Print Friendly and PDF

One of the trickiest aspects of parenting seems to be the fact that those little kids just keep changing. Just when you think you’ve figured out the perfect bedtime routine to get your toddler to sleep (without spending hours in her room), she changes and doesn’t go for it anymore. Just when you learn how to wear the baby carrier and not break your back, the baby outgrows the carrier or prefers the stroller instead.

This is especially true when it comes to figuring out how much to help your kids.

Of course we always want to help our kids. However, since kids change almost constantly, the task they needed help with yesterday is something within their realm of skills today. As our kids grow, we have to start encouraging them to do some things on their own.


How do you balance fostering independence and still being there when they need you?

Let your child lead

When our babies are born they need us so much, and we get into a habit of doing everything for them. Then one day we start to realize they aren’t babies anymore and they can do a lot of things on their own. However, this change is so gradual that it’s easy to miss.

The good news is that our children will often let us know when it’s time to let go a bit. I remember the first time my youngest son decided he didn’t want to be rocked to sleep anymore. We had been nursing and rocking to sleep (or near sleep) for about a year. We both enjoyed it. Then one day, shortly after his first birthday, he just pointed to his bed after story time. I was a bit sad, but learned to relish his little efforts at maturity. He knew it was time to move on, even if I did not.

...But consider their temperament and safety

Around toddlerhood I realized I couldn’t always follow my child’s lead when it came to balancing independence with helpfulness. I had to consider both his safety and his temperament. With kids who are particularly strong-willed or adventurous, their desire to do things independently is often strong. They are not intentionally trying to be difficult, they just have a keen sense of confidence, and they take it as an affront to their strength if you try to help too much.

Understanding your child’s temperament can be helpful for avoiding power struggles. The key I found lies in allowing them to feel empowered as much as you can, while still maintaining their safety.

In real life terms, this often means choosing your battles wisely.

Consider each situation independently—are there ways in which you can allow a bit of freedom without compromising safety? Maybe that means you allow your child not to hold hands on the sidewalk, but hand-holding is a must in parking lots. If your toddler insists on putting on her own shoes, try to allow enough time in the morning for her to at least try.

Sometimes the balance between independence and helping can involve tag-teaming a task—mom or dad does one part and your child does the other. I found this helpful when my toddler wanted to try to buckle himself in his car seat. He didn’t have the motor skills to do the bottom buckle, but he could (with much trying and patience) do the top buckle. So the rule became that I clipped the bottom buckle and he did the top one.

Little strives towards independence are great, but they often require a lot of patience on our part.

Language matters

Another key in finding the balance between independence and assistance is using language that empowers your child. If your child wants to do a task that you know they are unable to do on their own, flip the situation around and talk about how she can help you complete this difficult task.

This often works well with kitchen tasks. Little hands always want to help cook, cut (yikes!) or mix while you’re in the kitchen. By showing how she can help you, you empower her to feel independent, but you still have a bit of control over the task.

Let go of the outcome

In the struggle between independence and helpfulness, the aspect that often trips up parents is the outcome. If I allow my toddler to put on her own clothes, she will be mismatched or disheveled. This is not the outcome that most of us prefer, but if it fosters a bit of independence and prevents a meltdown, then I feel like it’s worth it.

As with all things, there’s a time and place for everything. Perhaps allowing your toddler the freedom to dress herself on school picture day may not be the best idea, but if it’s just a random Sunday at home, why not? Letting go of the outcome often helps parents get more comfortable with their children’s strive towards independence.

Ultimately, our children’s strides towards independence are signs that we parents are doing something right. They feel confident and secure enough to try new tasks on their own. Finding the right balance between helping and not hindering their independence is a tricky task we will undoubtedly be working on until they reach adulthood.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.


To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.

Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.

Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.

Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?


We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.

Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.

Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.

Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.


When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.


It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.


For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.


It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.

This essay was previously published here.

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?


Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.