February 20, 2024

Salimah Part 1 of 4: When Your Kid Destroys Their Room

This week we meet Salimah, single mother of three wonderful children, 13-year-old Alani, 7-year-old Rene, and 5-year-old Terrel.

Parenting isn’t one-size-fits-all, and Leslie’s sessions with Salimah are a perfect example of that. The first of this four-part series focuses on middle child Rene. Salimah needs help figuring out why is Rene destroying her room, and how to handle those big emotions.

Credits: Is My Child a Monster is produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Theme music is by L-Ray Music. Public relations is handled by Tink Media. Graphics and Website Design by Brien O’Reilly. by Eric Rubury. A special thanks to everyone who contributes their wisdom and support to make this possible.


Leslie-ism:Keep in mind: your words have power and you can choose what to say.


  • 6:58 The three states of mind- emotion mind, reasonable mind, wise mind
  • 8:05 The ring of fire as a metaphor when your child is emotionally dysregulated
  • 12:50 Explaining the difference between a trigger vs prompting event
  • Can you identify the five prompting events that set you off to emotion mind
  • 15:50 Power of pause – the gift of the pause
  • 16:55 Re-considering the use of time-out as a form of punishment
  • 20:40 Create a toolbox of alternatives of how to react when your child has the big emotions; how can you connect and at the same time to give her space
  • Redirect them to do another activity such as go outside
  • Problem-solving or engaging in conflict resolution with the other person
  • Validate and stop talking. Sometimes talking less is more effective.
  • 23:12 Narrate what you are doing and what you are thinking, as both a model and a strategy in difficult times
  • 25:49 Change your language away from “I’m in combat with my children,” which implies that they are your enemy
  • 27:44 Having children put a mirror to us, and show us the ways we need to grow.
  • 33:00 Rules of the game – share with your children what you are thinking and doing


[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

0:03  Salimah:  I refer to Rene as my mirror. She forces me to see everything that I’ve worked so hard to suppress. So I’m like, “Girl, I did so much for people to not see this, and you put it out there for the world. What are you doing?”

0:22  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  Welcome to, Is My Child A Monster?, a parenting therapy podcast where you get to listen in as real parents and caregivers share their trials and tribulations in therapy sessions recorded live. I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury. I’m a parent and a therapist with 38 years of experience helping families navigate this question. And no, your child is not a monster. 

This week is the first of four sessions with Salimah, a single mom with three children: thirteen-year-old Alani, seven-year-old Rene, and five-year-old Terrel. As you’ll hear throughout these sessions, each of Salimah’s children presents different challenges. Parenting is not one size fits all. Each child needs our attention and skills tailored to their specific struggles. Today’s session, we’re focusing on how challenging it can be to regulate your own emotions as a parent when your child is acting out, and how this creates a behavior feedback loop between parent and child. It’s basically a chicken and the egg question: Which came first, your behavior, or your child’s? And this is a dynamic that plays out between Salimah and her seven-year-old Rene. Salimah is a special education teacher. And it’s stunning to hear her aha moments in this session. 

Okay, now as a reminder, all the names and identifying information have been changed. This show is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for therapeutic intervention. So let’s begin. 

Leslie:  Hi, Salimah, how are you today?

2:12  Salimah:  I’m good. How are you?

2:14  Leslie:  I’m good. So, do you want to get started and just tell me where you are and what you want to talk about, what you’re here for?

2:21  Salimah:  I decided to have this conversation with you because I definitely have three children and they all have different temperaments. It can be very challenging, trying to combat all three of them, because it’s a three-against-one situation. So I just want to make sure that I’m doing everything that I can as a mom to help myself grow, as well as my kids.

2:40  Leslie:  Okay. And I so appreciate that. In our short conversation that we had, I could feel that desire to grow, to heal. It was really apparent. So why don’t you describe the family dynamics.

2:55  Salimah:  So currently, it’s me and my three children. It’s my oldest—her name is Alani, she is 13 years old. We have my middle daughter, she is seven, her name is Rene. And then I have my youngest, which is my one and only son, and his name is Terrel. He is five years old, and he is just a ball of energy. 

3:16  Leslie:  So, in terms of what’s going on with you right now, what motivated you to reach out? Would you describe that?

3:26  Salimah:  So basically, there was a change in my relationship; and so I noticed that my kids were affected by it. And so it was just give-and-take—my reactions bounced off of them, their reactions bounced off of me. I just wanted to make sure that they weren’t negatively impacted, and I could do everything I could to make sure that they could get through it on a healthy note.

3:49  Leslie:  Okay. So, getting through a change on a healthy note is a really good focus. And we sort of want to understand who they are as kids, because that’s going to relate to how they get through whatever changes you’re going through. What were some of the changes, and then if you could describe, because we need the assessment piece. First, we need to understand who your children are. So let’s focus today on Rene. You mentioned that you want to start with her, but I’m happy to go anywhere.

4:22  Salimah:  So, Rene has very big emotions. And when you tell her “no” or things don’t go her way, she explodes. What recently happened was, we were supposed to go out and she got into an argument with her brother. So I sent her upstairs. And that kind of set her off. And she started to destroy her room. So after she destroyed her room, I went upstairs, and I told her, “Now that you’ve done this, we really can’t go because you’re going to have to clean this room. You can’t go and have fun when you make these decisions.” 

And she went off—she threw her dresser across the room, all her clothes fell out, she threw her toys. And it was very triggering for me. And I matched her energy, and I got angry, and I started to grab up her toys, and I was getting ready to bag them all up and throw them in the garbage. And I had to stop and assess what was happening. And in that moment, I realized, I didn’t know how to handle the situation, like anything that naturally came to mind was going to make it worse.

5:30  Leslie:  Oh, my goodness, you just described so much. I guess I just want to ask, what clicked for you when you realized, “I’m not helping here,” do you know? Because we want to repeat it.

5:43  Salimah:  No, honestly, I had to phone a friend, I had to call my oldest sister for help. Because I was very triggered, and I was angry and I couldn’t find a way out of the anger. So I called someone who wasn’t in the situation, who was able to really look at it. And she called me out on it. And she was like, “You know, you’re making it worse. You need to stop, you need to take pause. And I was like, You’re right. And once I took pause, I was able to really think. Like, it was a little bit of clarity. 

6:11  Leslie:  Oh, my goodness, that’s beautiful. I mean, I’m so glad—you call-a-friend kind of thing, that you stopped in that moment. That’s like stopping a ball out of control going downhill, you’re going to stop all that momentum of energy and anger and being triggered, like you said. You’re stopping that, you stepped away, you made a phone call. And you stepped into your wise mind, because you borrowed somebody else’s thinking in that moment. 

So what I want to explain to you—and you can learn yourself and your daughter can learn from you, you’ll learn together and actually if the whole family can learn this—is that very basic skill that we teach in Dialectic Behavior Therapy. It’s a beautiful skill called recognizing our three states of mind. The three states of mind are emotion mind, reasonable mind—that’s our thinking brain—and wise mind is when we try to do what’s effective for our long term goals. It’s that smart, intuitive place that says, “I need to calm myself down before I can deal with my daughter,” that moment you stepped into your wise mind, when you stepped away to call your sister. 

Now, some people might think that was a moment of weakness, “I was letting my child win.” I want to say no, that was a moment of brilliance. And the ability to step away—that takes an enormous amount of energy and power and wisdom. And so that’s our wise mind, stepping away. And then you borrowed her wise mind to help you see: bring in the logic mind. So, emotion mind is a very hot, intense out-of-control feeling. You know that feeling. You described it in Rene and you described yourself as soon as you stepped into her room. It’s been referred to as like a ring of fire. So, a ring of fire is: She’s on fire, and your emotion mind—which is illogical, not logical—let you step in and go in there with that fire and step right in there with her. Not a good idea.

8:20  Salimah:  That’s actually a really good visual. Yep, I can literally see that. Like, I can literally see a ring of fire—her sitting in the middle of it, me trying to help her. But stepping into it, instead of trying to put the ring out. That definitely makes sense. 

8:33  Leslie:  And so trying to help her put it out, it’s…We’re not going to focus on why she’s upset. We’re going to focus on: the emotions are out of control, the emotions are on fire. So this is very important to remember, that we first need to focus on the emotions. And then later, we can eventually get to problem solving.

8:58  Salimah:  That makes sense. 

9:02  Leslie:  Okay, now, we’ve got our own emotion mind. So, this is something you can learn, she can learn, all of our children can learn. It’s great language, emotional intelligence language is a skill we can teach everyone. I love to start by saying, “I’m in emotion mind, I’m going to step away and I’ll be back when I’m in wise mind

9:22  Salimah:  So when I hear that, it makes sense. But for me, when I do things like that, I think I focus on how I feel. So, if I say that and I don’t get the response I feel that I should get, it kind of triggers me more. “I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to hear you and you’re still over there not paying me any mind.You’re not acknowledging that I’m trying.”

9:48  Leslie:  Okay, you deserve to be acknowledged. You deserve to be heard and to be seen. We all, as humans, have that as our sort of basic primary need. We deserve to be seen and heard. And as adults, whose job is it to make sure we’re being seen and heard?

Salimah:  Our own.

Leslie:  As children, whose job is it to make sure we’re being seen and heard? 

10:15  Salimah:  That was a little trickier. 

Leslie:  Okay. Give it a try. 

Salimah:  I mean, it is our job to make sure that they feel that way, and they know what it feels like.

10:23  Leslie:  Thank you. Where’s the “but”? I hear it in your voice.

10:27  Salimah:  I try not to do the “but.” The “but” kind of invalidates it.

10:31  Leslie:  Of course. I set you up totally for the “but.” [Laughter] And in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we get rid of that “but”, and we talk about “and.” So, somehow you already know about that, which is a beautiful thing. You were just talking about your trying to share your feelings. And that if you use that language that I suggested, like emotion mind and wise mind, it didn’t quite feel like it would work for you. Do you want to tell me, again, why that might not work for you.

10:59  Salimah:  When I do things like that, it kind of feels like I’m like I’m putting on a show. And so I’m looking for a reaction versus actually trying to make the situation better. So if she didn’t respond the way that I felt that she should, it wouldn’t be genuine.

11:17  Leslie:  Okay. So as we said, we were talking about expectations and having our children make sure that we get seen and heard. We expect or want or pray or wish; we have this wishful thinking that our children will acknowledge what we’re saying. You had a lifeline with your sister, the idea that you deserve to be seen and heard, can you get that met in some other way other than expecting your children to meet that need for you? That’s a big ask, I realize that. But it will smooth out the process so that they can grow and learn that you’re willing to see and understand who they are. And in turn, they will develop that ability to do with others. It’s a different timeline. Does that make sense? 

12:12  Salimah:  Yeah, that makes sense. I think that’s one of those things that you just have to practice, and be mindful of.

12:17  Leslie:  Beautiful. And you know what? You’re going to know when you’re expecting them to make sure they hear you and understand you. Because you’re going to get triggered, you’re going to have that emotional reaction. And if that emotion mind, even if you say it to yourself, “Why am I in emotion mind? Because I expected my daughter to acknowledge me.”

12:37  Salimah:  That might smooth things. Yeah, that could work. I see that right. 

12:40  Leslie:  And you say it to yourself, you say it out loud, you put it on a piece of paper. So you remember: what are my five…I’m calling them triggers. In DBT, we call it prompting events. What are the things that set off my emotions? It’s just different language. If we actually use a trigger analogy on a gun or something like that, you can’t stop that from going. And in DBT—in dialectical behavior therapy—a prompting event is an event that occurs that sets in motion the emotion to show up. But there are things we can do, after the prompting event, to stop that emotion from getting out of control. 

Salimah:  That makes sense.

Leslie:  So we don’t call it a trigger, because there’s things we can do. We actually have choices. 

13:29  Salimah:  Whoa…So when you change the verb, it changes the whole thing altogether. Because when you use the term, trigger, you definitely can’t stop that. 

Leslie:  Right. 

Salimah:  Okay, so we’re going to switch that, mentally.

13:43   Leslie:  So this idea that you have a prompting event—something happens, it can be a thought in your head, it can be behavior, it can be anything, it could be a door slamming—those are prompting events. And then it sets off a chain of other events. They can be thoughts, they can be other behaviors, they can be internal sensations. What if your heart starts pounding? That’s going to tell your brain: fight this situation. So we’re going to use the word, mindful, we’re going to become mindful of the chain of events that happens between our prompting event and the emotion or the reaction, either one. 

14:25  Salimah:  Okay. So that also means the expectation of time has to change. Like, it doesn’t have to be an immediate reaction—you have to take pause once again. And think about what your response to the prompt is going to be.

14:39  Leslie:  So let’s talk about that pause. In raising your children, have there ever been situations where you can’t afford a pause, like an emergency, a literal, literal life-and-death emergency? Have you had that experience, where maybe a pause is not warranted? 

14:59  Salimah:  Yes. With the small one.

15:03  Leslie:  Okay. So that’s fair. And in those situations, we’re going to say that you need to take immediate action. And in many other situations, there’s room for a pause. 

Salimah:  I can agree to that.

Leslie:  I will save it. I’m going to put a pin in this and come back to it. I’m not going to challenge you, but we’re going to assess whether that’s true and is the fact about those other situations with your youngest. So, right now, you’re saying that a pause is possible. Your daughter’s throwing things around her room—that sounds awful. It sounds…she’s out of control. I can’t imagine that feels good to her. Can’t imagine it feels good to you, or to the other kids in the house, if they’re even around at that moment, which maybe they are. So it’s not a good situation anywhere. And what will that pause buy you? Let’s call it the gift of that pause.

16:01  Salimah:  We could say sight, we can say realization, we could say compassion. It gives me a chance to look at it from her perspective. Instead of just looking at it as the mom who has to stop this from happening, switch my view to…for her, her world is really falling apart. And she’s in a spiral. And she does not know how to stop it. She doesn’t know how to stop it. And she needs help. And if someone needed help outside in the street, you would stop what you were doing. And you would help. Yes. So that is what the response needs to be instead of matching anger.

16:38  Leslie:  So, we talked about your emotion mind. Can I back up now to a little bit of how you described what happened with her. So something was going on, she got upset, you asked her to go to her room.

Salimah:  Yes.

Leslie:  Oftentimes—and there’s been a generation of parenting advice that said, put your child in timeout, if their emotions are out of control. Would you explain what you were thinking, in terms of putting her upstairs: let’s hear about that.

17:12  Salimah:  It is a standard practice for a lot of parents to do timeout. Because of the field that I work in, we have abolished timeout, and it is not a thing. So I was trying to give her a break. I was trying to give her a moment to process and really calm down without the interruptions of everyone else; without her siblings taunting her, or doing things, and it just escalating. I was trying to separate her away from the chaos.

17:39  Leslie:  Okay. So in your field, you said you’ve gotten rid of timeout, which is, I think, excellent, because we do see that it doesn’t accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish. I’m going to add a perspective that you may already have or may not, which is when we ask a child to remove themselves from the chaos, which makes sense logically, there’s another layer to it, which is we are asking them to get more disconnected from their human connections. That it’s in connection that we can feel regulated. We actually regulate our nervous system when we are feeling safe with other people. When we ask a child to, “Take some time for yourself, take some space, it’s chaotic here. Go ahead,” there’s another layer of disconnect. That may have been more than she could handle. Her reaction was…started throwing things and the emotion mind just…the fire got bigger. We fueled the fire, to go back to that metaphor. Could it be possible?

Salimah:  I could see that.

Leslie:  Yeah. Could it be possible that that’s an interpretation that might be going on for her?

18:49:  Salimah:  Yeah. Being even more frustrated. You can’t do what you want to do. You don’t have anyone to talk to. You’re literally hitting a wall. And you’re now trying to get out. Yeah. Yeah…kind of feel bad now. 

19:05  Leslie:  No, no, no. So we can feel bad when we hear alternatives, or we can celebrate an opportunity to do something different. You’re parenting three children on your own. I want to give you a hug and a high-five and say: hang in there. That is the hardest job and you’re doing great. And I hear it. I hear your awareness and your efforts. So we’re not going to judgment—no fault, no judgment. Can we do that? Can I do that? You might judge yourself. But I would like you to hear, loud and clear: no judgment here.

19:38  Salimah:  I appreciate it. It helps. Thank you.

19:40   Leslie:  Okay. Almost brings me to tears, because it’s so hard when there’s an easygoing child and they do what you say. It’s easy, just like that’s what it says. But when you have a child that has these big emotional reactions, a lot of us are not ready for that. And as you said, we have our own emotional reactions to those big ones on their part, right? 

Salimah:  Yes.

[Music: Flowerpot by Olexy] FlowerpotOlexy

Leslie:  Okay, so now you have a new idea. But we’ve got to actually explore that. So what’s going to happen? She’s saying “No,” she doesn’t want to do something, she’s now a bit out of control, with her emotion mind taking over. Instead of creating more disconnect, do you have any ideas? Let’s come up with three or five ideas that might create connection and give her the space you originally wanted to give her. What can we do?

20:47  Salimah:  The first thing that comes to mind is maybe not having the longest of a pause, but having that quick pause to go, “Okay, I want her to be separated from the chaos,” but instead of having her actually leave the room, redirecting the entire situation. So what had really started it was, she was fighting with her brother about an acorn that got broken. And so I definitely could have had them get dressed and went outside to find more acorns—that would have been fun. That would have got them out, separated. I would have felt less stimulated. And I think we could have moved forward from there.

21:26  Leslie:  Brilliant. Love it: redirect. Children do it, adults do it, it really helps. That’s why we’ve got people scrolling all day long, because they’re redirecting their emotions, right? But that’s a beautiful one. Can I push you to try a second idea? Because sometimes we need a toolkit. 

21:43  Salimah:  So, in that situation, she was very upset, I could have matched that not 100% to be as upset as she was. But, you know, to validate the fact that she was upset—and something really did happen. And so just talk her through it. Like, “Okay, I know that you’re upset, and I’m so sorry that it got broken. I think maybe Terrell’s sorry, too. Let’s ask him how he feels about it.” Because I do know, in the moment, he got real quiet. And he felt bad. But he didn’t say anything. Like, he didn’t know…he didn’t feel comfortable. So I could encourage a conversation between the two of them. 

22:20  Leslie:  Beautiful. I will add one caution that if she’s really already in emotion mind, sometimes that will flip the switch back into her wise mind. And she hears “Oh, Terrell is going to apologize to me. Terrell feels badly.” That might be the switch that flips her. Or it could send her off further. So I can’t tell you a prescription of, do-this-not-this. I can only say: try it. 

And if it escalates the problem, I look at myself as “Okay, that didn’t work.” And I might even say that out loud. I might say to her, “Hey, that didn’t work. Let me try another approach.” Absolutely. the validation is a second idea that is fabulous. Bringing him into it, putting the focus on him—that’s a third idea. Fabulous. Okay, I love your ideas. Any others? 

23:12  Salimah:  Actually, you just made me realize something. So, what I’ve noticed is when I’m trying to do something with the kids, I try not to narrate it, because I feel like they’ll know what’s coming. And with the new way I’m doing things as a parent, I should be narrating it, because I’m trying to teach and model them something. So they should see, when I try something that doesn’t work, like I should announce it to them… 

Leslie:  I love it. 

Salimah:  …So that they can process it like, “What do you mean? What do you mean, ‘It didn’t work?’ What are you doing?” It’s like, “No, I’m trying a strategy. It didn’t work. So now I need another one.” So when they get upset, it’s like, okay, we’ll try one of your strategies. If it doesn’t work, try again, you see Mommy do it. So yeah, that does make sense. 

23:53  Leslie:  Oh, I love it, love it, love it. Because, yes, you are modeling that not every strategy is going to work for us all the time. And you’re willing, you have enough core strength and inner strength, to say that didn’t work. You don’t have to be perfect. “That didn’t work. Let me try something different.” 

I’m going to go with, you have that idea of giving her space and redirecting, maybe sending them outside, validating what the issue is. The third one I’m going to go back to is: validate and then put a period. “Wow, that sucks. You are super upset.” And stop. I think parents—and my hand is raised because I know I am a big talker—so I sometimes say too much. And sometimes the less we say the more powerful it is. So if you just said, “Wow. You are devastated, you had ideas for your acorn, you are devastated about your acorn,” and just say that sucks or that’s really hard. Just the validation, no problem solving—just short and sweet, really.

25:02  Salimah:  Okay. I think that’s something that I’ve spoken to other people about. But I don’t think I’ve practiced it myself. [Laughter] Because as you say it, I’m like, “Well, yeah, I could just stop there.” And my brain is like, “No, we don’t want to stop there. We have more to say.” No, if you don’t have to, or maybe say it later, not now.

25:21  Leslie:  Later is a fabulous idea. A lot of the times I say when people are in emotion mind, and we just called it the ring of fire, you’re not going into the house that just burned down, while it’s on fire, to figure out the causes. That comes later.

25:37  Salimah:  These analogies are rock solid. They really resonate with me. But it also highlights that parenting is no joke. Like, we’re talking about houses burning down. [Laughter]

25:49  Leslie:  It’s no joke, it is no joke. You’ve got a lot of people, a lot of emotion. And actually, that gets me back, in the very beginning, when you were describing your situation, you use the word, “combat.” I don’t know if you remember, you said something about having three kids and being in combat. Do you want to be at war with your children? 

Salimah:  No. 

Leslie:  Does it sometimes feel like that? 

Salimah:  It definitely does. 

Leslie:  Okay. Combat sounds awful. And it sounds hard. And I love sometimes changing our perspective, because they’re not your enemies—they probably love you more than anything. So how do we hold onto, they’re not an enemy. Emotions are tricky. Emotions are not even our enemy. So we’re trying to create the cohesion in your family of connection. And it’s often when we don’t feel safe. I can’t imagine feeling safe in combat. 

Salimah:  Yeah, that’s logical. 

Leslie:  So we’re trying to create that safety. And even when our children are out of control, and I was a…I am a highly emotional person myself. So when I am out of control, I want to remind myself that it’s emotion, I am safe. Just that perception that I am safe, helps me create safety of my emotions, so I don’t act on them. Parenting is really hard. And I think changing the perspective of this situation we’re in—are we fighting our children? Are we in combat? 

27:30  Salimah:  That makes sense. But also, I feel trying to handle our own emotions, while trying to raise children—that’s a whole different aspect of it. And I think that, for me, that’s where combat comes from. I refer to Rene as my mirror. So that’s why her high emotions set me off the way they do. Because she forces me to see everything that I’ve worked so hard to suppress. So I’m like, “Girl, I did so much for people to not see this and you put it out there for the world. What are you doing?” But that’s not her baggage. That’s not her baggage. And I have to separate the two. 

28:08  Leslie:  Yes, absolutely. When we step into parenthood, and we have children, we are going to need to grow. If we don’t grow, it doesn’t really go well for our children or for ourselves. And that is an option. You are choosing to grow. You are choosing to allow her behaviors, her emotions, to give you a mirror to see yourself—those are choices. She’s not forcing you to do it. You are actually choosing to be responsible for what you bring to this. And you know what? You’re growing.

28:45  Salimah:  It’s good to know, because I’m working very hard. 

28:49  Leslie:  Yes, you are working very hard. And knowing that you’re growing. I remember as a kid—I don’t know if there’s such a thing as medically, I think there is—that I would feel my legs would hurt and my dad would say those are growing pains. I mean, they were painful. Sometimes I think we have mental health growing pains, emotional growing pains. So maybe when you raise your children, we can change the word from combat to challenging. Maybe it’s a workout. Maybe it’s, “I’m getting in there and I am tending to the garden of all of these people, myself and my children. We’re all in this garden and there’s a lot of tending to this garden.” Any of those words resonate for you? 

29:30  Salimah:  I can see them in my head. We haven’t found the perfect one yet. But now this is something that I’ll be thinking about.

29:38  Leslie:  You can play with that. That’s great. So in terms of today, I think we’ve just talked about the emotion mind. We’ve talked about your reaction, her connection, needing connection,as opposed to sending her away. We came up with some beautiful ideas. I probably have a lot more ideas in terms of when she’s in that place. But I think the three that we’ve named, which is redirect, bringing the focus on Terrell in that moment, and validate her without sending her way. The other one would be a physical hug or hand on her shoulder, “Would you like a hug? Is this a good time for a hug?” Asking her permission, because in some moments, she’s going to probably say, “Get away.” And another moment, she’s going to say yes, and start crying and say, “Mommy, I need a hug.” And that could also change. So I want to add that physical one. Because it’s very important for us to remember that the physical connection could be the thing that puts out that fire. 

30:38  Salimah:  That’s a really good one, because that also gives her back control of the situation—she has the power to say no. 

30:44  Leslie:  Okay, you have so many ideas. And like you said, I heard you say it, you do do this in your work. I agree that what we do in our work is not so easy to do at home. 

Okay, so I know we didn’t solve the problem of what to do when she’s turning her room upside down. But we spent a little time on the what’s-going-on-when-that-happens. Do you have any final questions, before we wrap up, about if she were to go back in the room? And now we’re saying that there’s an alternative, but she’s in a room, she’s throwing things all over the place… 

31:17  Salimah:  So my question actually was, if she were sent to her room, but it wasn’t on the same note of, you know, “Go to your room and take a break.” What if it was, “Alright, go upstairs to your room, give me a minute, I’ll be in there soon.” And then I joined her in her room to help and assist with calming down and finding that regulating point.

31:39  Leslie:  You could say—I love because you just described the connection—that, “If you go to your room to give yourself a little space, I’m going to be there in less than a minute. I’m going to calm myself down, I’m going to be there. And I’m going to come in with a few ideas for what we can do to connect and bring some of that emotion down. So we can talk about the problem, but not now.” So yes, you don’t need to say all that, but that’s what you’re thinking, which is, and you will say to her, “I’m coming up to connect.” 

And I think that’s a beautiful idea for getting her out of the space, which is sometimes a needed thing. And you’re making sure that you’re not sending that message that, “You’re a monster, you need to get away from us.” But rather, “You’ve got…all these emotions are really big. And I’m going to come up because I want to be with you.” So you’re actually respecting her. You’re actually respecting the fact that she’s totally okay with all these emotions, you want to come be with her. Because it’s not combat. It’s not scary. She’s not doing anything wrong. She’s just got a lot of big emotions. And as she grows, she’s going to learn to regulate them. But big emotions are not the problem. It’s: do we have the skills to regulate them? And she doesn’t have those skills yet.

32:57  Salimah:  Yeah, that is what it boils down to.

33:00  Leslie:  Great. And we want to give her the respect. And I love your idea of, “I’ll meet you there. I’m coming up to connect with you.” And I want to reinforce that what you said is, share with them some of the things you’re doing and thinking. Because if you were to play a game, what’s the first thing you do when you open up a new game? What does everyone have to do?

33:19  Salimah:  You’re supposed to read the instructions.

33:23  Leslie:  Right–you’re supposed to figure out the rules of the game. Well, in parenting, let’s name those rules. I mean, they’re not hard, fast rules. But, “Here’s what I’m doing.” Children feel better when they know what’s going on. Don’t you love when the doctor says “Okay, I’m going to take your blood pressure. I’m going to just put this here.” They give you the information of what’s going on. I don’t know who figured that out. But I love going to a doctor who’s telling me what’s going on. Love it. I love when they tell me what’s going on. I think kids love when we tell them what’s going on in our head.

33:54  Salimah:  Okay, that’s a major adjustment because I kind of enjoy throwing things at them, not knowing what’s coming. [Laughter] I’ll work on that, too. 

34:02  Leslie:  Alright. So what I’m going to suggest is take some of these ideas—you’ve got lots of ideas that we came up with together, we explored together—and you go and try some of this stuff. And let’s meet up again in another few weeks. Sound good?

34:17  Salimah:  It definitely does. This is going to be an adventure.

34:19   Leslie:  Well, thank you so much. I love working with you. I want to support the work that you’re doing. 

Salimah:  That’s what’s needed. 

Leslie:  Beautiful. No fault. No I’m not good enough. No I’m bad. No I’m a failure. None of that. Just, “Got a few other ideas. I’m going to see if I like them.” So again, want to give you the respect and permission to say, “Here’s what works. Here’s what doesn’t work.” That’s what we’ll come back and talk about. 

34:48  Salimah:  Okay. That should work out pretty well.

[Music: Dreams in Nature by Olexy]

35:00  Leslie:  Salima is like a sponge. She was eager to learn new skills and strategies. You could almost hear the shift in her whole being in the session when trying something different made sense to her. And sometimes things don’t make sense until you try them; and that’s okay too. This work isn’t prescriptive, it’s dynamic. And the way you engage with the skills is what makes it so exciting. This is like the art of cooking. When you’re a chef, you can follow a recipe. But to make the meal really work, you need to tweak it and make it your own. So I encourage you to try some of the strategies we discussed, and see how you can tweak them for your own family. 

Okay, something else we talked about in this episode is language. And I want to reiterate my point: the language we use affects the way we perceive and understand the situation. Words like combat and battle imply that you’re dealing with the enemy. It implies that you better be ready for a fight and come in with your fighting energy, and it affects the way your child experiences your parenting. Culturally, we use violent language all the time; so it makes sense we’d also use that in our parenting. But we have a chance to change the script. Taking a moment to notice what language you’re using can help you do that. Because how do we create a safe environment for our children if we are in combat? 

I want to thank Salimah for her willingness to explore new strategies, to help her regulate her own emotions, and make her a more effective parent. Join us next week as Selena and I unpack her teenage daughter Alani’s anger and indifference, which is causing Alani real life problems at school and at home. 

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Subscribe to Is My Child A Monster? wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss an episode. And if you like what you hear, tell a friend. You can find a full transcript of this episode and you can subscribe to my newsletter at ismychildamonster.com. The Is My Child A Monster? team is Alletta Cooper, AJ Moultrié, Camila Salazar, and me. Special thanks to Eric Rubury and Mia Warren. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music. I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Thanks so much for listening. And this week, keep in mind: your words have power and you can choose what to say.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai edited by Eric Rubury

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