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Common parenting wisdom says that we should lavish kids with praise whenever they behave well or do something good—the presumption being that praise makes kids feel good, and when they feel good, they behave better.


While the latter half of this theory is undoubtedly true, behavior is linked very strongly to emotion and, unfortunately, most praise doesn’t make kids feel good or motivated.

“Praise, like penicillin, must not be administered haphazardly. There are rules and cautions that govern the handling of potent medicines—rules about timing and dosage, cautions about possible allergic reactions. There are similar regulations about the administration of emotional medicine.”
—Dr. Haim Ginott

This quote from the late Psychologist and teacher, Dr. Haim Ginott, neatly sums up the problems with praising kids. Most of the common praise heaped on kids today decreases, rather than increases, motivation because it makes children less likely to repeat a behavior unless there is a reward or offer. Popular generic praise has another drawback, it often causes the child to feel that they are being ignored or dismissed, rather than really seen.

So, should you avoid praise altogether? No, you just need to administer it carefully. Mindful praise can be a great addition to your parenting toolkit.

Try these ten simple swaps:

1. Instead of: “Good job!”

Try: “Thank you for helping me tidy up. I especially like the way you lined the shoes up neatly together. That will make a really big difference when we’re trying to find our shoes in the morning,”

Being specific is one of the keys to more effective praise. ‘Good job’ is non-specific—it doesn’t tell the child what they have done that has made you happy, it offers no constructive feedback and doesn’t provide them any clues about what behavior they should repeat in the future.

Tell them exactly what you are proud of. Point out why it has made you happy, so that they can replicate it next time and. Most importantly, specificity helps them feel valued.

2. Instead of: “You did it!”

Try : “I’ve been watching you try to tie your shoelaces for a long time now. It’s tricky isn’t it? I’m so proud that you kept trying and didn’t give up though. I’m sure that you’re going to get it soon with all this practice and patience!”

Praise the effort, not the outcome. Focusing only on achievements can demoralize and demotivate a child very quickly. It’s alright to praise success, but it’s more important to praise the effort that led to that success, even before it did. Praising effort motivates and shows the child that you believe in them.


3. Instead of: “You look so handsome/pretty!”

Try: “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. They may begin to feel that people only like them because of how they look, which can build up to a tremendous level of pressure as they get older.

Praising a child for their appearance can unintendedly tie feelings of self-worth with their looks. 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.

4. Instead of: “That’s a great drawing!”

Try: “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.

5. Instead of: “Way to go buddy!”

Try: “You really put so much effort into that piece of work. I’m so pleased that your teacher has recognized that. You really deserve that grade. Is there anything you learned from this piece that you can use to improve your work next time?”

If your child works hard, notice it. Tell them you saw them working hard and that their effort was valued. When they get a good grade, don’t just celebrate the outcome, but discuss with them what went well. This is a great opportunity to help future school work by asking the child to consider the processes and actions that led to the good grade and applying them again in the future.

6. Instead of: “Smart girl!”

Try: “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.

7. Instead of: “That was nice of you!”

Try: “I saw you help that little boy when he fell. He was really upset, wasn’t he? I think you really helped him to feel better when you gave him a hug though. It feels good to help people, doesn’t it?

This is once again about noticing what your child has done and letting them know that you have seen, and appreciated, their actions by clearly describing what you have seen. Asking the child to reflect on how they feel about their positive actions significantly increases the chance of repeating them another time.

8. Instead of: “Yay, you made a poo in the potty!”

Try this: “You made a poo in the potty! I know you tried a few times this morning and didn’t manage to do anything, but all that practice has really helped, hasn’t it? Now you’ve managed to do it!”

Potty training and praise tend to go hand in hand, but praising kids for their ‘achievements’ can really backfire here. First, they may strain to do something when they don’t need to go. Here the praise can teach them to ignore their body’s signals and override them to get praised. This is not what you want to teach in potty training.

Second, praising results misses all the effort put in, even when they didn’t manage to do something, or get to the potty on time. It’s this effort, though, that got them to the end point. Once again, focus on the effort, even if there are accidents, not the outcome.

9. Instead of: “Yay, you finally ate all your dinner!”

Try: “I guess you’re not hungry right now, that’s OK. I’ll put this food in the microwave, let me know if you want me to reheat it for you later.”

Praising for eating is perhaps the most counterproductive praise of all. It encourages children to stop listening to what their bodies are telling them. They learn that it is good to eat when they are not hungry to please others, and to eat things that they don’t like to feel good. In time, these eating behaviors can quickly lead to overeating, comfort eating and emotional eating. Keep praise well away from the dinner table.

10. Instead of: “Good job for calming down!”

Try: You were really mad, weren’t you? It’s OK to be angry sometimes. As you get older you’ll learn more ways to control your temper. Until then I’m happy to help you to calm down.”

Praising children when they are ‘good’ and ignoring them when they are ‘bad’ can cause all sorts of problems. When kids are mad they don’t get angry for no reason. They’re angry because they don’t feel good, and they can’t control their emotions. Heaping on the praise when they calm down is like saying to them, “I only like you when you’re happy.”

Supporting them with their emotions, whatever they are, helps them to feel validated and connected to you, which will help them to share their feelings with you in the future. Praising a kid for hiding their feelings from you unsurprisingly causes many issues as they get older.

Praising mindfully and effectively takes time. Most of us were raised with superficial praise, and it’s all too easy to slip and repeat the words you heard from your parents subconsciously. It’s alright to slip and say “good job” sometimes. Just try to slowly move towards being more mindful of what you say. In time, this new way of praising will become second nature, especially when you see such good results from it.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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