How to calmly respond when other adults break your parenting rules

Print Friendly and PDF

Guiding children to follow rules requires awareness, understanding, patience and, let’s be honest, a little creativity. You work so hard to create a set of rules that work for your child and your family—and then another adult (a grandparent, aunt or a friend) breaks those rules.

The behaviors of others can cause frustration and even generate anger. We then react on the emotion toward the behavior instead of responding to the intention and the person.

So what does it take to lead adults to respect the rules you hold for your children?

1. See

The first step to tenderly receive the actions of others is to see from a place of love. Believe that the intention is good. The people that truly care about your child plan to provide pleasure and not pain. The intention of their action is rooted in joy.


As grandpa passes the largest piece of chocolate cake to your child, he is motivated by your child’s smile, not the stomachache that follows.

Seeing others in this light can soften your reactions to their actions. It doesn’t mean that you allow everything, just that perhaps you adopt the belief of disliking the message not the messenger.

2. Sift

Another practice includes sifting through what is most important. What rules fit in your gray area?

My husband and I strongly encourage creative play for our children and choose to limit television time. Yet, when my children go to grandma’s house there is an expectation that they will watch a show, or two, or three. I choose to put this in the gray area recognizing that it is a special moment for all of them. When I think of the effects, it really isn’t all that bad, compared to, let’s say, disrespect.

There is space for mistakes, messages for wrongdoings, forgiveness for apologies, but kindness is expected in my home, at grandmas, everywhere.

Think about what rules to fight for and what rules to flow through. And remember that parenting is unique, do what offers you and your children the most peace.

3. Speak

When I see unkind acts from my children or towards my children, I speak up. This is so important, yet for some of us, so hard. I personally find confrontation difficult and avoid the prospect of hurting feelings. Yet, I know that it is my job to protect my children.

This is my intent when I remove my child from a situation I perceive to be physically and emotionally unsafe or when I kindly ask someone to not do something for my child.

The bank teller asks to give my child a lollipop—I thank them and ask if they have stickers instead. Surprisingly, those that offer lollipops also have a stash of stickers. I guess there are other moms that prefer to not have sticky fingers in the car.

So what if the teller hands the lollipop without asking first? I see that they just want to bring joy, so I thank them, and gently tell my child to hold it until after lunch. (For the record, the first drive home holding the lollipop required a lot of patience; “after lunch, after lunch, after lunch.” But now there is an expectation and perhaps a little lesson in waiting.)

This can be challenging when it feels like you are the one going against the beliefs of others, but the source of your strength comes from knowing your child better than anyone.

4. Show

Last but certainly not least is the knowledge that we are being watched. Our words and actions are observed, stored, and repeated. This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect—in fact owning mistakes and learning from them is part of our journey and the lessons we can offer our children.

How we treat our children is how they will treat themselves. How they see us treat other people is how they will treat others.

This Christmas my son received a gift he didn’t like—it was a figurine that scared him a little. He looked at me and I whispered, “Just say thank you.” When we had time alone that evening I shared with him that he doesn’t have to pretend to like something, but he can still show kindness.

I can also choose to approach the giver with gratitude and simply share that we appreciate the thoughtful gift and that he is really interested in construction trucks right now.

What is most impactful is not what we say, but how we say it. We can be kind in our approach, yet true to what we believe.

I have consciously chosen to notice what “broken rules” most upset me and be with them long enough to consider the trigger. What I have discovered is that much of my frustration with how other people treat my children stems from a fear of losing control.

When someone makes a decision for my child it means that I didn’t. When someone sweeps in and gives them candy, shows a video game, teaches a disapproving phrase, or shares a scary story, I feel like I didn’t give them the best of what I believe they need.

Yet, when I dig below the reactive-frustration-fueled-by-lack- of-control, I find that giving them space to experience is just another trail on their path.

I can protect them with a dam big enough to prevent a damaging flood, but then a sparkling stream can’t get through either.

Being a parent isn’t about controlling children but guiding them to discover their best selves. And on that journey they need space to explore, to be influenced, to become equipped to handle what can’t be controlled.

I can balance providing protection and allowing experiences. Maybe it doesn’t have to be me versus them, mom versus everyone else. Perhaps there is power in a collective quest to uncover a child’s best self. Imaginably it does take a tribe to raise a child, and it’s okay to choose the tribe wisely, and also okay to give those in the tribe a little space to guide too.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.


"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!


In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.


Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]


Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."


Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).


Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.


Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.


A fellow mama

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.