June 11, 2024

Emma Part 3 out of 3: When your Kid Misbehaves

Today’s episode marks the third and final session with Emma, mother of four in a blended family who like so many parents rely on generational family patterns as well as the parenting strategies of the past. 

But we don’t build cars the same way. We may also need to change the way we raise our children.  Leslie explores Emma’s family patterns from her past, myths about parenting and fears that are so much a part of raising children.  Leslie offers alternative strategies and options to the traditional punishments that parents so often rely on.  Once again Leslie redefines how we understand misbehavior and more specifically how we look at “punishment”. 

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.

Time Stamps

  • 4:40 Myth: Parents have to fix their children’s problems
  • 4:56 Being a calm authority and pillar of support
  • 5:55 Validation has the power to make children feel heard and they stop repeating themselves
  • 12:15 Be responsible for your own panic
  • 12:31 Some people need more time to process (their feelings, instructions, or a situation)
  • 15:35 Take a step, take a beat, and see if the step works. If not, go back
  • 20:20 Leslie’s class: Making the Punishment Fit the Crime
  • 21:39 Class name was intentionally provocative, because punishment doesn’t work
  • 22:58 It is not a crime for your child to misbehave
  • 23:20 Misbehavior is not a crime, it’s a learning experience and a form of communication
  • 29:30 Punishment creates shame (and abandonment) in the child
  • 30:24 An alternative to time out: take space, time in, staying connected
  • 31:20-35:30 Tool box for dealing with misbehavior
    • What does it communicate
    • Let it go
    • Validate, validate, validate
    • Problem solve (finding other options)
    • Conflict resolution steps
    • Observe and describe what’s happening
    • Do Nothing is an option
  • 32:18 Principles of reinforcement
  • 35:30 Let’s not throw away “time out,” let’s transform it into “do you need some space”


  • Miles Davis quote: “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.”  
  • Leslie’s newsletter:  The Art of Healthy Neglect 

Leslie-ism: People including kids are doing the best they can with the skills they have at the current time. 


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


0:05  Emma:  That sense of abandonment, I…definitely it hits home, because I know that I tend to have some abandonment issues, so I don’t want that to repeat in her


0:22  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  We do repeat patterns, whether we want to or not. And so many parents come to therapy because they don’t want to repeat those patterns. The good news is that, with awareness and willingness, those patterns can come to a stop. In today’s episode with Emma, we not only look at things differently, we strategize how to do things differently. 


I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury, and this is 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. This is my third and final session with Emma, mom of four children in a blended family. In the first session, we spent a lot of time exploring the word, manipulation. We worked together to shift Emma’s relationship to that word. And if you haven’t heard that session, I highly recommend giving it a listen. 


In this session, we follow a similar pattern with the word, punishment. Emma and her husband have a full house with seven-year-old Henley, three-year-old twins, Grayson and Claire, and a new baby, Olivia. And misbehavior is par for the course. But when children do misbehave, parents don’t always know what to do. Parents are grasping at straws, and that’s why they end up with punishment such as taking things away or time out. And this brings us full circle, back to the patterns of how we were raised and how we are parenting. 


Okay. Now, as a reminder, all the names and identifying information have been changed. And though I’m a licensed clinical social worker, this show is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for therapeutic intervention. So let’s begin. 


2:24  Leslie:  Hi Emma. How are you today?


2:26  Emma:  Hi, Leslie. It’s great to be here.


2:28  Leslie:  Oh, good. Do you have any feedback from the last session about what you took away? I usually like to ask: what stuck, what did you try, what worked, what didn’t work?


2:40  Emma:  A lot of the conflict resolution we talked about—not placing blame for things—was really helpful. Also, I loved, loved, loved this, like when I don’t see something that happened between the children and one of them comes to me, expecting me to punish the other. I used that thing where I acknowledged their feelings, saying, “Hey, I hear that you’re really upset that Grayson pinched you, and I’m sorry that you feel upset about that. That would be very upsetting to me too. But I didn’t see Grayson do it, so right now, I’m not going to do anything about it.” And that was just such a weight off my shoulders. 


Obviously there were different times, different approaches to that. I would pull both of them in and say, “What happened?” and get both of their stories. But if their stories were conflicting and I wasn’t really sure who was the culprit, it was nice to just be like, “Okay, well, this is not what we do. I’m not going to do anything about it right now, but we are going to move forward and not proceed with this behavior.” And it seemed to work really well. I think they were really receptive of it. 


And I was surprised. [Laughter] I was so surprised that they were okay with me saying, “I’m not going to do anything about it right now,” and I didn’t have any kind of kickback on that. And it was…I don’t know what I was expecting. I think I was expecting this, like, “No, you need to go punish them. And it was just that mom-voice in my head that I think usually does that. So, having that was nice.


4:13  Leslie:  That’s so lovely. And what I might say about why that might work…First of all, I think it’s great that you tried it. You’re excited by it. When you try something new and it surprises you, you’re relearning, which is fantastic. You’re learning a new, new way of being. And I think it goes against maybe this kind of myth that you grew up with that said parents have to fix their children’s problems.


4:39  Emma:  Oh, absolutely, that is huge. Yes.


4:43  Leslie:  So, you’re rethinking that. And the idea is that I want to acknowledge that your children probably felt in those moments your calm authority; rather than your nervous…when you’re nervous about, “What do I have to do? What do I have to do?” You know, that nervous kind of, “I’m in charge and I don’t know what to do;” as opposed to the calm. Calm by itself. I call it a pillar of support. Your children calm down when they feel your pillar of support, meaning you’re strong, you don’t have to waver. They can disagree, but you feel solid in your belief that it’s okay not to solve this problem. And I think they pick up on that. It’s called co-regulation, as well.


5:31  Emma:  And I think it almost kind of left them speechless. I mean, especially Henley, she was the one who’s more the fair-and-unfair. And I used that phrase, both can be true. “You can be upset, and you could want something to happen, and I acknowledge how you feel, but I’m not going to do anything about it right now.” And I think she was just kind of speechless in the sense of like, “Okay, and now I’m okay with that being the step moving forward from Mom, because she’s being honest with me, she’s communicating.” And I’m giving her a little bit of that respect, of still acknowledging what happened, but not completely giving in to her, wanting to authoritate.


6:09  Leslie:  Beautiful. So you’re respecting her. She loves that—I’m going to speak for her [Laughter]—she loves being respected, and she really liked the validation. Here’s my question for you. Remember, in the car, she wouldn’t stop? She kept going on and on and on about the problem with Grayson. When you did this validation, listened to her and even said, “I’m not going to solve the problem,” did she keep coming back at you, or did it quiet down? Was it over?


6:35  Emma:  It was over. It was over. And I was also just super speechless on that, because I was like, “Okay, we’re done. We’ve solved it.” You know?


6:44  Leslie:  Isn’t that amazing? We’ve actually solved it without solving the problem. Because you’re addressing her need to be heard. Her need to be heard is paramount to, you know, “Punish my brother.” Yes, she wants that too. She wants the fairness piece. But that was really important.


Emma:  Right, right.


Leslie:  So that really stuck. You like that stuff, you’re working with that stuff. That’s great, 


7:10  Emma:  And we also had an actual, real life instance about the not-wanting-to-eat-her-food. So what happened was, we gave Henley something that she didn’t want to eat, or we were giving her something new to try. And immediately she shut down, pushed her food away, folded the arms, gave me the pouty look, didn’t say two words. And I was like, “Okay, it’s on.” [Laughter] “It’s on. She’s doing it.” And I had to take a beat, because at first I panicked. I was like, “Oh, she doesn’t like this.” And I immediately wanted to go into ignoring her and just letting her sit there and figure it out. 


And I immediately said, “Henley, I noticed that you are upset about what’s going on right now. You’re not happy with what we just put in front of you. Can you tell me about that?” And she sat there for a minute, and—this is what threw me off—she said, “I don’t want to talk right now.” And I said, “Okay, I’m hearing that you don’t want to talk to me right now about this, and that’s okay. Can you talk to me in a few minutes?” And a few minutes went by, and it was still quiet, and she was still pouting. 


And then I got anxious, and so I said, “Henley, I’m noticing that this isn’t getting you a good result. Have you noticed that right now you’re still upset? I can see that you’re still upset, and you’re still sitting there and not saying anything. Could we maybe talk about this now?” And she still said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And I was like, “Oh, no, no, I’m stuck.” [Laughter]


So I kind of looked at my husband, and he looks at me, and we’re like, “Okay, what do we do?” And so we decided to go with, “Hey, have you ever heard the word, compromise?” Let’s talk about this.” And she said, “Kind of.” And so we explained, a compromise is when both people want something and we each give up something to meet a common ground. And she understood that, actually. And so she said, “Can I have a few minutes in my room? And we said, “Okay, yes, you can go have a few minutes in her room.” So she got up, she went to her room, and she came back with a piece of paper, and she had written down her compromise. 


And her compromise was, “I like the potatoes,” because it had potatoes in it. She said, “I like the potatoes. I will take three bites of the potatoes, but then I would like a sliced apple.” And we were like, “Yes, we can do that.” And she did. She sat there and she ate three pieces of the potato. No complaints. And then we sliced her up an apple, and she finished her breakfast. And it was so crazy, because, one, I was very surprised that she wrote down her feelings and was able to write out a compromise to us, but also to kind of come to that realization that, “Hey, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’m willing to try it, and I’m willing to work with you to get what I want, while you guys get what you want, as well.” And that was kind of a huge moment for me. 


10:17  Leslie:  Wow. So, she’s working with you, she’s engaging, she’s finding out about herself, and she’s stepping up to the plate to move forward in her life, like, “I can solve my own problems.” 


10:33  Emma:  But I had a question for you. So when she said, “I don’t know. Let me think about it.” I’m guessing, to me, that seems like she was processing kind of what to do next, and I wasn’t sure how to acknowledge her process. So I don’t know if I did a good job or if I didn’t do a good job with it. 


10:52  Leslie:  I don’t even think we have to say, “Did you do a good job or not?” I want to get away from good and bad. Do you think it worked?


10:59  Emma:  Yes, I do. 


11:01  Leslie:  I do too. I mean, it worked. She moved through it. And I really want to appreciate that you nailed it when you said that she might need the time to process. She needs the time to process the pouting, the sadness, the disappointment, the I-don’t-know-what-to-do. But you respected that, because everyone’s brains work differently, and yes, absolutely, some people need more time to process. You respected her—I’m going to keep bringing it back to that comment—you are respecting her, and she comes back and she respects you. 


11:40  Emma:  Yeah, it felt good. But I wasn’t sure, because there were a few parts where she said, “I don’t, I don’t want to talk about it.” I was like, “Oh, no. Did I do something wrong? Or did I say something wrong? Or, how do I get her to talk?”


11:54  Leslie:  There you go. I’m going to bring up that sensitive part about your old issues. Are your issues showing up? You panicked. Fine, I can panic too. But then be responsible for your own panic, which you did. You said, “Okay, I’m panicking. I don’t know what to do.” I don’t know if you said to yourself, take a breath. You’ve got all the time you need to process. Because when we’re in emotion mind, you need a breath—maybe more than one breath—to get you over to wise mind. But you did it. You gave yourself a breath, and then you said, sure. 


If you need a moment to process, by the way, you can use that language, because we want her to understand. It’s not a secret that she might need time to process things, because when she’s at work as a young adult, or an adult, she wants to say to her colleague, her boss, who gives her a brand new idea, “Well, that’s a great idea. Give me a moment to process.”


12:48  Emma:  Yeah. I like that. I like using that word to kind of drive home that point that she can allow herself the time to think it through. 


12:57  Leslie:  Right…and you too.


Emma:  [Laughter] Yes, and me too. 


Leslie:  Because if you think you’re doing it wrong…In our society, you’re supposed to be quick. Every teacher says, “Okay, who has the answer?” And everyone raises their hand really fast. Well, what happens to the child in school who’s got slow processing time and they need a moment? I hope that that teacher says, “We’re going to give everyone a chance, for you fast processors and for the people who process slowly, we want to give everybody an opportunity to get to their answer whenever they get there.”


13:30  Emma:  Yes, because we all don’t process fast.


13:33  Leslie:  No, and in our society, we reinforce the fast processors, right? The squeaky wheel gets it, it’s the first person who’s speaking up really fast. And I love when a group facilitator says, “Oh, I noticed that you’re thinking. Would you like to take a moment? We would love to take a moment to hear what you have to say.” Because otherwise, the quiet ones, the slow processors, those people think that they’ve done something wrong: “There’s something wrong with me.” And I wonder if that’s part of what you’re feeling. You might just be feeling, “Am I doing something wrong” because your daughter was quiet. 


Emma:  Yes, yes, that’s it. 


Leslie:  Since when is quiet a problem in life? 


14:17  Emma:  That’s so true. I definitely had that moment where I paused, and I was like, “Oh no, did I say the wrong thing?” Because I wasn’t really prepared for the processing portion of the conversation. And I think that giving her that space to do so really did help her come to her own solution of what to do. And I was very impressed. I was very impressed.


14:43  Leslie:  Beautiful. Just so you know: take that step, and when you see what the reaction is to that step. You can decide, “Oh, you know what, I think I was just rushing you.” So, if you had said, “No, we need to discuss this now,” and she gets more escalated, then: “You know what, Henley? I’m going to take that back. When I asked you to talk about it right now, you got more upset. I’m going to give you a chance. You know yourself. Let me take that back. Let’s go back and give you that moment.” 


So take a step. Watch your feet. Take a step and decide if that step worked for you, or didn’t work for you. What happens is we get in our head and we think of our fears and our worries and our expectations. That’s where we leave the moment—we talked about leaving the room, and you’re not there with her. So take the step. See what happens when you’re with her. Because it was…I know it’s scary to do something different. You did a great job. 


Emma:  Oh. Well, thank you. 


Leslie:  That’s really exciting.


15:44  Emma:  Yeah, I’m excited to add that step in, because I think that will help alleviate it, too. Because sometimes, if my husband is asking her questions, I see it more so from the third person perspective. When he’s talking to her about what happened, or what she’s feeling, I often times do see that pause. And in my own experience, those pauses, they give me anxiety. And so I think because he’s waiting and she’s thinking, it’s almost like this tense moment. So I think now stepping into those moments and saying, “Hey, let’s give Henley a moment to process this.” I think is going to be such a game changer for her. Really, I do.


16:25  Leslie:  Oh, that’s so beautiful. That means she’s going to have the feeling, because I got the shivers right now, as you said that, because I was that child. And when you recognize who she is, and it resonates with her, even though she didn’t know she needed time to process—she does. And when you say it, it hits that chord of, “Wow. Mom knows me. She’s got it. She nailed it. I do. I need a moment. Thanks, Mom.” I mean, she’s not going to say that, but the feeling is going to be a very deep sense of being understood


16:59  Emma:  And I think for her, the key thing is, because sometimes I think she’s searching for the right answer to that person—she tailors her answers to whom she’s talking to. And so giving her that moment to be like, “Hey, it’s not about finding the right answer. It’s about you processing how you feel,” will take that weight off of her shoulders. And I’m really interested to see how that’s going to work for her, because I think…I know, for me, that it would be huge if I had that opportunity.


17:31  Leslie:  Absolutely. It’s something it sounds like you guys are going to be learning together. You’re getting to learn together. You’re learning right now about looking for the right answer yourself, “I want to be the parent who…” I know she’s looking to give the person the right answer, but you’re trying to do the right thing. This idea of right and wrong is part of the way you think, part of the way she thinks. And we want to work with adding to that and saying, “Is there some flexibility, think about how you feel?” Add your own perspectives.


18:07  Emma:  Yeah, that’ll be huge for her.




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19:11  Leslie:  I had a thought from our last session that I wanted to ask you about. But before I go there, was there anything else that you wanted to bring up? Any other examples?


19:23  Emma:  From our last session, I believe that we talked about kind of figuring out where to set boundaries in regards to timeouts and how to put something—a guideline, or steps onto how to properly use the timeout because I feel like a lot of times I’m not using it properly. And I feel like it could be something that does help my children. I just feel like, right now it’s kind of just used as a punishment; which is not really what I want its intended use for. I want it to be, kind of like you said, that processing space. So I don’t know what your thoughts are on that, or if you could help. 


20:02  Leslie:  Well, that’s a riot, because that’s exactly what I was going to bring back up from our last visit.


Emma:  Okay, good. 


Leslie:  And you even set me up as if you scripted it, but you didn’t.




20:12  Emma:  I didn’t! I didn’t!


20:16  Leslie:  So, what I wanted to share is…and I’m going to tell a little backstory before I get into your answer. And the backstory is, I had the good fortune to be able to lead a parenting class in our town for over 22 years. But it was such a wonderful experience of giving parents support. And so every year I went in and did parenting classes. The best attended class by far…


Emma:  [Laughter] …was the timeout class.


Leslie:  So, I titled every class—I put it in the flyer and said, this week the title of the class is this—and the title of that class was, Making The Punishment Fit The Crime. And man, it brought everybody in. They came out of the woodwork. Didn’t matter what the weather was, because rainy days kept people home. But on that day, no matter what what the weather was, people came in. And I always could expect a really big turnout.


21:21  Emma:  I think it’s, it’s so confusing, trying to figure out exactly how to…because there’s just so many different scenarios. There’s just such a variety that you can’t tailor one specific, you know, punishment to all of those scenarios. So it’s trying to navigate how to probably solve…not solve, but how to approach each one.


21:47  Leslie:  And I think parents honestly, which totally is understandable…this is where parenting is so confusing. What do I do with this misbehavior? So, there were a few layers here, because my title was to bait everyone into my workshop,into the meeting. And I got them there, and then I said, “I’m going to disappoint every single one of you, because I am not going to talk about crimes and I am not going to talk about punishments.” Punishments, we know…evidence…don’t work. They’re designed to stop a behavior—that doesn’t teach your child. 


It can teach your child not to do it again. Certainly, we want to stop behaviors at times—if a child’s biting, I’m going to stop him from continued biting. But my goal, in a punishment, to pull that child away from a child who is biting, is to stop the behavior. Most of the time, when children have behavior, our goal, I think most parents agree with me, is to teach the child that there’s other solutions, other than hitting or yelling or throwing or whatever else they may be doing. So unpacking that title, Making The Punishment Fit The Crime, means I’m going to ask parents to rethink the way they’re looking at their child.


You’re already doing that. We’ve been doing that for the last two weeks. So first of all, it’s not a crime for your child to misbehave. Your child better misbehave if they’re growing up to learn anything. What happens when…I mean, what does a baby do? “What happens when I put the food off the tray? Oh, I drop it.” It’s learning. When we misbehave, there’s a lot of learning that can happen.


23:48  Emma:  Right, especially with testing boundaries and…


23:51  Leslie:  …or just being able to see what happens when I test the boundary. So they’re not crimes. They may be learning experiences and they may be forms of communication. It’s what I say over and over and over again, which is: misbehavior is a form of communication. 


You’re already getting that. So we just got rid of the idea that your child is a criminal. We just got rid of the idea that your child is committing a crime. They’re doing the best they can with the skills they have. In the first session, I believe it was, that we talked about your daughter’s not manipulating you. Again, that feels criminal. That’s not okay when people get manipulated, right? Because there’s intention to harm. We discovered that’s not what your child’s doing, right?


24:41  Emma:  Now, do you ever feel, or in your experience have you ever noticed that sometimes children are intentional if they do something like smacking or biting or pinching? For example, I know that this week alone, Claire smacked Grayson because Grayson wanted a toy that she had, and he went to go grab it, and so she just turned around and smacked him away. I mean, in that scenario, she was intentionally trying to get him away from her toy. So how would I look at that? 


25:17  Leslie:  I could applaud. I’m like, “Go, girl.” [Laughter] I want to remind you, she’s three years old, right? 


Emma:  They’re three, yes.


Leslie:  Okay, the twins are three. At that moment in time, she was using all the skills that she had to get what she needs. So I’m going to applaud her. I’m talking about that with a little bit of lightness here, because, “Yes, girl, you go get what you need. That is a brilliant skill. Now I can teach you two other ways to get what you need. When you have words, you can use your words. You can also calm yourself down and wait until he’s done. Or you can ask him to ask permission.” There’s so many ways that she can get her needs met, but in that moment, it was the only one available to her.


26:08  Emma:  And sometimes I’ll remind her, “Hey, you can use your words.” And she’ll, she’ll practice with me right after. She will say, “Grayson, please don’t touch my toy. I’m playing with it.” And she’ll do a beautiful job. But then, five seconds later, she’ll do the same exact thing.


26:30  Leslie:  Perfect. Because you know that feeling when you’re in the moment of emotion, the tools go out the window. That was the feeling you had at the dinner table or breakfast table, when your daughter didn’t want to eat—you’re like, “Oh my goodness, what do I do?” Well, I don’t think Claire is panicking, but Claire is using whatever’s available to her in that moment. And in that moment, it’s, “I hit.”


26:50  Emma:  And then even, subsequently, even if she practices using her words, she might just do the same exact thing.


26:56  Leslie:  Exactly. If you learn to play piano, can you play it once and then go play Carnegie Hall? How many times do you have to practice? 


Emma:  For years. 


Leslie:  How many times did she get to practice using her words? 


Emma:  Once. 


Leslie:  Right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So yes, the idea is that we, as parents, need the patience to say, “Okay, we’re going to do this a thousand times.”


27:21  Emma:  Okay, so just reiterating that…


27:25  Leslie:  …calmly. Let it sometimes go. We don’t need to correct every single solitary behavior of our child. Every once in a while, you’re going to just let it go. She knows, she knows that at three years old, I mean…Is your fear that at 12 years old, or 15 years old, or 25 or 45 she’s going to be smacking someone or throwing? 


Emma:  I hope not. [Laughter]


Leslie:  But it might be a fear. I really mean it. You might actually worry, “Oh my god, she’s not learning. She’s three years old. She…” No, we want to let go of that.


27:58  Emma:  So using the timeout, I guess, to take a break. So let’s say Claire hits Grayson again. Is that the time to be like, “Okay, let’s take a second and process what’s going on here, and take a seat and let’s talk about it in a few minutes.” Because then she’s continually reacting in emotion mind, which to me, would tell me, “Okay, now we need to take her away so she can process her emotions.” And then get her into wise mind so we can teach her that hitting is still not okay.


28:32  Leslie:  So, timeout, as a whole, often is being discouraged now, even though there have been many, many experts that talked about it. We had a big movement of behaviorism for education, for parenting, where we would put children in timeout, and we would give the child these consequences. And what we’ve discovered is: it’s actually creating more distress for the child and not accomplishing what we want, which is to help the child come back and learn something, or even stop that behavior. 


So people have changed, are starting to shift from timeout to time-in. And also, if you’re giving your child time to process, you might want to make sure they still know that you’re connected to them; because a timeout in the punishment style was, “Get to your room and you think about what you just did.” So there’s a tone, there’s an abandonment, there’s a you-are-banished, there is shame. There’s a lot that has gone into timeout in that classic way of using it.


29:43  Emma:  Yes, and I have done that so I don’t want to do that anymore.


29:48  Leslie:  The biggest thing that I am concerned about is it creates shame in the child. “I have done something bad, and now I’m being banished from my community, which is this family.” 


30:02  Emma:  And that sense of abandonment, definitely it hits home, because I know that I tend to have some abandonment issues. So, I don’t want that to repeat in her.


30:13  Leslie:  So, if it was getting you what you wanted, I would support that. But it’s not getting you what you want. So, finding other approaches is this idea that you discovered when you thought you had to fix your children’s problems. Your children are going to hit each other, when they’re little. They’re going to misbehave. They’re going to talk back to you. They’re going to slam a door when they shouldn’t. They’re not going to eat when you want them to eat. They’re going to do all these things. There’s going to be plenty of misbehavior. 


So if it happens, the first thing is: What are my choices? I don’t want you to think, “How do I punish? How do I settle…” You know, what are my choices here? Let’s start turning it into a positive rather than a there’s something wrong, I need to do something fast. 


I also want to share a little backstory, which is the number one reason parents came to me throughout my years and years of practice is: they often came in and said, “We have taken everything away and we don’t know what to do anymore.” That’s what drove people to therapy. 


31:20  Emma:  Yes, and I don’t want to get to that point. 


31:23  Leslie:  That’s what happens when we punish and we take away and we timeout. We’re just desperate because we have nothing else to do. Because there’s a whole…that. tool is useful for maybe, one quarter, or maybe even less than one quarter of the time that you’re parenting. There are so many other tools. 


There are, like, 7/8 of that pie, that pizza pie. I have lots of options. And so some of the options you’re already using—conflict resolution…validation, validation, validation. Validation should probably take up half of what you do when misbehavior happens. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. I’ve never heard of anyone putting a number on it, but it’s really important to start with validation, as you saw with the Grayson issue. It ended it. You validated and ended—you didn’t have to go do anything else. 


So you might be over-parenting. I’ll gently say with over-parenting: trying to find the punishment, and I’m like, let’s find other approaches. Let’s start with the validation. We can also use do nothing, because the more we do something about it, it actually…If you go in and every time Claire hits Grayson, if you go in there, every time, and say, “Claire, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” She’s like, “Wow, I got a lot of Mom here. I just keep hitting and I got a lot of Mom time.


32:51  Emma:  So it could be more for an attention seeking behavior?


32:57  Leslie:  I don’t want to put that on her. I’m going to put it on you; that you’re reinforcing, and she’s just learning. It’s called behaviorism. She’s learning what you’re reinforcing. “I want Mommy. I’ll do more of that.” Again, you’re putting malintention. You’re thinking there’s some misguided, manipulative, intentional way of, “I’m going to get Mommy by hitting my brother.” I’m saying, the more you reinforce that hitting her brother gets your attention, the more it might just happen. 


But again, don’t do anything all the time. I think it would not be effective to just always ignore it. So sometimes we’re going to problem-solve. A small percentage of that says problem-solve. Say, “Can you use your words? Sometimes you want to play in separate rooms when you’re not feeling”—this would be someone that’s a little older. Let’s say your child came home from school and your kids are now seven and ten. And the ten-year-old is just like, I’ve heard you say it with Henley, where she just might not be in the mood to deal with Claire. That’s when it’s like, “Okay, set yourself up so you don’t have to be around them. Go—you can play in your room.You can set it up so when she bothers you, it’s less likely to happen. So you want to problem-solve some of the time. 


You want to validate a lot of the time. You want to teach her…problem-solving would be teaching her what else she can do. And you want to observe and describe. So, when he takes the toy, you can observe and describe what’s happening to her. “You got really upset. He took your toy. You had an urge to hit him.” Because when we describe what’s going on, she learns to be aware of her own sensations and her own thoughts and her own feelings and her own all of that. “You’re angry. Okay, what else can you do when you’re angry?” So observing and describing is a skill all by itself. You’re just helping bring awareness to the situation.


35:06  Emma:  So kind of, it seems to me like making the timeout is kind of obsolete, right? It’s not really achieving anything. So I have evaluating choices, doing the conflict resolution, resolution, validating. Doing nothing, so that I’m not reinforcing any sort of negative behavior. And then, three, going to teaching, which is, in a sense, observing and describing what’s going on to them. 


35:41  Leslie:  Yes, I love that. And I will say, I don’t want to…I’m not going to throw out timeout. I’m going to turn it into something more useful and more effective. Because what happened at the dinner table with Henley was that you gave her time, and you could call that time-in, which is space. I notice a generation of parents right now saying to their child, “Do you need space?” Lovely phrase. I love that, instead of take timeout. Even just saying, “Take a timeout,” is if we say it with the punishment kind of tone, “You need a timeout. You hit your brother. That’s not okay. You need a timeout.” That’s going to have the shaming. 


If it’s, “Do you need space?” or “I think it’s a good idea to take a little space. I’m going to take space. Why don’t you take space? We’re both here, and we’re going to come back together to figure it out. After we both take space, we’re going to check in with each other.” So I am holding the connection. I’m verbalizing that we are connected, but we’re both going to take a moment to process, to step away, to give ourselves time. Absolutely, I believe we all need to know how to take a timeout, a step back. So instead of calling it timeout because it has maybe a negative connotation, I don’t mind still using the word, we can change the connotation by saying, “Take a step back.”


Take that timeout, so you can have some space, whatever. The word is not a dirty word. We have to change the way we relate to that. So either you can change the word so it doesn’t trigger, you know, you don’t get upset over it. And you could call it taking some space, or taking a time-in or giving ourselves a chance to recognize we’re in emotion mind, we need a moment. I don’t want you to throw out the concept of timeout, because there’s some really good parts of it. 


37:49  Emma:  I like the using the phrase, “Do you need space?” Because I think that will kind of slow things down and let them process. Okay, “Do I need a moment?” Do I really need a moment, and then taking that time, to take that space and to come back and talk about it. I like that. It doesn’t break that relationship up a lot.


38:09  Leslie:  Excellent. That is exactly what we’re trying to hold together, really, as an overview for our parenting, that we’re doing this thing called parenting, and we don’t want to break the connection.


38:21  Emma:  Yeah, I like that a lot. 


38:25  Leslie:  That’s great. You’re experimenting. Remember, I expect that you will continue to have those panicky moments. Give yourself permission to give yourself space. 


38:38  Emma:  I love that, Leslie, thank you so much. All of this has been super useful and practical. Honestly, in parenting, it’s really changed my view on my children and how to communicate with them, and I think that’s going to open up so many doors. 


38:52  Leslie:  Oh, that’s great. I’m so glad it was practical for you. There are things you can try, you can do, and you can keep practicing, because they’ll give you plenty of opportunities. 




Emma:  Yes. 


Leslie:  Okay. Well, thank you, Emma, it was a pleasure.


39:07  Emma:  Thank you so much. Leslie,


[Music: Acoustic Guitars Ambient Uplifting by Oleksii Kaplunskyi]


39:16  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  We all have narratives that we cling to about people in our lives. Those narratives are limiting and often don’t tell the whole story. And they hurt us and our loved ones. Emma started in the first session with a narrative about her daughter that included the ideas that she was a terrible communicator, manipulative, and at times possessive. The exciting news is that Emma wasn’t locked into her narrative. In each session, we heard how Emma worked to broaden her perspective and break those patterns. 


I recently checked in with Emma to see how she and her family are doing since this session, which was recorded four months ago. And she shared with me several of the strategies we worked on have been very helpful in her parenting, especially around communication, punishment and redefining timeout. Asking for space has been a game changer. 


40:12  Emma:  I was able to model that we can ask for space when we are overwhelmed. My own thinking has also changed on how they are communicating with me. And my kids have actually come to the point where they are using this word on their own before something may happen. So they are able to identify more clearly what triggers them, what starts to make them feel upset. And when they start to feel overwhelmed, they are able to ask for space now, instead of me kind of leading them into that way of thinking. And I see it as a needs-based communication, and finally, Henley has been using her words more to ask for her needs. She is able to now more clearly give me direction when she needs something.


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


41:11  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  Next week, join me for a skills episode where we dive into building mastery—a way to help your child gain confidence. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And I’ve been having a lot of fun making a whole bunch of short videos on parenting skills. Check out my YouTube channel by searching Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Links to everything are in the show notes and at ismychildamonster.com. 


The Is My Child A Monster? team is Alletta Cooper, AJ Moultrié, Camila Salazar, and me. Special thanks to Eric Rubury. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music.  I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Thanks so much for listening. And this week, keep in mind: kids and adults are doing the best they can with the skills they have in the present moment. 


Transcribed by Eric Rubury

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