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How Taking Care Of Your Self Makes You A Better Parent. Interview with Amanda Rueter from Messy Motherhood

Ever had a day when you yelled at your kids? And then felt consumed with guilt afterwards?

Parenting is hard work, especially with the busy lives we all lead. We want to enjoy our kids but they know  how to press our buttons, especially when we're tired and stressed.

The solution isn't in changing our kids behaviour, but in looking after ourselves so we're less tired and stressed. When we have bucket loads of energy, we can give our kids the support they need. 

In this episode, YOU WILL LEARN: 

  • Why taking care of yourself is the key to happy parenting
  • How to handle children and manage their anger
  • What self-care is and how to start implementing it
  • What happens if you're trying to be a perfect parent

Transcript of Interview with Amanda Rueter from MessyMotherhood

Dr Orlena:  Hello, Amanda. Welcome to Fit and Fabulous.

Amanda: Hello. I'm so happy to be here.

Dr Orlena: Thank you so much for coming. Let's just dive right in.

Taking Care Of Your Self First Is The First Step To Becoming A Better Parent

Dr Orlena: We're going to talk about anger and children and parents. I love this topic because as much as I try not to get angry with my kids. They are the big thing that triggers me in my life.

I think also having four children, I find that they feed off each other. I often try and go in and try and calm the situation.  And then afterwards, just think all I did was joined in and that isn't really what I want to do. So tell me where I'm going wrong. 

Amanda: That's such a big question. 

Dr Orlena:  I know I'm only joking,  what advice do you give to parents?

Amanda:  I always tell parents that you can have all the best parenting tools in the world, but you aren't able to use it you have if you're reacting out of emotion. So we have to really take care of ourselves first.

Deal Your Own Anger Before You Handle Your Child's Behaviour 

Amanda: Figure out what our triggers are. What causes us to get so spun up and so angry so that we can then stay calm.

We can handle all those sibling issues or child parenting that children have with their behaviour before.  We have to deal with our anger first in order to handle that situation.

Dr Orlena: I love that. Yeah. But here's the thing, it's really easy to say that and where you set off with good intentions and then we do it really well for a little bit. And then after a while, things just tend to creep back.

Self-care Is Not Just About Spending Time With Yourself, It's Also About Positive Thinking 

Amanda: Well, the first thing we always start with is you. Like I said, you have to focus on "you" first.

A lot of times people think self self-care like I need to do more things to make me happy. I need to take more time for myself, take breaks, all that stuff. That's good. It's a good piece of the puzzle but there's so much more to our mindset and our negative thought processes.

How You Perceive Children Affects Your Reaction To Them

Amanda: The things that we tell are the stories that we tell ourselves throughout the day about ourselves and our kids that a lot of people aren't even aware of or processing.

Those stories influence our reactions to our children.

So like for example, my older son said something extremely rude to my younger son the other day and I could have jumped in and been like, “why did you say that that's so rude, blah, blah, blah.” But in my head, the story about my son is that he really is a good kid who's not a rude child. 

I just responded with “did you realize that that was rude?” And he's like, no, that's just what people say when they get angry. I'm like, "no, that was rude."

We had a conversation around a better way of getting his needs, met or saying what he needed to say. That wasn't quite so rude but because I had that filter of my child is a good kid, I was able to respond more calmly than if I had a filter of, “Oh my gosh, he's being rude again” Or he's, that was extremely rude. And I get triggered by that. I am more likely to react out of anger. Does that make sense?

Effective Communication With Kids Depends On How You Choose Your Tone Of Voice 

Dr Orlena: Yeah, absolutely. I totally noticed with my children that whatever emotion I go in with, they amplify it. So if I can go in with calm and okay, let's try and calm this down now, clearly that doesn't work immediately.

It's quite difficult to do but if I go in with snap, snap, and you shouldn't say this, and you shouldn't say that. Then suddenly they're super angry and upset.   It's like I've poured gas. I've pulled oil onto the fire and I just make the whole thing worse.

Amanda: Yes, absolutely because humans are reactionary. Our non-verbals even our verbals will match other people. if you want them to get quiet, you whisper and they will actually get quieter because they match your tone and your inflexion.

Anger Invites Defensiveness from our Children

Amanda: The same thing happens with all humans. If we go in with blazing, angry, they are going to automatically get defensive. They're going to start putting up walls. They're going to get angry and start yelling even more because they're trying to almost self-protect as I'm sure any adult tests felt before. Like if someone comes at you like mad at you, you get defensive right away and you start putting on that defensive posture. And that's exactly what our kids do.

Getting Curious Instead Of Furious Helps In Dealing With Your Child 

Amanda: So if we come in from a calmer place and from a place of, I liked the phrase, getting curious, not furious.

So if we get curious, like why is this happening? What's going on? You try to help problem-solve with your children. And you come in from like how can I help my child, then you're going to get more cooperation from your children and less of defensiveness because you're there to help. And they see you as a helping person instead of the hammer, right?

A mother sitting on a bench with her children #motherhood #parenting #health #wellness

What Causes Your Child To Be Angry?

Dr Orlena:  Absolutely. I guess one of my questions is when my children are busy arguing, take this example, yesterday my two oldest boys are  12, and 10, they were just in our little garden doing a little bit of rough and tumble.

They're Boys. They quite like being physical. Three minutes previously, I'd said to them, "okay guys, just keep a level on it." Hoping they knew how to communicate, which clearly they didn't.

About three minutes later, they're screaming and shouting. And there's this whole anger about, "he hurt me and it was him first and he didn't stop." And so now I've got two super cross children.  I want to go in and calm them down, except they're still cross and angry.

How do I deal with that situation? 

Amanda: Sure. A lot of times when kids are angry and mad at each other, they want to be heard.

They're yelling because nobody's listening to them, whether it be their brother or you. They just don't feel like they're being heard. They're mad about something.

Instead Of Reacting, Help Your Kids Solve Their Problem.

Amanda:  If we can go in and let our children know like "I get it." A lot of times the siblings, if you just walk in and say, “Hey, it looks like you guys are having a really hard time cooperating or you really have a hard time. How can I help with this?” I can say, “I can see that you're mad about blah, blah, blah.” “I can see that you're mad about blah, blah, blah.”

And that helps kind of diffuse the situation instead of going in and saying, “You guys need to stop. I told you not to do this and blah, blah, blah,” those kinds of things. Again, it raises that defensiveness.

So if you go in and say, “I get it, like you guys are rough and it got too rough and he got hurt and that's a really crummy situation. How can I help you?” Or “How can we help solve this?” That kind of help diffuse things and moves into more of the problem-solving stage instead of just like I told you not to write.

Recognizing That Kid's Are Still Learning Will Lessen Parenting Triggers

Amanda: A lot of us get into because we're triggered, especially with our own kids fighting. It's highly triggering for so many parents, but it's recognising that they are still learning how to cooperate. They're still learning social interactions with their siblings and how to get their needs met and kind ways with their siblings.

Dr Orlena: I think it's really important to remember that they're children and that these are skills that a lot of adults are still learning. In fact, it's part of the whole conversation that we're having is about teaching us the skills that we expect our children to have.

I think that is a really valid point. On the defence of parents, I would say one issue is the incessant newness of it all. When you've had that kind of day of we've been doing this emotional work and can we just have a break. I'm on the phone with my mom or something like that. 

The Key To Become A Perfect Parent Is Accepting That You Never Will.

Amanda: The truth is you're not going to be perfect at this.

I teach parents how to stay calm all the time. I still have my not so pleasant moments because I'm human.

One of the things that I'm always trying to instil in all of my clients and my students is that we're not going for perfection here. We're going for less frequency and less intensity. So it happens less often and where you're not becoming that big green like Hulk angry mom, like outside of yourself in anger.

Recognise that you are going to have those moments that aren't going to be perfect.

Mistakes Are Normal, It's The Repair That Matters 

Amanda: The most important thing is the repair work afterwards. That shows your children that people get angry. You may mess up and here's some steps to apologize and to make up for the mistakes that you made.

It shows your children that everyone makes mistakes and it teaches them how to repair that relationship by modelling it. So not only do we teach parents how to kind of stay calm, we also teach that apology and repair work afterwards. 

Striving To Be A Perfect Parent Won't Help

Amanda: You're not going to be perfect. Trying to strive for perfection is just going to make you feel like crap. 

It's recognising that you're going to have days when you're just like up to your ears with stress and overwhelm.  And then your kids do something and you blow it. Have a little bit of grace with yourself and be like that. That's okay. It happens. It's part of being human. 

Dr Orlena: Yeah. I love that. I look back in our family life and think there have been times when we've had episodes that have just felt like they lost it for hours and hours. And now they might last for a few minutes and that in itself is huge progress. 

Keeping Track Of Your Day Will Help You See The Good Things That Happened

Amanda: One of the things I asked my students to do as well as to track their days. 

A lot of times some of them will have a bad moment in the morning and they'll see that as being the whole day was completely horrible.

They'd have completely just forgotten all the other good things that happened during the day. I have them track it.

I'm like how many bad days have you actually had? We call them red, green, red days and green days. And a lot of times they're like, “Oh, I thought that every single day was a red day but really weird, just having little moments, but most of the day was pretty green.” And just kind of being able to change that mindset a little bit about that.

You're not really messing up your children all day. You're not yelling all day long. You have bad moments and those are just moments we're going to pair afterwards. And the point is to have fewer of those moments over time. That's why we like to track to kind of keep up with.

Focus On The Positive And You Will See Your Strength As A Parent

Dr Orlena: I think that's like constantly focusing on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative.

Amanda: Because humans have a tendency to always lean towards the negative. We're really good about finding all the ways that we're horrible or the way messed up or all the bad stuff.

It takes more efforts for us to pick out the positives and to actually see the ways that we are succeeding. 

That's one of the practices too is we have to practice seeing those positive things we already are doing and how to incorporate more of those into your life.  And also to be aware of them because a lot of us just aren't even aware of the good stuff that we're doing. We're so focused on all the ways we screw up.

Teaching Your Kids And Modelling Repair Work Is Important 

Dr Orlena: Fabulous. Can I take you back a little bit to that repair work? I mean, you talk about it in terms of adults but as well it's something that children need to learn between themselves. It's not something that they naturally learn.

How can we teach our kids that repair work?

Amanda: The first thing always starts with us and we have to be able to model that for our kids. And so by showing them our repair work between each other.

It’s  more about picking out the feelings instead of just saying, “okay, tell your brother, you're sorry and move on.”  It doesn't really have any meaning to it. Instead, it's having these conversations of this happened when you hit your brother, it really hurt him.

Help Your Kids Identify And Process Their Emotions Without Judging 

Amanda: You kind of point out the emotions behind it or "when you took that from your brother, it really hurt him. And he hurt his feelings. You see that he's crying because of this happen."  And that's where you go. That's where the child can be like, “Oh yeah.”

They're not always aware of their reactions.  We call it sportscasting and a positive parenting space where you just talk about what happened.

You don't put any judgment to it. You say, "listen he was hurt because this thing happened. What do you think about that?"

Show Your Kids How To Fix A Problem And Allow  Apologies To Come Naturally 

Amanda: You start having kind of a conversation around it and that's where that sincere apology comes from. That's where you can start having that,  "really I'm sorry that happened." And then we move into, "okay, so this happened, how are we going to fix it? So your brother has a toy that you really wanted but he still has it. What do you think we should do about that?"

You can give some ideas. If they're older, you can have them come up with some ideas that they can get their needs met. 

It must always go into that kind of like problem solving like "how do you fix this?" When your kids are wrestling in the garden, like, “do you guys need a code word?” like somebody else banana.  Your like, “What can you guys do so this doesn't happen again?  There's some of that problem-solving piece in there too. 

Help Your Kids With Problem Solving, Their Brain Is Not Fully Ready To Do It

Dr Orlena: Do you recommend waiting until everybody's calmed down and they're no longer triggered?

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. You have to because their brain is functioning and we call the lizard brain. It's pure emotion. And the last part of the brains developed is that higher functioning, thinking logical part of the brain and impulse controls there too.

And so you'd need the parents to kind of help them problem solve and figure things out. They can't physically get to problem-solving because their brain isn't physically working there. It's all in that lower limbic.

Showing Empathy Can Calm The Kids Down

Dr Orlena:  " Just give you a brain hug."

Amanda:  Yeah. I love that. It's getting them calm. And you do that by using that empathy piece. "I see this has happened. Your feelings are really hurt."

That deescalation stuff helps them get calm. And then you can move into the repair work and problem-solving afterwards. 

Dr Orlena:  I think I'm always a little bit impatient. I'm a bit like “We can talk this out in five minutes.” Actually, I need to slow down and listen to them a little bit more. Be led more by them and just wait until the time is right. 

The other thing that we started talking about, which we sort of sidetracked is this idea of self-care, which I think I absolutely love.  It goes hand in hand with what I'm teaching. This idea that it's very difficult to teach our children all of these emotional things and to not shout at our children when we're not taking care of ourselves. So I'd love you to speak a little bit about that. 

Self-care Can Be Difficult But You Have To Keep Doing It.

Amanda: Well, I've got a lot of feelings about self-care. I guess it's really important. I feel like the culture around parenting right now has kinda made self-care very difficult especially for young parents.

We make it seem like you have to spend all this time away from your kids and that it is something you must do.  It can feel very selfish for parents. It can feel very attainable for parents. And when things feel unattainable, people will just stop trying.

Amanda: We also think that self-care is like the end-all.  We're like, "if I do self-care then I won't be angry anymore. " Actually, you need more than just self-care.

Aside From Self-care, You Also Have To Be Aware Of Your Negative Thoughts 

Amanda: Self-care is a piece and it's an important piece, but we also need to learn like what we touched on a few minutes ago is what are the stories that you're telling yourself? What are those negative? I call them negative thought monsters. They sit on your shoulder and whisper negative things in your ears all day long.

What are the things that you're telling yourself all day long, this putting you into this negative space?

Advocating For Your Self Is Very Important

Amanda: We have to learn how to advocate for ourselves. So if we need a bit of self-care. We need to be able to stand up for ourselves and say, "Hey, listen. I really need to go do this right now. Can you please watch the children?"

Being able to advocate for yourself is really important as well and boundaries and all that stuff goes in there as well.

A woman holding up her infant daughter #motherhood #parenting #health #wellness

There's More To Self-care, You Also Have To Be  Aware Of Your Thoughts And Boundaries 

Amanda: Self-care is a piece of the puzzle, but there's more to it. It's almost like having a three-legged stool. If you're missing one of those, you're going to have a really hard wood missing one of the legs. You're gonna have a really hard time staying upright.

So we need to be focusing on self-care. We also need to be really thinking about all those negative thoughts. How to have boundaries and how to advocate for yourself.

Those are all really important pieces and it feels like a lot. I promise it's not, it's just being aware of it. And awareness really is the key.

A lot of times, humans walk around with blinders on. We're not even aware of the stories that we're telling ourselves. We're not aware of our negative thoughts.

Be Aware Of Your Needs And Advocate For Them

Amanda: I had a client who just was getting frustrated because the husband would just like, “go, okay, I'm going to go jump on the treadmill and go for a run.” And she's like,” I want to just go for a run and jump on the treadmill.” But she wasn't ever just like taking the space to go do that. She wasn't advocating for herself to just tell him, “okay, I'm going to go jump on the treadmill. The kids are yours."

Once she started doing that, she realised that that was her missing piece. That was her missing leg on the stool was the advocacy piece, but it all comes back to awareness and recognising what you're missing.

It doesn't take extra time necessarily. It's just that awareness of the story and awareness of, are you advocating for yourself?  Are you bringing in self-care?

Self-Care Is Not As Hard As You Think 

Amanda: Self-care doesn't have to be hard. Self-care can be as easy as going to go check the mailing, taking a few breaths in the warm sunshine. That is self-care.

It can be putting on music and having a dance party with your kids. It can be doing all of these things.

We have to be aware that you need it and you can do large amounts of self-care with your kids. It can be really simple.

Self-Care Doesn't Mean Taking Time To Be Away From Your Kids 

Amanda: I have a tendency to think of self-care as like all of this time away from your kids so you can get a pedicure or take a bath or go for a run. It doesn't always have to mean without kids.

I think that's a disservice that we've given to a lot of parents is like, take a break and remove yourself from your children when you don't always have to do that.

Self-care Starts With A Habit And So Is Negative Thinking 

Dr Orlena: I absolutely agree. I  hundred per cent agree. It always starts with self-awareness. And the other thing I'd like to add is, it's all about habits as well. Like when you talk about those negative thought monsters, they're just habits as well.

Being Aware Is The First Step To Building The Habit Of Self-care 

Dr Orlena: They're habits in the way that we think. And how do we change our habits? The first step is to be aware that we have our habits. 

Amanda: Yes, absolutely. Self-care can be a super easy habit. I mean, you teach this with your people too.

It's like finding quick, simple things you can do during the day that are just normal parts of your routine. And you're automatically building self-care. 

You Have Been Doing Self-care, You Are Not Just Aware Of It.

Amanda: I think a lot of us are doing self-care. We just aren't aware that it's self-care. and we're not taking a moment to recognise that we're doing something for ourselves.

Dr Orlena: Yeah. So that really has to be key as well. It's like recognising I'm doing this for myself right now. And that's kind of the important part of self-care too.

I would just like to echo your statement about making it doable. I always think if it's easy and fun,  it will get done. And if it's not easy and fun, it's not going to get done so.

Don't Be Hard On Yourself, Yelling Doesn't Mean You're Not A Good Parent.

Dr Orlena: So, Amanda, thank you so much for being here. Do you have any last words of wisdom for us? 

Amanda: I think to not beat up yourself if you do end up yelling at your children every once in a while.

It happens to the best of us. It's part of being a parent. Not that I'm saying you should, it's okay to have like a free for all yelling. It's just I don't want anybody to walk away feeling that they're terrible parents because they yell.

I feel in my point of view, the good parents are the ones who are yelling because they care. So darn much, if you didn't care, then you wouldn't get so emotional about it.

Recognise That You Are A Good Parent, There Are Just Things You Have To Change A Bit 

Amanda: The important piece for me is recognising that you are a good parent because you care so much and you're emotionally invested in your children. We just have to tweak a few things so that all that love and care doesn't come out as anger, right?

Dr Orlena: Yeah, absolutely. So if you've listened to this podcast, it shows that you're trying to change and that's the first step.

Amanda: Yeah. You're a great parent. You're already doing it. 

Where To Learn More From Amanda

Dr Orlena: Fabulous. And tell us about the services you have and where people can find more about you. 

Amanda: I'm over at I've got a group coaching program called anger free parenting.

I have one-on-one coaching services as well If you want just me and you don't necessarily want to be inside of a group. It's all focused around anger and taking care of yourself so that you can be the best parent that you can be for your kids.

Dr Orlena: I've spoken to some of the people who were in it and they say, it's fabulous.

Amanda: Thanks. That's good to hear. I'm really proud of it. It's a fun group. It's a fun program.

It All Starts With You, The Rest Will Follow 

Amanda: It's all based around, like I said, taking care of yourself. The next step is building teamwork with your kids so that you can have a sense of team and belonging within your whole family so you can get cooperation from them.

Many people come to me and say, “but I'm yelling because my kids because of my kid's behaviour.” I'm like, "but so much more than that, kids don't listen because I yell." We have to really focus on the "you" piece and then figure out how to get the kids on the board so that's not your instinct to yell all the time.

Dr Orlena: Fabulous. Thank you so much. 

Amanda: Thank you. I appreciate it.

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Written By Dr Orlena 

Dr Orlena Kerek (MBChB from the University of Bristol, UK) trained as a pediatric doctor. She is now a family health coach. She helps busy mums who want to feel amazing by eating healthy food. So they can enjoy a healthy life, get back into their honeymoon shorts and teach their kids healthy habits.  All without thinking about it.

If you want a healthy family and healthy lifestyle without having to think about it. And you'd like help, book a 30-minute "Healthy Life Roadmap" call here.

You're invited!

Come and join Amanda and Dr Orlena this Friday (June 11th) at 12pm Eastern for the "3 Mistakes Parents Make when Trying to Get their Kids to Listen Workshop".

Come and join the fun in Dr Orlena's Healthy You Healthy Family FB group:"

Amanda's website: 

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