Meet Destini Ann, the intentional parenting coach with 1.5M TikTok followers and fans like Blake Lively

"I’m here to help you decide how you are going to show up for your kid."

Destini Ann shares her approach to intentional parenting. (Photo: Courtesy of Destini Ann)
Destini Ann shares her approach to intentional parenting. (Photo: Courtesy of Destini Ann)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.

Meet Destini Ann, a certified parenting coach and mom changing the narrative by embracing intentional parenting and helping others to do the same. With 1.5 million TikTok followers, and a fanbase that includes celebrity moms like Blake Lively, Eva Longoria and Kelly Rowland, the Very Intentional Parenting: Awakening the Empowered Parent Within author is known for breaking down the day-to-day struggles in discipline and parenting through fun and relatable content.

Ahead, the podcast host opens up about her work, the importance of raising children with respect and intention and why — to borrow the title of her Tedx Talk — there are “No Bad Kids.”

The conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What is a certified parenting coach?

Destini Ann: I have a background in psychology that allows me to talk about things effectively and intentionally, like brain development, regulation and discipline. I work with clients one on one, in group training and in online classes to assist in their parenting goals. It’s really an opportunity for me to share information that is both research- and data-based from the certification program I am affiliated with.

How did you get into this line of work?

DA: It was not on purpose. However, [having worked] in schools with that background in psychology, conscious parenting is something I have always practiced. My daughter suggested that I make a TikTok video. The more I started to share, the more I wanted to be able to help people beyond social media.

There are multiple terms used, such as conscious parenting, intentional parenting, gentle parenting and patient parenting. Are they all the same? How do they differ, and how do you define the type of parenting you are teaching your clients?

DA: I lean more toward intentional parenting and conscious parenting. Gentle and patient parenting give off the impression that it’s always chill, or [there's] a lack of discipline. For me, it doesn't resonate as much. However, they are all trending buzzwords, making it easy for people to research content. They’re all under the same umbrella, but conscious or intentional parenting applies more to what I do.

Tell us more about intentional parenting and how it works for you, particularly in your household.

DA: Intentional parenting is just as the word says. Intentional. I ask myself, why am I doing this? or where is this coming from? Having a foundation and being clear on my values helps me stay intentional rather than coming from a place of trauma. I am checking myself constantly. Anytime my daughters behave a certain way, I remember that I am the leader. The other piece to that is respect. My kids deserve respect just like anyone else on this planet; therefore, my discipline is respectful to them. There is compassion. I am not rude or punitive. Respecting a child also means they have an environment where there is discipline. They hear the word "no." There's consistency. They also have age- and developmentally appropriate expectations. Intentional parenting is hard. Parenting itself is hard, but not being reactive is tough.

What is the biggest challenge for your clients when they are seeking to adopt this parenting method?

DA: Adult tantrums. I get a lot of clients who say things like, “I don’t know why I’m yelling.” or “I don’t know how to stop yelling.” Parents will come to me asking how to get their kids to do certain things. In these instances, I must remind them that I am not a food person or a sleep trainer, nor can I teach you how to potty-train your kids. There are a million ways to do something. I’m here to help you decide how you are going to show up for your kid. I want you to know that in this process, your child still deserves respect and how you can control your emotions. No matter what it looks like in whatever process, you can be a solid anchor for them, a safe space and a calm presence.

How is intentional parenting beneficial to children? Is there a drastic difference between a household that uses intentional parenting and one that does not?

DA: There is research that shows the effects of the extremes and things like corporal punishment. I think that what’s important with intentional parenting is that your values and behaviors in how you treat your children are cohesive. There is no "because I said so," or "I’m big, and you're little." We value communication. So, no matter what, I'm not going to speak to you in a certain way. Whether you model that behavior to your child at 3 or 10, you are setting them up the best way you can be in the environment you want them to have. There are realistic and age-appropriate expectations.

When you read the comments on posts such as yours, there are a lot of viewers that feel like intentional parenting shows a lack of discipline or failure to prepare your child for life adequately. What does discipline look like in the intentional parenting model?

DA: Discipline is about teaching, and our teaching styles will be different. My teaching style with my 5-year-old is not the same as it is with my 10-year-old. Teaching that works is teaching my child where they are supposed to be developmentally — we must be educated on child development for that to work. It helps to keep the relationship intact and safe. I also suggest that my client research attachment science because there are certain things in our behavior styles that can negatively impact the most important relationship that a child can have. In my household, discipline for my 5-year-old can look like a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown, and if she's showing me she cannot do it alone, I help her. My voice has no anger or irritation; I am still joy-filled. And when I feel like I will cross that line, I take a break. When I come back to her, I can still respect her, and we can get whatever needs to be done, done.

Do you see that your clients tend to lose support or community when they choose a different parenting style. particularly for those who are parenting differently from the way they were parented?

DA: Initially, it's possible. What’s helpful is boundaries. Being able to set boundaries makes you clear on your intentions and non-negotiables. Be open to the fact that people will be different, then weigh out the consequences of their interactions with your child. For example, at home, your child can be free and run around. There will be places where that's not allowed. If we visit Grandma and she says "sit down," that's perfectly fine. But, if Grandma spanks my child because they are not sitting down, that's non-negotiable for me. In that situation, we’ll need a stricter boundary, like maybe we will only visit Grandma’s house when I can also be present. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. No one in your family is wrong because they disagree with your parenting; they just have to respect it.

What are some actionable tips for parenting transitioning into this parenting style?

DA: Start with getting familiar with yourself. Learn about brain development so that we are not having unrealistic expectations of our kids. Learn about attachment styles to see where some of your behaviors are coming from. Lastly, learn about emotional regulation, inner work and therapy. Emotional outbursts look different for all of us. For me, I would just check out when I was at the end of my rope. That's not supportive of my child. It’s sending the message that their emotions aren't safe.

Are there any resources you want to share?

DA: I suggest therapy as a resource. Aside from that, I absolutely love Dr. Becky! She has practical and relatable day-to-day content when it comes to how to discipline. When it comes to understanding brain development, Dr. Dan Siegel is a great resource. It's good to start with the discipline and brain development aspects.

Once kids are at home, they are ready to unwind after a long day, just like adults do. Of course, there are still things that must be done, like chores and homework. We have a checklist for my 10-year-old. That consistency is helpful, especially because a big trigger in my house is homework. She struggled with math and was becoming less confident. Truthfully, I didn’t know what to say to her, so we turned to Photomath. It’s an AI-generated app that lets us take a photo of a math problem, and we can learn together step by step how to solve them. Just this past semester, her math has improved by half a grade, and she’s less stressed about math homework.

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