Unconditional Respect: The Power to Change the World

You're probably familiar with unconditional love, but what about unconditional respect? It's a respect you don't have to earn and you can't lose. Find out how this kind of respect can revolutionize your parenting, your community, and the world. Click the image to learn more.
We're all familiar with the concept of unconditional love, whether we've experienced it or not. It's a love you can't earn and you can't mess up, a love that you receive regardless of your actions. Most parents feel unconditional love for their children, although not all are adept at showing it all the time.
But what about unconditional respect?
Have you ever been given this kind of respect, a respect you don't have to earn and you can't lose? If you can answer yes to that, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. You might have heard of it before as 'The Golden Rule' or the Proverb that says 'a gentle answer can turn away wrath.' Maybe you remember Thumper, the adorable little bunny from Bambi, saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothin' at all." When you boil it down, these are the same message: Treat others with kindness regardless of how they've treated you.

Have you ever given unconditional respect to others? It's a world-changing practice, one that I honestly believe could bring about world peace if only we would all take part in it with our whole hearts and strongest efforts. When you answer a mean or careless yell with gentleness or smile at a crabby person on the street, you're practicing unconditional respect. Unconditional respect says, "It doesn't matter how you treat me. I'm going to empathize with you, recognize that factors in your life may be influencing the way you treat me, and treat you only with kindness and honor."
This isn't something we see very often in America these days.
In fact, I rarely see this kind of concern for others in my day to day life. Our culture perpetuates this idea that you have to earn my respect and, until you do, I'm entitled to treat you however I see fit. In addition to this mindset, we have a tendency towards apathy, a lack of concern and care for others. If I don't know you, I'm in no way expected to make an effort to make your day better or brighter. This kind of thinking not only causes disrespect amongst people, it breeds lack of accountability, the idea that I'm not responsible for my neighbor, and even crime.
How far does this respect go?
I have the privilege of teaching eighth-grade health as well as science and math. When I taught my students about this kind of respect, one of them challenged me and asked if I would still respect him if he broke into my house and stole from me. He was quite shocked when I answered that yes, I would still show him respect.

Why, he wanted to know, would I still show respect to someone who stole from me? Because I don't know what you were going through to cause you to break in. Maybe you needed something that I had. Or you were desperate for some kind of attention, anything to make someone take notice of you. Maybe you had to get that money to help pay for your grandpa's medicine. Truth be told, I might not feel respect for you in my heart of hearts, but I'm still going to show you respect. Sometimes we have to act in a way we don't really feel. That's #adulthood, ya'll.

The result of unconditional respect is... respect.
The incredible thing about unconditional respect is that it pays you back with respect. I proceeded to ask my students how many of them could spit in my face. They were aghast at the very idea. Responses ranged from "No way, Mrs. Hayward!" to "You're my friend, I could never do that!" But every single one of them told me they wouldn't be able to do it. I scaled it back and asked how many could bad mouth me to another student in the halls. The looks were less shocked but the responses were the same.


Because it's hard to treat someone poorly who consistently treats you well. It has been my general experience that by showing unconditional respect to people in my community, workplace, church, family, and grocery store almost always results in a kinder, more friendly response. Often, we're so used to poor treatment from others, being ignored at best and treated cruelly at worst, that when we're shown kindness by another it's a wonderful surprise. I don't know about you, but I want to be the person who brightens someone's day. I want to be a smile maker, passing respect and kindness forward through those I interact with each day.
Children can only learn this from us.
Not only do I want to show this kind of respect to strangers, I want to treat my children with unconditional respect every day. I want to teach them by example how to treat others. Goodness knows they won't learn it only by hearing me tell them. They must be shown. If we can rise up and show our kids how to extend this level of compassion to others, our world would be completely rocked by it. In those tough moments when you're exhausted or stretched thin by hours of bickering, it can be really hard to respond with respect. But it's okay to mess it up. It's okay because it gives you an opportunity to teach your kids how to apologize and mean it.

Unconditional respect, unlike love, is usually harder to offer to those closest to you because they're the ones you interact with most. They've got the highest chance of being around when you're off your game. So forgive your own mistakes, ask forgiveness from those you're less than patient with, and shut your mouth when something unkind tries to cross your lips.
Change starts with you.
So here's my challenge. As you go about the rest of your day, try some unconditional respect. Choose kindness in every response. When your grumpy side gets the better of you, apologize sincerely, with humility, and try harder the next time. I promise you that it will get easier. And I also promise you that the world, your world, will be better off because of you.

Be kind. Choose respect. Love one another.
Leave a comment below letting us know how unconditional respect has impacted your life. And thanks for reading!
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How to Get Your Kids to Listen Without Tricks, Counting, or Bribery

How to get your kids to listen without tricks, counting, or bribery | I cringe every time I hear another mom in the grocery store saying, "One.... two...." There's a better way! Learn how to get your kids to listen the first time, every time. Think of all the frustration you could be letting go of! Click the image to learn more.

Sometimes we do whatever it takes to get our children to listen and obey. If my daughter were on her way into the street, you bet I'm gonna yell. If we're out past bedtime and just need to make it back home with minimal whining, you'll probably hear me offer a bribe. All of us have those moments.

But what about the rest of the time?

How Can You Get Your Kids to Listen Without Tricks, Counting, or Bribery?
First Things First: Consistency
Consistency is the key to all the issues we'll cover from here on out. Your kids want and need firmly set boundaries. Don't believe me? One of my middle school students approached me at the end of last school year and said I was her favorite sub. When I asked her why she sheepishly admitted it was because I made them do their work! Kids, big ones and small ones, want to know where the line is. That knowledge makes them feel safe, secure and cared for. They like to know exactly what will happen when they cross a certain line. They like to know how you'll react to any given scenario. And that's really hard when you let one broken rule slide this time and then totally fly off the handle the next, for the same offense. The best parenting is responsive, not reactive.
Set Honest Expectations
You know yourself and your children better than anyone else, so only you and your partner can decide on the rules that are most important to you. The values you want to impart to your children can help guide you as you decide which behaviors are unacceptable and which are a little more flexible. For instance, many moms get pretty upset when their children make a mess by pulling bowls or utensils out of the cabinets. I'm not one of those moms; partly because I've come to terms with a messy life and partly because I want them to feel like this house is theirs as much as it is ours. So making a mess isn't a punishable offense in my house. Getting a toy out of the closet without permission though, now that's punishable in my house because we encourage our girls to appreciate what they have and pulling additional things from the closet without permission can lead to a sense of entitlement which I don't want for them.

Maybe that example seems silly or harsh to you. That's okay with me. We're different moms and we have different goals for our children. I'm not here to tell you which rules to set. Only you can decide what's worth the fight. If you, like me, only have a certain amount of emotional and mental energy each day, save it up and only use it on things that will matter in the long run. If you want to raise honest kids, then lying is going on your list. If you want to raise gentle kids, then you'll probably include hitting, biting, and kicking. If generosity is encouraged, your list might include taking a toy from a sibling/friend or failing to help with household chores. Take some time with your spouse or partner and write down a list of the values you want to instill in your kids and the rules that go along with them.
Make the Consequence Fit the Crime
Whether you prefer to think of it as a consequence or a punishment, the thing that happens when your child steps out of line should be proportional to their rule breaking. It's too easy to overreact when you're parenting from a desperate or tired place. So do you and your children a favor. Pre-set consequences and stick to them! If Billy knows biting results in the loss of his tablet time, then when he bites, whether it's a nibble or a chomp, he loses his tablet time. Done. He knew it would happen and you don't have to think about how to handle the situation while you're angry.
Lead By Example
That old idiom, "Monkey see, monkey do," came from real life experience. Kids copy what they see every day. Any parent who's ever had to break a kid from repeating a curse word knows this all too well. It doesn't have to be only your bad habits they pick up on though. Modeling the behavior you want to see in them is the very best way to teach them how to act. The very best. And also the hardest.

if you want honest kids, you have to be honest with them and honest in front of them, especially in tough situations. If you want generous kids, let them see you giving your time and money. Invite them to be a part of it by volunteering together. The next generation NEEDS to be taught by example so badly. In our social media-driven culture it's easy to tell people what to do. Every Instagram celeb and YouTube personality can tell you the best, coolest, newest, trendiest things. Our culture talks and talks. Our kids desperately need us to act. On the flip side, if they hear you harking at them for something like lying and then witness you lying in your day to day life, they'll lose respect for you and your rules. You know, because you'd lose respect for someone you witnessed being hypocritical too. We have a bad habit of thinking our kids are different than we are. They're not. They're just as quick to sniff out hypocrites.

Tips for Getting Your Kids to Obey without Tricks, Counting, or Bribery
Now that we've got the basics out of the way, let's talk about some applicable things you can do to get your kids to listen and obey the first time you ask.
1. Don't Ever Count. Ever.
I always tell my kids that delayed obedience isn't obedience at all. If they don't do as you ask when you ask, they receive the allocated consequence. In my home, we use a card system with their toys. If my daughter whines at me when I ask her to pick up her toys, she instantly loses a card. No warning, no second chances, no questions, and no bargaining. She knows the rule and the consequence. So when she ignores me and continues playing, I say "Okay, one card gone." And wouldn't you know it, she skips to and gets those toys picked up right away.

Kids who are used to getting a count-of-three know that you don't really mean business until that last number. And they will squeeze ever tiny nano-second out of you. Not to mention how frustrated you feel when you have to count every single time you need them to do something. It's bad for your mental health and happiness as Mama. So do yourself a major self-care favor and dole out that consequence straight away.
2. Show Them How First
Nothing makes me feel like a bad mom quite as much as getting upset and frustrated with a 'disobedient' child who I later realize just didn't know how to do what I was asking her to do. This can be especially applicable for the second- or third-born kids. We forget that we spent time teaching our eldest kids how to do something as simple as picking up the cards and put them back in the box. But our second kids don't learn those skills simply from being around their older siblings. Pause for a second and show them how to do it.
3. Feed Them
Seriously. You have no idea how many meltdowns and tantrums and yucky moments are caused by simple hunger around here. My husband and I have an unspoken rule that we don't ask our youngest to do anything mildly strenuous unless she's eating within the last two hours. Hanger is a real thing. Give your kids grace for it. Same goes for sleep and personal space. I talk a lot about self-care and this is your gentle mom-to-mom reminder that your kids need that same mental space.
4. Bribes Are Not For Normal Expectations
Bribes are for dentist appointments or long car rides or trips to Great Aunt Muriel's. They're certainly not for doing your homework or feeding the dog or putting your dishes in the sink. Those are normal everyday expectations for being part of a family. If you bribe them for feeding the dog, you've just set a new standard. Your kids start to think, "I'll wait until she tells me and then I'll get candy for it." Um, no way, Jose!
5. Fill Their Love Tanks
Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Love Languages of Children, writes "Only the child who feels genuinely loved and cared for can do her best." Learn what your child's love language is and how to speak it better so they may confidently rest in your unconditional love. It's amazing to me how many kids act out in an effort to get attention. (I'm a teacher, remember...) They just want to be seen, to be heard, to know someone cares. A child with a full love tank is way more responsive to correction and higher expectations. That might look like taking a few minutes away from your phone to give your son undivided attention while he tells a story. Or reading and cuddling with your daughter before asking her to clean up her room. Maybe it looks like spending a Saturday with your teen doing something he likes. If your kid's love tank hasn't been an area of focus for a while, it might take some time to see the change. But I guarantee you there will be change.

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What Would You Add?
What awesome advice did I miss? Share it in the comments. You're a great mom. Don't forget it!
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Dear Idealist: Life Can Be Messy and Good At The Same Time

To the idealist mother | Every idealist has a mental picture of what life is supposed to look like. Learn how to balance your hopes and real life without burn out or frustration. Click the picture for more.

Dear Idealist,

You see the world as a beautiful would-be, a dream to be fulfilled, an expectation to be lived up to. Sometimes, that's really great. You're a dreamer, a planner, a visionary, someone who hopes for the best and always pushes to achieve it. Without you, our world would quickly become stagnant, lost in the cares of today, or else drowned in negativity. We need you to keep asking what would happen if.


Sometimes reality doesn't live up to the sight you beheld through your rose-colored glasses. Sometimes life turns unexpectedly in another direction. Sometimes the actual dream is too far out of reach, or even *gasp* not meant to be. What then? How do you keep up your idealistic optimism when you can't reach the goal? It's hard to be satisfied when the dream is unfinished.
I know. Because I'm also an idealist.
My idealism is a big part of why I deal with depression. I have this picture in my head of what life or marriage or motherhood is supposed to look like. I work and strive to make that picture a reality, but it rarely ends up looking just the way I wanted it to. Or it looks just like the picture for 4.7 seconds until the baby needs a nap and dinner needs cooking again even though I haven't done the dishes from last night yet. From one idealist to another, I have three things to say.

1. Life is a film, not a photo.
The problem with focusing on that picture in your head is that life never stands still like that. Just like a real, actual photoshoot, you might come away with a couple of perfect shots, but they don't capture the chaos that is smiling like a scary clown for an hour while waiting for the three kids to all look at the camera at the same exact moment, while your ragged photographer waves a diaper over her head to catch the babies attention because it's literally the only thing you had in the diaper bag. Like that photo session, life includes some really great moments, but it's 99% messy and loud and unpredictable.

Enjoy those perfect moments when they happen. But don't sit around waiting for them. Enjoy the craziness in between; the cheerios on the floor, husband and wife moments interrupted by a small cry from the next room, the bathroom sink that needs plunging because the kids tried to clean up the rice sensory bin on their own. Those are the real-life moments. No one strives to live up to these images because they're not exactly pretty. But that's life. Messy, inglorious, and beautiful.
2. There is no rewind on the film of life.
You don't get a second chance at this moment right now. There is no redo. This moment will be a memory before you know it. What kind of memory will you make it? I spent the first four years of motherhood in desperation; lonely, depressed, upset, and too-often frustrated. I wasted a lot of time, and a lot of it was stolen from me. Yet, despite all the hard times, I have some real gem-like memories from that season. I am who I am today because of that portion of the movie.

You won't get it right every time. You probably won't get it right most of the time. But you'll hit the goal sometimes. And in life, sometimes is pretty darn often. Enjoy it. You can't control everything, but you might miss it if you keep trying.
3. Know where you got the picture.
Who handed you the photo you've been trying to live up to? That's a difficult question to answer, but it's an incredibly important one. Even though life is a film, it is okay to have a standard you wish to achieve. Just make sure it's a standard you understand and truly value. If the images of perfect motherhood portrayed on social media are outlining your perfect image, toss it out the window on your way to Crazytown! You don't need that kind of unreachable pressure on your shoulders!

Know your 'why.' Why is it important to you that your family eats dinner at the table every night or that your kids get straight A's or that you stay-at-home or that you work full-time? Why does it matter that you head up the PTA or lead a bible study or bake the brownies for next week's sale from scratch with organic flour? I'm not saying any of those things are or are not worthwhile. It doesn't matter what the picture is. What matters is why it matters to you. Is it truly valuable to your family? Will this make you or your spouse or your children happier, better people? If the answer is yes, keep aiming for it. If it's not, well... toss it where you toss those dirty diapers.
Loosen up the reigns, just a bit.
Motherhood, marriage, and life, in general, are difficult enough pursuits apart from the added pressure of idealism. If you want to be content and enjoy the life you have right now, loosen up your expectations. That doesn't mean you have to let them go. Just let them become more flexible so you can enjoy all the awesome stuff before and after the perfect shot.


Another Idealistic Mom

What did you think? Does this line up with your experience as an idealist and as a mom? What would you add for other idealists? Let us know in the comments.
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Is It More Than The Baby Blues?

The baby blues are an expected dip in hormone levels responsible for tears, loneliness, and a general blah feeling after the birth of your new baby. But what if those feelings persist weeks and months longer? How do you know whether it's just baby blues or if you might be dealing with postpartum depression? Find out more now. Don't survive in silence any longer.

Every pregnant woman is told to expect the 'baby blues', the hormonal crash that can last the first 6-8 weeks of your brand new baby's life. The baby blues are like PMS on overdrive, waves of inexplicable weeping, soul-sucking loneliness, and irrational fear. But what happens when those first 8 weeks pass and you're still feeling all that yuck? How can you tell when it's more than just 'baby blues?' How do you know when, or if, it's time to ask for help?
Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
After the birth of my second baby (16 months after my first), I found myself in that exact place. I had enough good moments to feel like life was okay... or at least like I wasn't sinking quite yet. I rode big curling swells of laughter and moments of bliss and then crashed to the bottom of heart aching emptiness and unending pointless tears. I almost never had an answer to my husband's question of "What's wrong?" And I couldn't really talk about it with my mom or my friends because I didn't know what to say. I didn't feel depressed. I just felt yucky.

The longer it went on, the more I told myself to snap out of it, to enjoy what I had, to not let these precious baby days pass me by. I got dressed in the morning and pasted a smile on my face, believing if I could just pretend it long enough, it would feel real. But the days turned into months and the months into years and I still felt an aching emptiness where fulfillment and joy should have been. I spent 3 years slogging through that wasteland. I was even a doula, specially trained to recognize postpartum depression (or PPD) in new moms. But I couldn't see it in myself.

When It's Time To Get Help
I wish I'd said something sooner. I wish someone had said something to me sooner. I wish I hadn't wasted all that time. I wish... I can't go back and change my story. And now, on this side of my journey, I wouldn't want to. My journey has given me the voice to share and help other moms like me, moms like you. The answer to the question at the start of this post, "how do you know if you need help?", is this: If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help.

There's too much going on during those early months of motherhood (whether it's your first time or your fifth). If you feel at all 'off', ask for help. There is no harm in talking to a counselor or therapist. You might be fine. Your therapist will tell you if that's the case. But you might not be fine, through no fault of your own, and a therapist can help you become fine again so you really can enjoy motherhood.

"If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help."

Need More Direction?
Sometimes you need more than feelings. Especially if your feelings are super confused or if you've shut them down in order to deal with less. In that case, this questionnaire is an incredible objective tool for assessing your mental health. Answer these questions honestly and take it with you to your OB or Midwife at your next appointment. I guarantee they've got some awesome resources for you. Know why? Because 1 in 5 women deals with PPD. You are not alone. And you have nothing to fear by asking for help.

Believe me, there is more to fear in living with PPD than in getting the help to fight it. You're worth it, Mama. Your baby is worth it. Reach out today.
Think Your Wife/Friend/Daughter Might Have PPD?
First things first, ask her how you can help. Or better yet, just show up and do what needs doing. Bring her a meal. Wash, fold, and put away her laundry. Do her dishes. She might ask you to hold the baby while she sleeps, but what she won't ask you is to do the dirty jobs she believes are her responsibility. Take that on for her and then offer her this post or the questionnaire. Let her know you love her first. And stay by her side, even if she snaps at you or pushes you away. She really needs you right now. She just doesn't know how to say so.
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How To Respond To Mom Shaming

Mom shaming is the worst! Don't let someone else's opinion of you or your parenting ruin your day. Learn how to respond to that *helpful* stranger or family member now, so you're ready next time (cause, let's face it, there WILL be a next time!)

Mom Shaming Is The Worst
No one enjoys being the subject of mom shaming. And I think it's probably also true that most people don't intend to mom shame another mom. But it happens. We all have moments when we say something hurtful or opinionated without intending to inflict shame or pain on another person. It kind of comes with the territory of having a mouth. But being on the receiving end of mom shaming is awful, especially when it's done publically, either to your face or online.
It Happens To All Of Us Eventually
A few weeks back, while visiting the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon, I was doing the responsible mom thing and applying sunscreen to my four- and five-year-old daughters prior to our ninety-degree walking tour. As I sprayed sunscreen on their arms, slightly away from the crowds (I'm not a monster), I heard a woman's voice. "Stand back, dear. Those spray sunscreens are filled with terrible chemicals. I don't want you breathing any of that." It wasn't even a badly masked whisper. Nope, full volume, baby. My husband was parking the car and my mother-in-law was chatting with another person in line. I might be the only one who really heard her, but I wouldn't really know either way. I didn't look up.

It was a careless comment from a complete stranger. One that wasn't even directed right at me. I tried not to let it get to me, but I still felt it. How could I not? She was complaining that I was dousing my kids in harmful chemicals. Read into that just a little bit and it becomes, "What kind of terrible mother poisons her children and all the innocent people around her?!" I wasn't about to let this woman ruin my day. I wasn't going to let that comment be the thing I obsessed about instead of enjoying the beauty of the gardens. So here's what I did.

What To Do When You're Being Mom Shamed
Don't React
The first thing you need to do, or rather not do, is react. Keep cool. Don't look up. Don't engage the person passing judgment on you. You can't please them all and you don't have to. If your shamer is someone you don't know, then ignore them completely. Who cares what they think? If you do know your shamer, don't respond immediately. Give yourself time to calm down, let your cheeks stop burning and your face unclench. Breathe.
Gain Some Perspective
While you're busy not reacting, try to put yourself in their shoes. Did they mean to belittle you with their comment or were they just talking? Were they trying to be helpful and just accidentally came off sounding like a jerk? Sometimes people speak out of fear or ignorance and you just have to let it slide. And girl, if it was a comment online, just shake it off. Trolls don't give a rat's nasty backside how their comments make you feel so why should you care about that bully's opinion?
Whether they had good intentions or ill, you gain nothing by hanging onto the hurt. Let it go. Forgive them for their carelessness/tactlessness/stupidity/well-meaning-but-uninvited-advice/downright-cruelty. Whatever it was, it's not your problem. It's their heart issue and you can't change other people. You can only control you, girl.
Respond--ONLY IF It Benefits The Situation
Before you respond, ask yourself these three questions:

Is the shamer online or in person? If they're online, don't waste your time or energy. It will only leave you more frustrated and the chances of showing the troll the error of their ways are slim-to-none. Don't bother.

Is the shamer someone you know? If not, don't respond. Just walk away or continue with your day. You don't owe them anything.

Will a response encourage the shamer to do things differently next time? We don't respond in order to make sure they know how much their comments hurt us. We respond to address inaccuracies, encourage more gentleness in the future, or thank them for trying to help. Yeah, I said that. Sometimes, after we've had time to calm down and gain perspective, we realize they were right. It's okay to say "Thank you for pointing out how I could have done that differently/better. If you have the opportunity to share that info with another mom in the future, maybe you can try it this way instead."
Move Forward
Once you've done all this, it's time to move on. Remind yourself that you're doing your best, you're comfortable with your decisions as a mom, and no one knows your kids better than you. Brush off the whole experience. Talk to a good friend or your partner if you need to vent or get it all out of your head. Do something that makes you feel stronger, wiser, more grounded. That moment or that comment do not define you. You are a good mom. You are a great mom.
Remember Everything You're Doing Right
My kids were covered in sunscreen. I protected them from skin cancer that day. (And you know what? I've tried essential oil sunscreen and it made both my kids cry their eyes out because it smells so terrible. You do what you have to do.) I spent the day with them, touring gardens which emphasized another culture, talking about the differences and similarities. We laughed and played, we jumped over 'lava' rocks and sang and danced on the way, and we had a great time. Chemicals aside, I was a great mom that day. I gave my daughters a memorable, fun adventure. And I don't regret a thing.

You are a great mom. Don't let anyone take that away from you. Be you. Mom on.
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Treat-Free Special Family Activities

These kid-approved, memorable activities will keep your kids happy all year long without the dreaded sugar tantrums. Check them out!

8 Ways To Celebrate Without Sugar
Visit A Landmark
A river, lake, or mountain would be a great place to visit and spend an afternoon. And it's free which makes it twice as awesome! The world is incredible and while you might like to visit somewhere different, there are people out there who want nothing more than to visit the place where you live. So be a tourist for an afternoon and explore your city or county. Visit a local county or state park. Hike, swim, take pictures and enjoy the time together as a family. I guarantee your kids will love this even more than a trip to the ice cream shop. And they'll remember it infinitely longer.
Visit An Attraction
Maybe you live near a theme park, zoo, or another touristy place. In my hometown, we have a small railroad company that puts on themed 1- or 2-hour excursions. My daughters love getting on the train and, even though we don't even travel five miles from home, that ride becomes the highlight of the whole month.
Purchase A Lasting 'Treat'
Take a trip together to a shop you don't usually visit and purchase a new piece of clothing, shoes, a book, or a new toy. It doesn't have to be big or cost more than a few dollars. My kids love to visit a bookstore where my oldest will usually choose a new reader and my youngest will choose a new stuffed animal. (You know the ones, those new beanie baby animals with giant glittery eyes... Yeah, we have a small army of them.) My daughters also love to pick out their shoes or clothes so when they need new ones, we make it into a big thing. They get a 'special treat' and I get to spend only money I needed to spend anyway!
Take Advantage of Free-For-Kids Activites
Especially during the summer months! Our bowling alley offers free daily bowling for kids under 18, the movie theaters have weekly free matinees, and many restaurants offer free-for-kids days or evenings each week. These can be excellent ways to get out and have fun with your kiddos while also saving money, which I'm all about, you guys! The cost of an outing doesn't affect it's specialness one bit!
Make Something At Home
Make your own popsicles by filling molds with this smoothie recipe. Use bananas instead of honey and you've got a 5-minute sugar-free treat that your kids will definitely love! One ingredient sugar-free ice cream? Done. How about some fresh berries with lightly sweetened whipped cream? See the common thread here? Fruit! Let them enjoy the bounties of summer straight from the bush/tree/vine. I can almost hear you saying, "but Jessi, fruit has sugar too!" I know, I know. But it also has fiber and micronutrients that your kids' bodies need. Maybe they shouldn't eat only fruit, but 2 servings of fruit, especially when secretly mixed with spinach, is definitely good for them.
Let Them Organize A Party
I don't know about your kids, but mine love to be in charge! The idea of planning their own tea party or backyard pool party and inviting all their friends or cousins over would be the coolest thing since learning to butter their own toast! Let them do the invitations, the decorations, and the activity planning. And if you're a 'planning' mom, do your best not to take over ;) If they want to hang the Frozen decorations from 2 years ago with the Spiderman table cloth they found in the closet, let them! It's their party and half the fun is in making it happen.
Get A Little Messy
Water balloon fight anyone? How about these totally washable chalk bombs? (Honestly, I hate these things, but my kids... my kids LOVE them...) You can paint a window with shaving cream paint and spray it all off when you're done. There's something magical about kids and messes. And when you, the stop-that-I-don't-want-to-clean-it-up-again Mama join in on the fun, I guarantee they won't forget it easily.
The Next Time You Need A Reward or Treat
This list includes things you probably won't do every day, but that's okay! You wouldn't go out for ice cream every day (I hope!) But the next time you need a treat or a special reward or *ahem* a bribe, remember these ideas. You'll have one very happy kiddo on your hands and you'll still get them to bed on time without the sugar-high plummet tantrum. --You're welcome--

What would you add to this list? I'd love to add a few new ideas to my sugar-free arsenal! Let me know in the comments.


Need more treat-free ideas?
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What To Do When Your Child Says Something Embarrassing

It happens to all of us. What do you do when your innocent kids says something horrifying to a stranger, friend, or family member? How do you recover with grace and kindness? Learn how to teach your child what they can say and what they should keep to themselves.

We All Know The Scenario
"Well hello, aren't you adorable! How old are you?"

"I'm three. Do you have a baby in your tummy?"

The 50-year-old man looks at you and chuckles uncomfortably. Meanwhile, you melt into a puddle on the floor.
Kids Say The Darndest Things
If you have kids, I guarantee this has happened or will happen to you at some point. Kids don't think about people's feelings before they speak. They just say what's on their mind. Their innocence is part of what makes them so adorable. So the next time you find yourself in this situation, remember these 3 steps.
How To Handle That Embarrassing Moment

Step 1: Smile and Take A Deep Breath
Didn't we just go over how every single parent ever has experienced this moment? That means even that overweight man your child just insulted has very likely been on your side of this situation. Smile at your child's victim in an apologetic sort of way and take a deep breath. Don't overreact. Heck, don't even react. Let the moment slide by and give your cheeks a few seconds to stop burning. Usually, the person your child's just slammed is every bit as embarrassed as you. No one wants to be called fat, even by a three-year-old.
Step 2: Say Something Nice
You can apologize briefly and quietly if you must, but don't make a big deal out of it and DON'T force your youngster to apologize. It will only embarrass her and make things more awkward. Instead, I like to change the course of the conversation by offering a genuine compliment or asking a question of the offended person. Something like, "I really like your hat. Is that your team?" This does three things: First, it takes the focus off that awkward, and usually true, thing your kid just said. Second, it provides that poor guy an opportunity to walk away from your encounter with something other than the embarrassment to remember you by. Third, it sets an example for your child about polite conversation starters. So they know. For future reference.
Step 3: Talk About It LATER
After you've left the grocery store/barbecue/funeral/etc. and you're in a place where you and your kid can have a comfortable and genuine face-to-face, bring up the comment. DO NOT attempt to have this conversation if you are still feeling at all embarrassed or upset. Using your I'm-not-mad-this-is-just-a-normal-conversation voice, you can gently explain to your child that we don't ask people if they have babies in their tummies or say they smell funny or ask if they just farted. Only use this conversation to go over your kid's current offense. There's no need to rehash old offenses unless they specifically ask you about them. This can be very simple: "Honey, it's not polite to ask if someone has a baby in their tummy. Maybe next time you can say/ask..." They'll have questions. Good Lord, will they have questions. Do your best to answer honestly and completely. "Why? Well, asking if they have a baby means you think their tummy is big and that can sometimes hurt people's feelings."

Remember, Your Child Will Grow Out Of It
Sometimes your kid will come up with more questions and that's great. Answer as they arise. My daughter went through a phase where she would whisper what she wanted to ask in my ear before saying it out loud (she's always been a total rule follower). I'd either nod or shake my head and she'd proceed accordingly. These scenarios are super common and don't have to be a big deal. Most of the time, the people your children talk to are going to be perfectly reasonable adults who've been where you're at and they'll give you loads of grace. If you run into someone whose feelings genuinely get hurt... well.... they're a grown-up. I'm not sure it's your job to help them work through that.
Things You Should NOT Do:

Don't make a scene by yelling at or hitting your child because of their comment and don't embarrass them in order to show them how it feels. That's just mean.
Don't force them to apologize for their innocent words
Don't try to explain away your child's actions to the other person. This only keeps the awkwardness going.
Don't run away. Stick around and show your child how grown-ups interact.
Don't discipline your child for their comment, at least not the first three times. If they keep saying rude things despite knowing very well that it's not okay, well then...
Don't try to deal with the situation while you're embarrassed. Wait until you get some separation and perspective to talk about it. I promise you will laugh it off eventually.

Forgive and Don't Forget
Kids are great because they're kids. Let them be little, for this time is so very short. Forgive them easily. I promise they don't mean to embarrass you or others, they're just genuinely curious about literally everything. The fact that your child feels comfortable enough to ask a stranger if they're pregnant is a sign that he's developing well. And don't you forget this moment (not that it's likely to happen) because someday the one gaining a few pounds or trying to quietly relieve some bloaty pressure may be you. And it will be up to you to laugh it off and smile knowingly at that young beet-red mama.

Care to share your stories? It's always great to know we're not alone in this Mama journey. Share with us in the comments!

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6 Ways to Support Your Introverted Child

Having in introverted child brings its own unique challenges. Whether you understand her or not, these tips will help you equip your little introvert to be brave, understanding, and true to herself. Pin this for later or learn more by clicking the picture now.

So You've Got An Introverted Child?
Maybe you know all about the life and needs of an introverted child because you're also an introvert. Or maybe you're pulling your hair out because you're extroverted and nothing about this sweet child of yours makes sense. Whether you understand her or not, she deserves allowance to be who she is.
Why Your Introverted Child Needs Support
We live in a society where politeness and friendliness are supreme. As adults, we understand that if a stranger smiles at you in the grocery store, politeness dictates that you smile back, maybe even offer a "Hello, how are you?" This is a learned behavior, and often quite difficult for even most adults to accomplish. (We've all had those days where nothing at all can snap us out of a cranky mood.) Those moments are magnified for our kids, especially when they're young.

Young children are adorable and everyone and their brother wants to say hi and receive a sweet, chubby-cheeked smile in return. For an introverted child, that moment of expectation in the grocery store can leave them feeling uncomfortable, even fearful. My five-year-old is as introverted as they come. When a stranger says hello to her, she resolutely sets her eyes somewhere off to their left and pretends they do not exist. I learned, much later than I should have, that pushing her to respond in kind would only make her more uncomfortable. And I'm also introverted! How can we empower our introverts to be courageous and friendly but also honor their personalities?

Expectations Start With You, Her Parent
The first step is to stop caring how other people feel. I'm being totally serious! All too often, we, as parents, feel this unspoken pressure to have perfect children. If my kid throws a fit in the grocery store, I feel like everyone around us is judging me as a mom and a human being. If my kid doesn't respond politely, then I must be failing at teaching him manners. If he doesn't smile at you in the store, it's because I'm not a nice person. These sound ridiculous when I say it like this, but we've all felt this to some degree. Our children are a reflection of us and we want to be seen as competent and capable, not embarrassed or judged.

So, step one, Mama, is to toss all those expectations aside and let your kid be himself. His tantrum is not a reflection of your parenting. His tantrum is a reflection of his own developing ability to regulate his emotions. Sure, you can help him learn those skills (and you should) but he's NOT going to get it right every time. Heck, you don't even get it right all the time! Give him grace and space. Grace for the times he's just not up to it and space to figure out how to manage his own feelings before you swoop in to help.
6 Ways To Support Your Introverted Child
1. Stop Telling People She's Shy
Your words have the incredible power to define your child. If she always hears you apologizing to those polite grocery store people by saying she's shy, then she'll start to believe she's shy. Newsflash, being introverted doesn't mean you're shy! It means you recharge your batteries by spending time alone. I know plenty of people who are quite outgoing and social and are also introverted. But if you're sweet girl grows up constantly hearing her personality defined as shy, she's going to internalize that message and she will become shy. Ask me how I know.

My vivacious, talkative, bossy oldest, when she was three, literally hid behind my skirt at the farmers market one afternoon while I had a conversation with a friend we hadn't seen in a while. After we parted, she looked up at me and matter-of-factly announced that she couldn't talk to them because she was shy. Couldn't. You guys... My heart broke that day. I haven't used the word shy around her since. And neither has she. Oh, she's still hesitant around new people. She still sometimes chooses to pretend grocery store shoppers don't exist. But only sometimes. Other times, she'll smile and wave.
2. Let Him Have Time Alone
Introverts recharge their batteries and recover from stress by being alone or with one or two people whom they know and trust very well. That meansyour child also needs time alone or one-on-one with you to calm down, find peace again, and truly relax. This is especially true if he's in school or spends his days at a daycare center with other children. Introverts tend to burn-out on other people's emotions or energy. We need space where only our emotions are present so that we can refocus.

Allowing your child to spend time alone in his room to read or draw or even play video games is perfectly normal and should be encouraged. When my daughter is feeling overwhelmed, and you can tell because she gets grumpy and snappy, she'll tell her little sister that she just needs some alone time. She's five. I've shown her that it's okay to retreat a little, that it's healthier on her relationships to take a time out.
3. Don't Force Your Young Child To Interact With People She Doesn't Want To
You wouldn't dream of forcing your child to hug a stranger. You want to empower her with the knowledge that she, and she alone, has control of her own body. So why would you force her into conversation with someone she's not comfortable with?

For an introvert, each day starts with a 'glass full' of emotional energy. Every interaction draws some of that out, like tipping a few drops over the rim. Interactions with trusted friends or family use only a couple drops. Interactions with complete strangers use quite a lot more. Simply saying hello to a stranger may use just as much emotional energy as a full hour conversation with someone she knows. Introverted children don't know yet how to regulate the loss of that emotional energy. If you find yourself constantly nagging your young child to be polite and respond to a stranger's advances, take a step back and reassess. Is it necessary for her to respond? Can you respond just as easily and both show her by example and protect her emotional energy?
4. Learn To Gauge His Emotional Energy Level
That glass of emotional energy I told you about... There are signs to watch for that will tell you he's close to running dry. When he withdraws from conversations with those he's closest to, like a sibling or you, he probably needs time to recharge. Grumpiness, sadness, anger, and a shortened temper can all be signs that he's done for the day. If you learn to recognize it, you can teach him to recognize it too. And that puts him one step closer to being able to regulate his own emotions.
5. Teach Her How To Conserve Her Emotional Energy
It can be difficult for an introverted adult to conserve energy, so this will require lots of patience and practice from both of you. Show her that she can smile at that stranger rather than say hello. Talk to her about ways to reduce overwhelm at school by knowing that it's okay to do the things she wants to do, even if her friends are doing other things. (An all around good message for our kids to hear!) Show her by example what it means to love yourself, to value your own emotions, and to care about your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
6. Protect His Emotional Space Until He Can Do It On His Own
People have expectations for us everywhere you look. Parents, teachers, coaches, and, yes, even strangers have expectations for your children. That doesn't mean your kids have to be and do all the things those people expect of them. I could go on and on about how unhealthy it would be to try to live up to all of those, but I think you get it.

Being Mom means you have the weighty responsibility of protecting your children from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual threats. If your introverted child freezes up around people, try to get to the bottom of why it's happening. If he needs more space, make sure he has it. If he needs more courage, equip him to be brave. But most of all, show him how by your example. Let him know his opinion matters, his voice is heard, and his self is his. The more you validate his feelings, the more he will validate others.

What Would You Add?
I'm sure some of you (about half, I'm guessing) are introverts. What are some ways your parents helped equip you to cope with a world that wants your undivided attention? What are ways they may have failed you? As parents, we're all just trying to do our best. I know I don't always get it right. It took me three years to realize the effect my words were having on my daughter. Thankfully, our kids are gracious and forgiving and they bounce back pretty quickly from most things. Keep doing your best and adjusting as you go and you'll do great!



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How To Get The Most Out Of This Mother’s Day

If Mother's Day has ever left you feeling disappointed, stressed out, or guilty, than this is for you! Mother's Day can be relaxing and filled with happy feelings. Learn more by clicking the photo.

Hey Mama!

It's been a while since you've heard from me. We just wrapped up an awesome month filled with amazing and helpful advice from other moms around the world. If you missed out on any posts, I've got them all stockpiled here so you can refer back to them anytime you need to.

I have to admit, I really missed being the one doing the writing! It was a great series, but it feels good to be talking to you again :)
How To Get The Most Out Of This Mother's Day
I have a story to share with you today, one I'm actually kind of embarrassed by, but I'm betting some of you can totally relate. Last year, I ruined Mother's Day. I know! It's Mother's Day, how could I, the mom, have ruined it? I'll get to that later, but for now, just know that I did... and I felt terrible afterward.

Mother's Day is a national holiday designed to help us remember and appreciate our mothers. But once you become a mom, it's a balancing act of appreciating your own mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, etc. and being appreciated by your kids and, if he's a good one, your husband or significant other. Last year, I swayed way over to the me-me-me side of things. I bought my mom and grammy a hanging basket or something and then sat around waiting for my husband and two young daughters to make my day. And let me tell you, I spent the whole day feeling let down and guilty. I was disappointed because my priorities were all kinds of out of line.

Granted, I was in a much different mental health space a year ago than I am today. I was desperate to be seen, to be known and to know who I was meant to be. My health issues were at the root of my entitlement, but I wish I knew then what I know now. Mother's Day isn't the only day of the year to be appreciated. You are valuable and important, Mama, and your family wouldn't function without you on any other day of the year. So here are simple tips to get the most out of your day in May.

Cut Your Hubby Some Slack:
Your husband is working just as hard as you are, just in pretty different ways. He is not a mind reader, nor does he have the ability to change who he is for one day. Accept him as the man you fell in love with and try to appreciate the work he does put in. Don't give him a hard time for his last minute attempts or nag him to get you just the right thing. Here's my challenge to you: Don't even tell him what you want unless he asks.

Last year, I told my hubby exactly what I wanted for Mother's Day. As a result, he spent all of the Saturday before traipsing from one store to the next with our kids in tow looking for my very specific request. When I got that thing I asked for, it wasn't special. It just felt like he ran an errand for me. I was left feeling disappointed, and the worst part of it was he's naturally a really incredible gift-giver. He probably would have come up with something way better if only I had given him the chance. This holiday isn't about getting that new purse or a mani-pedi from your man. It's about being with your family and letting your kids love on you.
Lower Your Expectations:
If you pre-plan your whole Mother's Day in your mind before it happens, I promise you will be disappointed no matter what they do or don't do. Try to dismiss those expectations so that you can enjoy the day for what it is. So your kids made you breakfast in bed and it's soupy and burnt at the same time? They made you breakfast! How cute is that!? Let those moments become precious treasured memories rather than disappointments.
Hug Your Babies
The other thing I did last year to ruin Mother's Day was ask... are you ready for this, cause it was really stupid... for time alone. I did! I asked for time alone on Mother's Day. My kids were confused and, I didn't realize it until later, felt like they'd done something wrong to make me not want to hang out with them on the day they'd been told was their day to love on me. Don't make my mistake. Ask for time alone on a random Thursday. On Mother's Day, stay in bed a little longer and cuddle with those precious beauties. Let them brush your hair and massage your hands. Croon with delight over their drawings and hand-made gifts.

They'll only be this little right now. One day, they'll have babies of their own and your gifts may be limited to a call or mail order flowers. Hug them close today, while they're all yours. Cherish those memories while they're still moments to be lived.

Give Your Mom the Mother's Day You've Been Hoping For
If you've pre-planned your whole Mother's Day, take those plans and make them happen - for YOUR mom! Just because her kids are grown and moved out of the house doesn't mean she doesn't have these same wishes and desires for her Mother's Day. And just because you're grown and have your own kids doesn't mean you don't still owe your mom a debt of gratitude. I appreciated my mom a thousand times more after having kids of my own!! So this year, I'm doing for her what I wish my kids and hubby would do for me.
Make A List of All The Good Things The Last Year Has Held
If, despite all this advice, you find yourself still feeling deflated come Mother's day, ask your family for a few minutes in time out (for you, not them) and retreat to a quiet bedroom. Make a list of all the things that happened in the last year which you're grateful for. Spend just 10 minutes practicing gratitude and I guarantee you'll come out of that room refreshed and back in the right mindset for the rest of the day.
But Most of All...
Take a second to thank each of your kids and your hubby for trying. Whether they got you a full day at the spa or a new toaster, say thank you. Smile like you mean it. If your family is anything at all like mine, they show you how much they love and appreciate and need you on more days than just this one. Let's not make our families feel guilty for trying, even if they failed.

Have you ever ruined Mother's Day? I'd love to hear about it in the comments, if for nothing else than to make myself feel a little better! ;)

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How To Include Your Kids In Your Healthy Lifestyle

Making healthy choices is hard enough as it is without having to also fight the battle at home. Learn how to train your kids to understand and even appreciate your healthy choices. Learn more here.

Your children learn from watching you as their example. If you live healthy they will learn from you how to live healthy. However, you're not the only person in the world. They will learn from the whole family, from kids at school, teachers, other parents, etc. Each encounter is an opportunity to teach them about their bodies, their health, and their ability to choose things which will enable them to grow stronger each day.
What To Do About Unhealthy Snacks
They may notice that their friend's snacks taste sweeter than their own. This can be a teachable moment. For example, they ask you to buy them some candy. Instead of just saying no, you might ask them WHY they want it. If their answer is, "I don't want to be the exception in my class,” then you can help them boost their self-esteem and confidence by, for example, telling them stories of creative people who were considered "weird" in the beginning then ended up being praised.

If your children say they don't like the taste of the healthy snacks you give them, ask them what they want instead and offer them healthy alternatives. Make some new healthy cakes or cookies. The Internet is full of recipes for this. Try to include them in the process of making snacks and enjoy that time in the kitchen together. Remind them too WHY you chose the healthy lifestyle in the beginning. Depending on their ages, you can show them documentaries and videos of how these unhealthy snacks are made.
How To Steer Your Kids Toward Healthier Choices
I know it can be overwhelming and tempting to give up on healthy choices when our kids insist on having some of the wide range of unhealthy foods out there. So give yourself permission to buy them the occasional treat. However, remind them about the reasons you choose to eat healthier foods; together, pay attention and notice every little change in their teeth, skin irritation, energy level, or any other noticeable differences.

This can give them the experience they need in order to recognize how much of the tasty looking food is unhealthy. They may just need to experience the contrast between the two for themselves.

Open a dialogue with them to let them express how they felt during this little experience. This
can give you many hints about what they like and don’t like, enabling you to make healthy food that satisfies their taste buds at the same time, especially if they're picky. Don't criticize their opinion. Let them know you understand them and give credit to their preferences.

Include Them In Other Healthy Choices
Because your children are learning from you how to make healthy choices, give them the REASONS why you chose this product over that one, why you chose to walk and not drive, or why this grocery shop is better than that one. When you engage with them like adults, they feel more responsibility and UNDERSTAND why this a choice you want to stick to. Then they have the choice to agree with you or search for more information. Either way, they're growing and expanding their consciousness and knowledge in a natural way.

Try to include them in different choices in other areas as well. You'll be amazed by their intuitive answers and ideas. They may help you stay accountable when you’re tempted to give up on your healthy lifestyle or indulge in something you shouldn’t! Include your kids in a family workout or gardening or another activity that's healthy and joyful. This gives your kids the experience of an enjoyable healthy lifestyle.
Do Your Best And They Will Too
Lastly, I know how it can be emotionally stressful to keep centered and objective with kids who just want to explore EVERYTHING. Just try your best and forgive yourself each night before bed for any mistakes you made during the day. No one is perfect, including you.

Are you a mom trying to live healthily or want to be healthy? How do you handle your kids’ questions? Share your story with us in a comment below.


About The Author
Fatima is a healthy living coach and blogger and a mom of two boys. Find her on www.wellnessofeve.com or Facebook.
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