Amy McCready on 5 Hard Truths About Parenting (& Steps to a Calmer Home Life)

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Katie: Hello and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com, that’s “wellness” with an “e” on the end. That’s my personal care line. And this podcast is with someone who I love having conversations with, and who always shares so much great information. I’m here with Amy McCready who is…she describes herself as a recovering yeller, and she’s the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the creator of “7-Step Parenting Success.” She has two best-selling books about parenting, and she’s always a well-sought after and well listened to guest on this podcast. She shares extremely practical information for families. And I will say firsthand that her tips have definitely changed my relationship with my children and been extremely helpful in my household.
 
This episode is about five hard truth about parenting and steps to calmer, easier home life. We talk about learning how to delve into why behaviors are happening in the first place, versus just reacting to them. And we talk about these five truth bombs, including things like kids continue the behaviors that work for them, parent priorities aren’t the same as kid priorities, how to order, correct, and direct less, while getting actually more done in your home, why the carrot and stick approach doesn’t work with consequences, and what to do instead. She has some really great practical tips here. How to encourage internal motivation and control, versus external motivators of control like rewards, and to help kids foster their sense of agency and capability.
 
As always, this is a super practical episode packed with lots of really applicable tips that you can implement today in your family. And I really recommend her course if you wanna go deeper on this. She takes you through everything from all the different ages of parenting, how to deal with things, everything from tantrums to getting kids to help out around the house to rebellious teenagers. And she has very practical approaches to all of those. So without further ado, let’s go learn from Amy. Amy, welcome back.
 
Amy: Thanks for having me, Katie. It’s always such a joy to be with you.
 
Katie: Well, likewise. And every time you’re on, we get such great feedback. People love you. And I’m excited to get to go deeper on some of these topics that we’ve talked about a little bit previously, today, especially what you call the five hard truths about parenting. And I think your work is so, so important right now, especially with moms and everything we’ve had the last couple of years and the excess pressure that a lot of moms are feeling, not to mention the excess logistics many moms have been dealing with. So, certainly, there’s a lot to navigate, and I love that you have such clear approaches to actually helping tangibly make shifts, and that you really address the inner side and the motivation side, which I think is where a lot of the conversation in parenting can get lost when we don’t actually take it down to that level.
 
So I feel like there’s a lot of kind of misunderstood aspects of parenting that you break down so, so clearly. And in your course, you talk about specific parenting truth bombs, which I love, that change how we think about parenting, and especially how we are acting in our family environment. And I know from getting to work with this amazing community of moms for so long, I’ve always said moms are the changemakers, moms are the most powerful force on the planet. And when you support the moms, you make ripples that help families, that help society, and your work definitely does that. So, to start off broad, maybe just walk us into a couple of these truth bombs that you talk about.
 
Amy: Yeah. So, just to your point, like, I just love to dig into why the behavior is happening in the first place. And it’s natural for parents to want a bandaid solution, I want a consequence to stop this issue or that issue, or a reward to see more of this behavior that I want. But if we really dig into why the behaviors are happening in the first place, it allows us to be much more strategic in the strategies that we’re going to use. So, one of the first truth bombs that we talk about is that kids continue the behaviors that work for them. And that doesn’t mean that kids are trying to be manipulative, but kids through trial and error find that certain behaviors give a particular payoff that they’re looking for.
 
For example, and I think we might have even talked about this before, you know, when a young child is whining and the parent picks them up, like, the child learns that that behavior creates a particular result. Again, she’s not doing it to be manipulative, but she doesn’t have the verbal communication skills to explain like, “Hey, mom, you know, I’ve been away from you all day at daycare. And I know you’re busy trying to make dinner, and you’re multitasking, and, like, you’re looking at your phone. But, like, what I really need is your time and attention right now, but I can’t communicate that to you. And so all I know how to do is hang on your legs and cling to you and whine because when I do that, you’ll pick me up.” And so that’s one example of how a behavior works for a child.
 
For older kids, you know, we know that kids have a need for personal power, they need to have some control over their own lives. And for a lot of kids, they don’t feel like they have a lot of age-appropriate control. And so one of the ways that kids will get a sense of control is pushing their parent’s buttons, you know, triggering them because that gives them a certain reaction. It’s not the kind of positive power they really want and positive control that they really need, but it’s still a sense of control or power in what sometimes feels like a powerless situation for them. So, again, kids aren’t trying to be manipulative, they’re not trying to give us a hard time, but they go about through trial and error finding ways that give them the head of attention they need, the connection that they want, or the head of power that they have to have. And they’ll get that one way or another.
 
Katie: Yeah. I love how you explain that. And I think of you as like the functional medicine approach to parenting because it’s like in nutrition and health, often if you hyper-fixate on a symptom and you just try to treat the symptom, you miss the reason why the symptom’s happening in the first place. And I love that you apply this to parenting and say like, “Yeah, you could do a quick fix that addresses just this particular thing. But if you’re not stepping back and understanding why it’s happening and then kind of fixing that initial thing that’s causing it, you’re just gonna keep repeating that same pattern of whatever the thing that’s happening is.”
 
And I love that point too about, you know, kids are natural connectors of dots. And that’s amazing. They’re designed to be like that. That’s how they learn languages, and how they don’t get discouraged, and how they have creativity, and all these amazing things. But that means, you’re right, they’re not being manipulative, but they’re paying attention and their brains are so hardwired to find patterns. So when we routinely do things in response to something they do, their brain is perfectly suited to go,” Oh, cause and effect, this is how I get this outcome.” And I know in our other episodes, you’ve talked so beautifully about their need for belonging and significance, and often it going back to those. And so I think when we can step back and take that broad approach, it really helps us understand where they’re coming from versus react to what they’re doing.
 
Amy: You know, Katie, to that point… everything that we teach in our program is based on the work of Alfred Adler and Adlerian psychology. And Alfred Adler said that children are excellent observers, but poor interpreters. And I think that crystallizes it because the child observes that when I hang on her legs, she will pick me up but doesn’t understand how to really get the connection and attention that she wants, or when a new sibling comes into the family, the older child observes that when that little baby cries and fusses and poops in his diaper, mom or dad are on it and giving the attention and spending time with that child. And so very often, you see that regression with the older child when the new sibling comes home because, again, the child observed correctly but didn’t interpret properly how to get what they need in terms of that attention on the belonging and significance that you mentioned.
 
Katie: And it seems then like the antidote to a lot of this is if you identify that core need, finding a way to give them what they actually need without them having to do behavior that might be the behavior you don’t want them to do, can you give a couple of examples of that?
 
Amy: Absolutely. And I think we’ve talked about this in a previous segment. So, instead of having the child try to get your attention or that connection that they need through the negative behaviors, why not front-load what the kid really needs, right? And so one of my favorite tools to do that is called Mind, Body, and Soul Time. And Mind, Body, and Soul Time, some of your listeners probably already know, is spending 10 to 15 minutes with each child one-on-one every day where you are proactively and positively filling their attention bucket. And so the definition of Mind, Body, and Soul Time is one-on-one time, one parent one child, where you are fully present in mind, body, and soul so there are no distractions, your phone isn’t around, the other siblings aren’t around, if you have a partner, they’re not around. It’s when, you know, that child has you completely to himself, and you’re doing what that child wants to do for that 10 minutes.
 
And so talk about a hit of emotional connection. They have you all to themselves for that 10 minutes and ahead of power because for once in this kid’s day, she gets to call the shots on what you’re going to do because so much of a kid’s day is adult-directed, either parent or teacher. And so this is one of those few opportunities where they really get to call the shots. So Mind, Body, and Soul Time once a day, 10 minutes with each kid and I know every listener’s probably thinking, “Oh, yeah, Amy, right. Like, I have 10 minutes, and I have three kids.” But I promise you, you’re already spending that 10 minutes on the nonsense behavior, the power struggles, the fights over technology, whatever it happens to be, you’re spending that time already. We’re just gonna spend it on the front end positively and proactively because when we do, then those negative nonsense behaviors start to fall off the radar screen. So that’s an example of how you can front end what the kid really needs, in this case, that emotional connection with you.
 
Katie: I love that. And to speak to that, I have six kids and this is actually one of the most freeing parts of what I’ve learned from you is even with six kids, that’s only one hour a day. And it has relieved pressure in so many other areas of motherhood that it’s actually, even with six kids, freed up time because our home environment is so much calmer because they all feel connected. And it’s also, like, led to just beautiful independent connections with each of my kids and their ability to ask for what they want, which I think is a very valuable life skill that I’m very glad they’re learning to put into words like I would love to do this thing. Just so many benefits to that. I know you also have one of these hard truths about priorities. And I’d love to talk to the priority aspect.
 
Amy: Yes. So one of the truth bombs of parenting is that parent priorities are not the same as kid priorities. And when I say that, your listeners are probably like, “Yeah, right. I know that like, right? Kid priorities are not the same as parent priorities.” But again, think about that child’s day. So much of our communication with them are about parent priorities, cleaning your room, and getting off the technology, and it’s time to eat, and it’s time to do that, and you have to get, you know, your piano lesson done. And there’s so much ordering, correcting, and directing from us to them about our priorities. But if we’re not meeting their priorities, like the need for emotional connection through Mind, Body, and Soul Time, you can see where the kids gonna be like, “No, I’ve had it, I am pushing back.”
 
And so the lesson there is that if we’re constantly pushing our agenda and our priorities, we are going to have power struggles, like, that is a guarantee. So we had better be using effective strategies from the toolbox to be able to get those things done that aren’t necessarily our kid’s priority. But the other key thing is that if we’re not meeting their emotional needs for emotional connection and attention and positive power, you know, we’re gonna continue to struggle there. So just that realization, like, “Oh, yeah, my kids don’t really care if the room is clean, or if there’s a wet towel on the floor.” That’s my priority, and they could care less about that, actually.
 
Katie: You’re right. That seems like a simple thing, but it’s so profound because as moms, especially, often our priorities seem logistical. Like, the house needs to be clean, food needs to be on the table, we have to get all these places. And so we get swept up in this idea of we all need to be on the same page about these priorities without really stepping back and asking, like, what are their actual priorities? And how could I align their motivations to actually want to help accomplish these same things? And what do they need to feel supported? And I think when we look at it like that, it changes the whole conversation completely. And I think this also ties into another one that you mentioned about, I think, number three, that I think when you say it, every mom is gonna be like, “Oh, well, yeah, that’s true, but I haven’t thought about it in that particular way before.”
 
Amy: Yes. So truth bomb number three is that human beings are born with free will. And again, duh, we all know that, but think about how that relates to your kid’s behavior. Again, I don’t know about you, Katie, but my personality tends to be a little bit on the controlling side. I’m very type A, I want things done a certain way. And the more that I, again, order, correct, and direct, the more I want things done my way, the natural reaction for any human being, large or small, is for them to push back because nobody wants to be told what to do, nobody wants to be pushed around because we are all born with free will. And I always tell parents like, “It doesn’t matter if your child is 18 months old or 18 years old. They have the free will to listen to you, to cooperate, to do the right thing, and they have the free will to fight you every step of the way.” So how’s it gonna go, right?
 
And so that requires us to use strategies that are aligned with their free will. Having them have some say so in the way things are done. Again, not that they rule the roost, but, my goodness, we have to give them some sense of decision-making opportunity for littles all the way up to the bigs, or they’re not going to have the opportunity to exercise their God-given in their DNA need for free will, right? So, for all kids, you know, we talk about creating a decision-rich environment. And that means that everybody has the opportunity to weigh in on things.
 
So, for little kids, it’s things like, do you want to use the blue towel or the yellow towel, right? Do you want to use this toothbrush or that toothbrush? Again, it’s a decision. I always say decisions equal power. So every decision that a human makes, they’re getting a little hit of power, they have a sense of agency over their own world. For bigger kids, it can be, you know, helping plan the menu for the week, or if you are a homeschooling family, getting involved in the lesson plans. There are so many opportunities within the family environment where we can bring kids into the decision-making process that give them a sense of agency and let them feel like they have some sense of control over their own lives because they have free will, and in the end, the decision on whether or not they listen, cooperate, do the right thing, it’s always their choice.
 
Katie: Yeah. I don’t think we can overstate how important that is and also how it changes the whole energy of the home when I think parents come from a place of respect for that. I think any mom who’s ever had a 2-year-old understands logically that you cannot actually force a child to do anything. And if you want an exercise in futility, attempt it with a 2-year-old, certainly. But I think it touches on that importance of agency which often maybe gets overlooked, especially when things get busy and overwhelming in the parenting dynamic. But how you talk about age-appropriate control, I think that’s such an important piece because the goal is we’re raising adults, we’re not raising kids.
 
And so I had always thought of it as by the time they’re even young teenagers, I want them to have the agency and have the skills to be able to be largely self-sufficient, and to be there more as a guide for the bigger decisions or the harder things, but they’re so capable by that age of understanding, and by young ages as well, understanding so much. Maybe what are some tangible ways to support them at different ages in that age-appropriate control, especially as we have a bunch of teenagers now when they’re in that phase where they are psychologically supposed to be separating and independent, and being able to make decisions? Any tangible tips for guiding them into that.
 
Amy: Absolutely. And I want to just go back for one minute, if you don’t mind, Katie, when we were talking about sort of like who has the control? Just in the parenting strategies that we use, we can affect their sense of agency. So there is this sort of belief in some parenting that, you know, we have to use the carrot and the stick approach, right? I’m gonna reward the behaviors that I want to see more of, and I’m gonna punish the ones that I’m trying to change. And just that philosophy fosters an external locus of control, external agency. So the child’s not making a decision or a choice because it’s the right thing to do, it’s because what their internal compass is directing them to do, it’s because, you know, A, they’re trying to get this reward or the gimme, again, this external force that’s affecting their behavior or choices, or they’re trying to avoid this punishment, this bad thing that could happen if they make that choice.
 
So it’s not their internal compass directing their behavior, it’s these external forces. And that’s what we’re really trying to get away from the parenting strategy piece because as you said, we are raising kids who are going to go out into the world and we want them to have good decision making, we want them to make good choices because it’s the right thing, not because there are these external forces of reward and punishment that are influencing what they say…I’m sorry, influencing what they do. So you ask the question, I totally took a tangent there, but I felt the need to mention that. So you asked the question about what are some ways we can support kids in fostering that sense of agency? Well, at all ages, just developing their sense of capability, all right?
 
So you’ve heard me talk about belonging and significance so many times. That sense of significance means, you know, I am capable, I make a difference, I contribute in meaningful ways. And that gives them a sense of agency and control. And so, at all ages, we should be fostering their sense of capability by training them on age-appropriate tasks. So, for little kids, it can be self-care activities, it can be little jobs in the home, whether it’s, you know, wiping off chairs, things that they can reach, getting their own bowls and cereal, like putting things at age-appropriate levels, anything that allows the child to function independently. I always like to ask the question, if no adults lived in this home, how could this child operate completely independently, right? So anything that we can do to foster their capability and make the physical environment easier for them to be independent, that fosters that sense of personal agency and significance.
 
And then as they get older, as I mentioned, bringing them into the decision-making process, the more that you can create a decision-rich environment, the more that you don’t have to be in charge of everything. Let the kids get involved in family decisions as appropriate. That is such a power hit for kids and it makes them feel like, “Life is not being done to me, I have some personal influence over how my life turns out, how my day in, day out turns out.” So creating that decision-rich environment is so important. The other thing is, you know, allowing them letting go so they can make some age-appropriate risks, right? So whether it’s, you know, allowing them to do things that may be a little bit outside of your parental comfort zone. But if they’ve created a plan, and you feel good about it, and you’ve talked about all of the what-ifs that could happen, and again, this could be a 6-year-old or a 16-year-old, but showing that you have the confidence that they can do new things and take reasonable risks, those are all things that develop their sense of personal agency.
 
Katie: Yeah, I love that. And I think part of that too, at least I’m seeing in my teenagers is also realizing when they do take those risks, sometimes things won’t work out how they hoped. And that’s such a beautiful learning experience and a chance to have that conversation of like, you know what? For adults too, sometimes we run into failure and things don’t work out the way we thought. So how does that feel? And, like, what could maybe have changed? What could you have done differently that might have had a different outcome, but still letting it be theirs to work through versus jumping in and problem-solving at that point when something doesn’t go exactly how they hoped. And we’ve talked about it a little bit, and I want to go deeper on this, the difference between punishment and discipline and how this plays out. And I know there’s another truth bomb related to this as well.
 
Amy: Yeah. So punishment versus discipline, and we talk about this a lot in our 7-Step Parenting Success System. So, punishment, and I’m gonna give you a Jane Nelsen definition, you probably know her as the founder of “The Positive Discipline Movement.” And she describes punishment as any tactic that causes the child to feel blame, shame, or pain that can be physical or emotional. And certainly, punishment, that carrot stick approach that I kind of talked about before, that can certainly work in the short-term, right? That can interrupt the behavior in the moment, but it’s typically not helpful for long-term behavior change because when a child is experiencing, or an adult for that matter, is experiencing blame or shame, that’s like the worst emotion I think, or pain, their instinctive reaction is to shut down, you know, go undercover. You have lost the learning opportunity at that moment.
 
So, punishment, based on blame, shame, or pain is typically an action that happens as a result of a previous behavior. Discipline is really focused on training for the future. So, discipline comes from the Latin root disciples or disciple, which means, as a verb, to teach or to train. And so they were always looking for the training opportunity. Yes, kids will mess up, and they will be held accountable, and all of those things, but any strategy that we use with kids should always be through the lens of, “Is this helpful and is this going to further their skills, their knowledge, to help them make a better decision in the future?” And so that’s why, you know, we always just want to make sure that we are focusing on training. And so the truth bomb that I think you were referring to was that, when we use blame, shame, and pain punishment, we create an environment that virtually guarantees that kids will lie.
 
And as parents, like, we totally freak out about the idea that kids are gonna…you know, we freak out when kids lie. But we have to understand that lying is a perfectly reasonable response when you’re a kid. And if you’re a kid and you expect that blame, shame, and pain is gonna follow, right? Any kid, even an adult would probably lie to get out of that. So when we have this blame, shame, and pain, I’ve messed up, and I am gonna be in so much trouble, and blame, shame, and pain is coming, of course, kids are gonna lie to get out of that situation. And so the beautiful thing is that when you shift from that carrot and stick approach, from punishment to discipline with a focus on training and skill development, and fostering that open communication in the relationship, kids don’t have to be afraid when they mess up, right? They can come to you and you’re can talk about it because they know they’re not going to be in trouble. Like, sometimes we have to fix things and make it right, but that’s not a huge deal. That’s just part of learning and growing up. But they know that they can come to us and we are going to help them with solutions rather than just punishing them for something that they did that, you know, can be for any number of reasons.
 
Katie: Yeah. I think back to my own childhood and I think by all accounts, my parents did so many things amazing, and I’ve learned so much from them. But I can also think of instances in my childhood where their reactions were more in that blame, shame category, and even at a young age. And then when I was a teenager and I would hear them say like, “You know, if you ever are in a bad situation or you’re in trouble or whatever, you can always call us, and we won’t be angry, and we’ll come get you.” But I didn’t ever feel actually able to do that because I knew the pattern.
 
And so it’s like learning these things early at a lower cost environment when they’re young to build that trust so that when they are older, they do actually feel comfortable. I saw a beautiful quote the other day that said, “You know, when my kids mess up, I hope that their first thought is like, ‘I really want to call my mom.’ Not like, ‘Oh, mom’s gonna kill me.’”
 
Amy: Absolutely, absolutely. I love that. You know, it’s so funny. I was just having a conversation the other day with somebody who one of our positive parenting solutions students who had seen a therapist for some challenges that her daughter was having. And so the parent is in our program and has a focus on discipline and training for the future and that sort of thing. And the therapist actually had recommended this very harsh punishment after the fact, like after the kid did this thing. But so often with our kids, they’re not trying to do the wrong thing very often, especially with younger kids. They have a lack of impulse control, or they don’t have the skills yet to manage their really big emotions. Like, there are so many reasons why kids make what we perceive as poor choices. But if all we’re doing is punishing them for that, it only reinforces the feeling that I must be a bad person, I’m a bad kid, and it doesn’t do anything to help that child with a skill development to prevent the behaviors from happening in the future.
 
Katie: It’s so important. And this kind of segues perfectly into the next truth bomb, which is a hard lesson I’ve learned largely from you in parenting, and also that I see applying in business, which is anytime within the culture of whether it’s family or my team in business, that there’s a problem. The vast majority of cases, I can trace that back to a leadership problem, which means that is great because that means I actually have some ability to change that course at that point. But I think this is also very applicable here and maybe a hard one for parents to hear. I know it was like a hard shift for me to realize is like when my kids are doing these things, step back and go, “Oh, okay, is this actually a parenting problem?” But let’s talk about this number five truth bomb.
 
Amy: Yes. So the truth bomb is that misbehavior is never just a kid problem. And there’s a parenting educator, Alyson Schafer, who said it differently, and she says that misbehavior is a co-created experience. And I think that’s a great way to put it too. You know, we so often think we have to fix our kids, but we don’t take personal responsibility. And this is not about pointing fingers or blame or any of that, but it’s just a fact of human life. Like, even between two married partners, I say something that triggers my husband and then he says something back and so, like, whose fault is it? You know, it’s always a co-created experience. And so with our kids, this is such a wonderful opportunity because if we can adjust our reactions, then we’re 50% of the way to solving a lot of those behavior issues.
 
So one of the things that we always look at is our personalities. So, in our program, we have parents go through this personality assessment. I know you’re already familiar with that, but it helps you identify how your natural bend, like how your natural personality brings out certain behaviors or responses in your parenting. So mine is very controlling and so my personality naturally invites power struggles, that’s my natural bend. And so if I’m not aware of that and if I don’t use strategies that are more effective, then I’m going to have one power struggle after another with the important people in my life. So, our own personality style is really important. But again, super empowering because if we can just not have to change your personality but just recognize your typical responses and then do something differently, and, of course, there are lots of strategies to help you do that.
 
The second thing is just the way you respond to misbehavior. So, like backtalk is a very common thing that, you know, our parents deal with. And so when the kid talks back, you know, gives some sassy remark, the parent has a choice in that moment, right? Like, you can respond back with power, like, “Who do you think you are young man to talk to me that way?” You can respond back with power, or you can just defuse the situation and say, “Wow, I love you too much to fight with you about this right now.” Right? Like, you make that a little emotional connection, “I know you’re really upset about this. Let’s table this and talk a little bit later.”
 
So, in that moment, if you just create that moment of emotional connection and then disengage, “I’m ready to talk to you whenever you want to talk, but I’m not going to engage in this battle with you,” and so that is so empowering as a parent because I still feel like I’m in control when I do that, right? I’m in control of myself, I’m in control of a situation, and I’ve created a bridge with a child, I’ve created an emotional connection so he knows, “I get it. I know you’re having a really hard time right now, but I love you too much to argue about this.”
 
So just making some simple adjustments to how we respond to behavior in the moment can totally defuse so many power struggles, as opposed to, you know, adding fuel to the fire and actually escalating the power struggle based on our sort of gut or intuitive response.
 
Katie: Yeah. And I love how you talk about this in terms of, like, how to be more aware of our intuitive parenting responses and how to, like, choose different behaviors that help our kids than choose different behaviors because I think intuition is a great tool. And in many areas of life, it’s awesome. But I think in parenting, there’s so many things that come into play there, whether it be how we were parented as a child and our own inner child responses to now when our kids have big emotions, or that power struggle that certainly as adults we can get swept up into as well. So can you talk a little bit about maybe dissecting some of those intuitive parenting responses with maybe tools to change the conversation then?
 
Amy: Yes, absolutely. So, you know, I think the thing that is great about our intuitive response is being loving and nurturing and all of those types of things, like that we want to keep doing, of course. But one intuitive response is just what I gave you, like that sense of, like, needing to be in control and shutting it down, and in meeting power with power. That for a lot of us is an intuitive response, totally not helpful, right? So learning those other strategies like I just talked about are really important. The other intuitive response is kind of, I call it sort of not making waves, right? Like, you don’t want to get into a battle, like, you know, I find parents really have a hard time implementing boundaries around technology, for example, because they’re like, “Oh, this is going to be a battle. There’s no way my kid is going to go for this.” So you don’t put that boundary in place.
 
Sometimes we don’t do the thing that we’re kind of like supposed to do. We don’t do the hard thing because we fear the wrath and we don’t want to make waves. But in that situation, I think we have to just think about our short-term versus our long-term parenting goals. In the moment, in the short-term, yes, it’s just a lot easier to just kind of go with the flow and not make waves. But is that in service to our long-term parenting goals, which is to raise responsible, respectful people who understand boundaries and consequences and all of those kinds of things? So that tends to create kind of that pendulum parenting. So where the pendulum swings back and forth between, you know, being too strict and tons of rules, and, you know, really in control all the time, and then that creates a whole lot of power struggles.
 
And so then we swing to the other direction where it’s just like, sort of, go with the flow, and then that creates a mess. So it’s finding that happy medium where you have boundaries in place, there’s a sense of accountability. But that’s all handled with respect. So it’s just being very clear on what our long-term job description is here, right? Taking these people who are completely dependent on us and getting them to a point where they are completely independent, fully functioning adults who can go out into the world and, you know, function successfully. And there’s a lot that has to happen, obviously, to get them from one point to the other. But it’s keeping that balance between our loving intuition and being nurturing and all of that, but making sure that that doesn’t get in the way of our long-term job.
 
Katie: Yeah. And that long-term focus, I think, helps be more clear when you’re in the moment of what’s going to actually best serve them long-term, like they do need agency at some point, they do need these skills. And so is my short-term response that’s going to make my life may be easier in this moment actually going to make my life harder in the long term? And to this note, you talk your way about consequences, and that you say you can’t consequence your way to a better behavior. And yet, I know as moms, all of us can think of instances where we were, like, in a struggle with our kid, or we had a very particular problem, and you have the whole five-step process for consequences. So let’s talk a little bit about this in a tangible way.
 
Amy: Yes. So let me go through the 5 R’s, kind of the formula that we teach, and then we’ll talk about that truth bomb because that’s sort of a good way to wrap it up. So the 5 R’s formula is actually adapted from Jane Nelsen’s “Positive Discipline,” and it’s just a great way to ensure that when we are using consequences that they’re being handled in a way that actually will serve the child, will create a learning opportunity, will help them become more responsible, and do not include any blame, shame, or pain. So the first of the 5 R’s is that the consequence is respectful to the child and to the adult. And so that means it would not involve any physical pain and it would not involve emotional blame or shame as well. So it’s handled in a very calm and respectful way. You as the adult, you’re not out of control, you’re handling it in a very respectful way as well.
 
The second of the R’s is that the consequence must be related to the misbehavior. And this is where parents most often miss the boat, in my opinion, because there is this, and this can be one of those sort of misunderstood parenting ideas out there, that there’s this idea that the way that we manage behavior is we leverage the thing that the kid cares about the most, right? So if the kid cares about technology, or allowance, or going out with their friends, or whatever it is, that’s the thing we leverage. So if they behave well, we let them have the technology. If they don’t behave well, then we take away the technology. So we use that thing that they care about the most for every behavior situation.
 
Well, that doesn’t work because it doesn’t create a learning opportunity. But what ends up happening is the kid’s like forget about the technology, whatever, right? Like, the power struggle with a parent becomes more important than that thing that he supposedly cared about that much. So, instead of just doing that willy-nilly taking away technology for everything, we want to make sure that the consequence is related to the misbehavior. So, for little kids, if the kid doesn’t wear a bike helmet, then the related consequence is then you can’t ride your bike. Like, it’s specifically connected to that issue. If you don’t make curfew…and again, we’ve agreed on all these things ahead of time. This is, like, not a one-off situation, but we’ve agreed on these things ahead of time. If you don’t make curfew, well, then you’re not going to get to go out with your friends the following weekend. And if you can’t follow our family rules for technology, well, then you’re going to lose your technology privileges for a previously agreed-upon period of time.
 
So those things are absolutely related. There’s a connection and that learning event takes place. And so, in the child’s mind, they may not like the consequence, but it does feel fair, right? Like, it’s connected and it feels fair.
 
The third R is that the consequence has to be reasonable in duration. And this comes from that mindset of punishment versus discipline. So consequences are not intended to make your kids suffer or pay for their mistake, right? And consequences are intended to help them learn. And so to do that, it only needs to be reasonable, right? Reasonable timeframe based on the child’s age and development. What sometimes happens, though, is if a consequence isn’t working, then parents will say, “Okay, that’s it, two more weeks,” right? Like, they make it more severe. If the consequence isn’t working, it probably means that it was not set up appropriately in the first place, or more likely that consequences were not the right tool.
 
So we’ve got respectful, related to the misbehavior, reasonable in duration. The fourth R is that it has to be revealed in advance. Like, you can’t just do consequences willy-nilly. You have to have a conversation about that ahead of time and talk about, “You know, I’ve noticed we’ve been having some issues around technology. It seems like when I asked you to turn off the iPad, either you ignore my request, or there’s a lot of moaning and groaning, or begging for more time, and, you know, that’s not okay because we do have technology limits in our family. And to enjoy those technology privileges, you have to be able to follow the rules. So let’s talk about that.” And so then you reveal what the consequence will be if that happens again in the future, right? If you ignore my request, if there’s moaning and complaining, if, you know, there’s begging for more time, then you’re going to lose your technology privileges for the next week, or the next day depending on the kid’s age.
 
But when we do that, again, we’re having a very calm conversation, this is not in the heat of anger, then that allows the child to understand, “Okay, what is the concerning behavior, and I understand what the consequence will be because consequentiality is a fact of life, right? Well, people will learn consequentiality, they’re either going to learn it at home with you where it’s safe and the stakes are lower, or they’re gonna learn it out in the world when it’s, you know, a lot scarier. So it is our job description to help them learn that in a safe way. So now, I’ve revealed the consequence in advance, but I want to close the loop with the fifth R, which is having them repeat back. “So just so we’re on the same page on this, can you just repeat back to me what our new rule is for the iPad, and what the consequences will be if you choose not to follow that rule?” And then once the child repeats back, then you know that you have a verbal agreement, right? He understood, you confirmed that, and now we’re good to go.
 
And so if the time comes that I actually have to follow through and implement that consequence, it’s not going to be a surprise, He may not like it, but it’s not going to be a surprise because we’ve had this conversation and he repeated back to me. So, you know, he can’t be mad at me, he can only be mad at himself. Now, of course, he’s gonna be mad at me and that’s okay. That’s part of this process. But the key is we’ve given the child the opportunity to make a choice, right? He can follow the rules for technology, or if not, well, then there’s a consequence that goes with that. So, again, following those 5 R’s ensures that it creates a learning opportunity for the child. He has some agency. Now, again, it may not be what he wants. If you left it up to kids, you know, they’d have technology access all day long with no limits. So it may not be what he wants, but he still has some control over whether or not he gets to continue having his privileges based on the choices that he makes.
 
Katie: And that consistency and clarity seems to be so helpful for kids in heading off a lot of these problems. I’ve noticed with my own kids because it makes sense when you put yourself in the child’s shoes if only sometimes there’s a result of an action, and sometimes there’s not, and the result changes all the time, and you don’t know what it’s going to be, you’re living in this very uncertain environment which leads to more emotional instability. And also, you’re more likely to test those boundaries because they’re always changing anyway. And so having this ahead of time, I feel like, yeah, kids still might not like it, but at least they respect that they understand it and that it was presented respectfully. And then we’re honoring, to your point, their agency ahead of time.
 
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And I’d love to kind of maybe go through a couple of quick examples of like what to do if situations for maybe common things that might be coming to mind and the parents listening. We talked a lot about screentime which was super, super helpful. I think another one that comes up often I hear from moms at least is, what if they don’t want to do their jobs around the house and contribute to the family?
 
Amy: Yes, so not wanting to do their jobs around the house. And this is where we introduce that last truth bomb that I mentioned that you can’t consequence your way to better behavior. And what I mean by that…pardon me, what I mean by that is that consequences are not the go-to tool for every situation, right? And so that’s why we have an entire toolbox of different strategies. Sometimes you use consequences when it clearly meets those 5 R’s. But if it doesn’t clearly meet those 5 R’s, then we don’t use it. And doing family jobs is one example of that. So I think we’ve talked about this before, Katie, but a lot of our listeners probably refer to these family jobs as chores, and I’m going to beg them to stop using the word chore. And instead, use the term family contributions because that reinforces to your kids that when they do things around the house when they help out, they really are making a difference. They’re contributing to the greater good of your family, and that fosters their sense of significance and agency, as we’ve been talking about all along.
 
So the first step is to make sure that your kids know that they’re contributing, that you are encouraging their contributions, like just saying something like, “You know what? I know that unloading the dishwasher is your least favorite job. But I want you to know that when you do that, that makes such a difference for me, like it’s a huge job that I don’t have to do, and I want you to know that I appreciate that so much.” Just that simple encouragement can make all the difference for our kids. So make sure, again, these are our priorities, not theirs. So let’s make sure that we give lots of encouragement and appreciation for when our kids do help out.
 
The next thing is to use different strategies to get those things done. So one of them, and I think we’ve talked about this before, Katie, is a when-then routine. A when-then routine requires the yucky stuff be done before the more fun parts of your routine. So if your kids are normally allowed an hour of technology time, your routine should always be set up so that when your homework is done and your family contributions are completed and I’ve checked them, if that’s necessary in your family, then you can enjoy your technology time. So we always set up those routines in a when-then format. Now, the technology is not a reward or a bribe, it’s something that he’s normally allowed to have. You’re just structuring the routine so that the yucky stuff has to get done before he enjoys the more fun parts of the routine. That works beautifully for getting family contributions done. Now, they still may moan and groan about it. You just let that go in one ear and out the other and just say, “When your jobs are done, then you can enjoy your technology.” So that’s one example.
 
Another one that I really love is to invite cooperation. So, again, these are our priorities and not our kids. And so sometimes it’s nice for kids to have agency and whether they do those jobs or not. So maybe it’s something outside of their normal responsibilities. Maybe, you know, you have a call right after dinner and normally, you know, you might be cleaning up the kitchen, but you might say, “Hey, guys, I have a call right after dinner, anything that you could do to help out with the kitchen would be amazing.” Or whatever it is. “Anything that you can do to help out with that putting the laundry away would be amazing.” But when we give kids the option, “anything that you can do to help,” and we give them the choice, and we have to be fully prepared that they may be like, “No, I don’t want to do it.” But I’m telling you 90% of the time, they will do it when you invite participation or cooperation rather than demanding it. Again, it’s giving them the power, the agency on how things are done.
 
The other thing that I will tell you is that if you are doing Mind, Body, and Soul Time on a regular basis, Katie’s nodding her head, yes, if you are doing Mind, Body, and Soul Time on a regular basis, your kids, I promise you will be so much more cooperative in doing the things that are your priorities, like the family contributions. So it all works together to create an environment where everybody has that sense of belonging and significance and we’re all working for the greater good. We may not enjoy those jobs, we may not love all the rules that are in place, but we’re going along with everything because we’re working as a team, working as a family. That’s just how we roll.
 
Katie: Yeah. I love how you lay that out. And I will make sure we have links to your course as well because that was a game-changer for me, personally. I think another one that is a high-stress point for a lot of moms with young kids is the temper tantrum power struggle scenario that happens with little ones. And I know you have some really specific helpful suggestions for these instances as well. But I know that one emotionally to moms can often feel overwhelming. And I think there’s a really beautiful opportunity in those to make sure they have the space to feel and affirm their emotions, and also guide their actions. And you explain this so well.
 
Amy: Well, yes, the temper tantrum is so stressful for parents, and it’s not just for littles, it’s for bigger kids too. Anytime kids are not in control of their emotions, that’s really scary for us. So I think the most important thing is for parents to adjust their mindset. And so very often we view a temper tantrum or a meltdown as a behavior issue. And it’s not, right? Ninety-nine times out of 100, it is just the child is having a really hard time with their big emotions, they don’t have the skills to work through a transition, or they don’t have the skills to manage big emotions or disappointment, or whatever it is. So, again, thinking about our job description, that is to help them build those skills. So, in the moment when that temper tantrum happens, if we can stay calm, and just remember like, “It’s okay, every parent goes through this even if it’s in the middle of the grocery store,” if we can just stay home and help them calm down and then transition out of those big feelings, that’s going to be the most helpful thing that we can do in the moment. Letting them know that we are there, we get it, it’s hard, it’s hard.
 
If we create that empathy in the moment and that emotional connection, then we can start to transition them out of it. However, outside of the moment, we have to be doing a lot of skill training in this area because there are a lot of things that we can be teaching our kids on breathing techniques and all sorts of things that they can be doing when their emotions become more than they can handle. And even though we’re doing all of these things outside of the moment, and the breathing training, and all of those things, there’s no way they’re going to be able to remember that in the moment. And so, again, that is our job in the moment is to be the bridge to take that child from that super escalated tantrum meltdown that they’re having and move them to a place where they can start using some of those strategies we’ve worked on outside the moment, the belly breathing, whatever it is. But we are there with them side by side to help them through that, as opposed to viewing it as a misbehavior that, you know, we’ve got to crack down on.
 
The other thing too, Katie, of course, is also recognizing the triggers, right? And if you kind of keep track over the course of a couple of weeks on when those tantrums are happening, in which situations, you can usually identify some reoccurring themes. So they tend to happen, you know, right before I’m ready to start cooking dinner. Well, maybe a little dose of Mind, Body, and Soul Time right before you’re ready to start cooking dinner could preempt some of that. We’re filling their attention bucket, giving that dose of belonging and significance. Mind, Body, and Soul Time can be extremely regulating for kids who have big emotions. So if we start to identify some patterns in when those tantrums are happening, and then we can go and say, “Okay, what can I do to preempt that? What strategies proactively can I put in place to avoid those situations from happening in the first place?”
 
Katie: Got it. Okay. I love how clearly you explained that. I know you have so many more resources too than we can cover in an hour. And I highly recommend your course on this because like I said, it definitely was a game-changer and stress reliever for me. I think the beauty of your work is that these things not only make things much easier on parents, they also make life much easier for kids and defuse so much of that family stress that I think is really the actual root cause of a lot of these things. It’s not the action to themselves, it’s the stress that’s related with these patterns that get out of hand. And you explained it so well. But for anybody who’s new to you, hopefully, everybody’s heard of you by now, where’s a good jumping-in point if they want to keep learning and start really applying these to their family?
 
Amy: Yes. Well, if they want to really dig in and learn the rest of the tools in the toolbox, we’ve just touched on a couple here. But our 7-Step Parenting Success System is where I teach parents all of those tools. So you learn the tools in the toolbox, how to apply them for littles and bigs, there’s coaching support. Just like you have the “Wellness Mama” community, we have a Positive Parenting Solutions community, one for bigs and one for littles, where you can get a lot of support and peer coaching. We have coaches on our team that help parents out. So it’s really a, we take you by the hand and teach you all of the tools that you need for these stressful situations so you can deal with the situations in the moment, but more importantly, just prevent them from happening in the first place so you are feeling great about your skills as a parent and you’re feeling so great about the progress that you’re seeing your kids make, right? Like, getting them to a point where they’re so independent and responsible. And that’s for a 3-year-old, you know, all the way up to the teenagers, they can be learning those skills. So parents can just go to our website, positiveparentingsolutions.com, and I know you have a link for that, Katie, and learn more about that 7-Step Parenting Success System.
 
Katie: Perfect. And lastly, I love to ask if there’s a book or a number of books that have had a profound impact on your life, and if so, what they are and why?
 
Amy: Well, there’s so many great parenting books out there. It’s funny, probably the one that has had the most profound effect on my life personally and in my business is actually a really, really old book. It’s called “Children: The Challenge,” and it is by Rudolf Dreikurs. I mentioned Alfred Adler, everything that I teach is based on the work of Adlerian psychology, and Rudolf Dreikurs was a contemporary of Alfred Adler. And his book, “Children: The Challenge,” was one of the first fundamental texts on this whole theory of parenting. He was really the one who made it mainstream that we don’t have to do this authoritarian top-down, you know, punitive approach to parenting, and that we can raise kids who are responsible and respectful and contribute to the greater good. And so his book while it is so old, I used it as a text for years in the in-person classes that I taught, just because it is so rich. Now, the examples, when we read them now, they seem sort of crazy because they’re so old. But just the Adlerian principles themselves are so rich and really help you think about how you’re applying them to your own parenting.
 
Katie: I’ll make sure that it’s linked in the show notes as well, that’s wellnessmama.fm for all of you guys listening, as well as a link to Amy’s course, which I highly, highly recommend. And, Amy, it’s always such a joy to chat with you. I feel like every time I talk to you, I could talk to you all day. But I’m very grateful for you coming back again and sharing even more wisdom with us today.
 
Amy: Katie, thank you so much for having me. And thank you for all the work that you’re doing for moms. I’m just a huge fan of your work, and it’s always a privilege to be with you.
 
Katie: Well, thank you, and thanks as always to all of you for listening, sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”
 
If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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