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Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It” by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz is not marketed as a parenting guide. Voss worked as a hostage negotiator, often dealing with life or death situations. However, Voss is the first to admit that negotiating is an essential part of life for all of us, whether we are asking for a raise or trying to get our children out of the house on time.

His tips work to help people understand each other’s views better, therefore opening up the path for successful negotiations. Most of us will never be in a high stakes situation where someone’s life is on the line, but knowing how to apply negotiation skills can make daily interactions easier.

Skeptics of negotiation may prejudge these techniques as manipulative. Never split the difference means don’t compromise, and how can that ever work in parenting unless we’re dictators lording our authority over our children? It works because Voss’ techniques are exactly the kind of results-based, tried-and-true approaches that can improve relationships. They acknowledge that emotions, not logic or reason, often guide decision making, something any parent who has ever survived the toddler years can attest to.

Voss says “Negotiation is the heart of collaboration,” and having partners to collaborate with is a much more positive experience than having a tiny village to be dictator over. Negotiating means coming to a true understanding of a child’s point of view and then working from that place. Using these approaches will give parents an edge.

Tactical empathy

Voss describes tactical empathy as “emotional intelligence on steroids.” Besides trying to see the world from another person’s view to understand his feelings, tactical empathy also means being committed to finding out what is “behind those feelings” according to Voss. He believes this is how we can truly affect the outcome of the situation at hand.

Tactical empathy does not mean a parent has to agree with a child’s point of view. A child may feel he is justified in hitting his sibling because a verbal argument took an unfortunate turn. A parent isn’t responsible for agreeing with that. The parent is just responsible for trying to understand in that moment what the child’s perspective was and the emotion that led to the encounter.

Doing that means the parent has a way to influence the child’s view of the behavior because the parent is listening and dealing with the child’s feelings. Parents earn trust this way, and then they can influence behavior.

Empathy is a non-combative way to handle problems, which is preferred by most parents. However, those who grew up with harder tactics being used on them may feel like they are being weak when using empathy to understand instead of just authority to punish.

However, empathy is considered a powerful tool in all human interactions by many, including “The Zen Leader” author Ginny Whitelaw. It’s a soft skill, but that doesn’t mean weak. It works better than brute force in most cases and can build a relationship instead of weaken it.

Tactical empathy helped Voss get three fugitives to surrender after a six-hour standoff, so surely it can help us convince our kids to put their clothes in the laundry basket.

Label the feeling

Feelings can be big, scary things for adults, so imagine what they are like for kids. Being frustrated, angry, or scared puts a child on edge, and that can mean not even having the language to define what emotion is being felt. That’s what makes labeling so powerful.

Labeling an emotion brings it out in the open and makes it manageable. If we can talk about it, we can handle it, so after practicing tactical empathy and putting yourself in your child’s shoes, label the emotion. This may mean saying:

“It seems like you are angry that your brother made fun of you.”

“It sounds like you are scared of not knowing what to expect at school.”

“It looks like you are anxious about trying something new.”

By putting the feeling out there and letting kids agree or disagree with our assessment, we allow them to elaborate on what they are going through. We prove that feelings can be talked about safely. A parent can understand how a child feels, and that makes the entire experience less isolating.

Take note: Voss warns that labeling should never start with the word “I.” “I” is a me-focused word and can cause people to instinctively raise their guards. “I” is also not neutral. If a parent labels an emotion incorrectly, it’s easier to back up and try again if “I” hasn’t been used since “I” implies ownership of the label. Simply saying “it seems” offers an observing instead of a judging point of view.

Aim for these two words

It’s nice when our kids tell us we’re right, but rarely does that mean any positive change is going to occur. Voss says telling somebody they are right is often just a way to stroke their ego while also getting them to leave us alone. According to Voss, the game changer phrase is “that’s right.”

When we use negotiation strategies correctly and empathize while also labeling, we help kids figure out how they feel. We guide them to making their way to the real problem. When we do this, we can then repeat back to them what the real issue is, such as:

“It seems like you don’t want to take swim lessons even though you love the pool because you are afraid you’re going to fail.”

The child says “that’s right,” and they now realize what the true problem is. They aren’t scared of drowning or meeting new people during swim class. They just really don’t want to look like an idiot who can’t learn to swim.

This is a major breakthrough. By naming the problem and acknowledging what it truly is, they can now be a part of the problem solving. Sometimes just realizing what the real issue is helps kids move forward.

Stay cool

It’s easier said than done, but getting through a sticky situation with an uncooperative child works best when a parent stays patient. Voss says that in the worst of situations, not losing control is key. So how do we do that when kids seem to know just how to push our buttons?

One way is to ask calibrated questions. Calibrated questions are open-ended, and Voss recommends they start with how or what.

A favorite hobby of one of my four-year-old daughters is to ask for food items that we don’t have. She asks for a banana, I say we don’t have any, and she loses her mind. This is usually followed closely by me losing mine.

Voss believes that if I instead stop and ask a calibrated question we might both come out of this skirmish unscathed.

Examples that could work are:

“How am I supposed to feed you a banana right now?”

“What can I do to fix this problem?”

Asking her how puts the problem solving directly back onto her shoulders, offering her the ability to see things from a different point of view. It also gives me time to calm down before my entire day is compromised by bananas, or a lack thereof.

Tone of voice is key when asking calibrated questions. We’re inviting our kids to be problem solvers with us, so we don’t want our tone of voice to convey anger that will add fire to their distress.

Learning along the way

Implementing these techniques takes work. It can feel unnatural at first, but once results are seen, it’s easier to commit for the long haul. I found that out one morning when I used calibrated questions on one of my kids to diffuse a tantrum, and it worked. She stopped crying, tried to solve the problem on her own, realized there were some insurmountable obstacles to her request and moved on. I simply asked the right questions the right way using Voss’ advice.

Using these techniques helps us parent, but it also teaches our kids to problem solve. At some point, they will hopefully be able to internalize this process, looking at situations from other people’s points of view to work through problem solving. We won’t be hostages to their big feelings, and they won’t be either.

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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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I can vividly remember the last time I remember feeling truly rested. I was on vacation with my family, and my dad and I had started a tradition of going to sleep at 10 p.m., then waking up at 10 a.m. to go for a run. After five days of twelve hours of sleep a night, I remember actually pausing and thinking, "I am truly not at all tired right now!"

That was probably 15 years ago.

Of course, being tired pre-kids and being tired post-kids are two entirely different beasts. Pre-kids, tiredness was almost a badge of pride. It meant you had stayed up late dancing with friends or at a concert with your boyfriend. It meant you had woken up early to hit a spin class before gliding into work, hair still damp from your shower, for a morning meeting. Being tired meant you were generally killing it at life—and I was still young enough that, with a little concealer, I could look like it.

Tired post-kids is a whole other animal.

Tired post-kids means you probably still went to bed at a reasonable hour, but you're still exhausted. Maybe you even slept in past sunrise... but you're still exhausted. You may not have worked out in weeks... but you're still exhausted. And staying out late dancing with your girlfriends? (I mean... is that real life? Was it ever?) Nope, didn't do that. But—you guessed it!—you're still exhausted.

Sometimes I look at my husband and say, "I think if I could sleep for about five days, then I would feel rested again."

But considering the average new mom loses almost two months of sleep in her child's first year of life, even that is probably a low estimate of what I really need.

Because being a mom is exhausting.

It's exhausting always putting someone else's needs above your own. I often find myself actually giving my daughter the food off my plate (because, when you're two, mom's meal must be better even if you're eating the exact same thing).

Or I'll sacrifice sneaking my own nap to lie uncomfortably with her on the couch because it means she sleeps an extra 30 minutes.

Or I'll carry her up and down flights of stairs she is perfectly capable of scaling on her own because, well, she's tired or it's just quicker than nagging her to hurry up all the time.

I often end the day bone-tired, shocked at the physical exertion of just keeping this little person alive.

It's exhausting remembering all the things. The mental load of motherhood is so real, and sometimes I'm not sure it won't crush me.

I schedule and remember the doctor appointments, keep the fridge stocked and plan the meals, notice when my husband is low on white shirts and wash and fold the laundry, add the playdates and the date nights to the calendar, and add any assortment of to-dos to my day because, well, I'm the parent at home, so I must have time, right?

And when I drop one of the thousand balls I'm juggling, I writhe under the guilt of failing at my responsibility.

It's exhausting not getting enough sleep. The sleep gap doesn't end after baby's first year.

Studies have shown that parents lose as much as six months of sleep in their child's first two years of life. That sounds unbelievable at first...but I completely believe it.

Because sometimes I stay up later than I should just to get a few minutes of "me" time. Because sometimes my sleep-trained daughter still wakes up in the middle of the night with a nightmare or because she's sick or for no real reason at all and needs me to soothe her back to sleep.

Because sometimes I'm so busy trying to keep it all together mentally that I don't know how to turn my own brain off to get to sleep. And because sometimes (almost always) my daughter wakes up earlier than I would like her to and the day starts over before I'm ready.

It's exhausting maintaining any other relationship while being a mom. I try not to neglect my marriage. I try not to neglect my friendships. I try to make time for friendly interaction with my coworkers. I try to be there for my congregation. I try to keep all these connections alive and nurtured, but the fact is that some days my nurture is completely used up.

It's exhausting doing all of the above while being pregnant. Okay, this one might not resonate for every mom, but we all know being pregnant is hard. Being pregnant with a toddler? I'm shocked it's not yet an Olympic event. (I'm not sure if we'd all get gold medals or just all fall asleep at the starting gun.)

Most days, I'm so tired and busy I honestly forget that I am pregnant, only to be reminded at the end of the day when I finally collapse on the couch and the little one in my uterus wakes up to remind me. My body is doing amazing things, sure—and I have the exhaustion to show for it.

Of course, I know that this is just an exhausting season of life. One day, one not-so-far-off day, my children will be a bit more grown and be able to get their own breakfast in the morning. One day, they'll actually want to sleep in, and I'll be the one opening their curtains in the morning to start the day (maybe before they're really ready).

One day, they'll always walk up and down the stairs themselves and will stop stealing my food and I'll be able to nap without making sure they are asleep or with a sitter. One day, they won't need me to remember all the things.

And the really wild part? Just thinking about that day makes me miss these days, just a bit.

So, yes, I'm tired. I'm always tired. But I'm grateful too. Grateful I get to have these days. Grateful I get to have this life.

But also really grateful for those days I get to nap, too.

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For the first couple years of a child's life, their feet grow so rapidly that they typically need a new shoe size every two to three months (so, no, you're not imagining how many shoes you've been buying lately!).

Fortunately, things tend to slow down as they start walking and hit school age. Even so, it's important to make sure they're wearing the right size for maximum comfort and healthy development.

That's why we teamed up with the experts at Rack Room Shoes for tips on helping the whole family get back to school on the right foot.

1. Get professionally fitted at least once a year.

We love online shopping as much as anyone, but for the health of your child's feet, it's worth it to make at least an annual trip to a store to get them properly sized on a Brannock Device (yep, those old-school sizers you remember as a kid are still the most reliable indicators of foot length and width!). Back to school is a great time to plan a visit to a store with trained associates who can help ensure your little one is getting the right fit.

2. Remember not all feet (or shoes) are created equally.

Most babies have naturally pudgier feet that thin out as they get older, and many kids need a wider or narrower shoe than their peers. Visiting a store and speaking with a trained associate can help you gauge which shoe brand will best suit your child. Once you have that benchmark, shopping online will be easier.

3. Get good closure.

Shoe closure, that is. Nowadays, there's a variety of ways to fasten kids shoes, from slip-ons to velcro to elastic laces. Provide your child with a few options to find the closure that works best for you both.

4. Watch for tell-tale signs your child has outgrown their shoes.

Children will often be the last ones to tell you their favorite shoes are uncomfortable. If your child is tripping or walking funny, it may be time to size up.

5. Try the push-down toe method.

Think your kid has outgrown their kicks? Push down on the toe of their shoe with your thumb to see how much wiggle room they have. The ideal size is to have about half a thumb's width between the tip of the toe and the end of the shoe. (That space equates to about half a size.)

6. Pick a style they'll want to put on. (Here are some of our favorites!)

Most moms know the struggle of getting kids out the door in the morning—the right pair of shoes can help cut down on the (literal) foot-dragging. Opt for a fun style (consider shopping for their favorite color or a light-up design) that they'll be begging to wear every day. (But feel free to buy a second pair that's more your style too!)

You'll love that they're classic converse. They'll love the peek of pink.

Converse Girls Maddie, $44


7. Don't forget the sneakers.

Whether they're running through the recess or racing in P.E., school-age children need a pair of well-fitting, durable sneakers. Be sure to get them professionally fitted to ensure nothing slows them down on the playground.

8. Understand the size breakdowns.

Expert retailers like Rack Room Shoes break up sizing by Baby, Toddler, Little Kid, and Big Kid to make it easier to find the right section for your child. For boys, there's no size break between kids shoes and men's shoes. Girls, though, can cross over into women's shoes from size 4 (in girls) on—a girl's size 4 is a women's size 5.5 or 6.

Looking for more advice? Step into a Rack Room Shoes store near you or shop online. With a "Buy One, Get One 50% off" policy, you can make sure the whole family will put their best foot forward this back-to-school season. (We had to!)

Who knew Amazon had so many dreamy nursery must-haves? Maybe you have a friend or family member about to have a baby or you're preparing for your new bundle of joy—either way, you can save tons on grabbing some essentials on Prime Day.

We've rounded up our favorite nursery items from basics, like cribs and changing tables, to the essentials you never knew you needed (hint: lots of storage!).

1. 6-drawer dresser

This gorgeous dresser has plenty of space for baby's clothing and accessories—and will transition seamlessly to a big kid room one day. Even better? The top is large enough to be used as a changing table. The shade of white is great for any gender, too!

Dresser, Amazon, $239.99 ($329.99)


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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