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Parenting has evolved in the past few decades, as it should. Gone are the days when young children were expected to perform manual labor before and after school, and the theory that “children should be seen not heard” is a thing of the past (for the most part).


We’ve learned a lot over time. We’ve learned that spanking causes long term damage, and that yelling isn’t much better. Changes in parenting style can be a very good thing for our children.

Parenting has never been an “easy” gig. Every generation has their own set of stressors, and the obstacles faced by parents today are different that those faced by their own parents. Food allergies are a significant source of stress for some, the pushing down of academics and decline in play change the structure of childhood and childhood stress is on the rise, to name a few.

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We can dissect the negatives and find reasons to make parents feel inadequate and guilty or we can focus on the positive.

We can take a look at what modern parenting is getting right and build upon that.

The so-called “mommy wars” and parent shaming are old news. If we want to raise a generation of kind, capable and responsible children, we need to figure out what we’re doing right and do more of that.

Here are five things modern parents are getting right:

1. We care about feelings.

We know that all kids are different and that all kids experience shifts in emotions. We know that’s okay to feel sad, mad, anxious or overly excited and that expressing a wide range of emotions is good for the soul. We know that stuffing feelings leads to anger and resentment but that working through feelings leads to self confidence and empathy.

We are teaching our kids to identify and process their big feelings, and we are teaching them how to cope when the chips are down so that they don’t feel like they’ll break every time they bend. That’s huge. That, alone, is a big improvement in parenting.

Not sure how to teach feelings identification and coping skills? Grab a copy of The Happy Kid Handbook. Feeling frazzled by tantrums (a healthy expression of emotions, but completely exhausting for parents) with the under five crowd? There’s a Taming Tantrums app for that.

2. We’re willing to learn.

People often reference the shelves full of parenting books as a bad thing. While I do feel like the instant access to information can leave parents in a state of learned helplessness (dissecting every cry by way of Google isn’t necessary), I actually see parenting books as a positive development.

We all have our own parenting styles and no one book works for every family. The wonderful part of the parenting book section, however, is that it empowers parents to seek help when they need it. Books give us the opportunity to think about what’s working and what’s not. Books help us view our unique parenting situations through a different lens.

Modern parents are not afraid to learn new things. We seek advice from friends, siblings, neighbors, books and trusted parenting websites. We sift through the information provided and consider change. Black and white thinking isn’t good for our kids, but considering the shades of grey is.

3. We connect with our kids.

While fear of being tagged a “helicopter parent” is real, what I see in my practice and out in the world is a generation of parents connecting with their kids.

We play with them. We read with them. We take an interest in them. We shoot hoops with them. And we work hard to open the lines of communication so that they know they can come to us when life gets complicated.

A close parent-child relationship provides the foundation for healthy communication and emotional development as kids grow. Modern parents know this and they aren’t afraid to put in the time to make this a priority.

4. We’re not afraid to fail.

Parenting mistakes are part of being a parent. We don’t always get it right, but we do know that talking with our kids about that and apologizing when we make mistakes is important. We also have a sense of humor about it. We don’t sweep our mistakes under the carpet—we joke with our friends and wait for that coveted parent-of-the-year award to arrive at our doorsteps!

Parenting is hard. Connecting with other parents and laughing about the ups and downs helps us release our emotions about this gig, and that makes for better overall parenting.

5. We stand up for ourselves.

Alyssa Milano is one of many voices of reason in the world of breastfeeding advocacy (who knew we would one day need advocacy for feeding our children?). What the non-stop debate about public breastfeeding has taught us (other than the fact that pop stars can show their parts but moms should hide theirs at all costs) is that opinions about parenting are powerful and often polarizing.

While I do wish that moms will simply choose a “mom and let mom” philosophy (we don’t have to agree but we can respect one another), I’m glad to see that parents are finding their voices. When parents don’t speak up, they internalize their emotions. Those emotions will spill out at another time.

When parents remain calm and stand up for themselves (be it breastfeeding uncovered or pacifier use in the toddler crowd), they send an important message to their kids: We all have to take a stand sometimes. Never be afraid to be you.

There’s always room for improvement in life. That’s why we all make resolutions on January 1st. But the best way inspire positive growth is to start by focusing on what’s going well. Modern parents are making positive changes. Let’s celebrate that and go from there.

Originally published by Katie Hurley on The Huffington Post.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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