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You know the pain. You, whose daughter is nauseated, hunched over the toilet. She’s worried sick that she won’t recall each of the facts she memorized for her history test today, a subject in which she currently has an A.


And you. You, too, know the pain. Your son doesn’t sleep at night, and you stand outside his door listening to him cry because of a mistake almost a week ago.

You know the frustration. You, whose daughter doesn’t swing the bat for fear that she’ll miss the ball. It’s better for her to not try than to try and fail.

And you, whose son corrects everything his younger siblings say or do, trying to prove his intelligence, belittling everyone else in the process.

And you know the anger. You, whose kid did not complete his science project for school. He worked on it every night, but started over each time, because his rocket “never looked like” a rocket.

And you, whose daughter makes you late for everything, because it takes so long for her to get her hair “perfect.”

Perfectionists.

What do you think of when you hear the word? Chances are it’s something negative, especially if you relate to the scenarios above. But, please know there can be healthy behaviors associated with perfectionism.

As Jill Adelson Ph.D. and Hope Wilson Ph.D. illustrate, it can lead to high levels of achievement, personal satisfaction, happiness and productivity. If you have a child with perfectionist tendencies, or if you’re a perfectionist yourself, those powers can be used for good.

Still, there’s no getting around the unhealthy, negative effects perfectionists often suffer: fear of failure; general anxiety; procrastination; anger; depression. These symptoms of unhealthy perfectionism can surface at very young ages, and research suggests that they become more severe with time.

That makes it important for parents to have a positive influence on their children’s unhealthy tendencies at a very young age. There are things we can do to move our kids away from those unhealthy behaviors and channel their energy, their drive, into something really exciting.

Here is a list of things you can start doing to help right now. Some of them might surprise you.

1. Let them do their homework wrong

Surprised? Hear me out. There are lots of parents who check their kids’ homework for total accuracy. If they find a math problem with an incorrect solution, they send the child back to do it right.

How do I know this happens? I do it myself. But I’m learning to not. Will you join me? Making homework perfect reinforces perfectionist instincts when it might not be warranted.

Our intentions are good, but some teachers use homework for the students’ practice and reserve graded work for in-class exams. If you correct the practice, the teacher isn’t getting accurate feedback on the lesson, and the student can’t get professional feedback from the teacher.

Still not convinced? Why not ask the teacher directly? Find out what he or she wants to see out of the homework. Then, if you feel you have an opportunity, let the kids return to class with some incorrect solutions.

It’s a great way to prove to them that perfect isn’t everything. As long as they are trying, it’s the effort that counts. If you still feel you must check for accuracy, try adopting the phrase “not yet” instead of “wrong.”

2. Discuss flawed characters

Look for the flaws in the characters of shows, movies, or books that your child consumes. Ask he or she to identify the mistakes that characters make and what they learn from them.

Want some examples? PBS’s Curious George is a perfect place to start with younger kids: that monkey can’t get through an episode without making an innocent, but often huge, mistake, and in the end, he always learns from it.

Read the Harry Potter series and discuss both the flawed and perfectionist qualities of Hermione Granger (note, the books are thought to have more value in this regard than the films). And, speaking of imperfect heroes, do they get any more compelling than Anakin Skywalker? From being the galaxies most “perfect” Jedi, to one of its most flawed, then back again. Not enough? Here are some more flawed characters.

3. Stop telling your kids they’re smart

Surprised again? Here are the facts: studies show that praising kids for being smart or talented ingrains in their minds the idea that their gifts are natural, and not the result of work. This makes effort less attractive to them, and it also makes them afraid to appear anything but smart. They stop challenging themselves due to a fear of failure. “What if I don’t look smart?”

Kids praised for being smart are more likely to perform simple tasks repetitively, knowing full well they’ll achieve success and continue “being perfect.” Kids praised for their effort, persistence, and methods are more likely to challenge themselves with increasingly difficult tasks, looking to demonstrate their ability to think through more difficult problems.

Next time you want to tell your child that he or she is smart, tell them instead that you love their effort, and you appreciate how hard they work at solving problems.

4. Be direct (discreetly)

Sometimes a simple conversation can go a long way. Does your child really understand what perfectionism is? Perhaps start by defining the term along with them. Ask them what they think it means. Tell them what you think it means. Talk about situations and behaviors that might be considered healthy. Then talk about some generic situations where being a perfectionist is unhealthy. Throw in some examples from your life.

This conversation will be the foundation for future conversations more directly related to your child’s behavior. Just remember tact! A perfectionist will have an especially hard time understanding that they’ve been doing something “wrong.”

Be constructive and encouraging. Avoid judgment at all costs, and if the conversation takes a wrong turn one day, take a break and revisit the topic at another time, and in another way.

5. Get them in a yoga loop

Yoga is endless. There is no goal to achieve, no perfection to attain. Every instance of a yoga class is referred to as a “practice,” during which the only goal is to challenge your body in that single moment. It’s practice for the sake of practice. Instructors encourage students to not compare their abilities to their neighbors’, or even to their own performance during their previous practices.

The only concern is the “now,” and to focus on what the body and mind need in that single moment. That brand of mindfulness is largely absent in the minds of perfectionists, and yoga is a marvelous tool for teaching them to think otherwise.

I encourage formal child yoga classes, but if that’s not an option and you already know some yoga poses, practice in your home. Just remember to emphasize the goal: effort without the possibility of perfection.

6. Do brain-muscle exercises

Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist responsible for a swath of research in this area, developed a concept she calls “mindset.” The idea is simple: one can have either a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset. Of course there are different degrees, but the point is that the brain, like the muscles in your body, can be worked hard, grow, and get stronger. Why is this important to teach and practice?

Perfectionists often have a fixed mindset. They believe their brain, their level of intelligence, is fixed, so they’re always looking to demonstrate and prove its strength. A failure means they’re not smart. However, an individual with a growth mindset understands that every failure is still great exercise, and that on their next attempt, they’ll have that much more brain-strength! Talk to your kids about the brain muscle, and find activities to give it a workout.

7. Play games about process, not winning

Yes, such games exist! Check out board games like “Hoot Owl Hoot” or “Race to the Treasure” in which players cooperate with one another to achieve a goal, rather than compete against one another for superiority. Families might also enjoy “The Ungame,” which groups of adults might also enjoy when the kids aren’t around.

Dr. Carol Dweck, who I mentioned earlier, collaborated to create an addictive video game, Refraction, to move the focus from achievement to trial and error. A current favorite video game at my house is “Minecraft” in creative mode, which allows players to build and create freely and without threat; there’s nothing permanent or highly visible about their building projects, which gives great license to experiment, fail, and repeat.

8. Make beautiful art, then throw it away

Ish is a lovely picture book by Peter H. Reynolds about a boy who learns the beauty of making perfectly imperfect art: a wonderful story for kids who just can’t seem to “get it right.” For older kids, try having them make art with the intention of throwing it away. In other words, create for the sake of the creative process, not for the sake of a “piece of art.” Don’t cheat it. Spend time on it, then let it go.

Years past, I was told the best way to practice my writing was to create like a child, the idea being that young children are capable of spending hours coloring, then walking away from the work without any concern for it. They don’t treat the end product like a perfect treasure. The treasure was in their process, and their process teaches them to be more creative.

Originally posted on GoZen!

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

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

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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In prior decades, body image issues usually didn't hit the scene until kids reached adolescence. But thanks to social media, and our culture's relentless pursuit of thinness, we now have to find creative ways to teach young children how to develop healthy body images.

Before I dive into some practical tips to help kids improve body image, I want to first diminish any shame that you might be feeling if you have body issues of your own. It's so important to remember that you downloaded every internal message from somewhere else. Of course, it's critical to work on your own issues, but it's also important to know it is not your fault that you developed them in the first place!

So, whether you are struggling with your own body image, or you love your body, here are some tools to help your child feel better about the precious body he or she lives in:

1. Break the spell

How do you know if your child has a bad body image? Perhaps they've begun making negative comments about their size or shape. Maybe they are comparing their body to others. Maybe they are avoiding foods or activities they once enjoyed because they feel uncomfortable about their body.

Often the most common response a parent has is to reassure their child that they are “fine," or “beautiful" or “perfect." And while there is certainly nothing wrong with some reassurance, it simply may not be enough to overpower the cultural messages kids are surrounded by. Reassure them that they are perfect just the way they are.

2. Unkind mind, kind mind and quiet mind

This little menu of options encourages kids to identify and differentiate between three different thinking states within themselves. I refer to them as “mind moods." Try teaching your child about these three states of mind and brainstorming examples of each. For example, unkind mind = “I hate my thighs." Kind mind = “I love singing." Quiet mind = Peacefully resting or playing.

This will raise their awareness of their thoughts and help them to choose their mind moods more consciously. As they learn to turn up the volume of their kind minds and spend more time in their quiet minds, they begin to feel more present and peaceful.

Once you have helped your child identify their unkind mind as a distinct voice, they can then try on some different responses and see which ones help bring them some relief. Try asking them to write or say all the messages their unkind mind is saying and practicing using strong, soft, silly or silent responses. Kids can learn that their unkind mind is not all of who they are, and that it doesn't have to run the show.

3. Get to the root

This concept helps kids discover what triggers their body dissatisfaction. You can help your child by asking questions or taking guesses about what might have started their bad body image. For example, I helped one 7-year old get to the root of her body obsession by noticing it started when there was a death in her family. Right around that time, her best friend started talking about dieting, so she latched onto food obsession as a distracting coping tool.

Once we uncovered this, she was able to learn about healthy grieving and truly healthy eating (as opposed to what the diet culture deems as healthy—which can actually be unhealthy).

4. Mind movies vs. really real

Try asking your child to show you some things around them that are real (i.e. things they can see, touch or hear). Then ask them if they can show you one single thought in their minds. You can playfully challenge them to take a thought out of their head and show it to you or fold it up and put it in their pocket. This tool teaches kids how to be more present.

Of course, they might use their imagination to do this, but with some finesse, you can teach your child to distinguish between the mind movies that cause them stress and the really real things around them. This is an immensely helpful tool that will not only help them with body image (since body image is one long mind movie) but will also improve the quality of their lives in general.

5. Dog talk and cat chat

Many kids cannot relate to the concept of being kind to themselves but ask a child how they feel about their favorite pet, and a doorway to their compassion, kindness and unconditional acceptance opens. For non-pet lovers, you can ask your child to imagine how they would speak to a baby or their best friend.

Dog talk and cat chat can help teach youngsters how to take the loving words and tones they use toward a beloved pet, and direct these sentiments toward themselves and their bodies.

6. Do an internal upgrade

In addition to helping your child combat the messages they receive out in the world, you can also work on the messages they get in your home. Again, if you struggle with body image, it is not your fault, but you can work on healing—and not only will you feel more peace, but your child will benefit as well.

To the best of your ability, refrain from talking about foods as “good" or “bad." Refrain from making negative comments about your (or anyone else's) weight or looks. Refrain from praising someone (or yourself) for weight loss.

Practice welcoming your child's tears and anger without trying to change their feelings before they are ready. Practice eating all food groups in moderation. Foster a positive, grateful attitude about your body.

May you and your child feel comfortable in your bodies, eat all foods in moderation, move and rest in ways that feel good, and find abundant sweetness and fulfillment in life.

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Learn + Play

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

Here are 21 questions to dig deeper into your marriage after a long day—see where they take you!

  1. Did you listen to anything interesting today?
  2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?
  3. How much coffee did you drink today?
  4. Will you remember any specific part of today a year from now? Five years?
  5. Did you take any photos today? What did you photograph?
  6. What app did you open most today?
  7. How can I make your day easier in five minutes?
  8. If we were leaving for vacation tonight, where do you wish we would be heading?
  9. If you won $500 and had to spend it on yourself today, what would you buy?
  10. If your day was turned into a movie, who would you cast?
  11. What did you say today that you could have never expected to come out of your mouth?
  12. What did you do to take care of yourself today?
  13. When did you feel appreciated today?
  14. If you could guarantee one thing for tomorrow what would it be?
  15. If we traded places tomorrow what advice would you give me for the day?
  16. What made you laugh today?
  17. Imagine committing the next year to learning one thing in your spare time. What would it be?
  18. Did you give anyone side-eye today? Why?
  19. What do you wish you did more of today?
  20. What do you wish you did less of today?
  21. Are you even listening to me right now?

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Love + Village

Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit's company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?" Ohanian writes in an op-ed for New York Times Parenting.

He continues: "Then came Olympia, after near-fatal complications forced my wife, Serena, to undergo an emergency C-section. Serena spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms. When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn't walk."

The experience changed the way Ohanian viewed paternity leave. It was no longer something that just sounded like a good thing, it was a necessary thing for his family. It was crucial that he take it and now he is advocating for more fathers to be able to. In his piece for the NYT Ohanian points out something that Motherly has previously reported on: It is hard for fathers to take paternity leave even when their government or employer offers it.

A report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Dads need paid leave, but even when they have it social pressures and unrealistic cultural expectations keep them from taking it and they choose not to take all the time they can. Ohanian wants lawmakers and business leaders to make sure that dads can take leave and he wants to help fathers choose to actually take it.

"I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he wrote for Glamour.

In his NYT piece, Ohanian goes further: "I get that not every father has the flexibility to take leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career. But my message to these guys is simple: Taking leave pays off, and it's continued to pay dividends for me two years later. It should be no surprise that I also encourage all of our employees to take their full leave at Initialized Capital, where I am managing partner; we recently had three dads on paid paternity leave at the same time."

The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time. Research supports paid leave for all parents. It benefits the baby and the parents and that benefits society.

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."

"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

[A version of this post was originally published February 19, 2019. It has been updated.]

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