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Teaching little ones was such an honor and so much fun (most of the time).


I feel so lucky to have had the experience of being in the classroom before having children of my own. I not only learned so much about children and how to interact with them, but I also I gained valuable insight about the type of parent I want to be.

I worked mostly with 3 to 6 year olds and occasionally toddlers, so—as the mother of a baby—I won’t need to use most of these ideas for quite some time. And when I do, I may fail at all of them. These are just a few things I hope to keep in mind as my little guy grows based on what I saw work (and not work) with parent-child interactions when I taught.

1. Avoid labeling: “bored” or “shy” or “picky”

I want my little guy to learn as many words as possible in the next couple of years... But there are a few words, such as “shy” and “picky” and “bored,” that I’m in no hurry for him to learn.

Obviously children will learn these words on their own eventually, but why speed up that process? Why teach a child that when there’s nothing going on, you are “bored”? I promise you will regret it when they tell you 1,000 times in an hour that they’re bored.

If that ship has already sailed, try, “Oh, you’re bored? Bored means there is nothing to do. I have something you can help me with.” Proceed to involve them in folding laundry, sweeping the floor, whatever else needs doing... They will quickly learn to stop telling you they’re bored and start figuring out something fun to do.

Along similar lines, why teach a child that he is “shy”? Feeling shy is totally fine, but labeling someone as shy is different. That becomes part of their identity.

I think it’s important to help small children understand and name their feelings, but when little Johnny is hiding behind your leg, instead of saying “Sorry, Johnny is shy, he wants to stay with me,” you could say “Johnny, it seems like you’re feeling hesitant to go in today. I see your friend Bobby over there.”

Same with picky–sure some children are picky eaters, but if they hear you label them as “picky,” it becomes a part of how they see themselves and they are much less likely to try new things.

2. Don’t interview for pain

Children are perceptive. Children want your attention. They will quickly figure out what gets the most attention from you and do more of that thing.

If you ask your child about their day and then focus in on the one negative thing they’ve mentioned and proceed to question them about it for the next half hour and comfort them (even if they weren’t upset about it to begin with…), they will quickly learn to bring up more negative things. Whether or not anything bad has happened. A little disagreement they had with a friend becomes a huge drama where they were the victim. This is not to say your child will lie, but that the way they view what happened will change.

How you see the world impacts how they see the world. Parents do this because they want to make sure their children are OK and are taken care of. Of course it’s a parent’s job to be their child’s advocate and protector. But if you have a big reaction every time your child mentions anything “bad” happening, they will likely begin focusing on these interactions, and becoming more upset over them.

3. Don’t greet with criticism

Picture this: Little 3-year-old Sally has spent 20 minutes putting on her own shoes. She sat there and concentrated and did it herself, even though it’s so hard.

Mom comes in to pick her up from school: “Oh, your shoes are on the wrong feet. Let’s fix that before we get in the car.” Mom proceeds to do it for little Sally because it’s faster. Message: You did it wrong and I don’t think you’re capable of doing this on your own.

If you’re worried your child might be uncomfortable, you could say “Do your shoes feel comfortable?” If they say yes, just leave it alone and maybe make a mental note to show them a trick for remembering which shoe goes on which foot later. Or not. They will figure it out eventually.

4. Leave it at the door

Imagine this scenario: A little girl in pigtails comes bouncing into school, a smile on her face, lunchbox in hand.

Mom: “Poor little Jane had an awful morning. She slept terribly, cried about putting her shoes on, and fell and scraped her knee on the way to the car. Good luck with her today.”

The little girl is no longer smiling. Clearly…

Children generally move on quickly. While all of the events of a rough morning are likely still swimming around in your head, the child has likely moved on. Even if she hasn’t, why not give her a fresh start when she gets to school (or to a friend’s house, or wherever you’re going).

This could also be broadened to say avoid talking about your child like she’s not there—she is always listening.

If you need to tell a teacher or another adult about something going on with your child, leave a note! This way the relevant information is passed along and the child doesn’t hear the reminder that she’s probably in a bad mood and may be a pain to be around today. Yikes.

5. Avoid saying “no”

This isn’t what it sounds like: This does NOT mean let your child do whatever they want. It’s just that children—especially toddlers and very young children—are sensitive to the fact that they are constantly told “no.”

There are ways you can rephrase what you’re saying to avoid directly telling them no and triggering a power struggle. Examples:

Child: “Can I have a piece of candy?”

Parent: “Yes, this evening, after we eat dinner.” (Or, “Mmm, I like candy too, I wish we could eat it every day! Candy is a special treat. We’ll have some in a few weeks on Halloween.”)

Child at the store: “Can I have this toy? And this toy? And that toy?”

Parent: “Ohh, that looks like a fun one! I’m going to take picture of it so I remember it when you have a birthday.” (Or write a note—children love seeing you write notes, it shows them what they’re saying is important to you.)

Child: “Can I go play outside?”

Parent: “Yes. As soon as we’re done cleaning your room, you may play outside.”

Even though he’s only 8 months, I try to practice this way of talking with James because I think a big part of it is habit. When he tries to roll away while I’m changing his diaper, I say “You may roll as soon as we’re done with your diaper.” It may not make any difference to him yet, but I think it’s helping me remember to practice this skill. I try to save “no” or “stop” for things that are unsafe so the words have more impact.

I want to be clear, I know it’s about 1,000 times harder to be the parent you want to be in the moment than to think about it in the abstract. But, armed with goals and good intentions, I truly believe these guidelines will be a good place to start.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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