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How to Use the Giggles to Encourage Toddler Cooperation

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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.

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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.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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If there's one item that people claim is *so* worth the price-tag, it's a Dyson vacuum. The cordless tools have become essentials in homes, cleaning up messes quickly, all without the hassle of a cord.

If you've avoided purchasing one because of the high cost, you're in luck! They're having a sale on Amazon right now. Some of the most popular vacuums and air purifiers are up to 40% off.

Dyson Cyclone V10 Lightweight Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner, $379.99

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Arguably the most popular of the Dyson family, and marked down 20%.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Beyoncé's new Netflix documentary Homecoming hit the streaming service today and gives us an honest look at how difficult her twin pregnancy was.

"My body went through more than I knew it could," she says in the film, revealing that her pregnancy with Sir and Rumi was a shock right from the beginning, and the surprises kept coming.

In the film she reveals that her second pregnancy was unexpected, "And it ended up being twins which was even more of a surprise," she explains.

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The pregnancy was rough. Beyoncé developed preeclampsia, a condition that impacts about 5 to 8% of pregnancies and results in high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the mother's urine. Preeclampsia poses risks to both the mother and the baby. People who are pregnant with multiples, like Beyoncé was, are more at risk to develop preeclampsia, and the only real cure for the condition is to give birth, which proved to be another medical challenge for Beyoncé.

"In the womb, one of my babies' hearts paused a few times so I had to get an emergency C-section," she shares in the film.

Thankfully, Beyoncé made it through her extremely difficult pregnancy, but the physical challenges didn't end there. The road to rehabilitation for the performer was difficult because, as she explains, she was trying to learn new choreography while her body was repairing cut muscles and her mind just wanted to be home with her children.

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"There were days that I thought I'd never be the same. I'd never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same," Beyoncé recalls.

We know that becoming a mother changes us in so many ways, and in Homecoming, Beyoncé shows the world the strength that mothers possess, and rejects any ideas about "bouncing back."

Becoming a mother is hard, but it is so worth it, and Beyoncé isn't looking backward—she's looking at a mother in the mirror and loving who and what she sees. "I just feel like I'm just a new woman in a new chapter of my life and I'm not even trying to be who I was," Beyoncé said in the documentary. "It's so beautiful that children do that to you."

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Warmer weather is finally here, mama—and that means it's time to switch up the family's wardrobes. 🙌 If you love matching with your little, or are determined to *finally* get those family photos made this spring or summer, we're obsessed with these mommy and me matching sets.

Here are some of our favorite mommy and me matching outfits for spring. 😍

1. Ivy City Co Jumpsuits, $42.00-$62.00

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4. PatPat Matching Family Swimwear, $19.99 and up

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Match with the entire family with this pinstripe set. We love the one shoulder look, too!

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5. Keds x Rifle Paper Co Sneakers, $44.95-$79.95

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Twin with your little in these embroidered canvas sneakers. Bonus points for a rubber outsole so no slipping. 👏Shop the version for mama here.

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6. Lily Pulitzer Shift Dresses, $58.00-$198.00

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8. PatPat Gingham Dresses, $17.99-23.99

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These will be your go-to pick for every outing this spring and summer.

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9. Old Navy Striped Oxford Shirts, $13.00-$22.00

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Being a perfectionist has naturally been part of who I was since as long as I can remember. I could blame living in the continental U.S., where perfectionism is highly esteemed, or the family dynamics that come with growing up in a household of five women.

Deep down, though, I think it all really stems from a deep and instinctual longing to be loved, accepted and approved. Whatever the reason, it has never really been a part of me that I considered a problem.

That is, until, I became a mom.

When I had my first child, I did the best I could to keep it all together, to prevent people from seeing how my perfection was being pulled apart at the seams.

A nap schedule was, of course, essential. My son was easygoing and slept through the night like an angel baby. My house was still spotless and I managed to somehow work part-time and keep healthy meals on the table every night, but I did struggle tremendously with breastfeeding.

Since I took this failure as a great assault at my abilities to properly nurture my child, I let mom guilt run rampant over the issue. I decided I would just step up my perfect-parenting game in another way by pumping breastmilk around the clock until my son was around 18 months old.

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For anyone who has ever exclusively pumped, you know it can become total madness and take away the joy of feeding your child.

Managing a toddler was definitely wild, but with my background in pediatrics, I knew how to keep him busy while I kept things "under control." In other words, with just one child, I could still play the part of being perfect. All was fine until I became a mom of two children. It wasn't long after my daughter was born that I realized I needed to start letting go of perfection.

I was living alone in a new city with no help and my husband worked long hours. Managing a 2-year-old and a newborn, all while trying to keep a perfectly clean house and healthy dinners on the table every night, was, to my surprise, impossible in every way. My body was a wreck, not "bouncing back" as it did with my first. My daughter never slept for more than three hours until she was over a year old. She cried for hours on end most nights, as I tried relentlessly to calm her.

I remember bouncing her in her carrier for hours trying to get her to calm down and settle in for sleep. Meanwhile, I was a zombie and my son tore every square inch of the house into pieces. Keeping a naptime schedule was nearly impossible with another child to consider. Dinner was often takeout. There were days when I didn't look in the mirror or have proper clothing on until 5 pm.

The demands of motherhood laughed at my idea of picture-perfect motherhood. Every night I went to bed feeling like I had failed my children. I cried. Oh man, did I cry.

It wasn't long until I came to the realization that if I wanted to be a good mom, that is, to focus on things that are actually important, I had to stop sweating all the small stuff.

Even though I didn't really know how I was relieved that I didn't have to keep up with myself anymore. I had grown so weary of the high standards I had set for myself and those around me. I wanted a way out of the perfectionist trap and to loosen the reigns.

I realized that the most beautiful encounters with my children had been when I decided to say, "Oh, don't worry about it!" (i.e. the house, dinner, naptime schedules, etc). Love and joyful encounters with my children was incomparable to the latter. I knew my children needed me to look at them and not the 3-day- old stain on the dining room floor. The beauty in the moments, when I intentionally chose stillness and gratitude over productivity, was the reason I decided it was time to lay down a life-long pattern of perfectionism and control.

The problem was, I didn't really know where to start. I had been living this way for more than three decades. But I did know that I needed to start somewhere. So I started practicing being imperfect. Just like I had been teaching my 4-year old son. "The only way to get better at something is by practicing," I would tell him.

So, I did. And so I still am, practicing being imperfect.

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