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Why a Consistent Approach to Your Parenting is Important

Parenting is exhausting and frustrating. Most parents are just trying to make it to the end of the day. In many homes, expediency takes precedence over consistency. You may get very frustrated that your child won’t clean his room, but after asking multiple times, you get fed up and do it yourself. We are all human and will make mistakes, but making an effort to be consistent is vital to raising confident, secure children. Choosing to get things done faster over being consistent has an effect on your child’s behavior and character. Being consistent is time-consuming and requires thought and patience, but it is an investment in your child’s development and will make your relationship stronger as your child gets older.


Consistency helps kids

For children, the learning process involves internalizing, rehearsing, and repeating. Just like learning 2+2=4, kids need to internalize, rehearse and repeat behaviors. Emotionally, consistency means purposely choosing how you will engage with or respond to your child. It means being mindful about your choices and not changing them based on your moods. When parents are consistent in their reactions and consequences to their child’s behaviors, children grow up knowing what to expect.

At an early age your child will be able to predict how you will react in specific situations, such as when he or she throws food on the floor, hits the dog or does a silly dance. This of course does not mean that your children won’t push the boundaries to see if your reaction changes. But, after time, your child will come to feel safe within the consistency of your responses. Choosing to consistently not yell and calm yourself down before you respond to your child is one of the best gifts you can give any kid.

Consistency in terms of structure and routine provides a confirming and safe way for children to organize and integrate information into their brain and gain an understanding of how the world works. Children understand the world through repetition and consistency. When kids are able to predict how their morning will go, they feel more secure and in turn, make better choices.

The harm of inconsistent parenting

Inconsistency can be very confusing for children. If one day dad yells to his son for hitting his sister but the next day he tolerates it, his son may become confused about the limits. He will also come to learn that dad’s responses are not predictable.

Lack of parental consistency can cause several characteristics to develop in children, including aggression and hostility, or complacency and passivity. As the child learns to deal with unpredictability, anxiety is produced depending on the level of inconsistency. Children who have to learn to cope with anxiety at a young age will not learn appropriate problem solving skills. Lack of consistency can overwhelm their defenses, and cause them to solve problems with undesired or inappropriate behavior.

Consistency and different caregivers

Consistency is important not only between parents, but between caregivers, including grandparents, babysitters, nannies, and teachers. All of your child’s caregivers should be working together to help the child integrate information into their schema, using simple and concrete ideas. To make this happen, there should be open communication between caregivers so everyone understands the message and is on the same page with rules. For example, decide on some simple and concrete house rules and enforce them in a similar way to how rules are enforced in school. Make sure that your simple and concrete rules are realistic and age appropriate.

Many children are better behaved in school because of the consistency and rules. In school, when there is a rule, every student must adhere to it and there are no exceptions. This predictability helps children feel secure.

Consistently address difficult behaviors

Difficult behavior is developmentally normal and age-appropriate for children of all ages. These behaviors are especially normal during when children are young and starting to integrate stimuli from their environment into their schema, and develop a world view. Children test limits in order to figure out their world. If you are trying to change an undesirable behavior, consistency is the way to do it. It may take a long time, but if you are consistent with your new rules and ideas, your children will integrate these new, desirable ideas into their brain.

Consistency is important in how you emotionally react when your child does something which you don’t like and also what reaction or consequence you use to teach that the behavior is the undesirable. Consequences should fit the behavior, and your tone and demeanor should match the severity of the behavior. If a child is acting out, the behavior needs to be addressed with a logical and related consequence, not something days later or for an extended time period where the child forgets what happened in the first place.

Maintain a consistent routine

One of the most important things you can do for family is to have a familiar schedule where each family members knows their expectations. As a parent, it is your job to teach your children what your expectations are of them. As most parents know, a tough night or morning can throw a wrench into your whole day. Many people have bedtime routines that began when their children were very young. But those routines can get derailed very quickly by kids asking for water, a snack, or any other creative thing they can think of to make bedtime not come so quickly.

In order to keep your routines going, make sure everyone in the family knows what is expected of them. Depending on your kids ages, have them get themselves dressed or brush their teeth on their own. When kids know their responsibilities, they feel empowered and are more likely to respond positively to the task. Establish a routine and do your best to stick to it. If there is a major change to the routine, share it with your child so they can mentally prepare and not be anxious or surprised by the change. Most importantly, don’t let your child hijack the routine. Being calm and consistent reminds your child that you are a safe person to go to when life feels chaotic to them.

Changes to the routine

It is inevitable that plans will change and routines will get interrupted. It is a part of life. The important thing is that you share those changes with your child in a clear, age-appropriate way. We unfairly expect kids to do as we say, but many times, we don’t provide them enough information or any explanation. We expect them to be flexible and respond easily to life changes but we rarely give them the tools to cope with such changes. Include your child in a conversation about changes and allow them to ask questions. Every family and situation are different, but open communication will help you foster a positive relationship.

Consistent parenting takes time and energy. None of us can be consistent all the time, and sometimes it is just as important to be able to be flexible and go with the flow. Making the choice when to be consistent and when to be flexible is where your parenting power lies. Being mindful of those purposeful decisions are what will make you a better parents and will help your child develop into a confident and secure adult.

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Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.


They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

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