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Powerful responses to use when your child whines or complains

It’s a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon in January and a bit of a slow day at the house. Your child is bored and complaining to you, which, unfortunately, is not something new. Stir-crazy and frustrated, he can’t help but whine about his boredom: "There is nothing good on TV;" "Why can't I go to the movies?" "I can’t go outside, and Sam is away, so I have no one to play with and nowhere to go." You buy an Amazon movie to occupy him, but after it ends, he starts grumbling again to no avail.


If this sounds familiar, you are in good company. Complaining is a mental habit that is seemingly ingrained in our culture. Whether we are lamenting our favorite team’s loss on our Facebook wall, bemoaning our wait in the checkout line, or whining about the weather to our waitress in Chili’s, complaining is a widely-accepted communication style that sometimes elicits empathy from those we are groaning to!

But even if we find a sympathetic ear, the act of complaining itself creates more dissatisfaction. As Mason Cooley suggests, complaints cease when the issue is resolved, but if the mental habit remains unaddressed, the complaints will arise again and again.

To be clear, we are not referring to situations when kids are voicing legitimate concerns—telling you they are hungry (when they really are), for example. Rather, the issue we want to address is the incessant whining for no good reason. One way to alleviate this habitual needless complaining is to teach our children mindfulness skills.

Mindfulness practice cultivates an awareness of our present mental and emotional state. With mindfulness, we (and our kids) can more accurately evaluate our current situation, determine whether the present concern is a legitimate one, and break the habit of mindless complaining about inconsequential inconveniences.

So, the next time you find yourself exasperated by your kids’ needless whining, try these three mindfulness techniques to help them kick the complaining habit:

1. Calm yourself to avoid the quick fix

When our kids aggravate us, we often mindlessly adopt the "fix it" mentality, which is the very approach that encourages the mental habit of complaining. To start, be mindful of what is happening.

Realize that, while a quick fix to "do" something to remedy the "problem" is always available (like buying an Amazon movie or providing a new video game), it is not the best long-term solution for the dissatisfied child. In fact, doing this may further ingrain the complaining habit by teaching the child that this negative behavior actually works.

When your children are relentlessly bellyaching, reorient your own perspective by taking a few deep breaths. Follow your breath and pay attention to it. Start noticing how the air moves in through your nostrils and follow it all the way down to your abdomen and all the way back out. Breathe deeply.

No matter what is happening, you can find a minute to perform this exercise. It will have a calming effect on your system and allow you to respond thoughtfully to your child’s whining so that you don’t default to the quick fix.

2. Reorient children to the reality of the situation

Gently reorienting our kids to what is actually happening will help them drop the complaining habit. Rather than placating them (which won’t stop the complaints from reoccurring), help them see the possibilities available in the present moment. Our belief that there is something deficient or lacking about our present situation often does not comport with reality.

A gratitude practice is helpful here. Take out a sheet of paper and have your children list things that they are grateful for, along with a brief reason why they are grateful for them. Help them list 10 things.

These can be anything: Siblings, their home, their dog, or whatever comes to mind. Try to turn the focus away from electronics (i.e. the latest video game machine of choice) and more towards their relationships, experiences and necessities that we often take for granted.

3. Focus on present moment experiences and intentions

Real change occurs when we can help our children focus on the present moment and realize that happiness does not come from obtaining new toys or novel experiences. One way we can help them obtain this perspective is to reduce or limit their screen time. Giving them a break from constant stimulation so they can actually focus on the present moment will (in time!) reduce their complaining.

A few activities that help kids develop mindfulness include:

If we really think about it, and encourage our children to think about it, there are countless activities that are readily available to our kids that help them focus on the present moment. And there are countless others that bring us parents into the moment with them, as well.

We can help them ride a bike, join them on the play structure at the park, or read to them. Or you and your children may enjoy doing nothing together. Simply sitting quietly in each other’s restful, loving presence and relishing the moment can be a transformative practice for your family’s overall well-being.

By using these mindfulness techniques, we can let go of the complaining habit and refocus our attention—and our children's attention—to the simple and readily-available things that make us happy and content.

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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 the 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, it's 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. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all 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?

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 that 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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