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How to correct a child’s ‘bad’ behavior with positive parenting

When my son was four years old, he was sweet, funny and quite mischievous. Just a moment unsupervised and something was likely to get opened, spilled or broken. Most days my son was content to play with his toys in the garden or to make an art project. Other days, it seemed like he was set on pushing every boundary and breaking every rule.


If you have a young and energetic child at home I’m sure you know what this is like.

One time, I found him in the bathroom with several open containers of shampoo and soap. The shower doors completely white with suds. “Beau-full” art he told me very excited. Another time he cracked open magic markers and ran them under water to “catch colors.”

Each time we caught him bending a rule or breaking something we had to do something about it. But that something wasn’t your usual discipline. There was no sitting in the corner. No making him feel bad.

Instead, we tried something else: connection before correction.

Whenever we noticed off-track behaviors, we tried to look for solutions or alternatives to what my son was doing. Even before we did that, we actually just sat with him, played and talked. Often we hugged and chatted a bit. Then, we gave him opportunities to fix mistakes and to think about what he was doing.

Sometimes there were consequences, but not made-up ones—only ones that were directly related to what had happened. Washing up the soap or gluing together a broken vase for example. This wasn’t even presented as a consequence but as an opportunity to make amends or fix a mistake.

Maybe you are thinking this isn’t even discipline. That it can’t possibly work.

I totally get that, because I worried about that too. In fact, there was a time when I was skeptical about positive discipline and wondered if this was the right choice. And then I started to notice how much my son was growing and feeling capable.

The more opportunities we gave him to play and make mistakes freely the more he started asking before taking something that didn’t belong to him. When he made a mistake he came to tell us or to ask for help.

Positive discipline specifically aims to involve children in respectful ways and encourages parents to remember that children are capable of doing better.

Young children are often curious and very much into pushing boundaries. Connecting with your child before making any corrections is a surefire way to better behavior. Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline says, “We cannot influence children in a positive way until we create a connection with them.”

Each time your child pushes a limit, breaks a rule or a bottle of shampoo, before you correct the behavior, try to slow down first. Create a deliberate moment of connection. A moment when you can confidently provide safety and understanding for your child.

Enter into your child’s world. Look beyond the naughty mess and notice the learning and discoveries taking place.

Remind them you are their ally, you are on their side. Even when you are saying no or stopping unhelpful behaviors.

Of course it’s not always easy to stay calm and pretend that spilled soap is no big deal.

The thing is, your child really needs your confident and calm guidance when they make mistakes. Having realistic expectations about childhood behaviors can help you make connected and positive discipline choices.

These early interactions matter because how to choose to discipline shapes your child. Siegel and Payne write, “The moments when discipline is called for are actually some of the most important moments of parenting, times when we have the opportunity to shape our children most powerfully.”

Back when my son was making all those mischievous mistakes, I didn’t assume he was being bad or disrespectful. Instead these moments were treated as opportunities for offering guidance. I tried to calm the need to lecture and correct, and instead simply joined my child in his world. I realized he was curious and playful. He was also open to suggestions and often happy to have some guidance.

Connecting before making corrections helps children trust you. It helps you see your child. Really see your child, in that moment and what they need.

Connecting lets you create a meaningful moment to listen, validate and acknowledge your child.

How connection before correction might work for you:

  • Calm your own expectations or fears (remember your child is imperfect just like you)
  • Enter into your child’s world, think about the experience from their point of view.
  • Listen to what your child might have to say.
  • Focus on solutions and possibilities.
  • Use gentle physical touch to engage with your child.
  • Speak kindly and clearly—say what you really mean.
  • Make eye contact and get down to your child’s level.
  • Offer corrections that are encouraging and respectful.
  • Believe that when you work together, your child can learn to make a new, better choice.

Discipline that comes from a place of love and care teaches. When you connect first, you speak to your child’s heart and mind at the same time.

That is powerful. That is discipline. That is the surefire path to better behavior.

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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