Practical Parenting Series: Kris Barrett

Today’s practical parenting seminar was with Sabrina Marasovich and Kris Barrett of Nourish me health.

Kris is a mom of 2 kids, 1 of whom was diagnosed with Autism (he’s no longer on the spectrum). She is an expert in nutrition and holistic health, after she’s journeyed with her son, healing his gut through nutrition and food. She’s a certified health and nutrition coach.

Gut 101

How can what you eat affect your behaviour? There is a connection between the gut and your brain. Think about how you feel when you drink alcohol. When you drink it and it goes into your gut, the first thing to be affected is your brain.
All the major neuro transmitters which are in the brain, are in the gut. E.g. Seratonin (our feel good hormone) – 95% of it is made in the gut.

When we need to sleep, we need to produce a hormone called Melatonin. At night, our body converts Seratonin to Melatonin. If we don’t have enough Seratonin, we can’t have enough Melatonin to sleep well. It’s an imbalance in our body, often caused by our gut.

Leaky gut – In a healthy gut, when you digest food, the food will come into our system like a train of paper clips and be broken down until there’s one paper clip left – all nutrients taken out, food broken down and a message sent to the blood brain barrier that all is fine, etc.
In an unhealthy gut, we can get a situation where the gut wall is weak and permeable. So it allows undigested proteins through the wall (so those paper clips go through 5-6 at a time) and this affects the blood brain barrier and the body goes Woah! It doesn’t know whats happening, it thinks it has a foreign invader and mounts an immune response to get it out. That’s when we get a situation where all the wrong messages get sent through the blood brain barrier and because of the relationship between the gut and the brain, this situation is what causes behaviour issues, learning difficulties, etc.

2 proteins that cause issues in our gut are:

Gluten – Wheat, barley and rye – bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, etc.


Casein – the protein that is found in milk. Most of us know about lactose but haven’t heard of casein. Lactose is the milk sugar and casein is the milk protein.

Both of these proteins can cause issues if we have a delicate gut. When not broken down properly, gluten turns into gluteomorphin and casein turns into caseomorphin which are a part of the morphine family. So for children on the autism spectrum, these two proteins can cause morphine like symptoms. They become addictive. Over time, children will only crave foods that cause these morphine like symptoms.
If you have a child who is a picky eater or who is focused on only one food they love, that is the food most likely to cause them problems.

So, how do you make changes?

Start by swapping your childs favourite food slowly. E.g. Move from wheat pasta to gluten free pasta, gluten free bread, move to a milk alternative. You can’t change everything but you will be able to substitute atleast 95%. Within days you should be seeing changes in your child. In their behaviour, their sleep, their interaction with you. The first few days will be tough because the child will have withdrawal symptoms but once you get past these, you’ll see the changes.
It’s never too late to change your child’s diet. It’s a lot more difficult the older they get but when you do it when your child is younger, they grow out of the dependency very quickly.

How long does it take to get the gluten/casein out of your diet?

When Kris did it, she did it overnight but this is not usually sustainable (and she doesn’t actually recommend it). Start by switching breakfasts and then dinner, then snacks and lastly lunch. The body takes 1-2 weeks to rid itself of casein but gluten takes up to 3 months to leave the system completely.


In the US and Australia there are many additives still allowed in food that have been banned in Europe. For children on the Autism spectrum, it’s usually gluten or casein that is the main cause of their issues. For children with ADHD and other behavioural problems, it’s usually additives that have caused the problem.

Two of the most common are Caramel III (it’s a colour) aka 150C AND anti-oxidants (which we usually perceive as a good thing). In the healthy food world, anti-oxidants are a good thing but in the processed food world, anti-oxidants (BHA aka 320) are what is added to the food to give it a longer shelf life. BHA is banned in Europe! But in the US and Australia it’s still allowed. BHA has detrimental affects on behaviour. It has damaging effects on the respiratory system and is a no-no for children with asthma. Also for children who have skin conditions like eczema and hives, it exacerbates that. Lastly, it’s a carcinogen (cancer causing).

E.g. Granola/Museli bars – always labelled as natural, wholesome, healthy and we think of it as a better substitute for lunch boxes than biscuits and cookies. But infact most granola/museli bars have about 36 ingredients and they contain Caramel 3, which causes hyperactivity and is actually banned in infant foods (foods for children under the age of 2) AND BHA (320).

Yeast Extract – another baddie!
It’s just another name for MSG. The public has become quite educated about the dangers of MSG. But they don’t realise that MSG is hiding behind names like Yeast Extract, Malt Extract or Hydrolyzed vegetable protein – it’s in over 10,000 of our supermarket products. MSG causes behavioural problems, learning difficulties and respiratory issues.

For many children, fruits high in salicylates (naturally occuring chemicals) can cause behaviour issues. So often we’re happy when our child eats fruits but if our child reacts to salicylates, it could cause hyperactivity, diarrohea, red ears, trouble sleeping, headaches, bed wetting, etc.

Often you think you’re additive free or gluten free but still have issues. It could be as simple as too many grapes and oranges. But it’s all a circle. If your gut is healthy then these foods shouldn’t cause a problem. But if your gut already has an issue then you need to avoid those foods for a while, heal your gut and then re-add them back into your diet.

For a list of foods high in salicylates, click here.

Practical Parenting Series: Neil McNerney

Today’s practical parenting seminar was with Sabrina Marasovich and author Neil McNerney. He is a marriage and family therapist and counsellor and the main topic he spoke about was leadership styles.

We’re all wondering what kind of parent to be. There is so much out there but one of the difficulties is finding a style that works for us. Your style of parenting should depend on what your child is up to.

How do you lead your kids when he comes to school work? As parents we use the word helping alot but most kids love to be independent and don’t really want our help (or need it!) but they do need our leadership.

There are several different types of students:

Responsible student – we all want this
Anxious student
Defiant student – 1. In your face defiant 2. Sneaky defiant
It’s not my fault student
Blaming student (similar to above but passing the blame to someone else)

There are 3 main leadership styles:

1. The supporter
2. The consultant
3. The boss

Most of what we do well when we’re parenting fits into one of these 3 leadership styles. So when should you do each of these?

The Supporter
The one we love to do. All the things we think about when our kids our young, the good stuff. Complimenting our kids, cheering them on, encouraging them. Being there when they are crying and sad or upset. The supporter is there for our kids during the good times and the bad times. But we so often mess up being the supporter. E.g. – Your son comes up to you, he’s in 4th grade and he’s been getting C’s and D’s. Today he comes home and he has a B- on his vocabulary test. You say “great job” and then go on talking and talking which takes away the compliment. Things we’d say might be: What can you do next time to keep that grade up?
But when we say that, what they are hearing is “This grade isn’t good enough!” Another one we say is “See, I told you if you study harder you’d do better” but all your child hears is “I told you so”. “Keep up the good work” is another negative one. All the child hears is “Why do I have to focus on the next one, why can’t you stay happy with this grade?” Neil’s advice was “praise the child and then keep quiet! Move on quickly so you don’t end up saying something the child misinterprets!”
We also need to understand the differences between boys and girls. When boys get overpraised, they see it as being evaluated. When girls get overpraised, they see it as relationship building.

I’m proud of you vs. I’m impressed with you – Sometimes when kids are doing well and getting better at something, we say “I’m proud of you”, it sounds to them like “We’re ashamed of you when you’re not doing well”. So instead replace it with “I’m impressed with you”.

It’s important to get our children to self-evaluate. Ask them “How do you feel about your better grade?”

The Consultant
A consultant is somebody that has a certain expertise in a field, has good observational skills and then is able to communicate those observational skills to effect change. As parents, we have certain expertise in life that we’ve learned over the years and we try and communicate this to our children. When we don’t do it (giving advice) well, we’re nagging. Being a great consultant is to be a) tentative in your advice (how you begin it and how you end it). b) have shoulder to shoulder communication – When you have some tough talking to be done with your kids, rather than get angry and then go up to your kids face to face, talk to them “shoulder to shoulder” (at a table, at the kitchen counter, in the car, etc.) Have what you want to show them in front of you so that you can look at it together. It decreases the intensity of the situation.

“The more that we try to parent out of an angry place, the less successful we will be”.

If we can stay calm during the little things, we’re showing our kids that we can stay calm during the tougher things as well and our children will trust us more.

The Boss
The Boss is the one that rewards and punishes. We all tend to be the boss quite quickly, especially when we get frustrated. And when we are the boss, we tend to become the punisher and over-punish. It’s important to recognise stop behaviours and start behaviours. Stop behaviour is when you want your child to stop doing something because it is wrong but start behaviour is not wrong, it just means the child should be doing something else instead. Stop behaviour should be punished and start behaviour should be rewarded.
With that in mind, when you think about homework, is that a stop or start behaviour? It’s a start behaviour. And therefore, rewards rather than punishment work a lot better for children. Rewards are more motivating. Sometimes though it is how you phrase things. E.g. – “If you don’t finish your homework, you can’t go to the football game on Friday night”. That sounds de-motivating and like a punishment. Instead you could say “If you finish all of your homework this week, you can go to the football game on Friday”. This makes it sound like a reward and the child will feel like they are working towards something.
We have so many opportunities in our child’s life to shift things around, to move from what sounds like a punishment to something that sounds like a reward.


We should aim to approach our children with the supporter or consultant leadership role before moving on to the boss leadership role. However, if we have a particularly defiant child then only the boss style will work.

It’s better to be responsive parents rather than reactive parents. The mistakes we make as parents greatly reduces when we respond rather that react.


I’ve really enjoyed listening to the first two seminars. However, I do feel like sometimes there is a lot of over analysis of how we should speak to our children. A friend on Facebook put up this quote up yesterday: “It is our job to prepare our children for the road…not prepare the road for our children”. And this really resonated with me. By watching every single thing we say to our child so that that they are not de-motivated or so that we don’t hurt their feelings, are we raising children who will be unable to handle the world out there?! Because I can tell you, people out there aren’t worried about our feelings or how what they say affects us.

What do you think??

Practical Parenting Series: Kathy Koch

Today, Sabrina Marasovich speaks to Kathy Koch about raising children and practical parenting. Kathy Koch is the co-writer of No more perfect kids.

This is a snippet of what she talked about:

Mom’s and dad’s are trying to raise kids they don’t have. We all picture what our children are going to be like before we have them and then reality strikes. It’s important to see what our child is like, what they need and how God created them to be and raise them in THAT way, not the way WE want for them. Parent them for who they are.

We have 1 brain divided into 8 parts.

2 parts are school smart:
Word Smart – talk, read, write and listen.
Logic Smart – ask and answer lots of questions, these kids gravitate towards math.

But there are 6 other parts to the brain:
Picture smart – think with your eyes
Rhythmn smart – think with music and sound
Body smart – move, touch (these kids are usually told all day to sit down or keep still)
Nature smart – likes to get dirty, gravitates towards biology, etc.
People smart – can read body language, know when their mom is upset or needs a hug.
Self smart – quiet, peaceful, like their privacy and space. Deep thinkers, they know what they know.

People tend to only think of “smart” kids as those who can read and write well and do well in math and science. But there are all kinds of smart. It’s important for parents to understand this early on, even before conception. There are multiple ways of being smart.


There are so many people who didn’t do very well at school but they graduated and now they are so successful. And vice versa, many who did well at school, found school an easy and safe place but floundered when they left because life just wasn’t as easy as school was.

We can study with all 8 parts of the brain and that further empowers kids to do well and please their parents (which is what most kids want to do).

As parents, we keep raising expectations. When our kids do well, parents often say “I knew you could do it, next time you can do even better.” All they hear is “next time you can do even better”. Children slowly begin to believe they can’t satisfy us and it’s so damaging for children to believe that. Often parents don’t even realise they are saying that. Kathy Koch thinks as parents we need to sometimes just say thank you to our children when they do well. And ask them what they did differently and how they worked to improve and how it made them feel.

When your child says “I can’t do this”, you should ask them “What can you do?” That tells the child you believe in them and you’re asking the child to pinpoint what the dilemma is. By helping them break it down, you can encourage them to build up from there.

Kathy gave an example of how when she was a child, she went to her mom really upset and said she didn’t like being so tall, she was very clumsy and awkward. Knowing there was nothing her mom could do about it, except help change her daughters attitude, she enrolled her in tap dancing class. Kathy went on to be the back centre tap dancer, a position only saved for tall girls, a position of high honour. So her height became her advantage and not her issue. So many parents these days are too busy and their answers are “Well there’s nothing I can do about you being tall, it’s in your genes.” As parents, it is our responsibility to problem solve for our children. Perceive what’s going on with them and then have compassion.

We watch our children roll over, then start crawling, then pull themselves up and we have a “come to mama” perspective as they learn how to walk. And when they take their first steps, we jump for joy, we pull out the video camera and say “come to mama”. When they fall, we pick them up and tell them to try again, until they get it. We don’t say they are wrong when they fall or that they made a mistake. So can you imagine what things would be like if we had a “come to mama” perspective all the time? If we encouraged them every time they fell? To get back up and try again, to celebrate every effort.

While technology is important, kids should read more proper books. The kitchen and restaurant table should be digital free zones. We have a generation of children who don’t know what to do when they are bored or what to do with silence. It’s so important to learn how to live and deal with boredom. Whether it’s in the car or in their bedrooms, kids technology should be limited. We should make sure they can hold a conversation, make eye contact and have proper relationships outside of social media.

Have fun with your kids, it’s in the fun times (skipping together, tickling on the sofa, rolling down a hill) that makes the harder times easier to take. And it’s in the fun, spontaneous time that kids talk to us and we can talk to our kids. Although we’re all busy and we adhere to such time management, they are children and there’s supposed to be fun and laughter. It’s all about the heart connection and letting our kids know that we love them and that they can trust us.

To read more about what Kathy spoke about, you can visit

Practical parenting series

Over the next two weeks, I will be listening to a series of talks by parenting experts and sharing what I understand with you.

Sabrina Marasovich is pairing up with authors, speakers and other experts to talk about practical ways of raising our kids and helping improve their behaviour.

I missed the first one but the second was by Kathy Koch (post of follow).

I hope you enjoy it šŸ™‚

*You too can listen to this amazing series of talks by clicking and registering here.