The Science of Parenting

Establishing the Environment | S.9 Ep.5

June 30, 2022 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 9 Episode 5
The Science of Parenting
Establishing the Environment | S.9 Ep.5
Show Notes Transcript

Do you wish your home was more peaceful? Us too. This week, you might be surprised by some of the strategies for establishing a home environment that encourages kids and adults to practice self-regulation. 

Send us an email: parenting@iastate.edu.
Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @scienceofparent.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Lori Korthals:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in two different life stages. Two are launched, and one is still in high school. And I'm a parenting educator.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator. Today we'll talk about the realities of raising a family, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. Hey, everybody, welcome back to The Science of Parenting podcast.

Lori Korthals:

Welcome, here we are, season nine regulation.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, we're here. I mean, can we talk all about it? We've been talking about it all season. And there's a lot to say. There's a lot, there is.

Lori Korthals:

Okay. Yes. Who knew there was so much to say on how to maintain control? Right, right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Kind of. Right. Yeah. And we talked about understanding what regulation is and what contributes to how we do or don't regulate. And now we dig in a little more.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. Well, most of our research citations this whole season have come from a book called The Handbook of Parenting and specifically, this chapter is written by Dr. Wendy Grolnick. And so we have enjoyed sharing this whole season, this whole chapter, and just sharing with you that, guess what, there really is a book all about parenting. And it has so many different research citations and references, and we maybe get a little nerdy about it. But we've enjoyed sharing the pieces and parts that we have this season with you.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, and today, we get to dig into a little bit more of the how do we build, right? How do we do things that support regulation? And so yeah, environment today, right?

Lori Korthals:

Yes. Seems like kind of another big, abstract concept. But hopefully, we'll be able to bring it down to a level oh, that's what it is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right. And when we first talked about environment that supports regulation, I was like, calming colors on the walls. You know, that's the kind of stuff that immediately comes to mind when you think of an environment that promotes regulation. But this is really about the climate of environment, right? That abstract, that relationship, the way we interact. And so going with that abstract, we're gonna tap back into that theory from a previous episode, that self-determination theory, you know, and this theory tells us about those basic needs. It tells us that we can create an environment that supports the different kinds of regulation. As parents, we can influence that. And so DC and Ryan's theory tells us that everyone has those three basic needs, which are what, Lori?

Lori Korthals:

They are autonomy/independence, right? Mastery, or those competencies, those skills that you have. And then the third one is relatedness, or that idea of being connected to or belonging to something.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So basic needs of autonomy, mastery, and relatedness. So everybody needs those things. And basically, what we realize is, when we can meet them as parents, we can help meet those needs for our kids, we're creating an environment that supports their regulation. Right? So that's where this comes in, the environment, through meeting those three needs, creates an environment where it's right for kids to be regulated. Parents, too.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, yes. And when you think about those three words, every parent hopes their child will have a sense of autonomy or independence. Every parent hopes that their child can gain some mastery over competencies and skills, and that every parent wants their child to feel like they belong and are connected and have a purpose. So these are really, really important foundational needs that all human beings have. And then when you tie in the idea that really making a conscious effort to provide for these needs also, does this whole other thing. I mean, it's a huge parenting win. Oh, yeah, that's my personal opinion. Yeah, it's a twofer for your life definitely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Honestly, even if I might not hear parents say, I want my child to have mastery or I want my child to have autonomy. We say things like, I hope they have a job they're happy with or have a good job. That's mastery. I hope, you know, they can't live here forever, right? That's independence or autonomy. And even just, I hope they find relationships that feel good to them, or they get married or that they find a purpose in the world. All of those things are belonging or related. And so we do, we wish for these things, even if we don't necessarily use these terms. Yes, exactly. But I do want us to kind of slow down. You know, we introduced these previously, but slowing down to reflect a little bit on them. So I wrote a little reflection question for each of us, all of us listeners, to reflect on our skills and our strengths and our assets as parents. So for autonomy, okay, I would like to ask, in what areas do I support my child in being more independent, or having more choice? So in what ways do I support their autonomy by being more independent, encouraging them to do that? Or by having more choices?

Lori Korthals:

Okay, so, gosh, I could go all the way back and think about when they were little, but I think I'm gonna let you take care of the littles.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, I got that.

Lori Korthals:

So thinking about my children at their ages, I mean, gosh, they're at the age where they really want to make their own choices and be independent and autonomous. And so my role at this point when it comes to those ideas of supporting their decisions, I mean, really is just acknowledging and supporting even the small decisions that go into the big decisions, or the small steps that go into the big steps. So something silly that I still do with them, even though two of them are in their 20s is, I still ask them, okay, what are your goals for this year? You know, and just last weekend, I was like, okay, I have goals from one of you. That means I still need goals from two of you. Yes. Anything that is supporting that idea that I desire for them to make independent choices and decisions that are important to them. But at the same time, I'm still trying to instill a little bit of Ooh, guess what, these little goals that you make are really going to help you with big goals.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Yeah. I love that? Yeah. So, it's different. Yeah. Because, you know, we've talked about little kids have different needs, whatever. And so yeah, but your kids have different needs with autonomy and independence, because some of that they just straight up have. Um, so I would say one area where I feel like I'm working on getting a little more successful at offering a little more choice or independence is really the food. Yes, yes. So, we've really been focusing on so there's this concept called, Division of Responsibility when it comes to kids and parents and food. But basically, we choose, my husband and I, we choose what the meal is typically, and our kids choose whether or not to eat it. And you can choose whether or not to eat it. We don't have a try-it bite in our house anymore. We're used to, you don't have to try it. Our thing is we're just going to put some on your plate. And we also try to ask, do you want a little or a lot of this thing? For our older daughter, she can like serve herself a lot of stuff. And so figuring out do I want a little or a lot of this food? Do I want just, I'm gonna put a single piece of corn on my plate or a full serving. So we've been working on offering more independence there, which has been great because it also reduces the fight for us. Meals are way more easygoing, well, kind of. But it reduces that aspect of, you have to eat this, you have to finish this. Oh, good. We don't worry about that anymore. And it frees up space in my mind and reduces conflict. And it's great for them because I do want them to regulate their own eating as they're older. Not I want to finish my plate, but I know when I'm full.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. Yeah. And that can be such a different value from family to family from generation to generation. So yeah, I definitely know that my desire for my girls to make independent choices around what they were wearing to school or how their hair was done or what they ate for breakfast. Those are battles I just chose not to fight. Yeah, you know, and that was super important to me. I know that there were times where maybe other people, other family members might roll their eyes, at the creative wardrobe that my children wore. Creative expression. But I just really felt like there were so many other things that were happening in the mornings. That just really wasn't one that, you know, we had to get to daycare by a certain time and it was early and yes, yes. So yeah, that independence and autonomy and just celebrating the baby steps and creating baby steps..

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think you're making a great point about, you know, in parenting pick your battles, all the time. But that autonomy and independence is about that. Which things do you feel strongly about? Right. Do your values say, I need to influence this as a parent? And what things are you like, I don't have to, and yeah, what each of us would choose is a little different. Yes. Great. Yes. Okay, second question. Okay. Okay, mastery, right, skill, building, all those things. In what areas of my life do I support my child's skill development, or accomplishment?

Lori Korthals:

Okay, so real talk here, listener alert. We talked through this before. And we each had a little bit of difficulty trying to figure out what we did as parents to help

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I was fully expecting Lori to be like, our children's mastery. And so I was stumped. When Mackenzie asked me this first question, like, I don't know. I don't know. bam, bam, bam. Because that's what I was thinking when I was like, oh, mastery, Lori's gonna have a million examples for this. I feel like I constantly see examples of her doing this. And then she was like, I don't know, I'm stuck. I was like, Okay. I'll list stuff right now, Lori.

Lori Korthals:

Okay, you list stuff.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think at the age your kids are that you encourage job exploration, and helping them get jobs and the skills that they need to build to do those things, to maintain jobs and the rules around that. I think of their formal education. Right, you've given them independence, but also support their success in it. And I mean, your kids were a little younger, not a totally different stage of life. But when I met you even, I think of just who's getting rides where and what are we planning to do about this activity you're involved in? And yeah, I feel like you're constantly like, Yeah, girl, get it, to your kids.

Lori Korthals:

I was and I couldn't come up with a thing. But then Mackenzie was like, I don't know either. Oh, my goodness. What about your picture cards in the morning, where your kids, you know, they brush their teeth and they put their toothbrush card away, and they put their shirt on and they put their shirt card away, and they get their backpack and they get their shoes. So I could list a whole bunch for Mackenzie. And then our wise writer, Barbara Dunn Swanson, shared why this was so difficult for each of us. So you share what Barb said.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So we're like, why is this one so much harder? And, of course, she had very specific points. She's like, one, it's hard because you're so involved in this. Right? And that it feels like something your kids are doing, not just something you're doing. So we pass that off to our children like, well, they learned to do that. Oh, wait, I guess I supported their role in that, I guess. Right. And then also that it's incremental. And like what you said that was like, that's exactly what it is. Because the first time they did one tiny portion of this, versus all the way. Lori's kids have jobs, and they're doing big things and adult things. And it's like, well, yeah, but the first step of that was learning to speak in public, right? Learning to have a conversation with someone. Those little tiny increments, it's hard to look back and see all those little pieces along the way. Because we were thinking about the big picture or really just trying to get through each day.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, exactly. And the one thing I just wanted to quick point out is that when we're talking about mastery, we're not talking about perfection. Oh, yeah. We're not talking about doing something perfectly. We're just talking about taking those steps to get dressed in the morning before school. We're talking about taking those steps to be able to be a public speaker. So, you know, it's a different thing. It's those steps along the way that brought us to where we are.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And I think of a lot of our older kids are involved in activities and a lot of what they do there is mastery, right? Working on mastering that free throw. Not because they need to make every single free throw they ever shoot, right? But the form and the practices and the improvement, we're talking about the progress and improvement, that's really mastery. The skill building is kind of what I like to think of it as. Yeah, that one's mastery. Well, and the other thing is I can think of the things that get in the way of offering mastery and encouraging mastery.

Lori Korthals:

Let me tell you what I did when I messed it up.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And Barb was like, well, you know, she talks about it so kindly. She's like there are barriers that get in the way that are the realities of our day. And so I was like, okay, I have a list. I have a list, one of which is impatience. I get impatient. My example. My toddler is old enough and physically capable, his muscles are strong enough to get himself dressed in the morning. He's coordinated enough. He could probably figure that out. No, no, we got places to be like, yeah, it's time. So we do that. So I'm like, at some point, I will encourage your mastery to get yourself dressed. Not yet. Yes. And then another one that as we're talking through it, a lack of specific instruction, which kind of goes hand in hand with the patience, but sometimes it's like, you should just know how to do this. And that can get in the way of the mastery because someone had to teach me. You know, my mother-in-law jokes, she thinks that meme is the funniest about, like, you laugh at me with my smartphone that you have to teach me. I had to teach you how to use a spoon! Yes, yes. Right. And that's as parents, we teach them how to use spoons and all those things. So that gets in the way for me a little.

Lori Korthals:

Those barriers to mastery. I think it is so much easier for us to, you know, come down on ourselves, instead of recognizing all those little things that we did to help our kids achieve mastery.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, to like, keep going and to build their

Lori Korthals:

So everyone, take a moment right now pat skills. yourselves on the back, start to recognize those little things that you did.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. The ways we encourage our kids to grow, for sure we do. All right. Okay. Now, one more question. One more, relatedness or belonging, connection? In what areas do I support my child's meaningful connections with myself and others around them?

Lori Korthals:

In what ways do I support meaningful? Okay, so this one, I definitely think comes into a different realm of, that depends. So it depends on my child's temperament, their age, their ability. So I'm thinking of this from this perspective, my child who has a different ability, I was very involved and making conscious efforts to find ways for her to feel like she belonged, that she connected to other people, because that was where her disability impacted her the most. Yeah. So additionally, my older daughter sometimes has these introverted tendencies. And so even when she was younger, I would do the same thing, you know, try and open up opportunities for her to connect and feel like she belonged, or, you know, try different activities, et cetera. And so depending on their age, depending on their temperament, and honestly, depending on their abilities, I was either very, very purposefully and consciously involved in different ways to get them to feel connected or to feel like they belonged in different places.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Hmm, I love that. So yes, temperament is what came to mind for me. I have slow to warm up kids. And so sometimes the nerves, right? And so I am intentional about looking for opportunities where my kids can. Even like my daughter being in school now, opportunities to meet new kids in smaller group setting. So that's like activities, that's programs at the YMCA, but they get to practice some of those skills of new people and I can make connections with them. And I can say as an extrovert, sometimes I needed coaching on meaningful connection and not hop, hop, hop. Exactly. Exactly. Well, and then the other one I also kind of think of is, belonging also happens within our small family unit. And so one of the ways we have connection in our family is just like, some of those routines and rituals, right. The mealtimes, the bedtimes, the weekend snuggles, you know, all of those little things. Those all helped build belonging and connection.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, exactly. Okay, so those three basic needs, especially.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We were talking about it and I'm like, it almost feels like one step separated. We need this on regulation, what am I talking about. Okay, we can create an environment by meeting those needs, which will promote regulation, that environment will promote the regulation. So, and the one that this chapter we're citing really honed in on was autonomy. And in part, I think it's because there's a lot of research out there on that one. There is. So I think there's a lot to back that up. So we really dug into that. One citation, for example, from Grolnick was talking about kids who engage with adults, and those adults help them develop autonomy, right? So when kids are around adults that help them develop autonomy, those kids tend to be more intrinsically motivated, aka, they do certain things, behave certain ways, because they believe those behaviors are important, right? Like brushing their teeth, like behaving kindly, you know, like treating people kindly. But they're doing those things because they believe them and not just because they were told to. Exactly. That's an interesting thing about autonomy, the more we can give them choice and independence with those things, the more they develop that internal motivation.

Lori Korthals:

And the 2.5, right, so then the little extra piece of tidbit that comes from research says, the more that we do that, the more we support their independence and autonomy, the more they internalize it and the more research says teachers at school actually report that they're making better choices at school too. That they are internalizing in a way that goes beyond the household, that it rolls into those community experiences. And that it not only impacts their behavior, but also their learning. And so we can give our children more choices on autonomy and support and encourage it, we're also impacting their school behavior and learning. So how cool is that? Right? There's not a parent around that doesn't want to give their child the best opportunity at school learning, right? So one way to do that is to help support independence and autonomy at home as they grow.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I honestly feel like that's great news for us as parents. I'm always looking for a chance that it's like, oh, that's a win for us. That's not more work, that's less work. Because in my mind with my kids being little, I look forward to any independence they develop, because it means I don't have to do it. Right. Like I don't have to get you dressed because you know how. Maybe I'll think of that someday. Maybe I'll get there. But so I think that's great news.

Lori Korthals:

It is. And the other side is that for the parent that is thinking, but oh man, I like it a certain way. I like to have the drawers look like this. I want to have the toys put like this. I want to make sure that everything is in its place, including the cowlick on my kid's head is in place, right? So we as parents are going to have to give up some of that control. We're going to have to stop that helicoptering. And we're going to stop that authoritarian guidance, because we need to allow our child to grow into being an autonomous and independent adult. And that happens when they're younger. We don't suddenly just turn it off when they turn 18. Yes, according to textbooks become adults, we've got to start that process way before. And so sometimes it's a matter of teaching ourselves.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely.

Lori Korthals:

We have to help ourselves to help our kids.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And, you know, talking about like, okay, we're the adult here, right? We talked about that in previous episodes. I've got to regulate, I've got to figure out my attitudes and beliefs around some of these things with my kids. I gotta reflect on those so that I can help them be independent. But okay, one thing is, you know, we talk about autonomy, we talk about independence. And I think there is a connotation for some, so those words are kind of But ultimately, parenting is value laden, right? We look to synonyms. They kind of mean the same thing. But maybe one word, right, the word independence for some people. And even as a parent yourself, you might be thinking, I don't want overly independent kids, right? Maybe you're thinking, well, I want my kids to need me. Or maybe you're thinking, I want them to have our values and if they get too independent, they won't have our family values. And so I think it's important for us to recognize that connotation. And maybe it's related to the way we were raised and whether we liked it or didn't, right? We felt like we were under so much control. We're like, hey, free spirit children, you know, and so it can be different for everybody and that value of independence. I mean, yeah, I want to say like, how it manifests. How important it is to you. But also, I think the other great news for parents is, okay, yes, research tells us some independence and autonomy is helpful for our kids. And there's great news that we can decide which areas make the most sense to give it in, but figuring that out so we can encourage it. So I mean, that was a lot. I said a lot. our own lived experiences to make decisions for our kids. And that's an important piece. Research tells us x, and then we have to recognize, are we coming at this from our values? Are we coming at this from our past? And how do we put those three together? This is what research and reality is all about at the chain. Yes. Okay, my first thought when I was like autonomy and independence, while they're really connected, I'm like, of course, they're connected. They basically mean the same thing. And that was when I was like, wait, my brain is telling me something. And independence was a word that I recognize that wasn't always desired in every stage, but then it was like, autonomy. That's the term I learned in my undergraduate program. So that was like autonomy. Good. But I hadn't unlearned that sometimes independence was bad. And so I was like, wait, yes, those are the same thing. Okay. Gosh, so yeah, so let's go ahead and yes, we can each have our feelings about this. But let's go ahead and move on to those different types of regulation. Now, remember, we're talking about how when we create an environment where kids can have those basic needs met, that it helps them regulate. Let's talk about what that regulated behavior, cognition and emotions, all three kinds. Yes, let's look at those different kinds and what that looks like. Because I think there's examples of regulation that aren't what naturally comes to mind for us.

Lori Korthals:

I think you're right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So I'll start with behavior, the obvious one, it kind of feels like. So what does regulated behavior look like when kids' needs are met. It can be something as simple as they have good habits. That's regulated behavior. I always choose brushing my teeth, I don't know, if I'm really worried my kids won't, or something, I always say brushing their teeth. But showering. Even just habits like I eat when I'm hungry. Or I have good time management or work life balance, or there's all kinds of different habits. But habits are a form of regulated behavior. I do this thing because it's an internal motivation that I just do it. Another regulated behavior is independence, right? That our kids, oh, I can just go do that. Like my daughter getting herself up in the morning now. That's regulated behavior, she does it of her own accord. And so again, that's regulation. And then another one is just that ability to engage with family and friends. When they feel connected, they have that need met and they can engage comfortably with people around them and for some even strangers and other people and acquaintances. And so that when those needs are met, behavior is regulated, or can be more. It creates an environment for it, it's ripe for it.

Lori Korthals:

It's ripe for it. Yes. Okay. So I will do the thinking piece. So when our needs are met, what do we think about ourselves? What do we believe about ourselves?

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Regulated cognition.

Lori Korthals:

Regulated cognition is a big word. Right? So when we look at that, I see in my mind this calm, cool, collected behavior, which allows me to be in my upstairs brain.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Season One.

Lori Korthals:

Allows me to get my upstairs brain, which helps me make good decisions, right. I believe that my caregiver will be able to take care of me.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, that's a core belief.

Lori Korthals:

I have the ability, I'm self-regulated to have some control, make choices. I believe that I'm capable. So I'm in this kind of calm, cool and collected mindset. I envision myself you know, just repeating this mantra to myself. I'm self-regulated, correct? So I am capable, I can do it. I have the ability, and I'm in my upstairs brain, which means, you know, all cylinders are clicking.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, you're reasonable. Right. You're logical when you're in your upstairs brain, hopefully. Yeah. When we're regulated, and even that can be, I recognize I need to calm down. That's regulated cognition for sure. All right. And then the last one is the emotions. So emotions when we are feeling more regulated, which you could kind of take this either way, like, what are the emotions when you feel regulated? Or what is emotional regulation? Okay. Like, it's kind of both. So emotions that our kids experienced when those needs are met. So when we have an environment where those needs are met, their emotional regulation is when they feel secure, right? I know what to expect. I feel safe. I know my needs are met. You know, I also think of happy and content. That's a regulated emotion when I feel regulated, when I'm in my upstairs brain, I have my needs met, I'm happy, I'm content. And not that I don't have children that, or one in particular, that tell me that's unfair, right. Eternally. A lot of unfair around here, but that the emotions of being regulated, even just loved. Loved is an emotion. And so thinking about emotional regulation, and those three basic needs when they're met, our kids are able to regulate their emotions better. But I also think the important thing to say, and I'm like, how did we get this far without saying it. When our kids feel safe with us, when they have those basic needs met, sometimes that means we're the place they feel safe to be dysregulated. Absolutely, we're the place where they're like, okay, I've had it together all day and I'm exhausted.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And so then they are, the behavior might be a little bit more difficult for us to handle as parents or that attitude comes out or they need to be alone, or whatever that is. And so all of those things, you know, meeting those needs, creates an environment that can help our kids regulate is really the big takeaway, and regulate in lots of different ways. And so recognizing how our kids regulate. That's the thing I liked about this list was not just what those regulation things are, but like habits and regulating their behavior. Okay, cool.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. And even in the thinking, just that whole idea of calm, cool, collected thinking, and providing that environment and climate to take a big deep breath when I'm feeling dysregulated. But I belong in this climate.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, good. Okay, so strategies.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, strategies, put some strategies in my toolbox, right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And every time we always try to look at, here's a little research. We toss it out there with a dose of our own reality and we want you to have strategies for what this looks like in your day to day. Because you're like, okay, cool, abstract needs. How do I do that? So Grolnick in their chapter and their colleagues, actually, they had a lot of great ideas. So we took some of those and then we added a few of our own ideas here. And so we put them in categories by which need we felt like they helped meet but some of them kind of felt like they could have been in more than one. Let's start with autonomy. Okay, how do we meet kids basic need for autonomy, independence, choice? One of them simply is to just provide rationale for things like rules and expectations. If we want them to internalize that, right, we learned that's the magic trick of regulation. If we want them to internalize it, "because I said so" probably won't cut it. If they only do it because you say so, it's not internalized.

Lori Korthals:

Please can I just say because I said so?

Mackenzie Johnson:

It takes a lot less thought for me, let's So the three basic needs, autonomy, competence, and be honest. But giving that rationale of, I can't let you go because. Or the reason this is a rule in our house is because. So that's one. Another one is, this is kind of related to relatedness. So in competence, with the idea of mastery of consequences, but helping kids understand the consequences of their choices. And sometimes that means the consequences of them on others. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And so skills, what are some things that we can do to help our child automatically, my brain is like natural and logical in that area? So one thing that, I kind of love this one and so consequences. Natural consequences are what you let happen. So I always talk about the coat. If I let my daughter go out without your coat but the natural consequences are you I'm so glad that I got to do competence and mastery, is just might be cold. Yeah, and sometimes she's not, right. Sometimes there's no consequence at all. She's comfortable. But that idea of creating consistency, whether it's the so letting our kids experience those consequences or sometimes implementing a logical consequence, something that's routines or the rules, you know, that structure. I am not a great related, like, okay, you were dishonest with me about this. Now, I'm not able to trust you to have this privilege. Exactly. And so helping them understand the impact of their behavior. scheduler. I love that differentiation of that word. The other one, which I feel like we've kind of said the whole time, is providing choices, right? And of course, there's the obvious ones like the red cup or the blue cup, but it can also be things like, letting them choose what to wear, letting them choose the music they listen to. It can be things like which friends they enjoy spending time with most. And so figuring out what choices are ones that you're okay with And when it came to schedules and routines, that was season offering. Absolutely, absolutely. So that's autonomy. And then a few more. one.

Lori Korthals:

Bonus episode, that was a bonus episode on routines and rituals. Routines and rituals. And so the idea of helping to create mastery with consistency, with habits, with routines and rules, these are things that you can practice regularly. So maybe little dude gets to put on his socks first, right. And we're creating the habit, the mastery of him learning to put on his own clothes in the morning, but it doesn't have to be the whole outfit. Yeah, right. We can start, we can start and he can put his own socks on. And then the idea of establishing these expectations of what do we expect their behavior to look like? What do we expect their behavior to look like at home around us? What do we expect their behavior to look like around other adults outside of the home? And this really reflects our family's values. And so, you know, helping them to create mastery expectations. Give them and tell them what the expectations are, instead of, well, you know what I expect. You know, that's just what I expect. Okay, but wait, I actually need you to tell me. Brene Brown talks about paint it done. What is done look like? What does the end of that expectation look like? Right? So, you know, that really is something that is hinging on our family's values. And again, along with that is reinforcing those desired behaviors. So you know, we've said this before, catch them being good, acknowledge the things that they're doing that are stepping stones to those big desired behaviors. You know, how I'm super glad that you found a ride for yourself. This shows me that you're thinking about how you're getting there, how you're getting home, and then when it's time for you to drive, I know that you've kind of thought about things from beginning to end.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And that whole concept of catch them being good reminds me, okay, one that I skipped in the autonomy section, the not overusing external rewards. Oh, absolutely. A natural reward can be, I noticed you did that. That reinforces the behavior. It doesn't always have to be, I mean, not that there's no place for it, but not overusing things like sticker charts, or you'll get this if you do this. Yeah. And so because, yeah, catching them being good as a way to reinforce behavior by itself.

Lori Korthals:

I love it when Barb talks about knucks. Yeah. Give me some knuckles. Those are knucks? Oh, knuckles. Knuckles together. Got it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, that's important reinforcement.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, absolutely. Thumbs up, high fives, you know, just the shake or the nod of the head, and that approval reinforces those desired behaviors.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Definitely. Okay. And then one more category. Okay. So this idea of relatedness or belonging, finding ways to be involved in what your kids are involved in. Sometimes that's being the coach. Sometimes that's asking how things went. Sometimes it's just paying attention. Yeah, right. And that can mean paying attention when they're telling us about stuff. That seems minor in the real world of adulthood, but it's a big deal to them.

Lori Korthals:

Or you've heard it 65 times already. You've still gotta pay attention.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It can require us, I mean let's be honest, putting our phones down or putting us aside whatever the distractions are that can infiltrate that connectedness. Also just being intentional about, how did Barb say it, expressing affection. Yeah. Whether that is physical affection, hugs, snuggling, saying I love you, or I'm proud of you. Any of those things, you know, those expressions of affection. And then of course, we're encouraging them to have connection with other people outside of our family too. Again, whatever makes sense for your family and your own reality. Yeah, so all kinds of tools and tricks to fill that toolbox.

Lori Korthals:

Long list, and you don't have to use the same one on every child.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And you don't have to use them all.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. So many tools.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It's okay to choose one and be like, hey, I could do that. Or maybe you're like, I feel fantastic in one of these areas, and feel like I need to work on one of the others. That's cool, too. Absolutely. Take what you need.

Lori Korthals:

Take what you need. Okay. So this brings us to our Stop. Breathe. Talk. segment of the podcast. And this is where we typically bring our producer in to allow us to practice that flagship technique of Stop. Breathe. Talk. But this week, just as with this whole season, we have been bringing in our writer, Barb Dunn Swanson. She has a passion for this topic of self-regulation. And so you've heard us talk about the phrases and words she's shared with us and helping us get through that idea of, I have no idea how I've helped my child master things. Welcome, Barb.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Oh, my goodness, you give me far too much credit. I think that when we walk through each of these episodes, we do so much exploration and talking with one another. And the four of us together make this great team and the ideas that we talk about really help each other think through experiences we've all been through that help us put these episodes together. So the credit is really for ourselves as a team. For all of us.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I feel like we get a little credit and our faces being on this every week. And we want to make sure they know there's a genius that's not here on the screen.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Well, I thank you for the shout out. I do. And I want to start by just acknowledging what we talked about right at the top was, this was about our environments. And the first environment is the family home, right? Yes. And parents as their first educators. And so parents are the ones who are the first models of what regulation looks like, yes. And so parents who are regulated, and who have boundaries, and who set limits, and who show and offer choices for independence, they will get the benefit of kids who will try to become independent, and who will try to meet their parents' expectations to try. But we know there are so many other factors. We've talked about how important temperament is. The foundation of who we are as individuals, our gifts, those temperament traits are our gifts to the world. And so it plays, those temperament traits play a big role in how our children are regulated, whether they get upset easily, or whether they're able to manage those emotions. Whether they are upset by something an adult says to them, or whether they can take a little bit of criticism or helpful advice from somebody. I wanted to ask you to think about this one thing, alignment. The

Mackenzie Johnson:

Thinking quick today. word I'm going to use alignment, okay. When you have a child that is having a really difficult time, maybe they're having some of those big emotions, and you know that you as the adult have to get regulated first before you can help them get regulated, We call that co-regulating. We want to co-regulate with them. We don't expect kids to know how to do it. We have to help them. How do you align with that child that's really having a hard time? What is it that you can say to align with them so they know you're in their corner? You might not like the behavior but you are going to align with them to get them through that first few minutes of that really tough time they're having. This is a tough one.

Lori Korthals:

So I could visually see myself, and I think all three children went through my brain, and I could visually see myself physically get into alignment with them. So oftentimes, the dysregulated child drops to the floor or, you know, they lash out. And so I could visually in my mind see myself get down onto the floor. I can visually see myself drop my shoulders and take that big, deep breath, and I can hear myself, you know, begin to take in that deep, deep breath as well. And like I said, I can vividly remember me getting down on the floor, even laying flat on my belly in one particular instance with a child, and I can hear myself with the tone I have of calm, quieter, slower. You know, just kind of getting my whole physical body into alignment with the child so that I can begin to bring their dysregulation into a regulated state. Sometimes that involved needing to start there on the floor, and then move to a chair with them on my lap, or just gonna move to me sitting on the floor with them on my lap. Often times, there were no words spoken. It was just me. Maybe I was humming their favorite song, or maybe I was saying something like, this is hard, isn't it? I can tell this is super hard. I can see that your body is telling me this is super hard for you. Yeah. So that's the first thing that came into my brain. Those are my word pictures. That's a new one. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I know. I was like, how visual of you, Lori. So atypical. Oh, no, I love that. And it's not what I thought of so I love that, too. So I thought of like, aligning with their experience, I guess, not in like a physical way. So I think of aligning and like, I could understand why you feel that way. Or I could understand, so trying to validate the reason for something. You know, the reason they might be dysregulated, even if it's just something like they're grouchy. You know, I can understand why you're feeling like a grouch. You know, we stayed up late last night and it's been a long day, and we've been busy. So trying to validate, I guess, is one way I aligned. But, I think I've said this before, but also trying to align with their needs. And so one of the questions is always, do you want help or do you want space? And I have found, typically, my oldest wants help and typically my youngest wants space. So when they're dysregulated, one wants more from me, and one wants way less. Get out of my bubble while I'm having a hard time. And so, yeah, so I guess, yeah, that idea of alignment. That looks different.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

I like that. Yeah, I like that. Just simply because I think sometimes we need, where where do we begin? Yes. And maybe alignment is the very first step. And then we take it from there. Once our child knows, you've put it all together in this episode, that we care for them and that we're going to take care of them. And we are concerned for their well being and we want them regulated. We want them to become independent and we want them to master. They do belong to us as family. Once they know all those things, and we can align with them, maybe that's just really the first step. So thank you for taking that question today.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Thanks, Barb. I hadn't even thought of alignment. I'm really glad we didn't get all the way through it. Exactly. Awesome. Well, thanks, Barb. You know, we do we love to have her little insight and her thought process coming in here with us. So yeah, that's where we're at looking today at how we create an environment that supports regulation and that the way we do that is by helping create opportunities where our kids' internal needs are met. Those needs for independence or autonomy, mastery or skills, and relatedness or belonging, that connection. And so looking for those opportunities that our kids benefit and that we benefit, and it helps them be more regulated.

Lori Korthals:

So thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast. And in case you haven't heard, if you have specific parenting questions, you can actually email our team at parenting@iastate.edu. Don't be afraid to reach out.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Please do come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.