A Conversation with Gentle Parenting Expert Sarah Moore About Peaceful Discipline
My guest today is Sarah Moore, the author of the new book Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior. Some of us get a bad taste in our mouth when the word discipline is used, as it’s so often associated with punishment. But it actually means “to teach or to guide.” As Sarah explains, the key to long-lasting behavioral change is disciplining through connection. This concept is one of the core tenets of peaceful parenting or peaceful discipline, and it’s what we explore in this episode.
I asked Sarah to explain what peaceful discipline is and walk us through its relationships with the traditional disciplinary tools many parents rely on when navigating tricky behavior, like time outs and consequences. Sarah also explained the power of using Story Teaching to help kids create positive coherent narratives for difficult situations, no matter how old they are, as a way to create the opportunity for learning and growth as opposed to experiences being internalized in harmful ways.
About Sarah R. Moore
Sarah R. Moore is the author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior, and founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. As a Master Trainer in conscious parenting, she’s also a public speaker, armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a Mama. She’s a lifelong learner with training in child development, trauma recovery, interpersonal neurobiology, and improv comedy. As a certified Master Trainer in conscious parenting, she helps bring JOY, EASE, and CONNECTION back to families around the globe. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, & Twitter.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- How Sarah defines peaceful discipline
- What the H.U.G. process is and how we can use it to support our child’s healthy emotional development
- How to reframe our thinking about traditional discipline tools like timeouts (and shift to employing “time ins”)
- How to effectively tap into natural consequences as a positive tool in our parenting
- Why removing a device or toy isn’t actually a natural consequence that works long term
- What Story Teaching is and how we can use it as a tool to support our child in creating coherent positive narrative about difficult situations
Resources mentioned for Peaceful Discipline
- Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science, and Better Behavior by Sarah R. Moore
- Sign up at Sarah’s website for one free mini-course (more than 40 topics available) and a selection of expert interviews
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Debbie Reber 00:00
This season of Tilt Parenting is being brought to you by the Differently Wired Club. If you’re looking to dive deeper with me and get live personal coaching support, be part of an incredible parent community and focus on creating significant change in your parenting world. Check out my Differently Wired Club program. Doors open for a few days at the end of every month, Learn more at tiltparenting.com/club
Debbie Reber 00:22
Welcome to Tilt Parenting a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber and I have a great episode for you today. My guest is Sarah Moore, the author of the new book Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science, and Better Behavior. I know that some of us may get a bad taste in our mouth when someone mentions the word discipline as it’s so often associated with punishment, but it actually means to teach or to guide. And as Sarah explains, the key to long lasting behavioral change is disciplining through connection. And this is really one of the core tenets of peaceful parenting or peaceful discipline. And it’s what we explore. In this episode, I asked Sarah to walk us through what peaceful discipline is, and its relationship with the traditional disciplinary tools many parents rely on when navigating tricky behavior like timeouts and consequences. Sarah also explain the power of using story teaching to help kids create positive, coherent narratives for difficult situations, no matter how old they are, as a way to create the opportunity for learning and growth as opposed to experiences being internalized in harmful ways. Before we move to the conversation, here’s a little bit more about my guest. Sarah Moore is the founder of dandelion seeds, positive parenting, a master trainer and conscious parenting public speaker, armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a mom. Her mission is to bring joy, ease and connection back to families around the globe. And before I get to my conversation with Sarah, there’s a new way to engage with me and the podcast this season. Tilt Parenting is partnering with a new app called Fable to host a special Tilt Parenting Pod Club. What’s a pod club? It’s like a book club. But for podcasts. Together, we can go deeper on every single episode and share highlights, comments, questions, related resources and more. And it’s completely free to join my new pod club and the discussion surrounding my conversation with Sarah Moore and peaceful discipline. Just download the fable app on your phone or device and search for tilde parenting or go to tilt parenting.com/fable For a direct link. I hope to see you there. And now here is my conversation with Sarah.
Debbie Reber 03:15
Hey, Sarah, welcome to the podcast.
Sarah Moore 03:17
Thank you so much for having me, Debbie, I appreciate you.
Debbie Reber 03:20
Yes, I appreciate you too. And I had a chance to be on your podcast maybe one or two years ago. And I’m really excited to share you with my listeners and talk about your new book. And I would actually love for you to just open us up by introducing yourself. Tell us a little bit about your story and woven into that, your personal why for the work that you do.
Sarah Moore 03:43
I would be happy to so yeah, I’m Sarah Moore. I am the author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science, and Better Behavior, but you can just look for it by peaceful discipline that’s easier. Founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and just like you am a real mama doing this work every single day. I am a certified master trainer of conscious parenting. And I have worked with everybody from Dan Siegel to Bessel Vander Kolk, to Elizabeth Pantly to all sorts of names that we know in this conscious parenting space to help bring connection back to families in very deep, meaningful and tangible ways. And a little bit about my why really and I’ve got this in the preface of my book, but really the most concrete reason that I started this work was from my daughter’s for a month well check, just standard medical checkup when she was at Biddy and in that appointment. At one point the doctor looked at me and said, Hey, by the way, how’s sleep and you know, she was four months old, she was sleeping like a baby, which means she was up a lot, right? This is what we noticed biologically normal, but I told him, it’s okay holistically. She’s getting a lot of sleep, but you know, she’s up every couple of hours. So we’re pretty tired but we’re okay with that. And he looked me in the eye and said, You’re ridiculous. Don’t ever pick her up when she cries. She’s manipulating you. Let me know when you’re ready to get serious about parenting. Well, my nervous system went into freeze mode, we know that the nervous system can do different things. But I froze. I couldn’t even say a word for the rest of that appointment. But by the time I got home, I was so livid that I turned into like mama on a research mission. And I started looking at all of the scholarly articles that I possibly could about why yes, indeed, we should respond to our babies and older kids, too, by the way, and I started writing about it. And people started paying attention to what I was writing. And in a very good way, over time, I was able to shift my anger toward this uninformed pediatrician into incredible gratitude for him, because he lit a fire in my belly that day, that got me so darn serious about parenting. So I am on this mission, partially because of the fuel that he started that day. And it’s just been growing ever since.
Debbie Reber 06:16
Yeah, you share that story in your book, and I could feel myself getting angry for you. And I’ve certainly had my fair share of people in authority positions share unhelpful, judgmental comments to me. I felt that but I love the reframe. And I also just have to say, I appreciate your deep dive-ness. I don’t even know if that’s a word, but the way that you, you got interested in you, you’re like, I’m going to learn all the things and I’m going to work with all of these people. And you do really have such an interesting background in what you bring to this. And you’ve picked some wonderful thought leaders to really learn from and to weave into the work that you do. So I appreciate that from one deep diver to another, I really appreciate that. I would like to know what peaceful discipline is like? Can you even define that? Because we haven’t done an episode on the concept of peaceful discipline or peaceful parenting or gentle parenting? I think those are all kind of connected. Could you explain that for us?
Sarah Moore 07:18
Yeah, I’d be happy to. So I intentionally chose the word discipline. Because basically, for all of us, it gives us a visceral reaction. Discipline is, we know, to teach. However, many people think of discipline as to punish, to create fear, to create a so-called consequence for a child’s actions, whatever it may be, it’s whatever our story was from when we were little, that we carried forward. And that’s to be honest, where that visceral reaction comes from. Our inner child is saying is discipline safe, or is it not? So I coupled it with the word peaceful as a reminder to all of us self included, that discipline and the sense of teaching is supposed to be a peaceful process. We know a couple of things about how children learn best, one of which is, children need to feel emotionally safe, in order to learn. If they feel scared, if they feel intimidated, literally the learning part of their brain shuts off. So all they do is stay in self preservation mode until they feel safe again. So we know that safety is one of the key components for learning to happen. Secondly, we know that in order for anything to be memorable for children, or for adults, we need to have some sort of anchor, ideally, a positive emotional anchor, where someday down the road, I won’t remember that you and I recorded on December, whatever, whatever year, I’m going to remember, I really liked Debbie, she is a good soul. She’s friendly, she’s warm, she’s compassionate, She’s bright, she’s all of these things that helped me feel that emotional safety. And because I have an anchor that is rooted in a positive emotion with you, I am so much more likely to remember our conversation, one to five years down the road, than if we simply have a neutral podcast when we talk about the weather, but there’s not really any meat to it, so to speak. So for our children when it comes to peaceful discipline, we know that number one, we have to have that safety component in order to teach effectively. And number two, we need to create emotional anchors for them. So that we as the parent don’t feel like a broken record. Why is my child never learning? Why aren’t they just paying attention? Why why why all these wives we have as parents, but when we create these anchors that actually makes their learning process easier. And frankly, it makes our parenting easier, because we don’t have to keep repeating ourselves.
Debbie Reber 10:01
Such a good explanation. And I had some aha moments as you share that, and I had several reading your book where it wasn’t that the concept wasn’t something I had considered before. But the way that you shared it made me look at it in a new way. And I want to share one of those because it ties in with what you were just talking about, you have a chapter about positive discipline, and you were sharing a story about a child who gets yelled at for pulling her clothes out of the drawer. And you wrote, “The child likely feels small after having been yelled at by their trusted big person. Either way, the child feels distant, helpless, small, likely sad, or resentful.” So as I’m reading that, I’m like, Yeah, of course. But then I put myself in that position. And I thought, How do I feel when someone yells at me? And how intolerable that is to me, and yet we, as a society, when we have little kids who are quote, unquote, misbehaving, I think a default mode is well, our job is compliance to correction. And so we do, many of us do yell or raise our voices or speak to our kids in ways that are disrespectful, and we don’t really consider that they are their own unique person on the receiving end having their own experience of that.
Sarah Moore 11:16
Exactly. Yeah, you pulled out one of, to me the most important parts, because, number one, we as the adult, we’re going to feel triggered some time. And I want everybody listening to this to know, I do not want to blame you, or shame you for feeling what you feel your feelings are valid. And I want to say I’m right there with you. There have been times when I have spoken to my child in a way where after the fact, I feel like a jerk. In fact, I even have a chapter in the book about how to parent in ways that don’t make us feel like jerks. Because we know that at the end of the day, if we go to bed feeling like Oh, I really messed up today, well, guess what, it’s not going to do any favors for our self compassion, or for the relationship we have with our child either. So if we can look at the validity of our triggers, and get curious about where they’re coming from, so that we can do some of the inner work that we need to do with self compassion, to be able to show up for our inner child first, before we can even show up for the child in front of us, it’s going to make the whole entire process so much easier. And then we get to have a connection based relationship, rather than one based on to your point animosity, compliance, all of these things that really do no more than drive a wedge between us.
Debbie Reber 12:38
Yeah, I actually want to move forward in your book a little bit to talk about that a little bit more deeply. That’s a big piece of Tilt Parenting and the work that I do is all about helping parents kind of do their own inner work. And I asked a lot of people when we’re discussing this about the, in the moment strategies, or how do we prevent ourselves from being triggered? And how do we kind of navigate the incident response and the space in between, but you have something in here, which I would love, if you could walk us through the HUG process, you call it and that’s to help us as parents move from emotional chaos, to feeling more peaceful with our kids. Could you share that with us?
Sarah Moore 13:20
I’d be happy to Yeah, I worked in corporate America for 20 years, and we had nothing but acronyms everywhere. So I came up with an acronym for this too, but intentionally kept it very short. HUG – we can remember hug, because it’s a feeling of connection. You know, most of us like hugs, the H stands for hold your reaction. And essentially what that means is give ourselves a moment to get curious, not only about our child’s behavior, but also about this gut feeling that just came up for us. What else might be going on? And when we pause with curiosity, it’s an incredible gift for our parenting. Because we can look at our child and say, for example, I have no idea why my little boy just whacked the baby over the head with a stuffed animal. And now she’s crying, you know, the gut reaction is anger. And why in the world? Would he have done such a mean thing? But hold on a second, let’s pause. Let’s get curious about this. What else might be going on for this little boy? Is he angry? Is he playful? Did he mean to do it? Perhaps he dropped the stuffed animal. There are all sorts of other possibilities that we can get curious about. And along with that, we can look inward and say, oh my goodness, why am I assuming the worst? Maybe it’s because of some story that I heard about whether I was good or bad when I was little or something else that might be going on. But the other important reason to hold our reaction in that age is that we have approximately six seconds according to the brain research in which to redirect the course of our response. So in that six seconds, I can keep my thinking my rational brain online and say, What do I need to do here to remain peaceful, instead of simply having a reactive type response to my child, so this pause this holding on for a moment, can change the whole trajectory of whether we respond peacefully or not. Number two, that I kind of wove in to number one is the you have the hug process that’s understanding our child’s perspective. And that is where we might ask our child using the example that I shared a second ago, I might say, Okay, Sarah, I don’t really know what happened here. I’m going to get down on the floor with my son and say, Hey, I noticed that the bear landed on the baby’s face. Can you tell me what was going on for you? And my son in this example, might say, Yeah, I dropped it. I didn’t mean to. Okay, well, if I have that information, I respond from a very different place than if my child said, I hate the baby. And I meant to do it. But even still, if the child said, I hate the baby, I meant to do it. I get to get curious on a deeper level, deeper understanding. Yeah, I understand you really hate the baby? What’s that about? I’m curious, if you’re feeling jealous, I’m curious, if you’re feeling worried that maybe she’s taking your place, you can start to have this deeper dialogue with the child to understand what’s really going on for them. And in doing so we get to the root cause of the problem, instead of just punishing circus behavior. And then finally, the G stands for give them grace to be human. We all make mistakes. I’m 48 years old, and I still find a way to screw up at least once a day, every day, you know, it’s just part of being alive. And when we can look at our children and say, Yeah, you know what, I remember that this child didn’t sleep very well last night. Or perhaps they’re overstimulated from a busy day out or whatever. It’s not like we are any quote unquote, better than they are. If I didn’t sleep, well, if I’m overstimulated, whatever, I’m going to behave sub optimally as well. So when I realized we are all just doing the best we can, no matter how old we are, it really helps bring up compassion and our bodies as opposed to us versus them mentality.
Debbie Reber 17:43
Yeah, that’s great. I really liked that for all of the steps. For example, in the age of the hug, I loved the question you asked, also, how do I want my child to see me responding? Like even that as a question is really powerful, because we know that we’re always modeling and our kids are paying attention. And that also takes us out of our own response a little bit if we recognize that we’re in a dynamic right now with another human and understanding that assuming their best intention. I love that there’s an episode I did two years ago with an ADHD coach named Anders Ronnau. And one of the things that he talked about, which has never left me, is asking our kids, what were you intending to do? And that question can also be just so powerful, because we interpret what we think could be willful or manipulative, or whatever, ill-behaved choices through our own lens, right, our own baggage, and then that invitation to give them grace to be human is amazing. Going back to what I mentioned before, we often see our kids or relate to our kids as these things that belong to us, and that they aren’t this whole autonomous being on the other end of this relationship. And so prioritizing that respectful, peaceful relationship is so important. So I just really appreciate that. Another thing that jumped out at me when writing about the HUG process, you said one key tenant of peaceful discipline is to know exactly this, when challenges arise, it’s us with our child against the problem we’re trying to solve. It’s external to our relationship, as opposed to we think it’s us versus our kid. And I just love that again, you know, you reference Ross Greene’s work, and it’s all kind of connected. But there were certain ways that you shared this that made me just feel like yeah, that’s right. We are in this together. And it’s the same can go with our partners too, right? If we’re parenting with somebody else, like ideally, we’re working together to solve an external problem. We’re not working against each other.
Sarah Moore 19:49
Exactly. And it’s so easy to feel as if every conflict with our child or with our partner for that matter, is a personal attack on us. They are not agreeing with me therefore they are out to get me when reality is, almost every single time that I can think of the problem actually isn’t between us, the emotions are between us. But there’s something else that actually needs our attention. So if we can remember that we are on the same proverbial team, that’s going to set us up for so much more success than anything based on animosity.
Debbie Reber 20:22
Yeah, no, that’s great. I would love to spend a few minutes just talking about some of the approaches to discipline that many listeners may have read about or experimented with, or maybe using. Let’s talk about some of the old standbys that are counter to the idea of peaceful discipline. Let’s start with timeouts, which is something I will just say, so many parents, especially when you’re raising a neurodivergent kid, and we’re dealing with intense behavior. And we may feel like we have no options, but to put a child in a timeout. So can you talk about how we can reframe our thinking about timeouts and shift it to you talk about time ins? Like can you talk about those?
Sarah Moore 21:06
Yeah, absolutely. So first of all, I want to use a reframe that you set the stage for at the beginning of our conversation today, you talked about how it feels to you when somebody yells at you, and how awful that feels? Well, when it comes to a punitive time out a disciplinary action that is intended to make the child feel badly about what they’ve done. The child receives the message that number one, our love is conditional upon their behavior. And number two, they don’t necessarily get any better tools to work with. Oftentimes, the parent sends them away, then go think about what you’ve done. And I don’t know about you, but thinking back, I wasn’t thinking about what I did, I was thinking, I feel sad, I feel angry. How do I get out of here, it was anything but the executive functioning skills that I was actually supposedly there to enhance. So it’s not like, and I’ve got this in the book, it’s not like a magical timeout, very simply lands on the child’s shoulder and says, Here, let me coach you through this. Instead, we end up with a child who feels so much more disconnected. And it does nothing for the relationship other than, quote, unquote, quiet the child. So the parent may look at that as if it’s a success. But really, it’s a wedge in the relationship. Now, that being said, I want to offer grace and compassion to those who are listening and saying, oh, no, I’ve been using timeout, because you know, what, it’s so prevalent in society, that many of us have been fed the lie that it’s the way to go. So if you’re here and hearing this, for the first time, know that healing is possible, I am not here to judge you. But I am here to say, here’s what we know about the brain and about attachment. And here’s what we can do instead. And to your point, Debbie, we’ve got an alternative that many people call the time in, which is really just a code word for we’re going to co regulate together, we are going to spend some time figuring out how we calm down together, how we find peace together. And the thing is, we might not even talk about the problem at all yet. You know, for my own child and me, it might mean, we’re going to go read a story together for half an hour, or we’re going to go outside and play in the yard, or we’re going to do something where we regulate our nervous systems first, so that when it comes time to talk about the tricky thing that happened, we are coming from a much more objective and peaceful place, where going back to what I said, we’ve got that emotional safety that children need in order to learn anything that we might be hoping to impart upon them. Likewise, we also as the adult can learn better in the space too. When I’m angry enough to send a child away, I am not in a place where I can be curious about their behavior. I’m in a place where I’m reactive. So it’s not going to do us any favors if I simply send the child away. But instead, if I can find a way to create peace between us, my concern isn’t that the child isn’t learning in that moment. My bigger concern is am I modeling emotional regulation? Because that might be the most important tool my child can learn in this moment. And once were emotionally regulated together, we can move forward into problem solving.
Debbie Reber 24:37
It’s so good. And I know that it’s not easy. I want to reiterate what you said like I used to do that for sure when Asher was younger if I just reached a point where I just felt like I’ve got nothing left. I have no tools and this is what I’ve got to do. I think it’s a worthy project to work toward is being able to do a time and when I was able to do that it would be just going in there I mean, like dumping out a bin of Legos, and then just start building not saying a word, but just kind of being in that space. And as you were sharing that story, talking about how it really hurts our relationships. I mean, I remember, I was sent to my room a lot. I’m just gonna say that for all you listeners, I’d be sent to my room to think about what I done. And on more than one occasion, I would like, pack my bag, I’m running away to Gretchen’s house, like I’m outta here, I’d hide somewhere. So my parents would know, oh, my gosh, somehow, we really should be nicer to Debbie, because she’s gonna leave us someday. So it is really true that it can create a wedge in our relationships. And that’s certainly not what we want to do. You also talk about natural consequences, logical consequences, what are your thoughts on consequences, natural or logical or rational as an approach to tricky situations with our kids?
Sarah Moore 25:57
You know, it’s really interesting one reframe that I want to make about consequences is sometimes people think of them kind of like the word discipline, it’s always negative, when the truth is consequences can be positive. A positive consequence of my child and I getting along today is that we feel good together. That’s a consequence too. So I want to broaden the definition of that, for starters. But when it comes to other types of consequences being teachers for our children, I find them when they make sense, and I’m underlining and highlighting verbally, when they make sense, I think life can be the most effective teacher out there. So you know, if I forget to put gas in my car, and then I can’t drive anywhere this afternoon. Well, the consequences, I’m stuck at home, it’s going to teach me next time, if I want to go somewhere, I’m going to need to do this thing. Similarly, if my child forgets to put away you mentioned, Legos, forgets to put away the Legos. And then they come downstairs early in the morning for breakfast tomorrow, and they step on a Lego, they’re gonna say out, like all of us have a visceral reaction, even though the word Legos is a little bit triggering for some of us, right? Because we all have feet, obviously, we’re not intentionally going to leave the Legos out where the child’s gonna step on him. But if the child accidentally steps on the Lego, the child’s gonna say, ouch, that didn’t belong on the floor, and they are going to be more likely. Next time we say, Hey, buddy, remember, it’s time to put the Legos back in the bin. Let’s do it together. You’re gonna have a child who remembers, oh, I didn’t like it that time that I stepped on the Lego. Yeah, let’s get these things back in the bin. So I think consequences like that. And they don’t have to hurt, they don’t have to be punitive. But just this is how life works. Sometimes. I think it’s the best teacher in the world, honestly.
Debbie Reber 27:45
Yeah, I don’t disagree. And as you were talking, I’m also thinking that it’s important that we don’t throw in an I told you so like, just let the consequences speak for itself and not be high and mighty about any of it. Like, a more recent consequence in our life has been calling for dinner and dancing. And I said, Okay, we’re gonna sit down and eat and Darrin will often be like, where’s Asher was that and I’m like, Asher will come up and Asher’s food might be cold. And that’s okay. But not them being like, well told you, you should have come up just kind of letting it speak for itself. So I think the energy behind how we navigate the natural consequences is an important piece of it.
Sarah Moore 28:29
Yes, I’m so glad you added that because, you know, children will not know necessarily what our intention was. And they will only know what their perception of our intent is, though, if they perceive in this case, Mom was out to get me she let my dinner get cold. If that’s his perception, that’s going to feel very different from Oh, my dinner is cold. But we’re still having a nice conversation together, and I feel welcomed at the table. That’s what we want. So the child’s perception of where we’re coming from really is what matters most in all of this. And to your point. Yeah, we can’t. We can’t I told you so – that’s not going to keep it peaceful at all.
Debbie Reber 29:10
No, not at all.
Debbie Reber 29:15
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Debbie Reber 29:57
You will also have a section where you talk about some of the most commonly used consequences. And I just want to bring that up too because especially surrounding screen time, where we remove a privilege or a device or that kind of thing you wrote, I need to talk about the fact that removing a toy privilege or device is not an actual or logical consequence. You said, I loved this. “It’s like telling a child who has been eating apples that he can’t have oranges anymore.” Could you just talk about that? Because again, the device removal or the well, this is what happens? You don’t get to do this anymore. But can you help us reframe that a little bit? And why that isn’t actually a natural consequence? That works long term?
Sarah Moore 30:37
Sure thing. Yeah, essentially, when people talk about removing device time, as a consequence, that’s really just a dressed up way to say a punishment. It is intended to make the child suffer for their behavior, even if their behavior had nothing to do with the device. Now, let’s say the child has been using the device in some inappropriate way, well, perhaps removing the device is the right answer, if that’s the problem, but assuming it’s not, then taking away a privilege, a toy screen time, whatever it may be, really only teaches the child that the parent has control over them. And that they can create emotional pain through something that is meaningful to the child, even if it is not in any way associated with the problem at hand. So long term, it actually becomes a very ineffective teacher, even though in the short term, yeah, it might change behavior, we know that fear, quote, unquote, works. But coming back to that wedge and the relationship, what we know from the research is that children who have been exposed to punitive discipline actually learn to withdraw and to hide their behaviors, more than they learn to actually change their behavior. So if we want lasting behavioral change, we need to actually do it through connection. And through that emotional safety that we’ve been talking about.
Debbie Reber 32:05
Yeah, I mean, just hearing you say that we’re using control to create emotional pain. I mean, that doesn’t sound very positive at all. It sounds painful for everybody involved. So I appreciate that. I want to pivot to one of the big concepts in the book. And again, listeners, the book is called Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science, and Better Behavior. And story teaching is a lot of what you talk about in the second half of the book. And I’d love it if you could define what that is, as a concept as a tool that we can use.
Sarah Moore 32:37
Yeah, absolutely. So story teaching is learning and or teaching. And in this case, the two ways I talked about number one, creating emotional safety. And number two, creating emotional anchors for our children to make the information we’re imparting to them more memorable. Some people are going to be like, ooh, stories. I’m not creative. I’m not a storyteller. I’m not anything. That’s okay. I actually have news for all of us. We all are storytellers, because we have a part of the brain called the hippocampus. It doesn’t really matter that it’s a hippo, whatever. But it’s the part of the brain that creates memories, and stores the images that we have in mind of our life experiences. So once again, someday, I might not remember that we recorded on this date, but I’m gonna say, Debbie was wearing black. And we talked about this. And this is how I felt that is a story that’s in my brain, and simply having this memory. It’s a story. So I want to simplify what story teaching is, it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. It’s just basically creating an emotional memory of a scenario. And I’ve got three different types of ways that we can create that emotional safety, along with the anchors through story teaching. Number one, we can do proactive storytelling. And that is where there’s a situation coming up in the future. And we want to help prepare our child for it. Maybe it’s because they’re going to a family wedding for the first time. And they don’t know that they’re supposed to sit still and be quiet during the ceremony. But that’s going to be new to them. So how do we introduce this concept? Maybe they’re going to school for the first time, maybe they’re going off to college for the first time. The good news is this actually never expires. Although a lot of the examples I have in the book are for younger kids. Surprised we all as long as we have our brain we all actually learn in this way. So we can use stories proactively. It can be fiction, it can be nonfiction, it can be something you make up, it can be something you pull off the shelf. It’s all fair game, but we help prepare children for what’s coming by talking about whatever it is ahead of time. I also talk about in the moment story teaching. And here I actually draw from my improv comedy background. Actually, a lot of people think about this moral,Like playful parenting, how can I, in a light hearted way, engage my child, when things are starting to go off the rails, they’re starting to go sideways, how can I get us back on track to address problematic or tricky behavior in the moment in a way that is peaceful, non blaming, non shaming, non judgmental, and that is likely to stick so that the next time the child does in the same scenario, they are going to say, Oh, I remember what happened last time. And in the moment story teaching can be really, really effective, especially if we, as the adult have a playful and lighthearted approach. Finally, and I have a fairly long section devoted to this, I talk about retroactive storytelling, where perhaps something has already gone sideways. And we want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, when maybe something scary or sad, or whenever something hard has happened. And we want our child to be able to learn what they need to learn from it, but not carry it forward as toxic stress in their system. So stories for healing are a big part of my book as well. But when we access stories in these various ways. And again, I’ve got lots and lots of examples of exactly what these look like throughout the book. When we follow this script, so to speak, that I recommend, we can help heal our children and our inner children from the inside out. Because we start forming what’s called a coherent narrative, which basically means our stories make sense. And that we can learn best because we have the safety and these anchors, from which to grow and learn. And it’s so much more memorable than simply saying to our child, hey, remember to pick up the Legos. While that’s not particularly memorable, or, you know, bringing the car home by 11pm, whatever it may be, when I can express these stories in a way that are going to go straight to their hearts. And straight to that part of the brain I mentioned, we end up repeating ourselves a whole lot less, and teaching through connection, which is always going to be more effective, more memorable, and more positive, not only for them, but also for us, too.
Debbie Reber 37:21
So I think this is so interesting. And at the end, you talked about this idea of creating a coherent narrative. I do think that that’s a really critical piece. But they’re all important doing this in the moment, doing it retroactively, but especially so many listeners of this podcast, have kids who may have experienced trauma in schools who may have a lot of healing to do. And I know that creating the coherent narrative is so important to help them heal, can you? I don’t know, is there an example or show us how that might work in action, like think of a student who left a school or was really treated poorly by a teacher or by other students? And now he’s kind of detoxing from school and really got a lot of PTSD from that experience? How might we use a story to help them create a better narrative?
Sarah Moore 38:13
Yeah, for sure. And that’s a great and very accessible story for a lot of us because many of us have been in exactly that situation. So the problem that a lot of people run into is they assume, all right, we’re out of there, we can move forward, never have to think about that place again. Well, the trouble with that is that the child’s nervous system is still holding on to that place, if they haven’t processed it in a healing therapeutic way, they are still going to have to your point the PTSD, they’re still going to have visceral reactions, perhaps somebody will say a trigger word, it might be as simple as a school, and the child is gonna go, Oh, I’ve got this trauma coming up in my body, because that’s such an unsafe concept for me, unless we heal this, the child has to carry that around for the rest of their lives. So what can we do about it? To your point, we can use story teaching as a way to do that. And part of it is simply talking about what happened. I’m going to pretend for the sake of our discussion that the child is older. Define that however you will, but the child is old enough to have some back and forth dialogue and to really understand their perspective of what happened in that situation. The best thing we can do is talk about it. In that school, you felt this. This is what happened to you. When the situation happened with that teacher or with those other students. How did that feel in your body? It’s helping them name not only the intellectual details, it was a red brick school, but also the emotional details. That day in the hallway. I felt devastated. I felt terrified. Yeah, tell me more about those feelings. And you process these things alongside the child. Maybe you can do some of this by yourself, maybe for some of this, you engage a certified parent coach or a therapist or some other care provider to make sure that the child is really getting the support they need. But you help the child make sense of their story. Additionally, you help them reframe some of the parts that were the most problematic for them. Now, this is not what some people would call toxic positivity. Oh, well, you got out of there, and everything’s great. Now, that’s not the story we want to tell. What we want to say is Yeah, your terror, your frustration, your anger, make sense to me. And here’s what we learned from that. And you want to guide the child through this process, you don’t want to just spoon feed them everything they’re gonna say, of course. But if you can help the child identify, you know what, here’s what I did about it. I came home and I talked to you. And together, we made the decision that that school wasn’t right for me anymore. And you empower the child by helping them see the specific actions they took to right the wrongs and to heal in the ways that they wanted to heal. Yeah. And then we got you into that therapist to help change everything for you. And now we have a better path forward, and it looks like this. How does it feel? And then this is the most important part, you anchor emotionally, the positive feelings that are coming with the tail end of that story, if you will, yeah, when you talk to me, how did it feel to talk to me? How did it feel to have that emotional safety, I felt so much more peaceful with you so much more peaceful, so much more capable, whatever the child says. And you help anchor those emotions in the child’s nervous system, so that they walk away with a feeling of empowerment, it helps teach them intellectually, as well as at their core being that next time something tricky comes up, they already have the life experience, to deal with it and to move on in productive ways. So that their history doesn’t have to become their destiny in a negative way. But instead, their history is simply part of their healing the story that leads them to a greater sense of peace and ability in the future.
Debbie Reber 42:29
That’s great. I mean, just as you describe that, it’s obvious how transformative that could be. And I think about how many of us as adults are in therapy, raising my hand in therapy and re parenting my childhood self and working through this stuff. Because the way that I internalized or held on to certain things that happened to me, the stories I made around them are still those same stories, and they’re still impacting me as a middle aged woman. And so this is such important work to be able to do that to reparent the child when they’re still a child, so we could save so much on therapy bills, when they’re adults, if you think about it, I would say I don’t think this is like you have this talk your after school special conversation, everything’s fine, you move on. But it is a way to help our kids process in a way that can be so powerful. And so I just really appreciate that. And you have a lot of examples. And I want to say for listeners, if this feels overwhelming, like I don’t have time to do this, or you mentioned your background in stand up comedy. I’m not funny enough. You know, you have a lot of examples in here in the back, you actually share specific situations. And here are some example stories for how you could approach those. And you also have a framework, I think it’s a five step framework for how to shape a story. So there are lots of tools in here for listeners, if they’re feeling overwhelmed by this. So I would just say have a read to Sarah’s book because it will kind of walk you through the process. And I think it makes so much sense to be able to help shift that narrative as a way to wrap up. If there’s one thing like a takeaway you’d want listeners to leave this conversation with, or maybe something they can get curious about today in their family and see how they could just play with that. What would that invitation be?
Sarah Moore 44:16
Yeah, you know, I, above all else, know that self compassion and giving ourselves grace to it really has to start there. Because we can’t change our parenting on the outside, if we still are struggling with shame and guilt and self blame and all of the hard stuff on the inside. So that hug process that we talked about where you hold your reaction, understand your perspective and give yourself grace to be human. It works in the mirror too. So I would say start with err Be gentle with yourself and know that change. The most effective change happens in baby steps. I have not written a recipe book for how to be a perfect parent. In fact, you know, I probably have more examples of things I got, quote unquote, wrong than things I got, right. And I want you to know that healing is possible. And we’re not in here for the short game, we’re in it for the long game of parenting. So if you can start by giving yourself some compassion, some understanding, some grace, some curiosity, knowing that every reaction you have ever had to your child is because you had some sort of unmet need that you were needing to address. And if you can figure out what that is, and how you can give yourself some grace in the process. That’s where a lot of the healing really needs to begin. So grace, love and compassion to everybody out there, and I’m right there with you. I get it. I’m a very real person. So if you ever have questions, feedback, or if you want me to help you make up a story about something I am available to you. And I sincerely believe that parenting through peaceful discipline is part of what the world at large needs as part of its overall healing process.
Debbie Reber 46:03
Yes, 100%. Thank you for those thoughts and how can listeners connect with you? Where’s the best place for them to learn about your work or hit you up for a story?
Sarah Moore 46:14
Sure, sure. Yeah, besides the book, I am at dandelion seeds.com. There’s a hyphen in there. It’s dandelion hyphen, seeds.com. I’m dandelion seeds, positive parenting, on all of the socials except for Instagram, where I’m dandelion seeds positive living, because parenting wouldn’t fit.
Okay, good to know, listeners, I’ll have links to all of that, including a link to Sarah’s book Peaceful Discipline in the show notes page. So definitely check that out. And, Sarah, thank you so much. This was such an insightful conversation and congratulations on the book and I’m glad we can be a part of spreading a more peaceful discipline around the world. So thank you.
Thank you so much, Debbie. You are an incredible gift as well.
Debbie Reber 46:56
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