Ep. 138 – How to Set Boundaries with Spicy Kids with Mary Van Geffen

by | September 21, 2022

Ep. 138 – How to Set Boundaries with Spicy Kids with Mary Van Geffen

by | September 21, 2022

The Fresh Start Family Show
The Fresh Start Family Show
Ep. 138 - How to Set Boundaries with Spicy Kids with Mary Van Geffen


In this episode of the Fresh Start Family Show, Wendy’s guest is Mary Van Geffen, a certified Simplicity Parenting Counselor® and Professional Co-Active Coach®, and Parent Coach for Spicy Kids.

Wendy & Mary share how they have similar backgrounds, including both having Spicy Girls that helped lead them to this work and realizing that a lot of the work that needed done was on themselves.

You’ll hear Mary speak to some of the ways you’ll know if you have a spicy kid:
If your child:

  • Expresses themself in big and loud ways
  • Aren’t afraid to take up space
  • Tend to be moving all the time
  • Hurt folks unintentionally
  • Feel things really intensely
  • Are louder than appropriate
  • Exhibit a zest for life and have energy to spare
  • Use powerful words that can wound or delight
  • Are often very aware of others’ feelings yet miss social cues that peers are feeling disgruntled
  • Powerfully negotiate until they lose hope and melt down
  • Have no problem setting boundaries with adults
  • Choose to be completely true to themselves, not others.
  • Notice everything from how the chair moved one foot to mom being in a bad mood
  • Would love to direct all play with peers
  • Can’t be consoled physically
  • Can be incredibly sweet, caring and loyal
  • Refuse to say “I love you” until they feel it

… then you probably have a spicy kid! 

In this episode, you’ll learn 3 Steps to Setting Boundaries with Spicy Kids:

  1. With Calm
  2. With Firmness 
  3. With Repetition 

Are you ready to create the life you want (filled with strong healthy relationships) + live with high self-esteem, confidence. peace & joy?

If yes, join us for The Fresh Start Family Freedom to Be – Course
An online – immersive learning experience to help you heal relationships, learn to love yourself more, forgive others easier, shed limiting belief cycles, end protection behaviors & stop blaming yourself & others!

Episode Highlights:

  • What are Spicy Kids?
  • Why we don’t need a compliant child to be a good Christian
  • Tips on staying calm and neutral when we talk to our Spicy ones
  • Holding firm to a boundary and allowing them to be upset helps them build resilience and grit
  • Why repetition matters with these kids and understanding how boundaries work
  • Showing grace and making amends after a messy experience

Mentioned in this Episode:

Where to Find Mary’s Work:


Calm in the Chaos

Gentle Parenting 101

MOSO Course waitlist

Sign up for Wendy’s Newsletter

Free Guide: How to Raise Strong-willed Kids with Integrity

Power Struggle Dissolving Class

Not able to listen or want to read along with us?
Here is the episode transcript!

This episode is brought to you by the free Fresh Start Family learning guide: How to Raise Strong-willed Kids with Integrity so you don’t lose your mind. We understand what it’s like, families, to raise kids who push back a lot, maybe push buttons often, and say no more than they say yes, and we’re here to help. You can download our free learning guide at freshstartfamilyonline.com/strongwilledkids.

Well, hello listeners. I’m Wendy Snyder, positive parenting educator and family life coach. I’m so happy that you are here on today’s show. We have the incredible Mary van Geffen, you guys, who’s going to be talking to us about How to Set Boundaries with Spicy Kids. And let me just tell you, I was so excited for this interview because I am obsessed with Mary. I found her on Instagram I don’t know, probably like six or eight months ago, and I immediately like just binged her content fell in love with her, her voice, her teachings, her humor.

Her sense of humor is so funny. And I just love funny people. Like I am blessed to be married to an incredibly funny dude, and it just makes life so much better when you hang out with fun, funny people, and Mary just has the best sense of humor. And so I instantly just DM, you know, messaged my team and was like, you guys, we have to get Mary on the show. And she said, yes! So I’m really excited for you guys to hear from her, but she really specializes in what she calls Spicy Children, which you know, is kind of a synonym to strong-willed kids or what I like to call cactus kids. But the way, like I said, she encourages parents on how to work with spicy kids is just the best.

So I’ll tell you a little bit more about her now. Mary van Geffen is an international parenting coach and parent educator for overwhelmed moms of strong-willed and spicy children. She helps moms gain confidence to choose gentle, respectful parenting, especially if they weren’t raised that way. She has a ministry on Instagram. I love that she calls it a ministry because Mary’s a mama who loves Jesus too – woo, woo -where she posts on inspiring parenting tips every single day, just reading her social media will help you delight in your child and remember that you are enough. She believes that when a mom realizes how hard she is on herself and cracks the door open for some self-compassion, her entire family is bathed in light.

Mary is a certified Simplicity Parenting counselor, and a professional Co-active coach. But her greatest achievement, she says, is cultivating a calm, kind and firm relationship with her spirited go-getter daughter who’s 17 now, her polar opposite introverted son, who’s 15 and what she calls her un-enneagramable hubby. So guys, I’m just really, really excited for you guys to listen to this episode. I know that you are going to fall in love with Mary as much as I did, and she’s just got some really great wisdom to bring to the table on how do you set boundaries and keep boundaries with these spicy kids?

Because those of you who have strong-willed kids or kids that push back a lot spicy cactus, whatever you wanna call ’em, you know that they are incredibly gifted at challenging rules, limits and boundaries, right? And so it can become a challenge. And oftentimes we end up pendulum swinging, right? We either give in and say fine, or we kind of, you know, might have a tendency to freak out and just say like, oh my gosh, like if you don’t listen, I’m gonna, ah, you know, do X, Y, and Z and move to threats or intimidation or whatever it may be, which is not what we wanna do. So I’m excited for you guys to hear from Mary today as always you guys, if you are not on our email list, yet, that is my favorite way to keep in touch with you guys.

Okay. It’s allows me to actually get into your email inbox every week, fill you with encouragement, motivation, inspiration, and it gives you the ability to easily communicate with me. If you want to hit reply or ask me questions or anything like that. So make sure you’re on the email list. You can head to freshstartfamilyonline.com/newsletter, and without further ado, help me welcome Mary to the show and enjoy this episode.

Well, hey there, I’m Stella. Welcome to my mom and dad’s podcast, The Fresh Start Family Show. We’re so happy you’re here. We’re inspired by the ocean, Jesus and rock and roll and believe deeply in the true power of love and kindness. Together, we hope to inspire you to expand your heart, learn new tools and strengthen your family. Enjoy the show.

Well, hey there, famillies. Welcome to a new episode of the Fresh Start Family Show. I am so excited to introduce you to miss Mary van Geffen. Hi, Mary. Welcome to the show.

Hi, I’m so glad to be here. Your energy is infectious.

Yours too. Oh my gosh. I’ve had so many interviews lately where we were joking by the end, I’m like, did we just become best friends? Cuz we had so much in common and I have a feeling that’s gonna happen today because yes, as soon as I, I found your work on, I found you on Instagram. I just am so just inspired by all of the amazing colleagues and people I’m finding on, on Instagram lately, doing incredible work in the world. But as soon as I found your work, I was like, oh my gosh, this Mary, I love her energy. I love everything about you. I love your voice. I love all that you’re doing. And I’m just happy that you’re here. So today listeners, we are going to be talking about How to Set Boundaries with Spicy Kids, which Mary is an expert about.

And you guys know how much I love talking about power kids or I call them cactus kids. So Mary’s gonna talk to us about spicy kids today, but Mary, will you just tell listeners a little bit more about you? How did you become passionate about serving and supporting families in this way? Tell us your story. Tell us about how old your kids are. All the things help listeners get to know you a little bit better.

Gather around, come sit on my lap. I’m gonna tell you about me. I live very near you in Long Beach. I’m a parenting coach and I’ve been doing it since 2- since 2011. And I came by it naturally because I didn’t know what to do with my three year old at the time. I just felt out of my depths and needed well, I wanted to get her diagnosed with something, but that wasn’t fortunately I wasn’t able to make that happen and ended up realizing that I had a whole journey to do as a parent. And that a lot of our sort of dysfunction or freak outs were me and my sort of victim mentality of that, that she was too much.

And I was sort of rewriting the same story that had been told about me. So parenting has been such a, that was, I mean she’s now 17 and her brother is 15 and this whole parenting thing has been such a catalyst for extreme spiritual growth. And it’s made me who I am today. So it’s been an amazing journey, but it didn’t feel amazing at the beginning. And so I, I feel like I’ve been, I’ve been that person that does not like their child and thinks, ‘am I not a good Christian that I don’t have this compliant kid?’ Like I was scarred by many, a Christian book that said like there was a problem with her heart.

And guess what? My 17 year old daughter is amazing. She’s about to go to the University of Pennsylvania’s entrepreneurial program for two weeks. And she was the first of her friends to get a job and she’s a powerhouse and that’s what these kids are. And powerhouses are really hard to parent. So that’s kind of what I’ve been, I’ve been in the trenches and that I’m also happen to be a Simplicity Parenting counselor and a Co-active life coach similar to you. So it’s a nice combination of, you know, a lot of tactics and specifics on parenting, but also honoring that we all have a way of knowing inside us. And sometimes we just need someone to sit with us and help us unpack the gunk that’s getting in the way of us having our own intuition and our own values on display.

Oh, so good. See, I knew it. I didn’t even know your whole story, but it’s like, I knew it. I was like, God, I know we’re gonna have a lot in common. And it’s funny. I think about the year, it was probably 2011 that I decided to become certified too. So it’s probably the same exact year Stella was born in oh seven. She’s almost 15 now. Same exact story. She was about three. When I thought I was gonna lose my mind, same exact story. I was like, there’s gotta be something wrong with her. Like ODD, ADHD, like give me something so I can understand why this is so difficult. And then same story. Like I realized, I remember being in that, that first parenting classroom and just realizing, I always describe it as like the light started, like the it’s like the windows had opened and I started to be able to see the light again, because honestly I realized how much I had to do with the picture.

And it wasn’t back then. I mean, it’s been a journey, right? Like there have been seasons, but back then, I remember just being so encouraged by it that if I figured out how to change, that there was a good chance things would get better with her. And it’s just so interesting how much we have in common. And now Stella, my Stella is almost 15 and like the way you describe your daughter, thriving in life, you know, like, and she’s such a powerhouse, she’s my strong-willed spicy one. And it’s just so cool to hear that these girls, you know, we both have these similar girls, so it’s very, very cool.

It’s such a, like not to exclude people with sons because that’s a whole, another thing like moms of boys, I think of them sometimes as like Wendy and Peter Pan, they’re just surrounded by people that need like something very different than they, than they maybe know to give. But there’s also this, like this archetypal like journey of a mother, raising a daughter and undoing some of the stuff that her own mother did raising a daughter like that just I’m fascinated with that whole breaking generational curses and setting boundaries with your own mom in the process of setting boundaries with your child. So I can get into that easily.

Oh, I love all that too fun fact. So weird. I still don’t know why, but my, my mom and dad named me, Wendy and my brother, Peter.

Whoa, really? That’s funny,

Like so weird, but,

And you hear about Peter Pan all the time. You’re over that metaphor.

Oh, it’s so funny. Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it all. I love it. All Mary. And then I love that, you know, you’re a lover of Jesus. I, I was dying the day you posted about the story of when Jesus went to the temple with his parents, you were like, Jesus was a spicy one. I’m like, oh my gosh. Yes, yes.

You imagine if your middle schooler just decided to not come home on the journey and three days later you found them at a temple and they were like, I’m about my business mom. I mean, can you imagine?

Yeah. And he was like, excuse me, basically, like I’m doing work here. You know, like, oh, I just love it. Very so, so good. Yeah. And I feel like we, we also both share. I mean, you tell me, but I, I get from you that you have a passion for kind of deconstructing what has been taught with such, you know, such heartbreak in our Christian communities, to our brothers and sisters of Christ and is just so nice to meet someone who is actively spreading a different message and encouraging families. I, I mean, I just got a DM that just came in this morning. Someone had heard me on, on a different podcast and it was the sweetest message that I bet you can relate to.

But basically they said, you know, thank you so much for, for this podcast episode. They say, I realize, realized that I completely was like parented a way that I didn’t want to, my kids growing up. They’re 17 and 19 now I was really misled by the church and it was so sweet. She said, what do I do now? How do I make amends? How it, how do I met that place now where I’m just now realizing this and realizing that I wish I wouldn’t have done like that. I lo I love it when families, I don’t like to see them wait that long to get the message, but it’s so nice when, when you’re just able to reach more and more people with the message of you don’t have that’s, you know, that message that’s that’s preached so greatly is not the way, you know, so I’m I’m thankful for your work.

It’s never too late. Yeah. Because I like to say if my I’m 52 and if my mother called me up and said, Hey, I think that, I think I was kind of harsh with you. And I think I, I thought that for me to be okay, you had to not be okay. And, you know, and I, I wanna take ownership of that and I wanna know what, what I can do now. Like, it would be the perfect timing if it was today or tomorrow, I’m, I’m open for that phone call. So it can feel like hopeless. I have a lot of folks with older teens who are just now like this lady that DM’d you and yeah, it’s gonna be harder.

You’re certainly not gonna have like a checklist where you’ll be able to get in more control of those teens. That ship has sailed, but you can have connection with those teens. And so I don’t think it’s ever too late.

Well, that’s such a great example to give, you know, cause people ask me that all the time and I always say it’s never too late, but to actually give the example of, imagine if, like you said, if your mom called you right now was just like, Hey, I’m just now realizing that I made some mistakes. I wanna make amends. I want you to, to know that I’m showing up now to learn a different way and it may not be with you, but it’s sure as heck gonna be with my grandkids. You know? Like, I mean, we would all be floored if you, if you got that phone call. So that’s a, that’s just such a great example. Awesome. And so you said, I, and I love another thing that I’m like, oh my gosh, there is so much in common is, so you say your older one is spicy, she’s 17 and then your younger one is like polar opposite.

Yeah. I call him my mild child

That’s our house, too!

Yeah. Yes. They have to be, we couldn’t do this with two.

Yeah. Terrin at our house, my little guy, he’s almost 12. He is a spitting image of daddy. Like they are like easy going, you know, just, they have their own set of challenges. I always say like easygoing people. And then you have Stella who, you know, they hate to hear this as, as teens. So I try not to say it in front of her anymore, but she’s my spitting image. I mean, we are just, she has made from the same mold and we’re like, just so similar, right. With our spiciness and our strong will. And it’s, it’s just so interesting to have that ying and yang in the family. Thank God. Thank God we do. Yeah.

I think we need it. I mean, I remember like grumbling to my husband when my daughter was probably five, like, doesn’t she infuriate you? And he said, no. Cause I married her. I, I love, I love who she is, cuz that’s what I saw in you. And I was blind to it at the time. I saw her as competition at the, at the moment, but it’s beautiful to have that alternate energy in the home that holds space for the spicy.

It’s so true. It is so true. That is so cool. And we get to really serve or just hold space for and inspire. I think them right when they have those moments where maybe their self confidence is low or maybe they’re not as likely to just hop up on the stage or clear out, let me, let me share why this is not okay. You know, we, we can provide such inspiration there. So yes, thank God for the balance. Well, good. Well, and then actually tell me this. How long ago did you, you said you, you started in 2011. So, so it’s been about a decade since you’ve been teaching and, and coaching parents. And you said you’re a life coach in addition to parenting, right? Again, similar

For a long time, I was just teaching the Simplicity Parenting workshop, which is like seven weeks to kind of reduce inflammation in your home. And then I was finding, well,

I haven’t heard of that one.

Yeah. Have you read Simplicity, Parenting the book? (Wendy: No.) I like it, we have different things we can add to this, but it’s the idea. It comes from a guy named Kim John Payne out of Australia, but it’s, it really has. It’s interesting cuz it’s not about how you, the parents show up. It’s basically everything else. How do you set up a home that creates space for your child to be their best self? So it’s like less clutter. It’s less stuff on the calendar. It’s openness to boredom and sort of unstructured time. And it’s less adult information coming at them and, and less screens. And so kind of creating that as a foundation, it helps you figure out what kind of parent you wanna be because a lot of that stuff can be noise so that you can’t get in touch with what matters to you.

So yeah, that’s what I taught that for a while. And then I would have one-on-ones and I would quickly realize there’s a lot more that people struggle with than how much clutter they have in their house. And there’s the interpersonal. And so the, the life coaching was a helpful way to be able to ask the right questions.

Hmm. So, cool. Awesome. Well today what we’re gonna talk about is how to set boundaries with spicy kids. And before we even get into that, tell us what your definition of spicy kids is, right? Like we, all, those of us who are so passionate about strong-willed kids like or spicy kids, we all have our own way of seeing them and defining them. But I wanna hear yours because I know it’s gonna be beautiful.

Mine. I have like a whole checklist, but if I was gonna condense it, I would say it’s an intense child. It is an inflexible child who has a, has a vision who has a large like nexus of power within them. They, they have a need for being in charge, even though they don’t have the, the positional power. They tend to have a lot of flare up socially and maybe see aggression where it isn’t. And they also are usually gifted, highly creative, often divergent thinkers and just big personalities. They have no problem going toe to toe with adults.

And they are just the future CEOs and entrepreneurs. But dang, they’re hard to parent.

Well, hey there families. I have a free online parenting workshop that I want to invite you to. It’s called “what to do when your kids say, no, I won’t and you can’t make me”. These classic power struggles situations can trigger us and cause us to dip down into reactive modes that cause us to be shameful and guilty at the end of the night when we lay our head on our pillow and none of us want that, but don’t fret. I’m here to help. I can teach you five positive parenting tips to help gain cooperation and dissolve power struggles with integrity, so you can take a break from relying on fear, force, bribery, and rewards to get your kids to comply.

You can save your seat now over at freshstartfamilyonline.com/powerstrugglesclass. Again, this workshop is completely free. I’m going to cover things like how to gently guide your kids towards action, even when they don’t want to move or do what’s asked of them, ways to see kids who pushed back a lot as incredible blessings and future leaders. I promise you they are blessings, not curses. Also, I’ll teach you about the importance of paradigm shifting with thoughts and beliefs about power seeking misbehavior, as well as how to implement a pause button to ignite creativity and model self-control in your parenting walk. I cannot wait to support you in this free class, head to freshstartfamilyonline.com/powerstrugglesclass to save your seat now, and I will see you at class.

Yes, exactly. All of that is completely on point and in line with my oldest, with my Stella, you know, it’s the type of thing where, you know, I always say that, you know, there’s kids that enter into power, surge stages of life. Right. And that’s like standard. You can expect that they’re gonna push back a little bit more when they’re toddlers and tweens and teens, and they’re just seeking that independence and the leadership stuff. But, but you just know like, did you just know with your daughter when she was very, very young that could you just sense it like her strength and her like all of that for, for Stella, I could sense it from birth from the time she was a baby.

Well, it’s like when you, they’re the only child you have, you just think, well, everyone’s like this, but when you begin to be in playgroup and you see them interacting with the wallflowers and the compliant kids and the lemmings and that’s when for me, when I realized like, whoa, why is my kids so different? And also she was using, she was doing things to peers that I was making like evil right in my head. I was like, oh my gosh, we had a bad seed. But really it was just a giftedness with language before she had empathy. So she’d say things like, oh, you know, in preschool, I don’t like playing with you cuz your breath doesn’t smell good. Or you know, like one time my husband said, Hey, would you like to go on a date with daddy?

We heard that was like supposed to be the greatest thing. And she said, yeah, can mom come, but you stay home. And this is like, like, and we would take this at first. You’d be like, oh my gosh, what’s wrong with her? She’s so hurtful. And it’s like, no, she just had a high command of language was gifted in that way. But just did not yet have empathy.

Yes, exactly.

and comes on slowly. It’s a muscle we build.

Yes. And it, that is, that is what I find. Maybe, maybe you’ll agree. Maybe you won’t. But I find that like, you know, every human being is gonna have their challenges and their journey in life. But with the spicy ones, like the, the easygoing ones, they, they just a little bit easier to find empathy, compassion, softness, hold, bite their tongue. Right. But the spicy ones, like that’s their journey. They develop the empathy for sure. Just like a muscle. Like we always all do. But for them, it’s just a little bit more of a, like to, to look at, to look at a situation and go right to empathy or right to compassion. They’re just, they’re nat- It feels like their natural gift is a little bit more to go to, you know, how can we take this to the next level?

How can we, how am I gonna take this and, and move it along? Or you know, like the leadership,

Like a director. Yeah. Or a boss. Yes.

Yeah. Yeah. Not that bosses aren’t empathetic, but it is, it is just really fascinating. Well, let’s talk about sitting boundaries with spicy kids, Mary, because this can feel maddening. And also, you know, I love that. You, you mentioned a few times how you really thought something was wrong with her when she was little or, you know, you were hoping for a diagnosis or that you, you had these labels, right. She’s unkind, she’s hurtful, whatever. It was like, my, my list went on and on, I would say like sassy all the time, disobedient, difficult. There was a term that was like a colleague taught it to me. She’s like, oh yeah. When my, my mind was younger, we used to call her PIA – pain in the ass. Like, like there was just all these terms that was like, she’s just so hard to handle, like all of these types of things.

And one of the biggest things over the years, right. Once you get consistent and more grounded with seeing the light and the beauty in these kids and not just always looking at it from that perspective is that you do have to say no a lot and you have to, I think, you know, what we’ll talk about is that it just is part of life. When you have a strong willed kid or a spicy kid, you’re gonna say no a lot. And with con, and we’re gonna talk about today, calmness firmness and repetition is key. So we’re gonna start with calmness. And I wanna hear your thoughts on this, about the importance of when it comes to setting boundaries, why remaining calm is, is so important. But before we get started, I’ll give you a quick example.

That God was. So he was like, here’s an example that you can use with Mary’s conversation tomorrow. God. And I’m like, thank you, God, that’s so awesome. Like that’s how he rolls. So Stella again, almost 15, 14 and a half. And it’s, I’m so excited. I started doing all this new weight training and kettlebell stuff lately. And she’s like, I keep telling her, you gotta, you gotta get into this. This strength training stuff is so awesome. She’s a really high level, like volleyball player, musician, all these things. But the weight training, I keep telling her. And the other day she decided her and her friends as a gym right across the way. And they decided to get gym memberships and they’re going to do workouts. I’m like, yes, this is perfect. Cause you know that age, it’s all about the friendships.

Like all they want. So anyway, she called us from the gym at like nine o’clock. She went back to back volleyball practices and then was at the gym and at nine o’clock, she was about to ride her bike home. It’s like three minutes away. And she called and she said, Hey dad, you know the voice, Hey daddy. Can’t always know when something’s coming. You’re like, what are you gonna ask for? Hey, so I was just thinking, could I go to Ruby’s house for just like 20 minutes? And Terry’s like, you know what, babe? No, it’s, you’ve been like at practice since 3:45, like you need to come home and she’s like, Daddy, please come on, come on, look, listen, just listen to me. And she made her case. He said, no again, she made her case again.

Like I it’ll be 20 minutes and no, no like you still need to do your kitchen work when you come home. But daddy, listen, I promise you, I will do the kitchen work. I will, I will be home. I will be safe. And I counted it. It was like six times that he had to say no and it was so awesome because he really kept his cool last night. And he did like exactly what I know you’re gonna speak to here. And it was awesome. She came home. She was like, okay, cool. She came home and she didn’t even flinch. She went, she wasn’t mad or anything. She went in, she did all of her kitchen work, which is new. We’ve developed a new like family contribution thing with chores lately. So we’re celebrating that. And then she was just in a good mood and she went to bed.

But that is, that is compared to many, many times we’ve messed up. Right? Like raising a strong willed kid. You just know you’re gonna mess up a lot where we’ve gotten attitude or engaged with, why are you doing this? Like, why are you like you come on, are you serious? Or like tone or not calmness with like bending, not firmness and just like ended it like one or two and just been like, that’s it, I’m hanging up. So I just know in my head that a lot of families listening to that story can relate to the times when you don’t follow through with that calmness and firmness and repetition. But I will just say before we speak to it, it just was a great example of last night of how well it works when you do those things and how well those kids respond because they really, in my, like in my experience, they, they latch onto the engagement.

Like if there’s a power struggle to be had, they’re hopping in. But if there’s just neutrality, they’re not. So talk to us about that first point. The calmness setting boundaries with spicy kids, but with calmness.

Yeah. Well I think it’s even if your child wasn’t spicy, self-regulation is the first step to any effective limit setting. It makes you a safe person to be able to set limits for somebody. And I’m, I am celebrating what happened last night because it is exhausting to have to set a limit and then worry that the person’s gonna get upset. And you, you said it so well that, that when there’s neutrality, there’s nothing for them to grab onto. I think calm is important because it doesn’t raise their defenses. And we we’re in a different state in our brain when we are regulated and breathing.

And as soon as we feel like there’s a threat, there’s parts of our brain that shut down that are not ready to learn anymore, that are not ready to communicate or be rational. So it’s in everybody’s best interest that when we communicate a limit, we are calm and the calmest person in the room. And the thing with spicy kids is they’re so allergic to shame any instance that they should feel shame or that you’re ashamed, or it just sets it, it lights their firecracker on fire. And so when we’re not calm, especially as teenagers, they’re going to interpret things as shame.

I mean, children, teenagers see more aggression in research than there actually is. So they’re scanning for it. They’re kind of already in a, in a fight or flight of some at their base level. Right? So their brain is under serious reconstruction. So we have to underplay and monotone. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, yeah, that’s not gonna work. Oh my gosh, you don’t have to get so mad. It’s like, am I getting gas lit here? I wasn’t mad. So for, for that older crowd, the older child, we really need to underplay because they’re gonna ramp it up anyway, in terms of the aggression they see,

Oh, I’ve never heard anyone put it like that. The allergic to shame, really, probably all humans are. Right. But the fact that they, they like sniff it out or they sense it like, because do you agree that spicy kids are just more, they feel things on a deeper level, right? Yes. So they can sense. So if we’ve got any type of like, basically what the hell’s wrong with you, why are you asking so many times in our tone, or even in our mind, our hearts, they sense it. Right? Cause Stella does the same thing to me all the time. And I’ve been working on lately just being like, okay, I hear you. Let me, let me try that again. I’m I must not be coming across neu – like I don’t say neutral.

It takes a lot of humility. And I think it’s more like Jesus. But back in the day, what we were being told by the churches was like, you represent God to this child. And so there should be no back talk or, and it’s like, Hmm, I don’t know. I think we’re both humans failing forward. We’re we’re representing what it looks like to fail God over and over again. And to keep being loved by him.

Yes. I agree. I agree. It’s easier said than done. So do you have, because, and I think it’s the hardest for us, Mary, would you agree when it’s, when it’s our mini me, right? Like you said, same thing happens on our house with daddy and her. It’s a little bit easier for them to remain neutral, right. Because it’s not, they’re not staring at themselves and I’m sure you with your life coaching and me, I know we, we teach like how to deal with that. Right. But what are your, some tips, your thoughts on if you’re feeling so triggered and you’re having trouble get to that calming spot of dealing with the neutrality, cuz you feel like you’re just so fricking over the asking 50 times or pushing of the buttons or whatever.

Any quick tips on that before we move on too with firmness.

Sure. I got lots of tips. I, I have a class that’s always available. That’s one hour – Calm in the Chaos – because so many of us were not taught how to get calm. Yeah. So I will say there, it it’s a little more involved than just a quick tip, but so much of it is what we’re telling ourself. And I think a lot of times the self talk is like, what’s wrong with this kid. If you ask that, you’re gonna figure out you’re gonna see things that are wrong. Or if you say what’s wrong with me that they won’t just take a no. Well now you’re kind of bringing shame on yourself and that makes your biometrics start to go up cuz we’re in threat, right? We’re threatened of being separated from the pack, so-to-speak when we put ourselves down that way.

So self talk’s really important telling yourself this is not an emergency or this is totally normal. Speaking in a way that’s mothering to ourselves in the same way we wanna speak to them. That’s crucial. And then don’t underscore and you probably know this with your weight training, how important movement is to help us simmer down when we’re triggered, when we are seeing red, finding some kind of way that you move your body because emotions need to, they are emotions. They need to be motioned out of the body that might look like you go and do a plank. It might look like you, you know, squeeze every part of your body together and then release it. Or you go for a run.

There’s no emergency. We don’t have to finish this conversation now. I mean, in your situation last night, the answer is no, but you could, you could be okay. Not explaining why, you know, maybe you’re not in a place to explain why right now. Yeah. Sometimes we’re open – and it’s so confusing to our kids cuz sometimes we’re open for negotiation. Oh great question. You know? Yes. Let’s explore that. And other times suddenly they there’s a trip wire and we’re like, because I said so, so we’re still trying to figure out our own like parenting paradigm so it can be confusing for our people. I’m sure.

Yes. Okay. And since you mentioned that, just one more quick thing about that. What is your encouragement on? I know I’ve had families say before, cuz you know, with these spicy ones, it is such a, the, the term negotiation is what made me think of this question. But it’s like, you know, I think so many parents get freaked out that they’re like training their kids, that it’s okay to negotiate them with them. And that puts them in a state of weakness. Right. And I’m always, I always really think that peaceful conflict negotiation is probably the best skill that you can teach your children. It’s so powerful. It can change our world. But you know, and like you said, sometimes we’re in a state where we’re like, we’re, we’re open to discuss this and have negotiation. And sometimes it’s just gonna be a, a neutral no.

But what is your take on these spicy kids that, you know, we always joke all of us always joke, right? Like they’re, they make great lawyers when they grow up. By the way, I have a very spicy friend in New York city that has, does the best law work for like people who have been wronged by biotech, not biotech by like pharmaceutical companies. And I love hanging out with her because I’m like, dang, you are, I don’t use the term spicy. I’m now gonna use the term spicy. Now that I met you. But I’m like, dang man, you are so strong-willed and she has one that she’s always like ‘Wendy, she, I’m…’ and I’m like ‘it’s cause she’s just like you!’ But her work. I’m like, oh my gosh, girl your work is amazing. She’s just fierce.

Like she does not. But the term, like the, the idea of the negotiation part with spicy kids, what’s your thoughts on that?

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I don’t think you can avoid it. Yeah. So you can have a lot of thoughts about how it’s not okay. It’s still gonna happen. And when we, you know, deny it and like it’s my way or the highway, sometimes we’re able to push a child’s spiciness under the surface. And I think some folks listening might have been that person where you were nervous about your dad blowing up or your mom, you know, withholding her love. So you didn’t lean into the things you wanted. And, and there’s a lot of loss in that scenario. Yeah. So there’s things I think we can do with spicy ones where we have a little more structure. So that were consistent because the spicy ones, if there’s an intermittent positive reward, if one out of every 20 times we say yes, then they’re gonna ask every single time because that little glimmer of hope is enough for them.

So having some, some like we’re kind of moving into firm. Right. But having some things that are non-negotiable like for instance, in elementary school, my rule was if you come up to me and ask me for a play date in front of your friend, the answer will always be no because I found myself going, ah, come on, can’t you do it. Or they do it in front of the other mom. And now I’m put on the spot and that wasn’t my plan for the afternoon, but I don’t really have a good reason why. And so I just made that rule and that meant a couple times I had to say, oh, do you remember the rule? And there was some big freakouts, but to not be afraid of the big freak out, like our job is to set the limit it’s their job to grieve the limit. And so often with a spicy one where tiptoeing around their upset and they need to be upset a lot to grow their resilience and their grit.

Yes. Don’t you think that we get in such trouble with when we’re parents of strong-willed kids? When we feel like we have to stop the, the meltdown or the, the big ugly emotions. Like I remember that lesson, Mary was so clear and pivotal for me the first time. Like I actually allowed Stella to like completely move through a freak out when I had been firm about something without fixing or coming in hot with like the, okay. I made it seven minutes and I can’t make it another cause I’m gonna fricking ring your neck. Like there were many of those, there was many of those moments, but those, I remember the first time when I was like, oh my gosh, we did it.

You made it through on your own. You learned to self regulate because you love to do things on your own. And now you have that experience. And I realize that I don’t have to fix everything, control everything. And after I got a taste of that, I was like, Hm, goodness. I want more of that. And you could tell the response and the learning with that little spicy one was just off the charts. Like when they did it themselves still used to always say, when she was little me do it, my do it. Yeah. And so the firmness, I love this idea of, of the firmness. And then knowing that there’s gonna be a significant level of freak outs in their lifetime, right


With your firm, with spicy kids.

And, and I think it’s okay with a legitimate spicy child to have less things. Your firm about this, this kid. I, I know so many families where the spicy one was really tough growing up, but now as adults, it’s the mild one they worry about because that kid doesn’t always make very good choices. Cause they were kind of sheltered in a way because of their personality was to sort of stay close to and do whatever mom said to do kind of thing. So we, we don’t always need to have such a heavy hand. I mean, obviously there’s times when it’s like life or death, like I said, no, you can’t go there, but really getting in touch with why are we saying no, because every, no is signing up for an intense energy exchange from us.

So yeah, I think less nos is actually a life saving device with a really spicy one. I also think that we’ve gotta be careful to not make a command for something we have no way of enforcing. So whether that’s,

yes, I love that

we’re driving and you’re making that sound and I need it to stop. Well, I can’t make you stop unless I remove your voice box. Right. So I’ve gotta be really careful how I phrase that it might be, Hey, I’m gonna pull over and wait for that sound to stop cause I can’t drive while it’s going. That I can control. I can control whether or not the car starts, but every time we command something that we actually can’t make happen, we run the risk of, of the spicy one, losing a little bit of respect for us. So we have to be careful with how often we’re saying no. And when.

Yeah. And I’m sure you see it, like I do with so many people when they first find you. Right. There’s a lot of times like if you’re using external controls and, and fear and force and you’re shifting into like intrinsic and all the, you know, all the, all the things that we teach a lot of times in the beginning, there is those empty threats. Like they happen a lot, right? Like a lot of times if a family’s got bribery, rewards, fear, and force showing up so many of the times it’s it’s empty. So it might feel very firm in the moment, but it’s actually, like you said, it causes your child to lose respect because they’re just like over time, they’re just a little bit like I can manipulate. I can, my parent is not gonna follow through.

So yeah, the firmness, I like what you said too, Mary, about make sure you have some things that are very very firm. There’s been a few things I can think of in our home. That was like those str, those strong stances. Right? So like Stella was not allowed. The kids are not allowed to have iPhones out in the world until they graduate from eighth grade. And that was like, and lit, there was at least probably 10 to 13 conversations over the last five years, specifically, many of them with tears about just how unfair it was and how difficult it was to be a teenager without that, those devices and all the things. And that’s like one of those areas that I was like, gosh, it felt really good to make it through that with firmness and not budge, cuz we were just so passionate about it.

And then another one was no technology in the rooms. That one was like, awesome. We did it. And then we made it till I think Terrin must have been 10 before we got like a, a video game device console in the house. But for a long time we were like, we just don’t do that. Nobody how many times they asked. And then I, I agree there, there is a lot of flexibility I think with Stella because she’s capable of handling so much too, right? Like the spicy kids really are. If you’re, if you can look at how to be flexible and empower them, they are capable because they are often so gifted. Like you said,


Talk to us about repetition. How important is repetition and how do we not become so exhausted that we just give up?

Yeah. Well, first off, even if the, whenever you’re setting a boundary, I think sometimes we fall prey to the idea that I said, I don’t want that. Or I, you know, whether it’s with my mother-in-law or with my husband, I said, this is what I wanted. And, and, and look at them, they’re, they’re not doing what I wanted. They’re not respecting my boundaries. And that’s sort of a model of like a one and done. And that’s not how boundaries are actually set. Boundaries are more like a brick of a wall you’re building and you set the brick down and say, you know, we don’t want any visitors on Sunday. Then you showed up on Sunday. Hey, I wanna remind you. We don’t want any, and now you might put, put another brick.

So that is what, how boundaries are generally set with difficult people and spicy ones are kind of the difficult people in your life is they, don’t just, we’re not talking about pleasers and enneagram 2s that are like, oh, oh my gosh. Okay. All you have to do is tell me, we’re talking about somebody who, when in doubt is gonna go with their own internal intuition about what needs to happen. And that’s often not in line with what we want. So it’s very natural to set a boundary multiple times. And there’s no reason to be angry. It doesn’t mean that we have to be mad when we’re doing this. There was, I remember trying to teach my son to hold the door open for me. And we would go to the same Chipotle, you know, once a week.

And I remember him bursting through the door, running up to go order his burrito. And I just stood at the front door, like a weirdo. People like streamed by me heading into the store. And he finally like looked back at me and shrugged his and he finally walked out and was like, what are you doing? I’m like, oh, I’m waiting for my son to hold the door for me.


And he held the door and I walked in and I was like, thank you so much. Oh, feels good to have a son. And I didn’t, I wasn’t angry. Even though that was like the 10th time he wasn’t doing it. I just consistently made it a thing that I will follow through on this. I, I won’t be angry, but we will keep doing this until it sticks. And now it sticks.

Yes. Oh, that’s so good. Yes. And I think I, the repetition is so good. And I think of all the times where I have gotten annoyed or snapped or done whatever, and I think just to like finish this beautiful conversation today, Mary, we could talk to you all day long, but share with us, you know, cuz because we know this is like you said a muscle, right? We develop the ability over time. Right. So a lot of us, when we have spicy kids, when they’re really little, I just think it comes with the territory that there’s gonna be a lot of mess up. Right? Like there’s gonna be a lot of mistakes. There’s gonna be a lot of moments where you go to bed at night and you’re like, they might, people might listen to this and they’re like, well I was not calm.

I just really like nipped it in the bud. And I wasn’t rep didn’t have repetition, all the things. So share with us your just thoughts on grace for ourselves. And just knowing that, you know, tomorrow’s a great day to try again. And if you haven’t, if you realize that you haven’t been, you know what, maybe you snap after your spicy one, ask you six times or maybe you freak out or shame or get into the realize that you’re really engaging with all those negative thoughts and that, you know, mindset that really, I believe comes from the enemy about how something’s wrong with your kid. Talk to us just a little bit about having grace on yourself, having grace on your kids and having the courage to start again each day, new.

Hmm. Well you did such a nice job. I’m not sure what I can add, but I will say that the beauty of apologizing and talking about what happened, like giving words for a child to an experience that didn’t feel good is so important. Often we think, Ugh. I just never wanna think about what happened yesterday. I just wanna leave that in the past. And I think the most respectful thing to do for all involved is sometimes to talk about it. Like you didn’t like it when mommy dragged you, you know, through the living room and put you in your room and slam the door, you, you didn’t like that. And you don’t deserve that. You deserve to be treated with care. Without adding, but you know, you do you get mom so mad?

There’s no, but there’s no, but I’m doing my I’m. I am doing my work to become a safe person regardless of how my kid shows up and it’s messy, but naming it and saying, I’m sorry, you deserve to feel safe. We’re gonna have a good day today. And if they’re really little, you can make little books with them about the time that mommy dragged you across the room and, and baby didn’t like it and now they always touched gently. Yeah. Right, right. You know what I mean? We all make mistakes

I love that.

But there, there, it, it’s, there’s bringing it into the light and naming it, giving words to it is so healing so that you can start again the next day. And yeah. There’s so much grace and


And, and this is like, we’re learning how to love somebody unconditionally the way that we’re already loved unconditionally. And we’re learning how to receive love unconditionally. And that is messy, but it’s just enough that we’re still on the journey. Like you haven’t gotten in the car and taken off to Vegas and said, you’re on your own. Like you keep showing up. And that is beautiful. And that is enough. And you’re listening to a podcast on parenting. So you are like an, A+ student it’s enough, like put your hand on your heart and your hand on your belly and just remind yourself, well done. This is more than enough for today. Good job. It, you know, there’s no place to arrive to, to get better at, in this moment.

It’s enough.

Yeah. And just knowing, like, I think so many people who want to do things so much differently, they really are the they’re going first, often in their family lineage. Right? Like they are the generational like cycle breakers. Right. And it just takes so much courage. And it’s like, knowing that no one showed a lot of us didn’t have that shown to us specifically having grace and then making men’s. Right. Like in our family, well, loved, loved my family, loved my folks and we, you know, there’d be huge blowups, like huge fights. And then the next morning it was like, good morning. Do you want like, do you want syrup on your pancakes or no, you know, and then you just go off to school and you’d be all pissed.

And, and then like, you know, you just never would talk about it. Right? So most of us weren’t taught the skillset of the humility. Like you’re talking about, which is a superpower with all children, especially teens, all children though. But like we’re doing it for the first time and it’s gonna feel weird and funky. And then after a while it just becomes normal and it feels awesome to make amends and apologize and be humble and ask for forgiveness. And let’s try that again. Let’s redo it. I mean the book idea, Mary that’s like the coolest thing ever, most people, you know, hold shame about like dragging their, their kid by their wrist. I have a few articles that I’ve written that people respond and they’re just like, oh my gosh, thank you for saying this. I thought it was the only one who have left bruises or whatever.

But I love that idea of like, Hey, let’s bring this into the light and let’s make a book about this. Like this didn’t work well for you. It didn’t work well for me. So today and tomorrow, and next week we’re gonna try something new and we’re gonna keep practicing together.


So good. Awesome, Mary. Well, this has been such an amazing conversation. Tell listeners where they, they can find you about your resources.

Sure. Well, the best place to find me is on Instagram @MaryvanGeffen and there are a couple classes you can hop into right now, if you’re interested, one is Calm in the Chaos and the other is just Gentle Parenting 101 in case you’re brand new to this. But I think being with Wendy, you probably are not, I think you’ve, you’ve gotten that foundation. I also teach the Moms of Spicy Ones signature eight week course, twice a year. And we’re in the middle of it right now, but the next time is in September. So join the wait list if that’s interesting to you and you want the exclusive sort of invitation slash discount when it comes back out.

Nice. Yeah. I saw you sharing on social this week. Just a bunch of moms that had like their champagne and their laptop. And they were like, okay, I’m ready. I’m ready for my spicy ones Q and A tonight or whatever. I was like. That’s awesome. Wonderful. Well, Mary, thank you so much for being here. Thank you for the work that you’re doing in the world. Thank you for being so dedicated to serving families and kids and doing it all in Jesus name. I mean, that’s just so beautiful that it really is meaningful to me, the work that you’re doing, and I’m just very grateful to have connected with you for the last hour.

Me too. Thank you.

Don’t forget to join me for the free Power Struggles class that I’m teaching all month long! You can head to freshstartfamilyonline.com/powerstrugglesclass to learn what times and dates I will be teaching this free, 60 minute workshop, and save your seat. See you there!

For links and more info about everything we talked about in today’s episode, head to freshstartfamilyonline.com/138.

For more information, go to freshstartfamilyonline.com. Thanks for listening, families. Have a great day.

If you have a question, comment or a suggestion about today’s episode, or the podcast in general, send me an email at [email protected] or connect with me over on Facebook @freshstartfamily & Instagram @freshstartwendy.


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