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“I hate that vest! I’m not wearing it!”

“I hate going to the grocery store!”


“I hate you!”

This kind of hate speech is allowed in my house.

My kids, especially my five-year-old, utter “the H-word” more often than I’d like. When I hear it my chest tightens, my jaw clenches, and I have to force myself to take deep breaths.

Banning my kids from saying “hate” would make me a hypocrite, however. I’m guilty of telling my husband “I hate when you pick your teeth at the table!” I can’t count the number of times I’ve complained that I hate our local grocery store’s un-intuitive online shopping tool (possibly more than I hate taking my children grocery shopping).

Also, having a rule means enforcing it. I struggle to get my kids to brush their teeth every morning before school. I feel like I’ve climbed Mount Everest by the time they’re tucked in for the night. I don’t want to give my precious energy to the enforcement of another rule.

Moreover, all parents know telling kids they aren’t allowed to use a certain word is an excellent way to ensure they use it as much as possible. Research shows that kids are 11 million times more likely to do the thing they’ve been expressly told not to do. And by research I mean my own informal studies performed totally unscientifically, using my own children as subjects.

The main reason I haven’t banned the H-word is that I want my kids to be free to express themselves, whether it’s about a vest they’d rather not wear or the kind of mother they wish I was. When they act like little dictators, they’re not trying to drive me crazy. They’re trying to tell me something. Says Kate Orson, Hand in Hand parenting instructor and author of “Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children,” “When a child says ‘I hate you!’ it’s like they are waving a red flag saying, ‘Help! I’m not thinking well! I need connection with you and some help with my feelings.’”

Why you must listen

The power of listening as a means of fostering connection is stronger than many of us realize. But listening takes time and patience, after all. And who wants to listen to a kid’s angry outburst? Many of us have been told the best way to extinguish our children’s undesirable behavior is to ignore it. But in “Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges,” authors Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore, M.A. use neurobiology to flip that notion on its head. They explain that in order for kids to engage their prefrontal cortex, which allows them to think well, they need to feel connected to an adult or caregiver.

How does connection influence thinking? Just below the prefrontal cortex lies the limbic system, the brain’s social-emotional center. The limbic system is responsible for interpreting body language, tone of voice, and all kinds of other cues that determine whether we feel safe and connected with the people around us, anxious and afraid, or anywhere in between. According to Wipfler and Schore:

When your child feels connected and protected, her limbic system can do an important job: It can coordinate communication between all parts of her brain. It opens access to her prefrontal cortex, so the reasoning center of her brain can hum. Connection “turns on the lights upstairs.”… Through no fault of your own or anyone else’s your connection with your child will break often. When she feels threatened, frustrated, or when another feeling floods her system, she loses her sense of connection. Shazam! Her prefrontal cortex shuts down. She literally can’t think.

So when my kid yells “I hate you!” she’s already feeling disconnected from me. In my experience, disciplining, yelling at, or ignoring her only escalates her behavior. This is consistent with Wipfler and Schore’s work, which suggests that my negative reaction causes further disruption of our connection, which results in her impaired ability to engage her prefrontal cortex (i.e., her ability to “behave”).

I’m not saying my daughter’s occasional hateful outbursts don’t hurt my feelings. On good days, they sting. On bad days, they make me wonder if I’ve ever done anything right as a parent while I hide in the bathroom with the shower turned on to muffle the sound of my sobs. But understanding the vital role of connection in brain function makes it easier to step back, take a breath, and listen to the feelings underneath the ugly words.

Orson permits her daughter to say “I hate you” as much as she wants, but that doesn’t mean Orson ignores it. On the contrary, she sees the words as a demonstration of her child’s “disconnected state and upset feelings.” She described a recent interaction between herself and her daughter. Upon Orson’s return from a three-day trip, her daughter said, “I don’t like you.” She says, “I knew this was because [my daughter] had some feelings about me being away and that I needed to reconnect with her, so I moved in close, gave her a hug, and she started giggling. Laughter is one of the ways children naturally release stress and tension and get better connected with us, so if your child says they hate something you might want to turn it around playfully.”

An alternative response

For parents struggling to find an appropriate response to “I hate you,” Orson recommends trying humor. “You could say, playfully, ‘What!? That can’t be right. You must have been eating that word muddle soup that turns your words around and you say the opposite. I’m sure you love me really.’ And see if that elicits some laughter.”

Humor is not always the best medicine, however. Orson cautions it’s important to read your child and the situation. “Sometimes if children are really angry, then being playful around it can make them feel more angry, in which case you have to be the best judge of what’s going to work well in the moment.” Another alternative to the playful approach would be to move physically closer and make eye contact. At that point, they might actually start crying, “as they sense your connection and can let go the feelings behind the anger.” In this case, not only have you resolved the issue at hand, but according to Orson, this kind of tirade is less likely in the future “because your child has let go of the feelings behind it.”

I’m not saying I encourage my kids to act like brats. For example, I wouldn’t allow them to say they hate the dinner Grandma is serving or to tell a friend they hate her. In this type of situation, Orson recommends gently setting a limit, which looks very different than whisper-yelling at your child “We don’t talk like that!” or threatening to take away her favorite doll. (In my experience these “strategies” are rarely effective anyway). Orson recommends moving in closer to your child, crouching down to their level, making eye contact and kindly – without shame or blame –  saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t let you say that,” and explaining that it hurts the other person’s feelings.

Hate is a strong word and an even stronger emotion. I’m not saying I like to hear the word in my house, but I tolerate it because I want my kids to know their negative emotions are just as valid as their positive emotions. I want them to grow up knowing that whatever they have to say, I am listening.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

BUY


This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As any parent knows, newborns need to eat a lot to keep fuel in those tiny tummies. For breastfeeding mamas, that can translate to nursing sessions anywhere, any time of day—which can make it feel like a full-time job. So, what's a mama to do when she has other things on her to-do list?

Let's take a look at some celebrity mothers who are showing the world that mamas have legendary multitasking skills. 👊

Jessie James Decker is a backseat breastfeeder

By the time her third child was born, Jessie James Decker had a few tricks up her sleeve when it came to breastfeeding on the go—including how to get situated in the backseat of the car to nurse her son while he was strapped into the car seat.

Decker doesn't recommend mamas go without a seatbelt like she did, but sometimes, a bad day out with the baby calls for extreme measures. When little Forrest couldn't stop crying on the way home from his mama's photo shoot, his mama did what she had to do.

"I hopped in the back seat with Forrest and fed him with boob out leaned awkwardly over the car seat to calm him down," Decker says. "On the way home I cried, I got stressed and anxiety, and I was just a mom trying to do my best just like we all are no matter the situation."

Pink takes a hike

When son Jameson was a baby, Pink proved that breastfeeding didn't have to mean sitting at home in a glider. With some assistance from a baby carrier and a perfect position for Jameson, the multitasking mama was able to go about her hike like it was no big deal.

Gisele Bündchen 'grammed her breastfeeding glam session

In 2013, the super model proved she's also a super mama by multitasking a full-on beauty session while breastfeeding. Recognizing what a team effort it was, Bündchen captioned the post, "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours of flying and only three hours of sleep."

Tess Holliday was inspired by her fellow supermodel mama 

Tess Holliday followed in Gisele's footsteps after her youngest was born, posting this photo to Instagram. It that proves that breastfeeding mamas can not only multitask, but also don't have to conform to certain body ideals to look amazing postpartum. Any size, any shape, any time, anywhere—breastfeeding mothers like Holliday are normalizing breastfeeding and our bodies.

Padma Lakshmi proves you don't need a team

Without a beauty squad on call, Lakshmi took her multitasking to "level 💯" by using a nursing pillow to free up her two hands. It takes a brave woman to attempt mascara while breastfeeding, but the Top Chef host clearly pulls it off.

Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy. Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.

[Update, September 23: This post was originally published June 12, 2018. It has been updated to include Tess Holliday's Instagram post]

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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So many parents wish there was a way we could add more hours to the day. Unfortunately, we're stuck with just 24 of them, but we can try to make the most of the time we've got. One way more and more working mamas are maximizing the time we do have is by cutting out the commute and working from home.

It can add an hour or two back to your day, and (depending on your hours and circumstances) it can even make childcare arrangements easier. And with more big companies offering legit remote opportunities, it's easier than ever for parents to find these opportunities. As Motherly recently reported, Amazon is on a bit of a remote hiring spree ahead of the holiday season, and it's not the only one.

Williams-Sonoma is currently seeking Seasonal Customer Service Associates to work from home. It is looking for remote workers in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Phoenix, Reno, Tulsa, and near Raleigh, Columbus, Braselton, and Oklahoma City.

These work-from-home positions are part of Williams-Sonoma's plan to hire about 3,500 associates for its Customer Care Centers. The company says a "significant portion of positions" for the Customer Care Centers will be work-from-home. They're looking for remote workers who live no more than an hour and a half away from one of the Customer Care Centers as "on occasion our Work From Home associates must come to the Care Center for meetings and training with advanced notice," the company notes in the job postings.


The positions are very similar to what Amazon is looking for: Basically customer service reps who can take inbound calls to help shoppers with orders, returns and issues with finding products or deliveries of products. Williams-Sonoma is looking for people who can work 30 - 50 hours per week, and the pay is listed at $12 per hour.

Another perk is a 40% discount on most merchandise, which great because the Williams-Sonoma umbrella includes brands like Pottery Barn and West Elm as well.

Sounds like this could be a great gig for a mama with customer service skills and a high-speed internet connection.

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Plenty of modern motherhood paraphernalia was made to be seen—think breastfeeding pillows that seamlessly blend into living room decor or diaper bags that look like stylish purses. The breast pump though, usually isn't on that list.

It's traditionally been used in the privacy of our homes and hotel rooms in the best case scenarios, and in storage closets and restrooms in the worst circumstances. For a product that is very often used by mothers because they need to be in public spaces (like work and school), the breast pump lives a very private life.

Thankfully, some high profile moms are changing that by posting their pump pics on Instagram. These influential mamas aren't gonna hide while they pump, and may change the way the world (and product designers) see this necessary accessory.

1. Gail Simmons 

Top Chef's Gail Simmons looked amazing on the red carpet at the 2018 Emmys, but a few days after the award show the cookbook author, television host and new mama gave the world a sneak peek into her backstage experience. It wasn't all glam for Gail, who brought her pump and hands-free bra along on the big night.

We're thankful to these women for showing that breast pumps belong in public and in our Instagram feeds.

[Update, September 21, 2018: This post was originally published on May 31, 2018, but has been updated to include a recent Instagram post by Gail Simmons.]

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  2. Behati Prinsloo shamed for 'pumping and dumping' during date with hubby Adam Levine
  3. Nicole Phelps pumping in an evening gown is the ultimate definition of a multi-tasking mama 👏
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