Raising kids differently than you were raised with Dr. Lynyetta Willis

00:00:01    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. And in this episode, we get to talk about what it looks like in practice to raise children differently than we were raised. I got to hang out with one of my favorite people, Dr. Lynyetta Willis, to chat about this. I have brought Lynyetta into everything that I do, for the most part since I met her, because her work is so imperative for us on this journey of raising emotionally intelligent humans. She has a workshop in our Seed Certification. She's been on the podcast before. We featured her in our book Tiny Humans, Big Emotions and talking about her work. And in this episode, we really get to go down and dirty into like, what does this look like in practice? Because I don't know about you, but there are some things I want to pass on from my childhood and some things that I don't. And how do we do the 'some things I don't' part without completely swinging the pendulum to the other side? It's so hard. It's so hard to do what we haven't seen before. And we get to chat about that today. 


00:01:18    Alyssa

If you have not already done so, head on over to www.seedandsew.org/book to snag your copy of Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. My book is publishing soon, and we go deep into this work here of like, what comes up from us, from our childhood? How do we parent with intention and not from a place of fear or anxiety? And what does it look like to respond to our individual humans and really allow them to have hard emotions and be with them through them and support them in developing a toolbox, especially if we didn't experience that as a child, that it's really hard to do something that we haven't seen before. So come on over seedandsew.org/book to snag your copy of Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:02:18    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:02:43    Alyssa

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Voices of Your Village. I get to hang out with just a dreamboat of a human, one of my favorite people, Dr. Lynyetta Willis. She's been on the pod before. She's coming back. I wrote about her and her work in my book Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. She has a workshop for the Seed Certification. Anything that I'm a part of, I beg her to come join me in because I love her. I learn from her all the time, and I think her work is so important for all of us. In my book, Tiny Human, Big Emotions, mine and Lauren's book we wrote in her workshop for the Seed certification, psychologist Lynyetta Willis discusses the push pull of past and present as a relay race of legacy blessings and legacy burdens. Legacy blessings are the experiences, phrases, and moments from our childhood that serve and support us in our lives. Legacy burdens are challenges we're working through in order to write different stories. Our grandparents passed the baton to our parents, who passed on some blessings and healed some burdens. They passed the baton to us to heal more burdens. And we get to pass the baton to our children to continue to navigate their legacy blessings and burdens. One day, I hope our children will grow up and tell us about the things they've learned in ways they are working to do things differently. You aren't failing if you aren't perfect. You're human. And your mess is welcome here. And that's what I want to get. To dive in with you today on Lynyetta is that, like, so many of us are trying to do some things differently from our childhood and from the ways we were raised. And I think that's what progress is, right? Like saying, okay, what worked, what didn't? How do we move this forward while not swinging the pendulum? And I think one of the greatest challenges in this is finding compassion for the burdens we've been handed and for the humans who handed us the burdens. 


00:04:51    Dr. Willis

So true. First of all, I'm so excited to be here with you. You are one of my favorite humans as well. Every time I think about you, I smile. It's like you're one of my purple people. 


00:05:00    Alyssa

I love you. 


00:05:03    Dr. Willis

Oh, my gosh. I love it. You are dead on. I think I honor and have so much. I'm in awe of anyone who is willing to do this work, this deep transformational work around legacies, because it's not always easy and it certainly isn't always fun. It can be. I try to make it fun, but it's not always fun. And it really is. It's like you've been handed all this stuff. I get images, as you know, so the image I'm getting is like this long line of people, and one person picks up a brick and then hands it to the next person. And that person has their brick and then picks up another brick and then hands those two bricks to somebody. And that person has those two bricks and then picks up their own brick. And then by the time it gets to the end of the line, the person's holding, like, 80 bricks, and it's like, oh, they're good. And then they're picking up their own bricks to put on top of it. Right. And it's hard. How do you navigate and negotiate that? Do I put them down. And if so, how? But if I hold on to them, then how do I function in the rest of the areas of my life? Do I build something? These things? Hey, can you all help me? Oh, shoot. You're dead. Okay, so what do I and those who aren't don't even really acknowledge the bricks. It's like what? Bricks. I don't know what you're talking about. Right?


00:06:28    Alyssa



00:06:29    Dr. Willis

We were talking about that before we started. That sense of we're just not going to talk about it. 


00:06:37    Alyssa

I had so much of that in my childhood. 


00:06:39    Dr. Willis

Yes, I talk about the Four Horsemen mindset of pain, blame, shame, and avoidance. The four things that are often used to raise children that are not so helpful. And I say that people think they really harp on the pain, the blame, and the shame. But the avoidance, that is a sneaky little bugger. It is so insidious. Like, one of the examples that I gave was when I was 16 years old, I tried to end my life, and I took every pill I could find in the house. Luckily, somehow I missed the tylenol. But I took blood pressure pills, all this stuff. And my grandmother, when she found me, she asked me, what did you do? I don't even remember how she realized something was off, but she was like, what did you do? And I told her, and she gave me black coffee, and I make that face because I can still taste it because it came up, and we never talked about it again. Therapy. What's that right? 


00:07:41    Alyssa

Well if we don't talk about it. It didn't happen. 


00:07:43    Dr. Willis

It didn't happen. It's like, I don't see you, you don't see me. Right. And I know she was terrified, and I know she loved me, and I know if it had gone the other way and she woke up and found my lifeless body, she would have been absolutely devastated. Like, it was completely derailed her and her life. So I don't doubt that. But this idea of when we hurt, we get help. When things are off, we ask why we lean in. Right? Like that idea wasn't something that was really passed down in our family. So I guess the brick there would be that avoidance brick. You just don't talk about it. You just leave it alone. You don't mess with that ground. Because if you disturb the ground, then the zombies will come up, then feelings will grow. 


00:08:34    Alyssa

We get this a lot, where people are like, well, when I mention a feeling word, or when I talk about feelings, their feelings get bigger, or they're fine at Grandma's house, and then when I pick them up, they're melting down for me. And this idea that what I'm doing is making the feelings bigger rather than which is really what I think it is, is that when we talk about feelings, and I must say space for them, they're allowed to talk about them. And instead of holding them in or burying them inside, they have a space to let them out in a way that so many of us didn't have. 


00:09:06    Dr. Willis

Yes. It's almost like when we don't have them, it's really a form of emotional constipation. 


00:09:16    Alyssa

Oh my gosh I love that, emotional constipation.


00:09:16    Dr. Willis

Yes, it's emotional constipation. We're just plugging it up, holding it in, and life wants to flow. That's what life does. It just flows, right? Like, you go to the river, you don't say, hey, Mr. River, can you hold up a second and let me cross? Like, no, unless you got a Moses staff or something, like, it's not going to I mean, it's one of those things where life flows. Seasons change, things move. That's the normal what do you call it, your digestive system. It moves your emotions. They flow. That's what they're supposed to do. So when we hold things in and we stop things up, that's not natural. We have to put effort into holding it in, holding it tight, don't let it out. Because if you do, and then that's where the shaming and the blaming and the pain comes in. I mean, I don't know if any listeners have heard the whole, like, stop crying before I give you something to cry about. Like, that was a famous line in my house. And so I learned very early that emotions are liabilities. They are liabilities, and they could get you hurt if they come too hard, too fast. 


00:10:30    Alyssa

And for me, it wasn't a physical hurt. It was an emotional hurt. Right. I have four brothers, and they very much, for the most part, fit the stereotype or what we often push boys and men into, of, oh, you're not allowed to express anything outside of anger. And I think it's a really just heartbreaking thing that we do to boys and men. It is. And for me, I was the girl, and so I was dramatic, I was emotional. And one of the things that I dreaded being was high maintenance, in a low income family, five kids just working to put food on the table. The last way that you showed love or received love was by having needs. And that was not categorized in my house as having needs. It was categorized as being high maintenance. And I actually just oh, my gosh, it just came up today because I was talking to my mom, and we have somebody we're going to my parents for a week and a half, and I have a bunch of in person workshops kind of nearby them. And Zach's coming and he's going to be working, and I'm going to be working. And so someone who works for seed is so graciously coming with us to be able to watch Sage, because my parents will be working. And so she was like, I'll come with you so that Sagey can come and you can make this happen. 


00:12:00    Dr. Willis

I wish I'd known. I would have jumped in that spot. But anyway... 


00:12:03    Alyssa

I love you. And so she's coming and staying. And I was chatting with my mom. My parents haven't met her. And so I was like, oh, yeah, she's like super chill. They were asking, does she have any dietary stuff we should know? Blah, blah, blah, and I was like, no, she's super chill. And my mom said, yeah, I figured you probably wouldn't put up with somebody who is high maintenance. And I was like, oh, I'm so triggered inside right now. 


00:12:27    Alyssa

Like somebody who needed to eat.


00:12:29    Alyssa



00:12:29    Dr. Willis

Certain foods to not die. 


00:12:32    Alyssa

Exactly. And I was like, oh, somebody who has needs outside of the ones that I have. I said it and then she's not going to say anything else after that, right? Just like this awkward silence for a minute. But I was thinking of that as I was like, oh, I get to hang out and chat with Lynie today. This is pertinent of like, what do I want to carry on and what do not, right? And I want Sage to know and this sweet little girl that's growing in my belly right now to know also like, oh, fun. I haven't told the rest of the world that it's a girl yet. So there you go. Inside listeners. If you listen to the podcast.


00:13:16    Dr. Willis

You're going to have a high need, high maintenance diva. That's going to be fantastic. I mean, somebody who wants to eat and sleep. That's what I meant to say. 


00:13:24    Alyssa

Oh, yeah, somebody has basic human needs. But I'm like thinking about it. I was like, that's something that I definitely want them to know. You get to have needs. If you have to stop and pee while we're traveling, that's okay. If you're having a hard feeling, you're allowed to have that. And that's one of those burdens. When we're looking at legacy blessings versus burdens that I look at, that feels really important to me to do differently. And where it gets tricky for me is not swinging the pendulum. 


00:13:59    Dr. Willis

I'm so glad you mentioned. I literally wrote down pendulum. We're so in sync. So I have a parent coaching program triggered to transform. And these are the two things that parents, when they first come in, like dance with I don't like the word struggle. Who wants to struggle? I'm not claiming struggle. Dance. Dance with is this concept of my needs matter. That's like a banner phrase we have in the program. Because one mom, she said, I said, when you hear that my needs matter, what comes up for you? She was like, I'm pretty sure I had to turn those in before I left the hospital with my kid, I didn't get my kid without getting rid of those. And I'm like, that's often how it feels, right? So it's that my needs matter piece. First I have needs and then once you realize you have them, that they matter. And then the pendulum swing, right? Because it is so triggering and truth moment. There are sometimes I can still hear. Like when my daughter, she's eleven now, and she gets into those moments where she's like, you can't tell me...There are times I can literally feel my grandma on my shoulder. 


00:15:14    Alyssa

Like, you're going to let her talk to you like that?


00:15:16    Dr. Willis

Because I'm with the whole new age parenting thing? Is that what this was? Really? Because I didn't experience any of that. And I'm like stop it, go away. I love you. Go away! And so it's that pendulum swing, because on the one hand, you don't want to do what you did before, which is why people come into Triggered to Transformed. Because they're like, I want to do this parenting thing differently. I want to transform these legacies, but I don't know how. And so they're like, I know what I don't want to do, but when I do what I think I should do, I feel like I'm just like a railroad track just being run over, and it comes up that sense of light, and then that leads. They tolerate, tolerate, tolerate until they hit a certain point, and they swing all the way back over here. Right? So learning, like, where is that often messy middle and playing with that and experimenting between honoring you, being present with you, honoring your feelings and your needs, and then at the same time honoring myself in my needs and my even expectations without running over you or unleashing the Four Horsemen on you. And that really is it's not something that you can necessarily just download into your brain and up. You got it. And it really is a step by step process. It's something that you learn moment by moment, inch by inch over time, recognizing when things work, celebrating when things go well, connecting with people when they don't, and being like, I don't understand what just happened there. We say, like, these kids don't come in. It's like we're in a play and we're reading the script, and we have all these books, and our script is good, and then we say our thing, and then the kid says the exact opposite, and we're like, I'm sorry. That wasn't your line. Your line was, thank you, Mother. You are the best human in the world. Sorry I did that. I'll never do it again. That's your line. Go. 


00:17:25    Alyssa

You're not playing the part, right. Like, I'm supposed to be kind to you and patient, and then you are collaborative, and that's how this works. Yeah. For me, what comes up around this stuff is like, patience versus boundaries. That to be honest, I am not a very patient person. It's like a joke in my household. My husband is remarkably patient for all things in life, for goals he sets, for whatever. And I am a very impatient person. It's really hard for me to wait for things, and I'm just like, well, this isn't working. Like, abort mission. Even with tiny humans, patience isn't something I can rely on. Right. If I am relying on patience, everybody's screwed. And it is like, I'm screwed the kids, the whole shebang. And so for me, what I've had to learn is when I am finding that build of, like, I'm trying to be patient with this thing. I'm trying to be patient, but really I'm getting annoyed. I'm getting annoyed. It's usually, for me now, a trigger of like, where do you need a boundary? And what's that boundary? Because when I can set a boundary for myself or for them, then I don't have to rely on patience. 


00:18:42    Dr. Willis

Yeah, I love that so much, because it's true. Like, whenever we get into those triggered states, that's often a sign that, yeah, there's an unmet need here. Right. And it usually does require a boundary. It requires me to not put something against you. I often talk to parents about a boundary is really, in many ways, saying not what I'm going to do to you if you don't do this, I'm going to do it's. What I'm going to do in this situation when XYZ happens, right. So I don't have to touch you. I'll just say anything to you most times, but it's me stating very clearly, this is what I'm going to do when ABC XYZ and then honoring that for myself. Because what usually happens is we'll set the boundary, and then the thing will happen, and then we'll be like, okay, next time...


00:19:28    Alyssa

I'm going to hold that boundary next time. But that's where the my needs thing comes in, is like, by setting a boundary, I can honor my needs. I need to get out the door with you for childcare so that we can make this whole thing happen, so that I'm not mad at you on the way and rushing through things because I have to get back for a meeting. And we had all this stalling getting out. Right. And so my needs here are like, I have to get out the door at this time to get back at this time for this meeting. And when I can set boundaries that honor those needs, then I can have more compassion for their big emotions. 


00:20:08    Dr. Willis

Yeah, exactly. Because you're not griping with what you're doing to me, right? 


00:20:17    Alyssa

Totally. You're going to make me late. 


00:20:18    Dr. Willis

Yeah. You're going to make me late. Why are you doing this to me? Right? And then we put ourselves in this victim space, and now parts of us, the protective parts of us come out, and our child is no longer a sweet little child. They're a lion that is trying to eat us. 


00:20:32    Alyssa

Now I'm pissed at a two year old, right? Yeah. When I say that out loud, it sounds bonkers. But I'm like, man, I've been angry at babies. 


00:20:42    Dr. Willis

Yes. Because they've done these things to me. Right. And I'm not in any way minimizing or undermining the often extreme difficulty that arises when trying to parent a child who is having big emotions. It is hard, especially when you've got Grandma and great Grandma and all these people behind you telling you what you should do. And then you have Alyssa and Lynyetta over here telling you this, and then you got right. It's like, I have a screaming baby and, like, five spirits. 


00:21:19    Alyssa

And all I want is for the screaming to stop because I'm overwhelmed. 


00:21:22    Dr. Willis

I need the screaming to stop. Just stop. Right? And so being able that's why one of the things that I always push is preparation. One of the things about our kids that is such a blessing is they're pretty consistent. The things that set them off on Monday are probably going to set them off on Tuesday. I mean, as humans, we are things that set us off on Wednesday are going to set us off on Thursday. I mean, we're pretty consistent with that. So as much as we can prepare mentally, emotionally, physically, as much as we can prepare them for those really tough times, then we're more likely to fall back. We're less likely excuse me, to fall back on those legacy burdens to try to gain control of the situation, because we go to those when we feel a lack of control. That's often when we lean into like, all right, I'm just going to pull whatever I have out of my bag and start swinging. Because I don't know, it might be a tampon, it might be a baseball bat. I don't like, whatever I grab, that's what's going to swing. 


00:22:25    Alyssa

Right? Yeah, I think that makes sense to me. For me, preparedness is huge. And I just love that Daniel Tiger song, something about how when we don't know what or when we're doing something new, let's talk about it. Let's make a plan, or whatever. And I'm like, yeah, but really not just for the kid, but for me. When we're on our way to the grocery store and the last three grocery store trips have been hard, we're now talking in the car about what's coming up, what the boundaries and expectations are. And it's not just for him. It's for me. I get to revisit, like, all right, Lyss, what you going to do in these moments? What's your plan? Because there's a strong chance he's going to walk in, and it's going to be the same shitstorm this time that it was last time and the last two times. It's not going to magically disappear. And so what's your plan? We've had a lot of this lately where he just wants me, he has a hard time separating when I go to work, even with Zach, my husband, like, all that. He just wants mama. And so we had to sit down and come up with, like, what's our plan? When I'm going to walk away. What previously was like, bye, mom, and he would give me a kiss and wave and whatever. Right now, he's in a period of separation anxiety. And so what's our plan? What's every caregiver's plan? And how are we following through so that it doesn't catch us off guard and we don't find ourselves floundering? I think one of the things that we encounter in our village a lot is, I think one thing it's like that. We have a hard time actually allowing kids to feel hard things. That so many of us grew up alone in our hard stuff. That now with kids when it's like they are going to cry when I separate from them, every part of me wants to just be like, I'm not going to work today. Then I'm going to stop you from feeling this hard thing. Or they're in a peer group and something happens and they feel embarrassed or they get emotionally hurt or somebody says something mean to them and I want to come to their defense and prevent it from happening, prevent that feeling from existing, prevent them from feeling scared. Prevent them from feeling anxious that we try to make it go away. And I think it's from our burden of being left alone in our feelings. But I see it as one of the pendulum swings. 


00:24:55    Alyssa

I don't know about you, but when I scroll through Instagram or I'm tuning into podcasts and diving into parenting resources, resources for myself as a teacher, I can feel overwhelmed. Like, where do I start? I need a guide for what this looks like in practice. And I don't want something that's one size fits all. Because every child is different, right? And if you have multiple children, if you're a teacher, you know that it's not one size fits all. Or if you have seen what works for your sister in law or your best friend or your neighbor, and you're like, oh my gosh, my child does not respond to that. That is how I felt. And then we created the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. It is a guide for building emotional intelligence. And y'all there are five components of the CEP method. One is about how to respond to the kids and what it looks like to have adult/child interactions. The other four are about us. Because I don't know about you, but I did not grow up getting these tools. I did not grow up with them.  didn't grow up in this household. Where I was taught tools for self awareness and self regulation and how to do emotion processing work. And now, as a parent and as a teacher, I'm supposed to teach those skills to a tiny human? But we can't teach what we don't know. And so my first book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, is here to support you. You can head to www.seedandsew.org/book and snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions today. This is a game changer. It's going to build these skills with you, for you, so that you can do this work alongside building these skills for your tiny humans, so that they can grow up with a skill set for self awareness, for regulation, for empathy, for social skills, for intrinsic motivation. A skill set of emotional intelligence so that they can navigate all the things that come their way in life. Snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions at seedandsew.org/book. 


00:24:56    Dr. Willis

Oh my gosh. Yes. Growing up, not having to navigate feelings because we just stuff, we block them. It's like now these feelings. One of the first things we do in Triggered to Transformed is we start becoming aware of our feelings and our body sensations. Right. Because a lot of us have like this love hate relationship with them where it's like...


00:25:21    Alyssa

Mostly a hate hate relationship. Really, honestly.


00:25:25    Dr. Willis

Hate hate relationship. I hate rage. 


00:25:28    Alyssa

I hate feeling this way, I hate this. 


00:25:30    Dr. Willis

You are not allowed here. No. 


00:25:33    Alyssa

Literally said to my best friend the other day, I hate feeling sad. This sucks. 


00:25:37    Dr. Willis

Oh, it does. 


00:25:38    Alyssa

And she was like, it does. 


00:25:40    Dr. Willis

Yes. And so it's like when we have those feelings and then we see them in our child, it's like, no, you're reflecting back to me. The thing I hate. That's not okay. I need you to stop because now I feel bad for me and for you. And now you're bringing out a. 


00:28:21    Dr. Willis

Crap. Now I'm starting to feel sad. Stop it. Stop it. Right? And so now our child becomes this mirror, which in some ways if you really sit back and think about it, is absolutely gorgeous, right? Because it's like, mom, dad, I'm going to show you the thing where you need to do some work. 


00:28:40    Alyssa

I'm gonna break this down real easily for you. 


00:28:42    Dr. Willis

And if you don't get it the first time, I'll break it down again and again and again. We just won't stop until you finally get the hang of this. You're welcome, right? And so it's one of those things where being able to sit with that discomfort is so hard. I got kicked out of a Facebook group. It's one of like my favorite stories to tell because I'm so proud of it. I got kicked out of a parenting Facebook group years ago because there was a mom, she posted that she couldn't take a shower. Couldn't take a shower because every time she went to take a shower, her daughter would start wailing. Now mind you, dad was right there. Okay, sure. 


00:29:20    Alyssa

I just want to say, like I connect so deeply with this mom. 


00:29:26    Dr. Willis

I think we all can. And she's like, I hate to say this, but I haven't taken a shower in like two days and I don't know what to do. And part of it was this story. We talk a lot about stories. The story is if my child is in pain, I have to fix it. If my child is in pain and I have the ability to stop it, I am obligated to do whatever I need to do to protect my child from the feelings because feelings are bad and evil and need to go away. Right? So that story, so I posted and I said, okay, here's some things. And I talked about preparation, I talked about some role playing that she could do all these things. And I said, and at the end of the day, please go wash your butt. Sometimes these things will work great. And she'll be laughing and giggling when you go in the bathroom and other times she will be wailing. I need you to meet your need to bathe. For you and anyone within 5ft of you, please wash. One of the administrators came in and was like, you just told her to abandon her child and 


00:30:32    Dr. Willis

ignore her emotional needs. And I said...


00:30:35    Alyssa

Did you say, hey administrator, would you like to break down your triggers here? 


00:30:39    Dr. Willis

I know I should have. I said, that's literally not what I said. That's literally not what I said to do. I have a whole list of things.


00:30:47    Alyssa

But that's it. That's where I think we can so quickly jump to like, this is abandonment because they're having a hard feeling and I'm not stopping it. 


00:30:57    Dr. Willis



00:30:57    Alyssa

And I don't know that we have really developed that skill set to be in an emotion or be present to an emotion with somebody else without making it go away. 


00:31:08    Dr. Willis

Yeah, exactly. Even adults, it's like somebody starts crying, what do we do? Reach for the tissue. That was so hard for me when I first started doing therapy, we had remember VCR tapes? We had to tape our sessions with VCR tapes and show them to our supervisor. And I still remember one time she stopped it and she's like, this is the third time I've seen you hand a client a tissue. Why do you keep doing that? And I was like, because she's crying and she's gross and I'm sure she wants it because I felt that I was giving her dignity. 


00:31:43    Alyssa



00:31:44    Dr. Willis

And I want to help by handing her a tissue. And of course she's going to want to stop the tears, right? And what was interesting was we would watch and most of the clients would take the tissue and hold it. They wouldn't even sop up their tears. They're like, okay, if you need me to hold this, sure, okay, whatever. Right. But I mean, that's how much discomfort I had with feelings and emotions. And I will tell you that tendency carries. And actually I think it is and I'm not shaming anybody here because I'm guilty of this too. I could tell you my own story. I think we're creating a new burden of dependency. 


00:32:25    Alyssa

100% codependence rather than interdependence. 


00:32:28    Dr. Willis

Codependence and lack of personal awareness and really just a lack of knowledge on how to do anything for ourselves, for ourselves and for our kids. 


00:32:36    Alyssa

Think a lack of confidence in our ability to be in emotions. And that's where resilience comes from. It's like, oh, I experienced this hard thing. I can move through this. I have tools for this. And I think what we're seeing is actually kids who are struggling with resilience because we haven't allowed them to be in hard emotions and experience them and learn that they do have to, not that they have to build those tools on their own in silos by themselves, et cetera. But this idea that, yeah, you can do hard things. 


00:33:13    Dr. Willis

You can, and that's the piece that my girlfriend and I from college went to for Mother's Day. We went to like this spa bed and breakfast thing, and somehow we ended up around a campfire with a bunch of parents that night. And one of the dads was like, I'm just going to ask what's wrong with our kids? And we just all started laughing, and we got it. And everybody had older children. They actually had teens and adults, like early teens. So around the campfire, the children ran the gambit in age. And what we ended up realizing was we were the issue. Because what happens is we want to protect them so much from difficult feelings and difficult times that we don't let them fall. We don't let them fall and get boo boos. So it's like when they're really young and they hit like a six inch issue, we go and we pull them away from the ledge. No, don't do that. And when they get older and they hit a 1ft issue no no no no. And then when it's a six foot issue, if we can't stop them, we dive under them with pillows so they fall and they get soft and all this stuff, and we don't allow them to fall and go, ow. And then learn from that. Maybe I won't jump off that hill again. And then what happens is they hit a 60 foot cliff. They don't know how to navigate it. Right? 


00:34:44    Alyssa

Totally. And then we're not here, and we're not there. 


00:34:48    Dr. Willis

And then we're like, what's wrong with our kids? 


00:34:51    Alyssa

Right? Well, and I feel this like I just said the other day in an interview, my dream world is one where Sage truly doesn't have to feel anything hard ever. That is my dream world. It would be gorgeous. And the reality is, right now, I can prevent him from feeling a lot of hard things. If I choose to do so, I can prevent it right now, he is largely in our care or in the care of someone in childcare. He is close and turning to us for things. And as it stands right now, I have a lot of control over preventing him from feeling hard things. And this has come up a lot as we've been Zach and I have been having conversations about this second human coming and all that jazz and just the pull of time where he gets us whatever we have and that then there will be more humans and less in time that goes directly to him. And Zach was like, let me tell you, as an only child, I wish there was more attention paid to other humans and not just me as I got older. But then it was like just sole focus on me. And it felt like a lot of pressure in a lot of ways and too much attention, right. And I was like, okay, that's helpful for me to hear. As one of five who often felt like there wasn't enough, right? Like, we're opposite ends here. 


00:36:20    Dr. Willis

You're like a pendulum in your house. Jeez. 


00:36:22    Alyssa

Legit. Legit. We're like, where's the middle? And not to say that you can't have, like, five kids and have attention spread out, whatever. That's just not what my experience was as one of five in my household. So we've been chatting about this, and I was like, there are going to be times where he's going to have a need, and she's going to have a need, and I'm going to have a need, and it's going to be triage, and it's not always going to be his need first. And I hate that. And I think that that's really helpful for him. 


00:36:58    Dr. Willis

Yeah to learn that. It's so true.


00:37:01    Alyssa

And I hate it. Like, both of those are true. 


00:37:03    Dr. Willis

Yes. And you can have that feeling, right? That's an okay feeling to be like, I hate that. I hate that I can't be all things and protect them from all things. But to your point, you can. And I'll give you an example of further down the road. What happens if we keep this up. 


00:37:17    Alyssa



00:37:20    Dr. Willis

Cautionary tale here. My children started a new school last year. My son's 14 and my daughter's eleven. And it's a much more rigorous school than either of them were used to. And so I didn't mean to, but I got into this over functioning, like, to the point where my son wouldn't even pay attention in class because he would be like, my mom will teach me this when I get home. It's fine, right? Because I was, like, reading the books, highlighting, going creating these things about DNA and it's like a truck and all the I was basically a science and social studies teacher. So one day he came home and there was a project that was due, and I didn't see it, and he didn't get a good grade because he didn't hand it in. And I was like, why didn't you hand this in? This is what this boy said to me. Talk about teachers, them being my teachers. He said, you didn't tell me that was due. 


00:38:21    Alyssa

And you were like, oh, shit. 


00:38:25    Dr. Willis

And every part of me wanted to be like, it's not my job...but I'm like, but who taught him that? 


00:38:31    Alyssa

Yeah, but this is what I set him up for, right? 


00:38:33    Dr. Willis

I set him up and I taught him, it is my job to tell you what's due when it's due, to teach it to you. Right? And then part of the reason we sent them to this school is because I was like, they need to learn how to learn. They're not learning how to learn. Right? And so I'm not all about the hardcore, but I also think you need to learn how to, I don't know, study. 


00:38:54    Alyssa

Such a useful skill. 


00:38:56    Dr. Willis

Learn stuff. 


00:38:57    Alyssa

And I think the bias comes in here, too, of like, you know, that culturally speaking, in our country right now, as it stands, they're going to have to get higher grades, have higher achievement rates, et cetera, to access the same thing that white kids will have access. 


00:39:12    Dr. Willis



00:39:13    Alyssa

And bullshit. And it's real right now. 


00:39:15    Dr. Willis

No, it's so true. You're going to have to do especially my boy, right? You're going to have to be able to prove you can't just coast dude, his dad's a physician, right? And he's still proving himself. He'll tell me stories, and I'm like, but the other doctor did the same thing! You know what, stop telling stories to make me mad. 


00:39:35    Alyssa

He's a black man in America. 


00:39:37    Dr. Willis

Yeah, exactly. So I'm aware of this, and I realized that very thing right there was part of my trigger with him. 


00:39:45    Alyssa



00:39:45    Dr. Willis

Too right? Like, I was triggered around I have to prepare you for this world where you're going to have to be able to be on it. You can't slack. You can't hope, because nobody's going to just hand you anything. 


00:39:59    Alyssa

They're waiting for you to fail. 


00:40:01    Dr. Willis

Yes. And you can't. Not on my watch. That was my thing. Not on my watch. You're going to do this. But the problem was, I essentially was setting up a self fulfilling prophecy because he still wasn't learning. He wasn't learning to learn. He was learning to rely on mom to teach. 


00:40:18    Alyssa

Yeah, you were learning how to teach, 


00:40:24    Dr. Willis

And I am not a teacher. 


00:40:24    Alyssa

Well you are. 


00:40:24    Dr. Willis

Yeah but not of littles. My daughter always like, Why don't you home school me? And I'm like, do you want to be even remotely successful at anything? Like, what are you asking for, kids? No idea. 


00:40:36    Alyssa

We all got skills. I am not a homeschool parent either, because when Sage asks questions and I say, oh, it's science. Let's ask Uncle Willie. He'll know more about that. 


00:40:48    Dr. Willis

See, I'm like you. I can delegate. I can point you in the direction of what you need to know. But in terms of consistently teaching you, you will not like me, and I will not like me. And so let's just not even go down that road. And from sitting around the fire, the campfire, with all those parents, we were all just kind of, like, nodding. Because every single parent had that story, and every single parent spoke to the idea. The fundamental solution conclusion was, I don't want them to hurt. I don't want them to suffer. I don't want them to struggle like I did. So I'm trying to keep them from doing that. But the truth of the matter is, like the butterfly getting out of the chrysalis, it's like there has to be a struggle. 


00:41:33    Alyssa

That's what resilience is. 


00:41:33    Dr. Willis

If you go up to a butterfly when it's trying to fight its way out and you open it, that butterfly will die. Because that struggle is what strengthens its wings. It's what gets it ready for the world. And if you relieve it of that struggle, yay, you feel better. Because you feel like you've done something. But ultimately, you've probably killed the butterfly. You didn't kill your kid, but you have not helped. You've done the opposite of helping that butterfly. 


00:42:00    Alyssa

And it's harder in the moment is the reality. It's harder for us. Right, 


00:42:07    Dr. Willis

It is. to watch that poor butterfly struggle? 


00:42:07    Alyssa

Exactly. There are times where I'm like, legit, I don't have the bandwidth right now. I'm too burned out. I have not either taken care of my needs or we're in a hard season where meeting all my needs is really hard. And so those are seasons where, yeah, I help him more, where I step in more, I save him more. Yeah. And it's really about me. 


00:42:28    Dr. Willis

It is! 


00:42:31    Alyssa

I can even picture him as a baby, like, trying to crawl forward and going backwards and feeling frustrated. And there were times where I had the bandwidth to sit there and emotion coach it and be like, oh, you're trying so hard to go forward to that toy, and your body keeps going backwards, and that's so frustrating. And then there were times where I was like, I'm going to bring that toy closer to him because I don't have the bandwidth. And I think recognizing that it's actually not about them, I think a lot of the time. I think it's about us. And I don't want to be in this hard thing. I don't want to watch them struggle because it's harder for me to be in that than it is to just stop the struggle. 


00:43:10    Dr. Willis

It is. And that's okay. 


00:43:13    Alyssa



00:43:14    Dr. Willis

It's okay to have those moments where you're like, just here, kid, I can't. 


00:43:17    Alyssa

Yeah, here's the toy, but I can't. 


00:43:19    Dr. Willis

To your point, recognizing that that's what you're doing, I am relieving you of this struggle because I am relieving I'm actually relieving me of this struggle. 


00:43:31    Alyssa

Yeah. Legit. Yeah. And I think that that's so key. And then for me, it's like, I have less shame around it when I acknowledge that where I'm like, yeah, sometimes I relieve him of his struggle because I need to relieve myself of it, because we can't always be in this work. It's exhausting and hard, and there are seasons that are hard, and being able to allow that for myself was really huge for then letting him be in the struggle, because then I can be like, an all or nothing person. And so when I say, like, yeah, sometimes I need to do this for me because I don't have the bandwidth, and that's okay. And it doesn't mean that next time I won't have the bandwidth. 


00:44:12    Dr. Willis

It's so true. It's so true. And one of my favorite words in the English language is experiment. Right? And so often in the program, the other thing that I notice parents will do is it's almost like every moment is like a life changing moment. It's like, red pill, blue pill moment. It's like, if I take one, if I go left, I take the red pill, I can never go back. And I'm like and you're like, well, if I do this and should I do that experiment, see what happens? Right? Like, don't take a shower for two days, see how that works out for you, then maybe one day take a shower, see how that works out for you. 


00:44:47    Alyssa

Well and see how that works out of not only your physical, but am I now resentful of this kid? Am I resentful of the humans around me who'd get to take a shower all the time? What am I really feeling? And by not meeting this need of mine. 


00:45:00    Dr. Willis

Exactly, and realizing in most situations not all, but in most situations, you're going to get a do over. You're going to get a do over. You can make a u-turn. You can try something else. Right. Especially when they're young. And so giving yourself that grace and that freedom to say, okay, it's that kind of day today. This is where we're going today. Tomorrow, it's going to be that kind of day. We're going to go in this direction tomorrow. 


00:45:25    Alyssa

Well, and the do over is where the magic happens. The do over is the repair. Right? And we write so much about it in Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, like how to repair and what that actually looks like. But I think of myself as a kid, and if there had been, I don't know, one moment in my life where my parents had done something that didn't feel right for them in the moment, but then later came and said, like, man, I was feeling overwhelmed earlier, and I shouldn't have yelled. I lost my cool, or you were crying, and I ignored you and put you in your room by yourself, and I bet that felt like crap, and I'm really sorry. Like, how healing and comforting that would have been and how seen I would have felt in those moments and the trajectory of the thing still would have been the same. Right? Like, I'm put in my room to feel by myself, whatever, but their acknowledgment of like, that probably sucked, and I dropped the ball would have been huge. And I think we undervalue the role of repair. 


00:46:27    Dr. Willis

And it goes back to that sense of not it's not modeled for most of us, right? Like an adult saying, I'm sorry. That's hilarious. I think I would have been terrified. I would have been like, all right, Invasion of the Body Snatchers just came out not too long ago, and I'm pretty sure...


00:46:43    Alyssa

Where'd my mom go? Excuse me? Where's my mom? 


00:46:47    Dr. Willis

This is not a thing. What's happening right now? I'm really confused. And you're scared. 


00:46:51    Alyssa

Are you sick? Are we okay? 


00:46:52    Dr. Willis

Yeah, right. Brain eating amoeba. What's happening right now? Right? So I think it hasn't been modeled, which, again, goes back to that brick metaphor. Right. It's like, we got to learn this. The baton is really heavy that we've been handed. And we have to learn it, and then we have to model it, and then we have to teach it, but then we also have to experiment with it because all these people say it should be working, but it's really not working because they haven't learned their lines. And I'm really getting frustrated, and I just want to take a shower! 


00:47:22    Alyssa

Right, well, and I expected that if I said or did this, they would then not cry and I could get in the shower. And that's like another part of this. It's like no, I'm not saying certain things or doing certain things with kids for an expected behavioral response from them. I do still expect that they're going to have hard feelings and they're going to be mad about it and they might be crying outside the shower and I'm still going to get in the shower and I'm going to let them know. I hear you, bud. I'm in a shower to take care of my body and I'll be out in a little bit. 


00:47:53    Dr. Willis



00:47:53    Alyssa

And going through that so that this child learns that my needs are important, too, just like their needs are important and that before I can support them, I have to support me and that it's okay for them to feel disappointed about it. 


00:48:08    Dr. Willis

Yes. All those emotions, that's perfect, right? Like all those the disappointment, the sadness, the anger, all of that stuff. We have a cat. And one thing we learned about cats is when they're in the wild....


00:48:24    Alyssa

I almost jumped in and just said that they're assholes.


00:48:28    Dr. Willis

Cats are amazing! I love cats. 


00:48:34    Alyssa

Keep going. So your version, what you've learned about cats? 


00:48:38    Dr. Willis

I honor your truth on this one Lynyetta.


00:48:42    Alyssa

That feels real for you. 


00:48:47    Dr. Willis

They really are their own people, though, I have to say. I say cats are like tweens. They're like, I'll come to you when I'm ready and when I want. Other than that, you do you. But we learned that they don't meow. After a certain time, the meow becomes extinguished because in the wild, moms don't respond to that meow. After they respond to it when they're really little kittens because it's like, oh, you're over there, come back here. But after when it's time for them to, the moms just don't react to it. So the meow gets extinguished after a while. But with kid with littles a lot of times what happened and what this woman in the Facebook group was saying, she was know, I feel like when I do try to just put my foot down and go in and just take a shower, the wail gets louder and stronger. And I was like, well, that's because you come back. And it's like, I'd wail louder and stronger too if I knew that every time you wail. So it's one of those things where it was like and then you feed into that fear. Like if there is a fear there like, oh, no, mommy's going. Like, if we haven't established object permanence yet or we have it's like, mommy goes away and I can't see her anymore. And that's scary, right? When you just keep coming back, it just reinforces that fear. So if you go away and then you come back and you're all happy and cheerful because now you have more bandwidth and you don't look like you're grumpy and you don't look like then your child's like, oh, okay, I survived. You survived. I was here with dad. He was all right, and you came back, and now we're good, right? So it finishes the story and doesn't keep you both stuck in that space of I can't handle. And I think that works at any age, even with my kid, with my son, me saying, like, hey, dude, you're responsible, and it actually happened where he didn't do something. He got a really low grade on it. And I was like, I'm not messaging your teacher. I'm not doing anything. Like, you just have to deal with this. You have to deal with this experience in this moment, because this is an experience that was created. It has a consequence not in a bad way. It's just totally consequence. Right. 


00:51:03    Alyssa

Just part of that neural pathway, right? I do this, this happens. This happens. We all develop these neural pathways, and before his neural pathway was, I do whatever, and then mom teaches me, and so then I get these good grades. And you started to develop a new neural pathway for him, and that is going to take time to strengthen these new neural pathways of like, yeah, I'm not going to be holding your hand in that same way. I gave you some roots, and now I'm giving you wings to fly, right. 


00:51:35    Dr. Willis

And you'll be okay. 


00:51:37    Alyssa

100%. And he gets to practice that in a safe space, right, where it's a bad grade on a test right now. And that's where when I look at Sage now, I'm like, I want him to practice feeling hard things and making mistakes or feeling nervous and accessing bravery or whatever while he's here, and I can see it, and he can do it in a relatively safe manner. And these small moments, because I'm not always going to be there. And the moments will get bigger in terms of the weight, right? 


00:52:14    Dr. Willis

Yes. That cliff gets higher. 


00:52:17    Alyssa

Yeah, exactly. 


00:52:18    Dr. Willis

It doesn't get lower. 


00:52:21    Alyssa

Right? Exactly. I love it so much. Per use. I could chat with you forever. I love you. I think it's so helpful, though, for us to really just acknowledge that we're doing really hard work here, of doing something that wasn't modeled for us. And that in the same way that we're saying the kids need to be able to make mistakes, we're going to make mistakes. And one of the things that I find so comforting from your message is this idea of the relay race that we're not actually supposed to heal every single thing that's been passed to us. And so we joke in our household of like, I wonder what burden Sage is going to look back and be like, thanks a lot, guys, and be working through. Right. And that my hope as a human and as a parent, is that when he is in that space where he's like, this is something I'm doing differently than how I was raised, that I can be in a space to say, like, awesome, buddy. I totally get that. I did some things differently from how Grammy and Pa raised me. And I love that you're learning and growing and I'm here to support you. Right? That's my goal as a parent. 


00:53:30    Dr. Willis

That's the nature of evolution. 


00:53:30    Alyssa

Yeah. It's not that he gets there and he's like, I'm going to repeat everything my parents did because they were perfect. 


00:53:35    Dr. Willis

I'm like, dang it, I failed you. 


00:53:38    Alyssa

Right. But I think that that can come up for us where we're like, I want to be perfect. I want them to get to adulthood and be like, I have nothing to rewrite. 


00:53:48    Dr. Willis

I want to teach them all the things. I want them to have all the skills, all the spiritual, emotional, psychological skills that I didn't have so that they could make it through life by the time they're 16. That's what I need them to have. Right. 


00:54:02    Alyssa

With no challenges where they can easily accomplish all the things. Right. And it's like that's not realistic.


00:54:08    Dr. Willis

Exactly, it's not. 


00:54:08    Alyssa

And I think when we let ourselves off that hook, the part in our book where we said, I hope one day I hope our children grow up and tell us about the things they've learned in ways they're working to do things differently, and that you aren't failing if you aren't perfect. Your mess is welcome here. I mean that. And I think that's something you truly bring to the world. And I'm so grateful for in your work and in your message, so thank you. 


00:54:32    Dr. Willis

Thank you. Alyssa, your book is phenomenal. I'm so excited for the world to experience it. Oh, it's so good. 


00:54:41    Alyssa

Thank you. Well, I love you and I'm so grateful for your work and your support here. Where can folks find you, connect with you, learn more about you? 


00:54:49    Dr. Willis

Yeah, I think the best place to go is to I mean, I have a website, but mytriggerscore.com there's actually a quiz there that you can go to and you can figure out what is your parenting trigger score? And there are some really good insights and tips to get you started on that process of doing exactly what we're talking about, learning how you tend to show up when those parts of you get triggered so that you can move on in a way that feels good to you with awareness and deeper understanding. And when you sign up for that, you get also some additional tools for like, the first five days or so that could actually help you start on that journey. So check that out. 


00:55:33    Alyssa

Love it. Thanks, Lynyetta. 


00:55:36    Dr. Willis

Yes. Thank you, Alyssa. 


00:55:41    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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