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Baby Health in Winter 344: Get Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control With Amy From Positive Parenting Solutions

Baby Health in Winter

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

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Katie: Hello and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from WellnessMama.com and Wellnesse.com. That’s wellness with an E on the end. It’s our new line of personal care products that are both non-toxic and highly effective. This episode is all about how to get your kids to listen without nagging, or yelling, or losing control because I am here with Amy McCready from Positive Parenting Solutions. And I think you’re really going to enjoy this episode if you have kids. She’s the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the creator of the “7-Step Parenting Success System,” which is a course that I’m going through right now to prepare for this interview. She is also the author of two best selling parenting books. The first called “If I Have to Tell You One More Time” and “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic.”

She’s a regular contributor on the “Today” show and CBS, CNN, “Fox and Friends,” “Rachael Ray,” etc. And she’s helped thousands of families to have a happier home life and many parents to become calmer, happier parents. And in this episode, she gives a lot of really practical strategies for how to navigate a lot of what we’re facing right now. When your kids are home a lot more, how to navigate autonomy versus responsibility in older kids. Her “when then” system for getting things done without nagging around the house. Some tips for getting kids to want to actually do homework and schoolwork without the fight, etc. It’s a really fun and lightning episode. I think you’ll enjoy as much as I did. So without further ado, let’s jump in.

Amy, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Amy: Katie, thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to talk with you.

Katie: I am so excited about this interview because almost everybody listening is a parent. Most of my audience are moms. And I think this topic is timely and helpful all of the time. But especially, right now, with so much going on, and with summer starting, and kids home more, I feel like the information you have is just so vital for parents. So, I wanna jump right in. This is the thing I get a question about quite a bit as well, and I think you’re more qualified to speak on. So I have my kids home all the time because I homeschool. And I hear from my friends who are moms this time of year, like, “Oh gosh, the kids are gonna be home for all these weeks.” And they get stressed about it. So let’s start there. What do you say to parents who are kind of struggling to balance having the kids home for an extended period of time?

Amy: Well, I think it’s always more challenging when kids are home, whether it’s summer, or holiday breaks, or whatever it happens to be. And I think for parents, we have to just give ourselves a little bit of grace, and forgive ourselves. We may be a little bit more on edge or we may lose our temper more than we would normally. And that’s okay. But the other thing to know is that there are some concrete strategies that you can use all the time but especially, when kids are home, on break or vacation or whatever, that can make things go more smoothly, help your routines stay in check. And if they can implement some of those very basic things, then they’re gonna enjoy that time a lot more with their kids, their kids will be better behaved. Moms and dads will feel better about that time together and family life would just run a lot more smoothly.

Katie: That makes sense. And I think kind of also to start broad, like, I’d love to hear a little bit of your story because I’ve read a little bit of it and I’m going through the positive parenting solutions course right now. But have you always been this patient calm mom?

Amy: Hardly, hardly. And that’s probably the thing that parents don’t know about me unless they’ve heard my story is that I call myself a recovering yeller. Because when my kids were younger, I wanted to be a great mom. I have great kids and they’re wonderful but I found myself on a daily basis getting into this cycle of nagging and reminding my kids, and nagging and reminding, and nagging and reminding, and then I would just blow. And my yelling occurrences were not a one-off. It was a pretty much everyday thing and many times multiple times a day. And so that’s actually how I got into what I do now, is that I would find myself yelling so much, and I was feeling so defeated and frustrated, and sometimes even resentful of my kids, like these people that I love more than anything in the world. But I wasn’t being my best self. And so that’s when I started studying parenting strategies. And it was just so life-changing for our family, for me, personally, for my kids. And my business background was actually in adult training. And that’s what I did for a living. So I took that training expertise and thought, “I really feel like I could bring these strategies to parents and teach them in a way that was fun and it would be easy for them to implement.” And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. So to answer your question, no, I’m not a calm and very Zen person by nature. I’m Type A, I’m controlling, I’m all of those things that tend to bring out the worst in terms of kids’ behavior. But, again, once you know the tools and the strategies, you can definitely turn that around.

Katie: I love that. And, you know, I always hear that line that parenthood doesn’t come with an instruction manual. And I think that’s really true. But I also found out, for me, just on the household side, I wanna go deep on the parenting side with you but I had a similar experience where I was so overwhelmed and exhausted, and just constantly stressed out at home, and I was running a business, and I was running my household. And I stepped back and went, “Why is it so easy to run my business and I am so stressed all the time at home? And I realized, at work, there were defined expectations. I had systems for things, I had a plan and goals and it was clearly defined. Whereas at home, I was trying to sort of manage everyone’s lives in my head, eight people off the top of my head, plan all the meals, and just keep all of that in my head all the time. So, from a household perspective, I realized if I could put the systems in place for my house, that would take a lot of that mental stress away, and I would still get the same amount done just without the stress of it. And I would guess for parenting, you probably discovered some similar things that if you had the strategies, and the frameworks, and the methods to do this, it actually makes your life probably much easier, right?

Amy: Absolutely. And I was laughing to myself when you said, you know, that your job came so much more easily and that’s what I found as well. I felt like I was very capable in my work job, my outside of the house job, but at home I felt like I was floundering. And I think, yes, you’re absolutely right. When you put those processes in place and the routines, and you have the expectations for everyone, it goes so much more smoothly. But the one piece that tends to happen with our kids is that when we put the processes in place, and when we have the rules, and the boundaries, and all those things, that’s helpful but our taskmaster nature actually tends to undermine things with our kids. So I always talk about, you know, how much time we spend sort of ordering, correcting, and directing. That tends to invite power struggles for our kids. So the piece that we have to remember at home is that we have to make sure that we intentionally create those emotional connection opportunities. We’re filling their attention buckets because if we don’t do those things, all of the systems can be in place but if we’re not doing those emotional connection times with our kids, then we’re gonna fall into this pattern of attention-seeking behavior and power struggles, and it’s gonna feel like so much more effort than it really should.

Katie: I love that. Can you give some examples of what that would look like? Because I feel like a lot of parents or at least speaking from my own experience, I know you can get stuck in that cycle of, my kids actually do need to get these things done. They need to help around the house, we’re part of the family, and then you’re just stuck reminding them and nagging them. So give us some examples of stepping back and reinforcing the emotional connection like that.

Amy: Yeah, so that’s the funny thing is that, you know, kids have these hard-wired needs for emotional connection and attention. But they won’t come to you and say, “You know what, Mom? I feel like my attention bucket is really not being filled right now. I’m not feeling that warm and fuzzy emotional connection from you.” Unfortunately, that need that they have will present itself as being overly clingy, and needy, and whining, and more of these attention-seeking behaviors, which makes us more frustrated. And again, you get into this vicious cycle. And just like our kids have an attention bucket, they also have a power bucket, which means that they need to have an age-appropriate sense of autonomy and control over their own lives. But again, they’re not gonna come to us and say, “You know, I feel like I need more control and decision-making opportunities.” They’re gonna dig in their heels. They’re gonna push back. They’re gonna resist, backtalk, and those types of things. And I always remind parents that kid priorities are not the same as parent priorities.

So the more we want them to do the things we want them to do, if we’re not meeting their needs for that emotional connection, filling their attention bucket and filling their power bucket, they’re gonna continue to resist. So the simplest thing is just spending one-on-one time with your kids on a daily basis, and it can be as short as 10 minutes. But in our positive parenting solutions community, we call this mind, body, and soul time because it reminds us for that 10 minutes, we are fully present in mind, body and soul with that child. And nothing is more important, and you’re doing exactly what that child loves to do. So it might be reading a chapter book, or playing Legos, or jumping on a trampoline, it’s whatever that child loves. But in those few moments, you’re giving them your 100% attention. They’re getting that emotional connection with you. And parents are just blown away, Katie, by how much more cooperative kids are, they’re willing to do all of those things that are parent priorities and not really kid priorities. But the key is when we meet their hardwired emotional needs first, all the other stuff becomes so much easier.

Katie: I love that. It’s such a good reframe. And I’ve seen that quote online as well. Like, you know, we have to remember as parents, especially the adults in these relationships, that when kids act out, they’re not trying to be the problem, they’re having a problem. And if we can reframe it and, like, look at what are their needs, and how can we address this, it totally changes how you look at your child and that totally changes the relationship. And I think that’s encouraging to hear as a parent also is, you know, this doesn’t have to be four hours a day per child, which wouldn’t even be possible in my case. You know, it’s like just having that actual focused quality time goes so far. And I think I did this somewhat intuitively, one of my daughter’s, as she got older, like, I could tell she was pulling back a little bit and just a little bit more moody and reserved. And so to connect with her on her level, I literally had to start pole vaulting. But now she’s, like, opened up and we’ve connected so much more. But it took exactly what you said. It took finding the things she loves to do, and me being willing to try it, and not be good at it, which I think is another important lesson for parents. You know, like, let them see you out of your comfort zone and let them see you work through something difficult because we help them work through difficult things all the time. How does that translate then into when they do need to get stuff done, when they need to do their laundry or the dishes or whatever it may be? Do you find just by the nature of putting that time in, they’re just so much more willing or are there strategies that you use to help them also be more willing to want to do those things?

Amy: Well, just by filling their attention bucket intentionally every day, it is almost, almost like a magic bullet that they are so much more cooperative, and easygoing, and willing to do those things that they’re supposed to do. Now, we all know there’s no such thing as a parenting silver bullet so you need some backup strategies. So one of the strategies that I teach to parents is called the when-then routine. And in a when-then routine, it requires that the yucky stuff is done before the more fun parts of the day. So a when-then routine might sound like this. When you finished unloading the dishwasher, then we can have our special time before lunch. So that yucky thing that they don’t wanna do gets done before the more enjoyable thing or when you’ve completed your schoolwork or when you’ve completed your family contributions, then you can have your 30 minutes of technology time. So we’re always the positioning the yucky stuff before the more enjoyable things. It’s important to note that this is not a reward system. If you do this, then you can get that. That’s something very different. Actually, we don’t advocate that at all.

But it is these normally occurring privileges, like whatever maybe technology time you allow or going outside to play with your friends or even our special time together. When the family jobs get done with the schoolwork or whatever those things are, then you can enjoy whatever that thing is. But that when-then routine is magical. And in fact, all of your routines should be set up in a when-then format. So, in the morning, when kids are going to school, let’s say they’re going out to school, when you are dressed, your bed is made, hair is combed, backpack and lunchbox are by the door, then we’ll have breakfast and we can have some special time before we leave for the bus. In the evenings, when you’ve had your bath, teeth are brushed and flossed, and clothes picked up for the morning, then we’ll have our special time before lights out at 8: 00. So sometimes you have to put a time limit at the end there, but all of your routines you can set up in a when-then fashion, and it’s fabulous for parents because they can get out of the nagging and reminding business. It really works so beautifully, Katie.

Katie: That makes sense. And in fact, it probably takes the responsibility of having to do any of that nagging or reminding pretty much off your plate because if they come ask, “Can I do screentime? Can I play outside?”, whatever, all you have to say is, “Well did you do this?” And it’s then their choice and their responsibility. The one confounding thing I’m thinking is with my older kids. What about when you get older kids who don’t want to do the one-on-one time as much or they’re pulling back or, like, you know, just aren’t engaging as much in general because they’re kind of hitting that age is? How do you emotionally connect with them?

Amy: That’s a great question. So, mind, body and soul time, I really advocate for kids of all ages. But sometimes we position it differently. So for all kids, if possible, I like to label it. So call it something, you know, Jason and mommy time, whatever you wanna call it. Now, for older kids, you may not label it. So you don’t want it turn into this big, like, you know, they roll their eyes when you say, “Okay, it’s Jeffrey and mommy time.” You just sort of make it happen without making a big pronouncement out of it. And so sometimes that is just being in their vicinity. So if they’re sitting reading a book, you sit down with your book and read it with them. And then afterwards, you can say, “I love sitting here reading with you. This is so cool.” So we don’t make a big deal about it beforehand, but you sort of just slide your way into whatever they’re doing. But then you book end it with just that little, “Aah, I love spending this time with you. This is so fun.”

And then the other thing is being interested in what they’re interested in. And so if they’re into photography or even social media, like you said before, let them teach you things. So let them teach you how to use new platforms or how to, you know, do photos properly on Instagram and all of those types of things that kids are so much better at than we are. Use that as an opportunity to emotionally connect with them. But the connection time is still really important for teens. We just do it slightly differently. The other little thing, Katie, too, even for teens, I love having some sort of a tuck-in routine with them, if you will. Again, it’s gonna look different than your littles. But just some connection time where you are just spending a few minutes with them, connecting, talking about the day, whatever it is. It’s just so powerful and kids may act like they don’t want it. They really do love it once you get into a good routine.

Katie: That makes sense. I could definitely see that. And from that to the other end of the spectrum, at least, for me, with toddlers, I feel like they’re the easy ones to connect because they’re sponges. And if you wanna read a book, or they’ll play Legos, any of that, they love it. But then you run into more of, like, the tantrum or meltdown phases where it’s like, how do you break that cycle when they’re in that kind of a phase?

Amy: That’s the classic question for the younger ones, that’s for sure. So a couple of things, you will find that when you start doing the mind, body, and soul time consistently on a daily basis, the frequency and intensity of those tantrum episodes will decrease. That is proven time and time again. So that’s the first piece. The second piece is when that tantrum happens, again, recognize that that child is having difficulty. It’s not about you, the child is having a hard time. So the most important thing is to connect, be there, get down on their level. Through trial and error, figure out what’s gonna help that child in that moment, show empathy, work on calming strategies, breathing techniques, all of those things that sort of help recenter the mind and body. We can start to teach those things at a young age. We have to recognize that these are kind of skills that kids have to learn. And it takes a little while, but we can start that process right then and there. But I think if we view it, as you said earlier, “This child is having a hard time,” rather than it being a misbehavior, it puts us in a totally different mindset in terms of how we respond to that child. And it’s gonna completely shift how quickly the child comes out of that episode.

Katie: That makes sense. Okay. So in the very beginning, we started talking a little bit about routine. And I’d love to circle back to that, especially with times like kids being home for the summer and not the normal school year type routine. Do you recommend being rigid and creating a routine to kind of keep through the summer or being more lenient in times like that? How do you navigate those?

Amy: Yeah, so I am big on routine. I don’t think we have to be militant. But I think a routine is important, one, because human beings in general, but especially kids crave a sense of order. And most kids do better when there is a sense of order to their day. And so if there can be a general routine that we follow, things happen in a certain order of events, the day will just go more smoothly. So if you are homeschooling, you know, you kind of have your block schedule in terms of the order in which we do things within those blocks and there can be a lot of flexibility. So if it’s a movement or a creativity block, what we do within that can be very flexible. But you would do less nagging and reminding, Katie, if we can have a routine that we follow, even during the summer. Now we want summers to be fun and all of that, but certain things can remain the same. So kids have family contributions, and I call them family contributions, not chores. We can talk about that later. But they have family contributions that they do every day. I highly recommend that bedtimes remain the same.

And the bedtime can be different, say, during the summer, the time can be different during the summer than during the school year if they’re going out to school, but it should be the same every night because kids internal clocks, they still need the same amount of sleep. Their internal clocks don’t recognize the difference between a Saturday night versus a Tuesday night. So keeping routines the same for bedtime can really go a long way in just easing just a lot of stress and anxiety for the parent. The other reason that’s important is that if the bedtime is 8: 00 one night, 8: 30 the next, and 9: 00 the next, you really don’t have a bedtime routine. You don’t have a bedtime. So it becomes negotiable every night and it can turn into this power struggle. So even during summer vacations or holidays, or when we’re all home for other reasons, the more that we can keep the routine pretty consistent, it’ll just make things a lot easier for parents and a lot easier for kids.

Katie: Gotcha. Okay. And I’m glad that you brought up bedtime because I think that’s another area where parents can have a lot of difficulty and it seems to change. So the little ones, at least in my house, it’s been more of the having trouble getting them to get in bed, stay in bed, and then they need water, and they need to go to the bathroom, and then they had a bad dream or whatever, all the things maybe. With my older ones, it’s more of anything, they just wanna stay up and read longer. But any strategies for navigating bedtime and all the different ages and enforcing it without it being a fight?

Amy: Yes, so that we could talk an entire hour just on bedtime. There’s so much to cover here, but just some general guidelines. So you talked about all the requests, the drink of water, the one more hug, all of those types of requests that you get during the bedtime routine. I recommend that you with your kids revisit what that routine is gonna look like. So all the things that they asked for you build that into the routine. And so we decide that, you know, lights out is at 7: 30 or 8: 00 or whatever time that is, and then all of those things, that extra kiss, and the drink of water, and the back rub, all of those things happen within the routine. Once you close the door, that’s it. Now, you can prepare ahead. Like, you can keep a sippy cup in the room with just, you know, a little tiny bit of water in it. So if they get thirsty in the middle of the night, they have it there. But once the door closes, that’s it. Now there’s quite a bit of a training process that we help parents with to kind of navigate that so it doesn’t turn into a big power struggle. But what we don’t wanna be in the business of is, you know, just responding all night long with these requests because then parents never get a break. They’re exhausted. They end up dreading the bedtime routine.

And it’s a big power struggle. The other thing that I recommend is that the tuck-in time, be one parent and one child, rather than, you know, we read books with everybody together, we do prayers with everybody together, all of those things. While that’s efficient, it doesn’t really fill their attention bucket. And the other problem is when there’s, you know, two kids and one parent, sort of the pack mentality can set in and they start acting up, and that can be difficult. So the more you can do one parent, one child for the tuck-in routine, which means you’ll be staggering, that’s gonna give you better results. Then for older kids, that is just sort of working with them. You know, if they wanna have more reading time, that’s probably fine. But still having a lights out time that you respect. Certainly, we wanna have a technology lights out time, long before their actual bedtime, just so they’re not doing a lot of technology right before they go to bed. So a lot of things to consider in the whole bedtime routine, depending on the age of the child, the preferences of the parents and what kind of power struggles we’re having in general.

Katie: Gotcha. And I’m glad you brought up technology as well because certainly, this is an area that I think our generation kind of uniquely gets to figure out how to handle with kids. Because, at least, for me, that was just starting to come around when I was a teenager. So it wasn’t really… Like, there was no social media at that point. My parents didn’t really have to figure out how to navigate that. And now, we have kids with these devices and they’re connected to the world through technology, which has many advantages and certainly is not going away. And as adults, they’re going to need to know how to navigate technology. But as parents, we have a responsibility for teaching them to navigate it responsibly and also not letting it take over our family lives. And also, before we jump into any topic like this, I also wanna say I realize this is different, I’m sure in every family and there are times where kids are using technology for schoolwork or for other things. So I’m not trying to, like, poo technology at all. I just am curious, do you have any guidelines for navigating technology appropriately at all the different stages?

Amy: Yes, it is important that you really give some thought to that because you’re right, kids, whether they are doing remote schooling, you know, they’re gonna have technology that they’re using for that. And there’s not much that we can do about that as parents. But there is a lot of what I call recreational technology time that kids are spending and we do have the responsibility to put some boundaries around that. We have the responsibility to do training around that. So, it can’t be a free for all, that, you know, all day long they can have access to the technology. So, again, it’s going to depend on the age of your kids. But first I recommend that you make technology part of a when-then routine team that we talked about earlier. So when your family contributions are done, then you can have your technology time. We also want to be very clear that when technology time is over, we put it away, and then it’s over. If there’s a lot of griping, or groaning, or complaining, or, “Mom, can I just have five more minutes?” And if it turns into a power struggle every day, then that’s not working. And so that tells you that probably that child may not be mature enough to handle the privilege of that technology. And we really wanna back off of it for a while, or we might need more training or whatever it happens to be.

But it cannot turn into a situation where the parent is the technology police and that every day is a battle because that’s not working for anybody. So we’re gonna put those boundaries in place. If kids cannot follow the rules that you’ve set forth based on your wisdom and what you know is appropriate for their emotional well-being and safety, if they can’t follow those rules, then they’re not gonna have access to that technology. And working with parents, I think that’s one of the most difficult things, Katie, because parents fear the wrath of their kids when they limit technology. And so they are fearful of putting the boundaries around it and then it turns into a free for all. So we have to do that. If kids can follow the rules, then they can have access to the technology because it is a privilege. It’s not a right. The other thing is that the training piece is really important. You wouldn’t send your kid out in the car without any training. Well, the same is true for technology. So teaching them how to use it responsibly. And there’s a lot of great online resources for that, how to use social media responsibly, training on your digital footprint. All of those types of things are really important. That’s our job. And so if we’re gonna allow them to have that technology, we need to make sure that we do take care time for training as well.

Katie: Gotcha. Okay. I think those are great guidelines. Another thing that seems to be an issue with certain parent-kid dynamics is back talking or acting sassy with parents. Any strategies for that? I would guess like everything we’ve talked about, probably the one-on-one time helps and just having natural consequences and systems built-in so you’re not constantly nagging, means there’s fewer times for that, but any other strategies or ways that you navigate?

Amy: You’re right, Katie, that’s probably the number one thing that parents bring to me us, like, the problem behavior, it’s that backtalk, and sassiness, and attitude. But the thing that we have to remember and we talked about this kind of at the beginning is that that is the symptom. It’s not the real problem. So if we can think about the backtalk as the symptom and not, like, that’s not the thing that we have to fix, we want to address the root cause of the behavior. And so as you said, we can do that by filling their attention bucket one-on-one every single day. That is essential. And again, if there’s a magic bullet in parenting, that is it. We also wanna be aware of our communication, and how much ordering, correcting, and directing that we do. One of the things that I teach to parents in our program is a parent personality assessment programs so, like, to figure out how your personality brings out certain behaviors in your kids. So for me, my personality is super controlling, naturally. So if I allow my natural controlling Miss Bossypants tendencies to show too much, I’ll naturally get power struggles. So for parents, they can learn how to sort of tweak their natural responses, so they do less ordering, correcting, and directing, and then use other tools that will get better cooperation. That will help reduce the backtalk.

When that does happen, again, remember that the child is having difficulty. There’s something else going on. So to show grace and empathize with that child. “Wow, you seem really frustrated. Wow, I can tell you are really mad about this.” Empathize with whatever it is they’re being sassy about, forget the sassiness for a minute and get to, like, what the theme is that they’re really upset about and show empathy with that. We’re gonna be much more likely to get through that if, again, we connect on that emotional level. The other thing that we can do is recognize that the backtalk, the sassiness, those are power behaviors. So when kids are exerting their power behaviors, it is usually an indication that they’re not feeling enough personal control, power autonomy over their own world. So there are strategies we can use for that. A simple one is giving them more decision-making opportunities. So think about areas in your family life, where you can get kids more involved in making decisions. Maybe it’s meal planning for the week. If the family is taking a vacation several months from now, get them involved in that. The more that they can have real-world decision-making opportunity, that is gonna really help their power bucket. And then the last thing that I would say and this is the hardest, Katie, is don’t take the bait.

When kids kind of serve up that sassy remark, that backtalk remark, it is so instinctive for us to respond with power, “You will not speak to me that way.” You know, “I demand respect,” or whatever the words are that you would say. But when we do that, it totally escalates the power struggle. So instead, if we can refuse to take the bait and just say with a smile and in a calm voice, say, “Sweetie, I’d love you too much to argue about this. Let’s talk about this when we’re both feeling more calm.” But just that smile on your face in a calm voice, “I love you too much to argue about this,” it just diffuses it. It says, “I’m not gonna engage in this power struggle. I’m not accepting your invitation and we’ll talk about this later. Whatever it is that you’re upset about, that’s important to me but I’m not gonna get into a battle with you.” So, again, I keep saying this, but we could talk for just a whole hour on backtalk, and attitude, and sassiness. But just sort of remembering those core issues of why it’s happening in the first place and addressing that will be our best strategy.

Katie: Yeah, I think you’re so right. It’s important to reframe that and I really also liked that you brought up the control autonomy dynamic because I’m just in the early stages of having to navigate this. So I’m by no means an expert. But it is something I think a lot about right now, just having a teenager and soon to have another teenager, and remembering what it was like to be a teenager as well. And I’ve read enough psychology to know, kids in that age, especially once they hit the teenage years, psychologically, they actually are trying to become more independent. And that’s an important psychological stage for them, as they’re preparing for adulthood. And also, as parents, we, of course, want them to be prepared for adulthood, and to have the skills, and the foundation they need to be independent, and to live outside our homes. And I’m seeing firsthand and definitely understand how difficult that is because at the end of the day, like, I still think of my oldest as my baby even though he’s almost as tall as I am. But realizing they do need to learn to have that autonomy and to feel control over and an ability to make their own decisions. In our house, we turn this thing on its head. So most people have heard the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And we tell our kids, it actually works the other way. “With great responsibility comes great power.” When you show us that you’re responsible, we want to give you freedom, and we want to give you the power to make decisions. And so we have constant conversations around that. But just because it’s so top of mind, for me, right now, I’m curious, are there any, like, guidelines or ideas that you have for navigating with teenagers when certain levels of autonomy are appropriate or is it very much case by case based on the maturity level of the child and the relationship with the parent or how do you handle that?

Amy: First off, I just love what you just said, “With great responsibility comes great power.” That’s amazing. The other thing that I just want our listeners to remember is that this issue about needing more autonomy and control is absolutely an issue with teenagers. But it is the exact same thing with your two-years-old, three-years-old, six-years-old It doesn’t matter. Every kid at every stage has a need for autonomy and control. So I just don’t want people to think that we need to wait until the teen years to be thinking about this. But let’s talk specifically about what you asked when we want kids to be prepared to be successful in the adult world. And so we have to do our job to train them. So part of that is on an ongoing basis, always training them on tasks that they’ll need to do in the adult world, whether that’s managing their money, or changing air filters in the house, or car maintenance, or gardening, or whatever those things are, we always wanna be training them on adult tasks, so that when they leave the house, they’ll be prepared. But in terms of taking on more responsibility, one of the tools that I just love is called Convince Me. And this tool would apply when your kids wanna do something. Maybe they want to…you know, it’s a middle school or who wants to go to the mall on their own with friends, or somebody wants to go to a concert in the next town, or start driving, or whatever it happens to be, it is something that your kids wanna do that you’re a little bit, like, “I’m just not totally sure I’m ready for that.”

So you will use the tool to Convince Me. And so the way that works is you would share your concerns. So you would say, “You know, I understand that this is really important to you. Let me share my concerns about you going to the concert, or going to the mall, or riding your bike to school,” whatever that happens to be. These are my concerns. “So why don’t you take some time and think about this, and come back to me with your plan to address my concerns?” And so that’s what the kid does. They take some time, and then they come back, and they try to convince you if you will, but they do it in a way that takes all of your concerns into consideration, and then they share the plan that they’ve come up with. And so then, if you are comfortable with the plan that they’ve put forth, you can say, “Okay, I feel comfortable with that. It seems to me that you’ve thought through all of the possible things that could go wrong, you have a backup plan in place. That sounds great, let’s go ahead and, you know, do whatever you’ve asked to do.” And then you see how that goes. If they do well, then that makes you think, “Wow, yes, you know, he did a really good job by taking on this additional responsibility. And now I feel comfortable giving him more responsibility in the future.” Or if not, if it didn’t go so well, well, then that tells you, you’ve got more training to do.

We have more work to do in terms of responsibility. But the reason that I love this is because it requires the child to understand your point of view. So we’re fostering that empathy. And then they have to use their reasoning, and decision-making, and planning skills to come up with something to convince you that would address all of your concerns, but still, let them get the outcome that they want. And so it’s just a great strategy for adult life, right? We’ll be doing the same thing in our jobs or in group projects in college, or whatever, and you can start doing this really, as young as six or seven. Obviously, the problems and the issues will be different. But you can use these strategies, you know, all the way through into the teen years. And it’s great for kids and it’s great for parents.

Katie: That’s so great. I’m writing that one down to remember for sure because, you’re right, it puts the control actually in their hands. They’re getting to have a chance. And it removes all those things I used to say as teenagers, like, “You don’t understand or you don’t listen to me,” or whatever it is because you are listening as well, like you said, and then you’re having them pull from skills that will serve them their entire lives to develop, and potentially be able to get the outcome they want if they are able to do that effectively, which I love. I think there’s also crossover here when it comes to schoolwork or homework and how to navigate that. I’ve personally always taken the approach that even though I homeschool teach them, I’ll teach the concept but I’m not going to handhold, and babysit, and go through every problem with them. That’s school, that’s actually their work and I want them to learn how to kind of autonomously work through it themselves. And I feel like we have a good rhythm on this because we’ve been home homeschooling for so long, but I hear from a lot of parents who say things like, “It’s just getting to be so much. I have five hours of homework with my kid every single night after school where I spend, you know, three hours trying to get my first grader to do worksheets.” And any advice for parents who are trying to navigate that.

Amy: Yeah, so that can be a real challenge and I totally feel for parents, especially if you have multiple kids, but there are some simple sorts of things that you can put in place to avoid that. First as with all things, you will be successful with homework and schoolwork if you have filled their attention bucket first. So yeah, if your kids are coming home after school, take that time to connect emotionally first before you start being the taskmaster and start with, “Okay, we have to get the homework done and what are your assignments,” and all of that, start with connection first. It makes everything else go more smoothly. The next thing is, have some homework policies in place. So one of your policies can be, “I am happy to help you with anything that you need in your homework, as long as you’ve done as much as you can on your own. And then you can come to me and let me know what you still need help with. Now, when you come to me and let me know where you’re having trouble, I wanna know your thought process for trying to figure this out.” So basically, Katie, I don’t want them coming and saying, “I just can’t do this. This is too hard.” I wanna know, “Okay, on number seven, I see this problem, tell me your thought process for going through it and where did you struggle?” That way, I know they’ve put some time into it. And they’re not just playing the helpless card. The other thing is, have homework help hours. So that means I’m willing to help you with your homework from 5: 30 to 8: 30. After that, I’m too tired, you know, that’s not gonna work for me. So have homework help hours, like your office hours, if you will.

That gets you out of the situation where they’re coming at, you know, 9: 30 at night, “I can’t do this. And it’s due tomorrow.” And so really put your homework help policies in place. Again, I tell parents, “You’ve already done the fifth grade. Your job is not to sit there and you know, side by side with your child, while they complete their homework and you being involved in it.” As you said, you want them to be doing that autonomously. You’re certainly there to support but it’s not your job. I would also have a talk with the teacher and let the teacher know that you are working on training for responsibility in your home. And so you will be there to support your child in doing their homework if they need help, but you’re not gonna cook some prod and that sort of thing. And so that then allows the natural consequences to play out. So if the kid doesn’t get the homework done, then that’s a discussion they’re having with the teacher and you can stay out of it. I think, Katie, where we run into trouble is, parents feel like, “I’m gonna look like a terrible parent if my kid doesn’t get their homework done.” Let the kid experience the natural consequences at school, that’s gonna be much more effective and it’s gonna keep you out of the role of the bad guy. Obviously, if there is a learning difference or an attention difference are other interventions that are required, you can, you know, work with the teacher and the clinicians, and whoever is on your team to do that. But they should be autonomously doing their homework, just as you suggested.

Katie: Yeah, I’m a big fan of natural consequences as well. And I’ve never heard it framed as well as you did with when and then, which I think is that just the language of that is wonderful because it avoids the power struggle and it lets them easily understand it in literally two words, that this happens when you’ve done this. But you’re right, I think that there’s been a shift at least it seems like. Obviously, I’ve only parented this current generation, but it seems like there’s a shift even since I was a kid of trying to protect kids from natural consequences. We’re not wanting them to have to feel the discomfort of not getting a good grade at school or facing something that’s difficult. And it’s funny because I don’t think my parents had those same fears. I always knew I had to get my schoolwork done. And if I messed up at school, I was gonna get in trouble at school. They certainly weren’t gonna save me. And then I was gonna get in trouble when I got home too. But there does seem to be at least a little bit more protecting kids from natural consequences. What other ways can we gently and lovingly incorporate those natural consequences? Because I feel like as adults, that’s something we all deal with very much every single day, if we don’t do our jobs, if we don’t take care of our houses, if we don’t do any of the things that adults have to do. There are very, very real natural consequences. So how can we let our kids start learning that from the earliest of ages?

Amy: Yes, absolutely. In fact, Katie, you’re doing our course right now so you’ll be getting to this in step 3, where we talk about creating a consequential environment. If we don’t create a consequential environment at home, our kids are really gonna struggle when they’re out on their own and have to face consequences for the first time. So, you know, from the younger years, all the way up through the teens, we have to create that consequential environment. And some of those come from, like, natural consequences. Well, if you refuse to take your coat to school, you may be cold outside at recess. It’s the middle of winter, that’s just a natural consequence. But then there’s also consequences around personal responsibility. So you mentioned homework is one of them, that if you don’t get your homework done, then you’re gonna have to face the consequences with your teacher. One of the things that we talk about is implementing a no rescue policy. And a no rescue policy is for areas in which we’ve been through this a million times, whether it’s remembering your lunchbox and remembering the homework, or your sports equipment, or whatever it is, we’ve talked about this, we’ve trained on it, I’ve already rescued you, probably more times than I should have. But now I know that it’s time to implement the no rescue policy. And so that starts with training. And we always kind of position it in a very positive way because marketing is everything. “You know, you are really growing up and you’re becoming so responsible in so many ways. And so now this is an area where you can take responsibility.” So let’s say it’s the sports equipment. “So from now on, you’re gonna be responsible for packing your sports bag and remembering to take it, making sure you have your uniform, and your cleats, and all the equipment.

I’m not gonna get involved in that anymore. I’m not gonna remind you, that is gonna be your responsibility. And if you choose not to take that responsibility, if you don’t have your stuff ready, if you forget your stuff, I’m not gonna be driving it to the field.” So what that means, Katie, is, you know, I’ve taken time for training… Oh, and also part of this has to do with systems. So I would say since I’m not gonna be reminding you about this anymore, what systems do you need to put in place so you can remember what you need to do for soccer or for your homework or whatever it happens to be? So we’ve done the training, we’ve put the systems in place, we’ve sort of set the expectation that we’re not gonna rescue, now we have to let it play out and let the child experience the consequence. Again, bring the coach or the teacher into the loop, if that makes you feel better, so they know you’re not a slacker parent, but in fact, you’re teaching responsibility. And if he shows up without his equipment, you know, you encourage the coach to implement the consequences that he has in place. So it’s implementing that no rescue policy. It’s not for a once in a blue moon mistake, we all make those and as a family, we have each other’s back. We help each other out. But for ongoing consistent issues that we have talked about, then we know it’s time for the no rescue policy. So that’s one example and many examples of how to create a decision rich environment for your kids that are going to set them up to be accountable, responsible for their own choices and to be successful functioning in a teen and in an adult world.

Katie: Got it. And I also wanna hear the explanation because you use the word family contributions, which I love because I think chores has a negative connotation. And adults don’t do chores, we just contribute to the family as well. But I’d love to hear, like, how you first of all came up with that term and how you use that because I think it’s such a great alternative.

Amy: Yeah, it’s so funny you asked how I came up with that term, and I actually don’t have any idea. I don’t remember how I came up with it. But you’re right, the word chores just denotes drudgery. Nobody wants to do chores. That sounds awful. And when you call those things family contributions, it doesn’t make the task any more enjoyable. Nobody enjoys folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher. But it does reinforce to your kids that when you do those things, it makes a difference for our family. And again, part of that power bucket that I talked about is a feeling of significance. We all have a hard-wired need to make a difference, to be significant, to contribute to the greater good. And so for a child or a teenager, the greater good is their family. And so when they are doing those things, they are contributing. So I highly recommend that parents change the language on that. I will tell you, Katie, to this day, my kids still roll their eyes a little bit when I say family contributions. But that doesn’t stop me one bit, I still call them that because when they contribute, it makes a difference. And the other piece of that is that we need to remind our kids what a difference their efforts make. And this applies to your partner too. Even though it’s their regular job, let them know, “When you do that, that makes such a difference for me. That makes our home runs so much more smoothly. That’s a big job that I don’t have to do.” We have to remember on an ongoing basis to let our people know how much we appreciate their contributions because that makes them feel better about it. When they know that their efforts are making a difference for you, they’re gonna be more likely to want to do it in the future.

Katie: That makes sense. Yeah. And it’s a great reminder. A lot of these things, just even our language, and our reframing, and making time for one-on-one connection, those are all such important things with our partner too, not just with our kids. Yeah, I think those are such helpful things.

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I’d also love to hear because I know you’ve worked with probably now thousands of families. For people listening who are wondering like, “This all sounds great, and it makes sense. But does it actually work? And do you really see a big difference? And how long does it take?” So can you talk about kind of what is the typical path that someone’s family will see when they start implementing these things, but maybe tell us a couple of stories of families that have used these strategies and how that changed their lives?

Amy: Oh, my goodness, I could go on forever. But so there are some changes that you see immediately and some that take a little bit longer. So I’ll give you a couple of examples. The mind, body, and soul time that I mentioned, that tool about one-on-one time every single day, you will see a difference in your kid’s behavior in one or two days, promise. Like as I said, if there’s such thing as a magic bullet, that is it because it is getting to their core emotional needs. So that change you see right away. Now in the work that I do with parents, I like to make it really easy for them. So I teach it kind of in a step-by-step pattern. So you implement one tool, and then you build on it with the next and the next. And with each tool that you implement, you are getting better and better results. And that makes sense because all of the tools focus on giving kids the positive power that they have to have. But then also, the other tools are intended to sort of diffuse those power struggles, but in a way that’s more positive than we’ve done before. So the more you use the tools, in general, the behavior gets better and better. So with the mind, body, and soul time, you’ll see that right away. Now with sibling rivalry and fighting, that takes a little bit longer to implement and to see the results. You’ll see some initial results right away, but it won’t solve every single thing in the first week, of course. And the reason for that is so for you, you have a 13-year-old, your oldest is 13, Katie, what’s the age of your next child?

Katie: Eleven, almost 12.

Amy: Okay. So between those two kids, there’s 11 years of baggage or competition, rumblings, that have sort of been baked into the relationship. And so that’s an example that takes just a little bit longer to resolve because we have to teach kids the conflict resolution strategies and we kind of have to work at some of that victim competition that naturally happens because, right, the day that you bring that second baby home from the hospital, there’s some competition that is just baked in. That’s just the way it works. So those types of behaviors may take a little bit longer to turn around. But in terms of transformation, I would encourage your listeners to go and read our Google reviews, our five star Google reviews, the transformation is just amazing. And it’s parents who felt like they were failing at their most important job, they feel like they’re not even cut out for parenthood, they feel like they’re not meeting their kid’s needs like every day. It just is a cycle of frustration and guilt. And they just feel extremely discouraged. And then they start implementing the tools and things start to turn around. So we have so many success stories, whether it’s on, you know, getting your kids to sleep through the night, whether it’s the sibling thing that I talked about, whether it’s just the emotional connection with your kids, reducing the power struggles.

There are so many transformations. But, you know, as a mom of now I have young adults, like, I will tell you, that time just goes so quickly. And you wanna look back on it and think, “Yes, like, I really enjoyed that time with my kids.” You want your kids to look back on their growing up years and think, “Yes, I had a great relationship with my parents. Things weren’t always perfect, but when things came up, we dealt with in a way that was positive, and it was solution-focused, and we want them to have those good memories. So the transformation can absolutely come. The thing that I always tell parents, Katie, is that parenting is not intuitive. Like, just because you’re smart, and loving, and nurturing, and you’re a good person, that doesn’t mean that you have the tools to deal with temper tantrums in Target or, you know, the meltdowns, or the defiance, or the sassiness, or the homework hassles. Like, we don’t have that stuff intuitively. But the good news is, it’s things that you can learn, really simple strategies that parents can pick up and just make such a difference in their day in day out life with their kids.

Katie: Yeah, exactly. And so far, I’m really enjoying the course. And I know you have a couple of books as well, I’ll make sure those are all linked in the show notes. So for all of you guys listening, you can head over to wellnessmama.fm and find the show notes there. But just talk a little bit about the system you have in your course, in the books and what you recommend for parents. Like, where should they jump in?

Amy: Yeah, so our system is called the 7-Step Parenting Success System. And again, it’s kind of a very linear approach because that’s the way my brain thinks. But it teaches parents all of those tools that they need to bring out the very best in their kid’s behavior, but also to bring out the best in the parent’s behavior so they can get out of the nagging, and reminding, and yelling cycle that they have been in. So in the 7 steps, parents learn the tools in the toolbox. But then there’s also the more intensive advanced modules. So if you have a bedtime problem, if you have a mealtime problem, if you have a child, you’re struggling with schoolwork and homework for a child with ADHD, so there are all these very specific advanced modules to tackle specific problems. So parents can just progress through that and learn all of those tools and have the advanced modules. If they want to sort of test drive what that system is all about, they can take a free class that we have, it’s called “Get kids to listen without nagging, reminding or yelling.” I can give you that link too. I also have two books, “If I Have to Tell You One More Time,” and then the other one is called “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic,” which is all about unentitling our kids. So lots different places that parents can get information. I’d say definitely start with a free class because that way they can sort of dip their toe in and see if they like what I teach, and they can put those tools, you know, into place right away with their own families and see what kind of results they get.

Katie: I love it. So again, all those will be in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm so you guys can find them. This was such a fun episode. Our time flew by. And another question I selfishly love to ask at the end because I’m a very avid reader is other than your own if there’s a book or a number of books that have really changed your life, and if so what they are and why?

Amy: Oh, this is such a hard question. I’m sure everybody tells you that. But there are a couple of books that I love. So this first one has been around for a while, you may be familiar with it. It’s called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Dr. Carol Dweck. And it is a great read. It’s an easy read, but it’s all about her groundbreaking research on a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. And that applies to everyone, whether it’s, you know, sports, academics, your work life, but so important for your parenting. And there are things that we parents do that sort of undermine a growth mindset for our kids, particularly as it relates to praise. And so her book is really a mindset shift for a lot of parents. I’ve also incorporated a lot of her concepts into what I teach. So that’s a great one. Another one that I love, and again, this is from forever ago, but it is still a classic. It’s called “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. And again, super easy reads, like lots of cartoons. But it’s ways to phrase things to kids so that it’s accepted with an open heart, doesn’t invite a power struggle but allows you to get things done. So, again, as I said, it’s a classic book, but it is one of my favorites and one that I always recommend to parents.

Katie: I love both of those suggestions. And like I said, this has been such a fun interview. I think it’s gonna help a lot of families. And I’m going through your course right now so I’ll make sure that link is in the show note as well. But thanks for the time and for all the research. It’s just been fun.

Amy: Well, thank you. I really appreciate the time to chat with you and thanks for all the important work that you’re doing out there for your community.

Katie: And thanks as always to all of you for joining us today and sharing one of your most valuable resources, your time with us. We’re very grateful that you did. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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