Cover image of What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

Hosted by funny moms Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson, “What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood” is a comedy podcast about the never-ending "fresh hells" of parenting.Amy and Margaret are each moms of three, dealing with the same hassles as any parent, but with completely different parenting styles. Margaret is laid-back to the max; Amy never met a spreadsheet she didn't like.We offer three episodes each week:"Question of the Week" mini-episodes on Mondaysregular weekly episodes on Wednesdays"Fresh Take" interview with experts and authors on FridaysJoin us as we laugh in the face of motherhood!What Fresh Hell is a Webby Honoree for Best Podcast: Kids and Family, the winner of Mom 2.0 Iris Awards for "Best Podcast" and "Most Entertaining Content," and a Podcast Awards People’s Choice for "Best Family and Parenting Podcast.whatfreshhellpodcast.com

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Anger Management for Kids

Take our listener survey! Here's the link: https://bit.ly/whatfreshhellsurveyThe best way to handle our children’s anger is to equip them with the tools to handle it themselves. You don’t have to smother children's emotions in order to calm them down; as your kids get older, you really can't. But you don’t need to throw up your hands and accommodate their anger and everything that comes with it, either.We talk at length in this episode about an excellent book for kids on this topic: “What To Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid’s Guide To Overcoming Problems With Anger.”by Dawn Huebner. The book is aimed at grade-schoolers, but there’s much to learn in here for kids of all ages (and their parents)! Whether your kid is 4 or 14, this episode will help you stand outside their storms and get your calm house back a little sooner. If you’d like a transcript of this episode, you can find it here: https://www.whatfreshhellpodcast.com/2020/01/angermanagementtranscript/,If you’d like to do a deep-dive on anger management for parents, check out our “Sometimes We Lose It” episode here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


8 Jan 2020

Rank #1

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Let’s Not Care About What We Weigh

We won’t lie to you- we probably spend more time than we should thinking about what we weigh. Which is, admittedly, variable. But while we think about what we weigh plenty when we’re unhappy with what the scale says, we spend even more of our bandwidth on it in order to get to the number we have decided is arbitrarily acceptable (and then fight a losing battle to stay there). Something’s not right about that. But we suspect we aren’t alone— especially among mothers, who have seen our bodies change forever with pregnancy and childbirth, and then never quite change back.  What if we didn’t care? Okay: what if we cared just a little bit less? In this episode we talk about feeling good, and looking good, and how to maybe put a little bit of daylight between the two.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


18 Apr 2018

Rank #2

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What is Up With Toddlers?

Have you a short fat dictator in your home? Do you cower before a 24-pound child demanding pizza– no, not THAT kind of pizza! the other kind, the kind she likes NOW, which apparently has neither sauce nor cheese? What is *UP* with toddlers? In this episode we discuss  * why toddlers’ tantrums may have, at least at one time, been biologically necessary why taking your toddler’s french toast sticks away makes him feel like he’s suddenly swimming alone in open ocean how expecting a toddler to be “magically cute” is extremely problematic why, if you really must ice-skate with a toddler, you must always, always take your own skates off first  And here’s links to some fascinating research, helpful tips, and funny toddler stuff we reference: Kate Gammon for Popular Science: Birth Of Memory: Why Kids Forget What Happened Before Age 7Patrick Sauer for Fatherly: What’s Going On Inside A Toddler’s Brain, According To ScienceAlison Gopnik’s TED talk: What Do Babies Think? Mo Willems and his perfect description of how a toddler goes “boneless”Toddlerography with James Corden and Jennifer Lopez…and from England’s First Steps Research, a study indicating that a toddler’s daily caloric output is the equivalent of going 83 rounds in a boxing ring.This episode also features our interview with Heather Spohr, co-author of the new book The Toddler Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Whiny Unfed. Spohr’s book is hilarious *and* has practical advice (our favorite combo) for surviving the inevitable onslaught of the Toddler Apocalypse in your own household. Take heart, and plan ahead. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


10 Jan 2018

Rank #3

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The Best Mom Advice We Ever Got

What’s the best mom advice you ever received? We asked our listeners and got a wide range of responses. Some aimed for the eternal perspective: The days are long, but the years are short.  Some were more practically applicable: Don’t ever bring a vomiting child into your bed. (Truer words were never spoken, Stacy.) In this episode break down the best advice we ever received for parenting babies, toddlers, kids and teens. Here’s one essay we reference in the episode: Jenny Anderson for NYT’s Motherlode: Seeing Tantrums as Distress, Not DefianceThanks to everyone who contributed their mom words to live by!Announcing our next live show! What Fresh Hell is coming to The Theater at North in Scranton, PA (Amy’s hometown) on Thursday, April 19th. The performance is a benefit in memory of Lindsay Doherty and will benefit the St. Joseph’s Center Baby and Children Pantry (one of Lindsay’s favorite causes). Join us for a night of many laughs and a celebration of Lindsay’s life! Tickets are available here.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


7 Mar 2018

Rank #4

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Changing How We Talk To Our Kids (with guest Dr. Wendy Mogel)

It’s easy for most parents to explain what’s wrong with how our kids speak to us: the snark, sarcasm, and eye-rolling are all things we could use a lot less of.  But could the way we talk to our kids use a little fine-tuning as well?  Dr. Wendy Mogel’s latest book, Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say It, and When To Listen, is just out in paperback. In this episode, Dr. Wendy Mogel tells us how to bridge the ever-more-complicated communication gap between parents and children, no matter what age our kids are. Over the last two years we've quoted Dr. Mogel more than any other parenting expert, and no surprise- this interview is full of "aha moments" and great ideas. You can read and download the full transcript here.And if you still need a little convincing that we should be focusing on the faults with our own parental communication, rather than the shortcomings of our children’s techniques, consider this quote from another classic of parenting advice, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk: "Rather than blaming your kids for all your parenting grief, you can improve communication with them by making a few changes to the way you speak to them and set the tone of a situation. Listening, sharing feelings, and respecting your kids will make your job as a parent far easier.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 3mins

17 Apr 2019

Rank #5

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Letting Kids Be Little

In a world where kids get big praise for hitting their developmental milestones ahead of schedule- he sat up before six months! She was talking in sentences before her second birthday!- there are still times and places to let kids be little. Letting kids be little means maybe they are wiggly worms when you'd like them to be sitting still. Letting kids be little means letting them come back and touch base with you, and then leave, and come back, and then leave, and come back.Letting kids be little means letting them still have those things that the world says they’re too big for. It means encouraging them to do and to have what they love, even if it isn't cool.Here’s how we try to let our kids be little, and how it has made our kids’ lives (and ours) more joyful.We find that we have the most fun in our families when we're the silliest-and when we let the kids be the littlest.Here are links to research and other writing we discuss in this episode:Dr. Ned Hallowell for Parents League: Protecting ChildhoodMeredith Ethington for Scary Mommy: I Finally Get What They Mean By ‘Let Them Be Little’Dr. Perri Klass for The New York Times: Offering Kids a Taste of Alcohol Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


19 Feb 2020

Rank #6

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Changing the Invisible Workload (with guest Eve Rodsky)

The "invisible workload" has become shorthand for the never-ending to-do list that moms keep in our heads-- because much of that work is invisible to the people we do it for, let alone the larger world.That work falls to us because moms tend to be the default parent, whatever our outside-the-home workload (or that of our spouses) might be. Are you the one who leaves work when the baby throws up at day care? Do you know which closet the wrapping paper is in- and if you're almost out? Is it your calendar that keeps track of when your kid has to bring the snack for soccer? Yup, us too.Most of us get majorly resentful about this invisible work. Some of us make lists of it all (to make it more visible). Those lists make us mad. Not very much changes. We start to think that this is just the way it has to be.But we don't have to fall for the old chestnut that women are just better at multitasking, and so we might as well keep doing it all. As professor of neurogenetics Dr. Pat Levitt explains:"I don't know of any research that shows women are better multitaskers than men. In fact, multitasking is bad for everyone because our brains are not built to deal with more than one complex thing at a time."This week's guest tells us how to effect actual change in our household distribution of labor by putting new systems in place that work for everyone. Eve Rodsky is author of the new book Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution For When You Have Too Much To Do (And More Life To Live), and she's showing us all a path forward to create the relationships and households that we deserve. Don't miss this interview! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


23 Oct 2019

Rank #7

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The Small Things That Drive Moms Insane

We asked the listeners to tell us their extremely minor annoyances of motherhood-- the smaller and more seemingly inconsequential, the better, because it turns out those are things that really make us loco. From soggy bath toys, to pushing swings, to the toddler who spins around and offers the wrong arm to be put into the held-up coat sleeve, here are many of the teeny-tiny things that drive moms insane. Join the fun on our Facebook page! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


13 Nov 2019

Rank #8

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Go-To Dinners

What makes a “go-to dinner”? One pot is good. 30 minutes or less is better. But we’ll use every cookie sheet and pot in the house if it’s 1) not pizza and 2) all of our kids will actually eat it. Here’s links to all of our own go-to recipes that we discuss in this episode, plus the ones our listeners swear by: Margaret’s Go-To Dinners Beef Empanadas (use refrigerated pie crust for the dough)Green Soup (Margaret adds chicken)Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder Savory Muffins and, believe it or not, Lobster Thermidor (Lego Batman’s favorite, natch)Amy’s Go-To DinnersRoasted Broccoli with Shrimp (ten minutes, one pan. If you don’t have the spices, skip em.)Sheet Pan FajitasTaco Night (this is a super-easy recipe from Laura Fuentes)Our Listeners’ Child-Approved MealsRebecca’s Loaded Potato SoupMollie’s Chickpea Tikka MasalaDiane’s Asian Noodles (kudos to this brilliant bit of improvisation):and Nancy’s Spanish Rice (thanks, Amy’s mom!)Here’s some of our favorite places to get go-to dinner inspiration :Amy’s sister loves the Weelicious websiteMargaret’s favorite cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen: The Best Simple RecipesAmy’s favorite recipe app: Treehouse Table And our new obsession! Our podcast’s latest sponsor: HelloFresh. HelloFresh delivers weekly recipes and fresh ingredients straight to your doorstep. Last night Amy made their Veggie-Loaded Orzo with Sausage. Margaret and her husband made the Chicken Cheddar Fajitas. People, they were devoured. No planning, no shopping, no complaining. We are huge fans! We think you should try HelloFresh for your family-and you can get $30 off your first HelloFresh delivery by going to hellofresh.com and entering the code mother30.What’s your go-to dinner? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


24 Jan 2018

Rank #9

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Real Self-Care for Moms

Does self-care mean ice cream? Facial serums? Leaning in? Saying no? Taking yoga? According to our listeners, it means all of the above.In this episode, we talk both about how to arrive at your personal definition of self-care, and how to prioritize it, so your self-care practice will be there for you when you need it. You can't just meditate extra on the day your kids both get the stomach flu. Self-care is a program you kind of need to have running in the background all the time.Here are links to research and other writing on the topic that we discuss in this episode:Jacqueline Baker for The Mighty: When Self-Care Means Saying 'No'Tim Herrera for NYT Smarter Living: How to Make ‘Self-Care’ Actually Feel Like Self-CareJenny Odell: How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention EconomyDeanna Zandt: The Unspoken Complexity of 'Self-Care'Claire Zulkey for Romper: The Hardest Thing To Do Is 'Less' Of All That Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


11 Mar 2020

Rank #10

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Screen Time

This week’s episode is all about screen time. Given: Unlimited screen time is bad. But how much is okay? How much is too much? How do you handle the nightly battles of “But PLEASE, Mom! Just one more level!” when it’s time to unplug? Most importantly: is it ever okay to let our kids’ brains melt just long enough to get dinner finished? In this episode, we talk about how to limit screen time for each age group– toddlers to teens– while acknowledging that screens are an increasing part of our children’s lives, both inside the classroom and out. Since we recorded this episode the American Academy of Pediatrics has lifted its draconian “no screens under two” rule, which we heartily agree with. Encourage parents to make good choices; don’t treat us like idiots who are incapable of exercising judgment. Really, don’t. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.Here’s links to other writing and products mentioned in this episode:Resources for when you’re ready to go hard-core* screenfree.org* unpluggedchallenge.com* sabbathmanifesto.org (National Day of Unplugging)* Time Timer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


27 Oct 2016

Rank #11

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Summer Plans

Anyone else feeling the stress of the summer countdown? It takes a lot of juggling to schedule ten weeks of summer freedom for our kids, and it’s not cheap, either. As a nation we spend about $18 billion on camps and other summer enrichments for our kids every year. That’s nuts. But left to their own devices, our kids will be on their devices. So what’s a parent to do? In this episode we discuss  ways to keep your kids occupied this summer without spending a lot of moneyhow to find the right balance of structure and lazinesshow to create screen-free environments in a world where there aren’t many Here’s where we come out: Plan something. Not too much. Mostly fun.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


8 May 2018

Rank #12

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Stay-At-Home Revelations: Things We've Learned

As we round the curve into what’s been a full month of Uno, math worksheets, and never going anywhere, we’ve all learned a few things. Here are our stay-at-home revelations about our homes, our cooking, our relationships, and our kids.We’re undergoing a Big Reset about what our families “need,” whether it’s another box from Amazon, family dinner conversations, or maternal interference in sibling squabbling. The head of school at Amy’s daughter’s elementary school called this moment a “semi-colon for their childhoods.” Some parts of it have been pretty good, actually. Some parts horrible. It’s okay. We don’t have to pretend that this isn’t significant; we just have to do what we can to make it all a little easier.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


15 Apr 2020

Rank #13

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Yelling Less

When it comes to mom-yelling we hold these truths to be self-evident: never yelling is not possible; less yelling is desirable. Let’s be real: there are times when every parent’s got to yell. Here’s how Lisa Belkin put it in The New York Times:When all else fails, a few claps of oral thunder certainly show that Mom or Dad has had it, that humans can be pushed just so far, and this is what it looks like when you’ve pushed them too much.But although we might agree that a little bit of hollering has its place, we’d both like to do less yelling in our homes, due to two other unavoidable parenting truths:• The more you yell, the more you have to yell.• The more you yell, the more your kids will yell.In this episode, we discuss what we yell about, and then what to do about it. There’s usually an easier solution to what you’re yelling about than yelling, or at least a quieter one. Parenting expert Carolyn Dalgiesh, author of The Sensory Child Gets Organized, calls it a “workaround for the source of tension.” In Amy’s house, for example, an extra set of toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom cut the morning yelling by half.And sometimes we have to face the fact that parenting without yelling takes a little more effort than parenting with. As Margaret’s sister-in-law likes to say,Really saying ‘no’ means getting off the couch.Here’s some links to other takes on the topic we discuss in this episode:Amy Wilson for Redbook: Could You Go a Week Without Yelling at Your Kids? (spoiler alert: I could not)Hilary Stout for The New York Times: For Some Parents, Shouting is the New SpankingSue Shellenbarger for the Wall Street Journal: Talking to Your Kids After You Yell Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


24 May 2017

Rank #14

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How To Be a Happier Parent (with KJ Dell’Antonia)

Is a mother only as happy as her unhappiest child? In our experience, yeah, pretty much. And studies (referenced below) back that up– although they also suggest many parents also derive their greatest happiness from their child-raising. So how do we separate out our own sense of well-being from our children’s struggles? And in a more everyday sense, how do we find happiness in the daily slog? We talk it out with guest KJ Dell’Antonia, former lead editor of The New York Times’ Motherlode blog and author of the brand-new book How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute. KJ says the key is finding simple, concrete solutions for what isn’t working– and letting go of some of the rest.As KJ puts it:When we’re not putting all our energy into getting our kids to eat and study and do everything exactly the way we want them to, we can put it into a much more positive place.Nobody’s saying that you have to live in denial of your kids’ reality. But we think disengaging from our children’s struggles just enough so that our happiness isn’t directly pegged to theirs is the key to happier, more effective parenting.Here’s links to other research and resources discussed in this episode:Jordan Schrader for Alcalde: Parents’ Happiness Linked to Their Least Happy Child’s Claire E. Ashton-James, Kostadin Kushlev, Elizabeth W. Dunn: Parents Reap What They Sow: Child-Centrism and Parental Well-BeingJulie Beck for The Atlantic: Study: Parents Only as Happy as Their Unhappiest Child“Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsleyand Shakespearean voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg’s book The Second Circle, which Amy says has influenced her more than any book she’s ever read. Read its excerpts on parenting here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


22 Aug 2018

Rank #15

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Did We Really Do That?

We’ve all done things as parents that, looking back, we can’t believe. Sometimes they are supermom-type accomplishments that defy easy explanation: did I really have three kids in diapers at the same time? Did I really get through airport security with those same three children, and unassisted?  Then there are the decisions that in retrospect seem foolish at best: did I really wake a sleeping infant every three hours? Did I also make a tiny sign to hang from the car seat, reminding strangers to wash their hands, as if it were a cartoon speech bubble coming directly from my baby’s mouth?  We asked our listeners for their “did I really do that?” moments and got plenty of each version. In this episode we put them all on the table– and also interview two women who may or may not have done a few silly things themselves: Amy’s mom and Margaret’s Aunt Terry. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 2mins

28 Mar 2018

Rank #16

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The Mothers We Swore We’d Never Be

Before we became mothers, most of us had fairly clear notions of the kinds of parents we wanted to be— and extremely clear notions of the mothers we would not, under any circumstances, ever be. Our children would eat whatever was on their plates. Our children would be screen-free until kindergarten. Our children would never hear anything but their mothers’ most dulcet of tones. And then we became mothers. We asked you to tell us the mothers you swore you’d never be— and yet somehow are. (Once in a while.) In this episode we share our own confessions and commiserate with you all. No food in the living room? No crying it out? No plastic toys? How’d that work out? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


4 Jul 2018

Rank #17

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Conquering Clutter

America has 3% of the world’s kids… and 40% of the world’s toys. We’ve got clutter, right here in River City.In our opinion the best decluttering advice, from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, is to “slow the accumulation of new possessions.” In other words, don’t let all that junk in the front door in the first place.But assuming your household missed that memo— as ours both have— in this episode we discuss:* non-vehicular nonsense* our kids’ anxiety about purging toys, even long-forgotten ones* the personal blind spots we have when clutter-clearing (Margaret has T-shirts from HIGH SCHOOL)* the procrastination-enabling, problem-compounding reality of owning a storage unit* the great unused potential of the back of your closet doors* why the roasting pan you use once a year can become your toy room’s greatest strategy* the surprisingly plausible “super-fun cleaning party”Amy organizes a little bit at a time; she thinks emptying a junk drawer a day is the key to a tidy home. Margaret says her house is way beyond the help afforded by cleaning out her makeup bag on a Tuesday afternoon. But wherever you lie on the clutter continuum, this episode is full of ideas for eating that elephant. One delicious bite at a time.Here’s some links to research and resources discussed in this episode:* the UCLA social science study in 2012 that shows our collective clutter-induced doom: Life at Home in the 21st Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors* “low self-worth apparel” as defined by creativity guru Julia Cameron* the “decluttering burst,” from Courtney Carver of Be More With Less* the “30 Day Declutter Challenge,” from Liz Neiman of the Love and Marriage Blog* from Beth Teitel for the Boston Globe: Today’s Families are Prisoners of Their Own Clutter This episode is brought to you by Blinkist, which distills the best takeaways of popular non-fiction into 15- minute “blinks” you can listen to or read while you’re on the go. Check out decluttering “blinks” like Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out with our special code: http://bit.ly/freshblinkist.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

1hr 5mins

13 Sep 2017

Rank #18

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The Random Things We Can’t Live Without

 We asked all of you to tell us the one random thing you can’t live without—whether for your parenting sanity, or just for yourself. In this episode, we discuss the unexpected must-haves that us all going, from grapefruit LaCroix to Target bathing suits. Here are just a few of the things you might not have thought were that important but which matter entirely:  those packets of desiccant that come in shoe boxes- which Amy used to resuscitate a smartphone that had fallen in the bathtubwhite vinegarDunkin’ Donuts unsweetened iced tea (no lemon)white noise machines (for both babies, and the grownups who have gotten too used to listening for them all night)baby carriers (your favorite brands: babytula.com, Ergobaby, and Lillebaby)This episode is full of gee-I-should-try-thats. Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas— even the person who said floss picks. You are heard. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


1 Aug 2018

Rank #19

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The Whining is Killing Us

Whining is what experts call a “low-power strategy of dominance.” Kids do it because it’s what’s available to them. Since it drives parents bonkers, it’s remarkably effective. And it turns out whining really is as annoying as we think it is. A recent study tested whether adults (non-parents and parents both) were more distracted by whining than other sounds. The result? Everyone in the study, whether they had kids or not, found the sound of a whining toddler twice as distracting as the sound of a table saw screeching at full volume.As effective as this "auditory sensitivity" is, no wonder most humans between the ages of two and four learn to take full advantage. Still, there are things we can do to make the whining bother us less, which will make it less effective, which will make our kids do it less, and look who's got a strategy of dominance now?In this episode, we discuss the best ways to deal with whiners, and how to perhaps greet it with a bit more generosity. We might as well; we're probably stuck with it. As parenting specialist Bonnie Harris puts it:"Whining is as developmental and normal in a toddler’s life as discovering the pleasure of saying “no." Don’t think about teaching your child not to do it. Do think about ways you can help yourself deal with it calmly and perhaps shorten its duration."Here are links to research on whining that we discuss in this episode: Bonnie Harris for Christian Science Monitor: Five parenting tips to put a stop to your child's whining Dr. Guy Winch for Psychology Today: A Simple Trick to Get Your Kid to Stop Whining Erin Leyba for Motherly: It’s science: Kids whine for a (very good) reason Jonathan Allen for Reuters: Study: Child's whining one of life's most distracting sounds Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


27 Nov 2019

Rank #20