Janet Lansbury was talking and blogging about respectful parenting long before it became a buzzword.
Informed by her mentor and RIE creator Magda Gerber, Janet has spent decades encouraging parents and teaching them how to create loving and supportive environments for their children to help them grow into compassionate, confident, and resilient individuals.
Whether you are a follower of the RIE (resources for infant educarers) parenting method and wondering how these principles centered on respect and trust can evolve as your child grows, or you are just looking to find a parenting approach that feels aligned with your values – this episode will empower you to view your child as a whole, capable being, with just as much to teach us as we have to teach them.
That’s the work is our work on trusting how we’re perceiving our child’s emotional states and the events that happen and what’s our role in this is our role to rescue them and fix ’em and make the crying stop as fast as we can and tell ’em it’s going to be okay, and they don’t need to feel that way, which is invalidating if we think about it. Or are we okay with allowing them to go to the depths?
Dr. Sarah (00:00:30):
While the parenting philosophy of RIE, which stands for Resources for Infant Educarers, was created by Magda Gerber. It was Janet Lansbury who really brought this parenting philosophy into the zeitgeist on a whole new scale. Janet was blogging and talking about respectful parenting long before it became a buzzword. Janet has been helping parents understand ways to adapt the RIE respectful principles, centered on attunement and trust as their babies grew into toddlers and young children for years. She is the author of two of my favorite parenting books, Elevating Childcare: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. She’s the creator of the podcast, Unruffled and her new course, No Bad Kids, helps parents understand their children’s behaviors and put into practice the notion of discipline as an act of compassion and love. I am a huge fan of Janet and her work, so it was such a delight and privilege to be able to have a conversation with her.
Do you sometimes feel like what you’re doing to try to support your child’s big feelings and dysregulated behaviors isn’t working or worse it’s adding fuel to their fire. This month, I’m excited to invite parents to join me in a new parenting group. I’m running over the course of eight one hour group sessions. I will help you understand exactly what is happening in your child’s brain and body when they’re acting out strategies for effectively parenting in these tricky situations, and how to be flexible and nimble in your parenting so you can adjust your approach and be attuned to your child’s needs at any given moment in time, even if you’re not going to meet those needs. We’ll be tackling everything from establishing secure attachment bonds, learning how you can stay calm when you are feeling triggered, addressing tantrums, power struggles and effective discipline strategies, and combating parental guilt and burnout. Everyone will have plenty of time to ask questions, troubleshoot events from the week, and get personalized support from me during the group meetings. If you’re interested in learning more about this eight week group, which is ideal for parents of children between the ages of two to seven, email email@example.com or go to upshurbren.com/contact to schedule a free 15 minute assessment call to see if this group would be a good fit for you.
Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology, and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.
Hello everybody. I’m really, really thrilled today because this is a very special episode. Today we are talking with Janet Lansbury. I am so honored to have you on the show. I’m so excited. Thank you for being here.
Oh, Sarah, well, this has been in the works for a long time and I’m thrilled that we’re finally doing it. I love your work. I love what you’re putting out in all the spaces, the social media spaces, and we’re obviously very like-minded. So thank you for having me on.
Dr. Sarah (00:04:00):
I appreciate that so much. And I found out about RIE because of Your Parenting Mojo podcast where she does a lot of talk about RIE and she talks about you and she talks about your work, and then I was like, RIE’s really interesting, and then I found your podcast, Unruffled, and I listened to that so much when I was pregnant with my son after having him. It was such a grounding resource for me to just hear you talk about all these different challenges parents have with, I don’t know, there’s a way that you present these reflections on people’s parental experiences that feel both incredibly validating, but also you push people to think about things in a different way, in a really consistent way that I feel is just so valuable. And so I’m very, very grateful for your podcast.
Dr. Sarah (00:05:02):
Thank you. So you’ve done, you mean you’ve been in the RIE world, you’ve put RIE on the map in a lot of ways, and respectful parenting is sort of the, how did you move into the respectful parenting stuff? Where does that fit? Is respectful parenting RIE? Is it a different thing in your mind?
Well, it is. It’s an interpretation of RIE principles that go beyond. So RIE principles are centered around the first two years, and it’s not that, oh, now it all ends and we do something different. If you’re into this way and not everybody is, that’s okay. But Magda Gerber, my mentor, was focused on the foundations building, the foundations of relationships, building the foundation of a child’s. And as a psychologist, really a lot of it happens in those first two years. That’s a very, very formative time. And it’s also a time that people don’t so much think to respect children because they aren’t as expressive verbally, and they aren’t seem so much like people then. And Magda said the opposite. She said, well, that is the most important time though to take the leap of faith and start treating them as this important person in the world and treat them with that respect.
So that’s why it’s focused on the first couple years. She was very, she’s also just, she loves the kind of pre-ex expressive verbal stages, just how that stretches us to really observe and tune in and try to take that child’s point of view when it’s not as easy, right, because they’re not telling us. So that was a fascinating time for her. All her research told her that that was the most important time. So that’s what that does well in my classes. So the classes that we teach that I learned how to teach through her and then started doing on my own with no real plan to do that, but I just wanted to study with her and learn everything from her. And then the next thing to do, because I was certified then was to start teaching it. I’d already been teaching it with her, assisting her in the classes.
So then I found that I really love that. But what I learned is also that I love the infant stage. I love the second year is probably my favorite of all with children, but the parents I was working with while starting in the second year, I really started to feel like this is where I have something, just have something to offer here that’s different. I really get this time so much. And that’s when I would feel like my classes would really, really gel. I could feel that I was being helpful. I could feel that I was being able to learn to intuit things that were going on and I loved it. And then the parents of my classes that normally would, it sort of wraps up around the end of two years, but mine would want to keep going and I would too because they’re like, now we really need help. Now the things hitting the fan and like we really need more and we love this. And so I would get into it and then so the classes would go, sometimes they’ll show ’em on three and a half, then they would literally be taking down the space and they couldn’t really play just in there anymore. But sometimes I would continue it at people’s homes in their backyards, keep the group going.
But I developed these tools that are really what probably most people know me for the No Bad Kids tools, all the discipline thing that people need so much help with, understandably, because it’s not just as simple anymore. The child isn’t just always telling you, showing you exactly what they need. Sometimes they need you to say no, and sometimes they need, but it doesn’t seem like it. So it’s a really interesting time that can be confusing for parents. So I found this was a time that I just had, I don’t know, a affinity for. And so all of that stuff that I share isn’t really, it’s not the RIE approach exactly, because it wasn’t talked about. I mean, Magda didn’t talk about the toddler years in the second year, but not all these details that I offer. And they’re just things that I learned in all the weeks to weeks of working with children. Sometimes it would be, I would just have an idea, oh, try this, and then they’d come back the next week, they’d say, that’s working right. I was a surprised with them. So then I realized that I was just learning and learning. So I don’t know. For me, I feel like that is the best way to learn about children is to get to know them,
To be with them week to week, see the development, see the interactions with the parents, how the parents are affecting the child, and how these kind of dualities, these cycles are happening. And then if the parent shifts, then they can shift out the cycle, but otherwise they can get really caught up in it. So all of that is just fascinating to me. I just love understanding people’s story, figuring it out. So I found that I love that time. So anyway, that’s what I call respectful parenting because it isn’t necessarily RIE, although it stems from that for sure.
Dr. Sarah (00:11:29):
Yeah. And I also want to ask you so many questions about what Magda Gerber was like because I’m super curious, but one of the things that you just brought up that I feel like is that I want to kind of stick with for a second is this idea that you could take these foundational principles or frameworks that RIE gives in these early years, which are super important years because it’s the years that the blueprints get written from an attachment perspective, those first couple years, the experience a child has with their primary attachment figures, the people who are taking care of them, those go in, they get inputted. There’s an actual map that gets created from those experiences that then children use throughout their life to predict how the world’s going to respond to them. So for me, when I foundry, I was like, this maps onto attachment science so beautifully because it honors the fact that we are writing a blue, we are important, the parents are important in informing this child’s blueprint of themselves and of the other people whom their attachment systems.
So being intentional in those couple first years is so critical, but it doesn’t stop after two years and kids keep growing and parents continue to need support because it does get messier and more confusing. And as kids develop, they all develop in all kinds of wild and crazy directions, appro appropriately. And a simple rule book really doesn’t work anymore for the older years because it’s like a bud, right? A bud is coming to the ground. It kind of looks the same no matter what plant you’re looking at, but it’s all, as that plant gets more mature, it’s going to go and grow off in all kinds of different directions and it won’t look the same as another plant. So I like this idea of use of we have to evolve the way we think as kids get older and parents need more and more support during this time as well, because it’s confusing.
Yes, absolutely. I just want to counter one thing you said though, in terms of the RIE approach, because it is a common way that it’s so nice thought. These are rules, I don’t see them as rules at all. These are just suggestions that are all part of this consistent, holistic way of engaging with children and perceiving children. Because perceiving them the way we perceive them is how we will naturally engage with them. So yeah, it’s no rules.
Dr. Sarah (00:14:08):
True. And that’s a good distinction. And I you’re right, and I’m glad you pointed that out because I think with RIE it’s more, to me at least, because when I started learning about RIE, my big takeaways were about my experience with my child, how do I pay attention during the times of the day, the routines of the day that have the most impact for my relationship with my child? So those caregiving moments and then also outside of the caregiving moments, being able to sit back and just be, for me, that was incredibly profound because I think most parents, myself included before I learned about this approach, feel very compelled to fill in all the space, do all the things, and the caregiving is just one random extra thing on the list. But all the times outside of that, it’s like entertain your child, stimulate your child, teach your child, do all these things for your child. And then I do a ton of work with maternal mental health and postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. And I find RIE to be so helpful for the mothers and parents because it gives them permission to have space for themselves to zip back and not feel like it’s all about my child and what I have to do for my child. So much more disability to yourself, be a human being as the parent, which I think is invaluable permission for parents to stay connected to themselves in parenthood.
And it’s not just permission, it’s recognizing that this is actually a better gift to your child as well, that you are a three-dimensional person that is always there when they need something, but not always they’re the moment they want something or won’t even say yes to everything that they want. But in that space, just what you’re talking about about the play, so often that’s framed as or misunderstood as, oh, you’re just sitting back and being hands off and it sounds like this ignoring thing. And then you’re just leaving your child and people say like, oh, leaving your child to cry. No, this is allowing your child to cry. This is more attunement than being in there fixing and doing and talking. And because this is actually taking in, this is listening, this is giving that space and in play, it’s giving that space for a child to feel when you do have the time Magda called the “wants nothing” quality time where we are, we do from time to time if we want to be there playing with our child, the way she suggested doing it is that we take away all the distractions.
We’re fully present, but we’re not giving input. We’re in responsive mode so that our child gets all these messages, which would never have occurred to me before learning about this that are really important. And I don’t want to say though that it’s just if you’re doing this way, you’re getting good attachment. And if you’re not, attachment is a much more forgiving process. This is just sort of a style that also gives your child these other messages that it just enhances. It enhances the bonding between you and it enhances your child’s feelings of loving learning, feeling competent, feeling like they can do things, feeling that they’re enough in your eyes that they don’t have to perform for you. So when we’re sitting there and we’re focused, but we’re not saying, okay, let’s go over your letters and your numbers or play this way or look at what this thing can do, our child gets this phenomenal message of acceptance that you don’t even have to be doing anything and I still want to be with you and I’m still interested in you even when you’re just scratching the carpet or I don’t know, just sitting there thinking, we can be together and I love you this way and you are just interesting as you are.
You don’t have to be pulling me into a game to get my attention. You don’t have to be performing for me. All of those things that to me were just, like you said, we thought were supposed to do that we thought we were supposed to stimulate or we’re supposed to teach and we’re, but I love Magna’s quote, it’s one of my favorites. Be careful what you teach. It may interfere with what they’re learning because you think you’re teaching one thing, but you’re actually teaching these other messages too. That time with me, playing with me means you’ve got to pull me in. You’ve got to kind of perform you. You’re, it can’t just be you just following your own interests or thinking and me still giving you that attention. And that’s where I think a lot of times it could be hard for parents to, when parents they get into, oh, my child won’t play independently and they won’t play.
They always need me. It’s hard for the parent to switch into when I am playing with you, I’m being careful not to direct you because of the power that I know I have to change all of your plans and thoughts in anything I do. And then children get used to that. That’s the way I engage with them. They fill in, they tell me what to do. This doesn’t mean you never ever play with your child, but just balancing it with time where you’re really allowing them to make the choices. This was really a fun challenge for me because I would always see something, oh, pull this into your play. Wouldn’t that be cool? All these great ideas, even in my classes with children that weren’t mine, I always have, oh, they’re going to do that, or they should do that, or maybe they’ll do that. And now I just listen and go, oh, that’s interesting. You’ve got all these plans. Just wait. And they do something phenomenally better.
Dr. Sarah (00:21:08):
Yeah, this idea that if we interrupt too much, they’ve got so much access to creativity and a flow through their play, which doesn’t always look the way we think it’s going to look like. I remember when I did the RIE Foundations training with Deborah Carlisle Solomon, and that was just an incredible experience. And there was a lot of times where she does a lot of experiential stuff in the trainings and she would have us start to play with something and then she’d just come in and start talking to us and interrupting us and pulling other things. And then afterwards she’d be like, so what did that feel like? And it was very interesting to have this experience of I’m try, me as a grownup is sitting there trying to play with something and then someone comes and starts messing with it. And I was like, oh, I get it.
That kind of is. And of course, as parents, our intentions are always great. We want to be sharing with this, and sometimes we want to play too because it’s fun and sometimes we feel like we have to do certain things or we’re supposed to be teaching them how to do it correctly, but kids might actually come up with something completely different if we don’t kind of interject. And so that trust, that curiosity versus that mindset of I’m the one that’s got to fill you up with all this information or these ways of doing things just to be like, I’m here to learn from you and just sit back and see what you are going to show me about how you solve problems, about how you think about things, about how you create stuff. And I don’t know, that’s kind of beautiful for parents to get that mindset shift. Do you see that too when you’re working with parents when they’re able to hit that kind of switching point in their perception?
Yes. It happens usually, I mean, in our classes, because we start with infants, it happens at the infant level where the toy will be next to the baby’s hand and the baby’s lying on their back. Maybe just a three, four month old baby and maybe the baby’s looking towards the toy and how much do we want to put that toy in the baby’s hand or show it to them, oh, here it is right here. Because it’s maybe just out of their reach. But then we don’t, if we can help it and we see, oh, that baby is, they’re not in a hurry to grab that. They’re just interested in the distance between their hand and that toy, or they’re interested in what happens when they stretch their arm out all the way and you know, start to get, oh, they have their own point of view and it’s actually very different from oh my stuff.
And it’s a much healthier point of view actually, because they’re not just trying to get to the finish line, try to get to the end, give it to me, I’ve got to do the thing. But we can influence them that way by always giving it to them. And then that creates all this dependency wouldn’t be there otherwise. I mean, of course children are very dependent on us in the early years for a lot of things, but not for this. But if we take that on too, then they are. And I mean honestly, I’ve, because my youngest is about to graduate from college next week, I have seen, to me, I’ve seen exactly how that thing that we do can do with a baby leads directly to them making all kinds of decisions for themselves, doing their own college apps, everything, figuring out what they want to making career choices and things that I’m reading a lot of studies today saying kids are, some kids are struggling with dependency on the parent and not feeling like they have a sense of strong sense of self and they’re not launching as adult young adults and they’re still depending on the parent in a way, okay, you should do this and let me help you do that, and what do I do now?
Kind of thing. So we set that up early. It’s not that we can’t change it at any time we can, but it’s just kind of this cool, amazing thing to start it as early as possible because you see, wow, this baby is so capable. What was I thinking that I needed to stuff their heads with stimulation. They have a much better plan for themselves. And we would see that in the classes actually. That is one thing the parents would always, we’d always talk about at the end of class, could we have ever designed this curriculum for them or anything, 100th as good and powerful and meaningful to them?
Dr. Sarah (00:26:38):
And it’s funny too because kind of similar to this idea of if we’re their learning by directing their play, there’s an inherent kind of implication, you need my help to figure this stuff out, which can you’re saying can breed this sort of unconscious sense of dependency on the parent. I do. And that doesn’t necessarily mean their child’s going to become codependent or won’t know how to deal with their big feelings by themselves. But a kind of parallel to this is, so I do a lot of therapy with kids who have anxiety and parents who get kind of entrenched in these sort of accommodation like loops where a child doesn’t want to do something by themselves, so the parent will do it for them. Or where your parent helps the child to avoid feeling anxiety. And then it gets like we all get kind of stuck in this loop, which is, I think it happens all the time in families, whether kids have an anxiety disorder or not, because all human humans have anxiety and this is what we do and we feel anxious or distressed.
We want our parents to help us not feel that way. And our parents are very drawn to take that distress away from us. And then we get dependent on that. But one of the things we do in therapy for kids with anxiety is we help the parents kind of modify their accommodations and start to allow the child to experience the anxiety and survive it and internalize, I can handle this feeling and it’s not as, it’s uncomfortable, but I can handle that. I don’t have to avoid this feeling. And there’s a lot of parallels between the way that rye approaches parenting and child development and that relationship between the child and the parent. That to me is always mapped on very well to a lot of the sort of things we do in therapy. It’s not a therapeutic model, it just feels very prophylactic to me just in general. I’ve always been, when I found out about it, I was already a psychologist and I was like, this feels like the things that we could do to help people from developing the stuff in the long run.
Preventative medicine, I’ve often thought of it that way. But to give you, and to give anybody listening an actual story of how that works, I did that with a parent. So this family, these kids were a little bit older and they were like three and a half or whatever turning four. And so we had moved the class to a backyard, this is not that long ago, and the child, so we’re in this family’s backyard and the family had a little dog and this little boy was afraid of the dog was just a little dog coming close and it was a safe dog. But the mother did the normal thing who swept him right up and said, oh, he’s been so afraid of, or he saw a dog and the other day, now he’s really afraid of dogs and so what do I do? And I said, well, why don’t you try next time instead of scooping him up, get down next to him so your hand is there so the dog can’t come close and do anything to him and allow him to share the feelings there of being afraid of the dog while you’re keeping him safe.
And so instead of rescuing, because that means if I’m rescuing you as a parent to a child, that means, oh, they agree that this is not safe. They’re agree that I can’t handle this. What accommodating does, my parent agrees. And then now it’s really getting cemented for me that my parents also believes this. Obviously that’s not what we want and we think we’re doing as parents, but that’s how it comes across. So now we’re there, we’re saying, yeah, oh yeah, you’re really scared we don’t like this and I’m going to keep you safe and whatever he’s sharing, you’re just receiving. You don’t have to talk a lot. But just receiving it with that energy of like, yeah, it’s okay to feel that way about the dog. So then later in that same class, it was so interesting, or maybe it was the next week, but there was the family also had cats.
Cause I think this dog was one of the other parents’ dogs that came, but the family had cats and the little boy was, we were doing snack time, which we do towards the middle of the class. And so we’re all sitting outside on these little stools and this cat comes by and the boy starts freaking out. He’s sitting there with me, I’m doing the snack time and sometimes I’ll have up to nine children there, but usually it’s a few less. And they’re amazing. They sit totally from the time they’re 11 months. I mean that’s all other thing. They stay there while they’re eating. They don’t sit and wait for you. They love the whole routine. But anyway, he’s sitting there and he’s freaking out that this cat’s coming by and I see his mother over there kind of uncomfortable obviously. And I said, yeah, just wait.
Just stay there. And so I talked to the boy, I mean I just kind of didn’t really talk to him that much, but I said, yeah, oh, now you’re scared by that cat. It just suddenly goes by. And so I was kind of joining him in, yeah, you have a right to his weight kind of attitude and allowing him to feel that. But it was pretty, he was pretty upset. But interestingly, didn’t get up from the chair though with me at snack and go run to his mother. Another interesting thing, but the mother could have come over and run to him. That was the desire that she had, I’m sure. So anyway, then finally he got through that one. We did snack, everything was fine. So then we’re leaving and I’m driving down the street and I see this fa or I’m getting ready to leave and I see the family walking down the street and there’s this huge cat that comes by and he starts freaking out. And the mom turned to me because I was in my car, what should I do? What should I do? I said, just stay there with him. Let him say it. Don’t pick him up. Which is a weird thing to say, you don’t want to say to your parents, don’t pick your child up. But this parent trusted me and we’d been through it. So anyways, so then he had a very much shorter reaction and then he was fine. And then the next week she told me, never happened again. Never happened again. So…
Dr. Sarah (00:33:45):
It works. But you’ve got to I, and that’s why all of my podcasts and almost everything I share, it always comes down to this thing about feelings we at where are we in our process of learning to allow this other person that we feel so responsible for and vulnerable to have the whole range of feelings and for us to not be threatened by it and to feel, know that it’s healthy and safe and the best thing for them to experience it, the only way out is through it. So absolutely.
Dr. Sarah (00:34:26):
That’s a great story. And it’s interesting because I find very similar, obviously the severity is going to have some impact on how long it takes to get the child to move through it and be able to integrate this new belief system that I can handle this thing that I’m afraid of. But it often doesn’t take that many times for them, for you to have that sort of non rescuing, grounding response in the face of their distress. And this is true for not just anxiety, but for frustration, for anger or for all the kinds of shame, any of those big feelings that are often very dysregulating and that we are very inclined to want to avoid understandably. But when we don’t avoid them and we reflect back to our kid, this confidence that they can handle this feeling and that we can handle them handling this feeling and just sort of communicating some safety with our calm nervous system. And we’re not in a threat response, so we’re just brain to brain amygdala to amygdala. If I’m not in a threat response, your amygdala is going to kind of read, mom thinks it’s safe so we can simmer, we can calm down. It really if is impactful, it really changes things very quickly if you’re in a pattern where that’s not what’s happening. Children’s brains are so incredibly adaptive and they really can learn emotion tolerance if we like through this type of intervention
For sure. And it’s just feeling like you were saying, it’s feeling that trust. Then the work is our work on trusting how we’re perceiving our child’s emotional states and the events that happen and what’s our role in this is our role to rescue them and fix ’em and make the crying stop as fast as we can and tell ’em it’s going to be okay. And they don’t need to feel that way, which is invalidating if we think about it. Or are we okay with allowing them to go to the depths? And as young children, they go to the depths a lot, they go to the heights, they go to the depths, they do the whole thing. I mean, in a way it’s enviable that they can have such a range and be so full about it and not be stuffing things and packaging things. And it’s something we can all appreciate on adult level I think, or I can, not that I want to go wild everywhere, but to have that facility to just let it out, it’s a good thing.
Dr. Sarah (00:37:29):
It is. And it’s interesting because if you think about it, because our kids so innately can do it. If you are interested in the human condition, it’s good to point out we’re born with this ability. If as adults we don’t have it, it’s because we unlearned that innate ability at some point in our lives, probably from our environmental responses to our emotions. And so as a society, I think historically we’ve had a bad habit unintentionally thinking it was helpful of really teaching children to turn off the feelings. And I think this movement of respectful parenting, responsive parenting, whatever you want to call it, is kind of the antithesis of that. Allowing children to experience, like you said, that full range of emotion using other ways of helping them to figure out how to navigate it than telling them to turn it off. And I genuinely believe, and there’s lots of research that backs this up, that is a huge predictor of mental wellness in later life.
Yes. Well Magda used to say to us, we’re putting the therapist out of business. No, nothing personal.
Dr. Sarah (00:38:50):
No. Hey, I always say my goal in teaching pa, that’s why I switched into, it’s so funny because I started out doing, working primarily with adults with trauma history. That was my, I’m not a child psychologist, I’m an adult psychologist. I work with adults with trauma backgrounds and chronic childhood attachment wounds and ruptures and working with adults to kind of understand the sort of ways in which their sense of self had been fragmented and need to reintegrate it and do sort of inner child re-parenting stuff when I found RIE. And the more what you do with the older kids, this respectful parenting, I was like, I want to do more of that because I genuinely think it will prevent people needing as much therapy in the future. And I’m cool with that. That’s great. If you could put therapists out of business, I’ll go find something else to do. Happily. It’s just like,
And I’m a fan of therapy by the way. Yeah. So I don’t think she really meant that. Totally, literally. But yeah.
Dr. Sarah (00:40:02):
Well there are other things people can go to therapy for, but I think not setting that foundation for really healthy child development will limit It doesn’t mean that no one’s going to need help in the future or bad things won’t happen or hard things won’t happen and we need some help around it. But to build that strength in the first couple years, that ability to have a healthy relationship with our emotions, confidence that we can handle hard things, trust in our environment, that they’re going to see us and reflect our inner experience back to us with at least a good amount of accuracy and empathy most of the time that’s going to set people up for success. It doesn’t mean it would be perfect, but it would be a lot better than a lot of the alternatives.
Definitely. And her thing, her image also of therapy, another thing she used to say was she used to say, so yeah, why everybody has to go pay for therapy when they’re older. Just to get someone to listen to how terrified they were of dogs for a moment, for this period of their life, surprisingness of animal or whatever that they, we want someone, I know there’s all different kinds of therapies, but I think at her time too, it was that psychoanalytic and it’s like, so now they won’t have to grow up and have to pay someone to listen to their feelings. You can do that for them by just calming yourself and trusting that it’s positive.
Dr. Sarah (00:41:43):
And I think there’s like, you know, talk a lot about intergenerational transmission of trauma and I think that there’s, when we can do this for our kids, there’s a part of us that’s also probably doing it for ourselves, maybe our inner child a little bit. Like this idea that maybe I didn’t have permission in my childhood to emote freely even maybe some feelings were okay, but some weren’t. And things were unpredictable if I was showed up in a certain way. And when we break that cycle and show up differently for our kids, it’s a gift to them. But it is healing for us.
Yes. That’s what I found.
Dr. Sarah (00:42:25):
Absolutely. What I found right away when I first took my baby to a class, I felt something shifting in me. But yeah, it’s a lot of self discovery that goes along with and healing because we’re, do we have the opportunity to do it differently for our child and that just gives us hope and helps us to see ourselves. So yeah, that’s how it worked. So Magda was never really in, she wasn’t into the, I’m going to help people heal from trauma and the parents’ issues, but she would reflect on that, that they’re going to come up for you and that this is an by doing it differently and seeing in your child that you can do this differently, that it does heal yourself. Now people that have serious trauma, they will need more help than this. But for me it’s really been, was enough to kind of heal my issues most of them pretty well.
And that’s the whole journey of it. Even just observing, learning how to observe where, and seeing all the projections that come up for you about how they’re feeling, what’s going on. Now I do it with my dog. I project all over him. Cause we’re empty nesters. So our dog, oh, is he depressed? What’s going on? There’s a lot of that, but it’s really easy to do with children, especially when they’re just starting to talk and tell you what’s going on. So yeah, I don’t know. For me it’s been healing. It’s been life changing. It’s been just illuminating in a million different ways and continues to be just, I keep learning from it and from the children I work with and the parents I work with. Yeah, that’s a fascinating field. I’m glad you’re in this.
Dr. Sarah (00:44:27):
Thank you. I’m glad you’re in it. I, I’m curious too, I know you have this, I mean your books Elevating Childcare and No Bad Kids. And I know that the course No Bad Kids is obviously kind of an extension of more of the work you do with toddlers and up these older children who are having bigger feelings, bigger challenges, more behaviors. They just, it’s a harder time I think sometimes and it can stir up a lot more for parents. Our fear, our guilt, our fear of being judged by other parents, like the pressure to have a quote, good, well-behaved kid. Right. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re helping parents to focus on when you’re doing the No Bad Kids’ work?
Well, I know that parents that it’s very tempting to just want to get what do I do in this situation? What do I do in that situation, et cetera. I do some of that, but the majority of the course, so the reason I made this course, it’s really much more than an extension of my book. It’s something, it’s a holistic kind of immersion step by step into my goal is that parents can internalize this perspective and understands how it looks by some, a lot of examples I give understand some of the tools that are part of it. But it’s really more than anything it’s the way that we see always. Because the way that we see our child in that moment when they’re upset or being bratty or whatever is if we see a brat, if we see a scary kid, if we see somebody that’s going to go to jail when they’re older, if we see, ah, I must be the worst parent in the world, if there’s so many things we could see that are going to make us react naturally in a very uncomfortable manner, which is then going to create more of that behavior or different other behavior that we don’t want from that child because the child is absorbing, just like with the story I told about the fear, the child is absorbing our discomfort, most of all, that’s always setting a tone for them.
And the more they absorb, the more they have to work it out of their system, process it out, which means it comes out on the behavior and the fears and the anxiety, whatever. So it’s practicing this perspective so that it becomes a part of us so that another one of my goals is to, I just want to free parents from having to get the, there’s this, we’re the that or this term all the time. Now bite size, give them bite size, give them bite sized. And it really rubs me the wrong way after a while because as much as I know parents only have time for bite sized, it’s never going to satiate you. You’re going to need more and more bites and be dependent just like we can make children more dependent on outgoing, outside for the answers. The answers, the answers. I want people to be able to feel the answers inside them because their perception is clear, they’re as clear as possible.
We’re never going to be perfectly clear, but that we’re leaning more towards and we’re gradually getting better at really seeing the separation between us and our child and what’s that? Something’s going on with them. And that will naturally, just like you were saying about being calm, being a safe presence when the child is processing a fear or frustration or whatever, that’s will be able to be that safe presence because we feel it safe about it because of the way we’re seeing it as non-threatening. And so that is the focus of the chorus really. I mean the whole first section of it is really a lot of just perception. Looking at some videos, me talking them through some visualizations and then just a lot of information about how, what’s really going on with your child in these moments and all the different things it could be.
And just so that people can navigate it from the inside out. Anyway, I think I had a really big goal and I feel like that I was able to accomplish it for the most part. I mean there’s always more that I want to say and I think about that. I’ll think of something else, I’ll think, oh, I could have put that on the course, but it’s over four hours and I am going to add more Q&A sessions on it, follow up Q&A sessions on it, and just keep adding on to what people have already gotten. And I’m still offering it at a introductory discount, so it might be a good time. But yeah, it’s the only way I could do a course. This is to, I mean, when I used to blog in 2009 when I first started online sharing this stuff, everybody was saying then it was sort of similar to bite size.
They were saying 300 words, that’s the best block. Mine were 1500 words. I’ve had to cut it down to a thousand sometimes. But I don’t want surface, I’m not interested in surface. It bores me. I don’t think it’s helpful to parents in the end. I think it just makes them feel less confident. I want you to go out there in the playground with your child or with other people or your in-laws coming over and even if your child’s a mess, I want you to feel really proud of the way that you handle the situation. Not that they have to agree with everything you did, but it’s interesting because people are, I notice this is my own extended family. I mean they’re somehow, even if your child is behaving horribly the way that you handle it, they’re impressed. They really are. And I just want people to feel that level of, I’ve got this and I’m not going to get anything I can’t handle and I can do this and whatever.
And not everyone’s going to agree, but they won’t feel unsafe because I think that’s also a lot of the reason that people do judge other parents is that they feel something’s really out of control here. Something’s really not safe going on. They’re letting their child scream out of the market in front of everyone instead of, this is the time we got to leave, we’re going to leave the cart, here we go, we’re going to the car because you deserve that privacy, not because I’m embarrassed and we want to be considerate of other people. So there’s ways that you can do it that you can still feel heroic even. Yeah. So that’s what I want to give parents because that’s what I got from this work. I went from somebody that had zero confidence really and could never say no to people or have boundaries. I still struggle with that with adults sometimes. I mean, not that I can never say no, but it’s really hard for me to assert my boundaries. I’m getting better at it thanks to the children than all the children I’ve worked with. But I’ve come such a long way where I know, well this, I can do this. And it works. It really works
Dr. Sarah (00:52:44):
Really. There you go. I believe it does work. I really do. And I think have a particularly unique knack for when you talk about to parents about ways that they can, people are always writing you to your podcast being like, what do I do to do to make my kid do this or stop doing this? Or how do I get my kid to do this? Or it’s a lot about changing the child’s behavior. And invariably you help the parent feel very heard and see how they can change their behavior. And I love that so much because it’s like the child’s behavior really.
Sure there are certain behaviors that are problematic and have consequences and aren’t productive, but and of themselves the child’s behavior really isn’t usually the issue or it’s certainly if we want to change it, focusing exclusively on the child’s behavior doesn’t actually help if we want to change the child’s behavior or help them be more in control when they’re having big feelings. That’s really a byproduct of other stuff if we do it right. So if you can move a couple steps back, which I think you’re so good at helping parents see what those steps are where they can say, well, why don’t we start with how you are experiencing this? Why don’t we start with what you’re perceiving and the meaning you’re giving it and how that’s impacting how you are. Then showing up and seeing if we can rewind a little further, shift the perspective, find our confidence and remember what our role is. Tune out all the noise from all the eyes on us at the supermarket or wherever and tune into our kid. And then if we do that enough and we start to get really good at skills around that child’s behavior usually changes over time
For sure. And it can changes quickly. Usually. I mean, depending on how committed we are to changing really, really up to us. And that’s the same thing I say with parents when they say, is it too late? And absolutely not a million times, no, it’s not too late. I say this in my course as well, but it’s harder for you cause you’ve gotten used to seeing your child a certain way. So the challenges with you shifting the way that you see, which is I believe what my course does, and that’s harder the longer you’ve been seeing one way, it’s just harder to change tracks. We’re adults, we don’t learn as quickly as the children. We’re not able to change as easily and adapt as easily as children, but if we can do it, they will be right there doing it with us. They’ll be right there.
Because just when you were talking about even what’s wrong with my child type feeling natural to have, so now zoom over and be in that child who is feeling their parent distress, concerned, worried, puzzled about me and that’s what I am getting. So I was acting like this because there were some boys in my preschool and we were all playing really rough and it got a little out of hand and I’m coming home with this excitable energy and now my parent, the parents thinking, oh gosh, there’s something wrong with him. He’s doing hyper. He is not being nice and done all these great things for him and he is whatever. There’s something really wrong and I’m not doing it. So now the parent is taking it to another level by their reaction to the, instead of being, wow, what’s up with you? This, you know, got a lot of, you’re full of beans this afternoon.
What’s going on? If that attitude becomes fear on our part, easy to do, right? Cause we care so much about this and maybe we don’t have confidence in ourselves doing this job. So then now the child, this is just taken on a whole other level and we’re going to see more of it because our child is like, why can’t my parent handle this? Why? I’m just a little guy. You know what? They’re so big and powerful, they’re off balance. What’s going on here? So it’s not like we’re harming our child, we’re doing trauma, whatever. It’s just understanding the point of view that that is a person with a point of view and if we even want to help their behavior, we’ve got to understand their point of view on us and the way that we react. And we are always going to be the power players there.
Dr. Sarah (00:57:38):
And I think you do a very, very beautiful job of empowering parents to take that role. It’s okay to be in charge. It’s okay, I guess. So many people who ask me, is it okay to say no to my kid? I’m like, it’s very okay to say no to your kid. Yeah. It’s your job to say no to your kid. It’s good to say no to your kid. Your kid really wants you to show them where the edges are. Otherwise the world feels very unbounded and that’s really anxiety provoking and it’s definitely okay critical to do that. You could do that in a really warm years
Old and a grown up adult is afraid to upset you or say something you won’t like or, and you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m running the head of this thing and I no idea what I’m doing. Boy, I’m not very safe right here. And the parents feeling like they’re being very kind and loving, which they are in some ways, but it’s just understanding that child’s experience of everything we do and what is sensitive front row audience, they are to us at all times. We’ve got more power than we’ll ever have with another person again. And that can be scary for us because it’s a big responsibility, but it also means that we don’t have to make it all so hard. We can own that we already have this power and that, I don’t know, hopefully that’s not too complicated to understand.
Dr. Sarah (00:59:25):
No, I don’t think so. I hope it feels simple. I mean, it’s not easy, don’t get me wrong. Simple isn’t necessarily easy, but I do think it’s simple, right? I know my role, I know you’re role and I have to learn that, right? We’re not always intuitive. I do think in order to really know what your role is as a parent and what your child’s role as a parent, you do need some basic info on child development and how those things happen. But I think it can be done. It can be done. And I think you do a great job of helping parents feel like they can do this, which is how you end every episode your podcast.
I hope so. I mean, I love it. I love the detective work and the problem solving. Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Sarah (01:00:22):
That’s great. It’s been like an absolute pleasure talking with you. I could talk to you for hours if people want to keep hearing from you, learn more about the work you’re doing, they’re not familiar with your podcast. If they want to learn more about No Bad Kids Chorus, where should they go?
Well, they can go to one place janetlansbury.com. And I also have, well, the podcast transcripts are included. There’s over, but they’re like 400 and something, maybe 500 written articles. There are whatever, almost 300 or maybe 300 by now, podcasts with transcripts. So you can read or listen or whatever you want to do. They’re all there. My books are there. Information about my course is there. And then you can link to something that gives you a lot of details about the course and what parents are saying about it and the feedback that I’ve been getting. And it’s all there. And I’m kind of proud that I have it all out there for free. All my articles, I haven’t put them behind a wall or paywall or anything, and they’re, a lot of ’em are from my early days of going online. And in those days people would comment and comment, we’d have all these discussions, insight on people’s websites. That’s what we did. And all of this stuff that I was saying was pretty new. I know I’m not the to be talking about it, but online I was pretty much the only one talking about it for a while. And there some, there’s like 200 comments on some of the posts and stuff, which I’m really proud of. I just love that there was that kind of conversation and it keeps coming. I keep getting comments every day on articles and podcasts. So anyway. That’s
Dr. Sarah (01:02:14):
It’s all there.
Dr. Sarah (01:02:16):
Yeah, well, we’ll link to in the show notes all of, but it’s really go to janetlansbury.com. You can listen to Unruffled anywhere where you find podcasts, but it is, I still listen to it when I’m having a hard parenting day and I just need to hear the reassurance that, okay, I can do this. We get, and I literally do this all day every day with other people and I’m like, I still need it for me because I’m still figuring it out too. So parenting is very hard and it’s lot, there’s
Layers, right, and that’s what makes it, that we can say that’s so intimidating and impossible. But we can also say that’s kind of intriguing too. There’s something interesting here going on about what I’m learning about myself along with my child.
Dr. Sarah (01:03:02):
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much.
Dr. Sarah (01:03:11):
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Janet as much as I did in this episode. We talked about the importance of helping children tolerate discomfort and building upon their ability to regulate and process their big feelings. But knowing exactly how to do that can sometimes feel confusing for parents. And that is exactly why I’ve created a guide that teaches you how to incorporate emotion regulation, building games into your child’s play, all while their brain is most receptive to learning, which helps this knowledge to actually stick.
In my free guide, Reduced Tantrums Before They Even Begin, I equip you with an understanding of what happens in your child’s brain and body when they have a tantrum. And I give you five fun and simple games that strengthen their emotion regulation ability, which is going to help prevent meltdowns from happening in the first place. So go to drsarahbren.com/resources to download this and many other free guides. That’s drsarahbren.com/resources. Until next week, don’t be a stranger.
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