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Parenting is a very complex task. If we're not careful, we will become too focused on one aspect and let the others fall by the wayside. Many times, I see parents who are intently focused on discipline, and I'm talking about the traditional use of the word here with regard to modifying behavior. Sometimes we get very caught up in “What do I do when..." or “How do I get my kid to..." and we lose sight of the bigger picture.

The truth is that there are many things that are more important in shaping our children than the methods and techniques we use to modify their behavior.

Here are 10 things that are more important than any method you choose, in no particular order.

1. Relationship

The relationship that we have with our children is the single biggest influence on them. Our relationship sets an example for how relationships should be throughout the rest of their lives. If we have a healthy relationship based on respect, empathy, and compassion, we have set a standard. They will grow to expect that this is what a relationship looks like and will likely not settle for less. If, however, our relationship is based on control, coercion, and manipulation, well you see where I'm going with this.

In addition to that, our influence comes from a good relationship. Children are more likely to listen to and cooperate with an adult who they are connected to. In other words, if we build trust and open communication when they are small, they will come to us when they are not so small. Our attachment helps wire healthy brains, and our responses set the tone for how they respond to us (they're little mirrors).

2. Your lens

When you look at your child, who do you see? Do you see the positives or the negatives? The way you think about them influences the way you treat them. Your thoughts also influence the way you feel emotionally and physically throughout the day. "He is in the terrible twos" will cause you to look for terrible things, to focus on them, and therefore try to correct them...constantly.

Try to turn negative thoughts like this into positive thoughts, like, "He is inquisitive and fun!" Try to start seeing misbehavior as a clue that calls for help rather than something that needs squashed immediately. Correction is not needed nearly as often as you might think.

Also watch your tone and language. Lori Petro of TEACH Through Love says, "Be mindful of the language you use to describe your children. They will come to see themselves through that filter you design." Be careful not to place labels such as "naughty" or "clumsy" on your child. They will come to see themselves the way you see them.

3. Your relationship with your significant other

Your kids are watching and learning. The way you and your partner treat each other again sets a standard. Happy parents make happy kids. Read How Your Marriage Affects Your Kids

"The foundation of a happy family is a strong, loving relationship between the two of you. The single, most important thing that you can do for your children is to do everything in your power to have the best possible relationship with your spouse. If they see the two of you getting along and supporting each other, they will mirror you and will likely get along with each other and their friends. Every single ounce of energy that you put into your relationship will come back to you tenfold through your children."

4. The atmosphere of your home

All of the things mentioned above come together to create the atmosphere in your home. If you have loving and connected relationships, you likely have a warm atmosphere in your home. If there is discord between you and your spouse, or you and your child, or your child and your other child, then the overall atmosphere will suffer. Have you ever gone to someone's home and could just feel a negative atmosphere?

You want your home to be a haven, a safe, warm, inviting, and loving place for all family members. Dorothy Parker said, "The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant—and let the air out of the tires." You don't have to let the air out until they're 16 though.

5. How you relate to others

How do you treat the bank teller, the store clerk, the telemarketer? What about your parents and your in-laws? They are watching your example. Albert Einstein once said, "Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means."

6. Community

Are you involved in your community? Aside from setting an example, there are valuable lessons to be learned from volunteering, supporting a local cause, attending church, or donating items. Seeing a bigger picture, how their acts can influence many lives, will give them a sense of responsibility and reinforce good values.

7. School

Whether you choose private school, public school, homeschooling, or unschooling, your choice will have an impact on your child. Choose with care. Peers have a big influence on children, but if our relationship is where it should be, our influence will still be stronger.

8. Your cup

How full is it? You have to take care of you so you can take care of them. If your cup is full, you are more patient, more empathetic, and have more energy. Not only that, but a child who sees his parents respect themselves learns to have self-respect. Put yourself back on your list.

9. Media. Television. Video games. Social media.

They are always sending messages to your kids. Now, I let my kids watch TV and play computer games, so I'm not taking a big anti-media stance here, but just be aware of what your kids are getting from what they're watching. My son said something out of character for him a while back that came directly from a cartoon character. I knew where he'd gotten it and we had a talk about the differences between cartoon land and the real world. I'm just glad they don't have a Facebook account yet!

10. Basic needs

Adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise are not only essential for the well-being of your child but also influence behavior. Dr. Sears addresses nutrition here. Also read this article, Sleep Better for Better Behavior. Finally, exercise helps children learn to focus their attention, limit anger outburst and improve motor skills.

"If I had my child to raise all over again, I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later. I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I'd take more hikes and fly more kites. I'd stop playing serious and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I'd do more hugging and less tugging."
Diane Loomans

A version of this article was originally published on Positive Parents.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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If you've scrolled through Instagram anytime in the last year, you're probably familiar with the famous Amazon coat. You know the one that doesn't really have a shape, but is essentially the love child of a parka and a puffer—made to help you look effortlessly chic but oh-so-warm in the grueling cold.

It's technically made by Orolay, but the internet went crazy when influencers kept sharing pics in the down ensemble last year because the price point is so good. And the reviews racked up on Amazon—it's even a favorite of Oprah. Editors on our team truly love the coat and swear that it keeps them cozy, even through Northeastern winters.

Well, we've got great news: It comes in a kids version, mama.

Orolay children hooded down coat

kids amazon coat

The Orolay Children Hooded Down Coat is practically the exact same coat, but in a cuter, mini version. Coming in three colors, (black, green and red) it has the same fleece-lined hood that littles will love to wear and a loose style so they can wear as many layers as needed underneath. Plus, it has plenty of zippers to adjust the fit and keep items dry.

Other features we love? It's windproof, water-resistant and machine-washable (just be sure to remove to faux fur before tossing in the wash).

The sizing and shape of it is ideal for kids since they grow out of clothing so quickly. Right now, the sizes range from 6-12 years old but the roomy fit could fit littles of all sizes. It's been marked down (and will likely be on Black Friday, too) so a few sizes are already selling out.

Now the question is...what color should we get?

$129.99

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While we get our kids ready for bed, my son climbs onto his top bunk. He doesn't sleep there yet but loves the somewhat "off-limits" idea of it. My daughter looks up at her brother and immediately points to him and says, "Up!" My husband gently lifts her onto the bunk and she starts running from one end of the mattress to the other.

My stomach starts doing flip-flops as I envision her falling headfirst onto the floor. "Sweetie, no running. Crawl."

She looks down at us, "Huh?" as she tilts her head to the side, using both hands to brush the hair from her face.

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My son looks down at his dad with a big smile and says, "You come up here, too?" My husband agrees and starts to climb the ladder.

I stand down on the floor, arms crossed, secretly counting the minutes until the kids are asleep and I can get back to my book. But eventually, I give in to their cries for me to "come up here!"

Truthfully, my heart swelled knowing they want me to join them. All too often I choose to sit on the sidelines, letting these moments pass by, worn out by the demands of motherhood and mentally clocking out before they are asleep.

My husband and I sit on either end of the bunk to act as a buffer to the floor. We quietly watch them run back and forth, their eyes and smiles showing they are clearly in delight of this forbidden activity.

"They're only two and four once," my husband says as he reaches out for my hand. I nod my head and smile, my fingers entwining with his across the bed.

Earlier that day, our son asked to see the framed photo on my dresser, one I have seen hundreds of times, but never tire of looking at. It's me, pregnant with him, our first child. I reached out to pick up the frame and lowered it to his eye level. I knelt down in front of him and my voice dropped to a whisper, "That was when I was pregnant with you."

My hand instinctively fell to my now empty womb. "You were in my belly in this picture."

He looked at me with slight confusion, but I also noticed a bit of a sparkle in his eyes, "Me? Where's my sister?"

He grabbed the frame and pointed to his dad, "Was she in Dad's belly?" I smiled and tousled his hair, which has long lost its newborn scent.

"No, you were in my belly before she was. This was before she was born."

Those final weeks of pregnancy felt more like months. My son is 4 years old now and I realize just how fleeting that time was. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that neither of my babies are actually babies anymore. My pregnancy with him was years ago. I am grateful I have this photo when he was only mine to hold; my body growing his.

It feels like I am so quick to want to move onto the next thing. I wanted my pregnancies to be over so I could meet my babies. I want them to be a little older because I think (hope) it will be a little easier. I rush through bedtime to get a few minutes to myself. Parenthood is a constant push and pull of emotions, and at times it can feel nearly impossible to enjoy the here and now.

Back in the bedroom, the kids stop running and start jumping up and down, their feet tucked in their footie pajamas. I watch our daughter jump up and down, her hair floating into her eyes—her smile from ear to ear. Our son is laughing, loving that we are all on his bed.

Have you ever had a moment where it feels like time has actually stopped? You aren't looking at the clock. You are truly looking at your children and soaking them all in. We will never be able to come back to this moment. This age. This night.

After the kids are tucked into bed, I walk down the hall toward the living room. I glance at the clock, realizing it is almost an hour past their bedtime. But the kids went to bed with smiles on their faces.

As I pick up my book, I think back to the photo of me pregnant with our son, and remember how surprised I was when the doctor announced, "It's a boy!"

At four, he has nearly outgrown his chubby cheeks. I know I'll miss picking him up from preschool, where he always greets me with a "Moooommmm!" as he slams his whole body into my legs. I dread the day when our daughter stops using both her hands to cup my face as she plants a wet kiss on my lips. I know someday I won't be her favorite person in the whole world, and she might not say every day, "Mom, you're my best friend."

Some day when we take the bunk bed down, I imagine I'll look up at the top bunk and remember when they were only two and four.

But for now, when most evenings bedtime feels like a finish line I can't wait to cross, I hope to remember how I felt when I joined them on the bunk bed. How those extra minutes in their world made me feel. I'm reminded that the time from when they were in my belly to jumping on the bunk bed went by in a flash. I want to embrace the here and now—knowing tomorrow they will wake up one day older and one step further from needing me.

Life

The older kids get, the harder it can be to find them holiday gifts that make their eyes sparkle. But fear not. While they may have us bested when it comes to celebrity YouTube star knowledge, you have an advantage: #TeamMotherly. Our editors have combed through the internet looking for THE BEST recommendations for toys and gifts, which ensures you get to hang on to #coolmom status.

Here are the best gifts for the older cool kids in your life.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 instant camera

fujiilm_instax

With the nostalgia of the Instant camera's from our childhoods and the modern updates like a selfie mirror, the FujiFilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera is sure to be a hit with your big kid (that you'll have fun playing with too).

$49.85

Umbra Hangit photo display

umbra_hangit_display

The perfect gift to pair with the camera. Give them a place to (neatly) display all of the photos they take and add instant fun to any space.

$18.03

Love Bubby tee-shirt

love_bubby

I'm only a little jealous that I got this for my daughter and not myself. The Love Bubby shirts are super high-quality, unique, and I love that they encourage my daughter to stand up for what she believes in.

$28

GoldieBlox scratch art projector

goldiblox_joann

The STEM pioneers at GoldiBlox have created the ultimate kits for your artistic scientist. Motherly's co-founder and CEO Jill Koziol got to try one out with her kiddos. The verdict? "Super fun, easy, with a great mix of science and crafts with fun." There are lots of kits to choose from, though we are particularly excited about the GoldieBlox Scratch Art Projector.

$24.99

Ravensburger Gravitrax starter set marble run + STEM toy

gravitrax

Speaking of STEM, this interactive track system that allows your curious and inventive kid to design and build their own race tracks. They'll learn about gravity, magnetism and kinetics, and have a blast doing it.

$59.95

Tea Collection dress

tea collection dress

If your child loves to twirl around or needs a more dressy outfit in their wardrobe, we adore the dresses at Tea Collection. They're high-quality, machine-washable and the brand gives back 10% of profits to The Global Fund for Children—win-win.

$49.50

Amazing Origami

amazing_origami

Amazing Origami: Traditional Japanese Folding Papers and Projects comes with everything your artist needs to get started on the ancient tradition of origami, no matter what their previous experience is. They'll get instructions and project guides, and tons of gorgeous paper so they can start folding immediately.

$16.86

Watercolor United States of America scratch off map

scratch_off_map

Are you a road-tripping family? Let your child keep track of all the adventures with this map. Can you get all 50?

$19.99

LEGO Friends Heartlake City Amusement Pier

amusement_pier_lego

The LEGO Friends Heartlake City Amusement Pier is one of 2019's hottest toys, and we can see why. Your child will spend hours constructing its ghost ship, swing carousel, ticket kiosk and snack stall, and then many more playing with the final product.

$129.95

African elephant adoption kit

elephant_adoption_kit

Inspire your little change-maker by gifting them an African Elephant Adoption Kit. They'll get a Soft plush animal, formal adoption certificate, full-color photo of the species, fascinating information about the animal, and best of all, the knowledge that they've contributed to a cause they can be proud of.

$55

Monopoly 'Stranger Things' edition

stranger_things_monopoly

If Stranger Things has taken over your home, this will be a huge hit (and is another gift that you'll enjoy playing with, too).

$19.99

L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Crystal Star fashion doll

omg_doll

L.O.L dolls have a new cool big sister. The one is fun, pretty and trending hard, so grab one before they fly off the shelves!

$49.88

Little Free Library kit

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We've been seeing these popping up all over our town, and we could not be more on board. The Little Free Library Kit is a DIY book-sharing movement that allows your child to construct a book-hut, and then share and receive free books from friends and neighbors. This is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

$329

Darice 120-Piece deluxe art set

art_set

The set is huge and has everything you little artist needs to create masterpieces all day long: markers, crayons, color pencils, oil pastels, watercolor paints, and so much more.

$10.85

Lynx faux fur bean bag chair

bean_bag_chair

As stylish as it is comfortable, you'll love that its cover is machine-washable, and they'll love sitting in it reading for hours.

$268

Rebel gift box

If you haven't yet experienced the Rebel Girls Books, you are both in for a real treat. It shares 200 stories of marvelous women that are sure to leave everyone who reads them inspired and hopeful.

$65

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

atlas_obscura

Give the gift of adventure, in book form! The atlas transports the reader to 100 of the most surprising, mysterious and weird-but-true places on earth with tons of facts and stunning images.

$13.27

Pick-A-Pom ribbed beanie

Leave it to Anthropologie to make your kid want to wear a winter hat. With interchangeable pom-poms that snap on to the top, your child can design something totally unique (that will keep them warm and toasty).

$38

Blank comic book

comic_book

Let their creativity blossom with the Blank Comic Book. It contains 100 plank pages ready to be filled with the hilarious and daring adventures of your child's next comic.

$5.99

JIMU Robot competitive Series: Champbot kit

champbot

Motherly CEO and Co-founder, Jill Koziol, tried this out with her daughter, and loved it! "The directions were interactive and helped her to problem solve. It was a great family activity and she was so proud of what she had built; and she loved operating the robot once it had charged. I love that there are different parts to it so there are wins along the way but also a requirement to keep with it, supporting a growth mindset and building resilience.

"This is fabulous for any budding engineers and especially Lego lovers that are ready to take it to the next level!"

$129.99

Heelys

Anyone who was a kid in the early 2000s just had to have Heelys, and guess what? They're back, mama. The roller skate and shoe in one is such a fun present for any kiddo who loves to zoom around to wherever they're going. But parents will love that they're a super high quality sneaker that will hold up to everything your kids put them through. We like this classic gray style, but they come in all sorts of colorways including these pink hi-tops and these Spiderman kicks.

$65


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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I have the world's best mom. She's everything you could want in a mother: selfless, loving, gentle, humble, smart, kind, creative, patient, open-minded...The list goes on. When I reflect on my childhood, the memories are enveloped in feelings of security, bliss and contentment.

One of the stories I most loved hearing was how my mom was never a "kid person." She always knew she wanted them, but she waited until she was 30 years old to get pregnant and before that never felt a huge pull toward it.

Having my brother, sister and me changed her life, she said. We became her new reason for living. I loved imagining my mom undergoing this transformation. I loved knowing that she was one person before and, after us, completely changed. I felt like the most special person in the world, so very loved.

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Throughout my childhood and into my young adult years, I identified with my mom's pre-parenthood feelings on kids. I knew without question that I wanted them, but I certainly didn't classify myself as a kid person. I hated babysitting (though if any of the kids I babysat for are reading this, I loved you). I didn't go all gaga over little babies. Spending any more than 15 minutes with kids utterly exhausted me and I couldn't wait to escape. In my mid-20s, my now-husband and I talked about how we wanted kids one day but that it could definitely wait. Our life was great, and I was in no rush to change it.

Fast forward a few years, and I was pregnant with our daughter. I spent all 9 months daydreaming of our future as a family of three. I looked forward to the magical transformation that I would undergo the minute my daughter entered the world. I imagined every detail of new motherhood, from the snuggles in front of the Christmas tree to the surely devastating moment I'd leave her at daycare and return to work. I was so ready for the next chapter.

But when my daughter was born, that transformation never happened. And it hasn't happened in the 10 months since.

I love my daughter more than anything in the world and feel lucky beyond belief to have her, but that's where the similarities with my mom's experience of motherhood end. I've found being a new mom mostly terrifying. The days are challenging, the constant worry draining and the sleepless nights downright miserable.

When I headed back to work after three months, I felt mostly relief that she was in hands I deemed far more capable than my own. I've often felt like a fraud, spending more time than I care to admit missing my old self and wondering if I'll ever get her back. Every month my daughter gets older, I feel joy that we've made it this far, rather than sadness at how fast she's growing. These months are hard, and I look hopefully to the future.

I know many women like my own mom who are crushing it at this motherhood thing. They've flourished in their role, savoring the little moments and managing to juggle everything with what looks like complete ease. Though I suspect the truth isn't quite that straight-forward, I envy them regardless and spend a lot of time wishing I could be half the mother they are.

No, this is not how I pictured motherhood. Slowly but surely, though, I'm discovering who I am as a mom and learning to embrace her because she's the only mom I can be. I may not be the natural I expected to be, but I always come back to this: No one could love my daughter as much as I do. I'm not the best mom in the world, but I'm the best mom in the world for her.

I hope one day when I tell my daughter about my life before and after her birth, she'll see only how my heart grew exponentially with love. That she'll feel like the most special person in the world, so very loved. In the meantime, I'll continue trying to learn from the best.

Life
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