Casey O’Roarty on Positive Discipline and Neurodivergent Children

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In this episode, I’m talking with Casey O’Roarty of Joyful Courage, Positive Discipline trainer and parent coach who is not only passionate about the power of positive discipline, but is a fierce believer in supporting parents in becoming courageous and joyful as they navigate the ups and downs of raising kids.

Because I’ve personally experienced the profound impact of positive discipline in my relationship with Asher, I was excited to sit down with Casey for a deep dive into the heart and soul of the positive discipline parenting philosophy and neurodivergent children— respectful communication, fostering connection, and supporting a child in growth and learning through a marriage of kindness and firmness. I believe wholeheartedly that positive discipline is an incredibly effective approach for all parents, but especially for parents raising differently wired kids. I have a hunch that after listening to this episode, you’ll feel the same way.


About Casey O’Roarty

Casey O’Roarty is a Positive Discipline trainer and parent coach in the Pacific Northwest who teaches parent classes and leads teacher trainings. She is the founder of Joyful Courage, an online business featuring a blog, videos, and e-courses, as well as the host of the Joyful Courage Podcast.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • What Positive Discipline is as a parenting and teaching philosophy
  • Why it’s critical that our kids feel connected
  • Why a parent’s emotions are their biggest clues as to what’s going on with their “misbehaving” children
  • How the balance of kindness and firmness works so well for children
  • Why positive discipline isn’t a “permissive” parenting style
  • Why “punishments” and time outs don’t help our children develop skills


Resources mentioned for positive discipline and neurodivergent children


Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

What’s the biggest myth out there about positive discipline? And how would you bust that? 

Casey O’Roarty  00:04

Well, the biggest thing that I hear is that it’s permissive. If I could go through all the literature and change the word positive to the word connected, I would, because I’ve worked with both parents and teachers who have said, I just don’t know how to handle this situation positively. And that’s why it’s like, well, you know, that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about maintaining connection with our kids, while also, you know, it’s kind and firm, right, so it’s kindness and firmness at the same time. 

Debbie Reber  00:37

Welcome to the Tilt Parenting podcast, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber and today we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of positive discipline, a parenting and teaching model designed to teach children important social and life skills in a way that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults. My guest is Casey O’Roarty a positive discipline trainer and parent coach who connects with families through her website and podcast joyful courage. As you’ll hear in our conversation, Casey is Uber passionate about positive discipline and what it does for children and families. As I share in the episode, positive discipline as an approach has profoundly impacted my own parenting style, and as a result has had a tremendous impact on Asher as well. So if you’re not familiar with what exactly positive discipline is, and how to use it in your family, you’re really going to enjoy this episode. Thanks for listening to the Tilt Parenting podcast. To learn more about Tilt visit 

Debbie Reber  01:46

Hey, everyone, Debbie Reber here with the Tilt Parenting podcast. And I’m really excited to be talking with Casey O’Roarty of Joyful Courage. Hey, Casey. 

Casey O’Roarty  01:55


Debbie Reber  01:56

Positive Discipline is one of my most favorite subjects. And that’s what we’re going to be spending a lot of time today talking about. Before we go into that, though, could you just tell us a little bit about you know, who you are as a woman and as a mother. And then also tell us a little bit about joyful courage, which is your brand? 

Casey O’Roarty  02:15

Yes, I would love to share. My name is Casey, I live in the pacific northwest of the United States. I have two kids, a 13 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. Prior to having children, I spent time as a school teacher in a really small school in the Cascade Mountains. And I’m the oldest of five kids of a blended family. So I pretty much feel like I know everything. Yeah. And everybody should just listen to me. Yeah, so with that background, having gone into having kids, I really felt like it was in the bag, you know, it would be a piece of cake. I have, you know, background and child development. And I know how to work with kids, how hard could it be? And then of course, like we all do, we have the experience of actually having our own children and realizing we don’t know anything other than the models that we had. And yes, I mean, knowing in our head is different than knowing in our hearts. And, you know, child number one came and in my mind was pretty easy. As long as she had full access to the boob and was in the sling, she was a happy girl. And then I had child number two. And that’s really when I realized there was so much more to learn about parenting, not because he was, you know, difficult or challenging, but because the dynamic shifted. With two, I really went into Mama Bear mode, which I had read about the idea that you kind of push your older child away, because you’ve got this baby to keep alive. And when I’d read about it, I thought, oh, that won’t be me, because I’m so connected to my daughter. And you know, I just couldn’t imagine and it came on really strong. And some of the patterns that had been modeled for me really surfaced at that point. And I realized, wow, I don’t have all the tools that I need. And at the time, I was also teaching a different parenting program, and pieces of that were no longer feeling good to share. So I thought, well, you know, as a school teacher, I always looked for more training and more opportunities for professional development. And so why not do the same with this parenting work, and that’s when I got online. And I saw that there was a positive discipline training happening in Seattle, which is not far from me. And I went and put the tools into play. It shifted the dynamic in my home. I, you know, started teaching it in my community, and it’s just been such a huge part of my development as a mother as a human really, because we call it parenting but really, it’s all positive. discipline is really all about human relationship skills. It’s just packaged as a parenting program. So, you know, Joyful Courage to me is, you know, the parenting tools, they’re so important, and they’re so powerful, and I love and positive discipline I am, you know, wholeheartedly an advocate for. And I think that it becomes really clear when we aren’t in the practice of looking inward at our own stuff at our own internal experience in those moments of challenges, then, you know, the tools aren’t necessarily available, and that shows up with clients and people that take my class, when they say things like, you know, I know that I’m supposed to give choices, or I’m supposed to offer a hug, or I’m supposed to use these tools. But in the moment, I’m just so mad and I forget. And so when I thought about the creation of joyful courage, it really to me is about having the courage to pause. And trusting that taking care of ourselves and our own internal craziness that’s happening, is actually going to help us be so much more effective in staying in relationship with our children. And using the tools that we know from years and years of experience are helpful for our kids. So it’s about you know, being wholehearted, being as joyful as you can in your courageous parenting journey. And you know, being brave enough to recognize when you are actually possibly creating the problems that are the most challenging with parenting, right. 

Debbie Reber  06:42

I love the name Joyful Courage. Something that we talk about at Tilt is one of our goals is to help parents find more joy and peace in parenting their differently wired kids. So joy is a big part of what we’re about. And I think it’s something that a lot of parents, raising kids who are moving through the world in a different way, isn’t the number one word that pops into their mind. So it’s really important for us in terms of what we’re trying to create, and how we want to inspire people, and then courage as well. I love the way you frame courage in terms of the work that you do with parents and parents having the courage to take that pause. And that’s so powerful. And also, I think it takes so much courage to also to walk through a path that isn’t really marked very clearly and being okay with that.

Casey O’Roarty  07:29

You know, we’ve spent, I mean, I’m 42 years old. So I’ve spent many, many years burying some pretty difficult situations, I have spent lots and lots of time convincing myself of what I believe to be true about myself and the world. And as a parent, I feel like our kids are like, they put up mirrors, not only mirrors, like, Oh, you’re saying the F word. Maybe I should stop saying the F word. But really mirrors like, wait a minute, what can I look at about myself, you know, like, my daughter and I are very close, and she gets under my skin so quick. And it’s just a look or a gesture or a word. And I have to recognize that what happens for me in those moments is not about her. And it’s not about disrespect. And it’s not about you know, making it about ourselves, right? Like, oh, how could she treat me like this, but that it’s really some really deep buried stuff that I haven’t necessarily dealt with very well or spend enough time kind of exploring, that has everything to do with my own experience growing up, so and it takes courage to be willing to go back there and recognize the shadow that can be with us and to own it and to decide I’m going to be better for my kids. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I’ve worked for years with teenagers and writing books for teens. And I always said that my reason for doing that is because I was a recovering teen and the baggage that I carry with me in those teen years could fill a huge storage space. So it’s about owning our responsibility in the moment. You know, I’m always kind of harping on myself and my husband when my son has a response or reaction that isn’t what I would deem to be appropriate for a situation and I’m so quick to make it about me. And it’s like, no, this isn’t about me. This is I mean, it’s triggering something deep in me, but ultimately this is about him and what his skill set is right now or what’s going on totally in his world. 

Debbie Reber

Okay, so we’re already getting into positive discipline, which is great. Just before we kind of get into a deeper, I can honestly say that implementing some of the principles of positive discipline for me has been the single most powerful thing I’ve ever done in terms of positively impacting the relationship I have with Asher. And really just changing our dynamic in such an amazing way and I will tell you, I’ve read a lot of books. I have worked with a lot of people and I’m a Research junkie. But there’s something about the positive discipline philosophy, when I really dove in, something just switched, and it was kind of an instant shift that we all felt, and it really blew me away. So I know this is your area of passion, and you know way more about it than I ever could. So can you kind of define positive discipline as a philosophy? I can do my best. 

Casey O’Roarty

How long do you have? 

Debbie Reber  10:25

Okay, you’ve got this, you can do it.

Casey O’Roarty  10:27

Well, the first thing that I would say about positive discipline is that it is based in Adlerian theory, Alfred Adler was one of the first social psychologists back in the early 1900s. And he did a ton of work, and you can google him and find out all about him. But what he found in his work was that human behavior is based on the needs of belonging and significance, meaning that every human is hardwired, for connection, and for knowing that they matter, like those two things, when in place, results in a cooperative, contributing member of a society, right. So then the positive discipline program, that’s the foundation for all of it. So the principles all come from that. So positive discipline then becomes an opportunity to be in deep relationship with your child, meaning that you see them as a whole and complete human being in front of them. We talk a lot about the power of perception and how every single person regardless of their age, has their own individual lens that they see the world out of, they perceive a situation, they interpret it, right. And we know the variety of different ways that many people can interpret the same situation. From that interpretation, they form a belief about themselves and the world. And then from that belief, they then move into decision making and what Adler called, that was private logic. The example that we use in positive discipline, a lot of the time is a child who has a new sibling. So yes, there’s two loving parents, and they say, wow, you know, this is so great. We’re celebrating all the milestones with our child. Let’s have another one right? And so this two or three year old child is thinking like, my life rules, right? These two parents are attentive, they take me to places they celebrate, I’m feeling really good. I’m feeling really encouraged. And you know, Mom and Dad, mom and mom, dad, dad, whatever the family system is, spend lots of time reading books and talking about this new baby and how great it’s going to be and how great a big sibling their child is going to be. And you know, Little Big sibling is thinking out, okay, so pretty abstract for the two or three year old and then baby shows up. And so the two or three year old watches sees his grownups her grownups making all different kinds of choices and decisions and maybe they’re sleep deprived they’re spending lots of time with this baby and what about me and interpreting the situation making meaning with their two or three year old brain that could sound like wow, I must not really matter very much they don’t have any time for me they don’t care about me forming a belief have to belong in this family you must perhaps be the baby right? And we read about you know, okay, when you have a new introducing a new sibling can often lead to regressing regression and an older child if they’ve been potty trained, or weaned or they might get whiny or clingy. But I’ve never really read anywhere outside of positive discipline, where’s there’s this background information as to the why. And this is what I find fascinating, right? This is, to me, you know, the most powerful piece of positive discipline is to recognize that this child is not being nice, naughty, right is not just quote looking for attention, but really has gone through this process that started with perception to lead them to their own private logic about belonging, which is either I can belong by acting like the baby regressing, you know, getting clingy and whiny and needy, I can I can belong by getting rid of this baby and I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with who can’t understand why their older child is so mean and hurtful to the new baby or to the younger sibling because it can carry on as they get older. I can counter belong by being a superduper helper, and all of these make sense for that child and then we as the loving and doing our best parents respond. Typically at that point sleep deprived can respond emotionally so you know the child who feels like you know, you have to belong to be the baby and is clingy and whiny. And then is met with anger and frustration. The isolation you need to go to your room you need to this isn’t okay. What is happening to that sense of belonging it’s just further proving the point that to count or belong human Be the baby. I worked with one woman who would come in. She did a whole seven week class with me and, and she was not buying this belonging and significance thing. And her third of four children was really cruel to the baby and would bite him anytime she walked by, she would just lean right over and bite the baby. And she was I think two at the time and, and she says, you know, and I, I’ve, you know, given her a timeout, and I’ve yelled, and I’ve bitten her back and nothing works. And I said, Okay, so if nothing works, I’m going to offer something just to play with and just see, right. And so I said, next time it happens, try pulling her in close, telling her how much you love her, and seeing if that changes anything. And so she came back the next week with tears in her eyes and said, I pulled her close, I told her that I loved her. I also told her it was not okay to bite the baby. And she said, and she hasn’t been the baby since. Hmm. Wow. Right. And just a testament to that belonging and significance piece when kids feel connected. When they know that they matter within the family system, they are going to show up better. Granted, you know, with the really younger kids, there’s also developmental things going on. Like I have to explore everything and touch everything and, and that’s not a child being naughty, that’s a child, you know, following their instincts to explore the world and to feel some independence. But you can be sure that if you’re having a really hard time with one of your kids, starting at the very base root level with looking for ways of connecting and really exploring, like how have I been connecting with my child? What does our relationship look like? And if you can focus there, you’re going to make much greater strides towards more cooperative behavior than just looking for new and different ways to apply consequences. We also talk in positive discipline about there being four goals of misbehavior, again, all around belonging and significance. So there’s misguided ideas about belonging. So I only belong when I’m the center of attention, or getting attention. You know, you see disruptive behavior, interrupting, clowning around, you know, I’m sure listeners are like, oh, yeah, I’m familiar with that. Or not. All right. I counter belong only when I’m in control and proving no one can boss me this is the power struggle situation. So again, looking at your own behavior as the parent and recognizing when you’re not offering a lot of opportunity for your kids to share in the decision making. And by decision making. I don’t mean, like, let’s all decide where we take a vacation. But really simple things like, hey, you know, it’s important that we have time in the afternoon for homework, you know, what is the time between three and five? When would you like to do what for a 20 minute period of time? Would you like to do your homework? Or, you know, here’s the things that we need to do before bed? What order would you like to do them, and so looking for lots of different opportunities to share power and decision making. The third one is I don’t feel like I count or belong. And that hurts. So I’ll hurt others. And so when parents start to feel like, to me, it’s like a punch to the gut when there’s a behavior that leaves me feeling like, oh, what? How could you have said that or done that or that disbelief shows up? I get to recognize my own experience and get really curious about my child’s feelings around belonging. And like I mentioned my daughter before, when I feel like something she said is really hurtful. I pause. And I get really curious about what’s been going on with you, that was really hurtful. And I’m wondering if you’re hurting about something? Do you want to talk, right? So it’s a clue for me, as to what’s happening with my child. And then the fourth, they call it belief behind behavior that happens is this feeling of I can’t count or belong, I’m not perfect. And I don’t want anyone to know. So I’ll just, you know, all withdraw. So nobody knows that I am not as good as they are. And that’s assumed inadequacy, or avoidance of humiliation. And those are the kids that, you know, it typically doesn’t show up till after five and older, but those are the kids that are really withdrawn and not withdrawn in a way like, I hope you pay attention to me, I’m going to go sit in the corner, but really, like, I hope you don’t notice me because it’s easier just not to be noticed, than it is for you to ask me what’s going on. And then I have to prove yet again that I’m inadequate. Right. So it is really hard to…

Debbie Reber  19:42

No, I know I was just thinking of the book, you know, Jane Nelson’s book, Positive Discipline, which I think is like the Bible for positive discipline. So you know, my husband and I worked with a parent coach a few years ago. She was my curriculum advisor for Asher as well, and she kind of took us through weeks. By week, because it was so dense, and we really needed help breaking it down and understanding how to incorporate the learning into our own life. And, yeah, it’s a lot. And I can, you know, it can go so deep. And so what you were just going over, I just have to ask is this what would be the printout I have over my computer that I’m looking at right now is the mistaken goal chart. Yes, yeah. Okay, sorry. Yes, it’s still on my wall. And it changed everything for me. And you know, often for Asher was all about that misguided power. And what I love about this chart is it says if the parent or teacher feels, and I’m able to just look at this, and like, Okay, I’m feeling challenged, threatened and defeated. Now I know exactly what’s  . And, you know, the chart helps you figure out exactly what to do. And totally this chart, oh, my gosh, it’s a lifesaver. It was a game changer for me. Yeah, definitely. 

Casey O’Roarty  20:56

And I can send you a PDF, if you want to include that in the show notes, too. 

Debbie Reber  21:01

That would be fantastic. Thank you. 

Casey O’Roarty  21:03

And I think something that’s really important about the chart, well, there’s two pieces, and one of them you just mentioned, which is at the very first clue we have to what’s going on with our kids is how their behavior makes us feel. But because we are a society that spends so much time in our heads, sometimes we can get what the way that I like to talk about how it makes you feel is you know that that attention seeking behavior belonging only when I’m the center of attention, it’s that behavior is more like, like a pesky fly. Like that’s how I tried to describe it to parents when you just feel like it’s like, You’re so annoying stop versus the power struggle, misguided power, which feels like the behavior that makes us raise our hackles right, the behavior that invites us into thinking things like whoa, buddy, I am the boss of you, right? Versus that behavior, that’s hurtful, that revenge, we call it, where it’s like a punch to the gut. Right? And, and then they assumed inadequacy really being like, you just feel like a sponge that’s been wrung dry, and you’re just simply exhausted and out of ideas. So I think that it’s really important for parents to really start to pay attention to the physical experience that they’re having along with their emotions, as an indicator of where their kids are at. And then the other piece, too, is the solutions. The proactive encouraging solutions that we share in positive discipline are always based in kindness and firmness, and kindness, not being niceness, not sugarcoating everything. But kindness really being about connecting with a child that’s in front of you, and their very real human needs. So those are two really powerful things that stick out to me, when we talk about behavior and positive discipline, it’s not so much like you had said, what are the missing skills, right? So handling behavior in a way that on the other side of whatever we choose to do, or say, leaves our kids with more skills for handling that same situation than they had before? Right? Versus just well, you’re grounded, which doesn’t give our kids any skills other than being resentful of us. 

Debbie Reber  23:19

Right, and, and maybe taking on some shame and guilt, which isn’t helpful in any way. 

Casey O’Roarty  23:24

Yeah, right. 

Debbie Reber  23:25

You know, respect is the word that I think of when I think of positive discipline, it is such a respectful way to and as you said, to see your child as a whole and complete human being, that’s just such a beautiful thing. And, you know, just kind of shifting to talking about parents who are raising kids who are differently wired, we’re often the target, not necessarily in a mean way. But because we’re the closest to that child, we can often bear the brunt of really intense emotions, frustration, anger, and a lot of these kids can be really rigid and inflexible. And so the power struggles, I think their power struggles with any family, but I think with families with differently wired kids, they can be really, you know, rushed up a notch and the parents kind of feel constantly attacked, you know, it can be really difficult. So I’m wondering if you’ve worked with families that have differently wired kids or what are your thoughts on the effectiveness of positive discipline in children who are neurologically atypical?

Casey O’Roarty  24:28

Well, what I always say, regardless of the people that are sitting in front of me is that parents are experts on their own kids. And positive discipline is like a buffet, right? It’s a buffet of options that can be really helpful, you know, when used in a way that’s effective. And I have worked a little bit with families who have kids that are wired differently and what I always say is, none of what I’m going to share with you is going to be hurtful. And there will be lots that will be helpful. And I expect that you’re, you know, doing the work of exploring and learning everything you can about, you know, whatever that different wire is positive discipline, I feel like can complement lots of what you know, that might be more specific for an ADHD kid or for a child with autism, I don’t claim to be an expert on all the variety of ways that kids can be on the spectrum, or all the different special needs, although there is a positive discipline for children with special needs book that people have found extremely helpful as well. So that’s my short answer. No, that’s a great answer. And, you know, I think for me, the biggest shift that happened was just being able to look at his behavior kind of from the outside and then kind of thinking like, what can he learn from this situation, and really working with him to problem solve what was going on? So that respectful collaboration piece was the big shift for us. And, you know, just like the story you shared with a mother who went in for a hug, you know, as soon as you respond in that soft way, it tends to diffuse whatever’s going on in the moment anyway. Yeah, it just can be hard to get there sometimes. Sure. And, you know, I think it’s really important to say, and I know that it’s in the book as well, it’s about progress, not perfection. So even just last night, I have a 13 year old daughter, and you know, we’re stumbling through the whole phone, texting, blah, blah, blah, social media stuff. And she’s been gone for a little while traveling with my parents. And she’s been back a couple days, it’s been glorious and so connected and awesome. And I went up to mention something about some of the music that she was listening to, and, and like, my delivery was poor. And I just watched everything inside of her body. Like, I mean, it was like her eyes glazed over, not glazed over. But it was like she kind of shifted her focus. She was not willing to engage in conversation. And it just took us right back to this place that we were at a couple months ago, which was a kind of a dark place. And I went downstairs and just felt like, Oh, God, I don’t want to go back there. And so then I went in a couple minutes later, I went back upstairs, and I said, Wow, when I came in here, I didn’t think my approach was great. Because I felt like it took us right back to a couple months ago. And her whole little body softened. And she was like, Yeah, I felt like that too. And I said, Okay, you know, we’ve already been there, we’ve done it, we’ve made changes, we’ve had conversations, I’m just going to check myself a little bit better when I need to have conversations with you. And she was so appreciative. And it just like, snap of the fingers shifted us right back into a place of connection. So, you know, it’s not about always showing up perfectly, but it’s it. This is what I say to parents, at least you know that you handled things poorly. Right, right. That’s a step forward. Oh, my God, I blew that right. Oh, really is Gosh, darn it, those kids blah, blah, blah, you know, and, and so I think that that can’t be understated is just, once we know better, we do better. Or at least we recognize we haven’t and we make amends to make things right. 

Debbie Reber  28:22

What a great story and what great modeling for your daughter and it and also to your being courageous by being vulnerable. And it’s just great. I love that. Thank you. So I just wanted to mention this because I feel like a week doesn’t go by where I stumbled upon an article that is about the negative side effects of things like spanking or time out, or other ways of punishing kids. And I’m always surprised at how not contentious but very, it just brings up a lot of strong feelings and people on both sides of the spectrum. And so I think there are probably a lot of myths out there about positive discipline that it’s that you’re letting your kids get away with things. You’re killing spoiled. So what would you say to people who you know, like, what’s the biggest myth out there about positive discipline? And how would you bust that?

Casey O’Roarty  29:17

Well, the biggest thing that I hear is that it’s permissive. For sure. If I could go through all the literature and change the word positive to the word connected, I would because I’ve worked with both parents and teachers who have said I just don’t know how to handle this situation positively. And that’s why it’s like well, you know, that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about maintaining connection with our kids. While also you know, it’s kind and firm right so it’s kindness and firmness at the same time kindness again, not being niceness or sugar coaty or wishy washy, or a doormat kindness being connected And recognizing our kids as fellow human beings, firmness being the structure, firmness, being respecting yourself as the adults, and respecting the situation at hand. And it’s interesting, too, I think that the thing that’s the hardest piece about positive discipline is that you really have to trust the process. You have to trust, for example, that making it an effort with spending 20 minutes a day, in special time with your child’s kid centered, you know, Kid driven, not a time to talk about challenges, but really just being present and available and together 20 minutes a day, is actually going to do so much more for their behavior, then spanking or a timeout or nipping it in the bud in that moment. And it’s hard, like I said, even that the participant of mine who looked at me, like I was a crazy person, when I asked her to, you know, hug her child after she bit the baby for the, you know, who knows how many times right, trusting that when the connection is there, and when the relationship is strong, you’re going to see a difference in behavior. I think that’s the hardest piece for parents. And I think the reason that articles around spanking and shaming and timeouts invite such hot and heavy emotion is because for a lot of people, that’s all they have. That is what that is, that’s where they’re at. That is the tool that they have. And the idea that they can’t do that is terrifying, right? It’s terrifying, because they feel like my child is out of control. And I don’t have any other skills, but so for you, quote, expert, to write this and tell me that I can’t do this, you know, I’m gonna take you down, that hurts me, it’s that they go to their own revenge, right? I am feeling hurt, I can’t belong in this society that’s telling or this, this mindset that’s telling me, I can’t do this. So the easiest thing for me to do with this hurt is to take down the author of this post, right, right, or tell all these people, they’re crazy people. So everybody, and I truly believe we’re all doing the best we can with the skills we have. And I always appreciate every person that shows up in one of my classes, or shows up in my online community asking for help, because they’ve gotten to the point where they’ve recognized, there are more skills to learn, and I’m open to learning because that’s a beautiful place to be. You know, another thing to keep in mind too, is that kindness and firmness at the same time is really tough. And there aren’t great models, the models that we have our either firmness, as meanness, as stern face, finger pointing or hands on hips, you know, that intimidating parenting style, or kindness, which is just do whatever you want, I don’t want to upset you, or, you know, bribery, all those kinds of things. And so to come to a place that is firm and kind at the same time, that means, you know, we’re engaging kids and problem solving, we are looking for skills, for example, you know, my son, he’s a great example for this because he gets in plenty of mischief. And whenever things show up, and he shows up poorly, he’s really good at talking about it. And I’ve always greeted him, when he has to tell me something good, bad. Otherwise, I have practiced and learned to be really neutral in my body, neutral on my face, and really non judgmental, because I think to myself, Oh my gosh, he wants to tell me about this, I am not going to freak out because I want him to continue to come and know that I can handle what he brings me. So when he tells me something, you know, my go to thing and anybody who’s listening who knows me is can you tell me more about that? Because I want to make sure that he really unfolds the story. And then how, you know, followed with like, wow, how did that make you feel? You know, how do you think that made the other kids feel? What happened before that I really want him to explore the story more than just from his own perspective. And then the question is, how are you going to fix that? And so he comes up with well, I could do this, I could do that. You know, it’s like even, you know, simple things like, Oh, I got in trouble on the bus. And I was really loud. And it’s like, okay, so you know, and then he’s like, Oh, God, I think I’m gonna have to sit in the front, you know, and he’s all panicked and worked up. And it’s like, well, wait a minute. It’s hard to be a bus driver, you have a lot of responsibility. And when kids are going crazy on the bus, that’s going to be a problem for the bus driver. So what might you do? You know, and so he, you know, he had a conversation with the bus driver and I always say things like, you know, do you want to practice? I can be the bus driver, you can be you, we practice the conversation. Sometimes he wants me to be there, which I’m willing to be there. I’m not willing to speak. I’m there as support. So the whole idea is not like, Wow, you did something wrong, and now something’s going to happen to you. It’s Wow, you did something that was hurtful or a, quote, bad choice. How are you going to fix the problem? And what are you going to do next time? How are you going to handle it when your friends are super wild on the bus? And you know, it’s not the right thing? Like what are you going to do to not get caught up in it? So that the next time it happens, he’s got something in mind whether or not he engages in it, you know, that’s up to him. That he’s 10 So you know, right kind of spastic but firmness. Yeah. Firmness doesn’t it doesn’t have to be meanness, it doesn’t have to be punishment and consequences. It simply is holding them accountable in a way where they get to solve problems, and show up better next time. And practice. 

Debbie Reber  35:52

Yeah, exactly. It’s being steady and being there for them. Yeah. And that is why that consistency is so important so they kind of know that you’re going to be there for them in that way no matter what the situation is. Can you tell me more about my phrases? Just I just say oh, say more? Yeah tell me more. 

Casey O’Roarty  36:12

Tell me more as I maintain, like all the molecules in my body that are about to explode.

Debbie Reber  36:19

Well, you know, just to go back to the kindness and firmness piece you’re talking about. That reminded me of when we were back living in Seattle before we moved in. One of Asher’s therapists was at the University of Washington Autism Center. And she’s amazing. We had her on the podcast, her name is Julie George, and she’s kind of an executive functioning emotional regulation guru. She’s incredible. But I remember one time, Asher was having a really hard time. In a session with her, I think it was probably talking about moving to Amsterdam, which he was not jazzed about at the time. But I just heard her like, I could overhear the whole conversation. And she was so taking care of herself. She was being kind and firm, but she was respecting herself, respecting her own personal boundaries. And I’ve never forgotten that. And that has helped me, you know, I’m just thinking for parents to think about how they can also take care of themselves emotionally, that you can be kind and firm and without getting emotionally involved. And if you can kind of strike that balance, where you know, you’re just take care of yourself, I’m actually not okay with being spoken to this way, when you’re ready to have a conversation with me, I’d love to talk when you’re calm, and just removing yourself or you know, something like that. So you can still be kind, you’re not being mean, you’re not yelling at them, you’re not making them feel bad, or like they’re annoying you, you’re just placing those boundaries for yourself, and removing yourself in a respectful way. And that has also been a really big help in our family in terms of helping us work through challenges much more quickly. 

Casey O’Roarty  37:55

Totally. You know, I mean, it’s really real, right? Because we have mirror neurons in our brains, right? You know, when somebody is freaking out in front of us, it’s really difficult not to have our own emotional freakout, right. And it’s interesting, too, I was, I just recently spent time with one of my closest friends, and hurt two year old and it just kind of got me thinking about how often we respond to our kids from a place of believing that they have a whole objective to make our lives super difficult. Like they’re on a mission, right? Like they have the emotional capacity to have this complicated web of dragging us in, you know, and it’s just not true, they are just having their own experience of intersecting with the world around them. And with a really underdeveloped brain, you know, and so it looks really wacky. And I think when we remember that it helps to maintain composure, it helps to recognize, okay, I’m getting pulled in, like, for me, it’s a tight chest, it’s shoulders up, it’s tension in my body when I start to feel that that’s when I’m like, Oh, I gotta pull back my shoulders and feel my feet on the ground and get it together. Because meeting my child where they’re at at this moment is not helpful. 

Debbie Reber  39:27

No, it never ends well. 

Casey O’Roarty  39:29

Dan Siegel says engage don’t enrage. And we can only engage when we are coming from a place of calm and because mirror neurons work the opposite way right when we Yep, it’s ever more helpful for them to get it together. It’s not magic. It’s not like, you know…

Debbie Reber  39:48

It can almost be magic. I’ve experienced that pretty quick switch. If I’m able to meet from a place of calmness, it changes   pretty quickly. So before we go to things I wanted to know, we’ve talked about Jay Nelson’s book positive discipline. And then you mentioned the book about positive discipline specifically for parents with special needs children. Do you have any other favorite resources that should be on the Tilt community’s radar?

Debbie Reber  40:16

I have so many parenting books and I you know, I have a podcast too and I’ve been able to interview so many great authors. I love anything by Amy McCready is fantastic. I really appreciate Rachel Macy Stafford’s work. She’s the Hands Free Mama, you know, parenting from a place of love Dan Siegel’s books The Whole-Brain Child is probably my favorites. Under five kids five and under. He also has No-Drama Discipline, which is geared more towards school aged kids and Brainstorm which is for teens. Ah, so he’s amazing. I love Dan Siegel. And then The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary. She also has a TED talk. And she I just love the context that she puts parenting into. And she really is another person that talks about, you know, our kids coming to us as our teachers, right, our kids show up and all of a sudden, all of the areas of growth that we have are highlighted if we’re paying attention right or good. Show us Yeah, yeah. So many areas that we can continue to grow and focus on for our own personal development. And she’s awesome. Also, Jessica Lahey has a really great book called The Gift of Failure. 

Debbie Reber  41:29

I love that book. Love Jessica Lahey. I wish she could move in with us. I asked her to on Twitter. But…

Casey O’Roarty  41:36

Yeah, I mean, I’m like, seriously, I will take a picture of my anything by Laura Markham, of course, is brilliant. And Rebecca Eanes just came out with a book called Positive Parenting: The Essential Guide. 

Debbie Reber  41:49

Well, I will leave just for listeners that that’s a lot of information. I will make sure they’re all on the show. No, that’s great. I will make sure all those names and links for the TED Talk and everything are on the show notes. And then, yes, so Casey, you mentioned your podcast I’d love just as a wrap up if you could tell us about your joyful courage podcast. And also, I noticed on your website, you have something coming up called 10 Days of Joyful Courage. So could you tell us about that, in case listeners want to be a part of that? 

Casey O’Roarty  42:16

I would love to. So yeah, I do host a podcast. It’s called the Joyful Courage Parenting podcast. You can find it on my website, It’s also on iTunes and Google Play. And I interview people that inspire me weekly, the conversation is around parenting. So every Tuesday I have a new show that comes out. And then I have two bonus episodes every month. And one of them is I call Ask Casey. So people will write in a question or a scenario. And I’ll just speak my opinion on it. And people find that helpful. And then I also do a bonus episode with just somebody that is doing work around the world. That is to help families. Mm hmm. I look forward to listening to those. Yeah, so I am pleased, I would encourage your listeners to check out my show. And then the other thing I’m really excited about is at the end of the summer, August 24, I’m running a 10 day free program called Joyful Courage 10. I often have people who work with me who say, I wish you were on my shoulder, I wish you were in my head. And so this is my attempt to get in your head. It’s a 10 day program, I’m going to use text messaging software. So we’ll have a Facebook group, and we’ll have some prompts via email. But what’s going to happen is participants will receive really short text messages from me to help them, like I said, work on that way of being in parenting. So it’s 10 days of exploring and practicing the parent they want to be with daily support and inspirations. You know, the pre-work will be for parents to really declare and define how they want to show up for their kids, especially in challenging moments. You know, it’s all about that kindness piece right? How to be kind and firm, how to be loving and available and compassionate and connected, even when the child in front of you is falling apart or freaking out or has you know lit something on fire, which isn’t something that has come up in my work with Erica. Glad to hear it. So yeah, I am really excited about the joyful courage 10 And people can find information, more information about that on my website, www dot joyful C 10. That sounds really awesome. And I love that you’re going to be using texting technology like I can see how that little extra piece would be so useful just as constant. Yeah, reminders to feel like you are with them. That’s really great. Yeah, I mean, we don’t know I always get on Facebook, but we sure do check our texts. That is true. 

Debbie Reber  45:04

Yes. Very cool. Well,I want to thank you so much for this awesome conversation. It’s been super inspiring for me and fun to talk with you. I wish we could hang out but with our geographic differences here, but thanks again for being on the show. 

Casey O’Roarty  45:23

Oh, it’s my pleasure, Debbie. I’m so glad to be here. 

Debbie Reber  45:29

Thank you so much for tuning in today to the Tilt Parenting podcast. To learn more about Casey O’Roarty and her Joyful Courage Podcast, to sign up for her free joyful courage challenge beginning August 24, that joyful courage 10, as well as get links to all of the many parenting resources Casey shared in our conversation, visit the show notes at And one last request, we are on a mission to build our listenership for the Tilt Podcast. If you want to help us here are two specific things you can do. First, leave an honest review on iTunes. This helps the show gain more visibility in the iTunes universe. And second, share your favorite episode in your social media worlds, your Facebook page, parents and groups you hang out in online and more. We want to make sure the parents who would benefit from these conversations know that we’re out there. Thanks so much for helping us on our mission. And thanks again for listening. For more information on Tilt Parenting visit


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