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It started like most projects do – with extravagant ideas and sheer excitement.

The idea to create this masterpiece was hatched one summer night when the sun was scorching hot and the kids needed some shade. My kids had been thumbing through tree house books and watching “Treehouse Masters” with their dad, who shares the same enthusiasm as they do. Since our yard is exposed to the sun until later in the evening, the kids decided that a tree house could be a nice reprieve for their afternoon adventures.

Plans were sketched out, more books looked at, and hours spent talking about the perfect design. My son even started building a makeshift house with bamboo sticks, wood stakes, PVC sprinkler pipe, and plywood. (I’ve often thought they should have just stuck with that!)


Our house was a buzz of energy all summer long. At times, it felt like all we talked about was this elaborate plan. Would it have a roof? Could we put windows in it? How about some electricity? My daughter is a concrete-sequential learner, so she would sit out in the area designated for the tree house with her notebook and pencil and sketch it out. My son, who has the energy of a Tasmanian devil, was put in charge of gathering what was needed.

We could all imagine the possibilities of this grandiose tree house. My husband said to me one night, “That’s the thing about this house; it’s going to be built by them. It’s a kid treehouse, not an adult treehouse. When I find them backing away from the project to play in the yard instead, I’m done. I’m not doing it for them.”

Hanging back and allowing children to learn and make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges and gifts of parenting. As parents, we often fail to recognize how capable our children are. We forget that one of the central tasks of growing up is to develop a sense of self.

Everything was going according to plan, until one day when it all stopped. I remember pulling in the driveway after work and watching my husband working on the saw. The kids were nowhere to be found. He stood there shaking his head as I walked towards him.

My husband has a way of teaching lessons in actions rather than words, which is refreshing in a world that is so filled with too much language and not enough follow-through. I overparent with too many words and instructions, reminders, and interruptions.

He cut that final piece of wood and put all the materials away. As soon as the kids came out from wherever they had wandered off to, they were stunned. They could hardly believe that the project was done for the day, and possibly forever.

He had no timeline; he couldn’t care less if it sat unfinished for years, because it is not about him. In those moments when I want him to give the kids a second, or third, or fourth chance to get their act together and help, he sticks to his decision. It will be built when they are ready. Unlike me, he has the ability to stick to natural consequences. He does not take on these projects in furtherance of his own ego.

A growing number of experts agree that by stepping in too often, we can actually set kids back. Many educators and parenting experts say failure – even the opportunity for failure – is a necessary ingredient for raising autonomous, resilient young adults.

Overall, stepping in and doing for children what they can do for themselves is negative. Dr. Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well, speaks of three ways we might be overparenting and unwittingly causing psychological harm:

  • when we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves
  • when we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves
  • when our parenting behavior is motivated by our own ego.

Recently, I had the honor of interviewing Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the New York Times bestseller How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. The overarching theme in this brilliant book can best be understood with one particular passage:

“There’s tremendous psychological harm that comes from overparenting. Most damaging to kids is the implied message that they’re not equipped to handle life’s bumps on their own. When parents jump in, remove obstacles, orchestrate play, and direct the future, they extinguish a child’s ability to think and act for themselves.”

As a school counselor, I often struggle with finding the best resources for parents. If there was one thing I could pick to send home on the first day of school, it would be a copy of Lythcott-Haims’ best seller. She insists that recovery from overparenting is possible and has great advice for many well-intended parents who are looking for ways to parent differently.

In my interview with Lythcott-Haims, I asked her to share some of the main takeaways from her book. She talked about encouraging parents to:

“Parent for the long-term, not for perfection this afternoon. We act as if every playdate, every tryout, and every piece of schoolwork is a make or break moment for their future, so we over-help to ensure all of these things go optimally. It is better that our kids experience the ups and downs that naturally happen in life and learn that through their own effort and perseverance they can succeed.”

Since I am actively participating in the 12-step recovery program for hovering parents, reading her book and interviewing her could not have come at a better time. Even though I have preached this way of parenting for years in my professional life as a school counselor, when it comes time to roll up my sleeves and dig in with my own kids, I often fail – miserably.

So, armed with a better understanding of how I sometimes get in the way of my own children’s autonomy, I wanted to ask Lythcott-Haims what she would suggest to a parent that has already started down the path of overparenting:

“I feel ya. I didn’t realize I was overparenting until my kids were about eight and 10 when I leaned over at dinner one night and began cutting my 10-year-old son’s meat. That was my “aha” moment. (What to do about it was a little less clear to me.) Here’s what I’ve learned: First, if you have a partner, get them on board. Second, look around and identify the ways in which you may be over-parenting.

Use your memory of your childhood as a handy comparison. Are you still dressing your kid at age seven? Are you still bathing them at age eight? Are you cutting their meat at age nine? When they have a playdate, are you telling them what to play with or how to play? Are you acting as their alarm clock in middle school? Are they regularly oversleeping and you’re their go-to solution for getting to school in high school? Are you on top of all their school work, aware of deadlines and assignments and constantly asking them about all of it? Are you doing some of their homework for them?

Step back and look at these behaviors. You’re acting more like a concierge – a person whose job is to ensure stuff gets done smoothly – than a parent. When we overparent, our kids get the implicit message that we don’t think they’re capable of doing things for themselves. They also learn that we’ll always be there to take care of every little thing. But we won’t.”

Lythcott-Haims also shared that, “Sometimes we are overparenting because it makes us feel useful, needed, worthy, and loved. But it’s unhealthy – for us and for our kids – to put that ego need of ours onto them.”

Over the last couple of years, I have realized that one of the best things I’ve done for my family is to make a clear distinction between where I end and my kids begin. Simply put, they are not merely an extension of me. Above all, we must remember that capable kids become independent, happy adults. Often times, the adults in their world take away the ability to dream and make decisions. We fault them for not being able to articulate precisely what they want to do when in reality they do know what they want, we just don’t quiet our own voice long enough to listen to what they have to say.

When they look to you to fix a problem they created, resist the urge to rescue them from the consequences of their mistakes. By offering to rescue them from any discomfort, you are implying that they lack an ability to solve the problem on their own, which ultimately equates to a lack of belief in their ability to do anything.

When I asked Lythcott-Haims what she would tell parents of younger kids, she told me something that I immediately identified with as a parent who’s done things for my children that I know they can do for themselves:

“Believe it or not, our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job by raising our kids to independent adulthood. This means we ought to be keenly interested not in doing everything for our kids but in teaching our kids to do more and more by and for themselves each year.

What gets in the way of this, of course, is that we can do almost everything faster, more neatly, or more efficiently than they can. Why have your kid set the table when he’s not going to do it as well as you do? Because he’ll never learn to do it at all, let alone well, unless you let him start doing it!

We’ve got to let go of our need for perfection, and instead delight in the fact that our kids are learning, contributing, and becoming more skilled along the way.”

Our need to do things for them is robbing our children of the opportunity to develop self-efficacy; the belief in their abilities to complete a task, reach goals, and manage a situation. They need to believe in their abilities — not in their parents’ abilities to help do those things for them. A child with high self-efficacy works harder, is more optimistic, less anxious, and more often perseveres.

I think so often we are worried about our children’s self-esteem and therefore don’t allow them to develop self-efficacy. Because of this, I can’t help but wonder if we are enabling kids to the extent that they’re almost helpless.

There was one particular section of Lythcott-Haims’ book where I found myself screaming “YES” while reading. She urges her readers to avoid saying “we” when they mean their kid. “We” aren’t on the t-ball team, “we” aren’t doing the late night homework and “we” aren’t going to school every day. Our kid is.

Even after 17 years as a school counselor, I am still stunned when parents say “we” are applying to college or “we” need to fill out scholarship applications. These young adults must develop the skills necessary to advocate for themselves. Is this why we have high school seniors who have to text their parents in the middle of class to ask what topic they should write about in AP English? Does this contribute to the reasons that college students end up back home after one semester? When the going gets tough, they panic and call for us.

Dr. Levine states that: “Parents must acknowledge their own anxiety. Your job is to know your child well enough to make a good call about whether he can manage a particular situation. Will you stay up worrying? Probably, but the child’s job is to grow, yours is to control your anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of his reasonable move toward autonomy.”

Trusting in our kids’ abilities to navigate life requires patience, patience, and more patience. But ultimately, we must continue to remind ourselves that this is their path. If we are working harder than they are at navigating daily tasks, then we are robbing them of the ability to write their own story.

Sometimes we need reminders that the path leading to their life is best travelled by them.

We need to just land the helicopter, put the tiger back in the cage, leave the free range to the chickens and just be a parent – a guide to our children, one that walks alongside them instead of in front or behind.

The question we need to ask is: how do parents create an environment that is encouraging, supportive, and sets the foundation for independence?

While reading Lythcott-Haims’ book, I was reminded of a strategy that educators use in the classroom that mimics much of what she describes in her book. Dr. Madeline Hunter prescribes a four step process for educators to use in the classroom while working with students. It lends itself nicely for parents to also use at home:

1. Watch how I do it (modeling)

2. You help me do it (or we do it together)

3. I’ll watch you do it and give feedback

4. You do it alone.

While creating the tree house opportunity, my husband modeled by looking through plans, measuring, using tools, and beginning the process of assembly. He let them practice the skills he taught them (do it together), while providing feedback along the way (watch). After he was confident that they learned enough, he walked away (you do it alone) leaving them with simple tasks that they could accomplish on their own. They were left to problem solve and rely on each other to get things done. What took place that afternoon is a true definition of self-efficacy.

While the simple act of building a tree house may not seem like a significant life lesson, the very valuable skills of autonomy, problem-solving, and self-efficacy can be seen in every part of that structure. My kids can stand back and say that they truly had a hand in every line sketched, measurement taken, board cut, and nail used (Gasp! Yes, he did let them use a nail gun).

The best reward to come from this project is about so much more than a tree house. It’s the absolute pride and gratification my kids have from the work they did. Visitors can’t even make it up the front steps of our house without my son giving his usual welcome: “Before you go in, you have to check out the tree house my sister and I built. It’s awesome!”

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.

While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.


Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).


Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.


Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!


Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.


Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!


Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.


Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!


Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.


Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.


Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.


Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.


Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!


Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.


This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:


Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.



Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.


Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.


Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.


Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.


Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.


Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.


Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.


As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
Learn + Play

Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.


This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.


Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).

Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.


But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

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