Good Parenting - Learning to Parent Ahead

Learning to Parent Ahead

Good parenting.

Oh, how we all want to know how to do that!

You know that awkward moment when you see your child acting out in a way that is frustrating or embarrassing. Or, that moment when you see them being downright bad.

That moment when you think, “Oh dear… please don’t let that be MY child acting that way.”

We’ve all been there. Every mom has been in this position at one point in their parenting journey.

My first memory of this was when Elayna was almost 2. We were at a play date with other moms and I saw her grab a toy from another child. The other child started crying. Elayna refused to give the toy back. Thus, I had my first experience with parenting in front of other moms.

With a two year old? You can all imagine how that went.

It wasn’t good parenting, I assure you.

These situations are made more difficult with the pressure of other parents looking at me and my child to see what’s going to happen, who’s going to win.

I wished in that moment that we had worked on sharing and talked about what would happen if she took a toy from another child before we were in this “too late” situation.

I determined right then and there that I would purpose to not parent after the fact, but to be more prepared.

Good Parenting Rules - Learning to Parenting Ahead

I would parent ahead. I would anticipate my child’s actions in a way that would prepare me and prepare them for any and all situations.

How is that even possible?

Well, I’ve learned quite a bit about parenting ahead, good parenting skills and making sure we aren’t in those awkward positions very often.

As the girls have grown into teenagers, these principles from when they were small have made a world of difference in our family life.

Here are some Good Parenting Ahead tips:

1. Think Ahead – Where are you going? What kind of atmosphere is it? Do your kids need to be quiet? Do they need to sit for a long period of time? Do they need something to keep them busy? Will there be other kids there? Think through the event, the day, the activity… what do your kids need to hear from you before they even walk in the door?

2. Take the Time – Parenting ahead takes time. Invest it in your kids. If you are always parenting in a rush, your kids will sense that. Use bedtime, car rides, or meal times to talk through the coming events. A fun way we’ve done this is through family mottos. You can read more about them here. It takes time and creativity… but SO worth it all.

3. Set Expectations – Your kids need to know exactly what you expect from them. If you are going to a nice restaurant, before you ever even enter the restaurant say, “I expect you to be quiet and use your manners. This is not a place to run around or talk loudly.” They need to know what you expect before they walk into a situation you could have helped prevent.

4. Be Intentional – Spell out the rules. Every. single. one. Every. single. time. Intentionally, take the time in the car to prep your kids for what is coming. From “We are going to the park. You are not allowed to leave the play area.” to “I know after church you will see kids running around. You are not allowed to run.” to “When we get home, you need to brush your teeth, get your pajamas on and get ready for bed. There will be no goofing around at bedtime tonight. It is already very late.”

5. Be Clear – Make sure your kids understand what you are saying. Ask them to repeat you. Ask them if they have any questions. Be sure they understand your expectations and your rules for them.

Good Parenting - Learning to Parent Ahead

6. Don’t wait for the problem – This is where you must anticipate what your kids might do. If you are going to the mall and you know your kids will beg for a new toy then cover that before you get to the mall. Say something like, “When we go inside, you are not allowed to ask for a new toy. Do not beg or whine for something new. That is disrespectful and unkind behavior.” If you wait, then you are in for a long trip in the mall or an embarrassing situation in a store with your child begging for something new.

7. Be responsible – You’ve prepped your kids. You’ve talked through the situation ahead. You’ve anticipated possible problems. You’ve been very clear. You’ve set a consequence for if they disobey. Now comes the follow through. Your kids need to know that if you prep them and set expectations, they must obey or they will face the consequence. Otherwise, parenting ahead will not work. They will be on to you pretty fast.

8. Don’t over-correct – If you are in a situation, don’t make it worse by pulling on your child or yelling at your child or being frustrated with them, drawing out the scene for the whole world to see. Sometimes, discipline and parenting can be much more effective if you want until you are back in the car or at home. Put the situation to memory and the next time you are in that position, be prepared for it!

9. Keep calm – You are the parent. Show them that you are in control and their behavior isn’t going to fluster you. Your kids need to see you follow through and handle the situation with grace and confidence.

Good Parenting - Learning to Parent Ahead

10. Know your kids – Every child is different. Don’t just give a blanket rule to all your kids. Sometimes that works but other times, each child will need individual instructions. If you know one child has a problem with boundaries, speak specifically to that. If you have a child that has a problem being calm, speak to that. If you have a child that tends to throw fits, talk that through ahead of time. Know your kids tendencies and personal behavior struggles. Anger, lying, rowdiness, manners… they can all be handled and parented ahead of time so your kids know exactly what you expect from them every time.

This last one might be the most important one of all.

11. Build a good foundation – For me, the BEST time to parent is during bedtime. I know it means getting everyone there and ready a few minutes early. But a short devotion and time to pray will open your kids’ hearts in ways you can’t imagine. It opens conversations and gives you time parent them through issues in their day. This becomes incredibly valuable as you hit teen years.

I always feel better prepared as a mom if my girls know what to expect from me and I have expressed what I expect from them.

Parenting ahead helps our kids know the boundaries and stay within them.

Parenting ahead brings peace to otherwise unsteady moments, busy times and stressful days.

I can always tell if I forget to parent ahead because I find myself back-pedaling and trying to get my girls attention in a difficult situation. The difference is remarkable.

On the other hand, I can definitely tell when I’ve prepared my girls and they are ready for what is ahead. Life goes much, much smoother!

In what ways do you parent ahead?

NOW Check out Parenting Ahead Part 2


  1. The only thing I would add to the list is to just expect that there will still be those few times you couldn’t foresee something and prepare them for it. I will never forget being out with my then-preschooler, and encountering a senile older woman. It was not at a nursing home or someplace we would have anticipated this – it was a library sale or something. She asked my daughter the same basic questions again and again, and I remember just praying that Ariel wouldn’t say anything rude. (“Mommy, why does she keep asking me the same question over and over?” “Mommy, what’s wrong with that lady?” You know the sorts of questions your children ask – loudly – at inopportune or inappropriate moments!) But it was too late for ME to have an opportunity to say anything to prepare her, either. (Thankfully, my daughter was very patient and gracious. I’m not sure some of my other children would have been.)

    So definitely parent ahead, following all of these wonderful guidelines. But also expect that you will miss some things and have to “put out fires” on occasion.

    1. Oh yes, there will always be moments that you could not prepare for… things that will surprise you about parenting… things you could never think of ahead of time. Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. I have been known to carry a shorter handled wooden spoon in my purse or diaper bag. I almost always lay out the rules in the van before we get out, and if I can I’ll point out to the children where the restroom is at our destination as we arrive and remind them that if the rules are not followed we’ll take a trip there. They know EXACTLY what I mean :o)
    I also try to have a snack of some sort (that they don’t know about so they aren’t asking for) in case something happens and we get delayed. Hungry kids=cranky kids. This is a great post!!!

  3. GREAT post!! I remember when I was 4 or 5, I was shopping with my mom, she told me ahead of time not to leave her side, at the register I did, I remember her walking over to me (I was under a rack), grabbing my hand and telling the cashier she would be back later for the items. But that’s what she told me would happen, and I was punished like she said! I try so hard with my girls to prepare them, but a lot of times it’s in the moment parenting, and I am all red faced and sweaty trying to correct their behavior. This helps me a lot to get prepared and stay prepared, thanks!!

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