Unconditional love is the most powerful gift we give our children

Of all the things I want to teach my children, the most important is this: you belong.

Unconditional love is the most powerful gift we give our children

I’ve been a mother for 11 years now, and I’m convinced that childhood is too short.

It’s simply not enough time to hold, cherish, protect, and teach these amazing souls that I’ve been entrusted with.

There is not enough time with soft, new cheeks and hair that smells of baby shampoo.

Not enough days with toddler hands in mine and a tiny voice sweetly saying “mommy.”

Not enough time to carry them on my hip or hold them on my lap.

Not enough years of bedtime cuddles.

The days that my home is filled with scattered toys, fingerprinted mirrors, and the laughter of children are numbered.

There is so much I want to teach them, but one thing stands out among all the rest.

I have spent so much time trying to teach proper behavior, responsibility, manners, etc. because that’s what parents do. It’s our job, right? And that’s great as long as we don’t do it at the sacrifice of the one big, crucial lesson, as I did many years ago which is what prompted me to shift my parenting paradigm and eventually write this book.

My previous approach to parenting could be described as “behavior patrol,” but I was failing to teach the biggest and most important lesson of all. What I learned is that, when this biggest lesson is sacrificed in order to teach the smaller lessons, those smaller lessons become harder and harder to teach.

I ended up fighting against the very thing I created—a child who thought he wasn’t good enough because he was so often in time-out or losing on his behavior chart.

Of all the things I want to teach my children, the most important is this: you belong.

You are good, and you belong. Until our children fully feel and grasp that knowledge, they cannot move on to learn all of those lessons about behavior, manners, and responsibility.

Being good starts with feeling good. Belonging creates the emotional security needed to grow, learn, and thrive. Without it, people become stuck.

Leading research professor Dr. Brene Brown says this, A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

We can create a sense of belonging in our children by practicing unconditional love: accepting them for who they are, at the stage they’re in, just as they are.

We accept their imperfections and immaturity because honestly, they’re going to be imperfect and immature anyway because they are human children.

If we can allow our children to show up just as they are without having to jump through hoops to earn our approval, if we can show the same amount of love in proud moments and hard moments, perhaps we can raise a generation who isn’t constantly struggling for self-acceptance.

I know we are afraid that if we show acceptance and love when our children behave badly, we fear that it will reinforce bad behavior. I was too, at first.

We fear extending belonging to a wayward child will enable him to stay wayward, but time and time again, I’ve found that providing acceptance and belonging improves behavior because it helps my children find their way back to their good, true selves.

It isn’t that I let bad behavior slide because I never do. It’s just that, within that correction is a clear message—you are still good and you still belong. It’s unconditional love, personified. It’s freeing and grounding for parents and children alike.

And yes, I think this is the most empowering lesson we can teach our children.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're 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 toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden 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.


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.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop 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.


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.


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.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

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.


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.


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