How to Experience Joy in Parenting Toddlers with guest Sara Rose Whaley

About this Episode

Do you have a toddler who won’t listen? Are you frustrated and burning out with the terrible twos and other challenges of parenting littles? On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview Sara Rose Whaley, a board-certified behavior analyst and parent coach specializing in working with parents of toddlers.

Sarah shares lots of tips on how to find joy in parenting toddlers, including how to set boundaries and limits, strategies for getting your toddler to listen, and how to take care of yourself so that your behavior can positively impact your child’s behavior. If you’re a toddler parent, this episode is for you!

About Sara Rose Whaley

Sara is a parent coach and board-certified behavior analyst who  works with parents of toddlers to help resolve issues of mom guilt, burnout, lack of self-care, parents not being on the same page, setting boundaries, and the focus of today’s interview, toddler listening strategies. As a parent coach, Sara Rose works with parents to address these issues because they have a direct effect on parent behavior, and parent behavior has an effect on toddler behavior. She’s also an expert on educating parents on gentle and respectful parenting strategies.

Sara has over 15 years of experience working with families as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a developmental therapist. She’s worked with hundreds of families and has extensive experience working with neurodiverse  (autism, ADHD, speech delays, behavior issues, Down Syndrome, etc) children and their parents. 

The toddler stage has always been her favorite stage which works out well since she’s a full time SAHM to 2 toddlers: a 3.5 year old girl and a 2 year old boy.

If you are interested in working with Sara, coaching is generally once a week for approximately 8 weeks. Your coaching program will be fully individualized based on your family’s needs and goals, which she will discuss with you in the initial consultation.

Connect with Sara

Website: www.joyfultoddlerparenting.com

Social Media: @joyfultoddlerparenting

 

Mentioned in this Episode

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Read the transcript for this episode:

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms brought to you today by LearningRx Brain Training Centers. I’m your host, Dr. Amy Moore here with my co-host Teri Miller coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Our guest today is parent coach and board-certified behavior analyst, Sara Rose Whaley. Sara Rose works with parents of toddlers to help resolve issues of mom guilt, burnout, lack of self-care, parents not being on the same page, setting boundaries, and the focus of today’s interview, toddler listening strategies. As a parent coach, Sara Rose works with parents to address these issues because they have a direct effect on parent behavior, and parent behavior has an effect on toddler behavior. She’s also an expert on educating parents on gentle and respectful parenting strategies.

Teri Miller:

So glad that you’re here Sara Rose. Thank you for joining us.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Teri Miller:

Well, before we get into all the great information you have for us, I want you to tell our listeners about yourself, give us a little bit of your background, and how you landed where you are today specializing in toddlerhood.

Sara Rose Whaley:

So I’m coming to you from Raleigh, North Carolina, and I have been working with families for over 15 years as a developmental therapist, working with population from 0-3 years old, and then as a board certified behavior analyst. And so I have enjoyed so much working with so many different families, hundreds of different families, and I would work directly with children and then provide parent training as a side part of the job. And I loved parents training. I loved helping parents have those light bulb moments to be able to work with their kids. But what I kept finding was that parents were having so much trouble implementing a lot of the strategies that I would come in with. And I knew they worked, they were working with their kid, they were working with all of these other kids and they’re backed by research.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And what I found was that so many parents were having these issues that Dr. Amy mentioned, the mom guilt and burnout and lack of self-care, and parents having no idea what their values are as a family and then not being on the same page because of it, or just having really different ideas of parenting. And all of this led to a lack of consistency. And if you know anything about behavior, and especially toddlers, you have to have consistency to be able to see a change in behavior. Sorry, you have to have awareness to have consistency, and then you have to have consistency to have a change in behavior.

Sara Rose Whaley:

So it was leading to a lack of awareness which was then leading to the lack of consistency. So as a board certified behavior analyst, I was working with insurance and insurance doesn’t really care too much about your self-care, or your mom guilt, or whether you’re on the same page as your partner. And so I wasn’t really able to work with the parents in the way that I wanted to, to address these issues, the root causes. And so then I became a mom and then COVID happened. And I knew I wanted to work with parents of toddlers. I knew I wanted to work with parents, and that and I wanted to work specifically with parents of toddlers because as we discussed before recording, I love the toddler stage. I have always loved the toddler stage.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And we talked before, it’s a stage of ands, it’s a stage where it’s exhausting and it’s so fun and it is frustrating as anything, and it’s really magical, and it is super emotional and it’s super exciting. There’s just all these ands about this stage. And it’s such a foundational stage both as for teaching your kids and for parents learning parenting strategies, and for moms becoming the moms that they want to be and not getting lost in motherhood. So I wanted to work with parents in this early stage to make the stage fun because it can be this really great stage and can be so much fun, and I want parents to experience that and I feel like so much gets lost in terrible twos and threenager and whatever the four is. And I want people to enjoy it and have more joy in this stage. So now I work with parents of toddlers and set a strong foundation for their future parenting.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I find the toddler stage to be magical as well. I can remember holding my middle child, he was about 18 months and looking at him, I called him my little elf because his ears stuck out and his hair stuck up on, it blew in the wind. And I remember thinking, “I don’t ever want him to change.” I wish I could just package this age and keep him there. But he was also an easy toddler. So it’s easy to say that when you have an easy toddler, but the reality is there are parents who struggle with the toddler era. And so what do you see as parents’ biggest struggle when it comes to parenting their toddlers?

Sara Rose Whaley:

I think the biggest thing I see is parents not setting clear boundaries. And a lot of that usually it comes from two places. One, it comes from parents feeling like boundaries are mean, because sometimes boundaries result in your child getting upset, no, you can’t run into the street. I’m going to hold a boundary, or no you can’t grab the knife off the counter and then your child is upset, “No, no, you can’t color on the wall.” So a lot of parents feel bad, so they will give a lot of extra chances, or they are just so burnt out on the tantrums and they don’t know what they should be doing and so they give extra chances because they’re just trying to avoid a meltdown because they’re done.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And what I try to teach is that boundaries are loving and kind. And when you know what a boundary is, you know how far you can go and your toddler’s not having to constantly test it. And what happens is parents don’t set these clear boundaries for their child or for themself because they’re not even really sure what boundaries to set. And then by the time they actually hold a boundary, they come in frustrated and angry and yelling and whatever it is and then you have more meltdowns.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I used to say that not giving children boundaries is like putting them on a tight rope without a net underneath. And so they actually need them and want them, they just don’t realize that at the time.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Absolutely.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So what are some ways to communicate boundaries to toddlers so that A, you don’t feel like you’re being mean, but that you’re being effective at the same time?

Sara Rose Whaley:

So I’m a big believer in natural consequences and logical consequences. So if you don’t put your shoes on, we can’t go outside, or if you don’t put your shoes on, your feet will be cold, would be a natural consequence that I would allow my children to have, or if you throw your food, we’re going to be all done with your meal. So I think that a lot of it is parents needing to understand what is an age appropriate behavior, and then what an age appropriate and logical consequence is, and then going into situations with a plan. And the more that you feel confident in this, the more you can go in and say, “Okay, here’s our expectation, here’s going to be the consequence.” And you can show up more neutral about it instead of you going in with this big reaction that then causes an even bigger reaction when your toddler melts down.

Teri Miller:

It’s more about preparing them, training them, creating a structure than it is reprimanding and disciplining that if we’ve prepared them and had expectations ahead of time, then there’s not as much anger and frustration on my part as a mom.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Well, so here’s an example. My son is two, and one of our favorite activities is to go on a walk and sit down and collect acorns. And these are the moments that make me cry, first of all, that make me be like, “This is toddlerhood and this is why I love toddlerhood,” because it’s something so insignificant to an adult. No adult’s going to sit and collect acorns and be just obsessed with this activity. But my son again, he is two and I have very clear boundaries of, you have to walk on the sidewalk. If you go into this street, we’re going go inside. And it’s like this very clear expectation that it’s not an issue, because I’ve set this expectation from a really early stage, and now we don’t really talk about it anymore.

Teri Miller:

Nice.

Sara Rose Whaley:

He knows. So now we can go sit four feet from the street for 45 minutes and play acorns. And it is such a bonding time, I’m able to show up fully present because I’m not worried about what he’s going to do. He knows what the rules are, so he’s not trying to test them. And that is where I think the joy and the magic show up in enjoying those little seemingly insignificant moments that are so significant.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. I read a research study that supports what you’re saying. And this has been years ago, I would not be able to find it again, I don’t know who it is. But it was about kids, little kids, I don’t remember what age, they’re playing on a playground. So the research study was evaluating before the fence had been put up. So there was this playground area, playscape, and the children all stayed very, very close within just a few feet of the edge of the playscape on all sides. They did not venture out anywhere else, very close because they were limited. I don’t know, I’m not going to say why. Anyway, then a fence was constructed, however many feet out, 50 feet out, 100 feet out, I don’t know, but they had this huge play area then that was fenced. Only difference was that they put the fence and now the kids came in and immediately explored the entire area.

Teri Miller:

Once they had that boundary and that fence, they were able to have more fun, to be more free to explore more, the parents were at ease. And so it created this wider experience by creating a boundary which we would think is confining, but it actually wasn’t.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah, absolutely. And I talk so much about that of how boundaries to me equal freedom, for me and for my kids. And there’s so much freedom that come from boundaries. And I think that’s where when I talk about boundaries being kind and loving, that’s how I’m thinking about them, is because now you show up and you’re calm and you are present and you are not anxious or angry and your child responds to that.

Teri Miller:

That’s such a good line, boundaries equal freedom. Oh, what a good line!

Dr. Amy Moore:

So talk a little bit about how you train your toddler to understand those boundaries in the beginning. So, we see the beauty in what happens once they understand them, but how do you get to that point?

Sara Rose Whaley:

So, for that example, and I just had somebody on TikTok talking about their, I think almost four year old that’s running away. And I’m like, “Oh, it’s so scary. It’s a terrifying behavior.” So what I do with my kids and what I’ve done with all clients that I’ve ever worked with and what I recommend is if you’re going for a walk, before you go out, and I still will say this to my kids, not really my three and a half-year old, but my two-year old for sure, you can walk on the sidewalk or you can walk on the driveways. If you walk into the grass, mommy’s going to of give you one reminder. And I do the grass because it’s a really clear boundary between the sidewalk and the road so that they’re not on the edge there.

Sara Rose Whaley:

So I’ll say, “If you walk onto the grass,” if it’s by a busy road, “If you walk onto the grass, then I’m going to give you one reminder. And if you do it again, I’m going to hold your hand.” And so it’s really clear and then there’s no extra chances. There’s no, “Oh, but it was just a toe. Oh, it was just for a second.” And so yes, sometimes you feel like a mean mom in that moment, and yes, sometimes your toddler’s going to melt down, but you’re really clear. And then the next time they do is say, “Oh, I’m sorry buddy, but you walked on the grass so I’m going to hold your hand now to keep you safe.” And then you are calm because again, you had this whole plan going into it. And so when they’re like, have their big meltdown, you can go in and you can validate their feelings, “I know it’s really sad. I know it’s hard. You really wanted to walk by yourself, but we can try it again later or tomorrow,” whatever it’s.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And then the next time, and sometimes it means you pick your kid up and carry them because they’re completely melting down and throwing themselves down. So then the next time, I use the previous time as a learning experience, “Hey buddy, do you remember the rules? The rules are you have to stay on the sidewalk or the driveway. Remember last time you walked into the grass and then mommy had to hold your hand and you were really sad about it?” So let’s see if you can stay on the sidewalk.” And then as he is walking, I’m like, “Oh my gosh! I love what a good listener you are. You’re staying on the sidewalk. You’re staying so safe,” whatever it is. So it’s this really clear thing. And usually, when I hold that boundary, I don’t usually have to teach it much often, it’s like a couple of times and they learn. And now we can enjoy our walk.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that. And I love that you phrase everything in a positive way, that it’s a reminder that you give them, not a warning. And then the consequence is a loving safe action. You’re going to hold their hand, or carry them. So it’s not a threat of a punishment. It’s that, “Okay, you want freedom, and so I’m removing the freedom that you’ve earned when you don’t follow the boundary, or when you push the limits.”

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah. And I think what parents forget to focus on is what behavior do they want to see versus what behavior do they want to decrease. So the behavior I want to see is you walking on the sidewalk. So now by holding my hand, you’re walking on the sidewalk versus putting him in time out and then having him go out. It doesn’t really have anything to do with walking on the sidewalk.

Teri Miller:

And I think what we see a lot this doing the opposite, is, “Don’t get on the grass. We say the opposite. Don’t go in the street. Don’t step off the sidewalk,” instead of the positive side of that, “Let’s stay on the sidewalk.” We don’t need to say the don’ts, we just focus on the positives. And then yeah, instead of swatting, we see parents like that at the parks and the grocery store. Parents get frustrated and then they swat their child and everything is negative instead of, “I love what you’re saying. We’re focusing on the positive.” Even the consequence is gentle, it is kind, but it’s maintaining that positive boundary.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah. And here’s the thing, and I know a lot of people have issues with gentle parenting, and I actually don’t like the term gentle parenting, and I think it implies that you just lay there and let your kid do whatever they want. So I prefer respectful parenting. Well, a lot of people will say, “Well, I don’t want to have to always tell my kids something positive.”

Sara Rose Whaley:

And my argument for that is, I was in the car, this is a quick story. I was in the car with my son and he was listening to music, he was listening to happy birthday. And he started saying, “No happy birthday. No happy birthday.” And I was like, “Okay, I hear you. What song do you want?” He’s like, “No happy birthday. No happy birthday.” And I was like, “Buddy, I hear you. I hear what you do not want.” And so I’m like, “Do you want Wheels on the Bus? Do you want to [inaudible 00:17:52]?” And I start trying all of these things and I’m getting frustrated and he’s getting frustrated. And finally he told me, and I was like, “Oh great. I can play that now.” And it was such a good reminder to me of when you sit there and just tell your kids what you don’t want, it leads to so much frustration for both of you versus just being like, “This is what I want. This is what I expect.”

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. You paralyze them when you tell them no, if you haven’t given them an alternative. Just like he paralyzed you.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah [crosstalk 00:18:25]… I don’t know.

Teri Miller:

Golly. That’s so good. So you were trying to get his attention, trying to get through to him, but he’s a toddler, he’s got toddler brain, he’s just yelling at you, yelling back. So let’s transition. Talk to us now about, you mentioned that you are passionate about something you refer to as toddler listening. Tell us more about that.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So wait, I’m going to stop you. Before we get into this, because this is the meat of our conversation. When we take a quick break, let Terry read a word from our sponsor. And when we come back, let’s talk about some strategies.

Teri Miller: (Reading sponsor ad from LearningRx)

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Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay. So we’re back talking to Sara Rose and you’re going to tell us some strategies to help toddlers learn to listen.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah. So I think we talked a lot about boundaries and briefly touched on logical consequences. So I think when you’re going into a situation of wanting your toddler to listen, one, I have two questions I tell people to ask themselves. And what this does, I talked briefly at the beginning about how you have to be aware, to be consistent. And a lot of times I’ll go in and I’ll observe a family for 10 minutes and they’re like, “Did you learn anything?” I’m like, “Yeah. You’re very inconsistent.” They’re like, “What?” I’m like, “Mm-hmm. You just told him 10 times to get off the couch.” And they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t even know that,” I’m like, “Right.” So there’s a lot, again, there’s so much awareness that has to go into consistency. So what I tell people is to ask themselves two questions before giving a direction. And this is not a permanent thing that you always have to do, but it starts to create awareness. So one, do I really care about this in this moment?

Sara Rose Whaley:

Two, can I physically follow through in this moment? So if your child is jumping on the couch and you are sick and you are tired and you know that you’re probably not actually going to get up, do I really care about it in this moment? Maybe not. And if you don’t really care about it enough to get up and follow through, then I wouldn’t ask it. Two, can I physically follow through? So can you either, you’re going to give your child a chance to get off the couch or to sit down or to jump on the floor, whatever it is. And if they don’t, you’re going to give them an option. You can either do it by yourself or I can help you. And then I would gently help them go jump on the floor, sit on… Whatever it is they’re allowed to do, jump on something else.

Sara Rose Whaley:

But again, what I see so often is parents, you’re breastfeeding or you’re in the middle of cooking dinner or you’re in the shower and you’re yelling all of these directions at your kids, and you either are not going to because you don’t really actually care enough or you cannot follow through. And then by the time that you finally decide that you’re ready to follow through, you’re so frustrated and that’s where yelling and then tantrums in response to yelling happen. And what it does is so often parents they are asking… I hear people all the time, “I ask 10 times gently, then I explode.” And I’m like, “That’s your problem though. That’s your problem.” Because while you’re asking 10 times gently, one, you’re getting worked up, you’re getting frustrated. And two, your toddler’s like, “Does she mean it on the first time or on the 10th time or only when she yells or only when she threatens,” or whatever it is.

Sara Rose Whaley:

So you’re creating such inconsistency for your toddler and you’re teaching your toddler that what you say, they don’t really have to trust what you say.

Teri Miller:

Oh yeah. Ouch.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And then you have these big tantrums and people. And then of course, it’s this vicious cycle of… I don’t want to follow through because my kid’s going to have a big tantrum versus my kids. Like my two-year-old has tantrums, I mean is two. I’m not saying that tantrums aren’t going to exist, but they’re so quick because he knows they’re not going to change my behavior and they’re not going to get him if I ask him to do something, a tantrums not going to change my mind.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So that brings me to an interesting question then. What do you do when your child throws himself on the floor and has a tantrum?

Teri Miller:

Oh yeah. When you’re in the middle of things, when you’re at the grocery store and you have a cart full, and you’re heading to check out and you’ve got your baby in your arms, and the baby needs to be fed and you’re hurrying. Okay, let’s set up that rough scenario because we’ve all been there. What do you do?

Sara Rose Whaley:

So hard. So I had a toddler and a baby at the start of the pandemic. So I haven’t had a baby and a toddler in public before, but I will give an example of my own son. We were at the grocery store a couple weeks ago and they were sitting in one of those carts with the steering wheels that are so fun. And neither kid one of it to be buckled up and I said, “Okay, you guys can sit without being buckled up. But if you stand up on the seat, I’m going to give you one reminder and then I’m going to buckle you up to keep you safe.”

Sara Rose Whaley:

And my son of course stood up, he’s two, it’s their job to test boundaries. So he stood up and I was like, “Oh buddy, remember mommy told you got to sit to stay safe. So if you do that again, I’m going to have to buckle you up.” And so of course he did it again, and so I buckled him up. And I was really calm about it, and he screamed bloody murder in the middle of Publix. In the middle of Publix and lots of people stared at me and what I do is it sucks. It’s embarrassing. But what I remind myself is, when I follow through in this moment, in this really hard moment, the chances that he’s going to do this again decrease.

Teri Miller:

Right

Sara Rose Whaley:

Versus, and again he’s two. Two-year-olds are going to a tantrum, they just are. And anybody who’s had a kid knows this or should know this. So I’m like, “You know what? If people want to judge me, I’m totally cool with that.” I know that it’s going to decrease this. And so now when he is three, or even when we go to the grocery store the next time, guess what? He sat down because he really want to be buckled up.

Teri Miller:

I’m hearing, I’m hearing something really important that I want to just address, reflect back, repeat that you created a boundary so you said ahead of time what the expectation was, and you said what the consequence would be if that expectation wasn’t met. So that was really great, that was creating a plan instead of just reacting. And so that’s super powerful. And the second thing I heard that I want to reflect back to the listeners is that you stayed very calm, you were resigned to the fact that this thing was going to happen. You stayed calm, you didn’t fret about what people would think, and that can change everything. Because that keeps your child more calm, it calms them down quickly, and it helps you be resolved to doing what you know is best.

Dr. Amy Moore:

You are playing the long game cause you know the benefit

Sara Rose Whaley:

Exactly. Well, and that’s what I always tell people is I am not thinking about how to change behavior in this moment.

Teri Miller:

Oh good.

Sara Rose Whaley:

I’m thinking about long term because in that moment I could have given him a cookie every time he stood up or given him my phone or… Excuse me, we know whatever it was and he would’ve sat down. But now guess what? I’ve set myself up every time I better have a cookie. I better have my phone for him. So I’m always thinking long term. And the other part about setting that expectation for your kids is again, you’re setting it for yourself. So you are stating a plan, and so if you tell your kids a plan, you’ve had to already think about it. So you’ve had to already be aware, this is how I’m going to handle this and you’re looking ahead to what potential things are going to happen. I know my kids are going to stand up, of course he is, he’s a toddler, that’s what toddlers do. So I know this is probably going to happen, and then I have a plan, and then I can follow through [inaudible 00:28:14] But again, it takes a lot of awareness and pre-planning and consciousness.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. Intentionality, so much intentionality. And I do want our listeners to hear that this all sounds good and fine and yet we know you’re exhausted. We know the ands of raising toddlers that it’s so precious and they are so sweet and adorable and delightful. We used to say, “Who needs TV when you have…” Whatever toddler we have that’s [inaudible 00:28:46] “Who needs TV when you have Ian? Who needs TV, when you have Seren.” Because they’re so delightful, you can just watch them for hours, and it’s exhausting. And it’s so hard to be intentional. So please hear that we have compassion that we know that, and then if you can just try to start having some of these intentional tactics, it’s going to make a huge difference. It’ll be less exhausting.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And I want to be super clear. I am a parenting expert with all these years and I know all the right things to do and I absolutely mess up. [crosstalk 00:29:23] That is part of being a parent, I am not a perfect parent, I yell at my kids sometimes, I don’t like it and sometimes I do it because I’m tired and I’m out of patience and I don’t know how much we’re going to talk about mom guilt and all that. But that ties in so much of being able to have compassion with yourself.

Teri Miller:

Well, let’s go there.

Sara Rose Whaley:

I didn’t mean to kind of take over this topic

Teri Miller:

That’s perfect. [crosstalk 00:29:53] The segue. Here we are.

Sara Rose Whaley:

So let’s talk about the other side of the ands the exhaustion and the overwhelm and the mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, all day long, all those things are being touched out, the sensory overload of it. You have to take care of yourself. And in order again, I talked about in order to be consistent, you have to be aware. And in order to be aware, you have to be in a good place mentally. Because if you are showing up to your kids completely drained and you’re consumed by mom guilt that’s spinning in your head, it’s so, so hard to be aware. And it’s so hard to show up as a calm, loving parent that you want to be and hold boundaries while your kid is losing their stuff in a grocery store. So I talk so much about self care and when I talk about self care, I don’t just mean getting your nails done once a month or something like that, I’m talking about what I see as parents going, especially moms going and having self care, except they’re feeling guilty the whole time.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And I’m like, in my definition that is not self care. Because self care should recharge you. It should be like putting your phone on a charger and filling you up so that you then can go pour into your family the way that you want to. So if you are taking an hour away and you’re feeling like crap the whole time, and you’re speeding yourself up, that’s just draining you more. So I talk so much about, you have to prioritize yourself and your basic needs and your self care in order to show up this way and in order to fully be there the way that you want to be, you cannot run on empty.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that. So I’m imagining listeners now saying, “Great. Yes. I would love to recharge. I would love to not pour from an empty cup. But how do I do that?”

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah. And it’s hard. So I talked to a single mom yesterday and obviously that is very different from my situation where I have a partner and I can have breaks. So I think a lot of it is getting creative. And again, I think self-care doesn’t have to an hour or a day away, it can be small. So I mean, for my kids, my kids sleep through the night because they’re toddlers, they’re good sleepers. So I get up before my kids every morning and the mornings that I don’t, I regret it. But I get up before my kids and I have a cup of coffee alone in the silent house and it’s 10, 15 minutes, whatever it is, where I actually get to have hot coffee and I’m not interrupted and reheating it in the microwave. And the difference in my day, taking just those few minutes at the beginning of each day, is like dramatic, dramatic.

Sara Rose Whaley:

The days that I don’t have that and I just wake up to my toddlers, “Mommy, mommy, I don’t want [inaudible 00:33:17] whatever it is [inaudible 00:33:20] And I’m just like, “Whoa, I can’t, I can’t.” So I think being able to find, even if it’s like three minutes or you put a show on for your kids, if you are a single parent or you’re a stay-at-home mom I am and you are not getting time, put a show for your kids and then you take recharging time where you’re not feeling guilty of reframing it to not like, “I’m a bad mom. My kids are watching TV and their brains are rodding. But I’m a great mom. I’m going to take 20 minutes to refill my battery so that I can show up as an even better mom.”

Teri Miller:

That’s so good, that I’m not a bad mom for doing those things, I’m not a bad mom for letting my kiddo watch Blues Glues for 45 minutes. I am a good mom because I’m doing that so that I can take care of me and actually not have stinky armpits and food on my clothes, and that’s good. That’s [crosstalk 00:34:21]

Sara Rose Whaley:

I think so much of it for me is like, and I talk so much about reframing your thoughts of… I think so many parents and even society just talks about like, “You’re a bad mom if you do this. You’re a bad mom if you do this.” And parents, Facebook is just full of, “I feel like I’m a bad mom for this.” I don’t think I have ever seen a Facebook post or anybody say, “I’m a good mom.” And I think it’s crap-

Teri Miller:

And we need that. And yet why do we do the opposite?

Sara Rose Whaley:

… Opposite. So I have clients and I do this every single day. I tell myself I’m a great mom every single day. And I I believe it is the thing because I have trained my brain and the more that you believe it, the more you’re going to show up as a good mom. So every single day I tell myself I’m a great mom and it makes me show up as a better mom. And when I mess up which I said, I certainly mess up, I’m like, yeah, you know what? I yelled at my kids, I don’t like how I handled that, I’m a great mom, and I made a mistake.

Teri Miller:

I have nine kids. And I have spent a lot of years, most of those years focusing on the times that I screw up. How different I would be, how I would wish this for you listeners. How I would wish this for my kids when they have kids. Can you every day tell yourself you’re a good mom, because you are, you are. And I was and I still am, and yet I missed that. Sara Rose, I missed it. I focus on how I screwed up. Thank you. Oh, I’m so inspired. I’m going to go home and write it on my bathroom mirror. I’m a good mom.

Dr. Amy Moore:

If you’re the listening to this podcast right now, you’re a good mom. You’re listening to this podcast because you’re looking for tips. [crosstalk 00:36:26] You’re looking for parenting tips. And so the fact that you care enough to seek out expert advice, you’re a great mom.

Teri Miller:

You’re right. If you are listening, then go write that on your mirror you’re a good mom and tell yourself every day. What a difference that would make!

Sara Rose Whaley:

Al right. Can I talk about… I’m sorry. I know you probably have a script.

Dr. Amy Moore:

You talk about whatever you want to talk about Sara Rose.

Teri Miller:

You go. [crosstalk 00:36:55] 

Dr. Amy Moore:
 Sara Rose, the script is only for when we have like [crosstalk 00:37:00] awkward silences. 

Sara Rose Whaley:

We’re not having any of that.

Teri Miller:

This is great. This is so inspiring. And I don’t even have toddlers anymore and I’m so inspired.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Oh, I’m seeing that is like my whole, that’s why I’m doing this, is I want moms to feel like they’re good moms. And what if they start that in toddlerhood? What if you had started that in toddlerhood? [crosstalk 00:37:23] that foundation. But what I want to talk about is when you do mess up, because this is where I see so much mom guilt, and it’s so easy to get stuck in that. And then what happens when you feel guilty is you beat yourself up and you don’t recharge and then show up more inpatient, because you’re more burned out. So when I mess up, and this is what I have clients do as well is let’s say you yelled at your kids. So I will apologize to my kids, first of all, “Hey, you know what? I am really sorry that mommy yelled. I was feeling really frustrated. I shouldn’t have yelled. I should have used my words or I should have taken a deep breath when I was feeling upset.”

Sara Rose Whaley:

So I’ll explain like what I would want them to do and what I should have done. I will sometimes mention the behavior that upset me, not in a, you yelled and made mommy mad, but like, you weren’t listening and that made me frustrated but here’s what I should have done. So it’s very much about myself not blaming them. Then I always practice extra self care when I mess up.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And this is where people… Nobody does this. When you mess up, you beat yourself up, sit there and you punish yourself, you stay up late or you have an extra glass of wine or you cry or you, whatever it is. And then you show up in the, in the cycle perpetuate. So when I mess up, I know that I mess up because I am tired. I am stressed. I am sick. I burnt out whatever. That’s usually what triggers us pretty much what triggers everybody. So I will go and I will, I will refill it, whatever. It’s like, if it’s the kids are napping, instead of doing laundry, I will sit there and watch a show or read or take a shower. Then when I am recharged. And sometimes it’s like a three minute recharge as a say, I run through this scenario. So instead of beating myself up, I go through in my head, I play out the whole scenario in my head.

Sara Rose Whaley:

And I think what could I have done differently and not in a sham or I should have done this better, but like, let me look at this. Why was I triggered? How could I do this differently? Here’s I wish I would’ve said this. So here’s what I’m going to try next time. And it allows you to be so much more proactive and to practice it. And it’s exactly what I have people do with their parents do with their toddlers. But I do that for myself as well. And so then you’re turning this mess up that again we all have, you’re turning it not into this shaming guilty thing, but you’re turning it into a teaching experience. And it’s the same for our kids. If our kids mess up, you’re not like, “Why did you do that? Why? You’re a terrible person.” I mean, hopefully you’re not, but we have to have that same compassion for ourselves. And that’s where then you’re going to see that you change your behavior is from compassion, the same way that your toddlers or your kids respond.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And I love that you said, go recharge, then replay the scenario. Because when we’re upset and our amygdala has hijacked our prefrontal cortex, there’s no way that we can think reasonably and logically through what just happened. And so to take that extra step and gather ourselves, refuel, whatever it takes, breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, whatever you need to do before revisiting the screw up. And then say, “How can I do that differently and what did I do[crosstalk 00:41:09] wrong ?”

Sara Rose Whaley:

And it’s the exact same thing with kids. If they’re melting down, you’re not teaching them in that moment. You’re not teaching them, this is why we don’t hit, wait till they calm down and then you can teach. But it’s the same for adults, for parents. And again, I think so much of it is coming at it with compassion and grace and love for yourself.

Teri Miller:

That’s so good. I’m thinking of so many ideas sitting here thinking of like, y weird things set me off. I’ll see that I get irritable when I’m really cold. And I’m sitting here thinking, “What if I just bought myself a little space heater and put it by my chair up in my bedroom. And so when I’m starting to feel irritable because I’m cold, I just go sit for five minutes cause I’ll get like shaky, and then it creates this response in me that’s like shaky, irritable. Like I’m going to just punch somebody,” whatever. What if I just went and sat with a heater for three minutes like you said?

Sara Rose Whaley:

[inaudible 00:42:17] but look how different that is coming at it from a place of, how can I meet my own needs and what is triggering your being conscious and proactive versus just like, I shouldn’t get mad at them. I shouldn’t get mad at my kids. I shouldn’t ever be irritable.

Teri Miller:

Right. Which is what I’ve done. I get more mad at myself, so I’m cold. Go put on some more socks. That is no excuse for being snippy with my children. Okay, it’s not, but I can take a few minutes and just warm up or whatever the thing is that needs to be self care.

Sara Rose Whaley:

Right. For me, it’s like hunger. Like my whole family, my husband included, we are hangry people. So I’m better at recognizing it than my husband. He’ll be really hangry. I’m like, “Dude, eat a bar. You got eat dude.” You’re being so snippy with everybody. But yeah, meeting your needs instead of just expecting yourself to just rise above it, so you wouldn’t do that for your toddlers.

Teri Miller:

So good. Oh my goodness.

Teri Miller:

Well, goodness. I’m inspired.

Sara Rose Whaley:

I’m glad. That is my goal.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So Sara Rose, tell us about your coaching program and how you work with parents and what do you want to plug for yourself today?

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah. So I obviously work virtually. I usually do about eight sessions with clients sometimes longer, but usually, I like a minimum of eight sessions to really see changes. And again, I want to talk about and figure out all those issues, all those triggers, the being cold or the feeling guilty, the mom guilt, the burnout, all of those things, because obviously we’ve talked so much about how they then affect your toddler’s behavior. So if we can really work through those things and then I can educate. So then I educate on respectful parenting strategies.

Sara Rose Whaley:

I work with couples and with individuals. So a lot of times both parents will show up, which I love because we can get them on the same page, which obviously is a struggle for many people. So I give assignments in between each coaching session so they can really practice these things and work on the relationship. And it’s so cool to me to see parents communicating in a way they never have before and to be responding to their kids in such a different way and to feel confident and happy in this stage. So that’s really fun. So I work with a really limited number of clients because again, I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m constantly juggling childcare and toddlers and sicknesses and all those things. But so I do the coaching and then I do occasional workshops, group workshops, and those are on my website when I have them.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So I want to ask, you said that you enjoy working with couples because you want to make sure that they get on the same page. So can you talk briefly about the consequences of not being on the same page?

Sara Rose Whaley:

Yeah. Well, I don’t know if I can do it briefly, but I’ll try. So first of all, a lot of times what I see is parents on different pages and usually mom. I think I’ve only ever seen team mom being the one who is scouring Instagram and coming to dad with all of these tips. And it’s not usually taken super well because it’s micromanaging. So what I will do is I work with them to get on the same page, but what it does is causes that so much resentment between people. And so they’re fighting, and when you’re fighting with your spouse or your partner, whoever it is, it is really hard to show up as a calm [inaudible 00:46:27] parent. Even when I fight with my husband, it changes my parenting so much.

Sara Rose Whaley:

So we prioritize our marriage so much in order to both be able to show up. The other part of not being on the same page is the lack of consistency. So if you have… A lot of times I see one parent being the disciplinarian and one parent being soft to make up for it, because they feel bad. And so what it does is it just undermines really both parents. And then again, that causes so much stress. And so I’ll have parents where the dad is a disciplinarian and the mom comes in really soft and then the kid reacts and has a big tension because there’s no consistency and then the parents are yelling at each other and it’s just this big not fun situation. And then every situation is stressful with the family.

Sara Rose Whaley:

So if we can get parents working more as partners, and here’s what it’s important to both of you and let’s figure out what’s important to both of you, and let’s look at… I try to get parents to look more positively at each other because I think that changes so much and makes you want to be a teammate instead of like, I’ve had people that are like, “I just see him as like my opponent.” And I’m like, “No, this is your guy. This is your teammate.” So you guys have to have the same strategies. We have to figure out what values you have in common in order to get that. And again marriage issues affect parenting just so much just because of the stress of them.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Is there anything that you haven’t gotten to say that you would like to say to our listeners?

Sara Rose Whaley:

I don’t think so. I feel like I covered a lot of that. If anybody takes anything away as to… Be kind to yourself and I think that mistakes are human and beating yourself up is not going to help.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Good advice.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. Thank you.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much Sara Rose Whaley for spending time with us this morning and sharing these phenomenal tips to our listeners who have toddlers or know someone who has a toddler and could share. So if you would like more information about Sara Rose and her work, her website is joyfultoddlerparenting.com. You can find her on social media @JoyfulToddlerParenting and we will put that link in our handle in the show notes. 

So thank you so much for listening today. If you love our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather watch us, we are on YouTube and you can find us on every social media channel @TheBrainyMoms. So look, until next time, we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms, so we’re out.

Teri Miller: See ya!

Sara Rose Whaley:

Thank you so much for having me.

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