How do you discipline your child? This is one of the most familiar challenges parents face, and one that I often see parents get wrong. It can be a struggle to get your kiddo to do what you want them to do, what is expected of them. I get it. In fact, I’m going through it all again right now, with a new puppy!
Today I’m going to give you a good definition of discipline, and how it is entirely about teaching, and has nothing to do with punishment. And I know it can be tempting to use a punishment model because you are frustrated, heated in the moment, and maybe that’s what you know from how you were raised. But deep down inside, that’s not what you genuinely want to be doing.
So, listen to this episode and get some tips on how to stay grounded and approach the discipline of your child with more teaching, instruction, and grace. I’ll also run you through an example that is all too common and one I’m sure many of you can resonate with, while giving you some tools for success next time you find yourself in this situation.
As always, thanks for listening, and be sure and head over to Facebook and you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community, where we post tips and tools and do pop up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!
About Randi Rubenstein
Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.
She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.
At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.
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My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast at Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. You’re listening to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast with Randi Rubenstein episode 1 73. Well, hi guys, welcome to the podcast this week. The name of this podcast is something that I noticed people Google quite often. And so I thought, you know what, maybe I’m just going to get back to sort of the basics that people are Googling probably late at night, because I do the same thing when I’m like facing a challenge in my life.
I am kind of what I call a fact finder. And all of a sudden I can go down the rabbit hole, just trying to find the solution, trying to find the article, trying to find the resource, trying to find the book. And one of the basic things that parents Google quite often is what’s the best way to discipline my child, right? Like what works, like what is the best way to discipline my child before I go fully into that? I want to just even talk about why we Google that. Right? So often I hear like who knew that Parenting was going to be this hard?
Like I just got a new puppy and we’re in the puppy stage. And we had some friends over this afternoon and his gorgeous afternoon today in Houston. And we were sitting out on our patio and the is like 14 weeks. And I mean, she just wants to like sleep a lot. So she’s super snugly and she looks like a little pot, belly pig, and she’s so cute. And this friend of ours, he’s like, you know, a 53 year old man. And he is just in heaven, snuggling with this puppy on the couch. He’s like, does it get better than this? And I think so often that’s what we think about like when we are going to have kids, we’re thinking about just how freaking cute they are.
You know, little kids are so delicious. And then just like with the puppy, I’m like, yeah, she’s so adorable. And she requires us like now we’re going on four or five weeks of several times having to take her out at night and it’s winter time and it’s cold and not gonna lie. I was a zombie. My husband was like, I’ll do the middle of the night taking her out. It’s not a big deal. I’m going to the bathroom anyway, which is heaven. You know? And I feel like I have to have eyes in the back of my head with this puppy, because if left to her own devices, she’s going to go to the bathroom.
She’s not potty trained yet. You know, she’s learning. And so it’s exhausting all day long. I’m kind of structuring it. And this last week, which I just take her most places with me and most of the time I’m working from home. So I do have the flexibility. And even with that flexibility, she’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to have to be watching another being all the time. And so I think so often we have this fantasy in this vision and we focus on all of the adorableness, right? And we’re not necessarily thinking about how hard it is, how hard it is when beings, whether they’re human beings or animal beings, when they’re young, they have a lot to learn.
And the people who are taking care of them are the ones who were in charge of teaching them, all the things and as humans, or even as puppies, the only way we’re going to learn things is through making mistakes. I mean, that’s just how it is. Like when you’re learning how to be alive, nobody ever starts anything as an expert. I mean, the time to learn how to be alive and sort of what the rules of whatever tribe you’ve become a member of, there’s going to be mistakes.
It’s difficult. You have a lot of things to learn. So we have kids and we have this fantasy, I think quite often where we’re just thinking about how wonderful it’s going to be. Of course. And then we find ourselves in the thick of little kid hood and it’s, how do I teach them all the things I don’t want to screw them up? What is the right way to discipline them? Okay. So I know that, you know, many of us who are drawn to conscious parenting or gentle parenting or Mastermind Parenting it’s because we know that we want to do it differently than the way it was done for us.
Okay. So many of us have, you know, trauma stories. Many of us have just, maybe it was just like, I wish that I had had parents that didn’t yell at me all the time, or I wish I had parents that when I was a teenager I could talk to, or I wish I had, you know, we have all of these sort of, I don’t know, big lofty dreams when we come into parenthood and then we find ourselves in the thick of it and we want to do it differently. And yet we’re going to go back to the way that we were conditioned when we’re in those sticky moments, when it’s the child who is going through a new stage and they’re trying to learn how be alive and it’s super exhausting and challenging for the people taking care of them.
And when they start to argue or when they refuse to eat things, I mean, it’s like every single stage is going to come with challenges. And then we have this deep inner knowing. I don’t want to do it necessarily the way it was done for me when I was the one making those mistakes. But what is the right way? How do I discipline my kids? And many people even misunderstand the word discipline. Many people think that discipline is synonymous with punishment and it’s not, punishment is all about making someone pay for their wrongdoings.
Like when you commit a crime and then you go to prison, like that’s a punishment. You are going to have your freedom taken away because you need to pay for your crime, right? Like that’s the society that we live in and the word discipline actually just means to teach. So do we believe in a punishment model? I don’t. I mean, there’s a lot of research and science that backs up. Why punishing kids 12 and younger. It really, it doesn’t teach them the things 12 and younger kids do not learn how to improve future behavior from that punishment model, from pain and anguish, making them pay for something, causing them harm.
There’s all these definitions of punishment, like kids 12 and under literally don’t have the capacity. So how do we actually teach them all the things, if we can’t rely on that punishment model, when many of us were raised with the punishment model, I think that it’s important to just sort of understand that you’re Googling this for a reason you’re seeking answers. You’re like, I don’t want to do it the way it was done for me. And yet I don’t have the tools yet. And that’s why I, I really want to break the misconception out there that people shouldn’t be taking a parenting class or learning new tools or listening to podcasts or reading books, because most of us don’t really have the skills to do it differently.
Okay. What’s the best way to discipline my child. I mean, obviously I think it’s the Mastermind Parenting way, which I’ve talked a lot about. And I’ve taught a lot of the methodologies on this podcast. And what that really is in a nutshell is that the adults have to manage their behavior in order to stay in our, in a grounded place and to stay in our thinking brains and not to be emotional and reactive, to be able to teach the little humans, what the rules of this tribe are, what the rules of our tribe are, right?
Whatever your family culture is. So first and foremost, what I have people do who come into my program is I have them start to understand the child’s perspective because so often we make a child’s behavior means something that it just frankly doesn’t. And so we have to really understand what’s going on for them developmentally, how, when they’re not doing well on the outside, it’s because of how they feel on the inside. And we just start slapping, you know, punishments on them, our consequences, which I do believe in consequences, but not the way consequences are defined by. I think many people, which is really people call them consequences, but they’re really just punishments.
I do believe in consequences. I do believe in accountability and we have to understand what is going on for the child and that when they’re not doing well, if we just slap a consequence on them, we’re never really getting to the root of what’s really going on for my child. So I teach a whole methodology that we’ve got to look at the situation. If your kid is refusing to cooperate, if your kid is refusing to go to bed, if your kid is continuously hitting other children in your family or at school, if your kid is never ever, ever doing the morning tasks to get themselves ready for school, and you have to do everything, if your kid is not doing well, there’s a reason there’s a lagging skill.
There’s something there’s a need that they are trying to have met. There’s something to get curious about. And when we attach adult, meaning like they’re being disrespectful, you knew will not speak to me that way. Yada, yada, there’s plenty of time to teach those lessons, but not in the heat of the moment we got to get to the root of what’s really going on for our kids. So Mastermind Parenting is really all about mastering your mind so that you can be the grounded grownups so that you can be in your thinking brain so that you can so that you can co-regulate with your kid. Right? So, so often, so co-regulation is basically when you take on somebody else’s vibe, you know, if let’s say you go to a party and you go with your, with your partner and your partner is in just like a shit mood and they’re killing the vibe, right?
You can’t help it. Like, it’s so hard to have fun when the person next to you is like, Aw, because we co-regulate with each other as human beings. And what most often happens is when we have a kid that is melting down, acting out misbehaving, not being cooperative, we co-regulate with them and match their vibe. And then we get reactive. And then you just have like two people being reactive and in their emotional brains, no problems are going to get solved there. So mastering your mind, it takes some work, right? To stay calm and, and, and show up in what I call pack leadership.
Right. To be that grounded. Grown-up like, it takes some work because when your kids are acting out towards you, right. You’re, you’re, you’re, it’s almost like your parents’ voices come in your head. Like really you’re gonna let them act like that. I never would’ve let you get away with that. You know? And now all of a sudden, you’re the person with the kid who doesn’t know how to behave. And what does that say about you as a parent? So it’s kind of heady stuff. And that’s why I think it’s crazy that anyone would think that they’re just going to have all the tools. They never need to do any learning. I mean, if we’re going to do it differently than it was done for us, it’s going to take a minute to learn some things.
And so how do we teach? What’s the best way to teach my child? All the things. That’s what people are really Googling. What’s the best way to discipline my child. What’s the best way to teach my child how to do better, right? How to do better. Maybe it’s that they’re not caring about school. If you’ve got an older child, how do I teach my kid to care about school, to take pride in their work? That school is their job. They’re there to learn, right? How do I teach my kids to be more responsible for their homework? So I don’t have to be on them every second, doing their homework.
Maybe that’s maybe that’s what you want to teach them. Maybe you want to teach your child how to be more independent. Maybe every second they’re walking around the house, following you. They are they’re off task. Anything that you want to do, you were having to remind them 50,000 times. And they can’t even get their teeth brushed and their shoes on and get their bag packed up and out the door. Like that sounds crazy to think that your kid would be able to do that. Maybe you’re thinking, how do I motivate my kid to actually care about something? It doesn’t seem like they care about anything. They don’t want to help around the house. They just are not doing the things that you really want them to do to have a peaceful household for your family to run smoothly.
And if you have a strong-willed child, you’re like, how do I teach my kid that these behaviors are not okay? Right? This kid is constantly hijacking the whole family. It’s like going to the party with your partner. Who’s being a grump. Like every second, they’re just killing the vibe, killing the vibe, killing the vibe. And you’re pissed about it. You’re angry. And you don’t, you know, you love them, but if you’re really honest, you don’t like him a lot of the time. And then you feel guilty about that. See, this is heady stuff.
So getting to the root of what’s coming up for you, I think is so important when I help parents to kind of like, we’re going to look at every situation and we’re going to treat it as a problem that we’re solving. Okay. So if our whatever’s going on it, you know, if you can just think, I want you to think of the thing that happens day after day after day, like a specific scenario, it’s like, oh, if this thing, somebody could just like, come and sprinkle some magic fairy dust, and this thing would just not be a problem anymore. It would just magically poof go away.
Like my life would be so much easier, right? If I could just have kids that like got their shit together in the morning and I could like, get ready for work or get ready for my day. And like walk out of the house without having to nag and yell at people like that would be so heavenly because normally I’m feeling like I need a stiff drink by the time I drop him off at school. And it’s terrible, you know, if I could just have afternoons run smoothly, if it didn’t feel so flippant, exhausting, like what’s the specific thing that would just make your life so much better.
And so what I do is I help parents to go into those specific scenarios and go through this basic framework to solve any problem, which I call the nice wings and we really treat it pretty methodically. But what happens quite often is when we start going through it, there, it’s like, yeah. But, and I don’t know, you know, so often I think that many of us, we confuse the issues because we have our own baggage coming, coming online when these problems are happening. And it really takes some self-awareness to be like, huh, well, how am I feeling in the moment when this specific thing happens might be that you’re feeling, you know, when you can’t get your kids to do anything and you’re after them and you’re nagging them and you’re reminding them and some 57th time, and you’re feeling completely ignored and dismissed.
This is what I want you guys to ask yourselves. When was the first time I felt ignored or dismissed because that’s the thing that’s really coming up for you when your kid is just living in the present moment and doing the thing. And there hasn’t been enough time on the front end, training them with what’s the program in the morning. First we do this. Then we do that and taking them through all the baby steps and setting them up for success. Right? Quite often, we just think we need to just tell them what to do, and they’re going to know how to do it. But if we haven’t held them accountable and we haven’t put our time in, on the front end, really teaching them and training them, like what I said at the very beginning, how to be alive, what the rules of this tribe are, right.
How to function independently. And if we nag and remind and nag and remind and nag and remind, and then eventually just do it for them. Even if we’re doing it out of anger, kids live in the present moment, it’s sort of working for them because ultimately they don’t have to do the thing until we’ve nagged. And remind enough times that either we end up doing it for them, or we finally yell and it gets scary and then they have to do it. So it’s kind of working for them. They get to play and continue doing whatever it is that they want to do in this moment. And they don’t have to do the responsible things because we’ve created a pattern that is set up for that exact situation.
Do y’all understand that. So when we Put the time in, on the front end to train the people what’s expected, we’re talking about it as a non-relevant time. Not in the heat of the moment. We’ve already been prac. Okay. What’s tomorrow morning going to look like guys, our clothes are going to be laid out tonight. Right. So after bath, what’s happening. And then, okay. So when you get up, what are the things you do before you come down for breakfast? Okay. So when I see you for breakfast, it means that what’s what has already happened. And you put the time in, and it might sound like, oh my gosh, who has time for all this?
But think about all the time you’re wasting in the morning, nagging, reminding. And then, and then when you send your kids off to school, after a heated morning, just know it takes two to three hours for their stress hormones to come down to a normal level. So they’re not in their thinking brain. You’re literally sending them to school at a deficit for learning they’re in their emotional brains. It’s to take them a couple hours. Okay. So, so we care about them doing well in school. When they get older and the grades start rolling in, or we get the bad report cards, we get the bad reports from teachers, or they’re not on task.
They’re not doing the things. We start to worry and we start to diagnose them. We start to take them out of the specialist and we start to get them go in and having to have all the meetings to get them the special classifications. And here’s the thing. How many of us are skipping this step when they’re three and when they’re four and when they’re five and just expecting them to do the thing. And day after day after day, it’s like Groundhog day. We’re just repeating the patterns. So what’s the best way to teach my child. It’s established the rules. These are the rules of our family.
This is what it’s like to be alive. And this is the way we, this is the way we function. This is the way we run. Like, it’s like with me with the puppy right now, like I’m teaching the puppy and the puppy is having accidents. Like we pee and poop outside, not inside. And we’re practicing a lot and I have to have eyes in the back of my head and it’s exhausting. And I’m putting my time in right now on the front end. And then I’m going to have just like with my other pets, I’m gonna have many years of a potty trained dog and not having to worry about it. And so awesome.
I know so many people that are like, oh, my dog never was properly potty trained. And then you have a dog that lives, you know, to 15, I mean, 15 years. So you put your time in, on the front end, we have to do the same thing with our little kids. Okay. So I’m going to read a scenario that I grabbed from one of the strong-willed kids like online groups, just as a member, I sometimes am reading through and just seeing what people are struggling with. Okay. So here’s one, I’ve been feeling like the absolute worst mother lately. And I have no friends who can relate the Christmas breaks, always hard for us.
My four year old strong-willed daughter and my one-year-old son are home for the break from nursery school. And the lack of structure can be really disregulating for my four year old, as the week goes on, the behavior gets worse. My husband and I follow gentle parenting, but his fuse is much shorter than mine. And I always find, I need to take over. So he doesn’t start screaming. I’m having the hardest time knowing when to be firm is she testing boundaries when to give grace. And I think I do this too often. I give grace too often. Wait, I’m going to pause and say, so remember, this is what I wanted to say, where and I got sidetracked. Parenting is establishing the rules, repeating it often.
And following through consistently establishing the rules is we’re going to train them. We’re going to Put the time in on the front end, we’re going to really model and teach them what our expectations are. These are the rules of this family, of this tribe. We’re going to expect to repeat it often because Little kids, that’s what I mean. It takes practice to learn anything. It takes practice to learn what the rules are here, how to be alive as a member of this family, Hey, we’re gonna have to repeat it off and repeat it often. And then we have to follow through consistently follow through with whatever you said was going to be the consequence.
What is going to happen if this rule isn’t followed? Okay. So you have to be clear on that ahead of time and you’ve establish it. So she says this, mom’s saying, I want to know when to be firm and when to give grace, she gives grace to often meaning she lets things slide when to allow her to make the mistakes she needs to make. I should add. She’s very sensory seeking, which becomes a trigger for me. The screeching jumping, climbing all over me. Screaming becomes too much for me come five o’clock at night. And I emotionally crumble to make matters worse.
My husband’s gone a significant amount of time because of his job. And I feel like I’m burning the candle from both ends. I want to enjoy this time with my kids, but I find every moment so taxing on myself that I give into anything she wants. Okay. Just so she will follow my directions, which looks like TV tablet, all day, constant snacks and treats and all the toys everywhere all the time. I’m so tired. Now she says to add, I think an ADHD diagnosis is down the road and I literally need someone to be with my one-year-old a hundred percent of the time, just to keep up with her and play. I try to do all of the things special time together, special activities, giving choices, praise, et cetera.
I mean, here’s the thing. If she’s on her TV tablet all day, I mean, it’s like, nothing’s going to change if she’s on her tablet all day, constant snacks and treats. So she sugared up, right? So she showed her it up. She’s tech brained up and there’s toys everywhere. This child is so overstimulated. It’s like basic needs, basic needs, basic needs, food, sleep, structure, connection, letting the child know exactly what the expectations are and having open-ended days for kids school or not like, there’s a reason why school works for kids, especially little kids.
They know what to expect. It helps them to feel more, more grounded in their nervous system. They go into school, they know that they get there. They know that they have circle time. First they know, then they go and play in their centers. Then they get to have the snack. Then they like that kind of structure makes people feel calm. I mean, how many of us need, like, I need a calendar. I need to, if I just have an open-ended day, I’m like chasing my tail, getting nothing accomplished. And then at the end of the day, I’m like, what did I do? You can do today. Like I have to have some constraints in some structure in my day to little kids need that even more. So, so for us to think that weekends and holidays with kids, it’s just, you know, it’s almost, it’s like before we had kids, when we get to just like wake up and see where the day takes us, it’s just unrealistic.
I know it’s kind of like when you have like right now, new puppy, the first six months, the first year, no, I can’t just leave the house and let the puppy roam things are going to be destroyed. And she’s going to go to the bathroom everywhere. Like I have to confine her. I have to have constraints. I have to have eyes in the back of my head with her. It is busier. She does involve a lot of energy from me. And I’m not a person who loves structure, but I know I took on this role, caring for this small animal with you, take on the role, having children and becoming a parent.
You got to just know, the little kid years are when you’re setting the foundation. Of course you can’t have an open-end today. Of course you have to be realistic about it. And of course, when they’re on technology and sugar all day, guess what? And overstimulated with too many toys. Yeah, no, it’s not going to be great. And you’re starting to see ADH D symptoms. Are they ADHD symptoms or are they a brain that’s jacked up on too much sugar and technology and constantly feeling dysregulated because there’s not enough structure in the day. So we have to be realistic.
And I do feel for this mom, I do. I’m not trying to be harsh. I just want us to kind of realize that we signed up for job. And it’s a busy season of life. When you have little kids, it is, it gets way less busy. And especially when you put the time in, when they’re little to figure out how to help them feel more grounded in their bodies, know what to expect, have some structure around the day, what the rules are in this household. This is the way we operate without getting explosive yourself, getting over-reactive co-regulating with them.
And then them feeling totally unsafe, right? Like that’s never going to be the solution. So she’s, this mom is smart to not leave her husband up to his own devices, screaming at the kids and making matters worse. She says, we believe in gentle parenting. I would say she believes in gentle parenting. Cause it doesn’t sound like the husband is doing his work. This is very difficult. Holding your husband or your partner accountable. If you’re doing all this learning and you’re just growing your sea legs, the only grace the mom needs to have is for herself is for herself.
I’m learning some new things. This doesn’t come naturally yet. I’m in a very busy season of life. I have a four-year-old and a one-year-old where’s my self-care what’s the structure of our day. Where can I get some relief? Even if it is meeting up at the park with another mom. So at least I just have another adult to talk to and maybe the kids can play. And I get a little relief there. Where’s my relief. Am I feeding myself? Am I putting myself to bed? Maybe it’s just getting the kids down and giving myself a bath and putting myself to bed and taking proper care of myself. Like I am burning the candle at both ends and I’m trying to figure this out.
And so right now, during this busy season of life, I do have to put myself to bed. Like I’m my own child. I do have to care for myself. Like I’m my own child, because the way it’s going right now, it’s chaos and it’s not working for any of us. And I’m the grownup here. I’m the one with the fully developed brain, the kids, they just were born. And they’re just trying to figure out how to be alive. I have to set the tone. They will follow my lead, but I have to have clarity and ownership over the tone I’m setting in this household.
So yeah, we have a lot to teach our kids and we have a lot to learn all of us. That’s why I say Parenting is like the ultimate self-help program. You know, if we’re willing to allow it to be like, they’re teaching us so much, we’re facing ourselves. Like never before you cannot run and hide from yourself. When you’ve got little kids here needing you to care for them all day, every day, needing you to teach them all the things needing you to effectively discipline them in a loving and sometimes firm way.
These are the rules. This is what happens when the rules aren’t followed. This is what you can expect. My job is to keep you safe and healthy, basic needs, basic needs, basic needs, food, sleep, connection, food, sleep, connection. It really is so much more simple than we realize. And it takes practice to get good at it. It really does. So if you have kids that are here acting out you’re strong-willed ones, which are basically, they’re holding up a sign saying, you want to know what you need to work on mom.
Most of the time it’s are you too much of a people pleaser? Do you have a hard time with boundaries? Are you trying to make all the other people happy around you and not looking at what you’re doing to actually feel calm in your body and centered in your body? Like they are here to help us get better at these amazing skills that are only going to improve our lives too. And it’s not easy. If anyone ever said raising kids was easy. I think, you know, they’re liars. It’s not easy until you get good at knowing how to do these things, which guess what?
With practice, you do get better and better and better. And then it does become easy. You set the foundation and do you know, one day wake up and you’re like, okay, why does it, why does life feel so easy? You see all the other families struggling, but you put the time and energy in on the front end. And now you’re sorta coasting a lot of the time. And yeah, there’s going to be bumps in the road and hiccups, but you, you know that you can handle it because you Put the time in it. Isn’t always going to be hard. And it is hard right now.
And there are things to learn and I’m glad you guys are here. And I hope you learned some things in this sort of tough love episode. Please know it’s always coming from a place of love. I believe in you. If you’re a parent, who’s listening to a parenting podcast who is here with me. I promise you. You are smart. You are capable. You are amazing. You’re funny. I love, love, love the parents who are drawn to my community. Like every single one of you. When I get to know you guys, like when I work with people privately, I’m always like, again, another person that your life is a riveting novel and you’re amazing.
And I’m so fortunate. It’s a privilege. Like it’s a privilege to get to know you guys because you are an amazing, amazing community of people. And I’m just so glad you’re here. So that’s what I got for you this week. Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in Your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household. I want you to go to my website and check out Mastermind, Parenting dot com.
We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support, then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you. And as always, we’re on all the social channels under Mastermind Parenting on Instagram, it’s mastermind, underscore parenting. And you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives, where I give you teaching and coaching. And I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better because when they feel better, they do better.
And I love, love, love, getting to know you guys. So thanks for listening. If you liked this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review super, super appreciative.