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Positive parenting: 5 ways to have a smoother morning with your kids

Even if you’re a morning person, getting out of the house with little ones might make you wish you could just go back to bed—or at least figure out how to wake up on the right side of it. As hard as a natural smile may be when the kids aren’t cooperating and the coffee is cold before you get the chance to drink it, instituting some positive parenting practices first thing in the morning is an investment that will pay off throughout the day.


“These tips aren't just good for the morning, but fill your child's cup so they're feeling confident and loved to deal with whatever the day brings,” says Kate Orson, a Hand-in-Hand instructor and author of Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children.

Here’s how to help the whole family rise and shine:

1. Start prepping the night before

“Plan as much as you can the night before,” suggests author and parenting expert Julia Cook. “The more you do the night before, the more predictable the morning can be and the less rushed you feel.”

Cook suggests incorporating one thing into the nighttime routine that is all about creating a special, positive experience for the morning—like preparing a special breakfast or putting the next day’s outfit into the dryer so that it will feel like a warm hug when it’s time to get dressed.

2. Wake up first

If your wake-up call currently comes in the form of a baby or toddler, licensed mental health counselor Dr. Jaime Kulaga suggests setting an alarm for a bit earlier—hard as it may initially seem.

Kulaga says this time not only allows you to center your mind or use the bathroom in peace, but will also help you return the favor of a pleasant wake-up with your little ones: When you go into their room, do something that wakes them up gently, such as giving them a little back rub or singing a soft song.

3. Take a few moments to connect

For some kids, every side of the bed is the wrong side to wake up on. If your little one is not a morning person, they might need an extra dose of positivity upon waking. One technique Orson likes is what she calls “giggle parenting.”

To do this in the morning, set a timer for 10 or so minutes and spend that time dancing to some fun music, connecting and—hopefully—laughing.

“Children are often reluctant to get ready in the mornings because they know there's an impending separation from you,” Orson says. “Play and connection help fill a child's cup, so they are ready to face the day.”

If the struggles continue even after your kiddo has climbed out of bed, get giggly again. “If a child won't brush teeth, put on clothes or eat breakfast, use giggles to connect and gain their cooperation. Put clothes on the wrong body parts, brush their ears and hair instead of teeth,” says Orson, who explains this often helps children forget why they were refusing in the first place.

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4. Lavish praise

“Each morning, make sure that you say one positive thing to your child,” suggests Kulaga. “Tell them what they did well during the morning routine, what you were proud of the day before or even something that brings awareness like, ‘You look like you are carrying some extra confidence today for that quiz.’”

And, while you’re at it, remember to praise yourself too: Positive parenting author Kathy Walsh suggests taking time to feel grateful for the person who makes mornings happen in your house—you!

“Make a list of things you like about yourself. Look in the mirror for a full minute and say them out loud,” Walsh says, adding that it may not feel natural, but does help parents channel authentic positivity. And that’s contagious among the other members of the family.

5. Add some music

Parent trainer Katherine Firestone of the Fireborn Institute suggests turning up some uplifting music before you get out the door. Building the playlist may also be a fun activity to do together; just aim to have songs that get increasingly energizing as the morning goes on.

“Towards the end, the music gets faster and your child realizes that it’s time to be gathering materials to leave the house,” she says of the ideal playlist. “The final song is very energetic and means ‘drop everything you are doing and run to the car now.’”

In fact, you should use the same playlist: "Your child will start to develop some time management habits realizing that, based on the song playing, she is behind or ahead of schedule. She can then adjust her pace accordingly. This gives your child autonomy, which is great for having happier, smoother mornings and families.”

“As the playlist is used habitually, your child will start to develop some time management habits, realizing that, based on the song playing, if she is behind or ahead of schedule. She can then adjust her pace accordingly. This gives your child autonomy, which is great for having happier, smoother mornings and families.”

With the right planning (and playlist) every morning can be a positive morning—even Mondays!

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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