35: Helping Kids Manage Their Big Emotions

Podcast Episodes
January 29, 2023

The Authentic Wife and Mom

Beth Rowles | The Conscious Marriage Coach

Here’s what to do when you resent your husband!

In episode 35 of The Authentic Wife Show, we talk to Parent Coach Laura Reardon about helping our kids with their anxiety and other big emotions.

Laura is a certified Child Behavior Specialist; she’s trained as an Emotion Coach, Childhood Anxiety Coach, and Parent Coach; and is the founder of Laura Reardon Coaching.


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Podcast Transcription:

This is the largely unedited auto-transcription of this podcast:

Beth Rowles: Hello, Laura. I am really thrilled that you’ve given me some of your time this morning to pick your brain and learn what you’ve got [00:01:00] to share with us. I know that you are a parent coach, but this is not always what you did. How did you end up working with parents or children and getting all these specialties that you have?

Laura Reardon: Hi, Beth. Thank you for having me here. It’s a, it’s a pleasure. And yeah, I’d love to tell you about how I got here. I, I it, it all started really with my own children. I’m blessed with two children, a girl and a boy, and they are both sensitive kids who are prone to anxious feelings. and one would respond to their big emotions by lashing out, and the other would respond to their big emotions by really imploding within.

And so , I try. What I wanted is to teach them how to manage their emotions and manage their behaviors. And I think in many ways I had an expectation that they would be able to do that before it was really developmentally [00:02:00] appropriate. And when they weren’t able to do that, I would respond with traditional parenting tools like you know, counting to three and.

Consequences and rewards and ignoring unwanted behaviors. But it didn’t help. And what I really wanted is to create peace in my home. And also what I really wanted is to give them skills so that they would grow up to be able to. You know, have the skills necessary to, to create peace in their own home.

And I got to thinking, you know I, I’ve worked with parents, all my. Career in the capacity of childcare. I have a degree in psychology, but when my kids were born, I opened my own at-home daycare. Mm-hmm. And then I worked as a nanny. And so having worked with parents all my life, it got me thinking that, , I’m guessing I’m not the only one that is struggling with this parenting challenge.

And so I became [00:03:00] certified as a child behavior specialist and trained as a parent coach and emotion coach and a childhood anxiety coach. Mm-hmm. and initially, , it was really all fo focused inwardly on how can I use this knowledge and these tools to achieve the goals I want in my own family? And so I created this plan for my own family.

You know, it was basically a three step plan. How do how to set myself up for success in managing my own emotions and behavior because, When you know, the tools that I was using weren’t working, I’d end up yelling. And so I understood the importance of my role in role modeling, managing my own emotions and behavior before I can think about teaching skills to my own kids.

And so that was step one. And then step two was, how can I set my kids up for success in managing their own emotions and behavior? Because what I was doing previously wasn’t helping. . And then [00:04:00] step three, you know, how as a family can we work to resolve conflicts effectively? Because yelling and worrying doesn’t resolve anything.

And then as my children grew older, I. I, I started working with other families, you know, how could they implement and create a personalized plan for their own family, for their own individual, you know, their biggest challenge, their temperaments, their specific needs of their, the, the people in their family.

. And so that’s the long story of how I ended up doing, doing what I do today, working as a parent coach and specializing and helping parents who are really struggling with the big emotions and challenging behaviors in their home. Oh

Beth Rowles: yeah. That’s wonderful work that you do. I love that you had a daycare.

That was my plan. When I had my kids, I was like, I’ll just open a daycare and then I can be home with them and my husband poo-pooed the idea. So I didn’t get to, but I did end up. Leaving my job eventually to become a parent [00:05:00] coach as well. Yeah. I love that you were a nanny too, cuz I feel like you can observe things so much better when it’s not your own kids.

I really .

Laura Reardon: I see what’s working. So true. .

Beth Rowles: So true. Now I get caught up in your own stuff and what it means for you to, you know, have a kid who’s having big emotion. You said that one was kind of lashing out and the other one was imploding. In my house, my son is the one who lashes out and my daughter’s the one who would take it inside.

Is that what you usually see that usually boys are the ones expressing and girls are the ones holding in.

Laura Reardon: Well, in, in fact, in my home it was, it’s my daughter who in her growing up years would lash out and it was my son who would shut down. Interesting. So it just goes to show, it’s really more about temperament than gender.

Beth Rowles: Mm-hmm. . That makes sense. That makes sense. Yeah. So one of the things that. , I experienced that. A lot of my clients experience was my daughter was really sensitive and we would [00:06:00] have a really hard time with drop off. And I know that there’s also developmental needs there. Like she probably was.

Started too young. I could have kept her home, probably would’ve been better for her developmentally to stay home longer with me. But unfortunately I had a job and I had to take her to school and that was a struggle. But then as they get older, sometimes I’ve noticed clients have kids who are like moving into like the last year preschool or even kindergarten, and they’re still having anxiety about school.

What do you tell parents who are. Concern between knowing like whether they need to just push and help their kids handle that, or is it they’re actually a problem that they need to, you know, maybe change a school or ask for a different teacher or something? How do they kind of find you know, discern the difference

Laura Reardon: there?

Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, it always starts with ourselves and it always starts with making sure that we are [00:07:00] in a place where we’re ready to you know, have that, you know, think about making that decision or having that conversation. So it always starts with awareness of our own emotional state.

And so, you know I have a tool called the ABCs for like managing our own emotions. And just super quick, like a is awareness, you know, when we can work on tuning in and becoming a more aware of our body sensations, our feelings, our thoughts, and when we are feeling triggered, when we’re feeling, you know activated.

And. We all experience that in our own unique way and we are all triggered by our own unique things. So it’s really personal work. And then when we become aware of that, you know, that, that we’re in a triggered place That we’re not in a place of acting as our best selves, but in a place of acting from a foundation of fear or getting caught up in our emotions and not [00:08:00] balancing that with our logic then we can be as for breathe.

Breathing of course for a lot of people is a really effective way of. Calming yourself and regulating yourself, letting your out breath be longer than your in breath. It’s something you can do in the moment. It’s something you can do by yourself when you have more time, 10 minutes a day. But it’s that in the moment thing that you can use as part of the, you know, in this moment tool of the ABCs.

And so once you have that awareness, you can.

Take that breath and for those For whom breathing isn’t their thing. There’s so many other ways that we can calm ourselves in the moment. And for some people it can be putting your hand on your heart to center yourself and ground yourself. For some people it can be taking a sip of water. For some people they need to move their body, and so you can figure out what works for yourself.

But again, when we’re trying to think of something that’s in the moment that we [00:09:00] can do we can’t go out for a jog. We can’t, you know, go to the gym. But even just like a, stretching our arms or like pushing against a ceiling, I mean, I’ve heard of moms who will like literally do a few jumping jacks in place and hey, whatever it takes.

Anything that you can do in the moment. , just kind of recenter yourself and, and bring you back to that calmer place. And then C is, is is compassion. You know, we can, we can then have the thought of, we can, we can, we can consider our thoughts and if our thoughts are coming from a judgemental place, we can replace those you know, both for ourselves.

We can have compassion for ourselves and. Recognize that it makes sense that we’re feeling triggered in this moment. And you know, this is, this is a hard moment and it makes sense that we’re feeling triggered and and we can also consider our thoughts for what’s triggering us. You know? And if it’s our kid, if it’s [00:10:00] our kid who’s struggling to go to school, we can, you know, just have that quick in the moment.

Compassionate thought for our kid. Yeah, this is hard for me and it’s hard for my kid too. Mm-hmm. . And just that really quick. A, B, C. You know, the more you do it, the quicker you can go through it. It just can create that centering. In the moment. And then, and then we can consider, you know, We consider how to calm our kid as well.

Now if we’re, if we’re in the moment, if our kid is refusing to get in the car, refusing to get out of bed, you know, that’s a little bit of a different conversation than the conversation we have at a later time when we’re all feeling calm and regulated. . Mm-hmm. . But once we’ve calmed ourselves and we can come at it from that place, you know, and we’re needing to then calm our kid we can, we can think of co-regulation is basically something that means to share our calm with our kid.

And that’s why we need to start with having [00:11:00] our own calm before we can do that. And the way we can help calm our. Is again, so individual because different things help different kids. You know, I talk to parents and I hear them say, oh, I hear we’re supposed to label feelings and that makes my kid crazy.

Or, you know, I hear that we’re supposed to You know, I try to give my kid a, a hug and that just agitates them even more. And some parents, you know, hear people talking about this one size fits all solution and it doesn’t work for their kid. And that’s because the, the topic of co-regulation is, is a, a much more complex, much more personal approach than is sometimes acknowledged.

And so it’s the work. You know, as, as a parent, of course, we know our kid best and so we can get to that solution best. You know, there’s no one that can tell you. Yeah, you, you know how you can calm your kid. But you can experiment and you can, you know, try [00:12:00] a, a whole variety of things. Of what, just kind of like for me, like when I took that breath, like maybe you even heard it in my voice, honestly.

Like it really kind of soothes me. And then, you know, we can figure out what soothes our kid in that moment. Hmm. and then to get at your larger question, you know, what can we do about this? How can we solve the broader pro problem of our kid really struggling to go to school? And that’s you know, that’s really the third step of, of, of the plan, which is, you know, how do we resolve conflict effectively?

And one of the ways that we can do that is you know, we. , we can kind of consider it from, you know, a basic conflict resolution perspective, you know, which, and when we think about conflict resolution, we think about, you know, sharing what, what are our feelings and needs? Becoming curious about what are our kids’ feelings and needs, and then come up with solutions that acknowledge both.

And so, An [00:13:00] example of our need around school is for our kid to go to school, right? , . And so that, that’s, that’s our need. And and, and maybe even to go to school in a way that takes less out of us, takes less out of our morning, takes less out of our kid, and our kids need is to feel safe and that’s why they’re struggling.

To go to school is because there’s something happening. Whether it be transitions are tough for them our anxious kids tend to struggle with transitions. It could be that there’s something happening you know, at school. That’s, that, that could be anything from You know, a conflict related to another, you know, child, a relationship with another child, or conflict related to a struggle with learning a conflict related to you know, yeah.

Sensitivities to noise or light or you know, things like that. So we [00:14:00] really wanna become curious about, What it takes to help our child feel safe and the older they are, the more en engaged, the more we can engage them in that conversation and the younger they are the more we need to, you know, make some educated guesses and do some experiments to kind of figure out what’s happening.

Mm-hmm. . But one of the most effective things that we can do. Really, regardless of their age, is to engage them in the problem solving. When we ask a kid to be part of the solution, you know? Hmm. What’s, you know, what, what would help, what would help you do this in a way that feels more manageable for you, or feel, you know, feels easier to do now?

What would help, what would make this easier for you? You might be really surprised about the great ideas. They, they come up with things that we might never have [00:15:00] consider. And when they’re part of the solution, they’re going to feel much more engaged and cooperative in implementing that solution.


Beth Rowles: you made some really great points. One of them I think is. One of the most important is the work I do with my clients a lot is their own energy and being regulated ourselves. How can we expect our kids to be regulated if we’re dysregulated? And so figuring out what those different triggers are and things we need to heal from and reasons why we might be feeling the way we do addressing that first, I think.

So critical, and I’ve seen a lot of clients, you know, the problem with school goes away. Once they can walk up to the teacher’s store without anxiety, then their child is fine. But I love also the point of figuring out what the child’s needs are, what, what else is going on? Being curious, figuring out if it is an issue with the teacher, if it is something with another student or there’s something else happening that we don’t even know [00:16:00] about.

Getting really clear on that. And then of course having them be part of the solution is so brilliant because I had one client who had she was ready to do something different with her son, and, and he was okay . He, she asked him about it. He’s a little bit older and he is like, You know, actually I’m, I’m okay here,

It’s, it’s, it’s all right. It works for me. So I think that, you know, we try to logic our way to a decision a lot of the time, and then we don’t understand. What is the way forward because we don’t realize that the emotion isn’t a part, you know, is a part of that thought process and is a part of decision making.

And there’s so much value held in our emotions when they are current, you know, in the moment not coming up from things in the past. So I love your advice and I love the simple A, B, C process and reminding people to breathe because that usually is a quick instant way to help them calm their nervous system.

I love that. What do you do? So I [00:17:00] feel like you know, a lot of us are really good at sitting with people. Eventually we’re good at sitting with people in their pain, like when they’re crying mm-hmm. or when they’re anxious. We we’re okay with sitting with that emotion. It feels a little bit more familiar, but what do you say to a parent who has a child who is explosive and is expressing, especially anger a lot?

How can they sit with somebody who’s angry without trying to change? What they’re going through or their experience.

Laura Reardon: That’s such a great question. And you know, to to, to step back even just a moment to what you said initially is, you know, I I think that’s a point worth spending a moment on. When you say, and this is so true, that kids who express their emotions through what feels like more acceptable ways, like crying, Using their words to say, this is really hard for me.

You know, in many cases as parents, that’s a [00:18:00] lot easier for us to take in to hear. And yet as a culture in many ways we’re taught not to value feelings. Mm-hmm. . , we are taught to make them go away to sometimes, you know, to either just make them go away by solving the problem so they don’t have to feel their feelings or to, you know, punish them.

Go, you know, go to your room until you’re done crying. Go to your room until you, when you can be calm, then you can come down. Mm-hmm. You know, so even though they’re expressing their feelings and what feels like more acceptable ways, we can still, as a culture, have a tendency to want to shut them down.

and ironically, it’s shutting those feelings down that fuels the kids’. Inability to or will fuel a kid’s inability to feel their feelings without being re reactive, without lashing out or shutting down. Because when we send the message that, oh, we can’t handle their big feelings, [00:19:00] and we don’t think they can handle their big feelings, then when they have these big feelings, they feel the need to make them.

You know, for them to make them go away by, you know, by getting angry and yelling instead of crying and sharing. Or by, you know, just kind of shutting down and not unburdening themselves, not, not sharing those vulnerable feelings. And then, you know, the kid feels alone with them and they can build up and really feel hard to tolerate.

And then of course they can. Get stuck in anxiety or they can ultimately lash out themselves and become explosive to themselves because they’ve tried to hold it in and hold it in, hold it in, but then it, it builds up. So I, I think that it’s just impor important opportunity to remind parents of the importance of, as you said, sitting with feelings because that is such a powerful and beautiful thing that we can do as parents because [00:20:00] it helps our kids to.

Basically build emotional strength in being with uncomfortable feelings instead of building emotional fragility and inability to be with their feelings. Because of course, it’s in feeling our feelings and processing through our feelings that we can then be free of our feelings and move past them.

And so it’s such an important thing to do that all that said to your. , it is so much harder to do that when our kid is expressing their feelings by being mean or by yelling at the top of their lungs or by hitting, or, you know, we, we often we often don’t even know that is expressing feelings. I think sometimes as parents, our fear takes over.

Our negativity bias takes over and we go straight. Labeling our kid, as you know, being mean, being selfish. They should know better. They should do better. Maybe there’s something wrong [00:21:00] with them. Maybe there’s something wrong with us as parents. And so we, I think that it’s hard for us to even process in that moment that this is a kid’s way of ineffectively expressing their feelings.

So I think the biggest thing is gaining the knowledge that. Gaining the awareness that when our kid is, when when we feel unsafe, you know, we’re, we’re go, it’s fight, flight, or freeze, right? When we when our nervous system perceives safety, we can act as our best selves when we’re feeling comfortable.

We you know, the, nobody, nobody lashes out or shuts down when they’re feeling comfortable, right? But when we feel uncomfortable body sensations, whether it’s because of big feelings like anger hurt, overwhelm, stress These things start as body sensations before they travel to our brain where we can identify them as feelings.

And so for, again, for [00:22:00] everyone, it’s so personal and it’s so different. It can be a nervous stomach, it can be the tightness in the chest. I feel it right here in my throat, in the middle of the night when I’m thinking those thoughts. I feel it here. , I’ve come to learn that my daughter gets a headache. She gets it in her head.

So when we you know, when, when we can become more aware of. Of, you know, our, the sensations in our body, we can become more aware of when we’re moving into that fight, flight or freeze that our nervous system is perceiving a threat. And of course for our ancestors, that was, you know, the difference between life and death and for us and present day.

it can get triggered by certainly life th threatening experiences, but also non-life threatening experiences because our nervous system doesn’t know the difference between an actual threat and a perceived threat. So when we feel these uncomfortable body sensations our, our nervous system, you know, just kind of assumes there’s a problem here.

And those body sensations can [00:23:00] come too from unmet needs, like, you know, not enough sleep, not enough food. Not enough you know, movement, not enough connection. And of course, as parents, like , who has all their needs met, right? And this makes us so much more likely and to get triggered into fight, flight or freeze.

But, but for our kid, going back to our kids, you know, so when they get triggered, when they’re having big feelings or experiencing unmet needs and they get triggered into a fight, flight, or freeze response, it’s really an unc. Decision, an unconscious thing that they just immediately get activated.

They’re having this big feeling, they’re having maybe they’re exhausted and hungry. They’ve had an incredibly long day, and they’re just home and they’re just now ready to just hit empty. Or they had a really Tough experience at school where a kid was mean to them, or a teacher, you know, they got a bad test on a grade and they felt shamed by, by that or, or by a comment from the teacher.

You know, there can be so many [00:24:00] reasons that we arrive home with these big feelings. And so it’s really when we can have the understanding that it is actually not a conscious choice for them to lash out or shut down. It’s this automatic reaction. That, you know, over time we build skills and over time our brain grows so that we can manage these emotions and behaviors.

But until, until, until that happens we can just have this awareness and understanding that when they’re, when they’re acting in these really challenging ways, That basically what that’s telling us is that they’re feeling unsafe in that moment. That it’s based on a threat response, an unconscious threat response in their body that dates back.

You know, that dates back to our ancestors. So when we can have that awareness, That’s when we can, you know, boy does it take pretty much a good day because , you know, that that takes a lot of capacity for a [00:25:00] parent to have that awareness in the moment when their kid is acting out. Mm-hmm. . So it’s a process.

It’s a process that builds over time. And it’s that thing that a, most times we’re gonna get wrong. It’s gonna be like later that night when we make wake up in the middle of the night or in the next morning, we’re gonna have that awareness. Oh, my kid was actually not be a mean person. My kid was like, You know, my ki my kid was feeling unsafe in that moment.

Yeah. I call those

Beth Rowles: the mystery meltdowns. I’ve tried to teach my husband. I’m like, if, if we have no idea, especially my, I have a first grader, so he’s still kind of in the stage. Like if we have no idea why he’s melting down, then there’s probably some unmet need and we gotta like, dig in or. , you sound like you’re hungry.

sounds like you’re upset about something that happened today. And then eventually then when they get the food and I’m like, just put the food in front of his face. It doesn’t matter if he says he [00:26:00] wants it or not, just put it there. He will eat it. And then he’ll open up and then he’ll tell us, oh, so and so did this today.

Or, oh, I didn’t get my snack at school or something. And it’s like those, I love that point. That mystery meltdown is an indicator that there are definitely unmet needs and they’re not feeling safe, and it’s different from that instant reaction. Like if my daughter gets in his space, then he has anger.

We know it’s a boundary violation and we can work through that. But the ones where they’re just like out of the blue. I love that word. What’s wrong

Laura Reardon: with you? Mystery meltdown. That’s, that’s awesome. I’ve never, I’ve never heard that before. I love that very much. And I love that you know your kid, you know, you know, your kid in that moment needs food, you know?

And I’ve heard a lot of parents say that, and, and not necessarily that it’s food, but you know, they know. Oh. When my kid gets like that, this is what they need. It could be sleep, it could be, you know, some downtime. Yes, it could be what, what, what have you. But you know, that’s where the, you know, your kid kid [00:27:00] best comes in and where you can really personalize this.

Beth Rowles: Absolutely. Just thinking instead of like, our inclination is to fix, to problem solve right now, but. This past week we had a guest over and our kids stayed up late every night and they had Halloween candy every single night trick Katrina Saturday. And it’s like, no, he’s not a bad kid. He’s responding to all these things that have happened this week.

So we just need to be aware. Well, I love this. Now you I wanna ask you more questions, but we’re short on time. So what can people do? How can they work with you or, or find some of your tools? Where can they go?

Laura Reardon: Yeah, the best place to find me is on my website laura rearden coaching.com. You’ll find some blogs that will help you you know, go a little deeper on some of the topics that we touched on today.

You know, why it makes so much sense that our kid lashes out or shuts down. Why? It makes so much sense that we yell as [00:28:00] parents. . And so I’d certainly offer those as resources. And then of course, if there’s anyone that’s interested in working with me and creating a personalized parenting plan for their own family’s biggest challenge you’ll find that on my website as well.


Beth Rowles: wonderful. Wonderful. I love the work that you’re doing. It’s so important that we change the way that we are responding to emotions and stop shutting them down and mocking them and begin to use them as the intelligence that they. Thank you for being here. I really appreciate your time.

Laura Reardon: Thank you for having me.

It is for sure my passion and yours as well, and it’s so great to connect with others who are doing this work. It’s so important and so I, I value the work you’re doing. Thank you for what you do, and thank you for, you know, the opportunity to be here and have a conversation with you. It was a pleasure.


To learn more about Laura Reardon, please visit her website: https://laurareardoncoaching.com/

To Learn More About Using Your Marriage to Become More Authentic, Click Here

Understanding your emotions is really a first step to healing because if you’ve been ignoring their wisdom all of this time, you will feel groundless and unsure of reality. You can start with my free emotion assessment called The Princess and the Peeve, and I highly encourage you to take my emotional mastery course, Royally Guarded.

To start understanding your emotions right now, CLICK HERE to download The Princess & The Peeve Emotion Assessment! 



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I'm Beth Rowles, Hi!

I help driven moms use the conflict in their marriage as a feedback loop to grow in self-awareness so they can create the marriage they, and their kids, deserve without leaving the one they're in or waiting for their husband to evolve.

I'm the author of The Authentic Wife: Uncaging Yourself Through Marriage and host of The Authentic Wife Show podcast & YouTube channel.


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