Our mothers tell us. Our mothers-in-law tell us. The guy on the corner tells us. The folks who comment on this story will tell us. We get advice about parenting from many places, so much that many of us (ahem) tune it out. But there are a lot of good things to learn, tidbits to pick up on, wisdom to acquire. I decided I would actually seek it out from a few folks — not experts per se — who have children, love children and, frankly, have something to share. No judgment given, none taken.

“I was a homeless teen and I joined military because I was hungry and cold. I knew I had to do something with my life. [One of my superiors said to me] ‘You can sit back and talk about what happened to you as a kid or you can lead by example.’ My husband and I now tell our kids three things as we’re ready to leave car to go to party: Use listening ears. Use kind words because hateful words never changed anything. But most important is to lead by example. Every one of us, if we lead by example, the world would be better place.”

— Robert Scheer founded Comfort Cases after his children came to his home from foster care with nothing more than trash bags to hold their possessions. Comfort Cases provides pajamas and other necessities to foster children. But his most important job, he said, is being a father to their four children, 11, 9, 8, 7.

On working: “I never wanted my children to think that I didn’t love working. I did have to work, but I love what I do, and I especially wanted my daughter to know that. But it turns out it was important for my son, too, because he would marry a woman who wanted to work.

I remember my daughter on my front porch crying, ‘Why can’t you be like other mothers?’ But I explained to her that nobody’s mother is normal. Everyone has her grievance about her mother. I love my children, live for my children, make career choices for my children. But one of my choices was that I was going to have a career. You have to be fulfilled. If you are fulfilled by taking care of children and not having outside work, I love that. But you are a mystery woman to me.”

On friends: “My women friends mean everything to me. I’ve certainly had male friends who really stepped up for my kids. But the women, we have been through so much now. We have decades of friendship. We were raising one another’s children. Motherhood is tribal. I remember a friend sitting me down during my divorce and she said ‘Pride is something you can’t afford anymore. You need us.’ ”

— Connie Schultz, syndicated columnist, professional in residence at Kent State University and mother to four grown children and five grandchildren.

“Being a dad and an entrepreneur, I often feel like there’s more to do than I ever seem to get done. So, I always come back to a simple statement: ‘Just do what’s next.’ While I see so clearly a beautiful future for my children, I do my best to enjoy one step at a time. It makes it all more manageable and meaningful. Just do what’s next.”

— Felix Brandon Lloyd, co-founder with wife Jordan, of Zoobean and Beanstack. The companies help libraries and schools encourage reading, facilitate summer reading programs and provide personalized book recommendations to families with young readers. Lloyd is also a former DC Teacher of the Year, Little League coach and most important, dad to Cassius, 6 and Florence, 3.

“Routines can be an important way to help ensure your family is happy and healthy. Every child needs a supportive family routine that they can rely on and find comfort in, no matter how big or small. The structure and predictability of a routine can also help reduce stress among family members, while promoting a healthy lifestyle. For example, when healthy meals and physical activities are incorporated into a family routine, they come naturally. As pediatricians, we know eating breakfast every morning is a great routine; it allows our children to start their day ready to learn and gives them the energy to play. Scheduling meals and snack times can also help set a child’s expectations. After school, time for play and socialization allows our children to relax before homework starts. Bedtime routines can also provide opportunities for sharing and caring. An activity as simple as reading a book aloud or telling a story offers a strong sense of togetherness that our children need, and parents need too! During a time when our families are operating at a million miles a minute and being pulled in numerous directions, looking for opportunities to create structure and balance through routines can help support the overall health and well-being of the family.”

— Sandra G. Hassink, American Academy of Pediatrics immediate past president, and a proud mom of three grown children.

“The best advice I’d give is let your kids read something that they are really interested in. You’d be surprised how many times I hear parents saying they want their children to read ‘real’ books. By which they mean books without too many pictures. Don’t worry if they read comics or graphic novels, it’s just another way to tell a story and it’s still reading. There’s a sure fire way to put kids off reading all together and that’s to make them read stuff they just aren’t interested in. Our own Children’s Laurette here in the UK (Malorie Blackman – 2013-2015) remembers a teacher snatching a comic from her hand and telling her not to read ‘that rubbish.’ She’d bought the comic with her own pocket money too and felt really upset by that! Reading bedtime stories is great too.”

— Liz Pichon is the author of the popular Tom Gates series of books. She’s the mother to three grown children, 24, 21 and 17.

Show, don’t tell, what you value. Your children are watching very carefully — act accordingly. I am very cognizant of the fact that my children are watching me in terms of not just how I’m caring for my [sick] father, mother and siblings, but hopefully how I’m caring for myself, too, and that I’m modeling what it is to be a parent, a daughter, a sibling and even a wife.”

— Julia Beck, founder of FortyWeeks and the It’s Working Project, which works with companies to help them bring new parents back into the workforce

“Instead of telling your children the most important thing is that they’re happy, tell them that the most important thing is that they’re kind. And tell them to be kind even when it’s hard. Your child’s kindness will help create a better world. And your child’s kindness will help him/her develop better relationships, perhaps the most important ingredient of happiness.”

–Richard Weissbourd, senior lecturer and co-director of the Making Caring Common project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Father of three grown children.

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