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How Household Contributions Teach Kids to Care for Others

He was only five years old, teetering down the stairs to the basement, his arms full of clothes. I followed, intrigued, assuming his load was supplies for a fort or some other imagined adventure. His bare feet padded quietly across the concrete floor and his little arms circled his bundle tightly. Arriving at his destination, his arms relaxed and the shirts and grass-stained pants fell limply to the floor. Then he did the most amazing thing: he sorted his clothing into three piles, turned, and plodded back up the stairs.

I stood, stunned, in the dimly lit laundry room, staring at what the boy had left behind: three mounds – whites, darks, and colors – lying by the washing machine. I was speechless. But for the boy, it was just another day and just another chore. Task completed, he returned to fighting imaginary battles and slaying make-believe dragons in the garden.

My amazement was not unfounded. According to a study by Braun Research released in 2014, only 28 percent of children are expected to complete household chores (compared to 82 percent of their parents’ generation). What was once considered the norm appears to now be the anomaly. The astounding thing is not, perhaps, the sharp decrease in number of households that incorporate chores into the daily family structure, but what we lose when we remove these seemingly menial tasks from our children’s list of expectations.

Chores in and of themselves provide a multitude of pro-social skills that greatly benefit our kids as they grow up. For instance, studies have shown that adults who began doing chores at a young age (three to four years old) were more likely to have academic and career successes, have positive relationships, and be self-sufficient. In a world that teaches us to continually strive to achieve that next goal, it’s hard to believe we overlook chores as a staple of childhood. Understandably, with so much success to measure and scholarships to achieve, children are often laden down with enough homework and extracurricular activities that chores may seem trivial.

However, they teach children something that is less measurable and yet is critical to success in life: how to care.

According to psychologist Richard Weissbourd, chores teach children more than just hard work and mastery, but also empathy and responsibility for, and responsiveness to, others. As discussed in his report, Weissbourd states that we “need to create more settings where children engage in traditions and rituals that build appreciation and gratitude and a sense of responsibility for one’s communities, and that enable them to practice helpfulness and service.” These traditions and rituals do not need to be grand gestures; understanding that helping one another benefits those we love is a big lesson that can be learned in small ways, whether that’s washing dishes or putting away toys.

Chores are an instinctual way to use children’s desire to be helpers to teach them how to care for one another. As Richard Rende, developmental psychologist and author of “Raising Can-Do Kids,” describes, these critical life skills we keep returning to are best learned “when chores are approached as the things we all need to do to take care of each other and make life better.” Which they are, inherently: cooking dinner sustains us, laundering clothes promotes health, and tidying up reduces anxiety.

Tasking children with a list of “to-dos” may be more of a means to an end than a lesson on caring. However, incorporating children into the rhythm of the day and into the tasks we complete to sustain ourselves – from cooking to cleaning to feeding the dog – will give the child a sense of responsibility and help him understand his role as a member of the family.

It’s easy to put off a chore in lieu of completing homework or practicing their sport or instrument of choice, but this teaches children that their individual task outweighs the benefits of contributing to the family as a whole. Asking your child to help make dinner or put his laundry away teaches him that his contributions to others are valuable. He learns to respond to the needs of others, develops empathic reactions, and ultimately builds upon his inherent desire to help and care for others.

Of course, the how and what of chores baffles many parents as does the discussion on whether paying children for chores is beneficial. (Paying a child gets the task done, but it does not allow a child to understand that the reward of a completed chore is not money but rather that he contributed to the greater good.) There are a few things to remember when incorporating chores into your child’s routine, from what is age-appropriate to how to motivate (especially for those trying to introduce chores with older children).

Consistency is key

Consistency and follow-through not only help your children understand that their new responsibility is theirs, but also help them understand the important role they have in the family. By letting them shirk this responsibility or pass it off to a sibling or parent, you teach them that their role in the family is either less important or more important than others’ roles. Neither is a positive choice.

Give tasks that they can complete

Asking a three-year-old to wash the porcelain dishes will end in tears as both child and parent become frustrated by a task the child cannot complete on their own. However, asking your toddler to help stir something you’re cooking or put away their toys provides them with small tasks that they can complete on their own. Their sense of accomplishment and joy in being a helper will keep them coming back for more.

Make tasks part of the routine

When children are invited to participate in routine tasks that benefit the family, they build responsiveness and empathy, fortifying their ability to nurture later in life. Children learn that sweeping the kitchen floor and doing everyone’s laundry contributes to the needs of others and helps them feel secure in their place in the group. They begin to see that they can help others.

Age matters

As children age, their ability to contribute increases. From carrying a couple items to the laundry, to sorting, then folding, and finally to completing the task on their own. By asking a child to participate at the level they are capable (not the level they are comfortable per se), they recognize that their contributions can change and adapt to their capabilities, the needs of the environment, and the needs of those around them.

Be careful what you say

Studies have shown that children who are referred to as “helpers” versus “helping” develop a stronger positive self-identity. And where there’s positive identity, there’s more willingness to contribute. Additionally, it’s important to remember that actions can speak louder than words. Saying you will do a chore as opposed to completing the chore (or putting it off) will have a big impact on your child’s motivation to participate.

Everyone wants to feel a sense of worth and children are no different. By acknowledging their role in the family and the importance of their contribution to the wellness of those they love, we have an opportunity to teach our children they matter. Not only that, we can show them that they are capable helpers and that their actions affect those around them. Learning empathy is crucial to developing the skills of caring for others, fostering positive relationships, succeeding academically and professionally, and cultivating self-reliance.

It just might be time to put aside the homework for an hour and cook dinner together instead.

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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.

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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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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The shape appeals to kids and the organic and gluten-free labels appeal to parents in the freezer aisle, but if you've got a bag of Perdue's Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets, don't cook them.

The company is recalling 49,632 bags of the frozen, fully cooked Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets because they might be contaminated with wood.

According to the USDA, Perdue received three complaints about wood In the nuggets, but no one has been hurt.

The nuggets were manufactured on October 25, 2018 with a "Best By" date of October 25, 2019. The UPC code is 72745-80656. (The USDA provides an example of the packaging here so you'll know where to look for the code).

In a statement on the Perdue website the company's Vice President for Quality Assurance, Jeff Shaw, explains that "After a thorough investigation, we strongly believe this to be an isolated incident, as only a minimal amount of these packages has the potential to contain pieces of wood."

If you have these nuggets in your freezer you can call Perdue 877-727-3447 to ask for a refund.

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