'No' means no and other life lessons I'm teaching my daughters

I’m determined to raise my daughters to be strong, confident, and happy. I want them to grow up to be warriors.

what i'm teaching my daughters

I was delighted when I found out that my first baby was to be a girl. And the second. And the third. I would certainly love my son if I was blessed with one, but I knew that I've got what it takes to raise a girl.

I'm determined to raise my daughters to be strong, confident and happy. I want them to grow up to be warriors. Mind you, a princess can be a warrior, too, so I don't deny them their pretty dresses and cute hair bands, but I want them to know that they can do much more than just look pretty.

Here's how I try to do it:


Emphasize true beauty

I want my daughters to know that true beauty is not skin-deep—it radiates from inside. People come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, but what makes them pretty or ugly is the way they act. But this truth becomes confused by older girls and women who make silly comments about how they or others look.

If someone uses "fat talk" in the presence of my daughters, I step in. I want them to be healthy and love their bodies as they are – perfect in their imperfection. I want to help them build their confidence on the strong foundation of self-love rather than the quicksand of others' approval. Can you imagine a warrior worrying about her looks or what others might think?

I also make sure to recognize and appreciate the true beauty: a beautiful smile, a beautiful heart full of love, kindness and respectful conduct.

Teach them to be proud of who they are

A sure way to foster confidence is to give children unconditional love, the 'I love you even when you misbehave' kind of love. You don't have to tell them that, but you have to make sure they know it.

Each of my daughters has unique talents, and they all have their weaknesses, too. One might be better at math and the other a better gymnast, and that's okay. We're all different, and being different is our strength. A true warrior recognizes her weakness, but doesn't obsess over it.

I tell my daughters every day to "focus on what is good." Be proud of who you are and celebrate your girliness (and later, your womanhood). My daughters should never hear that they can't do something because it's not a girly thing to do. They should never have to hide their brains, because popular media says that being too smart is not attractive in women.

I also encourage them to know where they come from and be proud of it. Belonging to a culturally mixed family, my daughters have learned from early on about differences and being unique. They have also learned to appreciate the advantages of their mixed heritage, such as being able to speak two languages and having relatives in different countries.

Give them good role models

Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were never my favorite. I prefer to share the adventures of the brave and bold Pippi Longstocking and Dahl's Matilda with my daughters than traditional fairy tales featuring princesses whose life's goal is to be saved by a handsome prince and get married. Why do these stories always end at a wedding? What did Cinderella do after she became a princess? Did she work to help orphans like herself working as servants in her kingdom?

Give your girls the right role models and make sure they know their aspirations should not to be limited to being pretty and popular. Perhaps there aren't that many strong female characters in children's literature, but there are many heroic ladies whose biographies you can read for a bedtime story.

"Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World" by Kate Pankhurst is a good start, and so are books from the "Little People, Big Dreams" series. Or perhaps there are unsung heroines in your own family or community – grandmothers, aunts, cousins, or neighbors whose lives could be inspiration for little girl's dreams.

Give them something to fight for

I don't want my warrior princesses shaking their spears at the windmills, so I try to show them the world in its true colors and teach them the difference between good and bad. Poverty, injustice, racism, and environmental pollution are all around us. We shouldn't pretend they don't exist just so our little girls don't get upset.

Be honest with your children and frankly discuss serious issues in age appropriate language. Don't keep them in the dark. Instead, make them understand that problems exist, and so do the solutions.

If you're involved in community work—get your daughters involved, too. Let them put their own fundraising cake sale stall next to yours, or find an appropriate volunteering role for them. Perhaps they could walk the dog for an elderly neighbor or help disadvantaged children with their homework.

Foster empathy

No one fights for a cause just because their mom told them to. To make a true difference, you have to be passionate about getting results. And to spark this passion you need empathy. Is empathy something that can be taught? It is, actually.

I share stories that deal with hardships and problems, stories that don't necessarily have happy endings, like the original Hans Christian Andersen tales. Storytelling is powerful and a great exercise for our emotional intelligence.

Encourage your children to recognize their own emotions and know that it's okay to feel unhappy, angry, and sad. Emotions are not good or bad; we have to learn to deal with the positive as well as the negative ones.

Emphasize the importance of being kind over being the best. Tell your little warrior girl that personal happiness will come as a bonus when you strive to live a good life.

Try to understand people instead of condemning them. If you see someone speeding, think and say that perhaps they're in hurry to reach their injured child in hospital. If you see a toddler throwing a tantrum, remark that maybe it's because they're hungry or tired. If you get into the habit of being empathetic, and you speak the language of empathy, your daughters will follow. And empathy leads to happiness.

Let 'no' mean 'no'

Helplessness is a learned trait. So is capability. I want to make sure that my daughters learn the latter. It's a bit tricky teaching your children that they both have a right to make their own decisions, and need to listen to you at the same time. It's tricky, but not impossible.

To start, I let my daughters decide what and when to eat and never force them to finish the food they don't like. I let them wear whatever they want as long as it's situation and weather appropriate, and I don't care if they match spots with stripes.

If they refuse to wear a hat on a cold day, that's okay. I suggest they put it in their coat pocket in case they get cold. If they suggest a family activity, like a board game, I join in. If my daughters demanded a new toy during a shopping trip, on the other hand, I say no. I want them to know they have a right to make their own choices and say no and that their no will be respected, just as I expect them to respect mine.

Teach them responsibility

Making your own choices is great, but to truly own your decision you have to be responsible for the outcome, too. So, I make my daughters clean up their own toys and books. They have to sweep the floor if they spill sugar on it.

I don't take it upon myself to solve their boredom. I can point out choices they have, but I do not organize their days. Obviously, I'm there for my girls if they get in trouble, or if they can't manage to do something on their own and they know it. I remind them that not everything is in our hands, that we have limited control over the circumstances.

But so what? Happiness cannot be found in circumstances, it's in us. And we don't have to wait for a prince or a superhero to save us. We can do it ourselves. Whatever happens to us can make us stronger.

Let them know they can achieve anything

The great women who changed the world didn't do it by waving magic wands and whispering spells. They didn't accomplish their goals because they were born talented. They achieved whatever they did through hard work and determination.

This is the message I want my daughters to learn from reading the story of Maria Curie, Emmeline Pankhurst or Malala Yousufzai. This is why I am careful when praising them, remembering to applaud their efforts rather than exclaiming, "You're so smart."

Let them play

Children need to play. And they need their play to be challenging, even risky. That's why I sometimes close my eyes when I feel my girls are swinging too high to stop myself from stopping them. Risky play teaches them to deal with stress and build their courage, essential for every aspiring warrior. Unstructured free play also fosters inner drive – a sense of trust in themselves.

Over protection, on the other hand, can leave children unable to cope with stress and more prone to mental health problems. Of course, I don't want my children to hurt themselves or get into dangerous situations, but there's a difference between a risky challenge and a hazard.

Climbing a tree is risky, but not really a hazard. Crossing a busy road is a hazard, and it's crucial that my daughters learn how to do it safely. I also know that I should never push my children to take on challenges they're not ready for—unless I want to kill that precious inner drive in them.

Build their physical and emotional strength

Warriors need to be strong. While all of the above is meant to develop character and build emotional strength, we can't forget the physical aspect. I want my children to eat healthy food, so I get them involved in food preparation and talk to them about vitamins and nutrients. I want them to have plenty of exercise, so I strive to take them out daily, even when it's cold.

I discipline, not to control their behavior, but to give them a healthy framework and help them learn self-control.

The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

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

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

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

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

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

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-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.

$19.95

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

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

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

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

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.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

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.

$79.99

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

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The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

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After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

Loose Leaf Paper

Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.

$4

Personal Planner

Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.

$22

#2 Pencils

Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.

$10.29

Black Ink Pens

Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.

$4.47

Highlighters in Different Colors

Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.

$9.99

Big Pink Erasers

The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.

$.99

New Headphones

Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.

$16.99

Lined Notebooks

Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.

$3.19

Three-Ring Binders

Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.

$16.95

Locker Decorations

Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.

$14.99

New Lunch Box

Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.

$12.99

Upgraded Backpack

It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.

$31.96

Colorful Markers

Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.

$3.49

Reusable Water Bottle

Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.

$29.95

Calculator

Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

$130.99
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