Menu

Our kids are human, too—5 ways to treat them like an equal

Let's start by paying attention to them.

treat kids like an equal

Before traveling for work recently, my 5-year-old son and I had an intimate conversation about my time away. I explained to him slowly how long I'd be gone, where I'd be and when I'd return before he interrupted me with a simple, "I know all of this already, Mama. I also know you'll be gone three sleeps longer than normal, which is a long time."

He tilted his head back as if to take it all in, and stayed there for a while before reassuring me with his big little hand on my shoulder, "I will think about you, and you will think about me. It will be okay."

Amid the fast pace of parenthood, it's easy to forget that my child is not less than me. Our children are capable of so much. But, we don't always see it. Sometimes, we only see our efforts to raise them instead. We see the exhaustion of managing, scheduling and maintaining the day-to-day that we miss their competency. We think they are able because of us, when, in so many ways, our strength comes from them.

Beginning at conception and continuing through birth and growth, their courage and exhibition of self is always a delightful surprise. The simple ways in which children communicate joy, the honesty in their voice and the vulnerability in their questions leave us with a newfound love for who they are becoming, right before our sleepy eyes.

Instead of superiority, our children need to feel that we trust them, that we believe in them, and that we see them as equals. Child-rearing is a partnership between parent and child and we should realize the beautiful human being who not only wants to be just like us but is already like us, too: Learning and living and growing, every single day.

How can you treat children more like an equal? Here are five ways, mama:

1. Treat your child as you would like to be treated.

What makes a relationship meaningful to you? When you're overwhelmed, overtired or in need of support, what or whom do you seek? When you're feeling celebratory, whom do you choose to participate in the joy with you?

Children need companionship the same way we do, but we tend to blame their need on adolescence as if they need our care and direction, not a supportive friend.

In times of learning, we also talk at the child, exasperated in what surely has been told one hundred times, but does it help you when someone talks down to you? What words will resonate with you instead?

The way in which we engage in loving, respectful relationships with an adult friend is possible with a child. They feel everything from us, sometimes before our dulled senses feel them ourselves, and when you show the child how much they mean to you the way you would do for a friend, they feel that, too.

2. Include your child in your plans.

When making decisions about your day, big or small, ask your child for their input. Thinking about dinner or planning meals for the week? Ask your child what they'd enjoy. Can't decide what to wear, which book to read or where to go for lunch? Watch as your child revels in the inclusion of your choice.

Also ask your child for help in daily endeavors, like cleaning the house or yard work, and be mindful of asking for his participation in activities that might be above what you think is his level of ability. Help your child to believe in himself!

3. Offer choices to show an interest in their opinions.

Along with asking for their opinion, afford your child the space to make decisions on their own, ensuring that you're supportive in whatever those decisions may be.

Sometimes, when we tell children what to do, they begin to relinquish their own power of choice, not even realizing it as an option. Instead, remind your child that we all have choices in our lives, and how we choose to respond to those choices is what strengthens us.

Give options. Instead of saying, "Do you want to go to the park today?" Ask, "Do you want to go to the park today or to the library?" Near bedtime, ask the child, "Do you want to take a bath first or put away your laundry?" At dinner, "Do you want to help me rinse the dishes or put away the dishes?"

Yes or no questions imply hierarchy, whereas choices signify an interest in the other's opinion.

4. Think less like a superior.

If we treat children as if they know less than us, our minds will always approach and speak to them as if they know less than us. We will subconsciously speak above them, not even hearing ourselves the condescending tone in our voice. Instead, empathize with a child's perspective.

When I speak with my son, I am aware of the intuition and honesty he bears that is purer than me. He sees things differently than I do and with less of a filter than I have, so who am I to speak above him or tell him how it is? His perspective enlightens me, and I wonder how to learn from him every single day.

And, to think less like a superior is not to act less like a superior. We are responsible to our children and must always be acting with their well-being in mind. Our actions show that we care for them and love them deeply. May our thoughts show that we revere them in that responsibility, too.

5. Pay attention.

Be less mindful of what we think children need and more mindful of what they are showing us they need.

Ask your child more questions and make eye contact. Come to their level, and once you've finished asking questions, ask if there is anything else they would like to say.

Children do always surprise us, with their willingness, tenacity, concentration and awe for the world around them. Our children want to participate in all of it, and perhaps if we gave them the autonomy and equity to do so, they would show us that they can do it, too. This is their big world, too.

You might also like:

Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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

Shop

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News