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How empathy (even during meltdowns!) can actually teach your kids to do the right thing

Kids are human beings—messy and beautiful, wild and compassionate.

How empathy (even during meltdowns!) can actually teach your kids to do the right thing

Our culture is constantly feeding us negative ideas about children. When they are infants, we see them as blessings, gifts. We are quick to gush over newborn babies and how “innocent” and “sweet” they are. Oh, but wait just a few months and the message begins to change.


Right about the time they learn to walk and talk, the warnings start to come.

“He’s walking? You’re in trouble now.”

“Just wait, the terrible twos are coming.”

Terrible twos? Ha! Threenagers are way worse.”

“Oh yeah, just wait until he’s a teen!”

We are constantly told about how they will manipulate us, test our authority, push our buttons, and see what they can get away with. With the dire warnings come loads of advice telling us the best way to control our little tyrants—so they don’t control us.

Did the “terrible twos” message cause you fear or anxiety? If your child is two or older, do you think this influenced how you saw or interacted with your child during this stage? Were you looking for “terribleness”?

These toxic cultural messages get into our minds and negatively affect the way we see and therefore relate to our children. The clamor of the world drowns out the whispers of our hearts, and we end up viewing them not so much as our gifts anymore but as mischief to be managed.

In our earnest efforts to train them out of their inappropriate behavior, we end up reducing children to little more than that, as though their behavior at any given moment is what defines them—good, bad or something in between.

Our kids are more than their ability to sleep through the night. They are more than their willingness to instantly obey. They are more than a grade. They are more than a mood. They are more than a snapshot of how well they behaved that day, more than what we see on the surface. They are human beings—messy and beautiful, wild and compassionate, and worth getting to know, not just getting to mind.

When we reduce them to the behavior they currently display, we miss out on seeing their beauty, their light and ultimately their potential. If we can correct, teach and guide our children from a position of seeing the light within them rather than their momentary setbacks along the way, how much higher will they reach?

I call this being a light reflector because we intentionally look for the light in them and reflect it back so they can see it, too. After all, children come to see themselves the way their parents see them.

What they see reflected in our eyes is often what they will become. Will you be the person in your child’s life who always sees her light and reflects it back to her?

That starts with looking for positive motives, even when she does something “bad.” Seeing your children’s motives as negative (“He’s trying to test me” or “She’s just pushing my buttons”) triggers your own negative reactions. As a result, you may become angry, embarrassed or frustrated.

So, you scold her for her wrongdoing. Unfortunately, when she sees her “badness” in your eyes, she may come to see herself as bad—not just her behavior, but herself. If that works its way into her self-concept, she’ll repeat the bad behavior because we behave how we see ourselves.

See the person, the heart and soul, behind the screams, the eye rolls, the tantrums, the messy rooms, and the bad attitude. See their light and draw it out.

Excerpted from The Positive Parenting Workbook: An Interactive Guide for Strengthening Emotional Connection by Rebecca Eanes with the permission of Tarcher Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

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This article was sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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