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Managing perfectionism: 8 surprising tips for helping your child

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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Starting your child on solids can be a daunting process. Between the mixed advice that seems to come from every angle ("Thanks, Grandma, but pretty sure one dessert is enough…") to the at-times picky palates of our little ones, it can be tough on a mama trying to raise a kid with a sophisticated palate.

But raising an adventurous eater doesn't have to be a chore. In partnership with our friends at Raised Real, here are eight tips to naturally encourage your child to nibble and taste with courage.

1. Keep an open mind. 

As the parent, you set the tone for every bite. So stay positive! Raised Real makes it easy to work new and exciting ingredients into every meal, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to practice modeling open-minded eating. Instead of saying, "You might not like this" or "It's okay if you don't like it" from the start, keep your tone upbeat—or simply serve new dishes without any fanfare at all. (Toddlers can smell a tough sell from a mile away.) Either way, let your child decide for themselves how they feel about new dishes.

2. Show mealtime some respect. 

Spend less time in the kitchen and more time together at the table with Raised Real meals, which come prepped and ready to steam and blend. They're even delivered to your door—because they know how busy you are, mama. Think about it: Do you enjoy a meal you've had to rush through? Keep meals relaxed and let your child savor and taste one bite at a time to take any potential anxiety out of the equation. (This may mean you need to set aside more time than you think for dinner.)

3. Serve the same (vibrant) dish to the whole family.

Don't fall into the "short-order cook" trap. Instead of cooking a different meal for every family member, serve one dish that everyone can enjoy. Seeing his parents eating a dish can be a simple way to encourage your little one to take a bite, even if he's never tried it before. Since Raised Real meals are made with real, whole ingredients, they can be the perfect inspiration for a meal you serve to the whole family.

4. Get kids involved in prepping the meal.

Raised Real's ingredients are simple to prepare, meaning even little hands can help with steaming and blending. When children help you cook, they feel more ownership over the food—and less like they're being forced into eating something unfamiliar. As they grow, have your children help with washing and stirring, while bigger kids can peel, season, and even chop with supervision. Oftentimes, they'll be so proud of what they've made they won't be able to wait to try it.

5. Minimize snacking and calorie-laden drinks before meals. 

Serving a new ingredient? Skip the snacks. Hungry kids are less picky kids, so make sure they're not coming to the table full when you're introducing a new flavor. It's also a good idea to serve in courses and start with the unfamiliar food when they're hungriest to temper any potential resistance.

6. Don’t be afraid to introduce seasoning!  

Raised Real meals come with fresh seasonings already added in so you can easily turn up the flavor. Cinnamon, basil, turmeric, and cumin are all great flavors to pique the palate from an early age, and adding a dash or two to your recipes can spice up an otherwise simple dish.

7. Make “just one bite” the goal. 

Don't stress if your toddler isn't cleaning their plate—if he's hungry, he'll eat. Raised Real meals are designed to train the palate, so even a bite or two can get the job done. Right now the most important thing is to broaden their horizons with new flavors.

8. Try and try and try again. 

Kids won't always like things the first time. (It can take up to 20 tries!) If your child turns up her nose at tikka masala the first time, that doesn't mean she'll never care for Indian food. So don't worry. And be sure to try every ingredient again another day—or the next time you get it in your Raised Real meal box!

Still not sure where to start? Raised Real takes the guesswork out of introducing a variety of solids by delivering dietician-designed, professionally prepped ingredients you simply steam, blend, and serve (or skip the blending for toddlers who are ready for finger foods)—that's why they're our favorite healthy meal hack for kids.

Raising an adventurous eating just got a whole lot simpler, mama.

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

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I wasn't supposed to be a stay-at-home mom.

Or, to put it another way, I wasn't supposed to be a year-round, stay-at-home mom. My husband and I live in Los Angeles, and our rent and monthly bills require two paychecks.

By the time our son Ryan was born, I had been teaching for seven years. And there was no question that I'd continue to teach. Other teacher-moms told me that teaching was the "perfect" career for parents.

"Once he starts school, you and your son will have the same hours each day."

"You'll always be available when he's got a random day off from school."

"You'll spend vacations together."

"You know what your schedule is year-round. It's not like other jobs, where your schedule changes on a weekly basis."

Like my husband's schedule. Paul's retail career didn't provide the same consistent schedule, week after week, that my teaching career did. While Paul's schedule could be erratic, I would provide Ryan with a reliable, fixed routine.

And my colleagues were right.

Aside from a few exceptions, such as Parent-Teacher Conferences and Back-to-School Night, Ryan and I would have dinner together each night. I imagined us doing "homework" together each afternoon—Ryan doing actual homework, me grading my students' homework.

Because there are 180 school days, theoretically, that means that the other half of the year, I'd spend with Ryan. But again, there were some exceptions. I usually spent quite a bit of time each summer attending conferences, workshops, and professional developments. I always returned to my classroom several days before the start of the new school year to get everything ready.

Still, teaching would continue to provide our family with a needed second income, feed my passion for teaching, and allow me the opportunity to spend considerable time with my son each day, all year long.

If Ryan attended the same small, local elementary school where I taught, I'd never have to choose between my students and my son. We'd come and go to school together, I'd watch him walk with his class in our school's Halloween Parade, and he'd watch me walk with mine. I'd hear him and his class sing holiday songs during our winter performance, and he'd hear my class.

That was the plan.

But while Ryan was a preschooler, the plan changed.

I got sick with a "mystery illness" that took doctors almost a year and a half to diagnose. Eventually, my rheumatologist determined I suffered from Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, an autoimmune disease. I tried to pretend that my disease didn't impact my life or require any major lifestyle changes. But I couldn't keep up the pretense. So, in 2013, after a 12-year teaching career, I retired due to a disability.

I wasn't merely forced to give up my career. I had to give up my passion. I was now thrust into the role of year-round, stay-at-home mom, and I wasn't completely sure how to do it.

Thankfully, my disability check would continue to provide us with some income and the matching schedules Ryan had grown accustomed to would continue as well. But there were a lot of changes.

I had never before been the person to take Ryan to preschool. That job had always fallen to either our nanny or Paul. Now, I had to learn the timetable for breakfast, and the morning routine of getting washed, dressed, and out of the house.

I also had to figure out what to do after preschool. When I was teaching, I came home in the late afternoon. Ryan and I had some play time and shortly after that, we would begin our nightly evening routine. Now, with preschool ending at two o'clock each afternoon, we would have hours together before it was time for dinner.

How would I fill that time?

I knew how to lesson plan for a class of 30-plus students. I knew how to fill school days with a mix of whole-group instruction, independent work, and cooperative group work. I had a pacing plan to adhere to, standards and concepts that I was mandated to teach on a

timetable to prepare my students for periodic assessments and yearly standardized testing. But how would I organize a single day that involved just Ryan and me?

Many colleagues told me to find the silver lining. I had a disability, but I had also been given a gift—the opportunity to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. While that was true, it came at a price.

I felt confused because I wasn't accepting my new role with complete enthusiasm and pure delight. I alternated between feelings of guilt, anger, and frustration because it wasn't my choice. My doctor and the state of California told me I could no longer teach. And when someone tells you that you can or cannot do something, it means something entirely different than when the choice is your own.

While I love my son and am honored to be his mother, I didn't know how to reconcile the fact that mothering had now become my primary job every day. I wasn't sure how to accept and make sense of my new identity. Disabled woman. Former Teacher. Stay-at-home mom.

I've slowly come to realize that I'm still a teacher, but now my student roster consists of one, my son, and my classroom isn't always a room. Sometimes it's the library. Sometimes it's our kitchen. Sometimes it's our backyard.

Sometimes it's enough. Sometimes it isn't. But it is always an adventure.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Jessica Simpson will soon join the mom of three club! The singer-turned-fashion mogul announced on Instagram today that she is expecting a baby girl.

"This little baby girl will make us a family of five," said Simpson, who shares 6-year-old Maxwell and 5-year-old Ace with husband Eric Johnson. "We couldn't be happier to announce this precious blessing of life."

The news may come as a surprise to Simpson's fans, considering she's been pretty vocal about feeling as though her family was complete. "I have two beautiful children, and I'm not having a third," she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2017. "They're too cute. You can't top that."

Earlier this year, Simpson revealed to Entertainment Tonight she had developed a case of baby fever, but said it would "definitely have to be a miracle" to have a third baby. Today's joyful announcement is proof that plans can change and that's part of the fun of life. All that really matters is that Simpson's family—including the two big siblings—certainly seem excited.

Besides, the designer of a line for Motherhood Maternity shouldn't have any problem with being just as fashionable as ever through her third pregnancy. 😉

Congrats to the growing family!

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Pumpkin spice lattes are here and the weather is getting chillier. That can only mean one thing—Halloween is near! Whether you're a fan of the holiday or not, there's simply nothing more precious than dressing up your baby or toddler in an adorable costume.

Today only, Target has up to 40% off Halloween costumes for the entire family. We rounded up the cutest picks from the baby + toddler departments—check 'em out. 😍

Toddler Halloween Costumes: Shark

Shark costume, $15.00 (was $25.00)

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