Hello, Happy (Intentional) Mama: Carla Barrientos
by Callie Collins
Jul 29, 2022
Carla Barrientos and family.jpg
Just in time for back-to-school season, Carla Barrientos’ name and community presence are what parents need in their back pockets. As an educator, entrepreneur, podcast host and child behavior consultant, Carla’s expertise stands out as a resource for families as they adjust to new routines, new ages, phases and stages, all of which tend to become pressing issues as children return to learning in the classroom. Firsthand experience as a parent also rounds out Carla’s perspective. Along with her husband, Jorge, she is currently navigating the intense early years with her own children, Julian, 3, and Gianna, 1.


“The first three years of a child’s life are so crucial. I have worked with young children across the spectrum and there is an approach for every child,” said Carla. “But when you are the mom in Target struggling while your toddler tantrums, it can absolutely be so hard in that moment when everyone is staring at you.” Born and raised in Bakersfield, Carla graduated from Ridgeview High before earning a bachelor’s degree in communications and her master’s in special education and teaching at California State, where she also completed her moderate to severe education specialist teaching credential. She served the community as a special education teacher in Fruitvale and Kern County districts for more than a decade before accepting a full-time role as a program specialist focusing on behavior support for students and their teachers, a function of the office of Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS).

In addition to her full-time role, Carla started her own business last year. Practical Parenting, Inc. helps families work through challenging behavior. She describes the business as one born out of a passion for helping parents find the joy in parenting, even on tough days. “I was already doing this work informally then formally. My goal is to give parents more tools in their toolbelt to recognize children’s needs and meet them where they are,” said Carla. “Now, having become a mother, I see how difficult it is to get those tools if you don’t have them and how to approach challenging situations. I had so many friends saying ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing, I don’t know who to go to, and I want to know: How do we parent differently than what we had?’ You can learn to be a gentle parent, with care and love. A lot of parents feel so unsure of themselves but there are definitely tools we can add so they don’t resort to ineffective strategies like yelling and spanking. That’s what I do in my business.”

Gentle parenting is a method that has gained more attention in recent years. GuidepostMontessori.com offers a clear definition: “Gentle parenting is a parenting approach that encourages a partnership between you and your child to make choices based on an internal willingness instead of external pressures. This parenting style asks you to become aware of the behavior you model for your child, encourages compassion, welcomes emotions and accepts the child as a whole, capable being. The approach doesn't follow a strict set of rules. It wasn't created by a lifestyle or parenting guru, nor does it stem from a celebrity fad. The gentle parenting philosophy includes a wide variety of strategies that may already be familiar to you. Sarah Ockwell-Smith, parenting expert and author of “The Gentle Parenting Book,” sums up gentle parenting in three words: empathy, understanding, and respect.” Analyzing the situation and responding purposefully is part of what Carla teaches parents. For the notorious toddler-tantrum-in-the-store example veritably every parent recognizes, Carla has some solutions. “First, know that you're doing great and recognize that tantrums happen. It’s a fact: toddlers do that, they tantrum. It is normal and it is expected as our kids are learning autonomy and their place in the world,” said Carla. “It comes down to looking past the behavior to find the need. Put aside the negative emotions, figure out which need isn’t being met and go from there. When you see that mom in Target struggling, know that this is the season she is in and she is doing a job.

Children need us to work through situations with them, giving them the ‘why,’ instead of just using ‘no,’ ‘stop’ and ‘don’t.’ When you are going through it, take a deep breath and know you’re doing a good job.”

Find out more at https://practicalparentingconsultants.com/.

Q. Parents of young children may feel lonely and isolated in that particular phase of life. What advice do you have for respite and renewal, especially for women as mothers and


A. Finding ways to restore yourself is so important. Kids can be fun and inquisitive and cute but parenting can be stressful. Identify what triggers you with your kids. Parenting toddlers is what I think of because I’m in that phase right now. Find how to keep your cool. You have to be really cognizant of your own behavior when you’re raising your children because you are teaching them how adults react. It is so easy to get wrapped up in milestones but don’t fall into the comparison trap. Make mom friends to share and be candid with. It really is about

supporting and leaning on each other. That old adage ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ comes to mind; it actually takes a village to raise a mother, too. We have so much on our shoulders. For some moms, it can feel like too much. I encourage moms to find their people, not just online but in real life. Get out of the house and enjoy time together. So many of us want to have connections and make friends; seek out simple introductions to build community. The Playful Space is a business that invites kids to play and parents to have fun. Yellow House Music Together music classes could also be a way to learn together and meet other families. Going to our parks is another free, easy way to meet other moms.

Q. What should families in the Kern County area know more about in their community?

A. So many free resources are available in the Kern County area, from library events and parks to a lot of community activities having to do with kids. Families can go for walks at Hart

Park, for example, and Wind Wolves is so beautiful. Now, you may have to go early in the morning to beat the heat and plan your visit but it is worth doing. We have a lot of fun things here for kids to do. Before having my children, my lens was focused on the adult things to do in our community but when I focused my lens on family activities, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how many things there are to do with kids. Take care of your community and it will take care of you.

Q. What is your parenting PSA?

A. Look less at the child’s negative behavior and more at the very real need. That is where the real work is done. All behavior is communication. Be willing to look at what that behavior is trying to tell us.

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