My guest this week and I talk about how parents can be empowered as the experts on their own children. My guest today is Allana Robinson. She and I connect on so many levels and have a great conversation about some new science around parenting and what we’re learning. Allana is a parenting coach, as well as a registered early childhood educator and developmental specialist.
We know now that it’s not just triggers and consequences that shape behavior. In fact, the “old school” ABA (Appiled Behavioral Analysis) model completely ignores the functions of the nervous system. It completely ignores how social triggers and how social interaction influences behavior. It completely ignores trauma.
It also completely ignores social and emotional learning. Allana and I unpack her experiences and her training, and how newer models like I talk about here on Mastermind Parenting allow kids to process emotional expression. Children live in their emotional brain. And so of course they’re going to often be easily overstimulated and lots of things are going to set them off. And they’re trying to make sense of the world through these dysregulated moments.
Our job is to help them as grounded grownups, help reel them back in and help them learn the skills to reregulate. They’re going to make mistakes. We can’t be on top of it all the time, but when they make mistakes, it’s important that we show up and help them to learn those new skills.
Children learn to regulate by being regulated. Children learn to be empathetic by being empathized with. We have to model what we want them to do in order for them to learn how to do it because they learn by observation.
Listen to this episode for more of my thoughts and strategies on how you can move toward being a Mastermind Parent!
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About Randi Rubenstein
Randi Rubenstein helps parents with strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.
She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.
At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.
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My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast at Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. You’re listening to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast with Randi Rubenstein episode 180. Well, hi guys. Welcome to the show. This week I have a special guest. Her name is Alana Robinson. She’s a parenting coach and she’s the CEO of uncommon sense parenting as well as a registered early childhood educator and developmental specialist, mom of two and military wife, Allana supports parents of toddlers pre-schoolers and kindergartners in understanding why their children are misbehaving and how to fix it without yelling shaming or timeout.
Her mission is to empower parents as the expert on their own child. You’re the only other person I’ve ever heard. Say that besides me, where I’m like, you’re the expert and you’re the expert and you’re the expert and create an inclusive world full of calm, competent, confident kids. Thank you so much for being here. I’m so looking forward to this, Thank you so much for having me. Oh my gosh. Okay. So before we started rolling, we were just kind of meeting and greeting and getting to know each other. And I think there’s a whole lot of alignment. What I told Alana was I said, you know, spoiler alert. I don’t like read parenting books really anymore or watch parenting webinars like I did for years.
And now if I have like time in my free time, I’m going to be reading business books and trying to learn some new skills in an area that I don’t have a lot. And like marketing, marketing sales. Don’t y’all you do not want to get on a call with me because I can not sell ice to anyone. Like I, like people say, oh, she could sell ice to an Eskimo or whatever the PC term is, maybe it’s to an Intuit. She could sell ice to an Intuit. No, I can’t sell ice to somebody living in like the middle of the desert.
I can’t, all I would do is give you a free coaching session. That’s all I know how to do. I can’t help it. It might be the codependent part of me. I get all up in your biz. I want to know everything about your family. I will, we’ll be exchanging holiday cards after it. It’s ridiculous. So, yeah. So in my free time, I am always trying to learn the things that I know. I sorta suck at parenting, not so much. And for some reason I watched a webinar that was Atlanta talking about what she does and the PR her program.
And I reached out to you afterwards, and I want you to come on my podcast because I, you know, there was so much alignment. I loved the way you were teaching the exact same concepts I teach. There were useful tools and you shared a story on it that I want to dig more into, but I haven’t told Atlanta yet what that story is. Cause I’m like, I love the element of surprise. So you’re just going to have to wait until we start recording. So I really invited you on, because I want to hear, I want to dig into this story that you share. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Is there anything that I didn’t say that you want to, you know, I don’t know, expand on, But I think is the most complete and flattering production I’ve ever received, so.
Oh, good. Good, good. Okay. So on the webinar, what I’ll say as just more in introducing you, you know, a lot of us were drawn to do this work because we, you know what I always say to all my moms is I’m like, they’re like, how do you, one of my moms said recently, how do you spank me on the ass and make me think you’re giving me a cookie. Like, I don’t want to understand how you have that skillset. And I was like, I was like, well, because I was you because I am you because I had, I had that child, that squeaky wheel, that Canary in the coal mine, trying to tell all the people out there that, you know, there’s something wrong, there’s something going on.
And so I had that child, but you, you were drawn to this work for different reasons. Can you tell a little bit about that origin story? Yeah. I, you know, small town girl, I was like, okay, I gotta get outta here. And I went to university in the big city. It was from a small town outside of Ottawa. And I was like, we’re going to move to Toronto and go to university. And I very quickly realized PIP bad idea. I got there and I was overwhelmed. I felt like I was completely untethered. And my mother, God bless her, was like, you need to find a family to babysit for, because I’d done that all through high school. And I love kids. I was good with kids and she was like, it’ll just give you like some routine and something to tether to.
And I was like, all right, well, right now I feel like I’m spinning out of control. So what’s the harm. And I ended up working for a family who has two little boys. They’re not so little anymore. They’re 18 and 17 now, but I ended up working for them and they also have a neuro-typical big sister. And I ended up moving in with them just a few months later because I was so enamored with everything. I was learning from them. These two little boys, they were an American family in Canada. So they had to sign something saying that they wouldn’t access socialized autism services for their boys in order to get them into the country because they didn’t think they didn’t want people flooding into Canada taking over our socialized health care system.
So all of their services were private, which is completely unheard of in Canada. Like it’s not something that happens. And, but that meant it was on mom and me to do their therapy basically. And we were getting guided by an RTI coach, But Relationship development intervention. So it’s, it’s kind of a different format where the parents are put in the expert position, they’re put in the, the therapist position and then they have a coach or a consultant that they exchange videos with and that they kind of guides them through the different stages of the therapy.
So I got to be involved in that and I was, it just blew my mind because RDI really breaks down how, what most children just do, how they actually learn that. So that children who aren’t learning, that you can guide them through that process. And it was just like wild. I was in love instantly in love to the point where I, at the time I was enrolled as a graphic design student. And within six months I went and I changed my major to child studies. Like I was, I was done. I had found my first love and that was it. And so I lived with them while I did my degree. And then they went back to the states.
I couldn’t follow them. My husband was my fiance at the time is in the military. So he was going in a different direction. I ended up following him and I got a job as an early interventionist. And I I’ve been doing this ever since. So I got really lucky because I got to practice for about 10 years on other people’s kids before I had, So. Okay. So you worked with that family, you lived with them. I mean, that’s pretty immersive. Talk about giving yourself an internship. Wow. I loved. And that’s even as an early interventionist, it was very fortunate that when we moved to Alberta, the early intervention system, there is very home-based, it’s not center based as it is in a lot of other places.
So I got to go into people’s homes and do therapy with their children in their home at swimming lessons at their spark troupe at boy Scouts at kindergarten, at preschool at daycare. So wherever the kids are, that’s where they want them to be receiving services so that they have the ability to participate in childhood, just like any other kid. And it really did. It gave me a front row seat to life with a child who was having behavior struggles. And I got to kind of live with all of these people and experience all of their different facets. So it made me very empathetic. There’s very little that children can do anymore.
That surprises me and I just loved it. And so all the kids you worked with were, did it have, did they have lots of different diagnoses or was it mostly kids that were on the autism spectrum? Well, I was an early interventionist. I kind of vacillated between the two, one agency I worked for was strictly for autism services. And then after I finished my second degree, the agency that I worked for had every Stripe of diagnosis that you can imagine from completely typical, just minor speech delay all the way up to one of my clients was one of three kids in north America with their specific diagnosis. So I got to experience, you know, medical fragility.
I got to experience different developmental diagnoses and it really gave me a nice wide experience of all the different stuff that kids can have going on. What was the, what was the, the rare, Because there’s only three because there’s only okay. And will you just back it up and kind of explain what an early interventionists is? So my job was to work with a team of therapists, physical therapy, speech, language pathology, occupational therapy, registered teacher, and they all did the assessments.
Like they figured out what the kids needed to work on and how, and then they gave all of their recommendations to me. And I got to put together a program plan of how we were actually going to work on those things, how we were going to move towards these goals. And then I got to be in the trenches with the kiddo for two to three hours a day, working towards those goals through play. So I got to be the one that taught them how to jump on one leg. I got to be the one that helps them sit up while they were drawing. I got to help them work on their pincer grasp. I got to help them work on their social skills at preschool and facilitate friendships between them.
So it was a very immersive experience. So is there like a major in school? Like how do you become an early interventionists? It depends on where you live. So in Alberta for an early childhood educator is pretty much the qualification that you would have at least school-wise. And then on top of that, you do professional development to receive a whole bunch of different certifications, different, specific areas where I live now in Ontario, it’s completely different system, where there is a post secondary master’s program that you would go and do. And it’s the same basic outcome.
When you look at like in Alberta, they get you on the job and then they start doing professional development. Whereas in Ontario, they front load you with all of that, and then you start working. So it’s just different strokes for different provinces. And I’m sure in the states, there’s probably 30 different programs or 30 different systems too. So it’s one of those professions that hasn’t been standardized. So it’s almost like if you, like, I, when my mom was in the hospital, she was assigned a hospitalist. And so the hospitalist is the person that is sort of communicating with all the doctors and all the specialists, and then is like the main point person of the, of the patient.
So you’re sort of the early interventionists is like the hospitalist of early childhood. Yeah. Okay. Exactly. I was the point person. I was the one who went, you know, when the physical therapist was like, Hey, we need to work on this. I was the one going, wait a second. The OT said this, so which is it. And you guys need to figure out what it is and then, okay, this is our goal. Now we’re going to work on it. So it was a lot of fun and it was a very collaborative experience, which is something I’ve recognized that very few systems prioritize now at the time, it was all I knew. And so I just thought all or early intervention was done this way since moving into a parent coaching role and supporting parents in the states and Australia and Europe and all over Canada, I’ve realized that that’s a very rare, Yeah, well, it is.
I know I’m like sitting here at my brains going on, are my eyes like going back and forth, back and forth, so. Okay. So did you, have you ever watched the show parenthood? Oh, a long time ago. Okay. So I love that show and I was rewatching it not too long ago. And so what’s her name? What’s the actress’s name that she has kind of a baby voice and she’s super pretty. And she has brown hair and she was, she was the ABA specialist for max, the son with autism. And she was also the actress on Friday night lights. Not that this matters, this isn’t even part of the story, but anyway, I love The characters on TV become my real life friends.
It’s like a thing. So anyways, so that had, what is the name of that actress? She’s super famous. I should know the name of anyway, on parenthood. She comes in, you know, max is the child that is on the spectrum and a big part of that storyline. It’s like, it’s such a good storyline. They don’t say he’s on the spectrum. They say he has Asperger’s. And it’s a very big part of that series is what is it like to have a child that’s different? What is it like to have a child that you know, is not doing what the other kids are doing at the birthday party or at school or at the, the puzzling child that mom and dad are like, you know, they had like a neuro-typical older daughter and they just know that all of a sudden they have this little boy and there’s a lot of meltdowns and, and they’re trying to end.
They’re just like, you know, Christina and Adam, my, my besties on the show, you know, they’re just like, awesome. They’re awesome. And they’re loving and they’re human and, and it really Chronicles their journey. And so at some point they start to find the right resources to help their son, right. And they hire the gorgeous actress with a baby voice that I can’t remember her name and they hire her to come into their home. And it sounds like do much of what you’re doing. However, she followed.
I’m pretty sure the ABA model, because there was a lot of sticker charts and rewards. And max, if you do this, then you earn this much TV time and have this token and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that’s the only real criticism I have about that show is that when I watched that show, knowing what I know now, and I love it so much. And I’m like, no, it’s like people trust you. They trust Christina and Adam, and you’re telling them to do things the wrong way. So will you kind of segue into how, what you learned to do is different than what the actors with the no name did?
I’m not sure. So like, as you said, ABA is very rewards and punishments based, right? And its original form. It was literally like rewards and abuse. You do what you’re told or you get hit, you do what, if you do, do what you were told, then you get a reward And what does ABA stand for? Applied behavioral analysis. And so they, the whole basic theory behind it is that behavior comes down to a set of triggers and reactions. So if you do something and you get a positive response, you’re going to do it again. If you do something and you get a negative response, you’re very unlikely to do that.
Again, it’s very reductive and now modern ABA has thankfully, mostly moved away from the punishment aspect of it. And it’s supposed to be all positive reinforcement, but it’s old science. We know now that it’s not just triggers and consequences, that shape behavior, there’s a lot more to it than that. And it completely ignores the functions of the nervous system. It completely ignores how social triggers and how social interaction in influences behavior.
It completely ignores trauma. It completely ignores like social and emotional learning. So what I learned to do, and I again realize after the fact how fortunate I was that I was able to learn in this way was that, you know, we have these goals for these kids, but we want them to be kids where they aren’t little mini adults and we want them, we want to help them follow that path of development that has somehow been interrupted. And we kinda just take them back and go through it again.
And we practice and we teach them to self-regulate because we know that your nervous system and how aroused or under aroused you are, has a huge influence on the behaviors that you’re going to see. And, you know, we take them through that cycle again so that they can relearn the bits that they missed. And so it’s a much more development focused perspective. It’s a much more empathetic perspective. Can you give an example? Like I it’s interesting the way you like ABA, it sounds to me like, it’s, it’s like too simplistic.
It’s almost like it treats kids like they’re rats in a laboratory or pets. Right. And there’s, we’re human. We’re, there’s a reason why we’re we’re the most evolved species. Like we’re not, I mean, there are similarities, but we’re, we’re much more evolved. And so obviously there’s going to be many more layers. So can you give an example, let’s think of a common problem that parents struggle with, that you see all the time that I see all the time and how ABA would recommend teaching the child, how to change their behavior and end up improving it versus like the work that you did as an early interventionists.
Yeah. So let’s say hitting, that’s probably one of the most common chronic behavior issues that parents come to me with. My child’s is a hair. Every time he gets upset, he instantly has. So ABA would physically prevent the child from hitting and they would redirect them to something completely unrelated, basically ignore the emotional expression that the child is having. And they would probably use something like a sticker chart or a rewards chart, or a clip chart of some kind to make concrete, the fact that they made a poor choice, quote unquote.
So Will you wait, will you go back to the first part? So did you say they’ll prevent the hitting? How would you do that? Physical Restraining restraining, And, and then they would restrain the child until they get them into a completely different context. Ignore that. And then as soon as the child was in a different context, they would start becoming animated and interactive again, to try and reinforce that when you hit something, you get ignored and restrained and when you do whatever it is that they’ve redirected them to, you get interaction and social reinforcement.
So like in a school setting, when I’ve read things about like the schools having like padded rooms, like padded. So when, you know, sometimes schools that are dealing with kids that are neuro atypical, right? So you’ve got kids on the spectrum and what have you. And you’ve got a kid having an explosive meltdown. It used to be standard operating procedure through something like ABA to physically restrain the child, take them into the padded room and basically not speak to them or interact. Yeah. I’m sorry. Say, I’ll wait for them to chill out, Wait for them to show up. And in isolation, like you’re, you’re trying to, in their mind, you’re trying to remove all reinforcement by removing all interactions.
Did the adult leave them in that room alone or did they, oh, oh. And then they use like clip charts and behavior charts, sticker charts, all of those awful things to basically show them visually that like you made a bad choice. So we’re going to clip you down or we’re going to take away a sticker or you’re not going to get a sticker, which is tends to be the perspective that’s used more now where they just wouldn’t give the child whatever breadcrumb it was that was going to lead to a reward. And so like, you have to get through an entire preschool class without hitting, or you don’t get a hotdog, say the child’s highly motivated by hot dogs.
So they would find something the child wants and they withhold it until the child does what they say to do. And they don’t really give the child any tools to do that other than their willpower. Like there’s very little talk of how they’re going to work through that emotional expression, how they’re going to express their anger in an acceptable way. It’s very much like, oh, if you want the hot dog, you’re going to stop hitting him. So the focus is on the strong will and willing the strong will to stay, you know, under wraps versus on skill. So the focus is on will and not skill.
Exactly. Yeah. Whereas what I learned to do is very much like, okay, so you’re hitting. Why are you hitting? You’re hitting because you’re frustrated. Okay. So what can we do when we’re frustrated? You can not get rid of the hitting. Like at no point in my career, have I ever tried to rid a child of a behavior? I just redirected it into an acceptable expression, right? Because if a child is hitting, they’re hitting, because that is something that sensory input is helping them calm their nervous system down.
It’s helping them process that emotional expression. So, okay. You can’t hit people. That’s not acceptable, but you can hit a punching bag. You can hit the couch, you can hit your bed, you can hit a stuffy. All of those things are perfectly acceptable things for you to go and whale on. So I might still have to restrain the child in that instance, just because it’s hitting and we don’t want anybody to get severely injured, but it’s just to get them to something they can hit. And then I’m going to release them and encourage them to hit that thing. And then we’re going to do a lot of reinforcement around why are we hitting the punching bag and not the people.
And where is your punching bag doing it proactively to regulate the child’s nervous system before they get to the point where they snap at creating that regulation cycle so that we’re not expecting children to just white knuckle it through the day, recognizing when they’re getting dysregulated and then teaching them to recognize when they’re getting dysregulated, teaching me to make amends for their behavior. And is there a focus on what was the reason like what was underneath and at the root of the hitting? Exactly. So, and usually it’s dysregulation, right? Children, they’ve got too many demands on their energy.
And then usually it’s something small that sets them off because they’re already white knuckling it. And then, you know, somebody steps in front of them in line and they call off on the kid and smack them. And with ABA, they focus so microscopically on that specific instance where the child stepped in front of the other kid in line and the other kid hauled off. And then they do all of this talk around, like we don’t hit people. And when we’re in line and you know, you have to white knuckle it some more. Whereas from my perspective, I’m like, oh, okay, I missed the red flag that you were dysregulated.
So I am 20 minutes behind here. So what happened 20 minutes ago? What happened in that interval of time that has drained your energy? At what point did I miss that you were getting emotional and irrational, and then again, we’re going to teach them what to do with that energy in that instance, but we’re also going to teach them what to do so they don’t get to that point to begin Well, and I can hear what, you know, naysayers might be saying, which is just people who are normal and were raised with old school authoritarian parenting, which, you know, you can’t be, you have to teach kids to behave a certain way.
You can’t constantly be on top of, you know what they’re doing 20 minutes earlier. And The funny thing is, is that with ABA, you have to be on top of them all the time, because unless you are the one providing the reinforcement or the lack of reinforcement, they never actually learned to there’s no internal motivation. Whereas, But even, even with your method, I feel like people would say like, how could, it’s not realistic to think, well, where was I 20 minutes ago? And I want to say this before you give your rebuttal. Cause I’m sure you have a big one too. I want to say this. This is the thing like little kids, especially like birth to five.
Okay. They’re they live in their emotional brain. And so of course they’re going to be easily overstimulated and lots of things are going to set them off. And they’re making sense of the world through these dysregulated moments. And then having their grounded grownups help reel them back in and help them learn the skills to reregulate. They’re like, that is our job to help them, like, they’re going to make mistakes. We can’t be on top of it all the time. But when they make the mistakes, how do we show up as their ground and grownups who reel them back in and then help them to learn new skills? Okay. Now it’s your turn. And so it’s, I have had parents say that to me, where I was like, I feel like I have to be on all the time and you’re right at first, you do, because they don’t know what to do yet.
They haven’t learnt yet. So at first you do have to model it. You do have to be the one, initiating it and driving that bus where you’re like, Hey, it’s been an hour since you had a regulation break, let’s go take a 10 minute break. And then you can come back to whatever it is that you were doing. But Children learn to regulate by being regulated. Children learn to be empathetic by being empathized with, We have to model what we want them to do in order for them to learn how to do it because they watch by observation. Watch you learn by observation. You’re here, sister, If you’re recognizing when they’re getting dysregulated and you’re the one who’s going, okay, well, I can see that you’re dysregulated.
I can see that your ears are getting red. Your fists are in a clench. Your jaw is all tight. That’s telling me that your body needs a break. Let’s go take a break. You do that over and over and over. They are going to start to recognize when their fists are clenched and their jaw is tight and they go, well, we need a break and then they will start initiating it. They will start saying, I need a break. So good. I mean, can, can you imagine if we raise a jet, I mean, what do I hear all the time from moms? And I’ve had to go through this to myself. Like we have no clue. Like where do you carry tension? Where do you, where does stress show up in your body?
What happens to you when you’re dysregulated? Most of us are so not in touch with our own bodies. We don’t know. So if we’re like teaching our kids, this number one, we’re speaking the language. Now we’re learning language that we never received and we’re learning these skills ourselves and that’s going to lower our anxiety improve our lives. But also, can you imagine if we, as kids were conditioned with these skills, like it’s such a freaking gift. Well, it’s, it’s a game changer. It’s amazing pre COVID. I had a group of my clients and we all got together for a picnic in Ottawa and it was pandemonium.
There was 30 families, or we at least 60 kids, like there was a lot of people and we were all in this park and it was all just like a potluck. We just kinda got together. And it was amazing watching these kids who had all been taught the same skills and the same basic procedures of how to regulate and how to navigate social situations. And they all kind of broke off into little groups. And, you know, we had the group of boys over here and they were playing like rough and tumble superheroes, but it was all consensual. They all got around and they were like, okay, I’m going to be Spiderman. You’re going to be Batman. You’re going to be Robin. And you know, we’re fighting this guy and they all went through the rules. Like there was no adult intervention here.
It was all just a group of preschoolers deciding that, okay, Hey, I don’t want to be hit. So we’re not going to be hitting each other. You can hit trees. You can hit the ground. We’re not going to pick up sticks because sticks can pull guys out. Like we’re talking four or five year olds having this discussion before they start playing. It sounds like kitty utopia. And what was even better though, was near the end. Everybody was starting to get tired. There was a lot of kids who were having to leave because they needed breaks. And a bunch of kids, they had gotten consent and they were all kind of wrestling together. But then one of the littler ones three-year-old somehow got knocked off of his bench and fell to the ground.
And he yelled stop. And every single child who was with our group, put their hands in the air, two steps back and waited for the adults to do something. And which made it super quick for the adults to identify who was the problem, because he was the only one on the ground. And then once the adults came in and picked him up, all the kids started saying, oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there. Can I get you an ice pack? They were so like, even the ones that weren’t involved in the game, there was kids up on the play structure that stopped and came rushing over to try and take care of him. So it was just amazing to see the difference between children who have been taught some boundaries and some regulation strategies compared to the kids who hadn’t and how they handle those situations that are everyday situations so differently and how that’s going to translate to them as adults.
Well, it also says to me, these are kids that don’t have to be in a defensive position. They’re not getting, like if they are being constantly empathized with, then they have adults showing up in their world, seeing their perspective and actually helping them rather than accusing them and accusing them and them feeling misunderstood constantly Instead of what to, Right. Right. So now we’ve got kids that, because they’re not in a defensive place because they do feel like they’ve got grown ups in their life who are constantly helping them and seeing their perspective and not just playing judge and jury and putting them in kiddie prison.
When they see another child hurting, they don’t have to worry that they’re going to get blamed for something they didn’t do. They immediately go to that child’s assistance. Like that’s so beautiful. And the child who knocked this little boy off the bench, he didn’t run away. He didn’t hide. He didn’t, he completely, he was like, it was my fault. I, I knocked him and he’d completely took ownership of what had happened because he knew the adults that were around him were going to be like, Hey, okay, so what happened there? How can we make sure that it doesn’t happen again? How can you show him that you didn’t mean to hit them? Well, it was emotionally safe. Exactly. It was fear that they were going to be shamed, blamed, or reprimanded for something that they didn’t have control over.
So it’s amazing. And it blows my mind. It makes me so excited for my sons, because I think as this perspective starts gaining more traction, we’re going to be seeing more and more children who are being raised in this way. And I cannot wait for them to live in a world where this defensive individualistic perspective is no longer what rules their everyday lives. How old are your boys? Eight and five. So fun. Thanks for joining me on the Mastermind Parenting podcast.
Remember you can join our email list at Mastermind, Parenting dot com for more tips and tricks on how to have a peaceful household. Okay. So we’re just going to shift gears for a sec. I love the story that you shared on that webinar about the child. That was a problem. And he kept showing up like making some super annoying noise and what the adults were doing. Kind of, if you’ll tell that story and sort of how it was, how it played out. So I was working with this little boy.
I’d been working with him for about eight months at this point, but I was working with him at home. I was doing therapy after school with him. And we had really been working on him, being able to regulate and recognize the people around him and his self monitoring. He had really poor self monitoring. When I started working for him, he could be in a room of 30 people and he’d act like he was totally alone. And so we’d been working together for eight months and he had made these huge gains, all of the social issues that he had been having at like after-school group and daycare had pretty much disappeared. And so I was in this program review meeting, which is something that happens twice a year, where all of the therapists involved in this child’s program, their preschool teacher, their daycare teacher, their babysitter, their mom, their dad, everybody who’s involved in this child’s life in a care perspective is in that room.
And we all kind of go around the table, talking about the different goals that are on their program plan, how they’ve achieved them, the evidence that we have that they’ve achieved them. And then whether that goal needs to be expanded or whether it can be called achieved and taken off the docket. And then at the end, we go through and we make new goals. So I was up at the front because I was the one who was frontline with him. And I was telling them all about the games that he’d made, how he hadn’t had any hitting instances, a daycare. We hadn’t had any. When I started working with him, one of the big issues with he was in swimming lessons and he spent the entire swimming lesson, like splashing other kids in the face and trying to get right up in their grill.
That was completely gone. He was asking for snacks before he got hungry and not just waiting until he was like dying of starvation. And then when somebody said, no, you can’t have that losing his shit. How old was he? Again? He was three, almost four. Okay. So huge gains for such a little guy. And I was in this meeting. I’m telling them all of these stories and showing them the pictures and the data that I had and his preschool teacher like snorted at me. And I was like, I’m sorry, is there a problem? And she was like, are we talking about the same kid? And I was like, you don’t agree. And so then she basically tore apart everything.
I just said he was defiant. He was attacking children at school. He was constantly going to get food without like asking or telling anybody. And then leaving huge messes behind. He was making noises with his mouth constantly. He would like barrel into a center in the school and like knock over the blocks or whatever that was. Other kids were playing with. Anything that you can think of that was disruptive or frowned upon in a childcare setting. She had it on that list. And I was like, well, this doesn’t make sense because I know he can do this. I know that he is able to play cooperatively with kids.
I know that he’s able to ask for a snack before he gets hungry. Cause he’s doing it all at home. So it was like, this there’s a disconnect here. Something’s wrong. Can I come in and observe him? And she was like, yeah. Okay. And you could tell that she bought that I was kind of blowing smoke, but it didn’t make sense. And pretty much the meeting ended there because there was, there was nothing else to discuss because he, the teacher was saying he hadn’t achieved any of these goals. So I went in about a week later and I had my clipboard and I was all hunkered down in the corner and she was right. Like he was a complete hole in terror and I pulled him out multiple times during that day to be like, Hey buddy, what’s going on?
And he was just like, I don’t even talk. Like, there was no recognition that he knew what I was talking about. And I was like, cause usually this child was usually very receptive and I’ve said, Hey, you know what happened on the playground? He would usually be able to tell me exactly what happened on the playground in much greater detail than I’d even observed. So when he was like, I got nothing, I was like, what is going on here? Like, it just didn’t add up. It didn’t add up. And I was taking notes. I had like a binder full of notes by the end of the first day. And his teacher was like, see, this is what I’m dealing with every day. And I was trying to like get in there and draws attention to things.
And I thought maybe he just needs a bit of facilitation, nothing, nothing was improving. And it doesn’t make sense. I actually went and sat in my car after I dropped him off at home. And I screamed into a throw pillow that I kept in the backseat of my car. Cause I was like, this doesn’t make sense. What is going on here? And then the next day I went in and I started to take notes again. And the morning was exactly the same. It was hell. But then his teacher had a prep period. So she left and this other teacher came in and whenever this other teacher spoke, she turned off the lights. That was just part of her classroom management strategy and a little bit of listen, just fine for her.
He was, he was getting in line. He wasn’t pushing, he went and asked her for a snack. Like he was following directions, following the classroom routines. It was still having some difficulty during play time. But he wasn’t like tearing things off of shelves and running around and flipping desks and screaming and shoving food in his mouth. Like it was like a different child and that was the child I knew. So I was like, okay. The only thing that’s changed other than the adult in charge is the lighting situation. And so I started taking notes on the lights and his behavior and correlation with the lights.
And so we went outside, we had recess, he was exhausted. Like he came and crawled into my lap and he was like, please take me home. I’m tired. And I was like, I can’t, I can’t do that. But when we go inside, ask your teacher, asked Madame, if you can keep the lights off and we can have some quiet time. And he was like, okay. So we went in and he asked his teacher and he said, I’m tired. Can you please keep the lights off? And she was like, yeah. Okay. And again, amazing afternoon. And the teacher was like, oh, well obviously when he’s exhausted, he’s able to behave better. And I was like, that doesn’t make sense.
Exhaustion doesn’t usually equal better behavior. I was impressed because he was still behaving despite being exhausted. And then they had snack time. And after she gave them the directions for snack time, she turned the lights on and he immediately stood up, picked up his lunch bag, threw it across the room, ran over to me, smacked me in the stomach, went, grabbed his bat. His coat out of his cubby, started running for the door. And I was like, whoa. And I hit the lights. And I was like, Hey, what’s going on? And he was breathing like, like he like, he’d run a marathon.
And I was like, what is going on? And he kept going. And that was the sound that he was making all day long. And I was like, is that the sound the lights make? And he got this look on his face, like, oh my God. And he was like, yeah, you can hear the lights buzzing. This was like late 2010s. So before LEDs had really become mainstream, who was all fluorescent lighting in the schools, he could hear the fluorescent lights buzzing and couldn’t hear anything else. He was actually unaware that the teachers were even giving him directions because he couldn’t hear them.
And I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a hotel or an office building when an alarm goes off and you’re like, can someone hit the alarm? Like there’s no fire here. And it goes on and on and on. I remember once I was in Spain and somebody must’ve pulled the fire alarm and they made an announcement that nobody had to leave the building, but the alarm was still going on three hours later. I was like, oh my God, my head is just pounding and ringing. So you can imagine going into a situation where you hear that all day long and everybody’s shaming you for the fact that you can’t hear the instructions and you can’t focus because you’ve got this constant loud, blaring in your ears.
And so I was like, okay, can we just try keeping the lights off? And the teacher was like, well, it’s really dim in here. And I was like, can we bring some lamps in and some incandescent light bulbs then? Cause I just for a week, I just want to try not turning on the fluorescent lights because I have a theory. And she was like, okay. So they did, they brought in some lamps, problem-solving Happy boy. He started playing cooperatively. There was a few things that we had to reteach him because he never actually learned the classroom norms because he couldn’t hear the teacher talking about them. So we had to go back through some of the expectations and all of that. But once he had it, he was good as gold.
I mean, how many kids, how many kids at three or four when, you know, especially highly sensitive kids where something like a fluorescent light bulb, you know, combined with exhaustion, combined with all the other stimulation that’s been coming at them over, you know, throughout the day, which they experienced at a heightened degree, you know, act out and have behaviors because literally they are like system overload and the adults mistake their behavior and they define it as something that it actually isn’t and they define it as defiance and the strong-willed behavior.
And this child thinks they’re the boss. Right? And most of those definitions involve a whole lot of adult ego. Like really like it’s like, we don’t realize that when we’re not and it’s happening, but it’s like that teacher who not to be sexist, but is probably a she teacher and the she teacher probably received the same faulty conditioning that the rest of us females received, which is your job is to please others. Your job is to never have boundaries. Your job is to make sure all the people around you are happy and not yourself. Your job is to show up and make life easier for all the other people.
And now this teacher who doesn’t really feel like she’s worthy of being happy herself or she’s worthy of listening to her body, or she’s worthy of being respected and having a voice and all the things. Now, all of a sudden she’s thrust into this role and she’s like, oh, Hey lady, without the skills to be a pack leader of the classroom, now we need you to be the pack leader of the classroom. And since they’re just teeny tiny little people, for sure, you’ll be able to command their attention and, and earn their respect. And so now you’ve got this teacher and every time, the little child who can’t think clearly, because he, he can hear the freaking fluorescent light bulbs, he ignores her or throw something, she perceives it as disrespect and that she can’t, and she can’t even manage to get the respect of three-year-olds.
And so she feels like a loser and her ego comes online and then she starts coming down. And so the poor child, who’s just learning how to be alive. Right. He’s got all these factors, no wonder in two years and three years, he’s going to be diagnosed with odd. Yeah. Right? Like it’s, it’s so reinforced for me that every behavior has a root and the problem with a lot of the historical knowledge around behavior modification is that they just don’t dig deep enough. They dig down and they find one little bulb and they’re like, oh, this is the problem.
I know there’s a tree under there. We have yet to excavate. We have a whole root system under here that we need to dig down to because you’re solving for the wrong problem. You’re solving for the problem you’re having, Not for the problem the child is happening. Yeah. So good. You’re so good. And that’s probably the biggest problem I deal with in my practice is people just aren’t digging deep enough. They’re stopping when they hit their first little nugget of information. And they think that that little nugget is the whole root system. But when you dig deeper and you solve for the actual problem, the behavior goes away because you’re solving the actual problem Solving for your problem.
You’re solving for the child’s problem. You’re not solving for your problem. You’re solving for the child’s problem. I think it’s so good. It makes such a difference. And like, I have a client currently in my program, she just started at the end of November. Her little one is actually a little bit older than it typically work with. And so he’s in elementary school and they were having all of the table flipping daily, hourly, sometimes running away, bolting, biting kids, throwing pencils and erasers at teachers like tearing up his work instead of doing it, like think of all of this stuff happening in a condensed 20 minute period.
And he was highly behavioral and we started working together. We started getting his teaching him to regulate teaching them to recognize when he was getting dysregulated and what he could do when he felt that way. Because every single instance she mentioned, I was like, well, he was dysregulated. And the answer, the adult answer was, well, he shouldn’t be, he just had a break an hour ago. You know, all the other kids are able to sit through this. And it was like, it doesn’t matter. None of that matters. He can’t do it. Kids Do Well, If They Can not, if they want to. And so to them, they were like, oh, well, this kid is manipulating us.
This kid is being defiant. This kid is flipping tables for the fun of it. He was basically ended up saying, and I was like, there is a problem that we cannot perceive and we need to keep digging until we find it. And so we started with the boiler plate, you know, teaching them how to regulate tissue and to recognize when he’s regulating, putting some boundaries around how he could express his dysregulation, really telling him why we were doing what we were doing was a huge part of it. Like they had tried to redirect them before and they were like, oh, well, we’ve given him a punching bag and he won’t use it. And I was like, did you tell him why it’s there and what the intention of it is and when he’s allowed to access it and what he’s allowed to do with it.
And you’re like, no, we just put a punching bag in and told him to hit that. Okay. So there’s a lot of gaps here. Within two weeks, he went from 10 flipping tables incidents to biting incidents, 15 incidents of ripping paper, like worksheets out. And at one point he smacked, peer’s head into a cinder block wall. The next week he went down to half of those. The week after that, we only had one incident in the hole So fast. Now he’s not out of the woods yet. Like there’s a long term because stressors keep coming up.
Right. And that’s where people seem to think of this, like one and done thing. We teach them how to regulate and then jobs done. Well, no they’re kids, they’re developing. They literally go to bed at night, one night, and then they have a growth spurt. And the next morning they wake up with a completely different worldview because cognitively they’re completely different people. Well, I don’t know very many adults who know how to control their impulses. And you know, I mean the no, but what, you know, what we can do when we’re adults is we were in charge of our own food. And, and we can, you know, when w when it feels like too much in our bodies, a lot of times we go and we eat a sleeve of cookies or drink a bottle of wine or smoke something.
Or do we, you know, we partake in over behaviors to regulate our nervous systems quite often, but kids, they don’t have the freedom to do that. I mean, they do do that when they find video games, but, and technology. But in the meantime, when they’re in the little kid years, like where you really see families, they don’t have unlimited access to junk food and technology and all the over behaviors that the grownups are using to regulate our nervous systems. So they have to act out and all of these, you know, they have to behave like lunatics, basically because they don’t have the skills. And most often we don’t have the skills.
So going to learn these skills right along with them. Exactly. And probably one of the most frequent objections I hear from schools from parents is, well, he knows what to do. We’ve talked to him about it. We’ve told him that he’s allowed to go punch the punching bag, but he’s still not doing it. Well, here’s the problem. When we’re dysregulated, our brain takes all of that good stuff that makes us civilized human beings, our language, our knowledge, our reasoning skills, or executive functioning skills. And it literally disconnects it from the rest of our brain, because none of those things are necessary for life. So if we feel like we’re in danger or were low enough energy, that if we were in danger, we wouldn’t be able to defend ourselves.
Our brain goes, Nope, we’re going to unplug the neocortex. We’re going to stop sending blood and oxygen up there because that’s not going to keep us safe. So then we have these emotional irrational children who are using their limbic system entirely to function. And you’re saying, oh, well, they know what to do. Okay. They can’t access that knowledge. The part of their brain, where that knowledge is stored, where that reasoning is stored, whether learning a store is not functional right now, they cannot access it physically. So yeah. They know what to do, but there’s a difference between knowing what to do and being able to do it.
And if you’re not able to do it, it’s probably because you’re dysregulated. Yup. I know. So good. Okay. We’re going to wrap it up. This is such a good conversation. I know we could talk about this for hours. I know. It’s like, I feel like I’m Jewish and I feel like, like a Jewish person that just went to Israel and you’re like, oh, here’s my people. Yeah. I feel like I found my people. We can speak the language to each other. I’m like, sister, go preach it. I love it. So good. I love it. I said, I could talk about this forever because yeah. It’s a new perspective, right? The science that we’re referencing in this discussion is at best 50 years old.
Right. And did science that ABA and all of this conventional parenting knowledge that we’re kind of debunking now is based off of is 200 years old, 500 years old, we’ve done more research and made more discoveries on child development in the last 50 years than we did in the 500 before. So it’s new. It’s just starting to trickle down to the mainstream. So it’s always so fun when you meet someone else who is also learning those perspectives and has also been digging into that research and is applying it because yeah, you get to speak the same language. Oh, just wait, just wait. Until the teen years, you know, my oldest is 20, just turned 24.
My youngest is 16 and I have a 20 year old daughter. And like, it’s, I’m like, I love the fact that, you know, all that old school parenting and all the message. Oh, just wait until the teen years, yada, yada yada. And I’m like, look, the teen years are growth years. But when you use these types of methods and this language, and you’ve retrained your brain and you truly are on the same team as your kids and your kids don’t have to be in a place like it’s like the kid, the story you told about all the kids, putting their hands up and then immediately going to the aid of the hurt child. It’s like, when you have kids that don’t have to be in a defensive place and they don’t have to be perfect and they’re allowed to make mistakes and they turn to you to support them or, or help them or whatever.
It’s like the teen years, they’re hard, but they’re also beautiful. And so I love debunking that myth too, that teenagers suck. I am excited because I’m already seeing with my little ones, like just the other day, my eight year old came home and he was all scared to talk to me. And I was like, what’s up? He was like, well, my teacher keeps yelling at me because I, he does a French class on Google meet and where they have like Google slides on one screen and the teacher on the other. And he was like, she’s yelling at me because she keeps messing around. Or I keep messing around with all the tools on Google slides to like draw pictures and stuff while I’m listening to her and it’s messing up the slides and he’s like, and I try to stop, but it’s hard.
They’re right there. I can see them. And I want to play with them. It’s hard to stay focused. And I was like, well, okay. So we sat down and we talked it out and did her whole collaborative problem solving thing. And in the end we decided we were going to put it full screen so that he couldn’t see the tools and just take them out of sight. Out of mind, he’s been doing fantastic since he was so proud. The other day was like, mom, my teacher has given me like big praise the last couple of days, because I’m not having trouble focusing anymore because the distraction is gone. And I was like, you did that. You solved that problem. And it’s so amazing that he’s already coming to me with yeah.
Their little problems. Cause he’s a little kid, but to him, that was a big deal. And it was very embarrassing for him. And so he’s already coming to me to collaborate with me and seeing that when he has a problem, I’m going to help him solve it, Freaking out at him and lecturing him about her needs to pay attention to the teacher. So cool. To be older and we get to collaborate on, you know, adult problems. Yeah. Yeah. Well enjoy the little kid problems. Okay. So do you have any thing that you would like to leave the listeners with or any final thoughts Kids Do? Well, If They Can, if they don’t, there’s a reason and you got to find it, Love it, love it, love.
There’s a reason. Find it. If you find it, if you can’t see it with your bare eyes, find somebody who can, and that might be a parenting coach that might be an occupational therapist. That might be a physical therapist. I had a client recently having all these behavior issues. We ended up tracing it back to a GI issue. Mom, wasn’t able to see it. I wasn’t able to see it. His pediatrician wasn’t able to see it. There was still, his OT was Really, usually Done all the kind of like high level. And I was like, Nope, there is something here. There’s something. This is not just happening because he wants it to there’s something here.
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And so we kept pushing. We kept advocating, turns out he’s got severe GI issue. So if you can’t see it, you can’t figure out what’s preventing your child from behaving. Well, keep digging, Love it. I love it. Okay. I will include all the ways people can find you and connect you with you and follow you in the show notes. And I’ve loved our conversation. It was so good to meet you. Thank you so much for having me. This has been so much fun, So much fun. I know my mom you’re like this lady I talked to you today. She is, she used a metaphor that it was that meeting me was like meeting a Jewish person in Israel, like for a Jewish version, going to Israel.
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That was the first. Okay. Thanks so much Atlanta. All right. Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household. I want you to go to my website and check out Mastermind, Parenting dot com. We have three beginning programs, and if he needs some accountability and more support, then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you. And as always, we’re on all the social channels under Mastermind Parenting on Instagram, it’s mastermind, underscore parenting, and you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives, where I give you teaching and coaching.
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And I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better because when they feel better, they do better. And I love, love, love, getting to know you guys. So thanks for listening. If you liked this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review super, super appreciative.