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This therapist mom’s secret to dealing with tantrums ✔️

The other day I stood in my driveway crying, with my 2-year-old daughter screaming and sobbing. All I could gather was that she didn’t like my shirt and no longer liked her car seat.


We had just had a 30-minute meltdown inside the house, too—and I was frustrated because I really needed to get to work. I was tired, with a mix of mom brain and new pregnancy hormones.

I bribed her with a sucker and threatened to take away something that I don’t even remember. It didn’t work.

I gave her hugs and gave her space and had no feedback of which was better.

Finally it became clear: My options were to connect or disconnect.

I thought about which one I would want when I feel emotional and sad. Connection. I repeated quietly to her, “I’m right here with you. I love you.” When she hit me, I stepped back a little and said, “I can’t let you hurt me. I’m still right here with you. I’m ready to help you whenever you’re ready.”

After a little while I thought, “Dang, that didn’t work, now what?” And right then, she lifted her little arms up to me and said, “I need you mommy, I’m ready.” I hugged her, we connected, and I felt like I really showed her that I would be with her through everything. I honestly felt like we’d just gotten through a hurricane and come out into the sunshine. She smiled, got in her car seat and we were on our way.

That sounds like a great ending, right? It was. But I wish that meant it always happens like that. I have no idea why sometimes that works, and sometimes the only thing that works is a sucker, or distraction or someone else taking over.

I’m not a perfect mom, or even a really amazing mom—just a regular mom who is still new and learning every day. But I do have one added bonus that has given me a different perspective: I’ve been a mental health therapist for almost five times longer than I’ve been a mom, which has taught me a lot.

1. What we say and do matters more than we know right now

Everything we say and do has an impact, especially to our children. Children’s brains operate as if they’re looking into a mirror; whatever the world shows them about themselves is what they believe to be true.

As a therapist, I mainly work with depression and trauma. I do a particular type of therapy that focuses on identifying negative cognitions (thoughts and beliefs) and then exploring and healing the root of those beliefs, whether they are from a big trauma or “little” trauma. Clients often come to therapy identifying that these beliefs stemmed from a big event, but when we really process it, they are sometimes able to identify that the very first time they felt that way was an interaction with a parent.

It could be a parent saying something like:

“You’re never going to make it in life.”

“I liked it better when you were little and didn’t talk.”

“I can’t believe you did that, I’m embarrassed that you’re my child.”

And even, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now.” (I always recommend, “I don’t like your choice right now, but I always love you.”)

If you’re a new mom gazing into your sweet baby’s eyes, you’re thinking, “I would never say those things to my child!” Let me tell you, good parents sometimes say things they don’t mean when they’re pushed to their limits. Even if you don’t mean it, those words hurt your child and sticks with them.

2. It’s never too late to make things better

That first one is kind of scary, right? So much pressure!

But wait—there’s good news! Teaching your children that you can make mistakes, take responsibility, apologize and demonstrate change is extremely important. And what better way to do that than by example? Starting when they’re little, it’s important to go back and say something like, “I yelled when I felt mad, and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled and I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

Then show by example that you’re trying. Next time you feel like yelling, it’s OK to take a parent time out, and say to your child, “I feel frustrated by _____, I’m going to take a break, and then we’ll come back and talk about this.”

Imagine how great it would be if, when they’re teens, they’re able to recognize they’re in the midst of making a bad choice, stop themselves and reach out for help from you? The goal isn’t for people to never make bad choices, it’s to be able to recognize that and make a U-turn.

3. Connection is our greatest tool

Imagine you’re having a really tough day. Maybe you made a mistake at work or someone was really mean to you. Maybe it’s huge or maybe you’re even overreacting—it doesn’t matter. You sit on the couch and cry. You can’t even help it, the tears just come out and you can hardly speak. Imagine your partner comes in, your main support person, and they tell you that you need to calm down or they’re going to leave you alone until you can calm down. They walk out of the room and leave you there alone, maybe even yell at you on the way out.

Ouch! I know for me personally, some of that sadness would turn to major hurt, resentment and anger.

“How can you leave me when I really need you? I can’t just ‘calm down,’ I need a hug!” That’s how our developed adult brains react, so imagine how a toddler’s brain reacts.

It’s scary for them to feel out of control and then all alone in that feeling. Even if it’s just because they didn’t get the blue cup—it’s real sadness and hurt in that moment for them. If we send toddlers to be by themselves and calm themselves down when they’re upset, how can we expect them to come to us as teens when they really need advice and support? It’s no wonder teenagers keep it to themselves and hide in their rooms. It’s what they’ve often been taught to do.

So, what can you do to connect and teach your children they can talk to you? Well, that’s a magic answer that really needs a whole book, but No. 4 is a good start.

4. Being able to express feelings, instead of suppress them, is a great lifelong skill

“You’re OK.”

“Don’t cry.”

“Calm down.”

They all seem well meaning, right? But are they helpful in the long run? My opinion is no. Is it helpful for you when someone says it to you? It’s not helpful to me. Even at 2 years old, if my husband or I say to our daughter, “You’re OK,” she quickly says between tears, “No, I’m not!” And she’s right. If she were OK she wouldn’t be crying! If she could just calm down and stop crying, she probably would have done that, because she certainly isn’t enjoying feeling like that.

Pointing out to children, “It looks like you're mad because _____. That’s OK to feel mad. What can we do that will help?” teaches them to recognize emotions, label them and create a plan. This is most helpful when they’re not in full on meltdown mode, because once they get to that point they can’t come up with a solution.

In meltdown mode, establishing expectations and connections are key:

“I can’t let you hit me, but I’m right here with you when you’re ready.”

“I see you feel sad, that’s OK.”

“It’s OK to be sad and mad; it’s not OK to be mean to other people when you’re sad or mad.”

“Tell me where you want me to stay while I wait for you to be ready for help; I can sit next to you or right over here.”

These all show that you’re there with your child through everything, you see how they’re feeling, you hear them, it’s OK to feel any of those feelings, and there are still expectations for not hurting others. When we inadvertently teach our children that “it’s OK” when they actually don’t feel OK, or that they just need to quickly calm down, we are teaching them not to recognize their own feelings and actually deal with them. When those kids become adults, they often freeze or flee in tough situations because they don’t know how to be in it, feel it and move forward with a plan.

I know, this feels like a lot of pressure, and it’s so much easier said than done. Refer back to No. 2—it’s never too late to make things better.

And remember, even people who are supposed to be experts in emotions and connections sometimes just bribe their kids with a sucker or an episode of Doc McStuffins to get through the day. Take a deep breath and hang in there—I’m right there with you.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

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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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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