Therapeutic Parenting

Therapeutic Parenting

Jul 27, 2023

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We hear a lot of names for parenting philosophies (e.g. gentle parenting, positive parenting, compassionate parenting), that all share the same foundation of compassion and connection. Today, I’m sharing the concept of therapeutic parenting - what it is and how it relates to the parenting style I now teach to moms like you.

I first heard the term “therapeutic parenting” when I was really struggling with my then-4-year-old son. His temper tantrums, hitting and kicking were triggering and overwhelming to me. 

I felt so reactive toward him, and the way I responded made me feel terrible. So, I started to get some support. I found a therapist to help my child and me, and I began learning how to help him get out some of those big feelings and process that negative emotion.

After these sessions, I would tell my best friend (who’s also a therapist) about everything I was learning, and she said, “That sounds like therapeutic parenting all the time…You know that's impossible. Right?”

But I felt like I had no choice. All I knew was that I needed to help my son with his big feelings, and Lincoln needed so much support. 

Along the way, I realized that I needed a lot of help with my big feelings, too. I needed to heal my trauma response and decrease my stress.

So what do we do when the thing our kids need is so hard? In this episode, I share a little background on therapeutic parenting, common challenges parents face and my own therapeutic parenting hack.


What is Therapeutic Parenting?

Therapy is defined as a way to get help with a mental health problem or get extra support if you're going through a tough time. In therapy, you learn skills to cope, to feel better and get help with the problem that you're having.

So when we apply this concept to parenting, we are helping and supporting our children when they’re having a tough time. 

When you’re a preschooler, a tough time might be having trouble getting your shoes on or your brother looking at you funny, but when we look at it through a compassionate lens, we see that our kids are acting out their feelings (of frustration, anger, sadness, etc.) through their behavior.

Someone who hits their brother is having a tough time. Someone who screams at their mom is having a tough time.

While you are not your child’s therapist, you can recognize that when your child is struggling or misbehaving, they need support (not judgment, criticism or lecturing). You can learn to see your kid’s behavior as a form of communication.

When you think to yourself, “This is a person who's having a tough time. This is pain. This is someone struggling,” you can take on the role of a compassionate witness. 

When you validate and identify your kid’s struggle and support them, they are more able to move through that negative emotion, feel stronger and solve problems. 


Challenges in Therapeutic Parenting

As my bestie told me all those years ago, this style of parenting is hard. There are some common challenges that I see come up often (and that I experienced myself).


Challenge #1: This only works when you are calm. 

You can’t show up with compassion and patience if you are dysregulated yourself. 

When I realized this, I knew that I needed to improve the way that I took care of myself so that I could support my kids in this way. I spent more time by myself and started to do some healing work to deal with my own trauma. I simplified our home life, and brought in rhythms and routines that worked for our family. 

If you can set your life up in a way that gives you greater capacity for this emotional coaching and connected parenting, then your whole family will benefit.


Challenge #2: Not knowing what to do after the big feelings pass.

You’ll be amazed at the change you’ll see in your kids simply by getting comfortable with them riding out their big feeling cycles - they decrease in intensity, frequency and duration. But then what?

This is not a permissive parenting model. So after the compassion and connection, we still need limits and impact-based consequences - just without the yelling, judgment and shame. 

We set clear limits and boundaries. And if those boundaries are crossed, we hold our kids accountable and ask them to repair whatever was damaged by their behavior. They have the opportunity to fix the problem.


My Therapeutic Parenting Hack

As I learned the therapeutic parenting model, along with many other tools, I felt like I needed to find a way to make it easier. 

This stuff is complicated, and it requires a lot from us as parents. I wanted to make this way of parenting more accessible for myself and, later, for the parents I was coaching. 

So I created the Calm Mama Process. I think of it as my therapeutic parenting hack. It’s a four-step process that includes:

  1. CALM: You can’t do anything until you are calm.
  2. CONNECT: Be the compassionate witness.
  3. LIMIT SET: State what is allowed in your home and under what conditions.
  4. CORRECT: Follow through with an impact (aka consequence). 


This process will help your kids grow up with better coping skills. We all have stress. We all get dysregulated. That is what it is to be human and have a human brain. 

We want to give our kids the tools to regulate themselves so that they can be emotionally healthy adults with healthy relationships.

You’ll Learn:

  • The role therapeutic parenting played in my own parenting (and coaching) journey
  • My favorite phrase to see frustrating behavior through a compassionate lens
  • Common challenges with compassionate parenting (and how to overcome them)
  • The difference between shame and guilt


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