parent to parent

Looking for parenting advice that works?

We asked real Alaska parents to share their tried-and-tested tips for teaching kids how to be generous, clean up after themselves, and get along with siblings.

  • Jennifer with son, Evan, and husband, William Jennifer with son, Evan, and husband, William
  • Brianna with husband, Allen, and daughter, Kira, 3, and son, David, 1 Brianna with husband, Allen, and daughter, Kira, 3, and son, David, 1
  • Natasha with son, Jack, 5, and husband, Stephen Natasha with son, Jack, 5, and husband, Stephen


Q: How have you fostered generosity in your child? Is there a creative or ongoing way you’ve helped your child share money or personal belongings?

We teach generosity to our 5-year-old son in many ways. During the holidays, we emphasize giving gifts more than receiving. Starting when our son was 3, we asked him to select toys from his room to return to Santa’s elves, so the elves can fix them up and give them to other children who have fewer toys. He selects as many toys as his age in years – so last year he chose four toys to give away. We donate them to local charities, provided they are in good condition. We also visit a local shelter’s website to determine what items their residents need during the holidays. Often, they need toiletries and basic clothing items. I make a visual list using pictures of items such as socks, deodorant and toothbrushes, and we take our son to the store so he can help select these items. Then, we put them in a box and donate it to the shelter.

– Natasha Price

The Clean-Up Kid

Q: How have you successfully taught your children to pick up their toys or clean up after themselves (without having to ask and ask…)?

So, I am a first-time mother of a threenager. I’ve been told that he is the sweetest little boy and listens so well. Clearly, based off that alone, I should probably count that as a parenting win rather than trying to hide my disgust with my son, who is currently licking the ice cream he found melting on the ground off his finger. You win some and lose some, am I right? We’ve all been there.

I cringe at some of the choices he makes, but he is learning by living. He does everything with 100-percent passion and 100 percent his way. Or so he may think! You see, my son has a big imagination. In his little kitchen, he would make peanut butter pizza, broccoli pancakes and pretty much anything he could find to fill a cup. Once kitchen play was over, he would jump right to the trains, planes, cars and anything he could reach and throw.

I, of course, like any new parent, would travel behind him, picking up whatever he left in his baby storm as he crawled on. When doing so, I always put things back the way they should be. I put fruit in the fruit dish, pizza back in the pizza box, the trains in the train box, and the planes back in their airport. When doing so, I would sing a clean-up song or hum a little tune while doing so – making it sound like it was fun! Even though we all know that cleaning markers off a wall, a chair, a desk or a dresser is not fun at all, I made it seem like it was fun, sometimes even convincing myself. Over time, my son would dance to my clean-up songs or hum to my little cleaning melodies, and he eventually started to help me. He looked forward to cleaning up because I made it fun, and I stayed constant. Bananas aren’t put in the airport, and broccoli isn’t supposed to be in a boot. Everything had a place. As he got older and started to welcome toddlerhood, I had to up my clean-up game.

I took fun photos to showcase the store shelves or labels similar to the grocery store. I even used photos from coupons or ads to show him where to buy them when we are playing market or where to find them when we have our “Out of the Box” restaurant open. The other thing I did was limit his toy area, kitchen area and art area with things we need for the day/week/month. It made it easier for him to help clean up on his own. “Hey I’ll clean up the cars if you clean up the food.” I might even add “First one gets to pick the snack...ready set...go!” You would be amazed at how quick my toddler would try to clean up. Do things always go where they should? No, but he keeps trying, and that is all that matters!

So, when I hear “He listens so well” or “Wow, he cleans his messes up,” it makes me proud, because I know he has fun when he does it. Now, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t happen all the time, but some of the time is better than none of the time. The key ingredient is FUN!

– Jennifer Caynor

Stop Sibling Rivalry

Q: Sibling squabbles are a given, so how do you stop them – or at least tame them?

My children, Kira (age 3) and David (age 1 ½), share many of the same toys. Kira enjoys playing with dolls, cars and blocks. Guess what David likes playing with? Whatever Kira is playing with. At least once or thrice a day, I hear the same thing: “David, NO! THAT’S MY TOY!” Kira wants to play with her toys, and David wants to feel included. I usually give them a moment to work it out. After that, I step in before someone gets upset or hurt, or both. I could remove David, but then how would they learn to play together? I could take Kira’s toy and give it to him or remove it altogether, but that would leave Kira feeling resentful towards her baby brother.

Alternatively, I give Kira a choice. I allow her to choose which toy she is willing to give up that David can play with.

We started doing this after what seemed like 100 too many tantrums. We did it consistently. I wanted them to be close. What parent doesn’t want their children to be friends? I simply told her if she didn’t want him to take her toy, then we had better find something for him to play with. She would pick out a toy, usually the least important character/toy in whatever game she was playing, and give it to him. You know what? He didn’t care. He was happy to be a part of the game. This allows her to maintain ownership of her toys and teaches her to share. She’s happy to do it, if it means she can keep the toy she was playing with, and David is thrilled to be included in the play. The best part is they actually have a ton of fun together. More often than not, she now uses this method independently. If she gets frustrated because she is playing and David is trying to wiggle his way in the middle of her tea party, she finds him a part to play.

– Brianna Collvins

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