How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child with Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules for Babies


How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child


Babies, Toddlers


March 9, 2020

Everywhere you look, someone’s trying to sell you on ways to get your baby smarter, or to capitalize on their existing genius. “Buy this fancy playmat, guaranteed to raise IQ. Purchase our video program, designed to make your baby a complete wiz. Want your baby to get into Harvard? We’ve got just the thing.” Yeah, smart would be good, we tell ourselves.

There’s a billion-dollar baby industrial complex out there, designed to, you guessed it, make other people money, and to prey on our desire to be the best parents possible…and to raise kids who are the most successful possible. Commercialism threatens our ability to focus on what matters and to live in contentment every day with our kids. Which begs the question, what is the true measure of success? You can read our definition here.

This week on the podcast, John Medina, author of Brain Rules for Baby, joins us to talk about the science behind intelligence and about what truly makes babies really smart…in the ways that actually matter.

His ideas about what constitutes intelligence might surprise you…and relieve you. Turns out we have a lot more control over how our kids turn out (at least in terms of their emotional intelligence) than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. Hint: our relationships with our partners and the other adults in our parenting village have a ton to do with it.

How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child with Dr. John Medina

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How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child
traveling with young kids, balancing home and work life


How to Travel with Young Kids


Babies, Toddlers


February 24, 2020

This week on the podcast, we’re welcoming jetsetter and Instagram influencer Brianne Manz to talk all about how to travel with young kids – making trips not just tolerable but also enjoyable. Taking family trips are SOOOOO important – and even if you are doing it on the cheap, you can create amazing memories together. Some of the best moments we’ve had as a family have been cozied up on a blanket at the beach with grocery store provisions or roasting marshmallows over a campfire. As per our usual on the podcast, we’re keeping it realistic and grounded, realizing that “no good trip goes unpunished,” as my pediatrician colleagues always say.

Brianne is also sharing her experience with developing a business from the ground up, and following your dreams even if you’re not sure exactly what direction they’ll take you. Brianne’s website, Stroller in the City, is total eye candy for those who love to travel.

Brianne primarily works out of her home and on the go, so she has had to learn early on how to balance work life and home life in the same space, a feat I’m entirely in awe of. We also talk all about how to get your work done the most efficiently if you run your own small business (like she and I do) and how to give yourself a break when you’re feeling unbalanced. If you work out of your home, this episode is chock full of professional wisdom for you, Mama.

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It’s in Stores and Online March 17, 2020

Motherhood hacks and tips, behavior tips for toddler moms, toddler behavior management, emotion-coaching


Motherhood Tips | Working Through Your Kids’ Complicated Emotions (and Your Own)




June 25, 2019

I still remember the weekend I packed up all my belongings, cleaned out my house, and hauled everything across town a while back. We were setting up camp for one year at my parents’ while we rented out our space to a lovely family from The Netherlands. It was all part of a master plan to pay off remaining student loan debt that we just couldn’t seem to wipe clean without some major overhaul, even after fifteen years of working full time and making monthly payments.

They say moving is one of the most stressful life events — right up there with getting married and starting a new job. I knew parts of it would be rough when we made our decision to go all out on debt repayment but I also knew we had to make a major shift in our financial plan if we wanted to ever feel a little more free. Once we signed on the dotted line, there was a lot to do to make it all happen, from arranging cleaners to buying UHaul supplies and getting everything packed up in time.

I wasn’t trying to Type A myself through this major life change, but I sure was good at it. I made the checklists. I checked off all the boxes. It felt good to be organized. Even so, two months after accepting our tenants, making child care shifts, and getting everything else arranged in a logical manner, it all hit me full force emotionally.

It hit my kids, too.

All their toys were in boxes and half the rooms in our house became off-limits last week to accommodate drying touch-up paint. My girls tried their best for about two hours the morning their playroom was cordoned off to find something else to do. The fix it guy maneuvered around them, trying to avoid their antics as I unsuccessfully encouraged them to get creative. Then one of my girls hit some kind of behavioral limit. A shoe was thrown. Some hair was pulled. There was an all-out screaming event held by the toddler. She should have charged admission it was so dramatic.

I piled them in the car, understanding full-well kids sometimes express their frustrations and stress in less than ideal ways.

“Let’s go to the berry farm,” I said, imagining myself peacefully meandering through rows of blueberry bushes with a wagon of equally-serene children behind me. “We can grab some lunch on the way.”

The kids were ecstatic, ready to spend a more enjoyable afternoon with a less distracted mom. We stopped at our favorite burrito bowl place, adding three lemonades to the order just because. I could feel the mood lift, my littlest now happily skipping along, holding my hand. She swung herself up onto my arm, making monkey noises as she attempted to climb me. The drink carrier tipped as I tried to set it down on the sidewalk so I could rearrange my crew and our food. Off we went again, past the shops and other families enjoying their days.

I’d almost made it to the car when the first lemonade fell out of the carrier, tumbling to the ground as my daughter tried again to use my body as a jungle gym, despite my admonishments. I set the carrier on the hood, presumably safe from mishap while I strapped everyone into their car seats and took a big breath.

I let my guard down too soon, though. The second lemonade made its downward turn as it slid across the wet hood, exploding like a yellow bomb as it hit the pavement. I grabbed the carrier just before the final cup met its demise, only to have the lid flip off when I tried to set it into my cup holder. Before I could catch it, a sweet, sticky film covered the console. It splashed onto the passenger seat and down to the floorboards.

Lemonade was everywhere. Everywhere.

I felt a low, guttural sound come from somewhere around my mid-chest.

And then I felt myself start to cry.

This was not a controlled, adult, tears around my eyes kind of sniffle. It was a full-on, body shaking, sobbing into my steering wheel kind of cry—the kind that makes your kids really quiet, the kind that makes you really quiet after five seconds because you realize you are surrounded only by the sound of silence. It was only spilled lemonade but somehow it meant more.

“Mommy, why are you crying?” My oldest whispered.

“Yeah, mom, only kids are supposed to cry,” I heard my baby girl quip.

“No, mommies can cry,” she responded. “Especially when they’re having a hard day. Mommy is having a hard day. All of her lemonade spilled and it ruined the car. And we’re moving, Sissy. Moving can be very hard.”

“Oh, yeah,” she answered back. “It’s okay for adults to cry about that. Don’t worry mommy, it will be all right.”

I sat listening to my very young children have a very grown-up conversation about the way life works as I pulled myself together. I looked back at them, feeling a little sheepish that the only adult in the car was having the most difficulty being wise. I saw their earnest faces smiling back at me and I remembered this truth:

Our children learn just as much from our real emotions, from our in-the-moment mistakes, even from our flat-out parenting failures, as they do from the scripted, controlled learning experiences we arrange or manipulate for them.

When they see us being vulnerable about the way we feel, they can be honest about the way they feel, too.

Now that I was a bit more composed, I explained myself:

“You know, mommy is really excited about our move and what that’s going to mean for our family—that we’re working on a goal to spend more time together and to be stronger as a team. You’re right, though. All the little parts and pieces that have to come together to make this move happen are sometimes overwhelming. Those lemonades falling—one after another—was what they call ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’ Every once in a while your body needs you to just let your emotions out a little so they don’t keep getting bottled up. When you least expect it, sometimes the kettle lets off a little steam. Just like that happens for you guys sometimes, it happens for mommy, too.”

I watched their little heads nod, like old sages. My kids are not always that attentive but at that moment they sure were. I had a captive audience, maybe because I shocked them a bit with my sob-fest but, hopefully, also because they truly know that feelings are okay.

They know they’re loved no matter what their emotions, however mixed up they feel. They know it’s all right to work through all the complex feelings that come with making big changes. They know it’s okay for things to be not all bad, not all good, but somewhere in-between. When you are authentic with your kids, they learn that authenticity is something to be desired.

Now, let’s not take this too far. I’m not suggesting you let your kids in on every deep, dark emotion you ever have, or that you overshare your mental play by play on the regular. Obviously, sobbing through our days is neither productive nor healthy for our children. What I am suggesting is this: it’s important to let our kids learn how to be strong and brave, to get past their fears, to build resilience.

It’s equally important that they learn how to be vulnerable.

I’m suggesting we show them that when they’re weak, they’re still lovable—that they’re still strong, even when they don’t feel like they are—that accepting and working through our emotions is another form of developing that all important “grow from your struggles” skill, that they’re part of a community that loves them no matter what.

The dinner table replay of the day’s events was pretty epic that evening, but what was most impressive was the way my kids jumped in as I summarized the story to my husband. He sat there wide-eyed as I recounted the tumbling drinks, the lemonade bath, and the crazy conversation that ensued.

“Mommy lost her marbles a little bit this afternoon,” I laughed to my husband.

The toddler piped up quickly as she slurped her noodles off the fork. “Yeah, but we helped her find them again.”

Yes, baby girl. You sure did.

Want more help winning at parenting without losing yourself?

Check out our self-care and newborn care courses.

Know a mom-to-be who could use some help caring for herself and her little one?

Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.

behavior tips for toddlers, toddler behavior management and emotion-coaching, motherhood hacks

Toddler tantrum: parenting 101, raising children, How to treat your child like a human when she's acting like a monster


Top Tips for Toddler Tantrums | How to Treat Your Child Like a Human When She is Acting Like a Monster




May 31, 2018

I’d had about enough with the toddler tantrums. My daughter was in some type of angry zone, upset at the world, mad at everyone. She woke up on the wrong side of the bed—again—and we wound up in some spiral tug-of-war of wills. Sobbing, she screamed and refused to brush her hair—I could handle all that. Then she threw a small book at her toddler sister, hitting her in the back and leaving a mark. I felt myself almost lose it. I couldn’t handle the toddler tantrum. When someone, even someone you love, intentionally hurts your baby, the feeling that surfaces (brace yourselves, it’s about to get real here) is RAGE. I’ve never felt that way toward my own daughter until the book incident ensued. It was a feeling of confusion, of desperation. A feeling that I must be doing this mom thing all wrong, that I need to go to stinkin’ parenting school myself, that I’m a mom fraud.

How I initially handled the toddler tantrum:

My initial gut reaction? To scream, be mean back, and move immediately to punishment. I wanted to treat my firstborn like the enemy or a monster. That’s not what you expected? Me neither. It’s definitely not the picture of a perfect pediatrician, but it is the truth because it turns out, I am human. As it also turned out, I thankfully remembered at that moment, so is she. She is so much more than her toddler tantrum. Well, actually, a little song started playing in my head that helped remind me. “People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed. But throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best. True love brings out the best.”

How to help your child through their toddler tantrum in a better way:

Sound eerily familiar? Yep, the Frozen soundtrack was my saving grace at that moment (I knew that movie would be good for something one day). Seriously, as cheesy as it may sound, that tune has it exactly right when it comes to early childhood behavior and successful parenting. It’s the crux of emotion coaching and of collaborative problem solving: an assumption that all people want to do and be their best but that traumas, circumstances, skill deficits, and developmental immaturities keep them from it a lot of the time. An understanding that our most important parenting goal should be to coach our kids toward desired behaviors, not to punish them for their ineptitudes (want tips on exactly how to do it? sign up here for our free toddler tantrum guide). Think about it this way: if you were in charge of a beginning-level soccer team and one player hadn’t eaten breakfast, leaving him without any energy, and he couldn’t run down the field, would you get mad at him or would you feed him? Missed a goal… would you sit him out of the game or would you work on his kicking skills? If he had an incomplete pass, would you run over in the middle of the game and explain in an irritated voice how he failed or would you use the next practice to build his skills? Storming onto the field in a fit of anger would not only be inappropriate, it would be ludicrous.

Becoming your toddler’s coach:

When you are a good coach, you think about where your player is going, not where they are now. You work with them toward the goals you share, and you consider it your role to teach and guide. We have to think about our parenting in the same goal-oriented way if we want to be successful. Does that mean we just let our kids run free and wild, hurting others along the way, with no accountability? Not at all. Does that mean we bend to every unhealthy request our kids make? Not in the least. Do we never get angry or upset? That’s impossible. It does mean that we first think of our children as fellow-people, who usually act out based on feelings and needs, not spite.

Here are my top tips for toddler tantrums:

We remember that, in 99% of cases, our children’s behaviors do not constitute emergencies.

There is almost always time to stop, get ourselves peaceful, and then move to action.

We reality check our deepest fears and disappointments.

In those whirlwind moments of toddler and preschool parenting, the fears that we’ve been storing down in the depths make their way to the forefront of our minds quite often. But fears like my child is on a path toward a career as a complete sociopath or my kids will never love each other, while seemingly real in the moment, are hardly ever based in reality. Remember, aiming for perfectly-behaved kids is unrealistic and unfair. We can’t let our fears dictate our in-the-moment parenting responses.

We own our own emotions and role-model healthy ways to deal with those feelings that rise to the surface when we’re triggered.

It’s perfectly okay to say to your child, “Mommy feels scared and angry right now. I need to take a second to calm down.” In fact, when we consistently acknowledge what’s going on for us inside and demonstrate how to deal with the raw feelings we have in nonviolent, non-harmful ways, we are showing our kids how they can do the same.

We broadcast and emotion coach.

“Jill is frustrated she can’t play with that toy right now” or “Owen is disappointed he can’t have an ice cream today.”

We set firm limits and rules about what is ok and what is not.

When our kids use inappropriate methods to express their emotions and get their needs met, we help them find an alternative solution. “We don’t hit. We don’t yell at our loved ones and friends. Can you think of another option?”

We use time-outs sparingly and natural consequences wisely.

A book to the back of a sibling? In my house, that is a line we don’t cross. However, time-outs don’t have to be angry, drag-out power-struggles. They can be a chance to help kids stop and get control of themselves. Check out tips from Zero to Five author Tracy Cutchlow on the topic here. If we do set a consequence for an action, we make it logical and attainable (like taking away a privilege or helping to clean up a mess that was made), not far-fetched or punitive for the whole family (“That’s it! No playdates for a month!”).

We allow, whenever possible, our children to brainstorm their own solutions.

“You’ll need your hair brushed before we can leave. You want to keep playing right now. What should we do?” The toddler years are full of magic and wonder, but they can also be full of stress and turmoil. When your kids act like little monsters, first attend to your own emotions, learn to respond versus react, and use tantrums and “bad’ behavior first and foremost as teaching moments—steps along the path to emotional self-regulation and effective problem-solving. If you do, you’ll build a team of healthy, resilient human beings.

Want more tips on dealing with toddler tantrums? Sign up for our FREE Toddler Tantrum Game Plan here.

Want more help winning at parenting without losing yourself?

Check out our self-care and newborn care courses.

Know a mom-to-be who could use some help caring for herself and her little one?

Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.
parenting hacks, parents guide to tantrums
Parenting Advice | How I (Don't) Do it All... and Why You Shouldn't Either


Parenting Advice | How I (Don’t) Do it All… and Why You Shouldn’t Either


Babies, Parents, Toddlers


May 18, 2018

This month, I’ve been doing a lot. More than I usually do. And I’ve been getting a lot of questions for parenting advice about how I do it. On the surface it looks like I’m up to my ears promoting my book, staying active on social media and writing blog posts. I’ve also had a ton of questions about how I balance a side-business with my full-time physician job and my two young kids. My secret weapon? The key to my sanity? I don’t do it all. I know that, if I did, I would be unhappy, stressed and, ultimately, not very successful at anything. Instead, I live by five guiding life and task management principles. You can, too, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working woman or a mix of both. Here they are: Prioritize Your Priorities This may come as a shock but, it turns out, I am not Beyoncé. I do not have a full staff of assistants working for me, an unlimited budget, or a private jet. Nope, I have a real life with pressures and demands. Some demands and pressures loom a little larger than others, taking up more mental energy and time than they should. Instead of letting those demands run me, I try my best to keep them in check. The best way to do that? (1) Have a super clear sense of my priorities. (2) Get clear in my own head about, not just what I have to do, but what I want to do. (3) Limit my 100% level efforts to my top three priorities and let the other items on the priority list act as icing on the cake. (4) Be honest comfortable enough in my own skin to care less about meeting others’ expectations of my priorities than about being true to my needs and goals. You can get more information here about our self-care survival guide and other free parenting resources. Find a Passion My daughter came leaping downstairs this morning, full to the brim with excitement. “Do you think I could strum my ukulele a few times before school?” she asked hopefully. I had to laugh. Usually, my girl is like a slumbering bear in the early hours (turns out she takes after me in more ways than one)—hard to wake, easily aggravated, and difficult to motivate. But something was different today. We signed her up for ukulele lessons last night and even bought her a used instrument, complete with a small wooden dolphin decoration and sparkles embedded in the paint. She found a passion. And passion changes everything. Passion makes a difference for adults, too—particularly for moms and dads. Stuck in the day-to-day grind of parenting, the early months and years can feel like a never-evening cycle of drudgery—a song on repeat that keeps playing and playing. Our minds can get stuck in mental overload mode, even though they’re full only of the mundane. We can only take so many diaper changes, feeding sessions or nap attempts. For me, working on my passion project (running a blog and writing a book) doesn’t really feel like work—it’s self-directed, I can do as much or as little as I want to do and it’s something I care about deeply. The same is true for most people who find a project to get excited about. Maybe your passion project is a cause you want to learn more about or be involved with, even if only virtually. Maybe your passion project is not a project at all—it’s exploring music lessons for yourself or nurturing your love of gardening. It doesn’t matter what it is or how big or small it is—it matters that you have something. Focus on Your Strengths, Delegate the Rest I’ll never receive an award for best housecleaner (or even a sixth-place consolation prize). Actually, my housecleaning skills are completely lacking. I’ve come to grips with this not so sad reality. Same goes for keeping close track of late start school days for my kid’s preschool, remembering to walk the dog or making lunches for myself to bring to work. You probably have some “weaknesses,” too. So what? Instead of spinning your wheels on to-do list items you’ll never get to or will never remember, delegate to the others in your house or in your proverbial village. When it’s financially feasible, hire a housecleaner. Put a partner in charge (it will be one of the best moves you ever make). Delegate, delegate, delegate and stop feeling so guilty that you’re not superwoman—no one is. Take Full Advantage of Technology Thank goodness we live in a modern world where, for a small fee, we can automate almost everything we do. I would wither on the vine if it were not for autopay and Amazon Prime. I also take advantage of healthy meal kit delivery systems like Sun Basket and One Potato, use my calendar reminders to keep me organized, and “read” almost everything in audiobook form. Can technology be a negative force in your family, keeping you from spending focused, quality time with the ones you love? Sure it can. You have to treat your smartphone and your computer like the tools they are, not like the distraction they can often become. Make Time for Self-Care Ever notice how, when you take a weekend to unplug or even an hour to relax, you’re actually able to accomplish more in the hours or days to follow? Self-care (dedicated time spent caring for yourself—either alone or with others) is never a waste. Quite the opposite. When we re-group, relax or re-focus, we’re able to offer those who depend on us or who partner with us the very best of ourselves. We can be more present and more peaceful. Trying to do it all or be it all? Please, please don’t. It’s such a waste of energy and it never works out how you hope it will. Something’s gotta give eventually. Instead, identify and live by your priorities, use the resources around you, and work first from your strengths. Your excellent example of imperfect balance will lead the way for your kids to eventually do the same.

Want more help winning at parenting without losing yourself?

Check out our self-care and newborn care courses.

Know a mom-to-be who could use some help caring for herself and her little one?

Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.
at home with baby, guide for moms

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