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Toddlers are adorable, hilarious and can be so sweet. So why is it that they get such a bad wrap? They're also strong-willed, resist anyone trying to control them and can throw the most epic tantrums (almost as if they don't care that everyone in the grocery store is staring at you).

These tantrums are frequently about the basics—they're hungry, tired or sick, but are unable to identify, much less express, what they need at that moment.

If those basic needs are met, though, tantrums are often about control. Making some simple tweaks to your home can give your child more of a sense of control and autonomy that can extend away from home.

This takes some time up front, but so much less time and energy than daily power struggles and the resulting tantrums.

Here are some simple home changes to try.

1. Place two outfit choices on a low closet shelf

Getting dressed is a common trigger for tantrums. This is sometimes because a child feels rushed or senses that the parent wants them to get dressed quickly, so naturally, they take as long as possible, questioning and fighting each step of the process.

Tantrums also arise around getting dressed though because toddlers want to feel a sense of choice and autonomy around their bodies, and this includes what they wear. However, allowing your child to fully select their own outfit each morning through could take forever. Instead, set up a low shelf in his closet where you place two outfit choices the night before.

Explain that they can always choose from these selections, but if they refuse to choose, you'll have to help. Limited choice gives toddlers a sense of empowerment, without being overwhelming. Placing the choices in the same place each day helps your little one understand the limits around the process.

2. Create a guide for routines

Power struggles sometimes arise because toddlers are simply tired of being told what to do. No one likes feeling bossed around, but this is a problem when we need our young children to complete basic tasks in order for our lives and family to function.

Try creating a picture guide for your basic daily routines, perhaps one for getting ready for school and one for getting ready for bed. Take a photo representing each step that needs to happen, from getting dressed to brushing teeth.

Explain the guide and show your child how to use it a few times. Then, when they're stalling, direct them to the guide, saying something like, "Hmm, you seem stuck. Let's go check your picture guide to see what needs to happen next."

This creates the sense that you're working together toward a common goal, rather than continually asking your child to do what you want.

3. Have cleaning supplies readily accessible

Toddlers come with lots of messes. Part of this is because they aren't fully coordinated yet and tend to create a lot of spills, and partly because they are still in the depths of sensory exploration and are truly curious as to what will happen if they cover their bodies in paint or dump their cheerios on the floor. What will it sound like? How far will the spill go?

While this is a natural part of toddlerhood, it is also reasonable to expect your toddler to participate in the cleanup process.

Instead of getting mad that you have to clean up yet another spill, tell your toddler what you observed, and direct them to their own cleaning supplies, which could be kept on a shelf in the kitchen, in their room or in a closet that they know how to open.

You might say, "I see lots of paint on the floor. Are you going to use your mop or your spray bottle and towel to clean it up?" They will still need help with the mess but will be much more likely to participate in the clean up if they feel some ownership over the process and supplies.

4. Place their own dishes on a low kitchen shelf

Get rid of the battle over which cup they get for milk once and for all by putting the dishes where your child can reach them. If you have space, designate a low shelf or drawer in the kitchen to hold their plates, cups and napkins. If they have quite a few dishes, put a manageable selection on the shelf.

Ask them to choose their own dishes and bring them to their spot at the table. Then, ask for help to empty the dishwasher and put their own dishes away on the shelf.

Taking yourself out of the equation can be a powerful way to mitigate power struggles and this can often be done by simply putting the things your child needs within their reach.

5. Provide fewer toys, each with a clear place

When toys shift from teethers and rattles to baskets of blocks with so many pieces, the mess can get a little out of control and parents can become frustrated picking up the same toys each day.

It's reasonable, and beneficial, to expect your toddler to help pick up their own things, but this can only be successful if there is a clear sense of order they can follow. If they are struggling to clean up, try cutting back on the toys in their room. Put some away in a closet and rotate them every month or so.

Make sure everything has a clear place where it belongs, then model putting things away each and every time they're done playing with them.

You may ask them to help you or you could let them watch as you clean up. Either way, they will get used to the lack of chaos, become accustomed to how their room looks and feels when everything is in its place, and will soon follow your lead.

Consider other solutions

Montessori wrote a lot about how you can't change the child, but you can change the environment. These simple tweaks can make any home more toddler-friendly, but you can also apply this same principle to your unique situation.

Take some time to think about the most common power struggles in your home. When are the tantrums occurring?

Is it when you need to make dinner and desperately want your toddler to entertain themselves?

Try setting up a little table by the kitchen where they can play next to you and save certain fun activities, like play dough or stickers, that only come out when you're working in the kitchen.

Is it when it's time for a nap, but they just needs one more book?

Try designating a special spot like a comfy pillow where you sit together to read books—the same number each day. Lay out the books on the pillow ahead of time so the limit is very clear.

Is it when you finally convinced them to get in the bathtub and now they refuse to get out?

Use a set of visual cues each night when the end of bath time is near. Lay out a towel on the bath mat, let the water start to drain. Set out the bottle of lotion you'll put on when they're dry. These steps give them a warning that bath time is almost over.

No matter what the power struggle or tantrum is about, it is always worth looking at your home environment to determine if there's anything you can tweak to make things easier, for both you and your toddler. Often really small changes can lead to a much more peaceful day with your little one.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.


"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!


In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.


Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]


Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."


Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).


Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.


Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.


A fellow mama

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