Outbursts from children can be challenging. Here’s the path to peaceful parenting, happy kids. This 10-minute briefing contains the key insights from “Dr. Laura Markham on Peaceful Parenting” from The Knowledge Project podcast.
Table of contents
Parenting expert and multiple best-selling author Dr. Laura Markham breaks down the three keys to successful parenting, how to properly model emotions and conflict resolution, and the coveted recipe for raising happy, resilient kids.
Dr. Laura Markham (@DrLauraMarkham) is a Clinical Psychologist at Columbia University and founder of Aha! Parenting. She is the author of three bestselling books:
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling, and Start Connecting
- Peaceful Parent, Hapy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: Using Mindfulness and Connection to Raise Resilient, Joyful Children, and Rediscover your Love of Parenting
Shane Parrish (@ShaneAParrish) is the host of The Knowledge Project podcast, which interviews world-class doers and thinkers so that you can better analyze problems, seize opportunities, and master decision-making.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:00:00):
That’s a kid who’s able to be self-discipline because they’ve practiced it. And they’ve built a brain that is more self-discipline. That’s about resilience as well.
Shane Parrish (00:00:18):
Hello and welcome. I’m Shane Parrish. And this is another episode of the knowledge project, a podcast, exploring the ideas, methods and mental models that will help you learn from the best what other people have already figured out. You can learn more and stay up to date at fs.blog/podcast. On the show. Today is Dr. Laura Markham who runs a remarkable parenting blog, lager frequent called aha parenting. Well, I expected the lessons of this conversation to apply to parenting my eight, nine year old boys. I was surprised how much what I took away from this conversation resonated with me outside of parenting. For example, Laura teaches us all about self-regulation and how to not only notice what we’re fee, but label it and react in a constructive way. It’s time to listen and learn.
Shane Parrish (00:01:10):
Before we get started. Here’s a quick word from our sponsor. Barnham street is sponsored by me lab for a decade. Metlab has helped some of the world’s top companies and entrepreneurs build products that millions of people use every day. You probably didn’t realize that at the time, but odds are you’ve used an app that they’ve helped design or build apps like slack, Coinbase, Facebook messenger, Oculus, lonely planet, and so many more metal app wants to bring the unique design philosophy to your project. Let them take your brainstorm and turn it into the next billion from idea sketched on the back of a napkin to a final ship product, check them firstname.lastname@example.org that’s me lab.co. And when you get in touch, tell them Shane sent you Laura. I’m so happy to have you.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:01:56):
I’m so glad to be here with you today, Shane,
Shane Parrish (00:01:59):
I think we’ve all raised her voice and bribed our kids. Sometimes most us who are self-aware about that probably feel that something is not quite right and want to find better, more sustainable ways to connect with their kids. You claim the three keys to parenting are to regulate your own emotions, reconnect with your kids and coach instead of punishing, let’s start with regulating our own emotions. Can you ex band on that?
Dr. Laura Markham (00:02:24):
Well, the research seems pretty clear that what matters most in how kids turn out is who we are as parents. It’s, it’s not a set of strategies, right? It’s a relationship. And every relationship comes from two people having that relationship. And in our case, we’re the, the guidance. We’re the role model. We’re the already mature brain. Not that we’re not still learning and growing we are, but we are the ones who set the examples for our child to grow. But also on a biological level, our children are born with very incomplete neural systems. And so their limbic system, which is the old word for the emotional parts of the brain and, and neurology, that limbic system is born pretty unfinished and takes shape in interaction with the parent. Now all repeated experiences will shape the brain, but when you think about it, what is a baby’s repeated experience?
Dr. Laura Markham (00:03:28):
Most of it is interactions with the parent. So even, and so of course that’s true for babies and how their brain takes shape based on our brain and how it functions and our neurology. But of course, pretty soon kids are consciously interacting with us, aware of what goes on between us modeling themselves after us learning about the world, learning about how relationships work and if we’re the kind of person who can stay calm or notice we’re getting agitated or anxious or angry brush through. If we’re the kind of person who can notice and we can stop and calm ourselves down, our child sees that. And a few things happen. One is they learn, it’s not an emergency. It may have seemed like an emergency to them, right? When we insisted it was time to get it out of the bathtub or whatever. But in fact, if we react, like it’s not an emergency, yet they do have to get outta the bathtub, but it’s not an emergency. We can have a productive interaction about it. The child learns from us how to, they, first of all, they learn, it’s not an emergency. They learn how to communicate more constructively and they learn how to calm themselves down when things were getting hot. But then in fact, they realize it could handle it in a better way. So our ability to self-regulate might be the most might have the most impact on who our child turns out to be than anything else we do.
Shane Parrish (00:04:52):
That’s interesting. Is it that parents can’t regulate themselves or is there something about parenting situations? Like, is it an adult thing where we have problems actually regulating our own emotions or is it related to the situation of parenting in the context in which those come up, which we’ve probably not had a lot of experience
Dr. Laura Markham (00:05:11):
With you’re so right, Shane, because we, I hear all the time from parents who are just fine in the workplace or even their teachers and they’re fine, people’s children. So it isn’t even just childish behavior that sets us off sometimes it’s that our children push our buttons in a way nobody else could because some, those buttons were installed in childhood. And so when our child, when our two year old yells at us, I want a new daddy, you know, or you’re not the boss of me or whatever, that’s really more like a four year old’s thing. But when, even when a young child yells at us and is defiant with us, it brings up all our anxieties of when we were that age. And we had those same feelings. And if we had done that might have been smacked across the room. So it brings up all of the unconscious stuff that we don’t even know about from when we were one and two and three and form five because the brain doesn’t store memories in a straightforward way at that time before the hippo campus is online, which is the part of the brain that is the memory maker before the hip campuses, online memories are made and stored in a more holistic visceral way.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:06:28):
So you can have, you can smell something that will remind you of your grandparents’ house or in the case of one client, I know the basement where her mother put her when she was naughty or, or your, your mother’s perfume and your mother’s been dead for years, but that perfume, wow, it makes you feel loved and cared about. So we can have a smell or we can hear a sound, or we can have a feeling that reminds us of the feeling we had when we were three and our roared us and terrified us and whatever is happening at that moment. We may not consciously have the access to the memory because they’re not just filed in a straightforward way, but the feelings will swamp us. It’s almost like PTSD in this. It works in the same way. It’s an unsorted memory. So young children have a way of pushing our buttons, unlike anyone else.
Shane Parrish (00:07:23):
So how do we, how do we learn to regulate our emotions in these scenarios where, like you said, we can be great at the workplace, but in a parenting context everything changes and you know, it even changes further. I would imagine between single parenting sort of being in a relationship with another parent who can sort of take you out of the moment and see something that you can’t see because you’re in it.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:07:48):
Yes, yes. You know, single parenting is so hard because the weight is all on your shoulders, but also because you don’t have that other adult for perspective. So, you know, if you’re just dealing with your three year old soon, you’re gonna act like a three year old. Whereas if you have another adult around, they, they provide sort of a check on that, right? So you’re, you’re a little more likely to stay in adult mode. So how can we handle that? Well, I think the first thing is to acknowledge that no, one’s perfect. We’re all learning and growing. And if you you’ve stumbled on to some places where you lose your temper repeatedly, notice what’s going on, bring your conscious attention to it. I think of this as sort of going into the dark basements of our psyches with our flashlight and the flashlight is our conscious attention.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:08:37):
When we shine conscious awareness on anything, it begins to, it loses the power of the unconscious fear. That’s otherwise attached to it. And in fact, a lot of things just sort of melt away. We realized they were just the shadows of, of fear that from the past that were in there, like if somebody yells like that, you know, I want a new daddy, then something terrible is about to happen. Somebody’s about to get hit. Well, that fear from the past is not actually operative in the current moment. So simply noticing what’s going on. Oh yeah. When my kid gets that expression on his face and screams at me, I feel like, well, just notice the sensations. We can look at the thoughts in a moment because the thoughts do are all part of what causes those emotions. But an emotion is just a set of sensations.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:09:28):
So notice the sensations. I have a sensation of my belly just got really tight and my throat got in my hands or clenching into fist and my face is going tight. I’m all of a sudden I’m totally contracted. So I have a choice at that moment, noticing it to take a deep breath. No tragedy is gonna happen. If I don’t correct my child at this moment, he’s not gonna turn into a 33 year old bully. He’s three. This is appropriate for a three year old who doesn’t wanna get outta the bathtub, scream at me in anger because he feels that something unfair happened like he’s being made to get out to soon. So when he does that, I can stop. I can notice my body, the sensations in my body that tell me I’m having this feeling. I can name the feeling. I’m feeling so angry at this moment. I just wanna smack this kid across the room. I grab him out the bathtub and shake him. So noticing those feelings, huh? Take a deep breath. There’s no danger here. It’s not an emergency that interrupts the entire process. And I have a about how to, why
Speaker 3 (00:10:38):
Is it important to label your
Dr. Laura Markham (00:10:40):
Emotions? There is research that shows that when adults label, what they’re feeling, it gives them more control over the emotion they have. And, and by control, I don’t mean they repress it. I don’t mean they just stop it down and pretend it’s not their, it gives them the ability to notice the feeling, but not to act on it. It gives them more choice in the moment. Mm. And so I wanna add a few important points about that. That labeling is just another part of shining the flashlight on it, right? Noticing what you’re feeling otherwise, we’re often just in the grip of what’s going on. And frontal cortex is not really engaged. The part of us that thinks the executive function, we’re just in the grip of anger. Whereas if instead, we can pull the camera back a little bit and see ourselves there being angry and notice the feelings, right. But we’re, and we say, oh, I’m feeling really angry. Then we have a choice of, okay, I’m feeling angry, but do I necessarily wanna act on it? Notice I’m saying I’m feeling angry. I haven’t said I am getting angry. I am angry because that implies that we are at the mercy of our anger. That anger is all we are at this moment. You’re not just angry
Shane Parrish (00:11:55):
That we’re not in control.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:11:58):
Exactly. Exactly. You are actually an adult and you can choose how to act on this. I also wanna say that sometimes there’s a very common trope in parenting. Name it to that is applied to children. When your child is anger. If you tell your child they’re angry, they’ll be less angry. I find that’s a not true. Most parents will tell you. It’s not true. If you say to your child, you’re very angry. Your child will say, I am not angry. Right? Yeah. Cause it doesn’t feel it doesn’t help. The child feel understood. Instead they feel like you’re judging them or they’re under a microscope being analyzed. Right? It doesn’t, it doesn’t shorten the emotional distance between it lengthens it, no one wants to feel analyzed and no one wants to feel judged. Right? So the studies that were done, we’re done with adults, not with kids and we, and it’s, it’s important that children feel understood.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:12:46):
And it’s great. If the child can say, I’m getting angry, I’m feeling angry right now. Stop teasing me to their brother or to you. I feel like you’re being unfair, daddy, but it’s important that we don’t apply this to children in a, in not very thoughtful way, because then it actually will drive them further. Apart from us. That’s a, that’s about coaching kids. So we’ll talk about that in a minute, but just in terms of our own, self-regulation, it’s important to notice what we’re feeling. Yes. And, and I also wanna add our thoughts, create our feelings. So if we have a belief system that says children, shouldn’t raise their voices to their parents, which most of us have. And not only shouldn’t, if they do, it’s a dangerous situation, every time your child raises their voice to you, you’re gonna feel like dangerous signs are flashing and you’re gonna get, you’re gonna become afraid.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:13:33):
No one likes feeling afraid. It’s a, a vulnerable feeling and we feel stronger when we’re angry. So the response to fear in most enamels is fight flight or freeze, right? Well, you’re not freezing most of the time as a parent. Although some parents do, if they, especially, if they have abusive backgrounds, you’re not running away out and leaving the room. Most of the time you are going to fight. So when you’re afraid that your child all is raising their voice and it’s making you anxious, what the immediate thing that happens is you fly up the handle of yourself. You go into anger. And if you can notice the, the thoughts that are creating those feelings, you can nip those feelings in the bud. You can say, wow, he’s getting toy it again. Every time he gets toy it, I lose it. I’m gonna take a deep breath here. I notice I’m getting angry, but I can choose what to do. There’s no emergency. He’s allowed to be defiant. He’s a four year old. Mm. Or even he’s allowed to define he’s a 12 year old and I can handle this in a constructive way.
Shane Parrish (00:14:30):
It strikes me. I, I, I have two kids who are eight and nine right now. And it strikes me that there’s like so many going on, embedded contextually in this regulating your own emotions. Not only are you put in situations that you’ve are one offs or never really practiced before, but you’re also struggling between this inherent sort of like almost hierarchy instinct of your kid is not the boss of you. You’re the boss of them on the flip side of that. It’s like, you want to connect with your kids and you, you don’t want to be their boss, but you, you know, a lot of the books talk about being friends with your kids and not necessarily parents. So you have all these sort of like conflicting messages. And meanwhile, if you’re in public, you have all these people judging you. And, or, you know, whether they’re actually verbalizing that or not. You feel it as a self conscious sort of individual, you might feel that other people are watching you and sort of embedding themselves in that relationship or in that moment.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:15:34):
Yes, you’re so right. There’s so much going on there. And I do wanna speak to the question. You just said, books say that you don’t wanna be the boss of your child. So I think there’s a lot of confusion among parents today about this issue. And I think that’s because we don’t have necessarily role models of adults who were able to be leaders in their homes, able to be nurturers and still able to say no and provide clear, right? It is completely possible to provide loving guidance to your child. While you say no, while you set boundaries, while you enforce rules, we can do all that. And not only that, we need to do that. Children need protection, they need guidance. No two year old is ready to make all her own decisions and no 12 year old, or he, then I would argue 15 year old or six is ready to make all of her own decisions.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:16:35):
Of course, the older they get, you know, into the teen years, the more practice they’ve had, the more their prefrontal cortex has grown the better executive function they have. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need a back and forth with you and still some guidance from you at that point. So I think that we need to learn and you know, I’ll give you a parallel here. We want every child to learn that they can get what they need in a given situation. That’s an interpersonal situation with, with somebody else, they can get what they need without attacking the other person. That’s a given. We want every, and that every playmate to learn it every, you know, because when they’re all, they’re gonna need to learn to get what they want in the workplace without attacking the other person, right. Or, or just in life or with their relationship, if they have a partner.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:17:22):
So it’s the same thing for us. When they’re little, we can learn to set boundaries with the child without in any way, attacking them and attacking them would mean attacking their them physically obviously smacking them, but it also would mean punishing causing pain to them in to, to get back at them for having done something wrong in the hopes that next time they wouldn’t make that choice. Right. You know, children and this again, gets to coaching. And we can talk about coaching more in a minute, but, but really we can provide guidance and make it stick with our children without being less than loving with them. Not that we are humans, we, not that we’re perfect cuz we’re humans, right? We’re not gonna be perfect. But our goal can be to function from a place that is not about who’s right and wrong, but is more about the level of the heart, where we’re the leader and we’re leading from our heart.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:18:25):
And what matters is compassionate toward our child, but also protect and supporting our child to be their best self. No child is their best self. If they spend all day on technology, no child is their best self. When they go to bed at 11 o’clock at night, no child is their best self. When we are letting them run rough shot over somebody else. Or, and that doesn’t, that includes your family like their sister. But it also includes, you know, running around at the restaurant and, you know, making the waiter, nearly drop things or making the environment loud. So other people who are there paying customers at their restaurant are looking like unhappy about the fact that they can’t have a peaceful dinner. There are many ways in which we slide our children socially and in our interpersonally, in our homes and elsewhere, that will be real important for that child to become who they are.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:19:12):
And we can do all of that in a way that sets clear boundaries, but is coming from a loving place. And I don’t mean I’ve had people say, oh, well, I lovingly spank my child. So I do think you do have to, no child is gonna perceive that as loving, you know, but because you’re hurting their body. I do think that there are ways to say, hun, I know you wanna be on, you know, playing computer games during the week. It’s not gonna happen. You need to focus on your studies on the weekend after your schoolwork is done. I have no problem with your playing computer games, but it’s not gonna happen during the week. And your kid is gonna say, no, if you, you would let me, and you’re saying, you know what, I’m doing this because in fact it is what’s best for you. And I totally get why you’re disappointed.
Shane Parrish (00:19:59):
I wanna come back to that example a little later on in the show, when we talk about perhaps kids that have two households and the differing sort of ways that parents handle things and how that might create confusion for kids. But before we do that, I want to talk about connecting with our kids, which is sort of like the second key to parenting. What does that mean? And specifically, how is that different for dads and moms or is it different?
Dr. Laura Markham (00:20:23):
Well, as I said, it’s a relationship parenting. It’s not a set of strategies. So if it’s a relationship, that’s what the connection is. And we from attachment studies that babies, as young as 14 months have formed an opinion about every adult who’s important to them. And whether that adult is trustworthy and by trustworthy, I specifically mean will that adult comfort them when they’re upset, will that adult accept the full range of feelings the child has, which includes not just needs and need for comfort, but all anger is the child allowed to be angry with you, is the child allowed to be who they are and then includes be who they are. Minute to minute with all of those inconvenient emotions and still loved and still get their needs met, not every desire, but their needs met by the parent. And we know the kids, as I say, as young as 14 months have already made that judgment based on the relationship they’re experiencing.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:21:19):
So as they get older, they build on that relationship. Sometimes parents change dramatically and children will change their working model of that relationship. It’s good for kids to have more than one parent that they interact with or more than one close person. It could be a grandparent, it could be a nanny. It could be teacher who stays in their life for a long time. Most teachers don’t stay more than a year, but children form working models based on every important relationship. And therefore we know that they can, it, it gives them more depth of, of different ways to act. So in one relationship, they may know that the other person has a harder time with them being angry. The other relationship that parents find when they’re angry. So they learn that anger really is okay. And it’s a, it varies based on different people. They may learn something about how to express the anger, that that’s more nuanced than other kids who just it’s either.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:22:07):
Okay, or doesn’t okay. But as they get older, they’re building on those early experiences and learning how to have relationship. And as I said earlier, they’re learning they’re, they’re not just learning their neural pathways are being laid down in their own brain and body based on the interactions they’re actually have they’re neural to be. And then as they get older, they’re modeling selves after us. And they’re having conversations that are about values. You know, four year olds have conversations with us about values. We just know that’s what’s happening when they say, I don’t wanna go to her birthday party. And we say that she came to your birthday party. You have to go, well, that’s a question about values. Now that may or may not be the right decision, the different question, but you know, then when they’re, when they’re eight and they say, I don’t wanna go on that play date that we agreed to.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:22:55):
I wanna change that play date and go with somebody else because at their house they have better treats and they invited me the last minute. Well then again, that’s a values decision. Are they allowed to break that first play date that they, that some child is gonna be disappointed that they had a date. If they got a better offer? You know, that’s a question. You know, and then when they’re 12, do they get your discouragement or your encouragement when they suggest lying to get into the amusement park? Oh, I’ll pretend I’m a year younger. You know, so that’s a values question, right? So who we, how we relate to them will, and, and sort of how we make all of the decisions in daily life will shape who they are in very visceral ways that they can’t articulate, but also who they are in terms of how they show up in the world for the rest of their lives, based on their values, who they think of themselves as being is the
Shane Parrish (00:23:45):
Way we connect with them different between dads and moms.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:23:49):
Hmm. Yes. I forgot that part of your question. Yeah. So I think that the research shows that moms and dads are often different in the way they relate to children. When there’s a mother and a father in a household at the same time, often the mother is the more tender, nurturing parent. The father is the more playful exuberant parent. The mother is the one who moves the child through the schedule. So she’s often the disciplinarian, but the father might not spend as much time around the child. Might not even have the same history of having worked out problems before, or even move the child through the routine and might have less patience with the child. And so might lose their temper more easily. That’s sort of the, the stereotypes when parents live together. But, and, and we learned that nurturing is really important that playing with the child being playful is really important that really parents both bring something important to the table there.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:24:55):
And it is natural. I will add for children to have a hierarchy of attachment objects, people. So it is natural for a child who lives with both parents to have one parent who they select as being the one that they will most go to when they’re hurt, because they know that parent is the, their comfort object. And you know, it’s completely, it’s designed by, in it’s designed actually by biology that says, you know, don’t waste time wandering around the tribal circle, finding your aunt or your grandfather go straight to mommy. She’s the one who nursed you. She’s the one who, you know, when you’re most, she may be stirring the suit pot half the time while you’re cavorting around with other people. But when you’re hurt, she’s the one to go to as an example. However, and so dads often feel a little left out there when there’s a mom also in the picture in the same household, dads will often feel left out.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:25:46):
And they’ll feel like their relationship is not as close. I wanna say that that changes as the child gets older, the hierarchy is less established and the child, it becomes a more nuanced set of relationships. So that does change always as the child gets older, but that’s very common when, when kids are little so often, we don’t have that situation where there are two moms or two dads. And I mean, a mom and a dad, they’re two dads. Sometimes they’re two moms. Sometimes there’s one mom or one dad in the household. Sometimes kids go back and forth. So I think when you ask, is it different? What kids get, all kids need the same thing from their parents. They all need to know that they are acceptable exactly as they are with all of their inconvenient feeling. Number one, number two, that no matter what their parent will be there to help them to take care of them, to protect them, to give them food and shelter and emotional love, physical love.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:26:41):
We all children need those things. They need them from both parents. And I would say, they need to be delighted in. It may be one of the most important things we can give our children is a sense of being valued, delighted in just for who they are when children feel that we adore them. When we delight in who they are, they feel a value. It isn’t about having to perform in a certain way. It isn’t about having to produce certain things like get their, their aid or, you know, be, you know, a considerate kit. We, of course we want them to do well in school and we want them to be considerate. But their, our love for them does not depend on that. Our love is unconditional. It comes before any thing they actually do. And the paradox there is that when we give children unconditional love, they do much better.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:27:28):
They do better in school. They do better with other people because they’re not coming from a place of feeling, not quite loved and valued. So all children need unconditional love, which, which takes the form of delighting in our child. So, you know, many and women, dads and moms need to do that for their kid. And if your way of being with your child, whether you’re a dad or a mom, is to be a little more boisterous and a little more fun and a little more to your kids around great kids thrive on that. We know if your way of being is a little quieter, but you read to them a lot and you hug them a lot and you’re calm and you’re nurturing. That’s great too. And I don’t think it matters what gender you are. I like
Shane Parrish (00:28:12):
How you, you sort of contextualize this unconditional love. I think often it seems anyway. Maybe it’s just my perception that people equate their child’s happiness with love. So things are, and to, to please the child that may, may not be in their best interests or responsibilities aren’t given to them because we view it as love to take care of them.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:28:34):
Wow. That’s such a great point, but it’s, it’s it’s a little bit heartbreaking to consider that, because this would mean that there are parents who are loving adoring parents who are unknowingly sabotaging their child’s development. So a few examples, children want to grow. They want to be competent to the world. Their self-esteem comes from two things. One is from peeling, unconditionally loved and adored and valued, delighted in. But the second is from being able to get their needs met, to do things well in the world. All children need to do that. So the fact that we love them, isn’t enough. It’s the foundation, but they need to be able to feel like they can learn to do something they wanna do. If they can’t ever learn to do something they wanna do, why would, and it doesn’t matter what it is that they wanna do.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:29:31):
Maybe they wanna learn to read or tie their shoes or ride a bike. Let’s say we’ve got a five or six year old. It doesn’t really matter what it is they wanna do. But if they don’t learn to do those things, they feel worse about themselves. So when you say not getting kids responsibilities, young children want responsibilities. They want to feel that they can do things to contribute. All humans want to contribute. We want to feel good about our, our impact on the world and children are no, except , that’s an, a need that they have. So getting kids responsibilities, not in a, in an over way, like, you know, Cinderella, clean the floor, you can’t, you know, do what, you know, go see your friends later, but more in a, we all contribute to the family way. And the research shows that kids who do contribute to the family do better.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:30:21):
There’s a way to do that. That is completely supportive and loving and helps your child develop into somebody who feels good about themselves, right? And setting limits, same thing. You said, doing things to make kids happy. You know, we all know that our two year old thinks that eating every cookie in the box and never eating a vegetable will happy. We all know that’s not good for our two year old. There are many similar situations with 12 year olds. It’s the same thing. So making them happy is not the point. I think, accepting that they’re unhappy about some of our limits. Yeah. That’s an important point. That’s an important part of what we give them. They’re allowed to be happy when life doesn’t go their way and they don’t get what they want. Sometimes they still have to do those things, take a bath share their toy with their sister sit down and do their homework.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:31:12):
First thing, you know, whatever it is that we’re asking of them help clean up the dishes afterwards, those things that they don’t necessarily wanna do that aren’t gonna make them quote happy. are all part of becoming a person who contributes and who feels good about themselves and who has a positive impact on the world. And sure they can be unhappy about it. They will grow resilience. Hmm. If we have those negative feelings and they learn the world doesn’t end and you know, they can do these things and come out fine in the end and everything will be okay, right. Re growing. If we stop our child from growing resilience, it doesn’t help them at all. Then we have unknowingly, unwitingly raised a child who doesn’t have the grit to go after what they want in life and get it a recipe for unhappiness. A recipe for happiness is to help our child over and over again, choose to give up what they want at that moment for something they actually want more.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:32:17):
And what they actually want more might be to. I’m trying to think of the examples that I’ve just used. You know, if they don’t want to help with the dishes every night. And we insist, you know, that’s what we do in our house. We all work together. They become somebody who, who gives up what they want, which is to run off and, you know, be in touch with their friends on their screens. After dinner, instead of helping with the dishes, they give that up for something they want more, which is to feel like a good person who contributes to their family. And ultimately the it’s not just that. That’s good for their self image. Yes. And it’s good for their slice skills. Yes. And their ultimate independence. Something else happens to me. They develop self-discipline and they develop resilience. They learn, they can handle disappointment.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:33:06):
They learn, they can sit themselves down to do an unpleasant task. They learn that they can give up something. They want an immediate moment for something they want more. And they build that’s. That’s actually building neural pathways between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. So they become better able to self-regulate. This is a kid who can go to college. And when the other kids are going off to get high on Tuesday night, the kid says, you know, I’m gonna party on Friday night. I gotta study tonight. And she takes herself off to library that it’s a kid who’s able to be self-discipline because they’ve practiced it. And they’ve built a brain that is more self-discipline, that’s about resilience
Shane Parrish (00:33:47):
As well. I wanna come back to sort of responsibilities and resilience, but before we, we move on, I want to talk about what coaching, what does coaching your kids mean? You said coaching instead of punish. What’s an talk to me about that. So
Dr. Laura Markham (00:34:02):
I think that much of the time, if we haven’t given any conscious thought to this, we find ourselves with a baby, who’s grow into a toddler who wants certain things. And we here’s this little human who we can’t communicate with. So well verbally, you know, and who really doesn’t have much prefrontal cord. So we can’t reason with them. And we don’t really know what to do to get them to do what we want. So we just start using force. We pick them up. When they go to a place, we don’t want them to go to, we, we say no. And then we start escalating. No, I said no. And maybe we slap their hand. No, don’t touch that. Like, because we don’t really know how to get our child to do what we want accept through force. And some parents don’t wanna be that parent.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:34:45):
So they instead use bras. They use rewards, you know, and all of that presupposes that our child is an object to be manipulated. Or at least somebody who doesn’t have much brain power. Right. so we we’re, we’re we’re using rewards and punishment as opposed to coaching the child to be their best self. So when I say coaching, I mean a few things first, I mean, emotion, coaching. So the child can handle their emotions better. That’s a big thing. But I also mean coaching by setting up the environment, which means maybe that thing, we don’t want our child to touch. We need to move away while the child’s a toddler, put it up high. You know, maybe you don’t wear earrings while when your child is 15 months old, cuz they’re gonna grab at your earrings. You just stop wearing earrings for a while.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:35:38):
You can put them back on when your kid’s a little older, it’s not a big deal, but coaching your child to not touch your earrings is gonna be for a BA you know, an 18 month old, 15 month old is gonna be pretty hard, maybe. So coaching means emotion, coaching. It means setting up the environment. It also means practicing, helping the child practice so they can learn certain skills because children need to practice over and over again. As I mentioned, you’re building the neural pathways for self discipline. Every time the child willingly gives up something they want for something they want more. So the child who really wants to, you know you’re at the beach with your two year old and they’re running down the, the beach kicking everybody’s sand castles and knocking them down. You know, they’re gonna love to do that, but there’s something they want more than to knock down the sand castles.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:36:31):
They want a warm relationship with a parent and you can easily get between them and the sand castle and say, oh no, don’t hurt this sand castle, picking your child up, looking or getting down on their level, holding them and pointing to the beautiful sand castle and saying, look how pretty, oh, look, these kids are working so hard on their sand castle. Beautiful, nice sand castle. And then good castle, no touch the sand castle, no kick the sand castle. And we move the child away. Well, we might have to do that 10 times with our kid, but he’s gonna learn, oh, sand castles are something we don’t kick. You know, we can build our own sand castles and knock them down, but we don’t kick other people’s sand castles and he’s, he’s gonna be motivated to do it again. Building those neural pathways by of the warm relationship with us.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:37:20):
If we just yell, no, don’t don’t do that. He might stop because he’s afraid. But, but then the minute our back turned, he’s gonna be back to his old behavior, right? Because he has no motivation to go along with us. But if we have helped him learn why, and then we practice it with him over and over again, he learns how to manage himself in relation to sandcastles. Now he has to learn how to manage himself. Also in relation to the candy bars and the checkout line at the grocery store, he has to learn how to manage himself in relation to the, to the children at the children’s museum, who all want the same toy he wants, he has to alert or, or the kids at the playground who all wanna, you know, go backward up the slide or he wants to go backward and he doesn’t wanna share it.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:37:59):
So he will have to manage himself over and over again. In many situations, his motivation will come from us, but we also have to help him practice exercising that self discipline. So he gains the, the brain power to do it basically. And also, so he learns the skills. If he’s, if we’re talking about peers or siblings over and over again, your gonna be teaching your kids to say, you can ask your brother, when will you be done with that? May I have a turn? You can tell your brother, I’m still using this. You can ask your brother, please get that back. So you’re coaching your kids to learn the skills. So we said three things, right? And the first one I mentioned was emotion. Coaching and emotions are again in the way of all this, the sand castles, the, the working things out with their, their sibling, the times that they just hit their sibling, or go ahead and kick the sand castle.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:38:53):
It’s when they’re emotions are too big for them to manage and get in the way. So how do kids learn to manage emotions, emotion, coaching? And this is why rewards and punishment aren’t that effective because they don’t actually handle big emotions. So there’s been some really wonderful research, really starting. 30, 40 years ago, much of it was covered. Much of the early research was covered by John Gottman in his book, raising an emotionally intelligent child. But there’s been much more sense that time and it’s gotten more nuanced, but Gottman’s huge finding was that parents tend to react to kids, emotions in not very constructive ways. The, there are parents who reacting constructive ways. Those are the parents who say, you look frustrated, let’s take a deep breath and then we’ll try again. Or a parent who says that dog’s bark is scary. I’m right here.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:39:50):
You’re safe. You’re safe. It’s okay. Or the parent who says, no wonder, you’re angry. When she said that it really hurt your feelings. And then in addition, technology, the parent might help the child figure out how to best respond to the situation. Like I wonder what you’ll say to her when you see her, when you, you know, the next door neighbor who said the hurtful thing, I wonder what you’ll say. When you see her tomorrow and help this child actually consider different options, that’s called emotion coaching. Well, what Gotman found is that most parents don’t do that. They’ll say things to the child. Like that’s just a dog. There’s no reason to be afraid or about the neighbor child. Oh, don’t say such mean things about her. You know, you two are thick as the Eves you’ll be playing and tomorrow. So the second person and the first one with the dog, they both denied the child’s feelings.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:40:43):
They told the child it wasn’t okay to have those feelings. Sometimes shame is used. That’s just a dog. Be a big boy. You’re a big boy. You’re not afraid of the little dog. That’s shame. So denial of the child’s feelings, shame. Sometimes there’s punishment used, you know, when the child gets defiant and raises their voice at you and you threaten them with punishment instead of acknowledging that it’s in fact, a communication from your child, wow, you want a new dad? You’re showing me just how mad you are to say that, sweetheart, you can be as mad you want. I’m gonna love you no matter what. And I am always gonna be your dad. I wanna hear why you’re so mad, hun. And you’re opening the conversation to real communication. That’s coaching your child. You’re reestablishing safety. You’re allowing the feelings and you are modeling that.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:41:37):
Even when things get tense, we can always work it out. We always will work it out. We’re family. And you’re opening the door to communication as opposed to that’s emotion, coaching, as opposed to denying, you know, you don’t wish you had a new daddy or shaming. How would you say such a thing to me? You know, how much I sacrifice for you for punishing you know, your time out for you. You know, you can’t speak to me that way. That’s disrespectful time out for you, which is a punishment. So par, why don’t parents emotion coach? Why do they instead respond to their, or child’s emotions with shame or punishment or denial or distraction? It might be as simple as you know, oh, you don’t mean that, you know, let’s talk about your upcoming birthday party, you know, or something, you know, you, oh, that’s, that was just a little, that was just a, don’t worry.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:42:35):
Oh, look at the cute, you know, birdie whatever. So why do parents do this? Instead of emotion, coaching or one, they haven’t had modeling. They don’t know how to emotion coach, but there’s something more important. And it’s back to what we said in the beginning about self-regulation parents get anxious. When their kids have big emotions, they think emotions are danger. They don’t see how to help their child feel better. Again, they get scared because no one ever helped them with their emotions. If parents can instead train themselves to take a deep breath, remind themselves, it’s not an emergency. The child is just having a feeling. That’s not a permanent condition. The child’s allowed to have feelings. That’s part of how children develop unshakable self-esteem and resilience is that we allow them to have their feelings. And it’s part of how you build a deep relationship with your child, where they trust you with everything, anything, and they are open to your influence.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:43:33):
It’s by accepting all of their feelings. If you can remind yourself of those things, then at that moment, you can just get curious. You don’t have to jump in with solutions. You don’t have to tell her how to make things better with her friend. You can just take a deep breath and say, wow, you sound so angry at her. I guess it must really have hurt your feelings when she said that. And then she’ll elaborate and she’ll vent. And she might say all kinds of things. Like I’m never gonna be her friend again. And you can listen and you can say, you sure are angry. Wow. That must have really hurt. You feel like you don’t even wanna be your friend when she talks like that. Huh? And then at some point when she’s calmed down, you might even say, I wonder what will happen when you sit there tomorrow.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:44:15):
And if she said is something like, I’m gonna tell her, I never wanna be her friend. Well, a she’s not in a, a state of mind to think constructively about tomorrow. So it was a little premature. It turns out, but B you can say, yeah. So you’re still angry enough to tell her you, you don’t even wanna be friends with her. Hmm. I wonder what would happen then I wonder what would happen then notice you’re not telling her what to do. You’re allowing her to explore as coaching. Also. You’re not lecturing. I wonder what would happen then allows her to develop her reflective capacity. This is another right after you do the emotions. After you accept the emotions after you acknowledge, at some point you will help your child develop the skills they need to solve the problem in this case, reflective capacity to consider, well, what would be the best thing to do tomorrow? So coaching is emotion co coaching, and it’s also helping your child to develop the skills to basically be a person who can have a good life that’s coaching. I
Shane Parrish (00:45:22):
Wonder how much of that carries over from adult interactions to adult kid interactions, where, I mean, as you were saying that it struck me that the there’s a lot of adults who deal with sort of the adult version of those, those sort of examples that you brought up in the same way in terms of being dismissive about other people’s opinion or, or telling them, you know, don’t worry, it’ll be okay. It’s not that big of a, a deal, but it is a big deal to the person. So we’re, we’re almost a practicing on a daily basis. The opposite of what you’re talking about.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:45:57):
You know, humans, humans are scared of emotion. Mostly they don’t have to be, not all humans are, but most of us were not raised to be, to be able to befriend our emotions. And at best we see them as a necessary incon. The truth is emotions are useful. Emotions are indicators of something, an indicator of something that matters to us or someplace we need to grow or someplace we need to change or something we wanna change in the world around us. That’s not working for us. So there’s nothing wrong with emotion. What’s wrong is when we leap to take action without adding in the prefrontal cortex executive function that says, yeah, we’re angry. But right now smacking that person we’re having a meeting with is not the way to go. We need to take a different action, which has to do with, you know, X, Y, Z, cuz we’re at work, right.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:46:53):
You know, out the, you know, go get the, the data to present our position and to strengthen our position and schedule another meeting and have another person there who can back back us up and whatever might be the way to go. So we need to, I think all of us notice our relationship with our own emotions, again, back to self-regulation and notice that we, we can teach our children more constructive ways of being their best selves, that much of which has to do with managing emotions. And you’re totally right, that, that we have we as adults, we just think about an adult friendship where someone makes, you know, acts as if, what you’re think thinking or what you’re feeling is not, you know, a big deal. You know, what we all want is just to be listened to. I hear from a lot of times I hear from mothers that they will vent to their partner and their male partner will, will sub will just immediately start to problem solve.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:47:57):
And they didn’t ever want him to problem solve. And it makes them feel like they’re incompetent. They just wanted a chance to vent. And that’s true for children as well notice with the altercation, with the neighbor child, we aren’t lecturing or solving her problem. We’re giving her a chance to vent and then we’re giving her a chance to solve it herself, right. To develop those skills. That’s what all humans want. We don’t want someone telling us what to do. It makes us feel incompetent, but notice why the male partner did that because he was anxious and he got to, to, he, he could see clearly what she needed to do. He thought, and he might even have been right. And he wanted to alleviate her upset. He thought she would feel better if he just told her how to handle it. But of course that came out of his own desire to take charge and be a, a good guy and take care of her.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:48:47):
And, and it actually, wasn’t what she needed at. She just needed to be allowed to have her feelings. And maybe some of it came from his own discomfort with those big emotions, maybe as she was venting, it made him feel like, wow, here’s my usually sweet, calm partner. And she’s like venting and yelling. And she’s so upset about this. And like, this makes me really uncomfortable, right? Might even be pushing old buttons for him. So we all, when we get uncomfortable with someone else’s feelings, that’s when we handle them in a, not necessarily constructive way. And the rule of thumb, whether you’re dealing with an adult or a child is always to accept the person’s feelings as they are to allow them to remind yourself, it may not be permanent, the feelings, it probably isn’t. And they’re allowed to have whatever feelings they have and it will be so much better for them. If you can just love them complete with all of their inconvenient feelings.
Shane Parrish (00:49:42):
As you were talking about the the partner who who’s prone to problem solving, it sort of brought up relationship problems. And what, what effect do relationship problems have on kids? And I don’t mean sort of like physical abuse, but parents who can’t connect or, or can’t model an affectionate or well-functioning relationship for their kids.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:50:06):
Well, the are is that when there are raised voices, children’s blood pressure and adrenaline shoot up and that’s true of babies. Also, even if they’re nonverbal shoots up and includes babies who are asleep, they hear loud voices and they get worried. So if there’s ongoing conflict in a home or just ongoing raised voices, children will become more anxious and more challenging because they’re more anxious. So conflict is not good for kids. When kids do see conflict, that’s fine. They don’t think it’s, don’t have to have a home where they never see any conflict, but then you want to work out the conflict in front of them. So if possible, you want to work it out at that moment where you’re trying to go somewhere and one parent yells at the other one, and now we’re gonna be late. Why do you always take so long to do X, Y, Z?
Dr. Laura Markham (00:51:07):
And the other one says, well, if you would just help get us ready to get out the door. I’m the one who had to go around and lock the house and make sure the dog was fed and, and, you know, get the apple pie that we’re bringing to the dinner. And the kids are hearing this altercation. It’s really important that once you’re in the car, you’re driving, you takes some deep breaths. One of you says to the other one in front of the kids are in the backseat. I’m really sorry for my contribution to getting out of the house late. Now it could be either partner. It could be the partner who says you’re right. That I don’t think of things like wrapping the pie andan wrap, or I knew it was made. I didn’t even think about it or, you know, getting the dog fit or, you know, whatever.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:51:50):
And you always do. I really appreciate that. You handle those last minute tests. I’m sorry. I lost my temper. I just got worried about being late. And if, if you’re the other partner and you’re still the first one to speak, remember cuz you’re the one who has the ability to take care of this. Cuz you’re the one who’s thinking about this issue, cuz we’re talking about it and who will use it next time it happens at your house. You could be the other partner. And you could say, cuz even though you got attacked wait, which partner is which who got, if you could be, you could be the partner who, who first thought that the person had done the wrong thing. And you could say, you know you’re the partner who in fact was doing all these things you could say, I’m really sorry that I wasn’t ready to leave the house.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:52:29):
When you said, I knew we were trying to get out of the house at five 30 and you’re right. That I was still doing things five or 10 minutes later. And we got out of the house late. Those things were important to do. I’m sorry. I didn’t think to communicate with you about them half an hour before so we could work together on them and I’m sorry, I attacked you for not working with me on them. I should have clearly express the list of what I saw that had to be done so we could work together. So it doesn’t matter which person you are, whether you attack the other person or you were felt attacked. It doesn’t matter. The thing to do is to extend an olive branch and say, I’m sorry for my contribution to this. And part of it is the exact thing.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:53:08):
I, I, I listed the exact thing about Richard about the, the content, but part of it is also, I’m sorry that I got frustrated with you. I’m sorry. I acted like it was all your fault. I’m sorry. I didn’t take more responsibility earlier on to avoid the problem. And I wanna work together with you in the future on this. Let’s figure out a way that we don’t, we, we seem to have this argument a lot. Let’s figure out a way that we can head this off at the past. Next time I don’t like it. When we raise our voices to each other. I love you so much. And I don’t want that kind of relationship with you. I always wanna, I know we can always work things out and we can figure this. The two of us are smart enough to figure out a better way to handle this.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:53:47):
Notice your kids are watching from the max, what are your kids learning? Wow. Some people get frustrated. Sometimes people get frustrated. They raise their voices at each other, but they can make up. They can be reasonable. They can extend the hand of peace. They can apologize for their part of it. Even if the other person is still too mean. And if the other person is still angry and doesn’t know how to respond at that point. And doesn’t, you can say, I can see, you’re still angry about this. I know we’ll work it out later. We’ll make a plan to work it out when we get home right now, let’s just have a good time. Okay. We’re gonna get there a little bit late. It’s gonna be okay. We’re gonna all be okay. Our host won’t mind or whatever, you know, you make it less of an emergency, right? And then maybe you say, Hey, who’s up for music? What kind of music do we want? You switch the subject, but your kid’s gone. That there’s proactive things they can do. And that their parents are not. Cause if you just don’t mention it again, your kids don’t know how that gets resolved. They don’t have any role modeling.
Shane Parrish (00:54:44):
What about parents to suppress that? So on one hand, that sounds like a very constructive view. Right? See, on one hand you have people who argue and don’t resolve it. And the kids see that. And then you have parents who, who sort of get into a moment or the heat of the heat of the moment. Something happens that they would otherwise not want to. And then they demonstrate sort of a correct way or a very at adult way to deal with the situation. What about the people who suppress that? And don’t, don’t actually say anything, but then feel something and can’t communicate that to their, their partner. How does that affect the parenting relationship?
Dr. Laura Markham (00:55:23):
So they feel something, you know, they feel something, but they’re not modeling, but it child how to work that out. So the parent child relationship is eroded a little bit because the child sees that parent as not completely emotionally trustworth this parent is capable of attacking the other parent or this parent lets themselves be attacked and doesn’t stand up for themselves. And doesn’t try to work things out. This person is somewhat powerless and at the mercy of relationships, Hmm. Or this person did the attack and didn’t take responsibility for it. Either way, the parent is not taking emotional responsibility and the child sees them as not completely trustworthy. So the child can still have a good relationship with that person, but maybe the child feels they need to protect this parent in the future from the other parent. And that’s a responsibility your child should not have, or maybe the child sees this parent to be attacking.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:56:14):
And they don’t totally trust this parent not to attack them sometime. Right. So it’s gonna affect your relationship with your child. That’s one thing, of course, you’re also modeling a less than constructive way of relating to a partner for your child, right? And of course you are undermining your marriage or other partnership. Mm. Right. Because you’re not, not, you know, I totally understand. Not knowing how to make it better. I understand being in that car and not knowing what to say or feeling furious, like how come you always at tax me for this one? I’m always the one who pulls the weight around here or the other person saying to themselves, it’s not because of those things. It’s cuz she put on her makeup for 20 minutes or whatever it is. And they’re still holding a grudge against each other. I understand being in that position.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:56:56):
But if that’s where you find yourself, then you need to do some work on that because holding the grudge will erode your relationship. Now you said, what about suppressing? It? A lot of people don’t know how to work out conflict in constructive way. So they just swallow it. They just remind themselves, this is my partner who I love. Mm-Hmm , you know, we’re gonna have blowups. That is it’s fine. We’ll you know, and as they’re getting, maybe not in the car, but as they’re getting out the car, they might squeeze their partner’s hand and whisper, I’m sorry. Or they might not whisper. I’m sorry. They may just squeeze their partner’s hand and say let’s have a good time. Okay. And that’s that right? And then it’s swept under the rug it’s forgotten about. But what happens there is that you’re you, you’re putting a little brick in a wall between you and your partner, a wall of UN aired, unexplored.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:57:44):
Mm. And unworked out grievances where you basically think your partner was acting like a jerk and you were right. And that’s the brick. The brick is a judgment that it’s all their fault. And next time you have an altercation, it would be worse because you didn’t actually work this one out. When you say stuff, what if you just suppress it? Suppressing conflict does not work, but also expressing conflict as an attack on the other person doesn’t work. What works is taking responsibility for everything you can take responsibility for in your end of it and having compassion for your partner, which opens the door to them. Being able to have compassion back and to take responsibility for their end.
Shane Parrish (00:58:25):
That’s a good S segue into sort of like, how do we encourage kids to take more responsibility? You know, a recent example I had was my kids went to school and it was rain and they didn’t have rain boots. And I had sort of prompted them in their eight and nine. And I just kinda let them go with their shoes as sort of a natural consequence to that. But I’m always looking for way to a, I’m looking like, is that age appropriate? I don’t know. But I mean, I’m always looking for ways to give my kids more responsibility and I’m not quite sure what that means. Can you help me understand that?
Dr. Laura Markham (00:58:59):
Yeah. That’s, that’s a great question. And I was using responsibility in the emotional sense of stepping up and taking responsibility for your end of, of the multiplication mm-hmm , but you’re right. It’s about stepping up and taking responsibility for every action you take. And ultimately, if you want a good life, it’s about taking responsibility, even for the thoughts you have, because the thoughts create the emotions. So if your thought is just to finish that last point, if your thought is, my partner is being a jerk or my partner often is a jerk, you’re gonna have a very different relationship than if your thought is, wow. We always have a hard time when we’re leaving the house because of X, Y, Y, and Z, but we could solve those things. Right. Very different if we work at it together as a team. Right. Very different. So responsibility for themselves as in wearing boots.
Dr. Laura Markham (00:59:49):
So age appropriate. Yes. So, so first of all, a five year old doesn’t care if their feet get wet, so they’re gonna resist putting on their boots unless they love their boots. And it gives them permission to stomp in the puddles and then they’ll be thrilled about the boots. Right. Right. But the five year old is not probably think about the boots themselves usually, whereas an eight or nine year old could consider that. Yes. Boots, it’s raining. Boots are a smart idea, but is that a habit yet? Right? I mean, some people don’t use umbrellas. They just don’t have the habit of using umbrellas and it would never occur to them to take an umbrella. Right. Other people are in the habit every time it rates, they grab an umbrella. Right. So what so part of it is, is their habit of, oh, it’s raining.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:00:28):
What’s the checklist for things we do when it’s raining, the checklist is we were our, our rain boots and we were, we grab an umbrella maybe, or we, we put on a rain coat. Right. So do your kids have that checklist? Most eight or nine year olds would need help with that checklist depending on how much it rains, where you live. Right. so, so it’s age appropriate that you had to remind them first B they resisted. What else is age appropriate with kids in the, maybe not at six, seven as much, but certainly by nine or 10 what’s age appropriate. They’re concerned about what their peers are doing. If they’re wearing rain boots, will their peers be wearing rain boots when they get to school, if not, will they be feeling uncomfortable? They would rather have wet feet than have that happen. So that’s also age appropriate for that age.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:01:13):
So they might resist the rain boots for that reason. So the first thing I would find out if I suggest rain boots and they don’t wanna wear them, is it sounds like you don’t wanna wear ’em. Did the other kids wear rain boots? You, you were trying to find out why they don’t wanna wear re you might just ask explicitly and they might go, I don’t like ’em and then you might have to ask, why don’t you like ’em are they hot? Do they, do they wanna wear their shoes and change back when they get to school? Do they not think their feet will be very wet? Would they rather have wet feet than have boots that look dorky? You know, like what’s going on with that? So they might, well, just tell you the truth at that point, if you have a good relationship with them and they know you won’t laugh at them, which is, they’re just dorky dad, everybody makes, you know, when kids wear rainbow boots, the cool kids don’t wear rainbows.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:01:56):
That’s maybe what it comes down to. We don’t know. And then, you know, you might have to establish that the cool kids get dropped there by their parents in cars, whereas your kids about to stand at the school bus stop and gonna get on a school bus. And they might have very wet feet by the time they get to school. And would they really rather have wet feet instead of, you know, looking, you know, cool when they arrive and they could bring their shoes with them to change to whatever. So there’s all of that stuff that goes on. But I guess, you know, responsibility is a complicated thing. Like responsibility. I don’t think this was about responsibility wearing their grain boots. I think it was about making a considered choice because it was, it was just much more nuanced than that responsibility might be. Did they bring home their history book when they have to study for history test?
Dr. Laura Markham (01:02:39):
And that was their responsibility. That would be a question of, did they take responsibility for that? And for that, when do they begin to take responsibility? I think as soon as it becomes clear that no one’s gonna rescue them. Mm. You might rescue them the first. Right? The first time when they come home and they go the nine year old says, you say, Hey, Hey, what’s your homework situation? Book, report, and history test. Oh, you have history test tomorrow, huh? Yeah. Oh, so is it, is it for the chapter you’ve been doing on colonialism or whatever it is and the kid goes, yeah. And then, then when they go to sit down and work on it, they realize, oh my goodness, I forgot my history book. And you say, oops, wow, that’s a big mistake. I’m not even sure we can get into the school now.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:03:25):
How are you gonna solve this problem? And your kid’s gonna start trying to solve the problem. They might think you should drive them back to the school and they should try to get into the school. And the first time it happens, I would even do it, but probably never again. And I would be pretty clear about it. Wow. They could, we were still able to get into the school. Thank goodness. I had the ability to drive you back today, the time. But you know what? I wanna let you know, your studies are your responsibility. So it is your job to make sure that you don’t forget your books. So it’s only the beginning of fourth grade. I was willing to do it this time, but from now on not gonna happen. So how are we gonna avoid this problem next time? And then the next time they’re probably still gonna forget their science book.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:04:06):
And at that point, you’re gonna say, oh buddy, I’m so sorry. No, I can’t drive you back right now. I know, I know I could. I’m not going to, it’s your responsibility. And you didn’t remember it. Remember, we came up with this system to, to make sure you have all your books at the end of the day, sounds to me like you didn’t use that system, but I’m betting after this. You’re gonna use the system. So what can you do? And maybe they’re gonna figure out that they can call other people and you know, whatever that they have some notes that they can refer to whatever. And maybe they’re gonna just totally script the test and maybe they’re gonna be angry at you about it. And if they are, you can say, I can see why you’d rather blame me than yourself. I totally understand that.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:04:45):
And it’s your responsibility. I’m here to help you in any way I can to come up with a good system. And I’m willing to quiz you every day about whether you were able to maintain your system, to remember, to bring your books home, but I’m not gonna be your fell safe. And I felt safe. Wouldn’t be the word. I’m not going to ensuring your success. Yeah. Well, you’re gonna ensure your success ultimately, cuz I won’t be there when you’re in high school and college to be able to go get your textbook with you. So now’s the time to learn.
Shane Parrish (01:05:12):
I like what you said about sort of dealing with children. I, I think you talked about it just cursory in your response there about how a child is prone to avoid responsibility or shape the world so that somebody else is at fault and not them. How can we deal better with those situations where children are prone to put the re like if my son forgot his lunch or something, he might say that, you know, it was job to remind him, how do we deal with that sort of things?
Dr. Laura Markham (01:05:41):
Well, let’s take the lunch as a, as a great example. Cause every parent has gone through that. The minute you notice that you are the reminder, I mean, you might bring the lunch for them when they’re five, without even thinking twice. But at some point and I would say five is a great time. If you haven’t started all ready, you wanna work with them to pack their backpack. What goes in your backpack? This goes your show and tell thing for tomorrow, your lunch. And then as they get older, a school book. So they are always working with you to pack their backpack, right? And if it’s the night before that they’re packing their backpack, then something goes on the front of the backpack that reminds them a about anything. That’s not in the backpack that has to be added at the last minute, like the lunch.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:06:22):
So that morning before they go out the door, if that, if you notice that the thing is still on the backpack, the lunch reminder, you would stop before you got the door and go, does everybody have everything we need? And your kids are like, yeah, yeah. And you would say, so we have our backpacks with packed last night. That’s all good. And what about any reminders for anything we had to add this morning and your kid goes, oh, it’s my lunch. And they brace and they get their lunch. And over time, your kid is gonna teach themselves to remember that their lunch goes in there. You should not be by the time they’re eight or nine years old, reminding them to get their lunch. This should be something certainly an eight or nine year old can remember their lunch and it’s their job. And if your kid says to you, I forgot my lunch and you didn’t remind me.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:07:07):
The first thing to do is take responsibility. If indeed you’re usually the reminder. If they haven’t developed this practice because you didn’t help them do it. As I’ve just described, then you are responsible because you were the reminder, you were reminder. It’s sort of like if your partner always puts the gas in the car and you run outta gas, you really do have a leg to stand on. When you say, and the car ran outta gas, I haven’t put gas in the car in two years. You’re the one always does it. Why didn’t you do it? Well, is it really their fault? No, you ran outta gas, but there’s a way in which they’re always the one who keeps gas in the car. Maybe they use it more often. Maybe there’s someone other reason. So, so you really are right in a way you’ve trained yourself not to do that, not to notice.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:07:45):
Right? So your kid is right. You’re the reminder. So if a kid said that to me and I real, I looked at that honestly and thought, well, it should be your responsibility, but honestly I remind you every single day. No wonder do you think it’s my job? mm-hmm I would say, wow. You’re right. I did forget to remind you. Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I forgot to remind you. All right. Well, I am really sorry about that. I’m so sorry. You don’t have a lunch. You may or may not, by the way, be able to bring the lunch to them. Maybe you’re at work and you can’t bring them the lunch. In which case you say I am so sorry, you’re gonna go without lunch today. We’re gonna come up with a system tomorrow, you know, started tonight to make sure this never happens again.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:08:20):
You know, and then you’re done. You’re probably not bringing the lunch to them if it really is that you’ve been reminding them and you really can bring them to lunch. I don’t have any problem with bringing them to lunch, but again, I would bet night say so, you know, I thank goodness. I was able to bring your lunch, but we’re never gonna go through this again. The truth is I can mostly, can’t bring you your lunch and it’s not my job too. And it’s not even my job to remind you, it’s your job to bring your lunch. So let’s come up with a system that works and then you start training your child just as I described before. No shame, no blame, no, you should have learned this five years ago. Just right now, we’re gonna start, you’re gonna learn how to do this and we’re gonna work together and you play the same. It’s sort of like, you know, something obvious like potty training. We’re very involved in the beginning and over time we’re not involved at all. Right? And it’s the same thing with remembering lunch, right? Or any other skill. So we’re very involved in the beginning, but it’s their job to master it. And then we’re not involved at all. And
Shane Parrish (01:09:18):
What, what if it’s clearly their job or, you know, we’re using the lunch example, but it could be anything where it’s clearly their responsibility and they’re not accepting blame. Is it just a matter of acknowledging their feelings and then reminding them that they’re actually responsible for that task? Give
Dr. Laura Markham (01:09:33):
Me an example.
Shane Parrish (01:09:35):
Well we can go back out to the lunch example. So if you know, every day you’re in the habit of putting the lunch on the counter and it’s the child’s job. And they acknowledge it’s their job to take it from the counter and put it in their book bag. And then they, they get to school and they find their lunches in there and they came home and they said, well, you didn’t remind me. Even though that’s not something you do, it’s, it’s a way that we sort of verbalize avoiding responsibility for our actions and our role, which is age appropriate and contextually important. But kids, kids often sort of find ways to create a situation or not see reality as it is so that they’re not responsible for what you’re talking to them about having especially creative nine year old about this .
Dr. Laura Markham (01:10:20):
So I would say it is never about blame. And if you want children to take responsibility, mm-hmm, , it’s a good idea to create a, a household that is no blame. We, you could call it a solutions, not blame mm-hmm , we’re a family that looks for solutions. So I would start there as a premise. If it’s about blame, why would any of this? I listen, I would work as hard as I could to get out of blame. If I felt like I was just getting blamed. But if it were a matter of, I was empowered to find a solution I’m I’ll take responsibility for anything. Cuz then I’m in control of making it better for myself for the future. Right? So the lunch on the counter, you your nine year old or eight year old comes home and they say, I, I forgot my L I didn’t have my lunch.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:11:04):
And you say, oh, I’m so sorry, hun. You must have been hungry. What’s your fault. You didn’t remind me. Wow. Wow. You think it’s my fault. Notice you’re just restating here. You think it’s my fault, cuz I didn’t remind you. I made your lunch and I put it on the counter and usually you take your lunch and you put it in your bag, but I didn’t say anything about it, even though I never say anything about it. And usually you remember, but today you didn’t remember. And it’s my fault. I and your kid will probably look a little sheepish mm-hmm cause you’ve just made clear. What’s saying and say, yeah, it’s your fault. You knew I was stressed out. You knew I was really stressed out, getting everything ready to go today because of X, Y, Z. And you didn’t remind me. Yeah, I did know you were stressed out, honey.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:11:49):
I knew it was a stressful day for you. And when it’s stressful, it’s really nice to have extra support and, and I try to support you in any way I can. And I didn’t give you the support of reminding you about your lunch. That’s just a given that it’s your job to get your lunch. Even when you’re under stress. I’m really sorry that you forgot it. I’m so sorry. You went hungry now. You’re not trying to make them say uncle. You’re not trying to make myth that you’re rush. You’re just you’re you’re saying yeah, I am sorry that I, that you, I do try to support you when you’re under stress. I’m sorry. You were under stress. I’m sorry. It made you forget your lunch. It’s hard when we’re under stress to remember even things that are a routine for us, it can be hard to remember things that are, that you know, to remember things that even, even that we would think we would remember.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:12:34):
I’m so sorry that you didn’t remember. I don’t think it was my fault. And I hear how you wish you could blame someone else. Cuz it’s hard to have been in that situation. You know what sweetie we’re as solutions, not blame family, right? So I’m not blaming you, but it is your responsibility to take your life. So let’s look for a solution that will help you next time. Your kid will probably say, I think the solution is for you to remind me and you laugh at that point and say, I hear you, wouldn’t it be great. But you know what? You’re capable of developing the skill of remembering your own lunch. I’ve seen you do it. I know you’re capable of it. And I will support you to develop that. I’m not gonna be your memory for you because for the rest of your life, I’m not gonna be there for you to be your memory for a small task like this.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:13:24):
So what solution could we come up with that would make it easier for you to remember your lunch in the morning? And then you go back to, you know, if they have a backpack that’s packed and they don’t have a reminder on it, it says lunch. They won’t necessarily remember. I mean, I dunno about you, but I have gone out of the house and forgotten something that I had to add at the last minute that I was gonna bring like water from the fridge. Cuz I didn’t have anything on my backpack saying that I was gonna bring it. You know? And even though my briefcase was all packed, I didn’t have that thing in it. Right. That for some reason had to be at the last minute, my phone charger, whatever. We’ve all done that. So just to say, you know, we’ve all done this, no blame, no shame, hun. We’ve all done. This. What’s a solution that you could use to have a built in reminder for yourself that isn’t your dad. I think that’s
Shane Parrish (01:14:11):
Great. There’s a whole bunch of questions I wanna get through. So maybe we can switch to more rapid fire answers here because we had a lot of people sort of submit questions that I, I wanna make sure I get a ton to get to. So talk to me about what the role of nature in family is. You had mentioned this on another interview, you did the importance of sort of nature in terms of calming people down in terms of being outside and kids playing.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:14:39):
There’s growing a growing body of research about the power of nature. When we are in green spaces, it calms us down and our systems work better. In fact, the immune system is about 50% more effective. When, when you spend two hours out in nature, your immune system is about 50% more effective. The, the number of T-cells killer cells, you have it it’s like 50% more for, for several weeks afterwards. I didn’t know that’s how important nature is, how effective it’s, isn’t that amazing. So, so we know that children need to be nature and adults need to be in nature and we all need to be in nature more often than we are. It helps to see nature, even if you can’t be in it. But it’s, you know, seeing a screensaver of trees is a very minor, positive blip in your system. Whereas being out in trees is a very big positive blip and says your system, you know, driving past them will be a small, positive blip. You know what I’m saying? So, so yeah, nature’s really important. And the more families can build that into their lives. You know, it’s easy for us to think our children have a need to be educated. I need to take them to do something that’s educational, but actually even more than that, we have a need to interact with the natural world and children love it. You see a difference in their behavior.
Shane Parrish (01:16:01):
How do we prepare kids for step siblings?
Dr. Laura Markham (01:16:04):
Ooh. Okay. Well, step siblings implies a host of other issues. So it may mean that there is a stepparent about to happen, right? And, and there may be a new home about to happen at least half of the time. And then in addition, there might be step siblings or maybe there are new baby step siblings that are now arriving to a situation that’s already got a stepparent in a second, a different home, a new home. So if it’s a new baby coming, you prep kids much the way you would for any new baby. And there’s an enormous amount of content on the aha parenting website. My website is aha, parenting.com and there’s a lot of content about prepping kids for the new baby, including prepping kids for a new step sibling. If you’re merging two households and you’re going to have step siblings who are the age of your children or any age, really that they’re not babies, then you need to be aware of your child’s likely response to that, which is that your child will be worried about getting their own needs.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:17:03):
Met, worried about fairness mm-hmm whether children will be treated fair enough, worried about whether their parent will still love them just as much, or will they lose their special place in their parents’ eyes. So setting up structures that will help address those fears will help your child to go into it easily. So everything is fair game for discussion will have regularly meetings. I could never love them more than I love you. Here are the rules about discipline. For instance, you know, it’s, you know, you’re my kid, therefore I’m in charge of your guidance. You know, your, your stepmom, those are her kids. She’s in charge of their guidance. You may think things are someone unfair sometimes because I’m more strict about screens. On the other hand, I don’t punish and give time outs the way she does. We’re gonna have our own approach to, to discipline.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:17:54):
We’re gonna always try to talk about it and be as fair as we can, but I am the final authority when it comes to you. And she’s the final authority with there, whatever. So I guess I’m saying that your child will have a lot of concern as much as possible. Think about what those concerns might be, address them, but also build in assume there’s gonna be a Rocky period of adjustment and build in ways to handle things as they come to the surface. So you don’t, so your kid doesn’t just have to shut down and go along with stuff and not express it. What’s the most
Shane Parrish (01:18:27):
Common thing you see go wrong when families sort of blend together?
Dr. Laura Markham (01:18:33):
Well, I have seen that, oh my goodness. It’s so hard to, to make a blanket generalization here. I have seen that often parents allow the other parents to do the disciplining for their child. They that now that Arab family unit that naturally the new stepdad or the new stepmom, since she’s home more, let’s say that, that parent is the disciplinarian for all the kids or is, is equally allowed to be disciplinarian for your kids and theirs. I just think it’s a mistake. I think that no one is going to be as, as appropriate in their guidance of your child, as you are, even your, even the child’s other natural parent, you may feel as a less good parent than you are. Often. We feel that way when we right, but certainly the new stepdad or mom on the scene, there are two reasons. One is there not, not gonna be seeing the child the way you are.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:19:33):
They don’t know the child as well as you do. And they, they are not going to give the child the benefit of the doubt, the way you will they’re they don’t necessarily have your child’s best interests at heart on a level. It’s that simple. In fact, I’m gonna say something really big here, which is that when then a new man comes on the scene in a child’s life, a new man is now with their mother, their risk of being abused, or in fact being killed in childhood goes up. Now that’s a huge thing to say, and it’s not true in most instances obvious, but it is an indicator that, that new man is not necessarily going to be nurturing that child the way their dad would, right. Or their mom would. And it’s, it’s not his kid and he’s not invested in that kid the way you are.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:20:29):
So I’m not saying, and obviously no woman listening to this is going to be inviting a man into her life that she thinks would be bad for her child. I know that. I’m just saying that the, there is Aker of truth there about that’s not his kid . And so I have seen that go wrong many times. He said, what’s the most common thing I see go wrong. And I’ve seen that go wrong in small ways that still turn out to be pretty significant for that child, which is that the, the stepdad has different expectations. He doesn’t understand what’s age appropriate for that child. And he’s gets angry at the kids. And then there’s the, this big bone of contention between the parents and the stepdad and the, and the mother are fighting all the time about the kids, which is bad for their relationship.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:21:14):
And it’s also bad for the children. So I’ve seen that happen many times and I’ve seen the reverse also where the stepmom ends up being the disciplinarian and wants her home kept to a certain standard. And when the dad’s children visit every her week, she gets really frustrated with them, right? It, it, I’m sorry to say it happens. And so the, that parent should not be the disciplinary. The other thing is that very well-meaning stepparents end up in situations where they’re disciplining and it erodes their relationship with the child. It’s very hard to be a stepparent. The child does not come into this, assuming you’re an nice person who has their best interests at heart, necessarily. They may resent you. They may be jealous of you getting the parents’ attention. They may wish that their parents would get back together. They may, whatever they, they won’t necessarily be giving you the benefit of the doubt. If you can step out of the role of disciplinarian and connect with the child in a warmer manner, you will build a relationship that will allow you to influence the child and to have a better, the child will be more willing to follow your guidance and behave better after that. But start with the relationship. Don’t start with this discipline ever.
Shane Parrish (01:22:22):
I like that. It sounds like parents should obviously have deep, meaningful conversations around sort of how they want to handle this stuff and what sort of expectations they have and how they’ll, they’ll find a way to surface their concerns as they merge households. I wanna switch gears to the next question, which is how important is an evening routine and how do we go about building an evening routine for kids
Dr. Laura Markham (01:22:45):
An evening routine? Just like a morning routine is very important because children like to know what to expect. It builds their security and then they act out less and they also learn best practices for living. So they get used to doing things like brushing their teeth, that otherwise they wouldn’t have a natural inclination to do necessarily or remembering their lunch in the morning if it’s the morning routine. So it’s important. I would say it also helps to build into the routine connection time because we otherwise are always reinventing the wheel and trying to remember to connect with our child. If it doesn’t come naturally. And we’re always busy. So building that into the routine, strengthens the relationship. So it’s very important for that reason too. It gives us an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our child. How do you come up with a routine?
Dr. Laura Markham (01:23:35):
Well, you start with your bed talk, you know, when do you want your child to sleep well? What does that mean in terms of when you need to turn out the light? Well, what does that mean in terms of when you need to get your child into the bed and what happens between getting into the bed and turning out the light? Maybe there’s a story. Maybe you turn out the light and then there’s a little bit of time where you snuggle with your kid or, you know, talk, you say prayers, or you sing a little song, or you talk about what they’re grateful for that happen today and what they’re looking forward to tomorrow. So thinking out that and sort of actually not sort of actually mapping it out on paper, allows you to back into when each thing has to happen. Well, given all that, when do they have to be out of the bathtub and into their pajamas, given all that, when do they have to get into the bathtub?
Dr. Laura Markham (01:24:21):
When do they, are you gonna roughhouse with them a little bit? First, if you get them laughing, it reduces their tension. They fall this sleep more easily. We know it changes the body chemistry, but you wouldn’t wanna do it after the bath, cuz then they get riled up. So you have to do it before the bath. Well, when do you have to finish dinner? Well, if you’re gonna go through your family practice of you’re all gonna clear and wash dishes together. And that takes 15 minutes working together and making it fun with a special song on while we do it. And we pop around dancing while we do it. When does that mean? We have to have dinner on the table. When do they have to start homework? You’re basically, you’re starting the evening routine. The minute the afternoon starts in a sense, right? So coming up that idea and that timetable, and then you might have that in front of you, but you would sit down with your kids and say, so you need to be in bed with the lights off at next time. So what, what other things you have to do by, from the time you come home from school to the time you get in bed, let them throw things into the list and then see what you can figure out about timing, but let them be part of that process so that they work with you on the schedule. And they even, you know, come up with the chart that you post
Shane Parrish (01:25:31):
Last question promise. Oh, sort of last question. One more question after this, but how much sleep should kids be getting?
Dr. Laura Markham (01:25:38):
It depends how old they are. There are for lack of a better word charts online that give average sleep needs for different ages. But I would say the most important indicator is do they wake up on their own without an alarm clock? And without you waking them up, if they don’t, they’re not getting enough sleep. Now there are kids who wake up as soon as the light shines in their room and they’re in a cranky mood. I would say those kids are light sensitive. They need blackout curtains, but when kids don’t have noise, waking them up and they don’t have light waking them up and they are waking up happy at, you know, 7:00 AM or whenever they need to get up for school, then that’s great. They’re getting sleep. Most kids don’t we take it for granted. We have to use alarm box. By the way, if you have to use an alarm clock, you’re not getting enough sleep, bad news. I know, but it’s really true. So nothing for you and not good for your kid.
Shane Parrish (01:26:35):
Totally agree. I haven’t had an alarm clock since I had kids. Where can people find out more about you, Laura? This has been a great conversation.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:26:44):
So I have a website. Aha, like those aha moments. Aha. parenting.com. So aha parenting.com. It’s about a thousand pages or more and it’s for parents of all age kids. So they can peruse that website to their hearts content. I also offer a newsletter to get it once a week. It’s just a couple of articles for that week. If you get it three times a week, you’ll also get my blog post for that week. So two of those three will be the blog post that’s free. You can just sign up on any page of the website. I also have books. You can look on Amazon or on my website for those books. I have three books out. One’s one is the kinds of things we’ve talked about today. One is on siblings and sibling relation. And the third one is exercises that you can do to have better self-regulation to build a better relationship and more connection with your child and to learn how to coach your child, to do emotion coaching, and to set better limits boundaries in a loving way. So that’s the workbook, the third
Shane Parrish (01:27:42):
Book. Awesome. Well, might have to do a part two on this for siblings. I know we, we kind of ran outta time here today, but we’ll link to the books and the show notes and really I would highly recommend Lauras newsletter. It’s one of the ones that I sign up for and read to help me sort of become a better parent. So I really appreciate you taking the time.
Dr. Laura Markham (01:28:02):
My pleasure. It was great to talk you. Those were wonderful class.
Shane Parrish (01:28:09):
Hey guys, this is Shane again, just a few more things. Before we wrap up, you can find show notes at Farham street, blog.com/podcast. That’s F a R N a M S T R E E T B L O g.com/podcast. You can also find information there on how to get it transcript. And if you’d like to receive a weekly email from me, filled with all sorts of brain food, go to farm street, blog.com/newsletter. This is all the good stuff I’ve found on the web that week that I’ve read and shared with close friends, books, I’m reading and so much more. Thank you for listening.
- Parents should be the guidance and role models for their children. For babies, most of their interactions are with their parents. We are the example of how to behave.
- As kids become more aware of the world, they will learn how to behave based on their parents actions. If we’re the kind of person that can notice if we get upset or angry, and we can calm ourselves down, the child learns from us how to calm themselves down as well.
- When our two year old yells at us and is defiant, it brings up all our anxieties of when we were their age. If we had done that at that age, we might have been smacked. It brings up unconscious memories from our own childhood.
- We might not have a conscious recollection of the memory, but we can still feel those emotions.
Reacting to kid’s behavior
- Stop to acknowledge that no one is perfect. Everyone is learning and growing. If you lose your temper repeatedly, take a moment to notice how you are feeling.
- When we identify those feelings, it helps to understand those feelings and emotions that may come. This allows you to stop, notice how your body is feeling, name the feeling, take a deep breath, and make a choice about how to proceed.
- There is research that shows that when adults label what they’re feeling, it gives them more control over their feelings. It gives them the ability to notice the feeling, but not to act on it. It gives them more choice at the moment.
Connecting with kids
- Research shows that babies as young as 14 months have formed opinions about adults and whether or not that adult is trustworthy.
- As they get older, their relationships are built on those working models. They might know that one parent is tougher when they’re angry, but the other parent handles anger better.
- Children model their own behavior after how their parents act.
- Children develop their values early in life in how you make decisions as parents. For example, if your child lies about their age to get into a theme park, these decisions shape the values they will carry with them through the rest of their life.
- It’s natural for children to have preferences for who to go to when they need to be comforted.
- This tends to shift to become more neutral when a child gets older
- All kids need the same thing:
- They are acceptable how they are with all of their inconvienent feelings
- No mater what, their parents will be there to take care of them and provide food, shelter, and emotional support
- Unconditional love and to feel valued for who they are.
- They need to feel like they can learn something they want to do (read, ride a bike, etc).
- Young children want responsibility and to feel like they can contribute to the world.
- A recipe for happiness is helping a child give up what they want at that moment, to help them get what they actually want.
- Example: A child who may want to run off and play with friends right away. They might not want to do dishes, but what they might want more is to be a good kid that contributes to the family. When they contribute, it helps them build resilience.
Provide guidance, without attacking
- When a child doesn’t want to do something, it is common for parents to use rewards and punishments.
- This supposes that our child is an object to be manipulated. That’s not a great outcome.
- Instead, it’s recommended to “coach” instead of punish.
- Setup the environment
- If you don’t want your child to grab your earrings, then don’t wear them
- If you don’t want your child to knock over a vase of flowers, move it to somewhere they can’t reach
- Use emotional coaching to help the child learn skills
- This involves explaining to your child why something is wrong. When they realize the why or why not behind their actions, it helps them practice self-discipline.
- You can teach them to ask their brother (“May I please have a turn?”). This teaches them how to communicate.
- Rewards and punishments are not effective because it doesn’t teach how to handle emotions.
- Setup the environment
- Research from John Gottman’s Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child teaches parents emotional coaching by saying things like:
- “You look frustrated. Let’s take a deep breath and let’s try again.”
- “That dog’s bark is scary. I’m right here. You’re safe. You’re safe.”
- “No wonder you’re angry. When she said that, it hurt your feelings.”
- Then, parents can help children develop strategies to react appropriately
- “I wonder what you’ll say when you see her tomorrow?”
- This helps children consider different options.
- This is coaching, not lecturing. So you’re not giving the answer, but rather guiding the child towards healthy options.
- Examples of what to avoid:
- Shame them – “How could you say something like that? You know how much I do for you.”
- Denying their outburst – “Oh it’s just a dog. It’s not scary. You’re okay.”
- Punishing them – “You can’t talk that way to me. Time out for you. Go to your room.”
What to do during outbursts
- When a child has an outburst:
- Pause to take a deep breath
- Remind yourself that nothing is urgent
- Remind yourself that the feelings he or she is experiencing is normal and temporary
- Remind yourself that children are allowed to have feelings
- Be curious, without jumping in with a solution
- Respond by saying something like: “Wow, you sound so angry at her. I guess it must have really hurt your feelings when your friend said that.”
The impact of relationship problems
- Research shows that when voices are raised, a child’s blood pressure will go up. This also happens with babies, even if they are asleep.
- Long-term conflict between parents will increase a child’s anxiety level.
- When you work out your conflict with your partner in front of the child in a peaceful manner, it shows them how a conflict should be handled
- Children want to gain more responsibility. Parents can develop systems by working together, so that over time the child learns and comes to accept the responsibility as their own.
- In kindergarten, you might pack your child’s backpack with them. Over the course of the first week, they’ll learn what they need to bring every day. Then after a week, they’ll be able to pack it themselves.
- If they forget something, like their lunch, you can accomodate them at first by leaving work and bringing them food to eat. However, you should let them know it was an exception, and you won’t do it again.
- Work together to come up with solutions that help the child remember what they need to bring to school.
Evening routines & sleep
- Having a consistent routine helps children act out less by knowing what to expect
- Kids should be waking up on their own without an alarm clock or a parent waking them up.
- If they don’t wake up on their own, then they’re not getting enough sleep.
- If you step out of the role of being the disciplinarian and connect with the child in a warmer manner, you will build a relationship that allows you to influence the child and make it more likely that the stepchild will follow your guidance.