In this episode, Susan is joined by parent educators Janet Lansbury and Maggie Dent to talk through a wide-range of issues related to addressing misbehavior, strengthening connection, and managing our own parenting insecurities. A special episode filled with lots of insights, tips, and laughter!
Maggie Dent has become one of Australia’s favorite parenting authors and educators, with a particular interest in the early years, adolescence and resilience. Maggie’s experience includes teaching, counseling, and working in palliative care/funeral services and suicide prevention. Maggie is an advocate for the healthy, common-sense raising of children in order to strengthen families and communities. She is the author of 11 books, including the bestselling 2018 release Mothering Our Boys. She is also the host of the ABC’s Parental As Anything podcast. www.maggiedent.com
Janet Lansbury’s respectful parenting advice is quoted and shared by millions of readers worldwide. She is the author of two bestselling books, Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. Janet is also the creator and host of “Janet Lansbury Unruffled,” one of the most downloaded parenting podcasts on the web and recommended listening by The Washington Post. www.janetlansbury.com
Things you’ll learn from this episode:
- How to look past challenging behavior itself to get to the root of what is causing the behavior – that something is not right in the child’s world
- How stress in our children’s lives and our own distractions break down the family connections that support good behavior
- Why it’s so important to accept the child we have, not the idea of what we think our children are supposed to be or how they are supposed to behave
Get every episode delivered automatically!
Need more support?
Check out Susan’s master classes with Maggie and Janet!
Helping Anxious Children Thrive Master Class
Susan and Maggie offer time-tested strategies for helping children feel safe sharing their worries while learning how to avoid being ruled by them
Read the entire episode!
Speaker 1: Hello and welcome back to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m Susan Stiffelman, your host. I’m a marriage and family therapist and I’m the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. And I’m very glad that you’re here. Welcome. So I have something really special for you this week. It’s a podcast episode with Janet Lansbury and Maggie Dent, two wonderful parent educators. So I think you’re going to enjoy that. But first, a little bit of information for those of you who are interested in what we’re up to in the Parenting Without Power Struggles world. If you visit SusanStiffelman.com you’ll find a free newsletter with lots of tips and articles and inspiration. And you’ll also see a catalog of all of the masterclasses that I’ve talked with some of your favorite parent educators, including Tantrums and Meltdowns with today’s guest, Janet, and Helping Anxious Children Thrive with Maggie Dent, who you’re gonna also hear today.
Speaker 1: We have an episode on Homework and the Self-Driven Child with Dr. Williams Stixrud and Ned Johnson. We’ve got The New Adolescence with Dr. Christine Carter, Highly Sensitive Parents and Children with Dr. Elaine Aron. There’s so many great deep dives into so many important parenting topics. I think there’s 16 or 17 classes on SusanStiffelman.com so you might want to check them out. And also you’ll find out about our monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program where I work personally with parents either during our twice a month calls or through written questions that parents submit when they can’t attend live. And you can try the program out for just a dollar if you use coupon code Podcast19 at SusanStiffelman.com/membership It’s a great way to get support on whatever issue you might be facing or just to listen and learn and grow with us as we continue moving toward being that calm, confident, captain of the ship for our children. So I hope you’ll visit SusanStiffelman.com lots of ways to stay involved with this work. And now let’s get started.
Speaker 1: I have been lucky to have worked with some of the best parent educators and authors and teachers around. And today you’re going to hear from two of them. Janet Lansbury and Maggie Dent. These two ladies have joined me on some of my big summits like Raising Siblings and Raising Children with Challenges and as I mentioned before, we’ve co-taught masterclasses together that have been really helpful to parents. So when Maggie came to the United States from Australia this summer, it was a lot of fun for the three of us to get together and during that time we recorded the podcast that you’re going to hear today. So I hope you enjoy it.
So here we are!
Susan Stiffelman: Yeah. What fun!
Maggie Dent: This is going to be exciting. I’m excited!
Janet Lansbury: You can tell who Maggie is because she’s the one that sounds a bit different.
Maggie Dent: And yet, I don’t think I have an accent, but that’s beautiful. Thank you.
Janet Lansbury: So where do we begin? Let’s say our child is having difficulty with friendships, socially they’re struggling… What are some of the steps that we can take to address and understand the behavior?
Susan Stiffelman: Well, I always like to look for the root. I always like to encourage parents not to get distracted by the manifestation of the behavior, but to rather see it as a message or some important information from the child on some level saying, “all is not right in my world.” Whether that’s internal, something inside of me is unsettled or dysregulated, or whether it’s in terms of the relationship that child has with you, the attachment, the connection, or whether it’s academic issues.
There’s something that maybe he or she can’t articulate, but that is making life difficult in a classroom setting or schoolwork or with friendships. I’ll begin with that. I’ll break the ice here and then I’ll turn it to you, Maggie. But you know, just the idea that when we get distracted by the appearance, and we focus too much on that, we tend to lean toward: do this, do this. Let me script for you what you should do when your child is being rude to a friend or when they’re not starting in on their homework, but so often there’s a wealth of riches there that we can tap into to address something deeper and really get to the heart of the problem.
Janet Lansbury: And oftentimes trying to fix that behavior exacerbates the behavior.
Susan Stiffelman: Yeah.
Janet Lansbury: Because it’s addressing a symptom rather than the cause. It’s also telegraphing to our child that we are unaccepting, that we are pushing back on what they’re doing and we’re not having that open, curious mind that we need to have.
Maggie Dent: I think also it’s that place that we often in our minds go, now this is bad behavior, this is inappropriate behavior, this is wrong behavior. Whereas in actual fact, the behavior is exactly what you said, Susan. It’s a message that I’m not coping in my world right now. So it’s about our stepping back and going, something’s not right in my child’s world. And I often say, you just need to turn into being a CSI detective to work out what is underneath that rather than try and fix the behavior with something. That can be helpful later, but not until you’ve got to the core of that.
And of course, you know I’m a boy champion and so often we’ll find boys are behaving in a way that is looking like it’s bad and it’s naughty because it’s often physical, and yet underneath that will be a hurt boy who’s feeling misunderstood or hasn’t got a friend and they haven’t got the words to say that. Quite often that’s our challenge, isn’t it? Particularly as mamas it is, how do I get to understand what that is when they aren’t using any words to help me? And yet one of the worst and most tricky things you could say to a boy, particularly around 4, 8, and 14 is, “what’s the matter with you?”
So let’s give them some clues on how do we have that conversation that can help us go underneath what that is.
Janet Lansbury: I just want to insert, because I do work mostly with younger children, that sometimes our first step is actually containing the behavior, if it’s physical behavior, or removing our child from the situation for their safety and the safety of others.
Maggie Dent: Yeah.
Susan Stiffelman: Yeah.
Janet Lansbury: And while we’re doing that, the safety of our perception of this as something that’s not a judgment or a problem ,so that we can be that safe person that has a regulating effect instead of charging things up worse and making our child feel our anger. Containing that behavior as a safe presence.
Susan Stiffelman: Yeah, yeah.
Maggie Dent: They need grownups at times to help them do that because they are unable to do that. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad child and that’s a really powerful message again, that sometimes I need to help them.
Janet Lansbury: Seeing it as a call for help.
Maggie Dent: Yeah.
Susan Stiffelman: One of the things you both know that I’ve built my work on this idea of parents being the captain of the ship. And I use that analogy of a ship that’s cruising the waters and everything’s lovely and it’s a sunny day and everyone’s doing the waltz at dinner, but then you hear the alarm and things aren’t going well. Maybe there’s a leak or maybe there’s rough waters or a storm and that’s where the passengers really look to the captain. Are you up for this? Are you sturdy enough to get us through this storm?
And when a child is showing behavior that’s difficult or challenging.. as you said, Janet, I love the idea that they may do even more of it if you try and talk them out of it, if you just try and address the symptom, because they’re pretty committed to getting their message across and they may just get louder or more robust about that.
But when we can show up in that space as that calm captain… Certainly we don’t like the behavior. We would rather things be lovely and sweet. But where we don’t make it, Oh my gosh, there’s something wrong with my child. Or Oh, I’m a failure as a parent, my neighbor doesn’t have a child who does this. Well, your neighbor well may have one, you just may not be seeing it.
A lot of what children are looking to us for is a sturdiness and I love the phrase “non-anxious presence” where we’re big enough to contain whatever it is, and that right there can start to settle the behavior down and help us access maybe the pain or sadness that’s underneath. They may not put it into words, but when we are steady and calm, there’s a relaxation and a letting down of the guard and then we can start to get to what is at the root of that.
Maggie Dent: I think that’s absolutely fair because it reminds me of the parental pause that I kind of encourage parents to do, it’s to take that breath first and bring ourself into it, that exact state that you’re talking about. So I can be the captain of the ship, and as I’m doing that, I’m going to be wanting to, again, look at this through the eyes of my child. And so that does require us to pause a little.
And then I encourage parents to put their hand on their heart to remember: even though this child’s being a little revolting right now, I love this child and that reminds me that I have to come from the heart center, not just my head, which has lots of the ideas and that when I look down, I go, what are they needing right now from me? And they need a safe base. Let me be what my child needs right now.
It’s just that pausing again. Because I’m finding, and I know you do as well, that today’s parents are drowning with too much information and incredible accessibility to all sorts of things online quickly, which can not always be in alignment with their core values of their home and what they’ve been taught and also what has happened to them and their journey.
So I think the confusion adds to the stress in the moment that often makes them feel they have to stop it, to fix it, rather than see it as a teachable moment. That underneath this we’ve got an opportunity to look at what is triggering that behavior. And how can we later, when we’re all calm and centered, explore that for the child and see what it is that they are struggling with? Is there an unmet need? Is there a cluster of unmet needs? Are they hurting? Are they sad? So again, you’re not a lousy parent, this is your teachable moment. This is where we step up with all our swagger and become that part of the solution.
Janet Lansbury: Yes. I’ve never really thought of it this way before, but you’re making me see this almost as the way that you would handle a friend who suddenly seemed to be behaving in an unmanageable way. Would you be angry at that friend or would your heart go out? Poor them! They don’t want to be doing this.
That’s not to say that we should be friends with our child and that’s our relationship. They need us to be the leader. They need us to be the captain of the ship. But being able to see all behavior that way so it’s not threatening to us, it…
Maggie Dent: And it’s a part of normal development. They’re not adults in little bodies. They are children with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, which we know there are some grownups even with underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes today. So you’re absolutely right.
Interesting how we speak sometimes very differently to our children than we thought we would before we had them. And I’ve often said, would you speak to your best friend like that? Like if they had a bit of a boogie hanging out of their nose, what do you call it over here?
Susan Stiffelman: A booger.
Maggie Dent: Good, booger. Pretty similar. You’re not going to go, “Oh my gosh, here!” and wipe it off. You’re going to be pointing at it going, “Hey, hey. On your nose. Here’s a tissue.” We do it in a much more gentle way.
Janet Lansbury: And we’d even whisper it. We wouldn’t say it in front of other people.
Maggie Dent: Yes. We wouldn’t say it out loud. And we wouldn’t say it as though…
Janet Lansbury: We would take them aside. Even if it was something that they were doing… Maybe they’re picking up that cigarette and they’ve asked us to help them stop and we’re not going to say in front of everyone, “What are you doing? Stop!”
Maggie Dent: How weak are you?!
Janet Lansbury: We’re going to say, “My love, come close.” Like, “You sure you want to do that?” You know? Or…
Susan Stiffelman: It’s a boundary thing. And I think a lot of this has to do with the recognition that our children are separate from us. It’s very difficult to not take their behavior personally or to not use them in certain ways to present to the world this front that says, Hey, check me out. I’m the parent of that really well behaved child over there. And then the flip side of that is, Oh my gosh, I can’t tolerate that. If you’re not showing up in the world, or in the classroom, or with your friend, or you’re at your friend’s house, or in the playroom, as a child, that makes me look like I’ve got my act together, we have a problem and I’m going to quickly, as fast as possible, throw caution to the wind and not be discrete.
And as you were saying, not treat you like a friend with that kind of respect because it’s all about me. I mean in many respects, a lot of our work as parents is to differentiate from our children. We talk about them differentiating from us. But I think the flip side of that is it’s true that they are on their own path.
I’ve had some fantastic parents that I’ve done counseling with just doing everything that I would have suggested and their child is very, very difficult. And I think some kids come into the world kicking and screaming and they have a path to walk down. And we do our best to show up with compassion and love and care. And we certainly raise our hand for help when we need it, because sometimes it’s not just that we’re not doing it “right”, it’s that this child just needs some extra support and we may need some support as well.
Maggie Dent: It’s difficult today, isn’t it? In the Insta world. There’s these perfect pictures of people, and often at different times beginning school when they’re all looking wonderful and dressed up and we don’t see what happened before they got to school. We don’t see the antics of, “Where’s my socks?” But I think that’s one of the challenges today that they do feel so judged if their child’s not well behaved and compliant and well dressed and I think as a mother of four sons, I had to let go of that quite early.
Janet Lansbury: Yes. You’re reminding me too about the internet and the way people, including me, find information now.
Maggie Dent: We’re part of the problem, all three of us.
Janet Lansbury: Exactly. It’s this idea that there’s a fix…
Maggie Dent: Yes.
Janet Lansbury: There’s a quick fix for all this behavior. If I just could say the right thing or do the right action, as if that is going to be the answer and the quick fix is never the answer with children. Never. I can say that, never, because the quick fix will only maybe look like it’s solving something in the moment, but it actually perpetuates the issue more often than not.
I love that Stuart Shanker says, “Quiet does not mean calm.” We can get a child to be quiet…
Maggie Dent: That’s usually a sign they’re up to something.
Janet Lansbury: They might be still hyper- aroused inside and stirring up. And even on a practical level that’s going to be harder for us later.
So we’ve got to take in the whole picture. We’ve got to be curious. We’ve got to be open instead of those quick judgments on things, which is really a quick judgment on ourself that we have. As you said, Susan.
I want to hear more now that I think we’re addressing this beginning part. Where do we go from there? What do we look at if we’re sincerely puzzled about our child’s behavior?
Maggie Dent: Well, I’m going to jump in as not only a resilience educator, but also the passionate person about why our children need less stress in their lives. And I really would love you to look around your home and have conversations with whoever you are co-parenting with… What are the things that are adding stressors into our family home that we might be able to push back a little? Because we know the more stressed we are, then the less able we are able to hold that space.
And sometimes we might identify that we have got far too many extracurricular activities at the moment because everyone else seems to be doing them. And that when we come home we are really stressed and tired. And then we are expected to deliver a delicious meal with broccoli and have a calm conversation around dinner. And then of course it’s bath time, and then reading, and a quiet bedtime ritual. Well the reality is it doesn’t happen like that. And then we go to bed feeling like a failed parent again.
Every now and then I say, do you know what? There are times we need to own that that is too much for us right now with the ages of our children and with how we’re working. And if you are a parent who can actually do a few less hours in the working place and actually get a little more in front sometimes at home, then that can take pressure off you as well.
And then I really want you to have a look at how often in our modern world am I looking at a screen, not at my children’s faces, because we are kind of creating a digital abandonment. Again, that’s our kid’s hunger, is connection. So that creates the stress. And then what you’re doing is often disconnected because you’re trying to do a million things to be the good parent.
So every now and then have the conversation, “What works for our family? Is there a different way we can do chores? How else can we do morning?” And have the children be the co-solution-finders. Rather than us always doing to our children, can we do with our children to help that environment be something that’s going to be more sustainable? But also helping them to become negotiators and problem solvers.
Janet Lansbury: Yes, and generally it’s about just doing much less than we’re doing because, as you said, we are coming from a depleted place. If we think we have to jump through all these hoops every day to be the perfect parent or give our kids all the things we’re supposed to give them in that day, and then we’re coming into these situations where now this behavior is there and my fuse is really short. It’s understanding that children do not need very much stimulation. A little bit goes a long way.
It’s like opening up a new appliance and everything works so well and snappy. Children are that. They’re hearing, they’re feeling, they’re sensing things that are way out there that we’ve learned to tune out. Therefore, they need much less outside stimulation than we can imagine.
Susan Stiffelman: I always go internal. I see parenting in so many ways as a transformational path for us, a way for us to grow up or even a spiritual path. I’ve written about that. And our children, when their behavior is really restless and agitated, it can so often be a gift to us. Kind of having the mirror in front of you saying, well, your live-in Zen master is suggesting that you re-examine your priorities or rearrange how you’re allocating your time and your energy and resources.
And we live in a time, all of us, myself included, I love my internet. I don’t do a lot of things that most people do, because I have my breaks on all the time, but I see the pull. I go to the park and I see the parent who’s looking at their phone in one hand and sort of absentmindedly pushing their child in the swing in the other. And I don’t judge it because I see that we are dealing with a force that’s so addictive and so powerful and so compelling. And we all, all of our brands just love that squirt of dopamine, you know?
And so part of what I think a child’s challenging behavior can do for us is remind us, Oh, wait a minute. What would happen for the next, let’s say 45 minutes or 20 minutes, if you went outside and sat with your child under a tree — and I know this may sound a little old school, but I am a child from the 60s – and you just relaxed with your child and you just listened to the birds, or you watched the butterfly and you didn’t have your phone out there with you just in case your boss calls or grandma calls. And you bring it all down a bit and you allow the child’s behavior to remind you that once upon a time there was a way of moving through the world that didn’t move quite so fast, that was more in sync and aligned with the natural world. And I am certainly not saying that most children’s challenging behaviors will go away from being in nature, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m in the business of guiding parents to deal with those challenges.
However, I have also seen that when we simply stop and we give all of ourselves, even for five minutes, and especially if we can do it out in the green of nature. And we breathe together for a few minutes and we reconnect. Maybe we put our hand on their back or we smile or we sing a song or tell a joke. And I’m not just talking about five-year-olds here, I’m talking about 15-year-olds.
You know, there is a coming back to ourselves that children invite us to do. And sometimes we go there kicking and screaming because we really want to check our email. We really want to see how many likes we got on Instagram for whatever it was. And so we have to be present even for the discomfort and the impatience that might arise in us. Just noticing it. Allowing it. A kindly acceptance of whatever it is, a nonjudgmental awareness. You know, because a lot of my work, I incorporate mindfulness practice. To be present with the discomfort of sitting through waiting through this. And then sometimes with enough of those experiences, we can start to create that kind of openness with our kids where they can say… “Well, it looks like life’s been kind of rough a bit. I’d love to hear more about that if you feel like sharing it with me.”
Now if your child says, “No, everything’s fine, which they very well may, you just allow that, okay, well I’m here if you want. Because initially they are often suspicious. Oh, you’re going to keep poking, aren’t you? You’re not going to be satisfied with everything’s fine.
Janet Lansbury: There’s got to be an agenda here.
Susan Stiffelman: Yeah. And when you are in that captain place where you actually are not needy, there’s no neediness, there’s no aroma or smell of, please, please, please tell me. I really want to know. I want to fix it. Where there’s a relaxation inside of you, then that’s where you see that they may gradually come to you with what their truth is and even discover it with your help.
Maggie Dent: I love that. I just absolutely love that. But also I just want to touch on the notion of micro connections. I encourage parents to look at: where are the little micro connections that are quite tiny? You just said a smile. It’s about what ways am I giving little doses of loving connection even if I am a busy parent? Those rituals that we do every day, we start them early and they still want to kind of go back to them a bit later and it’s why I love bedtime rituals that are how much you love me? Obviously not every night of the week. Some nights we aren’t in the right space, are we? And saying, “I love you to the moon and back, now go to bed!” is not going to be the micro connection.
Susan Stiffelman: And don’t get out of bed!
Janet Lansbury: “I said the words, I said the words!”
Maggie Dent: It doesn’t have to be every night, but what we’re looking at is significantly connected moments when we are present. And don’t beat yourself up that there aren’t as many as you may have had in your childhood. It’s about the little things that grow up to be a bigger thing.
Janet Lansbury: I want to just veer over to a more specific situation that I hear from parents about a lot, particularly as children are getting beyond the years that I focus on. Children having difficulties with peers, friendships, struggling, being left out of things, all those kinds of issues. How do you gently explore those places with your child and help him in those kinds of situations, or her?
Susan Stiffelman: Well, I think the first is to really, again, accept the child you have as the child you have. And some children are predisposed to more quiet. We can say “introverted,” but they like their own company. So sometimes we have an agenda for how social our child should be. That doesn’t give them room to be who they’re meant to be. So that may be our issues. Well, I wasn’t popular at school, so you better be, right? We lay our kind of thing onto the child.
And I have a thing that you probably know about called “snapshot child syndrome,” where there’s a mismatch between who we thought we were getting and who we actually have. That we’re holding this photo up of our ideal child. This is the one who is going to love sports and who’s going to have this kind of personality and who’s going to love taking out the trash because she knows how much it helps me and lightens my load. And then we’re holding the picture up and then there’s that child over there going, wait a minute, I just asked you to take out the trash and you completely ignored me four times, and we get hot and bothered by that.
Well, it’s not that the child didn’t take out the trash, it’s that we thought she should. We had the agenda and the story. And in the same way sometimes the child’s social issues, they’re our social issues.
Then there are kids who are immature. They don’t really know how to give and take. They need some sort of practice. I do a lot of stuff with kids with role playing and puppets and letting them practice what it’s like to initiate a conversation or to offer a compliment or to invite a puppet friend to play.
Maggie, what about you?
Maggie Dent: Same sort of thing in that if a child gets rejected in a play situation, we need to know that can happen as grown-ups and adults as well. This isn’t just something that magically disappears once childhood’s gone. And that it is one of the biggest things that hurts us is rejection because we’re biologically wired to belong and be social beings. So having conversations at different times with our kids that sometimes this can happen. And role play’s another thing I recommend a lot. “Let’s pretend that I’m going to say to her, don’t want you to play with me. So let’s give you something you can say back and say ‘thanks, maybe another day, cheers.’ And we’ll go off and find somebody else.” And we might practice that strategy a few times again for the same reason.
So again, it’s having those conversations beforehand about: “What would you do if that happened? How does it feel?” And knowing again that it’s supposed to feel a bit yuck. And then what we do after that and what we say to ourself in our head after that, they are the things that can make it particularly problematic in early adolescence when that limbic brain… and we’re biologically wired to want to connect even more.
Janet Lansbury: What you were saying also, Susan, about keeping our own anxiety in check. Sometimes children will come and just tell you something and maybe they’re not hurt by it. Maybe they’re not upset. They just found it interesting. And if we come into that with all this judgment: this terrible thing just happened and, you should feel terrible and then even the most innocent questions are not innocent when we say, “How did that make you feel?”
Susan Stiffelman: “What else did she say? What did you do before that?”
Janet Lansbury: “What did you do? What did you do about it?” Yeah. So it’s really how we can be brave as parents, brave enough to allow our children to go through life in an age appropriate way.
Susan Stifelman: Yeah.
Janet Lansbury: And having reasonable expectations about that. So even with a five-year-old, six-year-old child or older, sometimes an adult they don’t know will say, “Oh hi, how are you?” And what I love about young children is they’re not that into small talk. That’s an adult thing that we do that’s not very authentic, really, if we think about it. They’re much more authentic than that. And oftentimes they can’t even know what to tell you because so many things are going through their minds or their feelings.
Or other times they’re just feeling how anxious their parent is now because the spotlight is on them and this child is going to make me look good or not. Which is, again, so understandable, especially if we’ve been shamed for being shy or whatever. And then now there’s absolutely no oxygen left for that child to even come close to responding.
So understanding how powerful we are and how powerful our feelings are and how they’re going to seep into every situation and being able to be that person that children can bounce things off of, even the most shocking things. We can be an open explorer with our child.
Maggie Dent: I love it. And I think also can we dive in into the big one that parents… is what’s happening with our siblings. Again, it is a little bit like the snapshot. I just thought we’d all play and get on really well. Well of course they do sometimes. Again, did we have a magical picture? And I remember working with a lot of moms early on, going, “I wanted a happy family.” And I said, “Well this is called a healthy family and conflict is a part of human relationships. So can you reframe that to see that and sometimes see if they can work that out themselves?”
And I remember when I could hear the voices, and we know that sometimes our kids can play together and one loses energy more than the other or the other gets too much. And then we have a difference and you’ll hear the voices get a bit… and that’s when we tune in and go, great, I’ll take a plate full of fruit up. Or I would just open the door and say, “Everybody out.” And they’ll go, “Wow, why?” “Five minutes outside and then we can come back.” I don’t blame anyone. I don’t want to become that judge and executioner cause that was my childhood experience. And I’ll go and make a cup of tea and eat a yummy bickie and soothe myself and fill myself with serotonin. I come back to let them in, “okay guys come back in” and guess what? They’ve got a whole new game going on outside. So as that big swagger that says this could be going to end badly, I’m going to just kind of maybe give them an option to relocate or shift the energy a little. And then they just weren’t used to me coming up and growling and yelling at them when they had an altercation. It wouldn’t end that way because I wasn’t stepping in trying to sort it out. I was actually trusting innately that most times they would sort it out without blood.
Janet Lansbury: And you were the safe presence.
Maggie Dent: And… Yeah.
Janet Lansbury: You were not the judgy, uncomfortable, adding my own stress to your conflict.
Maggie Dent: I might also run up and be ridiculous sometimes, turn into a growly bear or a dinosaur or run up and fart or something. I felt we can shift those emotional dynamics. I think we often feel we get too serious as a parent, and sometimes I go, let’s just lighten up, there’s too much tension here right now. Nervous systems are overloaded. Let’s go have some fun and lighten it up.
Janet Lansbury: Yes. I think that’s wonderful, especially if it comes from a place of trust. I think if that comes from parents thinking, Oh my gosh, now it’s my job to be funny and do something. That’s where I kind of depart from playful ideas of parenting. When it’s…
Susan Stiffelman: Forced.
Janet Lansbury: I’ve got to make myself into an animal,
Maggie Dent: Awkward.
Janet Lansbury: And there’s people that just… I’m silly, but there’s people that aren’t silly, and that’s okay. That’s not necessary.
Susan Stiffelman: I think that the underlying thing is to come across as not needy or desperate for things to be different than they are. Even while you may be wanting to move them in a direction that’s better for everyone, that there’s a relaxation around that. There’s a trust around that.
And listen, it’s work. It’s beautiful work. It’s transformational work. Nobody tells you. I just saw some friends of ours who had a baby and they’re in their later thirties and they’d waited quite a while and they had the baby. And I said, “How are you doing?” They said, “Well, yeah, some of the time it’s really great.” I said, “Nobody told you did they?” And I said, “and even if they had… ” They were laughing. Even if they had, you wouldn’t have known because it’s impossible. I think raising a child is impossible, but you do it anyway. Like a lot of other things.
Maggie Dent: And sometimes people do it again.
Susan Stiffelman: Well you apparently did it four times.
Maggie Dent: It’s interesting that we are having less children and there’s all sorts of reasons why that is, but isn’t it interesting the dynamics of when we had possibly more children and also neighborhood children played together, we had less problems socially and emotionally in our schools. We had less anxiety. So it’s kind of like maybe we’re going against the natural kind of way that we’re meant to be in those tribal situations where we all share our children and care about our children.
Susan Stiffelman: Absolutely.
Maggie Dent: It’s probably a bit too philosophical right now.
Janet Lansbury: No, nothing’s too philosophical with you two here. Oh no, I’m going to take advantage of all your wonderful philosophical ideas. Anyway, thank you ladies so much. This is a real treat that I hope we can replicate some day, maybe in Australia.
Maggie Dent: Wouldn’t that be lovely? I’m pretty sure we’d be happy with you in Australia.
Janet Lansbury: Both of these women have some incredible resources that I will be definitely listing in the podcast transcripts and linking to for you all to take advantage of. These are people that I depend upon and agree with and…
Susan Stifelman: Likewise.
Janet Lansbury: You’re in very good hands with either of these very, very generous ladies, so… So thank you again.
Susan Stiffelman: Oh Janet. We love you. We love your work.
Maggie Dent: Thank you. Absolutely
Susan Stiffelman: What a joy to have all three of us.
Maggie Dent: Really special.
This was so much fun! I hope you’ll take full advantage of the resources these amazing women have to offer. They have books, articles, podcasts, workshops and more, all of which can be accessed through their websites:
Susan Stiffelman: susanstiffelman.com
Maggie Dent: maggiedent.com
Speaker 1: We had such a great time recording that episode. Hope that you learned something, got something from it and as always had like to wrap up with a tip. Look for opportunities to offer your child little doses of micro connection, those little rituals that add up to a feeling between you and your youngster that help you stay close. Even when life gets so busy. It could just be a smile that could be a moment of laughter together or a little bit of a hug and those things really do add up. So don’t underestimate the value of these micro connections. I think Maggie is that term and I love that. There’s just so many gems that you can take away, so apply whatever you’ve learned, but that’s one thing that some of you may want to set an intention to do more of this week. You can visit Maggiedent.com and Janetlansbury.com to find out more about this wonderful work that these ladies are doing.
Speaker 1: And of course we’ll have links in the show notes to their websites and then please visit SusanStiffelman.com if you’d like to get our free newsletter or if you want to find out more about our masterclasses or our monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program, just remember, use coupon code Podcast19 at SusanStiffelman.com/membership if you’d like to join us for a month, try at just a dollar. It’s a great way to get ongoing and personal parenting support. Thanks for being here. If you’re enjoying the series, I hope you’ll leave a rating or review or tell a friend and I just hope that you take to heart some of the little gems and nuggets of inspiration and wisdom that you hear in this series. There’s so much love that goes into producing this for you, and so much gratitude that we get to come together in this way through technology to help make the world a brighter and sweeter place for the parents and children that inhabit it. I look forward to joining you next time. Meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. Have a wonderful holiday season and I’ll see you next year.