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5 positive parenting techniques that help parents get back some free time

It's easier than you might think, mama.

5 positive parenting techniques that help parents get back some free time

A common refrain I hear at almost any moms' group, social gathering or parent group is that we parents don't have enough time for ourselves. I hear moms discussing how they haven't had time to get a haircut in years or even a regular doctor's checkup.

Many feel this is just the life of a parent—it's just one of the many sacrifices we make when we have kids. While I agree that self-sacrifice is part of parenting, I don't think we have to completely give ourselves and all our time over to our kids.

Research supports this notion that a more balanced approach to parenting is most beneficial to children and parents. This balanced approach, classically called authoritative parenting (or positive parenting), represents a win-win for parents and children. This approach helps children gradually gain more responsibility and independence while it has the upside of offering parents a little more time for themselves.

What does positive parenting look like and how does it help give us more free time? That is the million-dollar question parents often ask.

Here are just a few ways in which parenting for independence can build crucial skills in your kids' lives and free up time for you:

1. Foster self-regulation skills.

Children are not born with great self-regulation skills; they have to be developed and fostered over the years. Young kids can have very BIG emotions, but limited brain maturity to actually handle them. This approach to fostering self-regulation may require more time from parents upfront, but in the long term, it aids children the rest of their lives. Over time, the type of emotional resources built in children means more time for you to handle other issues.

As researchers, like John Gottman, have suggested, becoming your child's "emotion coach" is one of the best ways to foster self-regulation. In contrast to methods that discipline children's emotional outbursts with time-outs or punishments, emotion coaching allows you to focus on the underlying meaning of your child's outburst.

The focus is on trying to empathize with their feelings, giving them the language to discuss their emotions and then working with the child to solve the problem or set limits on their behavior (as needed).

In day-to-day life, what emotion coaching means for parents is that they no longer have to referee every sibling squabble and over time, tantrums will become fewer and less dramatic. While more time-consuming at first, over time this approach provides children with the emotional skills to handle conflict themselves so you can gradual step away.

2. Allow for boredom.

This is one of the secret hallmarks of positive parenting. Since positive parenting focuses on getting at the root cause of our children's misbehavior, we often find boredom at the end of this process. Some parents believe the answer to boredom is to find more ways to entertain the kids, but positive parenting looks at this from another angle.

By allowing boredom, we teach our kids how to cope with that uncomfortable feeling so they learn how to handle it. Once you get past the initial "whining phase" of boredom, kids will often emerge much more resourceful than you expect. They find a toy they haven't used in months, make up a new game, or otherwise entertain themselves. This is when the magic happens.

When we do not "rescue" them from the uncomfortable feeling of boredom, their world opens up to a whole new set of skills they didn't know they had.

As with self-regulation, the skill of coping with boredom takes time to develop. Once you allow yourself and your kids to be open to the possibilities that boredom brings, you will find yourself with more free time instead of trying to distract your kids with new activities.

3. Ignore (some) misbehavior.

I know this one sounds controversial. Why would you ignore obvious misbehavior from your kids? It requires a little discernment on the part of parents, but once you get the hang of it, it can save you a lot of time and struggle. This approach really is about prioritizing which behaviors are serious enough to require your intervention or boundary-setting and which ones are just annoying.

For example, incessant finger-tapping on the table at dinner time can be annoying (we experience this nightly), but for most people it's not a major form of misbehavior that requires intervention. It's hard to ignore, but is it worth a battle with your child? Probably not. On the other hand, something more pressing like throwing toys at a sibling takes on a level significance that would probably require your intervention.

With positive parenting, our goal is to try to maintain positive interaction with our kids whenever possible. If that means ignoring a few frustrating behaviors, it helps to serve this larger goal. The nice side effect for parents is that you don't have to intervene in every little misstep your kid makes, which frees up your time. You can go to another room and read a book or have a few moments to yourself without guilt.

Additionally, by not scolding our kids for every tiny infraction, we build up the positive relationship vibe between us that will go a long way in moving them towards positive behavior in the future. The parent-child connection really is predominant in this approach.

4. Handle bedtime with care.

Prior to parenthood, many of us probably had those lovely images of bedtime with kids in our mind's eye. We would cuddle with our kids as we read a bedtime story and then they would drift peacefully off to sleep. In reality, we know that bedtime is often fraught with conflict.

At bedtime, the kids are suddenly starving, dying of thirst and have lost the ability to brush their teeth. As our kids delay and stall, we see our free adult time slipping out of our hands. Commonly, our first reaction is harsh enforcement of the rules. We know we need that free time at night, so we attempt to wrangle the kids into bed as quick as possible.

This strategy often backfires and kids re-emerge from their rooms with more requests. The real underlying issue is connection. Kids need their emotional "tanks" filled, especially during bedtime. Research tells us this is especially important with very young children (age 2 and under). One study found that how emotionally responsive parents were to their children at bedtime was a better predictor of sleep quality than the actual bedtime routine. Kids need to feel close and secure in their relationship with you before the day ends.

However, this connection doesn't always have to be crammed into the last half-hour of the day. Finding ways throughout the day to build a connection with our kids often can help ease those bedtime struggles. Spending time with them doing activities they enjoy or reading books prior to bedtime might help build that emotional connection.

In the end, these snippets of time you spend connecting with your child will save you time at the end of the night. When kids feel secure and connected, they are more likely to ease into bedtime, which means a little more free time for you.

5. Delegate responsibilities (yes, chores!).

When you hear the word chores, you probably do not think about time-saving possibilities. However, by getting kids involved in household responsibilities, you gradually gain bits of your time back. We all know that kids benefit from chores; the research on this is clear. One study found that one of the best predictors of successful outcomes at age 25 was having had chores when the child was 3 or 4 years old.

Yet, there are real challenges in encouraging kids to help with household tasks. Kids are often not motivated to complete them, they tend to be slow and they may not be finished the way you prefer. Some of these challenges can be overcome with positive parenting.

Kids who are raised with you as their "emotion coach" will begin to have more empathy for you and the work involved with running a household. This may not happen overnight, but by early elementary school age kids can have strong empathy skills if they've been coached along the way to understand others' emotions.

Similarly, toddlers are often very motivated to be helpful and copy the actions of adults. Many toddlers would love nothing more than to get their hands on a real mop, broom or dust wand. By starting chores at a young age, you can capitalize on this age when chores seem like another game. I've had several parents tell me that their kids actually enjoy cleaning toilets with a brush. Even elementary-age kids often feel empowered by being given a task normally reserved for adults.

Delegating chores is the ultimate win-win for parents and kids. Kids learn valuable life-long skills and parents gain a little time back into their already busy lives.

Parenting will always require much of our time, emotions and patience. By incorporating aspects of positive parenting, however, we can foster the skills that kids need to gradually take responsibility for themselves.

Foster self-regulation and encourage independence with some of these Motherly approved products, mama!

Slumberkins narwhal snuggler

Slumberkins narwhal snuggler

Along with its story and mantra card, Slumberkins super soft narwhal snuggler helps kids learn the valuable skill of a growth mindset and develops their problem solving skills. We like to think of them as loving tools that help build resilient, confident and caring humans.

$44

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

The more they can reach, the more they can help themselves. A lightweight step stool is ideal for promoting independence and autonomy. This one features a non-slip rubber surface and feet to give it grip and stability.

$20

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

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We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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