Getting Your Children to Listen Without Yelling or Nagging – With Rachel Bailey
This is something we ALL struggle with- How we get our children to listen, help out with things, and be obedient? There are ways that can help our children to be obedient and listen without nagging and yelling. Listen today as we hear from Rachel Bailey- a parenting specialist!
Getting Your Children to Listen Without Yelling or Nagging – with Rachel Bailey
The Mom Training Podcast with Diana Ballard
Diana: Hey everybody, welcome to Mom Training Podcast today. We're excited today to have Rachel Bailey with us, who is a parenting specialist for the past decade. She’s a mother of two. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, a certification in positive discipline, and has provided services as an ADHD coach; in-home mentor, and therapist. Currently, Rachel teaches parents, Hands-on Tools for Raising Responsible Resilient Confident Children, and helping parents find the time and energy to incorporate these tools into their lives. Hey Rachel, welcome to the podcast today.
Rachel: Thank you for having me here.
Diana: Yeah. I’m really excited to talk to you today. The topic that we’re going to discuss is something that I think a lot of us struggle with and don’t really know exactly what to do all the time. We might have children that are not listening to us or starting to get a lot more independent so they’re wanting to do their own thing.
We’re going to talk today about why getting children to listen isn’t about nagging or yelling more. I’m really excited to learn about this. My six-year-old is really starting to push a lot of boundaries and it's hard to know what to do, and how to react, and how to discipline. We all want our kids to listen but often they don't. They don't always do what we asked until we yell or nag. What can we do instead?
Rachel: Yeah, so it's really important that, first of all, to recognize that we learned from our parents, and most of our parents, sort of use these traditional methods of punishment and yelling and nagging, which we don't really want to do. We might want to do something different, but we just don't know what to do.
The way I teach discipline is really about, first of all, recognizing we do have to discipline children. We do need to teach them to be responsible. The way we go about it is very different than what our parents tended to do. Really what I teach is that we need to figure out, well, why aren't children listening, to begin with. And when we address the reason, they're not listening, to begin with, then they start to listen. We don't need to yell and nag, when we actually address the reasons.
And there really are only three reasons kids don't listen. The first reason is that they know they don't have to. We're not firm enough, we're not consistent enough, and this is especially true, as we’re home with our kids more now. We're exhausted, so we are not following through as much because we're so tired.
The second reason besides, they know they can get away with it, is that they’re actually are missing some skills that allow them to do what we asked. And we assume that just because kids aren't physically able to do something that they should just do it. Like they're physically able to clean up, but they're missing multiple, what we call executive functioning skills, that actually prevent them from just cleaning up just because we ask them to. And just because they're physically able to.
The last reason that kids don't listen is because there's something that I call Yuck, and Yuck is basically when a human being isn't in a good place. And I can go more into this concept, but when a human being is not in a good place, we don't act positively. So, when our kids are in this place of Yuck, they’re not just going to snap out of it and say, “Okay, I'm going to do that.” Actually, their brain is more focused on their Yuck, than on doing the right thing.
So, we address these three reasons, which is what I teach for a living when we are more consistent, and we give kids the skills and tools, and when we address their Yuck, they listen - no yelling required, no nagging required, no punishments necessarily required either.
Diana: Okay, well, tell me a little bit more about the Yuck. So, is that more like that they're in a … Like kind of having a bad attitude. They're tired. They're hungry… What exactly, like give me an example of Yuck.
Rachel: Yes… So, yeah, definitely. I just wanted to pause there; I didn’t want to give too much information at once. But I love to talk about Yuck, in fact, in all the areas where people see me speak, I'm kind of known as the Yuck lady because I talk about it so much. So, the Yuck Factor is what I call this. And I'm writing a book, that's what it's going to be about.
It's a really simple concept that when we are in a good place, as human beings of any age, we act positively. But when we are not in a good place, we don't act positively. And we can think about it, even from our perspective, when we as parents are, you know, we're not too tired, we've gotten a little break for ourselves. We can be the parent we want to be. We can be calm and patient. But when we are not in a good place, we could see the same exact behavior, but we're not in a good place, we respond totally differently.
What's important to know is that human behavior actually has more to do with what's going on inside of us, than what's happening around us. So, there's actually a scientific reason for this, and that is, there is a part of the brain that allows us to be cooperative and responsible. This part of the brain is called the prefrontal cortex... By the way, the prefrontal cortex does not fully develop till the mid-20s, which is why children are not always mature and responsible.
But for any human of any age, when we’re in this place of Yuck… And Yuck could be anything uncomfortable. So, it could be that we're hungry or tired like you mentioned. It could be that a child is feeling out of control or disrespected or whatever - frustrated, disappointed, annoyed. Any of that, their brain senses it as a threat because it's uncomfortable. And so, it turns on an alarm and that alarm is our fight or flight response. And when our fight or flight response kicks in, it actually shuts off any part of the brain, that it feels is unnecessary for survival. So, it shuts off the prefrontal cortex. So, they can't act mature and responsible.
And that's true of us too, like if we're really frustrated with our kids. And we know that yelling doesn't work. It's not the best way to motivate kids, but we're really frustrated. We just asked them five times to pick up their shoes, or get in the bath, or get off of your device, and we’ve asked them over and over. We go into a place of Yuck, and even though we know yelling isn't the best way to handle it we yell. Because the part of the brain where our values live is shut off.
So, all of that is to say is when any human of any age is in a place of Yuck, we don't act positively and Yuck really is a huge reason that kids don't listen. They're in a place of Yuck, and we expect them to just snap out of it. And the behaviors we see, the defiance, the disrespect, they're actually just symptoms of Yuck; they're in Yuck. And if you actually try to get them out - stop being disrespectful or stop doing whatever, you just increase the Yuck and the negative behavior.
Diana: Okay. So, when they are being disrespectful, what do we need to do about that? What is something we can do when kids are being disrespectful to us then?
Rachel: That's such an important question because it's not okay for kids to be disrespectful. And a lot of people, before they’ve really listened to my stuff will think, “Well, do we just let them get away with that?” Absolutely not. I personally am a very firm parent. I’m a firm parenting specialist and my area of expertise is in resilience and self-esteem. And if you're not firm, you’re not going to raise a resilient child who feels good about themselves.
Firmness is important, but we also have to recognize that Yuck prevents kids from changing their behavior. So, I teach - when a child is being disrespectful, again it's a symptom of Yuck. When someone's in the Yuck, they are either turning it out, which is their disrespect or defiance. That's the upturn out. They may be turning it in on themselves. Yuck turned in could be anxiety or negative self-talk where they're saying, “Nobody likes me”, or “You hate me.”, “Why are you always nice to my brother?” That's all Yuck, turned in.
So, we see that as a symptom of Yuck, and what we do is what I call letting them travel the Yuck curve. So, when a child is displaying signs of Yuck, instead of engaging with the Yuck, which everyone knows, where everyone has experienced it ineffective. You can't actually stop a child from being disrespectful, by telling them they're being disrespectful. It doesn't help.
What we need to do is recognize that Yuck over time, follows like this rainbow-shaped curve. So, what happened is, it gets bigger and bigger, it reaches a peak, and it comes down. And we have to recognize when our child is on that curve, when they're displaying some sort of Yuck behavior, we don't want to engage. We want to let them travel the curve. We want to let them let that behavior, out in the moment. Just let them release it, all their feelings, their frustration, they're disappointed, their disappointment is coming out. And what will happen is, as they release it, they'll start to travel that curve. And when they've traveled it, once they’ve released everything, then they're able to re-access their prefrontal cortex or the mature, responsible part of the brain. And that's when we address the behavior.
I talk a lot on my podcast about ‘band-aid parenting’, which is where we're trying to like fix everything in the moment. And I call it long game parenting where we're actually letting them travel the curve and then teaching them outside of the moment, better coping skills, so they're not being disrespectful to begin with. That make sense?
Diana: Yeah. So, with them traveling the curve is that letting them talk about it, asking them what's wrong? What does that look like?
Rachel: Yes, great question. So, what do we do practically and very honestly? Not much. Here's the thing, when they're being disrespectful, again it’s just a symptom that they're in fight or flight… It’s not an acceptable symptom. It's not what we condone, but that's all it is. So, when they're in that place, the language part of their brain is shut off, because like I said, fight or flight shuts off parts of the brain that are unnecessary. So, they can't actually hear our words, what they do is sense our energies.
And it makes sense that if they’re in fight or flight, what they're trying to figure out is, “Am I safe? Can I get out of fight or flight?” And if we're talking to them, we're saying, “What's wrong?”, or “Stop being like that.”, that only makes them feel like we're against them. And even if we say, “What's wrong?” The fact that we're trying to fix it actually makes them more upset often.
So, what we do is… It's like 10% of what we're doing now is what we actually should do. We may say one time, “I can see that you're really frustrated.” We do not expect that statement to snap them out of Yuck, it never does. It almost really reminds us that they're in the Yuck. That they're frustrated; our child is frustrated. And we become quiet, and we really… What I always tell parents, in that moment you regulate yourself, rather than trying to change your child. Your child will naturally travel the Yuck curve. It’s science, I could explain the science of that. They'll naturally travel that curve. You need to regulate yourself because when you are in control of your own emotions, they will travel their curve more quickly.
So, we're being quiet. Sometimes, ideally, if someone can regulate themselves, they try to help their child feel safe; that might mean you give them a hug. It may also mean you walk away. I have two daughters, one of my daughters, if I get too close to her when she's in the Yuck, it makes it worse. She doesn’t want me to get close. So, we do what we need to do to make them feel safe. A lot less language, we don't say, “What's going on? How can I fix it?” They will naturally travel the curve. We don't need to fix it in that moment. So, my very short answer is, not very much. That’s what we do.
Diana: Okay… So, I guess my question is, when they are being disrespectful, say they scream, “No! I'm not doing that!” Our initial response is we want to be like, “That's not okay to talk to me like that.”
Diana: Is it okay to say something like that, and then kind of step back, and let them go the curve, and then go talk to them later? Like, “Hey, that wasn't appropriate behavior. We don't talk that way. We need to be more respectful.” Is that kind of the equation I guess, that the…
Rachel: Sort of. You can absolutely say, “It's not okay to talk to me like that.” That's absolutely fine because it's setting a boundary… What I will tell you is that that will make them feel like you're against them. So, just recognize that that will make it take longer for them to travel the curve.
What I usually say is something like, “You know, you're really frustrated.” You're actually helping them see that you're on their side and this is not condoning their behavior. It's just, this is really about the science of emotional regulation. It's helping them regulate, so then, we can talk about, “Okay, when you're frustrated, let's give you other tools because it's not okay to talk to me like that.”
But a lot of what we try to say in the moment is meant to help us feel better. It's not what we say. We're doing it because our brains want us to feel better.
Rachel: It's not really about the child. When we say you can't talk to me like that, that's because we're hurt, and we want to say, “Hey, you hurt me.” And that's fine, I'm not telling anyone not to set a boundary because I'm all about setting boundaries. It's just that, it's not going to help anything in a moment. Just because you said it's not okay to talk to me like that, is not going to really do much for the child. They're just going to be like, “Oh now, my parent’s mad at me”, and they're going to get more upset.
We do so much more teaching out of the moment. Because really, it is about being firm. It's not okay for a child to be disrespectful. In that moment, you can't change it. Once they're on that curve it's too late. I once heard someone describe this as a tunnel. Once they get into the tunnel there’s no side doors. They need to get through it, and then that's when you can address it.
Diana: Okay. So, pretty much what I'm hearing is that we need to let them feel what they're feeling; not shut them down. Let them know we're on their side, and then address the issue, once they’ve got through the strong emotion.
Rachel: That's exactly right, great summary.
Diana: Okay, great… I want to jump back just a second to you talking about, that they might not have the skill, your number two that you shared. I wanted to touch on how… So, an example of not having the skill, meaning that they… Say, “You need to clean up this room right now”, and maybe they just don't know how to organize their mind of where to start, or like what to pick up first, or where… I don't know. Like, give me an example of what that might look like.
Rachel: Yeah. When we ask them to clean up, there are actually multiple executive functioning skills that are needed. One is the one you mentioned. It may just be overwhelming for them.
Another executive functioning skill is the ability to persist in a task that doesn't maintain your attention. And this has nothing to do with ADHD. I'm actually, I was an ADHD coach, I know a lot about ADHD. And neurotypical child needs… This is the way it works… They need a certain amount of stimulation or engagement. And if there's a boring task, what happens is because they need that stimulation, they will be distracted by whatever else is more engaging. So, they may start to clean the room, and then they see a toy they haven't played with, and their brain says, “Oh, I haven’t played with that toy in a while.” And so, they get distracted by that, and that's actually very age-appropriate neurotypical.
So, what we have to do is teach them the skill of even when something's boring you still have to do it. And we teach them how to create engagement within the task, and all of a sudden when we teach them the strategy or the skill, they do clean up. You don't have to yell and you don't have to nag. So yes, one skill is, maybe it’s overwhelming so we need to break it into chunks. Another skill is the ability to persist even when their brain is trying to distract them. Another skill, maybe actually stopping something that feels good to come clean, so they may have been playing something else, and to disengage from what they were doing to go to something else, that's an executive functioning skill.
And we expect kids to just be able to do this stuff, they can't. So, we yell at them. We punish them for not having the skills that they don't naturally have. Then that affects our relationship and it makes them less likely to listen because we've created more Yuck.
Diana: So, there's a lot of things going on behind the scenes that we just as parents don't know. I don't think I would have thought about, that I need to teach them how to be persistent, if something's boring or I had thought about the one that came in, “this is probably overwhelming” them looking at this big mess, not knowing where to start. And maybe they do get distracted by things. But it's amazing to hear that there are like actual pieces of their brain that need to grow and develop and also be taught. I don’t know. That's really cool. I think it about being persistent that's something that's going to help them not just clean up but that's going to help them, years down the road to finish school, or…
Diana: Or to clean up their house or… I mean, these are basic skills that are going to help them in the future that it's great that this can be brought to our awareness.
Rachel: Absolutely, and I talk a lot about fostering internal motivation so that we're not yelling and nagging all the time. When we teach kids these skills, which they naturally developed by adulthood… So, a lot of us are saying, “Well, what do you mean they don't know how to do that?” Because we've already learned how to do it, it's so natural to us, they don't have these skills.
But we can teach these skills to younger children, and then like you said, you have so many fewer fights over school, you have so many fewer fights brushing teeth and getting dressed in the morning. All of these are monotonous tasks that they struggle to do because they don't have strategies to do them, and their brains are… They're not wired to do these things. They're wired to look for stimulation and engagement, and they do, and then we get annoyed with them.
Diana: Right… So, yeah… Where could someone find a resource that could help, like parents to kind of open their minds to things like this? Do you have any …
Rachel: I talk about this all the time. So, in my podcast, I talk about executive functioning skills a lot, and how to use them to motivate better behavior. Because when kids have the skills, it's amazing how much more responsible, they are. But you can Google, executive functioning skills and how they play a part in everyday life. They play a role in everything. They even play a role in relationships because being able to regulate your emotions is an executive functioning skill.
So, there are places, there are centers who will help with executive functioning skills for school. There are lots of those, and I work with a couple of them as well that I really like. I used to do this as an ADHD coach in life. I would say, “Okay, here's the skills you need for school, here's the skills you need for life.” I don't know if there are other centers that do that.
I will tell you, this is not just kids with ADHD, because I don't do any ADHD coaching anymore, and most of the families who come to me, their kids don't have ADHD. I teach the same skills, and I get letters in my email inbox every single day. “Thank you for helping me teach my child these skills, everything has changed.”
Diana: Oh, wow… Now, why don't you tell everybody what your podcast is.
Rachel: My podcast is called Your Parenting Long Game, and it really is about motivating. It's what I say is, I foster better behavior, moods, and attitudes in the home, by addressing what we’ve talked about - teaching skills, dealing with the Yuck, and then also dealing with our Yuck as parents.
That's the third thing I talk about a lot. Because we're not in a good place like if someone listening to this podcast right now, to your episode, and they are in their own Yuck because we've been with our kids so much, they're going to be like, “Rachel, there's no way I can do any of that stuff.” Because when we are in our own Yuck, we don't have positive attitudes and moods. We feel hopeless, so we need to actually address our own Yuck as well, and that means other things become a lot easier.
Diana: Oh, that's awesome. That sounds… That's such a… I don't know. This is kind of like information that you wish they'd hand you in a handbook.
Diana: When you have a child and become a parent, there's… I don't know. There's just so much training that we need for so many different aspects - how to take care of them physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially… I mean, just being able to teach them all these things, and those are really great tools that you shared there.
I totally invite anyone listening to this right now to go and check out Rachel's podcast, to hear more tips about this, especially if this is something you're struggling with, kids with big emotions or being disrespectful and stuff. Just such good information, Rachel.
Rachel: Thank you.
Diana: I want to ask you one more thing. Is there anything that we can do to make raising responsible kids easier?
Rachel: Yes. There are really two things that you can do and this is, I'm going to give sort of generic advice but on my podcast, I give more action steps. But generally, … I've worked with something like 2000 families at this point, and there are two patterns that I noticed. In the families who've made progress and the families who didn’t, so I want to share what that is.
The first is, seeing your children's behavior differently. When you see that when your child is misbehaving or having a big emotion, they're having a problem, not being a problem. That's really important. It doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, but when you start to see them as having a problem then you do want to teach them the strategies, you do want to help them address their Yuck, you do want to help them, and they sense that, and they're more likely to listen. It also keeps us out of a stressed place.
When we say, “My child is actually struggling”, and they really are. They don't have the skills; they really do have Yuck. That's the first piece. And the second piece, honestly, is to take care of our own Yuck, that's really it. The families who’ve made the most progress have done both of those things. They've seen their child, when they are misbehaving or have some negativity going on, they're having a problem. And they're also really recognizing that our Yuck as a parent really does impact how we parent. And if we're not addressing that, there's going to be very little progress in the home. So, those are the two things I would say are the easiest to do.
Diana: Right. So, what came to mind is, they teach a lot in therapy situations where you say like, “I am feeling sad. I am feeling upset.” instead of saying, “I am frustrated. I am upset.” So, instead of taking on that you are something, it's focusing on – “This is what's happening… This is not who I am… I am not what I'm feeling right now. I'm struggling”, or they're struggling.
That's really good to realize with anyone - with our spouse, with ourselves, with our kids. Like a lot of what you're talking about is just being very mindful, actually seeing like the different sides of things, and letting ourselves see that “Hey, there's something else going on here than what I might perceive.”
Rachel: That's exactly right. What people eventually realize as they worked with me, or as they listen to my podcast, is that parenting 100% is mindset. Just like everything in the world is mindset.
Rachel: Parenting is when you see your child's behavior differently when you start to treat yourself differently. And when I say you treat yourself differently, I actually have really clear action steps for what that looks like. But when you start to do things a little bit differently and think about it differently, everything changes.
Most parents, by the time they come to me, they're like, “I've tried everything, Rachel. I've tried timeouts. I've tried punishments. I've tried rewards. I’ve tried being sweet. I've tried everything.” And so, when we actually shift, that's not what it takes, it doesn't take any of those external motivators. It takes seeing your child is struggling, helping them with their struggle when we just shift how we see things. And that's where a lot of people say the lightbulb goes off, it's like, “Oh, I see them differently. I give them the tools, everything changes.” or “I see that if I treat myself like someone who can't have any time to myself, who is telling myself, all the reasons this is horrible”, that's also going to keep you stuck.
So, I give a lot of action tips too, for how we get ourselves unstuck. One of them is actually related to what you just said with externalizing. What you described is externalizing feelings; they don't define us; we can make them outside of us. And I have people do that with their Yuck too. I have them actually take their Yuck, out of their brains, deal with all that mental clutter and externalize it, so they can actually deal with it to get unstuck.
Diana: I love that… I just want to share one experience. I'm homeschooling, my daughter is in kindergarten, and we had a really rough time with reading for a little while there. It was kind of making me mad because it was like, “Hey look, we have one page to do. Can we just do, sound out each letter…” I trying to be very patient and everything, just lots of resistance to it.
Finally, after days and days of this, realizing that she did not like to fail. She did not like to have something that she wasn't good at, which is something that we addressed and we talked about. It's okay to struggle and it's okay to have something be a little harder, but the more we practice the better we get. And since we had that conversation, she's doing a lot better in reading. There's not as much resistance, there's not…
So, it is when we step back and we can look at what's really going on. And again, it comes down with parents’ intuition, being able to… We know our children best. We know ourselves best. We can look at our situation and say, “Okay, I think this is what's happening.” Then we're able to find those solutions, so much better and actually work on the problem, instead of thinking that the person is the problem… Just kind of sharing an example of that.
Rachel: Perfect example because what you did… First of all, I will say if parents feel like they don't have the intuition, some parents will say, “I don't feel like I have it.” I agree that most of us do. But any negative behavior, any negative behavior is exactly what you just did, you saw a negative behavior. You saw she was in Yuck. That's why she was actually taking so long, that was her Yuck. Then you gave her a strategy, you gave her a tool. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
So, it’s a perfect example to demonstrate, you see a negative behavior, or mood, or attitude, you immediately say she's struggling. You recognize that is Yuck. You address the Yuck by giving it a tool, and then behavior changes. You don't need to yell or nag. You could have said, “Well, if we don’t get through this reading, I'm going to take away your screen time for the next three days.” That wouldn't have helped anything.
That's what we tend to do, but you saw the struggle. You gave her strategies for her struggle, her Yuck reduced, her coping skills went up, and she behaved. She did what she was supposed to do. It’s exactly how it works… But really, I encouraged…
Diana: But does it mean… Go ahead.
Rachel: I just was going to say, parents just anytime you see negative behavior mood or attitude and they're struggling. Yeah.
Diana: I was just going to say it saved me so much more time and energy and stress, to actually address the issue…
Rachel: You got it…
Diana: Than to try to push like, “Just read the word.” You know what I’m saying?
Rachel: And parents don't realize that, that it actually saves time. I talk about my podcast is Long Game Parenting, and I say Long Game Parenting doesn't take longer, it just lasts longer. Because it saves time when you can do that.
And you also said something really important that I want to re-stress because this is another huge piece that I find in parenting, most people aren't thinking about. I say this so many times on my podcast, that you really want to see it as you and your child against the problem, not you against your child. So, that's the other thing you did in that scenario, you joined with your child and said, “Okay, you're not reading. There's a reason you're not reading. There's a problem, let's figure this out together.”
What most parents do is then we're against our child and say, like you said force them, ”You have to read. You have to read.” We want it to be us and our child against the problem, not us against our child.
Diana: Right. Cool. I love that. So, where can they find you? I know we have your podcast, you're on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram. But tell me your website, though, as we're talking right here for people.
Rachel: Yeah, so my website is Rachel-Bailey.com and then I do have the podcast which you can either find on my website or any podcast app. And then my Facebook group is related to the podcast; I'm in there live all the time. And then you mentioned I have other social media outlets as well.
Diana: Okay. And we'll definitely, in the Episode Notes we will have all those places where people can connect with you. I know I have learned a lot from you today. I am so happy that we've connected over...
Rachel: Me too.
Diana: Social media is great for meeting new people, and this has just been really enriching and why don't you tell them about your program as well.
Rachel: Yeah, so what I do is I give a ton of free content through social media, especially through my podcast and my Facebook group. And then what I do to support parents is really, anytime you're working with me, I am working with you on the implementation. And I have a Parenting Academy, which is where I’m implementing in a sort of in a group level. So, that's where there are accountability posts and action steps, and I suggest ways parents can work through this.
And then I do group programs and some limited individual consultations. And whenever, again, someone's working with me it's all about the implementation, the action, and the results. But just for the information, you can get a lot of my information on social media and on my blog, yes.
Diana: That’s awesome. That's great. Well Rachel, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom today and kind of opening our eyes to a new avenue to look at. I love that these podcasts, these episodes are like just a piece of something that people can take away.
Diana: And I know that I've taken maybe one or two things from this conversation that I'm going to implement. I'm going to try. It kind of opened my eyes too, for myself and for my children. Thank you so much for sharing that with us today and we will definitely want to have you back on. We have really enjoyed hearing from you, and thanks so much for joining us.
Rachel: Thank you so much for having me here. I really appreciate it, and for what you do as well. I adore your podcast, so thank you.
Diana: Thank you so much. Well, you have a great rest of your day, and we'll see everyone else on the next episode of The Mom Training Podcast.