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Remember those days before you had kids? You would see parents in a store or public event and gawk at the kids throwing tantrums. You may have uttered those ill-fated words: “When I have kids, I will never…” My version included verses like, “I will never bribe my kids with sweets” or “I will never allow my kid to throw a fit in public.”


Fast-forward a few years and most of us are now eating those words. As I look back at those pre-parenthood days, I realize that much of my switch from parenting in theory and parenting in reality had to do with the difference between a reactive and proactive approach.

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Before we had kids, we all probably imagined that we would be those proactive parents who knew how to respond to every situation in a thought-out, reasonable way. The reality of parenting is that kids often act in ways that are so unpredictable that we struggle to be proactive.

No parent can be proactive all the time. Some situations require a quick, reactive, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants decision. There are a few strategies we can keep in mind, however, to keep us in a more proactive, logical mode much of the time.

1. Try to stay in your right mind (literally)

In a great talk I was listening to the other day, the speaker was discussing the roles of the different parts of the brain. The emotional part of the brain often takes over when we get upset with our kids. This rush of emotion tends to make us much more reactive instead of proactive. Not surprisingly, our kids’ brains our dominated by emotion, too. Since their brains are still developing, it is much harder for them to shift up to the thinking part of the brain.

For us adults, however, we can consciously try to keep ourselves thinking instead of just reacting based on emotions. Emotions serve a purpose, but if we want to model self-regulation for our kids, learning techniques to help us calm our emotions enough to respond rationally is key. Strategies such as taking a deep breath or taking a few minutes away from the situation are often helpful. Switching to our thinking brain will help us respond in a more proactive way.

Try this: Keep breathing and step away if necessary. Repeat to yourself, “They are just little and still learning.”

2. Consider your child’s temperament

Do your children have very different personalities from you? My children differ in temperament from me quite a lot. This was evident early on when my toddler would try to talk to every new person on the playground while I was content to hang back.

Having differing temperaments can spark some challenges, especially with being a proactive parent. Your temperament usually influences how you automatically respond to a situation. If your temperament differs from your child, your automatic reaction might not always be the best approach.

For example, imagine you have a much more outgoing, talkative temperament, but your child is more introverted or quiet. If you are trying to discipline her, a loud wordy reprimand is probably going to cause her to shut down. If you understand her temperament, you can act proactively to think through how to react in a way to help her learn the lesson instead of feeling anxious.

Try this: In a calmer moment, consider the approach that works best for your child, such as quiet words, time out, wordy discussion, etc. Make a mental note of this for the next time a meltdown happens.

3. Connect first

This may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes when you like your kid the least, is the best time to spend more time with her. We’ve all had days (or seasons) where you and your child are just not getting along. The stresses of life and school are wearing you down. Your kid talks back to you and you may not respond much better in return.

Many times this is a signal that you and your child are just not connecting. Just as the saying goes, all work and no play makes everybody grumpy. I have found this advice on taking time to play with kids to be a real game-changer. Even 10 or 20 minutes a few times a week can really help you become a more proactive parent, instead of just responding to immediate emotion of the moment.

It seems that when kids know you will take time to get down on their level and engage in something they enjoy, the grumpy moods and snarky attitudes are almost impossible to maintain. In turn, you have a more positive attitude too and can respond to them better.

Try this: Ask your child if you can join her in an activity that she enjoys. Ask something like, “Would you like to play a board game or Legos.”

4. Simplify life

In the past year or so I have really tried to focus on simplifying our life and routine. If I feel stressed about piles of toys and too many activities, I can only imagine how it must make my kids feel. After reading several insightful articles about how we can simplify our lives to encourage our kids to play longer and feel more content, I was on board.

How does this relate to being a more proactive parent? For me, just taking steps to simplify is itself a proactive move. It’s about being intentional with how we spend our time and money and what effect that has on our kids. Additionally, the calmer, less stressful environment makes it possible for me to be more proactive with other parenting decisions. If you are always in a mode of “putting out fires” it is difficult to be a proactive, intentional parent. Simplification for me was the first step in moving away from just reacting to my kids and towards a goal of living more in line with our larger family goals.

Try this: If you are considering signing up for another activity or getting another toy, ask yourself, “Will this benefit my kid long-term?” Or, “How long do I think they will stay interested in this?” Additionally, consider, “Is doing this worth the extra stress and less downtime for my kids.”

5. Set clear expectations

This one may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget that kids sometimes do not have the same goals or assumptions about behavior that we do. This hit home to me just the other day with my 7-year-old son. We had just had a long discussion about the difference between playful roughhousing and actual hitting with friends. Then, just a few days later I saw him repeating the same inappropriate hitting with his brother. I sat him down and explain in clear terms that hitting was wrong. This time the lesson stuck.

He said he did not understand that it was wrong before. I was shocked, but I think he was being genuine. It was then that I realized how clear we have to be with kids. Long, wordy discussions sometimes go over their heads. Clarity in expectations is key.

Setting clear expectations is the cornerstone of proactive parenting. It sets out ahead of time what we consider appropriate in a given situation. I find myself having the little talk about expectations prior to almost every event or outing with my boys and I do think it helps them.

Try this: Before an event or outing, sit down for a minute and clarify the expectations with your kids, “We are going here, I expect you to…”

As parents we often fluctuate between proactive and reactive parenting styles. If you are in a season of life where just surviving from day-to-day (hello newborn stage) is a big accomplishment, then proactive parenting may seem like a distant goal. Over the long-term, however, a proactive approach can help you remain a calmer and more consistent parent and help your kids thrive.

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If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought my biggest accomplishment was, I probably would have rattled off a bunch of career-related successes and financial wins. Or even something about my worldly travels. I was full of money-driven, "success" driven goals. I had it all mapped out.

I was ticking off items on my list thinking the more I did the happier I would become.

But, my sweet child, in the short three and a half years I've been a mama, 1,352 days to be exact, I have realized something. Something you need to know.

No matter what, nothing I do in life will ever be as great as being your mom.

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My accomplishments aren't measured in dollars, they are measured in hugs and kisses. And every time we say "I love you."

My accomplishments aren't measured by other people's praise, they are defined by the fact that I love you and will never stop.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I am with you no matter what. By the truth that I will be your biggest fan. Your protector. Your teacher. Your friend. Your confidant.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I will always be proud of you. That I will love you unconditionally, always and forever.

Yes, there are times when I achieve some pretty awesome things in life outside of being your mother. Moments I celebrate. Some are money-driven, some are career-driven, others are just things I've wanted to achieve and set out to do so. Am I proud of those things? Sure I am. I want to be an example to you that you can achieve anything you want to in this life. The world really is your oyster. Those moments though, never even come close to how proud I am to be your mom.

You see my child, no amount of money in the world can buy me the feeling of your little arms wrapped tight around me. The feeling of utter happiness I feel when I see you happy. No amount of money can buy the special bond we have.

My greatest accomplishment will always be you.

I won't lie, it isn't always easy. Sometimes, there are moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some 'me' time. But I will always choose you.

I know some people will not see motherhood as an accomplishment. That it is just something you do as part of life. But they don't see you like I do. Some people might wonder why I gave up a successful career to be home with you. But they don't know you like I do. They don't know that I was chosen to be your mama. That we were destined to be together. They don't know what an honor it is to be your mama.

So, my sweet child here is the truth.

You are my life's work.

You are my legacy in this world.

You, my child, are my greatest accomplishment and always will be.

[This article was previously published here.]

Life

Aside from hygienic reasons, there's something about a bath that's soothing, inviting and relaxing. Even little ones can enjoy the benefits of self-care but they often need a little bit of entertainment while they're getting cleaned. Because they are so small and constantly putting anything in their mouths, it's important to use toys that are just as safe as they are entertaining.

We gathered a few best practices from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe bath time with infants and kids and our favorite products to keep our littles having fun in the water:

  • Use a safe, sturdy tub. Baby bathtubs can be "bucket style" for sitting upright, slanted for support, inflatable, folding and spa-style.
  • Be aware of bumps, edges and slings. Consider avoiding tubs with slings and pay close attention to any bumps or edges that pose a risk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub. Children can drown in 1 or 2 inches of water so make sure you're not stepping away from the bathroom or leaving babies in the care of another child.
  • Check water temperature. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.

Here are our favorite safe bath toys for infants and toddlers. And of course, always check (and double check) toy labels for age guidelines and hazard warnings:

Green Toys tide pool bath set

Green Toys tide pool bath set

This 7-piece bath set includes a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid and jellyfish, as well as a seaweed-patterned storage bag that are packaged using recyclable materials and printed with environmentally responsible inks. Each piece is designed to pour water in a different way—scoop up water with the abalone and create a cascading waterfall with the holes along the edge, or fill the jellyfish and watch the water run down and out each of the legs.

$12.77

B&H baby thermometer

B&H baby thermometer

Ever wonder if your baby is too hot or too cold during bath time? This high and low temperature alarm includes an accurate thermometer that flashes and beeps when water is at a non-optimal temperature. It also doubles as a bath toy that complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's toys safety standards, so you don't have to worry if the thermometer will produce chemical reactions in water. Genius!

$16.99

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Babies can have fun chewing away this Sophie bath toy because it's made of 100% natural rubber from the rubber tree's sap. The rubber ring is also easy to grip so little ones can have full confidence splashing and playing around. And don't worry, water can't get inside the toy so bacteria and mold won't form.

$23.93

Skip Hop bath puzzle

Skip Hop bath puzzle

A puzzle and bath book in one? Yes, we'll take it! The pages float in water and stick to bath tiles so you're child will be entertained the entire time they're in the water. We love that the handy stroller ring keeps it all together when they're done.

$8.00

Green Toys my first tugboat

Green Toys my first tugboat

This cool tugboat toy is safe for the earth as well as your child. It's made with 100% recycled plastic milk containers, which helps save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is free from BPA, PVC and phthalates. It also features a wide spout which will help them scoop and pour water while exploring in the water.

$11.91

Boon marco light-up bath toy

Boon marco light-up bath toy

If you have older kids and are less concerned with them putting toys in their mouth, your kid might enjoy Marco. Put Marco in water and watch him float while the color-changing light activates. It's BPA-free, too.

$11.99

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Featuring water-activated multicolor lights, this soft and squeezable bath toy is sure to make a splash with any child in your life. Choose from a dinosaur or unicorn with the phthalate-free materials.

$4.50

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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This year's flu season has been making headlines, and there's a lot of (perfectly understandable) concern among parents about flu prevention and treatment.

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent your child from catching the flu. Other ways to prevent the flu from taking hold in your family include washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and staying in good overall health—getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.

But what if, despite your best efforts, your child comes down with the flu? It can be hard to watch children suffer with flu symptoms such as chills, fever, aches, cough and congestion. That's why parents need a helpful, complete, scannable-at-2-am-in-panic-mode rundown of what to do for the flu, when to call the doctor and how to help little ones feel better.

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Here's what to do when you think your child has the flu:

1. How do I know if my child has the flu?

Symptoms of influenza tend to come on suddenly, and include:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater)
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Cough
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

So how do you know whether it's a cold or the flu? Symptoms of the common cold may be similar to the flu, but generally are milder and include cough, congestion, runny nose and sore throat. RSV, or respiratory cold virus, is a separate condition that can cause cold-like symptoms in older children, but may cause a more severe lung disease in infants called bronchiolitis. Your best bet is to call your pediatrician for a diagnosis.

2. What should I do if my child has the flu?

The best treatment for most flu infections is what doctors call "supportive care:" encouraging fluid intake, giving fever-reducing medication such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and getting plenty of rest.

Children who are at higher risk of complications from the flu or whose symptoms started within the past 48 hours may also receive treatment with an antiviral medication. Talk with your primary care provider about your options.

3. What medicines are safe for my child to take for the flu?

Fever-reducing medications, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can generally be given to children with the flu with your pediatrician's okay. Children should not receive aspirin. Be sure to follow dosing directions for your child's age and weight.

4. What are home remedies for flu symptoms in kids?

Flu treatment is all about comfort care for symptoms—rest, fluids, fever-reducer, repeat. Keep children with the flu home from school, preschool or daycare, keep them comfortable in bed (or snuggled up on the couch), and offer fluids—and plenty of sympathy.

5. Should I try to make my child with the flu eat, or drink?

Keeping kids hydrated while they're sick with the flu is important. Encourage small, frequent sips of liquids and soup to keep up with hydration. But don't worry about forcing your child to eat a hearty meal: As your child's infection resolves, their appetite will return.

6. When should I call the doctor for my child's flu?

Parents should always call their pediatrician if they're worried, of course, and if your child has a chronic medical condition that may be worsened by the flu, call your doctor right away. Here are symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your care provider:

  • Fast breathing
  • Signs of dehydration including decreased urine output
  • Fever and cough which improved at first but have worsened
  • Fever above 103 degrees, or any fever in a child under 3 months of age

Serious signs that warrant a trip to the emergency room or a 911 call, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Labored breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the lips or face
  • Difficulty in awakening
  • Severe muscle pains
  • Seizure activity

7. How long will my child's flu last?

Most kids with the flu run a fever for 3 or 4 days with aches and chills. But the worst symptoms tend to be over within 4 days or so, with gradual improvement in respiratory symptoms after the fever resolves.

8. When is it safe for my child to go back to school or daycare after having the flu?

Most daycares and schools have specific guidelines, such as 24 hours without a fever. Children with the flu are usually contagious for 5 to 7 days after the first onset of symptoms, and are at their most contagious when their fever peaks during the first 3 days. In general, children should stay home until they're fever-free for 24 hours and respiratory symptoms have improved.

Watching your child suffer with the flu can be hard, but knowing steps you can take to help your little one feel better fast can help. Hang in there—even flu season can't last forever.

Learn + Play

If you haven't bought an Instant Pot yet, what are you waiting for, mama? It's one of those holy grail items that, once used, you're not sure how you ever lived without it. In fact, it was one of the most-purchased items from Motherly mamas last year and was life-changing for one of our editors when she finally caved and tried it out for her family.

Whether you're a chef who loves to make gourmet meals or a mama who hates cooking and needs more time in the day, it's one of those products that works for everyone.

And, the Instant Pot is on super sale today on Amazon—just $56.99.

Instant Pot 6-quart

instant pot sale

Why does it have such a cult following? Because it cuts down on cooking time and you can cook just about anything in it. It acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer all in one. And the smart one-touch program makes cooking ribs, soups and desserts so much easier.

The 6-quart size cooks for up to six people, making it the perfect size for your family, and is 29% off today.

$56.99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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