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239: Puzzling Kids who are often Misdiagnosed and Misunderstood

By May 23, 2023November 7th, 2023Mastermind Parenting Podcast

This week we’re taking you back to the early days of the pod, with an ep that describes the kind of kiddo and parent I most love to work with. This is the episode that some of my most favorite clients have said, “You described my kid like I had never heard before. I finally felt like someone really understood what I was dealing with.”

Puzzling Kids are often sensitive souls who get overwhelmed by everything the world throws at them. Their frustration gets channeled into acting out, or escaping into screens and other distractions. They need plenty of understanding and support before they can break out of those cycles.

Their parents need lots of understanding and support, too! Puzzling Kids push our buttons. It’s so hard to respond to that confrontational energy with compassion, but the tools we’re taught to set boundaries and guide behavior will only make things worse unless we get to a place of understanding and addressing the overwhelm. 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  1. Why Puzzling Kids are so prone to disruptive behaviors.
  2. My firsthand experience helping Puzzling Kids, as a coach and a mom.
  3. How genuine empathy can help you reach your Puzzling Kid, and avoid the off-ramp of overdiagnosis and medication.
  4. Empathy for yourself as a parent in a very tough situation.

And much more! 

As always, thanks for listening. Head over to Facebook, where you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community. 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.

Randi’s Web and Social Links

Links & Resources

Thanks so much for listening to the Mastermind Parenting podcast, where we support the strong willed child and the families that love them!

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[00:00:00] Randi Rubenstein: 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.

[00:00:11] Hi guys. How are you this week? Well, this week I am going to be taking you back to an episode that I did very early on in the podcast. And this is the episode that year after to me the most parents say to me,

[00:00:32] When I listened to this episode, I finally heard someone describe my kid right So this episode I labeled misdiagnosed and misunderstood. And I really talked about, you know, my kid and these kids that I think quite often it’s like, I used to say this about Alec that. It was like he, it was like he was a puzzle that I was trying to figure out.

[00:01:04] Like I knew there was something to figure out and I just couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. And I think these are the kids that are quite often misdiagnosed and misunderstood and go through life feeling misunderstood. And now my, my Alec was not, you know, a full grown adult when I recorded this podcast.

[00:01:30] Um, because I started the podcast so long ago. Um, and now he’s 25, like he is officially grown and flown. And. So, I know how this turns out. I know why it’s so worth it to be the kind of parent who is here with me listening to things like this, trying to figure out your puzzling child. I see you, I know what you’re doing.

[00:01:57] I know that you are committed to figuring your child out and just supporting them in the, in the best way possible. I know, you know, there is something to figure out. And I went through an exercise with my coach recently where she said, okay, let’s look at. The exact parent that you’re meant to help, right?

[00:02:21] There’s lots of parenting resources out there and I’m not meant to help every parent. She’s like, let’s really look at some of like your favorite parents that you’ve ever worked with, you know, and their stories and where they were. And afterwards, you know, I started rattling off people and she’s like, okay, I think we’ve got enough.

[00:02:44] And then she told me after we did this whole exercise. That normally people like rack their brains to come up with three and she coaches people and you know, she’s, she’s a mindset and a business coach, so she coaches people in lots of different areas. Um, but she said, usually they rack their brain and they come up with three and like she had to cut me off at seven because.

[00:03:08] The truth of the matter is, is that I fall in love with, I fall in love with everyone because we, we dig into your stories and I, I want to know, I like, I’m trying to crack the code. I’m trying to help each of these parents figure out their puzzling kid. Um, but when we really looked at all of these different parents, I realized that most of them.

[00:03:31] Um, had said to me at some point that this was the episode that they listened to in the podcast where finally they had been, you know, they’ve been reading all the books and going to all the professionals and they just never heard someone describe their child the way I described these kids and my own in this episode.

[00:03:55] So you have a puzzling kid. A kid that, you know, there is something to figure out and you just haven’t been able to yet. This is the episode for you. Um, so enjoy it and that’s what I got for you. Have a great week. 

[00:04:15] [MUSIC] So the big question is this: how do parents like us know that we aren’t messing up the biggest role of our lives, especially when we happen to have a strong willed child that’s constantly pushing our buttons?

[00:04:28] We’ve all heard that kids don’t come with a manual. So how can we know for sure that we’re saying the right things or that we’re getting this parenting thing, right? [MUSIC] Well, on this podcast for parents of toddlers to teens, we’ll be giving you real tools you can use right away so that your kids will feel like they can talk to you about absolutely anything and everything. [MUSIC] My name is Randi Rubenstein and welcome to the mastermind parenting podcast where we believe when your thoughts grow, the conversations in your home flow. [MUSIC]

[00:05:03] Well, hi, you guys. In this episode, I want to talk about a theme that has come up in many of my coaching conversations this week. And so when there’s a theme that comes up, like where I see something at least three times, I feel like it’s a little bit of a sign that it’s something that I’m meant to be talking about, meant to be looking into, meant to be teaching and coaching about.

[00:05:27] So that’s what I’ve decided to talk about in this episode. It has to do with 

[00:05:33] our kids that I call sensitive nervous system kids who present as challenging or willful or strong willed and I believe that these kids are usually misunderstood in their life. And so what I’m hoping to accomplish in this episode is just, it’s going to be like an invitation to look at their behavior in a different way and to truly get curious about it and to understand that they are here presenting in a certain way because they are here to teach us all something.

[00:06:12] And when we try to squash their spirit by using the old school parenting tactics where they just dig in and it becomes like power struggle city in our households, that’s happening for a reason. Like that’s why I think that they’re the true change agents that push us to learn things like this new parenting conversation and all of these new communication tools.

[00:06:37] That’s really the recipe that I teach that I believe you, you learn it in the form of parenting and then you take it to all these other areas of your life. And I have person after person, client after client tell me that like this stuff isn’t just about parenting. It’s affecting all my relationships or it’s affecting me at work.

[00:06:56] And I’m like, I know these are, basic communication concepts. And we, as humans, we’re not going to just go and learn something a lot of times just cause, because, you know, as I like to say, we’re saving up calories in case we’re in a fight or flight situation. And so that’s why we do the same thing over and over and we seek the familiar. It’s because, uh, it takes a lot of extra calories to learn something. So it’s almost like there has to be a situation in our life that is painful enough that we’re like, fine, I’ll learn something new. 

[00:07:32] So these kids come to us and they present in these ways, the old tactics are not working. The more we lecture them, the more they fight back or shut down. Or act out towards their siblings or misbehave at school. And so what we know is that nothing we seem to do is working. So we’re like, okay, you know, people come to me and they’re like, okay, Randy, what do you got? Because nothing I’m doing or or that I’ve read is working with my kid. Please help me figure out how to get my kid to be less defiant, more cooperative and all those things.

[00:08:09] So these kids, I think it’s really important to understand what’s going on with them because I think it’s, it’s really easy to make their behavior mean something different than it does. And I’m going to go into this and explain more about what I mean by that. 

[00:08:24] I think that. Quite often because they power struggle back and they dig their heels in they can be easy to dislike. I mean, I’m just gonna put that out there. They can be easy I like to call them and I’ve not everybody knows who Larry David is, but if you have a strong willed kid that seems like they are just like you say right they say left I encourage you to watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” because I believe that Larry David is like the grown up version of these kids, and he constantly is finding himself in these ridiculous situations where behind all of his ridiculous behavior there usually is a pretty good reason why he’s annoyed or presenting with all these, you know, he’s, he’s frustrated in life with all these people.

[00:09:14] But usually somebody did something wrong initially and then Larry gets fed up. And then what I like to call it is Larry behaves wronger. And that’s become kind of a term in my family where I’ll say to my son, who’s the strong willed one, the little Mary, Larry David, I’ll say like, don’t be wronger.

[00:09:33] Like, when you show up as wronger, then you cancel out the initial wrongdoing. Don’t be wronger. So, it’s really quite a hilarious show and I think it will help you to kind of like see your kid differently and, and maybe even bring some humor to it because we got to think about it differently. 

[00:09:52] As long as we’re making them wrong, as long as they are misunderstood, as long as we’re making their behavior mean that they think they’re the boss, they think they’re running the show, they don’t have respect for us, they don’t have respect for authority, all those different things, as long as we make their behavior mean that, I just want you to know there’s never going to be a positive outcome. Your kid’s not going to grow into being their best self. You’re going to be living in a family forevermore where you’re walking on eggshells, there’s nothing good that’s coming out of that. So if you are living in that kind of situation, please listen closely to my perspective and what I believe works and what has worked for me and a lot of people that I’ve, coached and taught.

[00:10:36] I think as these kids are misunderstood, what often happens is they often get misdiagnosed as well. And a lot of times they’re misdiagnosed, they show up with symptoms and they are diagnosed with ADHD and they’re all kinds of things, oppositional defiance disorder and all those things.

[00:10:56] Now you guys know, or maybe you don’t know cause you’re just getting to know me. I am a mom in the trenches. I am a parenting coach. This is my business. I teach the recipe that has worked for me and my family. I am not a doctor. I speak to what I have seen and what my opinion is. So everything I have to say, take it with a grain of salt because ultimately what I like to empower other parents to do is to see what your recipe is and what feels good for you.

[00:11:31] And, and so it’s not about listening to what my perspective is and it being the gospel. And it’s not about listening to what Western doctors say, and it being the gospel or a book that you’ve read it’s tapping into what feels right and makes sense for you. And this is just part of the research for you. So I’m not claiming to be the authority in your life. I just want to say that.

[00:11:57] As parents, we often get confused about what to do when we have these kids and what our options really are when it comes to them. What we do a lot of times is we turn to traditional resources and we get, I see this time and time again and it’s my story is all as well and we get led down this kind of one size fits all path and I have not seen it yield positive results for any of these strong willed kids. So it was my experience. I’ve seen parent after parent have one of these strong willed kids and I have seen them go down this traditional path where they are showing up presenting with certain behaviors. They’re highly irritable. They’re fighting with their siblings. They seem super defiant towards you. They may be acting out at school. And as a parent, you’re sitting there going, okay, what am I supposed to do here? And so you’re just looking for options and solutions.

[00:13:03] And so I’m on a mission to let other moms with a strong willed or sensitive nervous system kid know that there are other solutions besides the classic ADHD with a side of anxiety diagnosis that so many of these kids receive and then I believe get Improperly medicated for and I’ll explain a little bit more about that because I’ve rarely seen I’ve rarely heard of a six or seven year old that’s on Vyvanse and Zoloft or some other similar cocktail I’ve rarely seen them not having side effects, that often leaves the parent wondering whether the sleep and food issues that come from them being on that cocktail of medication, whether those issues, from the meds are actually worse than the original symptoms. It’s like a toss up.

[00:13:53] So I saw like four different parents this week with this exact issue and since their kids were acting out at school, these parents were feeling super pressured to do something and it’s hard to convince someone that changing the parenting conversation in your home is the real solution when you’re in the thick of it with one of these kids that’s hitting rock bottom and you’ve got teachers that are telling you how bad their behavior is at school.

[00:14:23] And so I know this is a thing is that I, it’s like they come to me and I know how it’s going to turn out, and I want to say, I wish I could just give you a quick fix solution. And we, there’s, there’s something to figure out here. I know why we go to the Western doctors and we’re like, okay, fine, we’ll do the medication, even though it kills us to think about putting medication into our little teeny tiny person. But we feel like our hands are tied and we don’t know what else is out there.

[00:14:53] And I know that, you know, it’s probably going to turn out that years from now that parent is going to say, okay. The medication is not a quick fix. We’ve had all kinds of side effects from it. And even though they, I get less of those bad school reports daily, I know that my kid is not meant in a traditional school setting and I’ve got to start looking for a possible alternative. I know that the behavior eventually is just going to get worse, even though they may be, you know, okay du ring the day at school, when they come home, usually they’re in a whole kind of hangry place. A lot of times they have trouble going to sleep at night. And, quite often I see that, the how the family just lives with this tension in the household. You know, a lot of divorces happen. It’s not a fun environment. It feels like a war zone.

[00:15:56] And so I’m really trying to create what I wish had been there for me when I was where you are years ago. And I’m here to let you know there are other solutions. And that’s kind of the mission of this podcast is I want to teach you guys all about those solutions in this bite-sized way, and it really does put you in an empowered kind of control, like where you feel like you’re back in control of your household because you learn how to communicate with these kids in a way that they can hear you, that feels good for them, and it actually pulls them out of this place of defensiveness and constantly acting out and it helps them to step into their out-of-the-box thinking and all of their leadership energy and channel all of this strong willed energy within them into a positive direction.

[00:16:54] Because I really think that kids that, that are these strong willed kids, most of the times they’re out-of-the-box thinkers, and they really are meant to be leaders if they are coached and guided to be that. But when they’re in a place where they’re feeling constantly defensive, it’s that’s not going to be the outcome for them.

[00:17:13] Okay. So I want to tell y’all a story. So I have this VIP client, these clients that I work with one-on-one and she has a particularly willful six year old. And so she gets reports from school, like the ones that you don’t want to get. Like he’s spitting, name calling, eating lunch with the principal, all that kind of business. Like every day when she goes to pick up her child, she’s like, uh, what is the report that I’m going to get?

[00:17:39] So he comes home afterwards and he has like this intensity about him that’s kind of like through the roof and he’s constantly acting out and In her mind, and the way she even has described it to me, it’s like he does whatever he wants to do. He just does whatever he wants to do. If he wants to walk out the front door, he walks out the front door. He doesn’t care about safety. He doesn’t care about rules. Like, she really believes that he just does whatever he wants to do.

[00:18:09] So she had him evaluated recently. The school really encouraged her to have him evaluated at this like, schmancy diagnostic center that I’ve been down this path too, I’ve been to a lot of them. And she goes there and obviously they do a bunch of testing and they come back and they’re like, Oh, he has ADHD. And so the next visit is, you know, going to a child psychiatrist’s office. And I just have heard this scenario over and over again. And I’ve lived it and I know that ultimately, most likely stimulants are going to be prescribed to this kid.

[00:18:46] Because the school and the parents have been doing what we’re supposed to do as school and parents is communicating the teacher is well aware that he’s on the waitlist to go to the psychiatrist office. And so she asked daily like hmm, when’s that appointment coming up?

[00:19:02] Really, it’s kind of like when is this kid that is sort of hellacious in my classroom a lot of the time, getting on meds and you know, who can blame her? I mean, he is disruptive in her classroom. And so for a lot of teachers, it’s almost like putting these kids on meds and kind of dorking them out during the day, it is relief in for them.

[00:19:25] And the thing is, is that I just feel like these teachers, a lot of the time, they are not trained, you know, they probably received six hours of classroom management training on how to manage kids and their behavior when they were an undergrad in school. So she’s got a classroom of 20 kids and she’s got one or two, let’s say, or, or maybe more of kids that have sensitive nervous systems and they’re presenting with all kinds of disruptive behaviors. And maybe she hasn’t been trained in all these conscious, positive ways of gearing her classroom towards being a school family and, and ways that really are proven to work and be effective and a beautiful environment for kids to learn. She hasn’t really received that training. 

[00:20:17] She’s received the old school training with sticker charts and color charts and moving up the color line. And it’s all about rewards and punishments. And for these kids that are in this kind of rabbit hole of defiant behavior. Well, guess what? All they constantly see is their thing going down on the color chart. So very quickly they feel pigeonholed into this place where they’ve been categorized as the bad kid.

[00:20:49] And so what we know about kids is what we focus on, we get more of. So we’re focusing on them being the kid that’s constantly in the red zone. And so guess who they are? They’re the kid that’s constantly in the red zone. And I know that he has been categorized this way at six or seven years old and he’s gonna continue to act out because now that’s kind of how he’s been defined and that’s his self definition and so he is just gonna prove that model to be correct over and over again.

[00:21:30] And if you don’t have a kid that’s acting out in school. Like, I didn’t have a kid that was ever acting out in school, but he would just kind of hold it together at school and then he would reserve all of that awesome behavior just for us and his siblings when he got home because he was overstimulated from his day and he would kind of take it all in and store it all up and then he would come home and that’s when it would all just kind of get released.

[00:21:55] And so for the way that most of us have been programmed, when a kid acts out, we think we need to put a boundary during those moments. Like we need to put a boundary down during those moments and we need to restate the rules and teach them about acceptable behavior, right? Like you pick your kid up from school and you get a bad report from the teacher and you find out that they’ve done all these behaviors that are sort of mortifying and you’re like, okay, the teacher told me about it because the teacher wants me to go home and do my job as a parent and tell my child that the rules are that’s unacceptable behavior, right? That’s our job.

[00:22:34] Well, right and wrong, right? It’s our job to teach acceptable behavior to our kids wrong that restating the rules in these moments, it’s wrong that we actually think that we’re gonna teach our kids anything. And let me explain.

[00:22:49] So the old way, the way most of us were raised, followed the model when kids misbehave, we punish, we take away privileges and we show them who’s the boss, right? We create boundaries and parameters and we establish ourselves as the authority.

[00:23:03] So the problem is, is that even though we want to believe that that works and we may even have like amnesia, you know how you have amnesia when you have a baby and then the next time you’re going into labor, you’re like, how did I not? rEmember that this was this painful. Um, well, a lot of times we’ll have amnesia about how it really, those methods really didn’t work when we were kids.

[00:23:26] Because as we all know, if we really allow ourselves to remember back, it really just made us do stuff behind our parents backs and hope that we didn’t get busted, right? Like nothing’s changed. Nothing’s changed. When we use that punishment model, it does not teach kids a different way of behaving. All it does is teach kids to be, it teaches them to become sneaky.

[00:23:55] And the thing that has changed is that these strong-willed kids refuse to just become sneaky. They’re actually more honest. And so they continue to act out and no matter what we do to punish them, right? Like they are so strong willed, they will act out and act out and act out. Whereas a kid with maybe a calmer temperament or a more easygoing temperament, they may just do it behind the adult’s backs, but the strong willed ones are like, no, I’m doing, I am who I am no matter who’s around.

[00:24:27] So what’s the learning here? The strong willed kids, they’re basically forcing us to evolve and stop repeating the methods from the past that frankly never felt good for anyone.

[00:24:40] So That’s the deal. That’s what they’re doing. They’re going to do it at home. They’re going to do it at school. And when they do it at school or out in public, it’s super mortifying for us because it’s one thing, as we all know, if our kids do certain things behind closed doors, or we behave in ways behind closed doors, but when you know, doing it out in public, like in front of other people outside our family, it really triggers so much in us, it feels like it’s a reflection of all that’s out of control in our family. And it feels like we’re airing our dirty laundry.

[00:25:17] And that’s why it feels so terrible to so many of us. Because it’s like, we don’t want people to, I mean, it’s, it’s like social media, who’s putting the pictures of themselves up where you don’t look like your best self. No, you’re trying to constantly put out into the world that part of you that you want other people to admire and you think is going to earn you respect. So when our kids act out in these ways, especially outside in public or at school, it feels terrible and we get super triggered.

[00:25:55] So what’s the solution when you have a strong willed kid that’s acting out either privately or publicly? Like, what is the solution for these kids that are acting out, which causes them to be misunderstood and often misdiagnosed? What’s the solution? The solution is, is that when they’re acting out we have to get curious, right? We have to get curious because there’s something to figure out. And instead of attacking the problem by telling them all that they’re doing wrong, it’s really an invitation to investigate.

[00:26:31] So this, do you see that shift? We get all panicky and graspy because our brain is like, “Oh no, we’re airing our dirty laundry. When our kid acts like this, we’re failing at our most important job. How can I have a kid that doesn’t know how to behave, you know, kindly outside the home or who does these outlandish behaviors at school or who picks on their sibling or who is showing up and not seeming like they have any empathy? Here is evidence that I’m failing at my most important job.” And so we get super panicky and we just want to shut it down.

[00:27:06] When the truth of the matter is, is that misery loves company, right? So when somebody is being miserable, they want to bring other people on to their miserable plane of existence. So when your child is acting out in ways that is really freaking miserable. That’s how they’re feeling inside. So when we just try to shut that behavior down, we’re never getting underneath the misery. What is the reason? That is causing the misery. What are the big feelings? What are they coming from? What has happened? What’s going on?

[00:27:42] So it’s sort of like, um, you know, if you go to the doctor, right, like let’s say you went to the doctor and the doctor, you walk in and the doctor just starts prescribing you medicine and telling you what you should take without asking you any questions about your symptoms. You wouldn’t have a lot of trust and faith in that doctor.

[00:28:05] Part of the process is, is you show up, you make a doctor’s appointment, you show up, and they’re like, okay, tell me what’s going on. And then they hear, they ask you about your history and they ask you about, you know, they weigh you and they look at all these different factors and then they prescribe some medicine or a solution.

[00:28:24] Well, when we start attacking our kids, you know, behavior, when we start attacking the problem and telling them what they should or shouldn’t do without getting underneath what’s behind the symptoms, what are the symptoms and what’s causing the symptoms. It’s like we’re being quacks. And our kids are calling us out on that because they’re like, don’t tell me what to do. Help me with what’s going on in the first place, and I’m just a kid if I knew what to do I would do it on my own. I don’t know what to do. I really need the adults in my life to help me with what’s going on on the inside of my body and The way you guys are showing up for me. It feels bad It’s actually making everything feel even worse, and that’s why I’m acting out even more.

[00:29:15] So they’re just letting us know how they’re feeling on the inside. So let’s say the day got started off on a bad foot, right? Like, I mean, especially with these kids, like I said, like when they’re in this, you know, rabbit hole of defensiveness, they’re not enjoyable. And so quite often they’re not getting enough sleep and they’re addicted to technology and to screens. And they’re constantly, defying the rules. And so they go to bed late and we can’t get them in bed and we’re not knowing how to effectively communicate with them. And then what happens in the morning? We have a chaotic morning. They won’t put on their shoes. We’re running late. They’re not eating their breakfast. Well, guess what? Then they come into the classroom in a huff.

[00:30:07] So then their very well intentioned, but overworked and underpaid teacher, that received, like I said, not enough training about how to manage kids with unruly behaviors. She receives this kid that just came in in a huff with all this these heightened cortisol levels and stress hormones And not only does she have to teach this kid this curriculum that she’s supposed to go through to keep her job, s he also has to teach 19 other kids.

[00:30:36] So what’s going on here? we’ve literally sent them out into their day and, and there’s no blame here. Like, like I said, like we’re just looking at the reality of the circumstance and what’s going on and why we end up going down this path of pumping our kids up on stimulants, and before we know it, they’re on a whole cocktail of stuff because we don’t know what else to do because this is the reality for so many of these kids And this is just kind of how it all plays out.

[00:31:08] So I’m just kind of pointing out the factors in real life of what it looks like. And, like I said, there is no blame or judgment. I lived this. So I just want you guys to understand that if any of this is sounding all too familiar, I want you to know you are not alone, and there are so many people who are dealing with the exact same situation, but just nobody’s putting it out on Facebook, right? Like that’s, that’s airing the dirty laundry.

[00:31:36] So the teacher who receives your kid in this way, she hasn’t been trained, unless she’s been excessively trained on, something like conscious discipline, she really hasn’t changed, been trained how to help a child that comes into her classroom in a huff, to help turn it around for him and help lower those, those cortisol levels, and by doing things that involve positive communication and conscious communication and all these amazing conflict resolution strategies. Chances are she hasn’t been trained on that. So all she’s doing from the get-go is just trying to survive and just trying to shut down the behavior. And it just becomes this negative, vicious cycle.

[00:32:25] So your kid started his day in chaos and then goes to school in chaos. And it’s just a chaotic existence. So no wonder when you receive them home at the end of the day, after the super overstimulating day with tons of stress hormones, of course, there’s a giant amount of intensity. Voices are louder. And fights are bigger and there’s this constant craving for sugar and screens and anything that they can get their little hands on, it’s going to give them a quick fix dopamine hit to help them feel better because frankly, they’ve been feeling pretty crummy all day long.

[00:33:06] So quite often what happens with all the adults in these kids lives, like the parents and teachers, they end up kind of pointing their fingers at each other behind each other’s backs like, oh, there’s must be no discipline at home or, oh, this teacher, she has no patience and she’s picking on my kid and she, you know, whatever, so there’s a lot, there usually is a whole blame game that’s going on.

[00:33:29] But ultimately, what your kid is just wishing for is that the adults in his life would figure out a way to actually help him process through his big emotions in his body so he could just feel better. Because if he felt better, then he would behave better. 

[00:33:45] Okay, so let’s stop there for a minute. If he felt better, he would behave better. So I want you guys to know, the way he feels, every feeling comes from a thought. So if he’s feeling terrible, then he must be thinking thoughts that are causing him to feel badly. And the way we feel is the way we behave. So if he’s misbehaving, how do we expect him to behave differently, when we react towards him with an angry tone, and we focus on all that he’s doing wrong?

[00:34:26] That’s why what we focus on, we get more up. The more we’re focusing on that, the more he’s thinking how everybody hates him, everything he does is wrong, and those are his inner thoughts. That’s his inner thinking that becomes his belief system that causes him to constantly feel badly about himself and then continue to behave in ways that we wish he would stop behaving in.

[00:34:50] So this is why the cycle repeats day after day when we use that old school punishment model. Kids don’t change future behavior from punishment. They change future behavior when they are understood and empathized with. When kids feel heard, they become willing to hear you. When kids feel heard, they become willing to hear you.

[00:35:14] So back to my client, I knew there was something to figure out. So I said to her, let me do a home visit. and really just kind of spend some time assessing what the situation is. I want to just, I just want to see and see if I pick up on anything.

[00:35:31] So I did a home visit. I was there with her in the trenches for about an hour and a half. And let me just say her child was completely adorable. Yes, he was intense. Yes, he pushed boundaries. Yes, his volume level was way too loud. And, yes, he responded so amazingly to the positive communication that I was using with him, he instantly connected with me. It was like, it was so magical. It was so much fun being there in the trenches with him and kind of getting to model because look, I’m not in the thick of it day after day after day. So I can really be and objective observer and just model all the positive communication tools that I teach.

[00:36:16] So I started focusing on the behaviors that we wanted more of, like being helpful, how imaginative he was, how every time he cooperated in the littlest bit, I was constantly talking about how cooperative he was, how helpful he was. And when he was speaking in that really loud, elevated tone, I would just, you know, quietly look at him. Right in the eyes and kind of with my hands motioned downwards like quieter quieter. It’s a little too loud. Every time I did he totally cooperated.

[00:36:47] So one of the other things I picked up on was that he’s about two hours sleep deprived each night. Right? The room wasn’t really conducive for sleep. He shares a room with his younger sibling and, uh, the nighttime routine wasn’t super structured and scheduled. THere were no blackout shades or a fan or a noise machine. And what I’ve learned is that kids are much more susceptible to light. Like, you know, we’ve all heard like, oh, teach them to sleep through anything, and they’ll be able to sleep through everything. I just want you guys to know that’s rare.

[00:37:25] Kid s want to be awake. When they’re awake, that’s when the party happens. They do not wanna be asleep, so we literally have to force an environment to happen that is really conducive to sleep. Make that room dark, cold, and put some background noise in.

[00:37:44] And so he was getting about two hours less of sleep, less sleep at night than his body needed Now, it sounded like he was getting a lot of sleep. He was getting 10 hours a night, but I’m telling you, these sensitive nervous system kids, especially at six or seven years old, they need 12 hours of sleep a night.

[00:38:02] So two hours less a night than his body requires. Guess what happens when you walk around in that sleep deprived state as a little kid? The symptoms are very similar to ADHD symptoms. Uh, hello? Like, it was surprising to me that neither the diagnosticians or the teachers at school had ever investigated his sleep patterns.

[00:38:31] So he’s also addicted to TV and technology, so he was also displaying those addictive behaviors as well. I know a lot of us struggle with this, and I don’t fault the parents for this. I really think it’s so easy, you guys, for us to get into the tech addiction spiral when you have… any kid, but especially a strong willed kid because we’re all human and we just want some quiet and when they come home, when we started the day in all that chaos where there was no cooperation and they come home with those elev ated volume levels and it’s so much intensity and they’re fighting and with the siblings like technology can be an effective babysitter to give you a little peace and quiet in those moments and it helps you from losing your mind.

[00:39:19] And so the problem is, is that even though it works in those moments to keep you from losing your mind. It’s going to create a bigger problem later. It’s just a band aid during those moments, but it’s always going to make the challenges even worse in the long run. And so, it becomes a vicious cycle going on where your kid is categorized as a behavior problem and, uh, they’re presenting with all of these really unsavory behaviors, the adults in their life and the other kids in their life, usually, too, get pretty fed up with them.

[00:39:58] So for my client, I could tell he was a sensitive nervous system kid in like the 15 first 15 minutes of being around him. and really my main recommendation was let’s attack this sleep issue first and foremost, with a super tightened up bedtime routine and let’s get his body rested the way it needs to be rested, and then let’s assess what’s going on with him.

[00:40:20] And once we get him caught up on sleep, I really want to see how he behaves out in his life. Let’s see, because once he starts behaving in a way that is more enjoyable. it will, become a contagious domino effect where we’ll be able to improve the conversation, use more of the positive strategies, focus on the behaviors we want to see more of and help kind of shift some of the beliefs, some of the negative beliefs that he’s already created about himself that’s causing him to feel so badly, and just to start to understand him more and to help change what he’s already thinking and saying to himself about himself.

[00:41:05] So this is an example of why investigating and getting curious about a kid that’s presenting with some really difficult behaviors rather than just trying to shut it down and power over them. This is what happens when we really get curious about it and we can start attacking some of the practical things in their life like sleep, right? Sleep and nutrition and changing his inner dialogue and focusing on all the ways that he can be helpful and pulling him out of defense mode, right?

[00:41:44] So 

[00:41:45] kids learn by what we model, not by what we say. When we start speaking to them in a more respectful way, they in turn will start to repeat that respectful behavior back to us.

[00:41:59] So as we start to empathize with them. As we start to really, like he acts out and he’s frustrated and he says something colorful or he, you know, does something, you know, he spits at someone at school or whatever and we attack the problem by saying, “Hey bud, something was going on with you. It’s really important for me to understand that you’re important to me and I know there must have been something going on. Tell me what happened right before that happened. Tell me what was going on for you. Did somebody upset you? Did something happen? I really want to know.”

[00:42:36] And then when your child starts speaking, all you do to empathize is, you listen, you don’t try to fix, you don’t state the rules in that moment, you don’t teach anything. You just listen, you’re curious, you’re investigating, “mmm, okay, I see, oh, you were really fed up, mmm, that makes sense, okay, so, oh, then she said such and such and that made you feel like super angry. Um, I get it. Okay.” So we’re just going to be doing the active listening piece.

[00:43:11] When we empathize with them in this way, instead of lecturing to them, that’s how these sensitive nervous system kiddos will end up thriving. Because they’ll come out of a place of defensiveness. They’ll start to trust us, and then we can start stating some of those boundaries, and some of the more acceptable behaviors, and what to do when they’re frustrated, and how to take some deep breaths when they’re feeling out of their mind, and appropriate behaviors, that’s when we can actually teach them those skills that will help to alter their future behavior. But when we lecture in those heat, in the heat of the moment situations where we think we just need to shut it down, it always falls on deaf ears and they will never change their future behavior based on those conversations.

[00:44:05] So, empathize, empathize, empathize. When you empathize enough, your kids will start to trust you. They will stop being so defiant and defensive. And then that’s when the real teaching starts.

[00:44:20] So I hope I just helped to expand your brain to consider some other possibilities with your strong willed child, really with any child that’s showing up with these kind of unsavory behaviors. And really, where we can stop just misunderstanding them and doing a one size fits all diagnosis for these kids or what we think the solution is in all these situations. And really, as the adults, get curious about what’s going on with our kids, because kids do well, as Dr. Ross Green likes to say, kids do well if they can. So when kids are not doing well, there’s something more to figure out. 

[00:45:07] If you’re liking this podcast, I encourage you to go and subscribe. Leave me a review. Give me a star five star rating, because I truly believe that this new productive parenting conversation is a movement. And the more we can spread the word and have more and more families practicing these types of communication strategies in their home, the more our kids are going to be communicating differently in their life, in and outside of our home. This is how we change our family legacy. This is how we change the world.

[00:45:45] Thanks for being here with me guys. Bye bye. 

[00:45:47] Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips. Steps, 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 mastermindparenting.

[00:46:11] 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.

[00:46:22] Um, and as always, we’re on all the social channels under mastermind parenting on Instagram. It’s mastermind underscore parenting. Um, 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.

[00:46:52] And, um, I love, love, love getting to know you guys. So thanks for listening. If you like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super, super appreciative.

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Creating A Happier Household

by Randi Rubenstein