We’re coming into 2024 with a whole new perspective on the pack leadership our families need. We’re done performing robotic perfection. We’re rejecting the script, tips, and how-tos that reinforce our feelings of inadequacy. We’re giving ourselves the grace to feel our feelings, and granting ourselves permission to fuck up sometimes. We’re embracing self-awareness, and celebrating our messiness. We’re showing up as whole, healthy, emotionally expressive humans, and showing our kids that they can do it, too. Won’t you join us?
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How easily our kids see through us when we try to play the role of the perfect, patient parent.
- Why giving ourselves space to feel our feelings is so difficult and so, so important.
- The key way of thinking about breaking generational cycles and showing up for our kids in the way we wish we’d had growing up.
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
- Author and athlete David Goggins: https://davidgoggins.com/
- Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman: https://www.hubermanlab.com/
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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.
[00:00:10] Hello. Hello. It is 2024 and this is the first podcast episode that I’m recording for the new year. And I have been in Japan. My family went to Japan. So yeah, I’m just getting back into the swing of things. It is a big time difference to go to Japan. I will tell you, it is a very interesting culture.
[00:00:40] And while I was there, I was emailing with Michaeleen Doucleff my friend, the author of Hunt Gather Parent, which if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard the episodes with her. And if you haven’t, go back and check ’em out, ’cause they’re great conversations. And Michaeleen said, ooh, pay attention to how they parent there.
[00:01:02] And I was like, huh. I’ve noticed that it’s quieter here in general. It just felt like there’s so many people and yet it, you could sort of pick out the Americans because, um, they were the ones making the noise. It seemed really quiet. And so after Michaeleen pointed that out, I noticed, like three different situations.
[00:01:27] One I even took, okay, not going to lie. I took a little stalker video just because I wanted to be able to discuss it with her. But you know, she’s a journalist and that’s really where Hunt Gather Parent came from, is that she had been on location covering a different story for NPR and she started noticing, huh. Something’s different over here. What, why are there kids not having meltdowns like, like the American kids? There’s something, there’s another story here and it turned out it was a book.
[00:01:59] So I started to notice and it was so interesting, like I saw three different occasions of little kids who were crying, who were, you know, just having a lot of big feelings. And I’d see the parents in like a squat position, no matter where they were. Like one of them, the one I took the stalker vid of, was outside the airport. No, outside, not the airport, outside the train station. We were like going to this convenience store. Convenience stores in Japan are like awesome and you can buy real food there. Who knew?
[00:02:38] Anyway, I won’t go into the whole convenience store thing, but we were all kind of going to get snacks, uh, in the convenience store. And I see this little kid, probably about, I don’t know, somewhere between two and three. And he’s just having his big feelings and I see the dad and he’s squatting, like I saw on two other occasions. The other two times I think it was a mom.
[00:03:05] And he’s squatting and I see the little boy crying. And the dad’s just like squatting, totally on his level, and just like patting his back a little bit and then just like sitting there. And it didn’t seem like the dad was saying anything. He was just squatting, just kind of patting his back, letting him have his big feelings. It wasn’t super disruptive. It wasn’t a crazy meltdown. It was just like a crying two to three year old, which any of us who have raised kids know that there’s a lot of crying, there’s a lot of feelings in those early years.
[00:03:45] And, and it was funny because so I noticed it, I take my little stalker video, I ended up going in to the convenience store getting way too many snacks because of course we had to buy everything that we’ve never seen before. And I come out probably 15 minutes later. I’m telling you that dad was still squatting, and just like letting this kid go through it. And I’m like, hmm, so it seems like in Japan, they’re not scared of big feelings. And, and I didn’t see like, no matter what restaurant we were in or like, I never saw really loud, unruly, disruptive kids. It was just, I don’t know. It was just interesting.
[00:04:33] Anyway, I’m going to side bar that because that’s something that I want to talk about with Michaeleen, cause I have a feeling that she’s going to have a lot of information. I just have a feeling she’ll have some information on it.
[00:04:43] There’s a topic that is on my mind and I’ve just started working with, I’m running a few new groups. So getting to know some new families, new parents and. Well actually this has been coming up in several of my groups where the mom is really trying to figure out like how to follow through and have a consistent schedule.
[00:05:12] Where we start everyone is with sleep. And so cleaning up the sleep in the household and getting everybody, down and asleep, and then awake the next day, and then going down for a nap if they’re a little kid. Um, but cleaning up sleep, that’s where we start.
[00:05:32] And it’s hard when you haven’t had a lot of structure around sleep and it’s hard when you haven’t had a lot of consistency and it’s also hard when you’re super sleep deprived as I know many of you know. And so, you know, we’ve been holding her hand and kind of walking her through it. I’m thinking about this one particular mom. So bedtime has gotten much better and they, like her husband, he described it as a miracle. Like, he can’t believe how in such a short time their kid is just sleeping and bedtimes are not a big deal and it’s awesome.
[00:06:15] But naps are a different story. And so mom had really been trying to be consistent and she was just battling and battling and battling. And so we got into this conversation about control. And she said, you know, I’m just so worried that I’m trying to hyper, I get super controlling, like, you know, we’re going to do this thing, and I start to feel like I’m going to lose it. And I just get really worked up and she’s really beating herself up.
[00:06:51] And I’m like, what’s, what’s actually the problem here? And she’s like, well, I want to be that calm mom. I want to be that calm parent. I want to, like, I don’t want to get worked up. And I said, well, what are you actually in control over? And she was kind of like, I don’t know, this is kind of confusing me.
[00:07:18] And I said, well, the only thing you’re actually in control over is yourself. Right? Like, anytime you try to control another person, especially a little person who lives in all their big feelings, like the emotional part of their brain is the most developed part for a little kid. Like their thinking brain, their prefrontal cortex isn’t going to finish developing and be where you are, they’re not going to be on your level and see things the way you see things for two more decades plus, like 20 something years, because she’s dealing with a three year old.
[00:07:59] And I said, this is a little kid. And this is an, especially as we know,
[00:08:05] strong willed ones, highly sensitive kids, they are in their emotional brain so much of the time. I bet that dad in Japan, like he probably his, this little two, three year old, probably highly sensitive. This dad probably is like, he has big feelings a lot. And this is just what we do. We just let them work it out. And I just kind of like, wait it out, right?
[00:08:35] If I try to control them and swoop in, like, it’s probably just going to be the whole rest of the day of meltdown, after meltdown, after meltdown. How many of us have been there? So many of us, right? Where this dad’s just like letting them work it out, probably get out what he needs to get out. And then they probably went upon their day. Right, because he just knew to let his kid work it out.
[00:09:00] And so I, what I said to this mom was, what if when you’re battling an out time and you’re starting to get frustrated, what if you were just honest and you, rather than trying to control him, you just took care of you? And so then we, I kind of laid it out, like what that would actually look like.
[00:09:28] And I said, what that would actually look like is you noticing that you’re starting to get activated, right? You’re sick of over half an hour of this little boy who wasn’t following through on the plan they had in place, and he kept like getting out of his bed, horsing around, playing with things, you know, throwing things around his room, just like, you know, coming out, whatever.
[00:09:55] And so I said, you hear the shenanigans going on. You go in, you notice he’s not in his bed. And you say, it’s bed, it’s nap time. You’re in your bed, just like we discussed, there is no more talking, you’re laying your body down. And he continues with the shenanigans. And you stop. And you take a deep breath. Because that’s the only thing you can really do to calm your body down.
[00:10:26] And I know that’s an annoying thing to hear, but this is the interesting thing. And when you think about it like this, I think it, it helps to like, look at this tool that we have to calm our nervous systems down. Humans are the only animals that can manipulate our own nervous systems. So because we are evolved, we can start to notice when we’re starting to feel activated and we might want to lash out and then try and control people.
[00:10:59] But if you just started to practice this. Not just, this is hard when we’re not used to doing this. You noticed what you’re feeling in your body. Maybe you even notice an emotion that you’re feeling annoyed, frustrated, and you actually said it? I’m a really frustrated and annoyed right now. What if you just said that out loud? And then by some small miracle you remembered to do the sniff, sniff, slow breath. That’s what I call it.
[00:11:33] Andrew Huberman, I think calls it something else, but I learned it from him. He says this two breaths in, and then a pause at the top, and then a slower exhale is the breath that they have measured in his lab that directly gives you direct access to your vagus nerve. The nerve that runs all the way through your nervous system. He said, it is the best tool for helping your body to calm down as quickly as possible.
[00:12:09] So let’s just say you, you said, I’m really frustrated. I’m really annoyed. Honest, because you are feeling that way, correct? She’s like, correct. And in the middle of the room, you closed your eyes, right? Just to give yourself that moment, right? Nobody’s going to die. Everybody’s fine. Nobody needs to be attended to in that moment. And you closed your eyes and you said, I’m so frustrated right now. I’m so annoyed right now.
[00:12:39] That’s not saying to your kid, what is wrong with you? You’re so annoying. You’re not saying that. You’re saying I’m so annoyed, right? You’re speaking in I’s You’re not even talking about your kid
[00:12:55] And then you, by some small miracle were able to and you just took a sec. I mean how much time did that just take? And you reminded yourself, of course you’re annoyed. Of course you’re frustrated. It’s hard to get on this new regimen of sleep and naptimes and all the things.
[00:13:29] It’s hard to be a person who sets a boundary and then follows through on the boundary.
[00:13:36] It’s also hard not to channel all your bandwidth in trying to control someone else and just focusing it back on yourself and controlling yourself and, give yourself, right? You give yourself that time, that space, that breath, to allow your own body to calm down right there in the middle of everything.
[00:14:06] What if you just did that, right? What if you just channeled all of that controlling energy back to yourself? The only thing you actually can control.
[00:14:21] And she was like, that never occurred to me. And I said, isn’t it crazy that that doesn’t occur to us because chances are we didn’t learn to do that for ourselves when we were little kids in our emotional brains.
[00:14:42] So by giving that to yourself, do you know what you actually do? You model that for your kids. Like our kids are always watching us. And especially when they’re, you know,
[00:14:55] when they’re dysregulated, when there’s all kinds of monkey business going on, when they’re acting like they don’t care what we say, they’ve turned it into a game.
[00:15:05] It’s because they really can’t hear us, right? Their nervous system is like, and so when we take a moment and we model that, well, now our kid just learned, oh, my mom, or my dad, has big emotions too. My mom is not scared of her big emotions. She finds her calm down spot within. What the kid takes away, this is what sort of brought tears to this mom’s eyes. If my mom’s not scared of her big emotions then she won’t be scared of mine either.
[00:15:49] And it helps our kids to start to trust us more.
[00:15:55] That’s the tool to practice. That’s the gift you give yourself and you give your kids. Because unfortunately you weren’t given that gift when you were a tiny human who was also living in your emotional brain and probably going through lots of moments of big feelings. And unfortunately the adults in your life probably tried to control you or shut you down or in some way sent you a message that your big emotions weren’t okay, right? And so then you didn’t learn the skills to know how to navigate that, to know how to calm yourself down. This is a reparenting process, but this is also how you break a cycle and give your kids something different.
[00:16:51] And she said, at some point she said, I just don’t know how that’s okay to say, I’m so annoyed. I’m so frustrated. I just want to be that calm mom, who shows up in a calm way all the time. And I said, well, how? How can you be that calm mom if you aren’t calming yourself down, if you aren’t taking the time to calm yourself down?
[00:17:23] So it’s almost like if we’re like, oh, I really want to run a marathon. I mean, I’ve never run to the stop sign and back, but I’m gonna sign up for that marathon. I’m gonna do it. Oh, it’s next week? Yeah, I’ll just get out there and run. Like how likely are you to even make it to mile one, right? You’re not going to succeed in running that marathon.
[00:17:49] So how can we be those calm parents who isn’t sweating the small stuff, isn’t taking it personally? Knows when we have a little kid having a bunch of shenanigans because they’re not used to a regular structured nap time or bedtime routine or whatever it is, or homework routine or having the impulse control to get off the screen or whatever. If they haven’t learned the skills. If we haven’t taught ourself those same skills, of impulse control, of controlling our own bodies. If we haven’t modeled the behavior we seek, how on earth are they going to learn that? It’s like the definition of insanity.
[00:18:38] This is why generations just repeat cycles, even when we think we’re doing it so differently. Because that’s mom who just wants to be calm. She shows up with this real gung ho spirit day after day, you know, doing the camp, camp counselor mommy voice. Hey, bud, you gonna be all cozy wozy in your bed? Look, look. She’s trying to convince him. You’ve got all your blankies around. You’ve got all your stuffed animals. She’s saying everything in such a sing songy way. She’s really trying to convince him.
[00:19:16] And little kids are so literal. They’re like, oh, bedtime means the party’s over. Like, I don’t wanna be in here. I don’t wanna let my body calm down and go into sleep. Like I wanna play, I wanna go about my day. I don’t wanna do this, or I don’t want the day to end.
[00:19:40] And so camp counselor parent always turns into scary aggressive parent. ‘Cause eventually we are humans and eventually we will make all of the behavior mean that they think they’re the boss, they’re ignoring us, they never listen, they think it’s party time, they think they can just do whatever, they can just do whatever the hell they want.
[00:20:10] And so we get activated, right? It reminds our brains of all the times in our life that we felt ignored, dismissed, our voices weren’t heard, people just did whatever the heck they wanted to, regardless of what we wanted to happen. And it’s just never ending. It’s just never ending.
[00:20:36] And so you’ll be able to show up in pack leadership and do the things you said you were going to do and follow through on it and probably stay calmer. I think we also have to give ourselves a hall pass. When you’re tired, when somebody’s not listening to you, you’re probably going to get annoyed and frustrated, right? Like, isn’t that part of being a human being? We’re going to experience the whole range of emotions.
[00:21:09] Why all of a sudden when we become a parent, and especially when we have this desire to raise our kids in some way that maybe was a little bit different or a lot of bit different than the way we were raised, why all of a sudden do we think that we’re not allowed to be normal humans who have the full range of emotions, right?
[00:21:38] The allowing of that human experience for yourself, like come on. I mean, it’s just everything. It’s kind of actually crazy that we think, we have this idolized idea of the way a parent should behave, right? And it’s to me, it’s, it’s almost robotic.
[00:22:06] And I think, you know, I’m a little, I mean, for years, I have a lot of people asking me for the scripts and the tips and the tools. And I just, I feel like all the people who, like me included, probably. Like parenting professionals, I feel like are doing a disservice in some way because it’s now like, when you’re a parent and you’re a regular human being who’s going to have the full range of emotions, if you think that social media taught you that this is the way you say it and this is what you’re going to, if you don’t say it just in this way that, or handle a problematic situation just in this way, then you’re going to damage your kids. Right. That you’re going to damage your kids.
[00:23:01] And I think it’s so much freaking pressure. It’s too much. And I think this is why so many parents have so much shame. Because it’s like out in public, I’m this kind of parent, but behind closed doors where it matters the most, I know what I’m doing. I know how I’m reacting. And I know it looks very different. And you know that your kids know.
[00:23:34] So there’s this concept that I’ve been talking about with Michaeleen about this performative parenting. She’s seen it too. I feel like even the word parenting lately has been bugging me. There’s such this performative nature of how people think they should be doing it, instead of allowing themselves to be a whole messy human right, with a full range of emotions. And facing the truth, which is sometimes you get super annoyed. Sometimes you get frustrated.
[00:24:12] When you’re changing patterns in your household and trying to do it differently. It sucks at the beginning. I mean, it’s no different really than if you are that person who’s going to properly train for a marathon and you’ve never run to the stop sign. Like the first month of running, it is grueling. It is hard to learn something new. It is hard to do it differently.
[00:24:43] And I feel like there’s just so much bullshittery out there, you know, in terms of like, you’ve got to be so gentle. When you’re a parent, you use a certain kind of voice.
[00:24:57] Like our kids, they just want to be seen by us. They just want to allow, be allowed to have their whole range of human emotions without freaking us out. They don’t want to be controlled, but they also want to see us. They want to know us. They know when we’re using a phony baloney voice.
[00:25:20] That’s why quite often they just want more and more of your attention and they interrupt every conversation and they push and they push and they push. Because when you’ve finally had it and you’re like, enough, and you start to speak the way you actually speak when you’re annoyed, at least it’s unscripted. At least it’s authentic, right?
[00:25:47] So this whole, like, when you’re a parent, you put on your parenting hat. I just want to say, like, what if you start giving yourself permission to fuck it up? What if you start doing like what I coached that mom to do? When you’re feeling activated and you know, this train has left the station, I’m about to start yelling my head off I’m about to start grabbing arms or putting someone back in their bed a little more roughly than I care to admit. I’m about to do that. Whoa. I’m going to focus my bandwidth on controlling the only thing that I actually do have control over myself, my body.
[00:26:41] And it’s kind of awesome that human beings can manipulate our own breath to calm our bodies down. Tigers can’t do that. Lions can’t do it. Dogs can’t do it. Gazelles can’t do it, but we can do that.
[00:27:01] So what if I just started practicing that skill of doing that? No matter where I am, in a room, if I’m feeling super annoyed, super frustrated, and I close my eyes, and my kid looks at me, and I, And even maybe you put words to it, I’m just, calming my body down because I’m super, super annoyed right now.
[00:27:37] Now, if you have older kids, like teenagers, they might be like, why are you being so weird? It’s fine. It’s fine. Be weird, right? I’d much rather my kids say, you’re so weird when you take those deep breaths, than my kid have low self worth, and they can’t wait to get away from me. And they’re just lying and sneaking and, feeling like they’re on opposing teams from me because I acted like a lunatic, you know?
[00:28:12] And if you’ve acted like a lunatic, this is the other thing I want to say, forgive yourself, right? You’re a human being and you know what? You’re a good parent already. You know how I know? Because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t take the time to listen to things like this. So I know you’re reading all the things. I know you’re listening to all the things.
[00:28:36] I feel protective over y’all right now, in that I want you to be very aware of what parenting messages you’re allowing in. Because anyone that you’re listening to and you’re walking away thinking, well, I’m not doing it like that. I suck. I’m the worst. My kids are going to be super fucked up. If you are, if you’re walking away from my podcast episodes or, or the things I’m writing feeling worse about yourself, then stop listening to me.
[00:29:14] I want you to surround yourself with understanding and supportive messages. I want you to practice the skill of giving your body what you need, especially when you’re activated. Right? This is that whole self compassion message that sounds so elusive. This is self awareness. Noticing when your body is getting activated. And then taking a breath, taking a minute, giving that, giving, taking a moment to give yourself what you actually need.
[00:29:58] Like just even the noticing when you’re getting activated, that’s a ton of self awareness. You can pat yourself on the back for that. But this is the road to become a calmer parent, that lays your head down at night not beating yourself up for the arm grab or the yell or whatever it is.
[00:30:22] And you’re not going to be able to run the marathon just because you signed up without training. It takes practice. And what we know, especially with strong willed kids and highly sensitive kids, they give you a lot of opportunities to practice. They’re like your, they’re like your
[00:30:40] David Goggins personal trainer. Like, they’re going to kick your ass and give you tons of opportunities to practice this skill set.
[00:30:48] So if you practice this skill of calming your body down, controlling what you actually have the ability to control, which is yourself. If that was the only parenting tool or script or tip you ever took to heart and memorized and it really took root. Just that one thing will change your life and change the trajectory in your kid’s life because you’ll be giving them that same gift just by modeling it.
[00:31:29] So performative parenting is so 2023. 2024 is about real parenting. Is about being an actual human and bringing some self compassion to all the messy moments that we all have. You’re doing just fine. That’s what I have for you this week. Bye for now.
[00:31:57] 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 mastermindparenting.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.
[00:32:31] And, as always, we’re on all the social channels under mastermind parenting, on Instagram it’s mastermind_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.
[00:33:04] So thanks for listening. If you like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super super appreciative