The 4-word phrase that changed the way I talk to my children

Any time you find the need to validate someone’s perspective while communicating your own, this is the phrase for you.

The 4-word phrase that changed the way I talk to my children

I’ve known for a long time about the danger in the word “but.” Experts in communication, leadership, motivation and relationships all warn about the deleterious power it has. Regardless of what was said before, “but” has the power to undo it all.

“I really want to get healthy, but I don’t want to exercise.”

“I love you, but I can’t make it.”

“I know you’re sad, but these are the rules.”

The word “but” sometimes seems to cancel out anything before it or suggest that it isn’t enough.

“I want to get healthy, but not enough to exercise.”

“I love you, but not as much as whatever’s keeping me from you.”


“I know you’re sad, but that doesn’t matter because these are the rules.”

This little word can do a lot of unintentional damage, particularly if you’re trying to make an emotional connection, or “connect before you correct.” As Erica Reischer, psychologist and parent educator writes in her book, What Great Parents Do:

“But is a negating word. When it follows and expression of empathy (as in, ‘I can see you’re upset, but…’) it has the effect of minimizing what came before. This little word can undermine the emotional connection you just created, and reignite conflict.”

I’ve heard for a while now, that parents—and good communicators in general—should avoid using the word “but” when possible. But (no pun intended) I just haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement word.

Some suggestions have included using the inclusive word “and,” the three-in-one word “nevertheless” or simply pausing between the two segments.

“And” felt insincere. “I know you’re sad, and it’s time to go home.” It felt like acknowledging the feeling and ignoring it all in one sentence. “Nevertheless” just felt too artificial and foreign coming out of my mouth. (Do my kids even know what that four-syllable word means?) And while pausing works in some situations, it can also feel disjointed and disconnected in others.

Then, I read Erica Reischer’s book, What Great Parents Do. Her suggestion for a replacement?

“At the same time…”

Simple and so effective. (And it felt normal coming out of my mouth!)

“I know you’re sad about leaving the park. At the same time, we need to get home before your brother gets off the bus.”

“I understand that you want to play with this toy. It looks really fun. At the same time, it’s not OK to hit our friends. Can you tell me a better way to get a turn?”

As Reischer writes:

“Saying ‘at the same time’ implies that both ways of viewing the situation are valid, and this minimizes conflict about which perspective is ‘better’ or ‘right.’”

I finally found a phrase that feels natural and replaces “but” in a powerful way. Rather than negating and undoing what comes before it, it allows it to stand on its own, fully validated before moving on to another truth that must coexist “at the same time.”

I can’t even count how many times I’ve used the phrase since discovering it as a replacement for “but.” And here’s the really great thing: It isn’t just great for parent-child/teacher-child conversations. This switch will be a huge communication boost with anyone, particularly in charged conversations. (“I see your political point A. At the same time, here’s my political point B.” “I understand your concern about my parenting decision. At the same time, here’s why I feel it’s important to make it.” “I know you want to be helpful. At the same time, I need to you to respect my boundaries.” “I hear you saying X. At the same time, here’s my position Y.”)

Any time you find the need to validate someone’s perspective, emotion, opinion or experience and at the same time, communicate your own, this is the phrase for you. Rather than igniting further conflict by negating or dismissing another’s position, it allows both viewpoints and experiences to stand, fully validated in the conversation, at the same time.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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