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It wasn’t until I became a parent that I recognized my tendency to see the negative before the positive. Though my children all have strengths I can easily name, I find myself harping on the areas where they are weak. I know this approach isn’t helping us build stronger relationships, and I don’t feel good about it.


Psychologists and therapists agree that parenting that focuses on a child’s weaknesses over his strengths is problematic. Dr. Fawn McNeil-Haber says:

Focusing on children’s weaknesses decreases their motivation to do better. This is because, like many of us, when people point out what we aren’t good at we either feel demoralized, defensive, or annoyed. None of these feelings help us motivate to do better and try harder.

Sara Anderson, an Atlanta-based psychotherapist, says how we approach our children affects their view of their potential: “If you focus on what is wrong, your child lives up to your vision of failure. If you focus on your child’s strengths, your child lives what is possible.”

The problem is focusing on the bad is what our brains do. We all have a negativity bias, and that’s not always a bad thing. From an evolutionary perspective, the negativity bias has been hugely beneficial in keeping humans alive because they stayed aware of potential threats in their environments. Even now, it can be helpful.

Unfortunately, it’s also the reason I am much more likely to notice my daughter’s lack of organizational skills over her ability to approach her entire life with passion. Because I am focusing on the negative, she’s learning to do the same, and her mind will fixate on the bad interactions we’ve had over the good ones because that’s what our brains are wired to do.

Lea Waters, PhD, writer of “The Strength Switch: How the New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish” and a leader in positive psychology, offers a solution. Her strength-based parenting approach teaches us how to pull away from the negative when raising kids to offer the entire family a more positive experience in the home.

Parents focus on the kids’ strengths, the kids know they have strengths, and the entire journey is smoother for everyone.

Sounds easy, but since we’re built to focus on the negative, how do we shift towards pointing out the positive?

What is a strength?

Knowing what our children’s strengths are is the first step. Most of us simply look at what our children are good at and assume it’s a strength. We ask, where do they excel?

While that’s one qualifier, it’s not enough. If a child is great at playing the violin but hates it, Waters says violin playing isn’t a strength. It’s a skill.

Strengths are what we’re good at, what we’re motivated to do on our own, and what give us energy. Thinking about our kids, what do we never have to beg them to do? What gives them life? That’s a strength.

My daughter is a strong leader and communicator, often verbalizing and storytelling even when her listeners are worn out. My son uses art as a way to communicate, and he has never once had to be told to sit down and create. He can’t imagine not creating.

Though these strengths may seem specific to only certain areas of life, we can use them to guide our kids and to teach them to handle conflict in other areas. When my son is upset about something that he can’t articulate, I can ask him to use his strength in art instead of demanding he verbalize. Verbalization under pressure is not his strength.

We can also evaluate for emotional strengths, like kindness, patience, or fairness. When our kids have a conflict, instead of always pointing out their weaknesses and making them feel like bad kids, we can point out strengths they aren’t using.

When my daughter chooses to scream when upset, I can tell her, “You’re not using your strengths in communication and kindness right now, and I think you can solve the conflict better if you do.” I’m reminding her that she is capable of fixing this situation, and she’s already equipped with the strengths to do it.

Too much, or too little, of a good thing

On The Psychology Podcast with Scott Barry Kaufman, Waters points out another reason to know a child’s strengths and lead with them: they may be the cause of behavioral problems.

Overuse or underuse of a strength can lead to behavioral issues. My son, who is obsessed with accuracy in a way that only a seven-year-old can be, often gets in trouble because of his absolute desire for perfection. When his younger sister pronounces a word incorrectly, he will badger her until she is in tears under the guise of trying to help her speak properly. This is overusing a strength. In certain areas, when used in the right amount, this is a great strength, but it’s being overused when it leads to a four-year-old screaming hysterically because she can’t say the word “taquito.”

Fortunately, I can use my son’s other strengths to help him work through this problem. He also has strength when it comes to empathy, so I can encourage him to use that strength to imagine how his sister feels when he scolds her for doing her best. We’re still focusing on his strengths, but we’re deciding which strength to use to solve the problem overuse of a different one caused.

Kids who underuse a strength are also at risk for behavioral issues. All of us want to do something that makes us feel alive regularly. If children aren’t able to do that, they are going to act out.

My daughter is strong in teamwork, and she also loves to communicate. She wants and needs to be around peers frequently to feel like she’s thriving. I’ve never had to encourage her to play with someone at the park. She seeks out any and every person in her vicinity.

This explains why after a few days stuck in the house due to illness or friends having to cancel plans, she has problems. Finding a way for her to use this strength as soon as possible will alleviate the issue, and in the meantime I can ask her to exercise her strength in patience.

Where does this lead?

Many parents shy away from constantly pointing out their kids’ strong points because it seems a little like a praise-for-no-reason thing to do. A friend who actually has an easy time focusing on her children’s strengths worries that she may be raising future narcissists. Fortunately, Waters has words of encouragement. It’s all about approach.

Strengths don’t make kids special, and parents should point out that everyone has strengths. Since we all bring our unique strengths to the table, kids should be encouraged to look for strengths in others, something that will likely come easier for kids raised by parents who point out strengths in them.

Kids will also be able to use their strengths for the sake of others. When deciding on a life path, children who are parented using the strength-based model will know what their strong points are, and this will help them impact the world using the strengths they’ve been aware of for most of their lives.

Waters even believes that strength-based parenting encourages self-compassion in children, a much-coveted skill that is proving more important than self-esteem. Self-compassion allows children to mindfully be kind to themselves when they make a mistake instead of living in shame or guilt. If children know they have strengths, they can give themselves grace when areas they aren’t strong in cause them problems. It keeps kids from believing that when they fail it’s because they are irredeemably flawed humans who have nothing positive to bring to the table.

Using the strength-based parenting approach doesn’t mean ignoring weaknesses. By virtue of identifying strengths, kids are going to realize they also have weaknesses, and that’s okay. Shuntai Walker, MA, LPC says “…it is ok to be aware of weakness but the focus should be on cultivating their strengths.”

We’re not raising kids who think they are perfect. Strength-based parenting means raising kids who know what their strong points are and how to use them to help themselves and others. It’s a form of positive parenting that helps us encourage our children while also creating positive interactions that strengthen our relationships with them.

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Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

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GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

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GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

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GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

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Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

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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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

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