14 tips for positive parenting out in the real world

Because parenting in public, or under the critical gaze of extended family, can be some of the hardest moments.

14 tips for positive parenting out in the real world

Parenting is always a challenge, but parenting in public, or under the critical gaze of extended family, can be some of the hardest moments.

Not only do we have to be extra creative to help our child cope in a way that doesn't infringe on the rights of others. We have to do it in front of an audience! An audience that we suspect is judging us as bad parents. It doesn't matter whether it's grandparents thinking we spoil just a bit too much, or supermarket cashiers thinking we might be a little mean. If we were good parents, our child wouldn't be acting up to begin with. Right?

Actually, wrong. Even well-adjusted, wonderful children of parents we would all admire have their moments. I still remember the doozy of a tantrum my son had in the car when he was three, when we were driving with my dad and stepmom. I think they were actually surprised that my son turned out to be such a great kid.

My insight from that experience? My son was in the right. I would have done things differently if we were alone. But because they were there, I compromised my own instincts, and didn't listen to my son. Sure, the grandparents thought they should outrank a toddler. But looking back 23 years, I see clearly that my son experienced my going along with them as a betrayal of our relationship.

Did my son come out okay? Yes, of course. As long as we're usually empathic with our kids, those failures of empathy are fine. In fact, he probably learned something about how we can repair rifts in relationships, and even about sticking up for himself. But as a result of that experience, and many, many stories I have heard from parents, I'm here to encourage you to stick to your parenting convictions, even in public, and even with grandparents.

Would your child be better behaved in public if you were a more authoritarian parent? Maybe. But we know that parenting style doesn't encourage healthy development and it only lasts for as long as you can physically control your child.

Of course you need to set limits with your child, whether that's about jumping on Grandma's couch or running through a restaurant. But you can set limits without resorting to punishment. Instead of threatening kids with consequences if they don't behave, why not help your child become the kind of person who understands what behavior is appropriate, and who wants to behave that way?

Here's how.

1. Tend to basic needs.

Be pre-emptive. Don't take a tired, hungry child anywhere. Even if you're going to a meal, assume your child will be hungry before the food is served and bring snacks. If you're in the grocery store, head first to the foods you will let them eat, and choose something for them to snack on while you shop. Before you walk into Grandma's, let your child run and roughhouse outside for a few minutes, and pour your love into them while they giggle. The more connected they feel to you, the calmer they'll be, even when they get over-stimulated by all the relatives.

2. Prepare your child.

Explain, even to a baby, what will be happening. Describe what you will do, and any expectations you have for your child's behavior.

"At Grandma's we hold hands and say a blessing, like this. During the blessing, only the person who is offering the blessing speaks. The rest of us will be quiet and listen."

3. Invite your child to contribute positively.

Describe the situation and explore with your child what kinds of contributions would be helpful.

"At the restaurant, the waiters are rushing around balancing food. How can we help them do a good job and not spill things?"

As you discuss visiting family or friends, practice hellos and goodbyes so your child is more comfortable with those often-tricky greetings.

4. Stay present to your child.

Often when children "act out" in public or when they're visiting relatives, it's because they feel our attention is elsewhere. That makes them a bit insecure, so they act out to get the reassurance that we're still attending to them. For instance, if you expect to spend an airplane flight relaxing, you can count on your child needing to interact with you fairly constantly. The more we can stay connected with a child, the less he will act out, always.

5. Find a way to involve your child.

It's simply not developmentally reasonable for a young child to watch quietly while you're in the hardware store. Their job description is to learn about the world through hands-on exploration. So let them touch when you can, and ask them questions:

"Look at all the different sizes of screws... This is such a tiny screw.... what could it be used for?"

Let them help you find and test the screw driver you need, and pay the cashier. This will always take more time than if you just pull them along, but you'll finish the errand with a happier—and more intellectually curious—child.

6. When your child gets restless, don't ignore it.

Most of us get more anxious, and try to move faster. We say, "We're almost done shopping ... be patient for a few more minutes." But a young child simply can't do that. They need your help to get back in balance, so they don't fall apart. So instead of speeding up, start by slowing down and taking a deep breath. Then, take a minute to reconnect—hug, make eye contact, sing to them softly, or twirl them around. That might be enough to shift your child's mood and give you time to complete your errand—with both of you in a good mood!

7. Find ways to honor or redirect your child's impulses.

"You want to run! Let's go back outside the store for a few minutes to run, since you've been sitting in the car. Then, when we come back in the store, let's walk THIS way!"

Exaggerate your silly, slow walk, to get your child laughing. Laughter dissolves tension and creates more positivity.

8. Start with empathy and listen to your child before you jump in to problem solve.

Once a child feels heard and understood, they're more likely to be able to calm themselves.

"You seem pretty mad ... What's going on?... So you're upset because your cousin said .... This is a tough problem .... You want X and your cousin wants Y .... I wonder how we can solve this?"

9. When possible, set your usual limits even when your child resists.

When your child wails "But I WANT the candy, I NEED it!" of course you acknowledge how much she wants it. But that doesn't mean you buy it, unless you want to buy it every time. Instead, you empathize and redirect her longing toward a food you feel good about her eating. She might screech the first four times, or even have a good cry that necessitates you leaving the store. Eventually, she will learn through experience that you don't buy the candy, but instead you'll buy her any fruit she wants.

An airplane, though, or any situation where you can't leave, is obviously not the time to let her have a good cry. So forget about long-term development (that's why you keep situations like planes and restaurants to a minimum during the early years) and go for distraction. If she wants to get up and run during takeoff, empathize:

"You want up! It's hard to wait."

Tell her when she can get what she wants: "As soon as the plane is in the air, you can get up!"

Tell her what she can do with that impulse: "Your body wants to move! Can you wiggle in your seat like this?"

Involve her in what's happening: "Look! we''re taking off! The plane is going up!"

Then distract. Pull out a special treat or small wrapped book or toy you brought just for this moment, "Look, a surprise! What's in it?"

10. Move your child to a more private place.

If your child has a meltdown, it's impossible to attend to him and also finish your shopping. Just scoop him up and remove him from the situation. Maybe you can go to your car, or to an out of the way spot at the mall where you won't be disturbing other people. Just as important, you won't be tempted to parent as onlookers think you should, so you can follow your own parenting instincts.

As always, empathize with how upset he is:

"You want to run around the aisles, but I need you to stay in the cart. I know it's hard to stay in the cart, but you can do this. Let's make it fun for you."

Feeling understood usually calms kids. When he's done crying, hold him and comfort him. If he's still awake, decide if the two of you are up for another try, and if so, how it can work for both of you.

"Maybe for the last bit of shopping, you can walk next to me and help me find things, and then sit in the cart again at the checkout."

11. Keep calming yourself.

Children can be expected to exhibit childish behavior. There's no shame in your child's needs clashing with the household need to get food for the family. The only possible embarrassment here is in responding to that clash by becoming a parent you don't want to be. So when you feel that happening, stop, take a deep breath, and shift gears. Use a mantra, like

"This isn't an emergency .... She's acting like a child because she is a child ... She needs my help to cope."

12. Come up with something to say to any onlookers who comment.

Mostly, you can ignore other people and just move your child to a more out of the way spot. But occasionally, a store clerk, or your mother-in-law, will try to intervene to distract your child. So it's best to prepare yourself with a standard answer that reassures that person that despite your wailing child, it's not an emergency and you don't need them to fix your child or anything else. Something like "He'll be okay ... We just need a little time alone."

13. Remember your first responsibility is to your child.

When your child is screaming on the airplane and all eyes are on you, naturally you want to control your child to keep her quiet, even if control isn't your usual approach. And yes, the other passengers on the plane have a right to a calm flight, too. But focusing on them will just make you more anxious and undermine your ability to help your child. Until you help her with whatever problem is causing her to scream, she will probably keep screaming, so better to ignore everything but staying calm and connecting with your child. The truth is, the other passengers are much less interested in judging you than in having a quiet flight.

14. Assume the support of your audience.

In the same way that audiences root for performers to succeed, the people watching actually want you and your child to succeed. They know kids can be unpredictable and unreasonable. They may assume the situation would get resolved faster if you did it their way, but imagine how impressed the grandparents will be when they see your son pull himself together because you've empathized.

"Oh, Sweetie, you really wish you could have another cookie, I know! Tell me how many cookies you would like to eat? 10,000?! Oh my goodness, would you be as tall as the sky then?"

And what about the times when, inevitably, you're embarrassed about the way your child is behaving? You will probably want to have a quiet conversation with the grandparents at some point to explain why your parenting philosophy is going to raise emotionally intelligent grandchildren, and why punishment won't. But those strangers in the grocery store? You'll never see them again. Smile ruefully and say, "Sometimes we all have bad days." Nobody can disagree with that.

Originally posted on Aha Parenting.

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    7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

    Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

    When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

    Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

    1. Prep snacks on Sunday

    This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

    2. When in doubt, go for fruit

    Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

    3. Pair snacks with a dip

    Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

    4. Have high-protein options readily available

    Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

    5. Always keep the pantry stocked

    Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

    6. Make cracker tartines

    I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

    • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
    • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
    • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

    7. Pre-make smoothie pops

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    15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are 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 indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Stomp Racers

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    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

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    Secret Agent play set

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    Stepping Stones

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    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

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    Vintage scooter balance bike

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    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

    Foam pogo stick

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    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

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    Dumptruck 

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    Hopper ball

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    Pull-along ducks

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    Rocking chair seesaw

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    Baby forest fox ride-on

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    Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

    Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

    MoMo Productions/Getty Images

    If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

    But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

    Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

    In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


    The correlations between screen time and children's health

    But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

    Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

    It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

    Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

    "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

    A novel look at screen time in adolescents

    The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

    Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

    Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

    The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

    Children's health

    Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo: ‘It was so beautiful’

    The new mothers shared a special moment at a Boston zoo.

    Franklin Park Zoo/YouTube

    Motherhood knows no bounds.

    When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

    The gorilla spent nearly five minutes happily pointing and staring at baby Canyon.


    Emmelina's husband captured the sweet moment on his phone, in a video that's now gone viral.

    Mother shares unique maternal bond with gorilla (FULL VIDEO) www.youtube.com

    Why was Kiki so interested in her tiny visitor? Possibly because Kiki's a new mom herself. Her fifth baby, Pablo, was born in October.

    Near the end of the video, Kiki scooped up Pablo and held him close. The new moms held their baby boys to the glass and shared a special moment together: just a couple of mothers, showing off their little ones.

    "When I walked into the zoo that day, I never could've imagined that we would have had that experience," Austin told ABC News. "It was so beautiful, and we walked out just over the moon."

    We can't get enough of the sweet exchange. There's something special about sharing your little one with the world. Mothers of all ages, races–and it turns out, species–understand.

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