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How to Use the Giggles to Encourage Toddler Cooperation

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. – Victor Borge


Ever since she was old enough to leave me, my daughter has gone shopping with her dad on Saturday mornings. She loves it.

One morning, when she was two years old, she absolutely refused to get dressed. It was clear she really did want to go out, but as soon as I tried to put her clothes on, she would wriggle and run away. I tried reasoning with her, talking in a serious voice, and explaining that if she didn’t get dressed it would be too late to go.

It didn’t work.

I’m sure most parents of toddlers are familiar with a scenario like this. Our children can behave in ways that seem completely irrational. The question is what to do about it. The shouting, grumpy approach may work sometimes, but it comes with a sinking feeling that maybe this isn’t the best way to go about parenting.

 

 

In the heat of the moment, like any stressed-out parent, I sometimes forget there is a more effective method. All that rationalizing and reasoning is not the language of children. Their language is one of play and laughter. Suddenly, I remembered my training as a Hand in Hand parenting instructor.

I put my daughter’s socks on her hands and her trousers on her head. She laughed a lot, so I continued the game. Then I got her teddy dressed in her clothes, picked him up, and said, “Come on, R, it’s time to go!” When I got to the front door, I looked at the teddy and said, “Oh no! That’s not R, that’s Teddy!”

My daughter laughed and laughed. After a few minutes of playing like this, she was trying to dress herself. A short while later, she left with her dad, and I enjoyed a nice, quiet morning to myself.

Believe it or not, toddlers are not completely irrational beings. When children feel closely connected to the adults around them, they are naturally, good, loving, and co-operative. They don’t actually want to make our lives difficult. They want to get on well with us and co-operate with daily tasks. But sometimes their feelings get in the way.

When children experience stress or upset, they can no longer feel that sense of close connection. The limbic (the socio-emotional part of the brain) senses a kind of emotional emergency, and the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for rational, reasonable behavior) can’t function well. When upset, kids literally can’t think clearly or listen well to our reasoning. As a result, their behavior goes off-track. Their misbehavior is like a red flag they’re sending out to say, “Help, I can’t think! I need some connection!”

In these cases, parents need to speak the language of emotion. We need to have compassion for our children. We need to say goodbye to the old behavioral model of punishment and reward. Some parenting methods focus on manipulating the child for a quick ‘fix’ in the moment. Bribes, rewards, and manipulation also create a more transactional relationship, where both parent and child think about what they want to ‘get’ out of a situation. In the long run, these parenting methods actually make things harder because they don’t address the underlying emotional cause of the behavior.

That’s where Giggle Parenting comes in. It’s a fun and simple way to connect with our children when they’re out of sorts – and it works. Laughter releases stress and emotions, lowers blood pressure, stimulates feel-good endorphins, and builds connection between parent and child. When children feel well connected, they can think and cooperate with us again.

Giggle Parenting can be applied to many of the power struggles we face as parents of toddlers. My daughter went through a phase during which she would make a dash for it whenever her pajamas came out at bedtime. This was a sure sign she still had some energy to work off. Letting her laugh and play, and connecting with her playfully, helped us transition into quiet time. Factoring time for this into her bedtime routine helped her sleep more deeply, in part, because laughter releases melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. Also, children simply sleep better when they feel closely connected to us.

Sometimes parents warn children away from laughter play. We all know the saying, “It’ll all end in tears.’’ (It’s worth bearing in mind that if a child gets upset shortly after laughing, or the next day, it’s not necessarily a sign of anything wrong in the present moment.) Tears have been found to contain the stress hormone, cortisol. This explains why children – and adults – may cry for what seems like no apparent reason; they are releasing stress. Tears might be triggered by an over-stimulating day or by any upsets, big or small, that they have experienced in the past. They may bring up feelings that have been simmering under the surface.

Listening and giving your child warmth and empathy during these moments prompts them to tune into your calm, loving state. They will learn to release their feelings and regulate their emotions, as long as you stay with them offering cuddles when needed. It won’t be long until they’re giggling again.

Giggle Parenting takes time, but it’s worth the investment. It gives children the sense that the adults in their lives are available for them. It focuses on building the relationship and releasing the feelings that get in the way of your child feeling closely connected to you. Fun and laughter could even be considered the currency of parenting. When we sprinkle it througout our daily tasks, life goes much more smoothly. You may even save time in the long run.

So the next time you ask your child to get dressed, have some fun. Laugh with her. Over time, she will internalize the deep sense of fun, love, and connection she shares with you, which can extend beyond toddlerhood, into the teenage years and beyond.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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