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How do we raise a child that is caring and kind? One that has a true sense of right and wrong and does their best to do well by others and live life with integrity?

Parents typically say that having a kind and caring child is more important to them than having a successful one, but the reality is that we tend to celebrate successes more than we do acts of kindness, which may be sending our kids the wrong message.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, there are some key things that parents can do to help form a strong moral compass. The article has lots of great insight and cites a few different studies, so I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but below are the three major points that I took away from the article and that I want to make sure I use in my parenting starting today.

Praise the Child Not Just the Actions

For years psychologists have said that praising specific actions instead of using general praise like “Good job!” or “Good girl!” is far more effective at reinforcing positive behaviors, but a study mentioned in the article found that when trying to reinforce acts of kindness, caring and helpfulness, praising the child was actually more effective.

"The researchers randomly assigned the children to receive different types of praise. For some of the children, they praised the action: “It was good that you gave some of your marbles to those poor children. Yes, that was a nice and helpful thing to do.” For others, they praised the character behind the action: “I guess you’re the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can. Yes, you are a very nice and helpful person.”

A couple of weeks later, when faced with more opportunities to give and share, the children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person.”

The article states that after age 10, the same results come from either praising the child or the action.

When They Misbehave, Give Them Opportunities to Make Amends

 The other side of the coin is how to react when kids make bad decisions or misbehave. The authors say that it’s important that our kids experience guilt, not shame, after bad behavior. Shame is feeling that one’s core self is bad, not that the action was. When a kid feels guilt, they empathize with whoever they’ve wronged and want to make things right.

Our reaction to misbehavior is the key.

"In a review of research on emotions and moral development, the psychologist Nancy Eisenberg suggests that shame emerges when parents express anger, withdraw their love, or try to assert their power through threats of punishment: Children may begin to believe that they are bad people. Fearing this effect, some parents fail to exercise discipline at all, which can hinder the development of strong moral standards.

The most effective response to bad behavior is to express disappointment. According to independent reviews by Professor Eisenberg and David R. Shaffer, parents raise caring children by expressing disappointment and explaining why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation. This enables children to develop standards for judging their actions, feelings of empathy and responsibility for others, and a sense of moral identity, which are conducive to becoming a helpful person. “

Lead by Example

Numerous studies have shown that children learn from our actions more than from our words. The articles talks about a classic study where a teacher plays a game where she has tokens to give to another person. If the teacher gives generously, regardless of whether she preaches selfishness or generosity, when the children played the game, they also gave generously.

If the teacher played selfishly, the children followed suit and it didn’t matter if she spoke about generosity. This held up even months later when the children played the game again. Those that had witnessed generosity months earlier still gave more.

If we want our children to value kindness and generosity, then we must value and live that way ourselves.

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When my daughter — our first — was born, we did a pretty good job of cooking decent meals most nights. Both of us like to cook, so one of us would cook, while the other kept the baby happy. We were exhausted, but we could manage as a team.

Then when my son was born, we just couldn’t get a meal on the table. Because I was nursing I was starving by 5:00 pm and my daughter was ready to eat too, but my husband was working longer hours. We ate a lot of take out in those first few months.

When my son was about 6 months old I found the book "Parents Need to Eat Too" by Debbie Koenig and I wished I had found it sooner. It’s full of tips and shortcuts for how to make easy meals that are satisfying and nutritious and each recipe also tells you how to make baby food from the ingredients.

I know quite a few people who have just had babies or are expecting one soon, so I thought it’d be nice to share some wisdom I’ve gained on my own and from others. Below are some tips I learned from that book, some wise bloggers around the web and from friends.

1. Prep during nap time. This works great when you’re on maternity leave or if you stay home with your kids. Use one of the newborn’s snooze sessions to chop, defrost, marinate or cook ingredients that can quickly be reheated later so that putting together dinner is fast and simple. Use the other nap times for sleep, of course. 

If you have an older child in the house, they might love to help rinse vegetables and measure ingredients.

2. Use a baby wrap. If your baby is like many newborns (mine included), during those first several weeks they’ll be most content in your arms, which means that they’ll often cry when you’re not holding them, especially during the fussy evening hours. That makes anything requiring your hands and arms impossible to accomplish, including cooking or eating.

That’s where a good baby wrap or other carrier comes in. My baby wrap allowed me to prep meals, write blog posts and feed myself with a little creative positioning. Obviously, you want to keep your baby far away from a hot stove. Place him or her somewhere safe while you do any cooking.

3. Cook one-handed meals. As noted above, your baby will often only be happy if they’re in someone’s arms, which means that either mom and dad will have to switch off eating dinner or you can cook things that can be held or scooped with one hand while the baby is cradled with the other. Koenig’s book has lots of great one-handed meals or you can find a list on her blog too.

4. Stock your fridge and pantry with easy to grab foods. You will be tired and hungry. A lot. Make sure there are things you can grab that are at least mostly nutritious to keep you going through the day: nuts, fresh and dried fruits, protein or snack bars like Clif or Kind Bars, yogurt, string cheese, baby carrots or other chopped veggies, whole wheat crackers, instant oatmeal, etc. 

If you’re nursing, you need 500 extra calories a day. Some days it will feel like you’re barely getting the calories you need, but it’s important to take care of yourself too so that you can take care of the baby. Having easy to grab, but healthy options can work wonders.

5. Double recipes. When you can, double a recipe so that you can freeze the other half for later. You’ll be grateful for an already prepared dinner on those nights when you don’t have the time or energy to cook.

Cook rice, pasta and other grains in large batches and put them in the fridge for meals throughout the week or freeze for longer. It takes the same amount of time to cook extra, but you’re saving yourself time later.

6. Use a crockpot. If you can prep the meal during a nap, the crockpot will take care of the cooking for you. This can be a life saver for moms who work outside of the home. A few minutes of prep time in the morning and you can come home to a nutritious meal.

7. Accept help from friends and family. When friends or family offer to cook or pick up dinner, say yes. They want to help and there’s no shame in accepting it.

8. Plan ahead. If you’re the organized type, having healthy meals everyday can be a lot easier if you do a little planning. If you’re pregnant, start doubling recipes a few weeks ahead of your due date and stocking the freezer so you’ll have meals to reheat when the baby arrives.

If your baby is already here, make a schedule for a few meals a week so that you can shop for specific meals and prep for them when you have time and eat leftovers when you don’t.

9. Don’t stress over eating take out. As magical as those first few months are, they are also exhausting. Your brain is foggy and you just want to sit and stare at your baby. Do it.

If you find yourself falling back on take out more often than you’d like, give yourself a pass. Those early moments are fleeting and you’ll get back on the healthy cooking train before you know it.

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Do you have a young child that seems to defy every rule, refuse every request and challenge every decision you make? I think we all have been there. Both you and your child can seem to be in a state of constant frustration.

The good thing to know is that it’s totally developmental. Toddlers, preschoolers, even young elementary-aged kids are becoming more independent every day and are trying to figure out how to be their own person, apart from you. Defiance is often how that is expressed.

Luckily, it’s possible to create an environment where defiance isn’t an all-day occurrence, but more of a once-in-awhile thing. A great article on Baby Center outlines 8 tips for dealing with defiance from child psychologists and positive discipline experts.

Below are four of those tips that I have to remind myself of often. Head to the article to read the rest of the ideas.

Be understanding

Try your best to see things from your kid’s point of view when they’re standing off against you. If they’re saying no to coming inside, putting up their toys or refusing to get ready to leave the house, they may be absorbed in something that they don’t want to stop doing and for young kids, quick transitions can be hard.

Still be firm about what is expected of them, but first tell them that you understand that they’re busy playing and don’t want to stop. “I know you’re still working on that LEGO tower and want to finish it, but it’s time to go see Grandma.”

Reinforce good behavior

Use every opportunity to praise good behavior instead of just focusing on disciplining the bad. When one siblings helps another, when they say please and thank you without being prompted, when they share willingly with friends, etc. heap on the praise.

Kids respond much more strongly to positive reinforcement. When they do misbehave, resist the urge to lecture or shame them. Remove them from the situation and keep your response clear and direct.

Use positive time-outs

In our house we call them “cool downs” because they’re really for finding control and regaining composure rather than punishment. If your child goes into a full-on fit or is being defiant over a household rule, walk them to a designated chair or their bed and have them take a few minutes to get the fussiness out of their system and calm down. 

Some parents choose to stay in the room with their child, but I find that calmly asking them to take some time and then come out when they’re ready helps them to calm down more quickly.

Once they’ve regained control, you can have a discussion about the misbehavior and they’ll actually be able to listen (the bonus is that you’ll be calmer after a little break too).

Choose your battles

Young kids are constantly trying to exert their independence and somethings are trivial in the scheme of things and not worth the energy it takes to engage in a power struggle.

Though we might prefer they don’t wear mismatched clothes (or their shirts backward), it’s probably not worth the battle. If they want PB&J for breakfast instead of lunch, it’s not that big of a deal. If they picked up their toys, but didn’t put them in their correct spots, let it go.

What tricks or ideas do you have for dealing with defiance?

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Remember how my 2-year-old son was fighting bath time? Now he’s fighting having his teeth brushed too. 

He clenches his mouth shut, moves his head in every direction and makes it impossible for me to get the toothbrush anywhere near his teeth. At first, if he put up a big fight, I didn’t stress too much, assuming that it was just one day of less than stellar tooth brushing. Now that he’s been rejecting the toothbrush for a couple of weeks, I’m starting to worry about how well I’ve been able to clean his teeth through all the struggling.

Right on time, I found this post from Dr. Heather Wittenberg on La Petite Academy, an early childhood education site, that reassures me that I’m not alone. Wittenburg says, “Toddlers are hardwired to resist people sticking anything into their mouths. It’s a protective measure Mother Nature created for our little ones’ safety.” 

She gives five tips for overcoming toddler resistance to toothbrushing and here they are:

 1.  Brush together. Make it a regular part of the nighttime ritual. Toddlers love to mimic their parents and siblings, and the family routine reinforces brushing. Then, take turns brushing each other’s teeth. This gives you a chance to give those little choppers a good scrub.

 2.  Bath-time fun. Lots of toddlers love to brush in the bath – and nowhere else. To give him control, hand him another brush to clean his ducky’s teeth, while you brush his.

3.  Sing songs – the sillier the better. Work a second or two of brushing into several key moments in the song. Laugh. Sing. Brush. Repeat.

4.  Goof it up. Look into her mouth and act shocked that your child’s fave foods, animals, and characters are stuck in there. “WHAT is an ELEPHANT doing in your MOUTH? Let’s brush him outta there!”

5.  More goofiness. Teeth can be tickled, counted, and admired to keep his mouth open long enough for brushing. Or have him roar like a lion so you can get your loud lion’s teeth sparkly clean.

I’ve attempted a couple of these before with low to moderate success, but I need to try the other tips too, especially brushing together. Honestly, the one thing that works right now is to distract him with a clip of Curious George. He so badly wants to see George that he overlooks the toothbrushing that occurs with it.

What about all of you? How have you solved problems like this one?

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A downside of modern, more hands-on parenting is that we often feel like we can’t let our kids feel negative emotions. We must protect them from disappointment, sadness or frustration and, when those feelings do occur, well, we must quickly quash those emotions and get back to being happy!

Luckily, the tide is changing and the school of thought now strongly encourages letting our kids experience normal, negative emotions. In fact, studies have shown it actually makes them happier!

That being said, it’s never easy seeing our kids feel big emotions like anger and sadness, and it’s certainly a good idea to help our kids work through those emotions so that they can learn from them.

A great post from early childhood educator Kate on the blog Picklebums lays out a step-by-step process for guiding our kids through coping with big emotions. Here are her suggestions:

Help them put their feelings into words

Encourage them to find the words to express why they’re feeling this way. If they’re younger and still have trouble with this, you can ask questions or suggest reasons they might be sad, angry or frustrated. Once they find the words, listen to what they’re saying.

Explain what reactions are appropriate

It’s OK to have those big feelings, but not OK to hit, break things or scream. Explain what isn’t OK, but then offer alternatives like going outside to run or raise their voice, drawing a picture or writing down their feelings.

Help them calm down

Once you’ve pinpointed the reason for their feelings and helped them to find an appropriate way to express their emotions, now it’s time to cool down and find some calm. You can pull out a homemade cool down kit filled with things that your kid finds comforting or simply helping them to take deep breaths can work miracles.

If your child has a hard time taking deep breaths, hold up your fingers and tell them to blow out the candles or tell them to pretend to blow bubbles. A few rounds of that and they should start to find control.

Set a time limit for brooding or anger and then redirect

Feeling strong emotions is normal, but it’s important to teach our kids not to spend all day focusing on them. If you have a kid that can wallow all day long, set a time limit like 20 minutes and then redirect them to another activity that will shift their focus. Building with LEGO, painting or working with play dough are all good options.

If you need something to hang on the fridge for times like these, Childhood101 has a printable that walks a child through what to do when they feel big emotions.

Do you have any tricks for helping your kids work through big feelings?

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It’s that time of year again when school is coming to an end and we’re starting to look forward to summer vacation. Before we jump right into summer-mode, it’s nice to celebrate the end of another year of learning and growing and reflect on accomplishments.

My daughter just finished preschool a couple of weeks ago. She’s heading to kindergarten in the fall and my mind has been full with thoughts of how much she’s grown and all the changes about to come. 

Some blogs I read have been posting great last day of school traditions and I thought I’d list some of my favorites for you here to help you and your kids celebrate another school year well done and get excited for summer.

1.   Have them take a “phone book” to school for gathering friends’ numbers or emails for summer play dates. Here’s a great printable one

2.   Get ice cream on the way home from school.

3.   Let them cross their finish line. Secure a long piece of paper across your front entryway with the grade they finished written on it and then let them bust through it on their way into the house. 

4.   Take a last day of school picture to keep with the first day of school one. They change so much in a year!

5.   Spend the afternoon outdoors. Blow bubbles, have a picnic snack, throw water balloons — just celebrate the start of being outside more for the next three months.

6.   Unpack backpacks and let them recycle all the papers from the school year they won’t be needing anymore. Put aside supplies that can be reused next year. 

7.   Hang up art work from the year that has been sitting in a pile somewhere. Let them choose where to display it.

8.   If you’re feeling ambitious, make a portfolio that includes standout work from throughout the year and photos to see how much they’re grown. Let the kids help.

9.   Have a special dinner, whether out at a restaurant or at home. Let the kids pick what you eat.

10. Have your kids make an end-of-year self-portrait. This post has good tips for helping them draw themselves.

11. Ask your kids what they want to be when they grow up and take a picture with them holding a sign that says that profession and their grade. Here’s a printable option. It would be a fun way to look back at their interests over the years.

12. Together with your kid, make a list of their accomplishments this year. Did they learn to read independently? Run faster on the playground? Try eating lots of new foods? Memorize multiplication tables? Have their first sleepover?

13. Have a special family movie night and let them choose the movie and snacks.

14. Make a summer adventure list. Come up with all of the things big and small you want to do over summer vacation. Include family traditions, vacations, summer camps and new experiences too. You can then make a big calendar and fill in the weeks with scheduled activities and ideas from the list so that you can look forward to all of the fun ahead.

Do you have any great last day of school traditions?

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My family? We’re road warriors. We’ve taken our fair share of two- and three-day-long (each way) road trips between Texas and the East Coast and we’re about to embark on another big whirlwind trip all the way to New England and back.

As crazy as driving that far with kids sounds, driving is cheaper than flying, gives us more control over our itinerary, the ability to take breaks as needed, have everything we need within arms reach and see more of the country along the way. But it also requires the kids to stay sitting in a car for long stretches of time, which can be a recipe for major meltdowns and frustration all around.

Along the way, we’ve realized what allows us and our kids to survive those long days in the car without too much stress or too many breakdowns. 

Here is what we’ve learned:

1.  Have a well-stocked snack bag. Unfortunately, you’ll have to eat at least a couple fast food meals along the way. We do our best to pick the least unhealthy meals we can (it’s always nice to find a Chipotle along the way), but what really saves us is having lots of reasonably healthy snacks on hand. Apples, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, pretzels and Clif bars all travel well. We also usually pack a loaf of bread and some peanut butter to avoid at least one fast food lunch.

If you have an insulated tote bag and ice packs, you can pack some string cheese and hummus and veggies. Just make sure you are able to refreeze the ice pack and refrigerate the contents of the bag at night.

Kids can get punchy when they’re hungry, so having a few different options on hand to get them through snack times is a life saver and keeps them — and you — happy.

A little extra tip - if you pack bananas, eat them early on in the trip. They always end up beaten, bruised and mushy by the second day.

2.  Fill everyone’s water bottles with ice water before you leave. Keep a jug of water in the back of the car for refills. We love the Thermos insulated water bottles for the kids. They keep the water cold for forever.

3.  Pack each kid a goody bag. I pack each kid a little bag of favorite small items. The key being small. Things like cars, crayons, stickers, a small notepad or activity book, a little baggie of LEGOs, My Little Ponies, etc. Some of my favorites are these reusable sticker books and these no-mess water paint books.

These small items are great for playing in the backseat, plus they’re easy to throw in your bag to have on hand at restaurants throughout the trip. I also include a few books for each of them to flip through. Sometimes I’ll have one new surprise thing in those bags to make it seem special, but not always.

4.  Make sure any special stuffed animals or blankets are within arms reach. We always have their favorite blankets and a couple pillows to make them feel cozy for naps.

5.  Be flexible and make lots of stops. Between the times we need to stop for gas, food and everyone’s potty breaks, it can seem like we’re stopping every hour. We as parents have to let go of our adult preference to just drive as much as possible without stopping and realize traveling with kids is a whole other way of getting somewhere. After so many long drives, we’ve learned to let go of any set plan or ETA.

If the kids are getting frustrated or bored, stop at a rest area and let them run around for ten minutes. It’s worth the time it takes. Every time you stop for gas or food, everyone should get out, go to the bathroom and walk around for a minute. At the very least, when we stop we let them unbuckle and jump around in the backseat for as long as it takes to pump gas.

6. Embrace electronic devices. Yes, it’s important to limit screen time at home. Kids need to play and imagine and run around outside, but when you stick them in a car for hours at a time, something’s gotta give. For me, letting them play on the iPad gives them something interactive to do, keeps them entertained and pretty much fends off all meltdowns. We make sure the iPad is fully charged, and I’ll often download a new app or two for the trip. I also like to have a few kids audiobooks downloaded to play as we drive. DVD players or other tablets or smartphones will work too.

We believe we’re teaching the kids something important (patience, fortitude, a desire to travel) by taking them on these long road trips, but we also know we’re asking a lot of them to stay in the car for so long. Unlimited access to the iPad is what we trade off.

7.  Stay at hotels with free continental breakfasts. Kids love the muffins and waffles and sitting down to a “real” breakfast before another long day on the road helps give the day a feeling of normalcy.

8.  Make plans to see people you know along the way. If you can stop in a town where you know someone, you can avoid a hotel and you get the chance to catch up with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while. We often plan our routes not by what’s quickest, but by who we can see. 

If staying at their place isn’t an option, make plans to get dinner with them. It makes the trip out there feel as special as the destination. It also breaks up the drive and saves everyone’s sanity.

9.  Be patient and calm to the best of your ability. There will be a point when the kids break down. No matter how well you plan or pack, it’s inevitable. The best thing you can do is be the patient and calm one in that scenario. It’s 7:00 and they’ve been in a car all day without their toys or their bed — of course they’re over it. Let them cry, use a calm voice and it will pass. I promise. It might take half an hour for them to release all those emotions, but I promise it won’t last forever. And if all else fails, stop for ice cream.

Our kids have been taking these trips with us since they were born, but they’ve each had to learn how to deal with the long car rides.

I’d say around 1 year old is the worst time for kids in the car. They are just learning to walk and be mobile so they just want to move, but they’re too little to understand why they can’t. But once they’re even 18 months and up, they really start to understand the process and I have been able to see how my own kids’ ability to cope with frustration and be patient has grown with each of these road trips.

Plus, they get to see so many people that we love and so many interesting places each time! We really feel like these are some of the most enriching experiences we offer them.

If you’re just starting to take road trips with your kids, don’t worry. They’ll get the hang of it and the best thing you can do is keep traveling. Before you know it, they’ll be road warriors too.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

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When parents are asked what they want for their kids, the answer is usually “for them to be happy.” But how do we as parents help our children to feel happy, content and secure in themselves? Most research lately suggests that too much hand-holding and protecting can do more harm than good, while promoting self-sufficiency and letting our kids fail occasionally is a better route. recently published an article on “10 Scientifically Proven Tips for Happier Kids" by Alli Worthington, with each tip backed up by a research study showing how it promotes happiness and well-being in kids. Below is the list, each linked to the source study. Head to the original article to read more information.

10 Ways to a Happier Child

1.   Give them plenty of time to play (source)

2.   Praise hard work, not just outcomes (source)

3.   Have traditions (source)

4.  Let them do their own homework (no hovering)(source)

5.   Teach them that it’s OK to feel negative emotions (source)

6.   Let them fail and make mistakes (source)

7.   Don’t compare them to other children; accept their unique strengths and weaknesses (source)

8.   Be silly, fun and make happy memories (source)

9.   Model happiness (source)

10. Don’t argue or discuss stressful issues in front of them (source)

One thing I would add to this list is getting outside everyday. Do you have anything to add to this list?

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We have a 2 year old who has moved beyond the board book phase and is really enjoying longer stories. The only problem is that his impulse control is that of a toddler, so we’ve had a few book-tearing incidences lately. He’s not trying to be destructive, but if there’s a tiny tear in a library book, it seems he can’t help himself — he must tear it more! 

We’ve talked to him about the importance of books and how we must be especially gentle with library books so that others can enjoy them, but again, he’s a toddler. It seems only time will get him to the point where he can fully understand the lesson and be trusted not to tear book pages.

In the meantime though, this list from the blog Growing Book by Book, is full of great ideas of how to teach your children to take care of their books, whether they’re owned or on loan from the library. Here are the suggestions:

1. Matching Books to Kids

Think about the durability of the books you are allowing kids to utilize.  Board books have nice strong and sturdy pages and work well with the under 2 crowd.  Little hands can easily turn pages without having tears.  Though lift-the-flap books and pop-up books are appealing to the little ones, I strongly recommend waiting until your child can control their impulse to lift those inviting little pieces right off the book.  Nothing is harder than repairing a pop-up book.

2.  Book Bags and Baskets

When transporting books to and from the library or school, it’s important that they travel in a durable bag.  Canvas bags work well and can be decorated to your child’s taste.  

Once books on loan are brought into the house or classroom, I like to keep them in their own separate basket or container.  It makes finding them to return a whole lot easier.

3.  Organization and Storage

Let your child help in deciding how books will be organized and stored.  This helps to develop ownership of the materials which in turns ups the respect value.  Your child may decide that all the Arthur books are going to go in a basket or all the hardcovers will go on the bookshelf in their room.  Children can even make their own labels for book baskets or shelves.  Categorizing books not only is helping to teach organization, but is a literacy skill that will come in handy too.

4. Book Repair

No matter how careful kids are, books will tear.  Have a special spot for books that have been damaged.  I like to utilize a book ambulance.  Then, when you have time, the books can travel to the book hospital to be repaired.  Again, it’s important to let kids help with the book repair to build their skills in taking care of books.

Emphasizing ownership and responsibility could work with helping your child take care of their other belongings too.

Do you have any tips for how to keep book tearing to a minimum?

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"Every parent I know who has started doing Special Time with his or her child has told me that they see significant changes in their child’s behavior. Parents often say that their child seems to respond to it as if they’ve been missing an essential nutrient. In a way, they have," says Dr. Laura Markham from Aha! Parenting.

"Why?  Because Special Time heals the upsets and disconnections of daily modern life. We live in a stressful culture that disconnects us from each other, from our feelings, and from our own inner wisdom."

I’ve been trying to figure out ways to make sure each of my kids know how much I value them and to keep us connected even during our crazy days. I kept thinking I needed to figure out how to have hours-long “special time” with them individually, but Dr. Markham explains in her post how just 10 minutes a day is all you need to keep your bond alive and strong.

She says that those 10 minutes set aside for one child, without distractions,  and with our ears and eyes fully focused on them, produces a wealth of positive outcomes from reconnecting us to our child to providing them with a safe foundation for expressing their emotions and fully trusting us.

The idea is that each day, or as often as you can, you set a timer for 10 minutes for special time. Make sure any other siblings are set up with another activity or with the other parent or a caregiver so they don’t feel left out — they’ll get their turn too.

Let the child pick how you’ll spend those 10 minutes. If the request is something you’d usually say no to because of the mess or another reason, figure out a way to make it work or compromise. Set up a messy activity outside or in the bathtub or set up lots of cushions if they just want to jump off the couch for 10 minutes.

Make sure not to over-manage any activities and let them be in control of how and what you do. Just be there, noticing, listening, encouraging.

The next day, you’ll choose the activity, but Dr. Markham says to choose something that builds emotional intelligence, like playful roughhousing to make them laugh, hide and seek, role-playing house or school, etc. 

Read the full article for 10 tips on how to do special time and more information and ideas.

I’m inspired to start doing this today. How about you?