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How to be a positive parent when it comes to lying, backtalk + aggression

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When I ask parents which of their child's behaviors they find most challenging to deal with, these three inevitably come up: lying, aggression, and backtalk. Let's look at each of these behaviors and discuss how to handle them using positive parenting.

Behavior "problem" #1: Lying

Being lied to by your children is upsetting for most parents. No one wants to raise "a liar." When our children lie to us, it breaks trust, and trust is a vital component in any healthy relationship. But the reason that children lie might surprise you.

Children under the age of about seven usually do not have the cognitive ability for deceitful lying. That type of lying requires the brain to be developed sufficiently enough that the child can recognize the truth, intellectually conceive of an alternate reality, and then try to sell that alternate reality to you. Because of the way the brain develops, the ability to do this just hasn't developed for toddlers and preschoolers.

When young children tell lies, it's to please you, not deceive you.

Children very much want to please their parents, to feel attached and accepted. So when your child tells you they brushed their teeth when they clearly did not, they may be telling you a falsehood, but it isn't with malicious intent. They are not being calculated about their fibs. They just want you to be happy with them. For more on the developmental aspect of deceit, read this.


Older children lie for a myriad of reasons, and even the best-behaved children will probably lie at some point. Reasons include:

  • Feeling unable to tell the truth for fear of punishment
  • Trying to protect themselves or someone else
  • Not wanting to disappoint parents.

While it can be a trigger for parents, it's important not to have a big emotional reaction when you catch your child in a lie.

Here are a few tips for handling lies:

1. Don't blow up at your child.

Calmly state the truth and assure your child they can always be honest with you. "I see that your teeth aren't brushed. You can always tell me the truth. Please go back in and brush your teeth."

2. Avoid shaming your child for lying or calling them a liar.

You're influencing how they see themselves right now, and you don't want "liar" to be a part of their self-concept.

3. Don't set your child up for a lie.

Asking "did you take out the trash" when you see they didn't is a bit deceitful as well. Just say, "I see the trash still needs to go out. Take it out, please."

4. Work on building a trusting relationship with your child.

The closer your child feels to you, the less likely they will feel the need to lie.

Behavior "problem" 2: Aggression

Children sometimes hit, bite, pinch, and push, and these behaviors elicit strong reactions from parents who are horrified to see their child being aggressive. You may be moved to shame and punish the child for this behavior—but punishment doesn't solve the problem.

While punishment may temporarily stop the behavior, particularly when the parent is looking, it doesn't stop the emotions that drive it or speed up the development it takes to manage emotions and reactions better.

Rather than punishment, children need limits with lots of empathy, understanding and encouragement. When you understand that aggression is a mask for anxiety, fear, guilt, or hurt, it becomes easier to empathize.

My first rule for dealing with aggressive behavior is to discipline yourself because aggression from your child often does trigger big emotions in the parent. When we meet aggression with aggression (yelling, spanking, threats, and shaming language), it fuels the fire.

Therefore, wait until you are able to respond appropriately before disciplining your child. This might look like quickly removing your child from the situation by putting them in a safe place in your home and taking a short time-out for yourself while you calm down, or it could look like bringing them onto your lap for a time-in as you two calm down together.

Lecturing children while they are angry or in the fight, flight, or freeze response is useless. They cannot engage their higher brains at that point. You must help your child to calm down first, and this is done by providing empathy and safety.

Often, parents worry that this is somehow rewarding to children, but empathy is not a "reward" and gentleness doesn't elicit more bad behavior. Instead, these are how we reach a child's heart, and that's where we have the best chance to guide children toward better behavior.

When children feel safe with us, when they feel understood and loved, then they calm down and hear our words. It's in that moment that we can teach them best. Discipline, after all, is about teaching.

Here are my tips for dealing with aggression:

1. Calm yourself first.

You don't want to bring your own aggression into the mix.

2. Understand that aggression is a mask for more vulnerable feelings such as guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety.

This will help you respond with gentleness and empathy and reach your child's heart.

3. Remove your child from the situation and to a safe place.

While some older children can calm themselves and need space, most children will need your help calming down. Consider using a time-in to accomplish this.

During a time-in, the child is invited to sit close to the parent or caregiver and is guided in calming down their brains and bodies so they can absorb the lesson. This teaches an important life skill—the ability to self-regulate. Calming techniques can include reading a book, drawing, or just talking with a calm parent.

Once the child is calm, the brain is ready to learn, and the lesson can be taught. At this point, explain what the child did wrong, why it was wrong, and how to do better the next time such a situation arises.

4. Use problem-solving instead of punishment.

Time-outs and other typical punishment don't teach children how to manage their emotions and reactions— this is what is needed to prevent aggressive behavior from recurring.

Instead, talk to your child about how they can begin to recognize anger, fear and frustration, and what they can do to calm down before they lose their cool. Offer solutions such as giant breaths, clapping, drawing, or writing in a journal and ask your child to come up with ideas as well.

My youngest child loved to pop balloons when he was upset. This helped him release his anger quickly, so I kept a small box of blown up balloons for him. Find what works for your child.

Behavior "problem" 3: Backtalk

This is another common behavior that really bothers parents because it feels like disrespect. Here, as is always the case, it's helpful to understand what is going on behind the behavior—what's causing it to occur.

It's important to remember that, in early childhood, children are only beginning to learn to assert themselves. Often what we misunderstand as disrespectful back-talk is a still-developing child's way of trying to communicate their need for autonomy.

Parents can support the child's need while teaching more respectful and positive ways to communicate that need.

Therefore, setting a good example with positive and respectful communication in the home is the best first step to curbing back talk. Children do learn what they live, and if they're accustomed to yelling or being ignored, they'll use those tactics as well.

Next, be direct in your communication. If you state your request as a question, such as "Will you pick up your toys now," that leaves room for "no" or "I don't feel like it."

Instead, be kind but direct. "Please pick up your toys now so we can go outside to play." When/then statements are often effective, such as "When the toys are picked up, then we will go outside."

When a child is testing your limits, don't bicker back and forth. Acknowledge what your child is wanting, validate their feelings, explain your reasoning once, and then use a short and respectful statement to disengage from the argument, such as "I've already answered that" or "I won't be arguing about this."

Two keys for handling backtalk:

1. Listen to what is behind the words to what is really motivating this child so you can take the personalization out of it so that it doesn't trigger feelings of anger and disrespect.

2. Empathizing, which shows the child that you listen and care about what he feels and wants (a behavior you'll want him to pick up) while holding your limit will dissipate the power struggle.

These are tough concerns—and you are not alone in feeling frustrated by them. But by understanding where they come from, you'll be ale to help you child learn from them, and move through them together as a team.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

This article is sponsored by Nordstrom. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.


Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.


Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Work + Money

Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.


Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.


There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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