How to cultivate interdependence
in your family
December 5, 2022
[Kyle]: In today's podcast we're gonna talk about interdependence and how to grow that in your family. What does it mean to be an interdependent family and how do you get there?
[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 57 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: And I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: And in today's episode, Sara, we want to talk about interdependence. We're following up on that conversation we had a few episodes ago about codependence and Independence, but first I want to say happy thanksgiving, happy holidays to everybody. We just finished up a beautiful thanksgiving time here in Tulsa, we got to host this year. That was fun, right?
[Sara]: Yeah, that was fun. A lot of fun.
[Kyle]: And we really enjoy getting a chance to host our family here at our house and then, also had some friends stay as well and our kids got to play with their kids and they're great friends. So, I hope everybody had a really great time. Hopefully you were able to use the tips we gave you in the last podcast about getting through the holidays and hopefully, it being a more positive experience. So, we'd love to hear your feedback on that. You know, Sara and I have gotten a chance to speak several times since our last recording. We've been able to do some schools, some churches. We've got some more set up this coming spring. So, I want to throw out to all of our listeners, if you've got a faith-based community that you'd like us to come speak at or a church, a school, you know, where we can come speak with parents, teachers, talk to them about the brain and the science of the brain, how best to help kids learn these skills that we've been discussing. We're welcome to do it all over the world, right?
[Kyle]: We haven't done it internationally yet, but that would be a lot of fun if we did it.
[Sara]: Oh, one time we did.
[Kyle]: Oh, that's true, we did. We did it in South Africa that one time.
[Kyle]: So, we're open to doing it all over the world, so we wanted to throw that out there, just so nobody thinks we're just limited to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We would love to help families and schools and churches and other kind of faith-based communities all over the world. So, I just wanted to throw that out there.
[Kyle]: So, today's conversation I think has been really vital for us in raising our kids with this idea of interdependence, you know? So, I first want to define interdependence, is that all right?
[Sara]: Yes, that’s good.
[Kyle]: Okay. I know you did a great job defining codependence and independence, but interdependence I found this definition, I liked it. It’s “interdependence is a relationship between multiple parties that depend on each other to strive”. It means that each party has something the other party needs, okay? So, it means that each party has something the other party needs, I think that's the most crucial part that I wanted to point out. If you could-- Do you mind real quick just reviewing codependence and independence?
[Sara]: Okay. Yeah, so codependence is sort of an imbalanced relationship. So, it's where one party really needs the other in an imbalanced way. So, it's “oh, I need you, I need you, I need you. I need you to do this and help me feel good” and a lot of times there's a very psychological emotional element to it, it's not just a physical-- You could say a codependent relationship, we've mentioned this before with a baby, right?
[Sara]: They really do need you, that's different. This is where right now, we're more focused on the codependent relationship, that would be less “if you just need me to make you happy, so I better do this and this to keep you happy or you're going to blow up” or things are very imbalanced in a relationship. “I’m carrying much of the load and you're not” and yeah, we're kind of hooked into this dynamic.
[Kyle]: Or there's all this fear too of if I don't do this, it's going to make you mad or make you sad.
[Sara]: Yes, or abandonment. It' very based on fear of you leaving or “and then I won't be needed”, those kinds of dynamics threaded all through.
[Kyle]: That’s great, yeah and the independence, how would you say that?
[Sara]: Independent. Well, I mean, that word carries a lot of weight in our society in a lot of different definition, but just that “I’ve got it, I can do it”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, “I don't need you, I can take care of it”.
[Sara]: In this case we're discussing independent in that “I need nobody because I’ve got it all, it's all on me”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and once again just, you know, just real quick touching upon what we talked about in the previous one is, these are natural parts of growth, right?
[Kyle]: They're not necessarily bad or good, they're just parts of growing as a human being, you know?
[Sara]: And you'll see those-- Sure, and I think some of it, it just happens, right? That you might have moments in your life where it looks more like this or more like that.
[Sara]: And we're just here to discuss “here's this interdependence”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, we want to add the interdependence there because I think lots of times, at least the families we talk to, it's almost like we said in the other podcast, from the time the kid is born, there is this sense of neediness, you know? That comes with that codependence and so, they're trying to help the kid become independent, you know? So, they're constantly finding ways to do that and that's all great and natural, you know? The kid naturally learns to walk and they learn to go make their own breakfast and they learn to fall asleep on their own or they learn to, you know, do all types of stuff. They go to school and they're away from you, they're learning all types of independent things, but what I want to emphasize is, I think a lot of families don't realize that that's not the end game, you know?
[Kyle]: The end game-- If that is the end game, what happens is you have kids that go off to college and you're not really ever talking to them again, you know? They're off doing their own thing, they're making their own life and you rarely see them or have any in-depth conversations with them and I know a lot of parents we speak to fear that, you know? That the kids will go off. So, there's part of them that they're proud of the fact their kids are independent and they're proud of the fact that their kids aren't always saying “mom, mom, dad, dad, dad, dad”, but then there's something in them that says like “wait, but I still think I should be a part of this, you know? I still think-- Are we co-creating this together or is the goal just we go our separate paths and we just see each other on the holidays? Is that the idea?” or is there a real sense of “we bring something to your life that is still important”, you know? And the kid knowing that, that there is still something I need from you. Not in a codependent way, but an interdependent way, you know?
[Kyle]: So, I wanted to really emphasize this in this podcast, to kind of help parents be thinking about that, “what is it that each of you in the family bring to the table that is necessary for each of you to be able to thrive as a family”, you know? So, I’m thinking about, you know, there was a time, Sara, Dr. Becky Bailey talked about this at her conference when I did this with “Conscious Discipline”, how there was a time back in the 80s and 90s when you and I were growing up, where there was a real emphasis on finding out what made kids special, you know?
[Kyle]: And it seemed like there was-- It seemed like there was something good about that, it seemed like it was better than shaming kids all the time about what they're lacking and how they're not good enough and so, there was this-- You know, you hear a lot of jokes about everybody getting a trophy in the soccer game or the football game, whatever it is. Everybody gets a trophy and it's like is everybody's special, you know? And there was this sense that there's something that isn't quite good about this, quite healthy, you know? And what Becky Bailey was emphasizing was, what it did was create this isolation for everybody. Like, instead of when you shine a light on people being special, it actually separates people, it doesn't bring them together, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, instead of looking at what is special about the kids, because I think that does create more sibling rivalry, it does create more competition to be the special one. As I’m saying, I’m thinking of The Lego Movie, the guy being the special one.
[Sara]: I think it's almost something-- I’m going to interrupt just for a second, because it is-- I think it's something just to sit with for a moment, how it does create that separation and it creates a lot of pressure. Because you know, it reminds me of where there's an award for “okay, most unique, most--”, you know? Took the longest or--
[Kyle]: That’s right, yeah.
[Sara]: And it creates kind of this very “I’m special because of this identity” and a lot of times there's almost an anxiety of “oh, I need to have this identity, I really need to cling to this” and creates this “you're you and I’m me and here's my identity and my specialness”.
[Sara]: And if we just sit and think about what that does in a community, a school, a family, a business. What does that create is, I’m sure we've all walked through and can think of examples of what that is, when “oh, you know, that co-worker so and so, they're special because they're blah--”, you know? This identity about them.
[Sara]: And it does create this not coming together, but growing apart--
[Kyle]: It creates a distance, yeah. I can see-- The audience can't see it, but you're doing this thing with your hands where it's like, it's creating a distance, right?
[Kyle]: And it does create almost codependent type thing “I’m always wanting people to see how special I am and I want them to notice how special I am”, you know?
[Sara]: It's really focused on needing to be that all the time.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, and it does lead to-- It doesn't lead to how are we using that together, right? You know, and what I saw it did, Sara, when I was a school counselor and I was kind of had this thinking, I would look for the kids who are doing what I asked and I’d really point out and shine a light on those kids and you saw other kids do one or two things. Either they tried to be like that kid or they hated that kid.
[Kyle]: It was one of those. Either all like “I don't want to be like that kid, you know? Because that's the teacher's pet” or it's like “oh, I want to be that kid because now, you know, Mr. Wester is seeing him and likes him and he looks like--”
[Sara]: Yeah, “I want that spotlight shine on me” and then the other kids are like “well, that's hopeless”, that so-and-so is gonna do that.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and even though I did that and a lot of times when I was doing classes with kids, there was something in me that just felt tainted, it felt kind of kind of icky, you know? And so, that's why I really loved it when Becky Bailey talked about it. It's not about kids being special, it's about seeing what is unique in them. That every kid has some unique talent, strength, characteristic, that is necessary for that classroom, you know? For that family and a lot of times that's what the kid is trying to find out, the kid's saying “what do I bring to the table?” Not that makes me valuable, not that makes me more lovable, which is what the special-- But it shines a light on why bringing some to the table is meaningful, you know, that is helpful to the greater good of this classroom or the family, you know?
[Kyle]: And I really think that's what kids are hungry for, kids want to do and be seen as being helpful and doing something meaningful.
[Sara]: Yeah, because we all want to feel like we're of value, right? We have-- We're important to the group for a reason and it feels really good to know “oh, I need to be here because this is what I can contribute and so-and-so's here, because this is what they bring and you're here because this is what we-- And together we build this beautiful community”.
[Kyle]: Well, as you're saying, I’m even thinking like what it does when you focus on what is unique about each kid. Like, I’m thinking I have a friend who's 6'6 and that's unique about him, you know? Like I’m 5'9, he's 6'6. So, the strengths that he brings to the table just by being 6'6 and I could never and so, I’m not like “oh, how do I become him?”. Like I can't possibly do that and so, when you focus on what is unique and how these differences in the kids, these unique characteristics. When you focus on that, you see those differences are the strength of the family. It's not-- The goal isn't for everybody to be the same or all have the same special qualities, you know?
[Kyle]: The fact that my friend is 6'6, he can do things that I just can't do and I think that's awesome and so, if I need someone who's 6'6, I go ask my friend. I don't go try to be 6'6, you know? I don't try to be like-- Let's say you have a kid who's really outspoken and loud and you have another kid who's quiet. The quiet kid shouldn't try to be the loud kid and the loud kid doesn't necessarily need to be the quiet kid, right? Is there's some that are comfortable with speaking, some that aren't. Some that are more talented athletically, some that aren't. Some that-- You know, all these unique qualities, you know? Some are just more naturally empathetic, other ones aren't as much, you know?
[Kyle]: So, finding out what those unique qualities are, it gives each kid an opportunity to bring those unique qualities to the family and then we can all thrive more in using those together.
[Kyle]: And so, I think when you look at a book, you know, I’m thinking of that book, Sara, by Daniel Pink called “Drive”. He talks about how kids naturally, all Humans naturally want to do meaningful work. They want to know what they do and how they can contribute to something bigger than them, okay? And so, we want to help our kids be able to see that. So, let's talk about specifically in a family, how can a family do that? How can we help our kids, you know, kind of call that out of them? This deeper more meaningful work that they bring to the table.
[Sara]: Well, I think we-- Sorry. We need to start with just even making our own list, you know? I mean, you can sit and think “what do I bring to the table?”, it's probably the easiest, right?
[Sara]: But then then think about-- Before I would love to have a conversation with our kids, but start out by “I need to go down my list of what does so and so bring to the table” and really spend some time focusing on what I see them bringing to the family, that I would really miss if they weren't there and then I would make sure I have that list in my head and then, I’d even have a family meeting, something fun and get together and talk about and invite them to be a part of that, what do we each bring and not where you're talking about you, but each person is talking about the other members of the family. And saying “oh, well, I like Abby how she brings such and such. She does this and she does that”.
[Sara]: Maybe you have a kid who loves to cook or maybe you have a kid who's more organized or makes plans or I mean, my oldest daughter really loves to plan. So, she's helping plan our trips coming up and then, our son loves research, so he is full of information or would love the task of “go find out more about this”.
[Sara]: And so, he would do that. I mean, there's all kinds of different things, you know? That that you could talk about, but participate together in a conversation about what each person brings and why they're important to the family.
[Kyle]: Well, and the word I’m thinking about that goes along with this idea of interdependence, is just noticing everybody, right?
[Kyle]: I think if we just spent some time, everybody listening to this would just spend some time noticing each other, noticing your spouse and what I mean by that, is it's different than judging and we spend a lot of time judging, you know? Like that kid brings that to the table and it's so annoying. It's really easy to see what somebody brings that we don't like, it's really easy to see that. We spend most of our time noticing that, but instead looking around thinking “man, I love that they bring that to the table” or “that's something-- That's a gift I don't have” or “that's a skill I struggle with”, you know? I remember even meeting you, Sara, when we first were dating. You have this amazing way of listening to people, I had never seen it. I remember having so many conversations where I would be talking to you and then I would ask you what your thoughts were on what I just said and you said “I don't know” and I said “what do you mean? You haven't been thinking about it?” and you like “no, I’ve just been listening to you”. Like, what are you talking about? Like, I never met another human being who sincerely you just were listening to what I had to say. Whereas when you were talking to me, I was always thinking about what to comment back on or what to say back to you, you know?
[Kyle]: And I remember thinking just in dating, I don't have this skill, I really want to learn better how to do this and it's never something I’m going to do as good as you, but it's something I really admire about you and I really think is just unique about you and everybody I know who gets to talk to you, they get to experience that same thing of being truly heard and it's something you bring to the table, you know? I think it's really great and as I noticed that about you, I just admired you more and then as we brought that intentionally to the kids and begin to sit back and I’d encourage all the families to do that, you're going to have some time this holiday season. It's going to be easy to see all the annoying things, trust me. All the frustrating things are going to be easy; it's going to be easy to judge all the things the kids are doing wrong and your spouse isn't doing the way you want to. It's so easy to do, it's the default that we do.
[Kyle]: But instead, I would encourage you to spend some time just sitting back and noticing what is that beautiful thing that they bring-- That like in a faith-based way, Sara, we would say like “I believe God put our kids in our family to help grow us as much as we're there to grow them”. There's things--
[Sara]: Yeah, and each other.
[Kyle]: Yeah, there's things that we just won't ever do as good as them and there's things they're never going to do as good as us. That we all come together, we're better, we're stronger together than we are separate, you know? And so, I just would encourage families to see that and notice it, just like you did with Abby or Brennan in seeing those different strengths, you know? What is that meaningful thing that, really unique quality that really brings the family closer together? And I want you to talk about, Sara, when you do that, I really think it's an antidote to sibling rivalry, you know? Wouldn't you say? Like, instead of kids turning against each other, they're able to be for each other and be with each other.
[Sara]: Yeah, I think it can real-- I think there is that line of if you get into a lot of praise, right? Then kids are going “oh, you're praising them for that”.
[Sara]: And “oh, will you praise me for something?” and there can be that sibling rivalry and the insecurity that can come and you want to create where we're all for each other, we're a team and we use that phrase a lot where we're for each other and we try to develop an atmosphere where we're all sort of cheering for each other. We can all notice-- Do you see how so-and-so is doing this or do you see how they're doing that and we're doing that noticing and we're doing it as a team and we move around and notice different people in the family and what they're all contributing and we do things together and contribute and it's something where I think, you shine a light on just the process of it and so, then we all feel secure that we're all a team together, all making our contribution.
[Sara]: It's not just this person or that person, but just that we're for each other, we're a team, we're rooting each other on, we're noticing what each person brings to the family, we are a community and that's just an atmosphere that you form in your home and just like you would in a workplace or anywhere else.
[Kyle]: Well, it's so encouraging and as you think about that, when you're talking about the praise stuff. I know a lot of families, Sara, when we're talking to families about this, they are dealing with a lot of that sibling rivalry, where the kids have been praised a bunch for how special they are and the kids are like fighting like cats and dogs to get you-- I think what they're wanting is get you to notice them, get you to see them, you know? Get you to smile and feel Joy about them, you know?
[Sara]: They're all wanting-- We're all needing love and that becomes associated with “oh, you love me”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. I mean, even think about it in marriage, I mean, if there's something particular you kept highlighting that some other person did and you really loved that about that person, I think I’d feel this tension in me to be like “should I be that person? Do I need to be that person? Because she seems to smile every time she talks about that quality. Should I get that quality?”, you know and so, I think a lot of people when they're doing the praise and they're doing the special, it's kind of backfired because it's caused more of this. So, what we're talking about is about encouraging, is about noticing. It's not about necessarily what they do, but it's about who they are, you know? I mean, part of it is what they're doing, but it is a more deeper type thing. I’m thinking of a story where this-- As I started trying to notice Abby for instance more, is Abby as a little kid had these big, big emotions and sometimes she would be super like, just want something so bad and she'd have these big emotions around it and it would really frustrate me and I remember one time we were at a church picnic and it was hot and Abby, we--
[Kyle]: I just had a big conversation about her wanting sugar too much and asking for too many sugar things and I remember that day at the picnic, she came she came up to me and she said “wow, dad, it's sure it's hot out here, isn't it?” and then she was probably like five years old at this point and I said “yeah, it is, Abby”. She goes “do you know what would be great on a hot day?” and I said “no, Abby, what's that?”. She said “a popsicle, a popsicle would taste great” and at first my thought went to judgment. I was like “oh my gosh!”. Like, all I saw was just this weakness, this grossness in her that she can't seem to stop wanting sugar so much, you know? But instead, I shifted it and I just said “Abby, that was awesome, that was super creative, you know? I want you to do this. I’m going to walk over to our friends over there and I want you to say that whole thing, but add like, wipe your forehead as if you're sweating and like, make it really dramatic, right?” and I didn't even say “no”, all I did was said “let's do this, let's go do--”.
[Kyle]: She went over there, she did the whole thing even more drag, the friends were laughing. The whole popsicle thing was dropped, you know? And then what was even funnier, was then as we walked to the car, Sara, an ice cream truck pulled up and Abby just looked at me and said “dad, what are the chances? It looks like it's a sign, you know?” and what I did, is I looked at her and said “Abby, I love your persistence, I love that you fight for what you want. Let's go in the car and talk to Mom about that” and once again, I didn't even have to put this like “no, we're not getting this!”. She was encouraged by the fact that I saw I was encouraged.
[Kyle]: I didn't see this as a deficit, I saw this as a strength. We still didn't get the popsicle, we didn't get any ice cream, but we went home and we had smiles on our faces and we were laughing about how Abby fights for what she wants and I loved it and Abby still today is that kind of kid, you know? And I love that I’ve kind of wired my brain to see Abby that way and not see that as just a weakness, you know? To see it as a strength of hers.
[Kyle]: So, what I would challenge families to do just over this time and to just be thinking is, I want you to spend time really noticing what is unique about each person the family, what do they bring to the table that the family needs. This isn't just what they do, but who they are, okay? And I would like you to maybe start making this a regular conversation over this holiday time, where you kind of present this and like you were saying, Sara, even have that amongst each other with the siblings, you know? I just want you to notice what some things you really enjoy about your brother or sister, what's some things you really think that I bring. So, I wanted to wrap this up by saying I think this could be helpful over the holidays, seeing the differences not as weaknesses and not judging them, but instead seeing the differences that each of you bring to the table as not only strengths, but they're necessary to create interdependence in our family. That this family would not be the family it was intended to be without these unique characteristics in each of us.
[Kyle]: So, I wanted to say like, I kind of mentioned a little bit, what you bring to the table about the listening, right? So, I wanted to elaborate a little bit more about what you and I notice about each other as couples too, what the unique things that we bring together as a couple and as parents.
[Sara]: Yeah, it's a great starting point, because if we can do it here, then it helps us build this scale for doing it with our children and you know, I always think-- When I look for opportunities to even mention it with the kids, because then we can just, you know, the modeling of “oh, let's look at what the other person brings, let's look at how we come together as a community to live together in a hopefully best way”, right?
[Sara]: As we can and you know, I’ll mention it to the kids a lot and I think a lot of with you is, I know you're going to go after what you want. So, you just highlighted that for Abby, but I know that you will go after what you want and I will often lay those things aside, but I love how you know what you want and you pursue it and I know you're going to get things done and most the time, other than our fire extinguishers, I know that you will-- If I say “hey, can you take care of this?”, it's done, I don't even give it a second thought, I know it's done and I know that you are great at conflict resolution or conflicts where conflict really stresses me and I feel it to the core of my being, but for you, you're like “uh huh, conflict. Let's go” and you're willing to jump out there and bring resolution to it and have the conversation and you're so bold and brave about those things and I could go on and on.
[Sara]: But in a community, those are really great, I appreciate it. I appreciate that you're gonna take care of these tasks for the community and if there's a conflict in our community, our family, you're gonna jump in and help, you're not going to shy away from that or bury it under the rug and you know, I highlight these things because I see how they play out in our family and how they help our family.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and I would say, of course, there's a long list for you as well, but the listening is fantastic. Your ability to see things and organize them and break them down, I’m a much big picture thinker and you see all the details. You are sweeter and kinder and gentler than I think I could ever be. So, you are so nurturing and empathetic and man, those early years, I learned especially so much on how you were with babies and nurturing their brains and helping them and I loved how you would fight for them, when times when I’d be like “oh my gosh”. All of this weakness from the babies, all the neediness was getting to me and you taught me how to just let go of that and just let them be needy and hold them and all those-- So many sweet moments came because I saw you do it and then I tried to just like “okay, how could I do a similar thing in my own personality?”, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, we're just modeling this to you as a couple and say this is what I’d love for you guys to do with your spouses, if you have the opportunity. To sit down and just notice that and you know, what I would say, Sara, what we're growing here is fondness and admiration for each other, you know? I used to think a lot of-- Some of these things that you mentioned that I do well when you didn't do them well, I would judge you for those. I would think “why isn't Sara doing it the way I would do it?” and this is how we tend to get as couples and we get it with our kids too and so, like “wait, Sara's not meant to be me, that's gross. Like, Sara should be Sara and I want to know what makes her uniquely her and what is it that I fell in love with initially when we're dating is these unique qualities, it's the fact that you're not me”, you know? I didn't fall in love with myself, I fell in love with somebody who's a lot different than me, you know? And so, I think it's really cool when you can do that amongst each other's couples and model that. Like you said, even we say this out loud to the kids a lot, like “your mom does this great” and you know, this-- And we try to have those be more of the conversations. It's not that we never say negative things, of course we do at times, but we try to make those positive ones, those shining a light and unique qualities more often than not.
[Kyle]: So, just encourage you to be doing that as the holidays are coming up, maybe you'll have some time. I know it's a busy time, but have time to just slow down and just notice these things and talk about these in your families. So, I hope this information is helpful to you. I would ask you to go on the podcast, we'd love to get, you know, a five-star rating from you. We'd love for you to share this podcast and we'd love to hear how this is helpful, maybe how it changes some dynamics from you and you can always go to our website at parentinglegacy.com. There, if you wanted more in-depth coaching, you can always schedule that and we also have courses and other things online there to help support you and your family.
[Kyle]: So, hope this episode was helpful to you and just hope you have a great holiday season as you're going through this busy shopping season.
[Sara]: We appreciate you.