241: Building Habits Using Emotional Rewards, with Leslie Josel

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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

In this episode of Beautifully Complex, Leslie Josel and I explore the crucial role of emotional rewards in building habits and fostering positive behavior in neurodivergent children. We highlight the significance of specific praise, genuine curiosity, and active listening in reinforcing routines and solidifying relationships.

The conversation also delves into the challenges of effective communication and the importance of providing space for children to process. You’ll get practical insights and strategies, and be empowered with valuable tools to support your child’s development and nurture meaningful connections.

3 Key Takeaways


Emotional Rewards for Habit Formation: It’s important to use emotional rewards, such as immediate and sincere praise, to help neurodivergent children solidify positive habits. These emotional rewards are more effective than tangible rewards and help children form lasting, positive routines.


Meaningful and Specific Praise: It’s important for parents to avoid diluting praise with criticism and to be genuinely curious and interested in a child’s thoughts and accomplishments to reinforce positive behaviors.


Communication and Listening: Effective communication and active listening is crucial. It’s important for parents to create open spaces for their children to talk, process, and be heard without being overwhelmed with conversation or immediate problem-solving.

What You'll Learn

The “sandwich” method to provide constructive feedback, using positive statements before and after offering suggestions, a valuable tool in communicating with your kids.

The importance of associating positive feelings with good behaviors, and the significance of using emotional rewards to help form positive habits.

Insights into the concept of emotional rewards and how they can be more effective than tangible rewards for neurodivergent children, including actionable strategies for implementing emotional rewards in building habits.

How to use meaningful praise that connects with your children, and how it impacts their behavior and perception of interactions.

The challenges of communicating with children who need time to process, and the importance of providing them with space and time during conversations.

The importance of body language, listening, and non-verbal communication in conversations with your children, and how these elements can positively impact your relationship.

The significance of catching yourself before diluting praise with criticism.


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.

Other resources go here.

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

Leslie Josel

Leslie Josel, an award-winning ADHD-student and parenting coach, is the founder of Order Out Of Chaos® – a company whose mission is to help parents guide their students to success in learning and in life. She’s the author of three books, creator of the award-winning “Academic Planner: A Tool For Time Management®,” and an internationally acclaimed speaker.

Leslie has been named as one of the top time management experts in the world by Global Gurus seven years in a row. She continues to learn from her audiences, sharing her observations with readers of ADDitude Magazine in her weekly “Dear ADHD Family Coach®” column.



Leslie Josel [00:00:03]: We do a lot of talking, and I have this great acronym that I use called, wait, why am I talking? And I love it because I think that's probably one of the biggest things. Parents wanna fix things. They wanna correct things. They wanna problem solve things, and sometimes your kid just needs to talk and you need to nod.

Penny Williams [00:00:24]: Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids Straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to the Beautifully Complex podcast. I am super excited to have Leslie Josel back here with us For this episode, she has been on the podcast before in lots of our neurodiversity summits and Always teaches me some new strategy every time we talk. Even in all the years that I've been in this work and obsessed with Figuring things out, right, and helping my own kid. I always learn a new strategy every time we talk, so I'm really excited because we're gonna all learn something new today together.

Penny Williams [00:01:23]: So will you start, Leslie? Just tell everybody who you are and what you do.

Leslie Josel [00:01:26]: I'm Leslie Josel. I am, by trade, a ADHD student coach as well as a parent and coach. But I am the principal quarter out of chaos, and we are a very large global virtual community for parents and students and related professionals. And I always say, it's where you come to help yourself help your student. And everything we do is virtual, so we offer products and programs, workshops, webinars, and a ton of coaching, both for students and for parents. And I also write the dear ADHD family coach column for Attitude Magazine. Right. So that somehow some people know me.

Leslie Josel [00:02:06]: I bring a's to your q's. So we do that too. So and I love being here. Penny, you are, like, I always say, you are, like, a beacon. You are who I look up to. And I feel like I always learn something when I'm on in your orbit. So thank you for having me.

Penny Williams [00:02:22]: Mutual admiration. Yes.

Leslie Josel [00:02:24]: Very much so. And I don't say that all the time. Right. I'm a straight shooter. I am. People say that about me. Like, Leslie leaves nothing for chance. And so I don't say that all the time, and I think you are.

Leslie Josel [00:02:36]: But that's it. Okay.

Penny Williams [00:02:39]: So We're talking about building habits using emotional rewards. And yeah. Like, habits, I think, are the Key for our kids, for the parenting that we have to do, routine structure to create habits. Because When we're struggling with, like, working memory, right, if I am on autopilot because this process is a habit for me, I I don't have to rely on my working memory. So that's no longer a hurdle. Right?

Leslie Josel [00:03:11]: It lightens the load.

Penny Williams [00:03:13]: Exactly. Right. Right. Yeah. So tell us about Emotional rewards first. What do you mean by that?

Leslie Josel [00:03:20]: So here's a lot what I mean when and you know this, Penny, because you and I play in the same based in the sense of parents. And Yeah. I think if you really break it down, what we hear all the time from parents is, I really would love my child We always say students. I'm just gonna say what order would at order out of chaos, we call them students because that's tend to who we focus on. So a parent will say, I really want my students over to get up in the morning and on their own or get out the door without, you know, being prompt dependent or whatever it is, whatever it is you really want. So if you really drill that statement down, and there's a lot about that statement that we're not covering. But if we really drill that statement down. What you're really asking for as the parent is, I would really like my child to build a habit

Penny Williams [00:04:05]: Mhmm.

Leslie Josel [00:04:06]: That they could just to do this again and again without having to be asked to do it or be prompted to do it. So it's really building a habit. Now Before I even get into it, obviously, the child or the student has to know how.

Penny Williams [00:04:20]: Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:04:20]: I don't really wanna spend too much time on the how, but I wanna make sure that Your viewers aren't going, well, okay, Leslie. That's great. But, obviously, if my kid doesn't know how to do it, they're not going to do it. So we're going to pretend in our scenario that the child actually does and knows how and can get up and has, on occasion, done it, but maybe not consistently.

Penny Williams [00:04:40]: Right. So it's doable for them.

Leslie Josel [00:04:42]: It's doable. We need to make sure that we caveat it with it's doable, so I don't get any of that. What happens if it's not doable? And I think what we have to remember, what I mean by emotional rewards is this, we have to talk about habit building first. So Actually, now we all know that if we are neurodivergent, it takes much longer for us to build a habit than it does for our more neurotypical friends. But the other thing that we are very focused on usually when we build habits is giving tangible rewards.

Penny Williams [00:05:09]: Right.

Leslie Josel [00:05:09]: So if you want your kids to do something, Like, okay, if you get up on your own 3 days this week, I will give you, you know, $5 on Saturday to go spend whatever you want, or I'll give you the keys to the car, or you can get extra video time. And we know that piece of future awareness or even working memory, Do they really even remember that you said that they can have something on Saturday? Is that tangible goal something, or tangible reward, something that is incentivizing. It's not. Believe it and you know that.

Penny Williams [00:05:43]: It's not. Because it's now or not now. Right? The timing.

Leslie Josel [00:05:46]: Exactly. So what we know about when we build a habit is we need 3 things. We need a cue. We need a cue. We need something, A prompt, a cue, a visual reminder, scaffolding, a point of performance, whatever it is that's going to cue us to do whatever it is we're trying to build this habit from. So that's the first thing. Then this the cue actually goes to the routine. So the queue prompts us to do whatever it is we wanna nail down a routine, whether it is getting up in the morning, getting out the door in the morning, loading the dishwasher, whatever it is.

Leslie Josel [00:06:20]: But the piece that has to come next is there has to be a reward. The reward is what solidifies that habit or routine into our brains. And what they have found and what we have found is that emotional rewards are much more effective, and here's why. Number 1, they're immediate. This whole, like, I'll get to you in 5 days to hand you your $5 bill just doesn't work. But they found that actually intangible rewards, that emotional reward, actually helps your student, your child, to solidify that routine more because number 1, it's immediate.

Penny Williams [00:07:00]: Mhmm.

Leslie Josel [00:07:00]: So they are getting that, whether it's praise, whether it's whatever it is happening right at the time, so that actually the routine will solidify. If we're waiting, we're not having all 3 things happen, that cycle happening at the same time. But we also know that our Neurodivergent kids tend to be more emotional, get more negative messaging. So when they are hit right away with some positive praise. Mhmm. Positive praise that's specific.

Penny Williams [00:07:31]: Yes.

Leslie Josel [00:07:31]: Meaning, not just I'm so proud of you, but, Wow. You are able to on your own. That was really wonderful, or I know how hard that was for you. I'm so whatever it is, however you praise, but that will connect it immediately. They will connect it. And the reverse is true. What we don't realize is that Our children look at not being yelled at, not being anxious, not staring down the wrath of a parent or a teacher even, as positive praise. That not having something negative being thrown at them is actually converted to a positive.

Penny Williams [00:08:10]: Wow.

Leslie Josel [00:08:11]: And I think that's a really subtle way and a very interesting way of looking at it. So when a child, you know, who's late or isn't doing or activating on their own, is used to hearing negative, negative, negative, negative. And they either hear positive or nothing. Even the nothing is considered a reward.

Penny Williams [00:08:32]: Yeah. Well, if you're hearing negative all the time, it is. Right? Exactly. Right. It's a space to breathe.

Leslie Josel [00:08:40]: Right. So, like, here's one of my favorite stories, and I really wanna Share this one because I think it's a really great lesson. So I had a parenting coaching client who really was very upset about her son's Behavior wasn't explosive or, you know, wasn't physical. It was she and this is her words, not mine. She's like, you know, he just doesn't seem care about anybody else. This is her speaking, not me.

Penny Williams [00:09:02]: Right.

Leslie Josel [00:09:02]: He was 16, and she found him to be very selfish. You know, he didn't care. He always said I can do what I wanna do. I don't really need to care about anybody else, and it really, really soured their relationship. So she told the story to me. We had a doctor's appointment or whatever, and they were on their way back and he asked if they could stop to get ice cream. And she said, sure. You know, It's not all the time the behavior, and he was fine.

Leslie Josel [00:09:26]: The doctor went well. He didn't put up a fight for it. And they pull into the parking spot, And, you know, the mom says, I'm I'll wait. Go you know, you you're old enough. You can go get ice cream. And he says, okay. He comes back a minute later and says, mom, You're not gonna believe it. They have one of your favorite flavors today.

Penny Williams [00:09:45]: Oh.

Leslie Josel [00:09:45]: See where we're going? Mhmm. And And he goes, do you want me to get it? Do you want it? And she's like, no. That's okay. I don't want any ice cream. And he goes, but you know where I'm going. And he goes back, gets his ice cream, and they drive home. And then literally later that is when we had our meeting, and she said, I I screwed that up, didn't I? I said, well, first of all, You still have time. You do.

Leslie Josel [00:10:06]: I feel like it's never too late to praise your kid about something. Yeah. She said, but I feel terrible because when we got home, he left something in the CAR, and I got upset, then he left something in the car because it was something that was that melted. And I said, did you tell him about that? And she's like, yep. And I'm like, Did you praise him at all about the ice cream? And she's like, well, what was it about the praise? And I'm not bad mouthing her, but she didn't see the connection of

Penny Williams [00:10:30]: Right.

Leslie Josel [00:10:31]: You want him to think about others. He came out, and he he didn't have to. Mhmm. He could've gone and just bought his ice cream, but he thought about you. I said, next This time, either, a, you definitely need to get the ice cream even if you have 1 bite. Mhmm. Sorry. You do.

Penny Williams [00:10:45]: Yep. I agree.

Leslie Josel [00:10:46]: Or if you can't, you say, you know what? That was the nicest thing you did. I am, like, so overwhelmed by your generosity to remember that that was my favorite flavor and took the time to come out. I can't thank you for nothing that and how good that made me feel. Yeah. And that's my point. It's that type of thing. We just some of us look at that as empty praise. I actually look at that as your direct line to building habits.

Leslie Josel [00:11:13]: Yeah. Amazing. Habits. Mhmm. And it's an interesting way of looking at it because we don't necessarily take that path.

Penny Williams [00:11:21]: Yeah. Yeah. And as you're talking about this, I keep thinking about building neuro pathways and connections. When we get positive praise, We are building neural connections. We you know, when we notice when our kid did something that they have been trying to work on or something that is difficult for them. We are wiring positive connections, But the same goes for negativity. If it's always negative, then they get wired toward the negative. And As you were telling that story specifically, as soon as you said that she said, no, I don't want any, I went rejection.

Penny Williams [00:12:01]: Like, kids would feel rejected a lot.

Leslie Josel [00:12:05]: Hardly rejected. Yes.

Penny Williams [00:12:07]: And it wasn't her intention at all. And that's really you know, the work that I do with parents is, like, wait a second. You know, we have to look at intention. We have to look at our own intention. We have to look at our kids' intention, And then we have to look at how they're receiving. Yes. Are they getting our intention, or are they imagining We're filling in blanks and coming up with something different, and that could easily feel like rejection to that kid.

Leslie Josel [00:12:34]: Oh, I thought it was I felt I mean, I wasn't in the car, obviously, but I would have assumed very much so that he felt rejected.

Penny Williams [00:12:41]: Yeah. Just deflated.

Leslie Josel [00:12:43]: And she admitted it. This isn't me. She she I go, did you thank him? And she says, I was, like, on my phone. That's a thing.

Penny Williams [00:12:49]: Mhmm.

Leslie Josel [00:12:49]: She's like, no. I just said, no. It's okay. Thanks. Like, not acknowledging even and she said, now I see it. Now I'm much more cognizant of every. And I said, When you notice it, are you now seeing? She goes, Yes. What I'm noticing Now listen, we know this is a unicorn and it doesn't happen overnight and We have to do it consistently.

Leslie Josel [00:13:09]: But since she said I have started to really, like, cherry pick out what The things that he's doing that are strength based, that are positive, that are, you know, even that are remotely Pulling himself out of himself and, you know, showing others concern or empathy. She goes, I'm very zeroed in on it. And I said, then you need to you need this is my this is so my way of speaking, but I'm like, well, then you need a marching band and a parade. Yeah. That's what you need. Yeah. I said, I'm not saying you don't get to parent, and that's an interesting thing too when you're building these habits, because I get asked all the time, well, okay, What do I do, or how do I do this if we're saying, like, something positive and negative at the same time with the behavior? Right? Like, okay. So, yes, Leslie.

Leslie Josel [00:13:57]: Maybe my kid got out the door on time, but left like a, you know, awake in his way, so to speak.

Penny Williams [00:14:03]: Right.

Leslie Josel [00:14:04]: And listen, I'm some of it, I feel like there's no, like, rule book for it. I feel like you have to kinda know your kid, but I really, really believe it's, Like, where are you in that moment with your child in the sense of of, like, what is the thing you're working on? Mhmm. So If getting your child out the door in the morning is the hill you have, like, died on. Do you know what I mean? Like, that is what I'm working on. Can you leave the kitchen that was left, like, disastrous? Can that not be also added? Because it dilutes what you're working on.

Penny Williams [00:14:35]: Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:14:36]: Not everybody agrees with me, but I am a firm believer in if you can look away on some things that are not earth shattering or crisis or affected others, Mhmm. Then I think your best use of your own, like, is is staying positive in what it is. Yeah. If you can't, We do something, and I'm sure it's called, like, the sandwich. Right? Where you do a pro con pro. I love that. I think it is you know, I see teachers even using it now in school all when they're giving, like, constructive I don't wanna I don't wanna use the word criticism, but let's say,

Penny Williams [00:15:08]: Constructive feedback. There we go.

Leslie Josel [00:15:10]: Much better word. Yes. Where they'll say something lovely first or something concrete about how good something was, offer the feedback, but then follow it up with something positive. And I find that that works too, and I noticed it in building habits too.

Penny Williams [00:15:25]: Yeah. Yeah. This is something I'm working on right now is Noticing that we're making progress

Leslie Josel [00:15:32]: Exactly.

Penny Williams [00:15:32]: Even though it's not perfect. So for my kid, we are working on Bringing your dishes and your garbage out of your room, keeping your room, even some tiny percentage of clean. Oh, it's been an uphill battle for years years, and he's actually making great progress. And I caught myself the other day. He brought dishes out, but they ended up, like, on the counter on the island instead of, like, rinsed out in the sink. Right? And I caught myself About to say something. And I'm like, wait a minute. You need to harness this moment in the right way.

Penny Williams [00:16:08]: Right? So I was like, I am so proud of you for bringing this out here. It's so amazing. You know, I see it. I notice that you're working hard at this. You're making progress. And let's get through this. And then next, we're gonna work on getting the dishes all the way to the sink. Because I was getting stuck there, And I finally realized that I was getting stuck there, and I was not noticing the progress.

Penny Williams [00:16:34]: And that's what we have to do.

Leslie Josel [00:16:36]: Totally. And The other thing that I wanna bring up because I think this is really fascinating too is we get asked a lot, why is it that we develop bad habits much faster than we develop good habits. Right? It kind of proves why emotional rewards are really where you should be focusing on. I wanna make this there too. I'm not saying money on a car does not help a child either. Trust me. I I have well, not now, but when my kids were younger, dangling cash and dangling keys to a car. It was very it was motivating, but it wasn't habit building.

Leslie Josel [00:17:09]: Right. And I think there's a difference.

Penny Williams [00:17:11]: Mhmm.

Leslie Josel [00:17:11]: But why do we develop bad habits? The good feeling that we get from a bad habit happens immediately. There it is. I wanna explain that. So, like, so for example, let's let's say you're a student and you're about to sit down and write a paper. Right? And you're so don't wanna write this paper. So there was a queue. Okay. The cue was, you know, I opened up Google Calendar.

Leslie Josel [00:17:34]: I saw my planner. I went on the school's website. So there's a cue I have to write this paper. Now I'm sitting down. I'm getting into my routine. But all of a sudden, you're like, ugh, I don't really wanna be doing this, and immediately, you're gonna maybe grab your phone to look at Snapchat or TikTok or whatever. It's not that the TikTok was the reward, because it's not. It's that emotional feel good.

Leslie Josel [00:17:55]: Mhmm. That's the reward. I was feeling uncomfortable. I was feeling in pain. I was feeling whatever I was feeling, but definitely not feeling good because I was about to face doing something I absolutely do not wanna do, so how can I make myself feel better? Oh, I know. Grab my phone. I'll put on my computer. So it's that emotional reward that instantly took over, and now I've solidified a bad habit.

Penny Williams [00:18:20]: Yeah. It felt better.

Leslie Josel [00:18:22]: And I think that's an interesting, like, juxtaposition of why when we look at why good habits don't form as well as or as fast as bad habits, and why we need to kind of, like, push that bad habit feeling out of the way by supplementing with, like, wow, that was great, or, oh, I'm so proud of you, or, Wow. I wish I had a marching band and parade this morning. You know, because that actually does help us lay it down.

Penny Williams [00:18:47]: Yeah. So

Leslie Josel [00:18:48]: I think the bad habit thing is an interesting way to look at it. Because I think when we look at bad habits, we look at what we're using to make ourselves feel good as opposed to the emotion of feeling good.

Penny Williams [00:19:03]: It just makes it so clear now how we get stuck in bad habits, But it also really illustrates that there's a feeling behind everything that we do. So if we attach a positive feeling to Thinking about mom and what ice cream she wanted, right, or bringing new dishes to the kitchen

Leslie Josel [00:19:22]: Which is amazing.

Penny Williams [00:19:23]: That positive feeling is going to really have an impact because we see how much that positive feeling impacts us when we're doing bad habits. Right. We accept that fully, so let's, you know, overlay that on to the positive stuff.

Leslie Josel [00:19:42]: And I also think this is just, Again, kind of all part of it is that again, I'm I'm bringing questions to the table that we get asked all the time. So it goes back to that, okay, Les. Well, Wait. My kid did one thing. Right? Woo hoo. Did a few things that I wasn't happy about. Do I not get to parent him or her or they?

Leslie Josel [00:20:02]: Do I not get to parent him? And I'm like, yes. You get to parent, but just not in that moment. So I call it the diluted praise. Right? Or it's like, Wow. That was great, but

Penny Williams [00:20:15]: Mhmm. I hate that.

Leslie Josel [00:20:17]: It's so funny to me because, obviously, you and I have been around for a really long time, and there's a lot of things I hate. I think I hate that the most.

Penny Williams [00:20:24]: I do too.

Leslie Josel [00:20:25]: I really, really do. Mhmm. Because I hate it when someone says it to me.

Penny Williams [00:20:30]: Yes. Exactly.

Leslie Josel [00:20:31]: Right? I hate it when someone goes, okay, Les, I get I get it. That was great, but I'm like, no. No. No. Don't dilute what just happened because, you know, that that saying that everything before the but means nothing.

Penny Williams [00:20:41]: Exactly.

Leslie Josel [00:20:42]: So what I tell parents is you can obviously praise your child and you compare them, just not at the same time. Because if you want that routine to really solidify, it's gotta be clean. It's gotta be solely about what it is that you want to, like, see happen.

Penny Williams [00:21:01]: Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:21:01]: So if your child walked out the door in the morning and other things didn't happen, but he got out the door on time, then that's what you're praising, and that's where it begins and ends. If you would like to have a conversation another time where, hey, you know, it would be great if we could work on x, y, and z, that does not dilute the priase.

Leslie Josel [00:21:20]: Because the praise needs to happen in its purest form. It can't be a that was great, but conversation. It just can't, and we see I probably see that more than I see anything else.

Penny Williams [00:21:31]: Mhmm. Yeah. Yeah. And my husband does, and it drives me nuts. I'm constantly, like, don't say but. You're negating everything nice you just said. Don't say but.

Leslie Josel [00:21:41]: Don't say but.

Penny Williams [00:21:42]: Stop. And it's just habit. Right? We get in these habits as parents. We instinctually, like, say no before we hear our kid out. We end up saying, but when there's something else that wasn't quite right. Right? Like, these are things that often we're not even aware of, And we really have to be more mindful and aware as parents to catch ourselves doing that, right, and to not dilute our praise, To have the biggest impact. That's the other thing here is we're not just criticizing your parenting, but To have the greatest impact from that praise, that praise needs to stand alone.

Leslie Josel [00:22:19]: It has to be pure. I always that's how I kinda say it. I said it has to be pure praise. But that doesn't mean that at another time, you don't get to say, you know, I would love it if we could work on x or Mhmm. You know, but not taking away from what it was they did. And I think if I look at everything I've read and heard and what we talk about in all our groups, that's where the work is. It's yes. It's learning to praise, which we don't do, because I think a lot of us just say, okay, you walked out the door.

Leslie Josel [00:22:45]: Great. I'm like, no. No. No. Catch that moment and catch it now. Especially if you wanna build rewards. But if there's something else, let it lie for now because it's not important right now, and then let's parent at another time.

Penny Williams [00:22:57]: Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:22:57]: And I think that's hard. I think it's really hard for parents to do.

Penny Williams [00:23:00]: It's really hard. We feel like our job is to correct. You know? And and the other thing is you were just saying that I just heard in my head, and I hear this so often in our communities and on coaching calls. You know? Yeah. He finally made it out the door and caught the bus this morning, but, you know, he's 12. He should already be doing that. Like, why should I praise him? It's what he should be doing. That drives me up a while too, because, obviously, it wasn't totally doable.

Leslie Josel [00:23:30]: Right.

Penny Williams [00:23:31]: And you're working on that, and now it's happened. And if you want it to happen more, you've got to be excited about the fact that it happened.

Leslie Josel [00:23:40]: Right. And you can even ask your child. Like, I have some parents who say to me what I actually do is I'll say, like, what clicked for you? Or what was it about today that went well? Because I think if you can kind of ask them in a way that doesn't sound, like, formal or not authentic, then you might get some intel so that could help, you know, something else. And I said parents tell me that that has actually been really helpful is actually going, like, that was really you know, I I loved how you got up this morning and got out the door on time. What was it about today that worked for you? Mhmm. Because that's another way to actually solidify a routine. Yeah. It's another way to praise is saying, like, I noticed this.

Leslie Josel [00:24:21]: Can you tell me what worked? Like, I wanna learn from you. So it doesn't have to just be this one way, I'm so proud of you that you got up this morning and walked out, which sometimes might might land a little flat. It's going like, I noticed it, and I'm curious what worked and what changed. Because I'm I'm watching, and I notice. And sometimes that might feel a little more Genuine? I don't know Yeah. If that's the right word, but you know what I mean. Authentic? Authentic. It might.

Penny Williams [00:24:47]: Yeah. Yeah. Agree.

Leslie Josel [00:24:48]: And then let them talk. I mean, I find it's funny how you said this about that it's our job as parents parents wanna correct. I feel like it's a parents just wanna talk.

Penny Williams [00:24:59]: We do hear that a lot.

Leslie Josel [00:25:00]: We do a lot of talking, and I have this great acronym that I use. It's called WAIT, why am I talking? And I love it.

Penny Williams [00:25:10]: I love it.

Leslie Josel [00:25:11]: Because I think that's probably one of the biggest things. Parents wanna fix Things they wanna correct things. They wanna problem solve things. And sometimes your kid just needs to talk and you need to nod.

Penny Williams [00:25:24]: No. I mean, this is something that's part of our behavior revolution program. It's like, When things are happening, stop talking. If your kid isn't intense, stop talking. You're making it worse. If your kid is actually talking to you, stop talking and listen to them. Like Listen. And I'm a fixer.

Penny Williams [00:25:44]: I am very type a. I wanna get it done right away, I wanna fix it. I wanna get on. Right? And so for me, there's a lot of work on mindful awareness And overriding those instincts that I have to wait it out, to do it in my kids' time. You know, one thing that was huge for us when He was a teenager, probably, I don't know, 15 or 16, probably 15. He finally said to me one day, like, You keep pushing me to talk, and I just can't talk about it right now. And when I'm ready to talk about it, I will let you know. And it was like a slap in the face.

Penny Williams [00:26:27]: I just wanna and, you know, even When he I can just tell. I can tell. He's my kid. I can tell when something isn't going well, when he's not feeling great, When something is going on, right, and I immediately am like, whoop. Let's get on this. Let's talk. Let's fix it. Let's you know? And he is not that person.

Penny Williams [00:26:46]: He needs time to sit with it first. And the magic was that he always comes and talks to me.

Leslie Josel [00:26:54]: Of course, he does.

Penny Williams [00:26:55]: Where He wasn't then. He would just clam up and be like, nope. The wall's up. We're not doing this ever. He always comes because I respect Now and I work very hard at it, and sometimes I catch myself still doing it. But, you know, I respect the fact that he has asked for time, And that's what he needs. And that's what's important in that situation.

Leslie Josel [00:27:16]: And what that also means is that that doesn't mean when your child says, you know what? I need some time right now and Walks down, let's say, the hall to go to his bedroom. That doesn't mean that you follow them and keep talking, which that used to be me. I I have shared this with you, Penny, because So I just wrote my last like, my latest, not last column, my latest column for attitude, and what It was titled was, are you having mom versations? And I did not make that up. It was actually made up by my son, who is the neurodivergent one. And, yes, I'm a planner, I'm a fixer, I'm an organizer, I'm a problem solver, I'm a Virgo, I'm type a, we can keep going.

Penny Williams [00:27:57]: Yep.

Leslie Josel [00:27:57]: And I had him alone. This was a couple years ago, and we went out for, like, lunch. And I literally pull out my notebook, and I was like, okay. And he just sat sits back like this. Now granted, he's 25 now, but he was I think it was, like, right I don't know when it was a few years ago, and he goes, is this And just like this, he dead pans, and he goes, is this gonna be one of our momversations? And I do it like you. I do this for a living Mhmm. And I, like, bit my tongue. And the first thing I said, well, he would never say to his about his dad is gonna be a dad first station.

Leslie Josel [00:28:28]: You wouldn't because my husband doesn't have that gene. My husband is way more like, you'll talk when you wanna talk.

Penny Williams [00:28:34]: Laid back. Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:28:35]: Very chill. We'll get to him. We'll like, he's lapsed, But he'll like, alright. Says and I was like, I came with my pen and my notebook, and I am like and he goes, I I can't. Like, you guys basically, like, you gotta stop. And he's like I'm like, you know what? You're right. 1, I'm like, what do you want to talk about? Like, what's on your agenda? Like, what's on your time frame? And I realized that I was like shooting questions, and that completely overwhelmed him. It clearly shut him down.

Leslie Josel [00:29:05]: And he's like, you gotta do it 1 at a time. Mhmm. One at a time. He goes, I e time, to, like, process what you're saying.

Penny Williams [00:29:13]: Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:29:13]: So even I have to remember the wait. And I will say in all of my parenting, Yvette. And I'm saying this to you, your community who's listening, that I think that that is actually the hardest thing for parents and for me.

Penny Williams [00:29:27]: Mhmm.

Leslie Josel [00:29:28]: You know, I've learned how to praise, I've learned how to praise effectively, I've learned how to not parent when I shouldn't be. Meaning, when I'm better off either praising or showing empathy. But what I'm still learning, even with kids that are 29 and 25, my kids are fully grown. But even I have to go, why am I talking? Why am I talking? Why am I talking?

Penny Williams [00:29:49]: And we want our kids to talk to us, and we don't give them space to. We fill all the space.

Leslie Josel [00:29:54]: We do. So I think what we have what I've learned to do that I think is really helpful is I just use my, like, body language to talk as opposed to my mouth. And I think that's a really good thing for parents to know. Like, I'll just nod my head. Mhmm. Right? I'll just, Yeah. Sometimes I'm saying I'll say I'm listening, anything neutral. Even if I'll just I'll put my hands on, like, my kids if they're with me.

Leslie Josel [00:30:19]: I mean, a lot of it is done. Obviously, neither one of my kids live with me, so I'm not always in their space. But if I can, I'll put my hand on a knee, I'll put my hand on an arm. I'll say, I'm just listening, and I'll hold my hands under me. And I don't know why that is, but it really, really helps to be quiet. And I will say to myself, why am I talking? And I think that's just a really good lesson for parents because I know this is a little bit of a segue away from habit building. Yeah. But I really feel it's all connected.

Penny Williams [00:30:50]: It is.

Leslie Josel [00:30:51]: We overwhelm our own kids. Mhmm. We are the overwhelmers as opposed to thinking that we're the helpers.

Penny Williams [00:30:57]: Yeah. I call it the escalators. We co escalate instead of co regulate all the time. We don't intend to. We intend to help, but what we actually do is escalate a situation a lot of times.

Leslie Josel [00:31:09]: So I don't know if this happens in your house. This used to happen in mine. It's when I would say something very innocuous to my son. And I'd go, hey. Can you come downstairs? I wanna talk Yep. Now I knew what I want to talk to him about. It was usually like, we talk about logistics for tomorrow, who's picking you up, you have this, you have that. Right? It was In my own head, it was completely innocuous.

Leslie Josel [00:31:32]: And I think this is important too, because again, you are wanting a willing partnership with your child. Because without that willing partnership, even habits aren't going to form. Right? You're not even gonna get there.

Penny Williams [00:31:42]: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:31:43]: And usually what I was met with was a very oppositional kid. No. I'm not coming. No. I don't want to. Why do you need to start to like, you got very defensive very quickly. Yeah. And I couldn't figure it out, and I finally figured it out.

Leslie Josel [00:31:55]: But I realized that I was to open ended, and where did his brain go? His brain went to well, the first thing is, what did I do wrong?

Penny Williams [00:32:02]: Mhmm.

Leslie Josel [00:32:03]: But that, all of a sudden, like, he thinks he did something wrong because I haven't told them, like because unfortunately, that's where their brains go.

Penny Williams [00:32:11]: Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:32:11]: It got overwhelming. Well, what could she be wanting? How long is this gonna take? And all of these questions humbled out of him, not verbally, but probably in his own head. So what I started to do, I started to preempt topic and time. Hey. Can you come downstairs? It'll take 10 minutes. I wanna talk about logistics for tomorrow. Very different.

Penny Williams [00:32:31]: Yeah.

Leslie Josel [00:32:32]: And I will tell you that that is what I'm I get so much, like, feedback on from parents. Like, I never would have thought to do that. And that one little change Mhmm. Has created a lot of harmony in my house. But more importantly, when you have harmony, obviously, you can then have conversations like we're having, build the habits you're having. So Mhmm. I just wanted to share one little, like it's a verbal change. It's It's easy to do.

Leslie Josel [00:32:55]: You can implement it immediately, but I think I've seen so much change just in that preempting topic and time.

Penny Williams [00:33:03]: Yeah. And, you know, what we're talking about in this entire conversation is about the language that we use and our relationship with our kids. That is what sets the foundation for all of this work, building habits, all of it. And so I think that's a nice way to Wrap it up in a bow.

Penny Williams [00:33:24]: So for everybody listening, I wanna make sure you know How to connect with Leslie, how to access any of the resources that we talked about here, all of that is in the show notes at parentingadhdandautism.com/241 for episode 241.

Penny Williams [00:33:37]: And with that, I just wanna thank you again, Leslie, so much Sure. Always being willing to share some of your wisdom and your time with us.

Leslie Josel [00:33:48]: I love you. I wish I was with you in North Carolina having tea.

Penny Williams [00:33:53]: One day, we're gonna meet and hug for sure.

Leslie Josel [00:33:56]: For sure.

Penny Williams [00:33:56]: Absolutely. Yeah. Alrighty. Well, that's it this episode, I'll see everybody next time. Bye, everyone. Take good care. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share.

Penny Williams [00:34:11]: And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com and at thebehaviorrevolution.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