At-Home Activities That Support Your Child’s Social-Emotional Development
At-Home Activities That Support Your Child’s Social-Emotional Development
Licensed professional counselor, Amanda Armbruster, provides advice for supporting children’s social and emotional development at home. Hear meaningful tips to help children through everyday challenges, including how to navigate big emotions in public places, how to deal with low impulse control, what to do when you feel your child “knows better,” and ways parents can model self-regulation behaviors. While Amanda gives many useful strategies, her greatest message is that all kids are good kids. When challenging behaviors pop-up, children have merely gotten off track or are struggling with something difficult for them.
Mother of two, Amanda is the founder of Take a Break Tots, a place for parents and caregivers to receive advice and strategies for promoting positive emotional development. She also works at a private clinic doing individual and group therapy, parent training and school consultations. Amanda’s goal is to take the information she has gathered from the clinical world and bring it to all parents and caregivers.
About Amanda Armbruster
Amanda Armbruster, MEd, LPC, earned a Master’s of Education in Counseling from the University of Houston. While in graduate school, she took an internship with an incredible Child Psychologist, Dr. Michelle Forrester. Amanda completed her post-graduate internship at Dr. Forrester’s office as well. Now, she continues her work there part-time doing individual and group therapy, parent training, and school consultations as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Amanda wants to use her experience as a children’s therapist to help caregivers become the most confident they can be and provide a strong foundation for children. Amanda wants to bring her knowledge and expertise in child development from the clinical world to the average household and classroom.
Hello, and welcome to unbabbled. A podcast that navigates the world of special education, communication, delays, and learning differences. We are your hosts, Stephanie Landis and Meredith Krimmel, and we're certified speech language pathologist who spend our days at the parish school in Houston, helping children find their voices and connect with the world around them. In this episode, we chat with Amanda Armbruster to get tips for supporting your child's social and emotional development at home. Amanda is a licensed professional counselor with a master's of education in counseling and mother of two living in Houston, Texas. She's the founder of Take a Break Tots, a place for parents and caregivers to find information, tips, and strategies for promoting positive emotional development. She also works at a private clinic doing individual and group therapy, parent training and school consultations. Amanda's goal is to take the information she has gathered from the clinical world and bring it to all parents and caregivers. Throughout the episode, Amanda gives meaningful ways for parents to support their children through everyday challenges, including how to navigate big emotions, ways to deal with low impulse control. What to do when you feel your child knows better and ways parents can model self-regulating behaviors. While Amanda gives a number of useful strategies. Her greatest message is that all kids are good kids. And when challenging behaviors pop up, they've immediately gotten a bit off track or struggling with something difficult for them. If you want even more tips and strategies, be sure to follow Amanda at Take a Break Tots and Unbabbled on Instagram.
Welcome today. We have the pleasure of speaking with Amanda Armbruster, who is a licensed professional counselor, and she's here to talk to us all about what we can do to support our children's behavior and mental health. Specifically the younger preschool ish age, but her tips will probably work for the older kids as well. So, Amanda, thank you so much for being here and talking with us today.
Thanks for having me. I'm so excited.
So before we jump into the tips, which I really want to get to, I just want to get a little bit of background on kind of your philosophy and working with families and parents.
I have been, like you said, I'm a licensed professional counselor. I've been a children's therapist for like 10 ish years. I don't even can do the math right now, but I went to graduate school at U of H and got my master's in counseling. And then I started an internship with, um, brilliant children's psychologists, Dr. Michelle Forester. And I've been with her ever since. So I have done child-centered play therapy, um, with kids ages 2 to 10 for the last decade or so. Um, and I firmly believe that people are born good. All of our kids are good. We just get off track sometimes whether that's with behavior or, you know, it can be all kinds of things that there are people off track and behavior is generally what shows us that our kids are off track. We focus on the child and helping them get back on that check so that they can keep plowing forward in their lives, um, and reach their potential because they are so they're so capable and parents, I have witnessed have struggled with that and they're like, what is happening? And so as a therapist, I was providing all of this information for my clients in the clinical setting. And I've always had this running narrative in my head or these thoughts of like, you know, I think the average household probably needs this information. So that's why I started Take a Break Tots just to have after I had my children, it was a way for me to work from home, be with them, but still kind of use what I know and help families. And so I just kind of started putting that on the internet, on Instagram and on my blog. And I think it's been really helpful for parents particularly this year as we are all home, but more, and there's been a lot of change. The problem is with parenting is that, you know, I'm different, you know, you two are moms who were kind of doing our introduction, y'all moms. You both have 6-year-olds 3-year-olds, I've got a, 2-year-old almost 3-year-old and a 3 month old and you know, no child is the same, but I'm not the same as you or Meredith. Or you Stephanie. And, um, and so we have these beautiful books that are written, these parenting tomes that are easy to read and wonderful, but they aren't specifically for your child. They aren't specifically for you. And so you're left to sort of translate it into your everyday life and that's very confusing. And so again, that's kind of why I started this to take all that information that we might read and then pair it up with your personality, your child's personality and temperament, and create kind of a discipline program that works specifically for your family, because that's, that's the only right way. It will feel effective as if it can cater to your needs. So it's complicated. It's super, super complicated.
I love that you said that children are inherently good and that we just get off track. I think old school parenting was a lot about you're bad. You're being a bad girl. You're being a bad boy. And I love that you have a philosophy of, I know you're a good boy or girl, but you know, you're off track or you're making poor choices. And I think that aligns really closely with my parenting, but sometimes in the moment, it's really hard to access the information. I would love to hear kind of some of your advice or tips on what to do in the moment when you have a toddler who's tantruming, big tantruming. What are some of your go-to tips to do in the moment?
Yeah, I think it's hard. It's really, really hard. And I got to say, I am pushed to my limit sometimes too. I have all this information and all these skills and all this experience and my, my kid having a meltdown will just make me lose my mind too. And so my best advice is to give yourself a lot of grace, because some days you're just going to snap and you're going to yell, or you're going to do something that you wish you could take back. And that's just part of parenting, but we've so give yourself a little bit of grace that happens. It happens to the best of us. Um, but for the most of the time, want to try to manage it and help our kids to thrive and not just, you know, survive, which I'm reading the Whole Brain Child with my virtual book club right now. So that's one of the, their catch phrases, um, where we know we're all trying to survive for all, but we want our kids to thrive. And in a meltdown, the best thing you gotta do, Dr. Becky Bailey, she always says, you have to discipline yourself. First, take some deep breaths, pause, put your hands behind your back, walk out of the room, you know, count to 10, get yourself calm before you approach your child. Because if you're being triggered by that meltdown, if it's just, you've had a hard day and you're exhausted and it's five 30 and you're trying to cook dinner and the, you know, easy Mac is burning, whatever, you know, we've all been there. Um, you might do something that you wish that you could take back later. And so we want to try to avoid that as best we can. So first of all, take care of yourself, big breaths, calm down, and then meet your child where they are. And remembering that our kids are going through a hard time. It's not that they, they, they won't do something it's that they can't in that moment. It's tricky because a lot of our kids are super bright and they seem super capable. And you ask them while they're coloring and in a perfectly calm state, like, is it okay to hit somebody? And they'll say, Oh no, it's very bad to hit somebody. You don't hit somebody. And 10 minutes later when the crayon breaks and they've ruined their picture and they're smacking you in their face, you're like, but you know, this is not okay. They are flooded by an emotion. They are reacting from a very basic state of fight or flight and they hit, they can't access that logic. They can't access that rule. And that, this is what you had said about kind of in the old days, when our parents think you're acting bad, you know, you are about you being a bad kid. It's just the behavior. We don't like old school strategies of spanking and yelling and timeout and removal of privileges, all operate under the assumption that our kids know better. And they're choosing not to. And that's not the case, especially with our young, our young ones, they are having an emotional response and their body is moving forward before their brain can get across that bridge. Because the left hemisphere where they're a lot more, that logic lies, it is flooded out. That bridge is closed. It is, they can't access it. And so we have to remember that. And when they're in that the full-blown kicking screaming. You can't reason with them. So don't, you just get down on their level and you say, Whoa, you are really having a hard time. Let's take some big breaths together. Or maybe you need some space. I will let you kick and scream. I will keep my body safe. I'll keep your brother safe your sister safe have at it, let it out. Ooh, your body is really having a hard time. Let's get that out. And later when they're calm, that's where you do the intervention. Wow. Got really upset that your crayon broke when you were coloring. Oh man, it was so frustrating. You were almost finished and then it broke and you moved it and it feels like it ruined your picture. Oh that is so hard. What could we do next time? You know? And you processed through them with it. After you get calm, give your kids the time to get to calm. And then you can do that, that lesson that we all want to give to our kids.
That's great. I actually, after hearing so many people say like, you have to calm yourself. First have started sometimes saying out loud, I'm the adult. And I can't keep my body calm right now. How is my you know 3 year old/ 6 year old going to keep their body? Like I'm an adult and I'm dis-regulated. I can't expect them to be regulated. And I know that my kids kind of look at me like, "what?" If I say it out loud and remind myself out loud, then I can take a deep breath because there's no way if I'm blustered that much, then I can imagine that they're flustered as well. And I can't help them get calm if I can't be calm.
Exactly. And I know it probably sounds silly when you say it out loud and like, "Oh my gosh, I'm so frustrated. I can't", but that is a beautiful model for them. They to see you have a big feeling and to say out loud, wow, I got to get myself to calm here. I'm going to go in the other room and take some breaths that is beautiful because it shows them that you're a human being and that what they're feeling is normal too. And that, and then they can use those strategies and that we all doing this together do as I do not, you know, we all have this do, as I say, not as I do well, that doesn't work. Show them, show them how to do it. And that is just brilliant. So I know it feels silly, but do that. And it also tells them, I'm not rejecting you in this moment. If you leave the room and they're having a hard time, that can feel like you're just abandoning them and rejecting them. But to say, I got to go in the other room to take care of myself for a minute. I'll be right back to deal with you. That's a good moment for them to see too. So keep doing that. It's great. And if it helps you get there too, even better, you know, that's awesome.
I always talk to myself anyways.
You know, our kids really need that. They need to hear what's happening. I think a lot of times too, with parents, um, particularly this year with all of the rapid changes that have been happening, we've been internally processing them. Okay. We're home from school, we're back to schoolwork. Eh what's happening. We're wearing masks. We're not wearing masks. Can I go to the grocery store or whatever? We're just kind of adapting and adjusting to that internally. It's very stressful. And for our kids, sometimes they're just kind of along for the ride, but to vocalize a lot of that is really important. Like, okay, we're getting ready to move. I'm starting to pack up our house, talking through some of that stuff is really helpful for them too.
One of the things that you spoke about on Instagram was an actual idea of a reset button. And I just loved that. Can you talk on that a little bit?
I used it this morning, so of course I can. Oh yeah. So I have an almost 3-year-old and he just woke up and he just was out of sorts and having a hard time. And it was a hard way to start the day. So yes, this reset button. Um, I used to do this in my therapy work too. It, we just have to start fresh. Sometimes we had to hit rewind. And so sometimes I'll even have my son to continue to have a hard time. I may have even gone in and said, "Hey, let's start completely over" and got him, put him back in his bed, turned out the light, closed the door and started the entire day over again because they just need to retry. Sometimes it can snowball. So we're having a hard time. And then everything just feels yucky, yucky, yucky, yucky, yucky, and it just gets worse and worse. We can undo that. We can take a big step back, take those deep breaths, reset our bodies physically. Um, do some jumping jacks, take those deep breaths, get our brain kind of back on track and start over. So the reset button is just a fun way to do that at tangible way to do that for our kids. And so I used to do it where sometimes I would like punch it, you know, pretend like there was a keypad on their back and punch it. Let's hit reset, make a lot of robotic noises. And then, you know, we'd do like four jumps or something and, and reset and take a big breath and then start the whole scene over. I think I was, um, trying to find out what my son wanted for breakfast this morning. You've been very particular. So I don't just set anything out anymore. I have to ask, but he was having a hard time and whining and fussing and just, it wasn't going well. He didn't like the button pushing on his back. So we just colored a little, it's a piece of paper with a big red circle on it that says reset. And I made it with markers and, you know, scrap computer paper and taped it on his little play kitchen and, um, his playroom and we walked over to it and I hit it and I did a funny little dance and then he hit it and I kind of took his little body and it shook it around like, um, he was resetting like a robot and then we started over to, okay, let's take a big breath. What would you like for breakfast? Part of that is me. I was getting frustrated too. So I have to, again, practice what I preach, hit, reset, get my voice back to my normal mom voice, not my, what do you want for breakfast? You know, frustrated mornings are crazy. Evenings are crazy, but that reset button is super helpful for that. It just gives them a target for it and makes it kind of when you make things fun, when you get silly, you are resetting the brain, you are getting things back to calm and it just feels a lot better. So I like to use humor and fun whenever I can.
The idea of resetting can be so abstract. And you made it completely like concrete by having a button and relating it to something like a computer or a robot or something that we know can reset and restart reviews. Something similar here, verbiage wise at parish a lot with our younger kids and with our older kids, like either reset. And sometimes in class I've actually like made a fake remote control on like a piece of paper and we'll hit like pause and reset and rewind and we'll like move our bodies backwards to rewind and try something again. And it, it gives them humor and a physical break and it just kind of like makes that big abstract idea really concrete.
It's perfect. I love the remote idea. I mean, our kids know about free toys need to be reset. They know about remote controls. We all know that. So that's perfect. And you know, again with misbehavior, it's a mistake. Misbehavior is a mistake. It is I'm in this moment, my body acted that was wrong. And what happens sometimes is especially for our kids who are about five and six and they have an impulsive behavior and they're like, Oh no, I know that was wrong. And then the feelings of regret and guilt take over. So then they just are in this distressed state and they just kind of double down and it just becomes this nasty cycle of Ugh. And when we can reset and take it back, say, Oh, hold on. I think, you know, that, that wasn't quite quite right. I think, you know that maybe you should have done things differently. Let's back up, let's rewind, you know, and do your funny robotic rewind and start the moment over, give them that second chance cause they need it. They just, they're practicing life. They're brand new and they're trying to take in so much and it's overwhelming and yeah, they, um, it can snowball very quickly. So to hit that rewind button and start over again, put you right back on that track. That's not that good track that we want to be on.
I love that misbehavior is a mistake. I have two children who have this cycle of I've done something and now I'm embarrassed and now my embarrassment is turning to anger and then it just, it snowballs. So I love that. Breaking that with a rewind or a reset.
Yes. Very much embarrassment too. Yeah. I think I said frustration and guilt and definitely embarrassment that "I know better. I should be doing better." And you know, they're, they're, self-monitoring by about age five and six. And so then that can really cause, and maybe even younger for some kiddos too, who are pretty capable and it's really hard for them and they take it too personally and that yucky feeling, no matter what it is, frustration, guilt, embarrassment, when it's yucky, they tend to lash out and like, "why are you so upset?" You know, they're feeling embarrassed. That's a big feeling it's overwhelming again. And so hitting that, I think you're embarrassed that it didn't go that way. Label it, help them start over and move forward.
My, my 3-year-old when even if she trips or falls or gets hurt and someone asks her if she's okay, uh, that embarrassment kicks in and then she starts hitting the people who are caring for her. So she, she really is quite sensitive to that kind of thing.
Yeah. That's pretty typical. It's a sign of anxiety as well that, you know, I think we, we think anxiety is like meek and shy and no it's sometimes when our kids appear as if they are incapable, it causes them to fight or flight and she's a fighter your daughter. So they lash out and then people are like, "what is happening here?" It's just a basic function. And it comes out in different ways with our kids. And a lot of times anxiety shows up as opposition. And that is very confusing for teachers and parents and grandparents and everybody.
I'm glad you said that about anxiety showing up as opposition, because what I have noticed with some toddlers that I've worked with and preschoolers I've worked with and my own children as well is sometimes they'll have a day where they're just super compliant and they're on it and they just want to be helpful. And, and then the next day it feels very purposeful. I'm going to make all the wrong choices and I'm going to show you that I don't have to listen to your words. And I can't quite, um, in all the situations, figure out what the change of the trigger is. So it's interesting that you said the anxiety can come out as opposition,
As they move through mastery of skills and life. And you know, they start to learn how they impact their environment. And so maybe that next day they could just be having a gross burden, slept bad, you know, and they're just grumpy all day. And so it's just an oppositional day, uh, that happens, maybe they're hungry and they're growing pains, all kinds of physiological things can get in their way to, and it could also be just that today. I'm, you know, I'm three and a half, but I'm, I'm three years, 257 days old today. And this is different. You know, my body's in a different state of development and I'm, and figuring out what I can do today in the life. Um, and it's just hard to think. It's good that you're looking for that trigger. Like what's caused this, but sometimes we're not going to find it. We just have to deal with it, try that reset button to, Hey, you know what? This isn't working. We are really grumpy, let's hit reset. And sometimes we can move forward and we have a more positive day. And sometimes it is just a day for the grouchies and that's a great children's book, but you can pick up the grouchies, um, that sometimes they take over and they mess with our day. And again, our kids are good. They're just having a tough day and that's not, you know, it's nothing personally against us. I think that's the other thing parents tend to do is we take it all so personally, and like we were talking about earlier, when they're hitting you in the face, it's hard not to take personally, but there's always something a little bit deeper or much deeper, not always known just a little bit.
One of the other things that seems to be a theme is that impulse control that might be delayed or lacking. And just in general, impulse control, doesn't always developing a 2 year old? And so can you give us a little bit of tips on how you deal with impulse control? What do you do to encourage like the development of impulse control?
Well, unfortunately with impulse control, a lot of that is just time, you know, um, the way the brain develops. It's the last thing. Um, impulse control happens in our prefrontal cortex up here at the top front of our brain and the way the brain develops bottom to top and back to front. So that is the very last, um, and that happens around our mid twenties. So we've got a long road ahead of us. Um, but there are things you can do. And it doesn't mean our kids are just like laughs flailing through life. You know, whacking, whack-a-mole just being crazy. They are really capable at times, but when that emotion happens and when they get flooded, when they are in distress of some kind, they can't reach that, that point. They can't slow down. Their bodies just move faster than their brains can tell them. And so we have to again, give them a lot of grace, say, "Whoa, hold on. I think you moved before. You could think about that. Let's, let's take a pause. You're angry. You're you need to hit, hit this." And we just redirect to something that is appropriate for them to do. I mean, there's so much that they could do impulsively. So hitting's usually one of them when they're mad, they whack in the face, "Whoa, you're mad hit this." And then later "I'm not for hitting. When you're mad, you can hit this." We give that lesson later when everybody's calm. So then we're practicing. We're thinking about it. And then hopefully the next time they get angry, that kind of muscle control, that muscle memory will direct them to the couch instead of to your face when, when they need to hit something. But again, it's not always gonna happen. We have to give them that grace and understand that they, they want to do well in this moment. They can't. And what do I need to do to help them? And redirection is kind of your best tool. Um, yeah, I don't know. I wish I had a better answer for that because it's just time, time is not on our side when it comes to impulse control and some kids are better than others. I think, I think that can be tricky for parents like you guys, um, you know, Stephanie, you got a 6 and a half year old, 6 and a half year old is going to be a little bit better at impulse control than the 4 year old. Some days the four year old may be better than the six and a half year old. And it's all just ebbs and flows. And it depends on what's happening in the brain on any given day. And if they're tired, if they're hungry, all of those things
You were practicing on, like throwing impulse, controllable, like slip it down a little bit and other things to try and get in the moment. And pre-teach so that it might when they're in the moment they pause a little bit too.
Yeah. I think, um, there are definitely fun games you can do. I do have that video of my son. He loves he's a thrower. And um, he loves to like set out all of his play food, like on a picnic blanket and he would throw it to me and I'd set it down. And at one point he was just like chunking stuff at me and I said, "Hold on, we need to slow this down. Hold on, look at my eyes, ask me, are you ready, mom? And then throw." So, yeah, that was a good practice. Red light green light is another really good one. Um, Simon says is another really fun game you can play that can really work those muscles and help, um, strengthen those connections. That those are good games too. Yeah. There's definitely stuff you can do. And yeah, again, it's not that our kids are just get this free for all. It's just, if they're having an impulsive moment, let's not get angry about it. Let's figure out, okay, what do I need to, how can I help you? How can I teach you and redirect this so that it doesn't happen again?
You were saying like, not a teachable moment, right? Then that it's a very different style than the old school of like, you need to be reprimanded right now. Plus there's that added, especially if you're in public layer of people are gonna think that I'm permissive or what a brat, because her mom just lets her do whatever she wants. If you don't, you know, like lay into your child right then. And it can be really hard to regulate yourself to not, you know, reprimand them right there and instead try and get them to work on their impulse control in another way.
Yeah. I think it's funny that you said that. Cause I was just thinking about that this morning and I need to do a post on this because I get questions all the time. Like how do I handle that at a birthday party? How do I do X, Y, and Z? There's all this social pressure to like lay down the law. And it's, it's just not helpful in those moments. When our kids are acting as acting out, they're having a meltdown, they've hit you. They're, you know, they're having an emotional response. Again, they can't access that side of their brain that holds the logic and the rules and the lessons. And they're stressed. Our brains do not learn under stress. We don't, it's the same for us. If we're stressed and we're trying to learn something new, it's gonna take so long because the stress hormone is blocking that integration. And so it's the same for our kids. So they hit you. It's not time to say, "hold on, we don't hate when you're angry, you needed it." Know in the moment you gotta redirect it, wait until everybody's caught. And then we do that lesson a little bit later. "Hey, earlier, you got really mad and you hit, you hit my arm. And I think we know that hitting, hitting me is not okay. What can we do instead?" And we just go through it then to then as they get angry and other time, "hold on, I think I see you're getting angry. What can we do?" It fires and keeps that connection and helps them with that impulse control without appropriate response to the feeling. Um, but it doesn't happen in the heat of the moment. And yeah, I think I did a consultation, um, with a family last week and this came up in that virtual book club that I'm doing too that, you know, what do Oh, it's in the book actually. It's like were at a restaurant and my child starts acting out and you know, this other family that we're with, they're looking at me like, "why aren't you spanking him already?" Or, you know, "Why aren't you dealing with this?" and it can be debilitating or it can also make you do something that you wouldn't normally do. And then, and then I don't know, you're the person spanking your child on the corner of the restaurant. And I'm like, "that's not a good look, you know, either." You know, so it's, it's hard. And I think, try to take that deep breath and calm yourself down and try not to succumb to that peer pressure. It's really hard. I absolutely understand. And you know, I'm called my child out of a public place having a meltdown before too. And that's extremely embarrassing. You know, here's this, you know, behavior specialist and her kids, you know, acting a fool and it happens they're kids. So everybody understands and you just need to try to be consistent. And if you feel this pressure, if you feel like you're going to do something, you know, you wouldn't normally do, or you feel pressured to do something at all, just pick them up and go to a quiet spot, take them to the bathroom, take them to the parking lot. Or like, I don't know, somewhere, that's calm in a way from those watching eyes for you as well. And try to get them to that calm state and say, "Hey, we're having a hard time. Let's settle down. And then we'll talk about what we're going to do" because it's just not helpful. Um, I've never in all my experience, you know, if a child's having a hard time and we come at him, like "you need to calm down right now." And we try to like lay down the law. When does that ever help? I mean, if anything, you've just made it worse, right? You've just completely thrown gasoline on the fire. They're already having a hard time. If you're in public or something, if your kids are, are having a hard time in public, they are in a state of distress. And you know, being angry at them is not going to help. It's going to make it worse. They've already passed the point of no return. You are going to be the one that's going to feel embarrassed next. Right. And so just take him aside, get some real quiet, go sit in the car. We got to calm down this. Isn't what we do. We need to settle down.
When you mentioned laying down the law, it made me think about situations where my children are being rough with each other or with the family pet. Um, because when there's physicality involved, I do find that my first instinct is to raise my voice and jump in real fast. So in those situations, would you recommend a similar thing removing the child who's being too rough with the pet or the sibling from the situation going to a calm spot and talking it out?
Yes. I think, you know, this always, this comes up in conversations too with parents. It's like, okay, well, you know, do you recommend spanking or yelling when it's like a dangerous situation were like teaching them to not run in the street or not to hit the dog, things like that. And it's like, I get where you're coming from. I get where you, why you want, you need a big reaction because that is absolutely a hundred percent not okay. Um, but when we yell, when we scream again, it just they're already agitated. And when we do that, it's just going to send them further into that, that zone into that downstairs brain where they're, um, you know, they're in fight or flight, they're stressed, they're, they're kind of operating from this reptilian instinctual state. Um, and so again, it might make you feel better for a second. It's not totally helpful. Um, so yes, absolutely remove the child, put the dog back in the crate or get the dog outside the lesson there when our kids are hitting, when they're being too rough, um, I will stop you, you know, hold on, calm your body. I am not for hitting. I will stop you. You know, my three-year-old he'll have a hard time and he'll just be completely in this meltdown mode, just totally distressed. And I can see it and I like hurt for him. But at the same time, I want him to stop hitting me, um, so he's hitting, hitting, hitting, hold on, you're mad. "You may not hit me. I will stop you." And he takes that as a challenge, of course, that's why I was like, "well, why do you say that? It's just going to make them want to do it more." It's like, well, yes. And I'm going to follow through and teach them that. I mean that. So he's coming at me when I take his little wrist and I say, "I'm gonna, I will stop you. You can hit this couch." And I keep putting the hands over on the couch and he comes at me again. And I do, you know, Mr. Miyagi, I just block it. I deflect deflect. Like you can do it. You can stop them. And you are bigger. You are stronger and you can stop them. And in a way that keeps the child safe. I'm not saying to hurt the child. It's definitely like a gentle, you know, grab of the wrist and redirect or just deflection. So it's hard. It's really hard because we all have our triggers. We all have our things that get to us as parents. And, and so we have to check ourselves again. That's where we have to discipline ourselves, understand where we're coming from. Why is this such a big deal to me? I don't want my child to hit people. Of course. Um, how can I handle it in a way that teaches the lesson and teaches my child a better way and keeps everybody safe.
When you have one child that's melting. Yeah. What If you are, I don't know, say in my house, and you're having two that are melting down and blaming the other for the meltdown?
Go to your corners. Everybody needs to take a break. Um, put the kids in separate spots. Everybody just needs to get out of the same room and to that calm state. So whatever you need to do to get everybody separated. Um, yeah, it's not helpful. We're not gonna get anywhere because you know, both kids are gonna try to yell over each other because someone's in the wrong and someone's right. And, and you know, he hit me, but she took my thing and you're not gonna get anywhere and it's just gonna make you mad. So everybody takes a break, take a break. So that's where it's comes from. Go to your room, do something else you go regulate yourself. Think about, okay, what do I want to do here? And then when everybody is calm, we can come back together and process through and take turns. Can you tell me what happened? You tell me what happened. I didn't see it. I don't know next time. Can I help coach them through that? But yeah, it's, you're not getting anywhere if everybody's melting down and you just kind of have to power through it. And if you can't take them to separate rooms, like I've got a three-year-old and a three month old, I got to have eyes on my kids, especially when they're having a hard time. Um, and so maybe that's, you know, I hope I put three, the baby and the bouncer, and I take the three-year-old and we sit together on the couch and we read a book and just do something that calms everybody down. And then we can go back to what we were doing after that. But it's hard. I mean, you got two kids, you got three kids, you got four kids, you have the dog barking, something, your husbands, you know, doing something, it can be total chaos. And sometimes those moments you just have to get through, however, you can.
Kind of going back to more of that deliberate defiance. Um, what are your strategies that you might use for a child who is hearing you say not to do something and looking right at you and following through and continuing to do that activity?
Yeah, I think it can be really hard. And, and it, it is, it is so triggering for parents, of course, to have them just look at you and, you know, pour the milk on the floor. You've told them not to. Um, and so absolutely, and this is such a tricky thing because they're a trillion infinity, different situations and scenarios, but I think it all comes back to the way you give directions. Um, I have a directions guide on my website that we've got to keep it straightforward and we've got to give our kids directions that we can help them follow through on. So instead of saying like, "don't pour that milk on the counter", I have to say, "hold on, your milk is for drinking or you set it down on the counter. What do you choose?" And then they're looking at you and their point, "Okay, you're showing me you're not ready to have an open cup" or whatever, and we cleaned it up. So we had to give them those two positive choices, because when we say don't pour it out on the counter, that lights up their brain and they're like, sounds like a brilliant idea. And then, "Ooh, what would happen if I do that?" And so it kind of sends them off. And this is really written very well in Dr. Becky Bailey in her book, um, "Easy to love, difficult to discipline" she outlines is so beautifully that, you know, when you're trying to diet and you say, "I'm not going to eat desserts for three months." What do you think about for three months only? desserts And so it's very difficult to limit yourself, but if you said, okay, "I'm going to eat healthy. I'm gonna eat a leafy green every day for three months". That way you're focusing on that positive, how to add something into your life, that positive thing. And you're not stressing out about desserts. You know, you've, you've kind of make it this like very, um, attractive, fun, hard to resist thing. It's the same for our kids in their behavior. When we say, when we say "Don't run" running, sounds like the best, you know, and then take off, you know, we say walking feet, keeping that in positive terms. Um, and sometimes our kids will do things that they just know will set us off. And the best thing you can do as a parent is practice that poker face, that when they do stuff like that, "all right, it doesn't bother me one bit. I don't care. Pour the milk on the counter. That's fine. You're going to clean it up." And then they, cause they learn very quickly. What sets us off. What triggers us. And that is a very powerful tool for them. They are control seekers. Um, they are power seekers and they will, they will use it. And it is a good thing. You know, they move from kind of that physical, that physical hitting, biting, screaming kind of response to these more verbal and, um, verbal forms of defiance, I guess. And they'll say, "I hate you or you're stupid, mommy." Um, and that's really upsetting. But when you act, when you say, "Hey, you may not talk to me that way. Don't you ever call me stupid?" Ooh. They learn that is so powerful. So you're feeling really mad at me right now. And I'm not mad. You know, we just act casual. We act like it is the most normal thing in the world for you to be doing this. No big deal, no skin off my back. And then they kind of learn "alright, shucks that didn't work, you know?"
Yeah. It's funny. It's funny you say that on, um, Saturday in the car, my 3-year-olds in the back. "I don't like you. I don't like you" over and over again. And I just kept saying, "Oh, I love you. Well, I really love you." And then by the end, she was just done. It didn't escalate. I mean, we escalate in so many other ways, but we did not necessarily not one, which was wonderful, but I thought "you're 3. You shouldn't be saying you don't like me yet. That's for later."
No, they just, yep. They do that. And it's so fun. And it's so like that, I just took him to the zoo and we had ice and now you're telling me you don't like, they always, they tend to do it after you've done something lovely for them, which is even more upsetting. And again, we've got to quit taking it so personally, because it's just, just who they are. It's what they're, they're doing, what they're meant to do. And it's okay. Yeah. "I don't like you. I don't like you." Oh, I wonder if you're trying to hurt my feelings right now. "All right. Not going to work." And you just keep driving, you know, you don't have to respond after a while. She'll, she'll take her off. Um, and you can call that out to that. I wonder if you're trying to make, if you hoping I'll get really mad right now and I'm not feeling mad, my body is feeling calm. I am in charge of my feelings. Again. It's a really nice modeling moment and teaching them that, Hey, I hear you and say what you want. Now. I know a lot of people, but I don't want them to go to school and say that to their friends. They won't, they save it for you. It's all for us. Um, and if you know, they will, they, they will do things like that. They are going to have social stuff too. And you know, that's another talk for another day, probably when our kids are upset and they start to say upsetting things to us and they tried, they're really just trying to pull us down with them because it feels really scary to have these yucky feelings. It feels very overwhelming. And if I can make you my mommy who is, you know, the best my dad or my care, whoever my caregiver is, if I can bring you down here with me, I won't be alone in it, but that helps purchase a split second because then, you know, they have, then they feel like, Oh, I've got this control over this person. Well, if you're not control in control, then I'm in control. And that's also very scary. And so then it escalates. So when we can stay calm and act very nonchalant, Janet Lansbury calls it unruffled. When we act like we are unruffled by their big kind of, you know, sometimes scary, um, behaviors and emotions and outbursts. It teaches them that we are in control. And that's, that's a wonderful thing you can do for your child, that we are in control. So they don't have to be, they can fall apart and we will keep it together. And we're in charge. And it's, it's complicated because they are controlled seekers and they do want to gain some control, but we have to give them just small doses that they can handle the big stuff we can't, you know, they don't get to dictate bedtime. They don't get to dictate what they have for dinner. And those are just kind of routine things. But that's what came to mind. So staying in control, keeping your composure as much as you can, it's really a gift for them so that they can be out of control and feel safe.
I really appreciate how much you are kind of normalizing a lot of these behaviors and big feelings in our kids and giving so many great things to do at home. But when would you suggest that we go from just seeking out information and trying things at home to seeking out a professional, to work with us specifically, cause as you said, every child, every family is different. So we can read these books, but one of the best parenting advice ever given to me was like, read your child, not the book. So I love reading books, but there's always a point where it's like, "well, this isn't working for my child" or "I've tried this and it's still not helping". When do you suggest that somebody reach out and start working with a professional?
Yeah. I think if you're having, if you're having that thought, I think it's probably time to reach out. Right. You know, it doesn't hurt. This is such a beautiful gift you can give to your kids. Is this gift of, I care so much about you. I'm going to ask, you know, somebody who knows about this stuff, what to do. I think that's, you know, there's all stigma around mental health and stuff, and like, forget it. You know, if asking for help is something you're interested in doing, just go for it. Um, but that's also why I started my business so that I could be that kind of middle ground, cause generally you go to your child's school director or teacher or the pediatrician and they will refer you to a psychologist. Um, and that can be really scary and overwhelming. And maybe that's not where you want to go right away. So that's where maybe someone like me comes into, um, I can kind of consult and help you brainstorm some strategies to manage it at home for a little while after a few months, if you've been really consistent with some of the interventions and some things, you know, this positive parenting. And then I would say it's probably time to reach out for somebody. Um, and that, that looks really different again with all the different families, but I love what you said, read the child, not the book. Like it all is so tricky because all of our, if you have multiple children, they're each going to be different and you have to parent them in different ways and you have all of your, you know, history and things in what you know, and how you want to parent and then putting that together and actually doing it. And I think in disciplining your child in a way that's meaningful and feels good to everybody and is effective. It's hard. Um, so that's what I'm, I'm here for. I think if you want help, get help, you know, don't worry, don't, don't worry about it. Nobody has to know. You don't have to post it on Facebook. That you've called a children's psychologist to help your family. That's nobody else's business. Um, and it's a beautiful gift you can give to your child and to your family to seek support.
That's a good answer.
Great answer. Yeah. I really liked that because I think oftentimes we focus so much on, well, what is supposed to be typical and we only seek out help if we think it's not typical, but sometimes even typical childhood things we could really use support for. And so instead of just being like, Oh, well, you know, it's something that every child goes through. I should be able to handle it on my own. Like you said, a beautiful gift to yourself, not just to your child, but to yourself to give yourself that empowerment. So you feel confident too, and in tackling these things.
Yeah. And what's typical for one child might not be typical for another child. So even though they, they might grow out of a phase or change, it doesn't make that phase any easier to live through without support.
Exactly. We just live in a world where, you know, help is out there. You know, you just send, send somebody an email, ask for some support, um, exactly. It's a gift to yourself as much as it is to your child. And there are so many things that are typical part of childhood, but yeah, we don't have to just survive these moments again. Um, going back to that, survive and thrive, you know, we can get through it. That's fine. And our kids will probably be okay, but don't, we want to set them up to thrive and be successful. And, and, and for ourselves too, as parents don't, we want to look back and say, "Hey, I did everything I could for my kid. And look at, look at where we are" or, you know, shucks, I don't know. Sometimes things don't work out beautifully, of course, but at least you could do everything that you could. And that feels really nice. And again, to just not get through it, that's hard, but to feel good about getting through it and to have come out of it with some tools and some, some stuff and a big, you know, childhood is an important time. Our kids are meant to play and learn and grow and have fun and not worry, but they do have their worries and they do have their frustrations and challenges. And we have to teach them to cope with them on this level, this little, you know, the blocks fall over. That's not a big deal to me, but to my three-year-old, that's a huge deal. And let's deal with the frustration in this safe environment so that when he's 13 and you know, something that's frustrating for a 13 year old happens, he knows he's going to be okay, he's got coping skills. Um, and he doesn't seek out something that's inappropriate to numb that when he's got access, you know, it gets really scary as we get out in the world. If we don't know how to deal with our feelings, then you know, we have access to things that, to numb those feelings and that that's a very dangerous, um, dangerous thing. So it has the work happens. Now.
I like that as a nice reminder, that what we pour into them now will pay off later and what we don't now we'll get bigger later as well.
Exactly. I mean, it could, you know, it's not a doomsday like, Oh, they're, you know, again, like let's, let's not just survive these moments on the, um, on the chance that I could help my child really thrive in this and that it could pay off dividends in the future and seeking help for your child now. I mean, again, it is, even if it's, you know, just circumstantial, your child's just having a hard time making friends in kindergarten or, um, you know, we're all living through a pandemic. Like yeah, all the kids in the world are dealing with the pandemic, but if you have the resources and the means to support your child, you know, with some plays therapy or something, great, do it, you know, it doesn't have to be a big issue, you know? Um, I think that's a hard, that's a misconception as well. That just because your child hasn't been through a traumatic event or has a, you know, a diagnosis of some kind that that's the only time that you can get help, you can get help any time for anything, big, small whatever. And it's a gift that you can give to yourself and to your child.
Well, you've been giving us all of this great input and advice all episode long, but the end of each podcast, we ask our guests if they had one piece of advice to give our listeners and it can be about the topic we've been speaking about, or it could be anything at all in one piece of advice, what would you give?
Oh, this is so hard. I could give so much advice. get them to play. Get them to play with your kids have fun. They are little for only so long and enjoy it. You know, try to try to take five minutes and just sit down and play with your kids. It's going to fill them up. It'll fill you up and it's going to fly past and you'll look back and think, "gosh, I just didn't could have had a little more fun" so just get down and play for five minutes today.
I love that.
That's great advice.
Well, thank you so much. We really enjoyed speaking with you. And I know that I'm going to go back through and re-listen and take notes. So I think that other people will walk away with a lot of great information today to.
thank y'all so much for having me. This is so fun and I'd love to do it it again. Anytime and, um, I know y'all are doing some good work for all these parents too, so thank you.
Thank you for listening to the Unbabbled podcast. For more information on today's episode, please see our episode description for more information on the parish school, visit parishschool.org. If you're not already, don't forget to subscribe to the Unbabbled podcast on your app of choice. And if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave a rating and review a special thank you to Stig Daniels, Amanda Arnold and Stella Limuel for all their hard work behind the scenes. Thanks again for listening.