A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

The idea of the “bullshit detector” as a mindset that separates truth from fiction was coined by George Washington in 1782. Actually, that fact is bullshit, but I bet someone will retweet it.


Bullshit is all around us. Digital communication, perpetual advertising, the 24-hour news cycle, and social media allows BS to flow like never before. (Sorry for that image.)

Grownups (mostly) understand this, but unfortunately children are the most susceptible to BS. The consequences of having a weak BS detector are most serious for teenagers, who are wired to experiment and push boundaries.

I don’t mean to be dire. Most kids eventually learn to detect BS at some level. Education and experience teach kids how to make choices over time. But preemptively guiding your kids to develop a BS detector can do three things:

  1. Keep them from wasting time, money, and mental energy.
  2. Empower them to practice critical thinking early on (a necessary skill in our digital economy).
  3. Protect their sense of openness and wonder, by teaching them to constructively direct their attention.

What Bullshit Is

“Communication or actions viewed as deceiving, misleading, disingenuous, unfair or false.”

In his bestselling essay “On Bullshit,” retired Princeton philosophy professor Harry G. Frankfurt wrote that “bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

I found this useful definition of bullshit from Simon Hayes on Quora: “The key ingredient in all flavours of bullshit is the undisclosed agenda.”

Bullshit is intentional misdirection. Unlike pure lying, it often contains elements of truth, which better conceals the bullshitter’s agenda. Bullshitters are only concerned with their own advantage. They usually don’t mean to harm others, though that’s often a consequence of bullshit. And some bullshit is worse than others.

When to Introduce the Concept

Kids start knowing the difference between the truth and lying by age 3. This is also when they begin to become more cognitively aware of the consequences of lying. Many kids at this age have a very strong sense of fairness. (Anyone with young kids has heard the phrase “It’s not fair!” many, many times.)

At that age, kids are also exposed to the concepts of manipulation and trickery in their stories, fairy tales and cartoons. However, they might not connect the lessons in those fables with their own lives.

Therefore, they need a bit of guidance to develop their a baloney detector (in kid speak).

How to Help Your Kids Build a BS Detector

Questions Are The Most Powerful Tool

A requirement for BS detection is a habit of instinctively asking questions. The ability to “think in questions” is also necessary for critical thinking, and a key life skill.

The best way to get kids in the habit of questioning is by asking them open-ended questions:

  • “I wonder how they know that?”
  • “That seems incredible! Does that make sense to you?”
  • “I wonder why they chose to say that?”
  • “What do you think is really going on here?”
  • “What do you think ______ is hoping to get out of this ad, statement, etc?”

Don’t tell them that their answers are right or wrong. Engage in conversation. Keep it light. Over time, they’ll learn to constructively ask questions themselves – even when you’re not around.

Simply being able to ask questions (and at later stages of development, knowing how to formulate good questions) is the best way to discover that a bullshitter has an “undisclosed agenda” as mentioned above.

Use Teachable Moments

Respectfully pointing out BS when it occurs can help provide context for how it works. If your kids are young, point out examples of BS in the media, on product packaging, and in ads, rather than focusing on people who are full of bullshit.

Sometimes I’ll simply point out a TV ad that seems misleading.  I’ll say “What do you think this ad is selling?” Or “What do you think it really means?”

Building on the research element noted below, I might look up the sugar in a cereal featured in an ad on TV and ask “How can a cereal that’s more than half sugar claim it’s healthy, when we know that too much sugar is bad for our health?”

Fairytales, children’s stories, and cartoons also provide accesible teachable moments. The villains in these tales are often great bullshitters.

(BTW, giving a kid an allowance and making them use it also quickly attunes kids to marketing BS.)

Deploy Humor

There are two ways of using humor to build immunity to BS. The first is making fun of blatant, ridiculous examples of BS. The claims of almost any “As Seen on TV” product are a reliable target for this.

Joking around as a family also helps kids develop healthy perspective and skepticism. It also helps them appreciate the nuances of language – language being the chief weapon of bullshit.

Research Together

When some dubious claim comes along, be a positive role model and investigate it. This is practically a family game in my house.

A quick Google search is usually enough (though it’s possible to go down a rabbit hole, double and triple checking the information found on Wikipedia, etc.). The rule of thumb for quick research is to seek information from an unaffiliated source.

In some cases, however, the most fun way to verify a fact is by talking to a real person – a parent, grandparent, a family friend, or teacher. Simply saying, “Let’s ask your mom what she thinks” also sets a positive precedent for getting second opinions.

As They Get Older

As kids get older, you can start talking to them about some of the specific markers of BS in language and communication. Some of these include:

  • Friendliness without friendship – salespeople and politicians are the worst at this. When someone you don’t know fawns all over you, it’s almost certain they want something from you.
  • Vague language – so often the sign of bs.
  • Claims of authority without expertise
  • Claims without facts, or (more insidious) claims with unrelated facts

With older kids, you can also check out these great animations about critical thinking. They’re designed for kids aged 12 and up or so – but younger kids might like them too.

Older kids can also learn how to perform quality research.

Protecting Wonder

The first rule of BS is to expect it. It’s never too early to introduce the cliche that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

But there’s a fear that in teaching kids to expect BS, they’ll grow up as cynical doubters or disengaged pessimists.

It’s important to guard kid’s openness and natural sense of wonder. I loathe the idea that, in anticipating bullshit (manipulation and insincerity), wonder might wither into unthinking skepticism.

However, my belief is that by having the understanding, practice, and confidence to question and think for themselves, they’ll have richer lives and remain wide-open to wonder.

Indeed, one of the greatest benefits of having a finely tuned bullshit detector is also having a a finely tuned detector for sincerity and gratitude.

Carl Sagan pondered this enigma. He wrote:

“If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.

On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.

Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world and especially in dealing with the future. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought that is central to the success of science.”

Swap the word “science” for “life” in that last sentence.

Our kids will be subjected to bullshit throughout their lives. At first, having a BS detector can help them make smarter choices at school, on the playground, and with their allowance at the store.

As they grow older, having a well-honed BS detector can help them kids make smarter choices with their health, finances, and in their work, community and romantic relationships.

*Warning

Some parents may not want to teach their kids to ask questions, think for themselves, and preemptively detect bullshit. That’s because someday the kids might call their parents on their bullshit. Understandable, perhaps. But this is the place to note that the most insidious source of bullshit comes from oneself.

Also, if you’re really good at this teaching your kids to understand bullshit, they probably won’t believe in Santa for very long.

Further reading:

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

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.

You might also like:

Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

You might also like:

When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

You might also like:


The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.


Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.