Lael Stone works for the kids! She helps parents, educators and adults understand kids better.
In this interview with Lael Stone, she provides great advice and insight into how we deal with our kids’ big emotions and how we can manage screen time. She gives us guidance into the sex education and consent discussions and how do we help our kids sleep well.
Lael Stone is an author, public speaker, therapist and in her spare time, a co-creator of Woodline Primary School.
This Lael Stone interview one is a must for all parents! You will love everything the inspiring, passionate and purpose filled Lael Stone has to say. (Did we mention the Lael Stone School: Woodline Primary?? Yes, she built a school!!)
Like this interview? Here’s a few more like it:
- Angela Wood: built a not-for-profit to help local families. Episode 10
- Jordaine Chattaway: Sharing her battle with mental health whilst building a celebrated life. Episode 25
Partial Transcript of Lael Stone interview, creator of Woodline Primary School and Lael Stone Aware Parenting
Well, we always like to ask our guests. Firstly, who are you and what do you do?
I love this question because you can ask me this in a few weeks and I probably have a different answer.
We’ll go with what is alive today. Um okay. Who am I? I am an Australian woman. I am a daughter sister friend. I’m a wife to Mike. I’m a mum to three beautiful big Children. I’m an author. I am public speaker. I’m a therapist. Um, I am the co creator and director of Woodland Primary School and New school That just opened a few months ago. Ah, and probably to sum up what I do. And I would say this This comes from my daughter. So a few years ago, my youngest daughter, she’s in the car with one of their mates. And when they’re in the back and they’re just chatting And I heard her friends say, What does your mom do for a job and my daughter without missing a beach? I said She works for the kids and I was like, Oh, I like that she works for the kids. And I thought, I’m going to put that on my business card. I work for the kids, which, really, I think sums up what I do, which is that, um, I help adults or educators or parents understand kids better, really. And I feel like I’m that bridge between Children and adults and helping them understand what kids need. You know what helps them what helps them thrive. It helps them heal their pain, their trauma and helps them to be heard.
So aware parenting is a style of parenting was developed by a woman called Dr Letha Salter. Maybe like 30 plus years ago. I mean, I actually look at her work and think it was so incredibly pioneering for the time, and it’s only actually, I think, coming now with where science is saying, Oh yeah, it’s really important for people to express their feelings and emotions and a lot of a lethal Salter’s work is really on close attunement and attachment to your Children. But it’s also about helping our kids heal from trauma and from stresses, and it really looks at that even young babies, all that happen to teenagers and adults. We all have feelings and emotions, and we all need an opportunity to express them. So, working with the way our parenting, what I do, I work one on one with couples or just a parent around any issues they may have with their kids. So whether that’s a baby, whether it’s a four year old 15 year old and I work with parents to go, well, what’s going on for your child and help them see what’s behind the behaviour? What the child might be expressing because the fundamental belief is all behaviour has a meaning. So everything that we do, there’s always a reason behind it. So it’s helping parents understand what’s going on for their kids, why they’re doing what they’re doing and at the same time helping the parents to look at what their own story is. So whether we like it or not, we take our own wounds from childhood and we carry them through into parenthood, and often what we do quite unconsciously is we then project them onto our kids.
And that’s why when we get really irritated, when our kids do a certain thing or it’s why we end up screaming at them even though we shouldn’t and you know, sometimes that’s to do with stresses and sometimes that’s to do with, You know, we’ve got a lot going on in our lives, but a lot of the time we get really triggered as adult and particularly as parents is directly related to a lot of our own wounds and traumas from our childhood. But as adults we don’t like to look at that because it’s confronting and it’s painful and it’s much better to just pretend it doesn’t exist. Squash it down and therefore blame it on the child, right? My child is not doing this, and my child is not doing that. And a child is always relating to their environment. A child who’s always saying You know what feels safe here? What doesn’t They’re often looking to try and get their needs met. They’re always coming from a place of, you know, feeling either powerless or feeling like they don’t have choice and autonomy, and so their behaviour usually reflects what’s going on. So for me, my work is so much about helping parents understand Children more and also helping them heal and work with their own stories and their own traumas so they don’t then pass it on to their kids.
Fascinating. Now Nick and I have prepared just a few of the big questions and, uh, can’t wait to hear your answers on that. So when you when you think about big emotions, whether that big emotion comes from toddler or a teenager, um, how do how do we deal with those? Or how should we deal with those?
I always start, Um, and look again. What happens for kids happens for teens, like for little ones is also same for teens. It’s actually also the same for adults. I always talk about that. We, either what I call imbalance, are out of balance. So from a parenting point of view, we’re talking about a four year old. You know, when your four year olds imbalance, right? Because you can hear them singing in their bedroom and they walk out and they go to their sibling and say, You want to play together and then they go off and play, and then you say to them, Sweetheart, can you pick up your shoes and they go, Yeah, sure, Mom, and they do it. And it’s those moments where you think I’m really winning at parenting. This is awesome, right? And your child, usually imbalance, so they usually cooperative their kind. They consider it when kids are out of balance is when we see those other behaviours. It’s when they walk into the room and they kick the dog, and it’s when they pick a fight with their siblings straight away. And it’s when you say, darling, can you set the table for dinner? And they’re like, Why do I have to do everything and they come back and all of a sudden you’re like, Whoa, I just ask you to do something. And so I always start with going. What we need to look at is, is a child imbalance or out of balance. Right now, you can also apply that to us. As an adult, we imbalance. We out of balance Right now, there’s always a reason why we’re out of balance, and there’s a few reasons. And for kids, what we look at is sometimes it’s because there’s a basic need that’s not being met, which is, you know, they’re hungry or tired, or they need some information around what’s going on with what we’re moving on to next or something, right?
So it’s usually those basics, but a lot of the time it is an accumulation of stresses, perhaps traumas or repressed feelings that are trying to find their way back into balance. Now, the way that we do that as humans is through expressing our feelings and emotions. So I often in my workshops, explaining like this, let’s look at an average six year old who’s in primary school and in prep, right, you know, and they wake up, and mom and Dad are like, Oh, God, we’ve got half an hour to get to school and straight away they start the day with this kind of hustle going on, right? So the child begins today with a little bit of stress on board because they’ve been hurried to get to school and then they like school. But once they get to school, they have to say goodbye to the parent. It’s still hard to separate when you’re sick, so a little bit more stress happens in their little body. And then they get into their class and they look around and the teachers not there, the teachers sick for the day. So there’s a substitute teacher, and all of a sudden there’s a bit more stress in their body because I’m like, I don’t know who this adult is. This doesn’t feel safe, and even though it’s okay, still feels a bit worrying. So then they get through the recess, and then they go out and find their mates. And you know, one of their friends is having a hard day in turns around says we don’t like you. We want to play with you, right? And all of a sudden, more stresses are going on in their little body, and then they come back in and they’re doing mouths and they don’t feel that good at maths. And they’re worried about asking for help. And they think they’re going to make a mistake. More stresses, Right? So quite a few of those going throughout the day and then they come home, you know, in the same mom.
Mom is like, you know, during the afternoon, hustle, getting dinner, ready, all that kind of stuff. And they walk into the kitchen, they go, Mom, can I have a cookie before dinner? And she’s like, Okay, you can have one. And so she goes the cookie jar and there’s one cookie left and she goes to reach it and pull it out. She realises, God, I haven’t eaten anything since 10 o’clock this morning and she takes a bite out of the cookie and then hands it to a child, and the child takes one look at that cookie with a bite out of it and then just completely loses the plot right and throws it on. The floor has big, beautiful, glorious meltdown. Right now. We know from hearing the back story of what’s going on, that it’s not often about the cookie. It’s about the fact there’s been all these little stresses that have happened throughout his body throughout the day. And then he gets home to the safe place, which is his parents or his family. And that’s when those big feelings and emotions come out. Now most people who are listening to her parents will know once you know he’s had that huge meltdown after the cooking and he’s yelled and he screamed. He’s got angry and he’s thrown himself on the floor, and then it will often move into some big tears. And then those tears will move into some sobs and then he’ll kind of want to come close and snuggle up on your lap and then he’ll just go. What’s for dinner? And it’s like nothing’s ever happened, right? The storm’s passed, and that is the beautiful natural healing function of the body. So what’s happened in that moment is we’ve reached capacity, and for a child he was still learning about their feelings and emotions.
They reached a crisis point and then all those feelings are going to come flooding out, and that is normal Right now, we, as a culture in a society, has made that wrong. We have seen that as a child being disrespectful. We’ve seen that as a child, being bad or naughty when really up until about the age of seven or eight, Children cannot help but have those big, glorious meltdowns because it’s the brain on some level, trying to reset itself. It’s the brain reaching capacity where it says, Oh my God, I can’t cope anymore Too many stresses and the way that we come back into balance is through crying through, raging through, laughing through shaking. Now that’s what we all do as humans. But what happens is, once we get past the age of seven or eight, we are brain begins to develop, and we begin to learn, actually can say the words. I’m really angry because you just did that, or I’m feeling really sad because this is what’s happening at the moment. And then we begin to develop more language in around how we’re feeling, and then hopefully we hold that into the teenage years. But then again, as the brain grows, we have another beautiful big spike of teenagers, and we get all the big feelings again. We often say having a 14 year olds having a four year old, but with better vocabulary, right? So we get that going on. And then in adult hood we still do the same, right? We can still be reactive. And even though we have a fully functioning prefrontal cortex and we understand emotions and feelings, we can often be reactive. And so the thing that I often come back to is when we’re looking at feelings and emotions, they are not bad and they are not wrong. But for so long, we’ve been given the message. Be positive, think good things. You know, these feelings over here like joy and passion and happiness.
They’re all good, but feelings like sad and angry and jealous and all those kind of feelings are not good. So let’s quickly move up the spectrum to get to these. But here’s the thing about humans. We have to feel them to release them, to be able to move on. And our culture has taught us for so many years that those feelings are not okay, and because we’ve been taught that they’re not OK as parents, what we often do We work really hard to stop them in our kids because it makes us uncomfortable. So for me personally, when I first had my kids, like most people, you don’t know what do you what you’re doing. So you just you fumble your way along and in my mind, what would make a good parent is if my kids were happy all the time. So I thought my job was to keep them happy, which meant that I never really had boundaries. I really said no. I was what I would consider a permissive parent, which was whenever they’re upset, I just give them whatever they wanted. So they would stop being upset. And I was always full. Oh, yeah, totally, Totally. Um, I was always trying to make them happy, and and really, that’s impossible. It doesn’t work, and it’s actually incredibly exhausting. And your kids are never going to be happy because they’re not meant to be happy all the time, right? But I was so uncomfortable with feelings and emotions, I didn’t know what to do with them. I thought my only job is to try and avoid them at all costs by keeping everybody happy. Now I know from doing this work for a long time, as many parents will be like, Yeah, that’s what I do or we swing to the other end of the spectrum, which is where we become very authoritarian and we shut those feelings down. So we say You need to stop crying or we yell at our kids or we smack them or we send them to our room. We basically give them the message.
Those feelings are not all right. So when I learned about where parenting, it was like this like Oh my God, I do not have to stop those feelings. What I need to do is make it safe enough for my Children to express them in a way that is safe to let them know that I welcome all of them all of their feelings and two of the