Parenting, and what it means to be a parent, has changed so much since we were kids, and we’re constantly trying to learn ways to improve our parenting styles. When it comes to more spirited kids, it can be hard dealing with these challenges as they come up. That is why we wanted to bring in Hannah and Kelty from Upbringing, to talk about how to work with our spirited kids. The episode this week is taking a deep dive into problem solving with our kids, working on building our RESIST toolbox, and most importantly learning how to be happier healthier parents than ever before. Not only is this a great lesson for now, it’s a great way to prep for the future – we all want our kids to grow up and be the awesome humans we know them to be, and with Hannah and Kelty’s help, it’ll be a breeze, just kidding, it won’t be a breeze, but you’ll have more tools in your toolbox for when things get tough 😉 This is a great episode you’ll love to check out, so without further ado, thank you and enjoy!
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Hannah & Kelty are twins, coaches and speakers behind the parenting movement Upbringing. Certified in Simplicity Parenting, Positive Discipline and trained in NVC (nonviolent communication) and Foundations of the respectful parenting approach, RIE (pronounced “rye”, resources for infant educators) , Upbringing empowers parents in over 100 countries to show up + grow up alongside their kids when it comes to daily discipline.
Hannah & Kelty’s top-ranked podcast, Live Q&As, courses + guides call parents in with humor and honesty, giving them permission to align their personal values with their parenting practices in the name of sanity + social change. Hannah & Kelty co-parent on an organic veggie farm outside Portland, OR that they share with their partners and kids, ages 4, 5, 6 and 7.
In This Episode We Talk About
00:28 – Who are Hannah and Kelty?
02:32 – How do you define a spirited kid?
03:39 – Reframing our mindset around “dealing” with spirited kids.
07:06 – Turning your conversations from battles into victories.
09:22 – Creating your RESIST toolbox.
19:03 – Helping our kids with food.
37:40 – What is modeling?
47:38 – What to do when you and your partner have different parenting styles.
49:57 – School and how it can change the structures you use at home.
52:46 – Where to find Hannah and Kelty!
Watch the Video
Listen to the Audio
Upbringing Instagram: @Upbringing.Co
Read the Full Conversation
Hello and welcome to another episode inside the Unapologetic Moms Club. Today I am very excited to be welcoming Hannah and Kelty from Upbringing to share their really great more progressive parenting approach, to parenting resistant and spirited kids. So welcome to the UM Club!
Hannah: Great to be here!
Thank you! So let’s hear a little bit more about yourselves and your experience working in this area.
Hannah: Yeah, we always introduce ourselves – I’m Hannah and this is Kelty, for those of you watching – we introduce ourselves as speakers, parent coaches, twins, mothers.
Hannah: Tired women, very tall people. I don’t know, the list goes on. But we’re really grateful to be here. Upbringing has been going for about three years now, primarily on podcast and Instagram, and our communities have been built there. And our primary purpose at Upbringing is to empower parents to use powers beyond control, and daily discipline with their kids, for what we call sanity and social change. So sanity is in getting through the day, enjoying your child and your family, raising a wonderful child and a happy child and a skilled child. But also thinking about, as far as social justice goes, having some social change aspects in the child we’re raising, being able to go out into the world and make change, not just be happy on their own. That’s the general idea behind what we do.
I love that you bring that into it, because we hear that our kids might be bossy or things like that. They’re really the leaders that we can support to go out and make those changes. So I really like that that’s an integral part of everything that you guys do.
Kelty: Absolutely, yeah, the crux of it is, is as well, just the idea of growing up alongside our kids. I think that when we became parents, eight years ago, we each have two kids now. And I think we just kind of thought we get to fill our kids, like these little vessels with all of this knowledge, we’ll teach them everything we know. And then pretty quickly we were like, “oh, we have so much to learn. Oh my goodness. Okay, so we’re gonna be learning with our children, side by side, we’re both on this journey. They’re teaching us some stuff. We’re teaching them some stuff. We’re both learning some things.” So that’s kind of the adventure that we’re on and that we’ve been on these last eight years.
Absolutely. I think that’s something a lot of our community members can resonate with, learning and teaching ourselves alongside with our children. So I’m looking forward to digging into things. Let’s lay out a foundation. How would we classify a spirited or resistant or challenging kid?
Kelty: I think anyone with one could give you a laundry list of things. But what we hear mostly from our coaching clients, and have experienced ourselves with our own kids, it’s just, they’re more, they feel more. They feel more than the neighbor’s kid, they feel more than our other kids. They feel more like we were when we were kids, they feel more – just any expectation that we have for just a “normal child.” They’re maybe a little more sensitive, more persistent, more resistant, more emotive, they notice more, they push back more, they dig in more, they pursue their own agenda and advocate for themselves and what they want more. All good things in adults, but very challenging in kind of moving through a day with a smaller person, younger person, right?
Absolutely. It’s all those things we want in our kids to be able to stand up for themselves. But it sure makes parenting tricky sometimes, and a lot of power struggles. How can we kind of reframe our mindset a little bit? Because I think a lot of people dealing with these more resistant or spirited kids is just like, “I need them to do these things. Why do they fight me so much?” So how can we work at kind of reframing that and shifting things a little bit?
Hannah: Yeah, that’s such a great question. I think that before we approach anything differently in our parenting with our spirited and sensitive kids, I think we have to just reframe, like you said, our beliefs about who they are, and realize that based on our cultural conditioning, and our own upbringings, it’s really easy for us to be like, “I am cursed because of this child,” or “there’s something wrong with them or something wrong with me, this is not good.” And when we believe those things, our goal as parents changes, usually to fix or change our child, which is not that ideal. And then our role changes, so we become a version of ourselves that doesn’t feel good. And it’s not actually building skills for us and for our child and building relationships.
So I think the first thing is acknowledging our sensitive and spirited kids – and that’s why we use the term sensitive and spirited, not just like annoying, terrible.
Hannah: Bratty. We’re taking these other words and saying, “let’s reframe my belief to say I accept this child, this child is perfect the way they are.” And I have to believe that they’re perfect, not just because I love them, and because I’m the one having to raise them here, but because if I believe those things then I’m going to lean in with a different goal, that is to understand them, and to work with that spiritedness and that sensitivity rather than against it. And then my role going into all of these interactions as their parent will be less of an adversary, who’s trying to change them, and more of an ally, who’s trying to support them along the way. And, you know, you hear out there a lot, our voice as parents becomes our child’s inner voice. So the approach we take and the roles we take are really impactful in the self concept that our spirited and sensitive kids build. We want them to go out into the world without shame and anxiety about their nervous systems and who they are in the world. We can’t change and control and fix that, we have to work with it in some way.
Kelty: Beginning with that belief flip especially. I think a lot of people we work with are like, “okay, great. I’m sort of beginning to believe that they’re perfect as they are. I’m sort of starting to celebrate that spirit and that resistance and those things, but how do we get the shoes on? But how do we get to bed? But how do we put the screen down? But how do we make it through a playdate?” Are we allowed to cuss on this show?
Yes, cuss away, feel free to say whatever you want to.
Kelty: Okay good, almost did right there. I think that we just really bring it down to a conversation. So in those moments that we think power struggle, they need this, and I need this. And we’re gonna struggle about who wins in a binary way. I’m going to win and they lose, or they’re going to win and I lose. We’re just going to dismantle all of that and say, we can have a conversation where instead we say, “you’re needing this, and I’m needing this, and what can we do about it?” I make it sound simple. It’s more complicated than that.
Hannah: But that’s with practice!
Yeah. So that’s what I was gonna say. Let’s dig into that. Because I think the power struggles are the really big struggle with dealing with these kinds of kids, right? So how can we have that conversation that’s this and this and have it work out instead of that battle?
Kelty: It takes two to power struggle, right? So when our kids come resisting us first, I think our automatic conditioning says just dominate them. Just be bigger, just be louder, just be more firm and more stern.
Hannah: Give them something, take something away.
Kelty: Incentives and consequences land, where we just go automatically to, to our natural control toolbox. When we became parents we were like, “thank you, here’s our control toolbox, consequences and on my terms, now rewards, overpower, lectures, shame, blame, spanking, timeouts.” All those things that come so naturally to all of us.
Hannah: But instead, we want to be building a new toolbox or backpack or whatever you want to call it, that has powers that are beyond that control toolbox. Because our kids learn by the way we teach, right? They don’t just learn about what our intentions are, like you need to clean your room, and it’s really great to have fresh hair.
Kelty: Don’t hit your brother.
Hannah: Yeah, it’s not nice to hit your siblings. But the way we teach that is what they learn, you know, we can’t teach empathy by yelling, right? We can’t teach collaboration by giving them a timeout and isolating them. We can’t teach – what’s another example?
Kelty: Problem solving.
Hannah: Right, we can’t teach problem solving by giving them a consequence and deciding what their fate is. So the resist toolbox that we’ve kind of created, so the RESIST model and approach that we have on our website, talks about these other powers that we need to practice as parents. And that’s that conversation that starts with R and goes all the way through. And it’s also an acronym. And it’s a practice that we have in allying with our child and saying, “if I ever want you to learn respect, empathy, thinking up, innovation, summarizing, and trusting, in relationship with other people, I have to practice it right now, when we have different needs that need to get met and we’re challenged right now.” So that’s kind of what that looks like.
Kelty: We can do a specific example if people are like, “that doesn’t make sense. Bring it down to earth. What are you even talking about?”
Yeah, let’s bring it down. I’d love to hear some examples or what some of those tools in that toolbox are, what they look like.
Hannah: Yeah, what’s been going on with you lately? Do you want to bring up a like a resistance moment?
Yes, I would love to. Two big ones in the last 24 hours, and if I have the opportunity to get your input on it, that’s fantastic. I’d say the big one that I’m concerned for, with my son’s health, is around food. So he is more sensitive, tries to assert the control more. And with food, he’s very picky. And it’s gotten to a point where I don’t make a bunch of different meals. But say I’m making pasta, I don’t think he’s going to like the pasta, I take some noodles out before I add all that extra stuff, and do butter and nutritional yeast on it. But it’s getting to a point where he’s basically living off only noodles and rice at dinner. Every dinner, I serve the safe food with some of everything else. And he’s not eating the other things. And I’m starting to get concerned for his health, that he’s not getting the nutrients he needs. And I don’t like doing the forcing, “you need to eat this.” Or the consequences for not eating it, or the timeout, or whatever it might be. But I feel like I don’t have any tools left. I don’t know what to do.
Hannah: We’re sorry that’s happening.
Hannah: You are not alone with picky eating. How old is your son?
He’s almost four, he’s four in January.
Hannah: Okay. I think the resist approach is a great idea to think about through a challenge like this. Do you want to describe it just really quickly? The acronym?
Kelty: Yeah. So when our kids resist us, basically, we can use this approach to resist our cultural conditioning that says “control, dominate, dive into that automatic toolbox,” right? And so it’s Respect, where we think, “how can we set our child up for success behind the scenes? How can I look at my child as having their own needs, their own thoughts, their own experience, their own expectations that I can’t even fathom and that I need to learn from them.” So it’s kind of this sort of mind resetting step of “I need to be engaging in this conversation, this resist approach moment, with respect for this other person.” And we’ll empathize with whoever it is, and say something like, “I hear you, I validate you, tell me more.”
Hannah: We get in relationship.
Kelty: I think it’s easy for us often to just put our needs on the table, our concern on the table, what we want to happen on the table, first.
Hannah: And in high energy moments with big feelings, there’s no way we can get things done or work through an issue if they’re stressed out. So the Empathy step is also incredibly productive, because it calms and de-escalates, so that learning can happen for them and for us.
Kelty: And then the Sync Up step is where we might say, “okay, here’s what I’ve heard from you,” or “here’s what I’m noticing,” or “here’s what I’m seeing, is that right? My concern is,” or “here’s what I was thinking,” or “can I tell you what I was worried about?” Or “can I tell you what I’ve heard from the doctor,” or “when I tell you you can’t run in the road,” or whatever the thing is. So then we bring up our thing, right? And then we hit the Innovate step and say, “what can we do? We need ideas.” This is if we have time – all this, the whole approach, could happen within the length of a minute. It could be in the length of an hour.
Hannah: It could be over a month.
Kelty: Right? And I think that that’s when we say “what can we do? You have these needs, I have these thoughts or needs or expectations, what can we do to meet both our needs?” That’s where we get to – it’s like the fun stuff, where we get to problem solve with our kids, sometimes we start most of it, when they start learning, start practicing those, they’re coming up with their own ideas, some of which are terrific, some of which are really funny and wonderful.
Hannah: We can also be innovating in our own minds or with a partner or listening friend or someone else to be like, “what else can I be doing behind the scenes that I don’t actually have to be talking to my child about in that moment.”
Kelty: It can be amusing too. And then we go to the Summarize stuff after that, where a limit has to be set. So with food, I’m not necessarily sure that we will be setting a limit or holding a boundary or anything like that. But that’s where we would say something like, “we’ve been trying to figure this out, but I can’t let you run across the street, I’m gonna have to move your body.”
Hannah: “You’re not wanting to put that base down. So I’m going to help you, I’m going to take that base from you.” So we follow through lovingly, which is what most of the time we do right away first. We don’t even respect our child, empathize with them, give them the information, and try and innovate, we just go immediately to the follow through. So the follow through happens later, after all these other skills have been built and connections been made and learnings happened, right? And that can also even just be summarizing and “so this is where we are, I’m concerned about this and you’re concerned about that, and we’re just letting it ride for a little bit.”
Kelty: “You were needing this, I was needing this, and we figure it out and innovate.” Or you got calm through the empathize step. Which is great.
Hanah: And then Trusting is the last step, the T in the RESIST approach where we just trust in the process of engaging in a non-violent communication style way with our kid over and over and over as best we can. Right? We might start at the Respect for others, and then yell; or we might get to the Empathize step and then be like, “I’m threatening them now. That’s as far as we can go.” And that’s okay. It’s trusting in our child to learn and grow, trusting in us to be learning and growing, building all those skills.
Kelty: And the biggest part of the trust step too is knowing that we’re going to get that other chance. We’re going to have a chance five minutes from now, we’re going to have another chance tomorrow. That’s something we can connect with our kids about. I think that a lot of us were brought up to experience what we call the grill back, where our parents would say, “so about earlier, or about this morning or about yesterday, I need you to make a different choice.” Or “when you did that, here’s the impact. And that was bad,” right? And I think instead, we’re trying to recondition the space of a circle back saying, what happened earlier yesterday, that was hard. Do you want to talk about it a little bit? And making it a safe place to re-explore conflict or struggle, or big feelings or challenging moments from our kids or from us, and say, “I want to be better next time. I’m sorry I yelled,” or “how did you feel when you ended up hitting your brother? That must have been really tricky. I’m so sorry that happened.”
Hannah: So where the Respect step is preparing before an issue happens, the Trust step is kind of processing after it’s happened, and so much learning for us and our kids can happen at the beginning and at the end of a conflict, not even in the middle. The middle is so much about just connection, and curiosity and humor, right? We’re reconditioning our kids to not run away from conflict when they get older, like we do, or go into a shame or blame spiral. We want them to confidently say, “oh, I’ve got needs, they’ve got needs. I’m gonna use the RESIST approach here, and feel really confident and able to be navigating that stuff.”
Yeah, I really like that you include that trust piece to it. Because I also think as parents, going through this day-to-day, they are more so challenging us. We’re working through this, but when they’re out, say, at the playground or at school, that’s when they have the chance to do things without us being there. And that we can see all of our hard work is paying off, that we might not necessarily see at home. For example, with my two kids, my daughter’s two-and-a-half. So we go through phases of hitting and things like that. And a few months ago, it was a lot. But I kept pushing and working through it, and I actually, it seems like I was doing a bit of RESIST model unknowingly. And connecting, resisting that initial thing, talking through it. And it still comes up every day. But the other day at the playground, another kid slipped and fell and hurt themselves. And my son went up to them and was like, “oh, are you okay” and checked on them. So right there is so validating, that all that slow approach, hard work, and checking in on them after you’ve hurt them does pay off, and he is getting it. So that trust piece is really important to kind of keep our faith and keep our motivation with doing this more long-haul parenting approach.
Hannah: Yeah, trusting in the process, trusting in the art, the power of our influence over time, that every time they’re building those skills and that awareness, and do we want to dive into the food situation? Yeah, could we walk through that too?
Hannah: So you can jump in at any point, but we can kind of run through this, generally speaking. Respect generally, when it comes to food, is seeing our kids as having their unique bodies, their unique experience, their unique taste buds, their own experience of food, their own stress response. That oftentimes when kids experience stress, they want to be able to control things in their lives, so understandably, and valuably, food can be one of those. So, you know, getting our mindset that you’re not thinking like, “my child is trying to ruin my life or doesn’t like my food,” you’re realizing, “of course, they’re stressed, they want to control what they’re eating for whatever reason right now, they’re having a limited palette, they’re wanting safe, consistent, simple options. Okay, so this is where we are right now, I’m not trying to say that this shouldn’t be happening. I’m accepting that this situation is happening right now.”
And you’ve touched on it, it really is that safe, consistent food is what he likes. Because when it’s something a bit different, even if the grilled cheese, I use shredded, because it’s quicker, instead of the slice, it was too cheesy and gooey, and he was very turned off by it. So that consistent thing.
Hannah: Right, and that can happen with kids too about their clothing. So they’ll just want to wear the same piece of clothing every day. Or they’ll want an exacting routine about who sits where or how their bedtime is done. And that’s all anxiety behavior, stress behavior. So we have to acknowledge that, if they’re stressed, they’re suffering a little bit, something’s going on, right? And we don’t want to add stress to this situation, right? We want to be finding ways to reduce stress so that they can feel safe enough to say, “oh, here’s a variety. Hey, I might try this,” right. “Oh, I didn’t love that. But I’m not gonna scream about it.”
Kelty: It’s really hard because the RESIST approach is not something we use that often during meal stuff, because mealtime is – well, we should have talked about the freedoms a little bit. But mealtime is one of those places where we try to be really sensitive about how much control we wield, or how much of an agenda we have, or how pushy we are. Because there can be such resistance and can kind of develop some patterns.
Hannah: Yeah, we don’t want to get in between our kid and their food, which is so easy to do, because we need to feed them. Our directive as parents is to nourish our children. But then when they get to that age where they realize “I can say yes and no to certain foods way more easily, and I can make my own choices for my own body.” I remember feeling very unstabilized by that and really worried and I think the Empathize step next in the resist approach is empathizing with ourselves first and saying, “it’s okay,” having compassion, “it’s okay that I’m nervous and anxious about this, it’s okay that this freaks me out that my child is only eating white, cheesy food, or whatever it is right now.” And just saying, “my feelings are okay.” So getting that parent on our own shoulder and being like, you can calm down, you can take those deep breaths at dinner, right?
Kelty: And then when the kid is like “only this pasta this way, and this and that.” And maybe you’ve offered a couple other things and pointed out, “I’m setting up the broccoli too, and then a little bit of rice pilaf and some other things, and a little bit of hummus, just in case,” and just floating those out there pretty neutrally. And he’s like, “no, gross, that’s disgusting. I’m not eating any of that.” And just eats his little bowl. We say “it sounds like you really just that pasta, that sounds really good to you.” So we listen, what do you love about it? Okay, and you’re not feeling other things, they’re just not sounding good to you right now.
Hannah: So much about the empathizing is just saying, “this is where you are right now. And we’re going to create a fluid and temporal relationship around you and your taste buds,” right? And empathizing too you can say “right now your taste buds just like this type of food, and they taste something else and they’re like, no, no, no.” And so connecting him to his feelings and saying, “the way you feel about this is okay, and valid, I trust that,” so that he can feel safe and there won’t be kind of unnecessary resistance and energy around it, which may help him kind of move into to opening up again a little bit sooner. And I’m sure you’ve already have Synched Up before, where you said your concerns, after he said, “yucky this, this, this,” then you say your concerns where you’re like, “I just want to make sure that you get the growing foods that your body needs,” or “I remember talking to the doctor last week, and he was saying that sometimes your poops can get really hard. And it can be hard to push them out when you’re just eating the breads. And so my concern is just if we’re not getting some of those fruits or those broccolis or those other things, that it might be uncomfortable for you.”
Kelty: Then we’ve got to innovate. We need ideas, what does sound good, colorful food, that sounds like it would be good for your taste buds or your tummy. Like what would sound good that we might have. And it’s hard because I think a lot of us are worried, is this going to become chaos? We’re going to close the kitchen down because we’re opening it up too wide, right. But if our ultimate goal is to expose our kid to nutritious foods, and get them to be trying stuff within their own capacity control, then we kind of have to be opening that up for innovation.
Hannah: I think innovation, too, can be innovating ourselves and saying “how can I bring my child into preparing the foods, choosing the foods before they’re put right in front of him?” So saying, “how about if we look through a book and he chooses which foods we put on our shopping list,” or he draws the pictures or he chooses and circles things to get, or we go to the store and he tells me which ones and I put them in the bag, or he puts them in the bag. And then we get home and he helps me – we do some washing with them. As much as we can be acclimating our kids, I think so often, we’re like, it’s success when the food goes down the throat. That’s the only measure of success we have with food. But the exposure we can be giving our kids, and the process of scaffolding that association positively, can be so many different ways. It can literally just be talking about the food, or looking at the food.
Kelty: If you get it on the table and it’s there, that’s great.
Hannah: It can be touching the food, it can be cutting the food or mashing the food, it can be serving the food, kids love serving a big blob of food, or with tongs, we got a ton of little tongs that can happen where they’re participating. And even if they don’t get to the point where maybe they hold it up and you’re like, “look, I put one in my nose like halfway” or you’re joking a little bit, to get them to see food as safe. This is safe. You can engage in this when you’re ready, not coercively, right? Safety. So that’s kind of the innovation we’re thinking of.
Kelty: And in the Summarize step, in this case, we probably wouldn’t set a limit or say “we can’t leave the table until you take three bites,” or “no dessert if you don’t eat your food,” or “you only have this and we can’t XYZ,” whatever it is. We probably just say, “okay, so we’re summarizing, you’re really just feeling like this so far, maybe next time, we can take a couple adventure bites, or licks, or anything, thanks for your help cutting all the broccoli earlier, this was fun. Maybe we could try cooking it differently, we did butter this time, maybe next time, we could steam it instead. Or you could put a little bit of a saltier nutritional yeast on that. It’s different every time, we never know we’re gonna like it until we try it. Right?” You’re summarizing and reconditioning.
Hannah: And I think with all of these conversations too, having those meals where we don’t talk about food the whole time, and what they’re eating and not eating. I think oftentimes we don’t realize how much pressure that’s putting on our kids. And I think let’s just have fun at the table and just talk and enjoy ourselves. And that’s another way we can recondition the whole scenario to be less, “I’m focused on you and what you’re choosing and not choosing and putting in your mouth,” versus not – the reason Kelty mentioned not putting food conditionally with “if you eat this, then you get this” is because that practice devalues the food that you actually want. So it’s saying if you have to eat broccoli, to get a cupcake, it’s saying the broccoli is so bad, you would never even eat it, you need an incentive to eat that type of thing. So we want our kids to attune to their bodies and respect their taste buds, respect the textures. Oftentimes kids are very texture averse. A lot of kids who have trouble with tooth brushing or chewing hard things, and just textures, getting their hair brushed and it hits their scalp. Oftentimes, putting those things in their mouth can feel pretty tricky and strange. And so if folks are ever really concerned about this, if they’re not getting the nutrition or they’re really texture averse, they could always see an occupational therapist. But your son is almost four, this is such a normal time in our minds, with what we know, of him just feeling a little stress and projecting that onto the eating environment, realizing he has power over his body, and you can’t make him or force him to eat something, that’s a pretty cool thing to know that about yourself.
Kelty: And the Trust step, like we said before, to just playing that long game, and knowing that this is not forever. And this is where we kind of key into the research, which is so helpful to think, “okay, it takes kids like eight to ten times trying one flavor of something for their taste buds to acclimate.” And that’s what makes us crack down being like, “get that on your tongue!”
Just take a bite!
Hannah: And it also takes – within seven to ten days, kids round out their diet. So they might just eat bread, but we can’t keep thinking that within one meal, they have to have a complete meal of all the different things. They round it out within seven to ten days and get what they need, their bodies know. So providing it, it’s okay if at dinner, he’s just pasta boy, right. But if there are other ways to be doing, you know, your smoothie in the morning, and you get your carrots in the middle of the day.
Kelty: And peanut butter and apple for a snack.
Hannah: That’s so okay, yeah.
I feel a lot lighter hearing you go through each of that. I think part of why it might be coming to the bit of a boiling point that it feels like it is, because my husband and I are feeling more stressed out about just his health with noticing the darkness under his eyes. And probably because we’re bringing that to the table. And it’s causing more and more stress in the situation. But I really like the Innovate piece as well, and getting him more involved in it outside of that dinner table situation. And so it takes away from that stress and can do the grocery shopping with me and that sort of thing.
Kelty: That’s a conversation you can have with him too. I think that so seldom we think about, like I mentioned earlier, even apologizing to our kids or having a circle back. We can circle back with a two-year-old and say, “I’ve been kind of bossy a little bit about what you’ve been eating. And I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, you’ve just been wanting this. And I think I’m just going to kind of cool it a little bit, because you know your body best. And I’m going to do my job, which is to keep providing samples and tastes and things that I think could be good to help grow your body. And you can try them if you want, but no pressure. And I have these other ideas too of ways that you can be part of mealtime if you’re not going to sample the foods or eat all the foods if you want. I’d love you to be more a part of shopping. I’d love you to be more part of preparing the foods. I’d love you to serve me my meal. I’d love you to play with some of the food if you don’t want to eat it.” We’re also conditioned to think no playing with food, just business, fork to mouth, right? And I think that any exposure, like Hannah said, is positive.
Yeah, playing with the dips and all that sort of thing. I’ve seen one nutritionist paint with the sauces and the veggies. Yeah.
Hannah: You’re not alone. Seriously, it’s a lot.
Yes, it is. And that’s why it’s so reassuring to those hearing how you’re not alone, and hearing people that are further in the parenting stage, and that a lot of these situations that we’re dealing with aren’t permanent. They might feel like we’re in it forever, but there is an end to it. There is another stage.
Hannah: And there is such an investment that you’re making too Jannine.
Kelty: I was going to say, it can become permanent.
Hannah: They can become very permanent and long lasting. And I think that you’re at this moment now, with him at three-and-a-half, where you get to start a relationship that’s not in between him and his food. And sometimes we work with a lot of folks in our coaching that are at the age where their kids are like 8, or 10, or 13. And they are so worried, and they literally can’t do anything, their kids won’t even eat within the home or whatever it is at that point. So starting as early as we can, it’s never too late to support your kids’ relationship to their body. But I think doing the division of responsibility, what Ellen Sattar coined, is we choose when, within meal windows, when mealtime and snacks are, we choose where, so we eat at the table, right? And we choose what foods we put out, the variety, right? And then our kids choose which foods they want to actually eat of those, and how much of those to eat. So those are their jobs. And the other ones are our responsibility and separating it like that as early as we can, we begin to see “oh, my gosh, this is paying off.”
Yeah, and it helps lighten the load. It’s not on you for what they eat. And I think as parents of really young aged kids, like you talked about, we have such a great opportunity to have these ongoing conversations so they can really build the skills themselves, and have that autonomy and independence instead of needing someone to tell them how to do things.
Kelty: Absolutely, I think it’s so easy for us to think as parents, “I have this huge responsibility, I have to make sure they get this many hours of sleep, I have to make sure they get this much to eat, I have to make sure that they clean their bodies well.” All of these things that really are fundamentally belonging to our children, and will belong to them as they get older. And so much of our work as parents is saying “we are responsible, but we want to be working with our kids, instead of doing to our kids.” Not feel crippled by that responsibility, but create a conversation around it and help our kids attune to their bodies, whether it’s around when they’re tired, or when they’re not tired, what their bodies are needing for exercise or nervous system integration. Whether their bodies actually feel dirty or itchy or smelly to them, or their hair’s tangley or it’s a problem. Whether something tastes good, or they’re thirsty, or they’re not; they’re hot, or they’re cold with their clothing. It’s all a conversation, right?
Hannah: Balancing that external gaze of saying, “do we want to raise them to think everything that they do for their body and themselves is based on other people’s expectations?” That makes them really susceptible to peer pressure, to marketing, to all sorts of things. Thinking, “I’m only going to do something for my body, if I’m motivated by someone outside me,” versus saying “I’m motivated from the inside out. I know my body, I’m attuned to it. I know what it needs and doesn’t need. I’ve learned that from an early age.” Some of us ladies are figuring that out in our 30s right now, like tuning into our bodies and tuning out those other voices.
Absolutely. And that’s the whole social change piece that you had mentioned about in taking this kind of approach and having the conversations, and having it really be a hand-in-hand partnership, working through the challenges. It gives them the tools to have that bodily autonomy to stand up when they need to.
Kelty: Yeah, and it’s such a huge pressure off our shoulders too, I think, touching back on that perspective and expectation we had when we became parents, that we have so much that we need to make them do. And instead, be able to look at our kid with that respectful lens at the beginning of the RESIST approach, and say “you know your body best,” and really believe that they know themselves best and trust. And respect that we get to learn about them and kind of support them and scaffold their skill building through the process with their authentic feedback for what they’re really needing.
Hannah: And that that sensitive power that we use, that we’re trying to practice that’s so hard, is the power that we’re teaching our children to use on other people as well. So part of our – we have a privilege, right, and we want to make sure we’re not abusing our power. And so the power that we use on our kids, it normalizes a power dynamic for them. And so then when they go out into the world, how are they going to use their power and privilege to coerce people, to manipulate people, to do all of those things from the control toolbox? Or are they going to be using the RESIST approach or other respectful parenting, nonviolent communication, research informed ways of saying I’m going to engage respectfully, because I respect my body and was raised this way. I can go in and use my power in a less hierarchical and more democratic way with other people.
Kelty: And it’s a big wake up call for a lot of our folks we work with as well to be thinking “okay, so the way I’m interacting around bath time, bed time, meal time, chore time, homework time, TV time, anytime really, is conditioning them to expect something as normal.” So thinking, “if I’m the boyfriend one day, if I’m the girlfriend one day, if I’m the boss one day, how do I want my child to expect to be treated?” And that’s how I want to be treating them right now through these moments of conflict.
Absolutely. And that actually ties into something I’ve been noticing lately, it’s something small with my kids. But when they’re asking for something, it comes out as a demand. And it’s like, “oh, do you want to try that? Can you ask me nicely?” And I had a bit of like, “oh, it’s because that’s how I ask them to do things.” I give them two options, or it’s “you need to do this in this time,” so they’re used to having questions asked in that way. And they really do pick up on it, even the smallest little things.
Hannah: Sure. Absolutely.
Kelty: Yeah, it’s modeling for sure. And it’s just their brain.
Hannah: It’s just their brains, right? They just go to this simpler, more kind of raw, emotional, tabloid style communication strategies that we have to give them the benefit of the doubt for as well, and believe in that power of our modeling for sure.
Kelty: And the power of our translation. If you want to get into any of those words, stuff – we’ve been doing so much on Instagram this last week, is when our kids are rude, or when our kids are naggy, and we want to say, “can you say that more nicely?” Or “why are you talking to me this way?” Or “that’s not okay to talk like that to your friend.”
Hannah: When we do that, we’re saying “stop feeling what you’re feeling, stop needing what you’re needing.” So we don’t want to say no to their stuff, even when it’s wild or offensive or worrisome.
Kelty: Yeah, that’s opportunity to respect the fact that there’s a need beneath that, and to try to understand it. So when they’re like, “MORE MILK,” say, “well, you really want more milk, like a lot a lot, you must be really thirsty.” So we’re validating the need, and we’re giving them wording to replace “more milk” with. without kind of coercing them into performing it for us.
Hannah: Because spirited and sensitive kids won’t always change their wording for us, insisting they ask something more nicely, or more politely might make them want to resist that even further. So modeling is a really sensitive way to approach it with kids who are just so perceptive, and who really feel sensitive to control. As they should be, it’s a healthy sense of resistance, I would say.
Let’s dig into those different modeling and tips and things like that, that you think would be helpful for others.
Kelty: Sure, I mean, I think that you pointed out the best way for our kids to learn isn’t what we’ve been taught, which is explicitly, so saying, “you can’t do this” or “be nice,” or “clean up your room,” or, you know, any of those things. We have to show it through our own way of moving through the world. So that’s us saying how much we like food, and different kinds; that’s us talking about how nice it feels to have our teeth brushed – “feels really fresh, I feel a little bit better. Now I can move into the day.” That’s us modeling gratitude instead of demanding it. “Thank you so much for doing that. That really helped me. And I don’t have to bend over and pick up those things. Thank you.”
Hannah: I think so much about it, too, is responding with unconditional love when they “mess up.” We’re talking about that on Instagram, too. And so remembering that when our kids make choices, that’s how they learn. So again, they don’t learn by us telling them what to do, what not to do, they learn by experiencing the world. Think about if you were learning how to cook; you couldn’t learn how to cook by just being told what to do and what not to do, on the kitchen counter. You have to literally break an egg wrong a million times, and flip this off the counter, and do all of this stuff to actually learn. Your body has to go through the motions, our body brain connection. And so remembering that our kids must make a bunch of mistakes over and over and over to build the neurocircuitry, and to learn the lessons. So we don’t have to add and manufacture consequences and get mad and angry. We have to create safety around all of those learning experiences. So showing up with love and understanding to help that learning happen after something goes “wrong” is another big one, I’d say.
I like that you bring that up. And I’ve seen different examples where we wouldn’t expect our children to learn the alphabet right away. So why are we expecting them to not pull on that lamp right away? It takes practice, it takes multiple times, and none of us really learn immediately.
Hannah: Right? They don’t have fully grown brains. They’re literally building the prefrontal cortex that helps them with decision making, impulse control, judgment, you know, innovation, all of these things. And that part will not grow if we don’t do those things with them and experience that with them, right?
I think another area is just a matter of loosening up and letting things go a little bit. It’s moving from that fear base to that trust place a little bit. And remembering the power of humor and curiosity in helping kids learn. I think so often we think for a child to learn, we have to be serious, we have to be a little bit mad.
Kelty: Might use their name more often.
Hannah: Yep, might use their name. We got a little boomier of a voice, that will definitely get that message through. And it doesn’t, right? Remember, the kids learn the way we teach, right? And remembering how just magically primed kids are for humor, and connection, and creativity. The Innovation step of the RESIST approach is all of those things. And that’s what keeps the relationship going. And kids who feel a relationship can learn better, we all learn better when we feel safe in our bodies. And when we’re around people that make us feel good, when we feel better, we do better. So never forgetting the power of getting a little goofy, or having a fantasy idea about whatever it is that needs to get done. That can go so far, especially in the early years.
Kelty: But I like that you brought up just letting it go, too. And I think that’s something that parents of spirited, strong willed kids have to confront a lot. Do I want to die on this hill? Or do I want this to turn into a tantrum? Because I’m not sure I can withstand that. Or really, not necessarily doubting ourselves as parents, but in that Respect step of the RESIST approach, questioning ourselves. Does this have to happen at all? Does this have to happen now? Okay, does this have to happen in this way? Okay, does this have to happen through this channel, or by my child, or this way, or that way? And really putting ourselves to the test a little bit to think, “why am I putting so much pressure? Why am I creating a power struggle around something if it doesn’t necessarily need to happen?” Just getting straight with ourselves a little bit about it. Is this something that I really want? Okay, how much do I really want it? Right?
Hannah: And is it worth creating a negative association around this with my child?
Kelty: Or putting pressure on our relationship?
42:18 Definitely. And that’s something I’ve seen come up in different ways within the community is say like that morning routine. The clock’s ticking, we got to get to XYZ at whatever time and it adds that extra power or extra stress, and those extra power struggles can come from it. For example, my child just won’t put on their jacket. And so it’s like you said, is that the hill we really want to die on? We know they’re going to need it, perhaps we can bring it, they’ll make it to the car okay. And when they get outside to go where they need to go, “oh, do you feel a little bit cold? Okay, here’s your jacket.”
Kelty: I love that. I think so often, we have these heaps of expectations that we put on our kids around a certain situation, transitions out the door in the morning is a perfect example. And these just very legitimate expectations we have can become mountains for our kids to move on the way to the door. So I think in that respect that we were just talking about is which ones can we take off their plate? Can we carry them to the car naked and we get dressed when we get there? Right? Can we bring three pairs of pants and they choose one when we arrive? Or can they wear pants on the bottom and on the top, because that’s all they were willing to do? I’m cool with that.
Hannah: Moving through all these challenges with our kids, I think one of the biggest things is saying “challenges with our kids are not obstacles, to learning or to growth, they are opportunities to learning and to growth.” And our kids are not going to be resilient, self-sufficient, motivated, all of those things, if they do what we tell them to do all the time. Because we’re conditioning them then to look to external sources to say “what do I do? Tell me what to do?”
Kelty: “And what’s in it for me?”
Hannah: Right, “and what’s in it for me?”
Kelty: Though it would be really nice.
Hannah: Oh, a smooth morning.
Kelty: Sometimes I spend time with Hannah’s kid, and I’m like, “oh my gosh, they’re so amazing.”
Hannah: I know, I shouldn’t be talking right now.
Kelty: I’m like, “okay, it’s time to go put shoes on because we need to do this,” and they’re already gone, they’re just putting the shoes on. And tears just shoot out of my eyes, I’m like what is going on.
Hannah: Well, and it’s not because I’m a “better mother” or because they’re “better kids.” It’s just because they’re different. And I think the last thing I would say is just acknowledging and giving ourselves grace that we’re doing the best we can, that our kids are doing the best they can, but there’s no one size fits all approach to any of this. There’s no perfect child. There’s no perfect parent. None of that exists. We’re literally just moving through day to day, challenge to challenge, and saying “what are my needs? What are my kids’ needs? How can we move through this together?” A little humor, a little innovation, a little teaching – even outside the moment, later with a circle back.
Kelty: That’s like the big task though, because none of us had these conversations with our parents when we were little, so we’re full blown adults and we don’t know what we need in the moment. So much of this work, like we brought up earlier that side-by-side work. “I’m not even sure what I’m needing. Why am I frustrated? What’s going on? What’s happening in here, when I’m stressed or clenched or frustrated?” The first question we want to be asking ourselves is “what am I needing? It’s not an emergency. It’s gonna be okay. What am I needing? Am I needing space? Okay, am I needing my child to be quiet? Okay.” Step out of the room myself, right? Am I needing the house to be a little bit cleaner? I might text my husband right now and say, “I need your help tonight, because things got out of control today.”
Hannah: And I can’t put cleaning up on a four-year-old.
Kelty: Yeah. And then what is my child needing? And beginning that conversation early with them so that they can say, “I’m stressed out by school and I just can’t clean my room okay!?” And you can say “okay. Yes.” Instead of just “no,” right?
Yeah. And as you said, we’re all learning side-by-side. And it’s okay for us to make these mistakes. Maybe one morning, we flipped out, yelled, forced them in the jacket, and strapped them into their seat. And then unpacking it throughout the day, normally, guilt sets in and thinking about, “oh, we could have done this differently.” And it’s okay to have that conversation and try again later and keep trying.
Kelty: Right. If we’re trying to create a shame free space for kids to make choices, and the impact of some of those choices, we have to give ourselves that same opportunity.
Hannah: Yeah, in parenting we say “there’s always tomorrow,” or five minutes from now, right? We get so many opportunities to be moving through not getting them perfect, but learning through them. That’s the goal. We always say progress over perfection, trust over fear, connection over control.
Kelty: That’s where we can begin that circle back with ourselves, being like “shit, that sucked. Okay, instead of beating myself up, I’m gonna thank what contributed to that. Okay, where did I get kind of not go wrong or go bad, but kind of run off the rails a little bit? Okay, should we have started earlier? Okay, should I have laid out some clothes and things earlier, packed lunches sooner? Did I need a little five minute break to gear up before the second baby woke up? Wonder what could happen?” Then we go to our kid, and we circle back too. “I’m so sorry that I got really frustrated earlier when we were struggling to get out the door. And I picked you up and put you in your car seat, and you really didn’t like that. I’m so sorry. Tomorrow, I’m going to try to be more patient. Maybe tomorrow we can pick out a song for the car.” Think about what we can all do next to feel better about it, right?
Yeah, there’s so many opportunities. It’s not like there’s a big failure. It’s not a failure, it’s learning opportunities, and you can keep circling back. I know we’re tight on time, I did have a couple little questions. So one thing that’s come up a lot within the community is that the moms are very into this more progressive parenting style. But their partners might be a little bit more, say, set in their ways compared to how they were brought up. And so it can be a bit challenging to get on the same page, especially in those early years. Do you have any recommendations or thoughts on that?
Hannah: Yeah, I would say therapy is pretty ideal for getting some of that hashed out. But it’s the approaching of your partner just as you would your kid with compassion, and curiosity, and trying to find a place where your values are the same. And then say, “well, how are we getting those values? Are we acting out those values? What does the approach look like? We got the same thing. We got this in common. Okay, you believe that kids learn this way? I believe kids learn this way. Let’s talk about it a little bit. Or let’s look at some research.” Right? There’s so much research out, just Google research on spanking, research on yelling, research on consequences. Or have your partner do a little bit of the work. I think very often partners come and say, “I know you’re doing all this work already. But could you do a little more to prove it?” And so I think that starting a conversation and going as far as you can, with a partner, letting them parent a little differently, but really, if there are deal breakers, what we call deal breakers, then that’s a great time to go to therapy, and say “we really need to talk about this because we love our kids and we want to make it work.”
Kelty: Yeah, I agree. And I think outside the moment. I feel like often a lot of people come to us and they’re like my husband is parenting this way, and I just freak out on him, I take over and yell at him and say you’re messing them up or get out of here, or that I’m gonna sub him out and he just won’t let me because he wants to see it through. And I think that just reminders, like we do with our kids, outside the heat of the moment, right? Heat of the moment we’re gonna try to calm everyone down. Try to be neutral support staff. Outside the moment? “Gosh, that was hard earlier. What can we do next time? You seem really frustrated at the little guy.”
Hannah: “What were you needing? What were they needing?”
Kelty: “That was hard. I wonder what we could do next time. Did you need a break?”
Hannah: So it’s the full RESIST approach that we’re working with.
That’s what I was just thanking. Finding that middle ground, de-escalating, innovating, going through it. I would also – I know we’re tight. But how about with our kids, we have this great setup in our homes, then they’re going off to school, and they might not necessarily have the same approach at school. And so there’s different behavior issues coming up. Do you have any tips or advice for those situations?
Kelty: Yeah, I think with two things. I think we would connect with the school if we needed to about certain things, and be an advocate for our kid, to be able to say, “you know, my child is actually really used to this at home,” or “this is how we handle conflict between students,” or “this is how we tend to interact with them without consequences or shame.”
Hannah: “These are their nervous system needs,” or “this is what’s gonna happen.”
Kelty: So try to kind of work around the side on that way if we need to and are able. And then we work with our kid too. And we can just bring that up neutrally; “I noticed your teacher sometimes she gets a little loud. We don’t really do that at home that much. How do you feel about it? It’s a little different at school, huh? Or sometimes, you know, when you have big feelings at school, you just let it out, because that’s what we do at home. But have you noticed maybe some other kids struggle with that, or they have a special corner that you get to sit and calm down in? How’s that feeling? Because that’s different than what we do here at home.” And just making it safe and reconditioning whatever those differences are. That can go with school, that can be like grandma’s on the weekends, your ex husband’s house that you’re splitting time with. Whatever it is.
Yeah, having those conversations.
Kelty: Yeah. “I’m here, it’s different. What’s your experience?”
51:42 Perfect. Well, thank you so much. I feel like we could go on and on and talk about different aspects for a long time.
Kelty: We’d love to come back!
That would be fantastic! And you guys have mentioned the nervous system a few times. So I’m curious, I would like to dig into that a bit more. And I think that helps give the foundation for kind of the why in between, and helps the understanding of the behavior.
Kelty: Just nervous systems, like last thing. We’re all bundles of nerves. All of us. Our angry husbands, our wigging out babies and kids, ourselves – we’re all bundles of nerves. And we have to be trying to give each other the benefit of the doubt and tune into our own nervous system needs for supporting our kids.
Hannah: Every behavior that our kids do and we do is a way to feel safe in our bodies. Everything that we do, everything our kids do. So our kids are telling us and showing us through their behavior what their nervous systems are needing. And so that’s great information. That’s why we don’t want to use the control approach on it. We want to understand it and work with it and find alternatives.
Definitely. Where can people find you, find all the different resources you have, you have lots, let’s hear all about them.
Kelty: Okay, you can find us on instagram @Upbringing.Co. We do a lot of side-by-side scripts, like your instinct versus our goal.
Which are great.
Kelty: We do Instagram reels. We do live q&as every week, which we kind of stream over to the podcast also. And then you can go to our website, also upbringing.co. For other resources, we’ve got our RESIST approach, we’ve got our Freedoms model, you can download for free. We’ve got big feelings and sibling conflict guides. We also do one-on-one coaching and small group coaching.
Hannah: And I think we have, we’ll give your viewers and members, the strong willed kids mantras and helpful phrasing guide. If you want to put that in there, we’ll send it your way, to get them started with that. The inner voice, those mental mantras, you know, my child’s not out to ruin my life, this isn’t an emergency. And then the outer voice where we can be trying to say different things in those moments that are tricky.
Yes, that’d be fantastic. It’s helpful to have that affirmation that really resonates with you to repeat those stressful moments. Thank you. We’ll make sure all of those are linked.
Kelty: First thing in the morning, I think.
Yes. Yes. First thing in the morning for that morning routine rush.
Kelty: You put it on the mirror, ‘my kid will struggle today.’
Yeah, it is okay. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. And thank you to all of our UM Club members who have tuned in. You can bring your questions and comments into our Facebook group and our group chat, and our bi-weekly zoom Hangouts. See you guys next week!
Thanks for listening! If you want to participate in our discussion, head on over to the exclusive UM Club Facebook page! I’ll see you next week for the next episode!