We’ve all had our fair share of hard moments with kids, am I right? I know I’ve definitely been there, and instead of feeling completely lost and frustrated, I use the tools I teach to help me navigate tricky situations.

In this episode, you’ll hear from a mom struggling with her kids not listening and fighting. You’ll get tools to help you navigate these hard moments so you can show up as the mom you want to be. 

This means you’ll learn how to stay calm and handle the challenge without yelling and while still holding boundaries. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or exhausted, you’ll be able to feel confident, calm, and connected.

This is a must-listen for difficult situations with kids of any age.

If you’re a mom, you’re in the right place. This is a space designed to help you overcome challenges and live your best life. I’d love for you to join me inside the Mom On Purpose Membership where we take this work to the next level.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Mom On Purpose, where it’s all about helping moms overcome challenges and live their best lives. My hope is by being here, you are more inspired to become the mom you are made to be. I’m Natalie, your host, a wife, boy, mom, dog, mama, Chicagoan, and former lawyer turned professionally certified coach. If you’re here to grow, I can help. Let’s go.

Hello, my beautiful friends. How we doing today? I hope you’re doing well. We are going to talk about how to handle hard moments with kids today. But before we dive into that, I just wanted to catch y’all up on how things are going for me. So it is the middle of July when this episode comes out and I was just thinking about how I’m gearing up to get started prepping for maternity leave and I do this so far in advance so that it doesn’t really add a whole bunch of work to my workload as if I was doing it right before I was going to be out.

So for those of you who are in the membership, you already know this and my private clients do as well that I prep all of my content in advance, but I still do my coaching calls and I do eight weeks of prep. So I’ve done this twice already and I will do it a third time and I will not have additional childcare to do it. And I will add it all in in time slots on my calendar planning ahead. And it probably means I will say no to more things like in my personal life that I otherwise would have free time for, which I’m totally okay with, right? This is one of the perks of running my own business that’s so successful is that I have the flexibility to also be a stay at home mom and, run this business and put in hours that I would consider very part-time, particularly coming from law.

And I just think about how with each of my pregnancies, it’s so much work ahead of time and I’m always so grateful that I get like eight full weeks of not having to think about any content, not having to show up for anything other than the calls. And I like to show up for my calls for my clients. It just kind of brings me out of that newborn fog just for that one hour for that call where I’m, you know, in my full hair and makeup and conversing with adults and coaching, gosh, every coaching call I do afterwards, I’m so lit up, I’m so on fire. You probably see me on Instagram stories where, oftentimes after a call I’ll post what the call was about or just something because I feel so lit up, it is not lost on me. What a privilege it is and it all works because of you and I’m just thinking about how awesome it’s going to be to do this again, it will be more work, but you know, it’s July and I’m having the baby in November.

So I start and I plan way in advance. I use all my time management tools so that it’s not stressful at all. I do create this like massive list of to-dos that need to be done for that eight weeks. And then I just put them all, kind of in time slots on my calendar over the next several months. So that little by little I chip away at it and it’s so fun to see you know, I put this little check mark on my massive list as the check marks, these green little check marks get added and I make my way through, finishing, you know, just in the nick of time, I remember last year with my second son. He was early and I expected him to be late, you know, that’s how it goes. And, I was so glad that I did things in order of priority, right?

Cause you never know, right? Things, lots of things could happen. I could be put on bedrest, like, you know, lots crazier things have happened, right than going early in your pregnancy. And so I’m always doing things in order of priority. And I remember that last week because I thought he was going to be late like by a week or two. I thought I still had like three weeks when I went into labor and there were just a few things left that were kind of the lowest priority that I knew I’d be able to do, if I needed to towards the end of those eight weeks. And so I’m just kind of thinking about this whole process and how grateful I am for these tools because you know, there is no boss, right? You are my boss, my clients are my boss. They stay in the membership.

Most of you in the membership have been in there for years. Most people come to try it out and they stay. And , if, if they didn’t like it, they would leave. And, I, I take it very seriously. And so I make sure to have all of my t’s crossed and my i’s dotted ahead of maternity leave. So even though it’s the middle of summer, kind of reminds me of, to a much lesser degree, but a little bit of when I studied for the bar and it was like such nice weather and I just didn’t want to be doing it. But I was so glad that I did it because then I passed the bar and became a lawyer. And I know that in those winter months when I have a newborn, I will be so glad that I spent some of the, you know, beautiful summer days, uh, working away, creating content and my, my programs for my clients.

So that’s what’s going on in my world. And just a little kinda encouragement for you during this time of year. I’m all about rest and play, but balancing that with work and really checking in with yourself what you need to do for you. And it doesn’t always align with the calendar seasons my friend. So it’s July for me, but I’m getting to work and I’ve seen family and, and having fun, but mostly my priority, what I’m optimizing for is prepping for maternity leave. So with that, let’s just dive into this episode, shall we? How to handle hard moments with kids. I want to read you an email I got from a client and she is wanting some help navigating a couple hard moments that I think will be relatable regardless of the age of your kids and in different ways. So even if these aren’t your hard moments with kids, it’s likely that you have other hard moments with your kids. And the concepts and tools that I’m going to teach you will be just as helpful even if the circumstance in your life with your kids is different. So don’t get lost in the details. Okay? Here is what this client wrote in with.

Hi Natalie. I’m wondering if you can offer any advice. I’m a mom of four and finding myself struggling during hard moments with the kids. Here are two examples. The first is when I ask any of them to do something and they don’t do it. For example, if I ask my daughter to clean her room, she might say she did it, but then I go and look and she didn’t. I get really frustrated because nothing seems to change. She’s not listening to me and she’s lying. The second example is when my kids aren’t getting along, they’re close in age and often fight. It can feel just exhausting to deal with every day. Any advice? Thank you.

The first tool I want to start with is to clean up your thinking. Right now you are thinking that your kids should be listening to you and that your kids shouldn’t fight. So there’s a sentence in your head, a mindset that you are perceiving all of your circumstances through. And it is that your kids should be doing something different than they are. And this creates resistance and frustration. And the easiest way to clean up this thinking is to be willing to be totally wrong about all of it. Like, what if you’re just wrong that they should be listening to you? What if you’re just wrong that they’re not supposed to fight?

What if them doing what they want is them being confident and using their God-given agency just like they’re supposed to do? I have to tell you personally, I never think the thought, my kids aren’t listening to me because even if it’s true, it’s just never helpful. Never once have I thought he’s not listening to me and felt more connected and respectful and sturdy and confident and better able to parent. If anything, I just feel frustrated when I think that. So I make it a point to never go to this thought. It’s really just not in my mindset at all. Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t have to repeat myself. It doesn’t mean that my kids are listening to me. They’re kids, they’re doing what they want to do, but I don’t let my mind go to that thought because I know there’s no upside. It just creates disconnection and it really is about control, right?

What’s underlying the thought they’re not listening to me is this idea that kids are supposed to kind of, be our little puppets and they’re supposed to be controllable just because we asked. And I just don’t think that, I think they are supposed to test limits and test boundaries. And I just remember all the time, like my kids prefrontal brains, their prefrontal cortices are not fully developed and they won’t be until they’re 25. And so my job is to step in and be their prefrontal cortex for them. So of course they’re not quote unquote listening to me. Of course they’re doing what they want to do in the moment. If I think, think about God, I was just earlier today I was telling my son that I wanted to stop playing so that I could go get dinner ready. And he said, I don’t want to get dinner ready.

I don’t want to cook, I don’t want to have dinner, I want to play. And I just had this moment where his primitive brain was so apparent to me, I thought, of course he doesn’t want to stop doing something fun in the moment because he doesn’t want to eat until he’s hungry right then, right? If you think of animals, like if you have pets at all, my dogs are like this too, right? They’re prefrontal brains. Do not plan ahead. Do not think ahead. Do not think, oh yeah, in an hour or so I might be hungry. They’re hungry when they’re hungry, right? It’s like toddlers. I always say they want what they want and they want it now. So my son wanted to play now and then when he was hungry, he would want to eat now. And me having a much more developed prefrontal brain is able to thoughtfully consider time and food preparation and cooking and what it will take to have food ready for when we are able to eat.

My sons are not capable of doing this. So all of that kind of runs through my head very quickly when I’m making a request. And so I just don’t think the thought, they’re not listening to me or they should want to listen to me or they should want to stop doing what they’re doing. I fully expect them to want to continue doing what they are doing. And this sets me free. Now, it doesn’t mean that like what they say goes, it doesn’t mean that, we keep playing and I don’t cook dinner. It just means that I’m not shoulding on them. I’m not thinking that they should quote unquote listen to me. I’m not thinking that they should stop what they’re doing and consider what I’m thinking and go with that. I’m thinking that their kids, of course, they’re going to want to do what they want to do.

And as mom, as leader, as someone with a fully developed brain in this household, I’m going to make the decision that I know is best for us. And so I went in the kitchen and started cooking dinner. Now applied to this specific question when it comes to, you know, your kids cleaning their room or fighting, a really simple mindset shift is just to expect them to do what they want to do in the moment. Particularly with respect to fighting. I like to think of it less about fighting and more about kind of navigating conflict with people we love. And that is something my friends, as you know, continues for the rest of our lives. The challenges you have with your in-laws, with your sister, with your parents, with the coworker, with whomever it is, those are relationship challenges. And what a privilege it is to be at home with our kids, kind of being the leader, the mediator of being able to help them learn how to navigate these types of challenges for the first time, it’s like relationship practice 1 0 1.

So when my kids fight and they already have started that I, I think of it as like an opportunity for them to navigate working with someone else, loving someone else, but wanting different things, navigating challenges in relationships. Now again, their brains aren’t fully developed, so I don’t just sit back and see what happens. Of course, I’m going to hold boundaries. I’m going to say, we don’t bite, I won’t let you bite. I’m going to separate them, but I’m doing that fully expecting that this is going to happen again tomorrow and the next day and the next day until one day it won’t. But I’m not rushing it to end. I’m not thinking it shouldn’t be happening. I’m actually expecting it to happen. I just expect my kids to be my kids. This sounds so obvious, but it’s actually really helpful because then you can focus back on you and who you want to be.

So who do I want to be when one of my sons is biting the other one? I want to be a mom who sees the good inside both of them and sees it as an opportunity for me to step in, hold the boundaries, have a teaching moment, and be who I need to be to help them both feel, you know, safe and loved and do my best to help it not happen again. But I’m not thinking, okay, now they know better. Now they won’t do this, now they’re going to listen to me. I never think those thoughts, they’re just not helpful. Now what I don’t do is I don’t use shame, so I don’t recommend, you know, let’s go back to the examples in, this submission with respect to, the daughter not cleaning her room. I wouldn’t say you lied to me. You said you cleaned your room and you didn’t.

It’s not clean. You should tell the truth. That’s shame, right? That’s blaming daughter, kind of calling her a liar. And the problem with this is shame creates hiding. It doesn’t bring on change. It’s not like the daughter in response is going to think, oh my goodness, she’s right. I never thought about that before in that way. I’m definitely going to do it different next time. Of course not. And yet, I think just because of the way that we were raised, we respond sometimes in ways that create shame and we don’t even realize it. So when you are blaming your child, when you are kind of pinning them against you, and what I mean by that is the next point, which is the same team mentality. I like to always keep in my mind that I’m on the same team with my kids. So when you stay on the same team with them in your mindset, you assume the best of your child.

Conversely, if you’re not thinking that you’re on the same team, it’s very adversarial, you’re against them and that’s when you blame them. That’s what creates shame. When you have the team mindset, you might say something like, Hey daughter, I thought you said you cleaned your room, but I see that it’s not cleaned. What happened? This is only possible if you look past their actions and decide to think positively about who they are, you see the good in them, you can just decide that you have a really good kid inside and they are figuring out their autonomy, their confidence, navigating boundaries, navigating conflict. So when you approach them, instead of leading with shame or blame or kind of looking for how you caught them, which sees the bad in them, lead with curiosity, lead with openness so that you can increase connection and they will pick up on that. They will pick up on you seeing the good in them, like you’re wanting to catch them in the good, not like looking for them to mess up or make mistakes. There’s a completely different mindset because you’re perceiving them as really good kids just learning new skills. Another tool that I find to be super helpful is to stay focused on my kids and my family and just tell myself, oh, this is the season of fill in the blank. So let me give you an example from my family and then kind of tie it back to the examples here. When I did potty training with my son, I loved hearing about the three day method and I have some thoughts about the marketing of that title now that I have gone through it. It is not a three day method, at least that was my experience and it’s taken us a lot longer.

And the way that I kind of make peace with it and am completely unbothered by it, is I just tell myself, oh, this is the season where, and so I’m not looking to Facebook groups. In fact, if I see anyone posting about like potty training, length of time and all of that, IX out, like I immediately don’t read it. So I’m constraining the input I let in my mind to make it easier for me to manage my mind. This is something that I do all of the time. I really protect my brain. So I know if I am looking at how fast other people are potty training, that’s going to make it harder for me to not go into the comparison trap. So I, you know, have enough tools and resources to, to know the process and, and I’ve kind of, gotten opinions from experts and, and that part of it I think can be helpful.

But the part where we use other people’s progress, other families, other kids against our own families, against ourselves and against our kids, just completely isn’t helpful. So I like to tell myself, oh, this is the season where potty training is going to take until it’s done. It’s going to continue until my son is potty trained. I have no doubt that by 20 years old, my son will be fully potty trained. And I literally say this in my mind because a lot of times what we can do is we can project what’s happening right now into the future. I call it the fast forward era. And to stop that, I like to remind myself that this is such a short term temporary thing that the catastrophizing and the future focus, that fast forward era that’s happening in my mind is just completely unfounded. So, you know, in this example with daughter not cleaning up her room, even though she says she did, and with the kids fighting, I would tell myself, oh, this is the season where my kids are going to be fighting.

This is the season where my kids are navigating. You know, being in a household with other people who are so different from them, they’re learning such amazing relationship skills and tools. How long is it going to last? As long as it lasts, right? I’m not looking for it to end because I’m cleaning up my thoughts and my feelings. I’m giving them space to be them. Now, of course that still means I hold boundaries. It’s not a free for all, but I’m just not mad at them. I’m not frustrated by it. I expect it and I expect my job to be the leader, to hold those boundaries and be who I want to be. The same thing is true with daughter cleaning her room or not cleaning her room. Oh, this is the season where we’re going to navigate what’s going on with my daughter. When she says she cleans her room and she doesn’t, instead of, you know, the thoughts that we can typically go to, she knows better. She’s not listening to me, she’s lying. All of these things that, can also be true but just are not helpful to focus on. When you focus on more empowering thoughts for you and about your kids, you will show up in a much more empowered way, being the mom that you genuinely want to be.

The next tool is to create more space between your feelings and your reaction. Now this is something that you can think about out of the moment, but you really implement in the moment. So hopefully the tools that I have talked about up to this point you’re going to do out of the moment, you’re going to create a new mindset. You’re going to think the new thoughts that you want to think. You’re going to clean up your thinking. You’re not going to use shame, you’re going to approach it with more of a team mentality.

And with curiosity, all of that is to change your thinking so that you know, you don’t even create the frustration and the disconnection that you’re creating. But from time to time, you know that won’t happen. And what will happen is your default brain will be in overdrive. Whether it’s because you’re tired, you go to that old neural pathway, whatever it is, from time to time as you’re kind of bridging where you are now to where you want to be, you may have those old thoughts come up. And when you feel frustrated, what you want to do is widen the gap between the feeling you’re experiencing and your reaction. Because what you can do is just simply process frustration. I like to name the feeling and say, we’re going to get good at this feeling. So it’s, oh, this is frustration. I guess I’m going to get good at some frustration right now.

I might take a deep breath and allow it, but what I’m doing there is I’m separating out who I am from the feeling. The feeling is not going to be in the driver’s seat leading the way, which is what happens when we yell and we react to the feeling. It’s just because we’re not processing the feeling. So this part is about processing the feeling so that you keep your prefrontal brain online and you respond how you want to respond, you can respond. Now it is harder, but you can do it from frustration. So all of the tools up to this point, were about creating feelings that are more helpful than frustration. But if you do create frustration inadvertently, it’s totally fine. You could just do some frustration. You can process frustration and still decide intentionally how you want to respond. The thing that is so amazing about kids and families and parenting is that so much of it is predictable because our kids are predictable, our spouse is predictable, we live in the same home.

We have a lot of the same daily routines. You know, it might change seasonally, but that’s pretty much it. And so if you know this person who wrote in had this experience with the daughter saying she cleaned her room and she didn’t, it’s likely that that exact scenario is going to happen again or something similar. And for the kids fighting, it’s most definitely going to happen probably in a very similar, if not the exact way. And so why is this good? Because it gives you an opportunity to work on yourself anytime you feel frustrated. Anytime you feel triggered is an opportunity for you to work on yourself. It’s a personal development opportunity. So use it my friend, process your emotions and then out of the moment, examine your thoughts and your feelings that led to feeling so frustrated so that the next time you can change it.

The last point that I want to mention here is more of a parenting strategy that I find to be really helpful that may or may not apply depending on what’s going on. So I don’t have a lot of information with respect to the kids fighting. I don’t know what the exact circumstance was, but if it is a situation where you think that they could practice out of the moment building that skill, then this is something I definitely recommend. So in the moment, emotions are high and it is harder to act from our best selves. That’s true for kids, that’s true for us as adults. So what you can do, just like out of the moment, you’re going to practice your thinking and your feeling and your approach. You can practice out of the moment with your kids to help them build the skill that they need help with.

For example, let’s say that your two kids are fighting over toys that they both want to play with at the same time. What you can do is out of the moment, either with each of them individually or with them together, kind of do some role playing with toys where you talk about how to problem solve when two people want the same toy. And I love the mindset of trying to get your kids to think. Instead of me being the know-it-all I. I want to encourage my kids to think for themselves. So asking them questions that are age appropriate and circumstance appropriate to help them think through what they might do. And you know, you can bounce ideas off of them like, well what if I just took it from you? What would you be thinking and feeling? Well, I could tell you what you know, I would be thinking and feeling if you took it from me and kind of go back and forth.

You’re not doing this as like a punishment. It should definitely feel more kind of lighthearted than that. And really the goal is to just practice and build that skill. I love thinking about it as the game versus practicing. So if your kids are in soccer, there’s what happens during the game and then there’s what happens at practice. And if there are a bunch of mistakes during the game or something that someone wants to work on from the game, they’re going to do that at practice. You don’t just go from game to game to game. You practice out of the game out of the moment. And that’s really what this last parenting tip is about. It’s about noticing what skill could be improved and practicing it out of the moment to help your kids. Alright, my friends, have a beautiful week. I will talk with you next week. Take care.

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