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Some years, the Halloween memes start in September. Other years, my social media feed is filled with “I can't wait for Halloween season" stuff as early as mid-July. I mean no disrespect to the many grown-up people who love Halloween, I love people who love Halloween and want them to be happy! It's just that all of this excitement over the last day of October never made much sense to me. For the rest of the year, I felt like I had a special bond with my fellow weirdos. But year after year, when October rolled around, I suddenly felt like an outcast amongst outcasts.

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I am, undeniably, a weirdo. That has always been true. I'm queer, I haven't had a “normal" haircut in over a decade, and I just generally don't fit in most places. The thing about weirdos is that they seem to really love Halloween. If you're sort of nerdy, kind of crafty, and a bit of a social outcast, it seems like Halloween is the holiday for you. No less than three of my close friends throw a yearly “epic Halloween party" that they refer to as “an important tradition." I've heard the phrase “Halloween is my Christmas" more times than I can count.

But I don't.

I hated the competitiveness of searching for the perfect cool hipster costume. There were amazingly intricate (and incredibly expensive) perfect fantasy costumes from Game of Thrones. There were obscure comic book costumes that only the most seasoned geeks would get. There were hilarious joke costumes, like the “sexy nurse" who was just wearing regular nurses' scrubs. One friend told me that she spends at least 300 dollars on her Halloween costume, every single year. I couldn't keep up.

Then there were the parties, which were always too much for my social anxiety to handle.

Don't even talk to me about the horror movies and related horror content. I do not do well with blood and gore. I am un-ironically terrified of zombies, so no, I don't want to come to your zombie walk or whatever. Attempting to participate in Halloween left me exhausted, feeling like a failure, and having weird zombie nightmares for weeks. I wondered vaguely what was wrong with me. Halloween is fun! I loved Halloween as a kid, so why couldn't I get into it as an adult?

Well, it turns out I actually love Halloween—little-kid Halloween.

I have no patience whatsoever for the parties and the drinking and the over-the-top spookiness that grown-ups sometimes get into, but when it comes to trick-or-treating? I'm there. I mean, what's not to love about candy, silly costumes and hilarious little kids who get amazingly excited about this weird, special day?

I first realized that I was into Halloween last year when my kid was a little over a year old. We decided to go in a family costume, which is so delightfully cheesy I can't even stand it, and so the wife, myself, and the toddler dressed up as Peter Pan, Wendy, and Tinkerbell. I had fun finding the perfect blue nightgown at the thrift store.

Then, much to my surprise, I started doing something else. Slowly, over the month of October, I started amassing Halloween decorations. One day my wife came home from work to find me cutting out dozens of felt leaves to hang in our living room window. It was like the lurking crafty mom in me was suddenly awakened.

On Halloween night itself, we took our cheerful child out to collect candy with his neighborhood buddies. Walking around with a gaggle of kids, listening to them chatter about all the chocolate they were going to eat later (if only they could get their moms to let them!) was an absolute blast. In one memorable moment, a 3-year-old tripped over the tail of his costume and, when I asked if he was okay, brushed himself off and said “Don't worry, me didn't drop any candy."

I mean, kids are the best.

This year is shaping up to be even more exciting. My kiddo is now two, and we were actually able to explain the holiday to him a bit and even talk to him about costume ideas. As a mother, there are few things as thrilling for me as watching my child decide what he wants, and go for it. He shot down all of my costume ideas, from dinosaur to lion (actually, he laughed at me for even suggesting such things), and then confidently announced that he will be a bunny.

Not just any bunny, the bunny in one of his favorite books, Small Bunny's Blue Blanket.

As I plan out the specifics of how I'll make such a costume, I find that I'm not annoyed in the slightest. The irony isn't lost on me that the very thing that bugged me about adult costumes, the hyper-specific attention to detail, is totally thrilling when it comes to making a great costume for my kid. But I am who I am—a woman who's way more motivated to make a cute and fun costume for her child than she ever was for herself.

As for me? I'll be dressing up as a witch. Finally freed from the pressure to do something unique and clever year after year, I'm able to admit what I've always wanted out of Halloween. That, as it turns out, is to wear the same classic (and boring) costume year after year. My mom always wore the same costume and put up the same decorations, and the tradition was definitely a comfort to my childhood self. Now I'm forming my own Halloween traditions.

I guess I just needed a kid to inspire me.

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Have a strong-willed child? You're lucky! Strong willed children can be a challenge when they're young, but if sensitively parented, they become terrific teens and young adults. Self-motivated and inner-directed, they go after what they want and are almost impervious to peer pressure. As long as parents resist the impulse to “break their will," strong-willed kids often become leaders.

What exactly is a strong-willed child?

Some parents call them “difficult" or “stubborn," but we could also see strong-willed kids as people of integrity who aren't easily swayed from their own viewpoints.

Strong-willed kids are spirited and courageous. They want to learn things for themselves rather than accepting what others say, so they test the limits over and over. They want desperately to be “in charge" of themselves, and will sometimes put their desire to “be right" above everything else.

When their heart is set on something, their brains seem to have a hard time switching gears. Strong-willed kids have big, passionate feelings and live at full throttle.

Often, strong-willed kids are prone to power struggles with their parents. However, it takes two to have a power struggle. You don't have to attend every argument to which you're invited! If you can take a deep breath when your buttons get pushed, and remind yourself that you can let your child save face and still get what you want, you can learn to sidestep those power struggles. (Don't let your four year old make you act like a four year old yourself!)

No one likes being told what to do, but strong-willed kids find it unbearable.

Parents can avoid power struggles by helping the child feel understood even as the parent sets limits. Try empathizing, giving choices and understanding that respect goes both ways. Looking for win/win solutions rather than just laying down the law keeps strong-willed children from becoming explosive and teaches them essential skills of negotiation and compromise.

Strong-willed kids aren't just being difficult.

They feel their integrity is compromised if they're forced to submit to another person's will. If they're allowed to choose, they love to cooperate. If this bothers you because you think obedience is an important quality, I'd ask you to reconsider. Of course you want to raise a responsible, considerate, cooperative child who does the right thing, even when it's hard. But that doesn't imply obedience. That implies doing the right thing because you want to.

Morality is doing what's right, no matter what you're told. Obedience is doing what you're told, no matter what's right.—H.L. Mencken

So of course you want your child to do what you say. But not because he's obedient, meaning that he always does what someone bigger tells him to do. No, you want him to do what you say because he trusts YOU, because he's learned that even though you can't always say yes to what he wants, you have his best interests at heart. You want to raise a child who has self-discipline, takes responsibility and is considerate—and most important, has the discernment to figure out who to trust and when to be influenced by someone else.

Breaking a child's will leaves him open to the influence of others who often will not serve his highest interests. What's more, it's a betrayal of the spiritual contract we make as parents.

That said, strong-willed kids can be a handful—high energy, challenging, persistent. How do we protect those fabulous qualities and encourage their cooperation?

Here are 11 tips for peaceful parenting your strong-willed, spirited child.

1. Remember that strong-willed kids are experiential learners.

That means they have to see for themselves if the stove is hot. So unless you're worried about serious injury, it's more effective to let them learn through experience, instead of trying to control them. And you can expect your strong-willed child to test your limits repeatedly—that's how he learns. Once you know that, it's easier to stay calm, which avoids wear and tear on your relationship—and your nerves.

2. Your strong-willed child wants mastery more than anything.

Let her take charge of as many of her own activities as possible. Don't nag at her to brush her teeth—ask "What else do you need to do before we leave?" If she looks blank, tick off the short list—"Every morning we eat, brush teeth, use the toilet, and pack the backpack. I saw you pack your backpack, that's terrific! Now, what do you still need to do before we leave?"

Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to be oppositional. Not to mention, they take responsibility early.

3. Give your strong-willed child choices.

If you give orders, he will almost certainly bristle. If you offer a choice, he feels like the master of his own destiny. Of course, only offer choices you can live with and don't let yourself get resentful by handing away your power. If going to the store is non-negotiable and he wants to keep playing, an appropriate choice is—

"Do you want to leave now or in 10 minutes? Okay, 10 minutes with no fuss? Let's shake on it....And since it could be hard to stop playing in ten minutes, how can I help you then?"

4. Give her authority over her own body.

"I hear that you don't want to wear your jacket today. I think it's cold and I am definitely wearing a jacket. Of course, you are in charge of your own body, as long as you stay safe and healthy, so you get to decide whether to wear a jacket. But I'm afraid that you will be cold once we are outside, and I won't want to come back to the house. How about I put your jacket in the backpack, and then we'll have it if you change your mind?"

She's not going to get pneumonia, unless you push her into it by acting like you've won if she asks for the jacket. And once she won't lose face by wearing her jacket, she'll be begging for it once she gets cold. It's just hard for her to imagine feeling cold when she's so warm right now in the house, and a jacket seems like such a hassle. She's sure she's right—her own body is telling her soso naturally she resists you. You don't want to undermine that self-confidence, just teach her that there's no shame in letting new information change her mind.

5. Avoid power struggles by using routines and rules.

That way, you aren't the bad guy bossing them around, it's just that "The rule is we use the potty after every meal and snack," or "The schedule is that lights-out is at 8 p.m. If you hurry, we'll have time for two books," or "In our house, we finish homework before screen time."

6. Don't push him into opposing you.

Force always creates "push-back"—with humans of all ages. If you take a hard and fast position, you can easily push your child into defying you, just to prove a point. You'll know when it's a power struggle and you're invested in winning. Just stop, take a breath, and remind yourself that winning a battle with your child always sets you up to lose what's most important—the relationship.

When in doubt say— "Ok, you can decide this for yourself."

If he can't, then say what part of it he can decide, or find another way for him to meet his need for autonomy without compromising his health or safety.

7. Side-step power struggles by letting your child save face.

You don't have to prove you're right. You can, and should, set reasonable expectations and enforce them. But under no circumstances should you try to break your child's will or force him to acquiesce to your views. He has to do what you want, but he's allowed to have his own opinions and feelings about it.

8. Listen to her.

You, as the adult, might reasonably presume you know best. But your strong-willed child has a strong will partly as a result of her integrity. She has a viewpoint that is making her hold fast to her position, and she is trying to protect something that seems important to her. Only by listening calmly to her and reflecting her words will you come to understand what's making her oppose you.

A non-judgmental—"I hear that you don't want to take a bath. Can you tell me more about why?"

You might elicit the information (as I did with my three year old Alice) that she's afraid she'll go down the drain, like Alice in the song. It may not seem like a good reason to you, but she has a reason. And you won't find it out if you get into a clash and order her into the tub.

9. See it from his point of view.

For instance, he may be angry because you promised to wash his superman cape and then forgot. To you, he is being stubborn. To him, he is justifiably upset, and you are being hypocritical, because he is not allowed to break his promises to you, but you broke yours to him.

How do you clear this up and move on? You apologize sincerely for breaking your promise, you reassure him that you try very hard to keep your promises, and you go, together, to wash the cape. You might even teach him how to wash his own clothes so you're not in this position in the future and he's empowered. Just consider how would you want to be treated, and treat him accordingly.

10. Discipline through the relationship, never through punishment.

Kids don't learn when they're in the middle of a fight. Like all of us, that's when adrenaline is pumping and learning shuts off. Kids behave because they want to please us. The more you fight with and punish your child, the more you undermine her desire to please you.

If she's upset, help her express her hurt, fear or disappointment, so they evaporate. Then she'll be ready to listen to you when you remind her that in your house, everyone speaks kindly to each other. (Of course, you have to model that. Your child won't always do what you say, but she will always, eventually, do what you do.)

11. Offer him respect and empathy.

Most strong-willed children are fighting for respect. If you offer it to them, they don't need to fight to protect their position. And, like the rest of us, it helps a lot if they feel understood. If you see his point of view and think he's wrong—for instance, he wants to wear the superman cape to church and you think that's inappropriateyou can still offer him empathy and meet him part way while you set the limit.

"You love this cape and wish you could wear it, don't you? But when we go to services we dress up to show respect, so we can't wear the cape. I know you'll miss wearing it. How about we take it with us so you can wear it on our way home?"

Does this sound like Permissive Parenting? It isn't. You set limits. But you set them with understanding of your child's perspective, which makes her more cooperative.


By Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting.com and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.

This article was originally published on AhaParenting.com

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I'm usually that girl who shells out for premium leggings, and I still think they're fun as a treat, but I've now bought these so-called "compression" leggings in multiple colors. And since 74% of you told us in a recent Instagram poll that you live in leggings, we hope this practical hot tip can help make #momlife a little easier for you, too.

So why compression? While we'd never advise going to extremes, we're not opposed to a little help keeping everything in place. To be clear, this isn't about hiding—we're all for celebrating our bodies (and especially our bellies) at every stage. But adapting to an ever-changing shape can be distracting, and a little extra support around the stomach and hips can feel amazing after birth and help you focus on what's important.

What these $20 leggings have on even my most expensive pairs is that they are thickmeaning they don't snag in the wash, sheer out when I squat, or (heaven forbid) rip when I bend over. Their durability makes them perfect for both household chores and high-intensity workouts. They're also warm, making them well-suited for transitioning between seasons. And once your wardrobe fully changes over, the same brand makes compression shorts that are equally comfy.

Homma Premium Thick High Waist Tummy Compression Slimming Leggings

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As for the whole compression thing? Once they're on, I honestly don't notice anything but how flattering they are when I catch my reflection in the mirror. The 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex blend keeps it tight without feeling, well, too tight. Think of the compression like a gentle hug, or a guardian angel that just wants to bless your curves all day long. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to order another pair.

$19.95

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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Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."

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According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

[This post was originally published May 17, 2019.]

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Teaching science to your child can sound kind of daunting. Don't be put off by memories of high school physics, though—science for little kids should be fun!

Science activities for toddlers and preschoolers are all about exploration and supporting the natural curiosity within each child. Children are born curious. All we have to do is provide the tools to explore the world around them, and encourage them to ask questions and follow their interests.

While science for little kids is all about fun, there is no reason to dumb it down. Feel free to use real scientific terminology wherever you can (kids are surprisingly receptive to it), and introduce the scientific method by asking kids for their hypothesis before you do an experiment together: What do they think will happen? Why?

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Whether you're interested in STEM-based projects to do at home or just need ideas for helping kids explore their world, these activities can help your family incorporate science education into your everyday life.

Here are 9 easy science activities and experiments to do with preschoolers and toddlers.

1. Observe a life cycle


science activities for preschoolers


Butterflies are fascinating to children, and not only because they're beautiful. The process of transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly can seem pretty magical.

Butterfly kits let your child watch the process of a life cycle up close. For toddlers, just observing the caterpillar, looking closely at the chrysalis and watching the beautiful butterflies that (eventually) emerge is enough. For preschoolers, you may want to prompt them to draw what they see at each stage, or to write a few words about the process.

A book about butterflies (or this one for toddlers) can further support their interest.

Take this activity a step further by creating a butterfly garden in your backyard, or finding a local butterfly garden where you can release the butterflies.

2. Create a habitat


science activities for preschoolers


Is your child fascinated by roly polies, ladybugs or snails? Creating an insect habitat, whether in a bug box or just a corner of your backyard, is a great way to stoke that interest.

What do ladybugs eat? Where do they like to sleep? These kinds of questions can really inspire a child to think like a scientist and are super easy to answer, either though a trip to the library or a quick Google search.

3. Sink + float


science activities for preschoolers Plastic animals in bath Getty Images


This is the simplest possible experiment, but that doesn't make it any less fun. Fill a container (or the bathtub) with water, gather some objects, and ask your child which objects they think will sink, and which they think will float.

Then let them experiment! A toddler will most likely just play in the water with the objects, and you can point out that some sink to the bottom and some float on top.

For a preschooler, you may want to encourage them to categorize which items sink and which float. They can make a list, or simply divide the objects into two piles. Then you can compare the categories and talk about why some things sink and others float.

You can do "sink and float" again and again with different themes. Try using objects you find in nature or using items from the kitchen.

4. Build a marble run


science activities for preschoolers Getty Images/iStockphoto


Using simple materials such as paper towel tubes, cardboard, yarn, tape and glue, challenge your preschooler to make a ramp for a marble to go down. (Toddlers can do a version of this experiment using a rubber ball in place of a marble.) Your child can experiment to see what slopes and what materials make the marble travel the fastest!

5. Watch the weather


science activities for preschoolers


Observing the weather is something even young toddlers enjoy. Talk to them about the vocabulary for different types of weather and invite them to help you check the weather before getting dressed each day. If they enjoy this, try setting up a weather station they can be in charge of, and let them play mini meteorologist.

6. Stargaze


science activities for preschoolers Getty Images/Tetra images RF


If your goal is to ignite your child's curiosity in science and the world around them, anything outer space-related is a pretty good bet.

Try reading a book about space (this one is great!) to inspire some real-world stargazing. You can invest in a telescope if they're really into it, or you can also enjoy a special stargazing time with your child using no equipment other than a blanket for the backyard—and maybe a cozy snack or some hot cocoa.

Look up into the night sky together and talk about what you see. You don't need to be a NASA scientist or know the names for all the constellations: The moon and the big dipper are plenty fascinating for a little kid.

With regular stargazing sessions, your child will start to notice things like the phases of the moon, the movement of the moon across the sky, and the way that stars form "pictures" in the sky. They might even see a shooting star! That is the kind of experience that will not only spark their interest in science, but that will stay with them as a special memory forever.

7. Study animals


science activities for preschoolers


Have you ever known a 3-year-old who can name every player on the Yankees, or can rattle off the names of more dinosaurs than you've ever heard of? Young children can absorb so many words—why not put that skill to good use?

This science activity comes straight from the Montessori classroom and encourages young children's desire to absorb precise and rich language.

Choose an animal they're interested in and help them learn the scientific names for the body parts. It's extra fun to choose an animal your child has real life experience with, like a dog or a squirrel. You can use the Montessori parts of an animal puzzle and labels, or simply use a drawing or photograph of the animal and label the parts for your child.

8. Experiment with ice


science activities for preschoolers


Fill two ice cube trays, one with water and one with salt water. Put them in the freezer (or outside, if it's cold enough where you live!) and observe to see which freezes faster.

Freeze some small toys (like these Toob animals) in ice and ask your child for ideas on how to get them out.

There are tons of easy experiments you can do with ice whether it's winter or summer—in winter, watch things freeze outside, and in summer you can watch them melt!

9. Make a rainbow


science activities for preschoolers


Few scientific activities are simpler than making a rainbow with a prism and sunny window, which really does bring the science of rainbows alive for children. Place the prism in a basket by a window, along with a book about rainbows (and maybe rainbow-colored crayons and paper) to inspire your child to explore independently.

10. Catalog a collection


science activities for preschoolers

Does your child collect little bits and bobs everywhere? Do they come home with pockets full of rocks or feathers?

Instead of lamenting the small piles of pebbles you find all over your house, show your child how to organize their collection in a scientific way. Help them come up with a system of sorting their treasures however they like (size? color? type?) and provide a certain spot in the house or backyard where the objects belong.

11. Plant a seed


science activities for preschoolers


For toddlers and preschoolers, something as simple as planting a seed is a perfect scientific activity. To increase their interest, choose a seed or pit from something you're eating, like an apple, avocado or peach. Choose something that grows in your area and invite your child to help you plant the seed. They will be fascinated watching it sprout and grow.

12. Read science books together

There are so many wonderful science books out there for kids. Books like Ada Twist, Scientist, What Do You Do With an idea? and The Most Magnificent Thing celebrate children's curiosity and introduce the scientific method.

Of course you can also find countless books at the library on various aspects of science to encourage your child's interests, whether that's snails or volcanoes!

Whatever kind of scientific activity you choose to do, just remember to let your child lead the way. It might not turn out how you expect, but the goal is really just to encourage your child to explore with curiosity.

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