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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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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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