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Lady Bird Johnson once said that “children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.” Since then, solid evidence has suggested that parental beliefs and attitudes largely influence children’s outcomes.


A number of studies have found that when parents set “great” expectations, their children are more likely to meet those expectations. In other words, the expectations we hold of our children are critical in determining their academic and social outcomes.

In one study, researchers sought to determine whether there was a difference in “hands-off” and “hands-on” families during the teenage years. “Hands-off” families were described as those in which parents were passive and had few expectations. “Hands-on” families were those in which parents monitored teen’s activities and expected the whole family to participate in dinners together.

After analyzing 1,000 teens, the study found that teens raised in “hands-off” families were more likely to turn to drug use and had poorer relationships with their parents.

 

 

A second study found that holding children to high expectations has a positive impact on their actual academic performance. These children are also less likely to drop out of school. The study found that parents’ expectations exerted the strongest influence on academic outcomes.

A third study observed the impact of teacher and mother expectations on 522 low-income urban youth aged between nine and 16. Although the results revealed that the best academic outcomes were observed in students when both teachers and their mothers held high expectations, the study found that mothers’ expectations could have a buffering effect on the occasions when teacher expectations were low.

In other words, even when teachers had little faith in a child’s abilities, the child could still experience positive academic outcomes if his or her mother held high expectations.

All these studies point to the importance of “expecting great things” of our children. A few things should be kept in mind when setting expectations for your child:

Don’t aim too high

A recent study sought to identify the impact of parental over-aspiration on student outcomes by analyzing a large sample from Germany and the United States. The study found that unreasonable expectations – expectations set too high, for example – can be detrimental to children’s performance.

The key in setting realistic goals lies in knowing your child, so steer away from unnecessary and harmful comparisons. There’s a difference between what she’s expected to know or do, and what she actually knows or can do. Being present and keeping track of her abilities can help you determine how best to help your child progress.

Don’t aim too low

In a recently conducted survey in Britain, Save The Children found that parents risked condemning their children to a life of underachievement as they often underestimated how much their children were actually supposed to know.

This study focused on children’s early learning and involved parents with children aged between two and 10 years old. Of those interviewed, 47 percent believed that at age two-and-a-half, a child’s vocabulary would be 100 words or fewer. In reality, it’s closer to six times that size.

Just as having expectations that are too high can be detrimental to your child’s social and academic performance, expectations set too low can also prevent your child from achieving his full potential.

Raise your expectations gradually

A child gains confidence when he successfully completes a task, so give your children tasks within their abilities. Evidence suggests that completing difficult rather than easy tasks leads to greater self-satisfaction.

However, when your child has mastered specific tasks and as he grows older, it is important to raise your expectations. Make tasks more difficult, but not too difficult, because failure can be detrimental. As Martin Seligman argues, too much failure can lead to learned helplessness.

Be intentional

You don’t lose weight by saying “I want to lose weight.” You lose weight by having a specific goal – “I want to lose 10kgs” – and then adopting specific habits, e.g. “No more cheese and chocolate except on special occasions.” In other words, you get to your objective by focusing on the means: “How will I lose 10kgs?”

The same can be said about setting expectations. You don’t get your child to read fluently by saying, “I expect you to read fluently.” You help her develop small daily habits, like reading every day for 20 minutes by herself, establishing family read-aloud traditions, etc.

As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think they can, or you think they can’t, you’re right.”

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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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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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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