324: Tools for Parenting a “Spicy” Child // Mary Van Geffen


Apple Podcasts Spotify



I am so thrilled to announce Flecks of Gold for kids, a digital download you can purchase once from my website and then print copies for all of the children in your household, so it becomes part of your family culture to look for the golden moments you experience together. My incredibly talented graphic designer, Bree Morris, included custom illustrations of the parable of the miner throughout the journal that will work as coloring pages for your children to get creative and showcase their personality as they track their Flecks of Gold each day. Make this the year you start a gratitude tradition with your kids! Go to 3in30podcast.com/shop to see the new Flecks of Gold Journal for Kids, and to celebrate the launch of this product, get 50% off from now until the end of the month with the code KIDS! 



Oh the stories I could tell about having a strong willed child. I’ve told some of them on this podcast before, but the thing is, if you have a strong willed child of your own, you don’t need to hear my stories: you have plenty of your own. 


Parenting an intense kiddo is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and sometimes all you want is a wise mentor–someone who has been through it and has compassionate advice for you that actually works with these types of kids…because conventional parenting tips often won’t cut it. And when the advice of well-meaning friends and parenting experts doesn’t work for your strong willed child, it can really start to feel like something is wrong with your kid…and with you!


That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to today’s guest. Mary Van Geffen is the international parenting coach for moms of Spicy Ones™️. She helps overwhelmed mothers to lean into the spiritual discipline of staying calm and cultivating warmth and tenderness all while trying to wrangle fiery future CEOs. Often this requires serious skill-building and the balm of self-compassion. 


I first found Mary on Instagram, where she posts daily parenting tips that are as hilarious as they are wise. I knew immediately that she was “my people” and got addicted to her content which brightens my days, teaches me skills, and reminds me I’m not alone. Mary also offers on-line parenting classes and her signature 8 week group program, Moms of Spicy One,  to help moms gain the confidence to choose gentle, respectful parenting especially if they weren’t raised that way. 


Mary is a certified Simplicity Parenting Counselor® and Professional Co-Active Coach, but her greatest achievement is cultivating a calm, kind, and firm relationship with her Spicy go-getter daughter (who is 19) and her mild child son ( who is 16).




3 Takeaways from Mary Van Geffen on Parenting a “Spicy” Child


  1. Invest Mentally: Do the work to learn how to delight in your spicy child. As Mary reminded us, if they are spicy, they’re going to get so much negative reinforcement from many others in their life–their authority figures, their peers –and there are only a few people in the world in a relational position to love them unconditionally and even like them just as they are, and you are one of those people. This is easier said than done, so consider starting a gratitude practice like Flecks of Gold journaling where you train your brain to notice the good in your child, so you can, overtime, more easily delight in them.
  2. Invest physically. Her best advice for this is to unclench. Consciously, several times a day, check in with your body and release all the things that are clinched. Just shake it out and remember that you don’t have to prepare your body for battle, even on the days that it feels like your child is on the warpath. When you calm your body, and you calm your breathing, you calm your emotional reactions. You can also achieve this by seeking sensory outlets, such as having an impromptu dance party with yourself, or engaged in controlled destruction if you really need to let out some big emotions. And of course, you can teach your spicy child to do the same.
  3. Invest spiritually. To Mary, this means looking at the big picture of this child and knowing that they’re here to teach your spirit something. How is parenting this child making you a better human being as you do the hard work of loving someone who sometimes isn’t very loveable? Have you learned to be more patient, more committed to connection and compromise, less dogmatic and less judgemental of other parents? I know I have in the twelve years I’ve parented my Noah, and I truly love and respect the person I am becoming. Mary says it’s a “spiritual discipline” to love someone who is not earning it and if you can keep the perspective of who you are becoming through this parenting process, it can anchor you through the hardest times. It is a journey of growth for your spirit for sure!



>>>Are these tips from Mary Van Geffen helpful? Do YOU have a “Spicy” child?  What would you add to the takeaways? Tell us in the comments below.




Get in touch with our Guest! 

Mentioned in the Episode:


    • BetterHelp: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Go to betterhelp.com/3in30 to get 10% off your first month of online therapy!
    • Vionic Shoes: Go to vionicshoes.com and use code 3IN30 for 15% off your order.

Related episodes like this one