Heidi Murkoff is a world-renowned author of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, collaborator on her book’s movie of the same title (which is hilarious and amazing on MANY levels), and bringer-of-happiness across the world as she visits many military bases and throws military mommas baby showers! How awesome is she? Decide for yourself. Here is the 3rd and final post with the best of Heidi’s amazing advice. If you missed the first two posts, find part 1 and part 2 here.
Ericka: What’s the best way to raise a kiddo with a healthy self-image?
Heidi: Unconditional love and respect for the little person they are (in other words, not trying to mold them into someone they’re not), the right amount and kind of praise (don’t withhold but don’t go overboard – otherwise it loses its impact and becomes hard to replicate in the outside world…ie, “but my mom and dad think EVERYTHING I do is awesome!”), balanced with fair expectations. Nurturing and appreciating their own individual gifts (every little has different ones) rather than pushing your own agenda. Support, but not hovering.
Ericka: Do you feel some toys are damaging young girls’ self-images?
Heidi: Probably. But I don’t think we can only blame Barbie (or other impossibly beautiful, skinny dolls). She’s been around since my little girl days. I played with them. Emma played with them. And certainly there are plenty of other pressures on little girls these days – and on their moms, let’s face it. Best way to boost a little girl’s self-esteem is to nurture all of her sides and all of her gifts, but also to provide a strong, healthy role model in YOU. Instead of yo-yo dieting and always being dissatisfied with who we are (kids pick that stuff up!) try to develop healthy family habits together that make everyone feel better. Eating well together, sitting down for healthy meals, turning off the TV and powering off electronic devices and putting the active back in activities.
Ericka: How do you feel about young children asking for extreme hair colors, or haircuts? When is too young for a parent to allow a child total freedom to express themselves?
Heidi: So, I’m a big believer in “choose your battles” – and hair usually isn’t worth fighting about in my book — but it really comes down to the influences in a child’s life. What does the extreme hairstyle represent to your little one? If it’s something that’s offensive or considered inappropriate (or if you find it offensive or inappropriate) then remember that you hold the deciding vote. You wear the parent pants. There may be a compromise position, but ultimately that’s your decision to make (not mine). Also remember that kids don’t always know what’s best for them and that’s why they have parents (so if a hair color isn’t safe if absorbed through the scalp, or if it might damage their hair, that’s a legitimate reason to use your better judgment).
Ericka: Advice for Moms with jr. high of high school kids?
Heidi: Just use WTE the Second Year and do some creative editing. Toddlerhood is called the first adolescence for a reason: they’re essentially the same creature (except that one of them is taller than you and will soon have the keys to the car). Toddlerhood is the first time you glimpse those behaviors (tantrums, power struggles, determination to carve out their own identities), but it isn’t the last. The same strategies work, too: Always wear your parent pants. Set consistent, age-appropriate limits, choose your battles and don’t make everything a battle (decision-making experience is important, so don’t make all the decisions for them – but make the ones that matter), keep in mind their poor impulse control and sometimes poor judgment (which is why some things must be non-negotiable), expect no less than they can deliver but no more, and remember that this too shall pass. And see below.
Ericka: Best wine pairing for toddler tantrums?
Heidi: Ha! Wine always makes whine easier! Make mine red. No sippy cup please. And let’s wait until they’re in bed for the night – something to look forward to!
Ericka: Easiest meals to cook for picky eaters?
Heidi: Depends what your picky eater likes to eat – just make sure it’s healthy. That’s our job, to provide healthy food. Their job: to pick from those healthy choices and eat to appetite (healthy picky eaters, given that opportunity, will eat as much as they need to grow and thrive). I often hear “Oh, my kid will only eat French fries and hotdogs”. But I’ve never seen a toddler or preschooler drive to the market and buy French fries and hotdogs. Your money, your shopping cart, your decision.
Ericka: Any advice for parents who have toddlers waking up at night?
Heidi: Bedtime routine is key – helps them wind down for a better night’s sleep. It’s hard to go from 100 to zero, so apply the brakes slowly. Also, avoiding any screen time at all (TV, iPad) in the hours before bed (they may fall asleep but will have more restless sleep). And remember it’s not the waking up that’s the problem (all of us do), it’s getting back to sleep on their own – so help them develop that skill with a consistent response (aka sleep training – not necessarily involving crying it out).
Ericka: Best piece of advice for breastfeeding moms?
Heidi: Get off to an early start, and get the expert support you need, not just in the hospital but once you get home (that’s when problems are more likely to start). Breastfeeding is a natural process that doesn’t always come naturally, to moms or to babies. Too many moms give up too soon because they don’t get that support (it’s usually just a small adjustment in technique that’s needed).
Ericka: Best piece of advice for adopting/adoptive mommas?
Heidi: Remember that all parents have a crumbling of confidence when they first hold their babies – hormones don’t necessarily give birth parents an edge in parenting skills. Bonding is a process that takes times for everyone! If you’re adopting a newborn, start skin-to-skin as soon as possible (for moms and dads!).
Ericka: Any words of wisdom for moms with deployed partners?
Heidi: Get support from other moms and look to services and resources that are available on your base (I’ve found many moms don’t realize what’s available, so check in at USO too). If your partner will be deployed during the birth of your child, look into a doula (often they offer free or reduced cost services to military families). If dad’s deployed during pregnancy, remember the power of his voice in pregnancy bonding. If baby hears that voice in utero, it will be familiar in person. And when dad gets home, let the bonding continue – try not to be the mom who always says (we’re all guilty of this): “You never help” in the same breath as they say “You’re doing it all wrong”. For dad and little to bond, you can’t be standing in the way.
Ericka: Military families move about every 3-4 years. Any advice on making the transition to new schools and leaving friends any easier?
Heidi: Routines, routines, and more routines. Consistency is so important for little ones, but especially in the face of so much change. The more things change, the more you should try to keep other things the same – whether it’s bedtime routines, wake-up routines, weekend routines.
Ericka: Ideas for keeping road trips more stress-free?
Heidi: Try not to bite off more than your littles (and you!) can chew. Stop often for breaks so they can run around. Music and games can soothe the wild beast in all of you. And plentiful healthy snacks!
Ericka: Sibling bickering: how do we END the madness??
Heidi: Think about it this way: siblings are a training ground for future relationships. Yes, it’s sometimes more of a war zone – but this is one of the ways kids figure out how to work together with others (eventually). You’ll need to step in often, of course, as a peace-keeping force, but try to do so as Switzerland – be fair and impartial. Sometimes parents tend to side with the younger child, but that can often backfire. Older kids need their space and can’t always be expected to bend to the will of the younger. Spend time alone with each kid, as possible, and always accentuate the positive – commend them for playing well together.
Remember, pay it forward, and pass on these fun posts featuring Heidi Murkoff, Author of What to Expect!! I hope you all enjoyed these, and thank you, Heidi for you time and consideration on behalf of all of us mommies in Albuquerque, and everywhere!
To see more of Heidi’s work in action, advice, tools and book info, head over to her website and her Facebook page!
Originally published in May 2016.