Podcast Episode 4: Being The Gentle Parent You Want To Be When It Doesn't Come Naturally

by The Mum Tribe Podcast

In this week's episode I'm chatting with Tarryn who runs Raising Calm. We're chatting about being a gentle parent when that doesn't come naturally to you. Tarryn shares some great strategies to help with our children's emotional outbursts, as well as some valuable insights into how children's behaviour is reflective of the things they're feeling.


You can follow Tarryn on Instagram - @raisingcalm


Episode Transcript

Jess

Hello, everyone, welcome to episode four of The Mum Tribe Podcast. Today I have the lovely Tarryn Robertson joining me. So Taryn is a child behaviour specialist and she's passionate about helping parents raise kids with kind hearts and calm minds. In this episode, we're going to be chatting about being the gentle parent you want to be when it just doesn't come naturally to you. A huge challenge for me as a mum to an almost two year old, has been wrapping my brain around how to calmly and kindly approach my daughter's big feelings, and emotional outbursts. I'm really looking forward to Tarryn sharing some wisdom that I can implement in our daily lives to make things a little calmer around here.

Jess

So welcome, Taryn, to The Mum Tribe podcast, it's so great to have you here. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be doing what you're doing.

Tarryn

Thank you, it's really great to be here. I'm a mother of three free spirited little boys. They are Taylor, he's eight, Oakley is five. And Arlo has just turned three. And I'm also a child behaviour specialist. And so that journey really began many moons ago when I was a teacher. And during that time, I was really drawn to the kids with the really challenging, difficult behaviours. But I always kind of felt like I was under equipped or didn't quite have the knowledge and expertise that I needed to be able to offer them the support that they really needed. And so educational psychology was always kind of on my radar. But when I had my own boys, and I was staying home with them, it felt like the perfect opportunity then to just jump in and further my studies in that direction. During that time, I started raising calm on Instagram. And that was really just a passion project and a place to share my growing understanding of child behaviour. But within that space, it became really apparent just how many mothers are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges that come along with raising kids and throughout the various ages and stages of their development. And that's really what pulled me towards wanting to grow Raising Calm into a service that could offer one on one support to mothers who, and really target that to their needs and the needs of their families. So that's where I'm at at the moment.

Jess

Awesome. Yeah, I think that's one of the things that as a parent was sort of the most, not the most surprising to me, because I knew that, you know, the toddler years were a thing. But um, yeah, I think, as a mum, I have definitely felt the most challenged by the last sort of year or so, from a year to two years old. You know, I thought the newborn days were hard at the time. But now you've got to deal with actual feelings rather than just that instinctual crying, which is just a totally different thing. What is the one thing you would like parents to know about their children's behaviour or as they may say, misbehaviour.

Tarryn

The one thing that I think probably has the base impact on the way that we can respond to our kids' behaviour from a calm place, rather than a really reactional knee jerked emotionally charged place, is the way that we perceive that behaviour or our understanding of what's going on for them when their behaviour gets really messy or challenging. So for our toddlers, when they are around one and a half or two years old, their limbic system, or the part of the brain that's responsible for emotions really kicks into gear, and that really runs the show until closer to seven. And what that means is that their behaviour is really driven by their emotions. And when their behaviour gets really difficult, that's a direct communication to us of how they feeling. And it's telling us that they're having a hard time with whatever emotion that they're experiencing in that moment.

Tarryn

Sometimes that can be really obvious. And so we know that they've had a big busy day, and they're really worn out and just feeling really overwhelmed and just everything is always hard when you're tired. Or perhaps we've just said no to something that they really wanted. And they're having a hard time dealing with that disappointment of us saying no. Other times it's not so easy to pinpoint, and it takes a little bit of detective work. It might be that little things have happened throughout the day while they were at daycare, and it's kind of built up and it's just all exploding out and just playing out in their behaviour now. But basically what it means is whenever our kids are being really difficult or their behaviour's triggering us or frustrating us or we're losing our patience. That's not them giving us a hard time, on purpose. They're not being naughty or misbehaving. They're not feeling bad, they're not upset with us, or they're trying to give us a hard time even though it really feels like it sometimes in the moment, really what's happening for them is they have got these big, tricky emotions whirling around in their tiny little bodies, and they're not sure what's going on, they aren't sure how to find their way through it. And they're really just not feeling good. They're feeling out of control, and they need our help. And that's really what that behaviour is communicating to us. And when, we can see it from that perspective, it makes it a lot easier for us to respond to them from a really calm, calmly considered place.

Jess

So what are some strategies that you think we can sort of put in place to try and help them regulate sooner to lessen their emotional outbursts throughout the day?

Tarryn

One of the things that sounds really simple on the face of it that can be a little tricky to implement, is giving them lots of choice and control throughout the day. And that's because so often, especially with our two year, two year olds, and three year olds, so many of the decisions that are made throughout the day are made by us. And so they don't have a lot of say, or a lot of control over the things that are happening for them in their little lives. And they really crave that control or that feeling like they've got some say, and so if we can find little ways throughout the day to offer them a choice, that can really help them to feel like they're seen and they listened to and they've, they've got some control over what's happening. And that can be as simple as letting them choose the outfit that they wear that day. Even if it's really not the outfit we would like them to wear, or choosing between a couple of different snack options or which colour plate they might like for dinner, things like that. It can become really difficult when we are on a time schedule, and we're in a hurry, and we need to get everyone out the door. And it's just so much easier for us to do everything and make all the choices. But if we can just find little ways throughout the day, it means that that frustration isn't building up for them throughout the day, and then bursting out into those big, emotional outbursts later on in the day.

Jess

One thing that I was just thinking when you were saying that around, my daughter is, sometimes she doesn't really know what she wants, but I don't, I've started not really worrying about that, you know, like she'll say to me, like, I'll say, What do you want for breakfast? She'll say, I want cereal. So I'll give her cereal. And then two seconds later, it's completely the wrong thing. And no, no, no, I wanted toast. And I used to get really frustrated by that and be like, well now we're wasting a whole bowl of cereal just because you decided that you want toast. And so just being a little bit more patient with her that she doesn't actually really know what she wants, has come a long way for me just being like, okay, it helps me stay calmer as well. I don't feel, you know, upset about the fact that she's not eating the bowl of cereal, which is now basically wasted because it's covered in milk and gonna go soggy.

Tarryn

Yeah, yeah. And it's really just picking our battles. And sometimes those things aren't really a big deal, but they're a big deal to them. And it's a simple little thing that we can do for them to help them have that little bit of control. Even though it can feel very frustrating for us sometimes.

Tarryn

The other thing was giving them lots of opportunities throughout the day to express negative emotions. And so that's kind of going back to what we were saying before about recognising separating the behaviour from the emotion that's driving it, and realising that their emotions don't always have to match ours, or they don't have to feel the way we expect them to in certain situations. And that it's okay for them to be frustrated and sad and mad. And none of those emotions are bad things. And so often when they are experiencing those emotions, it feels uncomfortable for us. And we really want to fix it for them, we just want to make it stop, we want them to feel better. But actually what they need from us in those moments was just to let them express those emotions in a safe space and say, hey, I can see that there's something going on for you here. And I'm going to be a safe space for you to let that out and express it. Because if we don't, they're stuffing those emotions down inside them. And they're ignoring them. And then again, those are building up and bursting out and playing out in their behaviour later on in the day or the next day or a week later.

Tarryn

Also, when we are trying to explain away their emotions and saying things like it's okay, it's not a big deal, you don't need to cry, or if we're getting really frustrated with him and we yelling at them, which we all do. And we all try not to do or if we are ignoring the behaviour when it gets really messy and just sending them off to their room to calm down and to come back when they're feeling better. All of those reactions are communicating to them that when they're feeling a certain kind of a way it makes us feel uncomfortable. That we are not okay with them feeling that way, and that we only give them love and support and kindness when they're showing us positive emotions or when their emotions match how we expect them to feel. And that can be a bit of a worrying message, I guess to be sending to them all the time. On the contrary, if we are responding in a calmly considered way to them, when they're when their behaviours getting kind of messy, and they've got those negative emotions that they need to get out, when we're saying to them, letting them express those emotions, then we're saying it's okay. You can feel however you like, those emotions absolutely valid. They maybe don't feel great, but we can ride, ride it out together, and you'll be okay. And so yeah, it's really important for us to be recognising that when they're feeling those negative emotions and just letting them express them and get them out.

Jess

Yeah I saw a Tik Tok video this morning that actually really spoke to me. And it was a mum basically saying, that moment when you realise that, you know, your child's crying triggers you because you weren't allowed to cry as a child. Yeah, I found that really quite confronting, like, realising the impact of the things that you're doing as a parent now, and how that may impact the way your child parents or the way your child deals with conflict or difficult situations when they're an adult. Like, it's easy to think, you know, just saying, Oh, you're okay. Don't worry about it as a toddler, it's not going to impact them. But if they, if they do kind of think that, you know, crying is not okay, Mum does not like it, when I cry, when they're older, they're probably going to really struggle in you know, their personal relationships, because they're not going to be able to communicate, if crying is something that they want to, you know, that they will feel they want to do. So yeah, if I was quite, quite confronted by that video, and I was in a good way, I was like, Oh, wow, that's a really, really powerful message.

Tarryn

Yeah, and so often it, I mean, it's not, it's not intentional on our part, we're not intending to make them feel that way. And we just don't even realise it, the way that we're responding to them is sending those messages. And even when our kids are really small, even though their communication skills aren't quite as advanced as the older kids, they really, they can really read into the way that we make them feel, and the tone of our voice, the way that we respond when their behaviour gets really messy, sends messages to them. And you're exactly right, the way that we were parented carries over to how we then parent by default, and sometimes it can take lots of work to bring ourselves into a place where we're responding differently to how maybe our parents would have responded to us. And that's very much the foundation of teaching emotional resilience to our kids, is that letting them know that every emotion is okay. And we're going to feel a whole spectrum of emotions throughout the day and throughout our lives. And if they can work through them, there'll be okay on the other side. And lots of teenagers and lots of adults, even now still have a hard time dealing with those tricky emotions. And so the more opportunities we can give our kids to express those, the more they're going to feel okay about them.

Jess

So how would you suggest dealing, if you're, dealing with it, if your toddler hurts you or, you know, hurts their sibling, or if they're acting out in public, when you're trying to give them the opportunity to express those emotions? How do we sort of stop them from either hurting themselves or others or, you know, sort of, in a place those areas where we have a bit of sort of public pressure to have our child behaving? What are some strategies that you can use in those moments?

Tarryn

Yeah, that's a really good question. And it's so so common that when they're having those big, emotional outbursts that they kind of direct their frustrations on their little brothers or on us. And it's really important that in those moments, as well as leading them, get those emotions out that we're still really holding tight to those boundaries about what is and isn't okay. And that can be as simple as scooping them up in a big tight bear hug and saying, I'm not going to let you kick me, or hit your brother, or break things. But you can yell and you can scream, and you can cry, and I'll be right here with you. And so that showing them that that particular behaviour is not okay, and that you're going to take control and stop it. But the emotion behind that behaviour is totally fine. And I'm going to let you express it as you need to. That gets a little bit more difficult when we're out in public. And depending on how we feel about it, it can be really embarrassing. And the way that we feel about it sometimes makes the whole situation worse. And so if we can reflect back to our kids, how they're feeling in that moment, and we can say, hey, I can see that you're really upset because I've said you can't have that Barbie doll. And you really wanted that Barbie doll. And you don't feel good now because it's hard when someone says no to you, or to something that you really want. And it's okay to be upset and when we can acknowledge how they're feeling and we can validate it and say "Hey, it's okay". Sometimes that just removes the need for them to just really blow up and explode and try and express to us the best they can that they're having a hard time because they can relax and say, okay, "Mom gets it, she knows I'm upset, she knows that I'm angry because she didn't let me get the Barbie doll. And she's gonna let me get those emotions out". And that can sometimes help to minimise how explosive it becomes and reduce how long that lasts for. We can't always entirely avoid those situations when we're out in public. But sometimes that can really help.

Tarryn

And for some kids, removing them from a situation where there's lots of people can be quite helpful. And we can't always do that if they're kicking and screaming, and they're really heavy, and we can't carry them. But if we can move them to a more private space, and then work through those emotions, without the added stress of having everyone watch them and lots of people around, that can be really helpful too. My middle son gets very stressed out when he thinks people are watching him, particularly when he's upset about something. And so if we can find a way to kind of sheltered him from all of the people that he thinks are staring and looking at him, it helps him to kind of work through that a little bit quicker.

Jess

Yeah, I mean, I think, unfortunately, you know, people do do sort of stare in that situation sometimes, or, I mean, I've definitely been in scenarios where I've seen like, not to me, luckily. But I've seen, you know, people making comments about another mum when her child was having a hard time and farmers once and I just sort of got really frustrated with the people that were sort of like, "just letting that child do whatever they want". It's like you have no idea what's going on. And I mean, I guess there's a whole other sort of side that, you know, the public don't know, or understand. They don't know anything about, you know, whether that child is neurodivergent in any way, you know, if they're struggling with something or sort of sensory overload that they can't , they literally can't regulate themselves in that moment. And so, yeah, this is just that classic little call to just don't judge other people for what's going on in public.

Tarryn

Yep, absolutely. And the minute that we do judge them, we'll probably find ourselves in a similar situation pretty quickly.

Jess

Oh, yeah, definitely.

Tarryn

The last one was just limiting our use of No. We actually say no to our kids so much more throughout the day than we probably realise that we do. And that can be really frustrating for them, because they naturally want to explore. They, they learn through doing and making a mess, and climbing and jumping and moving their bodies. And so often those things can be quite frustrating to us, because they're making a mess. Or maybe they're in a situation that feels dangerous to us, or they're damaging property through those behaviours. And of course, they're not intentionally trying to do those things they just really want to explore. And they're curious, and they're just little learners finding out about the world and how their bodies work and things like that. And so if we can rephrase the way that we say no to them, then that helps us to redirect that behaviour in a more positive way.

Tarryn

So for example, if they are jumping on the bed, and we're not okay with it, because maybe they might break the bed, they can say to them, "Hey, it looks like you're having a great time jumping. We can't jump on the bed, because it might break. But how about we go outside and jump on the trampoline?" Or how about we pile up a big pillow a big pile of pillows, and we jump off the steps onto the pillows, it's what my boys love to do. And that means they're still getting to throw their bodies around and continue on with their behaviour, but in a more positive way. And yeah, the more that we can find ways of rephrasing that, no, it means that when we really need to use the word no, it's much more powerful. So we can save the word no, for when they're about to run out onto the road, or they're about to do something that's really dangerous and we need them to listen and we need them to stop because otherwise they become a little bit deaf to the word know "No" if we're saying it all of the time.

Jess

Yeah, that's so true, as you were saying that about running into the road my daughter, whenever we pick her up from her daycare, there's sort of a gate and then we normally park right outside the gate, but I have been trying to get her to always stop at the gate because I don't want her to go out because you know, cyclists could come down the road or you know, anything could happen. And you're right that kind of because I do probably say I do say no quite a lot. And so I've tried to say "STOP", which is a word that she hardly ever really hears and so it does she kind of sometimes sometimes she'll look at me like "Okay, I'll stop" other times she's kind of like "mm nah" but usually I can I can catch up with her because there's not that far, I'm not that far behind her but yeah, I think that use of the word no, they just when they hear it all the time they'll just be like the situation is probably the same as that time mom said I couldn't have you know, a strawberry or something like that. It's not like a life threatening situation and so saving those words. I think that one thing I found really helpful as well as the tone of voice in which I deliver my message like if it's a no for something that's not that big of a deal, like, you know, like no, you can't have that lolly before bed. I'll say that in quite a like sort of calm voice but like if I really need her to listen because she's in danger then I do raise my voice in like a sort of more authoritative sound, I guess. And that seems to work because she's like, oh mum actually needs me to listen to her right now. It's not just, she's not just saying no for no reason.

Tarryn

Yeah, right. Yeah. And I think they they actually become more in tune to our tone of voice rather than the words that we're saying sometimes especially the younger ones, too. So yeah, you're very right about that.

Jess

Sometimes it is funny though, if you say, I think, I can't remember what happened. Oh we were camping recently. And we had a hot we had a fire like a fire pit going and it was a big metal drum. And I actually ended up scaring Isla, my daughter because she went way too close to it and I went "Isla No!" and like, pulled her away from it because I was so scared she was gonna burn and then she was upset because I scared her. But I was kind of like, I when I look at the situation, I'd rather she was a bit scared of my voice than having been burnt. So yeah, I think being able to reserve your, my mom's a teacher and she's always called it her 'teddy bear voice', you know saving that teddy bear voice for those situations where it's really needed, really helps for them to actually understand that, you know, like, you really need to listen now like this is a safety thing.

Tarryn

Yeah, definitely. And when they're hearing that no, constantly throughout the day. That's so frustrating for them, because it just feels like they can't do any of the things that they want to do. And so when we can just redirect it in a positive way, it saves all of that frustration from building out up and exploding out later on.

Jess

Yeah, definitely. Well finally, if you want to tell us a little bit about your business, and how parents can get in touch with you if they need some help with their spirited toddler.

Tarryn

Sure, so I'm currently in the process of developing raising calm into a business that provides one on one consultations via zoom for parents who are having challenges in any area of their parenting. And it means that I can really target the support to their particular needs. At the moment, if you are looking for some support, you can get in touch via my Instagram page. Hopefully very soon, we'll have the website up and running and that will have all the information and you'll be able to contact me there.

Jess

Well thank you so much for coming along today. Taryn, it was really great to have you and I'm sure we'll have you on a future episode as well.

Tarryn

Thank you. It's been lots of fun.

Jess

Well I hope you all enjoyed this week's episode and you've got some new tools in your toolkit for dealing with your child or children's big feelings. Next week, I'm going to be chatting to Jess at nourish and bloom about beating mealtime battles and getting some great advice from her. Don't forget to subscribe to the mum tribe podcast and follow us on Instagram. See you next week