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Episode 68

Parenting from the Inside Out rather than the outside in

February 27, 2023

[Kyle]: In today's podcast we're gonna talk about parenting from the inside out. I think it'll be a great discussion that you're going to learn a lot from, so look forward to having it with you.

[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 68 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And we're so excited today to talk about a topic that I've meant to cover a long time ago, Sara. You know, it's something that really transformed our paradigm about how we approached our kids in almost any setting and as I'm, you know, writing out the ideas for episode 68, I'm like “how have we not covered this yet?”, you know? So, I'm really excited to delve into it, because it is a shift in how you see behavior and how you approach your kids, you know? Before we delve into that, Sara and I have been very busy this month of February. I think this is dropping in March and we've done a lot of speaking events, got to speak at some Churches, got to speak at some schools and just having a blast getting the chance to spread the word of parenting. Getting away from fear and shame, and coming alongside to really disciple your kids and teach them how to be self-controlled and it's been really fun, hasn't it?

[Sara]: Yeah, it does. It's great.

[Kyle]: And so, if you have any inkling of wanting us to do that, we'd love for you to reach out. You can go to the website at and you can send us a message through the website. You can also call us and I can talk to you personally, and we can talk about-- Wherever you're at in the world. I know we recently got an old friend of ours from college reach out and talked about how there's a place in Orlando and might want us to come talk. So, there's all types of places around the world I know, that would really be hungry for this kind of information and we're open to doing it and exciting-- Excited to do it.

[Kyle]: We'd love for you to check out the website. Also, on the website we've got great courses that we offer. Please connect with us on Facebook and Instagram, we're always trying to do fun reels, you know? Sara, you love to do reels.

[Sara]: He’s joking.

[Kyle]: And so, like--

[Sara]: They’re not my favorite thing.

[Kyle]: Doing reels and also, doing other content to help support your parenting journey.

[Sara]: Yes, yes, love to do that.

[Kyle]: Okay, and so, let's dive right into it. So, today, Sara, the topic we're going to discuss is “Parenting from the inside out”.

[Kyle]: Now, I know that that's not owned by Dr. Siegel. You know, it's not something that he owns, the guy who's done all the neuro research, but he does have a book called “Parenting from the inside out”. So, I want to give some credit to that, but it's-- You know, it's an idea of instead of parenting outside in, let's parent inside out. It’s a cool.

[Sara]: Yeah, there's lots of really great-- Yeah, we've learned a lot, studied a lot that inside out approaches.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, it seems like-- Let's start with like, most parenting approaches are more of an outward in model, you know?

[Kyle]: Would you describe it that way?

[Sara]: Yeah. I think when we think of parenting strategies, we think outward in.

[Kyle]: Yeah, what do you mean by that? How do we think outward in?

[Sara]: We think we've got to manage behavior; we think we've got to use timeouts or you know, there's all kinds of tips and tricks out there to manage behavior and kind of make your child into something.

[Kyle]: Uh huh, and it's not even to say that sometimes change can't happen outward in, right? Change can.

[Kyle]: You know, like you-- There are things that you may want your kids to do on the outward that are healthy to do, that can change something on the inward, you know? Like, I'm even thinking in counseling, you know, if somebody's really depressed and you know, they're constantly having negative thinking, something behaviorism-- A long time ago the behavior-- Being the science of changing behavior, it would be an outward in approach like “smile more”.

[Kyle]: You know? “Smile more and get up and move”

[Kyle]: “Go take a shower”.

[Sara]: “Go out in the sunshine. Go see people”. Yeah, those things that you don't want to do, [Unintelligible] something on the inside, but you're just kind of doing this outward thing and that it does impact your inside.

[Kyle]: So, there is a lot of truth to there is changes that can happen outward in. We're not saying they can't change that way.

[Kyle]: For sure you can. The problem is-- You know, especially when you see like, let's say you have a parent who's really caught up on respect looks a certain way. Respect looks like the kid saying “yes or no, sir” all the time or “yes, ma'am. No, ma'am”. Respect looks like the kid always being very obedient as soon as you ask them to do something, you know? And yet, what you know when you-- We've all had experiences with people who saying “yes, sir. No, sir” doesn't make a respectful person, you know?

[Kyle]: Even a kid who does what they're always asked, doesn't necessarily make a kid who's cooperative or compliance.

[Sara]: You can sort of do all the things right on the outside, but inside, you know, they-- The matter of the heart, what's going on inside, won't necessarily match up. We all know that, we've even done that ourselves where “I'm gonna smile, I'm gonna act like everything's okay”, but on the inside we're not.

[Sara]: We're not okay.

[Kyle]: Well, real common in a lot of cultures. I know we grew up in churches where that was kind of the expectation, was “everything's great, everything's fine”. So, anytime somebody asks you “how's your day going?”, they don't really want to hear how your day's going, they want you to put a smile and say “it's great! We're doing great! Everything's successful!”. Because it's almost like that's the goal and I think in a lot of families, even-- I remember one time a parent coming in and they had taken the kid's phone, because this teenage boy had looked at some pornography and they were really wanting to put some boundaries on that. So, they had taken the phone and they told the kid these like, “in order to get it back, we want this to happen”, you know? This wording that they use that was kind of confusing, it was really ambiguous and when I asked the kid what he thinks they meant, he's like “they just want me to act like I'm happy. So, if I act like I'm happy, then they'll give me the phone back”, you know? And he said “they don't want me to be sad, they don't want me to feel these other feelings”. So, there was a sense of-- He took it as they were parenting from the outside in. Just put on a mask, everything's great, then they will feel great and successful as a parent.

[Sara]: Well, I think we even-- We even as parents, you know? It's hard not to have your identity tied up in how your children are doing or even to look at other people and you think “wow, look at their kids. Wow, they're doing great” and so, it's a very outward-- You actually don't know what's going on in that inner world of that family or that child, but they look good because they're-- Maybe they have good grades, maybe they're going to school, maybe you don't see them talking back or anything like that, so you think “good” and you even judge your own parenting based on that. “My child does these behaviors, which makes them good or these behaviors, which makes them bad, which then reflects on me. I am therefore, a good or bad parent based on these behaviors”.

[Kyle]: Well, Sara, this is so pertinent in our society today with the prevalence of social media. You know, I mean, this whole outward in thing.

[Sara]: Oh, yeah, [Unintelligible] mirror it.

[Kyle]: As you're talking, I'm thinking about how much Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, it kind of breeds this need to do an outward in thing, you know?

[Kyle]: That if I show you that I'm happy, if I show you I'm successful and then-- Or people looking at going “look at this, I'm not as good as them because look how happy their family is, look at what they're doing” and there's all this pressure that I've got to present this outward, you know, thing and then somehow, maybe inward it will become true and so, I think this is-- This message is even more important for any listener who's listening, who has kids and you're afraid of what social media might do, we've got to really start cultivating a value in our family that we're focused on an inward out model.

[Kyle]: Not an outward in.

[Sara]: It's kind of like that “don't judge a book by its cover”, right? You know, we're working so hard sometimes to make the cover of our children really good, the cover of our lives really good, but we actually want to parent them and teach them to look past that and what's going on inside.

[Sara]: You know, what's going on inside of you, but even what's going on inside of others. You want to look past that cover.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and I think that's difficult, especially when you're stressed, you know? When you want change to happen quickly, because--

[Sara]: Because you're worried.

[Kyle]: Inward out typically is slower, you know? You got to be more patient; it takes time.

[Kyle]: I mean, I'm even thinking, I know sometimes-- I'm sure there may be listeners who can relate to this, is where there's times where the kids didn't want to go to bed and so, bedtime could be a struggle and when I would get mad at the kids, instead of, you know, coming alongside them and supporting them, I just get mad and use anger and intimidation to “go to bed!”. Like “I'm so sick of this!”, you know? That I think part of my thought was I knew they wanted to stay up, because they liked being with us. They enjoyed spending time with us, you know? They knew that when they went to bed, you and I stayed up and we did other fun things, you know? We were-- You know, we watched a fun movie or we watched a fun show and they wanted to do that too. So, I think part of me subconsciously, was like “I'll make it really unpleasant to be with me, so that way then you will not want to be with me anymore”. So, I'm going to be super unpleasant like “well, I don't want to stay up with that. He's kind of a jerk, I want to go to bed now!”, you know? And I think in my own mind, that's how I was doing this outward in approach, is I will even--


[Sara]: Make it so uncomfortable.

[Kyle]: Yeah, that even though I like spending time with them, I'm gonna act as if I don't and I'm not saying like, I even consciously thought that, but it's like I was becoming a very unpleasant person, to make them less likely to want to spend time with me and I think lots times, we do that as in ways to push our kids away to get some space, to like say “stop wanting to be around me! I'm just going to be a jerk for a while”, you know?

[Kyle]: So, that's one way we do it, but you mentioned other ways, this outward in approach. We've helped a lot of kids who timeouts was used quite a bit and what-- What some have reported to us is the message that was sent was “I need to just get, you know, get my crap together”, for any better way of putting it and then come back to where then, they now want to see me and they now like me and who I am.

[Sara]: Yeah. Well, it's sort of like “now I'm acceptable”.

[Sara]: You know, that sort of “go off, you shouldn't be around people. If you're not-- If you're not just showing up less than perfect, get away from us”. You know, “take your problems and go away”.

[Sara]: Right? And so, we think isolation, but why do we have a problem with in society if we feel like we need to hide and we do feel like we need to isolate? And we can only put “I'm happy! I'm great! Now I can come out”.

[Kyle]: And once again, social media supports that, yeah.

[Sara]: Yeah. You hide away all the other stuff.

[Sara]: And that's kind of an effect of that approach, you know? And we even as adults still think that way and do that, even with ourselves, you know?

[Kyle]: Yeah. I mean, there's been a lot of teenagers who've come and even some in their 20s, Sara, to the practice and they'll start crying and they'll cover their face, because they think they look too ugly when they cry and so, even just the ability to even be vulnerable like that, to just cry, they feel like they can't be seen, you know? And I think that message is prevalence in our society and then, once again, social media really ramps it up to where I can only show the best of me.

[Sara]: Yeah. Can we love and accept ourselves and then those we love in their less than perfect moments?

[Kyle]: Yeah, and this is really a big problem for people pleasers, you know?

[Kyle]: So, people pleasers, if you have kids who are like that, typically you think everything's going great, because that kid's super good at reading the room and understanding what it takes to please that teacher or please that parent and they just put that mask on or do that behavior, because they believe that's how it works. I mean, I don't-- How many kids it's a real struggle for them saying like-- No, it doesn't work that way, it doesn't go outward in, it's inward out. Like, really that's where change long term happens and just you faking it, doesn't really bring around change, you know?

[Kyle]: So, let's shift then. So, that's kind of what typically a lot of behavior of focused parenting approaches are trying to do, is this outward in approach and it comes from-- I'll go back to this idea of behaviorism by B.F Skinner, who would have this approach with mice, by changing their outward behavior by rewards and punishments, you know? They would-- You get the cheese if you do this behavior or you get shocked if you do this behavior. So, I mean, if listeners aren't aware of this. But I mean, they're already doing a lot of outward in approaches in society throughout the world, but this kind of science really ramped up that science backed it up, that doing this will change your kids behavior.

[Kyle]: So, they took what they were doing with animals and then just extrapolated that to “look, timeouts work. Look, spanking works. Look--”. You know, these kinds of things are outward in type things and so, we're just trying to bring to light it's not a bad or good discussion, that the problem with those techniques is there's this fear and shame component to it, that doesn't bring about the long-lasting change you're wanting.

[Kyle]: Okay. So, as we shift to more of a parenting from the inside out, how would you describe that, Sara? How is that different from the outward in?

[Sara]: Well, that's starting with the inside, that's a curiosity about, instead of looking at the behavior and just shutting it down, it's sort of looking at what's behind the behavior, what's going on inside of the child and being curious about that, wanting to explore it. But more than that, wanting them to explore it, wanting them to be able to go inside of themselves and go “wow, what just happened? Why did I do that?” and have that ability and it's something that takes time and maturity and brain growth to do.

[Sara]: But it's kind of that approach to parenting of being curious about the inside.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, when you say-- I'm thinking of all the times parents have come in and said to me the kid did something “bad” or something they didn't like and they said “and I know he did it on purpose”.

[Kyle]: And I think all behavior is done on purpose. So, I think all behavior, there's a reason behind it, the kid has done it and yet, it seems like there's no curiosity about what drove that behavior, you know? That they think they've already summed it up, they assume they know that this is why he did it.

[Sara]: We kind of are quick. I think it's human nature, I don't know or we just all learn it at such a young age. We're really quick to jump into the judgment seat. Even when someone cuts you off in traffic, right?

[Sara]: You kind of already determine why they cut you off and you know, or anywhere you're at, you see a behavior, you see somebody doing something and you think-- Your brain fills in the blank, right?

[Sara]: And so, even with our children, our brain fills in that blank.

[Kyle]: So, you're saying an important thing to note is none of us can read people's minds.

[Sara]: Right. You actually-- You might be wrong.

[Sara]: Surprise!

[Sara]: You know, and maybe instead of jumping into that judgment seat and thinking “I know why they did this”, instead just set that aside and come in with “I wonder what's going on? What led to this?”.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and what I love that you said at the beginning part, is that's important for us to be curious about what's going on. Because I think it helps us too, but that's actually one of the biggest skills you're trying to give your kid, is you want them to be curious, you know’ So, yes, I did that behavior on purpose. What was driving that? Like, what fed that? How come that was the pathway you chose to go? You know? And if we aren't curious, they won't be curious either. Well, you know, what they'll start doing is either they won't think about it at all or they'll just wait for you to tell them. You know, “you tell me why I did it”.

[Kyle]: Instead, you’re wanting the kid to grow their ability in their prefrontal cortex, to be more self-reflective, to be more self-aware and say “huh, I wonder why I did do that action to achieve that end?” and “Could there have been a different way to do it?”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and inevitably, that's how growth and change happen within kids’ behavior.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, and now, that's something that's a skill. We all-- I think it's a lifetime of working on that skill, but obviously for a little four-year-old when they just punch their brother who took their car or something like that, then you'd want to pause, because in that impulsive moment they're not in that, they don't have that brain development yet to go “huh, my brother took my car. What are my options here? Which one would be the best?”.

[Sara]: But if you come in with that curiosity of “oh, what just happened? How did he take your car?” and then what-- And then tell me about it, it helps the child to learn that exploration and learn “oh, I could have done something different’ What else could I do?” and build that in them and-- But that's continues into the teen years.

[Sara]: You know, “why-- What's with the failing grade? What's happening?” And just be curious and help them to explore what happened when things started to go south, what options did they have, what did they choose, though.

[Kyle]: Yeah, there's so many different angles you could go on that and I love all those questions, because those questions are questions you want them to cultivate. That those are go-to questions, you know? Like, if I get mad and yell at you as my spouse, it's only going to change if I go back and go “I wonder what that was about?”.

[Kyle]: “How come I was so quick to judge her? How come I was so quick to yell at her? You know, there are other days I've not done that and I've actually been much more effective and understanding, you know?”. But if we're not curious, if we're not modeling that to them, okay? Then I think the kid gets a lack of curiosity as well and what's really fun, Sara, when you and I get to hear all different stories from a situation, you know? Like, we'll have-- A mom will tell a story about what happened and why she thinks it happened. A dad will tell the story of the same situation, why-- And then the [Unintelligible] will be like everybody seems convinced that their version is the true one, you know? And yet, once you get to hear everybody out, you go “oh…”. You could see why it totally makes sense, why they assume that, because there's a lot of background story to that too, right? There's a lot of background and you go “oh, now I get it why you thought was that. But could you be open to another other story?”, you know? So, I think that that's part of it.

[Kyle]: But go back to, Sara, I think what's really interesting and that a lot of parents can relate to, is we-- I think we tend to do the parenting from the inside out pretty naturally when they're babies, you know?

[Kyle]: Why is it more natural when they're babies?

[Sara]: Well, maybe because they're just so sweet and little and tiny with cute eyes and little button noses, but they can't communicate and they're not doing a whole lot and they're lying there and then they start screaming and as a whole society, you know, you generally will think “what's going on?”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, “what's wrong? How can I help?”.

[Sara]: And, you know, and some of this is taught too, right? People teach you “okay, if they're crying, it could be this, this, this…”

[Sara]: Yeah, and some people might think “this baby is just crying to annoy me”.

[Sara]: And so, those options exist, but we generally just try to get into the baby's shoes, you know’ So, like “what could be going on? Oh, it's been a few hours since this baby ate”.

[Sara]: Or “oh, I smell something, there's a diaper change” or “the baby's been laying on this blanket for a while, maybe they're bored, maybe they want to be held, maybe they're lonely”. We start to be a little more curious about that, just with their-- They're so vulnerable.

[Kyle]: Yeah. You know, what I love about that, Sara and I'm thinking too is, I guess we-- There are ways that all of us as adults can even resonate with this. There's days where we're just not feeling well, you know? Maybe we didn't sleep well, maybe we've got a really big headache, you know’ Maybe there's some kind of pain, like I'm in pain in some way, you know? Or feeling fatigued or whatever and the other people around us, don't know that and so, at first “dude, what is your problem? Why are you in such a bad mood?” and then once you explain what's happening in the inner world, “I'm just not feeling that great” or “dude, I was up late last night, my head's killing me”. Then everyone goes “oh, okay” and it's not as if they go “cool, keep being a jerk”. It’s they go “oh...”

[Sara]: They move in with some compassion and understanding.

[Kyle]: Yes, and I love that. That helps me understand what is happening, so then I can come in with some grace, you know? Maybe I can help you and I think if we-- Just think how many times that's happening with kids. Like, I don't know how many times kids their stomach is hurting and so, they're just distracted in class and there's all types of judgments that happen from the teacher, the parents, you know? We'll start thinking he's just trying to use this a way to get out of this thing and like--

[Sara]: Or there are stressors going on at home.

[Sara]: You know, maybe somebody's sick at home or there's fighting at home or whatever might be. You might be just moving and the kid is carrying that, but the kid doesn't know how to put words to that.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, and especially-- So, I think that's partly going back to the baby stuff, the reason why we get more-- Because we know they don't have words to get there, right?

[Sara]: Right, they can't say.

[Kyle]: Yes, yes. So, we really have to do this this mystery. I remember that one time when Abby dislocated her elbow and we had no idea what was going on and at first, we were compassionate, but because it was confusing, it didn't seem like it was that big a deal and I think we had a little story in our head like, “sometimes Abby makes things bigger than they are”, you know? And so, my mom was like “come on. Like, let's-- Please, just stop crying. Like, come on. Like--”, because I wanted to enjoy my day and she was making it really difficult, you know? And then she fell asleep, I was like “huh, see? She was just tired”. Because Abby could be that way when she was tired as a kid, she would be very-- Much more emotional. So, “I'll just give Abby a nap, she'll be better”.

[Kyle]: So, during the nap, like “cool, solved it. Awesome, high five, we're done with this”. Then she wakes up and she's screaming again. Like “oh no! It's really-- There really is something”. We take her to the doctor, find out she's got a dislocated elbow and like, all of a sudden, it totally changed my view of all of those moments before.

[Sara]: And then you're almost like “wow! She really she was so brave!”.

[Kyle]: I know, that’s right! Like, she was so tough. She could have made this a much bigger deal, you know? And so, I think that there are these moments like, with our kids a lot, where we immediately go “Oh, they're just being dramatic” or “they're just making a big deal out of nothing” and then you're like “wait, no, there really was something bad going on there. They really were sick, they really were going through a lot of pain” and it shades all that, you know?

[Kyle]: So, in the parenting from inside out, what really helped us was instead of us parenting from fear, which I think fear or confusion or judgment, all those are more outward-- They're going to lead to outward in, you know, actions, you know? I'm just gonna want them to put on a different face, you know? Change their behavior so I feel better about myself, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, when you're so uncomfortable, you're looking for something to ease that.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and then-- So, with the parenting from inside out, we started going “wait”. One, we already knew there's so much going on in there, you know? Like, in regards to physiology with when it comes to sickness and pain and there's all types of-- We've experienced it ourselves. So, we're not at our best and then we're grumpy and then-- But then also we know about the brain research that we've shared on previous podcasts, like especially in podcasts two and three, I think that's where we covered the neuroscience. When you understand how feelings work, that feelings aren't there just to make them go away and I don't want to send that message. Feelings are--

[Sara]: They don't actually.

[Kyle]: And they-- Yeah, feelings are there to tell me something. So, you're actually wanting the kid to parent themselves from the inside out. Not just to let the feeling either be stuffed or just take them over, but be curious about the feeling, you know? Be curious. Like, what is the feeling there for? What's it trying to tell me? You know? Because you're sad about that, but the other kid wasn't sad about that, so I wonder what that says about you, you know? And so, once you start parenting from the inside out, you give the kid the power to actually be more empowered to change.

[Kyle]: You know, you give them the skills to then be more self-aware and self-reflective and we're actually going to hit more upon this in the next week's podcast, where we're going to cover reflective listening. But these are vital skills you're wanting your kids to have, to be curious about what's going on in their inner world.

[Sara]: Because when they're aware of their inner world, they can make diff-- They can make choices and they're empowered with more information to then change the outward. So, address the inward and you'll see the outward change. We think we have to sometimes address the outward and hope the inward changes.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, and so, I know it's a longer approach, I know focusing on the inwards-- But I think everybody listening can resonate that, that you just-- It's so-- Feels so much better when somebody focuses on the inward and try to help me shift that, rather than just talking about the outward and changing that. So, if you're listening now and you're just thinking “yeah, I just assess that”. Like, what are we mostly doing? Are we mostly doing an inward out approach or an outward in approach? And start being curious about how you could shift that and of course, we've got a lot of different podcasts that we've given you to kind of help take those steps.

[Kyle]: So, hope you enjoyed listening today on the podcast and I hope we equip you with some-- A different kind of paradigm shift on seeing your kids behavior and feelings today.

[Kyle]: Have a great day

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