192 - Understanding impulse control - 9:24:21, 1.13 PM
You're listening to Voices of Your Village episode 192. I got to hang out with my friend Dr Ann-Louise Lockhart to chat about impulse control. This actually came up recently in one of my weekly live Q&A is over on Instagram, where someone was asking about how to help their kiddo build impulse control. I'm excited to share this episode with you, where we dive into the difference between self-regulation and self-control And how to support impulse control. What does that even mean? What does it look like? What are different expectations for ages and stages? Speaking of my Instagram lives, If you don't know about them yet, they're totally free. And every Wednesday I go live at noon eastern time for a half hour just to hang out and be in community with y'all, answer some questions, come join me for an instagram live! And if you miss it, you can always check it out at night in my instagram TV. I save all of them right after they're done, so that you can tune back in and see if there is anything that's been happening in your life, where I can answer that question for you and dive in a little bit more if you want to tune into those head on over to seed.and.sew on Instagram, and without further ado, let's dive in here.
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.
Hey everyone, welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart. She's the president and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology and a mom of two kiddos who I love to follow over on the gram. How are you today?
00:02:17 Dr. Lockhart
I'm doing wonderful. Thank you.
Yeah, for sure. Thanks so much for joining me.
00:02:22 Dr. Lockhart
Of course, I'm glad that you asked. I think this is an important topic that we're going to talk about today.
Yeah, me too. Thanks. Can you share with our village a little bit about who you are and kind of what brought you into this work?
00:02:33 Dr. Lockhart
Yeah, definitely. So this is actually my second career. I spent several years working in higher education, and I did a lot of residence life, marketing, admissions, counselor, all that kind of cool stuff. Loved working in the college setting. And then I went back to school to get my doctorate in Clinical Psychology. And so one of my first practical, more training appearances was working with in a school for homeless children for K through 5. And that's when my love of working with kids started, because I saw the impact just connecting with the kid in the playroom for 30 minutes, how it made like a major difference on their life, and even without even talking to the parent. And that's when I was sold on working with kids. So from there, it just kind of grew. And then I came here to San Antonio 15 years ago, working with the military as a civilian and In the military hospital, working with Air Force Army and Navy, and working with a lot of the kids whose parents have been deployed and injured, and just seeing how connection and connecting families together specifically, but just connecting with another individual when they don't have it yet, how it makes a big difference. So yeah, that's just shaped my a lot of my interactions with clients and how I've developed a philosophy of how to relate and how connection is the most important thing. So I worked in that setting for 10 years, and then I started my private practice in 2016, and it just grown since. So this I love the work that I do. And I love that I can help parents really better understand their kids and to hopefully love parenting, because it's not always pleasant. But I can be really rewarding if you know how to do it in terms of the basics, rather than all the stuff that's out there that bombards you.
A thousand percent. It's information overload.
00:04:21 Dr. Lockhart
Yeah, for sure, I actually have a little sign that hangs on my desk that's like, if you are just going to add to the noise, it's not worth it. Like add value or add nothing.
00:04:31 Dr. Lockhart
And there's so much noise That's so rad. What an interesting journey to like, bring you here, And I love just that focus on connection. I mean, that's what this is all about, right? Like being in relationship with another human. And I think for so many of us in so many relationships, we can get pulled out of the connection component, I was even just saying to Zach just the other night. I'm pregnant, and I haven't, I've had a just a rough first trimester, and I felt like crap and got to the point where I was like, we haven't like, just had a normal conversation. It's been like me in a dark room with the ice pack on my face, or just like getting through and like have missed just that connection of like hi, how you doing today?
00:05:15 Dr. Lockhart
And I think just in everyday life we can get pulled out of that. And especially right now, just with covid and everything we're all hunkered down and so focused on this survival mode of like schedules, what comes next that it can be hard to get back to connection.
00:05:31 Dr. Lockhart
But I think that's important to pay attention too. And congratulations. By the way, I remember my first trimester with my daughter was miserable, and but that's why a lot of relationships are so strained right now, with kids with partners with spouses, because we, because that is important, the safety and security is more important. And so we can't connect if we don't feel safe and secure. And so I think people try to jump to that say, well, how am I supposed to connect with my kid when I'm trying to, you know, make money and make sure they stay safe and balancing job in school? Well, yeah, you can't if you don't have that basic foundation. So I think that's a really important point to make is that we have to make sure the basic needs are met first before we can go to connection, because it is going to be hard to do that. When everybody's in survival mode.
Totally just Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
00:06:19 Dr. Lockhart
Totally cool. So today, I want to chat about impulse control. We were getting all these questions in our facebook group and I was like ooh, all of them seem to be coming back to this idea of, I want my kid to be able to control this impulse to do something, to hit, to throw their food to, etc. And sometimes we were getting, I pulled one quote from a parent that I was like this I feel like encapsulate this conversation. She was like, my child knows that they aren't supposed to hit, but they keep hitting. When they're calm, they can tell me that hitting hurts and that they should use gentle hands. And so let's dive into this, like when we know when they're calm and they can tell us yep, hitting hurts, I should use gentle hands, but they're still hitting. Let's chat about why this is happening.
00:07:04 Dr. Lockhart
That is an excellent question. I get that so much when I do parent coaching is the the whole concept, we need to start in from a very basic neurobiological standpoint. Okay, So our brain has a lot of amazing features that it does. And the front part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, right before behind our forehead, is responsible for a lot of basic, actually that should have been developed first, in my opinion. So our personality, impulse control, time management, starting and finishing a task and persisting in it, problem solving, decision making, self-monitoring, knowing how you come across to other people. That's all in the front part of our brain, and that rapidly grows between ages 3 and 6 and 14 to 16 and doesn't stop growing until 26, okay? So when we're expecting a two-year-old, a five-year-old, a ten-year-old, a fifteen-year-old, a twenty-year-old to quote "control themselves" because they know better, how would they know better? They haven't developed that skill set yet, and executive functioning skills, which is all the things that I just listed. Those are all executive functioning skills. Now some kids can naturally do it. They just pick up on it because they have a very well developed executive functioning, and they just pick up on things. Other kids, they're slower to pick up on it, and they don't get it as quickly. And for a variety of reasons, whether they have autism, whether there's trauma, whether there's ADHD, there's lots of, anxiety, lots of different reasons can kind of delay or slow down it kicking into gear. But a lot of kids don't know it and don't do it because they don't know better. Quote quote. But the other part of it too, is that emotional regulation is also managed in that part of the brain, as well as impulse control and decision making. So because emotion and logic are basically housed in the same part of the brain, I think that's highly inconvenient for us as parents, because we teach them better. Gentle hands. Don't hit your brother or sister. Don't throw food at the table. Like they know these things, they already know not to jump on the couch and yell in your ear and spit in people's faces. They know these things, but that's logic. So then, when emotion kicks in, logic, I like to use the metaphor of it's like an app that kind of goes offline is in the background, and it's still running, but you can't access it in front of all the other tabs, and apps and emotion gets highlighted, and it gets really paid attention to. So when emotion is triggered and highlighted, logic goes background and it goes to sleep. So then, when they get stimulated, whether through excitement or through that witching hour from 6 to 7:30 pm, When kids like have the second wind of energy, or they get upset, then logic and all the things they should know, they forget in that moment, because their emotions are purely in control and their ruling and running the show.
Yeah, I love that metaphor with the apps. That's helpful. I think, one of the things like as you were saying that I was like, yeah, also as an adult, like, I know I shouldn't yell at my husband like, I know that's not productive. And in the moment when he does something annoying, it's not always like, I know I shouldn't. Yeah, let me very calmly regulate and then communicate with him. Sometimes there's a reaction, and I'm like, oh, like, what you're doing is really annoying. And there's, I do react and have a fully developed prefrontal cortex. Like I think, even once we have all of these this idea of like, they will always perfectly do this. We aren't doing that as adults.
00:10:54 Dr. Lockhart
Yes, Exactly. And that's exactly the, even when it's fully developed, emotions still run the show. We are an emotional being. We're also a very logic being, but emotions are powerful. That's why when we try to suppress it, or try to push it away or ignore it in some way, or exaggerated, It's like it starts to run the show. And so even When we should know better, someone cuts us off in traffic, and we yell and cuss at the top of our lungs. And we know that we should keep our calm. Well, yeah, but in the moment you were offended, you know, you felt scared, and you reacted. And so I tell parents, if you, who knows, better still yell at your kids, You who knows better still like goes to bed later than you should. When, you know, you need to wake up early the next morning, all these things that are shoulds that we know better. But you know, for me, I go to bed late because I want to, because it's my me time. And so I know I'm going to be tired the next day, but I don't care, because that's so, it's a lot of things that we do logically that we know better. But then our emotions start to go there. And so we have to realize that although our kids are doing things that we feel like, we've taught them over and over again, They're still learning and mastering that. And then when the emotions kick in, it's going to go all out the window as if you've never taught them anything.
Yeah, absolutely. So for for parents who are listening when we are teaching say, we are teaching a kid not to hit, and they go in. They hit you and I say, won't let you hit my body. And then I emotion, coach them thats something, I just posted the other day, like we don't read to infants, expecting them to read back to us right away. We read to infants expecting them to read back to us in years, Yes, but our expectations here, around things like hitting or throwing food. We're like, okay, well, we've been over this for a month, and they should now know this, right? And so can we talk about like, what are those expectations? How long should we expect to be saying, I won't let you hit my body and then emotion coaching. Like, how long should we be expecting to see those behaviors pop up as we respond to them?
00:13:01 Dr. Lockhart
I don't know. That's a great question, because every kid is different, and every household is different, because when we are emotion coaching our kids and when we're trying to guide our kids, if we're doing in a state of emotion, again, logic is not going to receive it well. So if you're yelling and said I said don't hit! And you're losing it, they're not going to receive the message, because you are now emotion-emotion. And that logic. And that memory is not going to stick. And that's why we have to be calm and safe, Because if, like we discussed in the beginning, is that if we don't have the basic foundation of emotional and physical security, because security and safety isn't just physical, kids need to know that you're emotionally a safe person that you, this big adult in my life, can handle my two-year-old tantrum. And if you can't handle it, you're not safe. So the the, the whole thing Is that every time you teach it, because for some kids, it could take one correction, and now they know it. My daughter was like that. She didn't take a lot to correct. I thought I was a rocking out Mom. I was like, wow, I'm an amazing Mom. Look at this. I taught her one time, and she's gotten it. My son took a little bit longer, like, like a lot longer.
Yeah, your dose of humble pie.
00:14:18 Dr. Lockhart
Yes. Yes, exactly. And so we have to realize that then when we are giving these commands or these directives, or these, this teachable moment, we have to as much as possible, because we're not going to get it right every time either. We have to make sure that we are then bringing it down and connecting with our kids in a calm and safe manner, and then giving that kind of teaching or coaching that we want to give that lesson again. Because the cool thing going back to the brain again, is that our hippocampus, which is a small little tiny area in our brain stores long term memory. But it can only do that through repetition. In a calm state. And there's been studies that they had, they looked at London taxi cab drivers because the London Road system is insane. And those people who drive the taxi cabs have these like enlarged and developed hippocampi. I think that's the plural of it.
00:15:20 Dr. Lockhart
And they it, because they have done it so much that they just know it. And I'm sure the same thing can be said for New York City cab drivers.
Yeah. That's cool.
00:15:28 Dr. Lockhart
So it's that it's the same concept of when we're giving our kids these lessons. And this emotion coaching. It's the repetition, but it has to be done repeatedly and repeatedly, consistently as much as possible, because it's not going to be done right every time, so we can start to store it. So then when they need to access it, they can literally go to their file cabinet and be like, okay, wait hitting my brother because he's breathing on me. No, that's a. No, We got it. Now I got it. Check, I've mastered that skill!
And that's just it, is like the goal isn't that they won't have an initial reaction. We all do, right? Like when a child's doing something that's annoying for me, I'm not just like, oh yeah, it's not annoying at all Like no, there's a reaction That's like, yeah, that's really annoying. And my personal goals, Like all right, I want to, as often as I can have that reaction, and then be able to have that pause where I can regulate so that I can respond with intention. And we're like an it takes so much work to be able to do that, you know?
00:16:32 Dr. Lockhart
Oh gosh yes, especially when they're pushing a button of yours.
A thousand percent. Yeah, like for the teachers that are tuning in like man, I've been in the classroom with nine toddlers or 18 preschoolers, and there's always another human who needs you. And it feels like there isn't a time to have that pause and to regulate. And so I, like, I hear that. And like that isn't going to happen a hundred percent of the time. I think one of the things people, somebody reached out recently, I had said something about how I'm not a very patient human, and they're like, there's no way that's true. Like you work with kids, whatever. And I was like, no, I really am not a very patient human. I think that when we're relying on things like patience to get us through, it is going to be really difficult. The thing that saves me is expectations like I know when I set a boundary for a one-year-old, it's their job to push it right that if I set that boundary and they don't push it, I'd be shocked. And I think that like when we can adjust those expectations for especially our young kiddos under five that when we are going to set these boundaries, They are going to push them, etcetera. Then then we don't have to rely on patience as much, because we can have that expectation of them pushing it.
Well and we want to ask ourselves too if that one-year-old never pushes. Then we're like, okay, Is there something developmentally going on with them? Are they people pleasing? Are they afraid of me? Are they not safe in this environment, like we have to ask ourselves those questions. Because yes, there are some kids. Again, Not every kid is going to terrorize your home and your sanity it feels like, but most kids are going to challenge it so they can know what is the limit that I can go on. And I remember when my son, when he was in kindergarten, He had a really rough go, And he had an amazingly amazingly patient and gracious teacher. And then she had him again in second grade, two years later. And she said, she saw the difference that because he's extremely hilarious, really hilarious, but sometimes it can be a little bit too much. And so he, she says, yeah, I can see that he pushes, he goes right to the edge, and then he pulls back like she saw the maturity and the growth. And so it's like still being your same person. But knowing how to control that impulse to tell that extra joke, that we would love to hear it. But it's not the right time
Totally, Yeah, you just flirting with that edge.
00:18:56 Dr. Lockhart
I appreciate that. Just this summer, we were Zach, and I were in a little actually the Slumber pod, which is for sleeping. But this little girl in our life, Nora, who's five, calls it her tent. And so she was like, will you come into the tent? And we can tell spooky stories, so Zach and I are sitting in there with her, and then she had recently just that week, done something she knew she wasn't supposed to do, did it, pushed that boundary, navigate the whole thing. So we're in the tent, and she was like, did you ever do something You knew you weren't supposed to, but you did it anyway. And I was like, for sure. So how many stories do you want? Like I have flirted with that boundary a lot. And so I shared a story and then Zack shared a story. And she just kept asking, will you tell it again? Will you tell it again? And then at one point I was like, have you ever done this? And she shared her story and gave us the whole rundown. And then about a week later, We were FaceTiming. And she was like, will you tell me that story again? Like you can see that processing right? Like of her being like, okay, like, how did you And she was asking so many questions, like when next time when you were doing, How would you stop? How would you know how to stop your body? What would you do? Like she wanted to know, like, how do I regulate? Because last time it felt like I really couldn't make a different choice. Yeah, you know what I mean? And I think So, It was so cool to like watch that whole process unfold. And I think so often when we look at these things and we're looking at regulation, It feels to us like they're making a choice Like they're saying, I'm going to hit my sibling, or I'm going to throw this food. And what I was hearing you saying is like, they're not in a space where it's a conscious choice.
00:20:34 Dr. Lockhart
No. Now sometimes it is.
For sure. When they like, look at you as they're slowly doing it.
00:20:41 Dr. Lockhart
Like don't do it. Don't do it. But it's that limit setting. But it's not like they're trying to hijack your home and manipulate your life, it's just they're trying to see how far can I take this, and what is okay? And not okay, and that's why that consistency as much as possible is so important, Because that's where, when you were telling that story, by the way, It reminded me of the original Jurassic Park. When the guy, the Hunter, he was saying, it's like, she's trying to figure things out, right? That's what it reminded me of. Like she kept hearing that story over and over again, Testing the fences, testing the fences. How can I get out of here and eat these people? You know, like, it's really it's like this testing to see what can I do? Where are my limits. How far can I go until there's like, it's too far. And so that's the whole concept of intermittent reinforcement is where I think a lot of us go wrong, because consistency is hard as a teacher and as a parent, because we're not going to do it right every single time. And we have to stop expecting that of us ourselves. And so the intermittent reinforcement simply means that we're intermittently occasionally, sometimes Yes, All the time, Maybe not this time, When a child does something, how we respond and react. So sometimes they hit their brother and we freak out and yell, and we go off on them and send them to timeout or spank. And then other times we are gentle, and we correct, And we redirect other times we cry and are like, you heard mommy feelings, and we will guilt trip them, like we do all kinds of stuff. So then the kid literally doesn't know how is this person going to react each time. And so then they continue to do it. The behavior continues to worsen. So then, when we finally decide to be more directive or more gentle, more intentional, and then we see worsening behavior. That's that Extinction burst that we're going to see. So after you've intermittently reinforce something, that's what the video game and gambling industry bank on, after you've been intimately reinforcing something. And sometimes there's going to be a payoff, and sometimes there's not going to be. And then you stay consistent. They're going to be like, wait, wait, hold up what's going on. So they push more. And that's why a lot of parents give up on the effective strategies because they think this woman Alyssa, this woman Dr. Lockhart they don't know what they're talking about, because I did that, and that didn't work. Well, of course, it didn't work, because if you were inconsistent before which most of us will be, Yeah. And yeah, the kid that your child is going to be like. Wait, I don't know what reaction I'm going to get. Yeah, that's why then, if we do react, that's why that repair is so important. You know, sweetheart, Mommy is so sorry. Daddy is so sorry That that's how I responded. I was feeling frustrated, yelling at you is not the way that I should do that. Let's redo this. Let's do better. Let's do better.
Yeah, Thank goodness for repair.
00:23:37 Dr. Lockhart
Oh my God, yeah.
Yeah, I'm so glad that you brought up the intermittent component. Because so often when we are looking at boundaries, it is so key. Another story pops in my head. This one year old I was teaching at the time, young toddlers had one year old who would turn two with me. And we're all sitting around on the floor, it was like drop-off time. A lot of times, my parents would hang between like eight and nine at drop-off. She's a group of it was like four moms and me hanging out on the floor about kids were playing around us. And this girl turned, and she threw a block like towards our little circle. And her mom was like, you could see the like shock, almost potentially embarrassment probably of like my kids throwing the block. We're all here. And in my classroom, I would step in and said, I turned and did the same thing we would do consistently and told her like, we're not going to throw blocks here. If you would like our attention, or you would like to connect with us, you can say, or you can do blank. And then I asked her, can you please pick up this block? And we can put it back and you can come play with us. And she like, looked at me, and she looked at her mom. She looked at me, and she looked in her mom, and she walked over, and she picked up the block, and she brought it back and her Mom was like in no world would she have done that for me, like in no world would that have been the result. And I was like, yeah, because I'm with her for eight hours during the day. It's way easier for me to consistently hold these boundaries all day long. Then it is for you, 24 hours. And so for you, there are probably more times where it hasn't been consistent. And so she's going to push that boundary and be like, is this the time that you're going to make me pick up the block Like is this really going to happen this time? Whereas with me, I was like, I'm with her for so much less time that I can consistently hold those more often. And so she knows at this point, that what I say, I mean, and I think like it is so huge to give ourselves grace and as often as possible, hold the boundary.
00:25:36 Dr. Lockhart
Right Exactly. And that's why when parents beat themselves up, when, for example, they take their kids to daycare, and then they pick them up, and the kid has a meltdown and is screaming all the way home. And the daycare is like, oh, my gosh, they were an angel with us all day. I don't know why they're acting this way, which I used to receive a lot of those messages. When I picked up my kids. I'm like, thanks for sharing that.
00:25:59 Dr. Lockhart
That's helpful. But it's again, It's that you know, when you're in that limited time and you're not sure, or you are do know what you can and get in, can't get away with kids are going to be more consistent, because many times the teachers are going to remain consistent. And again, it's not their child. They can do that, the children, there's all that positive peer pressure as well too, seeing other kids doing what they're supposed to do hopefully. And so then they get reinforced for that when they come home, and you're exhausted as a parent, because you've been working all day and you're tired. So then your fuse is not as ready to deal with what's going on. And then you're like, fine. Just get the sippy cup, you know, even though I want to wean you or whatever it is. And then we kind of give in, and they're like, okay, I get it. So when I scream my head off and kick the back of their seat, They eventually give me what I want. And then again, it's not a manipulation thing. It's a pairing thing. It's a conditioned response. When I do this, I get this. And I think a lot of parents and I hear this. A lot of parents view that as manipulation, It's willful disobedience. And it's not about that willful disobedience. It's the conditioned response. It's the same reason why people become insomniacs. They try to go to sleep. They toss and turn in their bed. They feel restless. They go to the couch, watch Netflix and fall asleep. You've associated the bed with restlessness, and you've associated the couch and Netflix with sleepy. It's just an association. We do it all the time In our brain. We make connections all the time. And the same thing happens with our children. And so we have to not put these adult experiences and project them onto them, because that's not what's going on. They're not that advanced. And being Psychopathic, I actually had a parent want me to evaluate their three year old because they thought there were a psychopath, because I felt, I looked it up, I Googled it, and it said, Psychopaths manipulate their prey to get what they want. I think that's what my three-year-olds doing. I'm like, no, no, No, that is not what they're doing. It's not what they're doing. You don't have a psychopath on your hands. That's not the reason why.
Oh that's funny. One of the things here to note is that all behavior is communication, As you were saying, like, they're communicating something they're communicating. I want to connect with you on our way home from work. When this little girl threw the block, for me, that was like, oh, you want to interact with us. We're sitting here talking, and your mom's in the classroom, which is different than usual. And you would like to be a part of this, or you'd like to feel noticed and included and connected here. And but it, when we just see the block thrown like, you got to take a beat to get to the like, oh, what are they communicating? Because it's real easy to just be like stop doing that. No, we don't throw blocks. But when we can look at, like, all behavior is communication, They are hitting to communicate. You're in my space. I'm nervous. You're going to take my toy, or I'm annoyed with you, or I'm frustrated with you, or who told me this kid was going to stay when you brought them home from the hospital. Why are they still here?
00:29:02 Dr. Lockhart
Send them back!
You know, like it's all communication. And I think when we can have that pause. And again, it won't happen a hundred percent of the time. But when we can regulate enough to say like what are they really communicating with me and know that it's not from a negative place, It's not from this place or manipulation, it's not the like, I just want to get you to do something for me. It might be I want to connect with you.
00:29:31 Dr. Lockhart
And again, you know the all because we know that all communication is all behavior, some form of communication. It could be communicating a protest. It could be communicating that I need your attention. It could be that I'm hungry, I'm sleepy. I'm tired. It could be that I'm too hot. It could be that I feel jealous. I'm lonely. I feel unsafe. I'm scared. I mean, there's so many different things. It could be that I know that if I do this, that you give me what I want, it could be that, because that's what you've taught them. And so, but another thing I remember Dr. Becky had talked about this on one of her lives. And I really love this. And it was that whole sense of when a child is feeling distressed. And I see this with adults too. When they're feeling this level of distress that's intense. And as the parent you aren't connecting with that, You're just dismissive of it. You're like just fine. Just stop crying. Get over it kind of thing. They intensify that because it's
00:30:29 Dr. Lockhart
their attempt. Even if they say something insulting to you, You're a bad Mommy. You're the worst. I should run away any of those kinds of things, but not trying to really insult you, They're trying to get you to join their world. And so a large part of that is, and we see that in our adult relationships, Your you know, venting to your spouse or your, partner, about a bad day that you had. And they're like, yeah, you know, you should have just taken the other freeway. And, you know, it's over now. I mean, you're like, dude like that was dismissive. So then you might escalate. Well, I said, my day was really terrible. Like, did you hear? And so then we then, when they start to then yell back, and then we start to have an argument now we've connected. Now, it's not a great way to connect, but it is a way of connecting, because now we feel like they're on the same page. So when a child is escalating as well to It's, sometimes it's that they just want you to join their world. They want you to feel what they feel. And I see this a lot with anxious kids because they're so anxious or so scared. And their parent is like, why are you anxious about? Like, get over it? And so they're like, you don't get me so kids with OCD kids with phobias, fears, anxieties, nightmare disorder. They have those things and their parent doesn't get it. And so then, when they escalate, getting up multiple times per night, doing a lot of obsessive-compulsive things, then when the parent then gets so frustrated that they then join them now you get it. So we have to realize that everything is communication. We just have to figure out what is my child's way of communicating when they do blank, just like identifying your different cries of your baby. You have to identify when your child is having a meltdown or a tantrum. What is this communicating to me? Because that's super important, because then you don't take it so personally.
Totally. And the like joining them in their world for me is empathy. They want to feel seen. You know, they want to know, Do you get it? And you don't have to agree with why they're feeling what they're feeling to empathize. It doesn't matter If you think they should, or shouldn't be upset about the color cup they received for dinner. They are disappointed about this, and that's what matters and that's where we connect. Just last night, We're having dinner at, my cousin has lived with us for years. she's lived with us on and off throughout her adult life, she's 25 and we, she's moving out on Monday, and just last night we're having dinner. And at one point I was like, is there something going on like you're, it seems like you have like some sass over here, and she took a beat, and she was like, about three minutes later, we're in conversation outside of that. And she was like, I feel like for the last week I've had sass, and I was like, I feel that way too. And she was like, you know, what? Like, I think, that this is a pattern of where, when I have to say goodbye, she grew up in the military in the service, and they moved every two years. And she was like, I had to move a lot. And so I would start to like detach and dissociate towards the end. And I almost like as a protective measures, because saying goodbye is hard and sad, and I had to do it so often that I would start to like pull back. And she's like, I feel like that's what I'm doing. I'm being rude to you because I don't want to feel connected, and then have to say goodbye on Monday and I was like, yeah that makes total sense.
00:33:48 Dr. Lockhart
Total sense. But noticing like we do this all the time, you know, like in our in-law relationships with our parents all across the board in relationship. All of this behavior is communication. And when we can see that, it's so much easier to not take it personally,
00:34:05 Dr. Lockhart
Right. Because if our child knows that any time they do something that's disappointing to you, that you give them the silent treatment and that you detach, then why wouldn't they do it first? So before you can hurt me, I'll just hurt you. I hate you. Get out of my room. You know. And so then that way, they feel in control, and I get to dictate the terms of our relationship now, not you. And so we have to realize that because I've worked with parents who said, yeah, I got so mad at my kid, and I gave them a silent treatment for three days, or, you know, I didn't connect with them, or I made all these sassy sarcastic remarks. I'm like, well, that's not really effective, because now you're teaching them that. When I feel disappointed when you hurt my feelings, I just cut you off and man, that stuff. It's again that repetition that gets stored in our brain. Okay, so when I really care about someone and I really love somebody, but they hurt me, I can just cut them off. And you see that in adult relationships where people do that. Oh, you hurt me once I cut you off, I cut everybody off, unfriend, unfriend, unfriend. Yeah, you know. And that's how then we learned that. And so a lot of our, You know, I work a lot with dr. Tracy, who does works with couples and families. And we talked about how there's so many parallels between the parent-child. And then the spousal and partner relationship is that we, every other relationship, is informed by the parent-child relationship every other one, because we learn how to interact with our siblings with friends, with teachers, with our future partners, all from how our parent interacts with us. And that's why it's so important that we treat that with such sacredness. We're teaching them with every little thing we do every little thing we do. And so we have to make sure that we're, that's why for parents, when they come to me and they want to get a bunch of interventions like you could read about interventions all day long, Instagram books, There's lots of books on parenting, right, And has lots of great ways to do it. It's about the mindset first, because ultimately, you'll parent how you want to parent. But if your mindset is still in the wrong place, you're going to keep going back to the old, ineffective ways of doing things. And so the mindset means you're looking at your child and look at and looking at them as an autonomous human being, who has their own needs, this desire for control, and that they want to connect with us, but that many things they do are developmentally appropriate. Now, not everything they do is developmentally appropriate, but realize that many things they do are appropriate given their age. If they're immature, they're supposed to be. If they're loud, they're supposed to be. My son reminded us the other day when he and his sister were running around the house. And my husband's like man, why are kids so loud? And he says, Daddy's because kids are loud. Kids are active, kids are, you know, highly talkative. They asked me questions like that's how kids typically are.
00:37:15 Dr. Lockhart
If they're not we need to be a little bit concerned about that
Totally. And the reality can also be, it's kind of annoying when they do that, Right? Like we can acknowledge that for ourselves, Like, really, Yeah, this is developmentally appropriate. And frankly, as an adult, It's an annoying behavior. And that, like both of those can be true. And it's our job to regulate the I'm annoyed, not their job, to stop their developmentally appropriate behavior.
00:37:39 Dr. Lockhart
So when you realize that that feeling of annoying is going to then show non-verbally or verbally. So then we have to keep in check What are we annoyed by? Because there's other times that same behavior is cute. And adorable. So it's not so much the behavior all the time. Sometimes it's what is our cup doing? Is it over full?
00:37:58 Dr. Lockhart
And then have we gotten our needs met.
Right. Has it been loud all day? Because I haven't had any sort of pause or break for myself. And so now the loud at 4 pm feels way louder when it did at 9 am.
00:38:12 Dr. Lockhart
Yeah, totally. That's a great note. When you were saying the like, you know, giving the silent treatment. It also made me think of when we ignore kids behaviors like, oh, they're hitting. So I'm just ignoring it so that I don't give it attention or feed into it. Can you speak to that a little bit?
00:38:29 Dr. Lockhart
Yes. So I think there are times when ignoring minor inappropriate behaviors are appropriate. But when we always have to think about whatever our intervention, whatever our strategy we have to think about, what are we trying to do? Teach our kids by whatever we're doing, and not doing So if we are, if they're, if we're on the phone and their mommy Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy And we are trying to extinguish that behavior, We can teach them. When mommy's on the phone, You can wait your turn. I'll put up my finger, the right finger, my finger, you, you know, give me five minutes, set a timer, whatever it like, we're teaching them impulse control, patience, whatever it is, we're teaching them, or we can choose to ignore, because if we pay attention to the behavior, we know we're reinforcing it. So we have to determine the age what we taught them before, what we're trying to teach them. So sometimes ignoring can be appropriate, because ignoring some of these minor inappropriate behaviors can be, it can extinguish it, it could snuff it out. But I think if we're trying to then change the behavior, we want to teach them what they're supposed to be doing, Not what they not teaching them, what they should not be doing. And so, because we're always trying to then plant that seed of moving forward rather than moving away from, because the thing they've done already, they can't change it. We want to look at moving forward. What do we want them to know more of? And yes, it might be something you've taught them 10 times already. But again, we're filing that away. We're building up their ability to access it again in the future, even if they already know better, I think, yes, I'm not opposed to ignoring. I just think we have to remember what we're doing when we ignore. What are we hoping to accomplish when we do that ignoring?
Yeah, Oh, I love that. I just recalled a conversation with Rachel who runs our sleep program last week, Her five-year-old, when I was talking about and she was kept interrupting this phone call we were on. And so Rach said, I'm going to set the timer for 10 minutes. I'm going to be on the phone for that time. If you ask me another question while the timer's on, I'm not going to listen to your words right now. Simply, I'm going to ignore you for the next 10 minutes.
00:40:49 Dr. Lockhart
There's your warning of like I'm on the phone and going to ignore you for the next 10 mintues. And then she did, and her five-year-old still asked questions, and she ignored her for that time. And then after the phone call, I'm sure went back and was like, hey, all right, I'm done. And yeah, no, I love that note. And I think also, I have found myself in times being like, hey, I recognize what you're doing. And I'm curious if you're trying to connect with me instead of this, you could do blank the like what you can do, I think, is so huge. We tell kids all the time what they can't do. And if they have an unmet need here, they're communicating something to us. They're going to keep trying stuff to get that need met, and we can just let them know what they can do instead.
00:41:34 Dr. Lockhart
And that's why I feel very strongly about building our children's feeling vocabulary, their emotional intelligence as we give them that word, because many kids don't know what they're feeling. They think that they're just just mad. And if you're mad, you act in mad ways. But if you know that you're lonely, then you can say, you know, it seems like you're feeling lonely and you're wanting mommy's attention. It seems like you're feeling hungry, and you're wanting a snack. It seems like tired and need help with soothing, like to give them those words. And I'll even when I work with kids, I'll even give them like more complicated words. So a kid who's struggling with I want to be with my dad, but I don't, because I really hate the way. He's treated us, but I still love him. So it sounds like you're feeling ambivalent about your dad. Hmm. What's ambivalent? Ambivalent is when you're feeling two different feelings about the same person at the same time. You feel very conflicted. You feel mixed emotions. It's like putting red and blue together. They're both great colors. But now you have a new color because you're ambivalent, They're not bad or good. They're just both two different things. So then, she was like, that's how I feel about him, because people tell me I should hate him and people tell me I should love him. But I feel both. Exactly. So you can give kids the words to describe their experiences from the person they feel it towards. It makes a big difference. I'm mad at you, Mommy, because I can't watch TV at ten o'clock at night. Well, yeah, maybe you feel you're very disappointed that you didn't get to watch Peppa Pig until 10 o'clock, you know. And so now they're understanding. It's not really mad. They said, you're disappointed. So when you can give them these words, what you're doing is you're building up feeling vocabulary so they can start using that, and they can start to use, express the full range of their emotions rather than sad, mad, and glad. It makes a huge difference. Huge difference.
We've gotten a bunch of pushback on this. Actually, we're releasing, they'll probably be out by the time this episode airs, emotion processing cards. When we created the collaborative emotion processing method and research it. We used emotion processing cards that were available at the time, and then reached out to that Publisher, And were like a here are tweaks we'd like to make, and they were like those all sound great. It would be too expensive to make them. We're not going to, and we're like, okay, then we'll make our own. So we are making our own cards that are being released, And we've gotten push back about this of like, well, I essentially that, like, are we guessing at their emotion? Are we going to tell them they're feeling one thing and they're feeling another. And I, when we were researching the method, I was working with the young toddlers at the time, And I had like 8, 1 year olds, like 20 month old 22 month old, where I would say, It seems like you're feeling frustrated or you're feeling mad, and they would say, no, I'm feeling sad like they will correct you. But they need the words to do it.
00:44:29 Dr. Lockhart
Yes. Yeah. And I've had that with a kid where they were, we were recounting when they were in a waiting room for the doctor, and they wanted their moms cell phone. And Mom said, no, she was five or six at the time. And I said, well, what was going on? Because she was bored in the waiting room. There was no toys in the waiting room. Everything was put away. And so I said, oh, it sounds like you were. She said I was mad. I said, oh, wow, it sounds like you were super bored. There was no toys. Or so I was trying to connect the environment with her emotions and her behavior. And I said, sounds like you were really bored. There was no toys. Your mom had the phone you wanted to use it in the past she's always given in. When you had a tantrum. She's like a Dr. Lockhart. I was mad board. So she corrected me. But she was feeling both. I was mad, and I was bored. I'm like, yeah, mad board, super difficult.
And so relatable.
00:45:17 Dr. Lockhart
Yeah, totally. And so, you know, if we can give them the words. It's not that we're manipulating them into thinking they feel what they feel. They're ready, feel it, and they may not know it. But if we have to help expand that, because how else are they going to know? Again, emotional regulation is an executive functioning skills. It's a skill, which means it's learned. Yeah. So how else are they supposed to do it If we don't give them the words? Yeah. Or that makes a huge different or the skill. What do you want to do when you're mad board? You, Yeah, Talked about it. I said, okay, So then you know that every time you go to the doctor's office, sometimes you're going to wait in line at the bank, It's going to, You might feel mad bored again. So what can you do instead? And she's like, well, maybe I can have like a fun bag, or what would you put in it? So I could put a book and a pen and a pad and him, some puzzles. And I could always take that with me and keep it in the car. I'm like, that's a great solution. So then now you can move for from the emotion. The emotional intelligence to then problem solving. And problem solving is a huge, huge key and impulse control.
00:46:16 Dr. Lockhart
Because whenever I've looked across the board from toddlers through teenagers, actually, adults too is the thing that keeps coming up consistently in the classroom. And in the home is that the way to help with dysregulated behaviors, oppositional, argumentative behaviors, is to give kids problem solving skills. The reason why they choose negative and ineffective behaviors and responses it, because they don't know how to solve the problem, right? Someone hits me, I hit them back. Mom says, I can't have TV. I yell, you know, someone does this. I roll around on the floor Like, well, there's more than one solution to that problem. And so then, if we can give them the skills by identifying the emotion first saying that, oh, when I feel this, these are my options. Yes, hitting that person in the throat is one option. Is it the best? No, let's think of some other options. And then we can give those to them. That's what they do in Anger Management for adults.
Totally, and I was going to say that's actually the approach for myself as an adult, right? Like when I was feeling my all right going forward, what else can I do with this? Because it's not that that feeling isn't going to come up again. It will.
00:47:25 Dr. Lockhart
That scenario, that feeling, etcetera, It's going to come up again. And what can I do? Moving forward? Exactly? Again this five-year-old keeps coming up in my head. But Rach when Nora was four and a half when her baby brother was born, and she's just infatuated with him like can not get enough and loves him, and super helpful and loving and caring. And Rach found when she was out of the room, and she's making dinner, and she's whatever, Nora would be like carrying him around. And then he would start to cry, but Nora wanted to keep carrying him. And she and she even said to me, at one point, she's like, he's just so cute. I want to eat him, and I'm like, it's so relatable. And so she like, and Rach had said, like, you're not in trouble, but I'm going to put the gate up here and have him in the kitchen with me so that I can keep his body safe when I'm cooking and I can't be there with you. And said, like, you can come into the kitchen and play with him where I can see both of you. But it's my job to keep his body safe. You're not in trouble, I'm just going to help you, because I know it's so hard not to carry and love on him. And that was it, it was like, there was no punishment. And at one point Nora said, Mom, I think you should put the gate up Like I need some help controlling this, essentially like I feel like I want to carry him around. And I know that you're going into the kitchen. I think you should put the gate up. And I was like, that's so incredible, A: she knew it wasn't a punishment. It's my job to keep him safe. And I'm helping you with a tool to help me keep him safe.
00:48:53 Dr. Lockhart
Exactly. And I think if we can really always bring those feelings back then kids can be able to know All when I feel this is what happens. I remember several months ago when we were still actually commuting to school.
00:49:09 Dr. Lockhart
Right? My son and daughter were in the backseat, and they're now 8 and 10. But at the time, he was Seven, very intuitive, very emotionally intelligent kid. And he very good conversationalist, and I was just kind of blah, and I'm usually very happy and being talkative, and I was just kind of I was taking them to school. And I was just not talking a lot. And he he said, mama, what's up? Something seems off. And I said, I just feel kind of irritated this morning. And he says, something we did. I said, oh, no. I just feel off and irritated today. I think he's like, hmm, Sometimes we just feel like that sometimes huh? I said, yes, Sometimes we do. And I said, well, you think, well, maybe as your day goes on, you'll feel less irritated. I said, I think I will. And then a few seconds passed, and he says, it looks like you feel better already. And I said, I kind of do. I said, just saying it out loud. I feel better. And he's like, well, that's good. I was like, how sweet is that? That's what our kids want from us, right? That when they're tired, when we wake up the bump up in the morning, when they're irritated, There's just having a on off morning like it's okay. We have it. So let's give our kids permission to have an off moment and off day, to hate a food that they'd like yesterday. There's two things, you know, like, like we have those same things. So why don't we give our kids the grace to be able to say it's okay to be off today? It's okay to be in a bad mood. It's okay to not like me today like that's all. Okay. And I think that's what helps with impulse control, building and acceptance, and just to be, rather than always trying, And to shape them into something different. Yes, we can still shake them and help them grow. But let's also allow them to just be a blob sometimes too in the moment. You know?
I think that we don't really allow ourselves like we'll do it. But I think there's often a negative connotation like, oh, I was in a bad mood today. Or yeah, I was irritated that we don't really give ourselves the grace to feel the hard stuff, And we feel like we should do something to stop feeling it. And so we do the same for kiddos. You know, until we really accept we are allowed to have a hard morning, or just feel grumpy and not fix it. We won't do that for the kids.
00:51:24 Dr. Lockhart
Exactly. Because I don't need fixing, and they don't need rescuing, They just need you to be present. And, you know, that's what he did for me, honestly, just saying it out loud, because I don't even think I realize that's what I was feeling. And it's just me saying it out loud. That was such a gift, because I'm just like, wow, that is what I was feeling. And then once I said it out loud, it kind of didn't feel it anymore.
Yeah, so takes so much. I mean, Brene Brown, I feel like that's her like biggest things like just being able to say it sometimes is enough. That's awesome. Oh, this has been so fun for me.
00:51:54 Dr. Lockhart
It has been. I love this.
Thank you so much for hanging out with me! Where can folks connect with you, find you, Etc?
00:52:01 Dr. Lockhart
Yeah, definitely. So a few places I'm very active on Instagram, so they can find me at @dr.annlouise.lockhart. Also, my practice is @anewdaypsych website is www.anewdaysa.com as in San Antonio. I have a lot of free downloadables and resources for parents and just different webinars and things that are coming up. They can always find the updates on there as well too. And those are probably the best places. And then on Facebook, I'm at A New Day Pediatric Psychology, which is my practice.
Awesome, we'll link all those in the blog post too for anyone who's like on the go right now and cant jot it down. Thank you so much hanging out with me.
00:52:43 Dr. Lockhart
Thank you too Alyssa. I really, really enjoyed this.
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