Do you have difficulty coping with the day to day struggles of being a parent? Parenting is certainly an inherently complicated job to take on. And that is why I was so grateful to have DJ Stutz on this episode. DJ has an immense love for children and fully understands the challenges and concerns that come with parenting them. My sense after interviewing her is that she is a child whisperer. We discussed topics including the anxiety of parenting, and how to become better attuned to what your child actually needs from you, just when you feel that they might be trying to push you away.
DJ Stutz, is an Early Childhood Specialist with more than 20 years of teaching experience. DJ has an immense love for children with 5 of her own, 12 grandchildren and 70 nieces and nephews. She fully understands the challenges and concerns that come with parenting. She offers parenting coaching in group or one-on-one sessions to support parents in their most important job. On her podcast, DJ and her guests share their knowledge and experience through thoughtful episodes whose subject matter is designed to help you develop the confidence and peace to be a great parent and imperfect hero raising independent, productive, and happy children.
• [4:27] DJ is no stranger to being around children… She explains she has 5 children, 12 grandchildren and 70 nieces and nephews!
• [9:12] DJ shares how her experience has led her to a place where she is not threatened by children’s behavioral problems
• [14:14] DJ tells us how you can solve a problem rather than exacerbate it by asking these questions…
• [17:34] DJ explains there are no perfect parents - they don’t exist!
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DJ Stutz -
Website: www.LittleHeartsAcademyUSA.com & www.ImperfectHeroesPodcast.com
Christine Li 0:01
Thanks for listening to the Make Time for Success Podcast. This is episode number 61. Do you have difficulty coping with the day to day struggles of being a parent? Parenting is certainly an inherently complicated job to take on. And that is why I'm so grateful to be able to have DJ Stutz on the show today. DJ is an early childhood specialist with more than 20 years of teaching experience. And she also happens to have been around children all of her life. She has an immense love for children and fully understands the challenges and concerns that come with parenting young children. My sense after interviewing her is that she is a child whisperer. We discussed topics including the anxiety of parenting, and how to become better attuned to what your child actually needs from you, just when you feel that they might be trying to push you away. Let's go listen to the episode now.
Hi, I'm Dr. Christine Li, and I'm a psychologist and a procrastination coach. I've helped 1000s of people move past procrastination and overwhelm so they can begin working to their potential. In this podcast, you're going to learn a powerful strategies for getting your mind, body and energy to work together so that you can focus on what's really important, and accomplish the goals you want to achieve. When you start living within your full power, you're going to see how being productive can be easy, and how you can create success on demand. Welcome to the Make Time for Success Podcast.
Hello, everyone. Welcome back. Today, I am pleased to introduce you to DJ Stutz, who is an early childhood specialist, and mother of five grandmother to seven, and up to 12. I apologize, I got the number wrong. So certainly someone who has a lot of expertise with being the adult around a lot of children. And I am so grateful to have her come on to the show and teach us what we need to know about keeping our goals straight, when we've got different parenting responsibilities to take care of at the same time. Thank you for coming on the show.
DJ Stutz 2:33
Well, I'm thrilled to be here. I think where you got the seven is I'm the oldest of seven. Ah,
Christine Li 2:39
so yes. You have an origin of lots of children as well. Not been around kids. Yes, yes. Yes. Okay. So why don't we start there? Why don't we start with kind of where your love for working with children originated?
DJ Stutz 2:56
Okay. Well, I was 14 months old when I became a big sister. And my youngest brother was born when I was 17. And I remember as a teenager, really, my career choice was mom, I loved being around the kids. And when my youngest brother Danny was born, he actually slept in my room and I was the one who most of the time caught up with him in the night. So in a lot of ways, emotionally, he was mine. And I always took classes in high school that helped me with like child development, nutrition, sewing, you know, all of those things that would help me with my home skills. And I actually graduated as the ad stand in senior and homemaking arts. So out of a class of we had 993 in my graduating class, so it was a large school in Los Angeles. So I got married, I was all of 20 When I got married, had my first child at 22. And I had four kids in about eight years. And then we adopted our youngest after our the youngest I birth, was out of high school. And we thought we had more to give. And so we wound up adopting out of foster care. And she was 12 years old when we got her she's 26 Now, Mm hmm. And I married a man who was the youngest of nine. And so between the two of us, we have seven D nieces and nephews. And so I mean, just kids have been a big part of my life. So in raising my own kids, I went ahead and got all the classes and certifications and stuff to be a substitute teacher so that I could be there for my kids. And then once they were gone, it just made sense to go ahead and finish my teaching degree and I went with early childhood because because I really feel like if we can get them off on a good start, and so where they have the skills to prepare them for their learning career. And we know that one of the two greatest indicators of success in academia is social emotional skills, more than those academic skills. So I've taught kindergarten for a long, long time. And I've also right now, I am teaching special needs, preschool for the Douglas County School District. And so we have kids with autism with oppositional defiant. Some other, they're fragile, health wise, I've got one little girl that she can't even walk yet. And so we're working on some of those things. But I really feel like if I can help them get off to that good start and feel competent and excited to learn. But it's also a great time, because when you're dealing with families who have these really young kids, I find that they're often very anxious to learn, how can I give my child the best start? How can I be a good parent, you know, and the list goes on. And so we started out about a year and a half ago, it was just a service helping some of the parents that I work with, I've also taught at the community college level. And so I was working with some of the families there. So it just kind of blossomed from there where I saw there was a need, there were a lot of questions. And I found that a lot of the academic classes that were available to me, in fact required for me, as I was growing up in Los Angeles, they're not even available anymore on things. Like how do children grow? And how do they. And we've also had a phenomenon where, with the best of intentions, parents have been these helicopter parents swooping in and solving every problem for their child, thinking they're doing the best thing for their child, where they're actually not allowing their children to develop those tools, of problem solving of compromise of looking further than right now. I want this now, instead of waiting for something or working towards something. So now these kids have become adults. And a lot of them are struggling with understanding how to really, truly build relationships and make them you know, productive and and positive for both people are all people. And they are struggling with well, you know, yes, I've got this kid, and I want the best for them. But, you know, they don't want to give up their youthful pursuits, rather than age appropriate pursuit sometimes. So it's just been interesting. And I've been working closely with a principal here in town. And she's been talking to me about some of the issues and she's a young principal, she's, you know, not an old fart like me. But she's been talking to me about how to work with some of these really young teachers that are coming in, that are struggling with if a child is having some of those emotional issues or behavioral issues, they think it's the end of the world that this kid is crazy that this kid is, you know, personally trying to get even with him on things, when really they're not even that bad of a problem.
I've mostly taught in schools that were super low socio economic areas. And, you know, I've had kids that would stab another child because they wanted the marker. So for me, what's a behavior problem is very different than maybe. And so I'm not threatened, I guess, by some of these behaviors, so I will get kids in my class and they'll say, Oh, someone says, he's so awful, or she's so terrible, and, and I get them on like, they're fine. Just, you know, you have to learn how to set down those boundaries and stuff. So it's just something that's kind of morphed through all of my teaching experiences, all of my parenting experiences and looking back on, you know, I'm always taking continuing education and, and looking to stay on top of things. And, you know, I look back at how I was raising my own kids and realize that, you know, there are things I wish I had done differently in raising my own kids and things that I wish I'd known that I didn't know, back then. And so my goal is just to help some of these parents, you know, have access to some of these ideas and knowledge that they might not have otherwise.
Christine Li 10:12
That sounds like a great mission for someone with your experience and your experience with so many children. I have two thoughts right now. One is that it sounds like anxiety is the great interfere, that anxiety comes in. And then all of a sudden, parents and or teachers become distressed at the situation. And then the child gets the brunt of everything or takes the brunt of things. And then the second thing that is coming to mind is that you must be very good at seeing situations from the Children's perspective. So could you talk about one or both of these topics, please?
DJ Stutz 10:57
Yeah, I think I'll tackle them both, actually. So anxiety does play a huge part. And when I look at back at my own, raising kids, and I was very aware, or I, I put opinions on other people. So if my child misbehaved at church, I assumed that all the other parents thought that oh, she doesn't have control of her kid bla bla bla, when really now that I am, where I am. And I see someone who has is struggling with a child, I just use church because it's an easy thing. But I'm thinking, Oh, poor thing, like, how can I help her? I'm not thinking pad parent. I'm just thinking, Yeah, that's a rough age to kind of have to deal with. So I think a lot of times the anxiety that we are feeling is based on judgments that we think others are putting on us. And they really aren't. Most of the time. I know when I see, you know, a mom that's in the grocery store and their kids freaking out over something. It's like, oh, he's tired. That's my first thing. Oh, he's tired. He's hungry, or what time of day? Is it? And, you know, and and there's something that and I've talked about this, I have a, she's an education specialist as well, I've had on the show, Bailey, Alton, and we talked about what are some of the things that you can notice if maybe your child needs some extra support and services as they're going through. But we were talking about how we get so full of anxiety. And then we're harder on our kids, instead of really seeing that, oh, this is going on? What can I do? How can I figure it out? And one of the things that Bailey mentioned was that when she was she has two little kids. She's right now I think she's got a kindergartner and a first grader, somewhere around there. But she was traveling alone. And the kids were this was a few years ago, the kids were much younger. She's traveling alone. And you know, the littlest one was crying and whatever. And that someone said to her little boy, oh, looks like you need help. Can I help you? Well, some stranger talking to him. He like rushes to his mom grabs her and starts doing everything she asks him to do. Because some stranger and you know, sometimes people understand that psychology. And so someone comes in and says, Oh, and talks to your child and is trying to help them they understand that if I'm a stranger, and I'm talking to this trial, they're probably going to rush to mom, and do exactly now what she wants them to do, because there's the stranger. And so sometimes we interpret that as someone's being judgmental, why are you doing this with my kid? When the reality is they understand very well, what's going on? And they're really trying to help out. So when you let anxiety take over, and you worry so much about what other people are thinking, rather than where's my child? What do they need? How can I support my child? You're right, we do tend to take it out on the kids more than and that exacerbates the problem. Rather than solving it. You don't yell at a kid and tell them to quit yelling. Right? That makes no sense. And so there's that part of it. And then there's the part where if you're at home full time raising kids, that's an exhausting job. And if you're at an office or teaching or whatever, and your kids are childcare, that's exhausting as well. Then you're worried about your kids, and are they happy? And are they making friends? Are they this and that, and that's emotionally draining? So the reality is, little kids aren't that much different in many ways than adults. And when adults are worn out, and they're tired, and they're emotionally drained, we don't always behave the way we should. Just like our little kids don't either in our little kids will lash out at a sibling, a parent, a friend, whatever, just because they're wiped out, we will do the same as well. So just as we are looking toward our children, when they're going through a struggling time and sit instead of saying, just stop crying, right, that's the one thing the child can control.
You can't force a child, you might be able to scare him into it. But you really can't force a child into stop crying or throwing a tantrum. But then we do the same thing with ourselves is that we will lash out to a spouse or kids, a co worker, because we're just so full of anxiety. So just as we need to stop and take a look at what's behind everything with our kids. And it may be that they are uncertain about the boundaries that you're setting. Or they may realize that, Oh, we're in a public place, I can get away with a lot more, because mom doesn't want to be embarrassed by disciplining me. So I can get away with a lot more. And so we will oftentimes, without going through maybe the full mental process of it, we're lashing out and misbehaving where we feel like, you know, it's safe. And it really isn't, we need to sit and look at, are they hungry? Are they tired? Did I go straight to the store from picking them up from childcare? Big mistake, by the way. And so but sometimes we need that to sometimes taking 10 minutes at the park, after we pick them up is just as rejuvenating for ourselves as it is for our kids. So there's that that anxiety piece that kind of in week. You know, I get into a lot more of that in some of my different episodes. But but that's a big piece of it. And then what was the other question?
Christine Li 16:56
Well, first, before we go to the second question, you've mentioned your show and the episodes. DJ has a podcast of our own. Can you talk about that briefly so that our audience knows where to find you there two
Unknown Speaker 17:08
cores, I always love talking about my show. So I have a podcast, we drop new episodes every Monday. It's called Imperfect Heroes. And the tagline is insights into parenting. With DJ Stutz, it's easy to find. And we have a web page for the podcasts, you can find us anywhere, always leaving ratings and reviews. And that is just www dot imperfectheroespodcast.com. But it's with the idea that there are no perfect parents, they don't exist. Just like there's no perfect marriage. There's no perfect anything. And so we just want to keep learning and doing our best to be the best people we can be be the best example we can be for our kids, and then helping our kids through their journey, as well. And so yeah, we have a new podcasts every Monday and and feel free to come listen.
Christine Li 18:04
That sounds fantastic. Alright, so that second question was, how do we learn how to see the world from our children's perspective?
DJ Stutz 18:16
Yeah. Well, it's interesting, because it's taken me a lifetime, I think to really get to where I am now, where I enjoy the challenge of doing that. And it's a challenge, but it certainly brightens up the world. So when I'm at school, I will you know, either a lot of other teachers and you'll hear oh, so and so had a really bad day, or, you know, it's been so hard. And I've kids who may be more behaviorally or academically or whatever challenged. And it's a great day for me every day, because I love seeing that, the growth and whatever. And just because they had a 10 minute tantrum, and it could be a whopper of a tantrum. Right. The rest of their day was fine. So why don't we let that 10 minutes define that entire day. And so I've worked with parents even that have said, you know, a little boy that may be struggling with hitting another child or using language or whatever that they adults shouldn't use. And yet, we excuse it in ourselves, but not in our kids. Another thing that doesn't make sense to me, but then I've seen them yell at the kid right in front of me and say, why couldn't you be like your brother, your brother never got into trouble or, or you're just a monster. He's just a monster. He does this? Well, of course he is. You're telling him he is. He believes you. You're his mom or his dad. You wouldn't lie about a thing like that? Certainly. And so it's just been really interesting and it does take some practice but as you get to noticing things like our Are they tired, have they missed me all day, sometimes they're acting up because their emotions are so strong at seeing you. They're so thrilled to see you that they meet some kid show with happiness and joy and others, they're just like releasing all of the anxiety that they've been feeling throughout the day. Because you're there, finally, and they can release it, because they've been kind of holding in a lot of that throughout the day. So when you sit down, and really, it's like a puzzle, and it's, for me, it's a fun challenge to say, oh, okay, so so and so is doing this. Why? Because every behavior is a communication. And so maybe they're communicating with you that they're hungry. Maybe they're communicating that they're jealous of a sibling that's getting a lot of attention. And I'm feeling left out a few weeks ago, we did one with her show with her name's Clarissa Nelson. And she just right after we recorded, she gave birth to her six child, but her oldest is 13, and is severely severely handicapped. And so the two kids that are just under her that there's two girls, they've had to pick up a lot of slack, right, with that more than normally would have to happen. And so she talked about just being really aware of, yeah, that resentment can set in sometimes. And so looking and seeing what's going on and how things are, are working out teaching our kids to look outside of themselves and finding peace in not worrying about your problems so much, but how can we help someone else through theirs, and you find that your problems get better. And so I mean, it's just this great, amazing puzzle piece. But here's the deal, guys, the puzzle is constantly changing. And so what it looked like when they're three year old, and in preschool, now they're in first grade, and they've got another, you know, different issues going on, that puzzle has completely changed. There may be some core pieces that stay the same throughout their life, because children have natural tendencies to be a certain way. Look at a family with several kids, and all these kids have different personalities. And so, you know, they all have these tendencies, but then how do those tend to cease work with their ever changing landscape of life. And so taking the time, and maybe it's valuable to get some coaching, on how to go through that. I do have that available. But we have group coaching, we have one on one coaching, and maybe taking the time to help someone coach you through that process. Or maybe it's your parents, or maybe it's a friend or someone that you respect and how they're managing their family, but realize that it's really important to look at your child as an individual. This is what our family does. And there are some things that just our family does. But there are also some things that are individual to each kid. So it's funny that
for the most part of my life, we had the four kids, but my third child, a girl and everyone says, Oh Rockies, favorite Rockies, the favorite. It's like no, she's not the favorite, she just didn't get into trouble as much. So she wasn't grounded. She could go to more things, because she wasn't busy being in trouble for other choices that she was making. And, and it's funny because it's a big family joke now. And everybody has loved rock. She's just an easy one to love and to be around. And, and so but it was just kind of our family joke. But family jokes though, even though it's a joke, there's a basis in reality. And so you really want to make sure that even though your family's joking about something, let's talk about that a little bit. And see how you're feeling and where you are with that. But just know that each child is is an individual. And that's I think the challenge of it is oh, wait, I figured this piece out. I know right where it goes. Right. So that's, to me, that's one of the biggest joys of parenting is getting to where you can see things from your child's point of view, and then help them because their point of view isn't always going to be accurate. It may be skewed.
Christine Li 24:30
Yes, you are throwing down so many different pieces of wisdom. It's hard to give up. It's all very beautiful and I'm catching here that parents have a difficult job but that it can be made less difficult with an opening of the perspective that your child is a work in progress is doing the best that they can And if we do not project our anxieties and our fears onto our children, we can actually read the puzzle and read what's needed a lot more clearly. And I love your stories. And I love your approach and your kindness to both the parent and the child involved. Do you have some tips? Since our audience, I'm assuming, is comprised of the adult parents? Do you have some guidance for how parents can remain relatively anxiety free? And maybe keep this in mind all the all the strategies that you're recommending that they remind themselves that they have this opportunity to parent that this is such a gift? Can you give us some suggestions there?
DJ Stutz 25:58
Yeah, I can give you one or two. So one of the things I think is that while you're remembering that your child is an individual, remember, you are an individual, as well. And so as we learn to look at our children, and get to know them, and things from their perspective, sometimes we are a little unclear on our own perspective, as well. And so doing things to take the time to maybe sit and do a little bit of meditation, getting up a little bit earlier in the morning, and having some time to just breathe before the chaos hits, is helpful. And also, to kind of look at where do I feel like I'm a success? In parenting? What am I doing really well? And then what are my struggles? And then also going through? Well, okay, I'm struggling here, what's going on? When I'm struggling? Is it right? When kids get home from school that things get crazy? Or? Or when am I feeling my anxiety? And am I tired? Am I hungry? Am I just overwhelmed. And so I think taking the time to really look inside yourself, and see what's going on with you. And that, again, is a process. And you might want a, again, a good friend, a therapist, a coach, something to that could maybe help you through that is a great benefit. And then making sure you're taking the time to do something. So some of the people that I've talked to, again, Clarissa the one that I was just talking about, she would get up early in the morning and do extra, you know, she had videos and, and stuff for exercising and stretching and, and that really helped her start the day on a good foot. And that's something that worked for her. I had another guest Aaron Benyon. She's a professor of nursing at a college and she got her doctorate while she's raising her three kids and but one of the things even while so she was working graveyard, taking classes, raising three kids, but she still made sure that even though it would have been nice that maybe have an extra hours of sleep. During the day, once the kids all started school, she also went and worked out and got that physical piece going and that gave her actually more rejuvenation than the than the sleep would have. And then I think to in service, when you're dealing with that high anxiety, often finding someone else to help helps you feel better about yourself. You're making the world a better place. And at first, you might think I cannot do just one more thing. But maybe that just one more thing is being someone who smiles at someone you know, in the grocery store or being someone who says hey, how's your mom, because you've paid attention. So it doesn't have to be this big grandiose, oh, I'm volunteering X amount of hours at the soup kitchen or whatever. Sometimes it's just determining to do little things throughout the day to make someone else's day better. And you're going to find that your anxiety comes down through that service. And I really believe in the healing power of service and then getting your kids involved. So maybe having fun, like, oh, let's go and do this for Big Brother, you know, or let's go and play some fun with little sisters. She's sitting alone or whatever, but letting them find those opportunities for service and you're incorporating it in your own life as well. I really think that's a great place to start.
Christine Li 29:46
Again, a beautiful wise tip. I love how your advice tends to run like therapy advice sounds, because we're taught in our training To really be mindful of the process that people are telling us about, because oftentimes we get stuck counting and thinking about and obsessing about the content. So that would be the number of tantrums or the hours volunteered, rather than thinking, oh, let's pay some mind to how are we feeling when we're doing this? And is this working smoothly? And is this right for us? And we get lost in the day to day when there's some bigger things at play when we are parenting?
DJ Stutz 30:39
Yeah, well, and I think, too, sometimes, and this is I won't share the story. That a long time ago, I learned that when I quit focusing on how many temper tantrums I was dealing with, or how many bad things that were going on, that I had to manage, and instead switch that focus to Wow, we had an amazing 10 minutes just now. And then counting those rather than the negatives. So we just had so much fun, and it felt so good. What happened, how did we get there? And then looking to replicate the joy, you know, finding joy in parenting, that's one of my key phrases, but finding the joy, whether it's your relationship with your spouse, building a relationship with a adult sibling, or your child or whatever. But if you're focusing on those, you know, this was so much fun. Why was it fun? And, and, and really looking at what time of day, was it? And was everyone fed? And Did someone get an app? You know, was it something we planned foreign ahead? Was it spontaneous, was it there's so many pieces that go into that. But for me, what really turned me around and really helped me with my own journey with depression was when I decided I'm done with that I'm done with all the concentrating on the negative I want to, I want to count my joyful moments. It really helped me turn things around. I mean, not nothing's perfect, and I still have my bouts. And, and, you know, they're, they're rough days and moments, but, but I think rather than looking at rough days, I think it's just oh, this last hour was rough. But, you know, if you really look at your day, it's not generally filled with horribleness.
Christine Li 32:34
And you're very lucky that your days are filled with children. So
DJ Stutz 32:38
I am so lucky. I count my blessings every day. And they all have names of little kids that I'm involved with.
Christine Li 32:47
Yes, indeed, thank you so much, DJ, for being here and sharing your light and your wisdom and your experience. With all these wonderful beings that you work with. Please remind us how our listeners can stay in touch with you and work with you.
DJ Stutz 33:02
Absolutely. So if you want to go to my website for my podcast, it's again www dot imperfect heroes podcast.com. And there's a place where you can click on contact us. And so you can always get a hold of me there you can see the topics of any of my past episodes that might interest you. And then I also have a website. It's www dot Little Hearts Academy, USA. And we have a bunch of things there that you can look at. And then if you're interested in any of the coaching, just call us. And that number is 720-989-6475. Just remember, I'm still teaching. So if you have to leave a message, please do because I always get back to you that day, as soon as I'm done, and we can talk about how we can move forward and make your family a little more of a fun place to be. I
Christine Li 34:01
love it. Thank you, DJ, for your great work and for being on the show
DJ Stutz 34:04
today. Oh, you're welcome. And thanks for inviting me.
Christine Li 34:08
Alright, everyone, we're gonna see you next week. Join us again next Thursday for a new episode. Thanks for being here today. Thank you for listening to this episode of The Make Time for Success Podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard, you can subscribe to make sure you get notified of upcoming episodes. You can also visit our website maketimeforsuccesspodcast.com for past episodes, show notes and all the resources we mentioned on the show. Feel free to connect with me over on Instagram too. You can find me there under the name procrastination coach. Send me a DM and let me know what your thoughts are about the episodes you've been listening to. And let me know any topics that you might like me to talk about on the show. I'd love to hear all about how you're making time for success. I'll talk to you soon
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Early Childhood Specialist/Parenting Podcast Host/Parenting Coach
DJ has an immense love for children and fully understands the challenges and concerns that come with parenting young children. She is an Early Childhood Specialist with more than 20 years of teaching experience and has 5 children of her own, 12 grandchildren and 70 nieces and nephews. DJ comes from a large family, being the oldest of 7 and has been around children all her life. Her motto is that you are miserable if you don't have a sense of humor, an understanding of what is appropriate to expect from our children, and the realization that they will always surprise us. DJ also understands that she will never be done learning.