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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.

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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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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Over six million women in America struggle with infertility, and yet its a journey that can feel so isolating.

That's why we find Google's short video, "Becoming Mom," to be so powerful. Through anxiety-driven web searches, vlog clips, and calendars packed with appointments, this video gives a brief peek into the all-consuming reality of struggling with infertility.

Watch "Becoming Mom" here:


Candace Wohl, a fertility advocate featured in this video, writes of her experience:

"For seven years, Mother's Day was the worst day of the year for me. It was an observance that felt completely out of reach, yet commercially and socially it was a reminder that I couldn't escape. I wanted to be a mom, but I was having trouble becoming one."

As Candace and her husband felt their private life had been invaded by fertility specialists, they also felt that the outside world didn't understand what they were going through. So she found solidarity online.

"I found support groups, blogs and resources. I wasn't as alone as I thought—like many, I had been silent about my struggles with infertility. It's a less-than-tasty casserole of heartache, injections and surgeries, failed adoption placements and financial devastation."

Through her years of personal experience, Candace has since become an advocate for infertility awareness, and hopes that speaking up will help break down the barriers surrounding infertility. She was excited to see Google using their platform to further this message.

"I hope that this year, even one more person out there will realize they're not alone."

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We love how this video is helping to spread awareness of a struggle so many women experience, and importantly—how it highlights the virtual communities that help many women to find a path forward. It's a powerful reminder that there are others out there, typing the same fears or curiosities into a search bar.

We applaud Candace and the other brave women who shared their stories in this video. Their openness is helping to educate people and elevate the conversation surrounding infertility. 👏

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We grew up together, were in each other's weddings, and dreamed about the day we would raise our children in unison. Then, BOOM. Kids arrive, and it doesn't take long to realize that, whoa, my best friend and I have very different approaches to this parenting gig.

The odds of her letting her babies “cry it out" are about as high as me co-sleeping with mine, and by that I mean not a chance. That's not the only thing that makes us very different in terms of parenting.

I enforce strict bedtimes, while her kids are catching a 7 p.m. movie at the theater. My little ones eat most meals from a box or the freezer, and hers have palates more developed than most adults.

We're both teachers. She cries when August rolls around at the thought of leaving her kids to go back to work. Me? I'm itching for “me time" and aching for conversation with someone above the age of five.

Sure, we're both trying our best to raise happy, respectful, and kind children, but when I'm faced with a grumpy 4-year-old whose mood rivals a teenager, I choose to send her to her room for quiet time. My best friend tickles the grouchies away.

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She has endless patience while I'm nearing the end of my fraying rope by noon.

I'll never forget one day when my daughter was having an epic tantrum, and I said to my friend, exasperated, “Ugh, sometimes I just want to scream 'Shut up!'"

Her response was one of shock, her eyes wide with horror. “Jennifer!" she said, appalled.

“Of course I would never actually say that," I quickly clarified. “But c'mon, you mean to tell me you've never thought that before?"

“Never!" she replied.

Then we chuckled about how different our mindsets are.

That's the thing – it's not a secret that we're raising our kids using opposing methodologies. We know that about each other and we respect that about each other. Here's the key: there's no judging.

My friend's children are being raised with religion in the household—praying at meals and before bed, talking about God, and falling on faith to help explain many of the mysteries of the human experience. My husband and I rest pretty low on the spirituality ladder and while we have no problem explaining religious beliefs to our kids, we have no plan to incorporate religion into our family.

“Johnny included you in his bedtime prayer last night," she recently told me.

“Aww, tell him thanks," I said, “and I love him."

We don't hide things from each other or pretend to be similar in ways that we're clearly not. With such different approaches to most aspects of parenting, you'd think that it would be difficult to be friends, but the opposite is true. Honesty, empathy, and support go far in maintaining a lasting friendship.

In a culture that likes to pit moms against each other simply because of differing choices, our story proves that it doesn't have to be that way.

Many of our conversations start with: “I know you think I'm crazy, but…" Sometimes when one of us (usually me) needs to vent about an issue with our child, the other one just listens and does her best to offer advice even if it's not something that we would do personally.

In the end, it comes down to this: There's no right way to be a mom. No one hands out gold star stickers to the moms who are doing things “this" way, rather than “that" way.

So, is it possible to be best friends with a mom who has polar opposite parenting styles as me? The answer is yes. She may be the June Cleaver to my Rosanne Barr, but what can I say? It just works.

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Love + Village

Sure being a mom of three totally rocks, but it comes with its fair share of demands, too. Singer-turned-lifestyle-entrepreneur, Jessica Simpson is learning this first hand, as she recently admitted to People that mothering three children can be difficult.

"Three is challenging," says Simpson. "We are trying to get into the groove and make sure all three kids are getting equal attention … it's more than a full-time job right now."

Simpson is a mom to daughter 6-year-old Maxwell Drew, 5-year-old son Ace Knut and little Birdie Mae who is just 5 weeks old. Birdie was born via C-section on March 19, and Simpson admitted on Instagram that "recovering from a C-section is no joke!"

While in the recovery period, the new mom of three is determined to live in the moment and enjoy hugging her new baby. "We are trying our best to be as present as possible and enjoy every part of having a newborn," she says. "We know how fast the time goes and how precious it is."

But being a mom to multiples can often be overwhelming. A recent survey found that motherhood isn't just equivalent to a full-time job, but actually equivalent to working 2.5 jobs. And we know three kids is one of the hardest ratios for moms: A survey found moms of four or more are less stressed than moms with fewer kids, but moms of three are way more stressed than moms of two.

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Simspon is totally feeling this.

She tells People: "The other night, all three kids were crying at the same time, so I just joined in!" She's joking about it, but feelings of sadness after a new baby are not a laughing matter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), postpartum depression impacts 15 to 20% of pregnant and postpartum mothers. (If you're feeling overwhelmed, seek help, mama)

No matter how many kids you have, the fact is that statistically, parents are more stressed than people who don't have kids. It makes sense. We have less free time and more responsibilities, but it is so worth it. And it won't feel like a full-time job forever.

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News

I've always felt a weird kinship with Prince Harry. We are two different races (he's white, and I'm an African American), so we're definitely not related, and technically, I've never met him, but because my mother was pregnant with me at the same time Princess Diana was pregnant with him, I feel strangely connected to Harry.

It's almost like we're distant cousins in some bizarre way. So, imagine my delight when I discovered he was dating, and later married, an American actress of African-American heritage?

"Finally, there's some color in the royal family!" I texted to a few close friends on Prince Harry's wedding day, who later joined in my delight with smiling emojis. She's a beautiful 37-year-old American divorcee with a relaxed California girl sense of style. Naturally, I want her to win.

But as much as I'm team Meghan Markel and pro black women in general, I understand that having a black woman in the monarchy doesn't change much. Let's reflect back for a moment: Shortly after the world learned Meghan was dating Prince Harry, the tabloids were loaded with racist comments. "Duchess Difficult" is a mainstay in the news that particularly stands out to me. "Oh, great another black woman deemed aggressive, ill-tempered and hostile," I remember mumbling to myself.

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The trope of the "angry black woman" has once again re-emerged and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, isn't excluded from it. According to NBC News, some British journalists say Meghan has been treated differently from other members of the House of Windsor, citing a difference in attitude towards Kate, the wife of Harry's elder brother Prince William.

Realizing this reminded me how former First Lady Michelle Obama was treated shortly after taking on the title. Michelle has spoken about the racism she faced as the first lady, noting that when a West Virginia county employee called her an "ape in heels" it cut deep.

And speaking of cutting deep, it pains me when society labels Meghan as "our black hero" because it's damaging to other black women who don't have straight, long hair, light skin, and a narrow nose. Does this mean that if you don't look like Meghan, an "acceptable" version of a black woman, then you don't quite matter? Is her version of black the only type that counts?

But even with the racism and wanted (or unwanted) labels surrounding Meghan being in the royal family, I'm thrilled to learn that her baby (whether a boy or girl) will be seventh-in-line to the throne and the first baby of African ancestry to have such a title in the history of British royalty.

I love birthing stories, and this one is extra special. This, to me, is more magical than Meghan being in the office because it means a new breed of royalty is here. It's a symbol of change, new beginnings and it disrupts white British bloodlines. I couldn't be more excited.

If I'm being honest with myself, I know the baby won't be excluded from racist remarks, but their mere presence will acknowledge that mixed families are breaking age-old boundaries of white people dominating the royal family, and creates new histories. And, that gives me a beacon of hope for not only the Brits but Americans, too.

Just like Meghan, I too am expecting a child any day. Just like Meghan, this baby won't be granted the title of Princess (unless it's a girl, who by default will be seen as such through her daddy's eyes). And, just like Meghan, I'm hopeful yet unsure of the world my little one will live in. But, I'm positive they will break their own boundaries while standing on the shoulders of black women who have come before them.

And that, strangely enough, makes me feel even more connected to the Harry and the rest of the British Royal Family.

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