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Episode 60

Are family rules

December 26, 2022

[Kyle]: In today's podcast we're gonna talk about a magnificent quote and we're going to discuss rules and talk about how to use relationship instead, as the way you influence behavior.


[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 60 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: We've reached 60, that's kind of cool, right? You know, we recently got some cool feedback from the podcasting, you know, place that gives us feedback about the podcast and they shared the top five countries people are listening to our podcast.

[Sara]: Fun. Yeah, that was really fun.

[Kyle]: I know.

[Sara]: Interesting, yeah.

[Kyle]: So, we were kind of surprised. Number one was not surprising; it was the United States. So, thank you all the U.S listeners. Number two was kind of surprising, it was Spain.

[Sara]: Yeah, it’s awesome. Yeah.

[Kyle]: I mean, I did not know people were listening to the podcast in Spain, but if you are, hello or hola and then, number three was-- I think it was United Kingdom. That's right, United Kingdom.

[Sara]: Oh yeah.

[Kyle]: Number four was Germany and number five was Australia.

[Sara]: Okay

[Kyle]: So, how cool is that? And I got another one that said we're like, in the top 50 of parenting podcasts in Egypt, which is pretty cool. So, anyway. So, we just love reaching the world with these healthy ideas about parenting. So, please share them to whatever country you want to share them to and hopefully, they'll be able to understand what we're saying. But yeah, so just share the podcasts, we'd really love for you to continue spreading the word. Hope you had a fantastic Christmas over the weekend and we're going into a happy New Year. So, hopefully these weeks are really fun and so, with this particular podcast, we wanted to build upon the last two we've done with boundaries. Because I thought during this season, you're gonna be home with the kids a lot probably and with that, can provide a lot of opportunities for fun.

[Kyle]: A lot of great memories. But it can also provide a lot of conflict, you know? A lot of frustrating moments.

[Sara]: A lot's going on and when you have a lot going on--

[Kyle]: Yeah, of stress.

[Sara]: Yeah, even good stress can yield conflict.

[Kyle]: Yeah, traveling--

[Sara]: We're all together doing a lot of different things.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Siblings are together more, maybe than they usually are.

[Sara]: Tensions rise.

[Kyle]: Yes, it's also-- Maybe it's cold or the weather's keeping you indoors.

[Sara]: Maybe, depending on where you're at.

[Kyle]: Yeah, that's true, yeah. So, I was thinking, Sara, I wanted to specifically dive into this quote by Dr. Becky Bailey that I think is really helpful. I remember when I heard this quote, it really helped me shift how my brain was wired through my childhood, okay? That I think a lot of parents when they come in to talk to us and see us and ask for help, I think this quote is one that I use pretty frequently, okay? So, the quote is this “rules don't govern behavior, relationships do”.

[Sara]: Amazing

[Kyle]: So, “rules don't govern behavior, relationships do”. When you hear that, what does that mean to you?

[Sara]: Well, it means that at our best attempts to create the perfect list of rules for the classroom, the home, wherever we may be. Even society we see this is true, we create these magical lists of rules, but that isn't going to work and we see it fail time and time again and people break the rules time and time again and that we should be looking at relationships to guide behavior, instead of our magical list of rules.

[Kyle]: Why do parents, teachers, why do they tend to keep making rules? You know? Even though they see it over and over again [Unintelligible], it continues to fail--

[Sara]: We keep trying.

[Kyle]: Then the kid continues to break it and they continue just to try to make new rules.

[Sara]: Oh, it’s because they're worded wrong.

[Kyle]: Yeah, that's right. I didn't say the magic rule, yeah.

[Sara]: No, that's-- Actually, I remember early on, I learned how to make a really good list of rules in one of my trainings and it was even how to word the rules to make them better rules.

[Sara]: And though some of that-- There's definitely benefits to that. I’m not throwing all that out.

[Kyle]: There's better ways to say it than others, yeah. And I think what you're saying is, back when we first were counselors, it was like, instead of--

[Sara]: “Do not” it was “do”.

[Kyle]: “Do”, that’s right. So, it was this idea of “okay, guide them” and that is better.

[Sara]: It is, it is.

[Kyle]: Instead of stopping behavior, it's guiding behavior.

[Sara]: I still try to speak from that way. I’m gonna direct instead of say “stop”. I’m going to try to direct them into a behavior. Another podcast, but that's all good stuff. But we see that still fail and it's because we need relationships.

[Sara]: And if you are in a relationship with a child, that's going to be far more successful in getting cooperation and moving in a certain direction, than just something-- Just a list of rules.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yes. So, a kid who has a good relationship with you is much more likely to be cooperative.

[Sara]: Just like we are. If you have a good relationship with a boss, a good relationship with a friend, a spouse, then when they're asking or telling something that they want from you, you're much more likely to go “yeah, definitely”. Even if it's uncomfortable for you.

[Sara]: If my friend, we were gonna go to lunch and she wants to go to this restaurant. She just loves it and I don't really care for the food there, but I love my friend, let's go.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, you know, and you saying that though, I’m even thinking of this quote, how could this quote apply to marriage? Right? Like, I’m thinking we don't set rules on each other.

[Sara]: Right. Well, I mean, we should try and it's--

[Kyle]: That’s what I’m saying, but it'd be so weird--

[Sara]: It wouldn’t work very well.

[Kyle]: You'll be like “what is the rule? You just broke the rule. I told you not to do this and you did”. Instead, it's about the relationship, you asked me to do things or I ask you to do things differently or whatever and we do that, because we care about each other and it's the relationship that is the more compelling, you know, piece of that discussion, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. “Please talk-- I want to be talked to this way or I don't like this. When you do this, I don't like it”. What's going to invite you to change that is the relationship with us. If we're a lot of tension between us, you're much less likely to go “all right, all right, I can do that” or “I’ll stop doing this”.

[Sara]: Even because you matter to me and so, it's the same thing with children. If we matter to them and they feel like they matter to us, they know that they matter to us, they're much more likely to gonna-- To do something we're asking than just a magically written [Unintelligible]

[Kyle]: Well, and if you've been listening to this podcast at all, the reason why we call it the Art of Raising Humans is we're trying to do sustainable things with our kids, that work in all relationships, you know? And so, just like--

[Sara]: And carry through life.

[Kyle]: Yes. So, just like it would be weird for you to set rules on me as your husband, you know? Because even in that, you can hear though like, if you were to set rules on me, it's like you're trying to control me.

[Kyle]: You're trying to tell me how to behave, right? And I would have the same response that lots of the kids I see in in the practice, the kids I’m helping and coaching, lots of their same responses. I typically see one of two things happen, either you have a kid who goes “oh, yeah, I can't do that bad thing because my mom and dad set this rule and if I did that thing, then something bad will happen to me”, right? So, it's typically like, “if I break that rule, I’m gonna lose my phone. If I break that rule, I can't go see my friend”.

[Kyle]: So, some kids will see it as “oh, without that rule, I probably do a lot of bad things. I’m glad they have that rule” or you have the second kid who says “I want to do these other things and that rule is inhibiting me from doing that. So, I’m going to find a way around that rule”, you know?

[Kyle]: It seems like that's the two--

[Sara]: Depending on the personality and yes.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and that's where even like, where parents will say “man, if you talk like this or you get those grades, you're going to lose your phone”. I don't know how many kids I’ve had who have multiple phones. They've got other burner phones that they keep hidden and they just pull out another phone and so, to them, they're just-- They almost feel empowered or excited to get around the rule, you know? Almost to say to their parents “haha! You think you have me, but you don't!”.

[Sara]: Yeah. I think it reminds me even of workplaces. I feel like you see this a lot more--

[Kyle]: Yes, that’s so good. Yeah.

[Sara]: There are plenty of workplaces where they do have the rules, the “clock in/clock out; you sit here; this is when this” and they have a lot of rules, but you see a lot of organizations moving in a different direction.

[Sara]: It's not so black and white, it's not so just “now this, now this, now this” and all these rules set up and they're creating a different environment that is more built on relationship and working together.

[Kyle]: So good. When you say that, I remember working for Big Brothers Big Sisters and I had this executive director, who I remember him saying back then-- The internet was kind of new, so we had like, access to these computers. So, you and I, I don't think we even had internet at our house yet, but at the workplace he would say to us “hey, I can't pay you guys what I would like to pay you. I know you-- The work you do for me is worth much more than I can give you, but what I do provide for you is a computer and it has internet and if there's things you need to use that internet for to get stuff done, then do that. As long as your work is done, feel free to do that” and I just found this great sense of freedom that there was this trust, that he wasn't telling us “You can't do this on the internet. You can't do this, you can't do--” or some companies who have-- Everybody has felt that with companies where they're constantly watching you and on top of you and they're waiting to see if you break the rules and that's that brings to the point of, when you set the rule, the point of setting the rule is not only to try to control the kids “bad behavior”, but it's also to set a consequence or some kind of punishment.

[Kyle]: So, there is this like “you did this, now this is going to happen” and it becomes a very black and white discussion, you know? If you follow the rule, you're doing good stuff. If you break the rule, you're doing bad stuff and then we're going to need to punish you, to then make sure you understand that you can't break that rule.

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: And that's the thing to me, that starts to become-- It's not sustainable within the family over time, because eventually that kid grows up and becomes an adult and the kid doesn't learn the skill that we want the kid to have, which is self-control. It is self-discipline, it is for that kid, just like we talked about in previous podcasts, to set their own boundaries, to eventually have boundaries on themselves. Like, for instance, the rule being, you know, the kids got to get a certain level of grades, the kids can't get C's or D's. I’d rather the kids set that for himself, I’d rather us have a discussion on what school is for and what kind of grades the kid wants to get and so far, in my many years Sara of working with teenagers and kids, I’ve never had a kid who didn't want to get A's and B's. Everyone I’m like “well, if I could get A's and B's, I’d love to get A's and B's” and when they sat down and talked to that kid, they might occasionally say a C because they think that class is really hard, but they wish they could get an A or B and they're-- Therefore we're not setting rules about these things, we're actually coming along and through the relationship, partnering to then get the grades they're wanting to get.

[Sara]: Well, and going back to the workplace, just think about that how you felt about that Boss, versus another boss that comes in with these rules about “this is when you can do this” and “this is how you can do this” and “we're watching you” and you know, that whole list of rules. How that felt, just you as a person. Compared to a boss that didn't come in with a list of rules, but came in with relationship and connected with you and you know, and trusted you and-- You want to work harder for that boss.

[Kyle]: You do, yeah.

[Sara]: You want to--

[Kyle]: You're more motivated, yeah.

[Sara]: Yeah, you want to help everything be successful and so, I think it's the same with kids. The list of rules accomplishes something, but when you come in with a relationship and that child wants to keep that relationship, you want to go together to make this a successful thing. A classroom, a home, whatever it is, it's going to have a different impact.

[Kyle]: Why do you think--? I mean, what do you think the reason is that parents lean towards setting rules, rather than just having these conversations?

[Sara]: I think sometimes we don't know how to have the conversation. I think the rules are really big in society, all over the place. That's what laws are really.

[Kyle]: Of course, yeah.

[Sara]: And so, it's kind of what we know and I think you see that over thousands of years, but it's what we know and so, we feel like “oh, I’ve got to create this because I’ve got to keep the kids safe--”

[Kyle]: “I gotta keep order”, yeah.

[Sara]: And I’ve got it-- Right, keep order, I’ve got to keep everyone safe and so, everyone needs to know what's okay and what's not okay, otherwise, it'll be crazy.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, and I even think like you said. You see it at places “these are our family rules”, you know? You can buy those cool signs and put them in there.

[Kyle]: And so, it seems like this is the way to have law in order.

[Sara]: And well, then you can just point back to it. “You broke the rule”.

[Kyle]: That's right, yeah, and here's the other thing, Sara. I think a lot of parents doubt the relationship will be influential enough, you know? That they don't think the kid will do it just because they've asked, they think they'll do it because there's a rule and there's a punishment if you break it, right? And that's what I really hope-- Any listener listening to this, I want you to know the most compelling influential thing you have and to influence your kid, is your relationship, you know? So many parents when I’m working with them and they set some rules, I’ll tell them “Hey, you can do that, but just so you know, that's not gonna last. Eventually, the only--" I’m thinking about this, like you said, the work environment. I know when I would go to conferences, Sara, and there would be someone speaking, someone I didn't know speaking about a topic I didn't care about. I knew the “social norms” or “social rules” is you're not supposed to be on your phone, you're not supposed to talk to the people next to you, but inevitably, everybody around me was doing that, because nobody had a relationship with this person, nobody really cared about what was being said. Whereas I realized, if somebody I cared about was speaking up there, somebody that I knew on a topic I was passionate about, I not only would keep those rules, but I would also help enforce those rules, you know? Be like “come on, guys, this is great! Let's listen up here”, you know?

[Kyle]: So, I was thinking about that in regards to work, in regards to ways in which we as adults interact all the time, how we don't follow the rules without relationship on a regular basis and so, again, we ask our kids to do the same thing and we believe somehow it controls their behavior, it keeps them from doing bad things.

[Kyle]: And I’d really like parents to trust that, who you are in the relationship you have with your kid, is the most powerful influential thing that you have in your tool belt and so, if a kid is continually doing behavior that you're not wanting them to do, for Sara and I, we would just go back again to reconnect. We've got to– You know, if you have that idea--

[Sara]: You gotta start there.

[Kyle]: I like that bank idea of like, I got to get back in the black.

[Kyle]: I gotta connect and enjoy my kid. I’ve got to remind myself that--

[Sara]: That you need the relationship.

[Kyle]: Yeah, I’ve got to remind myself that my voice matters, the kid cares what I have to say. I’m telling you; these kids care way more than you think about what you care about, you know? I was even thinking about, when it comes to rules like, for sleeping, you know? Sometimes parents, there'll be this conflict because the kid will want to stay up late and go out with their friends, right? And the parents will settle--

[Sara]: Curfew

[Kyle]: Yeah, they'll set a rule on a curfew and say “you got to be in by 11”. Now, why is the parent saying that? Well, there's a few different things. The parent is saying that because the parent wants the kid to be in at a safe time, they don't want them out late, you know?

[Sara]: Safety and want to make sure they get their sleep for school the next day, all the things.

[Kyle]: Yeah, but also the parent wants their sleep, you know? And what I noticed was, you'll have some kids who will frantically get back right at 11 because they don't want to get in trouble, right?

[Sara]: Yeah. So, it's usually a punishment coming if you're like--

[Kyle]: Or you have the other kid, who will consistently come back at 11:05 or 11:07 and then, almost be testing how serious the parents are to whether or not they get in trouble, right? Whereas what I would encourage the parents to be honest with the kid, is almost every one of the parents they want to go to bed before 11. Like, they're tired, they've got a job to do, they've got things that-- So, they really don't like waiting and waiting and waiting and stressed out about where the kid is and what's going on, you know?

[Kyle]: And I would want them to use that as the compelling reason “I want you home”, you know? Instead of saying “here's the rule. You break it, this happens”, I would instead say “Hey, what is a reasonable time that you coming home?” and the kid might say “midnight”. I say “midnight doesn't work for me, because then I’m up worrying till midnight. I would really appreciate you be home by 11, that's when I’d like. Could we agree upon that?” and then the kid-- Most of the time in session when I’m working with them, they'll be a back and forth, but eventually we'll come to an agreement on what benefits them and them trying to be with their friends, have fun, but also still benefits the parent and then what I love about that, Sara, is when the kid does come home at 11, the kid isn't coming home at 11 because he's going to get in trouble if he doesn't, he's able to say “oh, cool mom, you can go to sleep. Don't worry about it, you know? I want you to go to bed” and he feels like he's able to be helpful to his parents, to be able to get their needs met too.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. What a great example of a healthy relationship too, where going through their whole life “What are your needs? What are my needs? How can we get our needs met? What's our mutual goal here?”. I like that.

[Kyle]: Well, and I think along this line, I didn't write this on the notes, but I think along this line, something else we probably wouldn't do and never have done is with the rules, is even having like, written contracts and things like that with the kids, you know? I mean, I’m just saying that, because it gets to this idea of just, once again, we would never do that in our marriage, you know? It becomes this very black and white thing and what I would like these conflicts to do, is lead to more intimacy, lead the more closeness. I think every time these things happen, it's a chance for you to grow closer and with the rules, with the contracts, it's very much-- It's very impersonal.

[Sara]: Well, I think it distracts too, it takes away any curiosity about “oh, some boundary was crossed, some rule was broken” or something, but then you just-- That's all it becomes about and you're not really curious “what was going on? What was happening?”. I mean, going back to the curfew thing, “why were you late?”.

[Sara]: And maybe it was something real, legitimate, “there was a car accident, we were stuck in traffic” and maybe it wasn't, maybe they're just having a fun time playing video games and got off too late, but either one, those both are invitations for a conversation. But if you're just banking on that rule and “oh well, you were late”, then you don't get to have that conversation about time management or you know, “oh, you were having so much fun it was really hard to get off, what can we do?”. You lose all of that in just the “well, you broke the rule”.

[Kyle]: I know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I’m even thinking, I know some kids, Sara, who there's rules around driving and they can't-- They're not supposed to speed and they have some kind of tracking device on their phone and it says that and I’ve had kids come in who-- I mean, this is kind of how I see rules happening in families is, you know, they try to speed up to go around a vehicle on the highway and then they realize “oh no, I just broke that rule, I was speeding, you know? And now my parents are going to get an alert on their phone that I was doing that” and already that kid, the whole way home is ready for that conflict. They're getting ready to fight, they're going to be defensive and the whole way they're thinking “I’m so sick and tired of this. I’m just trying to get around and now they're going to punish me” and there's this whole back of-- And the kid isn't able just to have a--

[Sara]: So, again, you lose the--

[Sara]: Well, and you're not running to create a tension-- You're not wanting to create a tension, a lot of anxiety in the driver and stuff and instead, the kid going “Oh. Okay, mental note, I need to talk to mom and dad about this, because whenever I’m just passing someone, it does this”. Instead of thinking “oh, I want to have a conversation”. Even if they really messed up, “I didn't realize how fast I was going” or “the speed limit changed, I didn't realize it”. Instead of going “I’m gonna have to go home and tell mom and dad. Yeah, you know, I didn't realize it. Sorry”. They immediately create their defense, they're ready to have that conversation and instead of going into the relationship, it's-- They know they're gonna have to address this rule that was broken and that's not really where we want to go.

[Sara]: And that's not gonna-- As they grow older, we want them coming more to us, even if they make a legitimate mistake and you're not opening those doors, you're not creating the environment to have those conversations.

[Kyle]: Well, and even think about as they grow up, what's going to happen to these rules? You know I’m saying? Like, they're only sustainable while they're in your home and you know, underage, but once they get older, they're going to leave your house and then, how is their behavior going to be governed then?

[Sara]: And things aren't always going to go well and you're going to hope they feel like they can come to you and have just, that conversation.

[Kyle]: But even then, as they leave the house and they become an adult, I hope you want them to come back and still speak to you in a way that you like, you know? [Unintelligible] instead of saying “what's our rule?”.

[Sara]: Yeah, “the rules don't matter anymore, I’m 18.”

[Kyle]: That’s right. I know, and you'll hear kids say it “once I’m 18, I’m out of this house. I don’t have to follow any of your rules”, that's a real common complaint. I’m almost thinking, Sara, would it be helpful do you think, instead of a family sitting down and creating the family rules, but instead creating the family values? You know? What is it we value in our relationships? Like, even I’m thinking with Abby and her phone, one of the things we value is her being present, you know? And so, a lot of the boundaries placed around the phone that she placed on herself, it wasn't about “these are the rules around the phone”, it was like, “this is how we've we value your time, we value your relationship. We want you to value that stuff too and, is this tool helping you or hurting you to live out those values?”, right?

[Kyle]: You know, like even the rules of like “we don't talk to each other that way” or you know, those kind of things that parents will say. Instead, you want to value how we speak to each other. Instead of having a rule that when we eat at the table we put the phones down, I’d rather have a value that when we're at the table, we just put the phones away so we can all talk to each other, you know? And I what I see from kids on a consistent basis is, the rules feel like you're trying to control them and constrain them and--

[Sara]: Which I think is how we feel about rules.

[Kyle]: And then “if you follow the rules, you're now a better kid”.

[Sara]: Yeah. “I can get a value?”.

[Kyle]: I didn't even bring that up. when you have siblings, you have one kid who's great at following the rules and that's the kid that the parents secretly like a little bit better and then, the other one is constantly pushing against the rules and so, when you--

[Sara]: Well, even if you don't feel that way, they feel that way.

[Kyle]: Yes. You’re right, yeah.

[Sara]: They will start to form this identity of “I’m a rule breaker!”.

[Kyle]: That's right, yeah, and another one, I’ll have parents come in that this kid's a rule follower. Always follows the rules.

[Sara]: Yes, “I’m the good one”.

[Kyle]: Yes, and so, that kid--

[Sara]: Which creates its own-- Own set of struggles in life, yeah.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I would encourage you over this break, I hope this kind of gives you some things to think about as you're with the kids a lot, these rules don't govern behavior, relationships do. Spend this time that you have with them really getting money in the bank, really enjoying the kids, you know? And instead of thinking “what's the new rule we need to set in place to control their behavior?”, come alongside hand in hand to co-create some of these boundaries, these expectations, these values together as a family. What a cool time, right? It'd be great over this time before they go back to school to like, “what is it we value? What kind of relationships do we want to have? Are we as a husband and wife modeling that to the kids, those values?” and then “how are we helping them live those values out?”, you know? I think it'd be a great time to do that and just have that discussion.

[Kyle]: And so, we would encourage you once again, we'd love your feedback on these podcasts. Hope you share it, hope this helps families. We're speaking a lot this coming up soon in September, I mean, in Spring and Sara and I, are also soon going to be videotaping these. So, I think at the start of the new year, you might be able to find us on YouTube and see us actually doing videotapes of these podcast.

[Sara]: Then you can see all our hand motions [Unintelligible]

[Kyle]: Well, I definitely talk a lot with my hands, but we'd love to just make that connection with you visually. So, we help that, that would be another fun way to connect with you as an audience and we can continue helping families throughout the world. So, I hope you had a great Christmas and just want to wish you Happy New Year.

[Sara]: Thank you for listening.

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