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Are We Too Soft (Part 2)
Episode 1484th April 2024 • How Not to Screw Up Your Kids • Dr Maryhan
00:00:00 00:28:37

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Course correcting 101. How can we help children from 2 - 18 years operate outside their zone of comfort without compromising their emotional-wellbeing?? This is a super practical episode with lots of how toos. You won't want to miss it!!

Here are the highlights:

(2:30) Reminder of importance of high expectations, agency and boundaries

(4:20) Why have I chosen a toddler, 8 year old and 15 year old ages/stages of development? 

(8:26) Examples of how to hold your child to high expectations for each age/stage of development

(14:55) Examples of how to develop a sense of agency for each age/stage of development

(22:22) Examples of how to set boundaries for each age/stage of development

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Hello, and welcome to the how not to screw up your kids podcast.


So pour yourself a cuppa, find a comfy seat


and enjoy the conversation. Before I start this week's episode, I would like to make one small request. If you enjoy listening to my podcasts, can I ask for a super simple, quick favour? Could you rate review and follow this podcast? Why? Well, by rating and reviewing the podcast, you are helping other parents just like you find me and these episodes. So you are sharing the love. It's how Apple podcast and Spotify work by recommending podcasts to parents based on ratings and reviews. Now by following the podcast, it means each episode is automatically downloaded into your library ready for you to listen to when you're doing the school run. I hear from lots of parents who tell me their children listen along in the morning too. Or maybe your dog walk your run. Or maybe you have a cuppa on the sofa. Thank you in advance back to the podcast. This is episode 148. And today's episode, are we too soft part two, I'm continuing on from the previous episode Episode 147, where I shared my top three tips, you'll remember that I was sort of discussing this idea about whether the pendulum has swung a little bit too far in all of that nostalgic in my day, children, we didn't talk about well being. And you know, we had to just get on with it. Have we gone from one extreme this basically not talking about emotional health and well being to another way, becoming almost slightly paralysed by it. Because we're so scared that we might damage our children's emotional well being maybe we'll be seen as too pushy, maybe we'll be seen as on feeling and on caring. Now you will remember I shared three tips in Episode 147. And I said to you that I would really make this episode a super, super practical one, looking at some very specific ages and stages and how you can implement those three strategies. And that's exactly what I'm going to do so quite genuinely, if I say so myself, quite humbly, this is a stonker of a practical episode, where you can really take some of the things that I've talked about. And I'm going to really break it down to help you. So let's just recap the three strategies that I'm going to specifically focus on. And then I'm going to talk to you about the ages and stages that I'm going to look at. So remember the three strategies. The first one was, we should hold our children to high expectations. Remember, those high expectations have got nothing to do with academic excellence, or academic achievement. It is simply this notion of us having very clear expectations about our children's character about their behaviour, and how they approach life. Because then obviously, if we have that the academics naturally fall out with trying to think of the skills that we want to equip our children and teens with that will help them function as fully paid up members, the adult hood in a capable and competent way. So that's the first one. The second one is all about developing a sense of agency, which is crucial to our children understanding that they get to choose who they are, how they show up the results, they get not exams, that every action has a reaction. And we want to teach them to learn from these experiences. Remember, it's experiential is how we learn. And our children learn. They don't learn by being lectured to, they learn by doing. And then the third strategy that I spoke about was around creating boundaries. And these are not necessarily just boundaries around rules and regulations within your home, but boundaries around themselves, boundaries around yourself as parents, and how you model that, and how that helps your children create those boundaries. So I'm going to look at these three strategies in turn for these specific ages and stages. So really, about how do we put these in practice, for example, with a toddler, an eight year old and a 15 year old? Why have I picked these ages? And what do they represent developmentally? So let me just talk you through. So these are not specifics. If you've got a 10 year old, you're not thinking well, Maryann, you're not covering anything for my 10 year old. These are broad ages and stages of development. So let me explain what that will mean. So toddler is a child who is pre verbal, so their language and their ability to communicate is not clear cut, yet. They may well be using the odd words. They may be stringing words together, but they don't have the communication capabilities of an older child. So When I talk about toddlers, I'm talking about children who are pre verbal, who are learning to communicate and express themselves. They're beginning to sow the seeds of learning and some element of independence play is their primary way of learning. And they're using their emotions to communicate. And those emotions are likely to be unregulated at this stage. So when I talk about, you know, how we should hold our children with high expectations, and I refer it specifically to a toddler, I'm talking about, I'm speaking to any of you with children who fit that broad criteria. For some of you, that might be a toddler, for some of you that might be a four year old. So it doesn't matter. These are just stages. So that's a toddler, an eight year old. Again, it doesn't have to be specific to eight years of age, but this is a child that you have that is at school, they're beginning to understand the concept of their own capabilities. So they're beginning to develop a little bit of a self concept, who they are, they're beginning to develop their confidence, and a certain element of self reliance or non self reliance, they may not be confident, they may not be self reliant, but this is the sort of the broad areas and they are aware of how they compare to their peers. And they have got a forming friendships to these are more collaborative, rather than a younger child, or three or four year old, where friendships are much more about playing in parallel, rather than that communication around, you know, your role is this in this game, and my role is this. Alright, so


we've got what the toddler is, we've got what the eight year old is, now I've got a 15 year old. Again, it's not necessarily specific to a 15 year old, it could be a 13 year old, could be an 18 year old. But with this specific age and stage I'm talking about, they've got a greater awareness of the pressures of life, the comparison against others is pretty high, they've got a realisation that life doesn't always pan out or play out, as you'd expect, they're typically by the stage have a bit more of a rigid view of themselves and their capabilities, this can be both in a in a good way, and also in a less less good way. And they are likely to have experience a number of setbacks. And their way of tackling these may already be a little entrenched. So you may have a developmentally 15 year old, or some a child of that age, who has already had some setbacks, then maybe approaches it in a really constructive, resilient way. Or they may be very self deprecating, and then they give up. Yep, so you're getting the idea. So with each of these three strategies, now, I'm going to go through each strategy in turn and tell you Oh, that sounds very dictatorial, doesn't it tell you, I'm going to encourage you to consider these three ways of approaching it based on whether you've got a child in that toddler developmental agent stage, whether you've got an eight year old in that developmental agents age, or a 15 year old in that agent stage? And I'm going to do that for each of those three strategies. Have we got it? Hopefully, it makes sense. But it's monumentally practical, because this episode, every episode is for everyone of any age. But I'm hoping that this is going to feel even more practical and more super targeted, because you know exactly what you need to do. So let's start with holding our children to high expectations. How do we do that for a developmental toddler? How do we do that for a developmental eight year old? How do we do that for a developmental 15? Month 15 year old here goes for a toddler. Now we need to be get the beginning to think about independence and household contribution. Yep, your toddler should be doing some of this. So are they tidying away their toys after they play? Are you encouraging them to try new things, meet new people spend time away from you. So that's a really crucial thing that we tend to do, because quite often, and I can, you know, hands up to this one massively, we get so caught up in the routine, because it works really well their nap at lunchtime at time, you know, we know what they like to do, what wears them out and all the rest of it. So we tend to get stuck in that. I can just encourage you now that the more you encourage them to be slightly out of their comfort zone, not every day, but new experiences, new places, new people, the better. They are equipped later. This is all the foundational work that we get to do. So it's really important if we do that. The other thing is that if we want to hold them to high expectations, let's not race in to pick them up when they fall or when or when they become frustrated because they can't do something. Let's give them that little bit of space in order to experience that frustration and that absolute unwavering belief that they can do things. We want to praise their F But and say what we see, even if your child is completely pre verbal and isn't communicating at all, I can guarantee they will pick up on the tone and the intonation in your voice. So do not be fazed by the fact that your child may not be able to communicate in the same way. I remember this quite vividly, when my children were really young, feeling a little bit overly self conscious when I was having these conversations with them. But it is a really crucial aspect. So what we're trying to do is hold them to those high expectations in the way that we don't race in in the way that we put them in new situations and don't feel unfazed by being out of their routine, and oh my goodness, me, they might not sleep and oh my goodness, me, they might not like the food there. The more we do that with an unwavering belief, the better it is. So that's what we do with a toddler age and stage with an eight year old age and stage, we want to be instilling a really clear growth mindset belief that is based on process and not results. really crucial. The brain growth mindset is about the brain being a muscle, just like any other muscle in our body, the more we exercise it the stronger it becomes. So praise should be around effort and not results we want to use and language around personal bests, because that's relative to our child, and not a comparison to others to how they beat in their own personal best how they've done the best that they can, rather than being concerned with what everyone else is doing. We want them to take on a hobby or an interest, which they need to see through for six to 12 months, at the end of that they can continue if they want to. Or if they want to swap it out. They can, but they need to swap it out for something else, which they need to do immediately. So it's a straight swap. Because it's that part of that building that it that you know, there's high expectations around things that are not just academically based. And that sort of age and stage you should also be giving pocket money and teaching them a concept around saving some and spending some how you do that is up to you. But this is a high expectations, we are setting those expectations for when they get older, and they're living independently. And money is a huge part of that. So why are we not doing that when they're younger, I believe very strongly that pocket money should not be related to contribution, or children should get a standard amount of money, whatever that is, whatever you choose within your family, it doesn't have to be a huge amount. If they then choose to wash the car, and you want to pay them for that, then that's absolutely fine. But we should not be paying them to tidy up their bedrooms and to take the bins out and to load the dishwasher to wash up or dry up or lay the table that's part of contributing to the household, which they share with everybody else. And we shouldn't be paying them for the basic contribution. So what do we do in terms of holding our 15 year old developmentally in terms of high expectations. Now this is about we need to remember friendships and fitting in and now super important at this age and stage and the teen years are often riddled with anxiety about being liked fitting in and worries about being judged. So setting high expectations is about being empathetic to this and the drawer and the pool that has and yet having on being unwavering in our expectations of their privileges. And their responsibilities. digital devices should not be seen as a given. They are a privilege, which comes with a responsibility studying and applying themselves to their schoolwork, hobbies, friendships and commitments, they make up all responsibilities, and we have expectations of how they should conduct themselves with those. So it's this notion that there are the basic things of contribution in the home of make it you know, making good on commitments that they make, showing up being honest, being diligent with their work. And then other things are the privileges that then go on top. So that's how we hold our children to these high expectations. So hopefully that's really clear. I'm super excited to announce that tickets are now live for my inaugural it takes a village to raise a resilient adult conference. This is an in person event and I cannot wait to meet so many of you there. This conference is for you if you are a parent who wants to raise a resilient adult, if you're a teacher and educator and nanny a therapist, an aunt, an uncle or a grandparent or anyone who's invested in raising the next generation of resilient adults, head over to the website link in the show notes where you can buy your tickets now. How do we develop a sense of agency? Let's look at the toddler. Let's look at the eight year wrote, let's look at the 15 year old. So with the toddler we are building, you know, what are we doing in terms of building their emotional vocabulary, because developing a sense of agency is about understanding that you can, and you have power to make change. And the behavioural choices that you make are down to you, the but a lot of our behavioural choices come from our responses to emotions. So we want to with a young child with a toddler who's pre verbal, three year old four year old, is we want to make sure that we're building that emotional vocabulary, so that they can want to their language is more developed, be able to communicate their feelings, and then understand what behavioural choices they make from that we want to be varying their routine. So they can feel at home with change, because this is agency and that they can cope. And we're working towards self regulation, and self soothing, so we are not being the ones that jump in, in order to self regulate, we want to help them experience the emotion, we want to be labelling the emotion, I can see that you are feeling angry. And that makes your arms and hands really tight and angry, yet, we want to be really communicating and being really clear about how those emotions may show up. But we want to allow them to experience them and that those feelings may not feel pleasant, but they do come and go. So we're not racing in to remove, or to substitute the emotion, and that we're working towards our children being able to self soothe. So that's really being able to sleep and fall asleep independently. So that's how we're going to begin to make that and by giving our toddlers choices, because that creates this sense of agency, giving them choices where we can, and helping them learn from the consequences. So that's not consequences in a bad way. That's consequences from an empowering way. So that's how we begin to build that sense of agency and really young children in eight year old. So this is developmentally that might not be an eight year old, it could be a nine year old, it could be a six year old. We want to help them become self aware, by talking about their qualities and what makes them unique. They're fun, confident, they're honest, they're kind, they're generous, they're thoughtful, help them set goals regularly. Remember, we're developing a sense of agency. So we're focusing in on small steps, and celebrating as you go, win or fail. Remember, the celebration is not about the end result. It's about the process. It's part of that growth mindset that we're developing. Yep. So we want to promote a culture of trying within our homes, so that failure is seen as inevitable precursor to success. So if we fail, we fail, we fail, we know success is coming. We just don't know how often we're going to need to fail to get there. But we create that culture at home, and we model it ourselves. So we want to let our children make the mistakes. Now, basically, it's not earth shattering. If our children make mistakes with their timetables, their spelling's their SATs results. And if they're not great, it doesn't matter. They will learn more from the failure in this stage for their important exams that are more crucial to their


potentially progression into certain professions. And later, they're not crucial for everybody. But actually, if you allow and you develop that culture of trying and failing and praising the process at this stage, you will reap the rewards later. If you are too precious now, with the results being good, and not allowing them to fail, it will only amplify later. And you're not going to create the sense of agency, you may well get a child that gets the top marks in their times tables, gets top marks in terms of their SATs get top marks in terms of their spelling's, but you are not going to have a child who feels that they have agency when things go wrong with friendships or other aspects of their life where you are going to have to regulate jumping. We don't want that. And that's not going to equip them later in life. So how do we develop a sense of agency without 15 year old developmentally, so it is not your job to get your children to study? It really isn't. But it is your job to create the right environment and to help them learn how to study. Most students. In my experience. Most children and teens in my experience have absolutely no idea how to study. And they often procrastinate because the emotions they're attached to the task in hand, rather than them deliberately not wanting to revise. So for example, putting off revising often happens because they worry that they're not good enough to do Well, or they don't know how to start, or they find it overwhelming or the subject is too difficult, it's about the feelings that they attach to the task, rather than the task itself. So helping them understand what is underlying the issue builds agency, rather than lecturing to them on what you use to do or how many hours they should be studying, or God forbid, you get them to spend ages creating the most beautiful revision timetable that they will never follow. So we want to create the right environment, we want to equip them with the tools and strategies that they need to create agency, and then we have to trust that they will do it. And if they don't do it, then that still creates a sense of agency, because they are left with the consequences of it. If we keep stepping in if we are all over them, you know, what they may will get some pretty excellent results. And that might be okay, at this age and stage. But that will not equip them for what might happen later on in life it all on Ravels, we have to equip them. And that means we have to be prepared for them to fail and to fail monumentally. And that does not make us bad parents. So often around these results, particularly for big exams. I think parents, actually, I'm gonna be brutally honest, in my opinion, you may differ. But I think they're much more worried about what other people may think if their child fails, their GCSEs fails their A levels, it's almost in particularly if they've had tutors or they've invested in huge amounts of money in independent schools, it really isn't going to be helpful for your child long term. If that's the driver that then has you stepping in all of the time, because as I say, they may come out with great GCSE results and a level results, but it isn't going to equip them for the adult world and the wheels might not fall off at university, they might wheels might not fall off in their early 20s. But they will fall off. Because if they have not developed a sense of agency, if they are not responsible for their expectations. And if they don't set boundaries, then at some point, there will be an issue. Lecture over right. Number three, the last of the three, how do we encourage our toddlers and our eight year olds and our 15 year olds to set boundaries? Yeah, so with our toddler, we want to be consistent in the application of boundaries in the important areas. Yeah, the areas which relate to our family values, and the core skills that are relevant to raising resilient adults with other areas. We want to exercise some flexibility. So for example, sleep and self soothing, is something which will equip your toddler for life. So ask everyone involved in their care to be consistent with sleep routines, and not necessarily, you know, soothing them in line with them until they fall asleep. Yeah. However, if your parent in laws, or in my case, my mother wants to give your children chocolate and E numbered sweets, and they see them three times a year. Now that's different from my mum, she saw them much more often. But you know, if you have those sort of situations where they're seeing them not that often, then I'm good with that. You get the point where the values where it's part of your core values, honesty, integrity, self regulation, agency boundaries, then of course, be really consistent and rigid with everybody who's in who's supporting your child's upbringing, about those, but where they're, they're not as crucial, then I think we ought to exercise a little bit of flexibility because I think that that's also a useful aspect of children being able to see that boundaries can be different in different situations. So that's boundaries for our toddler boundaries for our eight year old. Be intentional with what is permissible and what isn't permissible in your home. Do not be afraid to say no. And be mindful of decisions that you make around leniency because you are feeling guilty. Maybe you're working too much. Maybe you've been short fuse, maybe something's awful has happened recently. Yeah, these create bigger issues which you will find more difficult to unravel as they get older. If you have a child who worries or shows a lack of confidence or difficulties in new sit situations or poor emote emotional regulation, now is absolutely the best time to resolve it. This is the time that we should be investing all our energy in resolving it setting goals in promoting agency putting them in More difficult situations that create a little bit of stress now is not the time to avoid, or to wrap them under cotton wool. And I'll tell you why most of the children and teens that I work with, we can identify that the issues have all date back to this particular age and stage of development, there is something around the sort of six to eight year old, that seems to be a really crucial part, in that developing that sense of self, that self belief, confidence, all of these other things. So this is such an important area, and such an important age and stage, if you already have a child who is lacking in confidence or struggling to emotionally regulate, or maybe they are already confident and resilient. But we still want to keep on that. So that we make sure that we equip them best for life. How do we set boundaries with our 15 year olds? Now you, you do that, because you remember that you want their best friend, communication should be respectful adult to adult, but with clear boundaries. Yep. So we're communicating to them around, I understand that this is really important to you. However, these are the boundaries and the rules within our home and we'll go to work to find a middle ground within that. Modelling good boundaries yourself with your work with your partner with your friends will help your teen do the same. And what I would also add given that our teens are going through a huge period of time where they're worried about judgement, and they're self deprecating and they're worried they want to fit in, they want to be like everyone else is Be mindful of your own critical language and practice self compassion, verbally. Yeah, how you talk to yourself, and what you say about yourself, they will pick up on and then the last thing around the boundaries with the with our 15 year olds as create device free time and space in the house regularly and for all of you. So my gift, that's a lot of information in this a lot of information, you probably want to listen to this episode maybe a couple of times. But my gift this week is the same template as I shared with you in Episode 147, which is all about auditing the three strategies first, so understanding where your child is relative to these now, which I asked you to do in the previous episode. And now that you've got the practical how to choose from this episode, wherever your child is in their developmental area in those three stages, you can now complete that resource and what you're now going to do so you've all you can audit, and now you've got the practical how to use so use the resource as a working document to refer back to regularly update it, we audit and use it. It's the most powerful tool that you can imagine. So really use that. to grab your free copy, head over to my free resource library. Talk to Mary forward slash library where you'll find the link to download the resource. All you need to do if you haven't done so before is popping your email address and you'll get instant access not only to this week's resource, but all the other free resources across all my podcast episodes as ever. If you have enjoyed this episode, I would love it I'd be eternally grateful if you could follow rate and review this podcast so the others can find us and we can spread the love. So until next time





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