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Time-outs and behavior charts weren't working with my kids—so I tried this instead

His day started with three smiley faces. Taped to the wall of our playroom was my son's behavior chart, and every day I measured his worth with three hanging smiley faces. I know that sounds like a dramatic way to word what was happening, but our children do look to us as they form their self-concept and sense of self-worth. So, for him, each smiley face that disappeared told him he wasn't good.

You're bad. You're naughty. You're wrong. You're not enough.

It was a simple system. On the chart hung three cards. One side of each card had a smiley face. The opposite side had a sad face. Each time he broke a rule or committed some act that I deemed a transgression, one smiley face got flipped. If all three got flipped, he was isolated to a little green chair at the end of the hallway for time-out.

I told myself I was being fair. I told myself that this was "positive discipline" because I wasn't using physical punishment. I told myself that it was simply a visual reminder to him that he needed to control his behavior.

I convinced myself it was helpful to him. So, there it hung—a constant reminder to him of his inadequacy because, let's be honest, 3-year-olds don't behave perfectly, and so he never kept three smiley faces.

I feel sad now when I think about the methods I used to gain control and compliance. I didn't use them for long because I quickly saw how such methods hurt his heart and damaged his sense of self.

I wonder now what my own chart would have looked like. If someone was measuring my ability and worth as a mother, wife, and human being—flipping a card every time I huffed, every time my patience wore thin, every time I ate a cookie before dinner or skipped my cardio for the day.

I wonder how quickly I would feel defeated? How many cards would it take before I felt like a total failure? If, day after day, my own behavior was held up to the same light before my peers and colleagues, how long would I be able to shine?

Each of us looks to our family and friends for approval, acceptance and validation. At 40, I may seek it less than my children, but acceptance and belonging will always be human needs. For young children who are still developing their self-concept, our approval of them has a big impact. Shame, isolation and punishments are popular parenting tools, but they are dripping with disapproval.

You're probably thinking "we should disapprove of certain behaviors!" Yes, that's true, but where is the line drawn between disapproving of the behavior and disapproving of the child? The line may be clear to us, but I'm afraid it's quite blurred for our children.

We must take great care with a child's developing sense of self because they will behave in a way that is true to that self-concept. If we lead them to believe they are bad, why should we expect them to be good?

Of course, there are many contributors to a child's beliefs about themselves. Their environment, peers, teachers, coaches, etc. all play a role. But don't underestimate the power parents hold as the primary attachment figures. Parents are the first one to hold the pen and write the beginning of their life story. May we all remember to choose our words carefully.

How to correct without shame and punishment

I had to learn many years ago how to show disapproval of a behavior or choice without disapproving of the child, and this takes practice. I had to shift how I viewed behavior—learning to see positive intent (seeking connection, trying to get a need met, asking for help) rather than negative intent (trying to get attention, trying to manipulate parents, selfishness, stinginess).

I knew that my assumptions would determine my words and goals, so I worked at seeing the good in my child—even when his behavior was not so good. This automatically softened my words and helped me to deal with the situation calmly.

After changing my perspective, I changed my words. I was careful about the language I chose and tried to shine a light on my positive beliefs about my child. This is how I conveyed that the behavior might be wrong but he was still good. It's the difference between, "I know you didn't mean to hurt your brother" and, "How could you be so mean?"

By choosing to be a light reflector, I hoped my kid would get the message that he was more than a bad decision or a grumpy attitude—just as you and I are more than our mistakes.

Then I ditched punishment for problem-solving. I tried to discern why he was behaving how he was, and what I often found didn't make me want to punish him, it made me want to comfort him. My sweet 3-year-old wasn't defiant—he was adjusting to life with a new baby brother and a whole host of big emotions that his immature brain couldn't sort out just yet.

For example, getting up from the time-out chair before his three minutes were up wasn't an act of rebellion, it was a plea for connection. When I finally understood that, I gave him connection instead of a time-out, and his behavior improved.

When the need is met or the hurt is healed, children do better.

I threw my children's behavior charts out nearly a decade ago, but both of my kids still see them in some form in their classrooms. However, they know that their self-worth doesn't hinge on those charts and that no matter what, I'll always see the good in them and I'll help them to see it, too.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

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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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.


Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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