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Oh my goodness, rebellious children.

I know a rebel child intimately. I nursed her from my own breast, I can spy her need-a-pee stance from a mile away, I sleep next to her – I hear her arguing in her dreams: NO, I WILL NOT EAT THAT DINNER!

And, my word, please can I not have a rebel teen? I could handle a blue mohawk but I don’t want to wake up to vomit in my favorite boots and my daughter’s tags all over the street. (Future dreamspeak: I WILL GO OUT AGAIN TONIGHT!! YOU GOT TO FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO PARTAAAAY!!!)

But, if I were to eventually end up with a grown up rebel as my offspring I would surely be proud. The world needs more adults willing to buck the status quo, ready to fight for what they believe in.

We all know a grown up rebel. She is the freedom fighter in an oppressive regime. He is the brave father who challenges people’s subtle racism. They are the parents of six who refuse to own a car because they love the earth so much they don’t want to burn fossil fuels. Sometimes they are the colleague who collects novelty paper weights in defiance of the clear-desk policy.

The truth is sometimes the things that are tricky to deal with in a child: a questioning spirit, an unending curiosity, a staunch sense of fairness, assertiveness, fearlessness – these are all things that a few years later, when they reach adulthood, are brilliant attributes.

In a few years time your kid’s refusal to eat their spaghetti bolognese might one day be called a hunger strike and they’ll be amongst esteemed company: Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, the suffragettes.

Here are a few simple ways we can make sure we don’t knock that gumption out of our kids.

1 | Let them choose their own clothes.

Seriously, who cares if they are wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles onesie with a tutu in public? Letting them wear what they want is the first step to body autonomy.

2 | Don’t correct their speech.

Freedom of speech – it’s as basic as rights come! Children learn the correct pronunciation simply by it being naturally modeled, not by being corrected. We can make a child self-conscious of their speech, afraid to speak out, if they feel they might get nagged for something.

3 | Don’t force them to say words simply because it’s what we’re supposed to do.

E.g. thank you, please, sorry. Make sure they understand the basis of saying those words and let them show their gratitude/apology in a way they are comfortable with.

4 | Likewise, throw the, “It’s what we DO” phrase out the window.

We need people who will question the state of affairs and not just go along with the Done Thing. If there are certain things you want them to observe – for example, here in New Zealand, according to the indigenous culture, tables hold a sacredness and they mustn’t be climbed on – explain that to your children. (We observe this in our family and need to keep explaining why, daily, because our kids are so rebellious.)

5 | Find lots of places where they enjoy spending time, where they are safe, and can have freedom of movement.

Too often we have to inhibit our child’s physicality, for their own safety or the safety of Aunty Barbara’s china ornaments. Create lots of opportunities for time outside in forests and parks where they can get to know their own strength and inner resource.

6 | Don’t ask them to blithely obey adults.

We don’t want our children to believe that just because someone is older or bigger or stronger they can make them do things they don’t want to do. This is about our child’s safety but also about helping your child trust their own instincts.

7 | Let them question your choices.

It can be tiring when our children want the reason for everything. Consider that they are only young for such a short time, and that this is an opportunity to help them understand why decisions are made, and honor them by explaining your reasoning seriously.

8 | Give them opportunities to make suggestions and take their suggestions as seriously as you do other, older, members of the family.

Quite a lot of parental glee is taken in the phrase, “Don’t negotiate with terrorists, or toddlers!” But why? Negotiation is such a skill! Let them pick it up naturally. Take their ideas seriously, let them understand their voice is powerful!

In a funny twist, families who aim to give their child a lot of autonomy – who create a lot of space for their child’s voice and strength – actually end up with a lot of cooperation. Because the act of letting your kid become who they are, rather than pushing them to fit to society’s expectations, helps them to sit more firmly within your unconditional love.

In time as they sense your respect, they begin to give it. I believe celebrating your child’s spiritedness means they’re more likely to channel their rebel soul into something positive – and less likely to direct their vomit into your boots!

There’s a whole bunch of other reasons we should embrace our defiant children even when it feels hard. But for now, rest assured that this kid currently stomping butt naked on the dining table is probably going to one day win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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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