My toddler is an enthusiastic housekeeper. He loves vacuuming, helping with the laundry and unloading the dishwasher. I often wondered if he's just imitating and understands that this isn't actually fun. So it was reassuring to see new science suggests he's not just copying my husband and me; even though he's younger than 2 years old, our toddler is learning a good work ethic from our examples.

The new report from MIT, published in Science, found kids as young as 15 months are prone to copying a parent when they see us exerting a lot of effort—so keep that in mind the next time you're struggling through a home workout or simply failing to open a jar of pickles.


Your determination makes a bigger difference in the eyes of your kids than you may have realized!

For the study, the researchers invited some toddlers to their lab to try a new toy. It featured a large button that appeared to play music, but didn't actually function. The kids who previously watched adults struggle and work hard to get through a couple tasks were about twice as likely to keep attempting to get their toys to work.

Plus, the toy was completely different from the tasks the adults struggled with in front of the babies, so we know this isn't just a game of mimicking.

“They're not just imitating because the adult never showed button presses or trying to activate a music player," says Julia Leonard, lead study author, according to HealthDay. “Infants are watching your behavior intently and actually learning from what you do."

The benefits aren't only there when you succeed at a task in front of your children, either. “This does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals," says Laura Schultz, a professor of cognitive science at MIT.

According to Schulz, the lab findings suggest that we parents don't need to worry about making everything look easy—and shouldn't try to conceal the realities of striving for a goal from our kids.

Everything is not easy, so if our kids see us working hard for what we want, they'll work hard, too.

The takeaway is this: Making chores look effortless isn't going to make your kids want to do them. But seeing you scrub down the dishes in spite of the grime likely will help motivate them to work hard, too.

That's good news for me. I never was good at pretending to take enjoyment in laundry or dishes. I just have to keep doing them—and hope my toddler continues to want to help.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."

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