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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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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.


A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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