Hello, friends! This is a super interesting interview with Jen Lumanlan from Your Parenting Mojo. We talk about all sorts of things related to parenting, being a parent, being a kid, as well as brainstorming some ideas in terms of my own kids and situation. In Jen’s words – “I don’t have much in the way of parenting instinct but I make up for it with outstanding research skills.”
Your Parenting Mojo
Jen opens by talking about “Your Parenting Mojo”, which is primarily a podcast that she created in order to be the resource she wished already existed for parents. She wanted information that was based in scientific research but wasn’t a slave to the research and wasn’t based on “one click-bate study that gets all the press”. Jen takes the most up to date research and analyses it in a practical way, examining what the complete body of research says about a particular topic and then thinking about how that should influence the way she parents her daughter.
Jen talks more about her own story and path in life and how she became interested in the work she does today. Jen shares how she never thought she would be a parent and didn’t particularly like children very much. However, her husband had a different opinion and so they decided to have a child together. When her daughter was born, she read lots of books about caring for a newborn and so felt somewhat comfortable during this phase. However, as her baby grew, started moving around and varying topics like discipline began to come up, she realized that she had zero parenting intuition whatsoever! Despite this, Jen knew she had excellent research skills, having a Masters degree in Environmental Management, and so decided to put them to use to help her on this journey through parenthood. Jen shares how as she researched more about parenting she realized that the resources she was finding were not particularly useful. Jen provides examples from the research where findings that are deemed as important and influential were perhaps, not as relevant as they claimed. Therefore, we need to apply a critical eye over research and take evidence from multiple sources. We discuss this further and how the media often only pick out a nugget of information from a research paper because it is more click-bait orientated, and so may not be representative of the study as a whole.
To combat this problem, Jen created her podcast, Your Parenting Mojo, providing practical advice, based on scientific research. Around the same time as starting the podcast, Jen was doing another Masters degree in Psychology, and then in education – she describes how she wanted to create a framework around the research she was undertaking to understand what she was missing on the parenting front! We chat more about the focus of Jen’s podcast and how it focuses mostly on the “post-baby phase”. Jen explains how there can be such a lack of support for new mothers and it’s often assumed that if you’ve coped with the newborn phase then you’ll be fine. However, in reality, it’s a different set of skills required as your baby grows and nobody is there to help you learn these. The podcast was designed to fill that void, being objective towards research, recognizing weaknesses as well as strengths, and applying it in a practical way to parenting.
Jen talks a bit about her childhood and how from a very young age she was really independent. The death of her Mother heightened this independence – Jen chats about this more and how although she feels this contributed to her lack of interest in children, she feels it’s something that was always there.
Practical parenting advice with Jen Lumanlan
Moving on, I ask Jen for some advice on issues we’ve been having with our kids, particularly with my oldest, Remi. We chat in-depth and it’s a great opportunity to hear Jen in action. I go into detail about the problems we’ve been experiencing, including behavioral troubles, sleep issues and major blowups that aren’t able to be resolved quickly. I also explain how Remi has been sick quite often recently and everything tends to get worse in the periods after this. Jen talks about her coaching group which tackles different issues and questions each month. She then asks a few tactical questions including any new aspects or changes in the family circumstance, how he reacted to the arrival of his brother, and how much of a routine the kids are used to. Then Jen asks me to highlight one particular incident that we’ve found troubling and we walk through it step by step – I talk about a recent event in the lead up to bedtime when trying to get Remi to bed was exceptionally difficult. There had been a couple of tantrums during the day that we’d had managed but during the evening he began climbing on my wife, Joelle, and then slapping her. I talk about this in detail and how we tried to diffuse this but he became more and more frustrated and mad and the situation escalated from there. Through the bedtime routine, he was continually resistant and uncooperative and then finally when it came to actually go to bed he became very physical with both of us, until we eventually had to put him in his brother’s crib to work through it in a safe place without engaging with us. I outline a bit more detail around the situation before Jen starts to walk through the incident.
Jen outlines a few aspects to take notice of:
- Sickness – It’s a really unpleasant experience and it sucks, so it’s definitely worth taking this into consideration with issues like this as they will definitely elevate.
- Sleep – Jen talks about the move from his crib into the bigger bed, with his brother going into “his” crib. She says how that was his safe space and now it’s been given to someone else. However much he loves his brother, that could be a contributing factor.
- Routine – Sometimes small changes in routine can have a larger impact. Jen talks about her own experience when her daughter is expecting one parent to pick her up, but the other does instead, and how this can impact her behavior.
Jen begins to unpick the situation I gave as an example and offers advice but first asks the question “what would you do if an adult you care about was doing something that drove you absolutely batty?”. We describe how you would address the issues, talk about it and discuss how you may be able to move forward. Jen explains the need to do this with Remi and explains how you can achieve this. She highlights how we would be trying to apply the principals of self-determination theory – competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
Jen talks about the need to understand the underlying reason why this behavior is happening. It isn’t just because he ‘wants’ to and we can’t move forward and address the issue successfully until we learn what this underlying issue is. She runs through some examples about how parents can approach the topic with their children in order to try and discover the reasons behind the behavior. We run through several different scenarios related to hitting and to the issues surrounding sleep and Jen shares her thought processes on these situations and how she would attempt to handle it. Each time she highlights the need for empathy and taking time to discuss the situation after the event, when everybody’s calm, to try and find the route cause behind the previous episode. She runs through an example chat you may have – “You were having a hard time last night, I was having a hard time last night…You might need to apologize for shouting…can you please help to understand what was going on for you? Why were you kicking your covers off?”
We talk further about this and I describe a chat I had with Remi after the event which Jen further shares her thoughts on. She agrees that absolutely kids have to understand that hitting won’t be accepted under any circumstances, yet highlights the need to ensure they are getting enough time in the day to be active, scream and shout. We talk more in-depth about the reasoning behind the behaviors that I shared and recognize that a significant factor which may be contributing is the possibility of being overtired. Jen explains how two of the biggest contributing factors to bedtime issues is either kids not being tiered enough for bed (i.e. going to bed too early because parents want time etc.) or becoming overtired, which can then lead to becoming overactive, resulting in tantrums and frustration. We talk about how these behaviors are very similar to those exhibited during Remi’s night terrors when there is little we can do but wait it out. Jen agrees and confirms that at this point, there is no amount of reasoning when a child is in such a heightened state.
We conclude on making some changes to try and incorporate more sleep, whether it be earlier bedtimes or naps during the day. Jen recommends giving this some time to see what issues clear up and then hopefully any remaining problems can be addressed using the problem-solving method of empathizing and trying to work out what the root of each issue is and how you can move forward in a way that meets all needs and is acceptable. She also recommends that parents discuss with each other what actions are acceptable and what you are prepared to do when trying to resolve issues such as this – and then stick to it.
Jen shares further examples from her own experience, including a phase when her daughter refused to get dressed for school. Through discussion she found out from her daughter that it was because she liked the soft fleece of her PJ’s and didn’t want to take them off – so they worked together resolving this issue. We then chat a bit about issues we’ve been having with potty training – I describe how I’d thought about dropping the potty training while having the other issues…that perhaps it’s one too many things…and Jen shares her thoughts on that. She explains that the research surrounding potty training is a disaster and there is no clear indication on how to really tell if your child is ready to potty train. However, Jen believes that when a child is ready, they will naturally use the potty and won’t need to be bribed, persuaded, praised or otherwise. With respect to the issues we’ve been having with Remi, Jen highlights how if Remi is not doing it right now then he’s not ready – with everything else in the mix he may be regressing in certain areas, trying to seek some control over the situation, which is surfacing in his refusal to use the potty. Jen agrees with my thoughts on this and recommends dropping the potty training, casually mentioning it in a positive and encouraging way – “Someday you’ll be ready for the potty and when you are we will be here to help you…”. Jen reinforces the need to be casual about things, not making aspects into huge milestones and keeping up with empathy and encouragement. Parents often think things will happen easily and overnight, but this is rarely the case! Each developmental stage is different for each child and they will progress when they are ready.
Moving on, Jen talks about her work directly with parents. She highlights her Facebook Group associated with “Your Parenting Mojo” which is free for anyone to join and you can ask questions there. Jen also does one on one consults as well and then within the private community they address topics on a monthly basis. Jen also highlights how she comes many parenting misconceptions in her work that really have no concrete roots in scientific research.
For example, getting kids to eat vegetables – many use the tactic that if you don’t eat your vegetables you won’t get dessert. Jen explains how this is actually enforcing the negative relationship with vegetables and children assume that if you have to be bribed to eat them, then they must be bad! Besides trying to make more appealing vegetables available at all times, Jen talks about how we must avoid making food a reward. She provides an example with her daughter where she can have a small square of chocolate anytime during dinner whatever happens, which takes the reward aspect of the chocolate away as she will get it anyway. She is never forced to eat all of her dinner, but if she wishes to eat what’s there then she is welcome to have more chocolate after dinner. I share another scenario that Joelle and I have recently had with our son, who wanted more sauce with dinner and had a tantrum because there wasn’t any and so refused to eat. Jen walks through this scenario and again takes it step by step on how to address this issue using the problem-solving method. If your child refuses to eat dinner that is fine – they are not going to starve and will eat when they are hungry. Half an hour before bed you can give a last chance option of eating, but make it clear that if they still choose not to eat then they will have no food until tomorrow. Again it’s about setting a limit on what you’re comfortable doing as parents, and then most importantly, sticking with it. Then the next day, come back to it and discuss the issue.
Resources from Jen
Jen tells us that you can find out more about this problem-solving method on her website where you can find a downloadable workbook which walks you through this process step by step, understanding how to empathize and how to get beyond the initial behavior to understand what the need your child is trying to fulfill and what needs you as a parent are trying to fulfill and how you can meet both of those needs without the behavior occurring.
Jen describes more about her podcast and website where you can find out lots more information on her philosophies and work. She describes how it’s important to be upfront on the way you parent as there are different methods and if you don’t believe in a particular philosophy then the advice isn’t going to be helpful. Jen produces a podcast every other week and in the off weeks tries to produce a separate blog post which ties different podcast themes together in an informative and practical way.
We close our chat by discussing how we can make sure we are appropriately informed by science, while not being a slave to it. Jen explains why her website is a great place to start as she has done the bulk of the research and brings forward practical conclusions, while also referencing all of the research used should you wish to look more deeply into it. Jen also recommends the website Parentifact as a good starting point for searching for credible information but does recommend diving a little deeper into the results before making any parenting decisions to really know that the decision you’re making is the right one for your family – which is exactly what Jen hopes to help listeners to do with Your Parenting Mojo. We discuss the need to question research and Jen lets us know that her Facebook Group is a great place to ask any questions, including those related to research. If you’re struggling to understand a particular piece of research, share it in the group and they’ll take a look! We also briefly discuss what to look out for in research papers should you want to tackle them yourself, including small sample sizes, sample diversity (or lack of), and making sure the results tie-up with the conclusions drawn in the discussion and abstract. Once you focus on these aspects you can really start to decide if this is something you want to base your parenting on, or whether you need to look for more information.
Lastly, Jen offers some reassurance for any parents in a similar situation to Jen who feels like they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re going to mess up their kid! She explains that one of the most important aspects to focus on are your family values and then whether the way that you parent on a daily basis is aligned with them or not. She describes how the science reassures her and has given her a sense of ease towards parenting which ultimately means she doesn’t have to worry – It’s possible to learn this confidence as a parent and other people can do the same thing.
She’s going to come out as she comes out and I don’t have 100% control over that…I’m applying appropriate influence/guidance and allowing her to flourish within that guidance into what she will be, and I feel very confident in that.
I’d like to thank Jen for coming on the show and being an awesome guest! You can get in touch with her over on her website yourparentingmojo.com, and definitely be sure to check out her Facebook Group. You can also keep updated on Facebook and Instagram. Jen is also currently organising a “Taming Your Triggers workshop” – registration continues through 9/30 and the workshop begins 10/1. Head to https://yourparentingmojo.com/tamingyourtriggers/ for more info!
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