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These 10 Rookie Mistakes Ultimately Made Us Way Better Parents

Think you've goofed up as a parent? These moms admit the honest, funny, and cringe worthy mishaps that taught them invaluable lessons about parenting. (Names have been changed to protect the no-so-innocent.)

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What’s that smell?

When Erin’s son was three, he liked to help her cook. As they cooked, Erin would explain the steps along the way, including how to turn on the stove burner. “A few days later, he was watching cartoons in the morning before preschool while I took a shower. When I get out of the shower I smelled something really good—uh oh! I walked into the kitchen, and he had pulled a chair from the main dining table and pushed it up against the stove. He had peeled a banana, sliced it with a butter knife and put it in a pan. He had climbed on the counter and gotten down cinnamon and sprinkled it over the banana in the pan, and butter out of the fridge and added it too. And he had turned on the stove! The fried banana was good, but three years old? Whoops!” Erin’s parenting advice: “Don’t show your kids how to turn on the burner until you’re ready for them to do it alone.” And her bigger takeaway? “I need to give him more chores and he should cook for me now!” (Check out other incredibly dangerous safety mistakes even smart parents make.)

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Take a breath

Jessica’s daughter, age two, was refusing to eat her dinner. “She would only eat it if I fed it to her,” Jessica says. “I was frustrated because we had all finished dinner at least 15 minutes prior. So I’m feeding her the chicken and I see her chew and open her mouth again, so I keep giving her more and more until she’s eaten all of it. I go into the kitchen to put her plate in the sink and hear her start to choke. Luckily my husband was there. She had kept all of the chicken in her cheeks and tried swallowing all of it at once.” Jessica’s daughter was fine, but it taught her a parenting lesson she hasn’t forgotten. “I think when we are first-time moms, we try to keep life going like we did before kids, constantly moving. We don’t realize that we need to just slow down, breathe, and embrace our children in our new slower-moving world.” (In the meantime, it pays to know some basic first aid for choking.)

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Battle of the bottle

When Anna’s daughter was eight weeks old, the new family went out for a nice dinner. Anna pumped and brought a bottle with her to the restaurant. When her daughter started fussing, she pulled out the bottle, but she wasn’t taking it. “She was still fussy, then worse, the people are looking at us, and I couldn’t settle her down.” At that point, Anna didn’t feel comfortable nursing in public, so she nursed her newborn in the bathroom instead. When she got back to the table, she realized that she had never taken the bottle cover off. “There was no milk getting to the nipple!” Anna exclaimed. She learned two parenting lessons from that incident. First, take the bottle cover off! And second, do what feels right in terms of when and where to nurse your child.

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Not what I meant!

When Rose’s fourth child was about three years old, they were visiting a public amusement park. She took him into the bathroom and noticed that the floor was looking pretty grimy. “So I said, ‘don’t touch the floor,'” Rose remembers. “In one second he bent over and before I could grab him, he started to clean the floor with his hands.” Rose knew that if she hadn’t mentioned the floor, he never would have touched it. “Sometimes a few words are a few too many!” she says.

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A nail biter

Kate was in that sleep-deprived stage of having a newborn and was attempting to get her three-year old and newborn to bed. Her newborn was on the changing table, and she decided to trim his nails. “I found the baby nail clippers and clipped one of his nails,” Kate remembers. “He was crying. Poor guy. This was just one of many new things he’d have to experience in his life and it just so happened he didn’t like it. So I clipped another. He cried louder. And louder. It wasn’t until that moment that I saw the blood.” In her sleep-deprived state, Kate had accidentally cut too far down—and the blood wasn’t stopping. The whole tired family piled into the car for the ride to the hospital. At the ER, they put liquid bandaid on her baby’s finger and he was just fine. “The best part is when my oldest to this day still recalls ‘remember that time you cut the baby’s nails and we had to go to the hospital?'” Her parenting advice: Some things should wait until mom is better rested.

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Take cover

Susan recalls one lesson learned the hard way. “It was my first day home alone with my newborn after my husband returned to work from paternity leave. Of course, this is the day that the baby chooses to have his first blowout as well. There was just poop everywhere. I put him on the changing table to change him and finally get him cleaned up. I’m just about to start putting on a clean diaper when he just lets loose with this huge stream of pee. I was so surprised I just went on instincts, and put my hand over the stream as if to block it. Well, needless to say, it was not blocked! That one took a while to clean up. I remember the cat looking at me from the door like, ‘What have you gotten yourself into!'” Susan learned a bit about diaper changes that day. “After that, I always put a baby wipe down there for those few seconds until I could get a new diaper on. No more full-room spray.”

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Where did it go?

When Bridget’s son was little, she was in school and working full time, so time was a precious commodity. “I thought it would be quicker to leave the bottle warmer on all the time so it wouldn’t have to heat up,” she says. “But the water kept ‘disappearing.’ It took me a solid week to remember water evaporates.” Looking back, she realizes the parenting lesson learned: “It’s okay for some things to be slow. I was so busy I wanted it all to be quick—I’ve always been that way. It was one of the first times that having kids slowed me down.”

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Forget something?

When Rebecca’s daughter was in preschool, she and her husband took a parenting class. During the class, she brought up that getting out of the house was always a battle. Her daughter never wanted to bring a jacket. “The teacher said that we should just let her go out without one and learn the lesson. Great idea right? So over winter break, she took a little class at the community center and I let her go without a coat. I figured they’d tell her that she couldn’t go play outside without a coat and she’d learn that I was right. Not so much. Instead the instructor calls me and tells me that she’s cold and wants to play and that incredulously, she came without a jacket! I tried to explain why I sent her without a jacket and she did not get it.” Parenting lesson learned: just pack a coat!

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Do what feels right

For Alicia, one of her biggest parenting mistakes was trying to force herself and her son into a preschool schedule that neither of them was ready for. She found her mornings full of rushing—rushing breakfast, rushing tooth brushing. “Man I hated saying ‘hurry up’ every single day,” she says. “So now we are taking a break from four-year-old academics and we are much happier for it.”

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Think before making threats

“I’m a firm believer in the parenting advice that you follow through when you make an ultimatum,” says Angela, mom of a three-year-old. “But one time, I totally failed.” Angela was in the kitchen cleaning up when her daughter began pestering her. “I can’t remember what she wanted, but I remember telling her five or 10 times that she couldn’t have it. Finally I said, “I said no. And if you ask me again, you’re going to go to bed. It was like the words were coming in slow-motion out of her mouth, I could tell she didn’t want to but they were coming out anyway, and she asked for whatever it was again. It was 2:45.” Angela sent her daughter to her room for bed, five hours before bedtime. “I realized then that I had made a mistake. I had put myself in a position where I couldn’t follow through with the threat.” The lesson she learned: “If I’m going to make an ultimatum, I need to be sure that I can follow through with it. And the punishment needs to fit the ‘crime.’ I can’t say I get it right all the time, but I haven’t done a 2:30 bedtime since!”

Originally Published in Reader's Digest