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11 positive parenting techniques to try before breakfast

Oh, mama. We all have those days—when the baby wakes up earlier than expected, the empty oatmeal can was mysteriously placed back in the pantry and even your top-knot refuses to cooperate. On those days, mustering up a positive parenting attitude can feel like a lot of work. But it’s also when you need it the most.

“Positive parenting is the best way to start rough mornings because it's really ‘investment’ parenting,” says Kate Orson, a Hand-in-Hand instructor and author of Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children. “Because it’s an investment that deepens connnection with our child, it improves our relationship with them and will make future mornings easier, too.”

As you’re trying—really trying, despite a sleep-deprived night—to start the day on the right foot, here are a few positive parenting techniques that can help:

1. Say “it’s going to be a great day!” Cheesy as it may feel if your day got off to a rough start, research shows positive thinking truly has the power to transform your day. (As added benefits, optimism can also improve your skill sets.) Our kids can feel that too.

2. Give them a hug: The warm and fuzzy feeling we get from a good embrace isn’t just in our minds. Studies show hugs cause our bodies to release oxytocin, which is known as the “love hormone.” What better way to turn around a sour mood?

3. Turn on some music, not the TV: To get mornings off to their best starts, save your news fix for later in the day. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says music can help ward off anxiety and depression whereas television is linked to hyperactivity. (Screen time does have a place. To start the day off right, you may just want to save it for later.)

4. Share some unstructured time: Orson says one of the best ways to start the day is by spending 10 or so minutes on play with your child while you shower them in affection. “Although it may seem counterintuitive to spend time hanging out when you are anxious to get out of the door, it actually saves time,” she says. “When children are happy and more connected, they are more likely to cooperate with your requests.”

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5. Use a visual checklist to encourage accomplishment: A significant part of positive parenting is empowering your children and checklists are a great way to do that—even for little ones who can’t yet read. According to the Illinois Early Learning Project, “Using schedules or checklists are supports for children who benefit from knowing the routine and self-assessing their ability to follow the routine and typical expectations.”

6. Offer two or three options for their clothes: Another great way to help your children feel empowered in the morning is by giving them (at least some) independence with their clothing selection. You can ensure the outfits are still appropriate for weather and other conditions by streamlining the options ahead of time.

7. If your child isn’t cooperating, take a step back and shift the focus by finding something to laugh about: A situation where kiddos aren’t cooperating can quickly go from bad to worse if they notice a rise in anxiety. To counteract that, Orson suggests finding a reason to laugh. “For example, if your toddler won't put on their clothes then you try doing it in a playful way with socks on hands, and pants on head,” she says. “Then act all confused as if you don't know how to do it properly. This kind of giggle play can quickly shift your child out of stubborn refusal and into cooperative mode.”

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8. Allow your children to have quiet time with their thoughts: Rather than ushering everyone from one task to the next, allow the kids to have some quiet time, too. Although this may not progress to the level of full-blown meditation, research shows some simple meditative time has serious benefits for developing minds.

9. Say positive affirmations into the mirror: After brushing teeth or hair, make a habit of receiting uplifting phrases or mantras into the mirror with your children. Here are 12 tips for getting started with positive affirmations that benefit everyone in the family.

10. Freely use words for praise instead of just ushering them on to the next task: To us, putting clothes on correctly may seem like the easiest thing in the world. But to toddlers and little kids, that qualifies as a huge achievement! Taking the time to acknowledge that is a worthy use of time—even on rushed mornings. “Sincere and genuine praise has been shown to increase children’s motivation,” says child development psychologist Ashley Sonderlund.

11. Gather the whole family and encourage each other (even just for a brief moment): Before starting off on a busy day that may see everyone going a dozen different directions, take a few moments to round up the troops and freely share words of support with each other.

It’s never too early to get your toddler in the (so adorable) habit of telling mama, “You’ve got this.” And, with that kind of spirit, even the wildest of mornings can morph into the best of days.

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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 the 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, it's 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. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all 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?

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 that 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


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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