My parenting style is summed up as "yes, isn't that interesting!". I don't worry about what the other parents do, in fact if everyone else is doing it, I probably won't. I'm not a contrarian. I'm just think differently. Here's some different things you can do too...
1. Park at the back and walk.
When I park my car I go straight to the end of the parking lot. There's only upside. I don't have to worry when my boys swing open their doors because there are no nearby cars to hit. We all get a little extra walking exercise to the store. Best of all, we save time by not searching or waiting for the perfect closer spot. I have further to walk but I'm in and out quicker than everybody else.
2. Indulge their quirky interests, even fleeting ones.
My sons begged me for weeks to go to a cemetery. They love to be scared and this seemed to them the ultimate frightening thing to do. They're also recently curious about death. So I took them. We went to a nearby historical graveyard on a sunny Sunday. They reverently touched the old graves, we read the inscriptions, and we took pencil rubbings of the headstones. Now they don't whine about cemeteries and don't ask about dying because they saw a safe, respectful part of death with their own eyes. They've already moved on to the next interesting thing.
3. Let them work it out.
As a rule, I don't solve my children's problems for them. I support them, I help, but I don't fix it for them. My boys fight ALL the time. It can get loud and very angry but I don't intervene. I make them work it out. They have to find a way to live together and be together. My 6 and 3.5 year old share a room and the baby will move in when he's 2. They have to learn to work it out and not just with each other but with their teachers, friends, and cousins. Don't get me wrong, I know the kind of sounds that require my attention. I know the tone that says "we want you to break this up" and "I'm getting hurt". I know the screams of frustration as opposed to blind rage. I may not intervene but I always listen.
4. Teach them to cherish simple joys.
We have three bird feeders and two suet cages that hang outside our kitchen window. We watch the birds every day. We identify each bird we see and dance with excitement when we verify a new one. We take walks and talk about what we see. My boys help me make pancakes and bake cookies. They pour the ingredients, mix, and taste everything. I'm teaching them to enjoy the small and simple things of the day. We don't need to buy something or go somewhere exotic to have fun. We pay attention to the small details of life.
5. Skip and run with them.
We skip to the car at school pick-up. I run as I push them in the shopping cart. We do it because it's fun and you can't help but smile. It's silly and it reminds us to stop being so serious. There's homework and errands but right then we're just happy to be together.
6. No snacks ever.
Never ever? Yes never. My kids eat three meals a day without any snacks. No juice, no goldfish, no granola bars. No. Even if they swim, have a baseball game, or go to the playground they don't snack. They really don't need it. They wait until the next meal and they're fine. By doing this, the kids eat less sugar and processed foods. It also ensures they are hungry for the next meal. When I want to reward them for good behavior, particularly during errands, I reward with play rather than food. We know all the playgrounds within 20 minutes of us and stop by as a treat.
There are two caveats. They drink as much water as they want. Hydration is important. I also admit that we do have dessert but only if they eat their whole dinner. I'm not a total grinch!
7. Show respect to everyone.
This is beyond 'please' and 'thank you' to the waitress. We always wave to our garbage men and patiently wait until they are safely on the side to pass the truck. We don't rush by. At stores, I say the name of anyone with a name tag as I look them in the eye. This is to show the kids that all work is valuable. When we pretend these jobs are invisible we send a message they are shameful. They are not! That's why I demonstrate respect whenever I can.
These little things matter. When we look back at our childhood, we don't remember anything our parents said but we remember what they did. I remember how they treated others and the time they spent with me. I don't do what most others do and that's fine with me.