The Science of Parenting

Practice Not Perfect | Ep. 9

May 07, 2020 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 1 Episode 9
The Science of Parenting
Practice Not Perfect | Ep. 9
Show Notes Transcript

Have a plan to manage your emotions using the 4As of communication: accept, acknowledge, apologize, adjust.

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Hey, welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research-based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson , parent of two littles with their own quirks, and I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Hayungs:

And I'm Lori Hayungs, parent of three at three different life stages, one that's launched, one is in college and one is in high school, and I'm a parenting educator as well. So today we are talking about reconnecting and repairing after we, frankly, have lost it as a parent. Yeah, we've all lost it as a parent. And so I think that today will really help us understand that we can go back and repair and reconnect even when the reality of losing it in parenting happens .

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I can admit with a preschooler and an infant in my house, and I've talked on previous episodes about how I get overstimulated, sometimes that puts me over the edge. The emotion - I'm an intense person. I've talked about that, too. And the emotion just sometimes gets the best of me. And so I need to have a plan. I need to have a way, because I know it's inevitable, I need to have a way to reconnect after I go down the path I don't mean to,

Lori Hayungs:

And that's total reality. The reality is we as parents are going to have intense moments and we're going to need to learn how to reconnect and repair. And I think that first research bullet that you are about to share will help us think about how parents feel about their own behaviors.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It's a good one. And so let's just go. So the first one is really about how we feel about our own parenting behaviors and decisions. So a Zero to Three national parent survey revealed that 40% of parents reported that they wished they could do a better job of not yelling or raising their voice so quickly with their children. Hello. That's me. Also, parent survey reports that they use harsh discipline with their children frequently. 77% shared that they don't think it's one of the most effective methods of discipline. So basically, a lot of parents are choosing discipline methods that they don't think really work in the heat of the moment. And you said, reality, and hey reality here at my house, so it's going to happen. And so reality comes back down to what are we going to do when it happens? What are we going to do when my emotions get the best of me? I need to have a plan.

Lori Hayungs:

And I think that that national parent survey just really points out the reality of 77% of parents actually don't think that the harsh discipline that they used worked. So if 77% think that then gosh, yeah, we've got more research to look at.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes . 77% who do use it frequently, right? So it's not just 77% of parents. It's 77% of parents who use harsh discipline regularly aren't thinking it's working, which I can get, right, in the heat of that moment and the intensity. And actually I have an example that was pretty recent. So we were making lunch. It was on a weekend. I was making lunch and we had corn and it was hot and I'd put some of the lunch stuff on the table and then I was back in the kitchen. And I've told you guys on the podcast that mealtime is a very stimulating time for me. I'm trying to do a lot of things. I'm multitasking. I'm feeding my infant, you know, we're getting stuff ready. My co-partner or my co-parent is, you know, trying to help do stuff and sometimes talking with me, you know, like people do at meal time. I'm a little overstimulated trying to get everything done here. And the corn is on the table and I bring my daughter some milk. My son is in the high chair. I go back into the kitchen to get something and I come back in to the dining room and my daughter had poured her milk in her corn and I was like, why, why, why, why? I just poured that! And I was stressed and I was overstimulated from the talking and getting things ready and multitasking. And I was, why did you do that? And I picked her up and I said, just sit in time out, and I p ut her on the stairs, which in our house is where we do that. Usually we talk about it more in terms of taking a break to make some decisions or have space from each other. And I p ut her in time out and I w alked away. She starts bawling and you know, I'm getting stuff ready. Oh, why did yo u, and I dum p th e milk in th e sink and I take a second and take that breath. And I realized in the heat of that moment, that was way more about me than it was about her dumping her milk in he r corn. That was way more about me. And tha t ju s t ha ppened, in re a lity. Y eah. And so I did have to repair and reconnect because that was me. But I'm going to save what we did and how we walked through that for a little bit later. But I have to own that, that my emotions get the best of me sometimes. And so I do, I have to own up to that.

Lori Hayungs:

Well, and I think that's why we wanted to land here today is just understanding that as adults, you know, this reality of, we lose it sometimes and we have to figure out how to own it and then repair it. I have another resource from Zero to Three here telling us that sometimes that disconnect that we have when it comes to our behaviors and what our child is doing is actually really more about the realistic ability that our child may not actually have self control mastery yet. And that expectation gap of our expectation and their real ability to self control are different and too far apart. And that can cause a lot of frustration for us as adults and the child as well. So we had these high expectations. And really if we go back to what we talked about last week, brain development, they don't have the brain development to master that self control. And so it's that expectation gap that's causing the frustration and entering into our reality.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And that I think that reality for me, I sometimes feel like I'm fortunate that I have some of that , we have some of that head knowledge and background. You know in education as parents that, you know, I maybe know that my three year old, what her abilities are, but sometimes that's head knowledge. Exactly. Oh yeah, if someone were to ask me, I can tell you. In the heat of the moment, do I remember?

Lori Hayungs:

Not every time. And as we were talking through this, the example that I was going to share had to do with, I had asked my preschooler , she was maybe three at the time. We actually didn't even have an official diagnosis for her disability at the time. So she was three , and I asked her to clean her room and at that time I was just feeling frustrated, out of control. The room, of course, was a disaster area. And so I lost my cool and, you know, I went in and I was determined I was going to put things in the right place and I was sputtering and muttering about how this was here and this didn't belong here and the Barbies weren't with the Barbies and the stuffed animals, what are the stuffed animals doing in the dishes? And my expectation about her ability to logically sequence the toys where I thought they belonged and coordinate them in the right buckets was just not something that was where she was at, let alone the fact that yes, she was three and that mastery of those things is not there, but she also has a disability. So my expectation gap at that point in time when I was losing my cool was huge and I didn't need to be muttering about this, it doesn't belong here and I can't believe you put that here. And expect that the spoons, they don't go in the littlest pets things, you know? I look back and I literally still remember that 18 years later. So that was a time I totally remember and lost it and am not proud of it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think having the term, even just having the words expectation gap, understanding that sometimes what I expect of my child is not realistic for them, in a way, that's kind of empowering to me. It gives me a specific thing to think about, what am I expecting right now? Realisticly, you know. Oh yes, my child could get themselves dressed independently yesterday. Is it realistic that they're going to get right every day? And the expectation gap , just having those words in the back of my mind feels like, okay, that's a way for me to check in. That's a way for me to check in on what I'm asking here.

Lori Hayungs:

I love that - check-in. So now that we know what and why, let's take a look at how we can avoid those situations. So, according to Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical psychologist who studies the brain, my fave , right, during stressful parenting moments, we may lose control or have you heard this - flip our lid - and let our emotions control our reactions. So Dr. Siegel suggests "mindful parenting" as an approach. And what he suggests is that mindful parenting means you bring to your conscious attention what's happening. So what's happening, I'm bringing that forward. What's happening? Instead of getting hijacked by all these emotions, the red between our eyes and the red creeping up our neck, bring to that conscious attention what's happening. So here are three specific tips. Notice our own feelings when we're in conflict with our child. Oh, here's something that might reverberate back to the Stop. Breathe. Talk. The second one is learn to pause before responding in anger. And listen carefully to the child's viewpoint, even if you disagree with it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, you talked about that in a previous episode. We were talking about the car seat. We were talking about when your kid doesn't want to be in the car seat. We're still holding the expectation but you gave a great example in there of, you know what, I am also on team this-is-a-bummer. This is a bummer you have to be in your car seat, right? So even if you disagree with whatever they're saying, you thought this was happening, acknowledging that that's what they think. That's so powerful. And I think you're right, those three steps of knowing your own feelings, learning to pause and listening to your child, even if you disagree, you're right. That is like ringing Stop. Breathe. Talk. in my ears.

Lori Hayungs:

Somehow it all comes back to that, right? So that's the takeaway, right? Definitely having a plan for how to manage our anger is an important strategy. What's our plan for managing our anger when we lose it?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So yeah, there are kind of two sides of it, right? There's, do I have a plan in place beforehand? So that's part of that reconnection and repairing in the future. And then, what do I do after I did it? And in our live session on Stop. Breath. Talk. somebody asked the question, so what happens, you know, that Stop. Breathe. Talk. thing, what happens if you go straight to talk? So what happens? The emotions, I didn't take that second to pause, take a breath, stop, you know, recognize what I was feeling and I went straight into What? And I said something or did something or you know, talk about putting my daughter on the steps because I was mad about the milk and the corn. What do I do now?

Lori Hayungs:

Well, we have the opportunity every day, every minute, every moment to reconnect and repair every day. And that sometimes means that as adults, we have to put our egos aside and instead of standing our ground and just letting what happened happen because we're the adults and it happened, we sometimes have to be able to reconnect and repair and go back. And I love this for the communication pieces that we're going to share next. So how about this? I'll share the piece and you give an example.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So this one's actually from a training that we offer, a face-to-face training that we offer , by Leslie Aguilar. And I love this. The Four A's of communication recovery. I love this so much. I use it. It's a good one.

Lori Hayungs:

All right . So our first A is accept feedback from the person, PS: even if it's a little person. Accept feedback from the person. How would you do that?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So I can say in my case , with the corn and the milk, me accepting my daughter's feedback was saying, I hurt your feelings or you were surprised or you were sad that I reacted this way. And so it was accepting her experience of what happened.

Lori Hayungs:

Excellent. The second A is acknowledge what happened, but acknowledge both your intent as well as the impact. Ooh, ouch. Acknowledged. So you've accepted feedback, right? And now you have to acknowledge the intent and the impact.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So what that sounded like , with our interaction here, it was me explaining my intent, right? I was trying to get lunch on the table. I was frustrated and the impact was that I raised my voice and I overreacted. And so it was owning w hy, not an excuse kind of way, but I was feeling frustrated. I was multitasking. I was trying to get stuff done. I was feeling stressed and this is what I did, right? This is what I did because I felt that way. That was the impact of what happened.

Lori Hayungs:

Excellent. So the third A is apologize. And honestly, that's really the most important step. And it's easiest if you apologize immediately because your sincerity will help kind of clear that air and help the other person feel more comfortable. So accepting, acknowledging and apologizing.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. So this weekend there was kind of a step in between apologizing and acknowledging. I asked my daughter, why, why did you pour your milk in your corn ? Why d id you do that? Because I didn't take the time to ask w hen i t happened. This is just a few minutes after and she goes, mom, my corn was hot and my milk was cold and I want to be able to eat my corn like you asked. And I was, I'm sorry. I was like, now I understand what you were doing, s o accepting. We don't usually pour our milk in our corn to cool it down, but I did it, accepting t hat's what she was doing. And then, o kay, so you were pouring your milk in your corn to help cool it down. I'm sorry I yelled. I'm sorry that I overreacted and that I put you in timeout without listening to you. Which is hard, that is hard and especially in parenting a lot of people have this fear of the power dynamic of I'm the adult, I need to be in charge. A nd if I apologize, you know, I'm giving up my power. But you're building your relationship, right? It's not always about the power. It's about reconnecting, especially owning, you know, when things haven't gone the way we hoped or would intend to do.

Lori Hayungs:

So think about the modeling you're doing. You're modeling how to apologize and you know , this isn't the go hug your brother kind of apology. N ow this is like a real life apology that they can learn from. And then they can go out and practice when they feel frustrated and they have to apologize. And then it feels real. It's that feeling of, I really am sorry and I h ad the chance to see my p arent do that and I know how I felt after my p arents apologized to me. The person that I hurt, I really want them to feel that same way. Excellent. Okay. So accept feedback, acknowledge what happened, apologize, and the fourth A is adjust. So in other words, try not to repeat the same offense in the future. Parenting is real, right? So try to think about, and you can even say it out loud, next time I will try to not, or next time I will try to X. What did you do this weekend?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So after I said I'm sorry, I shouldn't have yelled or I shouldn't have put you in timeout without talking to you or understanding what happened. I said, next time I need to take a breath, right? Next time when I feel overwhelmed and stressed, I need to take a breath. And I think you're so right that we try, right? We want to do better. We don't want to yell at our kids. We want to be calmer and we want to listen to them and help them develop these social emotional skills. It's our intent and so making that effort to acknowledge you didn't get it right this time and trying to do better. Right. Practice, not perfection.

Lori Hayungs:

Practice, not perfection. And you said it best, I think, when you said parenting is about the overall relationship, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. This one interaction, you know, are we building or are we kind of , you know, moving backwards. And I think even when we don't get it right and when I feel like we're moving backwards, the repairing and reconnecting, taking that time, like we said, you know, a ccept, acknowledge, apologize, adjust. That can be a way to move forward, you know, instead of having it exclusively move back. And I w ant t o say, you know, I'm using this example of a recent one, but there's a lot of times when I don't get this right. I don't want anyone to think that I'm sharing this example because I get it right all the time. I obviously do not. And so this was just an example that was recent a s we were putting together this podcast, where I had just used these steps. So they're good ones.

Lori Hayungs:

They are definitely good ones and I think that as children get older and have more words to maybe argue back with you or talk back with you or you know, those types of conversations. Yes, accept, acknowledge, apologize and I mean honestly, you can sit down with them and say, hey, here's what we're going to do. The first step is called accept and our second step is called acknowledge. I mean, teaching them and modeling this to older children is absolutely one of the best ways to work through those relationship issues. Just being brutally honest about how as a parent, I'm going to mess up sometimes and sometimes as a kid, you're going to mess up, but this is how we move forward.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. So I think that kind of moves us into, you know, we usually have a little section here called your reality. And so we learned about as parents, we sometimes do things we wish we didn't or our emotions get ahead of us. Sometimes that's related to an expectation gap that we have of our kids. You know, we talked about using our brain, understanding that brain a little bit better to have those steps to kind of, what's the word I want, anticipate, to anticipate when that might get ahead of us. So we have a plan, Stop. Breathe. Talk. and what do we do when we got a little too far down the path and now we need to kind of recover and repair. So as you think about your own parenting and your own practice with your kids, right? We talk about that. It's not about perfection. We're not going to get it right, but having that plan. So take a minute, maybe take it right now, pause the podcast, but take a minute to think about if there's something that happened recently or when that tends to happen and think about what your plan is going to be. If things get ahead of you, how are you going to repair? How are you going to remember those Four As of communication recovery? Taking that time because it is an opportunity to own up to what's going on and like Lori said, to model it. So I feel like this is a weird, a hard topic because it's kind of heavy. One, it's hard to acknowledge, but it's also like, this weighs on my heart. It weighs on my heart. When I think back on that moment of, man, I lost it. I lost it and it was not about you. It was about me. It was definitely about me, the adult. Definitely. Yeah. That's kinda heavy. So I just appreciate the opportunity to speak honestly, you know, without judgment and to make a plan for what we can do when this does happen. Make a plan.

Lori Hayungs:

You want to bring in Kenzie?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Let's do it. In here, Ken .

Mackenzie DeJong:

My question relates perfectly to what you were just talking about, honestly. So we've gotten to this point where maybe we've learned how to go through this process, these four steps, accept, acknowledge, apologize, and adjust, but as we were talking through this episode and talking through back in the past, you know, I blah, blah blah, and I still regret that or I still think about that. So my question is, how can we forgive ourselves after we've used that harsh punishment. We've erupted in the moment and we regret it. Even if we've accepted, acknowledged, apologized , adjusted, and we're still like, man, I still did it though. How can we forgive ourselves or look to move forward?

Lori Hayungs:

Oh gosh, this is where we need everyone to hear Barb Dunn Swanson, our writer's, words because when we were working through this, she shared just some superb words about me needing to forgive myself and sometimes we just need to be open to accepting gratefulness and grace and giving ourselves grace, but being open to giving ourselves that grace. And she was just so clear and so eloquent in how she said it, that I just immediately felt more confident and comfortable with what I was doing. And I thought, oh gosh, if our listeners could just hear Barb talk about this. But that's what she talked about. We have to give ourselves grace. We don't have all the answers. We don't have all the right tools for every single situation every single time. And then add in our emotions. Yeah. Lots of grace, lots of grace.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I would say, I think that sometimes, like I said, it weighs heavy on my heart, these moments do. But I think acknowledging, you know, going through those four A's of communication recovery, but that intentional recognizing that I am being intentional about how I adjust in the future, you know? And that does help me. Okay, I didn't get it right. Right? I didn't get it right that time but knowing that I have a plan a nd that my overall relationship with my child is right. This is one moment in the midst of a lot. And so it's a tough question, Kenz, but I do think, you know, giving yourself that grace and acknowledging, right? Adjusting in the future is one thing that you're already doing.

Lori Hayungs:

The fact that you're listening to the podcast right now says to me that you're adjusting your learning, you're taking in information, you want to be here. And so if all you hear today is that we want you to be open and acknowledge your own grace for your parenting reality, please do that.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Wonderful.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Wonderful. You're so good.

Lori Hayungs:

All right . All right . I think that's it. That was a tough question. That might be the toughest one you've given us, but I feel like we're okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So I did have to Stop. Breathe. Talk. in our Stop. Breathe. Talk. space here. Take that breath and decide what to say.

Mackenzie DeJong:

There was just something as you were talking that I was going, okay, so there's the As, but I'm still feeling this way. So then what? So that was just what was on my heart, so thanks.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, that's a deep one. But I think it's so important. I think as we think about kids melting down and how we use self control, you know, and tips for gaining our kids' cooperation, all these things we've been talking about in this first season, it's important to touch on this one, too, even if it's heavy.

Lori Hayungs:

So she gave us a tough question, but I think we conquered it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, I think we did it.

Lori Hayungs:

I think we did it. So we've been talking about reconnecting, about repairing and the four As of acknowledging, accepting, apologizing and adjusting. I said that out of order. They're accepting, acknowledging, apologizing and adjusting. And then gosh, we added in our fifth. But it's not an A, it's a G, grace. Give yourself grace.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. So I think that's kind of it. I think we covered it, you know, walking through a lot, k inda heavy, but it's important to touch on. So thanks for joining us.

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah. Thanks for joining us today at The Science of Parenting podcast. Remember to subscribe to our audio podcasts on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. Watch the show on video each week or listen on podcast and then once a month, join us on our Facebook Live. We take comments and questions. We've had some fun. Definitely taking live comments and questions. It wasn't as scary as I thought.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, so come along with us as we tackle the ins and outs, the ups and downs and the research and reality on The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

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 in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and 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.iastate.edu/diversity.