Every child is as different as every snowflake, so let's get it straight from the start. Our job is to get our small self out of the way and let them grow. Children need to be raised to be who they are, in all their uniqueness. If you end up raising three children who are very different from one another, then hats off to you.
The first trap is a hard one to avoid. With our first child, we tend to have a picture of their ideal life as soon as he or she is conceived. This one will always bear the brunt of parental expectations of perfection, and the wee dears try so hard to live up to what they think we want of them, no matter how we've tried to suppress our hopes. The second one will see all the flaws of the first and be as different as they can. Often a bit feisty. The third... well, who cares, they can self-manage.
But as for general rules, I've learned a few through experience and observation, with a dash of common sense. These are not meant as a rod with which to beat yourself. Parenting is taxing enough without that, so add an element of "chill" to each. Here goes.
1. Your child comes first. By the time we have children, we are supposed to be grown up. Whether we are or not, it is in the best interest of our children if we can act like it. They have not ruined your youth or your figure, and they do not keep you enslaved to earning money. You chose it, now be an adult and live up to it. It seems like a long haul at the outset, but there is life after children, and you will be ever so rewarded to have made a good investment in them and ever so not if you don't. Just grin and bear the hard bits. I found that as soon I could not bear another minute of a particular stage of their development, they moved on to the next. Grace happens.
2. Don't be stupid. People are, but do the best you can. If you raise your children on junk food, they are more likely to be obese and unhealthy. Duh. If you fight their battles for them, they won't learn to stick up for themselves. If they don't bear consequences for their actions, they don't associate cause with effect.
Your child is special to you. Don't make them special to themselves. Narcissism is not pretty or easily remedied. If the kid down the street doesn't like your kid, it might be because your kid was being a little sh*t.
And keep in mind that you are in charge. Mean what you say and if you don't mean it, don't say it. If you do say it and mean it, then follow through. If you don't you will earn no respect.
Having things isn't as important as feeling loved. And if you love your children and they love you back without all the mess of mixed messages and irrational demands from either side, then they will want to please you. This is the best form of behavior management.
Children need play and nature and dreaming and stories and time to do things really slowly.
And for God's sake, socialize them. They don't learn emotional intelligence from screens.
3. Don't be too clever. Sometimes, people compensate for being stupid by being too clever. This looks like following theories for things. Don't use theories to raise children. It doesn't work. Balance head and heart. You have to be the best you can be and be committed to what you think is right for each child while using your observational skills, your common sense and by remaining flexible.
4. Sort out your crap. If you haven't dealt with your own stuff, then do so. Your friends have a choice about what they put up with from you, but your children don't. What is it that cheeses you off? And why? If you can't bear feeling helpless, you might feel anger instead of compassion when your children hurt themselves. Why can't you access the appropriate emotional response? Find out. If you can't bear rejection, then the teenage years will be tough for you. Keep in mind the darlings need to go inward to find out who they are. You'll be cut off to some degree. It's not personal. Deal with it.
And lastly, your children will find stuff that gets in their way. It might be from you or it might be something quite unforeseen. But always bear in mind the oyster and the grit thing. They need stuff to work on in order to grow pearls. Don't sweat the small stuff and don't assume that hurting is bad. We don't want bland lives.