She says families can integrate gratitude into their morning or evening routines by sharing one thing at the breakfast table or at night before bed. 

To add some creativity, Laura makes showing gratitude into an activity such as making a gratitude flower or doing the rose, bud, thorn exercise – both are outlined in the table above.

Tip #5: Practice self-regulation – and teach it, too!

It’s hard to do as a parent especially if your child is throwing a massive tantrum, refusing to get out of their car seat or pushing you to your limit, but Laura says practicing self-regulation is important as well as teaching it.

‘Inevitably, in your frustration, you have tried rationalizing, distracting, even offering treats if your child will stop crying and screaming,’ she said.

Laura says parents should not only teach self-regulation, but practice it themselves too. Pictured is a stock image

‘Then suddenly, when the chaos doesn’t stop, you find that your emotions are boiling and you are at your wit’s end.

How to use your Plan-To-Pause poster for better self-regulation

To make the poster here is what you do:

  1. Print out the Plan-To-Pause Poster for yourself and your child or make one on a blank piece of paper 
  2. In a calm state, make the lists together with your child and come up with five to seven activities for each of you to do when you both are feeling overwhelmed with heavy emotions
  3. You can also add activities and games for you and your child to do together (rock, paper, scissors is a great game to put on the lists)
  4. Have a coloring session with your child and decorate the posters. Make the activity personal and use this time to bond with your child
  5. You can even laminate the posters and use dry erase markers so that you can change the posters any time you want
  6. Place the completed posters in an area that will constantly remind you to approach potentially stressful situations in a more relaxed manner and reconnect with your inner calm

‘This is the moment when parents, desperate and defeated, often resort to yelling. Unfortunately, the yelling makes the situation worse and you walk away feeling disappointed for having yelled (again).’

Laura explains she defines self-regulation as ‘the ability to calm yourself down and not react to your child with a yell, threat, or bribe to get them to act the way you think they need to act in the moment.’

‘So many of us parents were never taught how to self-regulate our emotions, and when we cannot self-regulate, it is very hard to teach our children how to regulate their emotions,’ she continued.

‘If we want to have children that are happy, mentally healthy and well-adjusted, then we must learn tools for self-regulation.’

To help parents, the first chapter of Laura’s book, Break Free from Reactive Parenting, was dedicated to this topic, and armed parents and children with better tools to practice self-regulation. 

‘The easiest one that you and your child can implement now is creating a Plan-to-Pause Poster,’ Laura said, adding it can be downloaded for free here or parents can make their own.

On her own poster, the parenting educator says she has listed:

  • Go in the other room and take deep breaths. 
  • Turn on my favorite song
  • Go on a walk around my house or in my backyard
  • Smell a flower, a piece of fruit, or an essential oil
  • Play the game rock, paper, scissors with my child
  • Lay on the floor and put a stuffed animal on my belly, watch the stuffed animal go up and down with my breath
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