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275: Pack Leadership: Real Families, Real Change

Emotionally immature parents set us up for lots of challenges in our own role as family pack leaders. One of the most difficult ways that shows up is when our actual kiddos act in ways that echo behavior we endured from emotionally immature grown-ups. This week I invite you to listen in on some coaching I did with two of my amazing Masterminders. They’re making huge strides recognizing the behavior that’s triggering their instinctive responses, and using their pack leadership skills to break the cycle of blame and disappointment.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why so much of what we think of as “bad” behavior comes down to our own unrealistic expectations for our kids.
  • How building your pack leadership can help you be more conscious of the skills your kids haven’t developed yet, and provide the guidance and certainty they need to learn them.
  • The ways your own upbringing influences those expectations, and how understanding the connection can help you lead with empathy rather than judgment.

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.


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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. How is everyone this week? I have a little treat for you this week. I do this sometimes where we are including an actual coaching clip of me interacting with some of my private Masterminders, as I call them. And I really thought this could be a great clip to let you guys listen to, that just sort of ties a lot of these concepts that I’ve been talking about together. Like emotionally immature parents and emotionally immature parenting, um, just to sort of see how I incorporate these terms into real life scenarios with parents who are probably dealing with things that many of you are dealing with. 

[00:01:07] Like 

[00:01:08] kids that you sort of walk on eggshells around a lot. These are the kids that seem to hijack your household. Maybe they act quite often like little dictators. We think it’s all about their strong will, but really, really, really, as I talk about in this clip, it’s more about them having lagging skills. They don’t have the skills and we make them not having the skills mean something that frankly it just doesn’t. And then it turns into a whole big thing and we accidentally intensify the situation rather than diffuse it. 

[00:01:55] So, these two situations, one of which was a little boy who, he does have some, some neurodiversity. Um, he’s in a mainstream school. He loves sports, plays a lot of, you know, different organized sports. He’s six, and he just seems like he has Um, really gone through a lot of, like the parents have just, they tried and they tried and they tried and, this is a Masterminder who actually, she was in my program and then she left for a bit and she had just gotten this diagnosis where she’s like, he definitely has some neurodiversity. I think we’ve figured it out. Um, I’ve learned a lot and I think I’m ready to graduate. And I was like, beautiful! Go! 

[00:02:52] Well, she came back a few minutes, a few months later, and it’s unbelievable to see just how much she really grew while she was gone. And I said, I think it was important for you to leave because even though you, cause she came back and she was like, oh, we’ve gotten into a lot of old bad habits and he’s having more meltdowns and I never should have left. And I said, actually, I think it was good that you left because I think what you were doing was you were sort of integrating all of this learning and then trying to do it on your own. And I think that that’s an important part when we’re changing patterns.

[00:03:33] And so now she’s come back in and she’s been taking part in my new pack leadership group and It’s just unbelievable to see how many dots she’s connecting, and also how now, after having been in my Mastermind before, now her partner is on board and she’s teaching him. So she’s like the pack leader in so many areas, like not only with her kids, but also with her husband.

[00:04:04] And what she realized is, is that quite often when her husband would step in to be a parent, he would be air quotes, doing it wrong, and not mastermindy, and so then she would just go back in and handle it. And then she found herself exhausted because she was like, I can’t ever get a break. 

[00:04:26] And so now what she’s doing is she’s communicating with him. They’re coming up with plans and systems and she’s not going in and just taking over. She’s sort of coaching him through different scenarios and it’s been really nice. And they’ve been, she’s like, we just went on our first vacation as a couple in six years. You know, she’s like, it’s so nice to have him by my side. And even though he doesn’t know what I know yet, he’s totally game and up for it, and I’m not just taking over and going into that over functioning mode and then feeling resentment. 

[00:05:06] So she explained, she was sort of sharing a win of how her son, you know, it was a school day and he started with his typical shenanigans getting dressed and was refusing to wear the appropriate clothing to school, wanted to put on these, like, holey dirty baseball pants. And he was starting to do like growling and getting physical, going after his little baby brother.

[00:05:38] And she sort of stopped herself and got down on his level. And what she realized is, is that she had washed a bunch of clothes, but she hadn’t, they were just like in piles in her room. And so she realized, she was like, he doesn’t have any other pants.

[00:05:53] And so she like got down on his level and explained, you know, she said like, you can’t find your pants. And she said he like stopped in his tracks and looked up at her and was like, yeah, I don’t have any other pants to wear. She’s like, I know where your pants are. Come with me. I’ll show you. I’ll help you. And she was like, and it was just done. It was unbelievable. It’s like something so simple and yet that could have just hijacked their whole morning. 

[00:06:25] And the other mom, she’s also in the pack leadership group, and we’ve been doing a lot of sort of, I call it pattern sleuthing. We’ve been really looking for her patterns and she’s like, I’ve done all the therapies. I know all my family of origin stuff, yada, yada, yada. But what she didn’t realize was that when her son was showing up in ways that felt very dictatory and just making big deals out of little deals all the time, that even though she knows what her family of origin stuff, she knows that her dad was, you know, he was a tough guy. 

[00:07:07] And he, you know, he acted like a toddler a lot of times and he would have a lot of temper tantrums and he didn’t really take them out on her, but he took them out on her mom and she was the kid who sort of witnessed this hijack of their household. Even though she wasn’t directly involved a lot, it was mostly, geared towards him being, you know, a jackass towards her mom, but kids take it all in.

[00:07:36] And so now when her son shows up in these ways where he’s kind of taking her for granted, he’s like, you carry all my stuff, you do this, you do that. And I like to teach, we come from a place of yes. She had been sort of coming from a place of, yes, like, she’s like, fine, I’ll carry your backpack. No big, no big. But really inside, she was seething. She was seething, because it was reminding her brain of that pattern, you know, that she witnessed as a, when she was a kid and that hijacking of the household. 

[00:08:10] And so she shared a success story of where she just didn’t take the bait. She disrupted a pattern. She handled the situation differently than she would’ve handled it in the past. And she noticed, like she was sort of like in that moment noticing, this is how I would have done it, and this is what I’m doing it now. And even though it’s not smooth sailing, at least I didn’t exacerbate the situation.

[00:08:37] So, I don’t know, I, I’m having a new way that I’m looking at what cycle breaking actually means. And the real cycle that we’re breaking is we are stepping into more pack leadership. Even if we didn’t necessarily have an emotionally mature parent, we are noticing our patterns and using skills in the moment to not continue that cycle, right? We’re breaking up with this performative parenting where we’re just trying to say everything just so. We’re breaking up with this cycle of emotionally immature parenting. 

[00:09:24] And I thought it would shed new light, maybe, on all these new concepts to hear me coaching real actual moms about their situation. So that’s what I’ve got for you this week. 

[00:09:40] Ah, these are great updates. Dorian, your update. I’m like, maybe I do need to create a job for you. You’re, seriously, you’re going to turn it around with this kid. That pack leadership was on fucking point and that is how we turn it or like, that is why. That’s how Lindsay turned it around with Daniel. 

[00:10:08] You know, I think Lindsay’s story with Daniel was really important and it’s, it was, she needed to be on the team because stories like these stories, that wasn’t my situation. Right. So, like, I had less empathy because I didn’t really understand it until Lindsay’s story became part of Mastermind. 

[00:10:38] Alec would never have, that was just not his way. Alec was a complainer, Alec was a whiner, Alec was a pick on a sister er. But never would Alec have gone to an aggressive place with me. Not that I can ever remember. He was his best self with me. In terms of, he would definitely, he wasn’t his best self. He would, he would verbally, he would be in a shitty mood, and just kind of angry and shut down, but you know, he never went to that place. It was mostly him taking out his stuff on his siblings.

[00:11:23] So you know, watching Lindsay’s journey with Daniel over the years, you know, I really, when every once in a while, you know, she’ll share, private stories and success stories with me. And, um, you know, don’t forget, like her story was, she literally had bites up and down her arms. Like he stick his fingers in her ears when she was trying to get an update from a teacher or a therapist. He was aggressive with her. 

[00:11:58] And so, like, it’s been very interesting to just sort of watch the progression because now Daniel’s in seventh grade. And she just got a note the other day from a teacher at school saying, like, basically, like, he’s just a good kid. Like, he, like, he, like, saw a look on this teacher’s face as she was at lunch, and he went over and checked to make sure everything was okay. Like he was concerned about her. 

[00:12:28] Not that he was in trouble. He just like has developed so much perspective taking, that he’s like taking in other human beings in his environment and goes up to this adult to check in with her, because he could tell that there was a look on her face that, like, maybe she needed a friend. She needed another human being to be concerned about her, you know? So she sends Lindsay a note, just basically saying, like, what a good kid you’re raising. And, that’s why I know that, like, the way you handle that Dorian, that is what is possible. 

[00:13:05] And that’s what handling moments like that, which what we know now, right, is there’s no way to handle moments like that. without doing what we’re doing here, without uncovering our own triggers, our own patterns, our own old hurts and bringing some awareness to it, you know?

[00:13:27] And then, Natalie, like your story, it’s so good because it’s like, this is what leaning into the messy middle looks like. I love you sharing that experience because you said a mantra to yourself in the moment. And you didn’t take the bait. And you reminded yourself and you reminded yourself and you reminded yourself and so that was a tool and and we use tools like that when we’re in the mess and messy middle. 

[00:13:56] Because it’s almost like, you know, it’s like you have an angel and a devil on your shoulders. And so the devil probably started to come in a bit too, or afterwards, like, it’s really annoying that he has to hijack the whole night. It’s really annoying that he then gets to set the mood, gets to set the mood in the house, right? So there’s the devil coming in and tell me where I’m wrong, but it probably represents how many times in your household growing up when y’all were walking on eggshells around your dad. And he got to set the mood for the whole family, you know?

[00:14:33] And so it’s like, this is not fair. Like there’s how many people in this family and now it’s all revolving around this, EIP, this emotionally immature parent. Who’s acting like a four year old so much of the time. The rest of us have to have our happy disrupted because of the toddler once again, and once again, and once again.

[00:14:59] So hearing that voice come in and then reminding yourself, wait a minute, wait a minute, he’s having a tantrum because he’s not getting what he wants. It’s hard. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad kid. Right. You know, he doesn’t know the skills yet to deal with disappointment. He doesn’t have the skills to not get what he wants when he wants it or to get a reaction from me. He doesn’t have the skills yet. 

[00:15:29] I think it does tie in to what he’s experiencing at school, what he’s doing at school, what the teacher’s seeing at school. This kid is not yet skillful, yet skillful at not running the show, and getting what he wants when he wants it. Or him being the one who determines what everyone’s doing. He’s the one who the spotlight’s on him, you know? And so he, he doesn’t have the skills yet. 

[00:16:07] Right now, the baby step it sounds like is you managing your own mind and not taking the bait and reminding yourself, this is not my dad. This is an actual child, you know, dad was in a grown up man body acting like a little child, but I have an actual child acting like a child who hasn’t yet developed the skills of not getting what he wants. 

[00:16:36] And so right now, the night might be blown, but at least it’s not going to be blown in the way that it was blown before, because you know, it’s almost like looking at a night like last night, this is how he develops the skill, by me not taking the bait, and making, taking it personally, and making this mean what I made it mean, maybe as a kid.

[00:17:02] You know, and so you’re shifting into that, you know, all the self reflection? Like, this is the thing, emotionally mature parents, this is what that author said, like they self reflect, they connect the dots, right? They understand where they’re making it mean something about them when it actually just doesn’t.

[00:17:28] If you look at Dorian’s example, old Dorian would have made it mean something about her. But, new and improved Dorian, pack leader Dorian, got down on her kid’s level. Saw his perspective. You know, it was problem solving in the moment. It was connecting the dots in the moment. And then said, you couldn’t find your pants. You know, it’s like she nailed it and her kid was like, yeah, I couldn’t find my pants. And she’s like, I know where they are. Come with me, I’ll help you find your pants. Done.

[00:18:04] Whereas before it might have been like, he always does this, he’s such a brat, nothing’s ever easy with him, why does he have to control every situation? He thinks he’s the boss of me, whatever it was, you know, whatever that old soundtrack. You know? My needs come last, you know, his way or the highway. Because Dorian’s been doing this pattern sleuthing. It’s like her mom. It was like, her mom’s way or the highway case closed. Oh, you’re upset kid. Go back to your room. I don’t want to hear it. Right?

[00:18:43] So we have these old soundtracks. And so 

[00:18:45] as we move into this place of emotional maturity, and we’re breaking the cycle of emotionally immature parenting. Really, that’s the main cycle we’re breaking. And these highly sensitive kids are inviting us to train and to learn new skills to break that cycle, to be the emotionally mature grownups that we didn’t have, right? Rather than passing this shit onto our kids.

[00:19:16] That’s the thing that emotionally mature people do. We self-reflect, we connect the dots, we learn how to QTIP, quit taking it personally, we see our kids perspectives, we see them as actually kids,

[00:19:34] rather than being in our kid brain, who weirdly is making their behavior, their behavior reminds us of the ridiculous behavior and confusing behavior of our adults, when we were kids, that were acting like children, which is super confusing and hard to make sense of. 

[00:19:58] So there’s a lot going on here. There’s a lot going on here. And I’m pausing for applause for both of you.

[00:20:08] Natalie, I’m pausing for applause for you because I know you’re, there’s been a pattern of you avoiding the messy middle. This is the messy middle and you did it. And I’m glad last night was a shit show because the only way we get better at anything is practicing, and Adrian’s giving you lots of opportunities to practice.

[00:20:30] So you practicing this at home and him becoming more skillful at him, not getting what he wants when he wants it. And then it being reinforced at school. He’s not getting what he wants when he wants it, and he’s having hopefully teachers that understand how to be pack leaders and not letting him hijack the class, and he is hopefully experiencing consequences at school when he doesn’t get with the program to reinforce these lessons, and you’re kind of like, they can be the heavy there at school. There’s certain behavior that is not going to be tolerated because it’s going to get in the way of other children learning, and they will, they will do that at school. It’s beautiful. 

[00:21:12] So, um, yeah, he’s going to be getting hit at home and school with these things. So hopefully he’s going to become more skillful at not getting what he wants the minute he wants it and not hijacking and, and acting like a dictator.

[00:21:29] Right? but he doesn’t have those skills yet. 

[00:21:31] 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 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.

[00:22:06] 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. 

[00:22:39] 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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