LIVE Q & A  •  Alley Dezenhouse Kelner

Recorded January 21 2021


Alley Dezenhouse Kelner, MA Counselling Psychology

Clinical Director, Therapist

Alley is the Clinical Director of Magnificent Minds Inc., where she supervises special education and therapy programs for children with complex needs ranging from Autism, to ADHD and dual diagnoses. She uses best practices in mental health and behaviour science to empower kids and their parents.

[direct email]    [website]

Full Transcript

Recorded January 7 2021


Okay. It looks like people are rolling in.

I’ll give you guys another 60 seconds or so to admit all the folks who are coming on in. In the meantime, grab a drink of water or a cup of coffee, or whatever you like. Grab a pen and a paper if you want to take notes, I promise not to, you know, provide too much info, heavy brain dumping, but I am known for that. So full disclosure, it might happen.

So a pen and paper is always good. If you want to throw questions or comments in the chat box, I will do my best to split my focus between what’s going on there and what I’m talking about. And hopefully not lose my train of thought, but I’ll do my best.

Yeah. Let me know how old your kids are so that I can tailor what I say to the right demographic. And if you have specific questions, again, drop those into the chat box and I will get going. So why are I thought I would start is so we’re all parenting and a pandemic right now. And I think what’s coming up a lot for the parents that I support is, I mean, fatigue, right? COVID fatigue, parenting fatigue.

We’re all hitting this wall. And it’s coinciding with like, you know, January, which is gloomy and, you know, seasonal depression is very real. So we’re all feeling it. And we’re all feeling a lot of caregiver burnout. So where I thought it would start is just giving you some insight into what I call my three reasons or at least three very common reasons.

If not the only reasons that your kids aren’t listening to you. So you’re finding that you’re nagging, you’re finding that you’re yelling, you’re finding you’re in this like constant cycle of your kids, refusing or opposing, or just arguing your coping skills are diminished. Because like I said, you know, COVID fatigue, parenting fatigue, all of it. So here’s some things I want you to keep in mind.

So these are my three reasons that your kids are not listening. You may identify with all three of them. You may identify in particular with one of them. So, okay. The first one is empty threats. So what happens is, you know, you ask your kids to do something in whatever way they can, or they do what they refuse, right?

They don’t want to, they whine, they oppose, they straight up say, no, if you have kids like mine, and then what do you do? You, you make a threat. You say, well, you know, if you don’t whatever, then I’m going to whatever. And the, whatever what you’re going to do then is, you know, it’s a punishment, it’s a, you’re going to lose your something.

You’re going to not have yourself, whatever you’re, you’re providing some kind of threat. And what happens is we go to that point of threat really, really quickly because we’re triggered our coping skills are already pretty crappy right now because we’re overwhelmed, we’re experiencing caregiver burnout. So what happens is our kids don’t listen, we make this threat.

And then once the dust settles, either they eventually say, okay, fine. You know, I’ll do it. Or they say no. And then you say, okay, well now what, because now I’ve said, you know, no, do your homework log into virtual school, clean the kitchen, clean your plate, whatever. Then I’m going to you impose a consequence.

And then you do that in a moment of frustration. And then the dust settles and you don’t follow through on that. And you know, there’s a lot of reasons that parents don’t follow through. You know, you forget time, you know, re being it, being real realistic, you know, is it really realistic to take away your kids technology? If they’re in virtual school, maybe not.

You know, you speak out of turn, you speak in anger and then you don’t follow through. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been there, not just with our kids. I’m sure, but just in relationships, we established these contingencies and then we don’t follow through on them. You know, think of it like a friend who always calls you, you know, after your kids are asleep.

And you say, if you keep calling me after my kids are asleep, I’m just not going to answer because it’s irritating me. And what do you do you answer anyway, because you feel bad. So you establish these contingencies and they’re empty threats. You don’t follow through. Again the problem with that is that your kids learn not to take you seriously.

Your kids learn number one, that they don’t have to ask. They don’t have to listen the first time you ask. Because the first time you ask is really just, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s like, there’s option. Do you want to, Oh, because if, if it’s not option and if it’s like a requirement, then you’re going to go straight to a threat.

So they know the first time mom asks her dad asks, I don’t have to take them seriously, because I know if it’s like really a deal breaker thing, then they’re going to come in and they’re going to threaten me with something. And that’s going to be my cue that I either need to, you know, turn it up, turn it on, or, you know, no change gears or do the thing or not, depending on whether they follow through.

If we don’t follow through on what we say, then our kids don’t take us seriously. And then when we do, you know, up the ante and make that threat, that empty threat, they’re like, okay, do your words. It’s fine. You’ll take, you’ll take away my technology. And then they know that you, in fact won’t, or you can’t, or, you know, maybe you will, but then they have some other form of equally motivating thing, item, activity that they will just do instead. As a result, what you say, doesn’t carry as much weight as you would like.

Okay. So that’s the first reason that kids don’t listen, you make empty threats and then you don’t follow through. And our kids are extremely perceptive, so they can spot your behavioral patterns oftentimes before you spot theirs. Okay. So keep that in mind. The second reason that kids don’t listen. Okay. So what happens is our kids don’t listen. And then we take it personally.

And, you know, we react with emotion and that leads often to, you know, making threats or big reactions or big behaviors from us. And when we react in anger, we react instead of respond. So what that means is we react based on how we’re feeling in the moment. So we met, you know, our kids may engage in some like low what we would consider low level oppositionality or refusal.

Like, you know, I don’t want to clean my room. I don’t want to get dressed. Do I want five more minutes? And because we’ve already sort of hit our wall, we’ve already hit our, you know, COVID wall or parenting wall, we’re just, our coping skills are diminished. We escalate. So we climb our own escalation continuum from zero to a hundred real quick.

So they trigger us and that elicits this like fight or flight response in us in terms of just our anxiety responses and stress responses that causes us to react in emotion. So we get really, really like over the top about things that are small problems in the grand scheme of things. So, you know, your kiddo engaging in low levels of refusal, whining, negotiating, those are small scale problems.

And those deserve, you know, calm and neutral responses from us in order to redirect them appropriately and shape the right behavior. When we react emotionally, when our kids don’t listen, we desensitize them to our big reactions. They go, okay, mom, and they’re not, they’re not, they don’t carry the weight that we feel.

So we feel super intense about it. And even if it’s a small problem, we still feel super intense about it. And our kids don’t necessarily feel that that gravitas or that, you know, they don’t feel that it’s high stakes because we are constantly riding this wave of high, high peaks and then lows and then high, high peaks, and then lows, when in reality, what we want to be doing is remaining neutral.

And at the very least, if we can’t remain neutral in all situations, we want to be somewhere sort of in the middle of our escalation continuum. So, you know, thinking of yourself, having five levels of escalation. So if let’s say one is, you know, your low level, your baseline, you’re calm, you’re happy.

And five being like your peak, peak, biggest emotions you’ve ever had total mommy or daddy meltdown. Okay. Where we want to be is somewhere under three, if we can. And you know, there are going to be times where we really just flip our lid and we get really, really intense about things, and that’s okay.

But what we want to do is use coping mechanisms so that we are remaining, you know, mostly neutral and mostly regulated and in control of our emotions and how they affect our behavior. When we do this, our kids are going to listen better. Our kids are going to hear us, and they’re not just going to see, you know, these big reactions in these big behaviors.

Obviously, the flip side of that as well is that when we respond in anger or when we respond with big emotions, we’re sending the message to our kids. That that is an acceptable way to communicate expectations when we would, you know, I’m sure when we’re calmer much rather be communicating a message that says, you know, even if I’m really mad, I’m going to communicate respectfully. I’m going to communicate calmly and as neutrally as I’m capable of in that moment.

Okay. So that’s the second reason your kids are not listening. Those big reactions, and you’re going from zero to a hundred, sort of desensitizing them to, you know, those, those peaks and valleys. The third thing you wait until there’s a refusal to implement a contingency.

So what does that mean? So we know that kids behave better when they know what to expect and they can predict the outcome of their actions. So your kid should know, you know, without, without a doubt, if I engage in this, this will be the consequence. And I want you to remember as well that when I say consequence, I don’t necessarily mean punishment.

Consequences can be reinforcement or punishment. So your kids are going to know for certainty. If I, you know, whatever, do something, this is what will follow. And this is again, positive and negative behaviors. So if you don’t establish those contingencies and you are unpredictable in how you respond to, you know, behaviors and you are inconsistent about laying out rules and expectations, then what you do is you wait until a rule is broken to address it.

And you say, well, you can’t throw your iPad because if you throw your iPad, you’re going to, you’re going to break it. And you’re going to break something else in the room. And you know, all these reasons that you, as a grownup logically know you can’t throw an iPad, but if you’ve never said to your kiddo, you know, here’s your iPad.

The rules of the iPad are, you know, you need to have clean hands. You know, you need to be sitting down and not walking around. You need to keep it in both hands and hold it tightly. You know, you need to treat it with respect because it’s technology, et cetera, et cetera.

If you have never outlined those expectations, then what you’re going to do is wait until they break an expectation, like say walking around the house with their iPad in front of them and bumping into things, or, you know, doing something you ask them to do with an iPad in their hand and looking at the screen and dropping it or tripping, or, you know, worse.

Then you’re going to say, you can’t do that. What are you doing? And you have this huge reaction and you’ve never actually laid out the contingency beforehand. You know, these are the rules, these are the expectations. And as well, which goes along with outlining your rules, what happens if I break the rules?

So these are the rules and the expectations for blank. If you break the rules, you know, the outcome or the consequence will be what makes sense? What is reasonable? You know, will you get one morning and get a chance to correct it, maybe depending on your age, depending on, you know, what you need, you know, will it be taken away immediately, maybe?

And that might be reasonable, but that, you know, natural consequence that follows from breaking the rule, it needs to be outlined beforehand. You can’t assume that your kiddos are going to know something, even if it’s extremely logical, even if in your brain, you’re like, okay, this is a piece of technology in what world does my child not know that they can’t touch the iPad with chocolate all over their hands or putting all over their fingers or face.

You need to lay that out. You need to let them know, and don’t assume that they know it. And then, you know, react in anger when, you know, they demonstrate with their behavior that either they don’t know it, or they don’t know it fluently enough to just, you know, meet that expectation without being reminded. Okay. So those are the three major reasons that I see, you know, that, that kids are not listening.

And it just in terms of wrapping that up, I think the important thing to recall here is that we are looking at teaching more appropriate ways of engaging. And when we’re talking about not listening, the more appropriate response would be listening. So that means that we have to outright teach them how to listen and follow instructions and meet our expectations in a variety of settings.

And we have to do that by clearly outlining the rules and contingencies in advance. And then also letting them know what will be the outcome if they’re broken. And I think it’s a reasonable for the outcome of a broken rule to be something that is causally related. So, you know, if you are, I don’t know, picking your nose and using the iPad and getting it all, you know, messy and gross.

It, you know, from that follows that you may lose the iPad. And that seems reasonable. You know, what would make it unreasonable is if let’s say that means you lose the iPad for the rest of your life, that seems a bit extreme. You know, the punishment has to match the crime, so to speak, you know, low-level issue deserves sort of a, a matched response with, with respect to consequence.

So I will answer any questions you guys have, if you want to drop any in the chat box. And in the meantime, I’m going to go through some of the questions here and see if there is anything that I can offer you guys. Okay.

So we have 11 months, two and a half and two months, one child, one years old. So this one says:

My three and a half year old daughter sometimes says that she is a big boy. When I say she is a big girl, sometimes she smiles and laughs after. And sometimes I just say to her, okay, she also calls herself a girl often. We also call her brother a big boy in front of her. And I don’t want to dismiss her feelings if she really does feel like she is a boy, but I’m not sure what is developmentally appropriate at this age. (13:16)

Great question.

So first and foremost, our kids’ behavior is informed by how we respond to it. So, you know, she had, she may have gotten a particular response from someone in the past about saying, I am a big boy.

She may have echoed it because I mean, at three years old, like their parents, everything they say, you know, they absorb and then they, you know, they paired it back usually in situations where it actually makes sense context-wise so it makes you kind of go like, hmm, do they, do they know what that means because it seems to fit in the situation.

Oftentimes, yes. But, you know, they’re, they’re also just, just practicing phrases they’ve heard and applying them and, and seeing what the reaction is. She may have said, you know, after you said, you know, you’re a big boy to her brother and he, you know, got that positive attention and that positive reinforcement, she may have said, I’m a big boy to her, to your, you know, your son, her brother, and he may have corrected her or given her other attention, like, for example, laughed it off or said, no, you’re a girl, whatever it is, who knows, you know, how, how an older brother would react in that situation.

So she may be trying to see what kind of response it elicits from other people. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about it. I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it. I would just say, Oh, I’m okay. And I would move forward. I wouldn’t diminish how she feels. I don’t think you really need to look too, too deeply into it.

It’s cool. It’s kind of like, you know, sometimes my kids are really convinced that like they’re a cat in the moment and I say, Oh, okay, cool. I could argue with them, cause they’re not a cat, but it doesn’t really matter in the moment. And they’re, you know, they’re, they’re expressing themselves and they’re playing and that’s fine.

Obviously, there is that, you know, as parents who have this like world experience where like, Oh, like, is this the beginnings of like her describing her identity and how she feels and maybe, and you know, maybe you’ll look back and go, Oh, you know, when she was three, she said that and it turned into something, it didn’t turn into something.

It became part of her identity. It didn’t, I don’t think you have to really worry about it or overthink it at this age. I would, like I said, just respect it and say, Oh, okay, cool. And then move on. But I would also be careful not to provide like more attention for her saying I’m, Oh, I’m a big boy then you would, for her saying, I’m a big girl.

It doesn’t really matter. And you don’t want to be in a situation where like, she’s like looking to see which, you know, which kinds of phrases get more attention. Take it as you will, and just sort of move along and don’t worry too much just in terms of like, you know, if your response is going to validate or not validate. I would just kind of shrug it off and say, okay, cool. Three-year-olds can be three-year-olds can be wild. Three-year-olds can have like really, really vivid imaginations. You know, you might even say, you know, you know, you might even say, okay, and just move along.

In terms of being developmentally appropriate, I think at three years old kids are trying on different rules all the time. Like I said, you know, whether it’s being a cat, a doctor, you know, a mom, a dad, whatever it is. And, and I think that’s completely developmentally appropriate. And I also think that it is, it is beneficial for them to be able to try on different roles, the, the value of play at that age, and really at any age where they’re engaging in pretend play is really them just sort of trying on different roles that they see around them.

So she has a big brother. So, you know, of course you would try on that role and, you know, if she had a cat, she might try on that role. And if she had a mom, she might try on that role. So just sort of keep, keep that in mind as you’re responding and yeah. Sort of let it, let it come and go. Okay.

So Miriam says:

My four-year-old boy loves independent play at home and is great. Overall talks a lot at home, but his speech isn’t good. His teachers are saying that at school, he enjoys playing alone and doesn’t have interest in playing with other children and doesn’t communicate too much with them. He’s very aware of what he’s doing and great academically and is mentally aware of everything. He just focuses on what he’s doing too much. And his imagination goes too far and sometimes ignores people around him. (16:58)

Yeah. So I think if it’s communication, isn’t, isn’t, you know, advanced or isn’t like stellar, as you would describe it, that could definitely impact his interest in engaging with his peers a lot of the time. And I support a lot of kids with speech delays or, you know, speech and social communication impairments. A lot of the time what can happen is when their speeches a little bit behind their peers, and this can happen in kindergarten regardless of a speech delay.

So like you’ve got JKS and SKS in one room. So, you know, your kiddo is going to gravitate to other kids who have similar levels of speech as him only because he may feel overwhelmed by, you know, the level of speech or communication going on around him. And if he is a little bit behind in his communication development, he may have to work really hard to keep up with his peers.

And that may be cognitively really draining. So if he’s not terribly motivated, that could definitely be a factor. You know, speech therapy is amazing. And I highly recommend, you know, if you’re noticing a deficit in your concerned, speech therapists not only, you know, support development of like articulation and, and, you know, phonics and that kind of thing, they also support the development of you know, social communication. So how we use conversation and how we use, you know, language to build social connection and relationships. There are some really great speech pathologists in the parent playbook community. I think there’s one she’s amazing. And you can reach out to her for sure.

Okay. Next question. I actually don’t, before I move on, I will also say, I always, I know that sometimes it can be a little bit jarring when you get feedback like that from a teacher and you say, Oh, you know, I, I don’t see it at home or whatever it is, but I think teachers are really honest when it comes to what they see in the classroom and what they would consider sort of within what is expected.

So if they are noticing that your kiddo is, you know, a little bit more withdrawn, whether it’s because of, you know, the communication delay or just because, like you said, you know, his map imagination is really vivid. You know, you could also pursue some social skill support just in terms of helping him connect and helping him be a little bit more motivated to engage with his peers.

All right. On we go.

Two and a half year old daughter who refuses meal time altogether, or has very big feelings. She seems to be emotional and sensitive, even when it comes to the most minor things and tasks, any tips on how to parent and support her through the meltdowns and big feelings. (19:46)

Yes. I could talk for like years about how to support kids through meltdowns and big feelings.

There are modules on the parent playbook curriculum on the website. And if you are a member, you can access that if you are not a member, I will say this number one, you always want to validate. So you always want to let them know that you hear them, especially at two and a half years old communication, isn’t exactly on par with, you know, where they are cognitively.

So, you know, your, your kiddo at two and a half, her brain is a mile, a minute processing, all kinds of things. And her communication has not quite caught up. So she could number one, half a gap in the ability to communicate clearly what she wants, which is why she defaults to behavior, because that’s more intuitive.

Number one. And number two, if you do understand her and she is communicating clearly, you know, even if it’s alongside challenging behavior, you really want her to know that you hear her. So, you know, for our kids, it’s not always just hearing no or hearing, you know, a follow through of an expectation that triggers them.

It’s also the feeling of not being heard or feeling like they’re not being understood. And when we’re not understood, that can be a massive trigger for, you know, big behavior as you call it. So, step one, I definitely want you to validate, you know, I want you to say something like, I hear you, your blank, you know, your you’re upset about dinner, your not hungry.

You’re telling me you don’t want to sit at the table. And then I want you to empathize after that. And I want you to explain to her, you know, in very concretely and, and sort of, you know, simply because she has two and a half, you know, I hear you, you don’t want dinner and then I want you to empathize.

And I want you to say, I can understand that it can be really hard to do something you don’t want to do, or I can understand that sometimes our tummies don’t feel hungry or, you know, we don’t like what’s being offered and then I want you to redirect, okay. So you’re gonna validate and empathize, right? So recognize it.

I hear you. You’re blank empathize. That makes sense. I can understand that, you know, and then I want you to redirect. So essentially that’s where the, the having said that comes in. So it’s, you know, I see you. I hear you. I get it. That makes sense to me having said that this is the expectation it’s dinner time.

This is what’s for dinner. It’s what’s available. There are no other things available. Or if there is one other alternate available, this is the alternate that’s available. And again, you’re going to go back to redirecting to the contingencies that you’ve hopefully already set before mealtime. You may also want to go back to just in terms of what I said about why our kids don’t listen.

You may want to go back in and lay out the rules and expectations for mealtime or for whatever it is that you’re doing before they happen. That kind of thing. The other thing that can be really, really powerful when it comes to shaping better forms of communication, or perhaps just more advanced forms of communication.

So I like to, you know, use the sentence. Oh, you can say, so what that means is, you know, your kiddo has, you know, you say, come sit down, it’s time for dinner. And your kiddo has this, like just epic meltdown, like limbs flailing, you know, screaming, whatever, all the things that they would do when they’re having a meltdown.

And in that situation, I wouldn’t necessarily want you to address, you know, the meltdown itself, because oftentimes what you attend to, you see more of, so I might say something like, Oh, you can say, I need two more minutes or, Oh, you can say, I’m not hungry right now. Or, Oh, you can say, I wasn’t ready.

Something like that. When you say, Oh, you can say blank, you’re giving them a more preferred way to communicate what they’re communicating with their behavior. So you’re shaping better forms of language. What you’re not doing is reinforcing the behavior because it doesn’t matter. Even if you say, Oh, you can say, you know, I need two more minutes.

You can still model that. And then still reinforce the expectation. I hear, you know, you can say two more minutes. Okay. You know, two more minutes fine. And then you can come back and two more minutes and say, okay, it’s time to go now, whatever it is. The other thing is sometimes you don’t have that opportunity or that, that flexibility to say, Oh, you know, you can say two more minutes and then actually give them two more minutes.

So it’s okay for you to give them a, Oh, you can say, give them an alternative, but then still follow through. Oh, you can say, I really don’t want to. And then in that case, I would respond to what you have said that they can say, if that makes sense, it’s kind of messed up.

So you say, Oh, you can say, I really don’t want to. And then you can say, you know, I hear you, your body tells me you don’t want to that’s okay. I can understand that. You know, it’s hard to switch gears and stop playing and come to the table. Having said that it’s time for dinner. And then you follow through.

So it all comes back to, you know, the way that you validate empathize and then redirect while also making sure that you’re shaping better forms of communication. I think the, Oh, you can say phrase takes a lot of pressure away from parents to change the behavior in the moment.

So, you know, let’s say, you know, she’s playing and you know, you want her to clean up or you want her to come to the table or whatever it is. And she has this epic meltdown. You don’t want to be in this control battle where you’re saying come, and she’s saying no, and you’re saying come and you’re saying, and she’s saying no.

So in that situation you say, Oh, you can say, I need two more minutes. And then you can walk away for two more minutes and you can give her the space to calm down and relax. And you don’t have to be in this power, struggle with her. It gives parents sort of a script for addressing the behavior, or at least addressing a more adaptive response without specifically attending to the behavior.

So without saying like, Oh, don’t kick, don’t scream. Don’t this don’t that because none of that is what this is about, what this is about is what she’s communicating to you with her behavior and not necessarily what you observe. So you want to be mindful of that, that you’re not providing too much attention to like observable things that aren’t the actual root cause of the behavior.

Okay. So just I want to make sure I’m following these. Yeah. Okay.

So she attends Montessori and we follow some routines that she’s more than capable of. (26:05)

Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of the time you, you want to like, and I like that you’re that you’re thinking about this, right?

So you’re saying that she does a lot of these routines at school. And then at home gives you, you know, a harder time. Unfortunately, this is the burden we bear as parents, our kids save their worst behavior for us. Why? Because they’re safe because they experienced, you know, at the end of the day, the experience, what we call restraint collapse.

So it sounds intense, but it’s really not. It’s just like, you know, when you work a full day and then you come home and you’re burnt out, that’s basically what kids experience. And we have better coping mechanisms as adults. So, you know, we work whole day and then we come home and we’re tired.

So we have a cup of coffee or we have a smoothie or we, you know, whatever. We listen to our favorite song on the way home in the car. And we regroup, our kids don’t necessarily have that capacity. So a lot of the time we will, you know, be in a situation where we’re frustrated because you know, they, I don’t know a Pete on the potty all day at school and they come home.

The first thing they do is have, you know, an accident or something like that, or they clear their plate every day. And you know, after lunch, you know, daycare, but then they come home and we ask them to do that and it’s an epic meltdown.

So there’s a couple of things to keep in mind. One is the restraint collapsed. So the fact that, you know, our kids keep it together all day at school and do what’s asked of them and then they come home and, you know, they sometimes not always, but sometimes just need a little grace and a little support developing coping skills. The other thing is, you know, we want to know, and it seems like you’re already on this train of thought.

We want to know if what we’re asking our kids to do in the moment is a skill deficit. So they don’t have the necessary skills to say, tie their shoes, but we’re saying tie your shoes. And then it’s resulting in a meltdown. Or if it’s just a performance deficit, which means they have the skills, but there’s something getting in the way and what could be getting in the way of them demonstrating that could be, like I said, restraint collapsed. So like just exhaustion, lack of coping mechanisms, it could be motivation is lacking. And a lot of the time it’s also how we respond to our kids’ behavior, because the way we respond to refusal shapes, whether or not it will occur again.

So as much as we’re shaping our kids’ behavior, by saying, you know, establishing contingencies and saying things like, Oh, you can say whatever and trying to teach them more adaptive skills. They’re are also shaping our behavior and, you know, navigating, how do we respond to certain behaviors and what behaviors work or don’t work.

If we follow through consistently, then we will see less refusal on things that we already know they can do. Having said that, you know, you need to make sure that the right systems are in place. Are they motivated? Are they, you know fed, hydrated, sufficiently energized, you know, not experiencing restraint collapse. Have you set the expectations right away, the rules, do they know, you know, is there a routine, all kinds of things that need to work together to support you, getting to a point where you can actually follow through.

It’s not just like, after this, you know, after this webinar, you close your browser and then you just move forward and follow through. It would be really nice if it was that easy. You do have to follow through.

Of course, when you close your webinar, write it down and follow through, but there’s a lot more than just follow through in terms of setting you up for success. If you set those, those antecedent strategies or those precursor things, you know, the expect expectations, contingencies, you know, rules, all of that good staff, you do all of that. Then you limit the chance that you’re going to get to a point where you have to follow through because you were setting them up to already be successful without you having to implement, you know, consequence based strategy or something like that.

Okay. Now says:

Because of the pandemic, my son is not interacting with other kids. I’m very worried about his social development. How should I continue with isolating ourselves from others? The pandemic seems to be endless now. And I’m wondering if I should change my approach. (29:35)

Yeah. So this is a great question. And so he’s two and a half, you know, I think this is a really hard one because obviously this is unprecedented. We’re parenting in unprecedented times. Two and a half, you know, I mean, really any of those early, early years, under four years old, all of their social opportunities come from things that we as parents create for them, whether that is daycare, whether that is, you know, social play dates or whatever it is.

And that’s a lot of burden for us, especially when we’re limited in resources right now, the resources of time, the resources of money and the resources of just available services and programs. So that’s the first thing. So cut yourself some slack in that sense, because like I said, under four, all of their social opportunities have to be, you know, triggered by the parents. We have to be in control of them once they’re four, they go on to kindergarten, they go on to whatever J K S K and, and their social opportunities become sort of naturally embedded into their day, just because of the availability of public education. And that’s awesome.

But before that is when it’s really critical to start building those skills. So what are some things you can do? Well, I would probably have not suggested this before pandemic times, but because we don’t have a lot of available resources right now, you know, you could look into mommy or caregiver and, and kiddo or baby classes that are online.

So I probably in a million years would never have thought that I’d be uttering these words, but at the end of the day, social engagement is still beneficial. If it’s occurring online, your kiddo can still learn things from being, you know, in an environment with, you know, other kids in a zoom room or whatever it is, and even just benefit from, I mean, and I will be the first to say there isn’t a lot of reciprocal interaction between the kids in the situation, but there is a lot of important skills that can be developed through these kinds of virtual pre-K or preschool, or even, you know, earlier than that years programs there’s baby and me there’s mommy and me, all those kinds of things.

And one of the benefits of that is that they, they get to interact with another teacher on the screen. Again, probably wouldn’t have said this, you know, a year ago, but here we are, and this is sort of the best of what’s available for us right now.

They can build on skills like joint attention, which is the ability to, you know, engage with other people in, on a shared thing or task or activity. So, you know, just the fact that they’re engaging in whatever the teacher on the screen is doing is a really good and important social skill. The other social skills that we work on at two and a half years old are, you know, they’re foundational.

So their early years skills, they it’s great if we can do them in the presence of peers, but in the situation that we’re in right now, where we can’t, you can still build social skills with your kiddo in your home environment with you. You can still target goals and you can still target skill building. I would need to know a little bit more about your kiddo to be able to provide specifics and how you can do that.

But I think just sort of broadly the idea of joint attention is really important. So that’s what I described where two people are more focusing on one particular task. So reading a book together, you know, having your kiddo follow your finger, as you point to different things in the book, Oh, there’s the caterpillar and the butterfly and having him track where your finger goes.

It seems like, you know, it seems not overly social, but it’s a foundational social skill. And if you start there and then you start to see other opportunities in your day-to-day life that you can build social skills, that’s perfectly fine and perfectly good. You know, there are a lot of places in the world, even probably in Toronto, there are a lot of folks that don’t have any, you know, daycare or childcare or, you know, a whole ton of social interaction before they go to public education.

And, you know, they make it work. And, you know, it takes a little creativity and a little, you know, a little research and a little prep, but you can certainly do it and you can create opportunities similar to what they would create in a daycare or preschool classroom where you just develop those foundational social skills.

So again, you know, some of those foundational skills are going to be joined attention, you know, shared eye contact and not necessarily direct eye to eye gaze, but, you know, knowing that when someone calls their name, they should look towards their face. You know, you can look at my nose, you can look at my eyes, you could look at my mouth, whatever it is, but that’s an important social skill to know to respond when you’re being called, you know, to look at me when I’m talking to you.

And again, it’s going to be, you know, looking at my face, not necessarily looking at my eyes, you know, other things that are going to be important following directions. So how does he follow your directions? How does he follow directions of other people that he’s engaging with, if at all, and if not, then just you that’s totally fine. What else. Are there social skills, so you’re going to be looking at like a reciprocal play. So you’re going to be looking at, you know, building together and that reciprocity of place. So being able to both take the lead and follow.

So, you know, he can lead the play for a little bit and then you can add an idea and he see receptive to it. Will he take the idea? Will he not take that? Those kinds of things? Those are all things you can target in your home and without a whole lot of resources.

Okay. Hi, hi, grace, you just joined, welcome.

Our daughter who turned two in October. She says all her ABC’s and knows her numbers one to ten. I’m worried that she’s not using sentences or words when she wants something. She will sing along to songs. But when we are at home, she’s not saying mommy or daddy, or asking for anything or words, more actions, how concerned should I be? (35:03)

Well, I think, I mean, if in doubt, you, you want to talk to a speech language pathologist while they do support communication. In my clients, it’s always alongside a speech pathologist. When we are dealing with a kiddo who’s considerably young, like two years old. I always want to talk about number one, getting in touch with an SLP speech language pathologist.

If you’re not sure just to, you know, have an ear that really knows the development at that age. And number two, you want to be mindful of how you are interpreting her needs. So a lot of the time parents interpret the needs of their kids so that they don’t actually have to use more advanced forms of communication.

Just in terms of general strategies for supporting communication. You want to be using, you know, full sentences. Don’t for lack of a better way to say it. Don’t dumb down your language. So don’t say, Oh, put on bed, put on bed or put on stock, say like put it on your bed, put your socks on. So you’re using full sentences so that she’s exposed to that and you’re not just reducing it to what you think is like the lowest possible form.

That’s really important because the more we model, you know, the more exposure there is number one. Number two, you want to make sure you’re not anticipating her needs so that she doesn’t have to ask. So one way that you can just be mindful of that is, you know, use playful sabotage.

So what that means is, you know, giving her a yogurt and not giving her a spoon and saying eat your yogurt, and then she’s going to need a spoon. So she’s going to have to indicate in some way that she needs a spoon and she needs a little help and that’s okay. And she kind of looks around and whatever of course, culture right, prompt her, but get her in a situation where she is, you know, encouraged on an ongoing basis to use those words as opposed to defaulting, to, you know, behavior or gestures, you know, another example.

So like that would be for food. Don’t give her a spoon. You know, if she’s wants to color, give her a piece of paper, don’t give her a marker. Tell her to color. Don’t give her a crayon, tell her to color. She’ll be like, no, I need, you know, what do I need? And if she doesn’t say anything, you can prompt her with, Oh, what do you need? Oh my goodness. I forgot that spoon. You need to give me that. You know, I need to give you the spoon or the marker. Here it is. Here’s the spoon. And you can encourage her as well to repeat and to say spoon. And you may find that when you’re, you know, you’re doing that, you’re creating more opportunities and she’s practicing more. And she’s learning again, that expectation.

If we do anticipate the needs of our kids, you know, we set them down with everything they need. They’re never in a situation where they really have to use their words. They get comfortable doing that, and then they don’t understand the expectation. And then they’re confused when we, you know, when we try to increase, you know, their, their communication.


So my son is super understanding when it comes to English and Russian, does have receptive language at home and at daycare. And my husband works with him in both environments. And he goes to SLP, independent, but struggled with verbal expressive language. So how to work through verbalizing upset and frustration on his part, when he doesn’t have words to express himself, he’s two and a half. We are frustrated. He can’t, when we are frustrated, he can’t, or won’t then clearly understands us. And he’s mad that he can’t express himself clearly. (38:01)

Yes. So I mean, two and a half, like the feelings are big at that age. And exactly, I said previously in another question at two and a half, the mind is like a mile a minute and the speech is still catching up.

And you’re also, you know, your kiddos learning two languages, which is fantastic. I think if I’m understanding your message correctly, his receptive language is quite good. Let me know if I’m not interpreting that correctly. And that it’s his expressive language that is, you know, not as great and in particular, when his coping mechanisms are down.

So here’s what I really want to say. First and foremost, I think you’re already doing the right things in terms of going to speech, you know, working with him at home and take your, all the good things. What we need to remember is that we do not access the same part of our brain when we are escalated that we do when we’re calm.

So imagine your brain is like this. You flip your lid when you’re not calm. You start thinking with this part of your brain instead of this part of your brain, okay, this is called the hand model of the brain. If you want to look it up on YouTube, Dan Siegel is the one who coined this analogy. And it’s brilliant. So essentially what it says is that this is your optimal brain.

When you flip your lid, you’re not using both parts of your brain. Okay? So your upstairs brain runs away from your downstairs brain. And that’s how we describe it to kids. And you start thinking, you know, with just this brain or just this brainer, however, he words it, essentially, you need to bear in mind that you’re not able to access the logical parts of your brain when you’re escalated.

So skills that you’ve mastered, you know, all of those things that you should naturally be able to do, you can’t necessarily do when you’re escalated. So for your son, he’s already working really hard to build his language skills. And he already is working in two different languages and working to catch up a little bit and working really hard. And he probably has to, you know, generally work hard to access his language skills.

So when he gets upset, the coping mechanisms sort of go downhill and he’s not able to access that logical part of his brain where, you know, all of those mastered skills are stored. So what we can do is we can help him calm down and regulate. Remember that when he’s really, really escalated, that’s not a moment to therapize in the sense of like speech.

Like you don’t want to go in there and use that as a moment to build his speech skills. Strictly speaking, you want to go in, when he’s escalated. First, help him calm down and like therapize more from like the sense of mental health and from the sense of, you know, speech and communication training, once he’s regulated and you know, both parts of the brain are working together.

That’s when you want to go in and you want to teach the communication necessary to reflect, and then, you know, provide a more adaptive response. You also have to bear in mind, all of the teaching you do when he’s calm is not necessarily going to transfer to when he’s dysregulated, that will take time, and that will take, you know, lots of practice.

So you can have him identify his emotions at various levels of his escalation continuum and not just wait for him to be super, super mad. You know, you can do, you can do, like, there are songs on YouTube just in terms of like emotions and using emotion, rich vocabulary when he’s regulated and calm so that you’re not just labeling his emotions when he’s angry.

So he gets really mad and you say, Oh, you’re angry. And then that makes him more angry. Cause he’s like, I don’t care. I’m, you know, I’m fight or flight right now. I’m not even really listening to you. So it makes sure that you are addressing emotion focused teaching all the time and in particular, when he is regulated and then when he is at lower levels of his like escalation continuum.

So like a little frustrated, a little sad as opposed to just the extremes so that he starts to notice that there are those different levels. Again, he’s two and a half. So it’s going to be a very basic level of understanding, but it will be sufficient.

And even without the communication delay or, you know, need, this is a struggle for two and a half year old. So just take a beat, try to ride the wave of emotions with him. Again, going back to just validating, empathizing, and then redirecting in particular because he does have a speech and communication need. You want to make sure that he knows that you understand him.

You know, I hear you, your behavior is telling me or your whatever is telling me that you are a blank. I hear you. I feel you, that makes sense to me and then redirect you to the expectation, but don’t expect that he’s going to, you know, necessarily access the full capacity of his language skills when he’s super escalated.

Yes. Flailing limbs. Exactly. I’ve got some flailing limbs in my house too, from time to time. Oh, he has excellent receptive language in both languages. SLP says. Right. So that’s really common for kiddos to just understand everything. And then it’s the output that’s really tricky for them. You know, again, he’s, he’s two and a half, so I’m sure this will take time.

You’re already doing all the right things in terms of seeing an SLP, you know, work on it whenever you can, in terms of identifying those, those triggers for him and, and working him through coping mechanisms, you know, also at two and a half, just make sure all your bases are covered in terms of, you know, hydrated, fed, not tired.

You know, if we make sure our kids are getting the right sleep, especially at that age, that they’ve had enough to eat that they’re, you know, not thirsty that they’re not bored. You know, we can get ahead of a ton of those explosive behavior patterns.

So Simon is 22 months old, goes to daycare but the kids are encouraged not to share their toys. Yeah. That’s really hard. I’m noticing at home. She doesn’t like to share toys when we play with her. We’ve been trying to take turn taking, but she has a meltdown every time. (43:30)

Yes. Okay. So 22 months old is quite young. So I’m not at all surprised that you’re having this issue extra hard because I’m assuming at daycare, they’re not sharing toys because of COVID.

So that just like throws a monkey wrench in it. Here’s the thing about sharing. Sharing isn’t about turn-taking it’s about waiting. Okay. So waiting has to come before turn-taking. So the idea that we have to share, it means that we have to wait for access to the thing we had wanted or want in the future.

So where do you want to start when it comes to teaching sharing is teaching waiting and you want to do that when the stakes are low. So not when it’s like the, the one thing that she’s playing with, you want to do it, you know, throughout your day, all the time. Oh, sure. Yeah. You can have a cookie, but I just need you to wait for one second and then I want you to give her a very concrete cue. So I want you to be like five, four, three, two, one. Good waiting. Oh my God. I love how you were waiting. Here’s your cookie. And I want you to do that throughout the day again, when the stakes are low.

Okay. You might see some behavior because it at 22 months, like waiting is rough, but you start it now so that you can move forward. And ultimately it leads to, you know, sharing and turn taking. You’re going to gradually increase the amount of time they have to wait. So five seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds. And then you’re going to teach that skill. And they’re going to have that ability to wait because ultimately if I have to give you something and we’re sharing, that means like, I give you what I have. I then have to wait for access to it again.

That’s the first thing, the second thing be mindful of sharing and that you’re doing it in a way that makes sense. So we tend to have this idea as parents that like, Oh, like kids have to share. And if, if someone asks you for something you should just share and give them some, and that’s great. And on paper, that makes sense. But in reality, when’s the last time you were doing something and you were like, literally using that item right now. And somebody said, Hey, can I have that? And you said, sure. And just gave it to them. It doesn’t work like that.

Usually what happens is, you know, let’s say I’m on my phone and I’m writing an email and my daughter wants my phone to do something. I don’t know, go on YouTube. And I’m writing an email. It’s not like, Oh, okay, well, she asked, so I have to share. And then I give her my phone and then I no longer get to work that day. It doesn’t work like that.

What happens usually in the real world is I would say, Oh, well, okay, let me finish my email. And then I have to do a couple of other couple other things. And then I’ll give you my phone at a time. That makes sense. Once I’ve completed the thing, you know, I’ve completed the task, I’ve completed my need for that item. That’s how it works in the real world.

So it’s okay if that’s how we teach it to our kids. Oh, okay. You know, you can say, I want to finish building my tower before I share it with you. And obviously at 22 months, you’re not going to get like a really beautiful eloquent sentence, but you can still give her the words you can still say, Oh, you can say, I’m not done yet. You can say, when I’m finished, all of those skills are really important for self-advocacy and they also take the sting a little bit out of when you do have to wait, because if you get to finish what you’re doing, it makes giving it up a little bit easier.

I hope that is helpful. Okay. Right. So I mean, I think when frustration leads to consequences for poor behavior, I totally get that. I think what you want to do is make sure that you are providing consequences. That make sense, but also that you are addressing the core deficit.

So if the core deficit is, you know, emotion, regulation, or communication, then don’t implement a consequence that doesn’t address that, that doesn’t teach him a more adaptive way to build those skills. A lot of the time, you know, we make threats. Like if you don’t stop, I’m taking away your iPad. You’re not going to watch YouTube, your whatever, you know, you’re not getting a cookie.

And that doesn’t make sense for our kids because it serves us in terms of feeling like we’re winning that power struggle, but it doesn’t serve our kids. And that it’s not teaching them a better way to respond. A lot of the time, the consequences we implement can just be teaching, Oh, you can say, I don’t want to do that. And I hear you, but you’re doing it anyway.

And the consequences in that situation just be follow through as opposed to, you know, other consequences for poor behavior. Like, you know, time out, go to your room, whatever it is, because oftentimes those are not causally related and they’re also not immediate and direct.

So by the time, you know, okay, well fine, then you don’t get to have whatever it is. Then I’m removing contingent on your behavior. By the time they calmed down, that’s when the consequences usually implemented. And by that point, they don’t even like, if there’s no connection between the two things, they’re just like what this sucks.

And they’re not going to learn from that in the same way that you want them to in the same way that you might, if you were, if you are a grownup.

Not sure how much you remember about my guys. Older guy is eight, middle guy is five. This is the middle about the middle guy. Never saw signs of ADHD. At least not in the way we saw with my first guy lately, with the onset of virtual school. Since school started, I’m noticing major distractability, inability to focus. I’m freaking out. I wonder if this is due to online learning. (48:08)

I mean like I’ll be totally honest with you. I did a, a seminar on my computer and like virtual obviously, and I could not focus.

Like it was embarrassing. I had to turn my camera off. I used all my strategies and I could not focus. And at the end of the day it just didn’t work for me. The modality didn’t work for me. So after that, like I could completely empathize with my kids who are on virtual school. So I think there’s a couple things to keep in mind.

Okay. So this is about your middle guy. Okay. So he’s five. Let me know if I’m not reading this correctly. I think you’re saying that you think maybe your five-year-old might have some ADHD signs. So here’s the thing, five years old. It’s not even close to developmentally appropriate for kids to be learning on a computer. So red flags that I see because they’re learning in a way that’s not developmentally appropriate is not a huge concern for me.

Number one, number two, there are some things that are not happening virtually. For example, you know, you might be doing work at the table with him. And it has nothing to do with virtual aside from the fact that it was assigned by the virtual teacher, but it’s asynchronous. You’re doing it with him. Virtual is not really part of the equation.

In that case. I still wouldn’t be terribly worried because you’re dealing with a completely new environment. So kids walk into their school environment, their classroom, and it’s like, you know, a signal, right? The environment is a cue for them, for learning. They know they need to focus. They know that they’re going to eat only at snack time and not like whenever they feel like throughout the day, they know they have to ask to go to the bathroom.

You know, they have all these things that they just know because they walk into the classroom and it just flips a switch. And it’s like, okay, learning mode activate. They don’t have that at school at home. So when they’re with us, you know, of course they’re distractable. They don’t necessarily know the expectations in the same way.

And you know, if virtual school was going to go on forever and ever, and ever three years, four years, five years, fingers crossed that’s not going to happen. And I don’t think it will, but I’m just saying, if it did, they would ultimately have similar contingencies in place. This stimulus in their environment would sort of eventually become that same sort of signal like it is when they walk into the classroom.

But right now they don’t have that stimulus stimulus pairing. That means they don’t have that direct association between doing their work at the computer, how they need to behave. You know, all of the things, there are environmental things going on around them. Like I don’t know about in your house, but in my house, we’re all home. We’re all trying to work.

I’m upstairs, you know, hosting a seminar. My kids are downstairs trying to work. You know, there’s so many variables that would not normally be in the classroom environment. And that is a massive factor when it comes to why they’re not focusing. But I would say though, is if you see deficits, of course, address them and give him strategies that will help him cope with the environment he’s in.

And don’t worry too much about whether these deficits in focus and attention will translate back to school because if they do, we’ll address it at that point. And then if you need to look for a diagnosis or whatever, obviously that’s fine and you’ll do that. But in the meantime, don’t let him not having a diagnosis or your fear of it becoming a diagnosis, prevent you from giving him strategies that are going to help him in the moment.

Even if that’s just like, you know, a visual checklist, you know, a picture checklist, whatever it is, we can talk offline about to ask some strategies for that if you like.

You’re both very frustrated, understood.

Just not sure what I should be requiring every single time he needs to come and ask. It’s a needs to come and do a task. It’s a fight. Yeah. Reinforces tasks. (51:47)

Oh, I know. I hear you in terms of being ready to give up. I think I just wanna make sure I’m reading this correctly.

I have used token boards of attending with the reinforcer being, and getting to leave class for a break. (52.10)

Yeah. I mean, Carla, I know you have a lot of tools and resources in your, in your tool belt. But the thing that I think is really important to say, and this is a conversation I had with, with a behavior analyst recently, who also has kids with pretty high needs. And for those who don’t know, behavior analysts are like the behavior people, they understand behavior and they know all the systems and strategies and they support kids with complex learning needs.

So she is a behaviorist and she has a kid in complex needs. And she’s like, Allie, it’s freaking hard. Like no matter the strategies that you have, and you know what, you can have all the strategies in your tool belt, and you can do everything, quote, unquote correctly, and your kid can still throw you a curve ball.

Because right now we are experiencing a collective trauma as humanity as the world. So we are not on an even playing field right now, we are not baseline any of us at any point. So you might be doing everything right. It sounds like you probably are. And it’s just hard and that’s okay.

And if you’re ready to pull your hair out, welcome to the club, because many of us have these strategies and we’re not going to nail it every single time. And even if your delivery is exactly, you know, textbook, you’re still going to struggle. You’re still going to have big feelings you’re still going to react, and that’s normal and totally expected.

Exactly Carla. I know, you know how to motivate him. It’s the synchronous stuff. Yeah, totally. And that’s the thing, right? It’s the synchronous learning. If the live instruction from the teacher, it’s brutal, man. It’s, it’s hard. And like I said, even for me as a grownup, with all my, you know, all the tools and skills in my tool belt, I had a hard time attending to a virtual seminar that I signed up for it. Like this wasn’t imposed on me. I wanted to do a virtual seminar, you know, with a professional. I, I signed up, I logged in and I like, I couldn’t handle it.

I couldn’t do it. I retain nothing. So I hear you. And like, we’re, we’re all in this collective experience together. And you know, I wouldn’t stress too much in, I mean, obviously up to you, whether you don’t enroll him. But I think if there’s anything that he’s getting from it, then even if it’s not, you know, the full scope of what he would be getting from school, it could still be beneficial. Even if, you know, he doesn’t do the whole, you know, the whole time or whatever it is.

You’re welcome. Okay. Does anybody else have any questions? And if not, I guess we will end it there. Give you guys maybe 60 more seconds to type anything in the chat box.

If you like, otherwise we will wrap up. Okay. Well, thank you so much, everyone for hanging out. If anybody wants to, Oh, you’re welcome. It was my pleasure. If anybody wants to, you know, have any other has any other questions or wants to unpack anything, you can find me on Instagram at magminds, M A G M I N D S.

I also have a podcast that goes over a lot of what we talked about today. Just different episodes, obviously free barrier free. So if you’re struggling and you need support parenting in a pandemic is rough. Obviously I can’t say enough about the parent playbook. It’s an amazing community. So if you’re not already a member, certainly think about it.

The resources on there are from like top notch experts. They’ve interacted with tons of them. I’ve even made some connections myself, you know, with these amazing experts. And I honestly can’t say enough. So if you’re not sure you’re on the fence, you know, I’m, I’m happy to answer questions. If you have any about what the experience is like.

I see some parents playbook members in here already. So that is awesome. If you’re new, I hope to see more of you in the parent playbook community. Thanks everyone.


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