Transcript: How to Use Positive Parenting to Bond With a Child With Behavioural Issues

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called How to Use Positive Parenting to Bond With a Child With Behavioural Issues and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Many of the parents that I speak with often feel guilty when they yell at their kids. At times, being patient and not losing it is easier said than done and we’ve all been there.

Of course it leaves you with feelings of guilt and regret when you see the effect that it has on your little one and you’re often left thinking, there’s got to be a better way for me to handle this next time! Unfortunately with the stresses of modern life and with next time often occurring too soon, you do exactly the same thing and so it continues…

Meanwhile your little one is learning new ways in life to get you flustered and annoyed and on and on it goes.

In this episode I am talking with Debbie Godfrey who knows her stuff when it comes to parenting education. She’s been doing it for over 30 years and through her business, Positive Parenting, she’s served schools, community centers and organisations throughout the world.

You’ll hear Debbie and I talk all about positive parenting and how you can implement it and you’ll hear some great examples of how to discipline your children in a positive way that doesn’t damage their self-esteem.

Helen Thompson: Hi, Debbie and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here and I’ll get you first of all to tell us a little bit more about you and what you do, and then we’ll get right into having a wonderful chat.

Debbie Godfrey: Okay, great. Well, thank you so much for having me on the show. It’s an honor to be here and I’m looking forward to talking to your listeners about positive parenting, which is what I do.

I’ve been teaching positive parenting classes and workshops around the world for almost 30 years. And it’s amazing to me that no matter where parents live in this world, we all have the common theme that we love our kids and we want to do what’s best for them. And so I find that no matter where we are, we all want to parent the best that we can and I have a lot of great tools for doing that through positive parenting. So that’s what we’ll talk about today.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s good. Positive parenting can be easier said than done sometimes. I come from a childcare background and I have all the things that I’ve been taught to do and you breathe in here, relax, and you walk away from it and you come back but sometimes, it’s not always that easy. Sometimes you do lose it. So what are some of the things that you like to do, particularly with sort of younger age groups of children if they’re being really demanding to moms saying mom, mom, mom!

Debbie Godfrey: Right, well, I think it starts with just what you were just saying when all of us have great ideas about how we want to be as parents, especially if we grew up with something that we didn’t really aspire to do. If we had a parent who either yelled too much or had parents that were not engaged enough, I mean, there’s many parents who say, I wish my parents had done more to discipline me or, cause I got away with so much that I felt like I shouldn’t have done. I mean, there’s both sides of the spectrum. And so we go into parenting with these ideals and until we get there, we think, oh, it’d be so easy. I’ll just do it the way I think. But then as you said, even knowing with your childcare background, knowing all these things to do, it’s when you get to those points of stress.

And that’s when all the new information that you may have learned can go out the window or the ideals that you set because you revert back to your body memory and your memory of what you were raised with unconsciously. And so that’s where that, you know, the yelling comes in or the, the impatience or whatever it was that was familiar to you from your own upbringing.

And so the most important part of positive parenting, the number one thing that parents can do is to take care of yourselves. If you know, and I know everybody’s been beating this down, but it’s so true. And I have a podcast as well, The Positive Parenting Pep Talks podcast, and of all of the episodes, it’s so interesting to me the take care of yourself episode, where I talk about this, has the least downloads of all the 30 plus episodes I’ve put up so far. What is wrong? Parents, you need to take care of yourself. So I’m going to do some work on that. I don’t know if it’s, the title of it, parents just hear it and go blah-blah-blah. But really, if you know that you lose your temper more, when you’re overtired or when you haven’t eaten enough or when you haven’t had a break in long enough or whatever it is.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I can definitely relate to that one.

Debbie Godfrey: And I think all parents can, and the problem is when you have a little one at home, you know, you can’t get away, right.

You’re nursing a baby, or if you’re an at-home mom, your support, person’s probably out working. And you feel like you can’t take a break. And so you’re like, well, I can’t do that. I’m nursing this baby or whatever, XYZ excuses, and really find the way to take care of yourself at home. And this means that if that baby goes down for a nap, that you don’t go try to do all the dishes and clean the house.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, you go down for a nap or you just have a quiet time, you go and read a book or you just do meditation or yoga or whatever it is you’d like to do or go for a walk in the garden.

Debbie Godfrey: Exactly, so to me, that’s number one and learning that now, while you have your babies is going to be essential that you get into a routine and a pattern because their stages are just going to continue to grow and change as they get older.

And the need for you to take care of yourself is never going to end. The level of your exhaustion will change based on what the needs of the children are at that age and stage and how it affects you. Now I know for me, I’m not a baby person, so the baby years were the hardest for me. And I love teenagers. So for me, the teenage years were great. For a lot of people, like my mom, she’s a baby person. So she was there supporting me. She was great with the baby stage. The teenager thing, she had no patience for. So also knowing that all of us have our own levels of tolerance for certain ages and stages. Again, it probably goes back to our own thing. And so understanding that that’s going to change over time and we still have to raise our kids, whether I like having little ones or not, I have to go through that stage.

And whether you want to have older kids or not, you’re going to have to go through that stage. So right now, while they’re little, set the standard that you will take care of yourself.

Helen Thompson: I’m the opposite of you. I like the little kids because not only do I teach baby massage, but I’ve also worked in the childcare industry for a very long time and I’m also an infant swimming instructor. So I liked the little kids because I feel it’s easier to not discipline them, but sort of guide them through the way you want to go. And if you start in a positive way to begin with and you give them the guidelines when they’re little, then when they get to the teenage years, I find them easier to cope with.

Because you’ve set the positive discipline and you haven’t been yelling at them. Okay. I’m not saying parents not going to yell because there is going to be times when you lose it and you yell, no matter how hard you try.

There is going to be a time when you yell. I mean, I’ve seen parents sometimes in supermarkets, yelling at their kids and to me, there’s obviously an underlying issue. I’m not saying that the parent is doing the wrong thing cause they’re probably not. They sort of feel embarrassed by the fact that they’re yelling, but they yell at them because people are watching them and they sort of don’t know what else to do.

And I don’t interfere. I just let them get on with it, because I think if you interfere and you say something it’ll trigger why are you telling me what to do with my child?

Debbie Godfrey: Yes and I think you’re absolutely right. And it’s funny cause my mom is funny, we’d be walking in the mall and some parent will be having a terrible time with the child and she’ll start elbowing me and say, go give her your card.

And I’m like, mom the last thing that parent needs right now is my card and if I approach at all, I’ll go, can I help you? You’re doing a great job. It’s so hard. I mean, to me, it’s only empathy, compassion and offering support. No, there’s no like trying to teach positive parenting when a parent’s struggling like that, there’s only helping that parent get through the moment.

And I think that’s the best way we can support each other. And I definitely agree there that that parent, the last thing you have bandwidth for when you’re struggling is somebody trying to tell you what to do. So I just empathize. I’ve been there. And like you said, it’s funny when I first took this parenting class, my kids were one, two and six, and now they’re like in their thirties.

So it’s been awhile. Yeah. And, but where they were one, two and six, and I was so full of new tools and things that I had learned with positive parenting that I did not yell for seven months.

Helen Thompson: Wow, good on you!

Debbie Godfrey: Seven or eight months. Yeah, it was great cause I was like completely yellow, yellow before that, but I had lots of ideas and things that kept me occupied and seven months in, I don’t know what my son did he was a year and a half old at the time and I yelled at him. He put his little hands over his ears and he put his head down and he kind of shivered and I saw this response and it just shocked me. I was like, oh my gosh, when I was yelling all the time, the kids just numb it out.

They tune it out. You don’t see how it’s really affecting them because they have to protect themselves. They’re in a protective stance. Whereas when he was safe for those seven or eight months from my yelling, he had gotten used to not having the yelling. And when I saw how it affected him, that more than anything else helped to motivate me, to keep taking care of myself, keep practicing my positive parenting tools and keep doing the things that I knew I could do instead, when I was getting close to losing my temper.

Helen Thompson: And what are your positive parenting tools? I know there are umpteen, but what are your particular positive parenting tools?

Debbie Godfrey: Yeah, I think one of the first places to start is when your child’s about six months old. Helen, I’ll just ask you just we’ll have a little play here. What’s the developmental phase or stage of a six to eight month old child? What do they do physically?

Helen Thompson: They may be beginning to crawl. There’ll be beginning to eat solids. There’ll beginning to be more assertive, smiling at you and communicating more with you and also there’ll be beginning to have their own personality as well. And they’re beginning to know , more of what they want and what they don’t want.

Debbie Godfrey: Absolutely. So they’re starting to pick up, like they’ll have a little screech or a way that they refuse stuff that they don’t want and they’re starting to begin to learn that. Well, let’s take the crawling phase.

So when a child begins to crawl, let’s go back a little, all kids have certain needs that they have to get met and we’re all born this way. This is something called Adlerian psychology, which says that all humans are born with social interest and we’re going to use our behavior to get our needs met. And those needs are to feel loved, to feel valuable, to feel powerful, to feel like we have a place to belong and to experiment and explore.

So all a child’s behavior and all of our behavior in fact, is designed to get those needs met. So all of our behavior is seeking ways to get the needs met, to feel loved, to feel valuable, to feel powerful. They’re doing their basic need to experiment and explore in their world. So they’re crawling around, they’re scooching on the furniture and they’re getting around. And what happens is they get to the plant in the living room and they see it and they’re like, oh wow. A plant. This is me just talking baby talk in my mind. Okay. Yeah. They reach their hand in to take a handful of dirt out of the plant and they put it on your white rug and you go over and you go, no, no, no.

And you take the child away. And a little while later, your child is doing their need to an experiment and explore. So this is a basic need. All kids are needing to go experiment and explore in their world and they’re crawling around and they get to the plant in the living room and they take the dirt out of the plant and they throw it on your white rug.

And this time you come over and you’re a little louder and you’re like, no, no, no, don’t do that. And you take them away and they come around again, 20 minutes later. And this time you really yell sharply and you say, no, no, no. I told you not to do that. And you give them a little slap on the hand and you take them away.

The next time that child is going for the dirt in the plant, the child is no longer doing their need to experiment and explore their world. Now as they go for the dirt and the plant they’re looking over their shoulder at you, as they’re reaching for the dirt they’re looking at you. How is she going to respond this time and what that child has just learned through these several interactions is the joy of opposing. The joy of opposing is the goodie that kids and all of us get when we power struggle. When we tell somebody no, when we’re defiant, when we don’t do it, somebody says, and that person gets all mad. We feel powerful. So this little, tiny six to eight months child has just learned a way to get power in their world, through misbehaving, through taking the dirt out of the plant.

And so now the whole purpose of doing that is not to experiment and explore it’s to defy the parent. And so this is super frustrating, right?

Helen Thompson: Yes, it’s for both because you’re not teaching that child to have that experience.

Debbie Godfrey: Well, and the parents doing their best right to no, no, no. Taking them away. No, no, no. But this interaction, the nature of it is actually rewarding the child’s behavior, the child’s misbehaving and the reason for it, is because of the escalation of the parent’s emotional response. So it’s the escalation of that response where you say no, no, no. And then the next time the child does it, no, no, no. And the next time the child does it, no, no, no with that slap.

That Delta, that, that change is what creates this misbehavior, this joy of opposing and the child’s viewpoint. And this is unconscious and subconscious, of course. So all you parents of six to nine months old children, do you want to know how to prevent the joy of opposing?

Helen Thompson: Yes, that sounds fantastic!

Debbie Godfrey: So the whole idea is to understanding that it’s the escalation of our emotional response that causes it. So the alternative is to respond like a broken record. So what you have to do is every time your little child approaches something and you’re about to discipline them, you want to take a moment and just say, what’s the best discipline response right now? So in this example, I’m using of the dirt and the plant, and this is an actual example, my son actually did this and now I have grandkids and I’m doing the same thing with them at this age, so that when they’re going for the dirt in the plant, the first time that happens, I know this is a potential misbehavior.

Okay. Whenever a little child is getting into something that I know that I’m not going to want them to get into. Maybe it’s getting in the TV cabinet. Maybe it’s getting into something in the kitchen. All of you parents have areas in your home that you may decide to baby-proof, which is actually the easiest thing, but there’s going to be areas that you can’t baby-proof.

So you’re going to have to train your child to stay away from these areas. And this is the training. And so when that child approaches this area, and right now I’m going to use my example, but I want all of you to be thinking of where in your home are you going to need to figure this out so that you can visualize doing this with your child.

And so the first time he goes for the dirt, I’m going to ask myself, how could I respond here and you want to do something reasonable. You don’t have to come up with rocket science parenting. You don’t have to take it in my 15 hour class, just come up with a reasonable response in this situation.

And you’re going to use that response, like a broken record. So in this case, I said to myself, I’m just going to pick my son up and say, Michael, will learn if he wants to play in the living room, that he can’t take the dirt out of the plant, or I’ll go put them in the kitchen and I’ll go plop him down in the kitchen.

Okay. So 10 minutes late. Back at it again, he’s going for the dirt and plant and I’ll come over and go. Michael will learn that if he wants to play in the living room, that he can’t take the dirt out of the plant or I’m going to go put him in the kitchen. Plop, Michael will learn plop. Michael will learn plop over and over and over and over.

And eventually they stop. Now the younger the child is, the more repetitions it takes. So the two best positive parenting tools for kids under 18 months old is repetition, which is what I’m talking about here and redirection, which is taken away. Those are truly your only two positive parenting tools that you have until they get more verbal and a little more capable of some other thinking processes and physical processes as well. And so in this case, you’re going to do that and you need to be prepared because it might take 10, 20, 30, 40 different repetitions, and then they just let it go. So what happens, Helen, if a parent’s doing this and they get to the 28th time and they lose it and yell.

So now they’ve gone back to the joy of opposing and now they know it takes 28 times to break you down. And so next time I’m going to have to push you that many times and more because I need to push you until you break down. And that’s why it’s important that you think about doing this like a broken record, no matter how many times it takes.

So my grandkids come along and my little grandson, we were sitting on the grass on a blanket and he got to the edge of the blanket. He was actually five months old at this time and he scootches over and he picks a leaf up and he’s about to put it to his mouth. And I’m like, oh, this is my opportunity. Okay. What am I going to do?

And I’m like, okay, I’m going to stick my hand between his mouth and the leaf so he can’t get the leaf in there. I’m just going to nudge his hand away gently and just say ah, ah, and that’s all I did. So he put the leaf to his mouth and I stick my hand between the leaf in his mouth and I go ah, ah, and I started counting in my head, ah, ah, 18, ah, ah, I was up to 27, ah, ah, 32, ah, ah and on the 37th time, 37th time he dropped the leaf and he moved on to something else. Okay. 37 times I responded like a broken record. It was less than five minutes and for me, it was joyful because I knew what I was doing. Now, if, if you’re a parent and you don’t understand that you’re training your child, those repetitions can get super frustrating. But when you understand that this is how your child learns best, look at the way that your child reads a book. Like when your little one picks up a book that they love over and over, you read that book to them a hundred times over and over. This is how little children learn is through repetition and redirection.

There is no evidence to support saying something to a child one time and having them learn it. At this age or really any age.

Helen Thompson: No, I agree with you. Definitely.

Debbie Godfrey: And yet we expect that of discipline. We think, you know, a little smack or a yell that they’re going to stop doing something and they absolutely don’t because they need repetition and redirection and if we can do it in a positive way, they’ll learn. It’ll build their self esteem. It’ll create a much more bonded experience between us and our child. And we’ll be able to go into those down the road, teen years with a much better bond in place, and we’ll have a lot more influence in the future.

Helen Thompson: And I think the respect they learn, if you respect them, then you’re teaching them to respect you and they’ll know down the track, what the boundaries are so when they get to one and a half to two years, they’ll sort of learn what your response is going to be as you said in a positive way, like instead of saying, no, you go, okay, well, you know, you put your hand away or you, you just gently redirect them to do something else. For me in childcare if I had a one and a half to two, and they’re beginning to learn to talk, I might take them away from the plant and say why don’t we go outside and get some sand and get a bucket and dig and put the sand in the bucket. That way you’re not saying they can’t dig the plant, but you’re showing them what dirt is so that you can explain a different approach so you’re teaching them a different way to do something.

Debbie Godfrey: Absolutely, and this age, parents sometimes make the mistake of thinking they have to punish a child and like, oh, if I don’t punish them then they’re not going to learn and the exact opposite is true. And so what you’re saying to redirect that child that is so positive with this age, and I actually use a lot of energy for this.

So when I see a young child, one or two or three going for something that I know is going to cause a fight or be something that they’re going to get disciplined for, I will rush in and be like, woo hoo and I’ll grab the kid and run outside, like you said, and go do something different. So I’m going to just swoosh in and redirect them into something fun before they have the opportunity to dig their heels in, to create a power, struggle, to do something where they’re going to really get in deep doodoo and we’re going to feel this super strong need to punish in some way. The punishment is just not going to be effective. It’s going to create a disruption of our relationship. Also, if it causes any fear, which yelling, spanking, a lot of those kinds of things create fear. What that does in a child’s brain and body is it sets off the reflex.

You know, it shuts down their cognitive learning. It sets off the fight or flight or freeze and so they either are going to fight against us or they’re going to submit and all of their responsible thinking, their cognitive thinking is going to be shut down because the body is designed to flee from danger and apparent coming across with hitting and yelling. It sets off that biochemical response of fight or flight in a child and it shuts down their thinking brain. So if we could avoid setting off that fight or flight response in our children’s body and brains, they become so much more capable, so much more helpful. And their behavior is so much better because they’re doing things because they know why they’re supposed to do it as opposed to this mindless, I just have to get away. I’m afraid of getting hurt or I have to fight to get what I need. They don’t have any in between.

Helen Thompson: That’s a very interesting way of putting it because I’ve done it all my childcare career, but I’ve never actually thought of it in that respect and I think that’s a key point for parents to know, because if they do that, then it’s going to snowball to a better response to their baby or their young child. So you can try and tap in before the temper tantrum. Which doesn’t always happen, but that’s not as easy as that because kids have temper tantrums for so many different reasons. I think going into temper tantrums is a different approach.

Debbie Godfrey: Temper tantrums, definitely. I don’t think any parent should feel bad or guilty that they’ve done something wrong. It’s totally normal. Yeah. That’s normal behavior and positive parenting there’s seven different reasons why kids tantrum and so identifying which reason it is helps a parent to be able to figure out what to do. And I think one of the most common reasons a child tantrums is a very sensitive child and they’re sensitive to the tags in their clothes. They’re sensitive to the line in the socks. Like things bug them and parents want to try to, oh, it’s not that bad or don’t worry about it, but that doesn’t help because those things, those children really do react to and they can cause tantrums.

And so you cut the tags out of there. I had a mom who had a child. I really had a problem with the socks and after she took my class and we learned this part, she went home and she cut all the toes out of all of her daughter’s socks and the problem was solved. It didn’t bother her anymore.

It was amazing. That’s only one reason they tantrum. There’s so many other reasons. And just to know that the main thing here is just what we’re talking about today, Helen, it’s our response to the tantrums. So just keeping your child safe, you know, not letting them bang their head on the concrete, not letting them hurt themselves or something else.

But understanding that once they get out of, I call it out of their heads. You know, once they escalate to the point they’re out of their heads, there’s no positive parenting at this point. You need to contain the situation, you know, to console them when they start coming out of it and just be ready to pick up the pieces because you can’t positive parent your way out of a temper tantrum.

Helen Thompson: I’ve had situations where you give them a choice of say two different jumpers. You say, right, which jumper would you like to wear? They throw them both on the ground and say they don’t want one. They don’t want to get dressed, you know, and you’ve got to get the dress quickly because you’ve got to take them out.

You’ve got an appointment to meet a play date or something. You’ve got to get it right. I just say to them, okay, well, if you don’t want to wear any of those that’s fine, that’s okay with me, quite happy with that, you’ll just go out with nothing on and you’ll freeze. And I just walk away for a few minutes and I just think, right okay, I’ll go get the rest of my stuff done. And then lo and behold, two minutes later, or three minutes later, they come back with their clothes and they say oh I’ll wear this or this, you know, and I think that’s one approach.

You just don’t let them get away with it, but yet you let them know that you’re not gonna let them get away with it.

Debbie Godfrey: Absolutely and I think that’s surrendering to the immediate fight. So in this moment, I know if I try to go toe to toe with this child, they’re gonna win because they’re smaller, they can scream louder, they can last longer. And so if I surrender just this brief moment and walk away, not in anger or defeat, but like you said, those are the clothes put them on, I’m going to go take care of my business and we’ll see what happens. That is a super effective tool, especially if you don’t know what else to do in the moment is to just let it be.

And that’s not letting them get away with anything. I think parents are so afraid that if they let them get away with something, they’re going to do it, but you have to give children time to process things. And when you give them that little bit of time, it can really help. And I think something else you alluded to there is a stage that all you parents should know with young kids. And it’s this stage that kids go through. I call it ambivalence. I don’t know what it’s technically called with child development, but it’s this stage where they’ll say, I want some orange juice. And so you go to get him the orange juice and you come back and they’re like, I don’t want orange juice, I want a banana. And you’re like, oh, okay. And you go get a banana and then you come back. And all of a sudden you’re like in a scream, and I call it ambivalence and the child truly doesn’t know what they want. And by us servicing this ambivalence, we’re making it worse. So as soon as you see that you’re in one of these, and it’s pretty easy to see, because what it is is a child will ask for something and as soon as you give it to them, it’s not the right thing. And just know if you keep going down the track of trying to give them what they want you’re going to fail because they don’t know what they want.

So the phrase, the word to use, as soon as you see that you’re in this spiraling ambivalence, you stop and you get down on the child’s level and you just look at them and I might rub their shoulder and make eye contact and smile and say, sweetie, you really don’t know what you want right now, do you?

And just take a deep breath and just let them be in that. Cause as soon as you say that it stops the spiraling because they don’t know what they want. Even if they’re not verbal yet, they understand your temper and your tone and your body language when you do this. So you really don’t know what you want right now, do you and just leave it there, leave that hanging and they’ll figure it out. They’ll stop and they’ll decide, do I want a banana, do they want an orange.

Helen Thompson: Or they might even just pick up a banana and eat it. They might just think maybe I do want the banana, you know, that’s sort of learning what they want and what they don’t want as you say. They’ll want something, but they might not know it’s a banana they want. They might actually want an apple, but they don’t know the difference between a banana and an apple, you know at that stage.

Debbie Godfrey: Yeah, it’s a very frustrating state, but when you understand it and you see it, I think you can bring some humor to it yourself and some ease by not going down that rabbit hole with them.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and I think for some parents, as you say, that’s easier said than done because some parents are frustrated and this is where you come in.

Debbie Godfrey: And it’s funny because you know, I teach classes and so when parents have been with me for four or five, six weeks, then I start living in their heads. And I had one mom who had this little guy who was 15 months old and they were at the zoo and he picked up, I think it was a stick and he was about to hit his mom with a stick or he did hit her, I forget what she said and she was about to strike back. And she said out of the corner of her eye, she saw me with a little halo on my head. So it was like a Debbie angel coming down and she said I was going, no, no, no. You’re going to lose your parental authority.

And so she stopped. Okay, what am I going to do here? If you listen to me, teach and talk you’ll know, I love the kids. I love parents. I love helping everybody just to have a better relationship to do this so much more effectively. You can yell and you can spank, but that’s mediocre parenting.

It takes a lot of effort and a lot of work to figure out how to positive parent or positive discipline kids and without yelling and without spanking, but they turn out so much better. It’s just all the research shows that kids that have less coercive discipline, like more positive discipline, they have better chances in every part of life and the research has borne that out over the last 40 and 50 years.

Helen Thompson: And I think the other thing is if you do yell, if you do lose it, I’ll go to the child later and I’ll say to them, look, I’m really sorry. I lost it with you. I just didn’t breathe, I didn’t relax and I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at you, but I was just a bit overwrought and you’re honest with them and you communicate that honestly. And then I I’d always say to the parent afterwards, I had a bit of an incident with your child. You know, I kept calm for 10 minutes and then I just lost it with them. And then I went back and communicated. I think that’s important that if you do lose it, which even with positive parenting as you say it does still happen.

Debbie Godfrey: Believe it or not I have grandkids and I have lost it a couple of times when I do I really step back and go, whoa, what’s going on? Cause it shocks me at this day and age when I know all the things to do, but I’m not immune either. I still have feelings I’m in the real situation and like you said there’s so much power in the apology.

And one thing I would just want to communicate to parents and all of us is you apologize. I apologize for yelling. And you can say, I was tired or I wasn’t thinking, or I wasn’t breathing, if any of that, and that’s it. I don’t want you groveling. A lot of parents get guilt driven.

It’s a mistake. We all make. You’re not a bad mom. You’re doing the best you can exactly. We all lose it sometimes. You go, you say, I apologize for yelling, I was overtired, I’m going to take care of myself and do my best, not to do it again. And you move on.

Helen Thompson: And you’re teaching them respect while you’re doing that. You’re teaching them that you’re human and it’s encouraging them to come to you and say, look, mom, I’m sorry, I got upset. Or I yelled, cause you’re communicating both ways.

Debbie Godfrey: You’re role modeling but the important thing for you parents is the overriding guilt if you operate out of that, the children use that against you. So they use that, if you feel super guilty, because you think you’re not there enough or that you’re not doing it right. They’ll misbehave more because they know they can get to you. And so I want you to keep your self esteem up.

Making an apology and moving on. Do not allow yourself to be guilt-ridden over any of the things that you’re doing. You keep doing your best. You take two steps forward. You might have a step back. You take a couple more steps forward. You might have to step back and you keep moving forward and keep yourself encouraged. And don’t give up, you can do this.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s a key point because you’ve got to show respect in both ways and keep going and just be as gentle and as loving and as positive as you can be at the time, I think.

Debbie Godfrey: Yup. Yup. Doing your best, that’s all this job calls for is to do your best.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I agree with you there. So have you got any other tips?

Debbie Godfrey: The most important thing I think for parents is to really connect with your children. And we have a tool that I teach in the positive parenting class, and it’s called a GEM, a genuine encounter moment.

And that’s where you spend direct, focused attention on your child. So to make sure when your child approaches you at least one time a day, cause they’re gonna approach you a hundred times a day, right? Mum, mom, mom, dad, dad, dad, one time a day. I want you to just stop what you’re doing, get down on their level, look in their eyes and really listen to whatever they’re trying to say or whatever they’re trying to show you. That will buy you more respect, more depth in your relationship than anything else you’ll do, is to remember to establish that connection at least one time per day, where you really make the child, the center of your world for a moment where they don’t have to beg to get your attention.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and I think if you’ve got a few kids, it’s a matter of trying to give each child that attention. Not just the first born or the second born or whatever, to try and give each child that attention you might say something like, okay, little Johnny, I spent most of the day with you, your big sisters just come home from school. She needs my attention right now. What would you like to play with while I give her some attention? And then you come back and you give them both attention.

Debbie Godfrey: Yeah and I think that works when everybody’s getting their, I call it one gem per day, per child. So if everybody gets one gem per day, they can usually maintain, it’s like putting money in an emotional bank account and keeping those bank accounts full and this’ll lead later. What you’re talking about leads later to having date time with each child where you do have separate time with each child. I think that’ll be super important later on, it makes each child feel special and to have those special times with their parents and yeah, that’s my biggest thing. Connect, connect, connect with your children. That’s the most important thing. Smile, smile at your children..

We moms just forget to smile. We’re so mad and grumbling all the time and frowning at our kids and, life is miserable and then one of our friends will show up at the door and our face will light up and it’s like our poor kids don’t get that light up face. I want you to think about letting your children light up your face, you know, when they do the sweet things that they do.

And even if they’re misbehaving. That’s their job. Their job is to misbehave. Our job is to provide limits and to support more positive behavior.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s where the connect comes in with me and baby massage, because if you start young, if you start when they’re four to six months connecting with your baby and building up their confidence and your confidence by smiling and doing rhymes and just singing with your baby and touching them in a positive, natural way, then you’re creating that bond, as you say, for later, later on down the track. And I think that’s really important.

Debbie Godfrey: Oh, absolutely we had a massage routine when my kids were little and now with my grandkids and they love getting their little backs and their legs massaged and it’s the best. There’s no better bonding than that type of touch, the loving touch. So wonderful work you do. Thank you.

Helen Thompson: So, we’ve had a wonderful chat and if a mum wanted to get in touch with you and find out more about your workshops and what you do online, how would they go about doing it?

Debbie Godfrey: Yes. So my website is and my Instagram is at positive parenting, Debbie, and you can look for my podcast, Positive Parenting Pep Talks on all the platforms.

Helen Thompson: Thank you so much, Debbie. I’ve really, really enjoyed talking to you. It’s been a great pleasure and thank you for being on the podcast.