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My 8 steps to becoming a better mama in the New Year

It’s not perfection I’m aiming for, but improvement.

My 8 steps to becoming a better mama in the New Year

Every year I choose a theme for my growth and development to work on. In 2018, I wanted to be more present, and for the most part, I've really improved at it. As every parent does though, I've reflected on some of my not so good habits and often thought I could do better. And of course, I've blamed myself for some of the issues my kids struggle with, too.

In 2019, my goal is to improve my parenting. I want to be a safe harbor for my daughters, a resource, a beacon in the storms of life. I know there are certain areas I want to work on that'll give me more confidence as a mama, to ensure that I'm doing everything I can to be that safe space for them. I want to raise good kids—that's my main goal in life.

So I'm always going to continue to try harder, to give them my best. In the end—it's not perfection I'm aiming for, but improvement. Here's what I'll be working on in 2019:

1. Sleep better and more.

I'm not sure I've slept well since I became a parent nine years ago. No parent sleeps when they have a newborn and the nighttime battles with any toddler are enough to break you. Luckily (for all of us), I've found solutions for those battles.

But what about adults? Sleep is critical to our health too. It affects memory, focus and even cardiovascular health. I have bedtime routines for my kids, but did you know that bedtime routines are suggested for adults as well? In 2018, I'm going to make sleep a priority for our whole family. I'm a much better parent when I'm more rested.

2. Yell less.

I must admit, I'm a yeller. Dr. Laura Markham, a parenting expert, says that when a parent yells, "The kid releases biochemicals that say fight, flight, or freeze. They may hit you. They may run away. Or they freeze and look like a deer in headlights. None of those are good for brain formation."

Everything I've read says this pattern of behavior can set us both up for a lifetime of yelling matches, especially when my children enter their teenage years. I want to break the cycle now.

I'm going to begin each day with a goal to have a yell-free day and keep track on paper when I do yell—awareness is everything.

3. Creatively resolve boredom.

Isn't this why Pinterest was created? I grew up before iPads, and I remember when video games were invented (hello Atari), so I truly believe that kids don't need them. I'm sure I drove my mom crazy in the winter, but it seems I always had something to do.

I know a lot of moms who don't put up with "I'm bored," and most of them are more creative than I am. I like the idea of creating a jar full of activities for kids to pick from when they are bored, and there are a host of online listicles with great ideas and resources as well. Really, no kid should ever be bored.

4. Model less screen time for all.

Technology really affects my kids' behavior, and there are a lot of reasons why I prefer as little of it as possible in our lives. Studies report that too much tech use can result in obesity or social isolation, and it may even hamper a child's normal development.

Last year, I stopped allowing any screen time during the school week. But the problem with that was that I wasn't modeling good behavior myself. This year, I am going to keep better tabs of my screen use by powering off my phone when I get home from work or keeping it in my purse on silent mode.

5. Increase positive reinforcement.

Many parenting experts, like positive parenting expert Rebecca Eanes, say that positive is the way to go when it comes to parenting—especially when a child is learning something new, like an expectation for proper behavior. We are our children's encouragers, as Eanes says, and it's our job to see their light and protect it's glow.

There are all kinds of ideas out there for age-specific reward systems, I've found that making a conscious effort to point out when my kids are doing something right—by praising the process, not necessarily the person—goes a long way in encouraging good behavior.

6. Eat less sweets.

It seems sometimes that the calendar is against my goal to eat healthier as a family. From Valentine's Day to Easter, Halloween and Christmas—sometimes it seems as if there is a conspiracy to give my kids more and more treats to celebrate something. I feel like I'm always throwing out candy (shh don't tell!) from one season or another.

I've already cut dessert down to every other night. Next year, I'm going to be reducing our portions. I've realized that my kids just need a little something sweet—it really doesn't need to be much to satisfy them.

7. Teach my kids about volunteering.

I want to volunteer more as a family. It is so important for me that my children realize how fortunate they are. I specifically want to work with my girls on understanding the importance of respecting their elders, so we will be volunteering once a month at a local assisted living facility, playing games with the residents and listening to their stories.

8. Have more date nights with everyone.

One-on-one time is so important for the relationships you have with anyone—especially your children. In fact, the experts at Hand In Hand Parenting say, "This kind of undisrupted one-on-one time builds in regular close contact between a parent and child. When special time is established, there is space and time for intimacy. Over time, their trust and communication grows. If there is something troubling a child, they may show it through what they say or choose to play."

Since we became a family of four, it is rare that I have one-on-one time with either of my children. So my youngest has become my grocery store buddy every week and I get ice cream for 20 minutes with my oldest after her piano lessons. In 2018, I want to make sure my husband does the same.

And obviously, it's important for my husband and I to get alone time with each other, too. So my goal is to start going on regularly scheduled date nights one or two times a month.


If I am successful at even a couple of these resolutions this year, I'll be happy. Working towards any or all of them will help my family (and me) to become healthier and happier.

Cheers to a new year of parenting for all of us. And thank goodness for clean slates!

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Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

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

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$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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Sen. Kamala Harris is Joe Biden's VP: What this means for mothers

Harris is making history as the first Black and South Asian woman to join a major party ticket.

Kamala Harris paid leave
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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

On Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, picked California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate and vice-presidential nominee. This is huge news for mothers in the United States because Harris has been pushing for change on several issues that matter so much to moms.

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