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10 Practical Tips For Teaching Young Kids Kindness and Safety

I let my daughter chase birds at the park, but she may never, ever hurt them.  I allow her to observe bugs and gently touch them if she would like to, but I ask that she never squish them. After all, they’re living creatures too. I never stop her when I overhear her reprimanding our dog, but I do remind her that he’s just a dog and forgetful like she is at times. And when she sees someone who is different from us and asks “Why are they like that?” I suggest we go up and ask them.

You would never believe the lessons and compassion that policy has created for her.

Recently my daughter returned from the park with my husband. While sharing her daredevil-ish moves and exciting adventures, she mentioned that there was a scary man sleeping on a bench. She said she stayed away from him because “we don’t talk to those people. They are bad.”  

I tried not to react and focused on her beaming pride about hanging off of the monkey bars and going down the big-girl slide. But inner turmoil and confusion crept from my stomach to my throat to my face for her and the world to see.

I was frozen. Part of me that felt ashamed because she called someone who was obviously homeless “scary” when chances were that their situation was just sad. 

Then I realized that what she believed was probably best and safest for her until she was old enough to understand. She was simply too young to balance compassion for someone it that situation while also knowing to keep her distance at the same time.

A little background: my husband was raised Hindu. Hinduism is a culture that prides itself on tolerance and kindness. I spent over a decade of my life studying Buddhism. While I sometimes found its passivity to be a detriment, I still relate to the loving kindness aspect of the religion, and always try to understand people before pointing fingers at them. 

It was very difficult to allow our child to believe that homeless people were scary. It felt like a contradiction of everything we are trying to teach her. Still, in my heart and bones I knew this was the best way to approach the situation. Her safety is the priority. Just as I tell her that the stove is hot even when it’s off so she doesn’t play by it, I needed to tell her (for now) that all strangers are dangerous so she won’t approach them. In this case, this rule includes homeless people. 

I still struggle with this. I wish I could find the perfect balance between safety and compassion for the mind of an-almost-four-year-old, but I truthfully believe that she’s too young for a fine-tuned balance to exist. 

Still, I do have some suggestions for teaching our young children to be kind and safe at the same time. This isn’t science by any means, but here are a few suggestions to pave the intentions in front of them.

For Safety

1 | Teach your children to trust their instincts: Most children are perceptive and intuitive by nature. That is why so many of them hide behind our legs and lower their volume when answering a question from someone they do not know. Nurture that gift. Tell them that if it doesn’t feel right to talk to someone, then they shouldn’t and they should find an adult they trust immediately.

2| Teach them social boundaries: Some children will talk to anyone while others won’t leave their caretakers sides. Teach your children that it isn’t okay to talk to strangers, and that it isn’t okay if strangers try to talk to them.

3 | Be honest about danger: We all find gentle ways to tell our kids not to accept candy from strangers, and not to get into a car with a stranger, but many parents are afraid to tell their children why. Tell your children of the dangers. Tell them that something bad can happen and that some strangers might try to take them away. Of course, you wouldn’t say this to a two-year-old, but as a child approaches three and four they can begin to process these threats and apply them in circumstances.

4 | Help your child to identify suspicious behavior: Instead of just scaring them with “stranger danger,” explain to them that it is not safe if a stranger offers them candy, asks for help finding something or someone, or pretends to be an authority in a make-believe story: “I know you are the kid that is bad in school. Come with me!”

Tell your child that they know all of your friends and if someone tries to pretend to be Mommy or Daddy’s friend, they are lying. Tell them over and over again to NEVER open a door for a stranger NO MATTER WHAT THE STRANGER SAYS, and NEVER get in a car with someone they don’t know.

5| Teach your children that it is okay to yell, kick, run, and do whatever they need to do to protect themselves: There is time for manners and time to make a huge scene, and we MUST teach our children that it is okay to act out this way if someone is trying to touch, hurt, or take them.

For compassion

1 | Don’t allow name-calling: Seems simple, but compassion begins with rules about what is okay and what is not. “Poopie head,” silly or not, should not be allowed. Teach children that when they get into an argument, it’s okay to be angry, but you still shouldn’t tease or call a person names.

2 | Teach good manners: By teaching children to say “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” we set them up to be kind in their social interactions.

3 | Reward kindness with love: When you observe your child being kind to others, tell them that you are proud! Give them hugs and kisses and even high fives. Emotional rewards stimulate the mind and nervous system in ways that material rewards never will. The ‘feel good’ rewards will make them yearn for more and will also teach them what if feels like when someone is kind to them.

4 | Don’t trash-talk in front of your kids: Children are always listening and always understanding much more than we imagine. Set a good example. Practice compassion in front of them. Do not talk poorly about anyone in front of your kids if you don’t want them speaking badly of others.

5 | Point out others demonstrating kindness: Teaching by example is always powerful.  Point out other kind children and adults. Talk about heroes and leaders who are good to others. When your child hears you discussing your pride towards others like this, they will want to follow in their footsteps to make you feel proud.

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Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

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Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.

The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

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Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.

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In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

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