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There is nothing like a messed up sleep schedule to negate all the rest and restoration we may have brought back from a vacation or holiday travel. Whether it's a missed nap, a delayed bedtime, travel-induced jet-lag or some other sleep issue, lack of quality sleep can amount to an over-abundance of cranky.


To help ease the stress of fatigue and frustration, it may help to know that there is a lot of biology behind successful sleep.

Knowing a little about sleep may help us be more objective about what is going on in the moment, and a little easier on ourselves and our kids because of it. By understanding what happens during quality, healthy sleep, we can strengthen our resolve to put systems and routines in place that prioritize sleep and respect it for the critical role it plays in our own lives and our children's growth and development.

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So, when are we supposed to sleep?

Circadian rhythms

The body's natural circadian (daily) rhythms are regulated by the brain's “executive network," and certain brain chemicals that produce the states of sleeping and waking.

Early in a newborn's life, this internal clock begins to establish and control the daily rhythm of biological systems, including body temperature, blood pressure, and the release of hormones.

This is why is takes awhile for new babies to settle on any predictable eat-sleep-wake cycle. During the first few months of life though, the irregularity of these rhythms gives way to more stability as the brain continues to develop and mature.

Melatonin, the "feel sleepy" hormone, is produced naturally by the body in the evenings, helping us wind down and prepare for sleep. Melatonin levels in the body are almost non-existent during the day and to begin climb after dark and ebb after dawn. Additionally, the activity of our brain's posterior hypothalamus diminishes naturally during sleep when it releases less histamine, a molecule that it uses as a neurotransmitter, helping us stay asleep. (Antihistamines taken for allergy symptoms cause sleepiness in the same way.)

Nothing throws off a sleep cycle like jet-lag

Our circadian system is normally synchronized with the solar day, ensuring that alertness and performance peak during daytime hours and consolidated sleep occurs during the night. Jet-lag can be explained by exposure to light at the wrong time that results in a shift of sleep and wakefulness to undesired times.

Just like for us, being out of sync with circadian rhythms can make it more difficult for kids to fall asleep or stay asleep, resulting in an overtired and stressed kiddo. Ultimately, adjusting the schedule to be in sync with their's can lessen the disruption.

Experts recommend building in at least one "recovery day" when going on or returning from a vacation.

Whether it is one state over or across many time zones—we should stay awake as long as possible. So when it's nighttime in our new time zone, we need to keep the lights low inside, and when it's daytime in our new locale, we need to be exposed to bright light—ideally, natural outdoor light.

When it comes to retraining our children's internal clock, exposure to light at the appropriate time helps keep the circadian clock on the correct time schedule. Appropriately-timed exposure to bright light—Bright Light Therapy—can reset the timing of sleep and wake to the desired times, and improve sleep quality and daytime alertness.

However, recovery from a trip through many times zones is quite different than the three hours difference between San Francisco and New Jersey. “Apparently the brain may confuse dawn with dusk," says Naturopath Hillary Roland.

To counteract that effect, Roland says the current expert suggestion is to "actually stay indoors after long eastward flights for a few hours after dawn, and for a few hours before dusk after a long westward flight." This advice is supported by studies on jet-lag that have determined that the efficacy of bright light therapy is dependent on the time-of-day of the circadian cycle that the light is administered.


So, what's going on when we sleep?

Types and stages of sleep

We progress through a series of distinct physiological stages during sleep that serve an important purpose in keeping our brain and body healthy. During the night, Quiet/Non-REM (NREM) sleep alternates with periods of Dreaming/REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in which our most vivid dreams occur.

We cycle through five separate stages of sleep every 90-110 minutes, experiencing between three and five dream periods each night.

Quiet/Non-REM sleep

When we are sleeping, about 75-80% of the time is spent in the inactive Quiet/Non-REM (NREM) stages that provide the body's much-needed relaxation and rejuvenation and are also vital to proper development.

Stage 1: Drowsiness (1-7 minutes)

With heavy eyelids, we begin to drift off. Our body temperature begins to drop, muscles relax, and eyes often move slowly from side to side. We lose awareness of our surroundings but can wake easily since our brain is still quite active.

Stage 2: Light sleep (10-25 minutes)

Our brain activity slows further as we descend into a light sleep. Our eyes stop moving, and our heart rate and breathing are slower than when awake. Our brain disconnects from outside sensory input and begins the process of memory consolidation and organizing for long-term storage.

Stage 3: Moderate sleep (20-40 minutes)

Our breathing becomes more regular, blood pressure falls, and pulse slows to about 20-30% below our waking rate. Blood flow is directed less toward our brain, which cools measurably. We become less responsive to external stimuli and much more difficult to wake up.

Stage 4: Deep sleep (20-40 minutes)

Our brain quiets further as we transition into deep sleep. Our muscles relax and our breathing becomes slow and rhythmic. We become extremely hard to wake and may snore.

The time of peak growth hormone release in the body, during this deepest stage of sleep the pituitary gland releases a pulse of growth hormone that stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. "Growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep," says Judith Owens, M.D., director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. Babies spend about 50% of their time in this deep sleep, considered to be essential for adequate growth.

In addition to being critical for cell reproduction and rejuvenation, deep sleep helps the body defends itself against infection. During deep sleep, researchers have detected increased blood levels of proteins known as cytokines. As part of the immune response, cytokines exert their influence over various white blood cells which the body relies on to fight infection, illness, and stress.

Cytokines also make us sleepy, forcing us to rest, which further aids the body's ability to heal and explains why having the flu or a cold feels so exhausting. Too little sleep appears to impact the number of cytokines on hand, illustrating why it is easier to catch and more difficult to fight viruses with too little sleep.

Dreaming/REM sleep

Just as deep sleep restores our body, scientists believe that active Dreaming/REM sleep restores our mind by transferring short-term memories into long-term storage and helps clear out irrelevant information and facilitates learning and memory.

Stage 5: Active sleep (10-60 minutes)

After deep sleep, our brain activity increases again. About 3-5 times a night, or about every 90 minutes, we enter active, or REM sleep. The first such episode usually lasts for only a few minutes, but REM time increases progressively over the course of the night. The final period of REM sleep may last a half-hour.

This is the period of the night when most dreams happen. Our muscles are temporarily paralyzed, and our eyes dart back and forth, giving this stage its name. Our body temperature rises, blood pressure increases, and our heart rate and breathing speed up to daytime levels. The sympathetic nervous system, which creates the fight-or-flight response, is twice as active as when we are awake.

Research indicates that decluttering—sorting, storing, and filing away information, memories, and experiences—may be one of the central functions our brain performs during REM sleep. This is also when we repackage neurotransmitters, the chemicals that enable our brain cells to communicate. Additionally, experts have demonstrated that REM sleep allows brain cells to flushing out disease-causing toxins.

When we sleep after a period of sleep deprivation, we pass quickly through the lighter sleep stages into the deeper stages and spend a greater proportion of sleep time there. This suggests that deep sleep plays a large part in restoring alertness and fills an essential role in a our optimal functioning.

So, how can we prioritize to optimize?

For the most part, we can indeed control how much sleep we get—if we want to. It all starts with creating the time necessary for sleep and an environment conducive to sleep. Making sleep a priority means that our families have the opportunity to sleep as much as they need to in a safe, quiet, comfortable environment.

By reducing pressures on our limited time we can prioritize and optimize our family's sleep. Even if we realize that our child could use more sleep, "…it can be very difficult to recognize all the ways that after-school and evening activities sabotage bedtime, and the damaging effects of allowing electronics into your kid's bedroom," says Parents advisor Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

“The bedroom should be a haven for rest and recovery, not a place to be distracted," echoes Wendy Troxel, a behavioral scientist at RAND, a think tank that helps improve public policy through research.

10 ways to build a better bedtime

1. For babies, encourage self-soothing

Try not to let babies fall asleep while eating, and put them to bed when they are still awake.

2. For kids, create a solid routine

Children should have an age-appropriate, clear and consistent bedtime ritual, with the same bedtime and wake up schedule all week long —no sleeping in.

3. Add another bedtime story

Listening to storybooks is a great way to ease kids towards sleep. "Of all activities, reading printed books appears to be most relaxing," says Michael Gradisar, a clinical psychologist at Flinders University, in Adelaide, Australia.

4. Keep electronics out of the bedroom

Avoid having a television, computer, tablet or cell phone in the bedroom in the hour before bed as electronics can stimulate young brains. Blue light from devices such as iPads also suppresses melatonin release.

5. Make sure the bedroom is cool and quiet

6. Keep the bed for sleeping only

Not confusing the bed with playtime teaches children to respects it as the place for rest, establishing a habit that can provide life lon benefits.

7. Keep allergens out of the bedroom

Keeping the bedrooms clean can go a long way to ensuring an allergen-free bedroom.

8. Encourage a nighttime snack before brushing teeth

A snack that's high in protein and low in sugar, like a glass of milk, can promote better sleep. However, eating sweets near bedtime causes a spike in blood sugar followed later by a drop, leading to a feeling of hunger that may wake kids in the middle of the night.

9. Establish talk time

Including 10 or 15 minutes of undivided attention when we are available to listen to our child talk about whatever they want can provide an opportunity for our kids to unload anything that might be preventing them from sleeping.

10. Teach kids to practice a form of mindfulness or prayer before bed

Meditation and prayer can quiet the mind, reduce stress and improve sleep.

Of course, every child varies in the amount of sleep they need. Some kids have high sleep needs and others don't. As parents, we are the best judge of whether or not our kids are getting enough sleep.

It's important to remember that our kids are human, too. And just like our behavior can disintegrate when we are overtired, so can theirs. We can't expect our kids to function when they are sleep deprived when don't expect the same from ourselves.

And just as it is our responsibility to feed, love and keep our kids safe, it is also our responsibility to recognize how important sleep is for all of us and ensure that all the elements are in place to enable everyone to enjoy the amazing benefits of sleep. Otherwise, we'll all be just. so. tired.

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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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