About this Episode
If you’ve struggled to control your own emotions during a toddler tantrum or tween storm, you’re not alone. Parenting is full of everyday challenges that often lead to big feelings, bad behavior, and reactionary responses—and we’re not just talking about the kids.
Parent coach Laura Reardon joined The Brainy Moms podcast to share her insights on effective strategies to get through the toughest, most emotionally charged moments of parenting. From homework meltdowns and how unmet needs can turn into a threat response, Laura walks us through some calming techniques and supportive wording to help diffuse charged moments and refocus on a peaceful path to parenting.
If you’re tired of feeling emotionally drained and want some guidance on how to create more peace in your family without constantly turning to punitive responses, tune in for this parent-focused podcast.
About Laura Reardon
Laura is a Certified Child Behavior Specialist and founder of Laura Reardon Coaching. She was trained as a Parent Coach by Happily Family, trained as an Emotion Coach by the Gottman Institute, and trained as a Childhood Anxiety Coach by the Institute of Childhood Psychology. She helps parent create their personalized parenting plan— a customized 3-step plan for how to respond to their biggest parenting challenge in a way that sets them up for success in managing their own emotions and behavior, sets their kids up for success in managing theirs, and shows them how to solve their problem effectively. Laura’s goal is to create more peace in our world, one family at a time.
Connect with Laura
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Read the transcript for this episode:
Dr. Amy Moore: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms, brought to you today by LearningRx brain training centers. I am your host, Dr. Amy Moore, coming to you from Colorado Springs, Colorado. I am joined by my co-host, Sandy Zamalis, coming to us from Stanton, Virginia, and we are excited to bring you a conversation with our guest today, Laura Rearden.
Laura is a parent coach and the founder of Laura Rearden Coaching. She is also a certified behavior specialist, a Gottman Institute-trained emotion coach and a childhood anxiety coach. She helps parents create their personalized parenting plan, a customized three-step plan for how to respond to their biggest parenting challenges in a way that sets them up for success in managing their own emotions and behavior. It sets their kids up for success in managing theirs and shows them how to solve their problems effectively. Laura’s goal is to create more peace in our world, one family at a time. Welcome, Laura.
Sandy Zamalis: Hi, Laura. We’re so glad you’re with us today. So I work with families daily and I’m a mom whose kids are older now so I’m not in the daily grind of parenting, but I’ve really noticed a huge uptick in parenting coaches as a profession. And in the last five years or so, especially. What exactly is a parenting coach and how did you find yourself in this specific niche?
Laura Reardon: That’s a more complicated question than you might even realize. And I’ll tell you why I say that. I spent the first, I would say, maybe two years, trying to figure out the same answer. And what I mean by that is that I think that there are—the traditional coach, and what I mean by that is the traditional coaching model—is a model that is based on long-term work in which the coach supports the client in working towards their long-term goals. And it’s based on the foundation that the answers are not coming from the coach, but the answers are coming from within the client. And so the coach’s role is to support their client in asking reflective questions that lead them towards finding their own answers for where they want to go. And that’s a really powerful model that is very effective. And what I learned, or maybe actually just kind of thought about myself from a really practical point of view of when I was parenting young children, is the commitment, in terms of time and investment of working with a coach who typically is looking for their client to start with a three- or six-month package; it can be really overwhelming from my point of view. And so I do work with clients who are interested in that long-term work in a traditional coaching model. But I created something different. I created something that from my perspective, in terms of what I—how I wanted to help parents, is something that I didn’t really see that it existed and I felt it would serve a useful purpose. It’s something called “personalized parenting plans,” which is what I created. And it serves the purpose of bridging all the wonderful ways that parents can learn effective parenting strategies through books, podcasts, classes, but in a way that’s personalized to their specific challenge; to the individual temperaments of the people within their family; and in a way that is, you know, customized just for them. And it’s been my experience is that when you take the learning and personalize it to your individual situation, it’s sort of there that the magic happens and that’s where the learning turns into action that creates the positive change that you’re looking for. So I work with parents on a one-hour zoom call. They bring to me their biggest parenting challenge and together we create a customized plan for how to respond in a way that sets them up for success in managing their own motions and, you know, their kids in, you know, setting their kids up for success and managing theirs. And then there are some, for some people that’s like, that’s all they need and they’re off and running and they can check back in with me on occasion as they need to, and then for others who really do wanna segue into more longer-term work. But it’s a way to do what is my passion, which is to turn the question from “What is a parent coach?” to “Who is your parent coach?” And I really do feel passionate about doing that. And the way to do that, from my perspective, was to make personalized support as accessible as possible for as many people as possible. So I’m not your traditional coach, I guess is the short answer.
Amy Moore: So I have a more philosophical question. The tagline on your website, says “helping parents grow.” And so, when we think of challenging behavior issues, we’re focused on the child’s challenging behavior, right? And so what was the thinking process behind choosing that tagline? Was that intentional—the way you focused that on the parent rather than the child?
Laura Reardon: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we could, we could use that, we could reference that tagline regarding any parenting challenge, but using it related to managing emotions and behavior, which is what I specialize in. The starting place is always us. And the starting place is always our ability to manage our own emotions and behavior. And from that place we can support our kids in learning to manage their own.
Amy Moore: Yeah, I love that. And so when you have a parent coming to you, is that something that you say upfront? Like how do you help a parent change their thinking process or shift their paradigm to, “Hey, this is about something that I need to learn and I need to change in order for my child then to … in order to solve that problem.”
Laura Reardon: Yeah. So I guess my starting place is to create a lot of compassion and understanding for why that is. So I always start by educating my parents with some just really basic brain science about why it makes so much sense that our kids have big emotions and big behaviors, but also why it makes so much sense that we have big emotions and behaviors because we’re all being challenged with our instinct to get triggered into our fight, flight, or freeze response, which is what happens when we are experiencing big emotions or experiencing unmet needs. And so, you know, from a kid’s perspective when, you know, our young child gets the blue cup and they wanted the pink cup, or when our older kid has to turn off their video game and start doing their homework, or when they had a really stressful day, or they didn’t get enough sleep or enough good nutrition, or, you know, enough downtime and on and on, those big emotions and unmet needs can trigger our kid into a threat response. And so their automatic instinct is to lash out or to shut down. And the lashing out from our kid’s perspective can look like, you know, anything from screaming and yelling, hitting, kicking. You know, acting, communicating in a disrespectful way, or acting in a defiant way. Or for our kids who shut down, it can look like they’re shutting down emotionally or physically. And so when that happens, and as parents we are experiencing that together with our child that we are, we are getting yelled at or observing them kick their sibling or they’re being disrespectful or defiant, it triggers really big emotions in us. And added to that, as parents, we’re typically not getting enough sleep or enough connection and with other adults or downtime and other ways, other core needs of ours that need to be met in order to keep us regulated. And so what happens is then our automatic instinct like our kids, is to also lash out or shut down. And from a parent’s perspective, that can look like, yelling, punishing, blaming, shaming, or withdrawing physically or emotionally from our kid. And so, I’d just like to start with creating that foundation of compassion and understanding for our kids’ behavior and for our behavior.
Amy Moore: Yeah. So you help them normalize that response.
Laura Reardon: Yeah, exactly. And so my hope in doing that is when I help them to normalize that response, I’m creating an environment in which, just like for our kids, we wanna create an environment in which they are not feeling defensive, but rather they’re feeling open, flexible, ready to, you know, listen and problem solve. I’m hoping that in the same way we wanna create that environment for our kids, I’m hoping that I’m helping to create that environment for the parents that I work with so that again, they’re not feeling defensive, but they’re feeling open.
Sandy Zamalis: I mentioned that, you know, I’m out of the parenting part or phase of my life at the moment, but I do work with families daily. And maybe it’s just, you know, because of the nature of what I do, but it does feel like there’s a big uptick in behavioral issues and shutting down and a lot of fight, flight, freeze responses. And a lot of parents feeling paralyzed with how to manage those behaviors. Are you seeing that, um, in your community and who you work with? You know, you hear about it on social media too. You know, kids melting down in school or having difficulty in normal settings, especially since the pandemic. So I’m curious, your observations on that.
Laura Reardon: Yeah, I mean, to me I think it just makes a lot of sense that our kids are getting triggered more often and more easily into their fight, flight, or freeze response because we get triggered into our fight, flight or freeze response when we’re feeling threatened or unsafe in some way. And the messaging during Covid was, we’re not safe. And so it makes a lot of sense then that our kids, after getting the message of we’re not safe, would then be more easily triggered into feeling unsafe. And it’s when we’re triggered by our threat response that we’re gonna get those reactions. So I think that that’s why we’re seeing more of that behavior. And I think in terms of from a parent’s perspective, you know, I think that what we’re taught to do as a culture, I know I was, when I was parenting in my early years, is that we feel like it is our job to, in many ways, well to respond with, you know, the traditional parenting tools that we’re taught. If we think about it through the lens of fight, flight, or freeze, and that our behavior is triggered, unconsciously triggered, into this automatic, you know, defensive behaviors, then, if we take that a step further and we think about our traditional parenting tools such as, for example, you know, punishing, or, you know, you could say consequences, it kind, natural consequences are one thing, but when we get into consequences sometimes, you know, people like to use that word, but really they’re thinly disguised, you know, punishments. And so when it’s our automatic reaction to respond to our kids’ big behaviors with punishment, then what can happen is that that triggers in them—well, one of, one or two things happens. Either we were just coming at this and our kid really wasn’t doing anything wrong, but we were low in sleep, had a tough day and we’re kind of at the—kind of un empty and so we just kind of lashed out. And so what happened is we just triggered our kid into a threat response. Or if it’s happening that our kids are, you know, having big behaviors and then we are calm maybe, but we’re just using the tools that we’re taught to use like consequences and punishments and then that creates big emotions in our kid. And so what that serves the purpose of is escalating their big emotions and then escalating their threat response, which turns into yelling and fighting and endless conflicts that are not getting resolved effectively. So when we think, when we think about our parenting tools through that lens, it makes sense that they don’t work.
Amy Moore: Absolutely. So then what tools do work?
Laura Reardon: Yeah. So, as I, as I said earlier, it always starts with us. So, when I work with parents, I essentially, you know, we work on sort of a one-two goal here, and that the first goal is to support ourselves as parents. And then, okay, then how do we support our kids in responding more effectively to their emotions and behaviors? So, to start with ourselves as parents, which is where we always start, we can—There’s three quick steps that I would walk a parent through and the first step would be looking at your environment. And I know, I know parents are so sick of hearing this, you know? Yeah, we know we need more sleep. Yeah, we know we need to get out more with our friends. We know we need to meditate. And so it’s tough. I think it’s tough because I think that, you know, parents can feel overwhelmed when we talk about self-care and creating an environment that supports their wellbeing because it can feel like one more thing. I would just share from my perspective, a little bit of a different lens to look at that through. I would encourage is, or one way that we can just think about it that may be a little bit more helpful. As I know when I was, a parent of young children, I did truly—Forgive me, I now know better. I did truly believe that I was being a better parent by not going to the gym, not going out with friends. I was that parent that was always there for my kids. My whole life was my kids and I never did anything for myself. And I thought that was like a badge of honor. Well, I get it now. That’s dumb. That doesn’t help my kids. It certainly doesn’t help me. But I didn’t have—nobody was telling me back then about the why. I’m a big “why” person. Like if I understand the why something’s important, then I feel a little bit more motivated to make that happen. And so now that I understand the why of me setting myself up for success and managing my emotions can help me do the thing as a parent I really wanted to do, which is to help my kids learn to manage their emotions and behavior effectively, then I’m gonna feel a little bit more motivated. You know, one silly trick you can do is you can kind of make a list of the things that take up your day that benefit your wellbeing and those that deplete your wellbeing. And just consider doing a switch. Pull one thing out and put one thing in. There’s so many different ways to look at that and ways to make that happen. But one small example is that 10 minutes or more we all spend, when we wake up in the morning scrolling through social media, we could switch that out with something that benefits our wellbeing and that can be really personalized depending on what works for you. It could certainly be 10 minutes of meditation. It could be journaling. It could be reading it book. It could be whatever supports your wellbeing and starts you off on your day in a way that is filling your cup instead of depleting your cup. So that’s, that’s step one is our environment and setting that up to support our wellbeing. And if you’d like, I can go on quickly to the other two, but if you have questions.
Amy Moore: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Keep going.
Laura Reardon: So the second one is an in-the-moment tool that I created called, “The ABCs for Keeping Calm.” So, and so this is in that moment where your, you know, your kid is screaming because they got the wrong color cup or because your older kid is yelling because, you know, you’re telling them it’s time to turn off their video game and do their homework. So A is for awareness, and awareness means that we want to start noticing our thoughts and our feelings and our body sensations and start noticing how—what is present for us? What are we noticing about those things in that moment, just before we get triggered into our own fight, flight or freeze response, right? Before we start lashing out or shutting down? It’s, you know, obviously easier said than done, but the more we start practicing present-moment awareness and little moments throughout our day. And the more we start paying attention to ourselves and how we feel in our body, what thoughts we’re having or what feelings we’re having when we’re starting to feel that rising sensation of “arrr,” then we can get better and better at pausing before we lash out or shut down. So that’s awareness. B as for breathe. We can take a deep breath in and let it out, letting our exhale be longer than our inhale, and that can serve the purpose of helping us tolerate our uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, or body sensations instead of responding to them by lashing out or shutting down. And breathing does is a tool that works for a lot of us. I know that it works for me, but of course it doesn’t work for everybody. And so there’s lots of other ways to customize that. So we can think of B for breathe as symbolic of that thing that helps us tolerate our feelings instead of lashing out or shutting down. And then C is for cognitive thinking. What we can do is we can tune into our thinking brain and consider the most helpful response. And so an example this gets so personalized and customized depending on whether we’re working with; the parent or the child and whether what the situation might be. But to just offer an example of what that could look like, as a parent, we could consider our thoughts. Are we having that thought in that moment? “I’m a bad parent because I just yelled.” Or are we having a thought, “My kid’s a bad kid because they made me yell”? And we can consider a more helpful thought. We can consider a more compassionate thought. “You know, parenting is really hard and it makes sense that I feel like yelling or it makes sense that I yelled.” And we can think also, you know, being a kid can be really hard and instead of reacting with judgment, reacting with curiosity. “What are those big feelings and unmet needs that are underneath your behavior?” And that A, B, C, those A, B, C steps can help take us from a place of being triggered to a place of being calm. And again, that’s an in-the-moment tool. It’s sometimes a tool that can be implemented all at once, and sometimes we need to take a pause at that B step at that breathe or whatever works for you in terms of breathing, because sometimes that means we actually need to take a 20-minute break in our bedroom. Of course, depending on the age of our children, safety first and whatever we need to do to ensure that. But, you know, especially in the beginning, or dependent on the level of the situation, sometimes one breath might be enough, one deep breath might be enough to recenter us and prevent us from lashing out or shutting down. And sometimes it’s gonna be 20 minutes of breathing or whatever works for you. So obviously again, it’s personalized for yourself, your individual self and the individual situation. But that’s a quick in-the-moment tool. And then the third step is, you know, we are inevitably, even when we’re practicing creating an environment that set sets us up for success and even as we’re practicing implementing this tool in our lives, we are inevitably going to still lose it sometimes. And so, when we do, we can repair. And when we repair with our child, we restore safety and we restore regulation. And so we can apologize. We can let them know that’s something that we’re working on getting better and better at which role models a growth mindset. Just in the same way, we wanna let them know it’s okay when they’re gonna lose it and they’re gonna keep trying and they’re gonna get better and better at it too. And then if we find ourselves losing it on a really regular basis, you know, we can step back and reflect on what might be triggering us. Is it something that’s happening in the present moment that’s causing us to get triggered so often? You know, again, an unmet need. Is there really a change that needs to happen in our lives, a problem that needs to be solved? Or we can consider if it’s something from our past that may be triggering us in that moment.
You know, is it when our kid uses a certain tone of voice? Or is it when our kid’s not listening to us, for example, that we tend to get triggered and we can consider, you know, is that reminding us from something that happened in our past, perhaps in our own growing up years? And we can reflect on that and, and we can, if we think that might be, you know, what’s happening, a way to, you know, process through that in a way so we can be free from that impacting our present day is we can reflect back on what happened. We can consider how we felt about what happened. We can consider how it’s impacting our present. And we can end with a message of resilience. For example, you know, I know that my parents loved me and tried my best, and I can, you know, I can do this thing differently in my current family. So that’s a way to reflect on and process. Something that might be happening from our past and impacting the present in a way that can help us to become free from that.
Amy Moore: So I want to revisit that idea of repair and restoring safety. So what is your recommendation on the time interval, from when you lost your temper or said something that you shouldn’t have said to your child or regret saying that and you wanna repair that? Do you do that immediately or do you wait until your child has calmed down so that they can receive it? What is your recommendation there?
Laura Reardon: Yeah, I think that’s, to your point, so dependent on the situation, you know, depending on our level of reactivity and their level of reactivity, you know, you got right to the heart of the issue. Because even if we’re regulated enough that we can quickly come to awareness and quickly apologize, our kid may not be ready to hear it if they’re too reactive in that moment, and vice versa. So, yeah, I think it’s just using your judgment. The most important thing is that you need to be in a place where you’re ready to repair. And so that’s the number one thing. And again, that can sometimes happen quickly and, and sometimes it doesn’t. So I don’t think the—I think the timing is important in that you want it to be at a time when you are ready to offer a repair and your child is ready to receive a repair. So from that perspective, timing matters. But that said, you know, I think what really matters is that it happens. I made a repair with my teenage daughter this summer for something I did when she was much, much younger. And so we can repair at any time. And it has value. It always has value.
Amy Moore: Yeah. And I think that it’s important for us to talk about too, that it’s great that we go and repair and we absolutely have to apologize ourselves when we’ve crossed that line and hurt our child, even though we didn’t mean to. But those words can’t be taken back, right? So like every time we say that, if we followed up with an apology, fantastic. But then we have to take one step further, like you said, and examine what triggered us in the first place. And what do we need to change to prevent ourselves from losing it the next time, right? Because we will. We do damage our child when we say things that hurt them, even though we apologize afterwards, right? And so if we continue to do it again, and again and again, just saying I’m sorry isn’t gonna change the fact that we’re repeatedly hurting our child with our words, right? So we really have to look at ourselves as well, like beyond that initial apology, right?
Laura Reardon: Yeah. And I think that part of what we want to do in support of that is to help our child understand that they are not responsible for our emotional regulation. That we are responsible for our own emotional regulation. And so the language that we use when we apologize matters We all have received that apology of, “Well, I’m sorry you felt that way.”
And that’s not an apology. An apology is when we take responsibility for our own behavior. And when we say, “I’m sorry,” you know, just some version of this, “I’m sorry I got that wrong. I really wish that I had responded in a different way. If I could do it all over again, this is how I would have liked to have responded.” And we can always request a do over. “Can we try again?” And when we, when we off—, when we can simultaneously take responsibility for our behavior and not make it our kid’s responsibility the way we behaved and at the same time we can offer ourselves compassion and show understanding for “I got it wrong and that’s okay because …” I mean, it’s not okay, you know, you know what I’m saying? Like, it’s not okay, but it really is important. But it is okay. I mean, it’s like, as parents, we wanna say, “but it’s not okay.” But it is okay. It is okay because it’s, it’s our humanity. We are not robots. We can’t, we can’t get it right every time. I wish we could, I wish I could. It’s not the way that life works. And when we can role model compassion for when we get it wrong and role model a growth mindset of, “so I’m gonna try to learn from this and I’m gonna try to get better from this,” that’s really ultimately the most important lesson you could potentially argue that we could teach our kid, because the way that will impact them is that through that, that has the potential to impact them throughout their entire lives. “I got it wrong. I can offer compassion and understanding to myself, and I’m gonna try to get it right the next time.” And that’s a really powerful thing to role model. And even as a parent, I wish that I went into parenting with that understanding because I now am at peace with the fact that I did not always get it right as a parent in my parenting. And I continue to not always get it right. And I, you know, I always used to say this thing joking, but I was really not joking. I would say, “I wish I could live my whole life all over again with the knowledge that I have today.” And, I said it jokingly, but it really reflected my true feelings because it was really hard for me to get it wrong, especially when it came to something that I cared so much about and I wanted to get right. And yet I’ve really come to be at peace with the fact that it’s getting it wrong—because as parents, we get it wrong so often—it’s the getting it wrong that creates the opportunity to learn what we need to learn to get on the path towards getting it right in the future. And that is just the way life works. And so that can be, that was a hard lesson learned for me. And so, if we as parents can get our kids on the path towards accepting that in a positive way with compassion and a growth mindset, that again, that’s powerful.
Sandy Zamalis: I love that. Especially, you know, in my center, we see all the time, you know, that fight, flight, freeze is triggered when we’re asking someone to do something hard, right?
Or something they don’t—they need to practice a little bit more. So there’s a huge fear of failure, or you know, not being able to cognitively be aware of why you’re feeling anxious about a task or feeling overwhelmed by a task. Do you have recommendations for parents when those things come up? I’m thinking in my head, like sitting at the table for homework and you know, all of a sudden there’s a meltdown that feels like it came out of nowhere.
Amy Moore: It’s too hard. I can’t do that.
Sandy Zamalis: Yeah. Yeah. And how to bring that child back in. Because that’s the other side of the coin that, you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about is, you know, how do we help our kids to embrace I can do hard things? And that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. And that, it’s okay to fail. That’s how our brain learns. How do we model that more effectively?
Laura Reardon: Yeah. So I would encourage parents or professionals or whoever is working in the care of children, to consider going through their own ABCs to get regulated and centered themselves. And then we can, not teach our kid the ABCs, because that’s not going to be helpful because until our kid has the ability to self-regulate and say, “Oh, there’s a tool I could put that tool to use,” that’s going to be of no use to them. But what we can do is, we can support them and hold their hand throughout that tool, and this is how that would look. So for A, for awareness, when our kid is in this, you know, case, for example—remind me again, the example you wanted to use? Was it a—
Sandy Zamalis: Oh, I was just thinking the one that we see a lot is we can use homework example. Homework. Let’s use sitting at the table. Everybody’s tired. It’s been a long day. The math word problem hits the table and then there’s tears and, you know, broken pencils, maybe a slammed door or two.
Laura Reardon: Yeah. So the first place we want to start is awareness. And we can help our child into awareness and into acceptance. So we can, in that moment, be present to our kids’ struggle in a way that communicates the message. “You’re not a bad kid. You are a kid that is struggling right now, and I am here to support you as you’re learning new skills and you’re growing.” And when we can start with that mentality of helping them into awareness that we see that their behavior is driven by big emotions and unmet needs, and that we are here to help them, that can help them learn to tolerate those uncomfortable experiences of the sensations of unmet needs or the sensations of big emotions. And added to that, if, you know, there’s a strategy that we feel it could help support them in that moment in tolerating where they’re at, again, B for breathe. You know, we can always say, or even not say, but do we can just start taking some deep breaths, you know? And sometimes, you know, again, that just takes away all the defenses of saying, “Take some deep breaths.” “No!” You know, but again, that’s not gonna work for all our kids. And so, we know our kid. And sometimes our kid, a lot of times our kids need to move in that moment. And you know, we can just, if we have the opportunity to take a break in that moment and go out in the yard and play, or go for a walk, that’s great. If we don’t, we could, you know, come up with another strategy that might work in the moment. “Let’s do 10 wall pushes. Let’s do 10 jumping jacks.” You know, whatever that, that’s really personal work where we need to, you know, figure out what’s gonna work for your kid in that moment. But again, we’re helping our kid develop emotional strength, develop the capacity to be with their uncomfortable emotions without lashing out or shutting down. Because instead what we want them to learn to do is to respond more effectively. We want them to get their needs met and we want to help them get their needs met in more effective ways. And that’s really what managing emotions and behaviors is about. So then we go to step C, and we use our cognitive thinking brain to consider a different way of looking at that. And so in this situation, what we might wanna do is to create some internal motivation. Again, it really depends on the specific challenge that the kid is having. But if it’s, for example, a matter of, you know, not wanting to do their homework or not being motivated to do their homework, oftentimes the best way to approach those situations is to ask reflective questions and to give our kids a lot of autonomy. Because when we do that, that can create. You know, the motivation to do the thing as opposed to doing the thing to avoid the punishment or to get the reward. And so, you know, we might wanna ask questions like, “So how can I support you in getting this, getting this homework done?” Or, you know, so, alright, you know, we can have, you know, limits and, and when it comes to homework, people have, parents have different ways of looking at that and it whatever’s right for you and your values is what’s right. But, so we could use two different examples. For some parents, they might look at that situation and identify homework as a boundary. This is something we need to do. And so, that’s the boundary. And then giving our kid a lot of autonomy around how that thing gets done. And maybe just like having a brainstorming session of, “Oh geez. Okay, so we know we have to do the homework. Let’s just like, come up with a, a plan of how we can really set you up for success.” And then ask a bunch of questions like, “Geez, what room works best for you to do your homework? In what time of the day works best? How can I support you in doing that? Is it better if we’re in the room together?” Is it, you know, whatever. Again, it can be a whole slew of different things to consider, but really giving our kid a lot of influence in how to set themselves up for success and that. And then there are some parents that, again, this can really vary with the age of your child as well, but look to natural consequences to play a role in this as well. Because again, it’s about creating that internal motivation. And so if our kid doesn’t do their homework and then they go into school next the next day and experience the natural consequence of not doing the homework, it might be that they come home the next day feeling more motivated to do that homework.
Amy Moore: So, you talked about it being kind of a one-two strategy. So you had the three steps for the parents, the ABCs, all of that. And then the two, the section two is specific to the child. Did we talk about that?
Laura Reardon: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s really similar. There are also three steps for our kid. The first step is also environment. As is always the foundation for setting us up for success. Step two is walking, holding our child’s hand through the application of the ABCs. And step three is also reflection, as it is for ourselves. But in this sense, we want to reflect with our child on what happened because there are times when we can go to that step C in the moment, but not often. Most of the times that step C is gonna happen later in a calm moment when we’re both regulated and ready to problem solve. And so, what we can do is reflect on what happened and help them identify, help them, you know, we can ask questions like, you know, we wanna always start with, you know, we always wanna start with awareness and acceptance. So we wanna come at it from that compassionate place, not that judgmental place. And we can start with, “I noticed,” you know, “I noticed you were really struggling with your homework.” And we can ask questions. And so a lot of those questions that we talked about a moment ago are those questions that we can ask in the time of the reflection. However, we were really kind of focused on just getting the homework done. What is often happening, in addition to that, is that layer of, again, managing your emotions and your behavior. It’s one thing. Be trying to create some internal motivation and problem solving about how we’re gonna get homework done in our family. But it’s really another layer if, in that moment where our kid is struggling, that they’re lashing out or shutting down. And so that’s when we can, in that reflective conversation and the, and that calm moment afterwards, we can ask questions like, you know, “How are you feeling in that moment and where were you feeling that within your body?” Because there’s a lot of research to support that when we—when we can become aware of where we feel our feelings in our body that’s correlated with emotional regulation and a piece of that is because we feel our feelings first in our body as body sensations before they can travel to our brain where we can identify words to label those emotions. And so it’s almost like, a little head start on knowing what’s happening for us. And if we can be tuned into our, if we can help our kid to tune in to how their emotions feel in their body, then we can—that can be a foundational step towards learning to become aware, which again, is that first foundational step in the ABCs. So when we ask them those reflective questions in the time after whatever happened, that can help them create—start to build the skills for being able to become more aware of when they’re feeling triggered by what’s happening in their body. And then B, we can, again, we can reflect back on, you know, “Geez, in the moment I suggested you take a deep breath and that seemed to really upset you. That didn’t help you at all. What would be helpful the next time? What would, what would be something that would help you feel a little calmer in the moment?” And again, we can brainstorm that and then it, you know, again, we can be—we can be thinking, we can be asking them questions about their thoughts because their thoughts can really influence their emotions and their behavior. And so we can also have a reflective conversation about, “What were you, what was going on in, in your head at that moment? What were some of the thoughts that you were having?” And it might be that they were having, for example, self-critical thoughts. And those thoughts might have been really triggering their behavior. And so if that’s the case, we can talk about how we can acknowledge our thoughts with compassion and we can choose a different thought to focus on. We can consider a more helpful thought. And we can encourage them to identify their own language. We can say, “Oh yeah, I can see why you would feel really frustrated, and that makes sense to me.” Again, it’s always about awareness and acceptance. And “What would be a more helpful thought?” And again, when we can get them on board with identifying the solution, whether it’s how to set them up for success in getting their homework done, or whether it’s how to set themselves up for success in how to respond with different thoughts when they become aware they’re having a self-critical thought, the more likely they’re going to be to actually want to do that thing. As opposed to if we tell them, you know, nobody wants to be told what to do. And so as parents, we have so much life experience and we have so much wisdom that we wanna, I know I want to tell them what to do. I knew what to do, I did the right thing. But when we do that, it just gets us the opposite thing than what we want because it’s our natural inclination to not like to be told what to do, even as adults. And so we’re better off again, creating that internal motivation. And when we do that, we get them. We get their buy-in and also we develop confidence and we develop competence. So there’s lots of benefits to getting our kids involved in problem solving.
Amy Moore: Absolutely.
Sandy Zamalis: So let’s zero in on a particularly tumultuous time of parenting. You offer a free audio class for parents and one of them is how to prepare for your next tween storm.
Laura Reardon: Mm-hmm.
Sandy Zamalis: So what’s a tween storm? And other than the ABCs that we’ve been kind of going over, are there other tools that parents can use to prepare for that particular time and big cognitive developmental time of that child?
Laura Reardon: Yeah. I mean, a lot of it is coming back to the same tools and what I talk a lot about when it comes to our tweens is connection, which is, I think that for sure, when we are showing up for our kids with awareness and acceptance of where they’re at, that is a hugely powerful way to connect with them because essentially they’re feeling seen and understood and accepted. And that’s the most powerful way we can really feel connection with anyone. And so, that tool is powerful in that. However, of course, we wanna look at our environment and we haven’t gone into too much detail regarding, you know, our kids’ environment and how we can set them up for success. But for sure, one of them is to create regular opportunities to connect. And, you know, a lot of times, as parents, we feel like as our kids get into their tween and teen years, they’re not as interested or needing our connection when in fact it’s the opposite. They’re needing it more and more and more. And in fact, our toddler years, or I should say our teen years look a lot like our toddler years because really those phases of life are very comparable in terms of the really high emotions and the need for—to be seen and accepted for who we are and the need to learn, you know, skills for, you know, managing our emotions more effectively. So, you know, for—just to, to use myself as an example, the one thing I always did, and everyone can, obviously, based on their own lives and routines, come up with their own way to have that daily connection outside of times of chaos when we can also connect, but in just our regular day-to-day. I was always doing something. Actually, I’m not sure if I mentioned this or not, but I spent 20 years running an at-home daycare and working as a nanny. And so I was a busy mom, as we are all busy and whatever we’re doing. But somehow, whenever my kids got home, I mean, not every day, of course there were times that my schedule didn’t allow for it, but almost every day, whenever the bus would come down the street or in later years when the car would come down the driveway, I had this chair in the kitchen and I would go and sit myself on that chair and I’d be sitting there every time the kids walked in the house. And they must have thought I did nothing because all I was ever doing is sitting in that chair. But I was always sitting in that chair when they came home and it was just that time my kids got into the habit and the routine of expecting me there and knowing that would be a time that we could connect and not a time to fire questions, just a time to be present and to be open to them wanting to sit in silence and companionship for them to having had something exciting at school. Something, I mean, I still remember the day they came home and, you know, they had had a lockdown and it was really … And you know, so every day is different and some days are about not talking and some days are about sharing stories, but it didn’t matter. What mattered is that daily being present to them and whatever their needs were in that moment.
Amy Moore: I love that. So we need to take a break and let Sandy read a word from our sponsor and when we come back, um, Laura, we’d like for you to tell our listeners, how they can work with you and what that would look like. When we come back.
Sandy Zamalis: Are you concerned about your child’s reading or spelling performance? Are you worried your child’s reading curriculum isn’t thorough enough? Well, most learning struggles aren’t the result of poor curriculum or instruction. They’re typically caused by having cognitive skills that need to be strengthened. Skills like auditory processing, memory and processing speed. LearningRx one-on-one brain training programs are designed to target and strengthen the skills that we rely on for reading, spelling, writing, and learning. LearningRx can help you identify which skills may be keeping your child from performing at their best. In fact, we’ve worked with more than 100,000 children and adults who wanted to think and perform better.
Amy Moore: We’re back with our guest parent coach Laura Rearden. And so Laura, if our listeners are interested in working with you as a parent coach, what does that look like and how can they find out more?
Laura Reardon: Yeah, if anyone would be interested in working personally with me, I would recommend that they go to my website, LauraReardonCoaching.com. And on my website you’ll find some blogs that will, if you’re interested in going a little bit deeper in understanding some of the topics that we’ve covered today, will be a reference for you. As Sandy mentioned, I offer free recordings to help parents who are struggling with the tween years and how to set themselves up for success. And also, that is where you could schedule a personalized parenting—a personalized parenting plan with me. If that’s something that you’re interested in doing, we’d work together personally. Again, we’d get on a Zoom call and together we would co-create a customized and comprehensive plan for how to respond to your biggest parenting challenge in a way that sets you up for success in managing your own emotions and behavior and set your—sets your kids up for success in managing theirs.
Sandy Zamalis: If you could give our listeners one piece of advice or one takeaway from our conversation today to get through those tough moments with their kids, what would it be?
Laura Reardon: Yeah, I guess I just would come back to compassion because as parents we’re so tough on ourselves, and I think more than ever, I think in a way that I think is great, parents are looking at their job of parenting and a more professional capacity. For example, the saying that used to drive me batty when my kids were younger is when people would say, “Oh, parenting is not about using your brain. You know, you need to do, you need to get out and do something.” Well, I don’t look at parenting that way, and I never did. I always looked at parenting as something that I wanted to educate myself on. And I think that I love the direction that I see things going in, in terms of parents, everyday parents becoming educated about brain science and how that can create compassion in themselves for them, you know, for themselves and also for their kid. So I think there’s a lot of positive ways in which taking parenting to that next level in terms of looking at how we can be parenting in really effective ways is great in a lot of ways. And like everything, there’s a downside and this, you know, so much stress on parents to get it right or you know, to just, you know, there’s just so much stress on parents, you know, again, like, “Oh, I have to have my whole environment set up to support me and I have to, you know, know this brain science and how I can do this thing and teach my kids this, and you gotta be kidding me, you know, I gotta work and I’ve gotta, you know, do this.” And so I think it’s positive, but like everything, it’s a balance is so important. So I think I always come back to compassion, you know, humanity. You know, we are, we are all doing the best that we can. And I come back to, again, my hard-earned life lesson is that really we can, we cannot take joy in this, but we can take meaning in getting it wrong a lot because it does get us on that path towards getting it right in the future.
Sandy Zamalis: I loved your question that you asked at the very beginning of, instead of, you know, what is a parent coach, who is your parent coach? What do you think is the biggest benefit of reaching out and getting a, a personal parenting coach?
Laura Reardon: I think that, again, it’s that it’s when you take the generic information that is so freely available to us these days, in a way that it was not when I was a young parent. And so I think that that, again, is a positive that can have a negative consequence because there’s so much information out there that A) we can get really overwhelmed by it, and B) we can have no idea how to implement it in our family. And C) we can think we’re implementing it and getting it wrong and coming to the conclusion, “Oh, this just doesn’t work.” And not understanding that, it’s so important to work with somebody who can support you in customizing what works for you and your family based on your values, based on how you, what kind of parent you want to be, based on what your challenges are and based on what your goals are. And somebody that can have that perspective to say, “Oh, well this, you know, this might need to be tweaked in this way, or this pattern of, you know, might be getting in your way and preventing you from having a success that you want.” Or, you know, it’s this, you know, it’s just, it’s the personalization of taking all this generic information and how to make that work in your own family. And so I think that that’s where the benefit comes of working with somebody that can support you in that.
Sandy Zamalis: I love the notion of having like a, a third-party, neutral view and perspective that’s away from the emotionality of it as a parent.
Laura Reardon: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Be able to identify patterns that are happening that you just are too close to it to see yourself. And it can be really the difference between not getting the result you want and having, you know, having that result.
Amy Moore: So we are out of time. But thank you so much, Laura, for your wisdom and encouragement that you’ve given our listeners today. We really appreciate you taking your time out of your busy schedule to be with us. Listeners, if you would like more information about working with Laura, again, her website is LauraReardenCoaching.com. You can reach on Facebook through @LauraReardenCoaching. We will put that website and her handles in the show notes so that you can find her. Thank you so much for listening today. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather watch us, we are on YouTube and you can find us on every social media channel @TheBrainyMoms. If you are into TikTok, you can find Sandy @The_Brain_Trainer_Lady on TikTok. That’s right, right, Sandy?
Sandy Zamalis: It is. You got it.
Amy Moore: Brain trainer lady. Okay, so look, until next time, we know that you’re busy moms. And we’re busy moms, so we’re out.
Sandy Zamalis: Have a great week.