Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.
Welcome to the Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host. I have with me today my amazing co host, Sarah Wildman. Hey, Sarah.
Hey, Becky. It's so good to be here. Okay, so we talk about all kinds of topics on the Connected Mom podcast, but one we haven't talked a lot about is discipline and parenting, mainly because I'm not an expert in that. So I'm really excited, uh, to have our guests today. But it can kind of be a challenge for moms and dads, right?
Oh, it definitely can be. And we want to parent, and we want to discipline in a way that increases our connection with our kiddos rather than separating us from them. But it can be a battle. Sometimes we don't do it. Right. And so before we even get into this topic, I want to say that this is a grace space, and so we are not going to judge you. We hope to encourage you today. And I want to introduce our guest today. Uh, our guest today is named Sarah as well, sarah Moore. And she is the author of Peaceful Discipline. I love that title. Peaceful Discipline Story teaching Brain Science and Better Behavior. She's also the founder of the Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. She is a master trainer in conscious parenting and a board member for the American Society of Positive Care of Children. She's also a public speaker, an armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a mama. She has training in child development, trauma recovery, interpersonal neurobiology, improv comedy that's interesting, Sarah. And play. And she loves to use her work to support parents. Okay, so, Sarah, we're going to dive right in here. Uh, you titled your book Peaceful Discipline. Uh, tell us about why you did that. And, I mean, is that kind of an oxymoron? I mean, I talk to a lot of mamas, and I hear, I'm going crazy today. This child is not behaving. I don't know what to do. Um, we're just having a lot of big feelings around here or whatever. So talk to us about peaceful discipline.
Sure. Well, thank you so much for having me. And first of all, credit to the title credit for the title goes to God. I received this title, I received this book, and I got to thinking about why Peaceful Discipline? Why am I receiving this as the message? Because discipline like, raise your hand if you say, I love discipline. I want more of it. Most of us go hide under the table and say, no, thank you. I've had enough of that in my life. Discipline doesn't feel good. But we have to remember that discipline, although culturally, has come to imply punishment. Discipline is actually to teach. That is the true definition of discipline. It means to teach. And if we think back to jesus and his disciples. They were the other teachers of Jesus's message. Well, how did they do it? They certainly didn't go around punishing people, because if they would have tried to punish people into believing, we would have exactly zero Christians on the planet today. So it was a reminder to me that discipline is supposed to be something that draws us closer together. It's something that we and by we, I mean everybody, including children, when done right, it's something we actually want because we want to learn. And m, the peaceful part is kind of a two sided coin as well, in that peaceful is what we do. We want to be peaceful in our discipline, but even more importantly, we want our children to perceive our discipline as peaceful. M, because we know this about brain science. When a child feels threatened in any way, physically, emotionally, whatever it may be, the learning part of the brain literally shuts off. A child who feels scared cannot learn in that moment. And it doesn't have to be terror level scared. It can just be, oh, I don't want to get in trouble, I'm afraid of how my parents going to react. That all goes into the fear bucket. So we have to keep in mind that what we do as parents, if it is to be effective, it has to be perceived as peaceful by our children so that their learning brain can stay on and we can have a connection based relationship around all things, including the tricky ones. What?
M a great topic. I love that you started out the gate that it's teaching. Um, so on our podcast, we're really about connection. Becky said that earlier and strengthening our connection, especially with our kids. So I think that many of us might think about discipline, perhaps interrupting that connection just in an old school way of thinking about discipline if it's punishment. Right? So how, um, do you think we could keep our connection at the forefront of our thinking when we're thinking about discipling teaching discipline?
Great question. A lot of it has to do with unpacking and unwiring our family of origin stuff. Because with all of the grace to every single one of us who was raised by a parent who leaned into punishment as their method of attempting to teach us, we have to realize that back then, we didn't know nearly what we know today about brain science and child development. So everybody, including the people who still use punishment, is doing the best they can with the information they have in the moment. So I want to start by saying grace to everybody. Nobody ever said, I want to be a good parent by harming my child physically or emotionally. Like, there's not a parent on the planet who says, that feels good to me. Everybody says that feels bad. So if we are cycle breaking, if we are learning new tools, if we are saying, I don't even know where to begin. This is for you, because this is all about the grace, capital G, grace that's available to all of us to say, I want to start over and I want to parent from a place of connection. So we do have to remember, and I realize that a lot of people are like, I'm going to need an hour to sit with this and process it. We have to remember punishment actually doesn't work in that it backfires. It harms our connection with our children. And I'll take lying, for example. I talk about lying in the book. And there was a giant study that was done of, um, two schools. And in one school, they took punitive approaches to lying. In another school, they encouraged the children to be honest and met the children with connection on a regular basis. And what the researchers found over time is that the children who were punished for lying not only became better liars, but they became better at hiding their questionable behavior in the first place. Whereas M, the children in the non punitive school were more forthcoming and saying, I messed up. I need support. Will you please help me with this choice I made? And it absolutely translates to parenting. And in fact, just this morning, I did a social media post. And of course, this will air later, so if you're listening to this later, go back and look for it. But I did a post about how a couple of years ago, I was working in a school and I overheard a teacher yelling to yelling at a student and saying, if you don't knock it off, I'm calling your mom. And it occurred to me, why is that a threat? Shouldn't mom be the person who comes and says, I'm here to help? Whatever's happening here, let's see what happened. Let's unpack this. Let me support you. I may guide you, but I want to be the kind of parent where when my child is questioned by perhaps another adult or out in the world or whatever it is, might even be someday when they're older and perhaps they made a bad choice. I want to have a child who says, I know just who to go to. It's my emotionally safe big person, because I know that they're going to help guide me through whatever tricky situation I'm in.
M okay, so let me ask you a really practical question, Sarah, because right now we have moms who are listening, and I'm imagining some of them are saying, okay, so she doesn't want us to punish them, but what about consequences? Because there are natural consequences. So what would you say to answer that question?
That's another great question. Let's look at this word consequences. Discipline and consequences are two of my favorite words. To unpack. Consequences also has a negative connotation. Oh, no, there are going to be consequences for that, whatever it is. But when we look at the word itself. It's a neutral word. If I like talking to you, and I do by the time I'm done with our podcast, uh, today, the consequence of that is that I'm going to be lifted up and I'm going to say, those were two fantastic women. And now I have more energy, I have a more full emotional cup now to share with my family. So a consequence can be positive. So we have to remember that, to your point, natural consequences in life are the very, very best teachers. So I'll give an example of, um, one that might be perceived as negative, but another one that is positive. Let's say that you have I'm making this up on the fly here. Let's say you have two children. They're seven and five, and they start to fight, because siblings do sometimes, right? We're humans raising humans. So the siblings fight, they start to have a conflict, and lo and behold, the seven year old goes off and wax the five year old. And there are tears. Well, the crying child will probably look at the older sibling and say, I don't like that. I don't want to play with you anymore, mhm? And they will distance themselves from the older child. Well, the older child. Now, couple of things. Number one says, hold on, where'd my playmate go? And number two, I probably feel kind of crummy for what I did. So as the parent, this is where it gets a little bit tricky for people because it's a new line of thinking. But as the parent, I often feel compelled to do something more and say, I have to punish you on, um, top of the punishment you're already giving yourself for upsetting your sibling. And your sibling has already decided not to play with you anymore. So I need to do something more. Do I need to take away your iPad? Do I need to whatever it is? That part with the adult intervention is no longer a natural consequence. So the natural consequence spin that I would put on that is to say, life is a great teacher. If I forget to water my plants, they will die, right? So I learn, I better water my plants if I want to do this. Similarly with these two kids, that seven year old, if they keep going around whacking their sibling, eventually the sibling is just going to say, I'm out. I don't ever want to play with you. And hopefully that doesn't happen because we will be teaching peacefully in the meantime about anger management strategies and big feelings and that sort of thing. But the child will learn, if I want to have positive play relationships with my sibling, with my friends at the playground or at school or whatever, I can't whack them so the child can learn. A logical consequence might be that the adult gets curious. And this is hard. I want to preface this by saying this is hard. Because we often are triggered if we see our child whack another child. And that's absolute reality. But if we can have the presence of mind to stop and ground ourselves and say, as Dr. Ross Green says, all behavior is communication. Mhm so what's going on beneath the surface that this child felt compelled to do this in the first place? So, first of all, I might work on some emotional regulation with my child not going in and lecturing them, but instead saying, I see that you hit your sibling. I imagine you must have been really mad or was something else going on for you? Can you tell me about your experience? And when that child feels like, uh, they're trying to understand me, they're trying to figure out what was going on, that child might say, well, the five year old kept taking my toys and I got really mad. We can validate the feeling. Even if we don't validate the behavior, we can say, oh my goodness, I would be so mad, too. It makes sense that you'd be mad that your sibling was taking your toys. Nobody wants their toys taken. I'm, um, 48 years old, and if my husband walked in while I'm talking to you and said, you're done with your laptop, I'm taking it, I'd be mad. I'd say no, I'm not done. So if we can get curious about the child's behavior and validate their feelings, that's step, uh, one to bringing it back to connection. We can also hopefully, by the time the child gets regulated emotionally again, I wouldn't do it with a Dysregulated child because it will absolutely backfire. But once the child is regulated again, you can say, it makes sense to me that you were so mad that you hit your sibling. Let's talk about some things you can do when you're mad and let's practice that mhm, because those are the life skills that the child needs to know. Taking away the iPad only will teach the child well. Not only do I feel crummy, but now I feel shamed and my parent is taking away something that's special to me. So now I feel distant from everybody, and statistically I'm more likely to act out in other ways until I feel seen again. But if we take that connection based approach, even when it's hard, even if it requires a whole lot of grounding on our part, we can help our children feel seen for their own experiences and then we can peacefully work with them. And I talk through a lot of strategies in the book, but we can peacefully come m up with strategies, um, of what do you do with these big feelings that come up? What do you do when you want to hit your sibling and then the child walks away with, um, some skills that it will take time to master. Children are primarily driven by impulses, so don't expect a miracle overnight if the child is doing something consistently and then poof, it doesn't just go away overnight. But over time, when you consistently have a connection based approach, the child does learn that there are other strategies they can do and we don't have to punish them along the way.
M. Wow, these are so good. Can I dig into one follow up question on that? Sarah, with the strategies, I know there are a lot in your book and we encourage our listeners to grab it because I know they're going to learn a lot. But say a strong willed child, I have my oldest who he's nine, and when he gets upset, it's like the whole world knows about it, right. And it can be really hard to walk him back. What are some strategies? I'm thinking of mamas that are like, this sounds great, but how do you get them to a point where they are teachable, where we're out of the moment, right. And we're actually helping them with these strategies. I really like that word too.
Both of you are asking the perfect questions today.
Yeah. Strong willed kids are a real thing. Let's just acknowledge amen. Exactly. Yeah. Um, so here are a couple of interesting things about strong willed children. Strong willed children, and I'm not making this specific to your son, but just, uh, strong willed children in general often feel the need to be strong willed. When they feel like they don't have enough of a voice, they're going to try to get louder and louder and louder. And their perception might be well, every time I get louder, my parent tends to get louder. So from their perspective, I have such a strong willed parent. Oh, wow. Um, and again, Sarah, this is certainly no reflection on you, so this isn't necessarily about you at all, but really with anybody. And I'll confess that sometimes when I'm in an altercation with my husband, we both become strong willed. Like, everybody can get strong willed. When we go into fight or flight mode, our fight mode activates and we get combative. Well, the same thing is true for kids. So although it sounds completely counterintuitive, one of the very best things that we can do when we are engaging with a strong willed child is rather than meet them and match them instead, we can soften and we can try to validate the feelings behind the strong will, especially if they are chronically strong willed and difficult, so to speak. It may be because their nervous system is perceiving such a lack of safety that they feel like they have to be big and bold and strong wherever they go. So if we model softening and it again, may take a whole lot of intentionality on our part and a whole lot of practice too, I don't expect anybody to be perfect, but if we can practice saying, I see how hard this is for you, tell you what, we're going to table this discussion for now. How about if we just go read a book together? How about if you tell me more about what this is like for you? I really want to understand what about this is so hard for you? And then we do perhaps the hardest part of all. Our child might come to us with insults, with words that would be on fire if we could see them. They might say all sorts of things that are really hurtful. Human nature, once again, and I have absolutely been guilty of this human nature is to even if we do it gently, defend. Well, the reason I did that is the reason I made that decision is but our best bet is to zip it and say, just help me understand your perspective. I want to understand you. I want to support you. I really want you to do as Dr. Dan Siegel says. I want you to feel felt by the way I'm showing up for you. And that requires that I water down the fire that is rising up in my belly and create ongoing emotional safety so that the child doesn't feel they have to be so combative, especially if it's on a regular basis. And, Sarah, I'm going to pause for a second and say, how is this landing with you? Because I know that it came as a personal question. I tried to generalize it, but I want to check in with you.
It's the same as what my husband has been, uh, suggesting, is that it really is counterintuitive to soften. Right. You want to push back. And I do think, um it's just how I think a lot of us have seen that countered right. And taking a step and realizing that you can counter it differently than even your impulse right. Which is just to snuff it out. I think it's like, oh, no, this isn't good. Um, I think it reminds me that it can be so hard for Moms to slow down. Right. Like, you have things going on. This kind of thing often happens right. As you're trying to get out the door or you're supposed to be. I think what's difficult I totally hear you. Is making space for that, like, yourself and just in your family time management to make sure you can address those things when they come up. Right. Because on the go, I find myself just going like, oh, we'll deal with that later. We got to get in the car, instead of being like, no, this is really important. I need to stop and address why he's having such strong feelings about putting his shoes on or whatever it is. There's my honest viewpoint. So thank you. I totally hear you. And, um, it's actionable, so I appreciate that.
Yeah. Sarah, I love the emphasis on connection, and I do think you're right. I think so much of this we're learning now. I as a grandparent, Sarah my co host, here has a seven and a nine year old. I have 14 grandchildren, and I have just learned about all of this in the last 1213 years. Um, I think the research is there now that helps us with all of this. But in your book, you talk about parent centric discipline, which is great. However, I know as I talk with moms, um, particularly well, moms of all ages, they often blame themselves for their child's behavior, even if that child is an adult. It's like, well, I did all these things wrong and now my child is walking away from God. Or, I was tense this morning, my child, if the child's still in the home, picked up on that tension and where's the line of differentiation between parents? Like, these are my feelings, child, these are your feelings. And I can't take responsibility. If you get, uh, example, maybe a child gets in trouble in school, parent feels embarrassed. Oh, my word, my child's getting in trouble in school. Side note, I always tell parents, if your child's getting in trouble in school, they're probably a really strong leader and it's all going to work out in the end, so don't worry about it. But in the moment, that parent might feel embarrassed, right? And so then I think it gets all tangled between particularly moms and kids. So talk to us a little bit about that. How do we do parent centric discipline without getting tangled up with our child?
That is such a hard reality. Mom guilt is a real thing. That's why you Google Mom guilt and it's like 400 articles come up on your first page. It's so in our existence. So a couple of things come to mind. Number one is from a I'm just going to start with a big one from a spiritual perspective, we have to remember that there are other forces at work and there is a force in the world that wants to make us feel terrible about everything we've ever done. So when we are tempted to feel that guilt come up, one thing we can absolutely do is stop and pray and say, god, is this from you or is this not from you? And M, ask the Spirit to fill you with clarity so that you know whether you are listening to a lie or whether you are listening to guidance about a change that you need to make. And I personally like to picture having that discussion just with Jesus himself. And I go back to Galatians 522 and 23, one of my favorite verses in the Bible, which is about the fruit of the Spirit, kindness, gentleness, all of the things that we want to be as parents. And if I can legitimately look back at moments of my parenting when I have not been peaceful, kind, gentle, those things, I start by asking for forgiveness. Mhm. And then I can remember, I am forgiven for these things. So who do I think I am to let myself hold on to this horrible guilt? Did I learn from it? Do I have new tools? Or am I still making the same mistakes? If I'm still making the same mistakes, that's where I can come back to some of this parent centric discipline and say, what do I need to change in my life so that I can be a more peaceful parent? But if it is already forgiven and I have changed my ways, I have to be willing to relinquish that which the alternate force is trying to plant in my head. And I also have to remember that for better or for worse, we all have free will. Our kids are going to make mistakes. They're going to make bigger, better, brighter mistakes than we ever made. And also completely different ones, just like we have bigger, brighter, bigger mistakes than they will ever make in our own ways. So one of the things I talk about in the book is something I call the hug process. And it's a way to regulate our emotions when we are feeling triggered by our child's behavior. But I'm going to focus on the G. It's an acronym. It's UG. The G is Give them grace to be human. Mhm. And so often it becomes about us. I'm embarrassed that my child did this means for their future. I'm afraid, angry. Like, all the adjectives start coming out, all of the feelings start coming out that generally are just a form of catastrophizing m. People are going to think less of me. My child is going to go on to make horrible mistakes their whole life. When we have to remember, give them grace to be human, they're going to mess up. Guess what? So am I. I'm going to keep messing up too, because I am also human. But I have to remember that it's not personal. And if I am leading with love, with compassion, with those fruits of the spirit that I mentioned, then I'm going to be doing the things that I need to do. That being said, there is a big misconception in peaceful discipline and peaceful parenting in general, that being peaceful means being permissive. Absolutely. Uh, not. The people are like, well, what do you do? Just walk away? If I see my seven year old hit my five year old, do I just say, you two work it out and never touch it again? No, of course not. You absolutely, as a responsible parent, have an obligation to follow up. But you can follow up in the way that Jesus would. And I can't remember when you think about if Jesus were the parent in this moment, what would he do? Would he go and take away my child's iPad? I'm guessing no. Instead, Jesus would be the one to come and say, I'm here for you and I love you no matter what. Help me understand how I can support you. Let's do this walk together.
That, for me, is how I manage mom guilt. And it's messy, but it's a constant reminder.
That's good, sarah and I think you touched on something about asking for forgiveness. I think, um, something that I learned in my parenting journey along the way is I not only need to ask forgiveness from God, but sometimes I need to go to my child and say, hey, will you forgive me? I blew my cool. Or I came out with advice when I should have listened better, or, I modeled something for you that isn't really healthy. And I learned along the way that those were pivotal moments in my parenting relationship. I've actually said this on the podcast before steve, my husband and I actually gathered our four adult kids and their spouses a couple of years ago and said, okay, what did we do right from your perspective? But what did we do wrong from your perspective? And how can we make those situations better? Because we want the connection with our kids, even now that they're adults. And one of the top answers that our kids gave us about what we did right was they said, you apologized when you blew it. And so I think our kids need to hear that because we're expecting them to be able to say, I'm sorry. Will you forgive me? And that means we need to model that for them. We can't ask them to do something that we haven't learned to do ourselves. And so I think that that's really important. Um, I want to ask you one more question, and I realize we're pretty much out of time, but can you tell us what storytelling is and how does that apply to parent story teaching?
Sure. Uh, story teaching is, um first of all, I love that you have the repair part, because that's huge. And I've got a part in my book about that, too, because we have to be accountable. Story teaching is just what it sounds like. It's teaching through stories. And if somebody says, uh, hold the phone. I'm not creative. I'm out. Well, stay here. We have a world full of storytellers. Our brain has a part of the brain called the hippocampus. And the hippocampus is what's going to remind me a year, five years from now. Becky has the most beautiful blue eyes, and she wore that blue shirt, and it really brought out her eyes. And Sarah has such a great my brain is recording stories of every single interaction that I have. Oftentimes parenting, we forget that stories are the most direct way to access our children's memory center. So stories can be a lot of things. They can be a rehashing of something that happened earlier today and kind of debrief about it. Maybe it's something that went really well. Hey, you had a great day at school today. Let's talk about what went so well for you. Or it could be you bopped your. Brother on the head. What was going on for you? Let's replay that and think about other plans. But either way, we are creating a narrative alongside our children. I also have lots of sample stories in the book where it can be a story we make up, a story we read. Perhaps it's a scene that we've seen in a movie or on TV. But they are basically visual and emotional anchors that we can help create in our child's brain and in their nervous system, so that the next time the situation comes up, we can say, hey, remember when we went to the playground last Tuesday and the girl in pink was here? Let's remember that before we go back to the playground today. And the child's like, yep, I know what you're talking about. I already have the lesson planted in my brain. And the beautiful thing about story teaching, and I'll say this very briefly, is that we can use it proactively. We can tell a story about, here's something that's going to happen, here's what to expect, and make it as detailed as possible so the child knows, this is how I handle this thing. We can use it in the moment, or we can use it retroactively about something that already happened to help make sense of it for the future and to heal from, um, trauma, toxic, emotional wounds, that sort of thing. And again, being sensitive to time, I've got a full recipe for how to do it and how to make it very accessible. Even for the people who don't see themselves as creative, it's still good for you.
I love that, Sarah. We, um, are out of time, but we really want to encourage you to get Sarah's book peaceful, uh, discipline. And we'll have that in the Show Notes for you. And we want to encourage you to connect with Sarah so you can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, uh, YouTube, Pinterest, or Twitter. It's Sarah Moore. M-M-O-O-R-E. We'll have all this in the show notes for you. We know we gave you a lot to think about today, and so I just kind of want to end our time by praying over you. Moms out there. Just that the Lord will fill you with his peace and give you peace from the Prince of Peace so that you can actually navigate these situations from that place of calm. So let me pray for you, Lord Jesus. Thank you for our mamas who are listening. And Lord, we know many of them are thinking, oh, man, I blew that situation, or I should have handled that differently. And, Lord, you are a God of grace. You always offer us grace, and we are so thankful for that. And so, Lord, as we move forward, we pray that we would internalize the fruit of the spirit, just like Sarah talked about love, joy, peace, patience, long suffering. And Lord, we pray that that would come out in our parenting so that we would be the gentle parents that reflect the heart of Jesus to our kiddos. Thank you for being here with us today. In Jesus name, amen. Hey, friends, thanks for joining us this week on the Connected Mom podcast, and we hope you'll join us again next week where we'll have another conversation that's really intended to help you connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, and we're saying goodbye for this week. Thanks for joining us.