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Why ‘connected parenting’ is the secret to happy families

Your 4-year-old demands a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. You sense a forthcoming meltdown and quickly evaluate your parenting-style options:


1. Permissive: Say “yes” (then prepare to serve cookies for lunch and cake for dinner).

2. Authoritative: Say “no” directly and firmly (then prepare to stand your ground as there will likely be a protest).

3. Exhausted: Scream “never” (because it’s only 7:15 a.m. and you’re already exhausted).

4. Denial: Pretend none of it is happening and hide in the bathroom for a while. (It is the morning after all; you could conceivably be getting ready.)

5. Connected: Empathize (e.g., “I hear you—yum!”); be playful (e.g., “Why not make it a sundae?”); and then guide your child toward another option (e.g., “How about we save that for the weekend and we eat it together?”)

Although many of us probably use a mix of the styles above, most may lean in one direction or another. I try to practice as well as advocate for connected parenting, aligned with a conscious, positive and peaceful approach. Yet this approach is not for the faint of heart.

Connected parenting is really just what it sounds like—in every situation, you try to empathically connect with your children and see their perspective before guiding them.

While I firmly believe connected parenting reaps meaningful relationships for both parents and children, I also feel that a vital piece of the discourse is missing. We fail to be open about the amount of energy this parenting style requires.

In fact, of all the parenting examples above, connected parenting requires the most effort in many respects.

Here are some of ways in which additional human resources are required:

1. Time: Connected parenting often takes more time. Saying “no” is clearly faster than empathizing with playfulness and humor.

2. Creativity: It’s much easier for us to access short, direct phrases such as “Don’t do that” or “Please stop” versus some of the phrases I encourage when our kids are angry, anxious or tired of hearing no. Consistent creativity takes practice and effort.

3. Emotional space: When we give to our children in a connected way, we are giving them part of ourselves, emotionally speaking. While mindful presence with our children can be fulfilling, it can sometimes be emotionally consuming.

4. Physical stamina: Connected parenting includes connected body language—getting close to your child, kneeling to his or her level and being playful. There is definitely physical exertion involved in connected parenting.

5. Distress tolerance: Connected parenting allows children to feel their feelings, including sadness, anger, jealousy and negativity. However, when our children are uncomfortable, we often feel the same. So part and parcel of connected parenting involves the practice of tolerating big, uncomfortable emotions in our children and ourselves.

6. Self-regulation: To step into a connected space with a child throwing a tantrum, consistently defying us, or being physically aggressive, we have to regulate our own emotions. We have to be the calm we want to see in our child. Research reveals that self-regulation is a finite resource. Used throughout the day, it depletes and requires replenishment.

After a long day at work or a long week, it may feel like the resources necessary to connect with our children are scarce. This is especially true when our kids are not “going with the flow” of our intentions or just flat-out defying us. Sometimes it feels easier to adopt a style of parenting that frankly requires the energy we have left in our tank.

So, how can we maintain our choice of parenting style while attending to our own well-being? There’s no magic wand, or one quick-fix to erase all of the challenges of parenting, but there are certainly steps we can take to replenish our tanks.

We need to prioritize self-care, even when we don’t have time—especially when we don’t have time. This means that we need to take consistent moments of mindfulness throughout the day. We need to dip into a book or interest that is solely for us. We need to laugh more. Not just a giggle here and there, but good old-fashioned belly laughter.

We need to regularly zoom-out and remember why we are making the choice to parent in a connected and conscious style. Our intuition has led us to a belief that our children will thrive with this style of parenting. The research is beginning to support our knowing that children of highly empathic parents thrive–they are physically healthier and psychologically more balanced.

We need to support one another and be open about the idea while parenting in style where connection and consciousness are a priority, sometimes it can be exhausting. Finally, let us recognize that ironically, or maybe even poetically, what we sometimes believe is leading to our emotional depletion–our children–can often be the source that, with the a simple gesture–a smile, a hug, an I love you–replenish our souls.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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