The Science of Parenting

Slow Down | Ep. 4

April 02, 2020 Season 1 Episode 4
The Science of Parenting
Slow Down | Ep. 4
Show Notes Transcript

Help kids gain self-awareness and minimize emotional outbursts with our favorite technique to keep stressful situations in check. 

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Lori Hayungs:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Lori Hayungs , parent of three in three life stages. I have one launched, I've got one in college and one in high school and I'm a parenting educator.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I'm Mackenzie Johnson. I'm a parent of two young children with their own quirks and I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Hayungs:

So today we are going to talk about self-control . Kind of a nice follow up from our last episode on Stop. Breathe. Talk. That we streamed live. Exactly. It was way fun and we're really going to look at who has control in parenting this week.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So yeah, like self-control, kids' self-control, grownups' self- control, growing up, slowing down, hard to control, right? Both sound hard . So yeah, when I talk about self-control in my own parenting, it takes some thought. Like it takes some intentionality, right? I have to give it some practice to slow down and practice self-control. And I mean last week we talked about our favorite strategy to do that, right? In case anybody missed it, will you give us the quick and dirty version of Stop. Breathe. Talk.?

Lori Hayungs:

Definitely. So the Stop. Breathe. Talk. Is what we really have based a lot of our Science of Parenting information on. It's that idea of stopping in the heat of the moment and taking a breath, giving ourselves time to slow down, get our brain back engaged and then being able to, you know, talk , and talk like we talked about last week, you know, it can, it can be talking later. It can be self talk, it can be, you know, just the tone of our voice and the volume of our voice talking.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think, you know, we talked about, I mean like I said last week, but that ability to , to stop, like even that recognizing I need to stop. That's one part of self-control. It's like, Whoa, I got to get it back together. Yeah . Oh go ahead. Yeah.

Lori Hayungs:

Well, it leads us totally right into the idea of this week of slowing it down.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Slow down. Stop. And then what do we do during this stop? Right. That's like, that's where the self-control business kind of comes in. Right?

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. So that gives us a chance to really start with today's topic, which is self-control, but research typically calls it self-regulation. So I want to read this research tidbit here on self-regulation. So this is just to get us started for this definition. And the idea here is that self-regulation is that conscious control of our thoughts, of our feelings and our behaviors. So researchers, McClelland and Tominey, they call self-regulation, the conscious control of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. So it's set up our ability to control our own emotions and behaviors, our ability.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Our ability. I have that ability. That's an ability I have, right ?

Lori Hayungs:

You have the ability, we all have the ability. Okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

But like, yeah, I can do that. Right? But like honestly, like our reality, I guess easier said than done, right? I mean, even as an adult, I have a, you know this about me, I have a highly intense temperament. I feel things and emotions very strongly and sometimes those feelings just like run me. They don't run me. I have self-control, but like they run through my veins and it's hard to stop, you know, it's hard to slow down and really consider what I'm feeling. That that's a hard thing for me.

Lori Hayungs:

You know, I think that the important thing is that you are very aware of that. And I think that that's a huge piece of, you know, our ability to slow down, our ability to self regulate, our ability to have self-control. And diving right back into that Stop. Breathe. Talk. You recognize that. And you know, for me it's my natural tendency. My temperament is kind of that less intense , that slow boil.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You are so here.

Lori Hayungs:

So I always tell people, but that doesn't mean I can't get intense and I can't have these huge emotions. But I feel like, I feel like forever, this mantra has always played in my brain...calm, cool, collected, calm, cool, collected. But you know, when I have those moments of high intensity, it's really when I see or feel a lack of, a lack of respect. And so if I feel like I'm being disrespected or my child is being disrespected or someone else, boy, you know, I get that mama bear on definitely. So self-regulation. Right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I was like , well, so what would you say you don't like? Yeah, I have this kind of emotion and you tend to put like balance; you're calm, cool, collected. When would you say, when you're disrespected, is that when you say, or is there another time when it's like the hardest for you as a parent to self regulate? Like when would you say it's hardest?

Lori Hayungs:

So for me it's a little different because I have one child that has special needs and so when I am trying to, when I'm trying to maybe help others understand her behavior because her behavior or , you know, the way she's responding to something is very much part of what her diagnosis is. I feel like that's when, you know, that's when I may not have as much self-regulation, where I have to really step back and go , okay, Lori, you have to allow that they don't know this. Or my child is unable to do this because, you know, because of the diagnosis that she has. And so that ability for me is I get intense quickly. You know, it's like I said, that mama bear comes out to protect and especially if you have a child with special needs, you feel like you're in a constant struggle of fighting to help others understand them. Yeah .

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, and it sounds like there's almost like two parts of that, of the parenting part of it. It's like advocating for your child is one part that like can be hard and then understanding and practicing that understanding with yourself, with your child is hard.

Lori Hayungs:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So yeah, I mean the good thing is that we know that we can develop self-regulation skills. We know that we can help our children develop self-regulation skills, right? So , I have an article here , by Sanders and Mazzucchelli, and they actually give us some examples about how self-regulation can develop kind of across the age span. So, listen to this. So , even in infancy we do see the ability for infants to have some kind of natural response to self-control and even working memory. Some of my favorite things about brain development are when it shows that infants actually, you know , like they can know it. However, because this part of their brain that controls their impulses isn't as developed as other parts, they can't control their responses. So they might know that they don't like something but they can't control their self. You know, how they're responding. That self-regulation piece, they can't control how they're responding. So yeah, as they grow, those things begin to come together. But the article talks about children at the age of three beginning to have some flexibility and go, okay, wait, I kinda know that I don't want this or I want it this way. All my impulse. However, we know, you have a three year old . Yeah . Those don't happen consistently, right? Just because it happened one time does not mean it's going to happen every single time. And then we also know that when it comes to brain development, the brain actually isn't fully developed till about the age of 25. So, you know, even my launched child isn't developed and I think, you know, there are still decisions that, you know, she's not going to consistently make the right choices or that have the right behaviors every single time because of brain development. So, you know, while we watch them grow, we can teach them self-regulation and self-control. And I think that that's a really important thing for us as parents to remember, is that just because they did it the way we thought they should one day or one minute does not mean that that is going to be the case every single time. And we need to allow ourselves the opportunity to slow down, Stop. Breathe. Talk. and go, okay, there are some things going on here. I've got to figure this out. They gotta figure it out. But in the meantime, we're going to play into this idea of understanding each other.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh my gosh. Yeah. Well , and I think that article really shines a nice light on, okay, in an infant there's some skills, right? They're developing some skills already in infancy and then you said three, you know that, alright, they're figuring some things out. They can control those impulses a little more. And then as teenagers it's like, oh, they've gotten so far. Okay. But the brain is still not fully developed and this self-control stuff, like kids are raw . You know when I talk about my intense temperament, my daughter also has an intense temperament from what I can tell. And so yeah, we both have this intense temperament that we're maybe operating from where we feel things really strongly, but I'm the adult, right? Like my brain is more developed than hers is. And I've had a wider variety of experiences and contexts and situations to practice my own little self-control versus her, you know , little three year old experience. Her brain development and that self-control is still very much in raw form versus mine's a little more molded and that kind of puts the ball in my court, doesn't it?

Lori Hayungs:

Totally. That is a huge, a huge piece of it is ultimately we are the adults, you know, ultimately it's our responsibility to show them how to maintain self-control , how to learn those skills. Gosh, I remember a time when my oldest was little, she was maybe one, one and a half. I only had one at the time and she was trying to pull her shoe off, pulling, pulling. She's sitting on the living room floor. I can visually see her struggling and just is screaming to get that shoe off and it wasn't happening. And at the time, you know, again, that mantra was playing in my head, calm, cool, and collected, calm, cool and collected. It's just there and right here, you know, she can't hear that mantra in my head. So how can I show her calm, cool, and collected? How can I show her instead of, you know, just let me pull this shoe off for you. I'll just take care of it. I just, you know, and so I just got down in her level and I slowed down and I said, tell mommy help, please. Tell mommy help, please. And just in that calm, cool, collected voice. Now did I actually think that my one and a half year old was going to say help please, mommy ? No, no. But what I was doing was I was taking that opportunity to have her hear my voice, being calm, to have her see me moving slowly and just have her see my shoulders relaxed, you know , and just allowing her to go, okay. And I was taking a deep breath and she was taking a deep breath. And so, you know , I just kind of take those moments in the heat of it to go, okay, I need to show her the best thing I can do is model calm, cool and collected, calm, cool and collected. Slow down, take a deep breath. You know, was I asking her to say help, please? No, I was trying to model how my body looked, what it sounded like. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think of this time with my daughter. So when it's really hard for me to self regulate is when I'm very stimulated. So when there's a lot of sound or like if I'm like really hungry or really tired. And so for a long time when my daughter was right in that young toddler stage, every time I would go to cook supper , my partner and I kind of take turns on that. Every time I cook supper, both of us were like falling apart. We're both hungry. Like it's loud, you know, the TV might be on or there's music playing, you know, so all this stuff happening. And so yeah, it's really hard for me to self regulate as a parent when there's a lot of sound. And I think I actually did a blog post on it, that at the stove is a place where it is hard. Did I think about what is she able to do? What does she like, how can I handle my hunger and hanger, these feelings and my ability to do that versus hers? And, but that time to slow down and go, oh, I'm feeling a lot right now. So is she? Yeah, but it takes practice, right? Like I do not get it right on the first try a lot of the time.

Lori Hayungs:

And so is she, so I love that you said that she's feeling overstimulated ,too. So you're both feeling overstimulated. You're both, and then we go back to exactly what you said, but you're the adult. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I'm the grownup!

Lori Hayungs:

But I want to be the one to throw the tantrum.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And emotion and all those things. So raw . Yeah. Especially when they're little, I mean even as teenagers and school age kids , but especially when they're that little, like they don't have those skills to shape and mold those feelings in their head. And especially with an intense, you know, that's strong feelings like they pour out of them in a yell or in a cry or in a hanging onto your leg. Where the teenager slamming the door or you know, screaming or raising their voice or having their own meltdown. Yeah . Ultimately you want to think that they're on their way to adulthood. Yeah. Yeah. Fingers crossed. Right?

Lori Hayungs:

Right. But their brain, gosh, that brain is still so far from fully developed. So yeah. Okay. So now that we understand how self-regulation develops, I have another research tidbit on why it's so important. All right. So why is it so important? So this is a 2011 study that they kind of looked at the whole picture of children's self-control and they looked at, you know, kind of wellbeing from the ages of an adult and they looked at how the children had self-control at like age three. And so what they found actually is that children who had more self-control at age three actually had more wellbeing as an adult, like at the age of 30. So teaching self-regulation then becomes really important even early on because what research told us is that the more you can self regulate and have self-control early on, the better your outcomes are as an adult.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. And so, you know, we all want good things for our kids and this is one way to get it. Yeah . Yeah.

Lori Hayungs:

So, you know, really taking the time to teach self-control and self-regulation. I have an example of when I actually had my youngest child's friends over, and so they're all, you know, early teens, 14, 12, 13. Right. And so, you know, it was kind of one of those moments where I thought they were having, you know, some conversation about things that they didn't like and they, you know, were feeling as teens often do, so unheard. And so, you know, we just took a moment and talked about well how, how could they in those moments where they felt unheard, how could they have some self-control, self-regulation and what could they do when they recognized that, you know, maybe they really weren't being heard and they still had to have self-control. So we actually practiced this idea of taking a deep breath. And one of them had a great suggestion. She was like, sometimes I just ask if I'm in school, I ask if I can go to the bathroom or I ask if I can go get a drink of water or I ask... she said one time I even asked to go to the nurse and when I got to the nurse I said, you know what, I was really angry in class and I just needed to take a walk. So smart for a 14 year old, right? Yes. So teaching that, those are definitely appropriate ways to self regulate yourself, to gain back that composure. So, you know, it's not just about toddlers and, you know, elementary kids. We can teach. We can teach and model self-control and self-regulation all the time.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I will say with my daughter, I actually get teased a little bit from my own family. I use the phrase, I need space. Like my daughter loves to lean on me and like I said, I get very stimulated. She likes to lean on me when I eat, which is such a s imple thing, oh, leans on me all the time. I have to stop. Rewind. But there was a while there where she started to say go away. She started to tell us, go away. I was like, that's not nice. You know, that's not a nice thing to say, but you know, slow down, consider what's going on. She's trying to tell us I need, she's trying to regulate. And so it was such a simple thing, but it was like, okay, something that is appropriate to say, r ight, not rude if you said it to someone a t c hildcare, y ou k now, o r grandma, u m, I need space.

Speaker 1:

And so I modeled that a little bit and it's just kind of become the adopted phrase. Well, especially when she leans on me when I eat, I need space. But it was like, you know, for her, she was already kind of figuring that part out, which was interesting. Once I figured out that's what she was doing, but she just needed words in that case. Right? Like so I can tell you like I need space. So sometimes when it's like a big major meltdown because these feelings are huge and I'm so mad this didn't go my way . She wants to maybe kick or yell or you know, any of those things. Do you need help or do you need space? Right. Because there's a little room for her to, and sometimes I find out she needs space when it's like, okay, I'll give you some space. Right. But it is like leaving room for that. It's not bad that you're having that feeling, how are we going to regulate ourselves? Right. Yeah .

Lori Hayungs:

I mean, when you think about it , like she's already teaching herself to slow down. So I think that it's so important for us to even take that opportunity to help our kids recognize like, wow, you know, this, you got this, you got this. Yeah. Right. Yeah. So that really just drives us right into the final. So we have one more piece of research . You know, we love research here, last research, right? So it looks at some strategies that we could use to self regulate. So in this article, this is a journal article from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. So we have the first strategy is called reappraisal . So reappraisal is essentially helping us to change the way that we think about a potentially, you know, emotionally charged issue or event.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So when she leans on me when I eat?

Lori Hayungs:

Yes. So we had this reappraisal and change the way we think about it. And then the second strategy is called suppression. So suppression is changing how we respond. So changing how we respond to this emotionally charged event . So, so yeah. Your example of you changed the way that you thought about her leaning on you. You decided that it was her way of, you know , of teaching herself she also needs space, right? The reappraising the situation, reappraising it. And then suppression. Okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So the reappraisal is, so that's changing in your head. So reappraising is changing the in your head and the suppression is changing what you do, the behavior?

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah. Okay. So here's an example. When I was thinking about this, here's an example of reappraisal. I listen to podcasts , right? So one of my favorite podcasts to listen to is Cy Wakeman. And she talks about ditch the drama. So one way that she can reappraise the situation that I , that I feel like, you know, kind of plays into this is this idea of when you're in an emotionally charged situation and you just cannot find a way out either of you, whether it's a child, whether it's an adult , you know, whatever, is you use the words, you might be right, instead of we battle and battle and battle and battle to be right with our child. We battle and battle and battle and you know, we just are in this cycle of never ending spin in emotion . Right? Yeah. Right. And so I've been using this phrase on all three of my children in all of their stages as well as, you know, other adults that I work and live with. You know, this idea of when we get in this cycle of someone is just needing to be right. And I know that, you know , they aren't seeing the whole picture and maybe they are right. And in their mind right now, they feel right. In their mind right now, they feel right. And so for me to just use this phrase of Cy's to say, you might be right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Wow.

Lori Hayungs:

I mean it diffuses the situation. And so it's that reappraisal , like I'm totally reappraising . Well, then they might be. And then there's that part of my head that goes, oh, I totally know they aren't right. Even just saying it in that way, it totally changes the whole dynamics of that emotional event. So an example with my youngest daughter was she was tired, right? So, so very tired. So very tired and she's a teenager. So, you know, I think that in my brain I'm thinking, well, don't you recognize when you're tired, you know? But she was tired and the emotions were there and things were bubbling over and you know, there was an argument about to ensue. And I just kind of said, I need to reappraise the situation. And in this case, you know what? She might be right. And you know, other people call it, you know, pick your battles. Yeah. Pick your battles.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It reminds me of this concept of like, you know, we talk about like responding or reacting as parents, right? Right. And so like the reaction is the in your head, the thought of my child, well, if we just go with my example of leaning on me when I eat, my thought example is like, get off me. You know , I could reappraise that. If I was really gonna reappraise it, I might say, my daughter's looking for connection, it makes me feel a little bad. But it's honest , right ? Yeah. I'll say in the moment sometimes it's hard for me to reappraise that and so, you know, but I talked about, you know, changing at least what I do about it, you know, instead of get off me. That's not nice. Even if my head thought that , I at least am maybe practicing suppression when I say like, mom needs some space to eat. Right? Yeah. And so changing that reaction in my, you know, the reaction I don't necessarily have to do, the suppression is, I don't necessarily have to go with the thought that comes to my head. I can change what comes out of my mouth at least.

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah. And then we come back to Stop. Breathe. Talk. because Stop. Breathe. Talk. is more of a suppressive strategy, you know. I love how you say, you know, we dial back when we're already heated. You know, that's such a Mackenzie phrase. Dial it back. And , you know, this is a reminder right now. Go back and listen to our live podcast if you need a reminder of what Stop. Breathe. Talk. is. And so, you know, if you're looking for the next step, kind of look for a time where you could practice that reappraisal and when you might practice that suppression. And honestly, both of these strategies require us to slow down.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Slow down. And we talked about a whole episode last week. That's our favorite strategy to get there. Our favorite strategy to slow down, find a little self-control is that Stop. Breathe. Talk. when they're ready for that advanced move. Maybe we could say, you know, when you're ready for the next step in your own reality this week is the reappraisal. Suppression.

Lori Hayungs:

So I mean I feel like, gosh, I feel like we covered a lot today. Yeah. Right. So maybe we should bring in Kenzie, are you ready for the next segment ?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Am I ever? Maybe?

Mackenzie DeJong:

Surprise! You have to be ready. I'm here. So again, I'm Mackenzie DeJong, producer, background, and extreme challenger and it is time for the Stop. Breathe. Talk. section of the day that we stop, breathe and talk in reflection on maybe some of the topics that we talked about? So today's question for you, I guess comes from the idea that we've talked about how we might self-regulate in terms of parenting. We've talked about examples of how we have self regulated, but I think a great way for some of us who are professionals out in the working world, we can practice this maybe with coworkers or maybe as we're having thoughts about what's happening in the workplace. So my question is, what is one example of a time that with no names, no real, maybe no like telling examples but a time that either you've maybe come across a situation that you had to go through this and tell your side of what emotions you were feeling in it and practicing self-regulation. So maybe that reappraisal, maybe the suppression. I know for me, I'll give you a second to think about it. I had one of these moments last night yesterday where I was just so fired up and I had every thought in the book about like, I'm upset about this and I'm upset about this and I don't know how I'm going to do this. And I'm trying to battle in my brain the idea of, okay, how can I both be true to myself, but then turn around and also give other people the benefit of the doubt. And I tend to think out loud. So how can I think about how I stop, think through it, maybe inside my head rather than out loud to give other people that chance to talk as well. So that I really just have my own thoughts and feelings as I'm going through a work situation.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, I'll go first Lori so you don't take mine. I always make you go first. I'm ready today. I have an immediate answer , probably because Mackenzie DeJong inspired me. Something that I've learned and I like I actually, whether you're a working parent, a stay at home parent , like in between , in my personal and professional life , I heard this concept about, what's your story of the event, right? So like you have a conversation with a parent, your parents or your in-laws or your significant other or you know, or your supervisor, you know, coworker, yada, yada, all these people that we have the story in our own head of the event. And I think sometimes that's a harder part of self-regulation is recognizing that like, what I am telling myself about what happened maybe isn't exactly what happened. Righ?. And so like having that like, it's like a midway, right? It's kind of in that reappraisal , but like, okay, what did I, what am I thinking about this? And so I think that's like a skill that I'm definitely still working on developing. Right? I'm supposed to have a fully developed brain, but I'm still working on that. I use that in lots of contexts. Yeah . So what do you think . Lori?

Lori Hayungs:

Oh yeah. And I think that, you know, I think that I also want to , I do want to reach out to those parents who listen to us that have children with special needs. And I think that, that's a place where I absolutely, you know, have to be inside my head and think about, okay, these are real feelings that I'm having. These are real thoughts. This is my story in my head and is my child able, capable, whether it's physically, mentally, intellectually able to do what I expect, what I want. And that can be any age, you know. Is my infant actually capable of doing this? Is my eight year old, you know, intellectually, you know, at the point where they can think through the consequence, you know? And is my teenager, is their impulse control there to make the rational decision. But you know, especially especially when it comes to my child's special needs, that is where I probably do that most talking is I've got to remember that, you know, the way that she's saying this , because with her ability , she's very direct and so, you know, in her directness , I have to remember that it's direct and so I have to , it's there. It's right there. Yeah.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Alright. Alright. I'll let you off the hook until next week.

Lori Hayungs:

Oh gosh. All right . So again, thanks for joining us. Go back if you've missed some weeks. You're just at the beginning. So this is season one. You haven't missed a lot. Thanks for joining us today. And remember, subscribe to our weekly audio podcast. It's on Apple, on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. You can watch the show, a video each week we have some videos and then once a month, don't forget to join us live. That's where we get to take your comments and questions and you know , just come alongside us as we tackle the ups and the downs, the ins and outs and the research and reality all around the science of parenting.

Narrator:

The Science of Parenting is a research based education program hosted by Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson . Send questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This program is brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This institution, is an equal opportunity provider for the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.state.edu/diversity/ext.