The Science of Parenting

Intensity: (Maybe) Not So Calm and Collected | S. 3 Ep. 3

August 20, 2020 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 3 Episode 3
The Science of Parenting
Intensity: (Maybe) Not So Calm and Collected | S. 3 Ep. 3
Show Notes Transcript

Did you know taking a drink of water or cracking a silly joke can prevent a meltdown? Discover these tricks to helping kids keep their cool. 

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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 to have research can help 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, and I'm a parent of three in three different life stages, one in college, one launched and one in high school. And I am a parenting educator. And last week we were able to talk about our continuation of temperament season three. We talked about sensitivity and remember this entire season, we are going to be talking about temperament. So we're three weeks in. I feel like I'm just as excited and it's just taking too long to get through all of these temperament traits .

Mackenzie Johnson:

She has so much to tell us.

Lori Hayungs:

We have so much to tell them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We have so much to share. I'll say, and I have like, I've got examples prepared as we think about these traits. I've got things to say, especially this trait. We have some more extremes on this trait in our family. And so I'm like, Oh, I got examples for this.

Lori Hayungs:

I love it. I love it. Just a quick reminder about what temperament is and what it isn't before we start. So temperament is our predisposition to how we react. It's our inborn genetic tendency. It's with us from the very beginning of life and think about it, our behavior actually goes way back to the beginning. So how is this different from personality? Well, we like to think of temperament as that foundational layer, that first piece that's formed and then everything else layers on top of it. So our personality forms on top of it, how our family interacts with us forms on top of it, where we live, what environment we're from forms on top of it and our age and development forms on top of it. But we start with temperament. It's always been there and I love how Barb Dunn Swanson, our writer, has helped us to shape this conversation over the next several months. And she wants us to make sure that we remember all the time that our temperament is a gift. It is our unique gift to the world. So yeah , I love that.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I do, too. Well, so this week we're diving into the second of the nine temperament traits. Remember we talked about Thomas and Chess' research, and then James Cameron and his colleagues at Kaiser Permanente studied thousands of kids and their temperament traits over 30 plus years. So we have lots of research backing up the conversation. And basically what they found is that everybody, kids included, adults, kids, babies, everybody has the same nine traits. What varies is how much we get of each one. And so that's kind of what we're figuring out is did our child and myself, did we get a lot of this trait or did we get a little? And so if you do need a quick refresher on that temperament stuff and the nine traits, how you can figure out where your kid's temperament kind of falls on that, there's profiles, as well as other tools available on our website, scienceofparenting.org for all those temperament resources. But for now this week, we get to talk about intensity. This one's my favorite trait. I love this one.

Lori Hayungs:

I think we'll have a good time figuring out between my intensity and Mackenzie's intensity.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You might see it right now.

Lori Hayungs:

Let's get started. Actually, what we're going to do is we're going to pull in research from several different temperament research researchers, gurus. These are people that have been involved in looking at temperament for a long time, and they are so willing to share with us. The cool thing is that over the last couple of months, we've actually been able to interview them and talk with them personally. And what we have seen across the board is they are passionate about you getting the information about temperament. And so yes, do check out our resources on our website because they are sharing everything that they know about temperament.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So a lot of the names that we are citing , you know, from this research are people who were willing to talk with us and share their expertise, which we were like, Oh , everything they say, it feels like genius.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. I totally agree. So we're going to start with intensity today. And what I want to do is share a quick definition from Sean McDevitt. And I kind of see him. I don't know if he sees himself this way, but I see him right now as kind of the gatekeeper of the temperament resources. He has a great website and he invites other temperament researchers and clinicians and practitioners, and those who are doing temperament counseling to share their researches. And so he defines intensity as that amount of energy exhibited, an emotional expression, so that emotional expression that people can see, hear and maybe feel from us. And then emotional intelligence author, Daniel Goldman , he calls emotional intensity, a major lifelong aspect of temperament that actually needs to be studied by professionals and clinicians so that it can be understood by parenting , you know, as part of educating parents about their children so that emotional intensity is really an important part of educating us about parenting. And then of course, Mary Sheedy, Kurcinka, and her book, Raising Your Spirited Child. She explains that even in the hospital nursery, emotional intensity can be seen. And I would like to add, heard. You know , we didn't teach that baby to be intense. They show up at the nursery and there they are, there's their intensity, whether it's a high intensity or a lower intensity. And so I love that reminder that it's there. It's always been there. It is inborn. Yes. Along the way we learn how to work with what we've got. But in the meantime, it's always been there. So hearing that definition, how do you explain or define intensity in your own words?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So I would say when I think of intensity, the word that always comes to mind for me is raw . Like, and especially when I think of it in kids even up through teenagers, so like intensity , it's an experience of strong emotions. And so the pattern of behavior is that strong experience and so as I think of that intensity, it's like sometimes, you know, we talk about the expression of it. And I think sometimes maybe we don't want to say people who are less intense, maybe see intense people as, you're being so dramatic. But I think that like, it's a different experience to be really intense. It's not just that you're expressing it differently. It's also, you're feeling it intensely, but the word raw, that's the word that in little kids, yeah. And adults, we might be intense, but we've learned some skills, like you said, along the way and kids, it is raw. It's full blown, intensity, strong emotional experiences. What about you? How would you say it?

Lori Hayungs:

It's not even a word really that comes to mind. It's a sound and that sound is oomph. Isn't it? Is it a loud argh, and that's to me intensity. And I remember a story I told one time I was sharing about intensity and I said, so if I were to knock this glass of orange juice, sticky orange juice across the table, and it splattered on some of you, what would we see and hear? And that to me, here I am speaking in word pictures, that intensity, what do we see and hear? If all of a sudden I spilled an entire glass of orange juice across the table at you. And it spilled.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. The adult polite part of me would be like ahh, but the intense part of me, if I'm not being polite because I'm around other adults, I've never correlated this before, I growl a little sometimes. And that is high intensity. As you've heard me discuss in other episodes, I tend to be more highly intense. I have a lot of feelings, so my instinct is like, ARRGGHH, and like, okay, we'll clean it up, not that big of a deal, but the amount of my frustration is big.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes. And it's in your gut. It's internal. Yes . You feel it. So mine wouldn't be as loud. My sound and my reaction, you know, I wouldn't throw my chair back and jump up from the table. I would probably immediately take a deep breath and cover the crack. Right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You'd respond, cover the crack. I feel like I've heard you tell a story about one of your kids spilling something on the bed, it was like somewhere where you really don't want to spill something. And they were like, oh, I spilled! And y ou w ere like, well, yeah, grab a towel.

Lori Hayungs:

It was milk and I was like , yup, grab a towel. That's what you need to do.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I would have been like, ahhhh!

Lori Hayungs:

Right. So we know the intensity definition. And so then what we like to do is think about, okay, this continuum, we all have a certain amount of intensity. How much did we get, a little or a lot? You mentioned that. So again, looking at Mary's book for information, let's look at a child with higher intensity. So Mary refers to this fact that they have experienced an emotion and sensations. They experienced those things very deeply and powerfully. Can you relate?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lori Hayungs:

Powerful emotion. She says their heart pounds and their adrenaline races. And literally they have physical reactions to their experiences. And the thing is when you have someone or a child that is higher intensity, we have to remember, they aren't purposely being loud, for instance, to irritate you. They're loud because they actually really feel that much emotion and sensation. So it's at the very fingertips of their being. Their emotions are coming out.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. Okay. So I actually have one of my favorite stories to talk about with temperament intensity. So my significant other and I, my husband tends to be a lot more mild and I tend to be a lot more intense. This is probably our biggest gap temperament wise between the two of us. And so when we made our first vehicle purchase together after we were married and , about, you know , a couple weeks later, we were riding in the car and I was like, so what do you think of the car? Are you glad we bought it ? Was this a good choice? You know? And so we're just kind of talking about it. My high intensity, right, since we're talking about that first, I was like this feature I like, and I think, and you know, when we did this thing together and I was, you know , talking about all these things and this excited and probably loud, if I'm honest, my natural volume is very loud. Like going through all those things and my intensity, it was just like this car! Yeah! Great purchase! And so that's where I was at. My husband on the other hand was not, but I know you have a two and a half. Right. So research, we did big number two, shared the high , let's hear the low side of the continuum.

Lori Hayungs:

We'll hear the rest of the story in a moment, everyone on the end of their seat. So yeah, intense temperament can mean a loud cry of pain or loud cry of excitement. It's just that natural reaction. And one thing we haven't touched on yet is touch. And so their touch may not be intentionally rough or aggressive, but we have to think about, it's literally their energy, their energy is forcing their body moving through the air , arms and legs. And , thinking about the light saber, when it comes on, right. You know , like that lightsaber is shooting out of the handle. Right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think of my daughter, actually, you saying that physical. We joke about my daughter tackling our littlest, with a hug. It's a form of affection and our infant does not feel like, you know, he doesn't love a tackle, but it's just like, I love you so much. It's physical.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes. And there's no bad temperament. And so I think it's really important to remember there is no bad temperament. We just, there are times we're going to appreciate it more than others. That's just the way it is. Okay. So two and a half, right? So let's move to the other end of the continuum and consider the less intense temperament. We think about that calmer emotion, right. That we'll just grab a towel. Okay . Happy or sad or angry moments. Their reactions are just not as loud or as boisterous. And so they might not shout their expressions of happiness or, you know, you in the car, it's a special gift. I may not gush over the special gift that someone gave me. I might instead, you know, smile quietly and tell you later how much I loved it. And so it's important to make sure that those with less intensity actually have a chance for their voice to be heard. So they don't get lost in the crowd. You have to teach them to talk about their feelings. And especially when you realize that they may have a less intense temperament, it's important to not judge their less intense reaction as not finding appreciation or joy or thankfulness.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You're saying that right before I finish this story is like, almost calling me out.

Lori Hayungs:

Sorry .

Mackenzie Johnson:

No, it's okay . The second part of that conversation with my significant other about our car purchase, I had gone on and on and gushed. That's a great word for what I was doing. I was gushing about why I liked like, why I was happy with our choice. And so I was like, and what do you think? Are you happy? Or do you think it was a good idea? Yeah. Literally he was like, yeah. And I was like, yeah? You like it? Yeah. You're saying yes, because I asked, yeah. You think, you have to say, yeah, what does yeah mean? And I did, I was irritated because I was like, so you don't care or you don't like it. Because I was measuring him by my high intensity. If you're not as excited as I am, you must not be excited at all, which is unfair . And that's something we've kind of learned over kind of being together and something we're learning about our kids. Our older child is more intense and our younger child seems to be less intense. And so recognizing it's not being dramatic or it's not that our littlest doesn't have any feelings. We have to maybe pay a little more special attention to him because his cues are more subtle. He's not going to scream versus our daughter is more likely to scream. So we usually know where she's at in the house, even we know where she's at .

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. Think about children and their different intensity levels. Sometimes, you know, sometimes it's important to remember that that intensity level is serving a purpose to communicate with you. And so what you said was really important in terms of, we have to judge their intensity by their intensity, not by ours. What is it they're trying to communicate with us through their intensity. And so, yes, I have one child who I maybe have said that she's a drama queen at one point or 50 points during her life. So I'm judging her intensity by mine, which is less intense. And then I have another daughter who is less intense. And I have to remember that when she gets angry, she's using her voice. And I need to really not brush that off because it probably took a lot for her to get to that point.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So very different, very different experience. And I think you make a great point about, yeah, of course our own temperament kind of might put a filter on When my daughter is more likely to, I don't want to say outbursts , but have big feelings. It's maybe a little easier for me to relate to like, oh, I know this is tough instead of why are you yelling? I get the yelling because I get that feeling, you know, versus the flip side. My less intense child, I might miss some of those more mild kind of cues. And so our own temperament definitely puts a filter. So yeah, exactly. And I want to play the game that we played last time. I liked this as we dig into the traits, hearing some of the common experiences of kids at different ages. So whatever age of kids, our listeners might have, let's look at some of the ways we might see intensity play out across different stages. Sure . So of course for my brain that our temperament is genetic and all those things. So on both ends of the continuum. Let's start with infants. We'll start as we think about a mild infant versus a more intense infant. You talked about even in the nursery, what do you mean by that? Like, what's the intensity there?

Lori Hayungs:

So research actually shows that you can probably begin to really predict a pattern of intensity by, you know, I think the temperament profiles that we've been looking at go down to six to eight weeks to a couple months. So really it's there. Right? And so , that less intense infant, they're probably not going to fuss as much. They're not going to be as loud. They're not going to cry as often. And so it's really important to remember to look for their cues because you might be missing some subtle cues that they're saying, I need my diaper changed. I need the air and I'm not comfortable in this place. I'm scared. You know, and so they might not be as loud.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Versus those intense babies. I think of my d aughter's crying. It was like, Oh, she can cry.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes, she lets you know what she wants. And so , you said it, you know what ? You always know what she , where she's at, what she's thinking. The same thing with that infant, you actually can read those infants sometimes a little quicker because they let you know, it's time , it's time for whatever, whatever it is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I'm going to tell you right now. All right . So moving up the kind of age range here, what about our toddlers? What's kind of common for our mild toddlers, a common experience, but on opposite ends of the continuum for toddlers.

Lori Hayungs:

Think about toddlers, what is the big thing happening in their life? Right? Toddlers are starting to be independent. They've learned to walk. They can get to where they want to get. They are starting to maybe do things with their clothing, right? Take their shoes on and off . They might be able to get their shirt on over their head. And that idea of independence yet still needing to rely on you. Okay. So that's what's happening in life. So a less intense toddler. you might see them try to take their shoe off and find that they don't get frustrated very easily. They're not gonna scream and yell if they can't get their shoe off. They're not going to throw it across the room when they can't make that happen. Again, that idea that you want to make sure that you're not missing their cues. You don't want them to get lost in the crowd, you know. They might be, if they're in a childcare environment, they might be the child where you have to go, okay, now where did they go? Cause I don't hear them . And so that's important for that less intense child to also have some special attention time, because they're not going to be as demanding of your time and attention with their intensity level.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Versus those more intense.

Lori Hayungs:

Again, think of their energy coming out of every pore of their being , right? So I can't get my shoe off. We see it. We may feel it. They may be kicking at us to get their shoe off. They may be kicking at kids around them to get their shoe off. They may, if they can't express their emotions through language, they may bite. That's a big thing that's happening in toddlerhood and those intense toddlers bite . And yes, we have to understand that their emotions are coming out of their, you know, their arms and legs and their mouth and we can't change their intensity. So we really have to work with intense toddlers on what are some different ways that we can help them. We're going to talk about that later, but that's what that intense toddler is trying to get a grasp on is how do I keep these emotions from, you know , flying out my fingertip, like a lightsaber turning on.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, that's great. Okay. So looking at let's move kind of more into the preschool and school aged kids. How's that , intensity maybe play out with them?

Lori Hayungs:

So less intense, again, those assets and liabilities that less intense preschooler or that less intense school-aged child. They're probably actually going to be the child that more children want to play with because they're not intense. They're not going to yell when things don't go their way. They're not going to kick and lash out. If someone takes their toys or knocks down their block tower or is clicking their pencil incessantly. Okay. So their emotions, again, same as we've heard before. They're going to be the child that you need to kind of check in with. They may not speak up when someone hurts them, when someone yells at them, when someone takes their toy. So we also need to help teach them to speak up for themselves, to speak up when they've been hurt or , you know, when they don't have, when they're questioning, speak up, we need to help them find words. Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So those more intense kids. So I think of the word as you were describing that that mild might be kind of the agreeable kids in school and like with social relationships and the more intense, okay, maybe feeling like the opposite word is disagreeable. That's not what I mean, but the more intense, I've got big feelings and I've got things to say, right,

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. I have big feelings and I wear them all over me, you know ? And so in a classroom or in a preschool room, sometimes those are the children that they might be the scapegoat in the classroom for misbehaviors that may or may not have anything to do with them. I literally remember doing a classroom observation at one time in a four year old room. And I was observing this child with a high intensity level. And I was observing the child from across the room. And next to me, the block tower fell down. And the two preschoolers in the block area, when the teacher from across the room said, what happened? They said, so-and-so did it. And I was thinking, what? But because of his intensity level and because the children in the classroom knew that he had difficulty reigning in his intensity, it was one of those things where everyone in the classroom just assumed it was him. Whoa , that was so hard that day to realize that his temperament was not valued at all by anyone in the classroom, including the other children.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Hmm . That's hard. That's hard. So as we think about how, you know, kind of similarly, but as we think about kind of that preteen and teen, some of the developmental tests they're experiencing, you know , I think a lot of the relationships and that goal of independence, right. Or that term autonomy of like, I am almost an adult. As we think about interacting with our kids who are teens, where does intensity play there?

Lori Hayungs:

You know, it's important. And I think about my daughter who is not very intense where I think there were probably times where she really wanted to talk about things, but her intensity level, when she talked about it with me, I may not have thought it was that big of a deal because she didn't have a lot of emotion in the conversation, but really it was a big deal to her. And I maybe didn't spend enough time helping her work through it, or, you know, diving in deeper into those feelings because she didn't have as big of emotions as her sister. And when you think about that independence and that autonomy, sometimes that less intense temperament, you know, may not be letting you know how big of an important decision or worry something is or experience something was. And so as a parent, you, as uncomfortable as it might be, you might have to go back and go, wait, let's talk about this again. I feel like maybe we didn't get the chance to really talk about all the important pieces of this.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. So versus the, I think of myself as the more intense, I hope I was still agreeable, but as a more intense teen, when I was like, yeah, those big feelings and expressing them. And so me looking for decisions on my own and like, I can do that myself.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. And especially when we look at intensity level, from that perspective of what is it that developmental age is looking to be, independent and autonomous. Add that emotion on top of it and everything is about independence. You won't let me, you know , wear my hair straight, wear my hair pink. You won't let me get the coolest shoes. I'm slamming doors and it's important to not let your focus as a parent move to the intensity of the child's emotions. It's important to stick to what is it that we are working on at hand. We are working on independence and autonomy. I'm going to value your strong emotions about this, but this is what we're working on. We're working on how late you can be out. You know ? Yeah. It would be , you know, back to that tree Treelow story of zeroed in on what's the goal, the goal here is we're going to talk about the keys to the car, the keys to the car, the keys to the car. Slam the door, slam the door. Nope. I'm not going to focus on slam the door, the keys to the car.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Your intensity is not going to derail. And even if it's whether or not they're being intentional about using that intensity, it just is intense . We're not talking about using your intensity. This is the issue.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes. I love that . I love that. That's hard.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. Yeah. And so I see that play out across the different ages. And so, but of course we talk about this continuum and then the next thing we'd like to move into kind of in our research and reality section here is looking at that goodness of fit. So that's that term about how we learn to respond to our kids' natural temperament. Lori kind of led us right into it with explaining some of these strategies of these different, you know , developmental tasks. And so researchers, Thomas and Chess, remember they give us that term goodness of fit about helping to understand and work with a child's natural tendencies without blaming the child or ourselves.

Lori Hayungs:

Shame and blame. Yeah .

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And so understanding this goodness of fit can really help bring out the best in both of us. And like Lori has said, it even can make our job easier. So it's about getting, again, really understanding it and help us anticipate and prevent and work with that. So looking at our kids' intensity, looking at ours , you know, as you think about it, are you surprised where our kids fall? So Lori assigned me to do the profiles on myself. My significant other also did one. And then I did them on my children to see what I maybe perceived they were at versus where they actually are at with intensity. And so, funny enough, I feel like this is also true of intensity. We talked about sensitivity is sometimes a hidden trait. Intensity is not hidden, intensity is out in the foreground. And so this was one that I pegged them about right, like my daughter, a little more intense then I pegged my son a little more mild. And , everybody in our household kind of landed where I might've expected. So I'm more intense as is my daughter, my husband and my son are a little more mild there. So that wasn't as surprising, which I feel is kind of fitting for this trait, wouldn't you say?

Lori Hayungs:

I do. And I think that one of the really important things when we look at children's temperament and our own temperament is, you use two words, anticipate and prevent. When we see it on paper and when we think about what is our temperament and what is our child's, we begin to be able to anticipate their response, but we can also anticipate our response. And when it comes to intensity, if you know, Mackenzie that you are intense, you can begin to anticipate and then prevent both your loud emotion or, you know, as well as your daughter's. And so I think that with intensity, yes, it is out there. And when we learn about our own intensity alongside our child's and that goodness of fit and finding that fit and allowing ourselves to anticipate both our reaction and theirs . Woo . It makes a difference. It makes a difference.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And you're already heading right into kind of one of our last sections. Of course, we'd like to share the research with you of all those goodies , information that we had from these experts on temperament and on intensity. And then we always kind of like to wrap up with some strategies for you. So as we learn about temperament and exploring these things, it's like, okay, maybe you do a profile on your kids or maybe just hearing it, you already know.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And so we have a couple of tips for you. Lori, do you want to kick us off? I'm going to say in intensity. We've got a couple tips, right? Usually we just share one strategy but we've got a couple here.

Lori Hayungs:

We do. And I think that because what you said is intensity, it's out there and people have probably been like, would you just get to the tips already. I get it. I got it. I know where I'm falling. I know where my kids fall. You gotta help me. You know? And so our goal remember is to appreciate what you got, appreciate what you gave them. Okay. Cause we're working with those inborn traits. And so Helen Neville , she wrote a book called Temperament Tools: Working with Your Child's Inborn Traits. And she shares some interesting work around helping children learn to build their emotional intelligence. I remember one of those research tidbits was from Daniel Goldman and he is a researcher in emotional intelligence. And so Helen says, yeah, we got to help children learn how to build their own emotional intelligence. And it's going to take years for children with intense emotions to be able to manage those intense emotions and strong feelings. I mean, it's taken us years to learn our own strategies and techniques, right? So she specifically talks about a couple of different things. And I want you to think about these in terms of, yes, they're important for the intense temperament, but they're also important for the non intense or the less intense temperament. And I, you know, I bring this up because I think as myself with a less intense temperament, I had to learn these things as well. I've had to continue to work on them. And you've probably heard me say, you know, I get angry. I have these intense feelings. It just takes awhile for that slow boil. But when I do, y'all know I'm serious. If Lori's upset like that, right? So when I talk about these emotional intelligence things from Helen, I want you to think about both the intense temperament as well as the less intense temperament. So she talks about the idea of being able to name feelings. What do we call that feeling? That feeling, I want to name that feeling angry. We're going to name that feeling sad. And another step then is once we've named that feeling is to be able to find a way to calm down. I think we've alluded to that in season one. We're going to allude to that again here in season three. So we name the feeling. We find a way to calm down and then we have to describe that feeling. And we might say something like, wow, I can see that you're mad because I can see the red crawling up your neck or I can hear that you're mad because your voice is really loud right now.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I heard you growl.

Lori Hayungs:

I heard growl, right? So I named it. I'm helping calm down with this calm, cool, collected voice. I'm going to describe what I'm seeing in you. And then I'm going to help you measure that. So that feels like a pretty big angry, doesn't it? Because you're growling and what we're doing there is we're helping the child. We're helping the person begin to understand, whew, that feeling that I'm feeling is anger. It's boiling down in my stomach and it's coming out my skin because my skin is fiery hot and I'm growling and my voice is loud. So I'm beginning to understand through that conversation, through watching my adult take calm, cool, and collected measures, and then that's going to help me solve the problem. But here's the catch. You can't get all those steps in before they turn 24 months and you can't get all those steps in before they turn 36 months. Because the reality is they've only been on this earth 36 months. I've been on this earth a lot, a lot more months than that. And I still need to walk through those steps, naming that feeling, calming down, describing the feeling, measuring the feeling, understanding it and solving it. I think literally before we started to record, wasn't I just telling my 15 year old it's okay to tell your friends you're angry. Describe why you're angry, how it made you angry. And then we can move on and enjoy the rest of your day together. I literally did that right before we hit record.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think the big takeaway that I hear in that is so much intensity is so much feeling, like figuring out what the feeling is and how much of it and how you know it. And so much of understanding that feeling more. And that's, I mean, you might think of it in little kids, but big kids too.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Or advanced feelings of guilt and disappointment and anxiety.

Lori Hayungs:

Don't say the word disappointment !

Mackenzie Johnson:

What are other happy feeling words, but yes. So some of those things , yeah , so yes, we love that tip, looking at exploring those feelings, understanding them more, okay . And then I want to bring in kind of our classic. This is why it's classic is because it applies to about everything. Our second tip for your intensity is Stop. Breathe. Talk.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It's our favorite for a reason, you know, it's really important. I think of it often because of my intensity, my big feelings. I need to stop, recognize my big feelings, take that breath, deep breaths to reregulate my body and my nervous system, think about what I want, how I want this conversation and interaction to go, and then talk. We dive more into this if you go back to season one, I think it was episode three. We talk more about Stop. Breathe. Talk. So if you're new to our podcast, you can hear more about that in another episode. But basically that strategy is just what it sounds like. And so if your intent is to kind of help you get that intensity in check, so you're prepared to move forward in a way you mean to, instead of letting that intensity run you.

Lori Hayungs:

Move forward in a way you mean to. I love that.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. And even if you're mild, like if you have a more mild intensity, Stop. Breathe. Talk. is valuable for you, too, because while your stop might be, oh my gosh, these big feelings. Your stop might be okay, where do I want this to go? Like how do I need to express what's going on? You know, if you're more mild, you might kind of always seen even keeled. And if you're really mad and you do need to express to your child, what you're doing is making me very angry or I'm disappointed about that choice. Or, and so sharing those words for you, Stop. Breathe. Talk. can help you do that. And of course we know that we're always modeling for our kids across all the ages, birth to adulthood. And so , how we navigate our own intensity, whether our child is similar or different, it tends to be that they'll see that. We're their first teachers here.

Lori Hayungs:

That's really, I love what you said about modeling and it has a less intense temperament because I know that as we've all been in the house together and you know, there've been times where I've , I know I have heard myself say, okay, this is really making me angry right now. And maybe I said it exactly in that tone of voice. But I need to let my children know I'm getting angry and it may not be the same angry that you get. But what you are doing is starting to really, you know, get me to that place of feeling where I don't want to blow up. I don't want to say things I don't mean. I don't want to go in a place where I don't want to be. You're making me angry.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And we can express that with Stop. Breathe. Talk. and help us express it in a way that's helpful to communication and skill building and all of those positive relationship things with our kids. Absolutely. And then I know you also have one more really great tip that I love.

Lori Hayungs:

I do. Actually I heard Mary Sheedy Kurcinka talk about these a long time ago. And they really were things that I did along the way as my children were growing up. And it's this idea of watching for cues and having preassigned calming activities. And so it's important to notice that once we've calmed ourselves, that's when we begin to take the time to teach. Right. But sometimes we miss all those cues that led up to that volcanic eruption. I remember Mary doing a little demonstration with baking soda and vinegar and what happens when those two come together, right? They explode, they bubble over the top and then she did this. She had a second glass clear glass with baking soda and vinegar. And she didn't have the baking soda in yet. And she put some cotton balls in the glass. And so she actually, the baking soda was in the glass. The cotton balls were in the glass and she was going to pour the vinegar on top. Right. And so your idea is, okay, well, the cotton balls are , it's still gonna bubble. It's still gonna bubble up. But the cotton balls, they didn't let it bubble over. And so what I'm going to give you are cotton balls, okay? These are cotton balls.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Word picture.

Lori Hayungs:

You love a framework. I love word pictures. So first we need to begin to recognize cues. And we talked last week about observation. What are the cues that we're starting to get that vinegar and baking soda combination. Where's the bubbling happen? Do they become more flushed? Do they breathe more rapidly? Do we hear them begin? Do we hear the growl? Are they whining? And so children need to have us teach them what those cues are because they're feeling them. And so if we are beginning to notice their cues, we can say, I can tell that your voice is getting louder. How's your stomach feeling right now? Do you feel that bubbling in your stomach? Do you feel like you have a lot of energy right now and you need to just reach out and grab something? And so once we begin to recognize those cues, then Mary talks about calming activities. And she really talks about these calming activities in a way that can be repetitive. They can be repeated. We can do them ourselves. So it's these self soothing ways that we can regulate ourselves. One of those involves that process of swallowing. And so if you've ever been really anxious, you might have noticed that, oh, I took a big swallow. That's natural. And think about it, you know , in utero, what do we know that babies do in utero? They suck their thumb. We've seen those on ultrasounds, right? We've seen images of babies, sucking and swallowing is a natural way to calm and soothe. And so we might decide that we're going to take a child and get them a drink of water. Let's go find a glass of water, a big drink of water. Get that swallowing, that relaxation. We might offer them a straw to keep sucking, to keep swallowing. what do we do as adults? We sometimes chew on our nails, chew on the tops of pens. It's those things in our mouth that swallowing, that repetitive motion. And this is where Lori gets to insert. What's the first thing we do to one-year-olds when they turn one, we take away their pacifiers . And anyway, yes, that's a whole different story. We're taking away those things that self soothe them, but how are we going to then help them begin to soothe themselves? Other calming activities Mary talks about is using humor and imagination and thinking about stories and word pictures. And as we think about the other ways that we soothe ourselves, we might find ourselves moving back and forth in a rocking motion. We sway.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I still find myself doing that.

Lori Hayungs:

Like what happens when we hear a baby crying in the grocery store, we begin to sway right? Is there a way that we can teach a child who's intense to sway. If they can't sway, can they move their foot, wiggle their toes in their shoe, back and forth. Can they twiddle their thumbs? Can they touch their fingertips rapidly back and forth? What can they do that doesn't interrupt anyone else, but it helps them begin to be in touch with their emotions inside of them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, absolutely. And so, and using that kind of physical, you know, we talked about it's pouring out of their pores, like a lightsaber, using that to get it out, like , using that physicality of their intensity.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly, exactly. In ways that it's appropriate for this situation that they're in. And I love you shared this story before, when you were talking about Millie needing to get her loud out and she just needed to be loud. And what did you do?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Let's go on the steps. You can yell out here.

Lori Hayungs:

You found a place for her to be loud. Right. And if she couldn't have been loud, could she have gotten a crayon and a piece of paper and scribbled hard? This is how we scribble loud. We're going to color loudly. Right. Is there a way for them to be able to use that emotion appropriately?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. And teaching those skills across the different, you know, even your intense teenager, okay. Maybe the slamming doors is the thing for you that, we will not do that here. Maybe that is your thing is those slamming doors. Okay. When we're calmer later and we want to talk about it. Okay. You're allowed to be mad about whatever we're talking about. Let's find another way that you can express that.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. What are some ways that you can be mad instead of slamming the door? Because when you slam the door, the pictures fall off, the glass breaks and you ruin my favorite picture of you. Yes. You may be mad. I'm not telling you, you may not be mad, but when we are less intense, let's make a list. What are some things that you can do that's appropriate to show you're mad.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I'm going to try, right. As the intense parent, I'm going to Stop. Breathe. Talk. so that my intensity does not turn into me raising my voice. So I'm also going to expect and help teach you ways that maybe your high intensity, you may be mad. You may not yell at me, you know, and so these are the other things and then helping them develop them.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely. Because they're going to learn how to handle their mad from you. I mean, can I say that out loud?

Mackenzie Johnson:

You can.

Lori Hayungs:

They're actually get to learn how to handle their mad, their sad, their glad, their happy, from us as parents. Oh, that is a big stinking job.

Mackenzie Johnson:

They get it from us. So all kinds of goodness, all kinds of tips there for thinking about mild and more intense , kids, parents, adults, the whole gamut.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely. And really what happens is we end up having to fine tune strategies. So there's a whole slew of strategies out there. And when you have to learn on either extreme, you to take those strategies and fine tune them for whatever extreme that is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

One more reason we believe in pluralistic parenting, whether you have an intense kid or a mild kid, you might use a strategy a different way. You might use a totally different strategy. All that is like any of that can help you be successful.

Lori Hayungs:

So do you think our producer Kenzie is sitting on her hands , going pick me, pick me, pick me. I want you to bring me in.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Maybe we talked long enough, she'll say we don't have time. And we'll be like, oh, sorry. We got out of it.

Mackenzie DeJong:

To be completely honest, I had a question and you kind of answered it. So it might be more of a me talking and you guys are off the hook. How about that?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, perfect.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Okay. So I will say that , I am an intense person as well. So the number of times that my parents have told me, we hear you, you don't have to yell. And I'm like, I'm not yelling, I'm just excited. It's very frequent, multiple times a day. That's a thing I have to say. So we talked about sensitivity last time and we were talking about intensity this time. So Mackenzie is, and correct me if I'm wrong, Mackenzie is not as sensitive, but highly intense. Lori is highly sensitive, but not as intense. I am both sensitive and intense. So when I feel things, I feel them hard because I get both sensitive and intense. So, you know, when I'm uncomfortable, you're going to hear about it. Which also gets me into a lot of trouble sometimes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

There's no good and bad temperament.

Mackenzie DeJong:

No, I'm just saying, it's a lot . It's a lot. It can be alot.

Mackenzie Johnson:

There are assets and liabilities.

Mackenzie DeJong:

So the thought process that I was having as you were talking and I thought I was going to get by with this. And you kind of answered the question was, Lori was talking about calming activities and for me, I need an outlet. Calming activities do not give me an outlet which sounds a little crazy. But , I have learned, so for me, when I was in college, long story, short, I learned how to play the cymbals . That is an amazing way to like, use all of the aahhh in your body. And like, (clap) there it is. I'm sorry if that clap was really loud, I tried to do it away from the mic, but I also do a lot of singing loudly in the car. This morning I was warming up my voice for the podcast to loud music. Right. So that's how I get it out. My nephew is very physically intense. So he's like a bull in a china shop. He'll hit you like that. And you'll be like, whoa, where'd that come from? Right. So he's also pretty active, but what my sister and my brother-in-law have figured out is that TaeKwonDo has been really great for him. So he can learn to get that out in an appropriate way. So I don't know if you have any other like, especially Mackenzie . I know you shared the story of your daughter yelling on the steps. That was what I was thinking of but if you have any other things that you do to like, get it out, you can share that. Otherwise I'll just carry on my way and say that. And sometimes it's calming and sometimes it's an appropriate way to get it out. And that's how I feel when I have those intense feelings.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And I think that is absolutely the case that sometimes you need to get it out and sometimes calming. And I guess sometimes for me, I feel like calming can help me get it out. Like, okay, I need to go do something else. I need to go get a drink of water or I need to walk around the house one time. Like, and so even just those things, even some of them are getting the intensity out and some of them are just like letting it fizzle instead of boil over. Ooh, word picture, look at my word picture.

Lori Hayungs:

And what you're talking about is that anticipation. So you are anticipating, you can anticipate this situation is going to be hard for my intense child because it's a long time for them to not be able to get it out. So what can I plan? I mean, gosh, goodness gracious, it might be a long time for you. You plan ahead and think, okay, I know that I'm going to have to, you know, hold my emotions in for X amount of time, then what can I do so that they don't come flying and rushing out at everyone.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. I think of being in new social situations, if I go somewhere with my significant other that I don't know people, even though I'm very high approach, which we'll talk about later. I like being new places. If I don't want to be too much and it's exhausting to try to not be too much.

Lori Hayungs:

That's awesome. I love it.

Mackenzie DeJong:

That's like me, hey, what's up! So yes, we are running long so we should probably wrap it up. But thanks for listening to me more or less,

Lori Hayungs:

I love intensity. I knew today was going to be long and I just didn't. It was like, you know, do we make it two podcasts? No, we're going to hit it all in one. And you know, you can all come back two or three times and think, okay, yeah, I missed that the first time. That's all right. We don't care. Go for it. So yeah .

Mackenzie Johnson:

So we walked through intensity understanding that definition of strong emotional expression and strong, emotional experience, understanding that continuum, right? What it looks like for a child or adult to be more intense versus that more mild, how that plays out across the different ages and stages. And of course, looking at strategies to help create a goodness of fit. You know, we have those strategies to anticipate like we talked about, provide empathy for our kids and then teach them the skills , so that they can. Their temperament's not changing. So how can they successfully navigate whether it's high intensity, moderate intensity, or mild intensity.

Lori Hayungs:

Yay, thank you. Join us again next week. We have a lot more traits to cover in the up and coming months . So join us again. And we appreciate that you're listening, that you're downloading, that you're coming back and asking us questions. We are going to be answering some of those questions in future episodes. And so keep on listening to us. We love it. And remember to subscribe to our weekly audio podcast on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. You can watch us on Facebook each week and oftentimes, several times, it just depends on when. You've got to pay attention. We might come at you live on Facebook.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Awesome. Well, hey guys, thanks for coming along with us as we talk all the ins and outs, the ups and downs and the research and reality, all around The Science of Parenting,

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is a research-based education program posted 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/.