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Episode 40

What does it mean to
parent from the inside out?

July 25, 2022

[Kyle]: In today's episode we try to tackle the history of parenting. We try to articulate with to you the different streams that parenting has kind of gone down over the past several decades and which stream we’re more leaning towards and trying to guide parents towards. So, I hope it’s really informative to you. 


[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 40. That's awesome! 40! To The Art of Raising Humans podcast. I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And yeah, we want to invite you into a discussion about the history of parenting. It's not going to be a super long one. I know that sounds really long, but I thought I wanted to show as we've talked over these 40 episodes, I realize we haven't really discussed that. Like, what is the shift? What's this new shift over the past few decades towards a different approach that we really bought into and have found really effective, but that our parents per se didn't really know much about? You know? There wasn't much information about. So, I really wanted to draw a distinction, but before we get into that, I want to encourage you if you're listening right now, we'd love to get your comments, we'd love for you to give us a five-star review or if you have any suggestions, you can email us. You can visit our website at and there you can find other content that we do. We just love hearing from you and getting other possible thoughts about other subjects we could cover. So, we hope this podcast is helping you and that you're sharing it with other parents who also can find this helpful.

[Kyle]: But today wanted to hit this topic, because lately, Sara, there's been a lot of a lot of times I’ve been talking to parents, who I noticed they didn't quite understand that distinction about how parenting has shifted, right? This isn't just a different technique that we're doing, like it is actually what would be considered the different stream of parenting, okay? And so, the main two streams that you see most behavioral techniques fall under are behavior-based techniques and then you have a motion based, okay? And so, behavior based was mostly what has been done up until probably like the 70s or 80s, where there was some more studies on the emotion-based approach and you started moving away-- Some people started proposing to move away from things like spankings and timeouts and stuff, because in the emotion-based approach that wouldn't be something you would use, okay? So, if you could-- What's some techniques there you would see under behavior based? What's some--’ What is that?

[Sara]: Well, it's-- It’s using the timeouts, the spankings, the things that are a very external to stop something, to stop a behavior. So, I’m taking something--

[Kyle]: Yeah, taking things away.

[Sara]: You're grounded.

[Sara]: Those kind of-- I’m gonna stop this behavior by doing this other behavior.

[Kyle]: Exactly. So, the goal is in that approach, is you see a behavior you don't like and then you think “I want to stop that behavior”. It makes total sense, right?

[Kyle]: And so, where that comes from or a lot of the science that feeds it, is from BF Skinner's work who was a behavioral psychologist. So, he did a lot of work on what's called behaviorism and he was doing this with mice. So, he was taking things away and giving other stimulus to that mouse and he found that the mice would then do what he wanted, because they wanted the cheese or they didn't want to get shocked or whatever that thing was and so, he did a lot of-- I found this really fascinating whenever I was learning this, specifically in conversations with Dr. Laura Markham, where he did a lot of research with mice and then started putting those in journals about the extinguishing and the giving-- Almost like the carrots and the stick type approach, right?

[Kyle]: And it really does change behavior, it's-- I mean, people used it a long time with horses and animals, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, dogs. There's a-- You know, Pavlov and all that, ringing the bell and they get a treat. So, pretty soon they ring the bell like “oh, okay, I’m gonna get a treat, someone's ringing the bell”.

[Sara]: And it's true, I think there's a part of us as humans. if every time I touched my doorknob to my house it shocked me, I would stop touching my door know, right?

[Kyle]: Yes. I hope so, I hope so.

[Sara]: So, there's a piece of that things that get this reward we want to do, things that hurt us we want to stay away from. But there's limitations to that, especially with parenting.

[Kyle]: Yes, and so, as he started writing these in journals, then people started going “oh, wait, this could possibly work with kids too”, you know? And so, that's where-- I want to say I’m not getting the dates totally right, but in like the 50s or 60s, around that kind of period is when timeouts started becoming much more of a thing. So, people were saying “hey, well, if you go put the kid alone in isolation, the kid doesn't want to be isolated, the kid wants to be with you. So, in order to be with you, the kid needs to change behavior”, right? And so, that's not gone away, that's still a very popular method. I mean, even I remember when you and I before we had kids, we were totally going to do timeouts.

[Sara]: Yeah. No, I was trained in all the best ways to do timeouts and I mean, there's whole studies on how to make the timeout most effective, at what age and how do you do it and yeah. So, I learned all about that.

[Kyle]: Well, and you can even see it back then. There was a show before we had kids called “Supernanny” and that was really popular on TV and she put the kids in timeout, have them sit on a chair and--

[Sara]: There was a mat, you'd have a timeout mat and chair.

[Kyle]: Yes, yeah, and there'd be like a timer and typically the timer would be associated-- Back then this was more of the science coming in there, but it was like “let's put a timer equivalent to their age”, because--

[Sara]: Well, and it's just the study and the science along that same stream.

[Sara]: And you we're about to talk about this other stream, but that stream is still there, it's still very much there. People study it and try to make it-- Try to do as much with it as they can.

[Kyle]: Yes, yes. So, in like this-- I think the 70s or 80s Haim Ginott came along and some other people like that who started to study more the emotion-based approach. There's a really popular book that came out in the 80s that was kind of groundbreaking. So, “how to talk so kids will listen, how to listen so kids will talk” and that was kind of new and Haim Ginott was also proposing “let's stop spanking the kids”, okay? Because the focus was, instead of going outside in, let's try to go inside out, you know? If you can-- Instead of trying to extinguish the behavior through a carrot or stick, how about you listen or connect with the feeling the kid is having, the emotion that is driving the behavior? So, when CBT, which is cognitive behavioral therapy started coming around too, it was much more this thought of like “oh, behavior is the outcome of feelings and thoughts, that lead to behavior”. So, sure, it can actually work like, in counseling or in just behaviorism in general, counselors still do that stuff, you know?

[Kyle]: And there's even ways in which techniques-- I might encourage somebody like--

[Sara]: Right, there's some very useful things I think we weave into our day to day.

[Sara]: There's some great little pieces in CBT that are--

[Kyle]: Well, even like the behaviorism stuff, Sara, would be if I smile, if I’m feeling sad and I just purposely smile, I’ll start to feel better, right? So, that's an outward change that changes someone inward or--

[Sara]: Go running, you know? You're feeling kind of odd and sad and down, you know? Actually, if you get out in the sunshine, call a friend and talk to a friend, those behaviors before you have the feeling can--

[Kyle]: Well, even if you're depressed, get out of bed, right? So, if you get up and move around, if you go take a shower, if you do these things, these behaviors will start to shift something inward. So, behaviorism had a lot of really helpful stuff like that, that is still used today to help people, you know? And you're still going to use some of those things with your kids all the time is, you know, like I love the quote “motion changes emotion”. So, you do this behavioral thing like, let's get moving and then it’ll start to shift your emotions. So, if a kid actually-- I had kids come to me who have been cutting, you know? Or doing kind of activities like that and because they're really sad or they're really hurting and typically, what they found worked for some of them was to go take a shower or to go play basketball or to go for a walk. Just moving got them away from that dark, dark place they're in, okay?

[Kyle]: So, that's why it's still used today because you do see “it works”, it does change things, okay? But what you and I bought into was this more this other stream, this emotion based, because in general you and I wanted-- We just found it more powerful to do this inward out approach.

[Sara]: Well, I think when you get to parenting too, when you're talking about disciplining or training your child, it got to be where emotion almost wasn't part of the activity at all, it was really just a “I’m gonna put this behavior”. I’m gonna put you in time out or spank you or take something away. It was very just behavior focused to control and manage their behavior; it wasn't actually even in consideration of where emotionally this is going to take the child.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and this was connected to all the studies, Sara, that talk about how self-control is such an important piece of successful people's lives, right? So, that there's a lot of research that kids who knew how to have self-control, even in fun little studies like the marshmallow experiment, where you take four-year-olds and you put the marshmallow and you tell them to wait for 10 minutes to get another marshmallow.

[Sara]: Yeah, you can find that one on YouTube.

[Kyle]: The ability to do that when they followed those kids, showed a lot more success for those kids than the ones who just ate the marshmallow, right?

[Sara]: Yeah. So, we started learning “oh wait, I could try to keep controlling you from the outside, but maybe I need to build something inside of you, where you're going to manage and control your own behavior instead of this constant external control”.

[Kyle]: Because the goal with the kid is for eventually you want the kid to leave your home and have control of themselves. So, even though you can see some “success” or you can see it works to control them, one, it's really tiring, you know?

[Kyle]: And it can get exhausting as a parent, it can really create a lot of strain in your relationship, but it's not sustainable, you know?

[Sara]: Well, I think even let alone-- One thing, yes, when they leave your home, but even when they're are at home, you want to be able to turn your back for a moment. I don't know how many stories I’ve heard of kids who are like, when their parent is watching or around, they're just perfect, but when the parent's gone, they're sneaking that cookie or all those little things they're when you're not watching them, because they're used to that external. Then when that external control is gone, they have no ability to regulate themselves and control their own behavior, because they need that external control.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and when you think about the baby, when the baby's first born, you can easily see how there's this emotion first and then a behavior second, you know? And as the brain begins to form, you really see that's the base of us as human beings. Is there's feelings that then connect with thoughts and then those feelings and thoughts quickly become behaviors, you know? So, if we can give our kids the gift of emotional regulation, the gift of self-discipline, the gift of self-control, then the kids are going through life as, you know, teenagers and eventually adults being impulsive and just being-- You know, by impulsive I mean doing things without thinking, you know? They're just constantly-- Their behavior is constantly controlled by external stimulus, you know?

[Kyle]: And in the same way, it was controlled by us being the external stimulus, you know? That we control, we control, but then when they leave here, then life controls them, you know? And I think we all-- Like everybody listening to this podcast, you and I, we were like “yes, I want kids who control themselves, that would be awesome!”, you know? Where you're not constantly in this power struggle of being like “I need to control you”. No, you need to control you, you know? And many times, the parent is actually asking the kid to control themselves, but using techniques that are in that behavior-based stream that don't lead to self-control, you know?

[Sara]: Yes, yeah. No, this was so exciting to me when I first started to learn about this and grow in this way of thinking, this stream of parenting. It was so exciting to think about something that was internal instead of “how can I best punish and try to keep my kid from doing the wrong thing?”, you know? And this “oh, I could build things inside of them by the way I’m parenting them, where they can learn to manage their emotions and regulate and control their behaviors and have a reason for why they're doing that, versus just to avoid a punishment”.

[Sara]: So, it seemed deeper to me.

[Kyle]: It did, yeah.

[Sara]: And it was more-- And I thought, I felt like it was raising the Insight in my child that this self-awareness of “oh, what--". The consequence wasn't just punishment, what is the consequence? And for them to think about their options and think about what they're doing next. I felt like this built that inside of them.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, even what you're saying, it built this deeper awareness, deeper awareness of what is motivating them, right? So, I think that going into what you're saying, that that's the kind of language I would use with a kid, is like they think the motivation is not to get punished or the motivation is to get money from their parents for good grades or to do the chores, right? And what we're going to do a podcast later about chores, but the motive is to get something or to avoid something, right? So, that that very much is the outcome of the behavior based, whereas opposed to the emotion based is “oh, the motivation is I want something that is beneficial to me” or “I want to help that person and that felt good when I did that” or “I want to get those good grades, because it feels really good to try hard and succeed at it”, right? And that's the deeper thing you want the kid to understand is, how-- You know, “what is it that's motivating you to do that behavior?” and the only way you can do that is by helping the kid to regulate those emotions and then really be self-reflective, you know? And I found with the behavior-based stuff, it really limited the kids self-reflectiveness, you know?

[Kyle]: Typically the kid would think “okay, I got that thing, I don't think about that anymore” or “I’m grounded, I don't want to think about it anymore”, you know? Punishment's been given, let's move on, you know? Whereas with this what we're asking the kid is to actually think about it, think about what you felt and how that led to what you did and then, do you want to keep doing that? Did you like how that felt? Do you want to do something different? Right? So, for us the emotion based led to these deeper, deeper connections with themselves and with us as parents.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. I love that about it and it felt like a skill that would serve them later in life much more than a punishment. You know, the behavior-based it’s helpful to a point, but then I felt like this could carry them in deeper ways through their life long term.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and I think, I wrote on my notes, Sara, that kids and adults many times feel like they are slaves to their feelings, you know? And I think a lot of times is because they aren't really aware of, they don't know how they're informing what they're doing, you know? So, that's why I think self-control is such an important piece to give our kids, because going into life you see this with many adults too, who just-- Their lack of awareness of what they're feeling and thinking about those feelings and that they're constantly just trying to extinguish the behavior. Whether it's they want to eat better, so they just stop eating bad food, right? Or they just don't want to get so mad, so they just try to stop being mad, right? And they just like, instead of going “yeah, but what is that telling you?”, you know? Almost-- I guess the example I’m thinking of, Sara, behavior based is kind of like your car has a-- You know those annoying emergency lights that go on your car? And behavior base is just like, I’m gonna put a piece of tape over that signal.

[Sara]: Unplug the light.

[Kyle]: Yeah. “Okay, cool, it's not there anymore, I don't have a problem anymore” and I think that's how a lot of kids and parents are living their lives, because they think the whole point is just extinguish that, you know? Just make it go away or you know, like I’ve done this before, where I’ve gone to the mechanic and the mechanic’s like “yeah, we can't find anything, but we'll make that light stop doing that”. So, they reset it and then like, two months later it's back on. It's just like “there's got to be something going on here, right? Can we figure this out?”, you know? You just not making it go away for a bit, didn't fix the problem, you know? But sometimes they do that just because they're at a loss for what it is, but when you're doing more of the emotion based, it's like you're taking it in, you're looking at the engine, you're figuring it out and you're solving the problem, so that warning light doesn't have to keep going off.

[Sara]: Yeah, it is about awareness, it's about my awareness, it's about my child's awareness of themselves. How they're feeling, what they're thinking and then what they're doing and then it's coming together. Let's look at this, let's talk about it, I love the deep conversations that can come about with your child, when you're coming from a place of helping them become aware of what they're feeling and doing. Instead of just “oh, stop that” and I have no idea what you were feeling or why you did it, but let's just stop that. But instead, it's like “oh, why did you do that? What's going on inside of you?” and then creating--

[Kyle]: Be curious.

[Sara]: Yes, and then “here, let's regulate, let's get you back to a place of--” You know, not anger and upset and sadness and let's help you regulate that and then we can move into some self-control and for the child to learn those skills and that awareness is to me such a gift, it's a gift that many of us adults still need, you know? I don't want to go to work and I just stuff that feeling down and I head off to work, because I just got to get through it and you know, how much we still to this day have a culture that sometimes just disregards our feelings or feels like we have to stamp them out.

[Kyle]: Or it's controlled by them.

[Sara]: I was gonna say we just don't know-- Right? Or they're so big, we have no idea how to read regulate them. It's hard and I haven't been given the skills, so let's give them to our kids.

[Kyle]: I think you see that's the real problem you're seeing a lot in the culture. Is either the stuffing it down, where I’m completely “I don't feel anything at all” or I’m overwhelmed by them and completely controlled by them and everything I do is controlled by those, right? Either way, it's a lack of awareness and a lack of being able to regulate them, to really understand why they're there, what are the feelings for, you know? Like in a little baby you can see that, they have the feeling because they have a need, you know? And then once that needs met, that feeling is then regulated, right? So, like a baby cries out and is going “where are you at!? I need help!” you go and you help, hold the baby, you rock the baby, you help the baby regulate and then the baby's like “okay, cool, I’m not alone, that's great”, right? And when you look at the brain science, the kid is-- You can see the kids developments needing to know, first, am I safe? And then, am I loved or connected to somebody who loves me? And then, I can get into the prefrontal cortex where I can look back and I can really be curious and self-reflect active and say “what kind of behavior do I want to change here?”, you know? But it all starts with first understanding where that's coming from and then leading to that.

[Sara]: Yeah, as a child, as a teenager, sure, we don't have the obvious “the baby is crying, it is feeling sad or hungry or--”, but the same thing is happening in your elementary age kid, in your teenage kid and in ourselves. That behavior is for a reason, so let's get into the thoughts and feelings that led to the behavior, let's regulate those, get those back to where they're feeling loved and feeling safe and feeling connected and then it just all comes together from that place.

[Kyle]: Well, and I know-- So, what we're trying to point out to you listeners, is there's two distinct streams, okay? Now, these aren't just siloed, I mean, I think I definitely, Sara, go between the two, right?

[Kyle]: So, I want to talk right now--

[Sara]: And we're not even saying the other ones “throw them out”.

[Kyle]: No, I’m saying like there's times where I do slip into behavior based and so, I’m trying to point out “how do I know which stream in that moment I’m leaning towards?”. Because I think once I read realize that, I’ll see the techniques that I’m using that tend to tie with that. So, what I mean by that is there's times where I’m definitely into the emotion, right? So, the kid is sad and I’m like “hey, come here, let's talk about it. How come you're so sad?”, right? And we'll work through that. There's other times I don't really care, I’m just so annoyed at whatever behavior they're doing and I can tell in those moments, all these like techniques I just pointed out, I slipped towards those, right? I want to be like, I just want to extinguish the emotion, I just want the emotion to go away. It's typically because I’m rushed, I don't have time.

[Sara]: There’s something inside of you that is uncomfortable with the feelings.

[Sara]: So, you're like “please! I don’t like this discomfort!”

[Kyle]: Yes, “I’m sick of it”. Yes.

[Sara]: “You've got to stop, because it's pulling-- It's triggering something in me”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, there I’m just focused on their behavior and I’m definitely not focused like, what you said, was this awareness of how it's triggering something in me. In that moment I’m not thinking that at all, I’m just thinking “I’m sick of that”, right? And this lack of awareness of how it is triggering feelings in me and that's why I’m so uncomfortable with their feelings, right? Whereas the other day maybe I’m-- I have nothing to do that day, I’m more relaxed.

[Sara]: In a great space.

[Kyle]: Yeah, we're on vacation, I’m in the mountains in Colorado, it's beautiful. “You're sad? That's no big deal, come over here” and I’m more likely to do a technique like “let's do a time in, come sit with me”, right? Or “let's do a do-over”, right? Or “why don't you come here and just let me hug you for a second, we'll do some deep breathing”, right? Those kinds of techniques are much easier when I’m like “oh, look at those feelings, let me help you with those”, right? But on the other occasion I find for me when I move in that behavior base, it is me against you. “I’m sick of that, stop that”, I want to extinguish it, you know? I want it to go away and I find for the most part, with the parents that I’m working with or that you're working with or talking to, it seems like that's typically what it is. We'll get this kind of annoyance with the behavior or siblings are fighting “stop that! Stop!”, we'll use a lot of that language. “Stop doing that!”, you know? A lot of resistant type language rather than just coming alongside supporting them language.

[Sara]: Uh huh, yeah, and I think that's natural. I don't know that we'll ever-- No one's gonna be perfect at it, right?

[Sara]: But just the awareness of going “oh, what's going on here? Why am I moving in that direction? Do I want to do that? Do I want to shift and move in this direction?”.

[Kyle]: Well, and I think that's why I bring it up, is I want parents to be thinking intentionally “which stream do I want to lean towards?”, you know?

[Kyle]: And I just think lots of parents don't even know there are two different streams, you know? They just think it was just a bunch of different ways to approach parenting and that's true, but they typically fall in one of those two streams. If you're reading a book and it's about taking things away or about extinguishing or rewarding behavior, that's probably behavior-based, right? We can talk about-- Another one that's talking about emotional regulation, self-control, you know, using connection to help the kid and support the kid, right? That's going to be more emotion based.

[Kyle]: So, I really want parents who are listening to understand which stream that we're leaning towards, that we lean towards the emotion based.

[Sara]: Yeah, we do.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and we definitely were raised probably more and predominantly more behavior based.

[Sara]: So, sometimes leaning towards the other stream is a stretch.

[Sara]: I feel like even though we've been doing this for years, it's a stretch for me, sometimes I go “whoa, wait, wait, wait. What am I doing here?”.

[Sara]: It's when-- It's new, it's not something that I fall to the other one naturally because of how I was raised and I think-- I just think that was the times as well--

[Kyle]: Of course, that was the knowledge, yeah, yeah.

[Sara]: Right? And now we have these new things and so, we have to learn them, we have to learn how to do that, we have to build that in our brain and keep practicing every day.

[Kyle]: Yes. So, I hope too, I’m trying to pitch to any listeners that this is what we're trying to help parents do. Is I’m trying to make a pitch that I think parenting from the inside out, that's a title of a Dr. Siegel book, it's just-- Is really powerful. That I love that, like, I love helping the kid have the self-control, have the internal locus of control.

[Kyle]: You know, I wrote this sentence down that “we're helping our children non-judgmentally receive their feelings, so they can reflect upon them and begin having the power to change their thoughts and behaviors”. So, I just love that, that's so empowering. I want them to know how to have the power, to reflect upon what's happened, what they've done, what they feel about it and then make the change, changing their own thoughts and their own behaviors, rather than it being our responsibility to do that for them, you know?

[Sara]: Uh huh. They're choosing the path, they're choosing the direction, that's coming from something inside of them. I love that.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, it's an invitation to the kid to know yourself, to know what your behavior is saying about your inner world and then change that inner world, so your behavior can match it. That's why-- Because then you're not constantly getting triggered by the behavior, you're instead getting curious about the feelings and thoughts that led to that kind of behavior, you know? Like, I know Sara, even our marriage, I appreciate it so much when you do that for me. There's times I can be a jerk and I can say things-- And I’m in a bad mood and there's moments you get upset about that and you don't like it, right? And that's fine and that's a natural response, but there's no self-reflection on my part in that moment, right? But when you come at me more with like “oh, what's going on here? What's--?”, you're curious about it, it helps me be curious about it too and saying like “why am I talking to Sara this way? you know? I love her and I don't want to be that kind of husband. So, I wonder what's causing that?”, you know?

[Kyle]: And then typically that brings me to stress or anxiety or other things, that maybe I was less aware of or I hadn't discussed yet and almost every teenager I’m talking to or you know, these older-- Probably older elementary age who can really have this kind of thoughtful conversation, it's the exact same thing. Almost every one of them will cry in the office about how they've treated their younger sibling, like they want to be a good big brother a big sister and it really breaks their heart that they seemingly don't know how, you know?

[Kyle]: Because they don't understand the dynamics that are going on in them, the resentment they have or the jealousy they're feeling or whatever and so, if you can really help parent them from the inside out, you help bring that out in the open and then they can now choose to do something about it, rather than be a victim or a slave to it.

[Sara]: Yeah. So, this is kind of the journey we're on, right? We're learning about this, were we've been learning about it, we've been practicing it in our own home and family and that's part of the podcast, is just trying to put out that into the world. Here's some ways, here's some ideas, here's some conversation about this stream of parenting.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, just an invitation to a different stream. So, I hope if today if you haven't heard this before about this kind of history of these parenting approaches, I hope it's really helpful to you and hope gives you some kind of vocabulary or a better understanding of the stream that we're kind of guiding parents towards, that want to come alongside and are asking us for help. So, I want to point you again, you know, towards any other type of information you're needing; we've got the stuff on the website. You know, Sara and I have a practice where we do coaching and help parents, it's called Parenting Legacy and so, any of you-- Also if any listeners ever want to go deeper in coaching ways, reach out to us and we can set up stuff and start helping you coach and do this stuff in a more individual type basis. So, thank you guys for listening today, hope you're enjoying your summer with all the heat, but hope there's a lot of fun and we look forward to talking to you again soon.

[Sara]: Thanks for listening.

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