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When I was 13, I came home from a sleepover at a friend’s house (let’s call her Sleepover Friend). The phone rang when I walked in the door and it was another friend calling (we’ll call her Phone Friend).

I quickly found out that Sleepover Friend, with whom I’d just had a great time, was now out. No longer in the group. Had inexplicably become a social leper. Phone Friend was calling to say that Sleepover Friend was suddenly annoying or stuck up or dorky or some other sort of 13-year-old crime. Just like that. Because sometimes that’s how the social cookie crumbles when you’re 13.  It certainly had for me before.

So, what did I do? Let’s just say my character wouldn’t be the 80’s movie hero sticking up for the underdog. I decided to avoid the risk of joining Sleepover Friend in no man’s land and – though I’m ashamed to admit it – I joined in the criticism with gusto. I was sitting under our kitchen table “for privacy” when suddenly, out of nowhere, my mom grabbed my legs, pulled me out from under the table, grabbed the phone and hung up on Phone Friend.


Looking into my mother’s eyes, I saw a reflection of myself that I did not like. I was called out, this was not how things worked in my family. My dear mother let me know in no uncertain terms that this mean girl behavior was not allowed in our home and was a high ranking punishable crime. 

My mom helped me realize the small voice inside me – the one I’d been ignoring – was the one I actually needed to hear. She not only made me think about what I’d done, but about who exactly the kind of person I wanted to be. She was tough on me, and being face to face with my mom after breaking this rule was absolutely a defining moment.

Until my mom sat me down I was afraid to do anything other than what I needed to do to stay in the group. We all know that the role of social outcast quite simply sucks. Who hasn’t been on the outside of a group of whispering girls who suddenly stop talking as soon as you approach? Who hasn’t walked up to a middle school lunch table and found there was “no more room.” Who hasn’t overheard stories of the sleepover all your friends attended, realizing with a sick feeling in your gut that you hadn’t been invited? I didn’t want the pain of being out of the group, so while I was a “good girl” and a “nice kid,” I opted to be mean in order to protect my own behind.

That moment with my mom wasn’t just a life lesson about fitting in. It was the beginning of what I’m committed to teaching both as a parent and a teacher: we need to be inlcuders. No one is left out in any big or small way. Our in-ness cannot come at the expense of someone else’s out-ness. We’re all here, arent’ we? We all fit in.

Welcome to the human family – population: everyone.

As parents, we need to be less concerned with asking if our child is included and ask more questions about whom they include. The message from us, and more importantly what we model, must be that there’s always room for one more. Each and every person has worth, has value.

We all believe that our own children are special, we all love our children deeply, adore them infinitely. And we should. We all think our kids are the most amazing. And they are – to us, their parents, the people who cherish them most in the world. But our children must also know that as singular as they are within our hearts, out in the world, they’re no better than anyone else, no more or less special than all the other humans. 

Their feelings of worth must come from being part of the good in the world, not from being in when someone else is out. We need to teach our kids that doing what’s right is often also unpopular. And we have to acknowledge for them that doing the right thing will sometimes be so very hard. But teaching them to see and stand up for the value of their fellow humans, even if it comes at the price of their own belonging, is a hard thing worth doing.

As kids get older they claim to long for privacy and a hands-off approach, just as they did when they wanted to pick out their own clothes when they were two. But we do not owe it to our kids to check out. Sure, they send a strong “go away” message sometimes? And just as I don’t give in to the multitude of other wants, I’m not giving up on the big stuff. I’ll pick my battles, of course. Doritos for breakfast? Maybe. Messy room? Ok fine, now and then. I can be persuaded. But turn a blind eye when one good friend is no longer included in the sleepovers? Not a chance.

We need to look for that moment when it’s time to grab our kids by the legs and drag ’em out from under the table. Knowing when to step in and keeping abreast of what’s going on requires an effort from parents. I offer some suggestions of questions you might ask your kids to keep your finger on the pulse:

1 | Who are the “mean kids” and why do you think they act the way they do? 

Pro-tip: the answer can’t just be that they’re a terrible person. As a teacher, I’ve met a lot of kids and I’ve never met one that was simply a terrible person. People who are mean are hurt, lonely, scared, misunderstood or misdirected.

2 | I’ve heard you say so-and-so is a tough person to be around.

Why? What can you find that’s good about them?

3 | What would happen if you just said yes instead of ignoring the request?

I know you’re not friends with that person, but maybe they asked to be your Snapchat follower or to sit with you at lunch because you seem kind. 

4 | Who might see that on Instagram and feel left out?

Did you need to post it?

5 | Tell me about how your lunch table works?

Can anyone sit with you and your friends? Do you have someone to sit with every day? Do you ever see kids with no one to sit with?

6 | Who needs a ride?

We’re happy to drive as many kids that need a ride and if there are too many I’ll find another mom to help me. (Kids seriously sometimes get left out just because there are no more seats in the car.)

My talk with my mom changed my thinking, it allowed me to see myself and the situation differently. It changed my heart. And with practice, I might have even had a few 80’s movie style moments…doing the right thing and hearing that slow clap in the background (if only in my mind).

Talk to your kids. If they’re feeling left out, do whatever you can to help them connect. If they’re the mean kid, do whatever you can to help them change that. You’ll make mistakes, but you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to pay attention and speak up.

Let’s teach our kids how to value one another. Let’s teach our kids that there’s room for every single one of us at the table – even in the middle school cafeteria.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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I had big plans to be a "good mom" this summer. There were going to be chore charts, reading goals, daily letter writing practice, and cursive classes. There would be no screen time until the beds were made, and planned activities for each day of the week.

Today was the first day of summer vacation and our scheduled beach day. But here's what we did instead: Lounged in our pj's until 11 am, baked the girl's pick, chocolate chip cookie brownies, started an art project we never finished, then moved to the pool.

It's so easy to be pressured by things we see on social. Ways to challenge our kids and enrich their summer. But let's be real—we're all tired. Tired of chores, tired of schedules and places to be, tired of pressure, and tired of unrealistic expectations.

So instead of a schedule, we're doing nothing this summer. Literally NOTHING.

No camps. No classes, and no curriculums.

Instead, we're going to see where each day takes us. I've dubbed this the "Summer of Me," so workouts and clean eating are a priority for me. And also giving our girls the freedom to pick what they want to do.

We may go to a local pool and check out the swimming programs. And we join the local YMCA. But whatever we do—it will be low key.

It will include family time, too much TV, a few trips, lots of sunshine, some new roller skates, water balloons, plenty of boredom, rest, relaxation, and reading. (Because mama likes to read!)

So if you haven't figured out what you're doing this summer, you're not alone. And guess what? It's OKAY! Your kids will be fine and so will you.

Originally posted on Kristen Hewitt's blog. Check out her post on 30 ways to have fun doing almost nothing this summer.

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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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When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

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Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.



PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

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