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Fewer tasks + more acceptance: How I helped my child’s spirit flourish

Children respond better to loving encouragement than rigid tasks.

Fewer tasks + more acceptance: How I helped my child’s spirit flourish

If you needed to lose weight, what would be more motivating? You are getting chubby. I’m not buying you any more clothes until you lose weight. Or: Let’s take a walk after dinner. I’ll let you make the salad. I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.


If you needed to learn how to swim, what would be most motivating? I don’t want to hear your crying. Get in the water and swim! Don’t be a baby! Or: I’ll be right by your side. You can do this. If not today, we’ll try again tomorrow. I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

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If you needed to practice better hygiene, what would be most motivating? What is that awful smell? It’s a wonder you have any friends. Or: Let’s go to the store and pick out some deodorant. Your hair smells so good when you wash it. I think you should wash it every day. I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If your table manners needed improvement, what would be most motivating? You eat like a pig. I cannot stand to watch you eat. You are disgusting. Or: I am trying to put down my fork after each bite, I’d like you to join me. Thank you for chewing with your mouth closed. I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If you are a bit clumsy and disorganized, what would motivate you to be more responsible? Can’t you do anything right? You are either losing things or making a mess! Or: Everyone makes mistakes. That’s how we learn. It’s no big deal—just get a rag and clean it up. I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

At times in my life I have been overweight, scared to swim, smelly, ill-mannered and disorganized. During those times, I could have used some encouragement. So when I saw the young boy ordered to get out of the pool because he was scared to swim, I cried with him from behind my sunglasses. I saw the disappointment in the man’s eyes as he looked at his shivering son hugging his knees to his chest. The man really wanted his boy to learn to swim. He thought reprimanding him and ignoring the boy’s cries would motivate him to try harder next time.

At times in my life, I thought this, too…

About a little girl and her ukulele,
About a little girl and her frequent messes,
About a little girl and her perpetually slow self,
About a little girl and her inability to ride a bike.


“Play the song again; you’re not trying hard enough.”
“Another spill? Are you serious?”
“How many times do I have to tell you to hurry up?”
“All the other kids have learned to ride their bike. It’s high time you did too.”


With every sharply delivered word, with each disapproving glare, with every disappointed shake of the head, that girl got smaller. Less confident. Less capable. Less shiny. And one day she spoke the words of a defeated soul.

“I just want to be good, Mama,” cried the little girl who once loved to strum her beloved instrument. And now she was placing the instrument at her feet, wondering if she should even be strumming at all.

Over time, my constant critiques and exasperated breaths led her to believe she was no good.

Over time, I’d broken her beautiful spirit—the one that gave her a unique and radiant light.

Motivating? Not so much.

There was a fine line between helpful adult guidance and using my authority to shame and belittle (under the guise of good intentions). As I crossed that line again and again, my child experienced a harsh reality: No matter what she did, it would never be good enough for me; I could never be pleased.

Motivating? Not so much.

The thought of my child growing up with a parent whose love was based on what she did rather than who she was caused an immediate change in me. I stopped being her rigid taskmaster and instead became her loving encourager…

Rather than harping on every single thing my child did wrong, I saved my guidance for serious issues—issues that could be potentially dangerous or life-altering.

Rather than forcing her to master a skill at the same rate as her peers, I assured myself that she would be ready in her own time.

I stopped overreacting to kid mishaps and minor incidents and realized she was better at cleaning up after herself without someone breathing down her neck.

If there was a bad habit that needed changing, I led by example. I invited her to join me in healthy habits. I provided tools (like timers and check-off lists) to empower her to become more prompt and responsible without my assistance.

I celebrated her efforts rather than the outcome and strived to speak three times as many positive words than negative ones.

Under the wing of Loving Encourager for the past several years, I’ve watched my child blossom. Her confidence and self-assurance have grown. She takes risks and when she fails, it’s not the end of the world because she knows she can try again. She knows I will love her regardless of what she does or doesn’t do. She confides in me when she does something wrong. She loves herself “as is” even though she does things a little differently than most.

I wish I’d abandoned the role of demanding taskmaster sooner, but I will not dwell on yesterday. Today matters more.

My hope is that by sharing my own painful regrets and life-changing discoveries, I can help someone else see what I see:

Shame abandons, encouragement believes.

Condemnation paralyzes, compassion frees.

Exasperation quits, patience prevails.

Yelling silences, communication opens up.

Blame hurts, grace heals.

Faultfinding destroys, praise builds.

Rejection loses, unconditional love wins.

If you were a child trying to get through life the best way you know how, what would be most motivating?

I don’t think you’ll ever measure up.

Or

I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

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I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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Life