For Mother’s Day I wanted to go on a hike. We drove 47 minutes to the state park that’s been on my bucket list, got out of the car to start the hike, and my son instantly had big tears because we wouldn’t let him bring his big dump truck that we all knew that we’d be carrying after 10 minutes.
He was obviously upset and started crying. Being confident that my son would be able to emotionally self-regulate after some time has passed, I took some deep breaths, played some music, and would occasionally throw out some words of validation (“I know, it stinks that you can’t take your dump truck.”)
After time did its trick, my son took a deep breath and said that he was almost done crying. He just had to get a few more cries out. He did and then we enjoyed over an hour of peaceful, fun hiking.
The next day, he was upset that I wouldn’t give him a popsicle in the morning. He went outside and came back refreshed. He said being outside calmed him down.
Kids can and will learn how to emotionally self-regulate if we teach them.
As parents, we shouldn’t have to be resigned to the fact that this is normal or a phase that they will eventually one day get over.
Because guess what? I can name my fair share of adults who are still throwing tantrums.
This is a skill we need to teach them, and we can start from a young age.
For example, while it was developmentally normal for my son to cry big tears and wail about not being able to take his dump truck, I knew, because we have been working on emotionally self-regulating, that this wouldn’t last terribly long, and I knew it wouldn’t escalate to him throwing himself on the ground, screaming and kicking.
I’m saying this not to brag about how great my son is although I’m quite proud of him. I’m saying this to let parents know that you’re not stuck waiting for a phase to be over, which spoiler alert is not ever going to be over if we don’t teach our kids.
Trust me. I teach high school. I much rather have kids that can emotionally regulate but might struggle some academically than kids who can do advanced math, but who can’t handle rejection or failure.
How do you go about teaching your kids how to emotionally self-regulate?
There are five steps that I recommend, but first I want to note that teaching emotional regulation isn’t something you do once and then you’re done. This is an ongoing life skill that you should support your kids with all throughout childhood. It will just look differently as your child ages.
Feelings and how to control those emotions are two very abstract concepts. They need to be taught. Here’s how.
Modeling is key. If you can’t emotionally regulate yourself, then how will your kids?
Let your kids see how you handle your emotions.
On more than one occasion, I’ve told my son that I’m feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or exhausted and that I just need a moment to myself to lie down. I assure him that he did nothing wrong, this is normal, and that I’ll come back feeling recharged and refreshed.
When my son has thrown tantrums, I make sure to calm myself first, and I model deep breathing.
I’ve even noticed that when my son gets told no or is disappointed in answer to his questions, he does a deep sigh and then says, “Okay.” I do that.
*A quick note: I want to point out that by teaching kids how to emotionally self-regulate, we aren’t expecting them to be compliant robots and agree with everything we say.
They are allowed to be frustrated with our rules and boundaries. They are allowed to push back. They are allowed to voice their opinions. Our goal is for them to handle these emotions in a developmentally appropriate way.*
Think of scaffolding in terms of construction. It’s what helps the workers reach the top.
It’s a metaphor for providing students [Kids] with temporary, supportive structures that, just like in constructing a structure, are “gradually removed as the building nears completion.” (Riddett, 2015).
When a student [Kids] demonstrates proficient independence, the scaffold is no longer needed (Gibbons, 2002).
We can’t expect our kids to go from their current behavior to their goal behavior in one gigantic leap.
That’s where scaffolding comes into play.
At first, kids might not be ready to emotionally regulate on their own. They will need someone to co-regulate with them. That could include showing them how to breathe, breathing with them, guiding their hands, securing their environment, or putting them in safe space.
If your kid is having trouble with a certain skill that probably means they need some type of scaffolding.
For example, if they throw things when they are upset, remove all objects that are unsafe to throw and replace them with soft objects they can throw.
In addition, if you have a child who won’t go from wanting to hit to deep breathing, have them hit a pillow, punching bag, or play doh instead.
Once they are consistently mastering the behavior, you can gradually remove the scaffold and move on to the next step.
Get my scaffolding guide that will help you break down behaviors.
Now that you’ve taught emotional regulation, your kid needs a chance to practice what they’ve learned.
This is best done when everyone is calm and happy.
These are called greenlight strategies.
Here are some ways to practice…
Practice lets you know if your child gets it. If they don’t, you go back to teaching.
Finally, you’re going to want to reinforce.
And you reinforce by rewarding.
Just imagine if your boss only pointed out any time her employees did something wrong, morale would probably be pretty low in the company.
Same is true with our kids.
Rewarding the behavior we want, reinforces the idea that our kids should continue what they are doing.
Rewards can be tangible in the form of…
But they don’t always have to be tangible. In fact, I prefer intangible.
They can be in the form of…
Doing all five of these steps will have your child on the way to a lifetime of healthy emotional regulation.
Want more strategies that can help you with your kids? Check out my parenting guide Now What? Mindful Parenting Checklists for Life’s Hard Moments.
How to Use Scaffolding to Get Your Kids to Actually Stop Hitting Once and For All and Other Reasons Scaffolding Works
I’m a special education teacher. One of my job’s is to write individualized goals for each of my students.
For example, one of my students might have a goal to read 150 words correct per minute on a grade level passage.
Let’s say, currently, she is averaging reading 90 words correct per minute.
The next day after writing the fluency goal for my student, I have her come into my class and read a passage. Predictably, she reads about 90 words.
Now imagine if I said, “Stop reading 90 words per minute,” and I continued to say that every time she read around 90 words.
In fact, I would even say, “Stop reading 140 words correct per minute,” if she reaches that 140 word mark because after all 140 words correct per minute is not her goal.
That’s all I did.
Would my student reach her goal? Maybe, eventually down the road (or more likely if she got a better teacher haha).
But, I would imagine it would take a long time to reach her goal, if she ever did. And I would also venture to say that she would probably be pretty discouraged and unmotivated to want to continue.
Now, let’s use a similar example when it comes to parenting.
Currently, we have a child who hits and ultimately our goal is for our child to stop hitting.
Parent: “STOP HITTING!”
Parent: “I TOLD YOU TO STOP HITTING!” Punishes (takes away a toy or puts child in time-out).
Parent: Frustrated 🤦
Lauren Barrett is a multi-passionate mom working to help all parents become their best selves and build positive relationships with their kids through mindful parenting. She has a degree in deaf education and a Master’s in Reading Education. She is a high school teacher of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, a writer/author by her son's nap times, and a full time mom to an amazing preschooler. Lauren is a 3x author of the Add One-A-Day 30 Day Challenge, children's book, Henry's Hiccups, and parenting guide Now What? Mindful Checklists for Life's Hard Parenting Moments, a blogger at Lauren Barrett Writes, and has been published on sites like A Fine Parent, Pregnant Chicken, Pop Sugar, Her View From Home, and Scary Mommy. She loves her faith, running, visiting MLB stadiums with her husband, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending she would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, and helping out all moms. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, James, and son, Henry. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenbarrettwrites, and get her free guide on what to do during the middle of a tantrum.
âImagine thisâ¦.youâre walking the aisles of Target, and your daughter sees a toy she wants. She whines for it. You say, âNo.â She whines louder and louder and louder.
Or you just served a gourmet meal that you cooked for hours. Ten seconds into sitting down, your son proclaims that he isnât eating it. He shoves his food away and demands for something else. He starts to cry.
Whew! The screams and cries pierce your ears. You get hot. Youâre very triggered.
Now â go. How do you handle this?
When your child is having a hard time â in public, melting down, not eating, fighting with a sibling- do you sometimes have a hard time knowing what to do? ðââï¸
So you resort to
to make it stop?
Even though you know those things donât have long term results?
But they sometimes have immediate benefits and thatâs all that matters to you right now because you feel helpless!
âWhen we resort to yelling, punishing, threatening, and bribing, we might temporarily stop the problem, which, to be honest, is quite a relief when we have a child melting down or causing a scene.
It takes us out of the situation.
But hereâs the problem, those solutions are only temporary and donât ever actually teach your child a skill to replace the unwanted behavior.
So because your children havenât learned ways on how to handle frustration, rejection, and disappointment, theyâll turn to what works â yelling, whining, screaming for long periods of time until you give in.
The cycle repeats itself.
Okay, but Iâve been learning positive strategies that have long term benefits, but they are so hard to remember to do in the actual moment!
If this is you, I get it. There are tons of strategies out there on Instagram, TikTok, blogs, and parenting groups.
But if you were like me, all of these strategies can be quite overwhelming and hard to know when I was actually supposed to use them.
Let alone when a child was screaming in my face.
So I created the CHECKLIST FRAMEWORK.
I gathered inspiration from high pressure jobs like airline pilots.
Pilots follow a series of routine checklists in order to ensure the maximum safety of their passengers.
Iâve rarely seen a pilot who isnât calm and confident even when they are faced with some difficulties.
Why? Because everything is right there written down for them outlining what they need to do, and they have practiced it many times.
Letâs step back and imagine if, when faced with a challenge, your pilot started to freak out when you started to freak out, and instead of coming over the loudspeaker to ensure everyone that everything was going to be OK, they started yelling at you to be quiet and threatening you if you didnât.
Chaos would ensue, and I guarantee things wouldnât get better.
The same is true with our kids. They need calm, confident leaders who have control over the hard situations they throw at us.
Thatâs how the Checklist Framework comes into play.
1ï¸â£ Choose from a list of strategies that work for you and your family.
2ï¸â£ Write them down on your checklist.
3ï¸â£ The next time youâre having a hard parenting moment, refer to your checklists that you have stored around your house or in your diaper bag and car.
4ï¸â£ Be the calm and confident leader that your child is more likely to respond to.
Just like how you feel calmer when your pilot or doctor knows what theyâre doing, the same is true for your kids.
I even created a parenting guide, Now What?, to help you get started on your Checklist Framework. Choose from 70+ strategies that are all in one place to add to your checklists.
When life gives you a hard moment, simply run down your checklist until something works for either a.) You to feel calmer and less triggered or b.) Your child to feel calmer and less triggered.
âYou are ready to have strategies in your toolkit that you can access anytime when you are struggling to think of what to do next when you have a hard parenting moment:
*Module 1: My Child Wonât Listen (Greenlight Behavior). Now What?
*Module 2: My Child Is Whining (Yellow Light Behavior). Now What?
*Module 3: My Child is Hitting, Kicking, Biting, Throwing (Redlight Behavior). Now What?
*Module 4: My Child Wonât Go to Bed. Now What?
*Module 5: My Child is in the Middle of a Tantrum. Now What?
*Module 6: My Child Wonât Eat. Now What?
*Module 7: My Child is Scared/Anxious. Now What?
*Module 8: My Child Prefers One Parent. Now What?
*Module 9: My Child Gives Up Easily. Now What?
*Module 10: My Child Wonât Play Independently. Now What?
*Bonus Module: Some Thoughts on Screen Time
Click here to learn more. â
Lauren Barrett is a multi-passionate mom working to help all parents become their best selves and build positive relationships with their kids through mindful parenting. She has a degree in deaf education and a Masterâs in Reading Education. She is a high school teacher of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, a writer/author by her son's nap times, and a full time mom to an amazing toddler. Lauren is a 3x author of the Add One-A-Day 30 Day Challenge, children's book, Henry's Hiccups, and parenting guide Now What? Mindful Checklists for Life's Hard Parenting Moments, a blogger at Lauren Barrett Writes, and has been published on sites like A Fine Parent, Pregnant Chicken, Pop Sugar, Her View From Home, and Scary Mommy. She loves her faith, running, visiting MLB stadiums with her husband, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending she would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, and helping out all moms. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, James, and son, Henry. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenbarrettwrites, and get her free guide on what to do during the middle of a tantrum.
“We got to prepare kids for the real world.”
“Kids today have no respect.”
“You’re going to let them walk all over? I feared my parents.”
If you are a parent and have decided to adopt gentle parenting, you might have heard one of those sentiments from a family member or even a spouse.
If you have, I’m sorry. That’s frustrating. But you’re certainly not alone, and I’m here to help.
- Explain What Actually is Gentle Parenting and What It Is Not
- Explain Why Gentle Parenting Is Beneficial
- Address That Information is Constantly Changing
- Reflect on Whether We Actually Are Fine
- Gentle Parent the Parents
1. Explain What Actually Is Gentle Parenting and What It Is Not?
It is NOT permissive parenting, which is defined by its lack of discipline, enforcement of rules, and boundaries. These parents take on the role of friend, rather than parent.
It is likewise NOT authoritarian parenting which focuses on obedience and punishment over discipline. The emphasis is on making kids feel sorry for their mistakes instead of teaching them how to make better choices the next time the problem arises.
It is also NOT
And it certainly IS NOT uninvolved parenting where parents pay little attention to their kids and offer them little guidance. Kids are almost expected to raise themselves.
While a parent can definitely fall into more than one category, it is important to explain what gentle parenting is and even more important to explain what is not when getting your family on board with your gentle parenting approach.
Sometimes, family members might scoff at the approach of gentle parenting because they are confused about what gentle parenting actually is. They, in fact, might be confusing it for permissive parenting.
Therefore, the first step is sitting all parties down and going over the definition and key terms of what gentle parenting is and is not, so everyone has a clear idea of what to expect.
2. Explain Why Gentle Parenting is Beneficial
As parents, our goal should be to raise kids to be good adults. Childhood is the time to give them the skills to become good adults. It's the time to teach.
I have unfortunately heard adults who have criticized some of the approaches of gentle parenting say things like “No one is going to coddle you in the real world,” or something along those lines.
While that may be true, I’d argue that no one is also going to feed, dress, and drive your child to work in the real world, and no one is going to read for them and write their emails for them. Yet, it would be absurd to expect our children to do any of those things themselves and then punish them when they couldn’t. When they are developmentally ready and we’ve taught them the steps to achieve these life skills themselves is when we can start to hand some control over to them.
The same is true with communicating big feelings and emotions. Temper tantrums are 100% a normal part of a child’s development and the only way they will learn how to handle them is if we TEACH them how to handle them and not PUNISH them. Here is an article of the stages of emotional development.
That’s where gentle parenting comes into play. The whole concept of it is to teach kids appropriate behaviors in place of inappropriate behaviors while still validating their kids feelings but ultimately showing that they are the confident and calm leader their child needs.
The benefits of gentle parenting are immense.
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved parent-child bond
- Positive social skills
- Gives children a voice which helps them be heard when they get older and speak up when necessary.
- Grow up to be good self-advocates.
- Teaches them how to be resilient and take risks.
- Teaches them how to handle failure and disappointment.
- Increases their self-esteem, confidence, and trust in their decision making.
- Focuses on preventing behavior before it starts (Greenlight behavior).
- Upfront work for long term benefits.
On the other hand, authoritarian parenting can have some lifelong negative consequences.
- Self-esteem issues because their opinions aren’t valued
- Hostile and aggressive behaviors
- Can grow up to be good liars in order to avoid punishment.
- May see immediate results based on fear, but the same behaviors will continue to arise frequently and intensely as the children are never taught appropriate behaviors to replace the ones their parents don’t want.
- Can start equating love and fear to be synonymous. Do you really want your son or daughter to marry someone they fear?
The next step to getting all family members to accept gentle parenting is to explain the benefits of gentle parenting while lovingly explaining some of the downfalls to other styles of parenting.
3. Address That Information is Constantly Changing
Babies used to not sit in car seats.
Parents were told to put their babies to sleep on their stomachs.
Kids would often quit school before high school to help out the family.
As our society advanced and we learned new things, parenting practices changed as well. That has just been the way of the world.
Parents did the best they could with the resources they had. But with new research, we adjust and adapt in hopes that we continue to leave the next generation better than the previous one.
I’m sure when I get older and become a grandparent, there will be even new research about parenting out there.
“When you are finished changing, you are finished.” - Ben Franklin
There is a lot of parenting information on the internet. At times, it can be overwhelming.
Here are a few things I remember when I see new information:
4. Reflect on Whether We Actually Are Fine
It sounds funny.
But so many people were never taught how to deal with frustrations, rejections, and conflict that these people grew up to have their tantrums manifest in different ways.
Just go to Twitter or the comment section or even turn on the news. These people are throwing adult tantrums in a very unhealthy way! My 3 year old son can handle his frustrations better than some of these men and women.
You might want to skip this step if you think your recipient will become combative (which is exactly my point), but otherwise it wouldn’t hurt to just reflect with others what turning out fine actually means.
And I don’t know about you, but I want my son to turn out more than just fine. I want him to be the best version of himself. I want him to thrive and live up to his true potential.
5. Gentle Parent the Parents
Here’s a conversation you might have…
“You’ve always taught me to __________, so I’ve been researching gentle parenting and really like the long term benefits of it.”
In this first line, you are complimenting the parents for their style of parenting.
“I’m hoping we can all get on board with it for the benefit of ________ [child’s name].”
Here you are providing a poignant reminder that it’s all about the child whom you all love.
“If we ask you to ________, we are not criticizing you. I know it’s hard to remember everything when you’re used to one way for so long. It’s been hard for me too. We just want us to all be consistent because that’s what is best for [child’s name].”
Again, remind them that we are all in this together and that you are applying the MGI if they make a mistake.
“How would you like us to address any concerns to you?”
Lastly, you are involving them in problem-solving and helping them meet their needs.
Allow them to ask questions and make mistakes as long as they are open to learning and doing better.
Gentle parenting works for all ages. I use it on my son. My teenage students. My husband (or at least I try 😂).
But, I also give myself grace if I sometimes yell or lose my cool.
The thing with gentle parenting is that it allows for mistakes and continued improvement.
Unfortunately, there will be people who simply won’t listen, become defensive, and criticize you still.
If that is the case, I either recommend family therapy, parent coaching, conflict management and conflict resolution, or setting boundaries that limit the time you spend with this person.
Dr. John Delony is my favorite when it comes to walking you through hard stuff.
There will also be times when random people will say something to your child that doesn’t align with your values.
For example, I refuse to call my child shy to his face. But other people have. When they do, I usually say something like, “Ohh, he just likes to observe first before jumping in.” Then, I turn to my son and say, “It’s okay to take your time.”
I’m not making a big deal or lecturing people. My actions do the talking and my son knows that I’ve got his back.
Likewise, if someone tells your child that they are making them sad by not listening or hugging them you can either talk to your child in private and explain that what the adult said was wrong or you can jump in and set the boundary straight, “Oh, we’ve been teaching our children that they don’t have to hug if they don’t want to. I’m sure you understand. You wouldn’t want someone just always hugging you.”
Yes, this might be awkward and tough, but this is what we are literally teaching our kids - to do things that might be awkward and tough.
Then, release any guilt about what the receiver of what you just said might be feeling. It’s on them. Not you. Listen to this if this is hard for you.
If your family members decide to jump on board with gentle parenting, great! Now let’s set them up for success with the right tools.
You can refer them to my blog - Laurenbarrettwrites.com to read my blogs on parenting strategies.
Or they can join my email list where they can get monthly tips for free or weekly tips and a chance to submit questions in my Lauren Barrett Writes Insider’s Scoop Membership for a small fee.
Or you can gift to them my book or course called Now What? Mindful Parenting Checklists for Life’s Hard Moments.
You got this!
Lauren Barrett is a multi-passionate mom working to help all parents become their best selves and build positive relationships with their kids through mindful parenting. She has a degree in deaf education and a Master’s in Reading Education. She is a high school teacher of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, a writer/author by her son's nap times, and a full time mom to an amazing toddler. Lauren is a 3x author of the Add One-A-Day 30 Day Challenge, children's book, Henry's Hiccups, and parenting guide Now What? Mindful Checklists for Life's Hard Parenting Moments, a blogger at Lauren Barrett Writes, and has been published on sites like A Fine Parent, Pregnant Chicken, Pop Sugar, Her View From Home, and Scary Mommy. She loves her faith, running, visiting MLB stadiums with her husband, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending she would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, and helping out all moms. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, James, and son, Henry. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenbarrettwrites, and get her free guide on what to do during the middle of a tantrum.
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