Gentle parenting is hard—especially when everything else feels hard, too

But here are two good reasons to stay calm, even when you're struggling.

gentle parenting is hard
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Parenting is hard. Even the most seasoned and consistently gentle parents have their moments (translate: days, weeks or longer) that sometimes feel insurmountably difficult. Just this evening, for example, I managed to really upset my daughter. We've been in a tough "season" for a little while.

As background, we just spent two days driving 800 miles part way across the United States. We didn't plan to do it for a lighthearted vacation in the middle of a pandemic; rather, we left our home rather urgently when we found out it needed some major repair work that would take at least a few weeks to complete. Given that there is a pandemic going on, we couldn't just go hang out with friends for that amount of time.

So, with a car full of "stuff" (including enough sandwiches to last us two days and a toddler-sized travel toilet so we wouldn't have to stop and use any public restrooms), we drove to a temporary rental. Unexpectedly. Unpreparedly. Optimistically, albeit somewhat nervously.

This part of parenting is hard for me—staying centered when nearly everything we've ever known as "normal life" is up in the air. Picking up and leaving everything on short notice is exhausting and stressful. Especially amidst everything else that's going on in the world.

Parenting is hard in these moments. Being little is also hard in these moments.

With exhaustion nipping at our heels, I upset my daughter tonight. In my tiredness, I was rushing her to wash her hands so we could have dinner in our temporary rental home. She never likes being rushed, especially when she's adjusting to something new.

Although I know better, I pressured her to go faster. I was walking behind her and guiding her little body by the shoulders toward the sink. In that moment, along with a "Stop rushing me!" her leg flew backwards and kicked me in the shin.

Given the angle—and how out of character it was for her—I wasn't sure if she'd meant to do it. It hurt surprisingly much given her size. Of course, it also caught me off guard emotionally.

Parenting is hard in these moments. It's hard for the little kids who are just doing the best they can. And it's hard for the adults who are just doing the best they can, too.

I know better than to ask a young child why they did something they aren't supposed to do. Fortunately, I also remembered the wonderful advice an early childhood educator gave me long ago: "Don't get mad, get curious."

So, I kneeled down behind my daughter and said her name. I remarked as calmly and neutrally as possible, "I noticed that your leg just hit my leg. I'm curious. Did you mean to do that or was it an accident?"

She paused for a second and replied honestly, "I kicked you on purpose."

I took a breath.

Then, I said, "You must've been really mad. I won't let you hurt my body; kicking hurts. At the same time, your feelings are valid. It's absolutely okay to be mad. I know you don't like being rushed, and we're both tired and hungry. I love you and I know you love me, too. Let's work through your anger together. No matter what, we're on the same team. Even when things are hard and we get angry, we always make it through them together. Let's find a better way."

We've had plenty of opportunities to discuss rupture and repair together. This is one more for that proverbial bucket.

She nodded. She started to cry and asked for a tissue. We reconnected.

In that moment, our exchange confirmed two important things that all the gentle parenting science talks about:

1. There's no need for punishment, even when parenting is hard.

I don't punish her anyway, but this was further validation of that decision. Her tears showed me that she already felt all the remorse that she needed to feel. Her own moral compass is in fine working order; I never need to add guilt or shame to that.

What good would those things serve?

Her own feelings about what she'd done were a far more powerful teacher than anything I'd have added.

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Helping little kids handle big emotions

My job was to stay peaceful, set a clear boundary, and help her process the experience in a healthy way. Later, when we were calmer (and fed!), we could brainstorm healthy ways to manage anger.

2. We parent this way for the long run, because we're raising children who will continue to make mistakes (after all, they're human).

Was it great that she kicked me? Of course not.

But when she did, she felt safe enough that she owned up to what she'd done—without fear of backlash. She was honest (you might already know my suggestion for raising honest kids). Even when parenting is hard, my child knew I'm still her safe place—not because of what transpired tonight, but because she has enough life experience with me to know that she can be honest no matter what.

These connections that are "wiring together" in her brain are the same ones that will help her come to me when she's older and the "event" is more than a kick in the shin. We all make choices that we wish we hadn't made; we all follow our impulses sometimes.

If she learns now that she can be honest with me, that's an important message she can carry with her forever.

Parenting is hard, but positive parenting has its payoff. My child knows I'm her safe place no matter what—even when she's made a mistake.

Am I a perfect parent? No, I'm far from it. In moments like these, though, when parenting is hard but I see how things are supposed to go—I remember that we're all just doing the best we can. Our kids are, too.

[This post was originally published on the author's blog.]


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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