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"My son seems like he's in the midst of a contest every moment. He needs to be first to get to the car, first to choose his seat, first to finish his dinner. He also needs to be best. What can I do to help him not be one of those super-competitive children and just live his life, rather than try to prove over and over again how good he is?"

There's not a quick fix for your son's fixation on being first and best. If there were, we would have a much more peaceful world. This "need to be best" mentality is actually endemic in our society. We are trained to be competitive from early in our lives. Some of us can see that there are many attributes that each person, each city, and each country has that can be appreciated, and that there's always going to be something a person, city or country can learn from another. But many of us have grown to need to be on the "winning" side of every issue, in order to feel okay.

The root of the strong need to win

Often, the root of a child's competitive behavior that shows up time and time again is some early difficult time in his life. Something like a hospitalization, a severe illness, a separation from a parent, or some other grinding tension at home can leave a child feeling alone. That feeling sticks with a child. It is kept under wraps in the child's emotional memory, but the effect of it shows up in how they interact with others.

With that early emotional ache still held fast inside him, a child sets out to try hard to make himself feel better. When he feels like he is in control—he's first, or best, or the boss—the ache doesn't seem so bad. He carries the emotional memory of desperately needing attention, the attention he couldn't feel when he was ill, threatened, or when his family was under stress.

So, under the guise of proving himself every 15 minutes, a child will make repeated bids for the attention he didn't get, way back then. There's no crisis now, but the feeling of needing attention immediately is insatiable. No matter how much attention a child gets for being first or best or the boss, it never feels like enough. He needs more, ever more!

Super-competitive children will often sign for your help

Super-competitive children need attention, but not in the way they are seeking it. They need their parents to come close, to show them affection, to show their love. But they don't need to win all the time! And they don't need to be first, or the boss, all the time.

What they do need is a chance to offload the emotional hurt that's left over from early helpless times, so that they can feel closer to those around them, and more open to the give and take of life. A parent is in the very best position to relieve the sting of early hard times that's at the root of the super-competitive behavior. You don't really need to know what makes your child so competitive—you might have a guess, but no analysis of the root of the problem is necessary. What is helpful is the use of two very powerful listening tools: Playlistening and Staylistening.

These tools help your child secure laughter (that's not forced by tickling, but is encouraged by nuzzling, wrestling, and affection) and great big hearty cries, with your support. These emotional release valves let the tension out, and let your child feel you are caring. They help heal the hurt, as long as you are there to pour in your love and your confidence that your child's life is good.

Playlisten to reassure your child that they're loved and to secure laughter

Playlistening is playing to evoke laughter, but without forcing it—in other words, no tickling allowed. With a super competitive child, two kinds of Playlistening are helpful. In one, you lose again and again and allow them to win. You playfully keep trying, you playfully never give up hope, but your child is the victor. You watch for what makes your child laugh, and you keep doing that, and variations on that theme.

The older and more capable a child is, the more of a contest you have to set up with them, but don't try to be skilled at a sport. Set up contests that let you show affection. "I've got 100 kisses for you" is a good one, where you chase him and catch him and try to land a kiss, and your child gets away Scot free often, but not all of the time. You keep trying. "Come on, feel the love!" is what I tell my grandson when we're playing this kind of affection game. You can complain that your kisses need a place to land, a lovely place to land.

Or, when your child arrives first at the kitchen table at lunch on Saturday and announces it to make his sister feel bad, just say, "Okay, I get to hug the guy who got here first! Yes, I do!" and chase him all through the house, giving him a good contest. Matter of fact, you can do that for many of the "wins" he announces.

You can vary your affectionate response. "The prize for First is a noogie on the head. Come here, you handsome Champ, you!" or "Yay, you came in first at the car door! The guy who comes first gets to be lifted into the car upside down! And the girl who comes in second gets lifted into the car right side up!" Or, "Hey, look who's first again. You know what I do with the one who's first? He gets a great big snuggle from me!" followed by a really big squeeze. You give an affectionate squeeze to the child who's second, too.

This kind of response will get laughter going around being first and will help you bring your super-competitor your affection and energy many times a day, warming up your relationship with him, and beginning to fill that aching need for reassurance that lies underneath his drive to be first. As laughter rolls, he's receiving your attention and affection. It reaches his emotional center. It helps heal the hurt.

When several children are playing together, and your super-competitor is loudly announcing that he's first, again and again, join the game. Come in last, and let the children all laugh at your last-place finish. "Hey, Joey is first! Helen is second! Ray-Ray is third, and, oh no, not again! I'm last??!! Yikes, last again!" will help them play together without feeling less than.

When your child loses, or when you set limits on their bossiness, staylisten

As you get laughter going in your household, and pursue affectionate contests and playful responses to your child's hunger for winning, his sense of emotional safety will build. You'll notice that he becomes more explosive when little things disappoint him. This is a sign of progress! When he is upset, you have a golden opportunity to move closer, and to pour in the love and reassurance he so badly needed earlier in his life.

The disappointment over a sandwich cut wrong, or a video game he is not allowed to finish because its bedtime will be enormous. And all that emotion is there, not because he's lost his mind, but because that was the size of the emotional hurt he sustained when he was much smaller, much more vulnerable, and deeply in need of someone to listen to him.
So, listen. Stay close. Don't give in to a sensible limit you have set. "I know it's hard to let your sister have her turn at that game. She doesn't do it the way you would," is what you say while your child fights and kicks to get away from you, wanting to run and grab the game away from her. You stay. You keep her safe from his intrusion. He cries and fights, safe but very unhappy, in your arms, while you say now and then, "I know you don't want her to touch it. But it's her turn, and you'll get another turn in a while."

Allow him to feel desperate. To feel like his world is so unfair. To feel like nothing is right. To feel like everything is ruined for him. These are feelings erupting from the past, splashing onto the present in a big, messy way. This is what heals the hurt that makes it hard for him to accept others and to play with others, rather than against them.

As you stay with your upset child, he may become panicky. "I need to get out! Don't hold me here! I need to breathe! I can't breathe!" or "I'm burning up!" or "I'm thirsty, you have to get me some water! I need water now!" This panic is a key part of releasing fear. He needs you to guide him through his panic, without trying to fix it. He may indeed be hot, but he's not going to die. He may indeed feel thirsty, but another few minutes without a drink will be OK. What he most needs is your confidence that he's going to make it, that his life will be good, and that you're not going to leave him stranded.

Don't get too busy trying to fix anything. Just lift his shirt and blow on his tummy if he is hot. Or offer to carry him in your arms to get water, if he's thirsty. Usually, a child who is panicked will refuse to let you carry him to get a drink. Being carried continues the closeness you provide, and it's no escape from facing and feeling how frightened he once was. He knows he doesn't need a drink that badly. If he does, he'll let you carry him there.

When you have listened enough, and his mind is finally free of the grip of stale-dated emotions, he'll be glad to be close to you. He may cry some, but not while fighting you. He'll lean in for support and love. And whatever the issue was that set him off will resolve in his mind, usually without rancor toward anyone. He'll be able to let it go. And you will most likely see some changes in his behavior that signal that he's gained a little flexibility.

He showed you how bad it felt once. You received his feelings, listened, and stayed through the storm. His need to prove himself goes down a notch, though he may have to show you his feelings a number of times before he can become a truly less-than-super-competitive child.

A listening partner will help you listen and play well

Things will progress even faster if you can create a Listening Partnership for yourself, so you can talk to a non-judgmental parent about your feelings about your super-competitor. You may feel like he's "bad," or feel like he's ruining your family's peace and serenity, or worry that he's never going to learn to play well with others. These feelings need to be heard by someone who will just let you have your say.

It will help to talk about your pregnancy and the birth of your child, and how things went during his first year or two. If you find things to be angry about or to cry about there, go ahead! Or if you're tempted to yell at or lecture your super-competitor, a Listening Partner is the ideal person to do that with. Letting off your own emotional steam will make it easier to play affectionately so that laughter ensues, and to listen to your child when he feels the chips are down so that he is ever surer of your love.

Originally posted on Hand in Hand Parenting.

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Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


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


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Learn + Play

Adele's albums have soothed many hearts through hard times, and now she's going through a big relationship transition of her own.

The singer is separating from her husband Simon Konecki, the father of her 6-year-old son, Angelo James.

"Adele and her partner have separated," Adele's people wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. "They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment."

Our hearts go out to Adele. Of course, she doesn't owe anyone any further explanation or discussion of her separation, but by announcing it publicly, she is shining a light on a family dynamic that is so common but not talked about as much as it should be: Co-parenting.

Parenting with an ex is a reality for so many mothers. According to the Pew Research Center, "the likelihood of a child – even one born to two married parents – spending part of their childhood in an unmarried parent household is on the rise."

Angelo James' experience will be similar to many of his peers.

"Increases in divorce mean that more than one-in-five children born within a marriage will experience a parental breakup by age 9, as will more than half of children born within a cohabiting union," Pew notes.

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Adele and Konecki already know a thing or two about how co-parenting works, as Konecki has an older child from a previous relationship.

They can make this work because so many parents are making this work. The reality is, two parents can still be a family, and be a team for their child without being romantic partners.

Decades ago, co-parenting after a divorce wasn't the norm, and a body of research (and the experience of a generation of kids) has changed the way parents do things today. Today, divorce isn't about the end of a family. It's about the evolution of one.

Research suggests joint physical custody is linked to better outcomes for kids than divorce arrangements that don't support shared parenting and that divorced couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse"(so, are friends, basically) are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Co-parenting is good for kids, and clearly, Adele and Konecki are committed to being a team for Angelo James.

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News

If you've had a baby in a hospital you know that those first few nights can be really hard. There are so many benefits for babies sharing rooms with their mamas (as opposed to being shipped off to those old-school, glassed-in nurseries) but tired mamas have a lot of conflicting messages coming at them.

You're told to bond with your baby, but not to fall asleep with them in the bed, and to let them rest in their bassinet. But when you're recovering from something that is (at best) the most physically demanding thing a person can do or (at worst) major surgery, moving your baby back and forth from bed to bassinette all night long sure doesn't sound like fun.

That's why this photo of a co-sleeping hospital bed is going viral again, four years after it was first posted by Australian parenting site Belly Belly. The photo continues to attract attention because the bed design is enviable, but is it real? And if so, why aren't more hospitals using it?

The bed is real, and it's Dutch. The photo originated from Gelderse Vallei hospital. As GoodHouskeeping reported back in 2015, the clip-on co-sleepers were introduced as a way to help mom and baby pairs who needed extended hospital stays—anything beyond one night in the maternity ward.

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Plenty of moms stateside wish we had such beds in our maternity wards, but as but Dr. Iffath Hoskins, an OB-GYN, told Yahoo Parenting in 2015, the concept wouldn't be in line with American hospitals' safe sleeping policies.

"If the mother rolls over from exhaustion, there would be the risk of smothering the baby," she told Yahoo. "The mother's arm could go into that space in her sleep and cover the baby, or she could knock a pillow to the side and it's on the baby."

Hoskins also believes that having to get in and out of bed to get to your baby in the night is good for moms who might be otherwise reluctant to move while recovering from C-sections. If you don't move, the risk of blood clots in the legs increases. "An advantage of being forced to get up for the baby is that it forces the mother to move her legs — it's a big plus. However painful it can be, it's important for new moms to move rather than remaining in their hospital beds."

So there you have it. The viral photo is real, but don't expect those beds to show up in American maternity wards any time soon.

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News

A new study has some people thinking twice about kissing their bearded partners, or maybe even letting those with beards kiss the baby—but there's a lot to unpack here.

According to Swiss researchers, bearded men are carrying around more bacteria than dogs do. A lot more. But read on before you send dad off to the bathroom with a razor and ask him to pull a Jason Momoa (yes, he's recently clean-shaven. RIP Aquaman's beard).

As the BBC reports, scientists swabbed the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs. When they compared the samples, they learned beards have a higher bacterial load than dog fur.

Dudes who love their beards are already clapping back against the way the science was reported in the media though, noting that the sample size in this study was super small and, importantly, that the scientists didn't swab any beardless men.

The study wasn't even about beards, really. The point of the study, which was published in July 2018 in the journal European Radiology, was to determine if veterinarians could borrow human MRI machines to scan dogs without posing a risk to human patients.

"Our study shows that bearded men harbour significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs," the authors wrote, noting that when MRI scanners are used for both dogs and humans, they're cleaned very well after veterinary use, and actually have a "lower bacterial load compared with scanners used exclusively for humans."

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Another important point to note is that most bacteria aren't actually dangerous to humans, and some can be really good for us (that's why some scientists want us to let our kids get dirty).

This little study wasn't supposed to set off a beard panic, it was just supposed to prove that dogs and people can safely share an MRI machine. There is previous research on beards and bacteria though, that suggests they're not all bad.

Another study done in 2014 and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection looked at a much larger sample of human faces (men who work in healthcare), both bearded and clean shaven, and actually found that people who shaved their faces were carrying around more Staph bacteria than those with facial hair.

"Overall, colonization is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair; however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair," the researchers wrote.

A year after that, a local news station in New Mexico did its own "study" on beards, one that wasn't super scientific but did go viral and prompted a flurry of headlines insisting beards are as dirty as toilets. That claim has been debunked.

So, before you ban bearded people from kissing the baby (or yourself) consider that we all have some bacteria on our faces. Dads should certainly wash their beards well, but they're not as dirty as a toilet.

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News

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo is on a mission to level the playing field for young women and provide them with the tools for success. In 2017, he implemented free two- and four-year public colleges for New Yorkers, and now Cuomo is adding a budget proposal that would provide on-site childcare at community colleges.

Under the proposal, single parents participating in the program would also have access to tutoring and help when applying to four-year schools. It's the kind of idea that could be a game changer for parents in New York state.

Currently, childcare centers are subsidized for student-parents but can still cost parents $50-$60 a week; under Cuomo's budget proposal, childcare would be free. Students who are already enrolled in similar programs acknowledge that the benefits are enormous.

"As a single parent of two children going to school full time, I wouldn't be able to come to school and afford for childcare," says Michelle Trinidad, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and parent to a 4 and 5-year-old. "Thank goodness for BMCC Early Childhood Center that is very much affordable. It gives me the opportunity to advance my career and be confident that my son is in good hands. School is hard enough on its own, having reliable child care means a lot to me and my children."

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The plan is a part of Cuomo's 2019 women's justice agenda, legislation that addresses the gender wage gap, as well as economic and social justice for all New York women. According to a 2017 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, 11% of undergraduates, or 2.1 million students, were single mothers as of 2012, which has doubled since 2000. Additionally, that same study found that 4 in 10 women at two-year colleges say that they are likely or very likely to drop out of school due to their dependent care obligations.

"This is an exciting initiative for New York that addresses a critical need, and if implemented, will have a far-reaching impact on various aspects of society, especially for the next generation," says Ryan Lee-James, PhD an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University. "I view this initiative as both a direct and indirect pathway to address the well-documented achievement gap between children reared in poverty and those growing up with higher income families, as it provides moms, who otherwise may not have had the opportunity, to further their education and thus, afford their children more opportunities."

Additionally, many view campus childcare as a safe haven for college students. "During my 18 years working in campus childcare, I have witnessed how the student-parents can complete their courses and stay focused by having childcare on campus," says Sori Palacio, a Head Teacher at BMCC Early Childhood Center. "Parents usually express how thankful they are for having their children traveling with them to school as well as having their children nearby while they complete their degree. They concentrate in academic work without worrying about their child's wellbeing. This service helps the entire public by preparing more people to serve the community."

Parents have so many barriers when it comes to accessing higher education, but free childcare could be a game changer that benefits multiple generations.

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News
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