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Articles > _I want my daughter to be strong and independent_

_I want my daughter to be strong and independent_

Switched at Birth star Constance Marie on the importance of taking risks at the playground, how she uses princesses as a discipline tool and her greatest hope for her daughter

Deborah Pike Olsen

Provided by HealthMonitor

Constance Marie's daughter, Luna Marie, is only 4, but the star has already caught a glimpse of her daughter's future. In her role on ABC Family's Switched at Birth, Constance plays the birth mother of a teen girl and the legal mother of another. "It is mind-boggling to me that my daughter will one day be their size'speaking like they do and wearing makeup and those clothes!" she says. "I've started missing my daughter's toddler years already! I go home and know that I will not always have to deal with the not-able-to-wear-a-princess-dress-in-a-rainstorm drama, or have that little body to cuddle or gently (or not so gently!) plop into my lap during dinner time.'

Motherhood did not come easily to Constance, 47, who is best known for her role as George Lopez's wife on The George Lopez Show. She became pregnant with her daughter only after three years of infertility treatments. As a result, she treasures every moment with her little girl, whose father is yoga coach Kent Katich, Constance's fianc?. Constance has blogged about her experiences as a mom ever since her daughter's birth, posting heartwarming mother-daughter photos on her website, ConstanceMarie.net. "We waited so long for her, she can boss me around as much as she wants!" she quipped shortly after Luna Marie's birth.

Of course, Constance has had to show Luna Marie who's boss on more than one occasion. Here, she shares the most important parenting lessons she's learned over the past four years:

Give them the gift of optimism. When Luna Marie was an infant, Constance read a book about optimism, which explained that optimistic people were the happiest and most fulfilled. "That's when I got the idea that the best gift I could give my daughter was the gift of optimism," says Constance. So she came up with a special morning routine:

"Every morning, I open Luna Marie's curtains and say, "Hello, sun!" in my happy voice. Then I look back at Luna Marie and exclaim, "Oh my gosh, Luna Marie, it's a beautiful day!" That way, she is happy right from the beginning of the day. I do this every single morning, whether it's a cloudy day, a cold day or a sunny day.

"So she has learned that no matter the circumstances, every day she is alive is a beautiful day! My hope is that this optimistic point of view will carry on through her life.'

Make "em crave broccoli! Because Constance is a vegetarian, making her daughter a veggie lover was top priority. So, when Luna Marie was just 7 months old, she set the stage for healthy eating. "I prepared some steamed broccoli," she recalls. "I put it in one large bowl at the center of the table. I grabbed two plates and set them down. I served myself and not my daughter. Then I hammed it up a bit like it was the greatest broccoli I had ever eaten in my entire life. [Luna Marie] started pointing and whining. I said, "Oh! You want some broccoli?"

"Luna Marie learned that if she wanted to eat she was going to have to make sure she got some. I wasn't going to force it on her. If she didn't eat, she would have to wait till the next mealtime.'

Later, Constance discovered it was best to serve Luna Marie veggies first. After that, she could have protein, then "the yummy carbs'all the things kids and moms crave," then fruit. "My daughter learned she doesn't have to eat all of her veggies if she doesn't want to, but she will not get to the next course," says Constance. "This approach has saved me so many struggles and a lot of worry. Both my daughter and I know what to expect at mealtime. As a result, she is an amazing eater! My daughter eats green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, spinach and raw beets.'

Let your child take risks'within reason. "At the park, Luna Marie does things I know [may] give her a "boo-boo,'" says Constance. "I'm often conflicted about it, but I stand back and let her do it anyway (unless she's going to break a bone or blind herself, of course!). I want her to have the experience of trial and error. I try to say supportive things like, "Look how strong you are" and "That jump was SO far" and "Wow, you fell in the dirt and did not get a boo-boo'excellent!" I watch her face beaming with enthusiasm and adventure."

Research proves it's a good idea! Risky play actually keeps kids safer by enabling them to learn how to take and manage risks, according to a report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Also, risky play exposes kids to situations they may fear, such as heights'and helps them overcome them. In fact, some experts worry that preventing kids from participating in risky play may actually lead to an increase in phobias.

Get your kids" favorite cartoon character on board! Constance considered herself an "anti-princess" mom'until she discovered she could harness the power of the princesses to rein in Luna Marie's behavior. "Any time there was behavior I had tried to correct 300 times to no avail, I could quote a princess," says Constance. "[I would say], "Does Snow White get up in the middle of a meal?" or "Is Ariel good at sharing?" This line of questioning would stop my daughter in her tracks. Luna Marie wanted nothing more than to be like a princess! She would sit still, use her napkin and share. It was amazing!'
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