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As parents, we want to be able to guide and shape our children in the most positive ways possible. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could eliminate frustration—for both parents and kiddos—simultaneously getting rid of any yelling or negative talk or unhelpful answers due to a lack of patience?


It would be nice! But, we aren’t magicians exactly. However, we do have amazing, intelligent and insightful experts on hand to help guide us all in the ways of positive parenting.

So we turned to them to help us find positive phrases to use with our kids to encourage and inspire them to do their best, to help out and to listen.

Here are 12 ways to increase positive interactions with your children.

Parenting expert, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and founder of Aha! Parenting, Dr. Laura Markham suggests these helpful tips.

1. Steer clear from evaluation.

Instead, focus on process and describe the effort the child’s making. “Wow! You’ve been reading that book for a long time and you didn’t give up when there were words you didn’t know!” is much more motivating than, “What a good reader you are!”

“What a great painting! You’re such a good artist!” rings hollow to a child, who knows she is not a great artist. Instead, notice what the child did, show interest and ask the child to reflect on the painting. “I see lots of blue over here, and lots of green over here. Tell me about this painting!”

2. Be as specific as possible.

About what you see, what you like, what your child did. This shows you really value what you see, and helps the child see the value in what they did. Instead of “Good job!” try “I see you put all the blocks in their bin and all the Legos in their bin. Wow!”

If you’re noticing that the trucks are still on the floor, always start with the positives you notice, before you frame what still needs to be done as a positive: “The only thing left now is to drive the trucks up to their place on the shelf. Want to show me how you do that?”

3. Avoid comparison among siblings or friends.

You may think you’re being positive when you say “Thank goodness you like homework and I don’t have to hound you the way I do your brother!” but you’re setting up a situation where the child is only good enough if his brother doesn’t do homework.

There is never a reason to compare. Just say “I love that you just sit down and do your homework when you get home!”

4. Give your child the credit and the power.

It's fine to tell your child that youre proud of him, but be clear that he's the one who gets credit for the achievement and he's the one who's entitled to evaluate it. "You must be so proud of yourself!"

5. Be enthusiastic!

All children need encouragement and warmth. Be sure to tell your child all day long all the things you appreciate.

“I appreciate that you brushed your teeth with only one reminder.”

“I noticed that you helped your sister with her shoes. She was so happy. And it helped us get out of the house faster. Thank you!”

“When you help me like this in the grocery store, it makes the shopping so much easier. I love being a team with you!”

Just make sure your child knows that she is much more than her accomplishments. “I am so lucky to be your parent...I love you no matter what.”

Bestselling author and founder of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond, Rebecca Eanes suggests these helpful tips.

6. Help motivate your kiddos.

Voicing specific appreciations and acknowledgements do more to motivate and encourage my tween boys. When I say, I believe in you, kiddo!” they look at me like I’m weird (which I am, but still...).

When I say, “I really appreciate it when you put your towel in the hamper, it's super helpful to me, then they’re more likely to put the towel in the hamper. (Of course, this isn’t guaranteed. I’m not a wizard!)

7. Empower your children.

When I say, “Can you put the dishes in the dishwasher?” point blank, I hear something like “Right now? Really?” or simply, “Mooom.” But when I say, “Who wants to be my helper for a few minutes?” they both come running.

So I try to frame requests as, You are a super helpful person and thank you!” rather than come do this chore now.

Child Development expert and founder of The Thoughtful Parent, Amy Webb suggests these helpful tips.

8. Express how your child’s behavior makes you feel.

When your kiddos are past the toddler stage and can empathize with other people saying things like, “It makes me feel really sad when you don’t listen to what I say” or “It hurts my feelings and makes me think you don’t care about what I’m saying when you interrupt me” can make an impact.

Now, you don’t want to pull a guilt trip on your kid—it’s not about that. These types of phrases help with social-emotional skills too. Over time they begin to learn how their actions affect other people.

9. Explain the bigger picture to them.

Or the reason behind the rule. For example: my son has problems jumping on the furniture and/or not respecting our household items (scratching or banging on the table with utensils, etc.) Barking at him over and over has not helped.

What does help is explaining why we take good care of our property—if we have to replace it, that’s less money for kids items, toys, etc. When they were younger, I would use a similar strategy as above except the table is the one with the feelings—i.e. “You don’t want to give the table an ouchy.”

10. Explain what their behavior is telling you.

This has been helpful with things like throwing toys around. I used to be more negative about it and just tell them to stop throwing toys. That did not help.

So now I say things like, “If you throw your toys, it is telling me that you must not like them anymore.” This has given them more perspective on the issue. The same idea can work for behavior—i.e. “Your whining is telling me that you are tired and we must need to leave the playground.”

Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in Manhattan and author of How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success Dr. Tovah Klein suggests these helpful tips.

11. Help them explain their feelings.

If you notice your toddler resorting to hitting/hurting their sibling or friend out of frustration you can say something like, That makes you so mad! (Oh, that is so frustrating!) You can be mad. You can hit this!” (Show them where on a pillow or a stuffed animal.)

Giving them words (frustrated, mad) and a place to hit and get their feelings out can release their anger.

If your preschooler/kindergartener is nervous about being away from you at school you can reassure them by saying, “It’s okay if you miss me, I always come back. You have teachers at school who will help you and I will be back at circle time.” (Or I will see you at dinner, whenever the parent will be back.)

Reassurance that it is okay to miss mommy and that she always comes back is key.

If your toddler feels like they “messed up” while creating something (a drawing/painting) and gets frustrated with themselves you could help calm them by saying something like, “Oh! That is frustrating! But everyone makes mistakes! You can try again, or we can do something else now.”

12. Try not to just say “no”—elaborate.

If your child keeps asking the same question and you keep saying “no” but it doesn’t seem to be registering with them you could say something like, “So you really, really want to be on the iPad? I wish you could. I know how badly you want that. But right now we have to have dinner/go to school/etc.”

In other words—addressing the desire and showing empathy (I wish you could...) goes a long way in recognizing the child.

And, remember—transitions can be hard. When you are telling them something you know they don’t want to hear, as in, “You need to stop playing and come to dinner (or leave the playground, or it is bath time, etc.)” Start with, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but we have to leave the park (and give a concrete closure). One more time down the slide then we have to get the stroller and go.”

Again, recognize that they probably don’t want to do your request and give them clear direction.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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This summer I welcomed my amazing son into the world. Like many soon-to-be parents, my husband and I signed up for our local prenatal class series, confident that I'd leave the course feeling prepared. And I was, in a way.

We learned about the stages of labor, pain relief methods, and emergency C-sections. But almost no time was dedicated to the postpartum period, or the blurry, foggy, overall confusing newborn stage.

In the 8.5 months that I've been a mom, I've by no means become an expert, but I have learned some lessons that have served me well as I navigate this new world. Things that, honestly, I wish someone would have given me the head's up on.

Here they are:

1. Simple doesn’t mean easy.

Feed, change, cuddle, repeat. Bathe occasionally. Clothe. Simple, right?

Caring for a newborn may be simple in theory, but make no mistake— there's nothing easy about it. In fact, it's shocking how difficult it can be. Lack of sleep played a huge role for me in how difficult things often felt, as did my physical recovery, and well, the huge adjustment to being a mother.

2. You’ll recover at your own pace.

After a beautiful, calm labor—the labor I had dreamed of—I was utterly disappointed in myself for recovering so slowly. I knew people who were out and about, jogging with their newborns in their strollers just a few days postpartum.

Me? The journey from the car to our condo unit felt like a marathon. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit. I was bleeding. I was leaking milk. Taking a shower was terrifying.

In fairness, my delivery was complicated—the umbilical cord was wrapped around my son's shoulder and his heart rate was dropping, so I needed a massive episiotomy and the help of a vacuum to get him out ASAP. But I couldn't believe how long it took me to feel like myself again. I wasn't close to healed by the 6-week timeline—it was more like three months.

I remember thinking, forget about getting my pre-baby body back—I just want a body that functions! But beating myself up wasn't going to speed up the recovery process. It only made me feel worse.

Be kind to yourself. It took nine months (give or take) for your body to grow and birth your baby, and it'll take time for things to fall back into place.

3. Your baby might have recovery time too.

After delivery, my baby had a swollen head from the vacuum extraction and was jaundiced. He didn't exactly look like the sweet, chubby baby I was expecting.

When he cried and was fussy, I had to remind myself that he was healing just like I was. We were in this together, and neither of us was feeling our best.

4. You’ll want someone at your appointments.

Between the sleep deprivation, hormones, and total newness of it all, doctor's appointments can seem like a hazy blur. Recruit your partner, your mom, your sister, or a close friend to come with you. They'll listen, ask questions, and help you remember things after the fact.

I don't know how many times my husband said to me, "Don't worry, the doctor said that's normal," and I thought When the heck did he say that? That's normal, mama. Your body may be working overtime but your mind might feel like it is moving in slow motion.

5. Unexpected people will reach out.

One of the most amazing experiences during my pregnancy and postpartum period was the people who reached out to offer love and support—not just congratulatory wishes but an invitation to talk about how things are really going.

Because those who have gone through it recently know how trying those first few days, weeks, and months can be. If you don't have lots of close friends or family members who are having babies at the same time as you, you can feel extremely alone.

I had a former co-worker who now lives halfway across the country reach out in the most touching way, and she still stays in touch.

When someone holds their hand out, take it—it can be such a wonderful experience. Plus, you may be able to pass it on one day too.

6. Little victories are worth celebrating.

One of the most powerful, important things you can do is celebrate small victories, and be thankful for little joys.

At the very beginning, I tried to do one simple thing every day— cut and file my nails, write a thank you card for a gift I received, drink a hot cup of tea.

Later on, my victories got slightly bigger—meet my sister for lunch, go for a walk with the baby to the grocery store. On more than one occasion, I looked down at my baby when I got home from being out with him and said, "Look at us—look at what we can do!"

When you're a new mom, it's perfectly acceptable to be proud of yourself for getting dinner on the table or running an errand. In fact, you should be beaming with pride. You did it!

7. There’s no shame in asking for help.

When it comes to professionals, there's a wealth of knowledge out there to turn to: breastfeeding specialists, sleep consultants, pelvic floor physiotherapists, postpartum doulas, and so on. But asking for help can also mean asking your mom to come over and hold the baby so you can nap. Or asking your friend to bring a pack of diapers. And of course, seeking support for postpartum anxiety or depression is crucial and can make a world of difference.

8. It gets easier, and it gets better.

I've heard people say, "It doesn't get easier, it just gets different," and I'll let you know—that's not true. It does get easier. Sleep improves, breastfeeding (if you're doing so) gets easier, colic goes away, and newborns turn into adorable, smiley, cuddly little babies. If you don't love the newborn stage, you're not alone, and that's okay!

New motherhood can seem like a long, hazy tunnel, but you'll find your way through it, and at the other side, you'll discover yourself again, along with the sweetest little baby in the world.

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Before I gave birth to my son, I couldn't fathom how some mothers struggled to take time to care for themselves, whether that was working out regularly or making it to a routine dentist appointment. Admitting this makes me cringe, but it's what I honestly thought.

Now, after 18 months of changing diapers, breastfeeding and sleep deprivation—I know self-care as a mother is anything but easy.

A people-pleaser at heart, my first instinct as a new mom was to care for my son, dog, husband and home before taking care of myself. I quickly learned, however, that putting myself last was the path to burnout.

I never really thought much about self-care before becoming a mom, but now I fight to prioritize it. Here's what I've learned.

1. I learned that in order to care for others, I must care for myself

It took coming down with a fever after several sleepless nights with my son, who was also sick, for me to realize this. The day sickness struck I felt so dizzy I could barely stand and ended up in urgent care.

My nurse scolded me for ignoring my health: "You have to start getting more rest," she said, "so you can be healthy for your son." That really clicked, and stayed with me.

From that moment on, I started taking better care of myself.

Now whenever I'm tempted to stay up late and skimp on sleep, put off making a doctor's appointment or skip my workout, I think about the consequences of ignoring my health.

Knowing my son depends on me to be healthy offers me the accountability I need to put myself first and make smart choices when it comes to self-care.

There are days when prioritizing self-care is easier, and days when it seems as though I cannot possibly do one thing for myself. But I've realized that if I allow my role as 'mother' to eclipse the need to care for myself, eventually I become exhausted and ineffective.

Inspired by my nurse, this is my motherhood mantra: To care for others, I must care for myself.

2. I stopped being afraid to ask for help

My own mother raised me to be independent, which has influenced the way I tackle problems in adulthood. One of my earliest lessons of motherhood, however, was that neither I, nor my husband, could tackle the task of raising our son on our own.

A couple weeks after he was born, dirty dishes and clothes were piling up at home and food was getting scarce. I knew we needed help, but I felt a little embarrassed by the mess we'd made while focusing solely on caring for our newborn. Finally, I called my mom, who came and stayed with us a few days.

At last we had an extra set of hands to snuggle the baby and clean and cook. I even got my first taste of alone time—which I used to sleep!—and I resolved that I wouldn't be afraid to ask for help again so I could carve out space for me.

3. I defined self-care for myself

One of my mom friends, Brooke, loves to treat herself to a weekend pedicure on occasion, just to get out of the house for an hour. She says she always comes home feeling refreshed and energized to spend time with her son, and she never regrets it.

I love this idea, but when I have a free hour, I prefer to use it to take a hot yoga class or head to a local Starbucks and do some journaling.

Becoming a mom forced me to create my unique definition of self-care. I only have so much time to myself, so when I am alone, I want to make it really count. I learned through trial and error that some activities I thought I loved (running, baking) didn't bring me as much joy as they once did. In fact, I found that when I did them, I ended up feeling as though I wasted the precious time I had alone.

Now I make sure I do the things I love (yoga, writing) so that I can return to my parental duties feeling recharged.

4. I re-thought my day

When a new baby enters your world, your schedule is forever changed. Then a few months later it changes again… and again… and again (and so on). As someone who uses her planner like a security blanket, this epiphany was more than a bit discouraging.

The only way I was able to regularly incorporate self-care in my life was to rethink my day. For example, I used to religiously complete morning workouts, but with my son's sleep issues, I soon realized they'd be off the table for a while. (Actually, they still are.)

When I took a look at my daily schedule, I realized that if I could allow myself some flexibility, I could switch my workouts to late in the evening, or even squeeze in the occasional yoga session over the lunch hour.

Now I try and make it a point to find at least one free moment each day, whether it's an hour or 10 minutes, to do something just for me.

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It seems like age-old wisdom saying "Eat your vegetables," but what do you when your child really doesn't like eating vegetables? If veggies feel like a source of conflict at the dinner table or you're worried about your child's health, you're not alone, mama.

Most importantly, you are not failing as a mama if your child isn't eating their vegetables.

Kids and vegetables can be a tricky combination. As mothers, we inherently believe that our children will be better off and healthier if we can just get them to eat their veggies. However, they can be really difficult for kids to eat and enjoy.

Why vegetables can be hard for kids to eat

Many kids may be reluctant to eat vegetables, no matter how they are probed, pushed or bribed. Eating veggies can feel like a chore for your child, and getting your kid to try "just one bite" of any veggies on their plate can feel like a nightmare for you.

It may be helpful to know that we are born with preferences for sweeter tastes. If you think about it, a baby's first food is breast milk, which has naturally occurring sugars, including lactose.

Vegetables can be more difficult for children to get accustomed to, as they tend to have more bitter, sour and complex flavors. Children are learning to eat different foods and getting familiar with eating vegetables is no different than developing a new skill, like riding a bike. It takes practice in a low-pressure environment, patience and nurturing.

Do kids really need veggies to be healthy?

So what is the big deal with vegetables anyway? Why the overemphasis on getting a child to eat vegetables? This is something that is commonly lectured by healthcare professionals to well-meaning family members, but the truth is your child can get the nutrition they need to grow and thrive without hyper-focusing on vegetables alone.

Vegetables and fruits have similar nutrient profiles so your child is more likely to get the nutrition they need by having access to a variety of different foods.

The bottom line: A child's health is not singularly defined by how many servings of veggies they eat.

There are many other components that influence their health status, including:

  • Access to a variety of foods
  • Adequate healthcare
  • Regular time to play
  • Emotional nurturing, and more

While vegetables can provide important nutrients to a growing child, stressing about whether your child's food intake is adequate or not will only make eating harder for you both.

The good news is that you can you help your child actually enjoy them. (And It doesn't involve any forcing, bribing, tricking or figuring out how to sneak in veggies into your child's food).

7 tips for helping kids enjoy veggies

1. Make them taste delicious

Vegetables don't have to be boring or flavorless. If your child is struggling with eating them, take a different approach to how you serve and prepare them.

Don't be afraid to add seasonings, herbs and spices. Sautee with real butter or cook them with bacon or pancetta.

Make a yummy salad with some added toppings, like dried fruit and nuts. Serve your child something that tastes good to you and that you would also enjoy.

2. Pair with familiar foods

Serving veggies alongside foods that your child is familiar and comfortable with will make them more likely to try them. Having too many foods that are new or unfamiliar can be intimidating for a child.

When planning out meals for your family, keep this in mind: a neutral food component along with something that might be a little harder to eat, like a vegetable, can make it easier for your child.

3. Keep the pressure low

The more a child is pushed to do something, the less likely they will want to do it. This is where you have full permission to stop bribing, coercing or negotiating with your child when it comes to eating.

Remember: Parents provide, child decides. It's your job to determine what food is served. It's your child's job to decide whether or not they want to eat what you have served and how much.

If eating vegetables is a non-issue, your child will feel more relaxed to try different foods that are served. Pressuring a child to eat certain foods can actually cause them to dislike those foods.

4. Don’t give positive or negative reinforcement

Many parents feel obligated to reward or punish a child based on their vegetable intake, but this can be counterproductive. For example, telling a child:

  • "You won't get any dessert tonight if you don't take a least one bite of your broccoli." (Negative reinforcement)
  • "Good job eating all your vegetables! Now you can have dessert." (Positive reinforcement)

These feeding strategies can actually teach a child that they cannot trust their own bodies to guide their food decisions or that certain foods have to be earned. This makes food more chaotic for a child and sets the stage for problematic eating behaviors down the road.

5. Keep trying and reintroducing

We've all heard the saying, "If at first, you don't succeed, try, try, try again." This absolutely applies to kids and vegetables. As parents, it's easy to give up all hopes of our child trying and liking a certain food when we see them reject it time and time again. So we give up and we stop trying. However, it may take a child repeated exposure to that food to promote food acceptance.

Research has shown that a child needs as many as 8-15 exposures to a particular food before they might gain acceptance of that food, but many parents are likely to give up trying at the earliest signs of rejection.

Bottom line: Keep trying to introduce new foods, like vegetables, in a low-pressure environment to help increase acceptance and consumption.

6. Involve your kids in the kitchen

Research has also found that hands-on approaches, such as cooking and gardening, may encourage greater vegetable consumption in children. When a child is allowed to be part of the planning and the preparation and can see how a food is grown and/or prepared, this may positively support their own eating behaviors. Give your child the opportunity to help prepare veggies and let them play a part in the kitchen.

7. Lead by example

Ultimately, children learn by example, and in order to raise a child to eat well, you may have to work on your own eating habits. In a compassionate and gentle way, take an honest look at how you eat and your own relationship with food.

Do you enjoy a variety of foods? Do you trust yourself when it comes to your own health and your body? If you're feeling stuck with your own approach to food and health, it is critical to get the help you need for yourself first.

Don't let vegetables become a battleground. If you need help raising a healthy eater, connect with the support you need. You've got this mama, and you don't have to do this alone.

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Mama,

I'm going to tell you something. If you don't already know this, it might come as a shock.

There will be times in parenting your sweet child when you will want to scream.

When the demands in front of you or the hardships you're facing or the exhaustion that's unrelenting becomes so overwhelming that the only response that feels appropriate is to yell and scream and otherwise freak out.

This feeling? It will happen. I was warned as a first time pregnant mama that it would happen, and though at the time I kind of laughed it off—it happened, and sooner than I ever through possible.

But mama? Here's my little secret for you: When you want to scream, breathe.

You're not a bad mama for wanting to scream.

You're a person experiencing a very intense time—often without any support.

Mama, sometimes we scream because we don't feel heard.

Sometimes we scream because the stress inside feels like it has to come out.

Sometimes we scream because the physical demands of motherhood are so heavy that we have to moan and find a way to give voice to the struggle.

And while occasionally screaming into my pillow might feel right, screaming at another person never does—not in the short or long term.

So when the pain of childbirth becomes so strong that you want to scream: breathe. Studies show that controlling the breath and remaining calm can actual reduce pain during birth. Breathe.

When the exhaustion of new motherhood is so intense and you have been up with baby all night and you're completely out of ideas for how to get baby to sleep: breathe. Put your little one in a safe place and just lay down and take deep breaths. Breathe.

When the messiness of motherhood—the laundry, the constant picking up, the spilled drinks and upside down sippy cups and strewn toys and crumb-filled car gets you so frustrated that feel like you can't take it anymore—breathe. You're doing your best in a messy season of life. Try laughing at it. Laughter truly helps. Breathe.

When the demands of balancing work and to-do lists and grocery shopping and scheduling and your kid threw up at school on the same day your prescription ran out and your partner has to stay late at work and nothing is working out the way you planned—breathe. You are one person and all you can do is be present to the next person or task in front of you. You are doing the best that you can today. Breathe.

When you're so worried about how to pay the bills that your mind won't let you go to sleep—breathe. You are alive. You are safe. You will figure it out with a rational plan that will guide you to the next right step. Breathe.

When a family member makes a critical remark about something you've done as a parent even though you know you're doing the best you know—breathe. These remarks often say so much more about the person then they say about you. Try to pause before responding and know they often come from a place of personal pain, or from an attempt to share some well-intentioned advice. When they mean well but you wish they didn't say it at all, slow down. Breathe.

When your kids are fighting and yelling at each other and you just want them to stop for one blessed minute and you feel like screaming—breathe. Because you've learned that shouting "STOP SCREAMING!" at your kids only teaches them to shout, and models the exact behavior you want to them avoid. Try redirecting them in a calm, firm voice. Or inviting them to a new activity in an upbeat, fun voice. But first: breathe.


Breathing can help alter the PH of your blood, immediately, and lowers stress hormones like Cortisol.

Breathing can help mitigate the fear-tension-pain cycle in childbirth.

Breathing can give you time to choose a better, more rational response.

Breathing can remind you of what is real: you are here now. You are showing up. You're doing the best you can.

Deep breaths mama. You've got this.

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