Subtitled – 7 Things That I Think I Know About Parenting Henry*


* Subject to change in, oh, one year.


When I was pregnant, Kristien and I finally decided that we had to actually meet and get to know our kid before deciding how to parent him or her.  Once Henry was born, I read a lot of websites, flipped through a bunch of books, and talked to a bunch of friends and family members to try to find a “philosophy” to model my parenting on.  I never found one philosophy to follow, but I did find that I agreed with many concepts from a lot of different sources.


I thought it’d be fun to share the 7 core concepts that guide my parenting every day.  I’d love to know what concepts you subscribe to!


Not Forcing Him to Always Share:  My friend Heather told me about this concept, which she originally read at about this book by Heather Shumaker. Basically, the theory is that perhaps “forcing” kids to share a toy is not the best way to teach them about true, selfless sharing. This makes a lot of sense to me, as I cannot walk up to a stranger on the street and say, “GIVE ME YOUR PORSCHE! I want to drive it!” and they will turn it over because they have to ‘share.’  If a kid is happily playing with a toy, why should she be forced to give it up immediately just because another kid wants it?  In the real world, you have to wait turns and ask for permission to use things.  When Henry wants a toy that someone else has, I try to say, “Let’s wait until she’s done playing with it,” and if someone wants his toy, I ask, “Do you want to play with the toy together?” He gives it up more often than not when he knows he’s in control of the choice.  When he does willingly share, I give lots of praise to reinforce his behavior.


Boy Box: Before I had Henry (and before we knew if we were having a boy or a girl), I wrote that I was a bit scared to have a girl because they have these complex emotional lives.  Uhhh DUH.  So do boys!  Men have all the same emotions than women do.  And we want to raise a caring, emotional man.  Since Day #1, I’ve been trying to stay aware of how we treat Henry simply because he’s male.  I noticed that I automatically said a lot of stuff to him like, “Don’t cry; you are okay,” which shuts down communication and minimizes his feelings.  Thanks to this article, “5 Ways to Avoid Implicit Sexism,” I’ve been trying to say things like, “Why are you crying? Are you frustrated? Are you sad?”  He has no idea what frustrated means (I think he knows what sad means), but it’s a start towards helping him be okay with having and identifying emotions.  It’s interesting because he clearly gravitates to more ‘traditionally boy’ things, like sports and cars/trucks.  We try to encourage play with other types of toys, like dolls and baby strollers, too.  I bet some people thought it was very strange that we got our boy a dollhouse for Christmas, but you know what? He LOVES taking care of his dollies, and I love watching him pretend to be a daddy.


Read Every Day:  We read books before nap and bed.  Currently, Henry wants to re-read one book over and over again, but at least we are reading! 🙂 My goal is to instill a love of reading into Henry, to teach him that books are a great way to have quiet “me time,” and to expand his vocabulary. Henry wasn’t interested in reading for so long, but now he loves it!


Not Always Saving The Day:  I’m a huge supporter of the Free Range Kids philosophy and try really hard to give Henry space to explore and – potentially – fail.  When he can’t figure something out, I usually say, “Can you problem solve? I bet you can!” After a bit, I’ll help if necessary; I just try not to take over at the first sign of trouble. I also try to balance his desire to explore with common sense and safety.  Side note: have you heard of The Mom Gasp?  You know, it’s the sound you make when your kid falls?  I try SO HARD not to Mom Gasp when Henry falls.  If he hears me do it, he loses his mind crying, but if I don’t, he usually brushes himself off and moves on without a care.  🙂


Food is Fun:  Henry will eat veggies, but he’s like most toddlers – so hot or cold! I’ve noticed that he’s much better about eating veggies if I make him part of the shopping and preparing process.  And I have to usually put the food on his place several times before he’ll touch it.  Food pictures help, too!


Praising Effort:  The Husband is very into this concept; he prefers to praise effort (“You tried so hard”) over natural characteristics (“You are so smart”). The theory is that praising efforts over characteristics mean that kids will always try hard instead of ‘falling back’ on their natural abilities.


Not Forcing Affection:  This is a BIG ONE for me, one of the few parenting philosophies that I’m super gung-ho about.  I do not like forcing children to show affection, whether it’s to me or someone else.  No forced hugs or kisses.  I’ll ask for hugs and kisses, but if he says no, that’s fine.  I’m very big into my personal bubble and can tell that Henry is the same way.  I never understand why people think that babies or toddlers always want to be touched by strangers.  Plus, I think it sets a bad precedent (that adults are allowed to touch you in ways that make you uncomfortable).


What concepts guide your parenting?  I love this discussion because it’s so unique to the kid.  Maybe some of my concepts just won’t work with Baby HTP 2.0!



  • Danielle January 28, 2014, 8:24 am

    Is there a 2.0 coming soon?

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 8:54 am


      • katie January 28, 2014, 12:54 pm

        ha ha, I love your straight forward answer! I think these concepts are great, especially because you and your husband seem to be a team on them.

      • Helena February 3, 2014, 12:29 am

        Ever? Sorry, that’s a super nosy and annoying thing to ask (and most women get it landed on them when they’ve barely left the hospital with the first one!), and you totally don’t have to answer, but I was just curious, since I’ve found from personal experience that some people seem to be almost more negative about someone having an only child than about a woman choosing not to have any children at all.

        • Caitlin February 3, 2014, 9:35 am

          oh no, we definitely want another baby! 🙂 but you’re right – people start asking that IMMEDIATELY.

  • Brynn January 28, 2014, 8:43 am

    I love having reading time. My niece loves books and has a large bookshelf and always wants to see her ‘friends’ in the stories. Books encourage so much creativity and imagination. I’m still a book nerd!!

  • Brandi H January 28, 2014, 8:43 am

    I love these concepts!
    I especially agree with not forcing affection. We’ve tried really hard with Abigail to back off if she doesn’t want us touching/tickling/hugging her. We tell her that if she wants someone to stop touching her to just ask. We’ve also told family members to respect her boundaries. We want her to feel empowered and to know that her body is her own.
    Another important one for us is teaching her to care for herself. As soon as she was able, we’ve had Abigail doing her “responsibilities” every morning. She often wears mismatched clothes, and her hair is only brushed in the sections she can reach, but she is proud, because she did it all herself!
    Now, if only we could get out of the Girl Box. We’ve totally succombed to the girly-girl, princess obsession. I’ve been browsing the Mighty Girl website lately, looking for alternatives. 🙂

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 8:45 am

      awwww I love Abigail so much!

      Henry is in charge of feeding the dogs. 🙂

  • Katie D. January 28, 2014, 8:56 am

    At 17 weeks pregnant with Baby #1, this was helpful to read and something I’ll share with my husband!

    We aren’t finding out the sex, partially to try and slow down the gender stuff. I really hate how girls are all “princess” or “diva” and boys are all sports. Cats are always pink, Dogs are always blue. I love dogs, does that make me a male?

    At one store, they even ONLY had pink or blue baby grooming sets (nail clippers, suction thingies, etc). Seriously, why do those need to be have a gender?!?!?!

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 8:58 am

      I agree with you. This fries me! Just comparing the boy to girl to shirts is like a lesson in stereotyping.

  • Sarah January 28, 2014, 8:59 am

    I’m a teacher and I just want to say that I think it’s wonderful that you are praising effort vs. telling Henry he is smart. So much of what our kids learn and do boils down to their willingness to try and work through struggles!

  • Farah@Fabulously Farah January 28, 2014, 9:06 am

    I love the idea about not forcing kids to share. That is spot on. Yes, I think selfless sharing is a great thing and kids should learn that it is nice to share, but like you said, saying things like “Henry is playing with that right now, he will let you play with it when he’s finished” or “Maybe you guys can play with the toy together” are very effective. Thanks for these tips!

  • Laura@SneakersandSpatulas January 28, 2014, 9:07 am

    I so agree with the no forced touching concept. We don’t have kids yet but when we do I definitely won’t force them into hugs or kisses and will have the relatives respect this as well.

    Gender stereotyping is a biggie for me. Growing up, I was always called a tomboy because I liked to play in the woods, had short hair, etc. My sister and cousin even called me “Larry” as my boy name. I HATED it and it really bothered me that people poked fun at me for “boy” tendencies just because I wasn’t into dolls, dresses and girly things. I’m going to make sure my kids never experience this.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 28, 2014, 9:09 am

    I feel like I should pin this for when I have kids some day!

    • Courtney January 31, 2014, 9:58 am

      I was thinking the same!

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun January 28, 2014, 9:20 am

    Love this! I don’t have a child yet (nor am I pregnant) but I am getting to that age where I could be thinking about in the future and so I love to read other people’s experiences.

  • Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties January 28, 2014, 9:26 am

    I love this post! I’m nowhere near having kids yet but have already started picking up on parenting techniques from friends/neighbors/family. It’s really interesting to hear how everyone raises their children. I really like the praise effort rather than characteristics idea!

  • Laura J January 28, 2014, 9:42 am

    We do hi-5 instead of hugs, if the kid doesn’t want to hug. It’s kind of like hand shakes for the younger set. Kids seem to like hi-5s too, which is nice, and it lets them keep their personal space to themselves.

    I totally agree with you on the boy/girl box thing. It drives me nuts when people won’t give their sons a dolly, or their daughters a truck. My 17-month old daughter loves balls, and “picked” the Jack & the Pirates one over the princess one when I held up 2 for her to choose from at the store

  • Ashley M. January 28, 2014, 9:43 am

    I don’t think it’s strange at all that H has a doll house. Ada has a tractor and is actually watching Cars right now. I played with lots of “boy” stuff when I was young and my brother, vice versa. It’s great to be able to look beyond the prescribed roles, but — thankfully — I see more and more moms going this route of genderless play. Yay!

  • Jackie January 28, 2014, 10:02 am

    We do a lot of this same stuff.

    (Side note: I always feel validated when an “expert” article on parenting explains a concept I was already doing naturally. For example, there was an article circulating recently about praising effort and I patted myself on the back for doing that before I read anything because it felt natural to me. 🙂 )

    In addition to some of the things you mentioned, I try to encourage politeness. So I say “please” and “thank you” a lot to my son. And if he demands something (“MILK!” for example) I’ll say, “is there a nicer way to say that?” And he’ll respond with, “milk please, mommy” (most of the time, at least).

    We also try to pray with our son, read him a kid’s Bible, and TRY to explain the concept of God, which is important to us, but obviously doesn’t apply to all families’ belief systems.

  • Christy January 28, 2014, 10:05 am

    I have a 3.5 yr old boy and I have also used those techniques. I strongly believe that they have made a world of difference in him compared to his peers. What I also found helpful when he was younger is not asking him if he feels frustrated but telling him how he feels. I would say “You look mad. You’re mad at mommy for not letting you xyz…” Or “You look frustrated that the toy won’t do what you want it to. I understand. That’s frustrating.” It would stop his tantrum or crying almost immediately because he could sense I understood what he was feeling. Now he is capable of telling me his feelings which is extremely helpful in our communication.

    And reading!! We read all the time. Especially since we don’t watch TV. It is such a joy to see him sit down with a book and read it (well, recite it from memory!) And praising his effort has really made a difference as he’s gotten older. He will tell us “Good trying Mommy, maybe next time!” I just thought I would give a perspective from someone who has implemented these same things and can tell you they really do pay off! 🙂

  • Lauren Jamison January 28, 2014, 10:21 am

    These are all really fantastic! We just recently found out we are expecting and I already feel a bit overwhelmed with all the information and recommendations and opinions out there. I keep thinking, I just want to raise someone who is stable and healthy and functional haha! Thanks for this post!

  • Lauren Jamison January 28, 2014, 10:24 am

    Also, I thought you did a post once about the books you read during pregnancy, but now I can’t find it. Do you have the link?

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 12:26 pm

      Hmm I can’t find it either (damn 4000+ posts) but my two favorites were: Panic Free Pregnancy and the Bradley Method of Childbirth.

      • Lauren J @ The Barn January 28, 2014, 3:09 pm

        Thank you!! I thought I also remembered you reading Birthing From Within, if so was it worth the read? And I was curious if people still felt What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

        And lastly, did your husband read any books? Mine is requesting a few books for him to learn and so far I’m not overly impressed with what I’ve found. Thank you thank you! Sorry for the million questions!

        • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 7:32 pm

          I think Birthing From Within is a great read for a mom who wants to do a natural birth. I really liked the Bradley Method book for dads and moms to discuss together!

        • Brigid January 29, 2014, 7:19 pm

          Not Caitlin, but I much prefer Dr. Sears’s The Baby Book to What to Expect. Also, my husband really enjoyed two books, both by Armin Brott: The Expectant Father and The New Father.

  • Carol January 28, 2014, 11:00 am

    As usual, you have the BEST posts, thanks for sharing, “not forcing him to always share” and “Forcing affection” is huge, never thought of them the way you describe them, thank you, I’ll be making sure I’m more mindful of those things and not force anything on my Tot, he’s a little human after all, makes total sense!

  • mama January 28, 2014, 11:01 am

    This is a great post! We use lots of these techniques ourselves in parenting. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Janelle January 28, 2014, 11:28 am

    Great post! I’m not a parent yet and I hadn’t considered some of these, but they definitely make good sense to me – hoping I can remember them when I need them!

  • lana January 28, 2014, 11:32 am

    I think its so interesting that in your effort to avoid gender stereotypes you almost perpetuated one in yourself… at least from what I am reading:

    It seems like you were SO sure that people would think its was strange that you bought Henry a dollhouse. But if you had a girl and you bought her a truck or some trains or another “boyish” toy, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal… would you have been so sure that others would find it strange? I am assuming not. (And I could very well be wrong 🙂 )Its always a little more socially acceptable for girls to do boy things than vice versa. And its sometimes hard to see that just our own belief system and expectations of OTHERS can dredge up what we are trying to avoid. Give others the benefit of the doubt and you may find that they are not as narrow minded about gender stereotypes as you assume.

    Great post~!

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 11:49 am

      I didn’t think people would think it was weird… Some did! But most didn’t which made me happy. 🙂 I totally get what you are saying though about fighting stereotypes you hold yourself too.

      • Margaret January 28, 2014, 3:35 pm

        Have you actually had people react negatively to it?! Where you mentioned it in the post I read it like you were just worried that people would think it’s weird, not that people actually told you they thought it’s weird.

        I think these sorts of things, like boys playing with dolls, is one of those stereotypes that people tend to think people will think, but that few people actually think these days!

        • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 7:32 pm

          I did have some people react… not negatively – that’s a strong word. No one in my life would like, scoff at me, for a choice that I made. But a few people were all like “a dollhouse?? well, i guess that’s kind of cool…” LOL i didn’t mind really because they are from a different generation and the idea is a little foreign to them.

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 28, 2014, 11:39 am

    I don’t have any kids, but I still enjoy posts like this one — great food for thought!

  • sophie January 28, 2014, 11:41 am

    the book might be po bronson’s nurtureshock. it’s a great read.

    • Jen in SC February 1, 2014, 2:43 pm

      ^^ YES!! NurtureShock is AWESOME. Loved that book. It really had an impact on my thinking and parenting. I should re-read it, actually.

      Enjoyed this post and I tend to agree with you on pretty much all of it 🙂

  • Natalie @ Free Range Human January 28, 2014, 11:42 am

    Yes, yes to the last one! I’m not a parent, but a couple of years ago I started to notice how my niece and nephew were always instructed to give hugs and kisses whenever they would leave. This really bothered me! It never made since that you forced a child to show affection, and I, too, wondered about the implications of making it okay that adult was touching you. My in-laws, of course, think I’m crazy!

    • Lauren January 29, 2014, 10:30 am

      I see this too a lot with my in-laws. My nieces I of course love to get a hug and a kiss from when they leave because I adore them and am very close to them. They often give me two. 🙂 But I feel very awkward when we are with my husband’s cousins who we don’t see often and their kids are instructed to give us a hug goodbye. We only see the kids two or three times a year and they spend the whole time off playing with my nieces and the other kids. Honestly they probably don’t even remember who we are! Hugging near strangers? Not good.

  • Lee January 28, 2014, 12:08 pm

    My baby is only 8 days old so I don’t really have any parenting concepts yet, but these are interesting.

  • Mary January 28, 2014, 12:09 pm

    I totally agree that kids need personal space just like adults and affection should be given when the child wants to…not has to. Also, I LOVE your food art!!!

  • Gretchen January 28, 2014, 12:10 pm

    “It’s ok not to share” is the book:

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 12:16 pm

      That’s it!! I will update the post. Thank you!!!

  • Kendra S. January 28, 2014, 12:17 pm

    I never thought about the forced affection. I always tell my almost 3 year old to give hugs to his grandparents as they are leaving. He always seems eager to do it so I don’t feel like I’m forcing him but I wonder if I didn’t tell him to if he’d still do it on his own? Very thought provoking…

    Thank you!

  • Jamie January 28, 2014, 12:28 pm

    I totally agree with not forcing kids to share! I would say the only exception I make to that rule is if we invite friends over to play. Then I tell my kids that if a toy is too special to share then we should probably just put it up because otherwise my son will spend his time running after kids yelling, “No! That’s MINE!” every time they touch one of his things.

    My big philosophy is, “I can only control myself.” I try to remember that when I set limits for my kids that does not guarantee they will do what I want them to do. Instead of worrying about whether or not they will grow up to be the people I want them to be I try to focus on being a positive example for them.

    I always try to see myself as their friend. I know a lot of people will say that you absolutely, CANNOT be friends with your child but I disagree. I don’t think being a friend to your child means you have to be indulgent or overshare inappropriate information with them because I don’t see that as what true friendship is. I try to be their friend by really listening to them, spending time with them, sincerely apologizing when I make mistakes, setting appropriate boundaries, looking out for their best interests…you get the idea. One of the biggest influences once your child is a teen will be their friends and I hope to have the kind of relationship with my kids where they feel like they can trust me with their problems.

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 12:29 pm

      Love this!!

  • Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork January 28, 2014, 1:03 pm

    This is such a wonderful post! These are some of my favorite that you write. Henry is lucky to have such thoughtful (as in, thinking about how they parent) parents! I love a lot of the concepts you’ve presented. I’m not a parent (yet), but these are some things I had never thought of! Thank you for always being so open and honest and for sharing parts of your life with us. You bring up great ideas!

  • alli January 28, 2014, 1:13 pm

    i love this post! plenty of things i would like to work on and improve with the relationship with my 3yr old son. thank you for this.

  • Bethany January 28, 2014, 1:20 pm

    When my cousin’s daughter was still a toddler, if she fell or bumped her head or did anything that would otherwise typically warrant the mom gasp they would instead cheer for her (“yaay!”). This way, the little one wasn’t freaked out by her parents’ gasp/worry. It’s kinda funny to see this in practice but it’s better than a meltdown, right?

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 1:22 pm

      haha i love it!

  • Brie January 28, 2014, 1:23 pm

    My #1 rule is that I am only half of the parenting equation. My husband has an equal say and is equally capable because I didn’t marry a bumbling fool. He doesn’t always do things the way I would do them, but different can be good and ultimately C is just fine.

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 1:25 pm


      • Katie January 28, 2014, 2:16 pm

        This is totally my philosophy too! It makes me uncomfortable when I hear other moms talk about their husbands like they’re dopes or (worse yet) make themselves into a martyr having to “do everything” because he “can’t”. I went out to dinner with a mom’s group when my daughter was 6 months old and one of the other moms was shocked that I was out before she went to bed and that my hubby was putting her down by himself. I was like “heck ya, momma needs some time out too!”. 😉

        • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 2:16 pm

          double amen!

        • Megan January 28, 2014, 10:22 pm

          My husband has always been much better at bedtime than me! (I’m a pushover and he’s not-at least for bedtime).

          • Tiffany January 29, 2014, 9:01 pm

            Katie that always seemed so weird to me too – my mom’s group outings are scheduled for 8 or 8:30pm so they can “help put the kids to bed first”….um, your husband can’t do it alone?! They’re always shocked when I tell them my husband does it quite often (and enjoys it).

  • Corrie @CasaBeebe January 28, 2014, 1:43 pm

    There are studies to support Kristien’s (and your) philosophy of praising effort rather than “talent.” One study I read recently indicated students took a math test three times, after being split into three groups, and were praised based on talent, effort or not at all. Each time the group that was praised on effort did better and better while the group praised on talent did worse, despite the test being the same each time. Fascinating concept.

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 2:04 pm

      So awesome.

  • Nan January 28, 2014, 1:54 pm

    I LOVE this list and I think (or hope!) that I use much of it with my little Henry also. Your list sounds very similar to many of ideas behind the RIE method by Magda Gerber. Do you happen to be using that method?

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 2:04 pm

      No! I have never heard of that… looking up now 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Diana Griffith January 28, 2014, 2:08 pm

    This is soooo interesting. One point that really caught me off guard was the forcing affection. I never thought of that with kids. I know I’m not a huge touchy-feely type person, so I can totally understand a kid would be too.

    I don’t have a kid, but I do find it strange when a parent tells their child (that I’m not close to, or maybe even just met!) to go give me a hug to say goodbye. It totally isn’t necessary. Why can’t we teach them to give us a hand shake, wave, or fist bump even. A hug is a much more personal action than any of those things.

    My nephew is at the age right now where he’s not too sure around me and doesn’t want to give me any affection. I will have to let him have his space after reading this, even if my feelings are a bit hurt as I want to interact with him.

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 2:09 pm

      My suggestion is to start playing with a toy by yourself. Be all like, “COOL I love blocks! Wahoo I’m going to stack them so high!” and start stacking, instead of being all like, “Do you want to play with me?” Works every time with Henry’s friends. 🙂

  • Lauren @ Breathe & Nourish January 28, 2014, 2:20 pm

    I absolutely loved hearing these concepts! A lot of what I do while babysitting I’ve started to second guess since getting my MA in psychology. These are all great ideas.

    Recently I’ve become really fascinated by how adults (mostly parents) treat kids and their food. I’d love to read more research about it!

  • Leslie January 28, 2014, 3:54 pm

    LOVE all of this.

  • Morgan January 28, 2014, 6:33 pm

    You need to read the book Mindset. It is an easy read that summarizes the research of praising effort vs ability! It is a must!

  • Jen January 28, 2014, 6:36 pm

    I love these concepts! I’m always so proud when my 7 year old daughter says that her favorite color is blue. She has 2 younger sisters who love pink & purple, so sometimes I think she just wants to be different.
    The last one about affection reminds me of a recent article by the actress Mayim Bialik:

  • Kate K January 28, 2014, 7:01 pm

    I love these! In the “praising effort” camp, I read this article a while ago and I loved it: The author frames it in a sports/hobbies thing but I also think it’s great to use in every day situations.

    Also, as a children’s librarian, I have to pipe in and say that it’s awesome that Henry loves books! It’s also so great that he likes re-reading! Studies have shown that requesting re-reading is a key part of “getting ready to read,” and also is great for their language and memory. Every time you re-read a book, you promote story comprehension and also build vocabulary. At this point in his life, Henry’s brain is absorbing all of these new words and the more he hears them (i.e. multiple readings of a story) the more he’ll understand them and remember them. Keep up the good work!

    • Caitlin January 28, 2014, 7:30 pm

      Awesome!! And here I thought he was just a creature of habit 🙂

      • Katie K January 28, 2014, 7:41 pm

        Yup! You’re doing just great! Re-reading also shows incredible “print motivation,” as we say in the biz. Print motivation is one of the six early literacy indicators–basically, a print motivated child seeks out books, enjoys reading, connects with books and sometimes wants to read specific books over and over again. And you re-reading just encourages that motivation.

  • Jodie January 28, 2014, 7:56 pm

    Such great concepts! Thank you for sharing Caitlin. I totally agree that every child is different, so how you parent should accomodate your kid, not simply an ideal. We have to modify and adjust all the time-especially with toddlers! Have you read Brain Rules for Babies by Dr. John Medina? It is fascinating and he touches on many of the practices you have mentioned here…awesome stuff.

    • Caitlin January 29, 2014, 6:56 am

      No I haven’t but I will add it to my list!

  • Jess January 28, 2014, 8:07 pm

    As a teacher, I love this! It sounds like you would be interested in Montessori. Your methods sound in line with that way of teaching! Very cool.

    • Caitlin January 29, 2014, 6:57 am

      I’ve done some reading about it, it’s very cool. My friend Heather does their no-crib thing!

  • Emily @ Greens and Granola January 28, 2014, 8:18 pm

    This is great! I’m not a mom yet, but I nanny for a little girl around Henry’s age. I’ll definitely be keeping a lot of this in mind when I’m with her 🙂

  • emily January 28, 2014, 9:32 pm

    I am totally on the same page as you guys… at least for now, pre-child! Working in a toy store made me hyper-aware of how much I hate gender stereotyping. At least once a week I had to keep myself from saying something like this –

    • Lauren January 29, 2014, 10:43 am


  • Amisha January 28, 2014, 9:33 pm

    I have no idea if this issue was addressed before in the comments, but I don’t have enough time to read all of them right now. How do you address times when other kids come over to play at your house and your kid does not want the visitors to play with his toys, even when he’s not playing with them? Say something is kind of special, or that he just wants other kids to play with the things that he wants them to play with?

    I ran across this when I went to visit a friend with a toddler. I have a 10 month old, who was really interested in her hello kitty stuffed animal. The toddler saw this and said no…kitty mine. Then took the kitty away. We tried to say we should share, but she was not giving it up, and you don’t want to force it. Thoughts?

    • Caitlin January 29, 2014, 6:55 am

      I take away ‘high value’ toys when friends come over. Like his plastic slide – it’s really hard for him to let other kids play on it. So it just goes away when kids come over. 🙂 I bring out toys that encourage sharing, like play doh.

  • Sandy January 28, 2014, 9:37 pm

    My husband reminds me all the time not to mom gasp, I am so bad! We went to the park the other day and I was so proud of myself, though. He is very clumsy and falls a lot. He fell several times, and we just stood back and let him play and he popped right up every time and went on his way!

    • Caitlin January 29, 2014, 6:54 am

      He will get so much better with time! Henry used to be covered in bruises from falls.

  • Runner Girl Eats January 28, 2014, 9:53 pm

    I love this post. I don’t have kids yet so obviously who knows what my thoughts will be when I do but right now I think this is genius and hope that I can approach parenting like you and yoru family do 🙂

  • Kyla January 28, 2014, 10:52 pm

    This is all great! Although initially after I read this post, I thought to myself “Oh my lord, I am not ready for children. I don’t know a thing about parenting!!” Good reminder to myself that kids can wait for a looooong time 🙂

  • Elsa January 29, 2014, 6:29 am

    I love your parenting style. Some concepts I try to enact:
    Slow Down. Don’t Rush. If we have the time I try not to rush her and let her take the extra time to walk down the steps herself or crunch through the fallen leaves.
    Food is not stressful. If she wants to eat, great. If she doesn’t that’s ok too – I won’t force her to eat. Trying to teach her to eat when she is hungry and not because it is a certain time.
    Limit screen time. We occasionally watch play school or sesame street and she chats to her grandparents on FaceTime but thats it. No games on iphones/ipads. (Let’s see how long that one lasts shall we?)
    Try to do something solely for her every day like going to swimming lessons or to the park. Letting her let off steam in active play helps keep her happy when we’re at home.

  • Areej January 29, 2014, 7:39 am

    I loved this post too! I am going to take “it’s ok not to share” and “forced affection” from this since I never really thought about these two things like that before. While I’m at it, just wanted to thank you for the life changing idea of storing toys behind the couch. I started doing it and it really helps clean up the living room!

  • Rebecca January 29, 2014, 11:45 am

    I have friends who don’t make a big deal of their little cousin falling. One time at a grad party he tripped on the driveway and they were like, “Oh, did you hurt the driveway?” instead of “ARE YOU OKAY?!?!?!?!” He kind of blinked and was like, “Uh huh” and did not panic or cry. Obviously if it’s a major fall and there’s potential for a broken bone or something, make sure the child is okay, but if it’s just a scrape, it’s not a major deal.

    It’s good that you’re getting Henry to read actual books instead of reading to him on the iPad or whatever. I wrote a paper last semester on how technology messes up kids’ brains because it uses different parts of the brain and different patterns form, and that you need to balance technology time with like face-to-face time and stuff. Ended up with a B on the paper, so I must’ve made good points. Lol.

    I thought of you last week when I was watching Ellen. She had Busy Phillips on and she was talking about how they named their kids what they were going to call them (Birdie and Cricket), and yet they STILL give their kids nicknames. Reminded me of when you were coming up with names for Henry. 🙂

  • Kelli January 29, 2014, 12:07 pm

    The #1 parenting philosophy I hold (& often fail at, but strive towards anyway!) is respect. My 16 month old is a human who deserves respect as much as any other human I encounter. It is easy for me to forget this though since he is so little & can’t always communicate with me well. But I do think making an effort to think about how I can show respect to him in different situations helps a lot. I remember feeling frustrated when I was a little kid because people talked down to me or assumed that I wasn’t my own person so I just try really hard to be respectful while of course still parenting firmly & setting boundaries. I hope it carries across throughout life & helps my son respect me & others around him & think of their feelings when he is acting too.
    And part of that for me btw is also not forcing affection. I am not very physically affectionate except to a few people who I really feel comfortable with & even then only when I really feel it so I want him to know it is ok to show love in whatever way he wants! Even if it isn’t a physical way.
    The other major thing I do is to trust my husband with our son! They have an amazing relationship which I really love. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when people ask if my husband is “babysitting” our child when I go somewhere without them. I would never call it that to my husband b/c I think it undermines his role as a father. We do parent differently but I think it is healthy for kids to see that they will be treated differently by different adults & that is a neutral or positive thing- there is no 1 way fits all or anything so black & white as that. We are so lucky to live close to a lot of extended family & my son gets to spend tons of time with different aunts, uncles, cousins, & grandparents & I think the same thing there- he learns that he is loved by a lot of folks who are all different but wonderful!
    Thanks for sharing your list, it is really nice to get to interact with other parents who obviously put a lot of time & thought into raising their children.

    • Caitlin January 29, 2014, 1:45 pm

      gahhhh it kills me when people say dads are babysitting. they arent babysitting, they are parenting.

    • Katie S.B. January 29, 2014, 3:34 pm

      I love this. Thinking about this, I realize that the people in my extended family I am closest to as an adult are those who always treated me as an adult as a kid. It really develops a great bond and made me feel special and that I had worth.

  • Katie S.B. January 29, 2014, 3:32 pm

    I love this post. My husband and I are in the VERY preliminary stages of discussing having a baby and this post gave me a lot of hope and great tips!

  • Sara January 30, 2014, 12:02 pm

    Hey Caitlin,
    I don’t have kids, but I just wanted to say about re-reading books, that I had a favorite as a kid — I learned to read by the time I was 3, and I think a big part of that was probably memorizing the book after repeated readings and connecting the script with the words — my mother remembers hearing me reciting the book to myself as i looked at the pages. (Of course, as well as being constantly read to with a whole variety of texts, coming from a very verbal/educated family, and I do have something of a photographic memory today as well which may have helped.) So as incredibly annoying as it must be be (and must have been to my parents!) it might promote some early learning — I have a PhD now!

  • Vanessa January 30, 2014, 8:10 pm

    We raise our son with a few of these concepts already =)

    I’m pretty good at silencing the “Mom Gasp” and we are definitely raising a reader! He loves to read his books, even has some of his favorites memorized.

    If you have a technique to squash the defiant “NO!” that’d be great. Drives me nuts! I’m having a hard time finding a discipline technique that works for him. I’m thinking when he’s older I’ll really be able to tackle that but right now it’s SO frustrating.

    • Caitlin January 30, 2014, 9:12 pm

      I say back “yessss” in a singsong voice. LOL

  • Kelly February 1, 2014, 9:57 am

    I’m a reading researcher (at Ohio State) and I can tell you that reading the same book over and over is PERFECTLY fine!!! I know you were probably not necessarily worried, but I wanted to just confirm that that’s an excellent shared reading experience – he’s probably learning many of the words and can fill in the blanks if you stop before the end of a sentence – this is huge for his language skills as well as overall literacy skills. Keep it up! 🙂

  • Alex @ Kenzie Life February 1, 2014, 10:54 am

    This was fascinating and wonderful to read, Caitlin. I think Henry is really lucky to have you and Kristien as parents. I’m definitely going to be coming back to this list when I have kids one day. I love how thoughtful it is.

  • Sarah Anne February 2, 2014, 12:15 pm

    Thank you for this post, Caitlin. I do not have children myself yet, though I am a doula and work with families. I LOVE these core values to your parenting. They aren’t immediately ones people would expect and I am so grateful for you beinging them to my attention. I was nodding my head the whole time and just really appreciate your openness! Thank you for giving me things to think about!

  • AJ February 7, 2014, 2:10 am

    Caitlin thank-you so much for this post. I have a 3 month old baby boy and I have bookmarked this post to refer to again and again. I love your blog so much, never stop!

    • Caitlin February 7, 2014, 8:31 am

      Thank you! Congrats on your baby!

  • Caroline @ Fitcee February 16, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Love your tips – as a future first time mommy I need all I can get 🙂

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