Today I am laying on you cats and kitties some parenting advice -- not because I am the world's greatest parent, not because I have three spawns of very different ages, and not because I think I have particularly novel insight. No, I am writing this up because I feel after 21+ years of road testing, these few simple things are SOLID and worthy of passing on and could be of some help. Everyone flails around at parenting; you just can't always see the doubt and frustration in moms and dads, but it's there. Anything to make the process a little easier is a good and welcomed thing, yes? And anyway, I am Of The Internet so it's much easier hearing this stuff from me than your mother-in-law or sister or best friend or random soccer mom. OK...LET'S PARENT!!!

1. Your infant is tiny, helpless, and adorable. BUT DON'T SHARE YOUR BED WITH IT! Oh, I know...proponents of Attachment Parenting will say that that Family Bed is a bonding experience like no other, and they are correct. If you like the idea of sharing your bed with an infant...who grows into a squirming, kicking toddler...who grows into a preschooler who will routinely pee in your bed during potty training...who grows into an elementary school child who cannot and will not fall asleep in their own bed and has almost completely ruined any adult privacy or decent sleep you once had, BOND AWAY, parents. If you need further reasons, there are more. Learning to fall asleep on their own and to self-soothe is the first great personal accomplishment of babies; when you keep them dependent on you for that, you take away a piece of their necessary development that has to occur at some point. Also, there are too many tragic cases of infants being accidentally crushed or smothered by a co-sleeping parent. Be safe, and let Lil' Cutie rest in a secure, separate place.

2. Pacifiers are OK. Do I like pacifiers? No, they are kind of dippy-looking and they are always getting full of dog hair and are kinda gross in general. However, they serve an emotional purpose for many babies and toddlers, helping them soothe and control their emotions when you can't do squat to help. With each of the three kids, getting rid of them was a piece of cake: when it was time to transition from a crib to a "big kid bed," the deal was that the passies had to go to get that cool-ass bed. All of them were so stoked about the bed thing, they eagerly agreed with this, and we made up a "passie package" with all the old mouth-stoppers to "send to new babies who need them." WORKS.

3. Boundaries! SET THEM! It is a complete myth that children desire absolute freedom from rules, no matter how old the kid is, no matter how hard they cry or complain or tell you that you are mean. What they cannot articulate to you is that they desperately need rules in order to have the structure and order they need to be emotionally and physically healthy. You are SO not doing your kids any favors to let them run your household, because someday that Prince or Princess will get their chain yanked by REAL LIFE and might not even understand WHY the world doesn't treat them like they are golden gods. So, what are some good boundaries? Treating people with respect overall, but especially parents, grandparents, and teachers. Hierarchies in life are real things, and poor manners can end up costing you a whole lot. Also, I cannot tell you how many parents I know that fret about their little kids staying up until 11PM or midnight. Um, NO. Kids need a certain amount of sleep. Look it up, and adjust their bedtimes according to when they must get up in the morning for school or day care. Your kids will deal just fine as long as you make it a non-negotiable thing. Picky eaters? As long as the child isn't puking, serve whatever you are serving for the rest of the family, with mild modifications if needed. Your child's future spouse will thank you.

4. Check yo' seff. In other words, if you want a particular quality in your child, like generosity or kindness or cheerfulness, model it consistently. If you want your child to not have a particular quality, like a hot temper or pessimism or racism, don't be an angry bitter bigot yourself. In raising your child, you have a one-shot opportunity not only to try to raise a good person, but to make yourself a better person in the process. Not easy; worth it.

5. Remember what kids want more than anything. It's not designer clothes. It's not the latest videogames or cell phones or Talking Elmo toys or glitter shoes. It's not a trip to Disneyland or a pony or even a pony ride to Disneyland. Nope, none of that. What children want most of all, what they desire more than they could ever begin to tell you in their heart of hearts, is you. You, your time, your attention, your love and acceptance. From the day your baby is born, remember this -- post it on your wall, at your desk at work, in your car, whatever you have to do to never forget it. Nothing in the world is more important than your child feeling like you care about them and want to share time with them. Sometimes this is just going to be the Very Very Boring Game Of Rolling A Hot Wheel Car Back And Forth For An Hour. Sometimes, it's being there to read a bedtime story every night (even when your child might seem "too old"). Sometimes, your child is going to need you and you can't be there, and you are going to have to say, I wish I could and I am sorry. And sometimes they will be angry and stay in their rooms and think you are dumb and uncool, but never stop reaching out.

If you keep this one thing a priority, you are always going to be doing right.

Kodak Commericial, 1960s, "Turn Around"

(Baby Mr14, 2000)