As parents, we may want to shield our children from any pain or sadness they may face, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know this is impossible. So rather than fighting the inevitable, our children are better served if we work to help them understand how to weather the storm, to equip them with tools so they’re capable of processing and working through the full range of emotions life has in store for them.
Joining me today is Kim John Payne, author of several books, including the number 1 Best Seller Simplicity Parenting. This episode is overflowing with Kim’s time-honored guidance for raising healthy children who feel confident to explore and create, as well as mindset shifts to make ourselves that can help us to be more present and allow us to truly enjoy the journey.
I think the point of parenting, or one of the major ones, got to be right up there on the top, is that we know our kids are gonna go through hard times. We do. And the point of it all is, is just to give your kids the ground under their feet to pick themselves up and go on.
Dr. Sarah (00:23):
Life is hard and beautiful and messy, not much unlike parenthood itself. And as parents, we may want to shield our children from pain and sadness that they might face. Of course we do. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we also know that this is impossible. So rather than fighting the inevitable, our children are much better served if we work to help them understand how to weather the storm. To equip them with tools so they’re capable of processing and working through be full range of emotions. Life has in store for them. I am so beyond delighted to have my next guest joining me today. Kim John Payne is the author of several incredible books, including the number one bestseller Simplicity Parenting. He offers doable ways to realize the hopes and values that we all have for ourselves and build deep connections with our children that bring families resiliency and simple joy. This episode is overflowing with Kim’s time honored guidance for raising healthy children who feel confident to explore and create as well as mindset shifts that we can make ourselves that can help us to be more present and allow us to truly enjoy the journey. So I hope you enjoy listening to my conversation with Kim as much as I enjoyed having it with him.
Dr. Sarah (01:58):
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Dr. Sarah (03:39):
Hi I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. You can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.
Dr. Sarah (04:11):
Hi, I am really honored today to invite Kim John Payne to be with us in this episode. Kim, can you talk a little bit about how you came to this work and just welcome. Thank you for coming.
It’s lovely to talk to you. It really is. Yeah, what brought me to this work initially was long time ago when when I was training in psychology and, and I’m okay. Now I always add that really quickly after I talk about psychology, I’m fine. I’ve recovered. But I was working with a bunch of, of of teenagers who weren’t doing so well. They they were in pretty abusive situations. I was going to college in the day, working with them in the evening. And I was hearing a lot of descriptions about what we now call PTSD. Right. And that wasn’t a term back in the eighties when I was studying. And yeah you know, as, as the professors were talking about stress, a lot of stress like, and, and combat veterans in particular who were suffering from over controlling behavior, nervous, jumpy, hypervigilant startling at novelty, all this stuff they were talking about, I’m thinking, gosh, that’s like the kids back in my group home it was just like them only, they weren’t combat veterans. It was a bit of a puzzle for me when I then volunteered to to, and I traveled and volunteered in Southeast Asia at the time that the Vietnam war was ending. A lot of rebuilding was happening in Cambodia. I was working in the refugee camps and there they were again, nervous, jumpy, hypervigilant kids over controlling night terrors. I mean, just same sort of stuff going on, but none of these were combat veterans. But you could understand it. But when I moved to the west to London, to in the UK to study this some more, I set up a little counseling practice and through the door came nervous, jumpy, hypervigilant, over controlling, these kids hadn’t they, they were from cross cultural. They were from mixed economic. It was, but they looked like kids coming out of a war zone, cause I’d been in war zones and I thought hang on what’s happening here. And that’s what led me to trying to distill what is it? What’s going on in this undeclared war on childhood? Like what’s what’s with that? You know, why what’s, why is so much, why is so much coming at our families? Why is it so far? Why are kids having to cope with too much too soon, too sexy, too young. There’s just a whole picture of overwhelming the family system. And really that, that question has has been the basis of pretty much all the books I’ve written. All the work I do is trying to help understand that. And of course, crucially what we can do about that, that is simple and doable that has us at the end of the day as parents thinking. Yeah, that was okay. I connected with my kid a little bit today, got a bit wobbly here and there. Um but but it was overall, we’re doing, we’re getting through this, we’re doing well. That sort of feeling as opposed to, I am just getting through the days, this is too much and at a gut level, Sarah, so many parents, myself included, I’m a parent of two kids. It just, it, something feels off about the expectations that we’re trying to meet at the moment. Something just feels like this is not, this is not real. And also most of our kids just didn’t have to cope with what they’re being asked to cope with a, a very short time ago. So figuring that out and putting in place, small, doable, simple ways that we can secure our kids and have, I don’t know, have family feel like a safe base, like a safe harbor, not a bubble, you know, just a harbor. That they can, they can chug out beyond the harbor walls and get engaged in life, you know, navigate the choppy seas and all that. But come back and have a safe harbor and replenish restock, restore, relax, reset, lots of R’s there and reset and just and then out they go again into school or neighborhood or whatever they do. And as they get older, they chug their little boats further and further away from us and they come back and they replenish and restock and restore. And that picture of how family life can be a safe harbor, as best we can make it. I think that that’s what really informs what I do. Sorry. That was a long answer, but it was your fault because hat was a really good question.
Dr. Sarah (09:32):
Well, it was a wonderfully long answer. It painted a beautiful picture, because I think, what I’m picturing, I’m really visual, and what I’m picturing in my mind as you’re talking about this safe harbor is like this circle, right? This I’m a child. I have this home base, you know, we might call it a secure base if you’re gonna talk attachment theory lingo. But I, with that sense of safety with that knowledge that you’re there fully accepting of me where I’m at in this moment and I can go off and play, explore. Right. You know, if you’re a really little kid we’re talking, literally play, imagine separate from the parent in their inner world for a moment. If you’re older, that play might be more, symbolic. It might be more like I’m gonna go play with an idea and go study something or whatever. But we go out, we play until we hit that breaking point where we just can’t tolerate being away. Our separation capacity is like taxed and maxed and we come back to refuel. And then we, and then we go out again. So it’s like this circle and we’re kind of part of what allows that circle to be connected.
Yeah. You know, that safe harbor image is a really interesting one because every harbor has a harbor master, you know, that says, yeah, you come on in that all works, you’re good. And here’s what the weather report is out there. This is for older kids, right. They’re chugging their little boats out and saying, Hey, hey, there’s a squall coming. Just be aware. I can’t stop you going out into that squall, but just be aware it’s coming. Just bat down the hatches a bit. You’ll get through because I believe in you, you know, you can do it. But honestly, at times as a harbor master and you know, 12, 13, 16 year old is about to go out into the choppy waters and we know there’s a hurricane coming and we just say no way, not doing it. There, there really are times of course, where we need to step in and say it just, I know you’re immortal I got a 19 year old at the moment. She’s completely immortal. I know that you sit on the right hand of Zeus, but it’s just, it’s not now. Let’s just some of the conversations particularly I’ve had with teenagers, like teenagers can be spectacularly disinterested in our opinions really. But they are very, very interested in their direction and going there. So some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with teenagers in their, moving out into the world and returning they’re waving out and back into the harbor have been about the directionality they want to go in. And so whether something is a distraction or a direction, that’s often my question to a teenager was that a distraction or a direction?
But back in that, on up, you know, when they’re tweenagers or they’re very little ones, I see that as being really different when kids are very little, the safe harbor that they’re coming out of, they’re chugging these little boats and they’re just, they’re just not going very far. And they come on back. That’s the, that’s the in, some of my work, I talk about that as being the time of the governor. It goes from governor to gardener, to guide in the three phases first seven years, second seven years, third seven years. So when kids are little we’re the governor of the family state, or the guardian of the harbor, whatever way we want to put it, but it’s when kids just need to know who’s in charge, who’s, who’s keeping them safe. Because unless they know who’s in charge and who’s keeping them safe, a lot of amygdala activity, you know, a lot of fight or flight, a lot of stuff, a lot of pushback starts happening because they’re not quite sure who’s keeping them safe, who’s setting the boundaries. And then when kids get to about, I dunno, about 9, 10, 11, we’ve gotta make a transition with them. That’s when their little boats are gonna go further out. And that transition to mix my metaphors is what I call a gardener because a good gardener is like listens, watches, but knows the shaper things. But a nine, 10 year old really wants to, know that their voice is being heard, really wants to know that. And and we need to coach them up to how to use that voice when they’re nine or 10. You know, we need to help them you know, the right time, I call it time team and tone to speak. Just let’s work this out at the right time. Know that you’re a part of a team, you know, be considerate to your brothers and sisters and tone it’s okay what you’re saying, but get the tone right. You know, let’s work on that. And then we make a decision. A garden makes a decision about what to plant, when to plant what to prune. And that’s 9, 10, 11, 12, that’s 13 even. I know 13 year old, it says teen, but I think they’re just practicing to be teenager at 13. And then at 14, I’ve mentioned this guide, you know, we’re the guide now, we’re saying, Hey, what do you want to do? What’s your emerging little direction that you want to go in life and we’re trying to guide them so they don’t get too distracted from it. So if we can, if we can shift the boundaries and they expand, right. If we can expand those boundaries and, and, and have kids, we grow with our kids and we grow those boundaries. And we can, because Sarah, I don’t know about you, but most of us are pretty good at one or another of those. Like, there’s some naturally good governors, brilliant governors. There’s just our, we’ve got it, we’re just really good. Or we’re a naturally good guide. You know, we’re really good at coming alongside kids, just talking them, reasoning with them giving, helping them sort out choices, giving them choices. But if we, if we try to raise a four year old, like a guide, that’s gonna get colorful quickly.
Dr. Sarah (15:44):
Right. Cause they dunno who’s, but if we try and raise a 14 year old, like a governor, that’s gonna get colorful quickly. It’s just a question of calibrating of just being able to expand the boundaries as our kids grow and do it thoughtfully. You know, that’s, that’s a lot of my interest is in helping parents understand, oh, you know what? I think they’re at a transition time. Even though you’re a naturally good governor, it’s time to start listening some more it’s time to start really saying things like, Hey, Saturday morning, tomorrow, is there anything you guys want to do? Do you want, do you want to do something? Cuz before I make my plans, I want to hear what you have have in mind. I mean, you say that to a nine year old, you just win their hearts. Because they don’t feel like babies anymore, but at the same time, you know what they want to do, can’t absolutely happen in absolutely the way they want. But it’s that’s, but if you say to a three year old, Hey it’s Saturday morning, what do you want to do? It’s not a great question to ask a tiny kid. It’s it’s it’s really got to do with the right boundary at the right age. And it’s, for me, it often gets a bit too complicated. There are, for me, there are just three stages. And if we get that roughly, right. The connection with our kids generally will be healthy.
Dr. Sarah (17:19):
Yeah. It also sounds like if you get this right, these stages naturally build on one another. So if I, if I give myself permission to really be that governor, right. Set that clear, solid, confident boundary, and it doesn’t have to be, and this is, I think something that I talk to parents a lot that where they get kind of tripped up on like, if it’s my job to set this boundary, the way I do it is to be sort of really firm. And I think firmness is good, but firm can be warm.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s the subtitle of my Simplicity Parenting book, Sarah, you just said it. But the interesting thing about, about discipline and about boundaries is that, you know, a lot of we tend to as parents just associate discipline with cold with harsh, with boundary, but, but discipline comes from the word disciple, right? Being worthy of being followed. It’s it’s a, it’s, it’s a way of navigating our kids securely to say to them, oh, you know what love that, that can’t, that can’t happen today. But, but daddy or mommy will think about that. And it could, it could be just right. Or to be able to say, and this is something I’ve said to my own kids a lot when they were little. I know, I know you wish that was your choice. I know. And when you’re a big girl, it will be, but right now that’s daddy’s choice when you’re a daddy or a mommy that will, that really will be your choice. Or even when you’re a big college girl, but right now that’s, that’s not little girls don’t make those kind of choices. And it’s like, but I want it to be, I know you want it to be, but I really want it to, you know, and it’s like, I know love, so did I when I was a little boy, I wanted that too. And it’s so great when it comes, it’ll be, it’s really good. You’ll like it. And you’ll like all the bills you have to pay and responsibilities, you have to pay. You know, but, but it’s that kind of, it’s that kind of I know you wish this was your choice, but it’s not right now. Yeah.
Dr. Sarah (19:45):
Yeah. And how one, kind of centering that is for a child to know, I don’t actually have to keep fighting with this. Like, I can let go of this. You’ve got this. And they might sort of in their bodies feel that while their mouths are telling you all their immediate discontent with you making that choice. So it’s kind of like, as parents, we have to be able to read both of the things, right? Yes. Our kids are gonna say how angry it makes them feel that they can’t have this thing that they want in this moment. And that’s appropriate. Cuz when you’re mad about being thwarted, you get mad and like you share that it doesn’t, I think parents sometimes get shaky there cuz they’re like, I expect, I set this limit, I’m following the rules. Right. I’m saying no, I’m holding my ground, but my child isn’t accepting that I’m holding my ground and they’re telling me how, how I don’t love them or I hate them or they hate me. And I’m like, why are they doing that? They’re not following the rules like in this whole model.
Yeah. Which model is that, Sarah? I know. Right. And it’s got a little bit to do with being able to it’s a really well, that’s a really interesting thought, Sarah of know that the inside is different from the outside. The outside is, you know, classic nine year old statement. I wish I was dead. Wait for it. Nine. It comes. And all this kind of stuff, you are the worst mom. Joshua’s mum is so much nicer than you. That one, uh that’s a hard one. And you get all that sort of stuff and it’s being able to hold the boundary, knowing it’s a little bit like the metaphor, if I may use another one is that when a person’s had a broken arm or a broken leg and they’ve had a cast and the limb has been immobilized, okay, we all understand that. But when the cast is taken off, the muscles are very wasted, very flaccid, very weak that’s cuz of deliberately the doctor has not wanted us to meet resistance. Cuz then when we don’t meet resistance, but there’s, there’s a weakness. The muscles grow week. Likewise, when a child’s will doesn’t meet resistance, it grows weak and that relates a little bit just before we started today, recording, I mentioned to you that this whole principle of that, I don’t believe in disobedience, like I’ve never met a disobedient kid in my life and I’m a school council, a family counselor for many years. And I’ve met some right little rots. I can tell you little buggers, but I don’t believe in disobedience. What I see is disorientation And when a child is disorienting, is being disoriented. It’s really, being disoriented as a human being. Gosh, that’s one of the hardest things, you know, it’s hard and when they’re emotionally disoriented, they will ping us. That’s what I call pinging. They’ll send out like echo locate, they’ll send out behavior towards us. Like, I don’t know if you have seen this, but a little kid, like I remember my kids doing this, they would do something quite, quite naughty. And then they look right at you. They look at you, like, what are you gonna do about that? And it begins at the youngest age where they pick up something from their high chair and just take and just drop it on the floor and just look at you.
Dr. Sarah (23:29):
That deadpan eye contact.
What are you gonna do about that? Right. yeah. Now in that moment, our relationship is defined with a child because unless we put a boundary in place and give them guidance that that food is special, cuz the farmers grew it for us. They had, they grew that food and no, we don’t drop it on the floor and we won’t go into all the protocols around that now, it’s another whole thing. But when we put the boundary in place, we give resistance and that’s when they can grow strong by, if we take away and we keep backing off, that becomes like desperate will hunting. Do you know, kids will come after us. And the beauty of knowing we are getting pinged, knowing that they’re trying to take their emotional bearings. Is that, I think of it as the wonder of wondering. That when a child pings us and they’re being little buggers, you know, they being really challenging and we wonder just for a moment for a couple of seconds and we wonder, huh? Why are you so disoriented? I mean, don’t say that out loud out. Cause it’ll be weird. But, what’s up, what’s up the moment we wonder what’s up, it’s kind of magical because it’s almost impossible to take it personally, right. It’s no longer, it’s not getting into a power struggle. Getting into a power struggle with a three year old is not an attractive look. We all know it. And we feel like the incredible shrinking adult. It’s like, yeah. How, how can I be arguing with this little being, this is not good. But if we wonder what’s going on for you, why are you needing to ping? Why are you, why are you doing this? Our eyes soften a little bit somatically. We send out a whole different, our eyes soften, our head moves aside, just like micro little things happen to our body, our shoulders round a little bit, our muscles soften. And then we are a point of safety for a child. We don’t harden. Our eye don’t gaze our eyes don’t fix. Our shoulders don’t tense because then a child’s gonna get, they’re gonna ping us real hard then. But if we wonder, and it’s just this little tiny trajectory shift, maybe just a two degree angle shift. But if we wonder what’s going on for you, our body language, all the space around us changes. And I’ve had, when I’ve, seen moms and dads that I’ve helped and coach to do this and they’ll come back to me and say, when I did that, you know, like I just felt much more in myself and my kid just dropped what they were doing and just, you know, when they lean against you and you are the one that’s the bady cause you’ve set this boundary in place, cuz you’ve gotta tidy up, but they come and they just soften in your arms. But the other beauty of wondering of the wonder of wondering is who you wonder about what’s going on. It’s so great. Cuz you don’t need an answer that is completely secondary. What is the, what is primary is the fact that you stopped and wondered and didn’t get into what Dan Goldman calls amygdala hijack. You know, where you just fight or flight. And if I had spoken to my mother like that, I would’ve like, and you get into it and you run these old grooved in loops. And you can hear yourself being a person you don’t want to be but you can’t stop. Right. and this wonder of wondering, it’s not all there is to it, but gosh, it’s a simple little thing to do is to know that that child is not being disobedient. Even though it looks like they totally rehearsed it, you know, they’re so good at it. They’re not. And to remember when a child’s really mucking you around, it’s much worse for them. It’s much worse, you know, to be in their skin is much harder than it is yours because they’re experiencing it. And to remember that you’re getting pinged and just to say, huh, I wonder what’s going on now an answer might come. It might be like, oh, I knew that second playdate was a mistake.
Dr. Sarah (28:07):
You know, really it might, but there’s a little bit of grace that comes into that moment. Wondering, opens the space for grace. That sounds like a rap, but it’s, but it does. Right. And that’s what it does. And because so much of what I’ve learned about being a parent over the years, and I’m no parenting expert. That should come like a health, the health warning on a cigarette package or something, anyone claiming to be an expert at that wins my immediate distrust. But the it’s just, we are figuring this out. But one of the things that’s that’s occurred to me a lot over the years is that it’s not about the kids. It’s about our ability to stay emotionally regulated ish, you know. Just ish. We’re the climate control. And that wonder of wondering is one of the ways I write about this in, I wrote a, my last book actually was called Being At Your Best When Kids Are at Their Worst. And that really should have been the first book I wrote, honestly. That should have been the first, because it is about us. But in saying that it’s so easy then to say, well, I beat myself up if my child’s misbehaving, right? Yes. Well then, and you know, I can understand that, but if we’ve got a few basic strategies to say, okay, it is about us. So if I change the, if I change the emotional climate within me, just a little bit, just a bit, and I give the example, the wonder of wondering, and I don’t get into some kind of stress regress or what a, a friend of mine, who’s a singer songwriter who wrote the book, Never Broken. She talks about if it’s hysterical, it’s historical. And her name is Jewel, the singer Jewel. And she she and I work a lot together and I’ve heard her say this and really mine this whole idea of if it’s hysterical, it’s historical, something’s triggering us. What is that? If we can just be questioning that and try to stay as centered ish as we can. Our kids generally, like I often said to my kids, just give me a minute, just give me a minute. Or you know what, sweetheart, that came out wrong, what daddy said just came out wrong. Give me a minute, you know.
Dr. Sarah (30:42):
Yeah, I think you’re, those three letters, ish. Like, couldn’t be more just like, makes you take a deep breath. Right? Like, okay, I don’t have to get this right. A hundred percent of the time. I need to have this mentality that I’m moving towards something a little bit at a time. If I get this right, ish, I’m gonna have an impact on my kid. Right. Cause we’re, if you think about us being perpetually interconnected with our child, if we shift, like you said, two degrees, our kids shift two degrees. Whether they like it or not, like they just they’re in tandem with us. And so if we, that those like men skew softening of the eyes and lowering of the shoulders and taking that little breath before you say, what did you just say to me?
Sarah, you did that really well.
Dr. Sarah (31:34):
But that is like, that’s the space. You’re buying yourself that little bit of space, which is really all you need. You don’t need to these like perfect Zen moments with your child. You don’t have to always say the right thing at the right time. You don’t have to always even be emotionally regulated because we’re humans. We can’t like, I yelled at my kid yesterday and you know, really felt bad about, and I had to go back and say, Ugh, you know what? I got really mad. It’s not your fault that I yelled. And to just say, I’m sorry, because we don’t, we’re not gonna get it right all the time. But being able to do that allows me to build this practice of being more regulated most of the time.
Yeah. One of the things I think it’s so great to go back to kids to say, well, first of all, that give me a moment. Give me a minute. Now, if your kids get used to that, they’ll say you have a few Dad, take a few. Cuz they know you come back restored, you know? But I, I think it’s great to come back and say, look, whew, that came out wrong. What I meant to say was it’s hard when we come in at night and it’s dark and your backpack is in the doorway. And I’m carrying groceries, which are now all over the floor. And I, that bad word that I said, whatever. What I meant to say was, sweetheart, it’s really important that you put your, you just, you gotta put your backpack on the hook, which is just too two feet away from where you, you left it because I think it still needs to be said the apology’s fine, you know, whatever. But it still needs to be said, the child shouldn’t have left their backpack in the doorway, in the dark when you’re carrying groceries, you know, you can imagine the scene, right. We’ve all been through stuff like that. But to be able to say, you know, give me a minute, just train yourself, give me a minute. And, and okay, that came out wrong. What I meant to say was, and you still, then you’re, you’re doing a couple things. You’re still putting the boundary, like the backpack shouldn’t have blooming been there. You know, it shouldn’t have been there. But secondly, you are your modeling being able to make a repair. You you’re modeling it right, you know, right in front of your child’s and if you do it enough, kids start like, you know, my kids would say, okay, that came out wrong and they would say, what I’ve gotta say is, and they were doing it from the youngest age.
Yeah. You know? And the, and it’s very non weird. It’s very natural for kids to learn that if we can, if we can do it and just to be able to reframe, like, if a child says something that is sharp and fresh and not okay, same deal is just say, Ooh, sweetheart, that came out wrong. Is what you are trying to say that you don’t like this kind of soup. Because what was said was kind of different. Is that what you’re trying to say? That, that, because she said something like, I hate this stupid soup, right? No one has to eat soup with kale in it. None of my friends and, you know, whatever it is that that we just spent an hour and a half making. And,you know, and we win a gold medal for parenting, cuz we made some bread rolls from scratch, you know? And we just whatever, you know, and our whole effort has just been torpedo. I think in that, in that moment it’s it’s like what? That, that came out wrong. Is what you’re trying to say is that you, that you don’t like kale so much that it’s not your favorite thing. Yes. So kale is not your favorite? No, well not when it’s in soup and it floats around, I’m not making this one up, Sarah, but this is, this is real. Not when it floats around. And one of my kids actually said that it made us all laugh by the way that relief released.
Dr. Sarah (36:07):
But I could have seen it going a totally different direction where no one was laughing. If everyone felt personal. Right. If it was like, you’re attacking me in the work that I’m doing, which is probably how I imagine your initial gut feeling in that moment, if you’ve just been doing all this stuff and we do this all the time where we, like, we have this, we put this like tremendous effort into something because we think we’re supposed to as parents and then our kids kind of poo poo on it. And we’re like, like sort of equally crushed, but also a little personally attacked. Like how could you be so hurtful? And then our minds go to this place of like, what does this mean? Does this mean my kid’s ungrateful? Does this mean my kid? And then we wanna teach. Right? We wanna teach in that moment. You need to be grateful. You need to show respect. But if we could just slow down, like you were saying and say, oh, wonder what’s happening here. And actually be curious about what that child might be really trying to communicate to us in that moment, when they’re saying this stupid soup or whatever, instead of hearing all the, the fears, right? You don’t respect me. You don’t appreciate my work instead thinking what could this be for my kid? And if we don’t know the answer, just asking them.
Well, you know I love this in the, in the morning times I, I used to work a little bit in, in Southern Africa. And in the morning times, my room was right near a marketplace where all the marketeers would be setting up a couple of times a week. And I got to know many of them. But you would hear this greeting and the way they would greet each other is they would say sawabona. And you’d hear it all over and cling and clang with scaffolding guy out, sawabona, which means I see you. And then the person who’s had that greeting extended to them, sawabona, they say mohana and mohana means, so now I am here.
Dr. Sarah (38:06):
That’s so beautiful.
And you know, that is so much what is going on in our relationship with our kids is it’s hurtful when we are not seen. Right. It’s hurtful when we feel taken for granted, because we don’t because then we are struggling to personify to be here. But if we can say to a child, look, I, I see you, the kale really shouldn’t float, whatever, you know? I, I hear you. I, okay. All right. It’s kind of strange that, but whatever. I see you. I see you, not your behavior. I see you. And then there’s this often there’s this silent. Okay. So now I’m here. I’m embodied, I’m a little kid I’m back. I’m embodied. Sawabona, mohana. It’s the it’s so much we’re raising our kids, we’re trying to, in this spirit of sawabona that’s what I see over and over.
Dr. Sarah (39:17):
Yes. And it makes me go back to that thing. You were saying that Jewel, although you’re so casually, like my friend Jewel who’s like amazing.
Oh, do you know her music?
Dr. Sarah (39:26):
Oh yes. I sing one of her songs to my daughter actually. But…
Dr. Sarah (39:34):
Oh, God, the one that’s like, hear the clock it’s 6:00 AM. But interestingly, when you go back to that point about if it’s hysterical, it’s historical. My thought in that moment is like, okay, so we’re talking about how to see the kid, but in that moment, I think we get triggered because we’re not feeling seen. And that little inner child in us is saying, you why don’t you eat my food? Or why are you, you know, you know, knocking this thing, not seeing this thing that I’ve done. And so I think there is a part of us in that moment that is the child. And it’s okay. Like we don’t, I don’t, I’m not saying that we can be a child with our child, but we can acknowledge that an inner child can get activated by our child. And that’s, I think the part of us that we have to acknowledge and validate and say, Hey, I see you talking to ourselves, Hey, I see you. That part of me that was hurt by this thing, my child said it was hurt, you are hurt. And it does feel threatening to me, to you inner child, to have all this work that you’ve been doing, be so dismissed. And also, there’s the wondering of the wonder of the wondering piece. What is my child really saying? Because they’re not trying to hurt my inner child in this moment by being dismissive of who I am as a person. But I think we have to take that pause in that moment to say like what activates us in our kids is often our inner child feeling the same thing that they feel when they, when, you know, it’s it’s cycle, it’s it kind of gets layered upon layered upon layer.
It’s got a little bit to do with and this is, this is kind of a, a metaphor of mindfulness really, is that how can we be on the dance floor and on the balcony. How can we be on the dance floor with our kids, getting their lunches together, doing the stuff, changing the diapers, like just doing all, getting the backpacks packed, that’s the dance floor stuff. And we do it all the time, but to balance that it’s really helpful to be on the balcony and be able to see yourself, you know, and to be able to watch yourself saying, oh boy, this is kind of, I’m spinning out a little bit here. This is going too fast. I’ve gotta slow this down. Or, oh, gosh, Kim, that was, you took that one personally. Okay. You held it together, just. But you know, that was, that was that hurt that comment, you know whatever it is. That was, that was, that was jam that I made from the strawberries. I grew that you just spat out kinda thing, you know? And whatever it is, but to be on the balcony and be able to watch oneself as a parent it’s it’s like, it’s like in one of my books, I wrote about like parenting, like we bring parenting is like a, like a blacksmiths forge. It’s like, we bring our metal, you know, the metal of who we are up to the point where we become a, this just awesome thing that goes on in our lives, you know? And then we, and it’s like, like a furnace and we just thrust who we were into this furnace of parenting and it’s red hot, but it gives us a chance to hammer ourselves in the shape. We want to be rather than the shape we were given. Right? Yes. Now we can make ourselves the shape we want to be. So parenting is like a blacksmith’s forge, you know. It just, it transforms the old shape into the new shape. And it does it really, if you, if you ever watch a blacksmith, it’s a tink tink back into the forge and pull it out. Tink. It’s really small little hammer movements. Otherwise, if you hit it too hard, it breaks. We can’t hit our, we can’t beat ourselves up because it’s just not, if we just small little, you know, and back into the forge and pull it back on that again and shape it and shape it and shape it. That’s, that’s how I, that’s why I see that. We don’t wanna be belting down on us with a big old hammer. It’s small little daily. You know that saying in the United States. When I first came here, I noticed, the saying of don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t think that’s exactly accurate with parenting. I think parenting is all about the small stuff.
Dr. Sarah (44:16):
It’s not sweating it, but it is about the small things. It’s the little tink tink. That little, that like, oh, you know, I think I like the one example of one we’ve be talking about, perhaps just, I think that came out wrong. Love. I think what you meant to say to your brother was I’ll be finished with it soon, and then you can have your turn. I’m not a big fan of kids sharing. I think that’s just overrated.
Dr. Sarah (44:44):
I agree. Absolutely.
Do you? I get into trouble when I say that? Oh, good. But, I think you meant to say you can have your turn in a minute because he said something really, you know, not like that. I think that that’s a little tink, tink, tink. Right there is a little, is a little moment rather than saying, well, you just need to share young man. That is, and you go into this thing that’s a big old, like, we speak to each other respectfully in our family and, you know and you know, we work for peace on earth, whatever it is. And it’s just rather than say, oh, we’ll have we take turns and we’ll do that in just a moment. No, lovey, you need to wait. Your turn is coming up soon. No, it won’t be a long wait, right. Cause you’re looking right at the one who’s gonna draw this out, you know. That’s all, that’s all that’s affecting our kids, but honestly I think that’s a, that’s, that’s just making us the shape we want to be.
Dr. Sarah (45:51):
I love of that too, because I think we’re really talking about this parallel process. And if we focus so much on tint, tin, or even hammer, hammer, hammer, our kids shape, we’re missing it. Like, I think really, if we’re thinking about who are we tinkering and hammering it’s ourselves, right. Can we give ourselves permission to just sit and wait and see how this plays out? Or do we feel like if I don’t discipline or teach perfectly in this moment, I’m missing the opportunity to shape my child. It’s like, no, we get to sort of, can you sit, can you, can you tap lightly on yourself here? Instead of hammering.
There was a cartoon in the New Yorker a couple of years, quite a few years ago now. And it’s got this little child, obviously doing something naughty ish, you know, just being naughty. And the the mother, the caption underneath the mother, standing with her hands on her hips. And she’s calling to her child and she says, come over here right now, your mother wants speak to you quite a lot in a weird calm voice. And I just like, you know, it’s that kind of, because our kids, if we can just be a little gentler on ourselves and just, and the Simplicity Parenting book which is probably, of all my books is best known, is all about small little doable changes. It’s all about those tink, tink, tink moments. Just take it easy, take it, slow change this. Cuz if we make that one little change, like if we just say, or we were talking before about food, for example, if we make that one little change to say, thank you to the sun and moon who grow the food and to the farmers who harvest and plant to plant and harvest it. If we just make that one little change, and we’re gonna say a thank you at our mealtime every day. And if we make one little change by teaching our children, may I get down? Just that, because that, that is it’s so funny, Sarah, these podcasts, cause you know, as you know, I have this podcast and I had this podcast recently, may I get down? Right? I just, like such, it was by far the thing that most people listen to, you know, and all this other fancy stuff, but this may I get down the slow, slow building of impulse control. May I get down? A thank you to the farmers starts our meal and a may I get down ends it, or whatever it is that we want to do. But that’s doable. And I don’t know if, if you come away from a meal and your child after repeated attempts says, mommy, may I get down? I just think that’s, that’s, that’s just a moment where we’ve gotta just give out a small little celebration, really? You know, like I’m whoa, he did it. He said it it’s been six months, but he said it and it happened and it’s gonna happen a whole lot more now he’s got it. Success. Just that.
Dr. Sarah (49:14):
Yeah and it doesn’t then, and that’s for us, right? Like that’s for us a win for us that we get to feel filled up and we get to log. This works, right. It might take six months, but it works. Like I can keep trying for another six months at the other things that I’m trying to help instill in my kid, like, keep going, you’ve got this. Like, I don’t know. I don’t know if people listening, talk to themselves like that. But I think if we could all make that little shift of like, what is our inner dialogue as parents? When we have a rough night with our kids, is it, are we laying in bed that night being like, God, I suck at this. Like, this is so hard. I don’t know what, like, why am I doing this this way? I keep messing it up or are we saying, okay, what worked? What didn’t worked? What do I wanna try differently tomorrow? Like if we could give ourselves that much kind of compassion, cuz I know everyone who’s listening to this podcast is trying to be compassionate with their kids because that’s what draws them to a podcast like this.
But what about ourselves?
Dr. Sarah (50:14):
It’s you know, one of the things, I’ve got one grown up daughter now she’s 22. And someone said to me recently, we’re just chatting. And you know, I think a lot about home life and parenting and families and they’d say I was having a coffee and they said, what, what do you think is the point of parenting? Like, what’s it all about? You know, it’s such a strange thing, like what’s this about? And having an older kid I said, you know, I’v got younger ones, but this older one. And I said, you know, I’ve got an older kid who’s out in the world now she’s far away. She’s in Australia and long way away. And I said, you know, I think the point of parenting or one of the, one of the major ones gotta be right up there in the top is that we know our kids are gonna go through hard times. We, we do, they’re gonna hit things that breakups with girlfriends or boyfriends, they’re gonna have stuff that goes wrong. They’re gonna have rejections they’re, and the point of it all is, is just to give your kids the ground under their feet to pick themselves up and go on. And it reminded me of what you were saying, Sarah, right now at nighttime, if we can pick ourselves up and go on, then we are modeling something that will be of enormous, enormous value. When, when your daughter has a breakup with her boyfriend, not making that one up either. And and it’s, and it’s just her, it’s just really hard. And you and talk about like attachment work, what happens so often when kids and they’re in their twenties and thirties and they’ll be, they’ll be hopefully here long after with the part of this earth. Right. And when they come up with these really hard things in their lives, have we given them that kind of, yeah, that I pick myself up, I get on, I. I’ve got the foundations under my feet to get through this. That for me is if we achieve even just a little bit of that, then, then it’s all right. We’re doing all right. Yeah. And that’s build up slowly.
Dr. Sarah (52:34):
What a powerful sort of conclusion to this whole conversation of like give yourself some real permission to have self compassion and you know, you’re listening to this I’m sure because you wanna be compassionate to your child. Really think that work really starts with us authentically like real, real permission to be human beings to get their ish right. To do it right ish. To pick ourselves up when we fall down because our kids are watching us do that every single time. And if we’re not doing that, we’re berating ourselves or being hard on ourselves. That’s what our kids are watching too. And they learn more through observing than they ever do from our lectures.
Oh, Yeah. Amen to that sister.
Dr. Sarah (53:26):
Thank you so much for being here. I do hope you’ll come back cuz this was a lovely conversation and you have clearly so much wisdom to share.
It’s just been a delight and fun.
Dr. Sarah (53:41):
Okay. Bye bye. Now
Dr. Sarah (53:50):So much of being able to relax in parenthood and truly enjoy the journey comes from feeling confident, no matter what life throws at us and that we are capable of handling it. But where does that confidence come from? I think, honestly, it starts with knowledge, having a basic understanding of child development and psychology helps us to know what to expect and to understand what motivates our children, which in turn allows us to stop second guessing ourselves and obsessively Googling quite so much. Now, if you would like to stop doubting yourself and allow your parent-child relationship to be your guide, you are gonna wanna check out my digital course, The Authentic Parent: Finding your confidence in your child’s first year. In this course, I break down the foundational basics of psychology, neurobiology and child development into simple to understand and very actionable insights so that you can parent from a really informed and confident place. To learn more about The Authentic Parent and to sign up for the waitlist, you can go to drsarahbren.com/tap that’s drsarahbren.com/tap. Space is limited, s.o add your name to the list today. And thanks so much for listening. Don’t be a stranger.
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