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6 questions Montessori teachers ask when they want to change ‘bad’ behavior

Most children go through a phase where their behavior makes us really frustrated. When this happens, the natural tendency is to react in anger or annoyance (and I've certainly done this plenty of times). That kind of reaction isn't generally that productive though, and depending on the child and their motivations, can even encourage them to continue the undesired behavior.

A big part of Montessori is observing the children and the classroom to see what is going well and what isn't, who is thriving and who needs a little extra love. In cases of "bad behavior," we take a moment to really sit and observe the child and think about what might be causing the behavior and what we might be able to do to stop it.

Here are six questions Montessori teachers ask when we want a behavior to change, and how to apply them to your own children and home.

1. “Are their basic needs met?”

Are they tired when they start biting friends? Are they hungry when they're rolling around on the floor? Do they need a reminder to use the toilet when they start to lose control of their body?

When young children feel uncomfortable, they are often unable to pinpoint what is wrong. They sometimes need us to help remind them to take care of their bodies. To determine if a child's behavior is linked to a physical need, we look for trends in when the behavior occurs. If it always happens mid-morning, they may need a snack. If they're losing control in the early afternoon, they may need to rest.

With your own child, think about the time the undesired behavior is happening. It can help to keep a little notebook or something in your phone's notes to track the behavior for a few days to see if you notice trends. Then experiment, offering a snack or a little rest or a bathroom break around that time.

2. “What are they really trying to do?”

Another thing we look for is the motivation behind a child's behavior. Are they throwing things for the sensory stimulation of watching and hearing them hit the floor? Are they trying to get some attention?

Maybe they're hitting their friend because they don't know how to problem solve verbally. Or, they're wanting to roughhouse, but don't know how to invite a friend to play.

Young children don't do things to be "bad," even if it seems like there can be no other reason. Brainstorm a few factors that might be motivating the behavior and try addressing each one. You might help them find an appropriate activity that gives similar sensory feedback, such as a rain stick instead of the sound of a box of beads hitting the floor. Or, talk them through how to respond verbally when someone takes their toy.

Simply acknowledging that the behavior has a motivation beyond annoying you can be super helpful for your peace of mind, even if you haven't found the reason yet.

3. “How can I change the layout of the room to address the behavior?”

We often say in Montessori, "You can't change the child, but you can change the environment."

One of a Montessori teacher's most important responsibilities is crafting a classroom environment that is beautiful, peaceful and conducive to concentration. This environment isn't a static thing—it must change to meet the needs of each child, and this is the same at home.

If we notice that children are often running full speed ahead through a certain part of the classroom, we might move a shelf so the space doesn't invite running. If we notice that a certain corner has become a hiding spot, we may rearrange things so that it's more visible.

At home, if your younger child is always getting into your oldest's art supplies, consider placing them on a higher shelf. If your child is always tracking mud through the house, place a little basket or shelf by the door for shoes.

4. “How can I prevent the behavior?”

It is so much easier to prevent a behavior from occurring entirely than to try to stop it once it's underway. If you really reflect on when a behavior is happening and what might be causing it, you can often prevent it.

If one child always hits another, you may need to be nearby when they're together for a while. If your child always has a meltdown when it's time to go home for a nap, you may need to try heading home a bit earlier in the morning.

It can take some trial and error, but preventing a behavior can not only make your whole day easier, but it also can prevent a child from falling into a behavioral pattern, which may go on for much longer than it needs to.

5. “Why is this bothering me?”

In some cases, like when a child is hurting others or safety is a concern, it is obvious why a behavior is upsetting us. In other instances, we may need to take a look at ourselves to figure out if the behavior is really a problem, or if it's triggering our emotions for personal reasons. It may be hard to step back and let a child figure out social situations on their own if we struggled socially.

Whining might be particularly annoying to us if we got in trouble for whining ourselves as a child. Nap time avoidance antics might frustrate us more if we are completely exhausted at that time of day.

If it's not blatantly obvious, try to think about why a behavior is so annoying to you. Even if you still want the behavior to stop, it can help you have a little more patience and empathy with your kids.

6. “How can I deepen my relationship with the child?”

More than any other question, this one is the key to helping a child change their behavior. At the end of the day, children don't listen to us because we yell loud enough or repeat something enough times—they listen to us when they feel close and connected, when they want to be with us and please us.

It can be easy to retreat when we feel like we really need a break from a behavior, but it's so much better to lean into the relationship and think about how to spend more time, or even just more quality time, with our children.

A child going through a rough patch with behavior usually needs us more than ever, even if it seems like they're trying to drive us away. Finding time for a one on one chat or a few more snuggles can help strengthen that bond that we both need so badly.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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