You're listening to Voices of Your Village this is episode 196. In this episode I got to hang out with Irene McKenna to chat about discipline, punishment and boundaries, woof. These are three big ones that a lot of us are trying to do a little differently than we experienced growing up, and knowing what that looks like and being able to implement in the moment can be so tough. This episode is full of tangible tips and tricks for you to implement with your tiny humans starting right away. Head on over to instagram and tag seed.and.sew to share your biggest takeaway with me. I want to hear what really hit home for you and what was helpful. And also would like to hear what you'd like to dive deeper into. Your feedback is so helpful for us to create more free content with you in mind. All right folks, let's dive in!
Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell.
Everyone welcome to Voices of Your Village. I received a text recently from a pal of mine, Jenna from the body exploration episode. And she was like, I just heard this talk from this amazing woman. You need to have her on the podcast. And the more I dove into her website and her content, I agreed, and I reached out. And she's so graciously is joining us today. Irene is here from Irene McKenna Coaching is a parent coach. Hey, Irene. How are you?
I'm great. Thank you. How are you?
I'm doing well. Thank you, too, it's a rainy day here in Vermont.
It's here too in Upstate New York!
Nice. It's a nice day to be inside in my cozies.
Great. So can you tell us a little bit about your background and kind of how you wound up here?
Absolutely, absolutely. So I, my background is actually in physical therapy. I've been a physical therapist almost 20 years, but when, and I've had the blessing of working per diem for the past, like eight, when my kids were little. But when it came time to them to go back to school full-time, I just felt both a calling to do something different, as well as at the time I was really stuck in my own muck. I had two kids in 15 months apart, and it was just I was not getting myself back in a very happy way, Let's say, And that journey of kind of finding myself first led me to health coaching. I became Certified health coach. And as I dove into coaching, I kind of started peeling back my own layers, which was amazing. But then in working with being called to work with moms and through, like their health and self-care, I just felt like something was missing. And I just had a conversation one day with somebody who said, I'm a parenting coach. It was kind of like this. Aha like that exists? I kind of I was the parent. I was not a peaceful parent. I didn't spank and things, but I did use timeouts and punishments and consequences. There was a lot of tears. There was a lot of yelling. I kind of felt like parenting was something I was surviving, like each age and stage was a challenge. I had to overcome that age, that stage, only to face a new challenge. It's kind of like the evidence that I was failing was all around me, right? The dishes were in the sink. The clothes were, you know, in the, in the dirty clothes, it was all this pressure to be something. And it was just weighing me down, but I didn't think there was anything different. And so when I found parenting coaching, I actually was like, oh, this could be great for my clients. And I kind of use my intuition, found a program that really spoke to me, where I was in the coaching realm, working on mindfulness and who you are as a parent. And the way it works is you dive into the program itself. And from like, week one or two diving in, I was like, mind-blown like holy cow. This is a whole new way of being as a parent, and it completely changed my perspective on parenting and how we parent and in that it, rather than it, kind of benefiting my health coaching practice. It became everything about me. Like my passion is changing how we see parenting, how we think of parenting, how we are thriving as parents, and how we are supporting our kids to thrive.
I absolutely love that. Yeah, I saw a line on your website that just like spoke to my heart that said, "I felt like I was failing most days. But isn't that parenting?" And I think so many folks are in that right, The everyday grind of surviving when they could be thriving, but they don't know how to get there. So let's bring them there. Sister.
Yeah, that's right.
Okay. So what? When people come to you for as like a parent coach, What's the why behind this? Like, what's the goal?
So the goal is a lot of times, right? They think they have to fix behavior, right? They think they have to change their child. Their child's not listening. They're not cooperating their kind of beating their head against the wall, trying to get these behaviors. I connect with parents, either through, you know, like Facebook, or I do the talk that Jenna had contacted you after where it's like opening eyes to a different way of seeing things. And so then they come to me. If they come to me from that place. It's kind of like I didn't know there was anything different there's still this idea that we need to control, fix, and manage our child's behaviors. Like we are creating this little person. We have to create this well-behaved, happy, successful child. And it's that pressure to create. So it's kind of the idea that they need to change behavior is kind of the why, but it's deeper than that is the idea That they're failing in some way. They are not being the parent that they want to be, whether it's because they're kids aren't listening, or because they're yelling all the time, There's just it's not connecting, and they want different.
Yeah, that makes total sense. I similarly run like parent support groups, and most people come to me with this. It's a behavior change we're looking for in our kids. And before we know it, we dive into how to change behavior in our kids, because if we don't change our response to them, they won't change their response to us. All right. So what was when you were diving into this personally? And then now working with folks, what was the biggest game changer for you in parenting? Like what has really shifted the way that you approach kind of life in general with your tiny humans now?
The biggest change for me was not taking their behavior personally. They're not trying to get me. They're not trying to get away with something, They're not. They're not behaving in this way, because they care at all about my experience. This is their experience. They're struggling with something they need support. So the game changer was really how I saw them, and how I and I helped them, you know, through it. I can even think, you know, two years ago, my son, you know, throughout the you know, I hate you, You're the worst parent. I weren't. I wish you weren't my mom something he was angry about it immediately. It became how dare you talk to me like that like that hurts Mommy's feelings. We don't talk to people like that versus when it happened a few weeks ago with my with my son, I was able to just sit there with him knowing it had nothing to do with me and just say, you know, I can tell you want Mommy to know how angry you are with me right now, or how angry you are. And helping him process his emotions, because I wasn't clouded with my own.
Yeah, absolutely. It's so huge. And so, so huge. We often have a root emotion, and we might on the surface be like, oh my gosh, that hurt my feelings And underneath that, We're like feeling, I think, oftentimes this guilt or shame or fear disappointment of like, am I a terrible parent? Am I doing this wrong? And they just hit like a sore spot in me. And now I'm triggered. Yeah, that's amazing to be able to kind of work through that and see it.
Because while as parents in any moment our feelings are completely valid like we have these feelings, they usually have nothing to do with their child's behavior. They are from us from our childhood, from our hurts, because no matter how wonderful our childhood may have been, we were a child viewing the world from this limited lens, making generalizations and interpretations based on that. So we carry with us these ideas, or these hurts that then are projected onto our child.
Yes, sister preach. And even in adulthood, right? Like we enter, there are so many things that we're going to take in every single day. And we, they I call them root emotions or heart emotions. It's like the emotion that is living on your heart. And it's usually not the one that we see you might. We might see sadness or see anger on the surface, but there's a heart emotion underneath all of that. Well, and same for our tiny humans, absolutely When they're mad at you. And they're saying, I hate you, she's mad at you. But really, he's feeling something else underneath it all.
He was feeling disappointed and sad that his brother got to go spend the afternoon with Grandma by herself, and I'm not loved as much as my brother. And this isn't fair. And as soon as I gave him that space to feel angry without being judged, and I said to him, because he was saying, you know, go away. And I said, you want Mommy to go away, because if you look in my eyes and you see how much I love you, it will be hard to stay angry, because anger is a defense, and he did. He open the door like a minute later, and threw himself into my arms sobbing about, this isn't fair. Why is this, and being able to feel that sadness that then washed over him and then washed away because he was safe to feel it. And he's like, okay, let's go play a game.
What a beautiful, the hard part there that I have had to really work on is once they're done with it and I'm not done, I'm like you just threw this whole thing. And now you're like, let's go play a game like that didn't all happen?
I haven't processed this yet. Let's stay here for another minute or two.
Right, I'm not ready. Usually then I'll be like, yeah, I'd love to play a game. I'm just going to go to the bathroom, real quick. And then I'll, then we can play. Give myself that breathing space. I love this. You're speaking to my heart. Okay? So you're old you and you're on this path to becoming now new you what actions are required? Like, What's the how in this? How do you put this into everyday life when you're in the middle of the like dishes in the sink, and the chaos and the life and the tantrums and know, whatever?
Yeah. For me, the big catalyst was I had a coach myself, a parenting coach, and I stood in knee-deep in that muck. And I remember saying to my coach, you know, in the middle of it, you know, I got myself into this. I don't know, people wearing earmuffs if kids are listening. But, s-h-i-t show, how do I get myself out of it? Like I have to fix this. And it was somebody who stood with me through all that, because I you read books, right? Change feels hard. It feels scary. It feels uncomfortable. It feels messy, and it is, it's kind of like you have an old coat, and it's full of holes in it. And you know, it's not keeping you warm. So you go out to get a new coat. You try on a new coat, it's a little scratchy. It's a little tight, Doesn't feel quite right. You want nothing more than to put that old coat back on, even though it's not doing you any good. But then maybe it takes somebody else to tell you, You know, that coats probably not keeping you warm, because we don't see our own things. So for me, that was the big game changer. But even as I continued beyond that time, It was it's a muscle, right? It's a muscle. Change is a muscle and working it. In the beginning, its conscious effort, and it's being mindful, and it's kind of being able to rework those thoughts. And I've done. So when I say, I mean, I've done a lot of work on myself to build this awareness, and I still, you know, find moments where it's like I'm descending. And now I, you know, I need to breathe. You know, breathe in, that was the big game changer For me is having That's support and accountability to get through the really hard stuff, the really hard stuff of creating change, because it, because it's feels that way, It's very easy for us to, you know, to go back to the old way, even if we don't like the old way, because it's comfortable, its familiar. And when we don't have somebody calling us out on that, we fall into our default patterns. We fill our schedules so full that we don't possibly have time to work on the program or read The book. We go to bed late because I have to clean the whole house. So I wake up the next day. So change I'm too exhausted to change. We all have, we check out on social media or other things, because we all have these default patterns, and without having somebody, Now it could be two friends going through a program together that you, you know, constantly or connecting with to keep you on track. It's the same with, you know, hiring a trainer at the gym, or having, you know, having a personal trainer, or doing a program with Group of people, because there's that constant check in that I'm not. You know, it's the tough love when you fall off track, but it's also the cheerleading and celebration when things are good, It's having both of those.
I absolutely love that. I think that we often underestimate the power of accountability, and it plays such a huge role. I started off just doing these Tiny Humans. Big Emotions groups would be like a one-time two hour group. And I found that after every group I was having people come and say, like, what can we do now? Like, how do we keep meeting with you? How do we keep doing this? So I started a series. And now it is almost everybody who joined my series has already taken a group. And they came, and they were like, who now hold me accountable. Now let's meet and come back. And I think that wherever you find that I mean, Rachel Hollis is doing this, last 90 days Challenge. And there's a accountability there, like wherever you can find folks who are going to hold you accountable, and you're going to meet up. Not everyone can afford to pay for coaching. And I hear that at my groups and all that, but find folks who are in this with you and are going to challenge you to go through this journey together in a place of growth, and not just a wallowing in the trenches.
Right? Absolutely. It's the idea of having that group of people that support you. But having the people that stretch you and the people that stretch you and call you out on those behaviors who know what your default patterns are and can say, I see you doing this, You know, let's climb out that are going to stand with you in that. Yes.
It's huge. It's huge. And I think, like the bonus and the huge power to coaching, or working with someone of expertise Is when you don't know what else to do. There's someone there who does right. There's an expert in the room who can who's walked this path, and has served in this capacity and can say, aha, you're stuck in this pattern. Here's another way you can approach that. I absolutely love that. So I think the huge thing is that we, in order to change tiny human behaviors, We have to change our behavior.
It's so hard. It's so much easier to be like, no, it's them that needs to change right Like this may need to stop throwing a tantrum, or they need to go to sleep on time, or they need to stop hitting right. And it starts with us.
It does, And it can be hard. It can be hard to admit that we're the ones that, quote, unquote have to change to create this transformation in our family. But it's absolutely true, because who we are being is directly affecting the response we're getting from our child. And the only way we're going to create the behaviors that we want to see, the cooperation, the listening is if we are connected with with our child, if they value our relationship with them as their top priority, that's when behaviors change.
Absolutely. It's a collaboration. It has to start with connection, Right? Like we have to. We have to connect with them first before they're going to collaborate. And likewise as adults, If somebody treated us in that manner, we would want to connect before we collaborate, It's right. It's a very natural, we should treat our tiny human with that as well. So I want to dive in a little bit to the brain science, because I think often times like folks are like, I am not a meditator, or I am not like X y&z, right? It doesn't feel like it's a part of our Identity, or a part of who we are. Let me tell you, I bet, hand in the air. That was me. I was like, meditation isn't for me. I was like a basketball player, and like it just felt outside of my comfort zone. I didn't know or understand or see the value in, like even a minute of breathing, let alone five minutes, and just how awkward and uncomfortable and all the things. So can we talk about the brain science, of like the importance of finding your calm and kind of what's happening in the brain?
Sure, absolutely. So when we are reacting to our child, what's happening in our body is same as if a lion was chasing us through the jungle, right? The the hormones our neurotransmitters are flooding our body. And so our muscles tense, our breathing quickens. Our, you know, our pulse starts to race. We are seeing our child. We are seeing this parenting situation as an emergency. And we are seeing our child as the enemy. This is our biologic stress response. Same like I said, a lion is chasing us through the jungle. We are reacting to that. And when we react to that in that space, we are now entering our emotional brain. So in our emotional brain, we are not controlling our reaction. We are living on autopilot from old programming. And in this unconscious space, we are not choosing how we are, like I said, reacting to our child. So we are yelling. We are coming at them and we're not seeing them In that moment. We are seeing something that needs to be fixed and controlled. But what we also do is, when we, quote unquote come at our child that way we are now sending them into their stress response. Where learning is impossible. So we're trying to fix something, but we've shut down learning. So when we find our own inner peace first, we can or restore it when it starts to kind of come up that way. We are, then going into our logical brain, the place where we can be compassionate, where we can be wise, where we can choose our response to our child versus just reacting. And when I say reacting, or when we get triggered. So going a little bit further into brain science like Bruce Lipton and things like that is we the first seven years of a child's life. So us included we are basically spent almost in this period of hypnosis, right? Where we are spend studied our brain waves are actually at a lower frequency. So we are just recording observing and recording, taking it in. We are programming how to be in a family, how to be in a community, how to be in a culture. We are being programmed with what it looks like to be a parent, what it looks like to be a child in that relationship, because we don't come to parenting with a blank slate. Same as is, our parents didn't come to us with a blank slate. So we are projecting onto this. The problem is, 70% of the beliefs that we download are self-limiting, disempowering beliefs, sabotaging beliefs. So when and then, when we live 95% of our day in our unconscious mind, because if we're thinking about one thing, we're not thinking about how we walk, how we sometimes, I mean, how many times have you driven in the car? And you're like, I just can't remember five minutes here, because I've been focusing on this. So our unconscious mind takes over. So that's what happens in our parenting. When we get triggered, We are go into our unconscious mind where we are then driven by whatever we believe as a parent. So a parent should always be in control, is a big one, or a child should just listen and just obey. Because as I'm sure you know, you, you teach is that like our emotions, no one can create an emotion in our self that doesn't already exist. So, for example, if we get angry or frustrated when our child refuses to clean up their toys, we have a belief on how a child should learn responsibility. A child should clean up, a child, you know, should be listening. So because we're operating from all of these shoulds, we're not actually seeing our child what's going on for them in that moment, because it starts with the thoughts that we have those thoughts create feelings. So we have a feeling around how this should be. And then that feeling creates our action. So it creates how we're coming at our child in that moment, which then creates the response that we get. So when we go back and we can change our thoughts in that situation, open up to different possibilities. We then can change our feeling around it. I had this conversation with my husband just last week, because I drop the kids off from school, And I come home, and he says, oh, they're really they're really trying to get a trying to get away with something or something like that. And I said, I can see how you would feel that way. But if we think that they're trying to get away with something, then what do we feel, we feel we need to control because they're not going to get away with anything with me. So then our action is to clamp down on that control. And then the response that we get is then fighting, because what human, whether small or big, wants to feel controlled and demanded and commanded all the time. I said, what if instead, we consider that they are struggling this morning, or they're doing the best that they can? Well, then the feeling becomes, how do I support them through that? Then the action becomes one of support and guidance, and the reaction becomes a totally different experience.
Yes to all of it. I'm just sitting here like nodding my head, like over and over, like, yep. Yep, I love this. Yep, I think one thing that can be challenging is the idea of boundaries. And this is something I've run into a lot with folks is, is a like it's not a democracy. It is a dictatorship here Like this is we're not in a peer-to-peer relationship in caregiver to tiny human, and it is our job to keep them safe, to keep them healthy and to help them grow, right? And so how do we, I guess, like control that and have that control over? No, you can't have pizza for dinner every night, because it's my job to make sure that you're healthy or no. You can't stay up until midnight every night, because it's my job to make sure that you're healthy. And that's a part of being healthy. So navigating those things, I think that that's where it can. We can run into like a challenge of control or were like, well, what am I supposed to control? Because I've seen a pendulum swing to the other side of like kids calling all the shots. And my concern there is that they're looking like from a kid perspective, like they're looking for someone to step in and say, I'm going to keep you safe. I'm not going to let you do that, because I'm going to keep you safe.
Absolutely It's our job, As you said, as parents to set boundaries, to deny unreasonable request, to keep them safe, To change, to change behavior. Because in that kids feel safe. You know, I heard this video or story one time, where you go to an amusement park. And, you know, you get on the roller coaster. And the guy comes by, and he checks all the bars. Well, how many of us check that bar again, Not because we expect it to give, but because we want to make sure it stays, and that's what our kids need us to do. And I heard something when you were saying, like, we can't stay up to midnight, or you can't eat pizza. And the core of that was because it's my job to help you be healthy, to grow. And what you're doing without necessarily realizing, is you're shaping those boundaries around a value. And when we shape it around a value, those values stay steady, they become our Rock, how we get there can change. But here's the thing. We can set those boundaries. And what we need to let go of is, that our child needs to like them, but they don't need to like our boundaries. It's not our job to fix or make them happy all the time. They are allowed their own emotions, they are allowed their own experience. And this is where we need to get out of our own heads and work on ourselves so that we can not take that behavior personally and realize that we can hold these boundaries. And then we can coach them through those emotions. I get that you really want screen time today, but this is why we don't do it. We have set this boundary, you know, when I get that you want to do this, and empathizing with them, showing that you understand where they're coming from and coaching them through them. But this is we're working on ourselves comes in, because if we have a fear of conflict from our childhood, if we have a fear of not being loved from our childhood, we are going to find it very difficult to set consistent boundaries. And when boundaries aren't consistent a child, they are wired to test right. They are wired to go out and explore the world and test our boundaries. So when we're not holding those firm boundaries with love, but firm and consistent, They don't know where the break is. So they're going to keep pushing. And what it's doing is it's creating the very thing that you're afraid of, which is they don't love me because they're fighting back or they're creating conflict. So we don't hold those boundaries. But then when they don't have the boundaries, they don't know where they are. That's when they act out in these behaviors, because, like you said, they just want to feel safe. They want to feel safe in where they are, so that they can then explore the world.
Yeah, No, I absolutely love that. And I think it is interesting to think about like our social programming in this. And one thing that I find helpful is to know like if I'm going to set this boundary, what's my expectation before I even set the boundary? What do I expect from this human? Because it's probably not that they're going to say, Okay, sounds good, Right? Like to expect that you're going to see a response from them that is less than favorable. When I say, all right, it's time to leave the playground after giving you more letting, you know, in five minutes and two minutes When I say it's time to leave the playground, I'm not anticipating that that tiny humans going to say, okay, can't wait to get in the car like my expectation is that he's probably or she, or they are probably going to express their disappointment at leaving the playground, right? I'm not there to reason with you. We're not talking about whether or not we're leaving the playground. I'm then going to say, I hear that you're disappointed, you don't want to leave the playground? Would you like to walk to the car? Or should I carry you? You don't even have to fully process your emotion here. You don't have to do that. You can do that in the car or whatever. But the boundary still stands. It's not up for negotiation.
Exactly Yes, exactly where the flexibility of how we get there might change. Same what works for bedtime. We have a bedtime of eight o'clock because I value your health, and that means you get good sleep. Do you want to shower first? You want to have bedtime snack first? Yeah, how you get there, can change your giving your child some ownership over the process. But knowing that you're holding firm, there's some structure there that they can lean into knowing what that looks like.
Yeah, that's huge. It's so huge. I love that. And and I think a lot of these, you know, we don't necessarily plan for when we set a boundary. And then we're like, oh, don't climb up on the couch, and it was like an automatic, and we didn't know going into this that we were going to set it. All of a sudden, the kids climbing up on the couch. And we're now we get into this like power trip was like, well, I said, you can't climb up on the couch. And this is where I think being able to get out of that Amygdala brain, the feelings brain And into the prefrontal cortex where you can have rational brain is a game changer, Yes, because that pulled us out of the power struggle.
Exactly. We're not arguing, and it's and it, depending on their age, they may not be able to say no to that impulse to climb on the couch. And then we have a Decision to make. Am I gonna, and this is where we kind of as parents. We think we have to hold on to these things with a stronghold. Okay, Well, if I'm sitting right next to you, is it okay to climb on the couch? And we get to decide where you know that where we can create that flexibility. But yes, taking ourselves out of that flexibility, It's not us against them. They are not continuing to climb on the couch as like a dagger at us like they are not like, you know, I'll hear like, well, my one-year-old I'd like looks at me smiles and drops food on the floor. You know, how is that not, but it's like they are not able to make the distinction between knowing something's not right And actually doing something. They don't have that impulse control yet. But when we are seeing it as taking it personally were automatically thinking when they could be saying, hey, Mom, look how gravity works. I just dropped my food again! So right versus seeing it as this big Power struggle. And then we can decide, Okay, Well, I don't want them throwing food on the floor. Do I take the food, you know? Do I take the food away? But when it's not a power struggle, it's how do I support them and guide them to this future behavior? Because that's that's the difference, like discipline and punishment. Right? Discipline is the idea of teaching a set of a code of behaviors, and it's focused on the future desired behavior and discipline or punishment is making someone so unhappy based on a past behavior. Well, the key to this is discipline. Teaching
works on the thinking brain. The place where learning actually occurs, where punishment invokes that emotional brain in our child where learning is impossible. So when we can remove that power struggle, we actually have a much greater chance of doing the thing we're trying to teach. Right?
Well, and I would go as well into the like the behavior to say that even if they have the impulse control, it is their job to see if that actually that boundary is true. Like, right, Like that's their way of saying, like, oh, is this real? Like, are you really going to keep me safe? Are you really going to keep me healthy? Are you going to do it on Tuesday? Are you going to do it when dad's traveling, or going to do it when we're sick, are you going to do it when we're tired? Is this the rule on Saturday too? Like that's their job. And that's got to be our expectation, or else we're just going to continuously feel like we're failing, Right?
Exactly, Because, you know, I set this, why don't they just accept it? But like you said, it's, it's am I accepting this every day? And they're looking for the holes, And if we can get out of our own head that they're doing that to kind of get back at us or punish us, But simply that this is how they're wired. This is how they learn to navigate their world. That has nothing to do with our experience. But the expectation is that we simply continue to hold this. We have this boundary around screen time during the week here, where we don't do. We just started as a school year where we don't do screen time Monday thru Friday. We have movie Friday night. So that's kind of where we have it. So my son, my seven-year-old, loves Legos, And he loves he can look up on Legobrickinstructions.com any Lego instruction, and then like build it. So he wanted it was like a Tuesday. He wanted to build something. And here in my head, I'm like, ooh, but it's educational. He's learning something, But I had to hold that boundary. And the thing is, because I had held it so well prior, it took him like two or three times of, but I really want to do this, and me saying, I know it's going to be so great when we do it on Saturday, because I wasn't taking it personally. I was able to step out of that and simply Hold that space, that it's okay if you're not happy with it. But this is what we're going to do. I can help you build something else. And then he was okay with it was kind of like, okay, I tested, I bumped against it, and it's still there like, okay, it's there, Right?
And this is where, like kiddos have learned with certain. I have a lot of parents who will say, like, okay, Well, my parents also co-parent with us, or are part of our village. Or what if this isn't the expectation with this person, or this parent, or whatever, They will learn what the expectation is with different folks. And I think like you don't have to worry about what other people's expectations are going to be, because they'll learn what to expect from you.
Okay. So now I got a lot of. So I put this question out, always throw it out to my village when we're going to be doing a podcast episode, and I got a lot of like, Well, it would be nice to be able to do that. It would be nice to have a partner who works from home, or it would be nice to work part-time and have the like time to put this energy in, or it would, there was always the, there were a lot of like reasons why I couldn't do it. But other people can, Yeah, let's talk about this.
We all have these stories, because our whole, our brain, our primitive brain, its whole purpose, is to keep us safe. And so we have these stories about why it's not possible. And maybe it's because if I don't do it, then I can't fail it, Or if I don't do it, and things don't work out, then I don't have to deal with that judgment. So we create these barriers to it being possible for us Because of these, these stories that are inside of us. Part of that programming that same thing that comes out with our kids comes out in every area of our life, but creating space to make change is all about energy, right? When we have enough energy behind something, We open up the space to do it. And when things get where they are, get to the point where, we really know when we need to make a change, and it's all about creating that space. And then it's considering if I free myself up from all of the energy that feeling like I'm failing all the time takes for me, or power struggles with my kids or fighting with my kids, or yelling at my kids, or clashing with my partner. If I can take all that energy and redirect it, what becomes possible. So it is very easy to sit in that space and see where it's possible for anyone else and why it's not possible for us, because the familiar feels comfortable, and I don't have to risk not doing it right, or not doing it well, or putting myself out there. I don't have to risk being vulnerable in that way. If I stay where I am, and I continue to blame my circumstances for the position that I'm in.
Yeah, I absolutely agree.
We all do it in many, many areas of our life.
Totally, Absolutely. I mean, from like, eating to working out to what I've done it a million times in so many different things. And I think it it just starts with that self-awareness. It's like, oh, I'm doing that again, and just even noticing, even if you don't change it yet, Just noticing those trends in that like head space, right?
I find the most powerful question you can ask yourself is, why? You know, like, okay, Well, it's not possible for me, because, well, why? Why is that not possible for you, and really, and then asking yourself, why? Like five more times. So getting to layer, getting to layer 2, and then just keep going deeper until you're like, oh, and that is building. That's building that awareness.
Yeah, that's so huge. I absolutely love that. I think it's often annoying for people, because they'll bring something to my plate. And I'm like, oh, why? And then we go through, and I'm like, hmm, I wonder why that is, and then they'll just keep going, and they're like, will you give me an answer? And like, we're getting their sister, We are getting there.
I love that. Another one that I heard Is this another theme That I kind of picked up from my Village was this idea that, well, my tiny human is me. And I'm seeing me in this strong-willed, quick to respond. Quick to react. I'm going to call it actually tiny human, and almost this acceptance of like, that's my personality. And so now that's their personality.
Of course it is because they're modeling you. They're picking up, they're absorbing your energy. They're absorbing your programs. So the question becomes, do you want them to struggle with the same things you are struggling with as an adult? Because you have the powers, the parent, to change that. And you're right. If you don't, they will grow up. And quite likely they will be, quote, unquote. Fine. I hear you know that a lot. I turned out fine. And maybe despite how you were parented, You did turn out fine. But what I challenge people is what does fine look like? Because as adults we usually say we're fine, but we lose it over the smallest thing. We're diving into the wine and the chocolate. We, you know, we're not handling things the way maybe we want to. And we could say, well, this is just who I am. This is our personality and, like layers of an onion, right? Those are the layers that you put over put on yourself, and they're the same layers that your child is learning to put on as well.
Yeah, absolutely. And I have heard this a lot in the topic of anxiety and depression that like, almost an accepted. I think it's awesome This awareness of anxiety and depression, but almost an acceptance of like, oh, I have anxiety, And then how this is generational, right? Like we now have a higher rate of anxiety than ever before. And and so I'm over here asking all the why's, and I genuinely think that like, this is a trend we've got a buck right like, and it starts with us as parents to say, Mmm, why am I feeling anxious here? Anxiety is getting stuck in the feeling of fear, right? You're having fear about something in your stuff in it. You can't see past it. You can't see past. You can't cope through it. You're stuck in it. So do we accept that? I'm just an anxious person, and I have things that now I feel anxious about, or do we work on that programming? I mean, like. So for me personally, I've shared a bunch of about this on the podcast and Instagram and all that jazz. But I'm a rape Survivor. And there were things Is that well into my mid-20s? And whenever this happened as a child into my mid-twenties, I was still working with this fear, and I always I labeled it as fear and not anxiety. But for me, that's what it was. I would get anxious when I was triggered by something that my programming had said. You're not safe in this scenario, because once upon a time, you weren't safe, but, so that evening, I was wearing button-down jeans right? Instead of a zipper fly. So for over a decade, I couldn't wear button down jeans, or I chose not to wear a button-down jeans, because I was triggered by it and it. But that isn't why I was raped right? It had nothing to do with the button-down jeans. But that was a part of my programming. And so I went into a therapist office and was like, listen, I'm done living with fear, and I want to learn how to not live with fear. So let's do this. And we went through all the wires, and we got down to like, what was triggering the anxiety? And how do I rewrite that story in my brain, how do I get to a point where I'm not putting on a pair of jeans and think and feeling triggered no matter what the fly is right and and its work, and it's hard. But that is an area that I see a lot of folks saying like, well, I just have anxiety, or I'm an anxious parent, and it doesn't have to be that way.
It comes from somewhere. Exactly.
And it's something you can rewrite. I think we are often saying, like, oh yeah, I have anxiety Because of X, Y, and Z, and we might even know our triggers, which is awesome. But what are we doing to change that?
It's so powerful to just like know for me, It was powerful to have a therapist who said, like, yeah, we can change this narrative. You got to do the work, but we can change this narrative. You don't have to live like this.
Yes. Thank you for sharing. That's a very powerful story.
Yeah, for sure, I think that it's huge to hear. And I'm starting to like, just see this trend of people talking about anxiety and depression more. I think that is awesome. What are we doing about it? Because if we aren't doing anything, our kids are going to be talking about it too.
Who that one gave me the chills...I'm having feelings! Okay. So when you are working with your clients like what is the most common theme that you're seeing where people are getting stuck, or having a hard challenge?
Probably perfectionism, right? Right? The fear of failure, the fear of failing as a parent, the fear of not, you know, raising this child to be the best that they're capable of being to give them every opportunity. It's this, you know, this cloak of super mom that comes through whether you're working mom, whether your stay-at-home mom, whether you have one child, whether you have four, I think it's this idea of having to do it, having to do it right, Having to do it well, having to do it all.
I absolutely love that. The like finding the perfect imperfections, right? That if we're going for perfect, we're going to leave every day feeling like a failure.
Absolutely. We have this ideal that, you know, ideal expectation of who we need to be who our child needs to be. And a lot of that comes from two things. It comes from our programming of this expectation of what a parent needs to do, what a child needs do. And then it comes from what society tells us is the quote, unquote, good behavior of a child. You know, the child who sits, who listens, who's cooperative, who doesn't make waves, who makes our life easy. And then we have a child who goes against that agenda. We are made to think we're not doing our job as a parent to create these behaviors in our child, which prevents us from seeing our child where they are and who they really are. And it robs us that joy of really loving and connecting and parenting.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think also kind of setting the expectation for ourselves that we're not going to respond a hundred percent of the time the way that we hope to respond. And that's okay. Like we get to come back and say, I'm really sorry that I yelled. I was feeling frustrated, and I should have taken space to feel calm. Let's talk about it again, Right? Like you get to go back.
You can ask for a do-over.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Actually, my sister-in-law shared a story with me recently in a way that she had felt like she had failed in the moment, and actually listening to her anecdote, I she had reacted to something. And one of her twins had then started crying and had like a hard emotion about this. And he felt guilty for her feelings. And it wasn't even about him. It was about the other twin. And so she and then she felt guilty for him feeling guilty. It was his whole like whole circle of feelings. And I was like, okay, so what happened next? And she responded in a beautiful way to him. And what he got to learn is that he also doesn't have to be perfect, and it's okay to make these mistakes. And how you respond afterward is so important. Yes almost more important than the initial response sometimes.
Yes, I had this happened this past weekend. My boys are, so they're six and seven, they're 15 months apart. And they, my one son, was struggling with something all day Sunday, and it led to some big behaviors in the biggest way it was playing out with him taking it out on his brother. And at one particular moment, they were fighting like more than I'd seen him before. And I got scared that they were going to hurt each other. I couldn't. They're getting strong. I couldn't really separate them. So they had. They were playing with forts. And my one son had this like lean-to fort, and I took it. And I threw the fort across the room. And I yelled because I couldn't break them up, and he stormed upstairs crying because I, you know, I took it out on his fort. It's not fair. And I went to both child, both children individually. And I said, I'm really sorry, that's how I reacted. I got scared. I should have, you know, breathed and talk to you through it and helped you. I got scared, you were going to hurt each other. And this is what I did. And it wasn't. It wasn't right, I would have liked to handle this way. And and this is how, you know, we're going to move forward, and it gave us that chance to both talk about what had happened and to give myself grace in that moment that, that I was having big feelings, because even we, as we help our little humans process their emotions. We also need to acknowledge and process our own. And in that moment I was feeling like I had failed, I was feeling like I did not react the way I wanted to. And I was processing these feelings of, you know, I grew up. My role in the family was to be The Peacemaker, right? And so fighting and conflict gets to me, and I've worked really hard through that of not knowing exactly how to do it. It's not about the how I needed to separate my boys in the I just need to connect with them in that moment. And by giving myself grace to acknowledge those feelings to then be able to breathe through it to then go be able to respond to my child. Because if we respond where we haven't processed our own feelings, we're going to project those under a child. I would have blamed them. Well, I threw the fort because you guys were fighting. I threw the fort. It's your fault. I got angry and did that, but by sharing with them that I got scared. And so I reacted with anger out of that fear that you guys were really going to hurt each, and sharing that with them. And processing my emotions helps model to them processing their own.
I absolutely love that. I think it's huge, and it gives them the space to do this. And I think we can model it, not just with our tiny humans and in conflict with them, but with our partner with anybody, right? The person who cuts us off in traffic and we react. And then we get to say out loud, even when we're narrating to ourselves, like what we wish we would have done, or whatever, I think It's huge. I sister. I'm so glad you're doing this work. I absolutely love what you're bringing to the table. Thank you so much for joining us for this conversation today, Where can people connect with you?
So my website is, irenemckennacoaching.com. I do offer one hour complimentary, I call them possibility calls. So if you're thinking you want to create change, you want to see where to start. Let's Just have a conversation to see if what I offer can help you get there. I also am on Facebook. Irene McKenna Coaching and I have a private Facebook Community called the moms Hive. It's for moms who want to be more, not do more. And it's about celebrating the mom you are today while giving you support and inspiration to become the peaceful parent that you want to be. So any of those places.
Awesome. We will link to all of them in the blog post as well. And yeah, I'm super super jazzed that you're doing this work, and that we got to have our paths crossed. Thank you so much. Irene.
Yes, absolutely. Thank you.
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