144: Creating Success for Your Child by Changing Your Lens, with The Behavior Revolution

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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

Parents get to choose how they view their child’s behavior. You can decide that they are behaving poorly or have “bad” qualities, like laziness. Or, you can take into account your child’s brain and biology and use it to guide how you view challenging behavior. It really is your choice to make.

In this first episode of the Behavior Revolution series on the Podcast, Sarah and I share how to choose and use the most effective view of behavior. You’ll learn about dysregulation and why your child acts the way they do and, most importantly, how to help your child feel better and do better.


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.

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

We’re Penny and Sarah, parenting coaches who help neurodiverse families like yours understand your child’s neurology and behavior, and shift your parenting to help your child thrive — without the frustration of trying to figure it out on your own. We’re also moms of boys with ADHD and/or autism, so we get it. We live it, too.



Sarah Wayland 0:03

If you are telling yourself the story that your child is just trying to push your buttons, as opposed to my child is really dysregulated right now, that's a really different story and your approach to it is going to be really different. It is a total game changer.

Penny Williams 0:21

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 a Holic 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 am excited today to have my good friend Sarah Wayland here of getting exceptional parents. And we are starting a new series that we hope to continue for a long time to come on the podcast. Once a month, we are going to do an episode on behavior. We have started together the new initiative, the behavior revolution, where we are looking at behavior through neuroscience, and a brain based lens and compassionately while honoring neuro diversity. So honoring who our kids are, and not trying to change them, but improve how they feel and how they do and what their life experiences like. And so we thought what better way to sort of weave in the behavior revolution here on the podcast, then to bring you several episodes on different topics around behavior, because what do we struggle with his parents, the things our kids say and do right and not understanding them or not being able to help them through them. So Sarah is here too. And we today are going to talk about creating success by using the brain based on lens to shift your parenting. And we will explain all about what that's about. But we wanted to just say this will be a monthly series. So be sure that you're tuning in, you're subscribed and you're able to listen to these episodes. I know they're gonna be super, super informative. So, Sarah, where should we jump in? And should we start with defining the brain based lens and maybe talk about the behavior lens as well?

Sarah Wayland 2:33

Yeah, sure, that sounds like a great idea.

Penny Williams 2:35

So the behavior lens is the big No, no behavior lens is the one that we don't want you to use. That's looking at your child's behavior, as just what you see on the surface and judging it. You're seeing things like anger, frustration, lashing out yelling, not responding to super sad, not listening and following instructions. And when you put the behavior lens on that, then that judgment is clouding those things. And they come up looking like a poor character, laziness, disrespect, choosing not to do what you're asking. defiance and opposition also go in that bucket. So you're saying my kid is disrespectful, my kid is oppositional. And what we know about kids who are neuro diverse who have ADHD, maybe autism, is that there's much more to the story. And that isn't true, that isn't true for the majority of the time. So why don't you talk about the brain baseline, Sara, and the way that we need to be looking at the behaviors that we're seeing on the surface.

Sarah Wayland 3:47

Okay, so the brain based lens will take those same kinds of behaviors not responding to you, acting out in frustration, being angry, or lashing out, not listening, really emotional. And instead of attributing character flaws to them, instead, we're thinking about what is it about the person's brain or biology that's actually leading to those kinds of behaviors. So, for example, it might be that they can't do what you're asking them to do. So it's a lagging skill. Or it might be that the sensory world is overwhelming for them in that moment, or that you're expecting more of them than they can handle or with developmental delays. You see other seven year olds able to do something and your kid can't do it. But they'll be able to do it later than that's delayed maturity, and you're expecting more of them than their brain can handle right now. Maybe they feel misunderstood. Their autonomic nervous system might be triggered and we'll talk a little bit more about what that means. But basically, it means shifting into fight flight or freeze, which is not a willful response. It's just how your brain copes with feeling threatened. Your child may also have poor first Tolerance or emotional dysregulation, and something I wanted to bring up is that, these are different stories we tell ourselves about why our kids are behaving a particular way. So the behavior lens tells a story about their character. And the brain based lens sees that same behavior, but through biology.

Penny Williams 5:21

Yeah. And it's so important that you brought up the story that we tell ourselves, that's exactly what we're doing when we decide what we think about a behavior. So we're either deciding that our child is disrespectful or a, quote, bad kid. And that's the story, we're telling ourselves, we're choosing that message that interpretation, or we can tell ourselves, a story about how our child's brain works differently. And sometimes they're super sensitive, and their autonomic nervous system gets triggered. And that's causing behavior, or they're dysregulated. And they're very different stories. And they're going to provide you with very, very different outcomes, right?

Sarah Wayland 6:07

Yeah. And your kid takes that story into. So that's the other danger of that is, just as you have a story, your kid starts having that same story. Oh, I can't do that. Because I'm lazy. As opposed to I can't do that, because I don't understand what you want me to do. Those are very different stories. And if your kid tells himself that he's lazy, then over time, he'll start being lazy. And so that's really important to remember that the story you tell yourself is also the story your kids are hearing?

Penny Williams 6:39

Mm hmm, exactly. They're forming their self worth and their self esteem, by the feedback and the input that they're getting from the caregivers and adults around them and the kids around them, too. Yeah. So it's really important in that regard as well. The other thing I wanted to mention to you about it is that by seeing our kids through the brain based lens by understanding that there's more to the story, there's something going on underneath, that what we're seeing is a symptom, communicating that there's something else. We're also communicating to our kids, that we see them, we hear them, we understand them, we're in their corner, we've got their back, we love them, we're letting them know, that they are seen and heard. And that is monumentally valuable for all of us as human beings. But also, it's very, very important during development, that's going to affect a child's brain development one way or the other, the more that they feel comfortable and feel good about themselves versus the opposite. Mm hmm.

Sarah Wayland 7:49

Yeah. And I think that's such a big point, Penny, that kids who feel loved and seen, are going to naturally be calmer than kids who feel misunderstood and unseen.

Penny Williams 8:01

Mm hmm. And your relationship, let's not forget our relationship with our kids, right? Like, imagine the relationship you have with your child. When you're using a behavior lens versus a brain based lens. It's totally different. And I'll tell you, Sarah, and I will both tell you connection with our kids genuine connection is going to make a monumental difference in behavior, when our kids feel like they can trust us and they feel like they can come to us and talk to us. And we're really going to listen. And we're really going to be compassionate and empathetic and hopeful. That goes such a long way for our relationship that which then helps so many other things, right, not to mention that that's truly what we want as parents is to have a good relationship with our kids, right? That's fulfilling for us to

Sarah Wayland 8:50

Right that guiding relationship, we want to be able to help our kids to do better. But if they don't like us, they're not going to care what we think. And so it's making it so that they actually enjoy your company and you enjoy their company makes a big difference, because then it's easier for them to take in information like hmm, I guess I should do my homework or whatever.

Penny Williams 9:19

Mm hmm. So let's talk about some examples of reframing behavior. So changing our lens, from behavior base to brain based, why don't you start with one zero.

Sarah Wayland 9:32

So an example might be that your kid is not getting started on their science fair project. So it's not science fair time of year right now, but it will be before you know it. So you might be thinking that your kid isn't getting his science project done because he's lazy and not motivated. And so you might think to yourself, Well, he needs to quit being so lazy and his lack of motivation is going to be a huge problem when he's an adult in the real world. And wouldn't be a behavior or a character, attribution, but a brain based approach would be, like, Penny, what would you say instead? For a brain based approach?

Penny Williams 10:12

I would look at lagging skills and executive functioning first and foremost. So can my child get started on his own? Can he chunk the project and plan it and be able to manage the project? until completion? Is he overwhelmed and avoiding because he's overwhelmed? For my own son, it would be dysgraphia in handwriting and having to do a display poster? Yeah, would be harder. So maybe asking the teacher if he can pivot to a PowerPoint, instead of a poster project? There's so many different things. And it depends on each of our independent kids. But, I would start with maybe unmet needs first, is he hungry? Is he tired? Does he have what he needs to be able to do? Well, and then I would look at executive functioning. And that task initiation, planning and organization skills, and then from there move on to how do I support and scaffold so that this is doable? Yeah, for him, because clearly, that behavior is telling me that it's not doable under the current circumstances,

Sarah Wayland 11:25

Right. And, one that took me forever to figure out with my kids was sensory stuff. So when they would get overwhelmed with sensory information, I'll just use as an example, my younger son, he's very sensitive to sound. And I would take him to things that I thought were going to be fun for him as a kid, like a carnival, or, an outdoor concert or something like that. And he would get so overwhelmed with the sound that he would scream and run away. And, basically was saying I need out of here. But what I saw was a kid who didn't know how to behave in a public situation. And so I was like, well, he has terrible manners. And he's not, has no self control and things like that. But in fact, what it really was was auditory sensory overwhelm. Yeah, he just wasn't able to manage it. He was dysregulated. Yeah,

Penny Williams 12:20

I think that's a good segue, we need to talk a little bit about regulated versus dysregulated. Because when we're seeing these behaviors, our kids are dysregulated, they're having a hard time. And a lot of the times that is because their autonomic nervous system has alerted, right, their body has automatically said something is wrong here. And that's causing dysregulation. In our behavior revolution system, in course that we launched a couple of months ago, we made a tool for this called the behavior wheel. And it shows three states basically, of regulation, you've got green, which is calm and connected. So they're regulated, they're doing okay, they're feeling okay, then we have the orange zone, which is activated. So now they're dysregulated. And this is the fight or flight sort of area. And then we have the red zone, which is freeze or shut down. And that is a different type of dysregulation. It's a different response from the body, but it's also dysregulation. And so when you see behavior happening, being able to figure out which state of regulation or dysregulation they're in, can be very helpful to figure out what is going on for them. What is that brain based lens telling us?

Sarah Wayland 13:45

Yeah, and one of the things that took me forever in a day to learn is that the kids who shift into freeze, very often teachers love those kids, because they say they're, quote, well behaved. Right? And it's not that they're well behaved. It's that they're frozen in fear and not making trouble for the rest of the classroom. But they're also certainly not learning anything.

Penny Williams 14:06

Yeah. And those kids are falling through the cracks, but they're struggling and suffering. And we have to really take notice that sometimes kids are compliant, because they're doing well and they can do well. And sometimes kids seem compliant because they just can't handle and they're not showing you that they can't handle it. They're just frozen from not being able to handle it. And I think those kids slipped through the cracks so very much. Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah Wayland 14:37

I was just thinking to that, if you have a kid who's quote, refusing to do something, that can be because they're frozen. Yeah, but it can also be that they're not like, the class is going bonkers. And they're just sitting frozen in their chair and the teacher might be well, he's always, sitting quietly in his chair. It's like, um, maybe that's a problem. If everybody else is running around like a nut.

Penny Williams 15:04

Yeah. And it could also be, the kid who's running laps around the room, yeah, they're not really refusing to do their work. They're needing, that sensory input, or they're overwhelmed by the activation that they're feeling. They're dysregulated, they cannot sit still and calm. So, knowing those different states of our nervous system is monumentally empowering for parents. And that's really the shift that we have to make, we have to shift to using a brain based lens always. And looking at Okay, so now I know that my kid is dysregulated. How, what's going on for them underneath? Yeah, right? what is causing the dysregulation? What does that look like on the surface that I'm seeing? And how do I help them to regulate? What can I do to help in those cases, and that's going very deep into the process for sure of working on changing behavior and improving behavior and helping our kids just feel better in general. But it's important to note that that's kind of what we're talking about here is a deeper, much deeper dive in seeing behavior is communication,

Sarah Wayland 16:14

Rght? So some of the behaviors that you might see in fight or flight is, obviously, punching other people is in sight, or running away, or as it's called eloping. So you'll hear teachers talk about children who elope. But they might also just look stressed out, or, you just mentioned needing to move, the body knows what it needs to do to self regulate. And the problem is that we look at that self regulation attempt as being disobedient, when in fact, it's really the body's attempt to regulate. So this needing to move thing or fidgeting, or even fighting with another kid. And one you alerted me to that I just love is the mother hen, where you have a kid who's trying to control everything, and just kind of worrying about every little thing. And then trying to, make sure everybody does what they're supposed to do. Just being agitated or frantic, jumping out of your skin, or just tense, like, that kid who looks tense, those are all things I've seen in kids who are in that fight or flight mode. So what do you see in the shutdown or freeze mode?

Penny Williams 17:25

Yeah, so that would be a child who looks frozen, like just isn't really doing much of anything, they might describe themselves as numb, or disoriented or dissociated, they would be mobile, maybe rigid, but also floppy. It's interesting, these different things can look totally different in different kids, a kid in shutdown could be floppy, or a kid could be rigid, and it could be the same sort of state of their nervous system. Yeah, we also have things like, freezing to avoid, avoidance is always, there's always a reason for it. And it's not laziness, and procrastination, and, and so that avoidance can be an either zone here, and either state fight or flight or the free shutdown, terror, deer in headlights, we all kind of know what that means. Just being frozen at what's happening, or what's coming. Those are all different signals that you might see as a parent that are letting that your child is dysregulated. And then what type of dysregulation, what state is their nervous system, and then that helps you to figure out what can I do to help my child regulate now, what might be useful, if your kid is frozen, and telling them to go jump on a trampoline, probably not going to work, right. But if your kid is super activated, they need to move to calm down, jumping on a trampoline would be fantastic. You really have to know your child, and you really have to know what's going on for them as far as their brain and their biology.

Sarah Wayland 19:05

So that really gets to, something that I find takes a lot of finesse as a parent, which is knowing your own child and what will help them shift back into a more regulated state. And it's really, really different for every kid. Yeah, so like for my older son, what helps him honestly, sometimes it's just time. So I'm constantly surprising him, say, like, I'll come into his room when it's dinnertime and just say, hey, it's dinner time. But if I interrupt him when he's deep in something, he gives me that frozen look like he'll pull out and look at me, but I can tell he isn't really there. Yeah. And so I just have to pause and wait for him to get his body back, with us, and then I can talk again, so for him, he shifts into that mode really fast. But my younger son, he's not a freezer. He's a yeller. And so, if I went in and said, it's dinnertime, he's like, I'm, I'm on it, I'm on it. And then I can say, Sorry, didn't mean to upset you. And he's like, okay, okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but staying calm myself, instead of, Hey, don't talk to me like that, yeah, or whatever, right. So just kind of being able to say, you don't have to treat me like that. But in a calm voice, as opposed to countering with similar intensity definitely helps.

Penny Williams 20:33

You want to take some time and some experimentation to figure out what is going to be helpful for your child and what is actually going to cause dysregulation. occupational therapy can really help with some of that all the sensory based stuff, you can work with an OT, your child can work with an OT to come up with some strategies there. And some of it is just really getting to know your kid and probing deeper. Okay, my child is refusing there's that word to do his math worksheet. Why? Just asking why, and asking your child what might help a lot of kids can really answer that question in an effective, meaningful way. Right? You can ask them, Okay, I see that you're having a hard time getting started with your math, what's going on? How can I help, right? And listen,

Sarah Wayland 21:22

And really listen, because sometimes they say crazy things. And you're like, what? That doesn't make any sense. So if you don't understand what they're saying, like ask for clarification. Don't assume that they're saying something Goofy, or or nonsensical, you know, hmm.

Penny Williams 21:37

And kids, as little as 567 years old, can tell you when their body needs to move, they can tell you when their classwork is overwhelming, they really can give you some very valuable insights. So don't rule out asking them because they're a little, even I think sometimes kids as little as three and four can really say something that we're like, oh, that's why this is happening, ust just a little clearer. Sometimes. It's all we need as parents to really help us understand.

Sarah Wayland 22:11

Yeah, and I think one of the things that's so hard about this is every child is so so different. And so, people say, Well, what is the thing I need to do for my kids? To make this work better? And I wish I could say there's one answer for every kid, for all kids, but it's not the case, each kid is going to need something a little different. And, that's part of part of parenting is figuring that out.

Penny Williams 22:40

Our kids are super complex. Yes, super complex. And it can be a real hurdle for us as parents, right, it can be very challenging. But that's why you have to do all this work and shifting, the lens in which you're looking at behavior, shifting your mindset as a parent and approaching behavior in a completely different way. And, we've talked about so much here, we talked about the different states of regulation, we actually created a behavior wheel for parents to use, that's part of our behavior revolution program, so that you can use that as a reference and a guide to say, Okay, my kid is like, rigid, what's going on? And that'll help you determine that, Oh, this is probably shut down or freeze. What happened that caused them to get into the state of their nervous system? And then Okay, what can I do? Or how do I support them and what maybe they can do to get regulated? There's a lot of work to be done. There's a lot of layers, which is why we do what we do, right? It's why we make courses and tools and help parents and there is a lot more there that's available if you're interested at the behavior revolution, comm slash course. But you can take what we've given you here and start implementing it. It's really, I think, once you understand everything, everything else gets easier. It falls into place. Would you say that's true, Sarah?

Sarah Wayland 24:12

Oh, my gosh. Absolutely. Yeah. And it is truly about the story. You tell yourself. Like it took me forever to realize that I was making everything worse, by telling myself stories, like, my child will never be able to do this. Yeah. Or, or they're doing it to get to me. Like if you are telling yourself the story that your child is just trying to push your buttons, as opposed to my child is really dysregulated right now. It's a really different story. And your approach to it is going to be really different. So yeah, it is a total game changer.

Penny Williams 24:50

Yeah, we've given you a lot of information and knowledge and insight here and there's 140 some other podcasts at this point that also offer a whole lot, Sara and I've done a couple other episodes on behavior. And the episode with Mona della hook was really great on the autonomic nervous system and behavior. There's many resources out there. So we just want to share the information far and wide, but also let you know that we do, you now have a program that can help you with that, if you're interested. So I think we're gonna wrap up here, we could talk for years about behavior, Sarah and I and Helen. It took us a couple years to get the program and the tools built and together, because there was so much to it, and we really wanted it to be so. So sort of a guide, we really wanted parents to be able to work through it. And it be, I don't want to say easy, but it be laid out for you, right, so that you can get through it as easy as possible. But nothing about parenting our kids is really easy. So for the show notes for this episode, where I will have links to the behavior revolution website and that material, as well as to the course. And anything else that we've talked about here. You can go to parentingADHDandautism.com/144, Episode 144. And Sara and I will be back again next month. And we'll talk about another topic around behavior and addressing behavior while still honoring our kids neuro diversity and who they are. So we will see you guys then and I'll see everyone on the next episode. See you then. Bye.

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

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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