Print Friendly and PDF

Up until 1957, moms and dads raised their kids based pretty much on instinct and the influence of their own parents. Or, if they had a particularly troubled upbringing, they raised their kids the opposite of how they were raised. Back then, they were parents – a noun.


But in 1958, the first known use of the word “parenting" occurred. It remained an uncommon word until some time in the 1980s when “parenting" gained momentum as a verb and became something parents do instead of something they are.

Today's moms and dads can choose from a smorgasbord of parenting styles, with the more extreme methods bookending some middle-of-the-road approaches. From attachment to tiger, parents can feast on an ever-expanding menu of approaches that best reflect their family's values, beliefs, culture and lifestyle. So how is a modern-day parent supposed to sort through this confusion? How do you separate the parenting truths from the parenting trends?

“I think it's difficult to communicate this with absolute certainty because every parent and every child is different," says Douglas M. Teti, Ph.D., Professor of Human Development, Psychology, and Pediatrics and Department Head of Human Development and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

FEATURED VIDEO

“Parenting has to be adaptable for different kids and different temperaments and different strengths."

In reality, there's no one right way, but these days, parents are increasingly pigeon-holing themselves into a narrowly prescribed parenting style.

Along the way, some parents feel they're failing if they don't rigidly stick to the (parenting) plan. Others feel confused, as new parenting trends seem to pop up every year, sometimes contradicting their own approach and making them second-guess their parenting skills. In the end, many parents feel like a boxer after a TKO – dazed, confused, and filled with self-doubt.

“We're so very afraid of getting it wrong that we overdo it to try to get it right," says Julie Lythcott-Haims in an essay titled “Ready. Set. Let Go." published in the 2016 edition of The Parents League Review.

Lythcott-Haims should know. She's the former Dean of Freshman at Stanford University, and she's seen firsthand the results of what overparenting does to kids. She also wrote the 2015 bestseller “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success," which serves as an anti-helicopter parenting manifesto.

“When we overstep, overhelp, step in, do for," writes Lythcott-Haims in her essay, “we essentially supplant ourselves in the role our children must play in their own lives if they are ever to have meaningful lives."

“The greatest psychological harm to a child comes from the unlived life of the parent."

–Carl Jung

So, as a parent, how can you effectively nurture and guide your kids without overstepping your parental boundaries?

To help you sort through the information overload and clear up the parenting clutter, Parent.co provides this straight-shooting, research-backed field guide to help you make an educated choice on how to best raise your kids.

Old family video of mother dragging her child around in a crib

First, a Quick Look Back

Since today's more narrowly defined parenting styles generally fall under one of three widely-accepted categories of child-rearing methods, it helps to understand what these are and what science says about them.

In 1966, psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three broad categories of child-rearing methods based on two primary aspects of parenting behavior – control and warmth.

By control, Baumrind means the extent to which parents make demands of their kids and manage their behavior. Think of it as a sliding scale, with “very restrictive" on one end, and “very permissive" on the other.

As for warmth, Baumrind means the degree to which parents respond to their kids' needs, ranging from acceptance and responsiveness (the “warm, fuzzy parents") to rejection and unresponsiveness (“the stoic, indifferent parents").

With control and warmth as a foundation, Baumrind then identified three patterns of parenting styles. Think in terms of Goldilocks, with styles being too hard, too soft or just right:

Authoritarian (Too hard) a.k.a. Controlling, Harsh, Strict, Stern, Tough-Love

With a very strict parenting style, these “do-as-I-say" parents bark orders, make a lot of demands, set a lot of limits, restrict kids' autonomy, dole out plenty of harsh punishments and provide little affection or opportunities for give-and-take dialogue along the way. In a nutshell, they adopt a parent-centered, parent-knows-best philosophy and expect their kids to obey without question.

Although this might work in the short term (producing obedience and sometimes fear), plenty of research over the years shows that this rigid parenting style ushers in a host of negative effects. Some of these include: kids who experience worsened mental health later in life; demonstrating anti-social behavior and a weaker ability to regulate their own behavior and emotions; and facing an increased risk of depression, obesity, and lower academic achievement.

Authoritarian parenting was also associated with kids developing conduct problems, tripling their risk of heavy teen drinking, developing obsessive-compulsive symptoms beliefs, and dysfunctional perfectionism.


Permissive (Too soft) a.k.a. Indulgent, Jellyfish, Lenient, Non-directive

Not necessarily wishy-washy, permissive parents are warm, nurturing, involved, accepting, and responsive (which is good for kids) but lax in setting firm limits, providing discipline, monitoring kids' activities closely, and requiring age-appropriate behavior (which is usually bad for kids).

Permissive parents often give in to their kids' wishes, hoping to avoid confrontation and wanting to be their friend instead of their parent. (This might be dubbed the trouble-is-brewing approach.) As a result, studies show both positive and negative effects of this nurturing-but-no-limits method.

On the negative side, research shows kids with permissive parents often struggle to regulate their own behavior and emotions, face increased likelihood of engaging in self-destructive behaviors (such as a tripled risk of heavy teen drinking), demonstrate a higher level of delinquent behavior, spend more time on screens, achieve less at school, and feel academically entitled at college.

On the positive side, studies point out that kids with permissive parents have a strong sense of self-confidence and tend to be more creative, out-of-the-box thinkers.

FINAL VERDICT WHILE THIS STYLE DEFINITELY FEATURES SOME POSITIVE ASPECTS, IT'S NOT THE BEST WAY TO RAISE KIDS SINCE IT LACKS THE LIMITS AND DISCIPLINE KIDS NEED.

Authoritative (Just Right) a.k.a. Balanced, Collaborative, Consultant, Positive

This parenting style strikes the right balance between demanding and emotionally responsive. While authoritative parents are warm, nurturing, and supportive, they also set firm, consistent limits; provide reasonable guidelines; and recognize their kids' independence.

Taking a more child-centered approach, authoritative parents attempt to control children's behavior not by authority or coercion but by explaining rules, discussing, and reasoning. They give their kids choices, provide necessary structure, encourage kids to think for themselves and listen to their kids' point of view.

Research continues to highlight the positive effects of authoritative parenting, including kids who show a stronger ability to regulate their own behavior and emotions, share more frequent family meals together (which helps influence kids to eat a healthy diet), practice safer teen driving habits, and demonstrate higher student achievement.

Kids with authoritative parents are also more socially competent and least likely to engage in heavy teen drinking. Authoritative parenting may also play a protective role in keeping kids at a healthy weight, and proves most beneficial for a child's social, intellectual, moral, and emotional growth. This plays an influential role in keeping their kids safe online.

Perhaps one of the best cut-to-the-chase reviews of authoritative parenting comes from a study cited in Current Opinion in Pediatrics: “. . . parental monitoring, open parent-child communication, supervision, and high-quality of the parent-child relationship deter involvement in high-risk behavior. Authoritative parenting generally leads to the best outcomes for teens."

FINAL VERDICT DEMONSTRATING JUST THE RIGHT BALANCE OF CONTROL AND WARMTH, AUTHORITATIVE PARENTING IS THE CLEAR-CUT WINNER, SETTING THE GOLD STANDARD FOR PARENTS.

Later researchers (Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin, 1983) added a fourth parenting style, “Uninvolved" (a.k.a. Detached, Neglectful, Hands-off), although it's not one you'll want to emulate.

So how does this history lesson help today's parents?

“Competent parenting really does require two basic features," explains Teti. “One is an emotional climate or warmth/nurturance dimension and the other is a parenting practices component or control dimension that should correspond to the child's developmental level and should be done without a lot of coercion. So parents who combine the two of these features in optimal ways typically have kids that do very well."

As further proof, a study published in the July/August 2012 Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics shows higher levels of warmth, characteristics of both authoritative and permissive parenting styles, may be a critical factor in the development of health-related behaviors.

And, in general, “parental involvement and monitoring are robust predictors of adolescent achievement," according to findings published in the June 2005 Educational Psychology Review.

Now, a Look at Modern Parenting

From over-parenting to under-parenting, today's moms and dads can take their pick from a variety of parenting styles – and even mix-and-match to suit their family's needs.

Some of these parenting styles have more staying power, having been around for decades, while others are no more than a recent trend sparked by the publication of yet another parenting “How To" book. The convergence of cultures has also spawned new styles, from Asian to Indian to French.

Realistically, while many parents do intentionally choose how they'll raise their kids, they don't always label it or strictly adhere to one “style," often taking a more balanced, nuanced approach.

“When you look at these different styles of parenting, they seem to emphasize different aspects of those two key features, namely control and warmth," Teti points out. “Most of these parenting styles have good features about them that parents can potentially incorporate."

Teti agrees that a lot of these “trendier" styles fall under one of the three broader categories (authoritarian, permissive, authoritative). But the basic foundation of what works (emotional: warmth/nurturance and behavioral: control/limits) transcends any one style.

And, most importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting style that guides parents in raising one type of child from birth through adulthood. Through trial and error, most parents discover the best way to raise a family.

Attachment Parenting

This parenting philosophy focuses on a responsive, nurturing, child-led approach that promotes both a secure emotional connection and a close physical attachment between parents and baby. At its core, attachment parenting relies on natural instinct, with parents hardwired to care for their baby by tuning in to what their baby needs and then acting upon those instincts.

The overarching goal? To build from the ground up – establish a safe, trusting connection with parents from birth, resulting in independent, empathetic adults with secure relationships.

A BRIEF HISTORY

The early beginnings attachment parenting stems from the days of pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock and the 1946 publication of his now-classic “Baby and Child Care." At the heart of its wisdom, this parenting bestseller tells mothers “you know more than you think you do."

This nurturing approach gained momentum when author Jean Liedloff wrote “Continuum Concept" in 1975 about her experiences in Venezuela living amongst indigenous people who lived and thrived in a more natural way of life, including the way they raised their children.

Impressed by this parenting approach and the research behind it, well-known pediatrician Dr. William Sears jumped on board in the 1980s. He coined the phrase “attachment parenting" in the 1990s when he and his wife Martha co-authored “The Baby Book," which many consider the attachment parenting bible.

Fun Fact: In 1924, Dr. Spock won an Olympic gold medal for rowing at the Paris games!

This parenting philosophy focuses on a responsive, nurturing, child-led approach that promotes both a secure emotional connection and a close physical attachment between parents and baby. At its core, attachment parenting relies on natural instinct, with parents hardwired to care for their baby by tuning in to what their baby needs and then acting upon those instincts.

The overarching goal? To build from the ground up – establish a safe, trusting connection with parents from birth, resulting in independent, empathetic adults with secure relationships.

In it, he outlines the 7 Baby B's of Attachment Parenting, which include birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, bedding close to baby, belief in the language value of your baby's cry, beware of baby trainers, and balance.

The movement mushroomed in popularity and now includes a worldwide educational organization called Attachment Parenting International (API). Piggybacking on Sears' philosophy, API identifies Eight Principles of Parenting, which parents can individualize and put into action in a way that best suits their family. In other words, it's not an all-or-nothing approach.

Attachment parenting grabbed headlines in May 2012 when Time magazine ran a provocative cover image featuring a mom breastfeeding her toddler with the headline, “Are You Mom Enough?"

“It's easier [for the media] to say 'AP is breastfeeding, bed-sharing, and baby-wearing' rather than talking about emotional attunement, positive discipline, and secure attachment," says Barbara Nicholson, co-founder of API and co-author of “Attached at the Heart," in a Parents magazine article.

Dolphin Parenting

This parenting style focuses on maintaining a balanced life for kids filled with connection, contribution, and purpose while gently guiding them toward long-term health, happiness, and success.

Taking an authoritative yet playful stance, dolphin parents collaborate with their kids, nurturing their spirit, individual passions, self-motivation, and independence while still being firm but flexible. Along the way, they adapt their approach to their changing kids and their changing environment.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

In 2014, Harvard-trained child and adult psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang proposed a new way of parenting in her book The Dolphin Way: A Parent's Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids – Without Turning into a Tiger. Serving as an antithesis to the pushy tiger parenting trend kicked off by Amy Chua in 2011, Kang tapped into the latest neuroscience and behavioral research to suggest a more powerful approach to raising kids, using the metaphor of an intelligent, playful, social dolphin.

“Today's disturbing trend of over-parenting is under-preparing our children for a rapidly changing and ultra-competitive 21st century by interfering with their self-motivation and ability to adapt," says Kang in a 2014 article in Time.

Research shows that being raised with an authoritative style of parenting is positively associated with competence, resilience and self-esteem. The dolphin way certainly falls under the authoritative umbrella.

Elephant Parenting

In this uber-nurturing method of child-rearing, the focus is on raising kids – especially those under five – in an environment of warmth and encouragement. Citing plenty of time for age-appropriate, “grown-up" expectations, elephant parents just want to nurture, protect, and support their impressionable youngsters, particularly during those precious first few years.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

When blogger Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar wrote about elephant parents on The Atlantic blog back in 2014, she might not have realized she'd touched off yet another parenting trend.

Reflecting on her own upbringing in India, Sharma-Sindhar describes elephant parents as those “who believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they're still impressionable and very, very young. She points out how, in India, parents tap into their softer side by doting on their young kids, nurturing them and allowing them to just be kids without all the parental pressure and potentially age-inappropriate expectations.

How does this doting, nurturing style play out? Elephant parents wouldn't scold their kid or put him in time out until age five. They wouldn't let him cry himself to sleep. They'd put on his shoes even though he's capable of doing it himself. And, with a reigning let-kids-be-kids philosophy, they'd let him run around a restaurant.

In an interview on Good Morning America, parenting expert Dr. Robyn Silverman sums it up pretty succinctly. “That child is going to grow and learn and change throughout their lives… We need to listen to the child and really tune in, we need to listen to our gut and really tune in, because the sweet spot is where those two meet."

Free-Range Parenting

(a.k.a. Hands-Off, Lenient, Permissive, Under-parenting)

In stark contrast to more overbearing and overprotective parenting styles, free-range parenting takes a laid-back approach, where parents raise their children in the spirit of fostering independence in age-appropriate ways.

By trusting in their kids' autonomy, free-range parents allow their kids reasonable levels of personal freedom and responsibility while keeping them safe, although it involves taking some personal risks. With the underlying motto of “give kids the freedom we had as kids," free-range parenting aims to raise self-reliant kids with a reasonable dose of parental concern along the way. Free-range parents focus on teaching kids through trial-and-error, making choices, taking risks and sometimes failing.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

Just a few decades ago, kids played outside without supervision, walked to school on their own, took a bus into town, and babysat their younger siblings at the age of 10 or 11. These days, parents might get arrested for allowing their kids such freedom.

Lenore Skenazy knows this first-hand. When she allowed her nine-year-old son Izzy to ride solo on the New York City subway back in 2008, she got a call from the police, questioning why her son was taking this 30-minute journey unaccompanied. Then Skenazy wrote about her experience in the New York Sun, sparking both praise and backlash.

As Skenazy writes on her Free-Range Kids blog, “So my gift today was a lesson: I finally learned that Free Range Kids is a rights movement. We want to reclaim our children's right to take part in the world, and our right, as parents, to let them."

In a CBS interview, Skenazy notes that being a free-range parent does not mean being anti-safety. “I love safety: car seats, helmets, seat belts, mouth-guards. I just don't believe our kids need a security detail when they leave the house." She also cites how crime statistics are lower today than when most parents were kids, as she often points out in her many speaking engagements to schools, businesses and community groups.

Skenazy offers this advice to parents interested in the free-range-approach: “If you didn't think that your mom was crazy or negligent to give you some unsupervised time, there's no reason you can't give it for your kids. Let your kids do one thing on their own that you used to do. After you do it once and the kids come back and they're happy and proud, that pride and joy that you feel will replace the fear. Until you let them do it, all you had was what if. Now you have what is."

Helicopter Parenting

(a.k.a. Cosseters, Drone, Intensive, Over-parenting, Snowplow)

This often-disparaged parenting style reflects parents' desire to be overly involved in their kids' lives, sweeping away their obstacles, making decisions for them, solving their problems, and violating parental boundaries.

Aptly named, helicopter parents hover overhead, deeply enmeshed in every aspect of their kids' lives, especially as they enter adolescence. Technology has further enabled this parenting style by giving 24/7 access to kids' lives through GPS-enabled cell phones, texts, apps, computer browsing history, and online grades.

Proponents of this parenting style point to their desire to help their kids succeed. Critics highlight its stifling effect on kids' autonomy and problem-solving skills.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

The term “helicopter parenting" got its first mention way back in 1969 with the publication of “Between Parent and Teenager" by psychologist Haim G. Ginott. In the book, Ginott cites one of his teen patients as saying, “Mother hovers over me like a helicopter."

Then in 1990, the term found its way into the now-classic “Parenting with Love and Logic" by former school principal Jim Fay and psychiatrist Foster W. Cline.

In its infancy, the helicopter movement didn't really get labeled as such. It just seemed to evolve over time, starting roughly in the 1980s or 1990s (when Baby Boomers started having kids) and gaining steam ever since.

During these last few decades, helicopter parents intertwined their lives with their children's, overstepping boundaries and robbing their kids of opportunities to problem-solve and (gasp) even fail. They crossed the line of being engaged and vaulted into micro-managing, becoming hyper-focused on every aspect of their kids' lives and protecting them from psychological, emotional, and physical harm.

They slowly transitioned from baby-proofing their homes to failure-proofing their kids' lives in an effort to keep them safe, promote their self-esteem, and help them achieve –all good intentions, but in this context, taken to the extreme.

In a 2014 Psychology Today article, Hara Estroff Marano, Editor at Large, points to the spread of helicopter parenting to young adulthood, where parents now insert themselves into their kids' graduate admissions process.

In the article, psychologist Michael Ungar observes, “It's so sad… It is always better to empower children to make good choices for themselves rather than having them remain dependent on parents to sort out problems for them."

Research cites the negative effects of helicopter parenting on kids, including less engagement in school, lower self-worth and higher risk behavior (such as binge drinking), persistent anxiety and depression, and feeling less competent to manage their own lives. Interestingly, in a 2013 article in Time magazine, researchers at the University of Mary Washington found that women who practice such intensive parenting are “less happy and more stressed than those who chill out." (Helicopter moms, you might want to back off a bit for your own mental health.)

Lighthouse Parenting

Using a lighthouse as a metaphor, this collaborative parenting style focuses on guiding kids as they travel through murky waters, particularly when they reach that rough patch called the teen years.

While providing lots of unconditional love and protection, lighthouse parents understand that kids also need to learn from failure in order to grow. They focus on morality and character, not performance, and strike a balance between guidance and protection.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

Lighthouse parenting – a phrase coined by pediatrician Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg – represents a cooperative, problem-solving approach, where parents and teens work together. Ginsburg, a professor at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, elaborates on this approach in his research-based book “Raising Kids to Thrive" from the American Academy of Pediatrics. For his book, Ginsburg also tapped into the insights of 500 teens from across the country, including his teenage daughters.

A balanced approach emerged as the way to go, with parents providing unconditional love, high expectations, trust, guidance, and appropriate monitoring while allowing kids to problem-solve, take risks, and fail.

“We want to be beacons of light on a stable shoreline from which they can safely navigate the world," explains Ginsburg in an interview on Good Morning America discussing his parenting method.

Slow Parenting

At the crux of this parenting style lies balance, simplicity, and mindfulness. Living at a slower, more natural pace, families intentionally carve out time to connect. This approach de-emphasizes electronics and overscheduling in favor of simplistic toys that encourage creativity, playing outside and in nature, spending time with friends and family, and allowing kids the freedom to pursue their own interests.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

In the last 25-50 years, a complexity of factors converged (including the explosion of technology, increased globalization, and change in demographics), steering modern-day life onto a permanent fast-track. This hyper-speed way of living crept into parenting as moms and dads rushed through their days dropping kids off at daycare and school; rushing them to after-school activities, music lessons, and sports practices; signing them up for specialty summer camps; and car-pooling their way through their family's childhood.

But a backlash began brewing as exhausted, time-starved people everywhere looked for ways to put the brakes on this harried way of life. Journalist Carl Honoré chronicles this fast-forward path, as well as the global trend in slowing it down, in his 2005 book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed.

Applauding those who've gotten in touch with their “inner tortoise," Honoré gave a wildly popular Ted Talk about the light bulb moment in his own life (rushing through and even skipping parts of his son's bedtime stories) that made him step back, reasses,s and decelerate.

Along the way, an entire Slow Movement took root, including Slow Food, Slow Cities and Slow Parenting. Although Honoré didn't coin the phrase “slow parenting" or single-handedly start the movement, he is often the mouthpiece for it.

In a New York Times article, Honoré explains how slow parents “understand that childrearing should not be a cross between a competitive sport and product-development. It is not a project; it's a journey."

In a similar vein, mindful parenting, idle parenting and simplicity parenting all advocate for slowing down, being present with your kids, promoting play and creativity, spending quality family time together, honoring kids' natural rhythms and saying no to an overscheduled life.

Tiger Parenting

(a.k.a. Extreme, Coercive, Competitive)

Similar to helicopter parenting but on a more extreme level, this rigid parenting style takes a tough-love approach, hyper-focusing on performance, grades, and achievement. The philosophy expects excellence from kids and discourages social activities such as sleepovers and playdates.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

When The Wall Street Journal published an article by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" in 2011, it set off a firestorm of cultural debate, with over 10,000 comments on the article itself and a media explosion of interviews, articles, and analysis.

It even prompted a special issue of Asian American Journal of Psychology titled “Tiger Parenting, Asian-Heritage Families, and Child/Adolescent Well-Being" to examine the prevalence and impact of tiger parenting and to unpack the complexity of Asian-heritage parenting and its relation to child and adolescent well-being."

In the article, an excerpt from Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua asserts, that “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish, and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it."

Whoa. You can see why this sparked such controversy, especially among Western parents.

Research shows that fundamental cultural differences play a big role in Asian-American parenting methods versus Western American, with Asian mothers promoting a more interdependent relationship with their children compared to the more independent relationship fostered by Western mothers.

But even so, researchers debunked the myths about the merits of tiger parenting in a July 2013 article in Developmental Psychologist.

The Bottom Line

Going back to the two competency features (control and warmth) originally cited by Baumrind and studied by thousands of researchers since, a balanced approach works best on all fronts.

Teti points to a study he and his Penn State colleague conducted (with results published in a 2008 issue of Journal of Family Psychology). “What this study shows, which is what many other studies are now showing, is that when you look at parenting, you can't just look at what parents do, you also have to look at how they're doing it," he explains. “You have to look at not just the behavior, but also the emotional climate that surrounds the behavior."

In essence, parenting practices that take place (even disciplinary ones like time outs) are much more effective in impacting a child when they occur against a positive emotional backdrop rather than a very negative one, says Teti. “When parents incorporate both warmth/nurturance and appropriate levels of control, they cut to the chase in terms of what should work for them."

Control and warmth – boom, there it is again.

The ultimate goal of every parent, regardless of how they raise their kids, is to grow happy, healthy kids. But results from a 2016 National Poll on Children's Health suggests that adults nationwide think that kids have worse mental/emotional health than when they were growing up. Respondents perceive that today's kids have less quality family time, lower quality of friendships, and more stress than when they themselves were young.

In light of these survey results, Perri Klass, M.D., cautions parents in a New York Times Well blog post to stop thinking that they're doing everything wrong.

“So our children aren't turning out right because we are dangerously overprotective in our parenting or too strict and demanding… Can we really be getting it so wrong at both ends? Can we be this bad at it?" she writes. “It's time to put an end to the everything-you-do-is-wrong school of parent criticism, which puts us all in an impossible bind."

In the end, it's the totality of what parents do over time that shapes who children become. In any given week (and sometimes even in the same day), parents might vacillate between a helicopter parent, an elephant parent, lighthouse parent and a free-range parent. But it's the cumulative effect of a balanced approach of both warm nurturance and firm discipline that wins out in the end.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

As someone who is currently pregnant with not one, but two girls, I'm really excited for when the time comes to buy hair accessories and help them create fun hairstyles. At the top of my list of things to buy? The Wunderkin Co hair bows, not only because they are absolutely adorable but also because they're already a celeb favorite.

The list of fans includes Jessica Alba, Hailey Duff and more importantly, Chrissy Teigen's daughter, Luna, who is the ultimate fashionista. They are beautiful, made super well and come in a huge array of colors, but you won't break your bank account while buying them. Win-win-win!

Besides all the Wunderkin Co products being pretty, they are all handcrafted by women around the U.S. and are 100% guaranteed for life. So if your little one ever breaks their clip or the bow comes undone, you can send your product back to the team and it will be replaced at no charge. How amazing is that?


Luna has been spotted on Instagram rocking these three adorable accessories:

Petite schoolgirl headband

PETITE SCHOOLGIRL // JADE

This absolutely adorable headband comes in a rainbow of different colors to match any outfit. Plus, the headband comes in three different shades to coordinate with different color tones. The soft nylon allows it to fit all heads, too.

$13

Midi fable bow

MIDI FABLE // INGRID

This bow is simply perfection. It's attached to a right-side alligator clip, which won't allow it to slip out of place even with littles running around. It also comes in a bunch of different solid colors and prints and your kids can choose between two bow lengths.

$18

Flower clip

FLOWER CLIP // ONYX

These hair clips feature four flowers in a row, which can be easily mixed and matched with solid clips or other colored flowers to make the perfect hairstyle. Bonus: They look great on mama's hair, too.

$6

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

Shop

Good Morning America Time can be so unfair, mama! It feels like we were just spending summer days watching little feet leave prints in warm sand, and now we're watching little handprints turn into turkeys. Yes, Thanksgiving is happening NEXT WEEK!

We can't believe it either and we also can't wait to tuck in to some turkey. If you've been busy planning your holiday schedule this week, don't worry—we've been keeping an eye on the news so you don't have to.

Here are the headlines that made us smile this week:

Almost half of this school's teachers just had babies—and their picture is going viral

Something amazing happened at Oak Street Elementary School in Goddard, Texas: Seven of the school's teachers were pregnant at the same time. Talk about a baby boom!

Back in April we brought you this story, but back then all the teachers were holding bumps, not babies! Since then these teachers navigated pregnancy together—and now, they've entered mom life together as well. The seven mamas and their eight babies (one set of twins!) all got together and it was the sweetest moment.

The mamas gave birth over an eight-month period, during which principal Ashley Miller had to coordinate substitute teachers to accommodate seven maternity leaves. Now, the principal is hard at work to manage multiple pumping schedules, as the last mom to deliver recently returned from maternity leave.

The mothers opened up about the experience to Good Morning America about the experience. "We went from giving each other high-fives as we waddled down the hallways to now going to each other for tips and talking about our babies," says Nicole Lauer. "It's nice to have so many women that you can go to for baby advice."

Ashley Graham is pregnant + fearless 

It's easy to look at someone like Ashley Graham and think she's totally at ease in her skin. After all, Ashley is one of the most beautiful people in the world, a mega-successful supermodel and a leader in the body positive movement. But as the pregnant model admits, even she struggled to embrace her body's changes.

The mom-to-be opened up during an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' EllenTube series, Fearless. Ashley, who made headlines after posting a nude photo displaying her pregnancy stretch marks, revealed that sharing the photo was difficult for her.

"The reason I had posted that original photo, I had just announced that I was pregnant and I thought then I was going to feel good, and I didn't. I felt, I just felt terrible," the visibly emotional model shared. "That morning I was like, 'get it together, Ashley.' There's other women out there that are going through the same thing as you. Why don't you have a dialogue with them?"

"This is a new body that I'm walking into, why don't I just put myself out there with this new body?" she added. "I felt so isolated, I felt so alone."

But ultimately, Ashley realized the power in her photos—and a fellow guest on the show admitted that Ashley's body positivity helped her embrace her own shape. And we know so many mamas out there feel the same way.

How one dad supported his daughter through her first period and went viral

When Maverick Austin's daughter called him in the middle of the school day to say she feared she'd pooped her pants, he did what most parents would do. He ran to her school with a change of underpants. But a few hours later, when his daughter called to say it had happened again, the dad knew he had a different issue on his hands: His daughter's first period.

This is one of those coming-of-age moments that can be tough for teen girls to deal with. Luckily, this dad totally stepped up the plate for his daughter.

"I run in the office and she's standing there very calm looking at me and says "Dad.... I officially started my first ..." and I stopped her and said "I already know Avi... it hit me a few minutes after I hung up on you," the dad wrote in a Facebook post. "The stress of raising a daughter."

But the story took a very sweet turn. "Later on she says "don't I get something like when a tooth falls out," he added in this post. "So I snuck off to the store and when she got out of the shower I told her "The Period Fairy" brought you something."

The dad presented his daughter with flowers, chocolate, ice cream and a card. Talk about #dadgoals!

This mama survived two heart attacks while pregnant with twins

Being pregnant with twins can be such a cool experience, but it is also considered a high-risk pregnancy because carrying multiples puts a lot of strain on the body.

Twin mama Krystle Evans knows this all too well. Evans, who welcomed boy/girl twins in October, suffered two heart attacks while expecting her babies, but this strong mama survived and her story is going viral.

It started when Evans was eight months pregnant. She felt pressure in her chest as she struggled to catch her breath—and while the symptoms were alarming, she chalked it up to typical pregnancy stuff. As we know, carrying a baby can make you feel strange sensations, and Evans guessed one of her babies was applying the pressure she felt. "I honestly felt my twins were just in a place where they were sitting on my ribs and causing me to lose my breath," Evans tells an NBC news affiliate.

But the next day, it happened again...only this time, the sensations were even more intense. "I started getting very nauseated. Then my whole left arm went numb," Evans tells Today. "I was in a whole bunch of pain. My husband said, 'You need to call the doctor and let him know what's going on.'"

When she followed her husband's advice, she received some shocking news: Evans had suffered two separate heart attacks. This is pretty wild, especially when you take a snapshot of Evans' health into account: The mom was just 30 and in great health, with no family history of heart disease.

The mom was in the hospital for two weeks, where she was closely monitored. She gave birth to her twins, Shiloh and Sage, just weeks after the episode.

Doctors who have commented on Evans' scenario in the news say what happened to her extremely rare and that moms should not be scared that they will have the same experience.

With that being said, heart disease is the leading cause of maternal deaths, according to ACOG's guidelines, which were released earlier this year.

"Pregnancy is a natural stress test," says James Martin, M.D., chair of the Pregnancy and Heart Disease Task Force, according to ACOG. "The cardiovascular system must undergo major changes to its structure to sustain tremendous increases in blood volume. That's why it is critical to identify the risk factors beforehand, so that a woman's care can be properly managed throughout the pregnancy and a detailed delivery plan can be developed through shared decision making between the patient and provider. Moreover, we must think of heart disease as a possibility in every pregnant or postpartum patient we see to detect and treat at-risk mothers."

The bottom line? Being pregnant—even if you're pregnant with twins—certainly doesn't mean you need to stress over the possibility of suffering a cardiac incident. But, Evans' story is an important reminder: It's so, so important that we advocate for ourselves and our doctors about every concerning symptom.

This mama raised awareness about her late son's condition while feeding NICU babies

As Good Morning America reports, one amazing mother is honoring her son's memory by pumping 500 ounces of milk for other NICU families.

Sierra Strangfeld's son Samuel was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a genetic condition with a high rate of pregnancy and infant loss. Only 50% of the children diagnosed with Trisomy 18 live beyond a week.

"We found out our diagnosis about 25 weeks," Strangfeld tells Motherly. "I opted for the C-section at 30 weeks so we could meet Samuel alive. Had we not done that, he would have passed in utero."

Samuel lived for 3 hours.

"His hands were clenched, his feet were clubbed, he was small," his mom told GMA. "But he was so perfect. He fought so hard to be able to meet us. Our baby boy was put on this Earth for a reason."

Strangfeld had been planning to breastfeed Samuel and decided that she would donate his milk to other families in need. She pumped 500 ounces over 63 days and on his due date she walked into the NICU milk bank to deliver her gift.

"Walking through the hallways of the hospital was just another step in healing," she wrote in a viral Facebook post. "And I know, (because I felt him), that Samuel was there with me."

In an update to the post, Strangfeld explains that while she never expected her story to go viral but is glad that her post spread and that GMA shared her story as she wanted to raise awareness of Trisomy 18.

Strangfeld is a hero, an advocate and one strong mama.

When this boy's mama died of cancer his teacher adopted him ❤️

Special education teachers are amazing people, and Kerry Bremer is extra amazing. Four years ago Kerry became Jake's teacher. Now she is his mom.

Jake, now 14, has Down syndrome and met Kerry when he was 10 and he and his his single mom, Jean Manning, moved from Florida to Massachusetts. A few months later, Kerry and Jean were having a heart-breaking conversation, Today reports.

Jean had terminal cancer and no one in her life who was in a position to care for Jake when she passed. That's when Kerry offered.

"I said, 'I may be overstepping here and forgive me if I am, but my family and I would like to offer guardianship for Jake if you need a backup plan,'" Kerry, 52, told Today Parents.

According Kerry, Jean said "I'll sleep better tonight than I have in a very long time,'" after the conversation. The two women agreed Jake would become Kerry's son after Jean's death.

"We would take Jake to appointments together and celebrate holidays together. Jean called him 'our son,'" Kerry says. "That must have been so hard for her, to be planning for her death, but she did a beautiful job. She was so courageous."

On November 13, Jake lost his first mom to cancer and moved into Kerry's house, becoming part of the family with Kerry's husband Dave (the couple share 3 other kids, too, ages 21, 19 and 16).

"We never thought twice about it. I loved this kid so much. He has done more for us than we could ever do for him."

We're so happy for Jake. This kid has been blessed with two wonderful moms.

News

We're in the last few months of 2019, and it's already been a year for the history books. A record number of women were sworn into Congress this year, and a royal baby with American roots has arrived! Of course for mamas who are welcoming their own babies, 2019 will have more than just historical significance. It will be the year that changes their lives. If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2019, they've got plenty of company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2019 (so far):

Tori + Zach Roloff welcome baby no.2

Tori and Zach Roloff of TLC's Little People, Big World are now parents of two as baby girl Lilah Ray Roloff was born on November 19.

She came into the world at 6:52 p.m., weighing 8 lbs., 9 oz., and measuring 18½ inches long, according to mom and dad's Instagram posts.

That makes two kids for the couple, who share 2-year-old son Jackson.

"Zach and I are so excited to introduce you to our sweet baby girl Lilah. She has been the perfect addition to our family!" Tori tells People.

Congrats to Tori and Zach! 🎉

Orange is the New Black star Danielle Brooks just had a baby girl! 🎉

With the final season of Orange is the New Black wrapped up, star Danielle Brooks is now entering a new season of life: She just welcomed a baby girl!

"When one chapter ends, another begins" she wrote in her Instagram Stories when she announced her pregnancy back in July.

This week she posted a photo of her new daughter (along with her birth date) confirming that the new chapter is underway.

This new mom has been busy during her pregnancy, curating a new clothing collection with Universal Standard called Fit Liberty Mom and hosting a new Netflix project called A Little Bit Pregnant, in which the 30-year-old first time mom talks to experts about the wild journey that is pregnancy.

"Doulas, midwives, experts — I'm gonna be talking to them all." Brooks said in the trailer.

Congrats Danielle!

Morgan and Bode Miller just welcomed twins! 🎉

When Morgan and Bode Miller lost their 1-year-old daughter Emmy after a drowning in 2018 our hearts ached for them.

Now, our hearts are bursting for them because the couple just welcomed identical twin boys, something Bode always thought would happen for them.

"Somehow I always knew that I was going to have identical twin boys,'' Bode said during an appearance on Today.

The twin boys join 10-month-old son, Easton and 4-year-old Nash, as well as Bode's older kids, 11-year-old Neesyn and 6-year-old Sam.

Morgan was pregnant with Easton when the family lost Emmy.

"Losing a child while pregnant was the most confusing experience of my life. The conflict of emotions from what was pure joy turned to guilt and terror overnight. How could I love this baby the way I loved Emmy? Was it okay to love this baby the way I loved Emmy? It felt like by loving my son, I was trying to replace her. The fear of birthing my son and what that meant .....a monumental step forward....proof that time continued without her when all I wanted was for time to stop," Morgan wrote on Instagram, captioning a photo of the four kids each holding up two fingers.

She continued: "But let me say this....I couldn't have been more wrong. Easton provided us an even closer bond to his sister. The moment I heard his cry, something sparked back alive in my soul. Hope. Love. I'm not sure. But in that moment, I knew I was Mom and my kids deserved the world from me. Everything was going to be okay. My joy and grief could coexist."

The twins were born on November 8, "a day that couldn't have been scripted and aligned more perfectly to bring these two into the world," Morgan noted on Instagram.

On his Instagram, Bode hinted that it was a quick birth: "30 minutes of labor to bring us one of the greatest gifts and experiences we've ever received. Welcome to the world my speed racer boys," the proud dad wrote.

He later explained further, telling Today: "The birth story was actually one of the more crazy things that I've ever experienced… none of the midwives actually made it on time...They started coming over and by the time they got there, me and my mom were both holding the babies."

He continued: "Luckily my mom was a midwife, but she hadn't delivered babies in 20-plus years, and she never delivered twins," Bode explained. "We're both pretty relaxed and pretty casual, but we were certainly not qualified to be doing an unassisted home delivery of twins."

Thankfully, mama and the babies were just fine.

Morgan says she is "insanely overwhelmed and grateful for all these gifts my baby girl keeps sending," and that "for Bode to get to deliver his identical twin boys with his mom—it was just pure magic."

We are so happy for the Millers. 🎉

Shawn Johnson East + Andrew East are now parents 

Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and her husband Andrew East just welcomed a baby girl.

The news that they were expecting came more than a year after the couple announced the loss of another pregnancy in a 20-minute video, titled "pregnancy + heartbreak".

We are so happy for the couple, and so, clearly, is the Instagram community. Baby East (it's a girl!) already has 270,000 Instagram followers.

Shay Mitchell is a mama! 🎉

Shay Mitchell just announced she's a mom! She made her baby announcement via Instgram, posting a photo of her holding her baby daughter's hand along with the caption "Never letting go..."

Mitchell and her boyfriend Matte Bable have not yet shared their daughter's name or talked about the circumstances of her birth. Babel famously objects to epidurals but maybe this experience has changed his mind. Right now, Mitchell isn't making any public statements about her birth story and seems to just be enjoying time with her new baby daughter.

She has previously been very open about her journey to motherhood online. Mitchell has had a difficult pregnancy which followed a miscarriage and we're so happy that she's finally a mama!

Blake Lively + Ryan Reynolds now have 3 girls! 

When Blake Lively announced her pregnancy on the red carpet for Pokémon Detective Pikachu we knew she and Ryan Reynolds would soon be parents to three children. Earlier this month we learned that third child had arrived (the couple kept their baby to themselves and enjoyed some privacy for about two months, ET reports) and this week Reynolds revealed the couple are now parents to three daughters.

Reynolds and Lively have two older daughters, James, 4, and Inez, age 3, and Reynolds (a Canadian) recently tweeted about the Canadian election, along with a picture of himself with Blake and the new baby (whose face was covered to protect her privacy).

"I love B.C. I want my daughters to experience the same natural playground I grew up in. On Oct. 21, the candidate you vote for will SHAPE CLIMATE POLICY."

Through this tweet the world learned a little more about Canadian politics and the gender of Lively and Reynolds' youngest child. The couple has not announced their youngest's name as they are keeping it to themselves for now.

Lauren Conrad is a mom of two! 

Lauren Conrad is now a mom of two as she and husband William Tell welcomed their second child, Charlie Wolf Tell this month. He joins older brother Liam to make it a party of four.

Conrad hasn’t posted any pics of the newest addition to the family yet but made the announcement via Instagram by posting a charming illustration of her growing family.

Congrats to LC!

Amy Duggar King is a boy mom + the baby name she picked is getting popular  

As first reported by People, Amy (Duggar) King is now a mama as she and her husband Dillion just welcomed their first child, baby boy Daxton Ryan.

Amy and Dillion have had their son's name picked out since July. Amy told People that on her husband's side of the family all the names begin with the letter 'D' (kind of like her famously 'J'-named cousins).

"So we were trying to figure out a 'D' name that was different, and we landed on Dax, then Daxton," she explains.

Daxton is a baby name on the rise in recent years. It snuck onto the Social Security Administration's by a hair in 2007 but is now among the top 300 names for boys in the U.S. Last year there were more Daxtons born than ever before.

Nicole and Michael Phelps welcome baby no.3! 🎉

Olympian Michael Phelps and his wife (and champion pumper) Nicole now have three boys as Maverick Nicolas Phelps arrived on September 9.

The couple already have two sons, 2-year-old Boomer and 1-year-old Beckett.

"Oops we did it again," Nicole wrote on Instagram back when they announced this pregnancy. "I get to be a mama x3!!"

"Can't wait to see the journey that this takes us on," Micheal wrote on his account.

Now that Maverick is in the world his parents couldn't be happier.

"He instantly has stolen all of our hearts and keeps me an ecstatic mommy of boys," Nicole captioned his Instagram birth announcement.

She continues: "I cannot wait to walk this journey surrounded by my men."

[A version of this post was originally published February 1, 2019. It has been updated.]

You might also like:

News

If Santa is bringing you a baby this Christmas, consider your little elf lucky. This month is actually the rarest time for birthdays (with the 24 and 25 being the rarest birthdays of all), so December babies are special from birth.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.