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I come from a noisy family. My mom, my dad, both of my sisters, and myself – we all are short-tempered and excitable. Even if we are pleased with something, we are pleased enormously, and we scream about it.

I remember I woke up one morning and heard loud voices coming from the kitchen. I was disturbed. I thought my mom and dad were fighting over something. I tiptoed to the kitchen and pushed the door. My parents turned to me and smiled. They looked perfectly normal: mom cooking, dad drinking his morning coffee.

“What were you fighting about?” I asked.

“Nothing!” They looked amazed. “We were just talking.”

Earless lions

We had a great hoot back then, teasing each other about being a stereotypical Italian family from an old movie – passionate, loud, having heated discussions even about boring stuff like the weather.

It never bothered me much. Sometimes my friends asked me to lower my voice as we were talking on our way home from school. Meaning, they were talking, I was bellowing. But that’s about it.

I started to think of my noisiness only after I saw a picture my little daughter had once drawn. It was a family of lions. The picture was cute and pretty good for a seven-year-old, except one thing – those lions had no ears. I was confused and I pointed it out to her (after giving her credit for a good job, of course). She raised her eyebrows “Really? Ha-ha, I’ve forgotten.”

But something that happened earlier convinced me that it wasn’t due to carelessness those poor beasts ended up deaf. Subconsciously, my daughter decided that they would be better off without ears.

A few days before the lion drawing appeared, I had lost my temper (again) over a mess in her room: “I thought I told you (indeed I did, not once) to make your bed and put your stockings in the drawer, didn’t you hear me?!” No response. She didn’t look guilty or frightened. She looked zoned out. Sitting quiet and solemn, her hands on her knees, staring right through me with a blank expression on her face. It scared the soul out of me.

“Bunny, do you hear me?” I said worriedly.

She sighed, same blank expression. She only looked me in the eyes after I took her by the hand. It was almost as if she woke up from a deep sleep. “Can I go now?” she asked looking peaceful and calm, cheerful even.

This was wrong. And something about it was spooky. The occurrence made me think about my communication habits in order to find the answer.

Root of evil

You may not be a loud or easily irritable person. Maybe before you became mom or dad, you saw those exasperated parents at grocery stores shouting at the top of their voices and thought: I will never do that when I have a child. But you would be amazed at what sleep deprivation and constant interruptions of all your normal activities might do to your nervous system (and if you add maternity blues on top of all that…)

Parenting can be very frustrating. It involves a lot of suppressed anger. Thankfully, we have long progressed from corporal punishment, which used to be one of the anger coping strategies. The anger of today’s parent comes out in shouting instead. You try so hard not to lose it, but your kid does something particularly outrageous in a public place, again, and here you are, screaming your heart out in the middle of the street. It looks innocent enough compared to spanking, but let’s look deeper.

Why so loud?

All parents tend to lose their temper now and then. Especially when their kids pass a certain milestone of their development and along the way acquire a number of rather undesirable skills (such as rolling on the floor, kicking their feet, whining, bargaining, and using all that is at hand to get on your nerves).

They challenge our authority, they test the waters of independence, ignore what we tell them, do things they know we disapprove of, in order to test us and make a statement. It’s their way of saying, “I exist, I want this, and I don’t want that.”

This is an important stage of their development and, I’m afraid an inevitable one. The problem is not the threshold itself, but how we cope with it. We take our children’s misbehavior personally, we think that they do not appreciate what we do for them as parents; that they do all those nasty things out of spite.

Of course, we know a great deal about developmental psychology, we have a couple of books on the subject in our home library. We are aware that the best way to deal with such crises is a reasoning and calm discussion. We are informed that a violent tantrum may be just a part of a kid’s cunning plan aimed to get us to do what they want, and the best way to stop them is not to respond to a provocation. It’s a battle of wills. And the moment we raise our voice we have already lost it.

First of all, you must have noticed that it’s futile. Shouting never results in anything positive. You probably feel bad about it later and blame yourself.

Second, as latest research shows, shouting at your children can only increase their behavioral problems.

It should be mentioned here, however, that the mode of shouting is very important. If you yell to shame and blame your children, combining shouting with insults and ridicule, it becomes a form of emotional abuse and may be extremely harmful. Low self-esteem, aggressive behavior, insecurity, fear, and poor social skills are not rare among children who were exposed to loud shaming on a regular basis.

A raised voice is not always bad, though. By loudly describing a problem, we call attention to it, but what if screaming is a chronic mode of communication? That may become a serious issue.

Shouty families

Depending on your child’s temperament, yelling may affect them more or less. Young children and babies perceive it as a threat and feel endangered whenever they hear a loud noise, especially deep male voices. They wince and shake at sudden pops and squeaks.

If you are a family of shouters, it may have a serious effect on your kids’ brain and future well-being. Yelling overpowers children, they feel defenseless and frustrated. They don’t see the difference between you shouting at them and you hating them – it confuses and upsets them.

They become timid and socially awkward, and may struggle to find friends. Kids that have been yelled at frequently have problems dealing with conflicts – they prefer to ignore them and withdraw, instead of defending themselves and proving their point.

They also are likely to have low results at school due to concentration problems. Children develop defense mechanisms against a rise in volume and become immune to it. This partly protects them from screaming’s deleterious influence, but in the long run, this has a negative effect on their ability to concentrate on what the teacher is saying.

The most frightening aftermath is distorted self-image and lack of self-confidence. In a noisy environment, kids feel constantly threatened; they don’t get the feeling of security that is necessary for growing a healthy personality. They need to feel safe, respected and, foremost, loved, to become confident and whole.

It doesn’t mean that if your spouse or you are loud, your kids are condemned to have developmental issues – far from it. Yet you must be aware of the possibility and build your communication mindfully, avoiding unnecessary screams and outbursts, especially with infants. You may need to extend the limits of your patience and learn to cope with anger; personality training and special programs for parents may help a great deal.

Way out

While finding your solution, keep in mind that your child may be very different from you, they may be much more fragile than you were at their age. Something that used to be funny and enjoyable for you may seem stressful and undesirable for them.

My daughter turned out to be very sensitive. She perceived loud voices as threatening and unpleasant. She learned to tune it out, yet it rendered her incapable of focusing on what was being said. So whenever I raised my voice she failed to receive the message, even if I hollered quite amicably from another room, asking her to come over.

One metaphor worked perfectly in our case: the longer is the distance between two people (both physical and emotional), the louder they shout. When people fight, they’re miles away. When there is peace and understanding between them, there’s no need to raise voices. When the two are close, they whisper.

The low voice became a language I had to adopt in order to communicate with my sensitive, melancholic daughter. The more important the thing I am going to say to her, the lower my voice, and I almost whisper when I say “I love you, bunny.”

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

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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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Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.



PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

My Instagram feed has been full of pictures of friends that their kids to the beach. I get it, I like the beach a lot. But the forest and the mountains are my real loves.

The way the damp leaves smell in the morning. The peace of walking underneath a canopy of trees. The sound of firewood crackling at night. Sigh, heaven.

I also grew up camping with my family and have done some intense hiking, backpacking and search and rescue. So it's kind of in my blood—I wear my frostbite scars with honor.

So I couldn't wait to get my future kids out into nature (minus the frostbite). I had visions of us hiking to a stream, swimming and splashing all day, then cooking a big meal over a campfire as we sing songs and laugh.

Then, I actually became a parent. Of three kids, actually, all of whom are still very young… and a dog… and a husband who doesn't really like camping.

Despite the realization that it wouldn't be exactly as I planned, this summer we finally decided to take our first camping trip as a family.

Here is what I learned:

1. Set the bar low

I had to remind myself over and over again that this trip would not live up to my expectations. I know this sounds like a bummer way to start a trip, but it really helped. I have the tendency to over-plan and get really (really) excited about things. This is not a bad quality, but it can lend itself to disappointment when things don't go as hoped. I didn't want us to leave the trip feeling like it was a failure in any way.

This trip was a success, and a big moment for our family, no matter how it turned out.

Instead of forcing activities or memories, I forced myself to just… be. Not expecting the trip to be magical opened us up to appreciate the unexpected moments of magic as they occurred naturally, without being forced.

This got harder, of course, when our car got stuck in the mud (true story), and we had to wait three hours for AAA to arrive. But when our kids talk about the camping trip now they still squeal with delight as they recount the story of the tow truck coming. You're welcome (I guess)?

2. We made it really easy

I put my camping ego aside, and we took a lot of shortcuts on this first trip. We didn't stay in a tent but rented a barebones cabin instead. For dinner, we ordered a pizza. And we let the kids play on our phones for a little bit in the evening.

Those things didn't make for a truly authentic experience, but goodness, they really helped. I have started to realize that there is no shame in making things easy, especially when you have little kids. And they didn't know any different. As far as they are concerned, we hiked the Appalachian Trail and gathered all our own food from the earth.

This was a lazy camping trip, for sure—and that was exactly what we needed.

3. I over-prepped for safety so I could calm down

I have hiked and camped in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in February—this was not that. At any given moment on our trip, an ambulance could have easily reached us, and we were only a few minutes away from a hospital at any point. But it made me feel much better to know that we were safe and ready for anything that should happen.

We bought a first aid kit, a survival kit, too many flashlights and bottled water. I was really big on everyone wearing good footwear and teaching them how to walk carefully on uneven terrain.

We also used the opportunity to teach about other areas, like water safety. Rita Goldberg of the British Swim School recommends "[teaching kids] to avoid water hazards and to not approach a fountain, river, pool or lake without an adult's supervision and permission."

We also incorporated their "Water Watcher" program, which assigns a "badge of responsibility" to one adult at all times, who maintains a constant watch over the kids while they are near water.

These easy steps, that we decided on ahead of time, made me feel much more relaxed, and therefore better able to enjoy our time.

This trip took some emotional adjustments on my part. It wasn't glamorous, or particularly exciting. But that was exactly what it needed to be. Emily Glover wrote that "by getting away from the distractions of home and focusing on each other...we're reminded of what really matters."

We found that in the woods—together.

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