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The Importance of Teaching Your Kids to Be Empathetic and Assertive

A boy in my son’s preschool said some nasty comments to him this morning. I knew it was just a power play by an older kid who craves attention, but I became enraged and then sad.


This was not the first time I witnessed children making other kids feel less than, but since the election this type of hurtful language has been validated. It is no surprise that bullying in the aftermath of the election has risen.

Like many, I cried the day following the election. Like many, I felt scared and confused about issues I valued, about rights that would be taken away from myself and others. But even more than those issues, I cried because the election result made me feel that my fellow Americans were laughing in the face of my parenting values; spitting in the face of the thousands of parents who dedicate so much time and energy raising kids with empathy, compassion, resilience, and confidence. America is not just divided on politics, we’re divided on how we want to raise our children – the future of this country.

The morning after Trump’s win, I posted this message on Facebook: “We are still the teachers to our children. The ones who model right and wrong, show them how to treat others, and how to be empathetic. We may need to try a little harder now.”

So how do we teach our kids about right and wrong? How do we teach them to be empathetic but also to stand up to mean kids?

Model respect and compassion in your home

Children who grow up in loving, respectful environments are less likely to be bullied or become bullies. Treat your child with respect starting at a young age so they will learn that treating people with respect garners respect. Respected children know when someone is treating them badly and will not accept it. Using power or control over your child will show them that bullying is the best way for them to get what they want from others.

Teach assertive behavior

When kids are young, parents need to provide the language that they’ll use in a variety of situations. Assertiveness is no exception. Teach your child to be assertive by using language that shows your kids that they can get their needs met in a respectful manner. If another child is doing something your child doesn’t like, show them how to be assertive by encouraging them to say:

“I do not like when you call me that name.”

“It is not okay to put your hands on my body.”

“Please stop doing that now.”

Teach your child how to remain calm in difficult situations by taking deep breaths. Empower her to either make an assertive statement and walk away, or ignore the bullying altogether.

Model confidence

Children are much more observant than we think. Your child is watching your every move and learning from you. For both you and your child’s sake, find ways to comfortably assert yourself in situations where someone may be treating you in a way you do not like. Show your child that you’re confident. Also, watch what you say in front of your child because they are modeling both your words and actions.

Teach and help develop basic social skills

Social skills may not come naturally to every child so it is important for parents to teach them. Role play or act out scenes that your child tells you she has witnessed or been a part of. Teach your child how to introduce themselves and ask to join a game or a group of kids playing. If your child lacks social skills and you’re not sure how to teach them, you may want to find social skills groups through school or a therapy group.

Pay attention and stay connected

Listen to what your child is telling you through their verbal and non-verbal communication. It’s scary – and sometimes embarrassing – for kids to talk to their parents about bullies, so read between the lines. Be observant of changing behaviors and connect with your child regularly so he feels comfortable talking to you about hard stuff.

Discuss bullying

Even preschoolers need to know what bullying is and what to look for. Encourage your child to tell an adult if they or anyone around them is being spoken to negatively or treated badly. Have a discussion with your child about right and wrong and encourage him to speak up if another child is making him feel badly.

Intervene if necessary

Your job is to protect your child. That means calling a teacher or principal or speaking to the other child’s parent if necessary. Send the message to your child that she is not alone and you support her. 

What NOT to do

  • Make excuses for the bully or take their side. It takes a lot of courage for your child to tell you they feel bad so make sure your reaction is supportive.
  • Blow off your child’s feelings. Your child may choose to ignore the bully’s behavior but as the parent, you should never ignore your child’s hurt feelings.
  • Tell your child to fight back physically. Standing up for yourself with an assertive statement and using physical violence are two very different things.

I hope my son sees a future where love wins out over hate. For now, I will instill in my son that empathy, compassion, and respect signify strength and bravery far more than aggression and nasty words. Unfortunately, those character traits might not get you to the White House.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

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GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

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GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

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GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

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Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

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