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This is: Birth

We started our curated This is: Birth film series to give representation to the many varied ways that women give birth. Shot by talented independent videographers, these birth films can be a resource for the expecting mama or anyone who is curious to see what birth really looks like.

This is birth: A surrogacy journey

Watch the amazing journey between a surrogate and the family she carried four children for.

"This is the story of their family, how they were able to bring children they so very much wanted into the world." -Videographer Jennifer Hamilton / Mamarazzi Photography

Read more about their journey here

This is birth: A C-section story

"On the day that our son was born via C-section, I witnessed a whole new level of strength and bravery come over my wife. A level that I will never be able to experience. All I could do was hold her hand while they put her under. Then it was my turn to be strong and brave—not just for her, but for our son. I held him in my arms, telling him, 'mom will be here soon.'"

C-section birth story: Watch the intimate, beautiful way that No Way Jose Photography documented him and his wife becoming parents.❤️👩👩👦

This is Birth: Bekah Martinez's serene + empowered waterbirth

Bekah Martinez's birth story: After 28 hours of laboring at home, the Bachelor star welcomed her first daughter Ruth in an unmedicated waterbirth, while surrounded by her partner, mother and care providers.💙

Bekah tells Motherly, "When the time came I was able to fully relax and surrender. People have commented on how in-control I appear, but it was quite the opposite. I surrendered all my control and it made the experience so much more peaceful."

Read more about Bekah's birth story here

Film by Lauren Guilford Photography

This is birth: A NICU birth story

A NICU birth story: After arriving 5 weeks early and spending 15 days in the NICU, we're happy to report Henry is now thriving. (Stick around until the end to see the cutest update photos 😍.)

"Our culture fantasizes the perfect birth and bonding experience. When your baby is in the NICU following birth, there are so many bittersweet emotions that accompany this experience. Many mamas (including myself) have faced this situation, and yet, we see so little representation of it through media. I believe it's important to see how that love is still shown and is still felt by your baby, even when they need extra help in the NICU."

- Stacey, SMA Photography

This is birth: A family home birth story

A family home birth story: Watch this calm mama deliver her second child with her firstborn daughter and husband by her side. 👨👩👧👦

"She was completely inward and riding the powerful waves of labor, unaware of anyone else in the room ... As soon as baby's head came out, mama smiled, laughed and then gently guided the baby out and onto her belly.
Whether it's a home birth, hospital birth, C-section, or surrogate birth, you are becoming a parent, and that's a HUGE deal. It's life-changing. In the end, we are all going through an immense transition."

—Videographer Maggie Cuprisin, Chicago Birth and Baby Photos

This is birth: Dad helps deliver his daughter

Dad helps deliver his daughter: Watch this fierce mama give birth to her first baby, assisted by her midwife and supportive husband. 💓

"The midwives gave Aaron (the dad) the option of delivering and he was so excited. My favorite part is when Lauren (the mom) lifts up WHILE SHE IS CROWNING to kiss Aaron on the cheek. She told me she was just so happy they were becoming a family!"

- Videographer Jessica Worland Photo

This is birth: A lesbian couple's birth story

Watch these two mamas calmly navigate a 70-hour labor and unplanned C-section to finally meet their baby boy, Milo. Sound on to hear the encouraging words of this mama's partner. 💙

"I am so grateful that we had a team that was so supportive of our wishes at every step of the way, even when we asked that our videographer be allowed into the surgery room. The birth of our son couldn't have been captured more beautifully."

Film by videographer Angie Klaus

This is birth: First-time parents' NICU journey

First-time parents' NICU journey: Witness the undeniable bond between this husband and wife as they document their birth story in a unique way. 💞

"Tensions were high when the mom went into labor earlier than expected. She had many questions and was nervous about having a baby in the NICU. After weeks of visiting her baby in the hospital, he was finally able to come home."

-Videographer Savvy Films

This is birth: With my sister by my side

Watch this incredibly calm mama undergo her second C-section with help from her loving and supportive sister.

"I knew that I was coming to document a birth where there would be no dad by mom's side. But when I opened the door, I found Moehau peacefully waiting in her bed with her sister Leilani by her side. The bond between the sisters is beautiful and powerful, it is all that I hope for my own children."

- Videographer Benedicte Lechrist, Maui Life Stories

This is birth: A powerful first cry

"Sweet Addison made a big entrance. The moment in between her delivery and her first cry was powerful. Mom and dad spoke to their tiny love telling her how glad they were that she was here as the midwives worked to help her take in and release her first breath. Then came the most perfect cry that held the room captive."

- Videographer Eucharisteo Films

This is birth: An adoption story

Watch the incredible moment when a family meets their newborn for the first time in the hallway of a hospital.

The videographer explains, "This experience was so different from other birth sessions. More than just the fact it was an adoption, the connection was so moving. This mother had spent months waiting for the opportunity to be Adela's mother and wondering whether it would even happen. All of the fear and excitement just melted away when she held her daughter in her arms."

—Videographer Johnny TJ Cheramie of Something Southern Photography

This is birth: A hypnobirthing story

Watch this mama give birth at home while practicing hypnobirthing, which focuses on specific relaxation and calming techniques that help manage pain during labor.

"I remember how calm and relaxed the mom was. During the labor, classical music was playing and she moved to the music. I know other women who have tried hypnobirthing, and they weren't impressed, but she mastered it. I believe it's really important to not compare birth experiences. Every woman is free to express herself during labor; there is no competition, you can scream or you can be calm."

- Videographer Chiara Doveri Photography Familien- und Kinderfotografie in Berlin

This is Birth: A C-section gender reveal

Watch the precious moment when this mama wakes up and finds out the gender of her baby.

"Due to some health complications, Joyous needed to have a C-section performed. One of the good unknowns with this labor was that the parents decided to not know the gender of the baby until after the birth. When they both find out, they are totally overwhelmed with emotion. It was amazing to witness their love for their newborn, and also the relief that everyone was healthy after so much uncertainty."
- Videographer K+A Films

This is birth: A midwife birth story

Watch these skilled midwives help baby Ezra take his first breath.

"The midwives were fantastic. They remained very calm and quickly grabbed the equipment needed to help Ezra breathe. The room was calm, and it was clear the midwives had everything under control. Megan calmly spoke to Ezra and gently rubbed his stomach until she heard his first cry, she then brought him up to her chest with a look of complete relief." Kailee Riches Photography

(Content warning: this film includes a tense moment before baby takes his first breath—but with skillful care, it quickly becomes clear he is perfectly healthy).

This is birth: An unmedicated hospital birth

"The moment of becoming a mother is a feeling that really can't be described. So many emotions rush to you and before you know it, you have this beautiful baby in your arms."

In this birth film, captured by Stephanie Shirley Photography, a first-time mama has an unmedicated hospital birth with her supportive husband and doula by her side.

This is Birth: A rainbow birth story

Watch this strong mama and her supportive husband work as a team to bring their rainbow baby into the world.

The videographer Rebecca Cantrelle Photography explains, "After battling infertility, loss, and a tough pregnancy—with hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes, and concerns of preeclampsia—this mama was induced on her due date. On the second day of induction, active laboring began. She finally welcomed her baby boy, Avery, at 4 a.m. on the third day! The experience was so serene, so powerful, and there was so much love."

This is birth: A boy mom story

Watch this family welcome their third boy—all, amazingly, delivered in the same hospital room—room 303. The proud big brothers will melt your heart.

"I think it's great for other women to see what different births look like—whether it's a home birth in water, a hospital birth with an epidural, a c-section, or somewhere in between—all births are beautiful, unique, and special!" - Videographer The Grays Photography

This is birth: A home waterbirth story

Watch as this sweet family of three becomes four.

Videographer for Birth Love Story on why capturing birth is important:
"The reason I find capturing birth is important I say as a client, as a mother: I married to create a family. I invested in lasting memories from my wedding day and I wanted no less from the day my babies joined our family. I wanted all the raw emotion, all the pain and tears, all the smiles and tears of joy. And I got it all. So I want all moms to have the same treasure I am lucky to have!"

This is birth: A NICU twins' journey

See the NICU through this mama's eyes, as she beautifully captures her twins' journey.

"I'm pretty sure everyone in the hospital thought I was crazy when I was wheeled in and started recording my labor. But when so much is out of your control, it's nice to have something to do. And hiding behind my camera was a comfort. There is nothing harder than leaving the hospital empty-handed, with your brand-new babies staying behind. I bawled every time I had to leave. Capturing my NICU babies on film allowed me to take a little piece of them home with me each day." - Videographer + mama Sarah Krieg Photography

This is birth: A family hospital birth

"I love how different and sweet every mama's emotions are after pulling their baby to their chest. Some are in shock, some weep, some laugh...nothing compares to that feeling of finally holding your baby in your arms!" - Videographer Alma Heirlooms

Watch this fierce mama work through the unmedicated birth of her second child with the support of her husband and firstborn.

This is birth: A delivery room gender reveal

Watch this mama welcome her 6th—but first "team green"— baby into the world!

These parents own a videography company —Eran and Aubs Photography and Videography— so dad captured the birth film himself:
"It was the first time out of 6 pregnancies that we didn't know the gender. We facetimed some family members (our children included) so they could watch the birth and find out the gender along with us... Its something that I still go back to watch often. Video and audio has a way of bringing back all of the memories of that day in a way that pictures can't do."

This is birth: An epidural birth story

This quietly beautiful birth film features a strong mama laboring in a birth center with epidural pain management.

Candice MacDonnell - Family Films and Photography says, "The thing that struck me the most was Ariel's persistence. Even though her little girl's birth didn't go quite as planned, she still gave it her all, and was a warrior in bringing her earthside. As soon as she held her baby and became a mom for the first time, I could sense her instant, overwhelming love for this tiny little human."

This is birth: An HBAC story

Watch this intense, inspiring video of a strong mama calmly catching her baby herself during her HBAC (home birth after cesarean).

"I remember how uniquely quiet it all was, as mom was using the Hypnobabies method. She said two things while I was there before birthing her son—'I'm ready to get in the tub' and 'his head is out.' Witnessing how she trusted her body so much showed me how peaceful and powerful birth can be." - Tampa Birth Photographer - Dear Little One, founder of Birth United

This is birth: A birth center story

"Birth is intense. It's beautiful. It's transformative. It's both an immense biological process AND an incredible emotional process. You can't find the same heights and depths of emotion in any other type of photography."

In this birth film, captured by Monet Nicole - Birthing Stories, this first-time mama arrived at the birth center already 8 cm dilated. She labored and delivered with her husband by her side the entire time.

This is Birth: A Home Birth Story

"Birth is not always the hurricane many times portrayed in the media; it is not a physical ailment, it is beautiful, to be respected, to be studied in a balanced way and the complications that can arise prepared for - but allowed safe space to happen naturally when things go normally; our bodies are designed perfectly for it."
- Videographer Impressions - Birth & Lifestyle Stories on the importance of sharing real representations of birth.

Watch this video of a strong, second-time mama working hard through a VBAC delivery in her home.

This is birth: A NICU birth story

After arriving 5 weeks early and spending 15 days in the NICU, we're happy to report Henry is now 8 months old and thriving. (Stick around until the end to see the cutest update photos.)

"Our culture fantasizes the perfect birth and bonding experience. When your baby is in the NICU following birth, there are so many bittersweet emotions that accompany this experience. Many mamas (including myself) have faced this situation, and yet, we see so little representation of it through media. I believe it's important to see how that love is still shown and is still felt by your baby, even when they need extra help in the NICU." - Videographer http://sma-photography.com/

This is birth: A first-time mama's hospital birth

This beautifully shot video captures the nerves and joyful anticipation of giving birth for the first time.

"Torie was realistic, strong, and leaned on her birth team throughout the experience. With every worry of 'how much longer' or 'how much harder will it be,' she was able to refocus her energy into knowing that with each surge, her baby was getting closer. Emotions were high among everyone present, and I think we all could relate to her eagerness to meet her son." - Videographer Forevermore Films

This is birth: A waterbirth story

Watch a second-time mama's peaceful water delivery in a birth center, while surrounded by her loving family.

The videographer explains, "I got a call early that morning that the mother had been laboring throughout the night. The birth was like a dance—her family supported her though each contraction. The midwife thought she was in early labor so she left to get a snack but heard her start to push and came back. The baby was born maybe 10 minutes later." — Zura Lagarde Photography

This is birth: An induced labor

"There's no single way to labor or give birth and I think that aspect of childbirth is so incredible. Alyssia is a close friend of mine, so I remember her expressing that she was a little nervous and unprepared to be induced. Well, that girl amazed me (as do all the mamas I witness!) She quickly kicked fear to the curb and changed her mindset. It was all about bringing a healthy baby boy into the world and she did beautifully." - Videographer Alma Heirlooms

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

This week an investigation by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) made headlines, proclaiming 95% of baby foods the group tested contain at least one toxic chemical, including lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. The results are similar to those The Clean Label Project released in 2017.

These reports suggest many commonly consumed products, including formula, baby food in jars and pouches, and snacks contain contaminants like arsenic and lead, in some cases at levels higher than trace amounts.

These reports were not published in peer-reviewed journals, but the items were tested and reviewed by third-party laboratories. The products were screened for heavy metals and other contaminants, and, in many cases, tested positive for things no parent wants to see in their baby's food.

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It's important to note that all of us are consuming arsenic in some form. According to the FDA, it's naturally found in soil and water and absorbed by plants, so many foods, including grains (especially rice) and fruits and vegetables contain arsenic.

Everyone is exposed to little bits of arsenic, but long-term exposure to high levels is associated with higher rates of some cancers and heart disease. Previous studies have shown that babies who consume infant formulas and rice products already tend to have higher than average levels of arsenic metabolites in their urine (due in part to the natural levels of arsenic found in rice), so additional arsenic in baby goods is certainly not ideal.

“To reduce the amount of arsenic exposure, it is important all children eat a varied diet, including a variety of infant cereals," says Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The AAP encourages parents to speak with their pediatrician about their children's nutrition. Pediatricians can work with parents to ensure they make good choices and informed decisions about their child's diet."

According to the World Health Organization, arsenic exposure is associated with an array of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Arsenic was not the only chemical found in the tested products that could potentially pose a danger to the babies consuming them. The new report from HBBF looked at 168 baby foods from 61 brands and found 94% of the products contained lead, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury.

This is not the first time lead (which can damage a child's brain and nervous system, impact growth and development and cause learning, hearing, speech and behavior problems) has been found in baby food. A previous report released in 2017 by another group, the Environmental Defense Fund, found 20% of 2,164 baby foods tested contained lead.

As the FDA notes, lead is in food because it is in the environment. "It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food," says Peter Cassell, an FDA spokesperson.

Cassell says the FDA doesn't comment on specific studies but does evaluate them while working to ensure consumer exposure to contaminants is limited to the greatest extent feasible. “Through the Total Diet Study, the FDA tests for approximately 800 contaminants and nutrients in the diet of the average U.S. consumer," Cassel explains.

The FDA works with the food manufacturing industry to limit contaminants as much as possible, especially in foods meant for kids. “We determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether to take enforcement action when we find foods that would be considered contaminated," Cassell adds.

The people at HBBF are calling on the FDA "to use their authority more effectively, and much more quickly, to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby foods," says HBBF research director and study author Jane Houlihan.

HBBF is circulating a petition urging the FDA to take action "by setting health-based limits that include the protection of babies' brain development."

Parents who are concerned about heavy metals in baby foods should also consider speaking with their pediatrician.

"Pediatricians can help parents understand this issue and use AAP guidance to build a healthy diet for children and limit exposure to lead from different sources," says Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition.

[A version of this post was originally published on October 26, 2017. It has been updated.]

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Over the last few months, I've made a new friend called Grief. She first showed up when the midwife told me, "I'm sorry, I don't see a heartbeat anymore." She quickly barged into my life, inviting herself into every moment of every day. She was an overwhelming, overbearing, suffocating presence. But in time, we learned to set some boundaries. Together, we created space for Grief to live in my life without feeling all-consumed.

Grief is pushy. I have learned that when she knocks on the door, it's best to just let her in. She has things to say and she's going to make you listen. Sometimes, we'll sit together for a while before one of us will say "My, look at the time. I've got things to do." Other times, it's a quick visit, and I can move on with my day.

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I've learned a good bit about my friend Grief through the experience of having a miscarriage. We've spent a lot of time together, and I've gotten to know her well. I hope this helps you get to know her better, too.

1. Grief can become a friend.

Over time, Grief has morphed from feeling like an invader, an attacker, and a bully to feeling more like a friend with a hand resting on my shoulder. She is gently present, palpable and—unexpectedly—comforting. Grief reminds me of the love I felt; that I have something to miss; that my baby was here. Grief comes to visit much less often, now. Some days, she still barges in unexpectedly. Some days, I go calling for her to come over.

2. Grief will teach you.

Grief has taught me that you never really know what others are going through. She has taught me to try to listen better, to be a better friend, to be more empathetic. Grief has emboldened me and demanded space for my feelings when I felt I couldn't. She's forced me to learn how to ask for help, how to advocate for myself and not apologize when I have needs. She has made my worldview richer, my love deeper and my appreciation for life stronger.

3. Grief will make you brave.

I never knew my own strength before I met Grief. Through her, I witnessed myself suffer and persevere with a strength I didn't know I had. I have felt her fully, and I am less scared of her now. I have walked through the fire with her, and she's shown me that I could do it again if I had to. But we both hope I never do.

4. Grief will bring you together, apart.

Grief has shown me some of her many friends, and through her, we have become friends too. Our relationships with Grief are all different. But, Grief unites us in a way that people who don't know Grief could not understand. In my marriage, Grief has made it clear she has a relationship with both of us, differently. She has shown us that we can visit her together, but more often than not, she wants to spend time with us alone. She visits us on different days, at different times, and in different ways. Learning to know Grief together, and apart, was challenging.

5. Grief knows when you need her before you do.

Grief knows me in a way that a friend knows me. She remembers the milestones and helps me remember too. She has the hard dates etched in her calendar and I'm sure she won't forget them. She's quietly with me, her hand on my shoulder when we see a stroller, a butterfly, a new pregnancy announcement. Sometimes she is there waiting for me before I even realize why.

"Welcome to your third trimester!" my email greeted me this morning. I thought I had unsubscribed from them all, but this one snuck through. An unpleasant reminder of what I already knew: Today should have been a milestone.

I took a moment to let it sink in when I felt her hand on my shoulder. Once you get to know her, Grief can be a really good friend.

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I check my phone. It's 3 am. I wrench myself from bed and zombie-walk into my screaming son's room. Please just let him go back to sleep quickly. I'm so exhausted. I see my 9-month-old son crying and reaching out for me. I immediately pick him up and plop down in the rocking chair feeling discouraged and depleted.

I stare exhaustedly at the wall, contemplating what I should be doing right now.

Should I let him cry it out? Should I give him his stuffed bunny so that he can comfort himself? He should know how to self soothe, right?

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I definitely should not be picking him up out of his crib.

I definitely should not be nursing him back to sleep. That is definitely NOT what I am supposed to be doing. (*I know this because I've read about 8,000 articles and a dozen or so books saying just that).

But it's what he wants, and I'm tired. It's what my heart wants, regardless of what the "experts" say I should do. I feel like a failure for giving in. The books say to be firm—he's fine; he's just crying; he's being lazy because he knows I'll swoop in and comfort him back to sleep.

I should be able to treat him like an appliance—follow the instructions without input from my heart. Right? Maybe I can redeem myself by putting him back "drowsy but awake." Yeah, right.

I'll just have to start this whole process over again when he goes from "drowsy but awake" to "wide-eyed and screeching."

In the midst of the mental ping-pong between my head and my heart, a thought suddenly and forcefully rushes in—you're missing it.

I look down into the face of my infant son. His big teary eyes are locked on mine. He smiles, letting a little dribble of milk out of the corner of his smirk. This is what I'm missing. These moments—loving and being loved despite the crippling exhaustion of nursing throughout the night for the last nine months, these moments of real connection, of being a mother.

I'm missing the joy in motherhood under a dark cloud of shoulds. I can't see the good because I'm so focused on the bad.

And just as I am reveling in this epiphany, a chubby little hand reaches up. I watch his hand coming and think, This can't get any better! This sweet child is going to lovingly stroke my cheek! But, it turns out to be so much better than that. He literally slaps me in the face and giggles, delivering humor and lightness as only a child can.

Life is not as serious as I make it out to be most of the time. I've learned this from my children. I prayed that night that my child would go back to bed. I prayed that he would do what he was supposed to, or that I could do what I was supposed to (according to whichever expert I was abiding that week). But all I'm really supposed to do is show up and trust my heart without trying to fix it all, ALL the time.

Life isn't perfect. Otherwise, we wouldn't have moments like these at 3 am that crack us open and lay bare what really matters.

My mantra now is radical acceptance.

It's radical because, for me, it means defiantly and unequivocally accepting what my anxious mind tells me is unacceptable—the messy, the imperfect, the difficult.

It is a radical act of rebellion against the mind and its need to control and fix.

It is choosing to trust my heart and seeing through that lens rather than the broken lens of my mind.

It is seeing the good, the joy, the love, the humor, rather than what is broken and what is wrong.

It is radical for me to look at my life in all its messy splendor and not try to fix, change, or be perfect.

That is a radical act, I assure you, and my mind coils up in a panic every time.

But the moment I overcome that initial coiling and clinching and embrace simple acceptance, the fear and doubt are vacuumed up, and the joy inevitably rushes in. Little miracles, every time. Radical acceptance.

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Positive parenting has become quite the buzz word these days, but what does it really mean? And more importantly, does it work?

At first glance, positive parenting sounds like parenting without consequences for bad behavior. Contrary to what many may think, positive parenting doesn't mean you respond with "I love you" when your 3-year-old hits you.

Positive parenting is not a vague concept of being nice to our children when they don't deserve it. It's a parenting philosophy and strategic method based on the idea that our relationship with our children is the most important thing, and that we can help children develop self-discipline.

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To be clear, positive parenting is not permissive parenting, which is parenting with high responsiveness and low demandingness. With positive parenting, there is a focus on discipline, and the goal is to raise a person who follows the rules and respects others, not because of fear, but because it's the right thing to do.

Here are some ways to help your child develop discipline, while being a positive parent:

1. Set boundaries

Having boundaries in our relationship with our children is key to being successful in positive parenting. Having, and enforcing, boundaries allows us to remain patient and calm because we feel respected and that our needs in the relationship are being met.

A good way to know when you need to establish a new boundary is when you are feeling exasperated, impatient or angry by a recurring behavior or situation.

Do you dread dinner time because your child insists on sitting on your lap and you can't eat? If so, establish a rule that everyone sits in their own chair for meals. You can snuggle after dinner.

Do you feel resentful because your child begs you to play dolls first thing in the morning every day when your eyes aren't even open yet?

Establish a rule that you get to sit and drink coffee for 10 minutes before you're available to play. Will your child complain? Probably. But they will also begin to learn that you have needs too.

You will be a better parent if your own needs are being met and your child will see a wonderful example of how to advocate for their own needs in a relationship.

2. Build connection to gain cooperation

Do you remember having a substitute teacher as a kid? Did anyone listen to them? Probably not. Children need to feel a connection to an adult to listen to them. This is a good thing—you don't want your child listening to any random stranger who tells them to do something.

But it also means your child is more likely to listen to you when they feel connected to you. This is the problem with punishment. It puts you at odds with your child, diminishing your connection and making it less likely your child will do what you ask.

If your child is going through a rough patch with behavior, try to build in a little extra one on one time to connect. This does not need to be a long stretch of time, but it does need to be frequent and focused. Even 15 minutes a day of dedicated, phone-free, time with your child can make your connection stronger than ever.

3. Be firm, but loving

So much of positive parenting is in the tone. You can be firm and hold your children to high expectations, while still being loving.

Decide what rules are important to you, clearly communicate them to your child, and be consistent with enforcing those rules. Being a positive parent does not mean letting your child walk all over you. It does mean trying to maintain a calm, loving tone when your child needs reminders about the rules.

4. Avoid shaming

"You're 6 years old, don't act like a baby!"

"Your room is disgusting, go clean it up."

"Why can't you ever listen? It's not that hard!"

Have you said those words? These phrases all have a shaming effect, making children feel bad about themselves. This naturally has a negative impact on a child's self-esteem, but it is also not effective because it reinforces a child's identity as someone who behaves a certain way.

If your child is always told they're acting like a baby, they will absorb this and behave that way even more. If you refer to them as a bully, they will think of themselves that way and act accordingly. Try to comment on your child's behavior, letting them know when it's inappropriate, without inducing feelings of shame.

5. Try natural consequences

Punishing your child makes you the enemy and can often be confusing if the punishment is unrelated to the offense. Instead of punishment, try allowing the natural consequences of their actions to unfold.

For example, if you ask your toddler to put on their rain boots and they refuse, the natural consequence is that their feet will get wet outside. They will be far more likely to acquiesce next time it's time to put on boots than if you respond with a time out when they say, "no!" to rain boots.

6. Use logical consequences

While natural consequences are ideal because they don't put you in opposition with your child, there is not always a convenient, short-term natural consequence.

For example, it might be important to you that your child puts all of their Legos away every day so that you don't step on them (ouch!).

The eventual long-term natural consequence would be that some Legos might get lost if they're not put away every day. This could take weeks or months to occur and your feet might not be able to take that.

In this type of situation, try to think of a related consequence that makes sense, and execute it without anger. The consequence might be that if you step on a Lego, you're going to put it away in the garage instead of back in your child's Lego bin.

7. Use positive reinforcement

Did your child remember to put their shoes away all by themselves? Did they help their sister when she was frustrated with her homework? Let them know that you noticed!

It's easy to comment on bad behavior, but just smile to yourself when your child does something beautiful. Make sure they get more attention for good behavior than for bad.

This doesn't mean you need a lavish reward system—just tell them what you saw. Say something like, "I noticed you put your shoes away all by yourself. That shows real responsibility!" Or, "I saw you help your sister. You really care about other people."

In addition to letting them know you noticed, this kind of praise helps your child maintain a positive self-identity that they will want to live up to.

8. Model respect

Children copy what we do. If we want them to be respectful to others, we have to be respectful toward them.

If you want your child to say "please," say "please" to them.

If you want them to wait until you're available instead of interrupting you, wait until they get to a stopping point in their play before asking them to do something.

If you want them to be kind and gentle with their siblings, be kind and gentle with them.

It can be hard to put into practice in our busy, frazzled lives, but children absorb everything around them, and this definitely includes how we treat them.

9. Strive for empathy

It can often seem like our children are misbehaving just to make our lives harder. Why can't they just follow the rules at the park so you can all have a nice time?

There is always a reason for misbehavior though, whether it's as simple as a hungry or tired child, or more complicated like difficulties at school.

If you can understand the reason behind the misbehavior, it will be so much easier to find empathy for your child and respond with kindness. If you can't figure out the reason, just know that there is one. Your child loves you more than anything and wants to please you, so there is a reason if they are acting out.

10. Use time-in, not time-out

The goal of positive parenting is to build and maintain your relationship with your child, while also raising a person who will do good in the world.

Time-out sends the message that we can't deal with our child's behavior, that we don't want to see the part of them that is loud and angry and messy. It pushes you apart.

Time-in, or spending time being present with your child, brings you closer together. It recognizes that what all children need is to feel loved and accepted by their parents, no matter what their behavior looks like that day.

Time-in is not always a pleasant thing. It's not all hugs and painting rainbows together.

It may look like your child crying or throwing a tantrum next to you because you're holding the line on a boundary. It may look like you explaining the importance of the safety rules you have in place and why you had to leave the park early.

Time-in doesn't mean that everyone is always smiling and happy, but it does mean that everyone feels loved, that your child gets the message that you will always be there and can handle anything they throw your way.

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