How To Help Your Anxious Child + Tips For Raising Mentally Strong Children (Interview With Child Psychologist Dr. Tina Bryson)

Dr. Caroline Leaf
5 min readAug 17, 2020

Being a parent can be challenging, especially when it comes to teaching your child how to handle the hard stuff in life. There is a thin line between being overprotective and being overcritical, and often there are situations where doing or saying the right thing seems impossible. In this week’s podcast, I spoke with child psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Tina Payne Bryson about why we need to let our children experience negative emotions like anxiety and irritation, how to show up when your child is struggling, common parenting mistakes we all make and how we can avoid them, the importance of modeling behaviors as a parent or guardian, the difference between discipline and punishment, and what it means to take a mind-based approach to parenting.

Over the past several decades, more and more research on the mind and brain has shown us that we have a lot more power to change our lives than we ever thought we did, even when it comes to parenting. As Dr. Bryson points out, when we start using our mind to think about the way we interact without children, asking more “why” questions and trying to figure out how to teach our child to regulate their feelings and responses, this can help us avoid common parenting mistakes like:

1. Just focusing on the behavior.

One of the biggest mistakes we make as parents is that we focus too much on the behavior of the child and not enough on the mind behind the behavior. We should always be chasing the “why”. We need to investigate what is going on so we can treat the issue correctly; we need to peel the “layers” back.

2. Confusing punishment and discipline.

We need to rethink discipline, and recognize that most of the time kids are doing the best they can. When our children are not doing well, then we need to approach the situation with curiosity, not just anger. What is going on? Why are the acting that way or saying those things?

A disciplinarian should be a teacher and skill-builder, not a punisher. We shouldn’t punish kids for things they cannot help. The big question is, do they have skills to deal with this situation? What is their behavior telling us? It is important to remember that behaviors communicate the skills they need to learn. We need to stop punishing kids for things they don’t know how to do…

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Dr. Caroline Leaf

Mental health expert. I have spent the last 30+ years researching ways to help people manage mental health issues in school, work, and life: drleaf.com