Why ‘connected parenting’ is the secret to happy families

Responding to irrational requests with positivity isn’t always easy. Here’s how to replenish your own well.

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.

Rarely is a woman more concerned with what her body needs than when she's pregnant. We start to question and research everything, right? From swearing off turkey sandwiches to diving down the rabbit hole of prenatal supplements that make up what we lack, the stress of overthinking is real, mama.

One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

That's why we knew we had to introduce mamas-to-be to the science-backed and expertly-formulated protein collagen for pregnancy from Needed. And as one of our bestsellers, it's clear you've been looking for it, too.

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.


Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.


Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.


The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.


The Snoo bassinet


Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!


Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.


Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!


Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.


Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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