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Reading to baby doesn't come naturally for every parent, especially when your little one is too young to truly interact during reading time.


But with every page turned, you're stimulating cognitive development and helping to establish a love of reading that will last long past the toddler years.

"These early rituals, even before a baby knows what a book is, set up reading as a loving and nurturing interaction with you that your child equates with books as they grow up," explains Tovah P. Klein, PhD, director of Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success.

If you are looking for a few perfect books to add to your child's collection, we have the scoop on the best types of books to promote cognitive development and a lifelong passion for reading.

1. Newborn (0-3 months): a high-contrast book

If you want to stimulate your newborn's senses, think high contrast.

Research indicates that high-contrast colors like black and white register most strongly in a baby's brain and help the optic nerve to grow.

Read your newborn books featuring high-contrast images and graphics (we love Art-Baby's Spots and Dots by Chez Picthall and Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam and Emily Bolam) and watch their little eyes dance.

"No need to read every word or comment on every picture," Klein said. "The important piece is that books are part of your routines and loving time together."

2. Infant (4-6 months): a tactile book

Odds are, your little one won't start turning the pages (or even paying much attention to them) until he's a few months old. Until then, maximize their interest by capitalizing on their love of touching everything around them.

Tactile books that let your baby shake, grab and stroke are the perfect solution, like Old Macdonald: A Hand-Puppet Board Book from Little Scholastic. Lean toward sturdy books made of vinyl or cloth that will stand up to a few chews. Switch to board books around 6 months to encourage little fingers to start turning pages.

Pro tip:

"Scaffold your child's attempts at turning pages by separating pages when you are finished reading each page. This will give your child a cue that it is time to move to the next page and will help to develop fine motor skills. If your little one has trouble turning pages independently, don't worry: Many children won't master this skill for a couple more years!" notes Dr. Holly Ruhl, PhD.

3. Your 6- to 12-month-old: a rhyming book

When it comes to what you're reading with your child, it's rhyme time.

Rhyming books create a nurturing environment for kids by using simple patterns they can learn to predict (key to establishing a lifelong love of reading). Plus, they help babies learn how vowels and consonants sound and come together to form words. Rhymes also help children to easily memorize and recall content from beloved books by establishing patterns and sequences, increasing their impact on a child's cognitive development.

We love Hush Little Polar Bear and other classic rhyming books like Go, Dog Go!

4. Older babies + toddlers: a classic that mama loves, too

As your child gets older, adjust what you're reading accordingly.

Children's versions of classic books can be just as entertaining for you, mama, which will make you more likely to stick with a reading routine. We love the BabyLit collection of children's books based on classics, like Dracula and Alice in Wonderland.

Regardless of what you and your little one choose to read, the most effective way to promote a love of reading is to start a daily reading routine as soon as possible. "And no, beginning during pregnancy is not too early, mama. Babies begin listening to you around week 16 and can even remember words and stories after they are born!" explains Ruhl.

Don't worry if it doesn't seem like your baby actually gets reading—spending time each day curled up with a book will give your child positive associations with reading, creating a lifelong habit before they can even read a word.

In fact, according to the Children's Reading Foundation, the simple act of reading with your child for at least 20 minutes each day may be one of the most important things you can do to promote socio-emotional development as well as necessary pre-literacy skills.

5. All babies + toddlers: a bedtime story

Read to your baby from day one. There's no sweeter way to do that than by introducing a bedtime story—even one you bring to the hospital with you!

We recommend choosing books focused on sleep or bedtime to help baby wind down in the evening. Have a stash of "bedtime books" within easy reach for baby to choose from, like A Book of Sleep or The Going-to-Bed Book. You're establishing routines that can even help baby to get her zzz's. That's good for you—and for baby.

Here are 3 tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics for creating lifelong readers from an early age:

1. Create a comforting environment.

Make reading an integral part of your bedtime routine. Wind down from your day by cuddling up in cozy jammies and snuggling with baby as you turn a few pages.

Pro tip: Active children can lose interest in a book after only a couple of minutes (okay, seconds!). That's why it is so important to make whatever limited time you can dedicate to reading as focused as possible. That means turning off the TV and cell phone. We know that's a tricky one! ?

"Sitting with a book, turning pages, pointing to pictures and being together provides a quiet and fun way to spend time with your little one," Klein says. "It's not about getting through the whole book or making your child stay still. What they will take from it is the time with mommy."

2. Make reading come to life.

A newborn may not know how to read, but she knows she prefers the sound of her mother's voice—even as early as two days after being born! Capitalize on that natural preference for your voice by reading books with emotion and over-the-top expressions to keep things interesting.

3. Ask questions to bring the story into the real world.

As your child gets older, reading can be a safe time to talk about feelings. Start when your child is young by asking ancillary questions about books, such as, "What does the cow say?" or "Where is the yellow flower?" to broaden their vocabulary. As your tot advances, use characters in books to discuss emotions or to motivate your child to think about abstract or imaginative situations.

Pro tip: "Make associations between a book and your baby or toddler's experience: 'Remember when we saw a dog at the park? It's like the dog in this book,'" Klein suggests. "This builds vocabulary and helps your child move between books and the broader world in ways that have direct meaning to them."

If you are looking for a few perfect books to add to your child's collection, we have the scoop on the best types of books to promote cognitive development and a lifelong passion for reading.

1. Newborn (0-3 months): a high-contrast book

If you want to stimulate your newborn's senses, think high contrast.

Research indicates that high-contrast colors like black and white register most strongly in a baby's brain and help the optic nerve to grow.

Read your newborn books featuring high-contrast images and graphics (we love Art-Baby's Spots and Dots by Chez Picthall and Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam and Emily Bolam) and watch their little eyes dance.

“No need to read every word or comment on every picture," Klein said. “The important piece is that books are part of your routines and loving time together."

2. Infant (4-6 months): a tactile book

Odds are, your little one won't start turning the pages (or even paying much attention to them) until he's a few months old. Until then, maximize their interest by capitalizing on their love of touching everything around them.

Tactile books that let your baby shake, grab and stroke are the perfect solution, like Old Macdonald: A Hand-Puppet Board Book from Little Scholastic. Lean toward sturdy books made of vinyl or cloth that will stand up to a few chews. Switch to board books around 6 months to encourage little fingers to start turning pages.

Pro tip:

“Scaffold your child's attempts at turning pages by separating pages when you are finished reading each page. This will give your child a cue that it is time to move to the next page and will help to develop fine motor skills. If your little one has trouble turning pages independently, don't worry: Many children won't master this skill for a couple more years!" notes Dr. Holly Ruhl, PhD.

3. Your 6- to 12-month-old: a rhyming book

When it comes to what you're reading with your child, it's rhyme time.

Rhyming books create a nurturing environment for kids by using simple patterns they can learn to predict (key to establishing a lifelong love of reading). Plus, they help babies learn how vowels and consonants sound and come together to form words. Rhymes also help children to easily memorize and recall content from beloved books by establishing patterns and sequences, increasing their impact on a child's cognitive development.

We love Hush Little Polar Bear and other classic rhyming books like Go, Dog Go!

4. Older babies + toddlers: a classic that mama loves, too

As your child gets older, adjust what you're reading accordingly.

Children's versions of classic books can be just as entertaining for you, mama, which will make you more likely to stick with a reading routine. We love the BabyLit collection of children's books based on classics, like Dracula and Alice in Wonderland.

Regardless of what you and your little one choose to read, the most effective way to promote a love of reading is to start a daily reading routine as soon as possible. “And no, beginning during pregnancy is not too early, mama. Babies begin listening to you around week 16 and can even remember words and stories after they are born!" explains Ruhl.

Don't worry if it doesn't seem like your baby actually gets reading—spending time each day curled up with a book will give your child positive associations with reading, creating a lifelong habit before they can even read a word.

In fact, according to the Children's Reading Foundation, the simple act of reading with your child for at least 20 minutes each day may be one of the most important things you can do to promote socio-emotional development as well as necessary pre-literacy skills.

5. All babies + toddlers: a bedtime story

Read to your baby from day one. There's no sweeter way to do that than by introducing a bedtime story—even one you bring to the hospital with you!

We recommend choosing books focused on sleep or bedtime to help baby wind down in the evening. Have a stash of “bedtime books" within easy reach for baby to choose from, like A Book of Sleep or The Going-to-Bed Book. You're establishing routines that can even help baby to get her zzz's. That's good for you—and for baby.

Here are 3 tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics for creating lifelong readers from an early age:

1. Create a comforting environment.

Make reading an integral part of your bedtime routine. Wind down from your day by cuddling up in cozy jammies and snuggling with baby as you turn a few pages.

Pro tip: Active children can lose interest in a book after only a couple of minutes (okay, seconds!). That's why it is so important to make whatever limited time you can dedicate to reading as focused as possible. That means turning off the TV and cell phone. We know that's a tricky one! ?

“Sitting with a book, turning pages, pointing to pictures and being together provides a quiet and fun way to spend time with your little one," Klein says. “It's not about getting through the whole book or making your child stay still. What they will take from it is the time with mommy."

2. Make reading come to life.

A newborn may not know how to read, but she knows she prefers the sound of her mother's voice—even as early as two days after being born! Capitalize on that natural preference for your voice by reading books with emotion and over-the-top expressions to keep things interesting.

3. Ask questions to bring the story into the real world.

As your child gets older, reading can be a safe time to talk about feelings. Start when your child is young by asking ancillary questions about books, such as, “What does the cow say?" or “Where is the yellow flower?" to broaden their vocabulary. As your tot advances, use characters in books to discuss emotions or to motivate your child to think about abstract or imaginative situations.

Pro tip: “Make associations between a book and your baby or toddler's experience: 'Remember when we saw a dog at the park? It's like the dog in this book,'" Klein suggests. “This builds vocabulary and helps your child move between books and the broader world in ways that have direct meaning to them."


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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 30, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

walmart-best-baby-carseat

When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

SHOP

Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

SHOP

Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

SHOP

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

SHOP

Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

SHOP

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

SHOP

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

SHOP

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

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Raising kids is such hard work, but the parents of the internet are inspiring us this week. The viral stories taking over our feeds this week remind us that whether a mama is working hard to deliver her baby, or working hard to teach her child a great work ethic, it all comes down to showing up for the ones you care about...and sometimes that means taking a bit of a creative approach.

These are the stories that made us smile this week:

This emotional viral video has us crying at this dad's commitment to supporting his wife during birth

Earlier this month, Kendall Caver became a new dad and he earned that title by supporting his wife through her a long labor.

In the now viral video which has been watched millions of times. Caver holds up a series of cards while his wife, Jasmine, looks on from her hospital bed. As his wife prepares to have their baby, Carver is flipping through the story of his life with Jasmine and offering words of encouragement.

In his original post to his Facebook page, Caver captioned the video with the sweetest statement. He wrote: "Encouraging my Wife through 2 days of labor 😙☺️ Last night my Warrior Wife gave birth to a beautiful Baby Girl!"

"Breathe, just like we've been practicing," the first card reads.

His cards tell the story of a couple on a 10-year journey, who are best friends who love each other deeply and supported each other through a previous pregnancy loss.

"I would do it all over again to know the indescribable happiness I know today," Carver wrote on one of the cards.

(Are you crying yet?)

"You are my best friend...soulmate...and in just a few pushes...you'll be the most amazing mother our daughter could ever ask for."

Jasmine pushed through, and the couple welcomed their daughter, Sofia, earlier this month.

And this family's beautiful love story continues.

This mom created a household hiring event to teach her kids about earning money

As parents, we're constantly trying to find that balance between caring for our children and teaching them to be independent. We want them to enjoy childhood, of course, but we also want to prepare them for adulthood. And one mother found an incredibly smart, creative way to teach her children about the realities of earning money.

Shaketha Marion McGregor is going viral after sharing a post showcasing her system. We can't say we're surprised: This mama went all out to create a "hiring event" to allow her children to earn allowance money.

"So, my children continue to ask for a new cell phone, an allowance, and to go places," the mom writes in the now-viral Facebook post. "Yesterday I told them that I've heard their requests and that I'll have a surprise for them today when they get home from school. SURPRISE!!! It's a whole hiring event! 😂 If you want it, work for it, earn it!"

Shaketha's photos show the incredible detail involved in her hiring event. She created three positions (kitchen manager, lead housekeeper and laundry supervisor) complete with job descriptor for each one, and scheduled a time for interviews for each position. Her children were asked to fill out applications for each job—and she even set up a credit union!

Let's just say the mama didn't take the job application process lightly. "Well you guys, the interviews are done and I'm still laughing!!!" she writes in a follow-up Facebook post. "I'm going to make my son reapply and interview again because he laughed 90% of the time.My 10yr old would sometimes start speaking in an English accent like that would help her. And my 6yr old surprised me the most. She was super professional."

Shaketha even sent her son a rejection letter to inform him the position he applied to had been filled.

We love this mama's system so much! We know there are huge benefits that come when children do chores, and we can say from firsthand experience that adjusting to the world of job applications and bill paying can be really tough if you've never learned about it.

This mom has found a way to teach her kids some really important lessons while having a little bit of fun in the process...and they'll undoubtedly be prepared to navigate adulthood when the time comes.

This little girl's viral video proves football talent isn't gender-specific

As News 5 Cleveland reports, a third grade student in Ohio is gaining viral fame for the impressive football skills she displayed in a recent gym class. Physical Education teacher Kent Hamilton posted the clip on Twitter. His student, Emma, is a soccer player and the teacher came up with a super cool way for her to practice kicking.

He projected an image of a field goal on the gym wall, and Emma proved it was almost too easy.

Emma's impressive kick has been seen millions of times, and Carli Lloyd, a member of the Woman's U.S. Soccer team who trained with NFL teams, retweeted it.

Emma's gym teacher thinks Lloyd (and Emma) prove professional football may soon include women. "I don't think a female player in the NFL is that far off. This is proof our future is bright for girls," Hamilton said.

It takes a lot of grit for girls to get into the sport as there are few leagues for them, but in recent years more and more goals have been making names for themselves in the boy's leagues.

From the 11-year-old quarterback leading her team in the North Dakota Youth Football League to the Michigan linebacker doing double duty as Homecoming Queen, these girls should be proof to everyone that they have a place in traditionally male-dominated sports.

You might also like:

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Parenting strong-willed children can be difficult when they're young, but if properly directed and parented, they can become awesome world changers. Although mothering a headstrong little one seems like a huge task (that doesn't seem to get easier as they get smarter), it's doable mama. Just remember—they respond warmly when they're heard and understood.

Here are 35 phrases to help your strong-willed child to learn to get along with others (and even you, mama):

Communication

1. "I can see you didn't hear me the first time. How about when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?"

Having your child repeat back what he hears solidifies your message. Varying the volume adds an element of fun to the request.

FEATURED VIDEO

2. "I hear you. Can you come up with a solution?"

Asking your strong-willed child to come up with a solution places the responsibility back on them. Next time they're complaining, ask them to brainstorm solutions. Remind them there are no wrong answers, and the sillier they are, the better.

3. "This is a tough one, huh? We're going to figure this out together."

When children are digging in their heels, it is important to understand why. This phrase reinforces the idea that you are on the same team, working toward the same goal.


Hitting and throwing

4. "When you throw your toys, I think you don't like playing with them. Is that what's going on?"

This speaker/listener technique is designed to help communicate feelings in a non-confrontational manner. Not only does this keep the lines of communication open, you are modeling how to phrase a situation from your perspective, which in turn gives your child a chance to rephrase events in their perspective.

5. "It's okay to be angry, but I won't let you hit. We need to keep everyone safe."

This gets the message firmly across that the emotion is okay, but the action is not. Separating the two will help your strong-willed child learn what they can and can't do.

Calming down

6. "Let's go to our calm down space together."

This flips the script of "time out" to "time in," allowing for reconnection instead of isolation.

7. "I'm starting to get frustrated, and I'm going to be right here calming down."

Teach children how to label and govern their emotions by modeling this in real time.

Transitioning moments

8. "What do you need to do to be ready to leave?"

Allow children to think through processes for the transitions in their lives. This helps avoid a power struggle and it gives them a chance to signal to their minds that they are making a transition to a new activity. This is also an excellent routine to role-play when you are not actually going anywhere.

Frustration

9. "If green is calm, yellow is frustrated, and red is angry, I'm in the yellow zone headed toward red. What color are you? What can we do to get back to green?"

Give strong-willed children a visual to express how they are feeling. It may surprise you what they say, and what kind of solutions they come up with to change their direction.

Love and affection

10. "I'm here for you. I love you. You're safe." (Then, sit in stillness with your child and allow the emotion to rise up and pass.)

When children are in the throes of anger or panic, often their bodies are experiencing a stress response whereby they literally feel unsafe. Letting them know they are safe supports them until the discomfort passes. This is a vital skill of resilience.

A version of these phrases were originally published on Positive Parents.

Giving explanations

11. "That isn't a toy, so we will leave it on the shelf. It's delicate and it could break if we touch or play with it."

Kids value reasoning just as much as adults do. Explaining why helps kids learn to make better choices in the future.

Being specific

12. "We'll have carrots now and a cookie after dinner so your tummy has room."

Strong-willed kids tend to ignore "no" when they hear it repeatedly. It becomes like background noise. They also start to say "no" to parents, siblings and friends when they hear it all the time. But, if you're specific about your requests, they begin to understand why they can't do certain tasks.

Being non-judgemental

13. "My glasses look interesting to you, don't they? But my glasses are not a toy. They're for daddy only" or "Seems fun to throw the ball in here, huh? I get it. We can only roll balls in the house so we don't break anything."

If we are harsh or reprimanding, over time kids get repeated messages that they've done something bad, or even that they themselves are bad. Instead, we can give them the message that we understand them, believe they have good intentions and are trying to figure out the world.

Replacing "No" with an action word

14. "Stop!" or "Freeze!"

For many parents, the word "no!" is a reflex. You heard it growing up, or absorbed it as the standard way to get kids to know right from wrong. It takes conscious practice to change. When you feel a "no" coming on, replace it with information. You may still need to hold a limit repeatedly, remove the glasses yourself, or take the ball and put it up high. But the underlying message is, "I understand you and I'm here to support and guide."

Heather Turgeon, MFT is a psychotherapist.

Building their confidence

15. "You are capable."

As a parent, our words become the internal language in the minds of our children. We know that our strong-willed kids are capable of so much, so let your words match this belief. Our tone and language should communicate confidence.

16. "That was brave."

Sometimes we need to notice things aloud. That means to let them know when we see them being brave. When we notice our kids being brave, they start to notice too.

17. "You've got this."

You know that they have the skills and means necessary and your vote of confidence will give them that extra boost they need to succeed.

18. "I believe in you."

As the mama, you have faith in your strong-willed child's ability. When you openly communicate that faith in them it will inspire it within themselves.

19. "You can do hard things."

When the going gets tough the obstacles can seem insurmountable. So this direct phrase will tell them exactly what they need to hear—acknowledgment that this is hard work and that they are capable.

20. "How'd you do that?"

Ask questions. When you see them do something hard, say, "How did you manage that? How can you do it again?"

21. "Give it your best."

We will never win it all, do it all, or be it all. But we can give it our best. Let's teach our kids this lesson.

22. "I know it's hard, but I have seen you do it before."

It can seem overwhelming, but let's give them evidence of when they have been successful before. This will instill the confidence that they can do it again.

23. "You are enough."

It doesn't matter what the outcome—they need to know they are enough just the way they are.

24. "You make me proud."

Straight and to the point—you can never tell your child this enough.

25. "I wonder what would happen if…"

Try to evoke curiosity and a new way of thinking by wondering about the possibilities.

26. "Do you know what grit means?"

Kids love learning new words. Teach them about grit, resilience and perseverance to help them reach towards these goals.

27. "Want to hear a story?"

Share stories with your kids. Tell them about times when you overcame obstacles, met your goals, and reached for the stars.

28. "Do you want to try something crazy?"

Challenge your strong-willed children with things they think are beyond reach (even if it sounds a little crazy). They might surprise you and themselves.

29. "Sometimes new things can seem scary, but they can be exciting."

Young children tend to cling toward people and environments that are familiar. But if we emphasize how exciting and joyful that new experiences can be, we can encourage the confidence to venture out of the comfort zone.

30. "Sometimes we make mistakes, and that is how we learn."

It's important that strong-willed kids know that making mistakes isn't a bad thing, in fact, it's now they become smarter, more intelligent adults.

31. "How did you challenge yourself today?"

Start the conversation about growing, changing and taking risks. With each challenge and accomplishment, the sense of self-esteem will grow.

32. "Repeat after me, 'I can do it.'"

Positive affirmations are powerful—they can rewire the brain. When we teach our strong-willed children to use positive affirmations from an early age they will reap the benefits as they grow.

Denaye Barahona has a Ph.D. in Child Development and is the voice behind Simple Families.

Giving them praise

33. "I love the animals on your t-shirt, which one is your favorite? Why is that?"

Praising children, especially girls, for their looks can decrease their self-esteem. If you want to comment on appearance, focus the praise on what the child can change, for instance, their clothes, and use them to start up a conversation that shows the child you're really interested in what they think and feel.

34. "Wow, I love the color you have chosen for the flowers, why did you choose to paint them in that color?"

You may have been shown a hundred pieces of artwork this year, but to your kid, each one is special and new. While it feels easier to say, "That's a great drawing," without really looking properly, the looking properly is what children really want. Picking out parts of the picture and asking the child about their choices shows that you're really looking at, and appreciating, their work. Which, in kid speak translates into you looking at and appreciating them.

35. "You worked really hard on that math problem. I knew that you could solve it if you really focused!"

Praising kids for fixed attributes—such as intelligence, or aptitude at certain subjects—can really backfire. If children think they are naturally good at something, not only will they tend to not try so hard next time, but they can get quickly disillusioned if they struggle, questioning if they are clever after all.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith is the author of Gentle Discipline: Using Emotional Connection–Not Punishment–to Raise Confident, Capable Kids.

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Learn + Play

We all have pictures in our heads of what birth looks like even before we give birth. Sometimes these pictures are based on births we've witnessed in real life, but often our brains paint these pictures with memories of images we've seen on television or double-tapped on Instagram.

That is why we love how moms are posting their clear drape C-sections on Instagram, showing the world that this new kind of Cesarean delivery can be absolutely beautiful. By posting these pictures, mothers and birth photographers aren't just proving that C-section births are just as Insta-worthy as every other way women deliver, but they are also spreading awareness about clear drape C-sections, which are also known as "gentle Cesareans."

It is important for mamas to know that this is an option you can ask for and it is so beautiful.

What is a clear drape C-section? 

A clear drape C-section can be part of the trend medical professionals call "gentle Cesareans." The clear drape replaces the standard opaque blue one so that mama can look down and see her baby's first moments (although you can still have a gentle Cesarean even if you can't have a clear drape—we'll show you a great photo of what that can look like in a moment).

Basically, the clear drapes are part of a shift midwives and doctors are making to make Cesareans deliveries feel more like births and less like a cold medical procedure. The old standard ways of doing Cesareans have not been working for moms—so birth advocates and medical professionals are working to change that.

Just because a baby needs to be born via cesarean doesn't mean mama can't be a participant in her birth experience.

"Gentle Cesareans are a huge step in the right direction. We need to bring birth back to women. Women need options and choices, autonomy and respect. Becoming a mother is one of the most momentous events in a woman's lifetime—she deserves to have it be her best birth," says Motherly's Digital Education Editor, Diana Spalding, a midwife, pediatric nurse and founder of Gathered Birth.

Why the option of clear drapes is so important 

That first time you see your baby is so special and amazing, and most mothers want to see their child as soon as that baby is out in the world. But for many moms an opaque sheet can get in the way. According to the CDC, almost 32% of all births in America are C-sections. In Canada, the rate is just under 29%, and the UK sees a similar rate. A 2018 Instagram poll by Motherly found about 41% of participants had given birth via C-section.

So there's potential to help a lot of mothers feel more at ease in the OR. The gentle cesarean method isn't just about letting mama see her baby earlier, it's also about letting her bond with her baby sooner.

Gentle Cesareans are also about respecting that this isn't just a surgery, it is a birth, too. "When it's time for the baby to be born, the doctors help ease the baby out slowly—head, shoulder, abdomen, and then legs—much like what happens in a vaginal birth. Skin-to-skin bonding is often done right in the OR, and sometimes breastfeeding can even be initiated there too," says Spalding.

The gentle C-section lets mama be present 

Some people don't want clear drapes, but for other mothers, the clear drapes are a way for them to experience their birth from the vantage point they imagined for the life-changing moment. "With the clear drape, the woman has the ability to look down and actually watch her baby be born (don't worry—she won't be able to see much of the actual surgery because her belly will be in the way)," Spalding explains.

Because of the angle mothers aren't getting a close-up look at the surgical part of the procedure, so clear drape cesareans aren't as gory as some would assume. It's really more similar to how a vaginal birth happens in that mom is not seeing everything the doctors are, but is able to see her baby as soon as possible, and that is something to smile about.

C-section births are births and need to be respected 

A gentle Cesarean is a more holistic approach to a standard C-section because it brings the focus back on mom as a person, not as a belly in need of surgery. Often, medical teams try to make gentle C-sections as family-focused as possible, and sometimes are even able to accommodate parts of a mother's birth plan that would be abandoned with a traditional C-section, like incorporating music or other therapeutic, relaxing elements.

It's about making the operating room as pleasant a place as possible and respecting mom.

Gentle Cesareans still happen without the clear drapes

Sometimes, for medical reasons, hospital policy or because mama requests it, the clear drapes are not an option. But that doesn't mean that mom can't have a gentle Cesarean. Even with traditional blue drapes, medical teams are making efforts to help mama and baby bond as soon as possible.

Sometimes, that means there's a little window in the sheet and baby gets passed through to mom for instant skin-to skin-contact. Other times, it looks different, depending on medical need.

We love how mothers and birth photographers are sharing these stories and photos because one thing is as clear as the drapes: C-sections are just as beautiful as every other kind of birth.

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