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20 phrases to use when your child isn’t listening

Our children are often the best mirrors. Over time, I have gracefully taken a step back and realized I needed to clean up my communication.

I replaced my judgmental, negative, threatening tone with a neutral, problem solving, empathetic, encouraging one (this took TONS of practice, and I'm still a work in progress) and my little girl's behavior improved dramatically.

The lesson was clear for me. Talk to mini-humans the way you'd like to be talked to and things will go a lot smoother. Easier said than done, so over the years, I've adopted the motto “Progress over perfection."

These 20 positive phrases are a great place to start if you'd like to make a fresh start with your communication:

1. “What do you need to remember?"

Take a break from: "Be careful."

Example: "What do you need to remember when you play at the park?" or "Please move slow like a careful turtle when walking on top of that wall."

Explained: Kids often ignore when we say this same thing again and again. Instead, engage their critical thinking skills and have them re-state the important precaution. Or give them specifics on what you want.

2. “Please talk softly."

Take a break from: "Stop yelling!" or "Be Quiet!"

Example: "Please talk softly or whisper," (said in a whisper voice) or, "I love your singing, AND I need you to outside or in the playroom to sing loud."

Explained: Some kids are naturally louder than others. If they have trouble speaking softly, show them where they can go to be loud and also use the power of the whisper. In combination with a gentle touch and eye contact, whispering is an incredibly effective way to get kids to listen.

3. “Would you like to do it on your own or have me help you?"

Take a break from: "I've asked you three times, do it now!"

Example: "It's time to leave. Would you like to put on your shoes by yourself, or have me help you?" or "Would you like to hop in your car seat by yourself or have me put you in it?"

Explained: Most kids respond incredibly well to being empowered. Give them a choice and their critical thinking skills override their temptation to push back.

4. “What did you learn from this mistake?"

Take a break from: "Shame on you" or "You should know better."

Example: "What did you learn from this mistake?" or "What did you learn and how will you do it differently next time, so you don't get in trouble at school?"

Explained: Focusing on motivation to change behavior for the future will get you much better results than placing shame on past misbehavior.

5. “Please ______________."

Take a break from: "Don't!" or "Stop It!"

Example: "Please pet the dog gently" or "Please put your shoes in the closet."

Explained: Do any of us go through our day telling waitresses, baristas, friends, etc. what we DON'T want? No, right? We wouldn't get the best response if we said "Do NOT give us a whole milk latte" or "I don't want the chicken." That form of negative communication isn't perceived well and puts undue strain on relationships. Instead, try asking for what you do want.

6. “We are on cheetah time today and need to move fast!"

Take a break from: "Hurry Up!" or "We are going to be late!"

Example: "We're on racehorse time today! Let's see how fast we can move!"

Explained: Be sure to let them be on turtle time sometimes! We could all use a healthy dose of slowing down, so provide mornings where everyone is relaxed & kids can move slow.

7. “Do you want to leave now or in ten minutes?"

Take a break from: "Time to go…now!"

Example: "Do you guys wanna leave now or play for ten more minutes, then leave?

Why it works: Kids love to be in charge of their own destiny, especially power kids! This takes a tad bit of proactivity, but it works like a charm! Give them a choice & they'll respond much better when you say "Okay, 10 minutes is up, time to go."

8. “Let's add that toy you want to your birthday list."

Take a break from: "We can't afford that" or "No, I said NO TOYS!"

Example: "I am not willing to buy that, would you like me to put it on your birthday wish list?"

Explained: If we're being honest, we often CAN afford the $5 lego at checkout, we're just not willing to purchase it. But then buy a $5 almond milk latte from Starbucks. Instead of blaming our finances and creating feelings of scarcity, own your limit, then offer ideas to help them learn how to get it (birthday, earning money, etc.).

9. “Stop, breathe, now ask for what you want."

Take a break from: "Stop whining!"

Example: "Let's stop, breathe together, now try again to ask for what you want."

Explained: Be sure to model this too. Keep repeating it calmly while breathing with them, till they can self-calm and change the way they're talking.

10. “Respect yourself and others."

Take a break from: "Be good."

Example: "Remember to respect yourself and others when you're inside the jumpy today."

Explained: Be specific here as kids often don't absorb the general statements we throw at them. Ask for what you want and have them restate what is important to remember.

11. “Use your teamwork skills."

Take a break from: "Don't be bossy!" and "No one will want to play with you if you act like that."

Example: "You're a great leader. Remember to use your teamwork skills today. Ask your friends questions, instead of telling them what to do and let others have a turn leading too."

Explained: Many kids who have a strong desire to lead (or feel powerful) are often told they're bossy or that no one will want to be their friends if they act mean. Instead, become a coach of your child and teach them how good leaders lead with integrity—asking instead of commanding, showing instead of telling, and taking turns, so everyone has a turn to lead AND also rest, etc.

12. “I need you to _____________."

Take a break from: "Stop doing ___," and "It's not ok to ___."

Example: "I need you to pet the dog gently, he loves calming pets and will sit with you longer if you touch him that way.

"I need you to slow down and walk like a turtle right now instead of a racehorse since we're in a dangerous parking lot."

Explained: I statements come across very different than you statements, and kids respond much better when we communicate with them in non-accusatory ways. Also, asking for what you want is huge to guide kids in the direction you want (vs. focusing their brain on what you DON'T want!)

13. “It's okay to cry."

Take a break from: "Don't be a baby," or "Don't Cry."

Example: "It's ok that you feel sad, I'll be over here if you need me. I know you can find a way to take care of yourself."

Explained: It's incredible how well kids respond when we don't pressure them to "get over their feelings" or try to force them to stop freaking out. Empower and teach them they are capable of moving through the feeling on their own and they'll come out of the sadness sooner—and also build their self-esteem.

14. “How will you take care of yourself?"

Take a break from: Always fixing, i.e., "Do __________, and you'll be fine, it's not a big deal," or "Why are you always so emotional? Here, a cookie will make you feel better."

Example: "It's ok to be ____________. What are some things you can do to help yourself feel better?"

Explained: Empowering kids to take care of themselves is an incredible gift! Kids who learn to move through emotions with integrity, and take self-calming action get into trouble less and have higher self-esteem. (Be sure you are learning through positive parenting curriculum like The Foundations Course how to support them in this journey to develop intrinsic care, self-control methods and how to self-calm.)

15. “I'll stop, breathe and wait for you to finish."

Take a break from: "Just let me do it."

Example: "Looks like you need a moment, I'll sit down and wait for two minutes or put the dishes in the dishwasher while I wait."

Explained: Many times, it's us parents that need to chill. Slow down and let them try to tie their shoe themselves or figure out the elevator floor by reading the sign. Kids often do a great job of reminding us to be present. Be ok with a lumpy bed sometimes, or shoes on the wrong foot. The goal here is to let kids try, fail, try again and anchor feelings of capability—so they don't always depend on us to do everything!

16. “I love you no matter what."

Take a break from: "No one wants to be with you when you're bad," or "You're not getting hugs and kisses after acting like that."

Example: "I love you no matter what behavior you have, AND I'd like you to ask your brother for the toy next time, instead of grabbing it."

Explained: Unconditional love is at the core of Positive Parenting and means that our love for our kids does not depend on the level of good behavior they have in the day. We love them with all of our heart no matter what. Feeding this truth into our children pours into their need to belong, which is a key motivating factor that Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs (grandfather of Positive Parenting) helps us understand. When kids' basic needs are met, they misbehave less.

17. “I am not ok with ___________—yet."

Take a break from: "You're not old enough," or "You're too little to do that."

Example: "I'm not ok with you walking on top of that brick wall because I'm scared you'll fall and hurt yourself."

Explained: When we own our fears and worries, our kids respond and respect our limits a lot better. Kids often feel like they are old enough, strong enough, big enough and capable enough to do big things like ride bikes fast, climb high fences and carry big glasses of juice…but it's us that isn't ready to take the risk yet. Communicate this to your kids using the word I, and they will push back less.

18. “You care, so I'd love for you to decide."

Take a break from: "I don't care."

Example: "You know what? I'm flexible on this, so can you choose for us. I'd love your help."

Explained: When we really don't care, this is a great opportunity to empower our kids and let them lead! Good leaders are also good followers so teaching our kids this through letting them make decisions is good practice.

19. “I believe in you and am here to support you."

Take a break from: Rescuing, i.e., "I'll take care of this." or "Why do I have to do everything for you?"

Example: "I can see how this is tough for you and I believe in you to get through this. I am here to support you if you need ideas on how to handle the situation with integrity."

Explained: It's important that as parents we set our kids up for success in the world to take care of themselves, solve their own problems and have confidence that they are capable. Supporting instead of rescuing often takes more patience, but it builds kids' self-esteem and intrinsic motivation in the most beautiful ways!

20. “How are you feeling?"

Take a break from: "Chill out; you don't need to get so upset!"

Example: "I can see you're upset, what are you feeling?"

Explained: Helping kids identify their emotions and communicate them effectively is an important element of positive parenting. When children get comfortable actually feeling an emotion and communicating it to others (instead of denying it and trying to MAKE it go away), behaviors have a tendency to be much cleaner and respectful.


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2018 will go down in history as the year that gave us a royal wedding, a second Chrissy Teiegn cookbook and saw Serena Williams prove that new mamas can do anything. It's also the year that a bunch of adorable celebrity babies came into the world.

Here's to all the celebrity babies born this year!

Elizabeth Smart and Matthew Gilmour welcomed baby Olivia

Back in June author and activist Elizabeth Smart announced she and husband Matthew Gilmour were expecting their third child, and in November baby Olivia arrived.

She was born in hospital and Smart shared a sweet post-birth selfie with her Instagram followers.

"So happy to welcome Olivia to our family!" she wrote.

We are so happy for her.

Jessica Chastain and Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo welcomed a baby girl

After actress Jessica Chastain was spotted out in October carrying a baby in a car seat, media outlets began to speculate about whether she and husband Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo had become parents, and it turns out the rumors are true. On November 19, E! News reported Chastain's daughter was born in the spring, via surrogate.

Chastain has not spoken publicly about her daughter or posted any baby photos on her Instagram, which is absolutely her choice. If she ever does decide to talk about the early days of her daughter's life, we will be all ears!

Until then, congratulations to Jessica and Gian!

Kate Upton and Justin Verlander welcomed daughter Genevieve

What a sweet little face! On November 10 Kate Upton and Justin Verlander introduced the world to their daughter, Genevieve Upton Verlander who was born on November 7.

On his Instagram account proud dad Verlander added notes "You stole my ❤️ the first second I met you!!!"

Looks like Genevieve's parents are very much in love with their baby girl.

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade welcomed (a surprising) baby girl 

Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade shocked the world in November by announcing the birth of the daughter fans didn't know they were expecting!

"We are sleepless and delirious but so excited to share that our miracle baby arrived last night via surrogate and 11/7 will forever be etched in our hearts as the most loveliest of all the lovely days. Welcome to the party sweet girl!" Union, who has previously written about her struggles with infertility, wrote on Instagram.

Diane Kruger and Norman Reedus welcomed their first baby together

Diana Kruger and her partner, Walking Dead star Norman Reedus, are the latest celebrity parents to welcome a new baby, but unlike a lot of celebrity couples they did not do an Instagram baby announcement.

The family is keeping things low key, but People reports it has confirmed the baby's arrival.

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 Hilary Duff and Matthew Koma welcomed daughter Banks Violet Bair

Hilary Duff shared some big news in October, dropping an adorable birth announcement on Instagram and letting the world know that she had a home birth for daughter Banks Violet Bair. What a unique name!

Pippa Middleton and James Matthews welcomed a baby boy 

Little Prince Louis now has a close cousin! The Duchess of Cambridge's sister, Pippa Middleton, and her husband James Matthews welcomed a baby boy on October 16, one day after her sister's sister-in-law, Meghan Markle, announced her pregnancy.

Kate Hudson and Danny Fujikawa welcomed baby Rani Rose 

Kate Hudson is now a #girlmom.

The actress (who is also mom to sons, 7-year-old son Bingham and 14-year-old son Ryder) and her partner Danny Fujikawa announced the birth of their daughter one day after she was born on October 2. The birth announcement came via a series of Instagram slides, captioned with simply, "She's here".

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Jillian Harris and Justin Pasutto welcome baby Annie 

On October 1 Jillian Harris and Justin Pasutto announced they just welcomed their second child (and first girl), baby Annie. According to the Instagram post introducing Annie, Harris and Pasutto were enjoying a date night when Annie started making her entrance into the world, interrupting mom and dad's round of golf.

 Kim Kardashian +  Kanye West welcomed Chicago Noel West

Celebrity power couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West welcomed their third child, baby Chicago via a gestational surrogate on January 15, 2018. Chicago came into the world weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces and was instantly loved by the whole Kardashian family, including her siblings, North and Saint.

"We're so in love," Kardashian said in a statement released shortly after Chicago's birth.

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[Updated: November 20, 2018.]

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I was at my midwife appointment two weeks before my due date. After hearing my daughter's heartbeat and answering some questions, the midwife asked if I was planning to breastfeed.

Mentally scanning my perfectly outlined first-time-mom birth plan—complete with bullet points and bolded phrases which I had carefully picked—I realized that I hadn't even considered this notion until half a second ago. I was so preoccupied with the details surrounding how I was going to get this baby out of me that I hadn't contemplated how I would actually keep her alive once she was disconnected from my placenta.

I shrugged and replied, "Sure, I guess I will if I can." So I added my breastfeeding bullet point to my birth plan.

I woke up to my buzzing phone on the morning of March 29th. "Due Date" popped up as a notification on my calendar, as if the birth of my child could be scheduled in the same way you would an oil change.

I had everything planned. I would first labor quietly, un-medicated, wearing makeup and using my hypnobirthing techniques I been studying. Then, when I was ready to push, my baby would be delivered in a very reasonable amount of time with minimal tearing.

She would be placed on my chest where together we would soak in the hormonal love cocktail that I had read so much about. Afterward, I would unpack my laptop to check work emails during the downtime that I had assured myself would be bountiful during our hospital stay.

Growing more impatient as the time lingered since my due date notification, the hours turned to days. My water finally broke three long days later. My actual labor started quickly after I began bragging to my visitors about how manageable the contractions were.

I sweated my makeup off soon after. The calm and meditative laboring state I had prepared myself for was more akin to the calmness one would have upon placing the palms of their hands onto the burners of a searing hot stove.

The intervals between my contractions vanished as I eventually ripped my clothes off, hoping I could somehow crawl out of my skin. I gasped for breath between sobs when my midwife assured me that I was two whole centimeters dilated.

As fate would have it, 48 hours later, I would deliver my bruised and exhausted baby laying on my back, crying and shaking on an ice cold operating table.

As it turns out, enjoying approximately 35 seconds of sleep in a span of days doesn't do much for one's patience levels. Sore and freshly bound around the abdomen, I couldn't possibly be expected to employ my motherly duties yet, could I?

Whoever was supposed to serve me the hormonal love cocktail I was promised, apparently skipped my hospital room. My emails went unanswered as I ineptly tended to my shrieking newborn.

"The Universe laughs when you have a plan," I once read. The Universe must have taken one look at me and rejoiced: Boy was I in for a lesson.

Once settled in at home, I realized that breastfeeding wasn't going to work for us after all. Then I experienced a heavy period of postpartum depression.

Just weeks prior, I had everything planned so precisely. Things that pertained not just to the infancy stage I was so freshly experiencing now, but things that I had no right to plan, as I wouldn't truly understand them for months and some even years.

I had sworn to myself that I would always treat my child with kindness and patience...and look good while doing so. I told myself that I would reserve time for me to enjoy my hobbies and never "lose sight of myself." But suddenly, intellectually stimulating toys, perfectly situated hair bows, and frankly, brushed teeth meant much less to me.

Through the birth of my second daughter, I learned that a healthy baby is enough, no matter how they get here. This time, using medication, I graciously welcomed her into the world. Promptly after enjoying the love cocktail I had waited so patiently for, I let the nurses whisk her off to care for her in the nursery as I took a well-deserved nap.

Life with two small children required adjustments and another shift in expectations, but this time around I laughed my way through it. (And I learned to appreciate the texture of my unwashed hair, too.)

It wasn't until I finally let go of who I thought I should be that I finally felt satisfied by who I am. I am often frazzled, over-stressed and disheveled. I don't always feel very interesting and I am no longer the perfectly curated woman I once was.

I'm chronically late and not unlike my oldest daughter, I often burst in exhausted, bruised and five days late. Deadlines and appointments sometimes slip by and surprisingly, my heart continues to beat.

But most importantly, I'm an extremely good mother. Pay no attention to the non-organic popsicle stains running down my children's mismatched clothing or the bird nests of hair sitting atop their heads: because we are happy. And that is what is important.

Despite my earlier expectations that I have fallen quite short of, my children are well. They are not perfect, nor am I. Neither were any of the women who have come before or will come after me. I only make plans now with the caveat that they must be subject to change. The Universe can now laugh with me, not at me.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Bathing frequency

There is no scientific or biological answer to how often you should bathe your child. During pre-modern times, parents hardly ever bathed their children. The modern era made it a societal norm to bathe your child daily.

Many babies and toddlers, especially those who aren't walking yet, don't need to be washed with soap every day. If a child has dry, sensitive skin, parents should wash their child with a mild soap once a week.

On other nights, the child may simply soak or rinse off in a lukewarm, plain water bath if they are staying fairly clean. Additionally, parents can soak their children in a water bath without soap most nights or as needed as part of a routine.

Cause of skin sensitivity

Many problems with sensitive, irritated skin are made worse by bathing habits that unintentionally dry out the skin too much. Soaking in a hot bath for long periods of time and scrubbing will lead to dry skin. Additionally, many existing skin conditions will worsen if you over-scrub your child or use drying, perfumed soaps.

Some skin conditions, like childhood eczema (atopic dermatitis), are not caused by dirt or lack of hygiene. Therefore, parents do not need to scrub the inflamed areas. Scrubbing will cause dry, sensitive skin to become even more dry.

Tips for bath time

Some best practices for bath time for kids who have dry, itchy, sensitive skin or eczema include.

  • The proper temperature for a bath is lukewarm
  • Baths should be brief (5-10 minutes long)
  • To avoid drying out your child's skin, use mild, fragrance-free soaps (or non-soap cleansers)
  • Use small amounts of soap and wash the child with your hands, rather than scrubbing with a soapy washcloth.
  • Do not let your child sit and play in the tub or basin if the water is all soapy.
  • Use the soap at the end of the bath, not the beginning.
  • When finishing the bath, rinse your child with warm fresh water to remove the soap from their body. Let the child "dance" or "wiggle" for a few seconds to shake off some of the water, and then apply moisturizing ointments, creams, or lotions while their skin is still wet.
  • Simple store-brand petroleum jelly is a wonderful moisturizer, especially if applied right when the child leaves the tub while the skin is still wet.
  • Avoid creams with fragrances, coloring agents, preservatives, and other chemicals. Simple, white, or colorless products are often better for children's skin.
  • Do not use alcohol-based products.

Originally posted on Children's National Health System's Rise and Shine.

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