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“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

One of the biggest frustrations parents often face is getting their kids motivated to learn. Whether it’s mastering multiplication, learning a new language, or sticking with the soccer team despite riding the bench most of the season, it can be difficult to get our kids to be enthusiastic about learning new skills. Especially when the going gets tough.

Our children’s reluctance to venture into unfamiliar territory is understandable. Learning new skills can be frustrating, and failure can be discouraging or, worse, embarrassing. Research has shown, however, that parents can help their children more readily embrace challenges and understand the value of persistence without relying on excessive external rewards.

Here are five strategies you can start using today to help your child become a motivated learner:

1 | Learning as an opportunity

Over three decades of research has shown that there is a direct correlation between what a child thinks of her abilities and that child’s willingness to face challenges, according to Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and a pioneer in the study of motivation in relation to achievement.

As Dweck’s extensive research with children has found, when children see their abilities as fixed and not subject to improvement, they worry that their intelligence will be questioned whenever they fail or exert too much effort to learn a skill. As a result of this “fixed mindset,” these children view challenges and mistakes as potential sources of “looking dumb,” and lose confidence and motivation when the work stops being easy.

However, children who believe that the harder they work at something, the better they’ll get at it see obstacles as opportunities to add to their skillset, not as potential blows to their self-confidence. Dweck refers to this mindset as the “growth mindset.”

Children with a growth mindset understand that effort is necessary to succeed. They display an increased motivation to persist in the face of a disappointing grade or a difficult task. As Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania concurs, this kind of stick-to-itiveness spurs children to achieve success, in and out of school.

So how can we teach our kids to have a growth mindset? Research shows that children at any level can be taught to adopt a growth mindset. Specifically, parents should emphasize the effort and strategies their child uses to achieve a desired outcome rather than focus on the child’s intelligence or talent.

This emphasis on process gives the child a sense of control, in that she sees that good results often come from increased effort and not necessarily innate ability. This sense of control boosts the child’s confidence to keep working at a problem with the understanding that, if one way of solving the problem didn’t work, then tackling the problem in a different way might.

While encouraging your child to value the process of learning rather than just the outcome itself, Dweck cautions parents to use praise effectively. Parents should be mindful to use words that praise a child’s efforts in accomplishing a desired result (“You studied hard and did great!”) versus words that praise the child’s intelligence (“You got an A because you’re so smart!”).

Dweck provides further examples of how to effectively praise young learners here.

2 | Make learning fun

To help foster motivated learning, parents can turn lessons into fun activities. Add excitement to your child’s learning experience by encouraging him to explore his interests. If your child is interested in music, sign him up to play a musical instrument of his choosing or take him to children’s concerts, many of which are free at parks and community centers.

Music in particular is a great teaching tool because it stirs enthusiasm while sharpening the child’s understanding of mathematics, which has a strong connection to music, according to the American Mathematical Society. Musical concepts such as rhythm, scales, intervals, harmonies, and pitch are all rooted in math.

If your child is interested in history or dinosaurs, take her to a museum or head to your local library to peruse through books on the subject. For a younger learner, use puzzles and board games to make mastering concepts connected to her interests colorful and fun.

To have fun with learning, use external rewards, such as stickers, candy, and money sparingly. The overuse of external rewards can undercut motivation over time by implying to the child that he can choose to do the task only if he wants the reward, not for the inherent value in learning something new.

3 | Respect frustrations and need for downtime

It’s unreasonable to expect children to be motivated all the time. When parents don’t acknowledge a child’s frustration with learning a particular skill, children are more likely to disengage from the learning process.

But exploring your child’s hesitation to do a task can give her the reassurance she needs to keep striving. If you aren’t making progress in talking to your child about her frustrations, seek out a teacher or coach who may have better success.

Likewise, be respectful of your child’s need for downtime. While parents want to give their children every opportunity to learn, this well-intentioned goal has to be balanced with the equally-important goal of letting a child enjoy being a kid, notes child psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld, co-author of “The Overscheduled Child”.

Allowing children to have unstructured downtime to play outdoors or simply hang around the house lets them recharge and process what they learned during the structured part of their day. This boosts creativity as children dream up ways to fill up their time and builds character as they play with – and resolve conflicts with – other children their own age.

4 | Allow your children to fail

Although it seems counterintuitive at first, part of helping children learn not to become discouraged when faced with difficult tasks is to let them fail and learn how to bounce back from that failure. Letting children fail teaches them resilience and how to take responsibility for the natural consequences of their actions.

With that goal in mind, a child is better served when parents resist the urge to rescue him from failure if the source of the failure is the child’s own lack of effort. When a child experiences how poor effort can lead to a poor result, the child is incentivized to refocus his efforts at succeeding. This redirection can bolster the child’s perseverance, self-reliance, and motivation.

In some children, the fear of failure can be especially daunting. Try lessening these children’s fears by explaining that innovators they may admire – from Thomas Edison to Walt Disney to J. K. Rowling – experienced numerous obstacles and failures before succeeding through sustained motivation and perseverance.

5 | Lead by example

One of the most effective ways parents can teach their children to embrace learning is to immerse them in a household where the parents are enthusiastic about learning as well. Show your child your commitment to learning by reading avidly, taking a class, or engaging enthusiastically in a hobby of your interest.

Not only will your child see that working hard doesn’t have to be a solitary undertaking, but she will witness firsthand the personal satisfaction that comes from relishing a challenge.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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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.


A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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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.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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