Toddler Development

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    You don't deal with terrorists without years of CIA field training. Unless you're the parent of a toddler, in which case, you stroll into a Homeland situation completely unprepared and hope for the best. Here are some of the most important lessons I've learned from negotiating with my little Abu Booboo.

    * Never negotiate with terrorists. Period. Like Saul Berenson from Homeland, only let them think you're negotiating.

    * Agree to whatever they want, then secretly plot your way out of it. You can also say "no" and listen to them cry for three hours. But this is equally effective and much quieter. (Example: "You can sleep with us tonight. We'll pick you up from your bedroom later." Later, of course, they'll be asleep.)

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    Do you ever sit back and look at all our little girls in pink, and our little boys in blue, and wonder: How on Earth did we get here? Why will my daughter never, ever wear a color other than pink? (Oh no wait, she'll wear purple, too.) Who made these rules, anyway? Well, here's a video that gets you. Buzzfeed has lampooned our kids' gender color rules by flipping the scenario. Wouldn't it look CRAZY if we had the same gender rules for grown-ups? 

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    An actual, real, totally legitimate professional Belgian soccer club has signed a 20-month-old boy named Bryce Brites to its team. No, they didn't sign a 20-year-old. You actually read that right -- they signed a toddler! According to the FC Racing Boxberg's club secretary, Bryce has incredible control of the ball for someone his age and kicks in a way that surpasses the skills of a 5-year-old child. I'll admit: the tot definitely has some fancy foot moves, as we can see from video shot of him on the field. But I'm also comparing him to other kids his age, most of whom would probably lose interest in the ball after five minutes and sit down to play with the grass.

    Weirdly, Bryce isn't even the youngest child to be signed by a pro team. Baerke van der Meij, who was 18 months old at the time he got the nod from a Dutch soccer association, gets that honor. This all begs the question: even if we spot talent in our very young children, is it healthy to push them so soon?

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    A couple of my friends have had their children come out. This knocked them for a bit of a loop when it happened. No matter your politics, you always want the easiest road possible ahead for your kid.

    Not me. In fact, my wife and I are raising our daughter as a lesbian. We're religiously watching Ellen and sprinkling Ani DiFranco songs into our Spotify playlists. We encourage play dates with her female daycare classmates. And, as I revealed in a previous Stir blog, I walk around the house naked, which should forever put her off to the male form.

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    No one is going to argue that Mariah Carey seems like an easy person to deal with or work for -- I get the feeling even she would consider herself a diva to the extreme. But lots of moms -- myself included -- unleash our inner diva when it comes to our children and their well-being. What may have seemed acceptable prior to having kids just won't cut it anymore, and we'll happily lay the smack down on anything or anyone who threatens our relationship with our children.

    Still, I can't help but have a special place in my heart reserved just for Mariah's nannies. By the sound of it, she has employed and let go of many a nanny in her quest to find proper Mariah-approved care for her 3-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan. The singer recently revealed on a radio show that she fires nannies "like this" (as she snapped her fingers) if they "try to make themselves more important in the baby's mind" than she is.

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    My two-year-old daughter might be what you call "high maintenance." She doesn't like to play by herself, talks a blue streak, and is constantly looking for attention. One of her favorite phrases is "Look at me," something she says before doing somersaults or splits or -- gasp -- diving off the couch because another one of her traits is absolute fearlessness. I've caught her staring at herself in the mirror and pretending to cry. She asks about a gazillion questions a day about everything. Ev-er-y-thing.

    The problem is her mom is also high maintenance. I made the decision this year to quit my full-time job and do something that would allow me to raise my daughter, but as a work-from-home parent, I require hours during the day when I can just stare at a computer screen. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't often wonder if a daycare worker would do a better job of "raising" my daughter than I am.

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    While we primarily associate its benefits with the health and well being of our babies, a new study conducted in Greece indicates that breastfeeding for longer than six months may help with toddler development.

    According to the research, kids who were breastfed past the six-month mark scored higher on cognitive, language, and motor development tests when they reached the toddler phase. Yay! Yet another win for breastfeeding moms. (Imagine that.)

    But while this information is all well and good -- hopefully it won't wind up being one more thing that pressures moms who can't or don't wish to breastfeed (at all or past six months) into doing so. It's important to note that this is only a correlation -- it doesn't mean feeding your baby with formula is going to hinder his development down the road.

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    Like any two-year-old, Skylar is often not thrilled with my decisions. But when they involve a location she would rather be, I have a toddler-proof weapon at my disposal. I remind her of what is always a worse option: abandonment. I can’t fathom the desire to be around me for any length of time, much less always. But if my daughter wants to spend a second hour trying on Doc McStuffins accessories in the Disney Store, I just bluff about being off to the food court. This instantly transforms her from a pretend doctor to a real-life mental patient. (Incidentally, have you taken a careful gander at Doc McStuffins' face? Is it just me or is it more than a little possible that she became a doctor because she has fetal alcohol syndrome?)

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    We're still far from understanding the full picture of autism. But with every passing year, more research brings us closer to figuring out the perplexing puzzle. This year there were several compelling breakthroughs that gave parents of kids on the spectrum hope. Are any of these studies going to bring us closer to effective intervention, treatment, and prevention? We can only hope.

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    Most parents are not fans of that messy cleanup after toddler meals. You know it seems like there's more food on your child's face and high chair tray than in your kid's tummy? So a lot of us will do everything we can to keep the whole process as tidy was possible -- cleaning as we go, doling out just a small amount of food as we go. But here's a notion that may send shivers down every neat-freak parent's spine: Playing with food may make kids smarter.

    You think you're protecting yourself from a big mess. But actually, you're protecting your child from learning better. Oh no! Can you stand to lower your standards and watch your toddler get super messy?

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