6 Rewards Schools Could Use to Motivate Introverted Kids

My son’s school offered a special incentive to encourage students to use their online learning program during the holiday break. There was a note in my Kindergartner’s homework folder that said all students who did 45 minutes per week during vacation would have a special lunch with the principals when school started back.
As an introverted adult who once was an introverted child, my first thought upon reading the note was, “Worst. Prize. Ever.” Regular school lunch was enough of a nightmare already with all the forced socialization, unstructured time, and eating in front of other people. And now that I’ve finally gotten into a workable routine after four months you want me to eat somewhere else, with different people, and in the company of principals? No thanks!
But, being the enlightened parent that I am, I tamped down my school demons and put on a good face for my son.
“Hey!” I said with an exclamation point for some reason. “This says if you do i-Ready for 45 minutes a week during vacation, you get to have a special lunch with the principals!”
“I know,” my son replied. “I don’t want to do that.”
What a relief. Don’t get me wrong, normally I would want him to do his homework, but in this case his take was objectively the right one, so it was hard to argue it.
It did get me thinking, though. What are some things schools could offer up to motivate introverted kids? I came up with a few ideas.

1 | Normal lunch

Since the school is looking for fun lunch ideas to reward participation, let’s start with the most fun lunch idea imaginable: normal lunch. This is lunch exactly as it is done every other day of the school year. Students sit in their same seats, next to the same people, eating the same foods. Bathrooms are readily available for hiding out if the noise level or expectation of casual conversation becomes too intense.

2 | In-school suspension

I’m not sure if this is still a thing, but when I was in school, one of the punishments for misbehavior was something called in-school suspension. From what I could gather, this involved sitting in a room alone quietly completing school work. Needless to say, I was always envious of the misbehaving children. How this came to be regarded as a punishment rather than a reward always confused me. It’s time to set things right.

3 | A big stack of worksheets to complete independently

See above. If a separate room isn’t available, quiet time with lots of worksheet doing and no talking would also be much appreciated.

4 | No group work for a week

Sold. 100 percent. In exchange for a whole week of not having to do group work or cooperative learning or whatever that stupid crap is called, we will do anything (that doesn’t involve talking, obviously).

5 | No games at P.E. that involve intense interpersonal interaction or solo performances

No kickball. No relay races. And for the love of God, no Red Rover! A nice anonymous activity like jogging around the track is just fine, thanks.

6 | No classroom games like “Heads Up, Seven Up”

These are supposed to be fun? Sure. If you like having to put your head down on the desk, hide your eyes, and stick your thumb up like a fool. And if that isn’t bad enough, go ahead and guess which person pushed your thumb down in front of the whole class so you can look like a complete idiot when you guess wrong. More worksheets, please.

11 Lovely Children’s Books on Love

Valentine’s Day is truly the perfect kid holiday. You’re not old enough to be jaded by the “most romantic day of the year” and you get piles of candy and actual mail. It’s cold out but you don’t care because you’re all sugared up and shuffling conversation hearts into phrases like a little homemade Ouija board.
Consider these 11 lovely books on love the nightcap to your Valentine’s Day.

Snoring Beauty

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Fractured fairytales are the best. They offer a refreshing twist on a familiar story. It’s what made “The Wolf Who Cried Boy” and “Wicked” and “Shrek” sensational hits. It’s also what makes this spin on “Sleeping Beauty” so hilarious.
It’s perfect for reading out loud, and you’ll love Mouse, the main character, who just wants the snoring princess to wake up already so he can get some peace and quiet on the night before his wedding. Prince Max is pretty entertaining, too.


Love Monster

by Rachel Bright

I dare you to stare into the eyes of the Love Monster and not want to knit him on a pillow. The goggle-eyed monster doesn’t mesh with the cuties in Cutesville, so he sets out on a journey to find his own version of love and end his loneliness.
Think of this one as the kid’s version of “Edward Scissorhands.” In fact, Time Burton should absolutely make a short of it.


The Velveteen Rabbit

by Margery Williams

Whatever you do, you have to buy the original version of this classic story with the illustrations straight out of 1922. The pictures are just as much a part of the story as the plot itself.
The forgotten and worn-out Velveteen Rabbit is about to be destroyed with all the other toys. His beloved owner has been whisked off to the seaside in the wake of scarlet fever and his hopes are almost up.
Then, a fairy appears out of his tears to carry him off to Rabbitland where he finally becomes the real rabbit he’s always dreamed of. It’s the ending you cross your fingers for with every forgotten toy.


Catching Kisses

by Amy Gibson

Even when my kids aren’t feeling especially “hands-on,” they’ll let me blow them kisses. Kisses in the air are so much more magical in their path from kisser to kissee. You never know where they will land.
That’s what this book is all about – the path a kiss takes from New York to New Orleans and across the country to the west coast and everywhere in between. It’s like a message in a bottle…in the air.


Paul Meets Bernadette

by Rosy Lamb

Paul is a fish who’s suffering the perfect millennial ennui. He’s circled as much as he can circle and flipped as much as he can flip in his bowl. He’s tired of his room with a view. Then Bernadette shows up.
Bernadette takes Paul on a tour of all the things he’s been missing. She’s the perfect guide to get your own imagination going on a wintery day. You’ll catch yourself reaching out to touch the thick glossy oil paint of Rosy Lamb’s illustrations.


Love Is

by Diane Adams

Just go ahead and cue up the tears for this one. A girl and her pet duck learn to take care of each other over the course of a year as they grow up and grow apart. But they never lose the love that knit them together in the first place.

You don’t have to dig too far into the metaphor to see the parent/child relationship in duck form.


In My Heart

Jo Witek

This book is the emotional equivalent of the doctor’s smiley face pain scale. It introduces the full spectrum of emotions and shows you how to pin them down. A heart can feel as shiny and bright as a star or as heavy as an elephant, but every feeling deserves to be felt.
The rainbow heart that spreads from page to page is the perfect visual for the hard-to-name feelings that can be so hard for kids (and adults) to name. Shyness isn’t so bad, and silliness makes sense once you can name it.


Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

by Diane deGroat

If you’re sitting at home cutting out hearts with your first-grader and covered in glitter and wishing Pinterest would stop already with the cutesy cards for classmates, this book is for you.
Gilbert isn’t sure he can write nice cards for the couple of kids who’ve made fun of him in school. So he writes a few not-so-funny Valentines instead. Feelings are hurt and everybody ends up coming clean in this most realistic Valentine’s Day story to date.


The Valentine Bears

by Eve Bunting

Two things make this book a must-read. Firstly, The the story is told by the epically-talented Eve Bunting, author of over 200 children’s books.
Secondly, the illustrations of Mr. and Mrs. Bear celebrating their first ever Valentine’s Day in lieu of hibernation are done by Jan Brett, the infamous illustrator of “The Mitten,” “The Hat,” and so many others. Her illustrations make every book a Scandinavian wonderland.


Love, Splat

by Rob Scotton

In the most hilarious love triangle between felines, Splat the cat is in love with Kitten who won’t give him the time of day. What’s worse, his arch rival, Spike, is after her, too. If the biggest and best Valentine card wins, Splat’s got no hope.
Lucky for him, Kitten is a little more high-minded. Let us all rise above the Spikes in the world, who think this is winning material: “You are so lucky that I like you.”


Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar

by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is in love, and he wants to tell you all about it. This book is the perfect gift for a teacher or kid who loves all things Eric Carle. Just like the original, it will make you happy, and hungry.
Here’s to keeping the magic alive on Valentine’s Day for kids and grownups alike. As everyone comes crashing down from that sugar high, read one of these and let love be as uncomplicated as ducks and rabbits and cats and caterpillars can make it out to be.

Fantastic Winter Books for Kids of All Ages

We find ourselves in the days when the holiday hustle and bustle is behind us but spring feels like it will never arrive. The days when daylight is still short and the windows are still closed. My favorite thing to do on those days is curl up with my little people to read great books.
Here are 12 amazing books to keep you and your little ones cozy this winter.

For the little littles

 
 

“The Mitten”

by Jan Brett

“The Mitten” is a whimsical, animal-filled tale that delights children. Jan Brett is masterful with her storytelling and illustrations, showing woodland animals exploring a child’s lost mitten in the snow. Funny and classic, this is a tale kids will love.


“Bear Snores On”

by Karma Wilson (Author), Jane Chapman (Illustrator)

“Bear Snores On” transports kids to Bear’s cave as his animal friends come to see if he is still sleeping for the long winter. No one is as surprised as Bear to wake and see all the commotion he has been missing! Charming and funny, kids will love pretending they are Bear, snoring for a long winter nap.


“The Emperor’s Egg”

by Martin Jenkins (Author),‎ Jane Chapman (Illustrator)

“The Emperor’s Egg” explores the incredibly cute world of the Emperor Penguin. It is full of amazing facts and illustrations about the animal while holding on to its cute, fuzzy, lovable nature. Telling the story of the father who sits determinedly on the egg for months while the mother goes out hunting, it is a wonderful way to talk about how animals, just like people, do so much to provide for the little ones.


For the school-aged littles

“The Snowy Day”

by Ezra Jack Keats

A perfect introduction to classic poetry, this delightful picture book captures a child’s day in the snow. With charming illustration and the beautiful verse by Jack Ezra Keats, the reader experiences the joys and wonder of “A Snowy Day.” This classic is not to be missed!


“Snowflake Bentley”

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Author),‎ Mary Azarian (Illustrator)

“Snowflake Bentley” is a true story of Wilson Bentley, a boy from Vermont that grew up seeing snowflakes as unique miracles. His scientific and artistic brain collided as he photographed snowflakes, capturing their utterly matchless shapes and designs. A delightful tale that is the perfect inspiration for making some paper snowflakes of your own!


“Winter Days in the Big Woods”

by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Author),‎ Renee Graef (Illustrator)

“Winter Days in the Big Woods” and the rest of the “My First Little House Books” are a beautiful introduction to the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These stories of a cabin in the woods before there was internet or even electricity captivates kids for their simple beauty. Kids fall in love with these Wisconsin tales of Laura and her family, while parents fondly remember the original books and the joy they brought.


“Blizzard”

by John Rocco

“Blizzard” is a beautifully told tale based on The Blizzard of 1978 where the author’s small Rhode Island town received 53 inches of snow. As the boy watches the storm begin from his classroom window, the reader journeys with him through the changing landscape of his little town. As the snow piles high you experience the wonder of all he knows being covered in over four feet of snow! A perfect tale for a snowy day!


“The Story of Snow”

by Mark Cassino (Photographer),‎ Jon Nelson (Contributor)

The “Story of Snow” is a magical non-fiction that answers questions about snow in all of its amazing wonder. Written by a nature photographer and snow scientist, this book is full of fantastic photographs and scientific information perfect for kids. It even includes instructions for how to catch snowflakes! Perfect during a snowstorm or for kids who just wonder what snow is really like, “The Story of Snow” is beautiful.


“Mr. Popper’s Penguins”

by Richard Atwater and‎ Florence Atwater

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is an early chapter book that has been a classic for decades. As Mr. Popper longs for things he has yet to do like visit the North and South Pole, he receives a most peculiar gift: a penguin. A family with one penguin grows to 12 penguins and the shenanigans that ensue are hilarious. Kids love reading about the eccentric Mr. Popper and his band of penguins!


Finally, for those who deny they were little

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C. S. Lewis

Hands down my favorite family read-aloud, this book of fantasy and adventure takes four siblings to an enchanted land trapped in a perpetual winter. Narnia is full of talking animals, a witch, trees that whisper, and a Lion that changes everything. After their journey the children – and Narnia – will never be the same. A delightful tale of bravery, loyalty, and love, this book will enchant all who read it.


“Breadcrumbs”

by Anne Ursu  (Author), Erin McGuire (Illustrator)

“Breadcrumbs”  is a tale woven with references to classic fairy tales. Two friends are separated when one disappears into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Will Hazel risk everything to find Jack? A tale of friendship, fantasy, and growing up, Breadcrumbs explores fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen as well as modern stories to tell the story of Jack, Hazel, and a friendship that grows.


“The Call of the Wild”

by Jack London

“The Call of the Wild” has been famous for over one hundred years for its simplicity and raw story of a dog during the Klondike Gold Rush. The dog is sold into a life as an Alaskan sled dog where he learns to adapt to the harsh circumstances of the wild. Written with Buck the dog as the main character, this classic is hard to put down.
Take advantage of these colder days and snuggle up with a book. What are your favorites to read with your kids in the winter? Share in the comments!
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Being Direct With Your Kids May Be Their Path to Avoid Unhealthy Eating

It turns out, if you want your children to avoid the consumption of junk food, being more direct may be the way to go.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would sprint through the door after school and head straight to the kitchen. Starving, we’d run to the cupboard to choose our snacks. Doritos, Oreos, or our mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies were almost always in plain view.
My mother, who naturally has a healthy BMI, never lectured us on our eating habits. Instead, she taught us through her actions by cooking us healthy dinners. Now that we’re adults, I wonder if we would have a different relationship with food if she had talked to us more directly when we were children.
Although there is no conclusive research yet about how mothers should talk to their children about food, a new study does suggest that obese mothers speak more directly to their children. In addition, obese mothers were just as cognizant about their child’s junk food intake compared to mothers with a healthy BMI.
Further, their children did indeed listen to their mothers. It turns out, if you want your children to avoid the consumption of junk food, being more direct may be the way to go.
The study was conducted by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and was summarized by Science Daily. Two hundred and thirty-seven women were studied as they were placed in a room with their child. The room had various foods, including chocolate cupcakes. The mothers’ communication toward their children was studied and found that obese women spoke directly to their children.
For example, they said things like, “Only eat one,” instead of a more indirect statement like, “You haven’t eaten dinner yet.” The children of the obese mothers tended to listen to their mothers fairly easily, too. Yet, expert opinion is still mixed on how parents should talk to their children regarding food intake.
There is some conflicting advice on the best approach. “On one hand,” Megan Pesch, M.D. said, “overly restricting food could backfire and actually lead to overeating. But parents also want to encourage healthy habits.”
She went on to explain that direct communication is typically easier for children to understand and follow, but there’s always that sensitivity factor when it comes to eating and weight.
The study also contested a nasty stereotype. There is often a bad perception of obese mothers and how they parent their children surrounding the topic of food. The stereotypical assumption is that they simply let their children eat whatever they want, whenever they want. The study, however, debunked this myth.
Pesch said, “The mothers we observed were on it. They were attentive and actively trying to get their children to eat less junk food.”
Judging a book by its cover in all areas of life, especially motherhood, should not be practiced. Regardless of the size of our bodies, we all want the best for our children and to see them choose a healthy lifestyle.
Whether you exercise direct or indirect communication toward your children and the food they eat, continue to have that open dialogue. Because a healthy life, without Doritos, will leave your children feeling satisfied.

Navigating Autism: Keep Looking Up

He deserves the chance to grow, thicken his skin, show others how wrong they are about him. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.

I had one of those days yesterday, the kind that left me with a kink in my neck that prevents me from looking up from my beat-up Uggs. The kind of day that prevents me from looking up at all. Yesterday, I cried on the playground of my son’s preschool. It’s been a decade or two since I let it all out in the midst of flying balls and staring children, but let me tell you, it is still just as embarrassing.

It was only for a second. I reeled it back in as quickly as it escaped, but it lasted just long enough for me to reveal my ugly-cry face to my son’s preschool teacher. She was probably having a hard enough time already as she was coming to me to talk about my autistic son’s behaviors in a general education class.

Why is my autistic son in a general education classroom? Well, I could argue it’s for inclusion or exposure, but the truth is that I fought to keep him in the general education system because it just felt right to me, as his mom, at the time.

When Henry was not talking at all at two years old, our pediatrician suggested preschool. Get him around some other kids and the words will come, the doctor advised. Give it three months.

That’s what we did. I was so nervous putting him in preschool before he could ask for water, or even for me, but he needed something. So did I: I needed a break.

Three months came and went and, while Henry adjusted to nap-time and separation anxiety in a “typical” way, the words did not come. Instead of lessening my fears, preschool exposed new ones I had yet to discover. Still no words came. When I came to pick Henry up each day, he was always playing happily and he was also always playing alone. Maybe he was playing in close proximity to other children, but he was never playing with them.

It was like a seam in the universe was stitched between my boy and this world. While I was made aware of Henry’s solitary nature, I was always comforted by the teachers and preschool director, who patiently reminded me that some children take longer to adjust than others. We waited, and a year went by.

Within that year, we got our answer: autism. It all added up. It was a hard pill to swallow, but it also made sense. In a way, the diagnosis was preferable to the potential diagnosis. Either way, I’d be worrying, but at least now I knew why.

We did speech therapy and child development class and requested an IEP meeting with the school district. They offered us a special ed preschool program where Henry would receive speech and occupational therapy weekly and be amongst his “peers.” The school within our residence district happened to be the best program in the county. With high hopes, my mom and I went to take a tour.

We walked into each classroom with smiles on our faces, eager to hear about the different activities, but I couldn’t help notice all the self-directed children engaged in self-directed play right next to one another. When the tour came to an end, we thanked the teachers and walked to the car in silence. Opening the car door, I plopped myself into my mom’s passenger seat and began to cry.

“I don’t think I can send him here, Mom.”

She looked at me and said, “Oh honey, I’m so glad to hear you say that.”

It was my gut, my heart, and my disregard for pragmatics that led me to keep Henry at his general education preschool. At that time, the child advocate who represented us told me straight up, “I think you’re making a mistake.” I respected his honesty, but I told him that my child needs the world. He needs the world to stay with him. He needs the world to continue playing around him, circling him, while he pauses for a moment.

The world needs to be there when he wakes up. If it’s not, he may think that he’s alone and go back inside his mind to hibernate for another year. Another valuable year. I told our advocate that my son may be bullied in the general education system, but that may be better than being ignored, isolated, segregated, separated, numb, disenfranchised. I didn’t want him to be a bystander.

Maybe pain is a part of real life, and he deserves to live a real life and learn from it, as we all must. He deserves the chance to grow, thicken his skin, show others how wrong they are about him. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it. My heart knew what felt right to me as a mom. So we kept him in general education and his amazing private preschool was happy to have him stay, no questions asked.

The director of the program even shared with me that she has family members with autism and that, in her experience, social progress is the key that unlocks the doors to both speech and sensory issues. I agreed that in order for Henry to learn to speak, he needed to be spoken to, constantly, by everyone around him. That’s exactly what general education could give him that special education could not.

My child advocate strongly disagreed. “It’s not better to be bullied as a child, ever.” It was hard and painful logic to refute. I did not refute it, I just followed my heart. It’s all that I’ve done since I started on this path, and I’ve tripped and fallen plenty of times along the way, and that’s okay. However, I cannot afford to take my child down with me when I hit the pavement.

I tripped yesterday, like a child on a playground. This time, I wasn’t a child. I was a mother. A broken-hearted mother overcome with a hundred different emotions in one moment. As I listened to my son’s teacher gently break down for me that he’s struggling and that she’s struggling with him, so many feelings showed up. Initially, it was good-ol’-fashioned embarrassment. I know I don’t need to (nor should I) feel embarrassed over my son’s disability, but sometimes, I just do.

I was sad that this day had come, the one I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge as it lingered off ahead somewhere on the distant horizon of the future. This was the day my child advocate was trying to protect us from. While Henry wasn’t being kicked out of his general education preschool (he wasn’t even in trouble) this day now stood as a pillar along the rocky road I’ve been walking. It was a marker in time, a reminder, a reality check.

My son’s teacher wanted to know if there was anything she could do to help calm Henry down when he gets upset. She is the kindest soul and loves my son, and she just wants to help him, but I could see that she’s tired. I recognized that look of defeat. It’s the one you get where you’ve tried everything and it makes no difference at all. It was like looking in the mirror. She merely asked what I do at home when Henry gets upset and the ugly-cry face unleashed itself.

Her intentions were pure, and I’m so grateful that she came to me. I knew as soon as she began to speak that this conversation was different than the ones she has with other parents, because my son is different. There it is: cue the face. As if this returned realization was not enough to sufficiently and publicly upset me, there was still another layer of reality that I had to confront.

I didn’t have the answer to her question. I froze as if I’d just been called on in geography class while passing notes. Was this a trick question? Why couldn’t I answer it? It was a very straightforward inquiry. Yet I stared back at her with a vacuous expression and, like my son, I struggled to find the words I needed in that moment.

I couldn’t find them because they weren’t there. I don’t know how to calm my son down when he “melts down.” I try to comfort, love, and support him. I try to reprimand, discipline, and explain to him. I try to ignore, detach, and disengage. I try everything. To no avail.

I fail. I get pushed and kicked. I tear up, hold in, let go, and still, my son remains end-of-the-world level upset. It is defeating. It’s exhausting. It makes you want to give up.

What I didn’t have the composure to say to her in that moment is that I’ve spent the last three months of my life fighting tooth and nail to get my son behavioral therapy. I was too proud to tell her that we’d lost our health insurance over the summer. I was too emotional to explain that as certain behaviors have escalated, my family’s resources have dissipated like sand running through a child’s fingers. Instead, I just said, “It’s been hard,” and she understood.

I am left now with an emotional string tied around my index finger. It’s a conscious reminder of the changing tide, and of the knowledge that not a single one of us can predict or control it. No one can tell me what is right or what is best for my son. No one can tell me if it’s fair to his teacher or the other children to keep him there and for how long. At least not yet. Only time will tell.

It took Henry one year of general education preschool to begin speaking. It took him one year to make a friend. Not just a child who plays near him or alongside him, but a friend. An adorable little girl who is always by his side when I arrive to pick him up. His first friend, his first words, what are they worth? Are they worth risking potential bullying? Are they worth extra stress on his teachers? I don’t know. Only time will tell.

Yesterday, I cried on the playground. Today my neck is frozen in a downward position. Even though it hurts, I must keep looking up. Life is marked with pain, regardless of the road you take. It’s a patient beacon that waits for us like rest stops along the highway of life, summoning us to pause for a moment to recall that we’re all lost travelers being led by unreliable navigation systems that are constantly rerouting.

While I have more work to do, more tears in store, and (God-forbid) more ugly cry faces waiting to be unleashed, there is no right or wrong answer. There is only my heart and his to navigate daily, until and if the time arrives to nudge our hearts in a new direction.

Yesterday was a hard day, but it’s not the end of the road. I know that I must continue on and that as long as I am looking up, I will see the signs that time will mark for me along this journey. While it may hurt at times, the pain is worth every detour, rest stop, and pothole. It’s worth every tear on the playground. It’s life, and it’ll be waiting patiently, next to me, when my son pauses to look up.

How Process Praise Helps Our Kids

To put it simply, process praise is praise that emphasizes the work, effort, or actions of the child.

A child’s first step, first jump, first song – each is a momentous occasion in a little one’s life that naturally elicits praise. Even eating all those peas (with a spoon, no less!) calls for a “good job.” Busy praising all those firsts (and seconds and thirds), we may have no idea how much our praise contributes to our child’s development.
It’s often said that young children are little sponges, soaking in their environment and learning from it. “Kids pick up on messages that parents are giving that parents may not even realize they’re giving,” says Elizabeth Gunderson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Temple University.
For instance, researchers found parents’ use of a type of praise called “process praise” with one- to three-year-olds predicted their child’s “growth mindset” and desire for challenge five years later. Gunderson is the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Child Development
So what exactly is “process praise”? And why is a “growth mindset” so important?

Process praise

To put it simply, process praise is praise that emphasizes the work, effort, or actions of the child. When we tell our daughters “good helping” for helping put away toys or “good singing” for singing a tune, we are using process praise. Even a simple “good job” is considered process praise.
By contrast, when we say “good girl,” “big boy,” or “you’re so smart,” we are using person praise. Unlike process praise, person praise is praise that gives a fixed label to a child.  Consider the child who helps put away her toys or sings. Where process praise is “good helping” or “good singing,” person praise is “you’re a good helper” or “you’re a good singer.”

Growth mindset

Many of us are likely unaware when and why we gravitate toward one type of praise over the other. But those parents who use process praise are helping their children adopt a “growth mindset.”
Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, has spent decades studying “growth” and “fixed” mindsets. With a “growth mindset,” people believe that basic abilities, like intelligence or talent, can be developed through dedication, effort, and hard work.
In contrast, with a “fixed mindset,” people believe those qualities are fixed traits (i.e., you’re only born with so much). A growth mindset leads to a desire to learn, embrace challenges, and persist whereas a fixed mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore avoid challenges and give up more easily.
There’s a lot of research showing the kids who have growth mindsets tend to do better academically, says Gunderson. For instance, researchers found that first and second graders’ growth mindsets at the beginning of the school year predicted greater improvement in math over the course of the year.
“If you believe that your intelligence is malleable and something you can change with effort, that tends to make you have a positive attitude towards effort,” she says, explaining that those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be improved with hard work.
If you have a fixed mindset, you may believe working hard is evidence that you’re not very smart, and that belief can decrease your motivation and drive. “In the real world, working hard actually does get you to better results usually, so having a positive attitude towards effort is really important,” says Gunderson.
Gunderson also notes, however, that having a fixed mindset isn’t necessarily a bad thing until children face some kind of challenge or failure. In fact, a fixed mindset can be motivating…for a time. “Thinking ‘I’m smart. I have a lot of intelligence’ can actually be motivating, but as soon as you face any kind of challenge or failure, it tends to be a much more fragile way of thinking.”
When kids who think they have fixed ability suddenly aren’t able to do something, they think they must not be that smart after all and tend to give up. Kids with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see challenges and even failures as opportunities to learn and improve their intelligence.

“Good try”

While praising effort is a good thing, telling children “good try” over and over again, especially when they aren’t successful in reaching their goal, can lead to overpraising.
As Dweck writes in a commentary for Education Week, “Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: ‘Great effort! You tried your best!’ It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning.”
As Gunderson explains, parents still have to consider whether the praise is warranted. “You don’t want to overpraise because kids are savvy. If you say ‘good try’ and they didn’t really try, then that’s not good. Or if you say ‘good try’ but they failed, then it’s like that’s a consolation prize and they know that.”
A better route is to acknowledge your child’s struggle or failure and encourage a positive attitude about it to help your child learn.

“Keep trying” or “try harder”

It’s also not helpful to tell kids “keep trying” or “try harder,” says Gunderson. “They could be spinning their wheels.” Adults need to explain the kinds of strategies that would actually lead to success. For instance, if your toddler gets frustrated because she can’t put together a puzzle, simply telling her to “try harder” or “try again” is not going to help. Of course, putting the puzzle together for your child isn’t going to help either.
Instead, you may ask, “Can you try it a different way?” and point out different parts of the pieces, like the straight edges and corners to instruct your child while allowing her to actually put the pieces together herself. If your child overcomes that challenge and is able to get the pieces together, a way to praise the effort would be to say “great job trying it lots of different ways,” or “I liked how you worked really hard at that and didn’t give up,” or simply “great work.”
In sum, when children are successful, the praise should be directed at the effort it took to reach that goal. Praising the effort shows children that adults value hard work. “The idea is that when [children] succeed at something, the praise about that should be directed at the fact that they worked hard to get to that success,” says Gunderson.

Talking about hard work

Process praise isn’t the only way to help your child adopt a growth mindset. Simply talking about the importance of hard work and how it leads to success can help. You can even explain to your child how your mind is like a muscle and you can always make it stronger, says Gunderson.
“When you feel like something is hard and you’re being challenged, that’s like the ‘no pain, no gain of exercise.’ When you don’t feel that sense of challenge, then you’re not learning.”

Seven Ways to Support Your Aspiring YouTuber

If your children want to create their own Internet videos for fun or for profit, here are seven ways you can guide and support their endeavor

In December 2017, the Washington Post ran an article on Ryan, a six-year-old boy who made $11 million in a year reviewing toys on his YouTube channel. The article went viral and sparked many conversations about YouTube as a way to get rich quick.
While most people on YouTube or other video hosting sites won’t earn that kind of money, making videos still has benefits. Young videographers and vloggers learn to tell stories, use editing software, and market their brand. They improve their communication skills and flex their creativity.
If your children want to create their own Internet videos for fun or for profit, here are seven ways you can guide and support their endeavor:

Talk about consent

Before you let your children upload their videos to the Internet, talk to them about the ways they need consent. Have an honest conversation about what they hope to film and what responsibilities they have with the footage.
When do they need to blur faces or leave out something they filmed? When do they need permission to film in a location or permission from a person? Talk about what they should consider when someone asks them to take down a video or delete their footage.
For older children, consider discussing “prank” videos, sensitive subjects, and the ways that they could be taking advantage of people or situations for their own gain. If you aren’t sure of an answer, have them research it.

Discuss Internet privacy

If your child is filming their own life beyond a single room, have a serious conversation about their privacy. These days, full names are often part of someone’s personal brand, but they can have a username instead.
Decide what information they should keep to themselves and what they should look for in their backgrounds. What should they do if a skateboarding video shows your street sign or house number? Is it okay for a “follow me around” video to show the name of their school? Should they call family members by their names, initials, or nicknames?
Safety and privacy are paramount when upsetting people online often leads to threats of violence.

Let them do what they want, within reason

You may be surprised to know which types of videos are the most popular online. Some people enjoy watching other people open packages. Other people can spend hours watching people play board games and video games. Some people like watching people watch other videos.
Let your child decide what kind of videos they want to make, even if you don’t like or understand their choices. Consider setting a few hard boundaries, or for younger kids, consider being the only one allowed to upload the final videos.
Learn to recognize the difference between a video that isn’t to your taste and a video that shouldn’t be public.

Make sure they’re doing it for the right reasons

Some YouTube stars become household names. With the top earnings becoming public every year, it’s easy for children to think it’s an easy way to make a lot of money and become famous. Of course, many video makers never gain a huge following and don’t make millions of dollars a year.
The ones that do work hard, putting out videos often or putting time and effort into fewer, high quality videos. A lot of them have teams working for them, too. Once they see the work involved, your child may quit, and that’s okay.
If they stick with it, though, make sure they know why they want to make videos. Maybe it’s fun or interesting or they love the small following they have. Whatever their reasons for making videos, figure it out and remind them of their reasons whenever they need it.

Be honest about career possibilities

Some people can still make a living from online videos. Others use their platform as a stepping stone to filmmaking, working in animation, creating their own product lines, or becoming spokespeople. Golden Globe-nominated actress Issa Rae starred in YouTube videos before producing and starring in her own show on HBO.
Still others make their videos as a hobby or a side income while having a full-time job. In 2015, many YouTube stars spoke about how they weren’t making enough to live off their videos, but they were too famous to have a job with the public. Make sure your child knows that it’s possible but unlikely to make a career from the videos alone.

Recognize the skills it takes to make these videos

Take the time to consider what skills your child has learned from making videos. If they make films, they’re learning about scripts, lighting, costumes, sets, and working with others. Do they make animations, add graphics, or generate effects? How much is involved in the editing process? Have either of you considered how much marketing knowledge your child has acquired?
Acknowledge how much they learn so they can see how far they’ve come. Recognizing their skills might also keep morale up if their videos don’t get as many views as they’d hoped.

Don’t let their education slip

While your child can learn a lot from creating their own videos, they need to keep up with their schooling, too. Don’t discuss their education as something they will need in case they never make it with their videos.
Instead, frame it as a way to get inspiration for their videos. Maybe their history class will spark a new movie idea. Maybe physics will give them an idea for a stunt. English, literature, and creative writing classes have obvious ties to the video industry, but the other subjects might just inspire a whole new series, as long as your child is still paying attention.

How to Cope When Your Baby Totally Hates the Car

The following tricks can help you to find a solution for the pain and trauma of car rides.

There are two types of babies in the world: those who love the car seat and those who scream bloody murder at the mere sight of a car seat. My children fell into the latter category, so I spent years deciding whether or not it was even worth it to leave my house knowing a car ride full of wailing awaited me.
I’m not the only one. Parents are constantly searching for the elusive trick that will make being strapped in a car seat pleasant for an infant. Proper use of car seats helps infants in car accidents, and the rear facing design protects babies’ heads and spinal cords in case of a crash.
Unfortunately, babies don’t understand these benefits. They just know they can’t see mom and no one is holding them.
Screaming babies are hard to deal with all on their own, but the distracted driving that comes with a wailing child in the car seriously augments the problem. We imagine distracted drivers as those who use cell phones while on the road, but a survey found that more than 90 percent of parents admit that a baby crying is a major distraction in the car, on par with cell phone use.
It’s no wonder. Research proves that all humans – not just parents – have a hard time ignoring the sounds of a crying infant. We are primed to help, according to scientists. A parent stuck in a car with a crying infant will likely feel panic, sadness, and fear that can manifest in an increased heart rate and stress. The stress may cause mom or dad to cry as well, as many parents admit to doing when their child’s wailing just won’t stop.
Dr. Teri Mitchell APRN CNM IBCLC explains why a baby’s cries are so hard on parents and babies in these situations. She says the kind of cry a child emits when separated from a caregiver is specific in its demands. “There’s a name for this particular type of cry: the separation distress cry,” Dr. Mitchell says. “It’s nature’s built-in way of making sure that mothers go to their babies and ensure that they feel safe.”
Children whose separation distress is not tended to because parents are stuck in rush-hour traffic will continue to do what is normal for them in this situation: scream. Dr. Rakesh Radheshyam Gupta says that “crying may lead to vomiting in infants and may cause hoarseness of voice.”
The sound of a crying infant is about all a person can handle while driving a two-ton machine at 70 miles per hour. The following tricks can help you to find a solution for the pain and trauma of car rides.

Start strong

Babies who become upset the minute they are placed in the car seat are unlikely to calm down for the remainder of the ride. That’s why it’s important to start off strong by making the seat as comfortable as possible right from the beginning.
Don’t let a baby lean back on the seat straps while loading him. The sudden feel of those obtrusive items on a baby’s back can startle him or cause discomfort, and this can be enough to remind him that he hates the car seat. Instead of trying to juggle a baby with one arm while holding both car seat straps out of the way (impossible, by the way), use LulaClips made by LulaKids.
LulaClips pin to the car seat straps to hold them out of the way while loading or unloading a child from the car seat. This makes the process fast and easy, and it can also help keep a sleeping baby from waking up during the transfer from mom’s arms to the seat.
This ingenious product was one of PopSugars top products of the year, and moms commonly put these items on their must-have lists for little ones.
If your older baby still hates the car, incorporate frequent trial runs into your week while your baby is awake to create a positive association. With the car in park, sit in the backseat and play with baby while she’s strapped in. Move to the front seat for short stints after she gets used to the setup.
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Parent Co. partnered with Lulakids because they know those first hundred car rides aren’t always peaceful.

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Dress for success

Temperature can be a problem for babies when in car seats, but not in the way most parents expect. As opposed to being too cold, many babies struggle in the car because they are too warm.
Babies should never be placed in a car seat wearing a jacket. Not only will they overheat, but the bulk of a jacket keeps the car seat straps from working properly.
Take the weather into consideration, of course, but since the car is temperature controlled, dress the baby in normal clothes and save the jackets or extra layers for when it’s time to get out of the car.

Belt it out

Parents swear by music as a soother for kids who hate the car. One woman confessed to singing “The Ants Go Marching On” over and over again on a short road trip to soothe a screaming infant. Another mom said Christmas music all year long calmed her little one, as long as mom sang along.
Researchers support the idea of using music to calm babies. They found in one study that babies exposed to music stayed calm twice as long as babies exposed to baby talk or adult speech.
Cueing up a playlist of baby’s favorite songs can work, but singing to the baby along with the music has benefits for all involved. Besides calming the baby, researchers think that singing can also calm parents.  Focusing on the rhythm and the lull of the music helps ease the tension that rises when stuck in the car with a screaming infant. It’s a win-win.

Plan around gas

Sure, make sure you have enough gas in the car to get to where you want to go, but also plan around a baby’s gas. A baby who experiences major gas after a meal is not going to like being stuck in a car seat. Plan car rides long enough after meal times for a baby to get the gas out at home when moving around is possible.
Children with reflux also have unique challenges in car seats. Car seats don’t allow them to move freely. They will have problems getting comfortable if they can’t find the right position due to stomach or reflux pain.
One mom found that her son’s reflux took care of itself around the six-month mark, and car rides suddenly weren’t a problem anymore. Waiting for reflux to fix itself is difficult, however, so talking to a pediatrician or finding natural ways to deal with it are preferable. It’s possible that controlled reflux will equal peaceful car rides for all.
Children do grow out of the screaming-in-the-car phase, but these tactics can help move them towards happier car rides sooner. With a little advanced planning, peaceful car rides may be around the next bend.
Lulakids seatbelt bloc for kids and carseat clips

Parent Co. partnered with Lulakids because they know those first hundred car rides aren’t always peaceful.

Yes, You Can Visit These Gatsbyesque Estates with the Kids

Skip your everyday playground and soak up some history at one of these gilded estates with kids in tow.

Picture a lush lawn, lined with perfectly pruned topiaries, bookended by fountains, and a grand white mansion beaming from behind a chauffeur’s drive. You can just imagine yourself reclining on the parlor’s divan, the wind rippling your billowing white frock as you sip a gin rickey.
Now consider you’re there with your three-year-old. Think you wouldn’t dare take a sticky-fingered preschooler anywhere near a gilded estate? Think again.
From Winterthur in Delaware to Hearst Castle in California, the American countryside is dotted with lavish country houses and gardens, once homes and playgrounds for the wealthiest of the wealthy. And many of these châteaux welcome families with programming specifically for children, even as young as toddlers.
So skip your everyday playground and soak up some history at one of these. Whether you’re looking for a spring getaway or planning a summer trip, you, too, can enjoy the sporting life (or at least pretend to) at the bowling alley or swimming pool of a regal abode and be borne back into a time of leisure.

Biltmore Estate (Asheville, North Carolina)

George Washington Vanderbilt, a grandson of industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt, opened this breathtaking 8,000-acre estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains to friends and family in 1895. With a colossal, 250-room French Renaissance-style château, it welcomes over one million tourists each year.
It now includes Antler Hill Village, complete with the Pisgah Playground and Farm, where kids can pet farmyard animals, explore and climb antique tractors, and take part in daily crafts, like churning butter or weaving baskets. At the Antler Hill Village Winery, kids can even try a grape juice flight.
Stay directly on the property at the family-friendly Village Hotel in Antler Hill Village and let the Outdoor Adventure Center outfit your family with bikes or set up fly fishing lessons and carriage rides. At the Biltmore House, kids can listen to an audio tour (geared towards ages five and up) narrated by the Vanderbilts’ Saint Bernard Cedric.
Says Allison, Indiana resident and mom of an 11-year-old, “Our daughter loved it and was able to learn different things than we did.”

The Breakers (Newport, Rhode Island)

Another grandson of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, whose family’s fortune came from steamships and the New York Central Railroad, built this ornate 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo as his summer home.
The Preservation Society offers a Family Tour specifically targeted to children ages eight to 12. The house itself acts as the narrator, bragging all about its special features (look for dolphins under the staircase and dragons in the great hall).

Ca d’Zan (Sarasota, Florida)

Like an Italian palazzo on a Venetian canal, the 36,000 square-foot stucco and terra cotta Ca d’Zan, once home to John and Mabel Ringling, the circus king and his wife, overlooks Sarasota Bay.
Completed in 1926, Ca d’Zan fell into disrepair after John Ringling’s death in 1936, so much so that it was used as the location for Miss Havisham’s decrepit mansion in the 1996 film Great Expectations. But it underwent a $15 million renovation, completed in 2002.
The estate grounds are also home to the Museum of Art and the Ringling Museum of the American Circus (note that admission to Ca d’Zan is separate). Check out Thursday night Art-Making in the Visitor’s Pavilion, ROAR! (Ringling Order of Art Readers) storytimes for toddlers and preschoolers in the Education Center, and Stroller Tours, one-hour interactive tours for infants and caregivers, at the Museum of Art.
Stop by the David F. Bolger Playspace, a playground complete with hand-powered fountains. At the Circus Museum, kids can practice walking a wire and learn clown makeup artistry or play “I Spy” at the world’s largest circus model.

Hearst Castle (San Simeon, California)

There’s no denying the grandeur of this hilltop estate, a four-hour drive south from San Francisco. With 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens, this “Enchanted Hill” retreat was the vision of William Randolph Hearst, the name behind Hearst Magazines and a media tycoon who, at one time, owned more than two dozen newspapers nationwide.
Older kids may enjoy playing “I Spy” with a junior ranger activity book, available at any ticket window or from the Visitor Services Office. Keep in mind that strollers are not permitted at Hearst Castle due to the number of stairs and terraces, but child-carrier backpacks and front-packs are allowed. The Visitor Services Office even has these available on loan for no additional charge on a first-come, first-serve basis.
 

Lilly House (Indianapolis, Indiana)

This 22-room Indianapolis mansion, part of Newfields, a Place for Nature and the Arts, was once home to J. K. Lilly Jr., a businessman, collector, and philanthropist whose grandfather, Colonel Eli Lilly, founded the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company in 1876 in the city.
Wander the Ravine and Formal Gardens on this 26-acre estate, then check out the “sensitive” Mimosa plant, whose leaves curl when touched, at the Greenhouse. During the summer, grab a glass of Riesling and a soft pretzel at the Beer Garden before heading over the Waller Bridge to the Virginia Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, which encompasses 100 acres adjacent to the Lilly House.

Pittock Mansion (Portland, Oregon)

On 46 acres, this French Renaissance-style château was the home of the late Henry Pittock, owner of The Oregonian newspaper, and his wife, Georgiana. Along with eight family members, they moved into their mansion in 1914. The last family members moved out of the estate in 1958, and the mansion fell into disrepair until Portlanders launched a grassroots campaign to save it.
The City of Portland purchased it in 1964, repaired it, and opened it to the public in 1965. Children under six are admitted free, and they can check out hands-on features of the permanent exhibit, like vintage stereoscopes, a popular home entertainment in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In March, the Pittock Mansion hosts “Day Camp for Kids: Life in 1914,” where children ages eight to 12 can experience what life was like 100 years ago through hands-on activities.

Reynolda House (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

Who wouldn’t want to splash in a mansion’s historic indoor swimming pool? That’s exactly what kids attending Summer Adventure camps at the Reynolda House can do.
This former home of Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, is now a 33,619-square-foot American art museum with a collection including works by Georgia O’Keefe and Grant Wood. Each summer, it welcomes around 200 students to attend art and creative writing day camps.
When Reynolds moved his family into the mansion in 1917, the estate, which totals more than 1,000 acres, also included a nearby village for farm supervisors, workers, and their families. Known today as Reynolda Village, it is full of restaurants and shops – a short walk from the Reynolda House and a perfect place to grab lunch during your visit.
In addition to hosting summer camps, the Reynolda House presents Reynolda Read-Aloud storytimes on select dates and, for preschoolers and their caregivers, Mornings at the Museum, which encourages kids to explore Reynolda through hands-on activities.

Shelburne Farms (Shelburne, Vermont)

What was once the 19th-century country home of Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb is now a three-season inn and restaurant on the 1,400-acre Shelburne Farms – a working farm, forest, and National Historic Landmark.
Swim in nearby Lake Champlain and, from mid-May through mid-October, visit the Farmyard, where kids can milk a cow, watch the Chicken Parade, collect eggs, and check out the Miniature Sicilian Donkeys.
Each fall, Shelburne Farms hosts an annual Harvest Festival with children’s activities, music, and horse-drawn hayrides, and the McClure Education Center also presents craft workshops for kids. Shelburne Farms boasts more than 10 miles of walking trails, which are open year-round, weather permitting.

Stan Hywet (Akron, Ohio)

From April through December, this former estate of F. A. Seiberling, co-founder of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, welcomes the public to tour its 65-room 1915 Tudor Revival Manor House and 70-acre landscape.
“We’re a very family friendly historic house museum and garden, and on any given day, there’s plenty to do for children,” says Donna Spiegler, Communications Manager at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. Children ages five and under are free and won’t want to miss the Playgarden (open through mid-October), a 5,000-square-foot, interactive outdoor play area with activities that represent aspects of the estate.
The Tudor Revival Playhouse, for instance, is inspired by the estate’s Carriage House and includes a spiral slide and marble chase. The Bowling Lawn represents the bowling alleys in the basement of the Seiberlings’ Manor House and on the lawn outside the West Terrace.
Kids can pick up Explorer Backpacks, filled with tools like binoculars and bug collectors to use for a day in the Playgarden. Or, they can explore the gardens and grounds by following clues on a Quest! to locate a hidden treasure box.

Vizcaya (Miami, Florida)

When the main house of this Biscayne Bay estate opened in 1916, the owner, James Deering, hosted a party complete with gondolas and cannons. Deering, a bachelor and retired millionaire whose doctors recommended sunshine and a warm climate to assuage his pernicious anemia, built Vizcaya as his subtropical vacation home. His family’s wealth came from a woolen mill, land investments in the western United States, and the Deering Harvester Company, a farm equipment manufacturer.
A nearby village, completed in 1922, supplied the house with everything from fresh flowers and fruit to milk and eggs. The house is now a museum with 34 decorated rooms showcasing more than 2,500 art objects and furnishings and draws more than 200,000 visitors each year.
Children can listen to the 1917 Welte Philharmonic Pipe Organ on weekdays from 4-4:30 p.m., look for iguanas and butterflies in the formal gardens and rockland hammock, navigate the Maze Garden, or look for the “monsters” decorating the swimming pool.

Winterthur (Winterthur, Delaware)

Pronounced “winter-tour,” this 175-room childhood home of collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969) is now a museum of American Decorative Arts with a 60-acre naturalistic garden.
Pick up an Activity Backpack and visit the Tulip Tree House and the Faerie Cottage in the Enchanted Woods, a magical children’s garden set on three acres of the Winterthur Garden. In the Touch-It Room, a playspace designed with a colonial-era kitchen, a 1750s parlor, and an 1830s general store, kids of all ages can learn about early American life through playing with tea sets, kitchenware, clothes, and toys.
For preschoolers, Winterthur also offers Wee Ones at Winterthur once a week (March through November), which includes storytime, a visit to the galleries, and a craft. For toddlers, Squeaky Wheels introduces toddlers and their caregivers to the estate with strolls through the galleries and into the garden. Don’t miss Truck and Tractor Day, a fall highlight.

The Question From My Five-Year-Old Daughter That Froze Me

The weight of her question hit my heart like Thor’s Hammer, shattering ribs and going straight for the kill.

“Mommy, am I pretty?” asked my mousy-haired, keen-eyed, and kind-hearted five-year-old. She was shoving her over-sized glasses up the bridge of her tiny nose when she caught a glimpse of herself in the bathroom mirror, the one that I’ve always thought she was too short to see.

Her question: “Mommy, am I pretty?” immobilized me. It hung in the air on a busy school morning, amidst a flurry of lunch-packing and shoe-tying. The weight of her question hit my heart like Thor’s Hammer, shattering ribs and going straight for the kill.

“Mommy, am I pretty?”

“Little Bug, you are so much more than pretty. You’re kind. You’re clever. Your heart shines like gold in the sun, and your smile warms up the world.”

“But am I pretty?” She has this look. In it I see a reflection of myself when I’m frustrated. It’s the same look that I’m certain my own mother saw regularly. It disarms me.

“Why are you asking?”

“Because I have to be pretty.”

The world stopped. The world’s barbs suddenly started to chip away at the stronghold I thought I’d created. This very stronghold was designed to guard her from the expectations that a girl’s value was in what she wore and the way she smiled.

“Mommy, please. Tell me that I’m pretty.”

I get down on my knees, still knowing that time can’t stand still for these deep talks, and that school starts soon so her jacket has to be zipped up and her backpack has to sit comfy. “Little Bug, you are beautiful. You are beautiful because of all that I know you can do. You are strong, and funny, and smart. Yes, you are pretty. But that’s not the most important thing.”

“But a boy said it was.”

Motherly fear shifted on its axis, morphing into righteous fury that had to be swallowed because my daughter is five and does not understand words like “patriarchy.” This faceless boy suddenly looked like every man who’s ever commented on my appearance as if it’s the only thing I possess that they value. His face became the face of every man who has said pretty is all I could offer.

“Listen to me, Bug. The next time a boy says it’s important that you’re pretty, you ask him if he thinks his mama is pretty. Then you ask him if she is a better mama because of it.”

“You’re a good mama,” she says. “And I say that before I say you are pretty.” The epiphany was visible. “You are more than pretty, mommy! You’re a good mama! And I am a smart girl!”

We leave home. We leave shelter and expose ourselves to the world for another day. I choose not to wear makeup, and I let my brilliant girl wear her favorite ripped jeans. I would have gleefully let her shout, “Fuck the patriarchy!” if she knew the weight of those words. Instead, we listen to the Muppets sing their silly songs, and went over her letters and spelling before finally getting to school.

School: the place where I hope she learns that her mind and heart are what matter the most.