From the day we are born, you teach us what you call baby talk - which is more correctly termed caretaker speech, since it is not a language that was invented by us children but by those who communicate with us. Some parents think that saying din-din instead of dinner or binkie instead of blanket is just cuter, others believe that it is easier to pronounce. However, a few years later you expect us to learn the proper words - which is almost like learning a different language.
Believe me, you'd make life a lot easier for us if you taught us the right words from the start.
Left and right could be such a simple thing to learn - but most of you have to confuse us with performances of the Hokey Cokey and similar activities.
Naturally, when you stand in front of us, we mirror your movements. When you sing 'We put our right arm out' and stretch out your right arm, we will do the same with our left. And if you turn your back to us to avoid this, we will walk around you so we can see your face.
When teaching left and right, you should always do it from our perspective. When you dress us, tell us 'This is the right shoe for the right foot' or 'This is the left arm in the left sleeve'. When we're driving in the car or riding the bus, point out things we can see on the right or the left. Tell us that our 'strong hand' (the one with which we throw, eat, paint etc) is the right or the left one.
Also, you can put a couple of chairs in a line and pretend it to be a train. Then point out imaginary things one might see from the window: fields and cows on the right, cars or elephants on the left etc.
Our schedule is almost entirely controlled by others - from the time we leave for the crèche or school and the time we return home to the time we go to bed. This gives us the feeling that we have no say in our own lives and can lead to quite a rebellious attitude.
Of course you can't always leave it to us at what time we want to attend the crèche or return home. But there are plenty of opportunities to let us make our own decisions - for example, you could ask us what we want to wear and whether we want a banana or an apple for a snack, you can give us a choice whether you or the childminder puts on our shoes when we go home - the possibilities are endless.
And you will find that offering us those little choices will make us a lot happier and a lot less unruly by giving us the feeling that we have some kind of say in what is happening to us.
As adults, I am sure you were told to think 'outside the box' on more than one occasion. Of course this would be easier if you had been encouraged to do so as children already.
When we build Playdough towers on a Lego castle or use a spoon as a shoehorn, you should not stop but encourage us.
You introduce us to many rules - and believe me, the best way to teach them is by example. When you tell us to hold on to the banister when climbing the stairs, to wash our hands before dinner or to say please and thank you, you should do the same. If you don't, we may think it's not that important and - even worse - that you're hypocrites.
On our journey to discover the world we have many questions. And there will be questions whose answers you believe us to be too young for to understand.
A child's brain can take in a lot of information, and even abstract thinking develops quite early. You would be surprised at all the things we are already capable of understanding!
Therefore you should never avoid answering a question (in terms that we can understand), no matter how complex - if we understand it, you did a great job. If we don't, there's no harm done, and we might get back to you in a few months.
There is no question that our safety is paramount, but it seems that these days the idea is taken - like everything else - to the extreme, and in a few years we might be strapped into safety chairs at birth, only to be released on our 18th birthday.
It is important to remove all possible hazards and let us grow up in a safe environment, but you should use common sense. For example, not allowing us to balance unassisted on a 10' wall because we might fall and break our neck is sensible, not allowing us to play football in the driveway because we might fall and skin our knees is outright silly.
Talking about safety, permanent nagging is one of the greatest safety hazards of all. A raised voice should be used to get our attention and warn us of an imminent danger when there is no time to approach us in a different way.
Those of us who grow up to the sounds of 'Don't paint in your good T-shirt', 'Don't get fingerprints on the window', 'Don't jump on the couch', 'Don't put the pillows on the floor' etc. will stop listening - not out of spite, but as a defence mechanism that enables us to have a life that consists of more than just listening to Don’ts.
When this happens, calls like 'Don't put that wire into the socket' or 'Don't put that plastic bag over your head' will remain unheard.
Don't you just hate it when someone tells you 'I told you so'? - Well, so do we. As parents you will give us advice, and there will be times when you are right. However, there is no need to rub it in.
When you were right, and you know that we are aware of that fact, are you strong enough to leave it at that?
You know yourself that being corrected does not feel very nice. It is difficult enough to learn a language (even if it is our first), and once we get a grip of the rules, we have to deal with exceptions. So rather than correcting our grammar, try to use the correct form in a different sentence, such as ‘I forgetted that it was grandma’s birthday’ – ‘Don’t worry, son, I almost forgot it myself.’ This will prevent us from feeling embarrassed and patronised.
As mentioned before, it is important to let us have some say in our lives, and there are plenty of opportunities to compromise with us and let us practice our negotiation skills. For example, if you serve us a big dinner and we aren't hungry because our friends are waiting, we could agree that we finish the carrots and half of the rest.
There are not many things that should be written in stone, but once we have reached an agreement, you should stick to it. When you tell us you'll take us to the playground after we finished our homework, you should do exactly that. If we finish our homework and you don't take us, we'll lose our trust in you; if we don't finish our homework and you take us anyway, we'll know you're putty in our hands.
There are two distinctly different types of tantrums. The first one is where we have a good reason - for example, we are separated from our mother for the first time, or we find a creature that is unknown to us crawling in our bed. In these cases, we need to be reassured and calmed down, no matter how long it takes.
The second type of tantrum is different and more common. We simply throw a tantrum because we don't get what we want. In these cases, there is no calming down, and every attempt you make will convince us that our tantrum was effective, even if you don't give in. And you can be sure that if you try to talk to us - regardless of what you say - our next tantrum will be just around the corner.
The only effective way of dealing with these tantrums is to ignore them entirely. You should stay around to make sure we don't injure ourselves or others, but keep yourself occupied with something else and don't even make eye contact with us.
When finally our high-pitched screaming ceases and we start sobbing or whimpering, you'll know we are open to reason again. And if you do this often enough, you can be sure we'll give the tantrums up altogether (at least around you, because apparently they don't work).
In case you have a child on the autistic spectrum, however, it might also be a meltdown in which case the above doesn't apply.
You may have noticed how other parents stand up for their children. Believe it or not, that's the way it's supposed to be.
Since we are only small, we have a lot of bigger and more powerful adversaries - bigger children, neighbours, teachers etc. Of course the easiest way for parents to deal with it is to side with the more powerful party and assume your child is in the wrong. But this is not the right way to deal with it. Unless you have a perfectly good reason to doubt our account, you should believe our version of events rather than somebody else's.
Santa Claus is a difficult decision for parents, teachers etc. On the one hand, you don't want us to be ridiculed by our friends, on the other hand you want to leave the 'magic' in our childhood as long as possible.
Now here's a novel idea: why not leave it up to us? Santa Claus is hardly a vital issue, so when we ask about him, you could just tell us: 'Some people believe in him, and others don't. You'll just have to make up your own mind.'
That way, we will stop believing whenever we're ready, without seeking the reassurance of an adult.
Every child has the right to be happy. But exposing us to religion of whichever kind will induce feelings of guilt and fear in us. If you want us to be happy, keep us away from religion.