085: How Connection is More Powerful than Correction, with Rebecca Brown Wright

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

Listen on Apple Podcasts  |  Google Podcasts  |  Spreaker  |  Spotify  |  iHeart Radio

Connection is a fundamental human need, and one that holds an immense amount of power for individuals, even kids. Especially kids. And, when we're talking about kids with ADHD and/or autism, connection is often a struggle — socially or with family members, like parents. Feeling connected to others provides a sense of safety and security. We feel more at ease and less anxious when we feel connected. This means better behavior and a better sense of self and self-worth.

I'm joined by Rebecca Brown Wright, creator of the Back-and-Forth Journal, for this episode. Rebecca shares her journey to realizing that connection with her children is more powerful than discipline and correction, and how it improved her kids' behavior. We also discuss how you can build and nurture authentic connections with your kids, too. 


Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

The Back-and-Forth Journal, by Rebecca Brown Wright

Quarantine Journal for moms, kids, and teens

Subscribe to Clarity — my weekly newsletter on what’s working in business right now, delivered free, straight to your inbox.

Work with me to level up your parenting — online parent training and coaching  for neurodiverse families.

My Guest

Rebecca Brown Wright

Rebecca Brown Wright tried parenting her three kids (one with ADHD) the old-fashioned way, with tough discipline. But she found only frustration, failure, and fear. Through years of trial and error, she eventually found a better way — and it all centered on strengthening and deepening her connections with her children.

In fact, she has a strong hunch that the answer to all of our parenting problems center around connection. So she creates products and resources, like her back-and-forth journal, that are designed for moms to form deep and meaningful connections with their children. She also posts weekly blog posts at RebeccaBrownWright.com that detail her failures and lessons — and how connection became the key to a mostly happy home.



PAP 085: How Connection is More Powerful than Correction, with Rebecca Brown Wright

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:00:00] We're all stuck in the house, which we would think, "Hey, we're going to connect all the time, all day long. We're going to be connected," but we're really not unless again we're deliberate about it because we all have our devices that we're looking at. We're getting sucked into our phones and into activities kids have to do distant flirting and everything and our anxieties are high inner tension is high.

Penny Williams: [00:00:29] Welcome to the parenting ADHD podcast where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD Straight From The Trenches. I'm your host Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach author ADHD aholic and mindset Mama honored to guide you on the Journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to the parenting ADHD podcast. I'm really excited today to be having a conversation with Rebekah brown. Right and we're going to be talking about how connection through hard times is more powerful than correction. This is a topic. I love I'm so excited to talk about this and share it with all of you. Thanks for being here Rebecca. Will you start just by sharing with everyone who you are and what? You

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:01:25] yeah. Yeah, my name is Rebekah brown, right? I create products and I write for parents to connect with their children to have easy ways to connect with their children eat products that make it really easy to just form really deep and meaningful connections. I believe that connection makes the world go round and it starts in our homes. And so I'm on a mission to help parents connect better with their children.

Penny Williams: [00:01:51] Great Mission with so needed I think In connection now is so so important in so many areas and I think we're losing that in our society for the most part and and we're seeing what happens when we lose that and so and I think to her our kids that were talking about here ADHD, maybe autism it's harder for them to build connections. They need more help and instruction and support in that to so yes really working on that mindfully is so important.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:02:22] Yeah, I agree. It's not always instinctual and we have so many more obstacles now in our in our modern world that make it really hard to form those meaningful connections. You have to be really deliberate about it. I think and really conscious about it.

Penny Williams: [00:02:35] Yes deliberate. I love that word when we talk about being mindful. That's what we're talking about being very deliberate going forward with an idea in your mind of what you're doing. Not just kind of going with the flow. I think we so often we get caught up in the busyness of life. And the day-to-day and we just were not connected. And even with what we're doing, you know, like you drive home from work and we pull in the driveway and we went well, I don't remember driving home. But here I am like we just yeah kind of spaced out and just keep going on that sort of treadmill and it's really important to you take some time to pause and be connected to what we're doing be connected to being more intentional.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:03:21] Yes, I very much agree. And right now with the shutdown's that are happening everywhere and we're Sheltering in our homes. This is the time where we are being forced to slow down and stop and figure all of that out. So it's an interesting time.

Penny Williams: [00:03:39] As we're recording this, we are thick in the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. So a lot of us are having to shelter in place self quarantine. It's Crazy crazy time and our kids are out of school and many are trying to school at home. And that is quite challenging. A lot of us are finding that that is harder than we thought it would be but that's kind of the reality of our world right now is we're recording this episode. And so, you know, this is an even more powerful conversation for for what we're going through at this time as well. Do you want to maybe share your story of how connection with your kid?

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:04:24] Yeah, I'd love to so my oldest daughter. She was diagnosed with ADHD at 7:00 and right about the time she turned three. We just had huge problems with her just butted heads from 3 to 7 in ways. I just didn't I didn't think Parenthood was like that. She was explosive. I found myself being explosive back to her and it was it was a really difficult time and Before that I went into Parenthood thinking, you know, you can control children you can get your children to do what you want them to do. And and that's the right thing to do. That's what I thought and when she was a toddler even this I cringe at this memory, but I read in a in a parenting book that when you're when your toddler so one and two-year-old child when they are doing inappropriate things such as throwing food from the high. Chair and I laughed now because I don't think it's possible for a one or two year old to do anything inappropriate. They are learning about their world and they ain't they can't like they don't have that moral compass to know yet. So so I laugh about that but I bought into it. So the the advice was if your child is being inappropriate you need to remove yourself from them and they will get the message that when they do this bad behavior. They lose their mother or their father. Hmm and they will learn from that and they Stop doing the behavior. And so I bought into that and I tried it and it did not work. It might it might know. Yeah, it might have worked with my second child. My second child really wants to please and she can remember consequences and she can remember rewards and punishments and and all of that and so it might have worked for her. But when I say worked, I mean that in the sense that she might have stopped doing the behavior, but it would not have worked for her emotional well-being. Right, right. Right, so but my my oldest was the one who has ADHD and it did not work for her. It made her cry harder. It made her cling to me when I finally went back. It's heartbreaking. Now when I think back to to what I did it was it was kind of like dog training I think and it does not work for children and it was all you need to do at the time.

Penny Williams: [00:06:39] Yeah, you were parenting you were doing your best with the information you had.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:06:45] Right and I eventually discarded that theory and that advice thankfully. I only did it a few times but I think I kind of kept that mentality in in other ways. So I she grew up. You know, I took away her favorite stuffed animal if she did something that I didn't want her to do or or I would put her in her room and force her to stay in there, you know, just lots of removing. There was my my whole approach was to remove myself remove her removes a privilege remove a toy and it did not work for her because she has ADHD. HD and she could not remember those consequences she could not remember it and all she knew was it was terrible in the moment. And so it made her be explosive and our meltdowns lasted for hours and I'm sure a lot of your I'm sure you understand that a lot of people listening understand that they lasted so long and so we finally had her diagnosed with ADHD at 7:00 and I went to a therapist it was a play therapist and it was kind of just you know, throw a dart on the wall and Got this play therapist and we were so lucky because she was amazing and we went to her and I just kind of thought I'd drop my daughter off and the therapist would fix her and be fine and but the therapist wanted to

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:08:06] do a wanted me to participate in this play therapy, and I didn't really love that idea, but I thought well she knows what she's talking about. So we did and it was great. She had us do she taught me to connect with her so she had Has do these connection activities where we would like pull a card out of a bag and it would tell us something to do. So maybe we would like rub lotion on each other's hands or maybe we would tell a story or tell a memory a specific memory of something and it was really really sweet and and really healing and the therapist told me after she observed this for awhile. She said, you know, I miss this makes me choke up as I say it but she said your daughter loves you so much. She Doors you and I was taken aback because I knew I loved her and I knew theoretically my daughter loved me, but we weren't experiencing that deep love and connection and and there was so much anger and hostility at home that we just we were feeling those feelings. And so it didn't occur to me that my daughter like loved and adored me which is crazy to say now, but it just that wasn't happening at home. And so It kind of woke me up. And I thought I have a huge power here. My daughter loves me and adores me. I can use that to help us form a connection. I can use that to build this long-lasting relationship or I can use that to to hurt her unintentionally, of course, but if I keep if I keep pulling away from her and pulling that love away from her what I'm doing is I'm using that love that she has for me to hurt her. Yeah, and so that woke me up. And so after after we had some sessions where we connected in the these positive ways the therapist started talking to me about let's connect during the bad times and I thought what and she said when your daughter is having one of these big meltdowns. Can you go to her and hold her and hug her and I thought that was the craziest thing because these meltdowns lasted for hours and I thought I can't hold her for two hours. I can't I can't do that, but she asked me to just try it. And time it yeah, she's like time it I'm curious about how long it takes. So the next time my daughter was melting down about something I ran over to her. I hugged her and I looked at my watch and she cried for what felt like a long time and it was loud and it was hard but it was only five minutes it was done in five minutes and I was yeah, I was shocked and so I continued to do that each time and it kind of became This thing like, oh, I'm going to rush I'm going to rush over to her and they got shorter and shorter and shorter to where she didn't need me that much when she was feeling that anymore. She just if I was there she could calm down and the therapist taught me that connection is helping her brain restructure itself so that she can self soothe and she can self-regulate and that was mind-blowing to me.

Penny Williams: [00:11:18] Yeah, and you were really Co-regulating in Those moments, you were providing your regulation and kind of that Benchmark for her when she couldn't get there on her own. Yes. I often call a call it being the calming anchor for our kids when we can stay calm and be more Mindful and rational in those moments instead of mirroring their intensity. Then we're being this calming kind of force in those moments. And that's what you were doing. You were bringing that calming Force you're bringing loving connection. You were in the even sensory when my when my son was little I started doing the same thing. I just started grabbing him in squeezing because he's very much a sensory Seeker, you know, he has wait a blanket. He's always jumping around and all of those things and so I said well, maybe a big squeeze and some sensory input would help. Help when he's melting down and it we had the same result if I would grab him and squeeze and hold on. It lasted minutes instead of hours.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:12:32] Oh, I love that. Yeah, that's such a testament to how this really does work. It's that you being with them helps them not have to fight and not have to not have to go to that place in their brain where they lose control we can help them gain that control.

Penny Williams: [00:12:52] Yeah, and what we're saying to them through those actions is honoring who they are and what is happening to them at that moment we're honoring their feelings their intensity instead of saying, you know, you're acting like a baby or you're being unreasonable, you know, all the things that are really easy for us as parents to go to in these moments. We are instead saying we get it and it's okay. And were honoring what's happening and that's so so powerful. You know, the opposite is saying I'm not okay with who you are right now, like walking out of the room if she's doing something that was unacceptable. Basically that's giving the message. I don't like who you are right. Now. I'm gonna like be around you which ties back into mr. Rogers and I I like you just the way you are which I did a whole podcast episode on not too long ago because I realized that so often that's the message that we're giving our kids that we don't like who they are at least at certain times when we're trying to correct in those more authoritarian ways. That's really the message we're giving Which is so hurtful.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:14:13] Yeah,

Penny Williams: [00:14:14] But I wanted to to add about this rushing over and grabbing our kids and hugging them, there are some kids that that makes it worse. My son has been both at different times. We've gone through the spectrum of both ends of that there were times where he would just wanted to be alone and work through it himself and there were times where if I walked away it was going to be, you know twice as long and twice as intense, so you really have to, you know work with your child and get to know it. They may just really prefer that you're there but you're not interacting versus Has and what I would say in those times was I want to help you and if you feel like you need my help, let me know because when I was pushing my help, it was making it worse.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:15:03] Yes. I agree. My little boy, he's five now, and when he was three, this was kind of when I had kind of learned this with his older sister. He was two or three and so I was trying it out on him and he didn't always want me there. He he would walk away from me. And so what I would do is I would just plant myself somewhere where he could see me and I'd say I'm here and I'm ready for you when you're ready. And then sometimes he'd go away so he couldn't see me and but then I'd see him peek around the corner and he didn't over and he didn't over and he'd eventually come back to me. But I realized a hug is overwhelming to him in this moment or me me being right next to him is more than he wants to handle and so right but if I could still stay somewhere. And say that's okay. You can do what you want to do, but I'm here for you when you need me. He always came back and we were able to calm down together and work it out. And then another another thing is sometimes I don't feel like hugging either husband. He's a parent, you know, of course site. And so I think that's okay too. I think sometimes were too tired and and I think in those times we can do some variation as well, you know, just maybe put a hand on their shoulder or maybe even say Hey, I'm I'm not feeling really really good right now, but I want to listen to you and I want to be here for you, you know, but still trying to form a connection in a way that works for both ourselves. And for our kids I think is what's important.

Penny Williams: [00:16:35] Yeah, and being able to say I see that you're having a hard time and I'm having a hard time too. Yeah, that's great language often. We we hide that part of ourselves from our kids. We want to look like a perfect person to our kids. We don't want to be seen as fallible. But when we show our kids that we go through these things too and how we manage them appropriately at least most of the time because we all don't manage our feelings appropriately sometimes but letting them see that letting them see that human beings have emotions human beings make mistakes. Well, then it's giving them some relief. Yeah. I know that it's not just that. And they're not broken because they melt down they just don't have the tools yet to me an edge and sometimes even those of us who have the tools still meltdown. Yes. I personally had a meltdown a week ago when the virus started getting crazy in the United States and you could see that the economy was struggling and people were out of jobs. And I just was like, oh my gosh, this is so overwhelming. For me right now, and I'm so anxious and I just had to shut off for a little while. I had to be emotional. I had to sit with it for a couple hours. I didn't worry about doing work or anything else. I was just like I just have to just be for a minute, you know and get my bearings with this and if we need that sometimes our kids definitely need that too for sure. We just have to help them to know that it's okay.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:18:18] One thing I did too and I continue to do this as I was learning this I would share it with my daughter and I was really careful in how I said it but I one day sat her down and I said, I don't think I've done a good job of teaching you how to manage your emotions and I'm going to I'm going to do a better job at that and I'm going to be here with you as we learn how to do this. I kind of wanted to because for so long we had just been hit all been like you're bad. You're bad. It's your fault. All your fault and I wanted to take that away from her the message that I had given to her. I wanted to take that message away from her. And so so I said that to her and when you said the word really 15 minutes ago, that's what I saw in her. I saw her shoulders just relaxed. I saw her her her face relaxed and I don't know that she had been walking around thinking. Oh, my mom is holding me to too high of expectations, but she had been walking. Around with some sort of anxiety and when when I said hey, I don't think I've taught you how to handle your emotions. Well, I'm going to to be with you while we do this. It just relieved her and it gave her so much. Peace and I still this this was five years ago and I still will sit down with her sometimes when she she yelled a sibling or something and can't handle something that's going on ice. I'll tell her hey, you know what like you're 12 and and that's okay. You haven't learned all these skills yet. I'm here with you. Let's learn them together and she relaxes and that really sets in again and and she doesn't need to fight it anymore and we move on together. So I was just thinking that when you said that word relief and how we need it ourselves. So of course our children need it.

Penny Williams: [00:20:10] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think as human beings we all need validation. We all need to feel like our thoughts and emotions and feelings. How things are valid and when we're talking about kids with ADHD who have a developmental delay and are often two or three years or more behind their peers in different areas of development, like emotional regulation and self-control. Then we feel like their feelings their emotions their the way that they're communicating them are inappropriate because their ofter often something that would typically be seen in a younger child behind we have to constantly kind of have that reminder for ourselves that our kids are really behind in these areas. They should not you know, nine-year-old should not be expected to be managing their emotions as a nine-year-old when they have ADHD or Autism. It just isn't likely to be the case. I see I can't say nobody with ADHD could manage their emotions age appropriately, but I've never Encountered anybody in 11 years of doing this work. So I feel like it's very unlikely but I won't say that it's impossible. But so we have to just really really really connected in mindful to that information when we're in these moments because that will help us to behave in the ways that you're outlining in these moment remembering that. Okay. My kid is 9 I'm looking at a 9 year old but I'm really probably dealing with a five or six year old. Ready needs so much easier to do the right thing right and to not try to rationalize. I am the queen of rationalizing and getting things done and working them out and not even stepping away. Like I want resolution immediately. That's my personality. And so for the longest time everytime I sun melted down. What was I doing? I was trying to talk him out of melting down. And what did that do? It made it worse because his frontal lobe wasn't even accessible for him, too. Been processed what I was saying and so I was just overwhelming him more and making it worse and I had to learn that that was not going to work for my kid that was you know, it wasn't that he was choosing to have these intense emotions or meltdown. It wasn't really within his control and knowing that made it so much easier not easy but easier to be more appropriate in The ways that we're talking about in those times, right?

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:22:53] It's like Dr. Ross Greene says, "kids do well if they can," and I think you worded it, "They're not giving you a hard time. They're having a hard time."

Penny Williams: [00:23:04] right and which I got from someone else.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:23:05] Did you? Okay? So those two phrases run through my mind all day long? Yes, they stopped me from correcting because when my when my twelve-year-old is screaming like like a nine-year-old about something really small I think Do well if they can she's not giving me a hard time. She's having a hard time and then that makes me feel empathy for her and then it makes me want to connect with her instead of hey go to your room, you know, or hey, I'm taking away internet time from you. It just it makes me feel for her. So it's good for her and it's good for me because I feel love and empathy for her and I want to connect to her and help her through this

Penny Williams: [00:23:47] And its really you as a parent self-regulating like when we We break it down in the ways that we break it down for our kids. We are self-regulating by using these reminders and those you know, little phrases. I use that they're not giving me a hard time to having a hard time in my mind over and over all the time. That is my barometer for behavior. When I'm dealing with something with my son. I say okay. He's having a hard time. What is Going on. What is it that he's struggling with? And this is again kind of raw screens approach you are looking at what is triggering this Behavior instead of responding or really usually we're reacting to the behavior. We're taking time to remind ourselves that yes, they're having a hard time which is then triggering that next step of what is causing them to have a hard time. What are they struggling with? And how can I help with that? That instead of "oh this intensity and reaction is not appropriate and I have to stop it," because that's where I can typically goes as a parent. Yeah. I've never been able to figure out who to attribute that quote to.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:25:06] It helps me every day.

Penny Williams: [00:25:08] Yes. Yes, and I you know, there were times where I wrote it down and stuck it on the wall or you know, like my mirror in my bathroom and I'm like just remember. Yeah, it'll be hard sometimes but this Why it's hard that y piece I think is everything for us as parents of challenging kids. Yes, because when we start looking at it in that way, we're no longer taking the behavior personally.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:25:32] Yes, and you know, we had an experience with this just last night when you say it helps the parent to self-regulate. It really does my eight-year-old was freaking out at us because she says she can't sleep at night and we're going through this this whole pandemic and I think it Has to do with that but yeah, but she just was it was time for bed and we were telling her. Okay. Just don't get out of bed to come tell us you can't sleep at night because as soon as you get out of bed, you're not going to be able to sweep, you know, we were just kind of saying that right before bed. Just kind of laying a rule like let's not get out of bed tonight and she melted down hugely. I could not understand where it came from and I felt myself getting upset and tense and starting to Admonish her and starting to want to be critical of her behavior. And then I the phrase went through my mind kids do well when they can and so I grabbed her and I hugged her and it calmed me down and of course it calmed her down to but it gave me that time to regulate myself and then feel that empathy for her and validate that whatever is going on in her mind. This reaction is a manifestation of something really We big in her mind and so then I was able to think about it and I thought we're going through a pandemic. She's probably feeling anxiety. And if I tell her she can't get out of bed when she can't fall asleep. She might be thinking she has to stay in bed awake all night long because she's not going to get her parents help. So at that point I was able to say is this what you're thinking and she said yes, and so then I said, well, I'll come and check on you. How about that? And she was fine then she felt everything. I was going to be okay, but I wouldn't have figured that out if I didn't regulate myself and then connect with her we wouldn't have figured that out. It would have been a big explosion for a long time. That wouldn't have resolved itself.


Penny Williams: [00:27:34] Yeah, I have used the phrase for years. How can I help you?" Because it shows empathy validation, but it's also saying okay. What can we do together to help you in this moment where you're struggling and then recently? Ali I read or heard somewhere and of course, I can't remember where but that we need to be asking how can you help you instead of how can I you know one thing that has come up recently in my son's therapy is that I'm an enabler still and I had been a helicopter parent when they were young and I recognized that that wasn't really teaching them how to be independent how to make decisions for themselves. How to do things for themselves sorry thought that I was a reformed helicopter parent, but now here I am realizing that I am still kind of an enabler because I am the one that my kids go to when they're struggling. They're immediately going to me and looking for help and my kids are 17 and almost 21. So I have kind of taught them that I can help them, which is amazing. Yeah, but they've then leaned on that and so they haven't necessarily developed very many of their own coping skills because they're still coming to me every time. They're anxious every time there's a problem. My son is a king of avoidance. So anytime something is uncomfortable. He's looking to me to get him out of the situation in some way. That's what was happening a lot with school avoidance and refusal and him constantly texting or calling me from We have to pick me up. You have to pick me up. Well, he was toxically stressed and about to lose it and he was looking for a way to avoid getting more intensely dysregulated and upset and his solution was for me to come get him out of it. And so now it's 17 we're struggling with that were you know, we're having to go back and say okay we have to learn some skills where you can help yourself. Not that I will not be your backup, but that I can't be your first Resort forever because you know, you're almost an adult and and it's not a good coping mechanism, you know, as adults. We know that we can't avoid our emotions about things because they're only going to fester and get worse right? And so, you know it just we have to really give them the skills. And so I'm trying to shift from asking, "how can I help you?" to, "how can I help you figure out how to help yourself in the situation?" So that's really valuable.

Penny Williams: [00:30:22] Yeah. So we're talking about what can he do to help and that's not to say that I can't also be part of that when he needs it. It's just to say that he has to have other strategies than just I'm going to find my mom and she's gonna fix it. She's gonna To help me and a lot of times. He couldn't leave school in the middle of the day every day for years on end because school avoidance has been an issue since fourth grade and wiring 11th, so it wasn't something that was a viable option anyway, and we've been working through a lot of that for a long time. But what I've learned from his new therapist lately is that I am still bailing him out and so he's still not really learning. How to deal with hard uncomfortable times and we're seeing that now in this situation so many families are seeing that where it's more stressful. We're all shut up in the house together. We're not leaving to go do things because of the virus and so it's even more of this intensity and needing to figure out coping strategies needing to figure out how to deal with hard times. Yesterday he said "well, I'm just going to quit school."

Penny Williams: [00:31:53] Because doing it all at home was super hard super uncomfortable. He was really overwhelmed. He was trying to do physics online which is just way too hard to do. You know, he was taking it in person for a reason and he is answer his coping mechanism was well, I'm just not going to do it. I'm done. No which isn't viable right? And so we have to be very careful as parents. I mean here I am with young adults. Kids and I'm just learning that I'm still enabling somewhat. I'm still preventing them from building those coping mechanisms on their own for learning how to self-regulate on their own to deal with anxiety. How do I call myself when I'm anxious? It can't be I need my mom, you know that. Yeah, basically that and so that's kind of our goal right now. And what we're working on is really figuring out how to move through discomfort and how to deal with hard times and there's nothing more appropriate at this moment than that really.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:33:01] Right, and I think that's really valuable to hear from you who your kids are a few years ahead of mine to hear that. This is something that's coming in the future that they have to step out on their own and they have to understand how to manage their own anxiety on their own and so as Talking about that. I'm thinking about how to do that in my home. And I think that connection is still that really good valuable first piece. And then like you say teach them what's your next step put that in their lap? What's your next step? So solve this problem and as their young I can still be with them as they do but gradually step back as they make their progress in this skill.

Penny Williams: [00:33:47] Yeah, and and that's not to say that we can't still be that loving presence and that we can't still be a calming anchor for our kids. It's just that they also have to develop their own strategies to manage these things when they're on their own when they can it be I don't want to say I was about to say when they can't come to us when we're not accessible. But even when we are accessible, they need to figure out how to help themselves first and we can kind of be an add-on a bonus. In that situation right that loving presence can be in addition to but they have to figure out how to cope with some of these things and building that connection then shows them that we're always there for them. We're always the backup. My daughter who's about to turn 21 and she's in college. She recently said something to me about she's always really resisted growing up and when I was her age like I couldn't be grown up an independent fast enough.

Penny Williams: [00:34:53] This generation, most of them are not that way. They put off learning to drive. They are still much more connected to parents and it's just really strange that to me, you know, because I wasn't that young adult, but she said something about you know, I'm about to lose my backup or I can't remember the exact words she is but basically she felt like as an adult there was no more safety net. Like we're always your parents were always your family. We will always support you and help you when you need it. That's what family does that's who parents are you're not guests going to get cut off like with that was her idea of what being an adult is. Once you're an adult you have to take care of yourself. You better figure out how to to take care of yourself because there's no backup. That was her hot so, you know, we still have to convey that we're always there for them and we always care and you know, we always are going to be that loving presence. We just also recognize that they need to be able to self-regulate. They need coping strategies that they can Implement solely on their own.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:36:16] Yeah. I that's that's such valuable insight into [my] future.

Penny Williams: [00:36:23] If only I had it when they were younger, the whole, "how can I help you?" thing. I've been using that for probably at least five years. I'm thinking man, if somebody would have told me this other way of implementing that but having them think about what they need back then, that would have been great, but we live and learn.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:36:49] Yes and learn as a group. Yeah, you can always improve there's always always chances to make your current situation better. So you learn and you make it better.

Penny Williams: [00:37:00] Yeah. Do you want to talk for a minute about some connection activities? I know that you had some ideas of activities that parents could do to connect and then also to talk about your Back and Forth Journal.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:37:13] Yeah. Sure. Thank you. So especially now. Well, I think we'll still be under quarantine when when this episode airs. Yes, and so we're all were all stuck in the house. Which you would think. Hey, this is we're going to connect all the time all day long. We're going to be connected but we're really not unless again we're deliberate about it because we all have our devices that were looking at and we're getting sucked into our phones and into activities kids have to do distant flirting and everything and our anxieties are high-end. Our tension is high. So some things that we can do during quarantine and just every time of our life Is we can especially if you have little kids you'll have to tell me if this would work for teenagers. This works really well for my kids when I named what we're doing as a special time. I say we're going to have 10 minutes of mom and Emma special time and she can pick whatever we're going to do and she anticipates it and it's only 10 minutes. It's super easy. She often will just have us to Mad Libs or will colors together or something like that, but there's really a huge power in naming it like This is my special time with you. Nothing is going to come and interrupt it. It's something you can even put on the calendar and that's something we can do at any time of our lives and it that's that's really been very helpful from kids the next day. They're happier. It kind of carries us for a while because I don't know what that work for teenagers. Do you think it can.

Penny Williams: [00:38:42] Yeah, let me see. The activity is probably going to look differently and those parents who don't game might be asked to play some video games or something. We have to be willing to do things that maybe you wouldn't use and your own spare time. But yeah, I think that even for young adults like when my daughter was struggling as a sibling of an atypical brother lots of anxiety and stuff and one thing that the therapist taught us is to have some time that is just for me and her and that cannot in any way being interrupted by her, brother. Or ADHD or Autism and I would ask her what she wanted to do. We would go and do that. Usually it involved chocolate or cake and cocoa somewhere and she just lit up and she even still now, you know, she's about to turn 21 and she still enjoys spending time together, you know, so in the house at her age and at a teenage, it's harder to do. I think there's a lot less. activities that we already have at home that we could do together, but board games is something you know, a lot of kids who are teens are adults a lot of adults love board games, you know, there's a lot of different things you could get involved with learning something watching YouTube videos or something, you know, or or watching a lot of kids just watch a ton of YouTube and they enjoy certain things watching certain types of things and you know, In them share that interest with you taking the time to say Hey, you know show me this thing that you're always talking about. Let's look at it together. I think I can totally work.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:40:32] A couple others are pause when they ask for you and I think again this would work for any age. My kids are always asking for me and I'm always pushing them off. You know, let me just finish this sentence if I'm writing or let me finish putting the dishes away or whatever. Yes, but I have found that. That when they ask for me if I just stop what I'm doing if I can and I go over to them. They don't need me for as long as I think they're going to need me and I can get back to what I was doing. But we also form a connection and they trust me and and they know that I'm there for them.

Penny Williams: [00:41:09] And it makes them feel really important.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:41:10] Right. Like their little dance move that they just made up is important and yep and I should pay attention to it. And that's that's something that has been really helpful. But connecting for me another one. I mentioned it before is to hug when they're upsets. If they let you if they allow that or to put your hand on their shoulder or something to connect in a way in that way. Another one is to give them a second chance to do whatever they messed up on correctly. So if they if they yell at their their sibling to not send them away but to go hug and say I don't think you meant to yell. Do you want to try and say it a different way? I'm like that but but to give them another chance to be connected with the family and and behave in the way that they probably wanted it to behave if they had they had been feeling more regulated and better.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:42:19] Yeah that's really helpful for us. Another one is to share your story with your kids. I use this a lot especially as my daughter is getting older and she might have problems with friends or problems at school and I say, oh gosh, I remember that too and I'll share a story a brief one because I don't want to take the attention away from what she's going through. But you know, yeah, there was this time that my friend did the same thing to me and it was really hard and then if she wants more information, I'll tell the whole story but most of the time that just connects us and she feels like I get her and we're okay and she can she can handle this situation, you know, and also to share stories that are just fun, you know, when you're around the dinner table just share a silly story from your pastor from your day. Just letting your children know you is really important. It gives them a sense of self. They see you as a person and it helps that helps you connect as two people and then the last One is to leave notes for them. And this is something you can do at any time. You can just write a little note and put it on their pillow put on their mirror in their lunch, whatever. And they can be quick and might be "I love you" or it can be a long letter about everything you love about them.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:43:36] And that's that has been something all of my children cherish. Even when they're little I would just do a little smiley face and put it on their pillow something something like that and it's it's a fun way to Be connected when you're not in the same room, you know, they go and they discover it and they feel the love from their parents because their parents thought to do this for them and and you feel the love when you're writing it and so it's a really nice way to be connected and and you mentioned my back and forth Journal. That's something that a product that I created to help parents do this. So it had different prompts for kids and for parents and you can write back and forth to each other so it the parents prom It's a when I was a kid. I wanted to be this when I grow up and now that I'm a grown-up. I think it would be really cool to be this and then the next prompt it's to the kid was he what are three things you want to be when you grow up and then you leave it on each other's pillow so that when you go to bed, you see this this answer that your kid your kid put there for you and you can understand each other better and my yeah, it's been really fun. My I have one daughter who really struggles to express herself verbally and this journal has helped me understand what's going on in her mind in miraculous ways things. I didn't know about her at all. She has a really healthy self-esteem that I actually didn't know and then she has the major fears that I didn't know about and and I've discovered that by writing back and forth to each other. So that's been a huge powerful connection for us and our family.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:42:19] Another one is to share your story with your kids. I use this a lot especially as my daughter is getting older and she might have problems with friends or problems at school and I say, oh gosh, I remember that too and I'll share a story a brief one because I don't want to take the attention away from what she's going through. But you know, yeah, there was this time that my friend did the same thing to me and it was really hard and then if she wants more information, I'll tell the whole story but most of the time that just connects us and she feels like I get her and we're okay and she can she can handle this situation, you know, and also to share stories that are just fun, you know, when you're around the dinner table just share a silly story from your pastor from your day. Just letting your children know you is really important. It gives them a sense of self. They see you as a person and it helps that helps you connect as two people and then the last One is to leave notes for them. And this is something you can do at any time. You can just write a little note and put it on their pillow put on their mirror in their lunch, whatever just and they can be quick and just be I love you or it can

Penny Williams: [00:45:22] I love that journal so much. I love the idea and you're also practicing a positive attitude. You're probably practicing some gratitude and all of these things help that mindset that you're in when you're being grateful or you're happy or hopeful actually creates those connections in our brain, you know, our brain looks different when we're constantly. Versus constantly positive. Yes, we always talk about how you know negativity and positivity or self-fulfilling prophecies. And the reason that they are is actually scientifically based in your brain because you're making those neural connections based on kind of your feelings and your thoughts and your emotions and where they are consistently it's really fascinating. I just learned that not that long ago. Go that it's not just that we're getting kind of overwhelmed in the negativity and we just end up, you know, following that path because it's all wherever thinking about it's that your brain physiologically is actually changing to keep you in that place.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:46:41] That is so remarkable that I just I find that amazing that that our brain changes as we do these positive things, you know, that is that's so Telling we have so much power to change anything that's hard in our family hard in our life Hardware children because the brain is evidence of that the brain physically changes when we when we make these changes.

Penny Williams: [00:47:04] Right and that's not to say that we're going to change our child's ADHD or learning disabilities. But is to say that we are figuring out how to live life well with them right and by having a more positive Of Outlook and practicing gratitude. It's much easier to live life. Well with them versus fighting them all the time and being very negative about them all the time. It's just going to keep you stuck in that place and when we're connecting with our kids were automatically building that positive piece. I bet we're automatically saying you matter your feelings are important to me what's important to you is important to me. We're just giving so many good messages. And your Journal is keeping that feeling going when your journaling with your child every day or every other day, you're constantly giving the message that their thoughts and feelings are important. They're important to you because you're asking them to share them with you super valuable. So that's just amazing. I did make a note about when you were talking about asking questions and sharing over the family dinner. They're actually games for that. They're actually card packs and other games on Amazon. I know in my experience right now getting things shipped to you. It's taking a lot longer but there are a lot of them available and I'll put a link up in the show notes. But you know, if that feels awkward to you or outside of your realm of comfort, there are tools there games you can get that will actually help facilitate that for you and if you don't have family dinner, You know at the age that my kids are and with my son's autism. He doesn't like to be questioned and typically at family dinner you like. How was your day? How was this how and he just got to a point a couple years ago where he said I'm not doing family dinner. I'm not letting their needy with you anymore. And so we've shifted away from that but there are other times if you're not sitting down and maybe your schedule is crazy not right now because we're not going anywhere but in the future that might inhibit family dinner, but there are other times to do that, you know breakfast or when you're just taking a minute going somewhere in the car. You can ask a couple of those questions and have that kind of conversation really anywhere.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:49:40] Yeah not all of us are designed to have these conversations naturally and there are tools out there like my back and forth Journal also. Lee helps facilitate some deep conversations with the with younger kids that you might not have otherwise because like I say, we don't all think about it all the time. It's not natural to all of us and that's okay because there's tools available to us

Penny Williams: [00:50:08] Mmm Yeah, I mean even being very openly loving and hugging is not natural for every parent and that's completely okay. You know, we're all different. That doesn't mean you don't love your child it. It just means that you're either going to show it in a different way or you're going to learn to be more of a hugger if you want to be, you know, if that's what the way you want to show it. It just takes practice, you know, again, it's being mindful of an intentional and deliberate about what we're doing and you know setting up kind of these goals or what we want for ourselves and our in our parenting our relationship with our kids and then making sure that in those really hard moments were taking a Pause so that we can then Implement those things that we want to be delivered and intentional about in the way that we respond to our kids.

Rebecca Brown Wright: [00:51:00] Yeah, that's so great.

Penny Williams: [00:51:45] I will see everyone on the next episode. Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share and don't forget to check out my online courses parent coaching and Mama Retreats at parenting ADHD and autism.com.

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

Pinpoint the
Help You Need
right now

Take my free quiz to cut through the overwhelm and get focused on the information and resources that will help you and your child RIGHT NOW.

free video series
Quick Start: 3 High-Impact Actions to Transform Behavior

Transforming negative or unwanted behavior is a long and complex process. HOWEVER, there are a few actions you can take right now that will provide a big impact. These 3 high-impact strategies address foundational aspects of behavior, empowering you to help your child feel better so they can do better.



Makes time visual for those with time blindness.


Blends gaming with off-screen activities to teach coping skills through play.


Manage chores and routines while building self-confidence and independence.


A chair that gives kids a sensory hug.

About the show...

I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

Listen on Apple Podcasts  |  Google Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  iHeart Radio

Share your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Start Typing