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There are feet and elbows and squeals and shrieks, followed by laughing—lots of laughing—thumps and grunts. I watch, waiting for my youngest to smack his head on the coffee table or my oldest to sit a little too long on the middle one’s chest, worried that it’s not really fun until someone gets hurt.


I don’t know if it is amusement, amazement or annoyance I feel as I watch their dad in the middle of it all, tossing them around, spinning them and flipping them, altogether keeping the energy at a frenzy, sweating and panting right along. And I wonder who is having more fun?

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To a mom, all the noise and pummeling can be more than a little bit alarming. But lots of research suggests that regular roughhousing sessions make for happier, more successful children.

In fact, in Top Dog, a book about the science of winning and losing, authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman argue that roughhousing can give your kids a competitive edge and help them learn to thrive in an increasingly dog-eat-dog world.

We know intuitively that something magical is going on when dad gets down on the floor and lets little ones give it to him. Even if we are more than a little uneasy with all the activity, somehow we know the special give and take that goes on is fundamental to how our kids relate to him.

But are we aware of how that relationship affects how our kids see the world and themselves in it, or that roughhousing can help protect against childhood depression?

Maybe if we understand that roughhousing is a good way for kids to release aggression, or that it teaches our kids how to set boundaries, we can relax and enjoy watching the show.

As moms, every fiber of our being has been devoted to nourishing, nurturing and protecting our babies from before that first beautiful cry was heard to those first wobbly steps and beyond. The journey has brought us closer and made us more connected and in tune with our children than we could have ever imagined.

The first few years, our children’s development requires more from us, with dads as active participants who, for the most part, follow our lead. But by nature, there comes a time and place where dads’ involvement and subsequent bond grows independently and quite importantly.

"A mother’s bond is established in infancy, and researchers believe that dad's bond is expressed a little later, when the father serves as a secure base allowing the child to explore and take risks," says University of Georgia researcher Geoffrey Brown, lead author of a 2012 study in the Journal of Family Psychology on fundamental questions about how fathers bond with children.

What is roughhousing?

Roughhousing is essentially mutual, aggressive, interactive, high-trust play in which no one is actually getting hurt. Kids feel more relaxed, connected, and happy after roughhousing. This is critical in establishing a deep and lasting bond with dads that lays the foundation for the part of their development that helps them function successfully in the world and pave the way for future generations’ success and happiness by properly socializing kids to be good parents themselves. The good news is that roughhousing comes in many shapes and sizes, so dads who are more adverse to the extreme physicality of many forms can easily find others that suit their style better.

Recent research has shown that roughhousing serves an evolutionary purpose. Unlike many other animals, humans need their fathers well beyond just the act of making the baby. Based on research by MacDonald and Parke, fathers play key roles in optimum development of psychological and emotional traits like empathy, emotional control and the ability to navigate complex social relationships.

"Perhaps out of worry for their kids' future financial security, dads across human cultures mostly focus on preparing children to compete within society. They give advice, encourage academic success and stress achievement," says David Geary of the University of Missouri and author of Male, Female: Evolution of Human Sex Differences.

By roughousing, dads "rile them up, almost to the point that they are going to snap, and then calm them down," explains Geary. "This pattern teaches kids to control their emotions—a trait that garners them popularity among superiors and peers," he said. "As adults, they are more likely to form secure relationships, achieve stable social standing and become able parents. In this sense, a father who takes care of his children also gives his grandchildren a leg up."

Science supports the need for this kind of activity.

"We know quite a lot about how important fathers are in general for a child's development," says Richard Fletcher, the leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia (UON), in an interview on ABC News.

Though all the rolling around and noise on the floor may look like theres just a lot of fun being had, Fletcher and UON researchers believe that the most important aspect of roughhousing is that it gives children "a sense of achievement when they 'defeat' a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration."

In their study, researchers watched film of 30 dads roughhousing with their kids. "When you look at fathers and their young children playing, you can see that for the child, it's not just a game. They obviously enjoy it and they're giggling, but when you watch the video, you can see that child is concentrating really hard. I think the excitement is related to the achievement that's involved," Fletcher says. "It's not about a spoiled child not wanting to lose, I think that child is really striving for the achievement of succeeding."

What it does to your child’s brain

There is a lot of science to reinforce the value of roughhousing. A lot of it can be tied to one salient fact: Roughhousing releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Based on research by the Child Mental Health Centre’s Margot Sutherland, when kids roughhouse, the brain recognizes this as a small stressor. As heart rate increases, the brain thinks they are fighting or fleeing some danger. To protect the brain from stress, BDNF is released, which repairs and protects the brain while improving it’s learning and memory capabilities. Stimulating neuron growth in the cortex-amygdala, cerebellum and hippocampus regions of the brain, BDNF is vitally important and responsible for the development of memory, higher learning and advanced behavior, such as language and logic–skills necessary for academic success. This growth underpins a myriad of benefits for our kids.

Why we roughhouse

Some parents worry that roughhousing teaches kids to be violent and impulsive. In their book, The Art of Roughhousing, Anthony DeBenedet and Larry Cohen claim instead that roughhousing “makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.”

Other studies have indicated that kids who aren’t allowed to roughhouse can develop inappropriate responses to aggression, imagining threats where none exist, according to research by Daniel Paquette, a Professor of Psychoeducation at the University of Montreal.

"Parent-child roughhousing enables kids to explore aggression within the context of an emotional bond. By practicing aggression in a safe environment as a kid, they learn to be comfortable with it and take more risks as an adult, whether it’s by standing up to a bullying colleague or asking for a raise. In particular, fathers play a critical role in helping kids develop these skills," he says.

In Paquette’s surveys of children’s behavior for the University of Montreal, kid-initiated roughhousing peaks at around three or four, but continues until about age 10. During that time, Psychologist Anthony Pellegrini has found that "the amount of roughhousing children engage in predicts their achievement in first grade better than their kindergarten test scores do."

Roughhousing is a fun and safe place to teach your kids that failure is often just a temporary state and that victory goes to the person who is resilient, sticks to it and learns from his mistakes.

As a parent, resilience and grit are two of the best things you can help your kids develop. "Since resilience is a key in developing children’s intelligence, resilient kids tend to see failure more as a challenge to overcome rather than an event that defines them. This sort of intellectual resilience helps ensure your children bounce back from bad grades and gives them the grit to keep trying until they’ve mastered a topic," says Pellegrini. The ability to bounce back from failures helps your kids face challenges and reach their full potential, living happier lives as adults.

Though on its surface it appears rather brutish, roughhousing is really quite sophisticated, requiring the coordination of three aspects of human intelligence: physical, social and cognitive. When in concert, these aspects provide the sweet notes of our kids’ lives, but when out of balance can make for some sad music.

10 ways kids benefit from roughhousing

1. It rewires the brain, making kids smarter.

Roughhousing requires our kids to adapt quickly to unpredictable situations. In his book, Wild Justice, evolutionary biologist, Marc Bekoff, says, "The unpredictable nature of roughhousing actually rewires a child’s brain by increasing the connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex, which in turn contributes to behavioral flexibility. Learning how to cope with sudden changes while roughhousing trains your kiddos to cope with unexpected bumps in the road when they’re out in the real world."

2. It teaches children about taking turns and cooperation.

Roughhousing teaches kids the concept of leadership and negotiation. Physical games require the give-and-take of negotiation to establish the rules upon which everyone needs to agree in order for all to have fun. This is excellent preparation for both professional success and committed relationships.

Roughhousing also requires taking turns with the dominant role. Whether you’re the wrestler or the wrestlee, everyone has to take turns in for the fun to continue. Kids don’t want to keep playing if they are constantly on the losing side.

3. It toughens kids up.

Occasional scuffs and scrapes are a byproduct of roughhousing and are bound to happen. Rather than coddle, dads tend to distract their kids from the pain with humor or some other task.

In a study of 32 subjects in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, researchers found that many fathers walk a fine line during roughousing between safety and risk, allowing children to get minor injuries without endangering them. Learning to deal with and manage minor discomforts while roughhousing can help kids handle the stresses they’ll encounter at school and work.

4. It teaches kids to take risks.

Beckoff states that roughhousing is good for learning because "it provides an opportunity for making mistakes without fear of punishment." And because "fathers play a particularly important role in the development of children's openness to the world," writes Paquette, "they also tend to encourage children to take risks, while at the same time ensuring [their] safety and security, thus permitting children to learn to be braver in unfamiliar situations, as well as to stand up for themselves."

5. It helps kids manage aggression.

Some parents fear that roughhousing will lead to aggression and that we should always be “safe” with our children. While this is a concern, studies perfomed at the University of Regensburg in Germany suggest that it actually has the opposite effect.

Children who roughhouse at home are less violent, presumably because they feel a strong connection with their fathers and because they learn the difference between healthy roughhousing and aggression. As psychologist John Snarey says in his research-turned-book, How Fathers Care for the Next Generation, "Children who roughhouse with their fathers... quickly learn that biting, kicking, and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable."

Girls have aggressive feelings, too, and few know how to deal with them. Roughhousing provides the same benefits to them as it does to boys. Occasionally, roughhousing can lead to tears—play may have activated feelings that needed to come out, and they are coming out in tears rather than laughter and body slams. It turns out that roughhousing can help "mean girls" access their feelings more directly, which cuts down on the meanness.

7. It increases social and emotional intelligence.

“The ability to differentiate between play and aggression translates into other social skills that require people to read and interpret social cues,” says Pellegrini. Kids need to learn when to stop. In a report published in Behavioral Neuroscience, Jennifer Mascaro and her colleagues at Emory University state that, "rough play mimics aggressive actions, and requires accurate reading of social cues to determine when the rough and tumble tickling or fighting has gone too far, or if someone is feeling hurt. That requires evaluating other people’s emotional state and determining when the feelings pass the threshold from fun and play to fear and anger."

Play expert and founder of The National Institute for Play, Dr. Stuart Brown, says that the “lack of experience with [roughhousing] hampers the normal give-and-take necessary for social mastery and has been linked with poor control of violent impulses later in life. When kids roughhouse they learn to tell the difference between play and actual aggression," making them more well-liked, compared to kids who have a hard time separating the two.

Moreover, kids learn how to regain self-control, which makes them more confident in their emotional lives.

8. It teaches kids about boundaries, ethics and morality.

When we roughhouse with our kids, they learn the difference between right and wrong and about the appropriate use of strength and power. Roughhousing also teaches children about setting limits and boundaries while being safe when they play with others.

In nature, self-handicapping is one of the most amazing illustrations of moral behavior in animal play. "When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach them self-control, fairness, and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn’t everything and you don’t need to dominate all the time," say DeBenedet and Cohen.

According to Bekoff, this is moral behavior because the larger the animal cares more about both players having fun together than it does about winning. Kids learn that actual strength is showing compassion to those weaker than you.

9. It makes kids physically active and can protect them from depression.

"Being active, getting sweaty and roughhousing offer more than just physical health benefits. They also protect against depression," says Tonje Zahl, a Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and first author of the article on the study findings which were recently published in the February 2017 issue of Pediatrics.

Her new study supports that this kind of physical activity protects against depression. The researchers at the NTNU examined just under 800 children when they were six years old and conducted follow-up examinations with about 700 of them when they were eight and ten years old to see if they could find a correlation between physical activity and symptoms of depression. They found that the more the kids engaged in activity that caused them to sweat and pant, the less incidence there was of depression.

10. Roughhousing builds a better bond.

The rough play fathers engage in is just as important as the gentle mothering that mothers do. Roughhousing offers dads a chance to show physically their affection to their kids in a fun and playful manner. Throwing kids up in the air and catching them, or swinging them upside-down, builds kids’ trust in you—by taking part in somewhat risky activities with you, your kids learn that they can trust you to keep them safe. And as dads tumble around with kids, the closeness and physical activity release the parenting hormone, oxytocin, which boosts feelings of bonding and closeness.

It’s not just for dads and sons

Just as fathers can be super midnight soothers, mothers can be awesome roughhousers. This is especially important, since not all children have fathers. "If a mom does it, the child will learn the same thing," says Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, a professor of developmental psychology at New York University. And moms who roughhouse with their kids give them a whole new set of behaviors to figure out and learn from.

All kids need loving physical contact, and both boys and girls need to get it from their fathers. In roughhousing, dads and kids get the endorphin rush of athletics as well as the oxytocin rush of a good hug, benefitting both the same way that the release of oxytocin does when a child is being comforted or is nursing.

Importantly, DeBenedet says roughhousing can benefit both genders, often in different ways. “For boys, it’s a way to learn physical interaction that isn’t violent or sexual. For girls, it’s finding a way to make sure their voice is heard.”

So, what can you do to remain sane while watching all of this go down?

  • Be aware of the surroundings Keep your kids away from areas where they can get hurt. Also, keep in mind that a child’s joints are prone to injury when roughhousing.
  • Watch for and respect clues Ensure that roughhousing has not gone too far and that everyone is still having fun.
  • Don’t roughhouse right before bed Kids need some time right before bed to relax and ramp things down so they can get into sleep mode.
  • Remember that roughhousing is for girls, too While boys are naturally prone to engage in roughhousing, make sure you don’t leave girls out of the fun. Studies show that girls who roughhouse with their fathers are more confident than girls who don’t. And some studies even indicate that roughhousing can prevent your little angel from being a mean girl that psychologically terrorizes other girls.

The Art of Roughhousing recommends specific things you can do with your kids while roughhousing, along with helpful illustrations showing you how to do them. Also, you can visit the website for additional roughhousing ideas.

In the end, roughhousing may be alarming but is truly necessary for proper development to take place—all that tumbling and tackling helps develop strength, flexibility and complex motor learning, in addition to concentration, cardiovascular fitness, and coordination. Additionally, tossing kids in the air and spinning them around provides early vestibular stimulation (the input that your body receives when you experience movement or gravity), which is important for balance and may be a building block for future athleticism.

And there is one more surprising bonus: Roughhousing makes parenting easier by providing a positive outlet for big feelings so they don’t get worked out in more problematic ways. If we use roughhousing to improve communication and to impart values that influence our children’s attitude at home, with peers and at school, we can learn how they react to success, failures and obstacles, and we can build a special bond to guide them through troubled times. We lay the groundwork to better our present mutual relationships and those relationships of generations to follow.

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 30, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

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When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

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Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

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This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

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Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

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With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

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Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

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With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

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

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Raising kids is such hard work, but the parents of the internet are inspiring us this week. The viral stories taking over our feeds this week remind us that whether a mama is working hard to deliver her baby, or working hard to teach her child a great work ethic, it all comes down to showing up for the ones you care about...and sometimes that means taking a bit of a creative approach.

These are the stories that made us smile this week:

This emotional viral video has us crying at this dad's commitment to supporting his wife during birth

Earlier this month, Kendall Caver became a new dad and he earned that title by supporting his wife through her a long labor.

In the now viral video which has been watched millions of times. Caver holds up a series of cards while his wife, Jasmine, looks on from her hospital bed. As his wife prepares to have their baby, Carver is flipping through the story of his life with Jasmine and offering words of encouragement.

In his original post to his Facebook page, Caver captioned the video with the sweetest statement. He wrote: "Encouraging my Wife through 2 days of labor 😙☺️ Last night my Warrior Wife gave birth to a beautiful Baby Girl!"

"Breathe, just like we've been practicing," the first card reads.

His cards tell the story of a couple on a 10-year journey, who are best friends who love each other deeply and supported each other through a previous pregnancy loss.

"I would do it all over again to know the indescribable happiness I know today," Carver wrote on one of the cards.

(Are you crying yet?)

"You are my best friend...soulmate...and in just a few pushes...you'll be the most amazing mother our daughter could ever ask for."

Jasmine pushed through, and the couple welcomed their daughter, Sofia, earlier this month.

And this family's beautiful love story continues.

This mom created a household hiring event to teach her kids about earning money

As parents, we're constantly trying to find that balance between caring for our children and teaching them to be independent. We want them to enjoy childhood, of course, but we also want to prepare them for adulthood. And one mother found an incredibly smart, creative way to teach her children about the realities of earning money.

Shaketha Marion McGregor is going viral after sharing a post showcasing her system. We can't say we're surprised: This mama went all out to create a "hiring event" to allow her children to earn allowance money.

"So, my children continue to ask for a new cell phone, an allowance, and to go places," the mom writes in the now-viral Facebook post. "Yesterday I told them that I've heard their requests and that I'll have a surprise for them today when they get home from school. SURPRISE!!! It's a whole hiring event! 😂 If you want it, work for it, earn it!"

Shaketha's photos show the incredible detail involved in her hiring event. She created three positions (kitchen manager, lead housekeeper and laundry supervisor) complete with job descriptor for each one, and scheduled a time for interviews for each position. Her children were asked to fill out applications for each job—and she even set up a credit union!

Let's just say the mama didn't take the job application process lightly. "Well you guys, the interviews are done and I'm still laughing!!!" she writes in a follow-up Facebook post. "I'm going to make my son reapply and interview again because he laughed 90% of the time.My 10yr old would sometimes start speaking in an English accent like that would help her. And my 6yr old surprised me the most. She was super professional."

Shaketha even sent her son a rejection letter to inform him the position he applied to had been filled.

We love this mama's system so much! We know there are huge benefits that come when children do chores, and we can say from firsthand experience that adjusting to the world of job applications and bill paying can be really tough if you've never learned about it.

This mom has found a way to teach her kids some really important lessons while having a little bit of fun in the process...and they'll undoubtedly be prepared to navigate adulthood when the time comes.

This little girl's viral video proves football talent isn't gender-specific

As News 5 Cleveland reports, a third grade student in Ohio is gaining viral fame for the impressive football skills she displayed in a recent gym class. Physical Education teacher Kent Hamilton posted the clip on Twitter. His student, Emma, is a soccer player and the teacher came up with a super cool way for her to practice kicking.

He projected an image of a field goal on the gym wall, and Emma proved it was almost too easy.

Emma's impressive kick has been seen millions of times, and Carli Lloyd, a member of the Woman's U.S. Soccer team who trained with NFL teams, retweeted it.

Emma's gym teacher thinks Lloyd (and Emma) prove professional football may soon include women. "I don't think a female player in the NFL is that far off. This is proof our future is bright for girls," Hamilton said.

It takes a lot of grit for girls to get into the sport as there are few leagues for them, but in recent years more and more goals have been making names for themselves in the boy's leagues.

From the 11-year-old quarterback leading her team in the North Dakota Youth Football League to the Michigan linebacker doing double duty as Homecoming Queen, these girls should be proof to everyone that they have a place in traditionally male-dominated sports.

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Parenting strong-willed children can be difficult when they're young, but if properly directed and parented, they can become awesome world changers. Although mothering a headstrong little one seems like a huge task (that doesn't seem to get easier as they get smarter), it's doable mama. Just remember—they respond warmly when they're heard and understood.

Here are 35 phrases to help your strong-willed child to learn to get along with others (and even you, mama):

Communication

1. "I can see you didn't hear me the first time. How about when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?"

Having your child repeat back what he hears solidifies your message. Varying the volume adds an element of fun to the request.

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2. "I hear you. Can you come up with a solution?"

Asking your strong-willed child to come up with a solution places the responsibility back on them. Next time they're complaining, ask them to brainstorm solutions. Remind them there are no wrong answers, and the sillier they are, the better.

3. "This is a tough one, huh? We're going to figure this out together."

When children are digging in their heels, it is important to understand why. This phrase reinforces the idea that you are on the same team, working toward the same goal.


Hitting and throwing

4. "When you throw your toys, I think you don't like playing with them. Is that what's going on?"

This speaker/listener technique is designed to help communicate feelings in a non-confrontational manner. Not only does this keep the lines of communication open, you are modeling how to phrase a situation from your perspective, which in turn gives your child a chance to rephrase events in their perspective.

5. "It's okay to be angry, but I won't let you hit. We need to keep everyone safe."

This gets the message firmly across that the emotion is okay, but the action is not. Separating the two will help your strong-willed child learn what they can and can't do.

Calming down

6. "Let's go to our calm down space together."

This flips the script of "time out" to "time in," allowing for reconnection instead of isolation.

7. "I'm starting to get frustrated, and I'm going to be right here calming down."

Teach children how to label and govern their emotions by modeling this in real time.

Transitioning moments

8. "What do you need to do to be ready to leave?"

Allow children to think through processes for the transitions in their lives. This helps avoid a power struggle and it gives them a chance to signal to their minds that they are making a transition to a new activity. This is also an excellent routine to role-play when you are not actually going anywhere.

Frustration

9. "If green is calm, yellow is frustrated, and red is angry, I'm in the yellow zone headed toward red. What color are you? What can we do to get back to green?"

Give strong-willed children a visual to express how they are feeling. It may surprise you what they say, and what kind of solutions they come up with to change their direction.

Love and affection

10. "I'm here for you. I love you. You're safe." (Then, sit in stillness with your child and allow the emotion to rise up and pass.)

When children are in the throes of anger or panic, often their bodies are experiencing a stress response whereby they literally feel unsafe. Letting them know they are safe supports them until the discomfort passes. This is a vital skill of resilience.

A version of these phrases were originally published on Positive Parents.

Giving explanations

11. "That isn't a toy, so we will leave it on the shelf. It's delicate and it could break if we touch or play with it."

Kids value reasoning just as much as adults do. Explaining why helps kids learn to make better choices in the future.

Being specific

12. "We'll have carrots now and a cookie after dinner so your tummy has room."

Strong-willed kids tend to ignore "no" when they hear it repeatedly. It becomes like background noise. They also start to say "no" to parents, siblings and friends when they hear it all the time. But, if you're specific about your requests, they begin to understand why they can't do certain tasks.

Being non-judgemental

13. "My glasses look interesting to you, don't they? But my glasses are not a toy. They're for daddy only" or "Seems fun to throw the ball in here, huh? I get it. We can only roll balls in the house so we don't break anything."

If we are harsh or reprimanding, over time kids get repeated messages that they've done something bad, or even that they themselves are bad. Instead, we can give them the message that we understand them, believe they have good intentions and are trying to figure out the world.

Replacing "No" with an action word

14. "Stop!" or "Freeze!"

For many parents, the word "no!" is a reflex. You heard it growing up, or absorbed it as the standard way to get kids to know right from wrong. It takes conscious practice to change. When you feel a "no" coming on, replace it with information. You may still need to hold a limit repeatedly, remove the glasses yourself, or take the ball and put it up high. But the underlying message is, "I understand you and I'm here to support and guide."

Heather Turgeon, MFT is a psychotherapist.

Building their confidence

15. "You are capable."

As a parent, our words become the internal language in the minds of our children. We know that our strong-willed kids are capable of so much, so let your words match this belief. Our tone and language should communicate confidence.

16. "That was brave."

Sometimes we need to notice things aloud. That means to let them know when we see them being brave. When we notice our kids being brave, they start to notice too.

17. "You've got this."

You know that they have the skills and means necessary and your vote of confidence will give them that extra boost they need to succeed.

18. "I believe in you."

As the mama, you have faith in your strong-willed child's ability. When you openly communicate that faith in them it will inspire it within themselves.

19. "You can do hard things."

When the going gets tough the obstacles can seem insurmountable. So this direct phrase will tell them exactly what they need to hear—acknowledgment that this is hard work and that they are capable.

20. "How'd you do that?"

Ask questions. When you see them do something hard, say, "How did you manage that? How can you do it again?"

21. "Give it your best."

We will never win it all, do it all, or be it all. But we can give it our best. Let's teach our kids this lesson.

22. "I know it's hard, but I have seen you do it before."

It can seem overwhelming, but let's give them evidence of when they have been successful before. This will instill the confidence that they can do it again.

23. "You are enough."

It doesn't matter what the outcome—they need to know they are enough just the way they are.

24. "You make me proud."

Straight and to the point—you can never tell your child this enough.

25. "I wonder what would happen if…"

Try to evoke curiosity and a new way of thinking by wondering about the possibilities.

26. "Do you know what grit means?"

Kids love learning new words. Teach them about grit, resilience and perseverance to help them reach towards these goals.

27. "Want to hear a story?"

Share stories with your kids. Tell them about times when you overcame obstacles, met your goals, and reached for the stars.

28. "Do you want to try something crazy?"

Challenge your strong-willed children with things they think are beyond reach (even if it sounds a little crazy). They might surprise you and themselves.

29. "Sometimes new things can seem scary, but they can be exciting."

Young children tend to cling toward people and environments that are familiar. But if we emphasize how exciting and joyful that new experiences can be, we can encourage the confidence to venture out of the comfort zone.

30. "Sometimes we make mistakes, and that is how we learn."

It's important that strong-willed kids know that making mistakes isn't a bad thing, in fact, it's now they become smarter, more intelligent adults.

31. "How did you challenge yourself today?"

Start the conversation about growing, changing and taking risks. With each challenge and accomplishment, the sense of self-esteem will grow.

32. "Repeat after me, 'I can do it.'"

Positive affirmations are powerful—they can rewire the brain. When we teach our strong-willed children to use positive affirmations from an early age they will reap the benefits as they grow.

Denaye Barahona has a Ph.D. in Child Development and is the voice behind Simple Families.

Giving them praise

33. "I love the animals on your t-shirt, which one is your favorite? Why is that?"

Praising children, especially girls, for their looks can decrease their self-esteem. If you want to comment on appearance, focus the praise on what the child can change, for instance, their clothes, and use them to start up a conversation that shows the child you're really interested in what they think and feel.

34. "Wow, I love the color you have chosen for the flowers, why did you choose to paint them in that color?"

You may have been shown a hundred pieces of artwork this year, but to your kid, each one is special and new. While it feels easier to say, "That's a great drawing," without really looking properly, the looking properly is what children really want. Picking out parts of the picture and asking the child about their choices shows that you're really looking at, and appreciating, their work. Which, in kid speak translates into you looking at and appreciating them.

35. "You worked really hard on that math problem. I knew that you could solve it if you really focused!"

Praising kids for fixed attributes—such as intelligence, or aptitude at certain subjects—can really backfire. If children think they are naturally good at something, not only will they tend to not try so hard next time, but they can get quickly disillusioned if they struggle, questioning if they are clever after all.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith is the author of Gentle Discipline: Using Emotional Connection–Not Punishment–to Raise Confident, Capable Kids.

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Learn + Play

We all have pictures in our heads of what birth looks like even before we give birth. Sometimes these pictures are based on births we've witnessed in real life, but often our brains paint these pictures with memories of images we've seen on television or double-tapped on Instagram.

That is why we love how moms are posting their clear drape C-sections on Instagram, showing the world that this new kind of Cesarean delivery can be absolutely beautiful. By posting these pictures, mothers and birth photographers aren't just proving that C-section births are just as Insta-worthy as every other way women deliver, but they are also spreading awareness about clear drape C-sections, which are also known as "gentle Cesareans."

It is important for mamas to know that this is an option you can ask for and it is so beautiful.

What is a clear drape C-section? 

A clear drape C-section can be part of the trend medical professionals call "gentle Cesareans." The clear drape replaces the standard opaque blue one so that mama can look down and see her baby's first moments (although you can still have a gentle Cesarean even if you can't have a clear drape—we'll show you a great photo of what that can look like in a moment).

Basically, the clear drapes are part of a shift midwives and doctors are making to make Cesareans deliveries feel more like births and less like a cold medical procedure. The old standard ways of doing Cesareans have not been working for moms—so birth advocates and medical professionals are working to change that.

Just because a baby needs to be born via cesarean doesn't mean mama can't be a participant in her birth experience.

"Gentle Cesareans are a huge step in the right direction. We need to bring birth back to women. Women need options and choices, autonomy and respect. Becoming a mother is one of the most momentous events in a woman's lifetime—she deserves to have it be her best birth," says Motherly's Digital Education Editor, Diana Spalding, a midwife, pediatric nurse and founder of Gathered Birth.

Why the option of clear drapes is so important 

That first time you see your baby is so special and amazing, and most mothers want to see their child as soon as that baby is out in the world. But for many moms an opaque sheet can get in the way. According to the CDC, almost 32% of all births in America are C-sections. In Canada, the rate is just under 29%, and the UK sees a similar rate. A 2018 Instagram poll by Motherly found about 41% of participants had given birth via C-section.

So there's potential to help a lot of mothers feel more at ease in the OR. The gentle cesarean method isn't just about letting mama see her baby earlier, it's also about letting her bond with her baby sooner.

Gentle Cesareans are also about respecting that this isn't just a surgery, it is a birth, too. "When it's time for the baby to be born, the doctors help ease the baby out slowly—head, shoulder, abdomen, and then legs—much like what happens in a vaginal birth. Skin-to-skin bonding is often done right in the OR, and sometimes breastfeeding can even be initiated there too," says Spalding.

The gentle C-section lets mama be present 

Some people don't want clear drapes, but for other mothers, the clear drapes are a way for them to experience their birth from the vantage point they imagined for the life-changing moment. "With the clear drape, the woman has the ability to look down and actually watch her baby be born (don't worry—she won't be able to see much of the actual surgery because her belly will be in the way)," Spalding explains.

Because of the angle mothers aren't getting a close-up look at the surgical part of the procedure, so clear drape cesareans aren't as gory as some would assume. It's really more similar to how a vaginal birth happens in that mom is not seeing everything the doctors are, but is able to see her baby as soon as possible, and that is something to smile about.

C-section births are births and need to be respected 

A gentle Cesarean is a more holistic approach to a standard C-section because it brings the focus back on mom as a person, not as a belly in need of surgery. Often, medical teams try to make gentle C-sections as family-focused as possible, and sometimes are even able to accommodate parts of a mother's birth plan that would be abandoned with a traditional C-section, like incorporating music or other therapeutic, relaxing elements.

It's about making the operating room as pleasant a place as possible and respecting mom.

Gentle Cesareans still happen without the clear drapes

Sometimes, for medical reasons, hospital policy or because mama requests it, the clear drapes are not an option. But that doesn't mean that mom can't have a gentle Cesarean. Even with traditional blue drapes, medical teams are making efforts to help mama and baby bond as soon as possible.

Sometimes, that means there's a little window in the sheet and baby gets passed through to mom for instant skin-to skin-contact. Other times, it looks different, depending on medical need.

We love how mothers and birth photographers are sharing these stories and photos because one thing is as clear as the drapes: C-sections are just as beautiful as every other kind of birth.

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