Hannah and Kelty are twins, coaches and speakers behind the parenting movement Upbringing. They are certified in Simplicity Parenting and Positive Discipline and they empower parents in over a hundred countries to show up and grow up alongside their kids when it comes to daily discipline. I can’t wait for you to hear this episode. Let’s dive in!
In This Episode Allie, Brian, Hannah and Kelty discuss:
Allie’s and Brian’s backgrounds
The problem with “Traditional” discipline
Disciplining strong-willed children
Mentioned in this Episode:
Courses (Use the code PURPOSESHOW for 10% off!)
Mom life. We’re surrounded by the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. We’re supposed to get through it. Survive. Cling on by the last little thread. And at the same time, Carpe Diem—enjoy every moment because it’s going to go by so fast. The typical mom culture that sends us all kinds of mixed, typically negative messages. We shouldn’t take care of ourselves; it’s selfish. The more ragged you run yourself, the bigger your badge of honor. But also, ditch your mom bod and work out. Don’t yell. Make more money. Show up. Be better, but not at the expense of time with your kids. I am putting a hard stop to all of this. While being a mom, running a business, and whatever else you might have going on is hard, it is a lot and there’s lots of giving of yourself, the idea that motherhood means living a joyless, nonstop-hustle-with-zero-balance kind of life, where you give and give and give and never take, needs to stop.
I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime (at least most days). Stop the mom guilt and shame game. Stop cleaning up after your kids’ childhood and start being present for it. I want to help you thrive in work, home and life. I believe in John 10:10 that we are called to living an abundant life and I know moms are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, some business and life hacks, spirituality and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Hello friends! Welcome back to The Purpose Show podcast. Today I’m so excited to finally be able to share this conversation with you all!
I have Hannah and Kelty of Upbringing with me and I also pulled Brian into this conversation. I was talking with him about what this conversation is going to look like and how excited I am and he really wanted to be a part of it.
I thought that would be a great idea so that we can have perspectives of both mom and dad, because this is a parenting conversation. This should make a great episode if you want to share it with your partner and have him listen, because Brian is a part of this too.
Hannah and Kelty are twins. They are coaches and speakers and they’re certified in Simplicity Parenting and Positive Discipline.
Guys, these ladies are incredible. They’re some of my favorites to follow on Instagram.
Their work is really, really powerful. It really gets to the heart of parenting and helps you get to the heart of your kids.
Hannah and Kelty empower parents in over a hundred countries to show up and grow up alongside their kids when it comes to daily discipline. Their research-informed work calls parents in and gives them permission to align their values with their discipline practices in the name of sanity and social change.
Brian and I are super open and honest in this conversation about our own parenting, our backgrounds, and the pain that we’ve both worked through in ourselves as it relates to parenting. I’m hoping that this will really help you all connect, feel seen, understood, and “know better, do better” in your own parenting. So, please enjoy!
ALLIE: Hi ladies! Thank you for being here with us.
I want to jump right in and start with discipline in general. Brian and I were both raised in the traditional discipline style. Brian, you have stories. Give an example of discipline when you were growing up.
BRIAN: Well, it’s also religious upbringing as well. My parents did a lot of spanking.
I remember my dad would save those paddle ball game things where the string is attached to the ball. Those would break all the time, but he would save them, put them on top of the refrigerator and use them when he needed to use them.
ALLIE: Yeah. The wooden spoon, the belt. This is where we come from.
We became parents when we were so young. We had Bella when we were 21, so we were super young.
I had a good relationship with my family. I guess I just didn’t know. This is all I knew. This is how you parent. I’m sure you two have seen this, too.
There are jokes about spanking, and there are memes like, “Remember when your parents would beat the crap out of you and then everyone would have dinner and it was fine?”
BRIAN: There is also a forceful, fearful based position because they are this authoritative person and I can’t say anything. I can’t do anything. They’re always right even when they’re yelling or coming from anger and frustration. And you have to listen and do whatever no matter what or you’re going to get spanked.
ALLIE: Controlling through fear. It’s just the way that it was.
When we became parents this was also kind of the standard way that you raised kids. Well, I don’t want to speak for everyone because people have different backgrounds. But in our experiences this has been the way of the church. This is the way that you raise children.
That’s where we were at that point of our lives. That’s what we started with and I’m telling you, I struggled. I would feel like I was going to throw up after disciplining the kids. They were so little.
We listened to that internal dialogue that we were having with ourselves pretty quickly, pretty early on and the kids don’t actually remember being spanked, which is awesome. But we started with that.
We felt like, We have this set of tools for raising kids. This is how we were raised and we’re fine. My relationship with my parents is great and this is just what you do.
And moving away from that, we very much felt lost. We felt judged by the people in our circle for removing ourselves from this style of discipline and moving towards communication and mutual respect. I actually got made fun of quite a bit for that.
I really want to hear from you about this type of discipline. What is it doing? What is it communicating? What does it teach our kids when we spank? I want to let you both speak into this after knowing our backgrounds.
HANNAH: First of all, thank you both for sharing that experience. I think that the way we go about parenting, and discipline especially, with these norms of using control, hierarchy, and fear is something that is very pervasive.
But I think when it comes down to the details and the personal experiences, they’re very hidden. Everyone is in their own homes experiencing these things as a parent or as a child, or reliving them as a parent, and it’s not really out there.
We really appreciate the honesty and the vulnerability that you both are bringing to opening up this discussion. I think that’s going to speak to a lot of folks.
Where do we even begin on a topic like this? This is such a large and really critical topic to be thinking and talking about. Kelty and I always say, “Okay, we’re talking about discipline, but it’s going to be fun. It’s okay. Everyone needs to chill out. It’s going to be alright.”
I think that it is so ripe with shame, blame, and with trauma, so we always tiptoe into these discussions with open arms, with warmth, nothing but love, nothing but understanding, opening up this topic.
But I think you guys nailed it on the head by saying, “We know what we experienced, what we practice now in our families, the most automatic thoughts, feelings and behaviors that we bring to the table as parents were really informed, primarily from the way we were raised ourselves and with the culture that we grew up in.”
So it makes a lot of sense that you two would start a family and automatically go to those methods of discipline, because that’s what you experienced.
But something you touched on that I think is so important—and I think that everyone can pinpoint this experience themselves—is that dissonance, that feeling when you are doing something that is instinctual, but it’s not based on your intuition. It’s not hitting your deeper spirit and honoring that.
Oftentimes, like you said Allie, it feels like you’re going to throw up. Oftentimes, people feel really tight in their chest and it doesn’t feel good. Other people feel like their head is going to explode.
We all have these somatic signs that tell us, “Wow, what I’m doing right now, what I’m experiencing right now in this struggle with my child doesn’t feel right. And it’s not that what they’re doing doesn’t feel right because I believe it’s wrong. It’s what I’m also bringing to the table in this interaction—choosing a timeout, spanking, doing consequences, or telling them they can’t say certain things—the actual relationship that I’m cultivating right now with my kid doesn’t feel right.
And I think that for parents who do feel right when they use that kind of discipline with their kids—okay. Every family is different. Everyone needs to do what feels right to them.
But what you guys pinpointed was that it didn’t feel right to you. Usually where it feels the worst is where the most growth, change, and opportunity can happen. And that sounds like that’s the path that led you to examine your past, examine your beliefs about institutions, control, and hierarchies of family, in the church, in schools, or any of those other places.
We just want to say, “Bravo!” Everyone should get a pat on the back for noticing that they feel uncomfortable when they’re disciplining their kids.
ALLIE: For me, that way of discipline is like I’m outside of discipline in all the other interactions that I’m having with my children, specifically the one that is super, super strong-willed.
I was working so hard to have open communication. Working so hard to make my children feel seen, loved, and valued. And then when they would do something wrong, it felt like I was cutting that off.
Like there was a cord between us and I just severed it by saying, “Oh, you did something that displeased me. I’m going to hit you now.” It felt so gross and off.
But then Brian and I had these conversations together and we were like, “Okay, I think we’re gonna move away from this. I’m so thankful that we figured this out when they’re toddlers.”
We felt like the platform we were standing on was pulled out from under us. What now?
We were talking about that this morning. If it’s not spanking then it’s still fear, but it usually comes through threats like, “I’m going to take something away…If you don’t, then…”
I would love for you to speak to the fact there’s a habit that’s formed by traditional discipline. Yes, you stop hitting, but you’re doing the same mind games. You’re just doing it in a different way.
HANNAH: Those are perfect examples. They paint the picture for us all.
I think what you were saying when you said, “severed that cord,” that cord is a connection. That cord is an attachment with our child. It is very normal and natural that you would do that. We’ve all done it.
That is our go-to response when someone, in this case our kids, does something we don’t want. When we have expectations that aren’t being met. When we feel they’re letting us down.
When they’re not conforming or being obedient, we use our connection, our love, our attachment to motivate them. To essentially manipulate them. That is what we were taught.
The amazing thing about parenting is that it opened up this whole idea where now we look at all these other institutions in a different way. Because we’ve changed the institution of parenting in our homes and in so many other homes, we realized that the way to influence, to motivate, to teach, is not through control. It’s not through removing connection, which is essentially control.
But rather, it’s through giving more connection. And that goes against everything all of us have learned because we’ve all been taught that if you’re in a position of power you need to exert that power and that authority over the people beneath you.
This happens in businesses. This happens in church. This happens at schools. And it happens in parenting.
That’s how you motivate other people, right? You show them that you have power over them. You take something away. You offer to give an incentive. You isolate them. You shame them.
All of this is so natural. But more and more research is finally coming out—It’s not just Dr. Sears saying, “Well, I think this…”—There’s much research telling us that that’s not how kids learn.
When we punish and control kids they’re not actually learning what we think they are. We think what they’re learning is, “Don’t touch that plant or you can’t sneak screen time.” But what we’re teaching them is power, how to control another person, or we’re normalizing how to be controlled as they grow up.
And meanwhile, they’re not feeling so good about themselves. Meanwhile, they’re not feeling so good about us. All of these intentions we have are not coming through to our child because the way that we’re teaching them is what they’re learning.
We can’t teach them respect by yelling, right? We can’t teach them innovation by giving consequences and deciding what happens to them when they do certain things. We can’t teach collaboration by giving them a time out.
It seems in our minds that that’s how you teach, but that’s not actually how kids learn.
KELTY: It’s understandable, Allie, that we can naturally ask, “Well, what do I do then? You’re taking away basically my whole toolbox. I feel like I’m standing here naked against these crazy kids with big feelings, challenging behaviors, and needs that are terrifying me and triggering me to my core. What do I do?”
That’s been such a huge part of our work. All the training we’ve taken, all the research we’ve done and read is about basically turning everything that makes us want to shame, blame, spank, give consequences, and isolate into a conversation between two people with this situation of what we call “loving limits.”
We keep that connection, that core that you were talking about strong and we talk about our boundaries. We talk about limitations. We do it in a warm, loving way that keeps our kids’ brains in a safe place where they can learn. A safe, psychological space where they don’t feel that lack of connection or that risk to their belonging or worthiness.
It’s so hard to play in that gray area of, “oh my gosh. If I don’t have these tools that are so black and white, easy to grab onto and click into right away in this role, I’m going to be swimming in the dark here.”
That is a scary place to be. But it’s also an incredibly inspiring place to grow from.
ALLIE: There is this belief that has been brought up to me in relationships, friendships, and conversations going against the fact that you would move away from that old way of discipline.
There’s this idea that when you’re having communication with your children and you’re talking to them, treating them with respect, and having those conversations instead of saying, “I’m going to send you away from me because you’re being this way that I don’t like.” Or, “I’m going to spank you because you’re doing what I don’t like,” that they’re going to walk all over you.
The belief is that they’re going to be so disrespectful because you’re not being authoritative enough.
KELTY: Oh my gosh, that’s a hot question that we get all the time. The two sides of the pendulum. Am I being too permissive? Or am I being too controlling or authoritarian?
People often will just choose one of those and say, “I’m a laid back mom. I let my kids do what they need to do.”
Often that’s from an attachment or upbringing that this person had that was either very controlling so they’re letting it all go, or they came from that same environment and that’s just how they roll.
Or people are more authoritarian and they say, “This is how I learned. Things need to be on my terms. I need to control everything.”
That’s how they were raised or that wasn’t how they were raised and they seek that sense of control.
Or a lot of people, and we are a perfect example of this, basically ping pong between the two. They say, “I’m going to try to be loving and respectful” and then, “Oh my gosh, they’re walking all over me. Now I’m going to dive into control mode and get everything done that I need to get done and tell them what they need to be doing.”
HANNAH: But that’s not how kids learn best. I think that there is this little nagging belief in the back of all of our minds that if I seek to respect my child and bring them in collaboratively to these struggles so that they can learn better, so that they’ll come to Thanksgiving when they’re grown up, how am I going to do that? It’s going to look so permissive. What do I actually do?
I think that we have to remember that neither of those extremes is actually good for a kid. Kids don’t do well with being able to walk all over you. And they don’t do well with you walking all over them.
That’s the middle road and the gray area where we’re having to use skills that weren’t used on us and that we barely know how to use. That’s the work that we’re talking about. And there is a way.
We call it “the middle way,” but a lot of other folks call it a lot of other things.
KELTY: Our RESIST approach is a perfect example of that. It’s basically a six step model that we use very loosely as a framework for a conversation when we’re like, “I’m about to scream. I’m about to send them to their room. I want to spank them. I want to shame them for who they are and what they’re doing right now.”
Instead we click into the RESIST approach, which helps us see the situation through.
HANNAH: It’s basically where we’re resisting control.
R stands for Respect, so we’re respecting. We see them as their unique individual, their own person, it’s the lens we use.
E is for Empathize. We empathize. We honor. What are they experiencing?
We want to connect with them. We can’t learn, we can’t grow if people’s emotions are really heightened. We’ve got to calm the situation. We have to use our attachment.
Then S is for Sync. We sync up. After we’ve understood their stuff, we mention our situation.
This can happen in two seconds. This is not a long process. This isn’t like a checklist. This is a fluid conversation.
And then we Innovate. Okay, we’ve got a situation. We see a democratic way that even though we’re in charge, we are not controlling another person. So we’ve got to innovate. We got to find a way to meet both our needs.
We need to get dinner on the table, but they want us to do this other thing. They get really upset with their sibling, but we don’t hit siblings in this house, so what are we going to do here when emotions run high?
We’re building these skills so that when they go through those struggles, they know, “Hey, no judgment. What’s going on with me. What’s going on with this other person? What can we do to get these needs met?”
And then we Summarize after we’ve innovated and say, “Okay, so what have we figured out? What are we learning? Where are we still struggling?”
Maybe we lovingly follow through and set some limits at that point. That’s what we usually do first.
And then we Trust at the end of it and say, “Oh my gosh, this is the work of parenting a different way, of parenting a new generation.”
ALLIE: Do you know what sucks about this? Your projection onto your kids for what they’re doing is so much easier than doing this work and putting it inside on yourself as the parent, as the leader.
It makes you have to take a deep breath, calm down, and not escalate, even though the noise is super annoying and it’s ruining what you were going to do with your day or your moment. It puts it on you.
I’m listening to you say this and realizing this is so good. This is the goal. This is like what Brian and I talk about. This is what we’re aiming for.
It’s so much easier to just be the projector and say, “I can’t believe you did that. Go upstairs right now.”
That is so much easier than saying, “Let me pause and text this person that I’m meeting with that I’m going to be a couple minutes late and deal with this.”
And that is the struggle. It’s not the easier way. It’s not passive and permissive. It’s so hard because you have to second-by-second actually be doing the inner work.
HANNAH: Yeah. And I think you said the word, “goal.” Setting a goal. I think that it’s so easy for us to just sleepwalk through life as parents and be like, “Do this, don’t do this. Get upstairs. Get off her. Do that.” and basically react to the world around us instead of presently responding.
The questions we often ask ourselves and ask our coaching folks are: What type of parent do you want to be? What is your goal for your role? Who do you want to be to this little person?
How do you want to be moving through the world? What do you want to be seen as?
Do you want to be seen as someone to respect because they’re scared of you? Or do you want to be seen as someone that inspires them? That is leading them? That they want to follow because you’re so magnetic, you’re so magical, and you seem to know everything, but you still care about them and what they need too?
KELTY: I think having that goal in mind of the parent we want to be the and the child we want to raise is really important. But like you said, Allie, it’s hard. It is a lot of work. I think it can feel like a thankless kind of devotion that we are giving to our kids.
But we have to remember and this is what we remind folks all the time, especially those who are just starting out on this journey, that it’s an investment that pays off. If we take a little bit of time to build these skills ourselves and bring our kids in to learn these skills, not only will we have a better relationship with them over time, but they’re also going to be using those skills with us and with other people sooner and they will be putting us out of a job essentially.
If we teach our kids control, then they’re always expecting to be controlled. Eventually they’ll put control back on us. We don’t want to be controlled.
But if we’re using respect and building all of these skills soon they’re going to be doing it with their siblings, they’re going to be figuring things out with their friends, they’re going to be empathizing, setting boundaries, listening, and doing all of this with other people.
I always liken it to a marriage. Would we talk to our partners the way we treat our kids? No. We want to be building a marriage where we think about how our relationship is going.
Have we had time? Have we done these things? What kind of people do we want to be when we’re in our eighties? A cute older couple?
Let’s think that same way and invest that same way in our relationship with our kids.
BRIAN: That’s so good.
From time to time I still struggle with being forceful, with saying, “Oh, you need to do this.” Or in the moment of a stressful situation saying, “Stop doing that. You have to do this right now.”
Every time I do that, after and sometimes even during, I feel that breakdown of the bond or the relationship between us. I’ve been working on building that up and getting closer with them and then I do that and it brings it back and takes that away again.
ALLIE: Force is so much easier.
BRIAN: Especially in those moments when things are really stressful or if I’m by myself with all of them.
KELTY: The fact that you have awareness, Brian, is so amazing. The first step is self-awareness. That’s the goal we’re trying to help our kids understand because the only way to really manage impulses, treat people well, and get your needs met is if you’re aware of what’s going on inside.
We want to be teaching our kids how to build their self-awareness over time, but we can’t do that and show that if we are struggling ourselves and we’re not aware of what we’re doing, why, and what the impact is on our kids.
You’re really thinking about that and noticing, “Ugh, I feel a little disconnect now,” or, “Ugh, I run impatient,” or, “Ugh, I could have maybe thought about that a little bit more.”
HANNAH: I also want to say that there are no steps back in that awareness process. It’s like a river is one direction and you’re just going to keep going that way. It’s not one step ahead, three steps back. It’s not like a flight of stairs; it’s like a river.
Another thing we talk about is the power of the circle back. It’s in our trust step at the very end of our RESIST approach. Those moments when we are triggered or we are impatient or we just lose it on them, that’s okay because I have the ability to circle back and connect outside the moment, outside the heat, outside our dysregulated brains and say, “I’m sorry.”
A lot of people aren’t used to saying that to their kids. It gets easier with practice and it feels amazing connecting human-to-human and building that trust with our kids. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m sorry.”
There’s nothing wrong with saying, “You know the other day when you were trying to go outside and I was stopping you or I spanked you or I yelled at you to go play with your brother again? That didn’t go the way I wanted. What I really wanted to say was this, or here’s where I was coming from with that.”
Saying the words, “I’m sorry” take a lot of vulnerability and a lot of practice and a lot of effort.
KELTY: It goes against all of our cultural programming. When you’re in power and you have power, you use power over other people. But when we really think about it, the times we use power in our parenting over our kids is when we feel powerless.
I think realizing and starting to turn that around, the impact which is really building momentum and realizing, “Actually when I’m most powerful is when I have self-control, when I’m not exerting control over another human being and teaching them that.”
ALLIE: I have a specific question before we move on. I was talking with a friend this morning and she was sharing a situation with me, and I was like, “I’m going to ask them about that because I think that this is a little kid, a toddler issue that comes up a lot.”
I’ve had this when the kids were little. You’re trying to run an errand at Costco, you’re trying to get something done, and the kid is losing it, not wanting to go, not wanting to be there, not wanting to do what you’re doing, wanting to leave.
You’re out in public, you’re trying to get something done. How does this RESIST approach, this type of parenting work when there is a flurry happening?
You’re out in public. People are looking. You’re trying to get something. You’re wearing a baby. You’ve got another toddler in the cart and this one that’s walking with you is just losing it.
What practical things can we give the mom who is in these shoes where it is just so chaotic. You get into survival mode and it’s like, I must finish this shopping trip and get out of here. You’re panicked because the kid is being the worst.
HANNAH: I think that’s why Kelty orders from Costco, because she’s been so traumatized.
KELTY: That’s the one good thing about the pandemic. I never have to take my kids to stores anymore.
HANNAH: I think you experienced that trauma. And with Kelty having had sensitive kids, I did her shopping for her probably the first three or four years. Or her husband did it because it was just so much to take little people.
I think that’s the lens that we need to apply here. Not thinking based on socialization or that external gaze of society. Not wondering what people think but saying, “I need to think and honor not just my needs but this other little person’s needs and think about what their experience is and get really real on that.”
That’s the respect step of the resist approach.
KELTY: That’s the first thing we maybe need to ask ourselves. Does this trip need to happen? I think back to the last time and it was an absolute nightmare. Do I want to relive this again? Are they ready?
Am I meeting my kids where they are? Are they fed? Do they seem bought into this adventure? Have they gotten their wiggles out so that they’ll sit in the cart? Remembering what a toddler can developmentally do.
I remember reading a study recently from ZERO TO THREE Foundation. They asked thousands of parents, “When do you think a child can manage their impulses? Not touching the cakes at Costco or not running off and zipping off in another aisle?”
I think it was 67% or something said by age three a child should be able to manage impulses completely. And I was like, “My husband can’t not touch the cakes at Costco.”
Another large percentage thought by age two kids should be able to manage their impulses. And so I think that’s part of our Respect—saying, “Let’s get real about child development. That’s not actually true.”
A lot of people don’t realize that kids’ brains are under development until they’re about 21. Impulse control is still an issue for adults. That prefrontal cortex is where all of their decision-making is going on, all of their learning, all their growing, all those things, and it’s under construction. It literally doesn’t exist in their head.
Our expectations are so out of line for what our kids can be doing. “Well, the one time we went on the trip and they did it so now my expectations are set in stone that they should be able to do it every time.”
I think that while it’s very disappointing hearing that my expectations are bogus and I should be looking at my kid to set my expectations, it’s also incredibly liberating because then our kids aren’t constantly disappointing us. They’re just being human, and that’s okay too.
And we talk so often about personal lenses. I have a personal lens—my expectations, my life, right? It’s the Kelty show.
And sometimes I forget that there are other people on stage with me with their own personal lenses. I’m not the writer and the director of this play controlling all the actors. This is actually an improv situation.
We’re on stage together, doing our thing, trying to catch the balls in the air, keep the conversation going, and make people chuckle a little if we can. That’s actually what this situation is. I think it’s definitely a big lens issue.
HANNAH: Your friend might be like, “Okay, I understand my two year old can’t or doesn’t want to (we always say it’s not won’t; it’s can’t), so what am I going to do about it?”
Part of the RESIST approach that we talked about is setting everyone up for success. Making sure they got the wiggles out, bringing them in collaboratively, having a little list of things to be looking for or to find, or bringing in the snacks. We all know what works for our kids. There’s no one size fits all approach.
And then, at a certain point, realizing I couldn’t have prepared any more for this. They’re showing me that they’re struggling to be on this shopping trip with me. And I think oftentimes we think they’re ruining my shopping trip, they’re messing with me, and we take it very personally.
But it’s just that they’re struggling. They’re struggling based on the little skills they have with their little brains to meet our expectations adaptively because they are still little.
That’s when I would usually pull the plug if I can’t run that RESIST approach and empathize with them and connect. They’re needing connection if they’re struggling to calm down. Maybe that works a little.
And then we innovate. What can we do? Can I use the shopping cart like a car? Can I key into this child a little more and get a little more approachable for them.
If it’s not working and they’re still throwing a bunch of bowls, or they’re grabbing a bunch of samples without asking or whatever it is, we summarize and we say, “Oh, you’re struggling here still. We’ve got two more minutes,” or “I’m going to pick you up,” or “We’re going to go over and I’m going to move you away from everybody. Let’s go to the paper towel aisle. There’s room in this large place. Let’s calm down. Let’s eat a snack, dive into that bag of chips a little early, and calm down and try this again.”
But again, it’s this ongoing conversation and realization that we brought them along so we have the responsibility to move through it with them in a respectful way if we can, and that punishing them and responding negatively is creating a really negative association around Costco and probably making the situation worse.
That’s the worst. I realized, “Oh my gosh, I’m actually making it worse right now and not better.”
And that’s okay too. We’ve got to give ourselves grace for those moments when we see it for what it is and we realize that we’re adding heat, adding negative energy, and making the stress in their little bodies and brains go up.
Like we mentioned earlier about the circle back, those are moments if we’re going to circle back later. We can also in the moment use a little humor to be like, “Wow I feel like we’re at the circus, not Costco. What’s going on everyone? Can we all sing a song to move us out of here?”
Those are the moments that I really do laugh, when it’s that absurd and I feel like I’m on a TV show or something. That’s when I can actually get a little perspective and laugh. I’m not in coping mode anymore. I’m floating above my body being like this is absolutely crazy.
And remembering too, we’ve all seen people at Costco. I’m always very nosy about what’s going on with people and their kids at Costco.
But the people who really have true power and influence are not the ones losing it with their kids. They’re the ones who look calm and competent. Like they’re running a business. Like they’ve seen this before and they are in control.
They don’t have to control a child. They’re already in control. So they’re moving the cart somewhere sideways. They’re nodding their heads. They’re looking calm. “Okay. Okay. You wanted four samples. Okay. All right. Oh, I can’t let you grab another one. I’m going to stop your hand there.”
That is what being in control looks like.
KELTY: And I think we also have to think, because of that external pressure, anyone who is looking at us has either been through this before and has love, admiration, and empathy for the situation, or they have no clue what I’m going through and I don’t care what they think.
If they can’t connect to my experience, who cares about them. Because I have two sensitive, spirited kids, it didn’t take me very long to get to that place to survive because focusing on my kids was more important than worrying about how everything looked to perfect strangers.
ALLIE: That’s so good.
This is the perfect segway into specifically speaking to the strong-willed child because this happens all the time. If you have a strong-willed child, it literally feels like you’re getting pushback from the child moment by moment, all the time when you’re parenting a certain way.
I think that there’s a reason that this type of kid has been the topic of so many parenting books and discussions between moms at the park for decades.
If we can shift gears into women and men who are raising these kinds of children, tell us what it looks like to have a strong-willed child. What are their qualities? What makes them strong- willed?
KELTY: To those parents out there, you know what this feels like and you know how different it is from other people’s experiences. Maybe you know because you have a couple of kids who aren’t strong-willed or you have a couple who are.
Or maybe that’s never been your life and you’ve always only had spirited, sensitive kids like mine and it’s a whole different experience. In some ways it’s like having a special needs kid. And I can’t speak to that in a really serious way, but I think that we operate in a different way.
I was joking about the Costco situation, but I would never go into the situations that Hannah would go with her kids because I know exactly the ways that my kids will struggle and make my life a living nightmare.
I remember at a certain point she would ask, “Why are you packing this big bag just to go to dinner?”
And I would say, “I need pajamas. I need extra pacifiers. I need extra diapers and wipes. I need three books for the car ride home. I need all of these things.”
I think that to some people that could look really permissive. Why are you catering to these little monsters? But people like us who have spirited kids are used to working and walking on eggshells and working with their kids in living in this world of discovery, growth, and sensitivity to another human in a way that people who have “normal kids” who aren’t as challenging don’t even know exists.
HANNAH: I don’t like labels but I do like it to raise awareness, and I think your kids, Kelty, in a beautiful way are just “more.” I think that’s something where parents oftentimes just think, “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me or there’s something wrong with my child.”
I think that’s what our society portrays spirited kids and spirited temperaments to be. They’re not just ‘more’ but negative, like, “Oh, you got cursed because you have a spirited kid in your life.”
What we’ve really tried to think of and realize through the research is that spirited kids are a blessing. They are not a curse. There’s so much to understand.
But I think that ‘more’ aspect of they’re more sensitive, loud, higher energy, more emotional, more needy. They struggle with transitions more.
KELTY: Most parents probably think, “Well, my toddler does that.” I think based on development or environment or what’s going on, a pandemic for example, everyone’s kids are going to have moments of spiritedness. You don’t have to have a 100% spirited child to think about these things and learn honoring your kid’s spirit. Every child has a spirit.
ALLIE: I think also the example that you gave of having young kids and bringing all the things for them to go to dinner and bringing things for them to do and all of that, it’s not catering to them and needing to control the situation. It’s just that they’re kids.
I will also say that as a mom of an older child like that, he knows this about himself and will bring a backpack full of things to do for himself. Because it taught him awareness of self, he knows that when we go and we do something, the other kids can sit there and be cool but he gets really antsy and he needs to move.
He needs to be building Legos. His hands need to be doing something. And now he knows that about himself and can prepare himself.
It has taught him that awareness of self, that connection to self, and not the suppression of self that you shouldn’t need to be doing that and you need to sit down and shut up.
But instead, how can I take care of myself as I’m walking into this situation or going to do something? For example, I’ll say, “We’re going to the bank. It’s going to be wicked boring. Go pack a backpack.”
He knows exactly what to go and get for himself and now he’ll do it for his younger brother, who’s also super spirited. It’s an amazing thing that you can do for your child to teach them about themselves.
To teach them that they’re different. They’re not too much. They’re different. And here’s how they can prepare themselves for these situations.
HANNAH: Oh, I’ve got goosebumps. That’s beautiful to hear. I think that you have that lens of, “Wait a second. I want to work with my child and not against them.”
If I’m constantly working against them and saying ‘your spirit isn’t right, your spirit is too much’ and all these things, our voice becomes our kids’ inner voice. We don’t want our kids moving out into the world feeling shame about who they are, how their bodies need to be, what their nervous systems are like.
We also want to be equipping them with the skills to adapt. To move into the world adaptively. That’s what we do by supporting them and understanding what they need as their parents when they’re really young. Then they begin with that investment to take those things on themselves.
I love thinking of it when it comes to spirits of not wanting to break their spirit, but to tame it, nurture it, and protect it. To find ways to work with it, not against it. We don’t want it to be burning the house down, but we also don’t want to extinguish their flames, because that’s what’s going to make them stand up in a boardroom someday and get some serious stuff done.
Or stand up in a classroom and advocate for a friend. Or stand up at a party and say, “No, don’t touch me that way.”
That spirit is critical in every child. And some kids show up with a brighter spirit at the start.
KELTY: I think a lot of people are like, “Okay, I can recognize and respect their spirit, but when they’re saying these things or when they’re doing these things, being mad isn’t an expression of their spirit. If it is, I don’t want it.”
It’s such a natural feeling to say spiritedness, being excited, being jumpy, or being all these things, that part of spiritedness is okay. But when it comes down to resisting my agenda, when it comes down to saying angry, mean words and making their sibling cry or making me feel terrible about the job I’m doing as a parent, that is not okay.
So much of what we talk about here at Upbringing is about our kids’ freedoms. Basically, all of these realms that we’ve discovered through our spirit that we need to sensitively respect and nurture these places in their life that are theirs, that are slowly going to become more thiers.
With little babies we’re in charge of everything, right? Their freedom to know, to feel, to speak, to express, to contribute, to choose, we’re running the show in the beginning. Then the older they get, the more we have to hand over the reins a little bit.
There’s a kind of passing of the baton. It’s where we’re giving power back to our kids. Because we ultimately want them to know how to do the world adaptively.
They’re taking the toothbrush and brushing. It’s not so hot at first, but they’re doing it. They’re feeding themselves. They’re writing or reading. They’re starting to do those things themselves.
With spirited kids, I think they come to the table a lot earlier. They are saying, “Um, excuse me, excuse me, I want more power sooner. I’m ready because of my fierce spirit. I don’t get bossed around as long as maybe my brother or sister or a friend down the street.”
And they’re saying it. This is the mindset we want to conjure up. They’re wanting to grow up and be building these skills sooner. And it’s going to look messy.
It’s the worst on their brain development. They’re wanting more power and agency in their lives, but it’s going to take a while for it to look the way we want it to in society. And that’s okay. We have permission to let them grow up in that messy way.
But research shows that spirited kids who are sensitively supported do so much better. They have great outcomes for health and lower drug and alcohol use.
They have great relationships, because if they were sensitively supported based on that spiritedness they are already super aware of their needs. They are super versed in that language of what’s going on and how can I communicate my needs adaptively.
We just want to make sure we’re not forcing the skills and making sure that they look perfect before that self-awareness and that process has been put into action, so to speak.
BRIAN: Yeah. That’s so good.
I do have a question about one of our strong-willed kids that we’ve been talking about. He has an issue with being corrected at any level at all. I know I’m not coming from a place of demanding, yelling, anger, or anything.
ALLIE: It’s been, “Hey, I need you to be doing this this way.” Or, “Hey, we need to stop now. It’s time to do this.”
It’s transitions. I’m realizing as I’m talking it’s every transition.
BRIAN: One thing I’ve noticed with him is in the morning I’ll have to say like, “Hey, this is what we’re going to do, then we’re going to do this and then this.” If I don’t then those situations start off into chaos. If I just say,”Okay, it’s time to go get your shoes on. Let’s go.” He just can’t handle that.
ALLIE: The dishes are his chore. It’s time to do the dishes and we can navigate that part when it’s time to transition. But if there’s any correction, “Oh, you missed a piece of food. Let’s get the scrubbing brush and do it.” He will have to grunt, make a noise, or do something to show disdain for this, to push back.
And it’s not matching his age. It’s so toddlerlike. I’m like, “What are you doing with your mouth right now?”
BRIAN: But at the same time it’s like an older kid being annoyed at their parent.
ALLIE: It’s in between two years old and junior high school.
BRIAN: And he asked me, too. It’s like, “You asked for this answer and I’m giving it.” But he doesn’t even want to hear the answer.
ALLIE: And he is our super strong-willed one. I was a strong-willed child. I’m super fiery. I know that I was made to lead and that was hard when I was a child.
Now I have this kid and I am seeing the same thing. What do we do here? Any transition seems to throw a wrench in his life.
And then the whole needing to have the last word, the last noise, the push back against, “You didn’t do this quite right. Let’s fix this.” Do you know what I mean?
KELTY: Quick question. What if that were okay? What if everything he says, every grunt, every “Oh, I don’t want to do that,” what if that were just absolutely his right to say and totally fine that he is expressing that?
Would that feel good to just let go of if someone said he’s doing exactly what he needs to be doing, exactly what he needs to be saying, and this is not actually problematic? It just feels problematic to you. Would that feel like a load off at all?
BRIAN: Yeah. In a way, even just you saying it now, it’s like, “Why am I even?”
KELTY: Well, I think you should notice. You should notice your kid’s response to your behavior. And that’s a great thing to notice as a parent. But then we have to decide what we want to do with that noticing. Is that going to lead us to want to change the child’s behavior or maybe change our behavior and expectations?
I think we have to keep remembering, and this is such a beautiful example, that our kids’ behavior is critical information. And instead of shutting it down, judging it, controlling it (we call it the control approach to discipline) we want to look at it with curiosity and realize it’s telling us something about them.
What’s going on? Maybe he’s grunting because he really wanted to keep playing this game that’s important to him. You want to acknowledge that like, “Yeah, you want to keep playing those Legos” so that he feels comfortable in that disappointment.
We want to be normalizing all our kids’ feelings so that they can actually look at them, work on them, communicate them, manage them someday, and be examining those roadblocks, that hesitation, that frustration.
We want him to be curious about it. And that can only happen if we’re curious. So, when he’s an adult and is like, “Oh, I have this inner resistance. I don’t want to do taxes or go to the gym,” or “I don’t think I like this partner anymore. I don’t want to date her anymore.”
He’s going to have that in his brain saying, “Why? Where’s this resistance coming from? This is so interesting. This isn’t bad. I don’t feel shame that I’m feeling this resistance. I am curious about it. I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”
So, that comes with us and this sounds like he’s doing that beautiful thing. That spark of resistance that reminds us. We get that ding ding. What’s my invitation like? How’s my tone here? Am I just barking an order and some of the other kids can roll with that, but he’s a little sensitive to that tone?
HANNAH: Some kids, literally, you say, “We’re walking out the door,” and they’ll go out the door. I cannot believe some kids you can just say, “We’re going,” and they put their shoes on. That is just insane to me, even with my kids who are not as spirited as Kelty’s.
Other kids need information about why. So we’re gauging our approach based on the kid and their resistance.
Here you are, Brian, saying we’re going to tell him what’s going on throughout the day and that helps with the transitions a little bit, but maybe you’re needing to go one level deeper and work on the invitation to those things.
So instead of saying, “These things are going to happen.” You could say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about this one thing coming up!”
And dive into it, “What do you think we’re going to do about it?” Or, “Do you want to write the things down on a piece of paper?”
Give them some agency and choice. “Did you want to do this first or that first?”
KELTY: Or if the water spills ask, “Do you think you can wipe it all up in one wipe” Engage him in the act instead of just surface level function.
I think what he’s saying is, “Hey, I’m sensitive to your control and even a loving correction is a form of control to me. That’s how I’m experiencing your loving parenting in this moment.”
Again, we can’t convince him not to experience the world the way he does. That’s just how it’s going to be. But we want to find ways to talk to him and normalize what’s going on so that he can build the skills to ultimately feel better about it. But he has to feel okay in not feeling okay first.
That’s where the little devil on our shoulder pops up, the permissive police, who says, “Gosh, why do I have to make these things fun for my kid? I should be able to just say it and they do it. This goes against everything that I believe and feel. This feels so wrong to have to jolly them up, ask what’s going on, or just nod at their grunting, or connect through something that I just asked them to do. They should just do it.”
KELTY: And what do we usually say to that Hannah?
HANNAH: We say those feelings are totally normal and they’re so natural, but they’re not actually helpful. They’re not necessary to our relationship and our kid’s skill building. It’s not actually productive.
KELTY: I think it helps to break out of this parenting paradigm. Let’s pretend I’m at work. Let’s pretend we’re in a place working with other people like back in the old days.
How would I want to be treated by my superior at work? Would I want to just be told, “You’re doing this, this, this, this, and this today and I don’t even really care what you think about it.”
Or do I want to hear, ‘So this is what I was imagining with the schedule today. Memo at 12:00, coffee break at 1:00. What do you think? How’s that feeling?”
And even if I have opinions that might go against my superior’s thinking, they’re still gonna say, “Well, this is the schedule, but I care about you. I know that you’re going to be a better employee, a happier employee, you’ll stick around, fewer sick days. You’re actually going to want to work and be motivated based on my influence, not on my control.”
BRIAN: Thinking about it that way, to me, now feels better.
HANNAH: We think about that in our marriages as well. The times that my husband is a little more curt with me about something that needs to happen. I’m actually sensitive about that topic. He’s like, “You still haven’t sent me the numbers to submit to our tax accountant person.”
That’s a very sensitive topic for me and I get so bristly and defensive, “Why are you saying it like that? Why are you bringing it up like this?”
I just need a little bit of sensitive care around the way certain topics are brought up or certain times of day. We’re all sensitive to that and when we can kind of bust open our awareness to realize we’re all human, we’re all trying to interact in a respectful, loving way and want to be handled lovingly by the people in our lives.
ALLIE: I’m thinking about this for the listener, they’re going to be wanting to know what do I do? I’m wondering if the RESIST approach that you mentioned, do you guys have some kind of principle or download or something that we can give them so they can start to take action on this?
Those are 30-page guides that give you the CliffsNotes. I think nobody has time to be reading books, to be taking long courses necessarily. We’re all really, really struggling right now to be doing zoom school and work and everything.
We’ve boiled down when big feelings happen, what’s going on? When challenging behaviors happen, what do we need to be doing? How can we be showing up in a way that doesn’t trigger our own shame and make us feel guilty? That’s not controlling our kids?
It’s finding that middle way and building those skills alongside them. That’s our Challenging Behaviors and Big Feelings guide.
ALLIE: Are these the ones that you sent me? Those are amazing. Thank you for doing that. You did not need to do that.
Thank you so much for giving that to these women. This is amazing. Thank you.
We’re going to link to all of that for you all in show notes and I’ll give you the link in a minute here so that you guys can go and take these next steps.
The Purpose Show is all about going a different way, learning something new, stepping deeper into why you’re here and doing things the way that you want to be doing them, stepping into your purpose, but also taking action.
So guys, go to show notes, get those guides, take the action steps. Don’t let this just be another episode where you’re thinking a different way and feeling super inspired. If this is sitting with you, and you’re feeling, “What I’ve been doing is not working. I want to go a different way,” give the relationship with your children and the relationship with yourself as a parent enough respect to take this to the next level.
Go download these guides and put this episode into action in a way that feels really good for you. If you’ve listened all the way and you’re feeling, “Oh my gosh, I need to do something about this,” I think that there’s a reason for that.
I think Brian and I can both say as parents who were doing things one way and it just didn’t feel right, and then shifted really pretty much to the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s so worth it.
That feeling that you feel that this isn’t how you want things to be going is something that’s on you for a reason. You were chosen to be the people who are raising your kids. And if you feel something internally like that, it’s for a reason. It’s a call to action to shift and do things a different way. Follow that.
Thank you so much, Hannah and Kelty, for this. Oh my gosh. This is an incredible, I mean, just so much wisdom here. Thank you.
Thanks so much for hanging out with me! In case you didn’t know, there’s actually an exclusive community that’s been created solely for the purpose of continuing discussions around The Purpose Show episodes. It’s designed to get you to actually take action and make the positive changes that we talk about here. I want you to go and be a part of it. To do that, go to alliecasazza.com/facebookgroup.
Thank you so much for tuning in! If you’d like to learn more about me, how I can help you, how you can implement all these things and more into your life to make it simpler, better, and more abundant, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, online courses, programs, and other resources to help you create the life you really want.
I am always rooting for you, friend! See you next time! I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
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