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Offering rewards or incentives to your child can be so tempting in moments of desperation. This is because rewards can often help you get what you want…in the short-term.


But do rewards help motivate children in the long term? No. In fact, they hurt motivation.

Why don’t rewards work?

Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation

Children are born intrinsically motivated. No one offers a baby a reward or bribe so that he’ll want to learn to crawl. No one offers a 3-year-old an incentive to be interested in why the sky is blue or how plants grow. No one has to because people are born curious and driven to work hard to develop their minds and bodies.

People are naturally motivated from within.

Offering rewards can actually take away from this beautiful natural motivation by making a child want to do something for you rather than for himself.

For example, say Johnny naturally enjoys raking leaves. It’s a great chance to be outside and use his big muscles and accomplish a useful task, which feels good. But maybe one day you ask him and he says “no” because he’s busy building with blocks. You have company coming over and you really want the leaves raked, so you offer him a reward, maybe candy or extra screen time, for doing it. The leaves get raked and Johnny is happy because he got an extra 30 minutes on the iPad. Everyone wins, right?

But what about next time? Your child may no longer want to rake leaves for the joy of it. Now he expects a reward. He is now extrinsically motivated.

This is not only a small annoyance—now you have to stockpile candy or rake the leaves yourself—it is a fundamental change in how a child sees work.

Intrinsically motivated children work hard because they enjoy a challenge, they want to learn how to do new things, and they enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes from contributing to the community.

Extrinsically motivated children do things for others’ praise or to get a prize. This mindset can follow a child into adulthood, so it is important to support their natural intrinsic motivation while they’re young.

It turns out rewards don’t work for adult behavior either, as habit and human nature expert Gretchen Rubin writes about here. For both children and adults, rewards only work in the short term.

Rewards diminish an activity’s value

Telling your child that you’ll give him something to complete a task implies that the task is somehow unpleasant or not inherently valuable.

For example, “You can pick out a toy from the toy store if you turn in your homework every day for a month” implies that the homework is not worth doing for its own sake.

Interesting studies have been conducted around this effect in schools. In her book Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, Angeline Lillard discusses the science of motivation. She seeks scientific data comparing the traditional schools’ reward-based grading system with Montessori schools, which emphasize intrinsic motivation and often do not give grades.

Among others, Lillard cites Mark Lepper’s study of 3-5 year olds which tracked how offering rewards impacted their interest in coloring with markers. One group of children was offered a reward (a fancy gold star plaque) for coloring and the other group was offered nothing. The reward group was found to use the markers only half as much as the group that was not rewarded a few weeks later.

Offering a reward implies that an activity is unpleasant or not inherently valuable on its own, hence the need for the reward.

Rewards ignore the underlying issue

Offering a reward for a desired behavior ignores the underlying reason that a child is refusing. For example, a parent might think, “My child refuses to read, I’ll give him a sticker for each book he reads.”

This type of system fails to ask why the child doesn’t like to read. Maybe he doesn’t have any books that interest him and he would love a book about dinosaurs. Maybe the books he’s being asked to read are too challenging (or not challenging enough!). Maybe he would enjoy reading more if you were sitting next to him reading too or he would enjoy being read to.

If your child is refusing to do something, there is generally a reason why, and offering a reward can prevent you from discovering what that reason is.

So if rewards don’t work, what can you do instead?

Connect

Children are always more willing to do what you ask if they feel connected, just like you’re most likely more willing to go above and beyond for a boss you feel connected to.

Make time to connect and play. If your child refuses to get ready to leave the house every morning, try waking him up 15 minutes earlier and snuggling or reading books together. Try connecting before demanding.

Ask why?

Depending on your child’s age and temperament, you may be able to ask him directly why he is refusing to do something, or you may need to observe him and try to decipher the reason yourself.

His refusal may have a direct link to the task (i.e., his shoes are really tricky to put on and he gets frustrated) or it may be about something else (he’s too tired to clean his room at night and it would work better to ask him on a Saturday morning).

Figuring out the reason for the refusal will help you address the underlying cause of his behavior.

Offer help

Whether a child actually needs help or not, showing solidarity and offering to help may encourage his willingness to participate. Often, offering help and being present are enough.

You might say, “That homework sounds tricky. I’m going to sit at the table with you while you do it so you can ask me questions if you need to.”

Or with a younger child who often refuses to pick up toys, it might be, “Wow, there are so many toys on the floor, this looks like a two person job. I’ll put the dolls away, what are you going to start with?”

Many of us grew up receiving rewards and incentives for good behavior and it can be second nature to use them with our own children. It’s worth trying these other tools, though, to protect your child’s innate sense of self-motivation.

Offering rewards just leads children to seek more rewards, while connecting and reflecting on behavior can achieve long-term results.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

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

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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