If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already at least somewhat versed in the styles of positive, gentle, respectful or responsive parenting. But whatever you call it, there are many societal misconceptions about what these styles are. Here to help me bust some myths and dig into the research and brain science behind why we’re shifting past behaviorism is Sarah R. Moore. From intergenerational transmission of parenting styles, redefining our goals, and the importance of strengthening mental and emotional health in our children, you won’t want to miss this deep dive into WHY these new parenting styles are effective.
And go ahead and share this episode with anyone in your life who isn’t quite on board with positive parenting or feels it’s too permissive. This is a safe space free of shame and judgment – we’re all just doing the best we can!
Everything that you like about. It makes sense to me, we validate the child without necessarily having to support the behavior. And then from here, we can get into boundaries.
Dr. Sarah (00:19):
Positive parenting has gained popularity in recent years. And along with that arise in misconceptions about what this parenting style actually is one of the biggest being that, because it doesn’t use a punishment and reward model, that there is no discipline, but positive parenting is not permissive parenting. And here to help me explain this along with the science behind the benefits associated with this style is the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior, Sarah R. Moore. Parents can incorporate effective discipline while still prioritizing their child’s mental and emotional help. And in this episode, we will help you understand exactly how.
Dr. Sarah (01:09):
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.
Dr. Sarah (01:42):
Hi, I’m so excited to welcome Sarah Moore to the podcast today. Thank you so much for being here.
I am excited. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Sarah (01:51):
Thank you, Sarah. Sarah’s the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and she is the author of the book, Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior, which is coming out in the next couple months. So I’m like so excited about this book and to hear just how this came to be.
Thank you so much. And I can tell you having a real baby is so much easier than having a book, baby. This has been hard work and I’m really excited to get it out.
Dr. Sarah (02:19):
I bet I can’t imagine. And you have a baby, like a real baby, so like you’re doing two things at once too.
Exactly, exactly. Yeah. She’s older now, but she’ll always be my baby, even if she’s a hundred years old.
Dr. Sarah (02:33):
Right, right. But one of the things like we connected, because I think we have really similar views on kind of, you know, we work with parents, we hear a lot about what doesn’t feel like it’s working for them. And they usually come to us cuz they’ve tried a lot of things that aren’t working and they’re wanting to like try to figure out a different way. Has that been your experience?
Oh gosh, yes. You know, there are so many parents who really feel this deep, I’m gonna call it what it is, this grief that parenting is so much harder than it feels like it should be. And they feel like, am I doing something wrong? Is there something wrong with my child? Is there something wrong with the way I’m raising them? Why can’t this just be easier? So my number one goal is just to give people so much empathy and acknowledge. It really is hard. And secondly, say, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you or your child. And there are probably some other tools you can be using that make parenting a whole lot easier and more joyful. So my sole mission in life is to help bring some of the joy back to parenting.
Dr. Sarah (03:39):
And I mean, I follow you on Instagram and I feel like I feel more joyful every time I read or watch one of the things that you do. So I’m like you you’re the right person to be sharing joy in parenting with people.
Oh, thank you. I’ve got goosebumps. I appreciate that.
Dr. Sarah (03:56):
Really like, it’s a very, you bring a lot of like just happiness, I think to the parenting space, which, you know, this is always, like, I create content on social media. That’s not what I ever, what I thought I would be doing in my career. Like it just was a pivot that happened. And I was like, whoa, here I am. But one of the things that I, as a parent who consumes social media, but also as a parent and professional, who’s putting out content on social media. I am so acutely aware of how much shame and judgment exists in that parenting space. And like, like I think it takes a lot of intentionality to create communications and education for parents that does not leave them feeling crappier about themselves. Even if the information is helpful or accurate.
Absolutely. Yeah. It’s really easy. Especially if we’re already feeling grief or sadness or anger or frustration with our parenting to take it personally and feel like that message that I read from this person on the other side of the world, that made me feel terrible and that’s just not gonna help build us up. That’s not gonna help us have the kind of joyful existence we want. So I’m very touched to hear that you feel my Instagram is a different flavor, so to speak. And that’s very much my hope. And goodness, if I ever do come across as shaming or guilt ridden or whatever, just know I get it. I feel it too. And being a real mom, I feel it a lot of the days. So I get it.
Dr. Sarah (05:31):
Yeah, me too. And I think that’s probably why it’s helps. Like that’s like everything I write, I’m always from the kind of trying to like look at it through the lens of like, if I was reading this as a parent, how would it make me feel? Right. versus just as a professional, does this communicate the nugget of information I wanna share? It’s like, there’s so many ways to share a nugget of information. Like how does it feel to receive that information is an important part of that equation.
Exactly. And there is no magic wand that can ever make any single meme come across as intended to everyone in the world. I can’t tell you how often people are. Like, did you mean that, you know, I don’t think this is appropriate or whatever. And it’s like, you know what I could, and I did write an entire book on the topic and I still have nuances that perhaps I didn’t consider, perhaps didn’t have time or room to add. So there are always exceptions. We can’t possibly have a perfect message on social media when there’s always so much more to the story.
Dr. Sarah (06:34):
Totally. And that’s why I think a lot of the work really, if you’re gonna be coaching parents is also to help them become really self-sufficient right. Self assured. So like that they are able to be like, I like to refer to it as like an educated consumer of the content. Right? Like, so if you see something that you’re not sure if that applies to you, or if that doesn’t feel like it sits well with you to be able to say not for me. Right. Like to be able to say like, I can take what works and leave what doesn’t, I don’t have to then hold either anger or resentment or guilt or shame or panic because this thing that I read, it, you know, doesn’t align with my views or doesn’t make sense for my kid or for me.
Love that. And I love educated consumer of content, you know, I just pictured the acronym ECC. Yeah. I wanna be an ECC. Yeah. It doesn’t make sense for me. So I love the way you present that.
Dr. Sarah (07:34):
Thank you. Yeah. And I, yeah, it’s like a, it’s a skill that like, we now have to have, we didn’t need, that was not something that one, a skill one needed 10 years ago. And it’s definitely a skill that we need as parents. We need to teach our kids that I think too, who are on social media and consuming content, but that’s a podcast for another day.
Dr. Sarah (07:59):
But so, you know, one of the things that I was hoping to talk to about today was this idea that like, okay, so parents are coming to us cuz like, Ugh, I’m trying all these things. They’re not really working, but there are things that are more effective and like, why are some of the strategies more effective than others? Like I think you and I have similar philosophies on why something’s work and something, doesn’t some things don’t, but like, you know, how do you help parents understand why something might not be working so well?
Yeah, absolutely. Well, first of all, I want to acknowledge that movies like Encanto were made for a reason, intergenerational trauma is real and many of us have simply carried for forward the strategies that were used with us when we were growing up. And we might know, of course I didn’t like the way that this, that, or the other thing felt. And yet I still feel like very common thing. I hear, I turned out, okay. Therefore, I guess I just keep doing this. Even though we know in our heart of hearts, that something still doesn’t feel right to us, even as an adult, having processed, whatever happened to us when we were little. The good news is the longer, the science of parenting has existed. The more information we get about what’s actually happening, not only in our children’s brains, when we use certain types of behavioral modification with them or consequences or punishment or whatever we wanna call it. But we also have more and more data about what happens in our brains. When we do these things to our children, having this research available to us literally helps us show us like in MRI scans, I’m not talking about, you know, random mama on the internet said this thing, I’m talking, we have brain scans where we can say, this is what happens when a child is, spanked, for example. When corporal punishment is used, what’s going on in the stress centers of the brain, what’s happening in the speech and language centers of the brain. We now have enough data to say, oh, cause and effect, there are actually some physiological and biological reasons for the things that aren’t really working, not working as well as we would like them to. Conversely, we now know enough about positive psychology and positive parenting relationships in general, about how motivation works, how change is most effective, how being peaceful with one another actually creates the type of brain changes that we want, not only in ourselves, but in our children so that we can have a connection based relationship. And from that place of connection, we absolutely can and should guide our children. But connection feels better to everybody. And when we feel connected, we don’t have to carry around that nasty guilt, shame, you know, story we’re telling about, about the situation where, oh, I just have to do this thing. No, you don’t. Connection is possible and positive change is possible with it.
Dr. Sarah (11:15):
That is like so well articulated. I feel like that really encapsulates the sort of shift in the science because, and like the way that the science shows up in our day to day life, there’s always a lag, right? Like the corporal punishment and behavior modification that’s rooted in behaviorism, which is like, gosh, I wanna say from like the fifties.
It is yeah. BF Skinner was really the proponent of behaviorism. And if you read some of the way that he even raised his own children, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. We would call it abuse in this day and age. And yet we still look at his data because it’s what frankly, what a lot of our parents and a lot of our grandparents used, not necessarily because they were studying BF Skinner, but they were doing what they thought worked. And I wanna be perfectly clear that I am not shaming our parents or our grandparents. Everybody always does the best they can with the information they have. The good news here is that we have new information. We have more options than people used to know about.
Dr. Sarah (12:20):
Right. But what I think is kind of interesting is there’s still a lag, right? So like you and I, or parents of our generation are not necessarily most parents reading like the recent neuropsychological journals, right? They’re not reading about brain scans. They’re not reading about these more like interpersonal neurobiology and these new polyvagal theory, these new theories that have only come out in the last 10 to 20 years, that we’ve even started to understand this and really research it. It hasn’t really trickled into mainstream parenting yet. Not because it’s fringe, but because it hasn’t been widely disseminated yet it’s starting to like this wave is definitely bigger now than it was five years ago. More people have heard the terms, respectful parenting, positive parenting, gentle parenting. I think there’s a lot of confusion around these terms. And maybe we could even talk a little bit about that, cuz I think people don’t really like these terms. Don’t have a clear definition right now in this world. And a lot of people mistake these types of gentle parenting with permissive parenting, which I think becomes a big barrier for a lot of people. Very understandably they’re like I don’t wanna be permissive and I associate this gentle approach with permissiveness and I think there’s something fundamentally inaccurate about that, that misperception, that, that assessment. Yes. Yes. Can we talk a little bit about that? What’s your take? How do you explain the misperception there?
Yeah, absolutely. First of all, I love everything you just said because you’re so right. Most of us are not going around reading the journals and understanding polyvagal theory and interpersonal neurobiology. Like you said much less being able to apply it to what do I do when my toddler is pulling the dog’s tail? Like that feels light years away from the study of polyvagal theory. Right? And yet we, our job, my job, your job is to be the translator. What does this stuff look like in real life to make it accessible and beyond accessible, make it easy for you as a parent. So back to your question about the differences between permissive parenting and gentle parenting, huge difference, permissive parenting is effectively. I’m going to have no boundaries. I am going to say yes to whatever my child wants and I’m gonna use an old cliche that people sometimes ascribe to gentle parenting, but it really is permissive parenting.
It’s the I’m going to let my child quote unquote, rule the roost. Well, I totally hate this expression, but I totally also understand how it came to be where the parent feels like I’m not even parenting the child’s in charge here. And this in truth should be a point of concern for parents. Permissive parenting is linked to all sorts of problems down the road, a child raised without boundaries and limits and respectful dialogue, you know, to the extent that the child just does whatever they want whenever they want that child is more likely to engage in substance abuse and promiscuous behavior in so many things that we can say beyond the shadow of a doubt, the research is there. Permissive parenting is a bad idea. And yet we have the flip side, we have positive parenting, gentle parenting, respectful parenting, whatever you wanna call it. It goes by a lot of names and there are some nuances, but I’m going to sort of lump them together for the same simplicity here. In gentle parenting, yes, we do have boundaries. The thing is, I’ll share an example to make it real for people. Let’s say, and gosh, I’m just gonna go straight to the heart because things like this are so pertinent in today’s society, particularly on the tail end of a pandemic. Okay. Let’s pretend I have a child who wants to play on their tablet for 12 hours a day, all day, every day. And frankly, perhaps that’s how we had to get by when everybody was at home all the time work time. We were in survival mode. And now that we are dipping our toes back out of survival mode and trying to figure out what normal life looks like again, we might have a child who still says, Hey, I still wanna play my tablet 12 hours a day. That was fantastic. Well here, the parent can say, I know that that’s not healthy for you. And here’s an important distinction. We validate feelings. I understand how much fun it is to play those games, to do those things, to be chatting with your friend, whatever the child is, doing, everything that you like about. It makes sense to me, we validate the child without necessarily having to support the behavior. Yes. And then from here we can get into boundaries. Now, if it’s a younger child, in many cases, the adult will need to be the one to figure out what’s the best plan here. And how can I hold space for big feelings? How can I create a yes space around screen time or whatever the issue may be. But a younger child is gonna have a harder time. In some cases, self-regulating with it. I stress some cases. It’s amazing how often younger children can self regulate around these things. If we give them the opportunity to do it. But let’s go worst case scenario here. Let’s say we have a child who is hook, line and sinker. I want my tablet all day, every day. And that is the only existence I want. The parent can sit down with a child and say, I have some concerns. And I would love to come up with a plan that works for both of us. What are your ideas? Here are my ideas. And in a non non-judgmental way, we find what our yes space looks like together. Not only is the child more likely to buy into the idea if they helped contribute to it or even came up with it all on their own. But also if they feel like they were heard in the process, if their feelings were validated, we find a win. We find a way to make it workable. Yes, we can have a boundary. Yes. We can say 12 hours is not okay, but what does feel okay for our family? How can we reconnect? And we create a yes space around that. That is gentle, respectful, positive parenting, where you find solutions to problems together. My final point in this particular topic is for everything gentle parenting. My firm belief is that it is never us versus our child. It is us and our child versus the problem we are trying to solve together.
Dr. Sarah (19:27):
Yes. Oh my God. I absolutely love that. And I will throw this add on to that, which is you can do all of those things, which are very authoritative, right? Very firm boundaries, very collaborative, very respectful. Your child can participate in that problem solving and feel good about this new plan. And then it comes time to say, we’re executing the plan. Now, kiddo time to turn the tablet off. And our kid still might have, after we do all of this important, critical work, they might still have that post tech meltdown because all of a sudden they don’t wanna follow through on the plan anymore because that fun feeling is back. And I don’t want it to stop. And I’m really mad that you’re making me follow through on this plan, even though we collaborated on it and now I’m melting down on the floor and it’s still respectful parenting or whatever we wanna call it to say, you are really upset. I understand you really wanna keep watching and I’m gonna put the tablet away now, or I’m gonna turn off the TV now, or we’re gonna move to another room together now. So you can hold that limit even in the face of it, quote, not working right. The plan fell apart. And I think that’s another place where people look at that and say, that’s so permissive or where’s the consequence for that behavior? And it’s like, well, I guess we’re looking at a mindset, mindset shift here, which is that, is there any problem behaviorally with my child melting down about the limit that I’ve set that requires a punishment or a consequence I would argue, no. Right? I’m not allowing them to watch the tablet anymore. Whatever the thing is that that’s being decided upon, right? I’m holding the limit. It’s on me, the parent to hold the limit. Now my job’s kind of done. And my child’s job is to kind of accept that limit physically. Like they are not going to continue to watch TV or be on their tablet, but their emotional response is really they’re prerogative. Like they get to have that expression and I don’t, there’s really no need to punish them. And I think that’s also where sometimes people look at this type of parenting and they see there’s more emotional dysregulation sometimes in kids who experience these limits. Not because what we’re doing as parents is creating more, but the children are naturally allowed to express their real live feelings and we’re not stopping them from doing that. And I think that’s sometimes hard for parents to tolerate if they’re not used to this type of parenting.
Gosh. Yes. I love everything you just said. Especially because those big feelings that our children have are really hard. It’s really hard for us to watch our children quote, unquote, suffer with, you know, well, do I then renege on the boundary. Do I, you know, do I, what do I do here? Right. But I also don’t like it when my child is yelling and screaming and angry or sad or whatever it is. There’s a really interesting paradigm shift that we can make. And it’s, it’s really more of a question we can ask ourselves when our child is having a big, I call it emotional release. Some people call it a tantrum or a meltdown. I personally prefer emotional release because that reminds me, it’s healthy for all of us to release our big emotions rather than bottle them up and get, who knows what health ailments or whatever down the road. But when I can ask myself, was I allowed to express this feeling when I was little? Or if not, what did that look like? And I will say nine times out of 10 parents will say, oh no, I was sent to my room or I was punished physically. Or I was told to suck it up and be a big boy or a big girl or whatever. And you’ve still got a little child, you know, your inner child that is probably desperate to be seen and allowed to feel what you feel when you allow your child to feel what they feel and say, I see how hard this is for you. I love you. And I’m gonna hold you on my lap. If the child wants to be held, I would not force the child to say, but if you wanna just hug me while you get all your sadness out, I’m here for you. And I might have to do some really big inner work to manage my breathing, you know, do everything I can not to send my child away to process their big feelings. Unless of course they want to be by themselves.That’s okay too, for some children. But for the children who want to be with the adults while they have their big feelings, how healing is that for them to feel safe, coming to you with their big feelings and how healing, furthermore, is it for your inner child to witness this is what full emotional expression and authenticity look like. How incredibly healing that must be.
Dr. Sarah (24:45):
Yes. It’s like a corrective emotional experience, which is a term we use in therapy a lot like big therapeutic breakthroughs often happen. When you have these corrective emotional experiences, we held something in our bodies that was emotionally painful to us. And we learned that that wasn’t safe or that, that wasn’t acceptable or that we might lose closeness if we did that or felt that. And so if we have a corrective emotional experience where we’re allowed to have the feeling or do the behavior and nothing bad happens it, it can like dislodge some of these, not just beliefs in our mind, but the way we hold onto that fear in our body, like we can actually relax a little bit, release some physical tension as a parent, when we allow our children to release in ways that we weren’t allowed to release and have that be this, have that feel safe for the first time. Like, you know, and that’s, that takes work. Sometimes you even need to kind of go to therapy to work this stuff out. Like I’ve got a lot of parents in my practice who I’m not treating their kids, I’m treating them and their inner child. Like that’s the work that we’re doing in sessions.
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, back to my Encanto comment earlier. You know, we, we do what we knew. You know, I often say that we do what we knew.
Dr. Sarah (26:13):
I love that.
We start to learn that, oh my goodness, this is what emotional freedom looks like. This is what connection looks like. And I would encourage parents to notice one more thing when that child finishes their big emotional release. However, that looks, how connected are you then? What does it look like after the storm? Because sometimes the most tender and healing and profound moments happen after we have made it safe to feel those big feelings. This is where the healing happens. This is where we say, I don’t have to parent, like my parents did. I can still love my parents. I can still think they did a great job. I can still think I turned out. Okay. But what happens if my child turns out even better than I did, because they now have the emotional vocabulary and the emotional tools to work through and have proof that they can work through really hard things.
Dr. Sarah (27:13):
Yes. That makes me think of this story, or when you said like, think about the connection that happens after the storm. So I have, I have a daughter who is particularly strongly feeling. Like, she is my spirited, like spicy child. And she is also when she gets mad, she gets very mad. She has like, I mean, not to be too dramatic, but like I joke that it’s like exorcism meltdowns where like, you know, she’s like on the floor back arched, like, don’t touch me, like just viscerally so upset. And there’s nothing I can do to soothe her. And they can go on like 20 minutes, 30 minutes sometimes where these episodes will happen. And like, it’s, you know, it’s often when she’s really tired or other things are going on for her and something that’s really doesn’t feel like it should be the thing that breaks the straw. Like, you know, the straw that breaks the back, but like, she’ll lose it. And I’ve worked on my ability to sit with her in these moments. And it’s hard because it’s also very stimulating for me. It’s very loud and it’s very intense and I feel bad because she very much rejects me in these, you know, she doesn’t want me to touch her, but there’s always a moment when it, it cracks. Like she cracks through like the real her breaks through this dysregulated state. And in that moment, every time it’s like, and it’s literally like instantly something snaps, something just cracks open for her. And she comes and sits on my lap and hugs me so tight. And it’s so beautiful for me because it’s very reassuring because I watched this moment, this like long, sometimes very long periods of time where I cannot help her. And I could so easily, like not like give up, I could give up trying to help her then because it’s, she’s not, I mean, she’ll hit me, like, you know, like there are things that like one might want to punish. Right. But I see it so clearly as out of her control, she’s also for context, she’s turning three in like two weeks. So she’s young, like she’s a young kid and she’s been doing this for most of her life. But like every time it ends and she comes and squeezes me really tightly, and it’s like, it’s a release for both of us to be like, we both survived that and now we’re close again. And we’re okay. And we don’t even talk. We don’t even really say much in those moments. It’s just a physical reconnecting, but it’s really powerful for me as the parent to know like, okay, we’re okay. We made it through that. And we’re okay.
I’ve got goosebumps that is healing that right there. Like, I’m, I’m just picturing this, you know, giant circle of light, you know, surrounding both of you where there, like this is magical. These are the moments where, when she’s not almost about to turn three, but when she’s about to turn 13 or 23, when she is perhaps not right next to you and having these big feelings in whatever form they manifest for her at that point, she’s gonna remember these moments of connection with you, her mama, that that’s what safety looks like. That’s what I can have again, because my mama made it safe for me to feel and she made it safe for me to heal. I love that to her.
Dr. Sarah (30:47):
Yeah. And it’s hard. It’s legit, not easy. So like I illustrate this not to be like, why can’t everyone do this? Like I also have like years of training and emotion regulation that like, has nothing to do with parenting. Like I just, you know, I have, I’ve been practicing this skill set for a long time outside of parenting. So I have like a edge in just being able to be like, I don’t personalize this because I see it as a brain function. I see it as a dysregulated nervous system and she’s in fight or flight. So I don’t, I’m able to keep that personalization out of it, which I think is a critical piece to being able to tolerate that degree of dysregulation in a child for that long without cracking yourself. And sometimes I do crack, like by all means I lose it too. It’s I have to like I have to take breaks and come back. I can’t be there the whole time sometimes.
Absolutely. Yeah. And you said a beautiful word a second ago, you said the word practice for anybody who’s listening to this later and thinking, well, this is what these women do for a living. How’s a person who doesn’t do this for a living supposed to be able to do this. You know what it is all about practice. I have days I have moments of every day where it’s so darn hard. And I don’t expect anybody else to get it perfectly right all the time either because I sure don’t. In fact, when I was writing my book, I think I told you before, last time we spoke, I told my daughter, I was writing a book. And her question to me was always about, is it about how to make mistakes? Because you’re really good at that. And I had to laugh and say, well, actually it’s not, but thanks. I really appreciate being good at mistakes. So we can ourselves, a whole lot of grace because every time we practice this, we get better at it. We always talk about how child development is not linear. You know, it takes a long time for children to practice these skills before they master them while the same is true for parenting parenting. Isn’t linear either. It takes a whole lot of trial and error. They’re going to be days when I’m hungry or I’m tired or I’m overwhelmed or whatever. And my parenting’s going to suffer for it. But if I can have more and more of these beautiful, bright shining moments that I have practiced over time, those accumulate and children absolutely will remember consciously and subconsciously. I remember a whole lot of times when my mom and my dad or my caregiver, they were able to hold space for me. They were able to show up for me. They were able to give me what I needed in those moments. And it’s only because we practice it. Not because we perfect it from the get go. So parents out there, give yourself a lot of grace while you learn this. It takes a long time and we’re never perfect.
Dr. Sarah (33:32):
It does. It reminds me of, because the conversation that we had, I was on your podcast and we were talking about good enough parenting. And this idea of you don’t have to get it right all the time, getting it right. All the time is not optimal. It creates codependence and enmesh and a lack of confidence in our children’s own ability to like cope. Right, like it’s just not optimal. Optimal is getting it right. Some of the time to most of the time, like literally 50% to 95% is what the research shows. Like. We don’t have to get it right all the time. When we get it wrong, we should repair. We should acknowledge, oh gosh, I lost my cool, I’m sorry. I’m gonna, I’m working on that. You know, I didn’t mean to yell and it’s not your fault that I yelled. But you, we don’t have to never yell.
Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah. In fact, I’m smirking, as you say this, because my husband often tells me that he’s just shooting for average as a husband. And I often go back to him and say, well, could you aim just a little bit higher. Like a step above average. So it’s just a little marital joke between us, but we just, you do the best you can. And that’s it.
Dr. Sarah (34:49):
Yeah. I like your husband’s tolerance for imperfection. That’s actually really healthy.
I’ll tell him, thanks. He’ll be happy.
Dr. Sarah (34:57):
It’s probably really resilience, you know, that says a lot about his resilience. Because if we have this need for perfection, which is obviously not possible, we’re going to feel thwarted in our life more. We’re gonna doubt our ability more. We’re gonna see ourselves as less capable, more frequently. And we’re more likely to give up when things are hard. If we, if we’re comfortable with imperfection and we recognize that that’s really the reality of almost every scenario is that there’s never perfect. And there’s always gonna be good enough as the best. And sometimes we don’t even get good enough. Sometimes we just straight up fail, you know, and that’s okay. I pick myself up and I’m, I go again. But when we, when we seek good enough failure, doesn’t feel as devastating.
Exactly, exactly. Yep. You know, and we might know the science, the researcher, even just our gut feeling. I know I don’t wanna be putting my child in time out. I know I don’t wanna be yelling. I know I don’t wanna do these things. I’m not saying, oh yeah, it’s totally okay to do those things. But I am saying, when you do those things acknowledge, this is hard and visualize, what do you want to do next time? What does peaceful parenting look like to you visualize that simply by virtue of visualizing it, you will help create some of the, of the neural connections that your brain needs to help this manifest in real life. So that next time the same situation comes up or one similar to it, your brain will have had practice simply through visualization of how do I actually want to handle this? And when you do the reward centers of your brain fire and say, I like how this feels, this works better. And then that is how we create more and more moments of security upon which we can build for the future.
Dr. Sarah (36:48):
I love that that’s such an accessible way to approach this.
Dr. Sarah (36:54):
Yeah. I think too, like, you know, I think most people who are listening to this podcast are probably striving for some level of this responsive parenting. Right, that’s kind of, you know, if you’re listening to Securely Attached, my guess is you’re here because this stuff resonates with you. But I also imagine, and I really do hope, especially for this episode that maybe the people who are listening, who are interested in responsive parenting, who have people in their lives, who really don’t understand this and question it and are maybe afraid of it or dismissive of it or threatened by it. Maybe could share this episode with those people. Cuz I think this is a safe episode for people who do not understand or trust responsive parenting could actually hear and feel safe, exploring alternative ways of looking at parenting in part, because I think you and I, as we started out at the very beginning episode talking about like, we’re really approaching this from like a non-judgmental space. Like parents do all types of parenting, mostly because it’s the way that they were parented and that their parents weren’t being, most people, hopefully weren’t being abusive, but they were doing the absolute best they could with the information that they had. And they were taught that this is effective mostly because that’s how their parents parented them. And there’s this way in which like you said, intergenerational transmission of trauma and intergenerational transmission of parenting styles it just gets passed on by default. Nobody is doing anything malicious at all and punishing your kids is not malicious. Most people who punish their kids and use severe forms of discipline are doing it because they love their kid and believe that this is how I set my kid up for the most success in life. I have to teach them how the world works. I have to help them understand that certain behaviors are not okay and that bad things will happen if they do these behaviors. And so I’m trying with love to teach them and you know, it makes me think of the fact that like, you know, I think they’re, you know, I firmly believe that corporal punishment is not an effective parenting strategy. I also know that there are parents who spank their children or hit their children. As, as discipline. I’m not talking about abuse. I’m talking about as a corporal punishment as a discipline strategy. And they usually do it. I believe when they’re very hot themselves, when they’ve run out of absolutely all other options and they’re at their absolute, like I can’t tolerate this for one more second. I’ve at my breaking point. And this is my last ditch effort to get you to do the thing I firmly believe you need to do. And there’s like a desperation to that. But I also think most parents who use corporal punishment received it as a child and to hear a bunch of people say, just don’t do that or you’re bad because you’ve done. That really is gonna bring them away from the table and make them say, I’m closing my ears. I don’t wanna have this conversation. I’m gonna do my thing. I don’t wanna hear it. And it, it shuts down the conversation. Like I wanna bring parents who do use corporal punishment to the table and help them feel safe being at that table so that we can all have a conversation about a more effective way. Like we were saying at the beginning of this episode, like that’s based on what we know about kids’ brains that we didn’t know that your parents probably didn’t know, you know, that it’s okay, that you don’t know. And then, but this openness to being able to say, well, Hmm, let me learn about it and see if that changes my perspective on things and my strategy. But we can’t get parents to the table if we shame them and we belittle them or make them feel alienated because of the way that they know how to parent.
Exactly. I want every parent out there, no matter what strategies you’re using right now to feel safe with us, as we talk about these things, I want to say, I can validate your feelings. I can validate your desire to do what you think is best. And let’s have a discussion about it. I’m not going to judge you. I’m here to listen. And speaking of spanking specifically, I have a a blog post that I can share with you that’s, I hope, very much in that vein. Particularly for people who feel like, well, either number one, I did it. My parent did it and I turned out fine. Or some people say, oh, the Bible says you have to spank. Therefore I do it. It actually doesn’t. So I have some clarifying points about that. You know, we have all sorts of reasons that people think that they just have to go forward down this path. And I’m here not to tell you you’re wrong. I’m here to say your feelings make sense to me and offer an invitation to say, I have some information that I hope you will find accessible. Would you be willing to read it and consider it? Because I think when you do, you might be open to some other options and I’ll show you what those other options are. And rather than me standing on a pedestal over you telling you you’re wrong, how about if instead I walk with you arm in arm and I just support you and I listen to you, right? Because I don’t pretend that I am smarter better whatever than anybody else. But I can say that we have options. Let’s explore them together.
Dr. Sarah (42:28):
Yes. And it makes me go back to the visual that you illustrated at the beginning when it comes to parenting with your kid. And it’s like, it’s not you versus me, it’s you and me versus the problem. And that’s like the same exact parallel we’re drawing right now. It’s us, the parents who are aware of the neurobiology of these effects of the corporal punishment, the parents who aren’t and who use it because they think it is helping and they want to help their kid. It’s us versus the problem. It’s not working. It’s not resulting in meaningful shifts in behavior. It does stop a behavior. Let me be clear if you spank your kid or you use other forms of like severe punishment, it stops behavior. It does work to stop a behavior. No one is saying that it doesn’t. What we’re saying it doesn’t do is it doesn’t create long term changes in a child’s, as what is causing the bad behavior in the problematic behavior in the first place, it doesn’t increase emotion regulation. It doesn’t increase reflective, functioning and awareness. It doesn’t increase empathy. It doesn’t increase problem solving skills. It just decreases the behavior in that one moment. And that’s it. And at what can feel like a bit of a cost, right? Because it reduces that child’s sense of safety with that person. And so then they tend to not show that person, those behaviors, but it doesn’t teach them how to not do the behaviors. It teach them how to shut off the feeling that led to that behavior, because that’s the only way that they can stop that impulse. And it just usually means they hide things from us. Not that they really learn how to not do. Something’s why it’s the word effective is key. It’s not right or wrong. It’s not effective. If our goal is to create children who are sort of self-directed, self-regulating have empathy towards others, know pro-social behaviors know how to inhibit an impulse, know how to solve problems. I think most parents that’s what they want. Right? That’s the whole goal at the end of the day. And if we wanna get there, there’s more effective ways to teach those skills. Then very harsh discipline and punishment doesn’t mean there’s no discipline. Like we were saying before, we’re not talking about permissive parenting where there’s no consequences. It’s just that there’s a whole lot of options when it comes to consequences that, you know, really severe punishment and discipline, like is one, just one piece, we got a lot more at the buffet. Like we can, we got options. And so yes, I think like I would love, I, and I, we are going to do this a follow up episode where we specifically talk about, okay, what are the effective strategies? We’ve talked a lot about this in this episode about what’s what doesn’t really work and why, but what does work? What are some really concrete tools that we can use to help our children learn cause and effect, learn how to inhibit impulse, learn how to have empathy, have this, the effect of useful discipline in our parenting. And I’m really excited. So stay tuned because Sarah’s coming back to have this episode as a follow up which is I think the perfect way to sort of, you know, like take this information and the next step is like, okay, so what do we do then?
Exactly. Well, I love having this conversation with you. And I really just wanna leave parents with a story and a message of hope. You know, everything we talked about today is good information. And yet I want you to take away. There’s hope change is possible. We’re not looking to change everything, you know, and everything you do today. What we want to do is create emotional safety for you so that you can pass along that emotional safety for your children. And thank you so much for having me, Sarah. I can’t wait for our next discussion as well.
Dr. Sarah (46:45):
Yeah, me neither. And I cannot wait for your book. It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be game changing for a lot of people.
Thank you so much.
Dr. Sarah (46:53):
All right. Well, we’ll see you soon.
All right. I’ll look forward to it.
Dr. Sarah (47:01):When you hear the word discipline, punishment may be the first thing that comes to your mind, but discipline really means to teach. And one of the best opportunities for teaching is not in the hot moments, but in the cool, calm and regulated times when our child’s brain is most receptive to learning. And that’s exactly why I’ve created a guide that teaches you how to incorporate emotion regulation building games into your child’s play. A time when their brain is most receptive to forming neural pathways. That’s gonna actually help this knowledge to stick in my free guide, Reduce 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 to prevent meltdowns from happening in the first place. So go to drsarahbren.com/resources to download this free guide. That’s drsarahbren.com/resources. Thanks for listening. And don’t be a stranger.
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