Dr. Becky Kennedy Q&A: New Hope If Your Kids “Don’t Listen”


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The last thing I need as a parent is another expert making me feel bad.

Fortunately, clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy asserts that parents are and always have been good inside, and so are children. (He has three.)

In his new book, “Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be,” the expert known as the millennial “parent whisperer” outlines a perspective on child-rearing that distinguishes between identity and behavior.

So much evidence-based parenting advice is based on principles of behavior modification, she explained. But our goal is not to shape behavior; it is for the growth of humans.

Kennedy shared her specific strategies for creating the best of all worlds for parents: improving strong relationships and collaboration with children. Her approach not only helps caregivers perform better on the outside, but also helps them feel better on the inside. Ticking all of these boxes can almost be understood as too much parenting triumph.

This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.

CNN: What do you want people to understand about parenting?

Dr. Becky Kennedy: My main message is that parents and children are intrinsically good, meaning they are always doing the best they can with the resources available to them at the time.

Dr. Becky Kennedy is known as a millennial

Too often, we see behavior as a measure of who our children are – hitting means my child is “bad” – rather than a clue to what they might need.

Likewise, when we act in ways that don’t match our values ​​(like yelling) we see ourselves as a monster who has messed up his child forever. Instead, you are a good parent who is going through a tough time. This does not mean that we should not take responsibility for our behavior. This framework really allows us to take that responsibility.

All my strategies distinguish between identity and behavior. In that void, we can build lifelong skills that will help bring out the best in ourselves and our children.

CNN: Is this approach working?

Kennedy: yes Not only is the “good on the inside” approach, it feels good, it works, in the short and long term.

Relying on timeouts, punishments, and sticker charts when your kids are young, dependent, and afraid of you can set you up for disaster. Once they get to 14 or 15, they’re basically saying, “I’m too old for your time limit, and I don’t give a damn about your stickers.” That’s really scary.

“Good inside” allows parents to follow their intuition with interventions that help in the short term and develop the skills our children need in adulthood.

CNN: How can parents and caregivers balance enforcing rules and nurturing?

Kennedy: I apply a “both things can be true” approach that emphasizes strong boundaries and warm connection. This parenting model is as much about the parent’s self-development as the child’s development; Becoming what I call a “strong leader” who can remain regulated and calm even when his child is dysregulated requires us to renew ourselves.

If we want our children to have self-confidence instead of shame and guilt, they need to see that they are good children with difficulties. It helps to choose the most generous interpretation of your child’s behavior. If your child calls you the worst mom in the world, stop, take a breath, and get curious about the need your child is really trying to express.

CNN: Does this “two things can be true” approach help in other relationships?

Kennedy: “Two things are true” is the ultimate framework for improving any relationship. Whenever a relationship is in conflict or power struggle, or whenever the other person is trying to convince us of our point of view, we are seeing ourselves against each other.

“Two things are true” is the process of valuing one’s perspective while acknowledging the other’s. Acknowledgment does not equal consent.

Here is an example. When TV time ends, no matter what, my child will probably protest because it goes against what they want it to stop. “One thing is true”—what is true for me—is the answer to my disgruntled child: “We talked about it. You are really making it difficult. Now I will take away the television time tomorrow”. “One thing is true” – which is true for my child – responses like, “Oh, I mean, I think your bedtime might be later…”

A “two things are true” approach allows me to intervene like this: “It’s really hard to stop watching, even for me. One of my parenting jobs is to make decisions that I think are good for you, even when you’re angry. Screen time is over. If you find it difficult to turn off the TV, I will do it for you. You are allowed to be angry.’

Basically, what I’m saying is, “My decisions don’t dictate your feelings. And your feelings don’t dictate my decisions.”

CNN: What advice do you have for parents and caregivers worried about the judgment of others to avoid taking a more authoritarian approach?

Kennedy: I don’t think people judge us as much as we think. Regardless, I try not to let other people’s thoughts take up too much real estate in my brain.

We rarely know what people are thinking, so here’s my strategy: If you’re going to create other people’s thoughts about you, you might as well create positive and uplifting thoughts. When your child is having a blast in the grocery store aisle, how many times do strangers say, “You’re a terrible parent, and your child looks like a terrible child”?

Instead of judging my parents, I imagine people saying, “I’ve been there. All children have hard times. So do all parents.” That vision makes me feel empowered by the support of the community.

CNN: What do you say to parents who say, “My child won’t listen”?

Kennedy: What we mean by “my child does not listen” is “my child does not comply with my requests”. That’s a sign that our relationship with them is running low on connection capital: the reserve of positive feelings we’ve built up between us, which we can draw on in our struggles.

“The next time you’re in that stuck place with your child,” I say, “ask yourself, ‘Do I like my child? Do I feel close? Or do I notice that right now I really don’t like my child, that I see him as an enemy? Do I have them?’” No productive strategy has ever been created from a “me versus my child” framework.

The first goal is always to change your perspective to “me and my child are on the same side against our problem”. Everything good comes from this approach.

Then I ask the parents to think of a situation in their adult lives to answer how the child is doing. Imagine if you were asked by your boss, best friend or partner to do something, you didn’t do it, and the answer to the refusal was: “You have a hearing problem. I’m taking away your iPad for a week.” We do this to our kids all the time.

We have to ask them to do things they don’t want to do. But scope matters.

CNN: What should we, as parents, do when we fall short?

Kennedy: First, if you can only focus on one aspect of your parenting improvement, work on nurturing, supporting, and realigning your own emotional regulation skills.

Remember, we are not robots, but imperfect human beings who sometimes scream when we tell ourselves not to. We need to be good at repairs, which means reconnecting after disconnection.

Our children are writing the powerful blueprint they take out into the world. If we yell at our child and then don’t talk about it, that interaction becomes like the end of a chapter, with a child feeling scared and alone, often blaming himself.

In order to gain some sense of agency or control, they assume “badness” to avoid believing that the people they depend on can be bad.

Repair work allows us to write a different ending to a chapter in their world’s story. Instead of a conflict ending in threats, fear, loneliness, self-blame, and self-doubt, we add compassion and connection by saying, “That must have felt scary. You were right to feel that way. It’s never your fault when I yell. It’s been a tough day.” I had and I’m really working on managing my feelings.”When we do this, we change the way the original memory lives in the child’s body.

CNN: How can parents then update how their child is processing an experience?

Kennedy: Scary moments can exist in the body as a cluster of unformulated sensations. Having someone meet those experiences with connection, presence, and understanding helps us feel more at home with ourselves.

Creating coherence from incoherence is like sewing a quilt for our child. Even if some squares are painful, covering them together creates warmth. Good parents don’t always get it right. Fixing good parents.