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Episode 48

What to do when
it's not "working"

September 26, 2022

[Kyle]: In today's podcast we are going to talk about what to do when it's not working. You know what I’m talking about, come on, you felt that. We have to, we want to discuss a different way of viewing that. So, I hope it's helpful to you today.


[Kyle]: Hello and welcome to episode 48 of The Art of Raising Humans. Yes!

[Sara]: We're getting up there.

[Kyle]: Oh, my goodness, okay. Hi, I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And today we want to talk about what to do when it's not working. You know, when it's not working, when you're trying all the techniques, you think you're doing everything right and it's just not working. So, we want to hit up on that subject, but before we dive into that, just a reminder please send us any of your comments or suggestions about future podcasts you'd like us to do at We'd love to have your feedback and even if you have some testimonials, we'd love to hear those too about ways in which this podcast is helping you. We may feature some of those in a podcast later to-- Later on, you know? We may want to share some of those.

[Kyle]: Also, if you have any speaking opportunities, send them that way. If you'd like us to speak to your church or small group or school, we've got several already set up, looking forward to getting more set up in the future. So, we're just so appreciative for you listening and sharing this podcast, it continues to grow every time and that's always exciting for us. Because the reason why we do this, is to help more families, you know?

[Sara]: Yes

[Kyle]: It's fun to do it in the office we have here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but we'd actually like to reach a lot more all throughout the world, okay?

[Kyle]: So, Sara, when you-- In this idea, this-- So many parents I know come to us and say “I tried that, it didn't work”, it's a real common thing. You and I have thought that. So, we've had the opportunity to learn from some really, really smart people in the field of parenting, whether it's Dr. Becky Bailey or Dr. Laura Markham or Dr. Dan Siegel or these kinds of people and sometimes, we'll do what they tell us to do and it's like “yeah, that didn't work”, you know? And so, I want to delve into what does that mean and what to do when it's not working. So, what do you think it means? What does it mean for you when you're thinking “yeah, that didn't work”?

[Sara]: Yeah. So, we have been there many times, right? Where-- I think especially when you're parenting a different way and you're trying something new, you question that.

[Kyle]: Yeah, you have no baseline. Like when we did this, we had nobody to like “they did it and look, it worked!”. They've got fantastic kids.

[Sara]: So, there's definitely those moments where things aren't going as planned and you think “what am I doing wrong? This isn't working. I’ve been trying this, I’ve done it now and it's not creating the results I want, my child is still upset or my child still does this” and--

[Kyle]: Still not cleaning their room or they're still not picking up the dog poop or they're still not-- Whatever.

[Sara]: How come we're having the same argument or this behavior? Whatever it is, that's when I-- For me, that's when I felt like “this isn't working “or “what's going on here? Should I still continue down this road of parenting?”. You know, those moments where you pull back and it feels-- It's tough.

[Kyle]: Well, and I think fear would get into our minds like, what are we doing? You know? I mean, I put this in the notes in particular, I mean, we were parented differently than what we're doing, you know? And although there are some outcomes we didn't like, for the most part, you know, people will say this, we turned out okay.

[Sara]: Yes! No, I completely felt like, I agree and I think my parents did a great job. And I do feel like they did a great job and then, I feel like I got this new information that I thought “oh, I think this would still-- This would be-- Let's add this on, this is even better”, you know? We've learned some more things, just like you do with building houses or building cars or you know. We're always trying to learn new ways to invent and create and so, parenting is the same way. Now we have some new brain information, let's add this into the parenting model.

[Sara]: But then you get in there and you're doing this for a while and you think “wait a second, I thought some magic would happen here, why are they still doing that?”.

[Kyle]: Well, it makes me think as you're saying that, almost like a person who was part of a business and the business was successful, you know? And there's-- Definitely they made a lot of money in that business, you know? It seemed like that to the outside world, it was successful, but inside they're like “yeah, there's some things I didn't like about it, some things I wish we would have done differently. I don't know how they do it differently, but I wish would have done” and then they thought “I’m gonna start a different business, I’m gonna do it differently”, you know? And some of the greatest innovators of business, they had no blue map, blueprint, you know? They had nobody to look at and go “they did business this this way and it's gonna work”, you know? So, they had to go out and they just had to trust that if I do it this certain way, you know, that maybe I think is a little bit more healthy, you know or I’m using the new science in regards to how human relationships work and how I wanna-- How I wanna lead the business, right? A lot of businesses, you know, today that are so successful, when they first started out doing a different way, it was weird, it was different, it wasn't authoritarian. It wasn't like “the president's the boss and he tell everyone, just gets in line”. It was-- They were doing crazy stuff like, I remember reading the book “Drive”, Sara, where the company 3M decided to give everybody a Friday off.

[Kyle]: They still came to work, but they came to work, they got Friday off and they were given the freedom to just work on whatever they wanted to work on and if you could imagine when he presented that to the board, the board was like “do you know how much money we’re losing if you give everybody every Friday to work on what they want?”. But he trusted, there was a trust he had that if you allow workers to do what they're passionate about, they have more creativity and 3M today is known for what they invented in those moments and that was sticky notes, you know? They invented the sticky note and 3M is a big company. I think they do more than that, but that's their big, big thing and everybody knows about sticky notes. But that from the book, it was telling me they came up with that idea on one of these Fridays, you know? And I also heard that Google did something similar and Google Maps was invented, you know, during one of these sessions, you know?

[Kyle]: So, there's a lot of these different businesses that want you to-- But that's that would be so scary to go “look at all the money I’m losing, how can I possibly do this? And what if it doesn't work? I’m gonna look like an idiot”, you know? And I think if I can take that to a parent thing, that's what I was afraid of, because I didn't-- I mean, I wanted to have great kids, but I want to look like an idiot either.

[Sara]: Yeah, and well, we do get afraid, you know? They just have one childhood, so I better get this right. Because then they're gonna be adults and I really want them to be successful adults, because I love my children and so, I’ve got to get this going the right direction and so, all the time you're thinking “is this okay? Is this normal?” when you're doing a different thing than you were raised, the way you were raised. It's hard where's the barometer.

[Kyle]: Well, I’d love to hear from you, Sara, about when it bubbled up in you like, “this is not working”, you know? I think for me what that meant, when I said that to myself, it was for me, a couple different things. One, I was not able to control my child, you know? Like I thought “okay, I’ll do this cute little thing that Dr. Markham said to do or I’ll do this cute little thing Dr. Bailey said to do and then I should have control over my child, at that point they should be compliant ,at that point they should do” and I also wanted it to happen really fast, you know? It was like “okay, I should just have to do this like four times and then we're done, okay?”.

[Kyle]: So, there was that component. Then the second one is, I just didn't like negative emotions, you know? I wanted the emotions to go away. So, what I wanted was a kid who just felt a lot of positive emotions and so, the fact that we were doing all this really great stuff and they still got mad and still got sad and disappointed, I was like “what!? Like, let's move on from this!”, you know? So, to me, I had this weird idea that it working was us in like, bliss all the time and we're all like “Hi. How are you, daughter?” and she's like “Hi, dad. I’m great, you're the best father”. I feel like all this positive-- Every time we did a vacation, it was amazing. Every time we planned things for the kids, it always went great. There was never any disruption to my plans, you know? And I think that goes back to controlling again, but it was like, there was this thing tied together that if that wasn't happening, then this wasn't working, you know? I was losing control; I was failing at raising my kids. So, that's what it meant to me, so I’m curious, was it similar to you or did you have it different?

[Sara]: Yeah, I think that's pretty similar. When it just-- When they're little, I was okay with it and then as they got older, more expectation came into my mind about where I thought they should be or how their behaviors should be and so, anytime that didn't line up, then I would question what I was doing. I’d question “is this really working?”. Because I know at this point, this is what would have happened to me or what I would have done and that seemed to accomplish a goal and it accomplished a goal.

[Sara]: You know, but yeah, I would have any time the behavior isn't lined up with my expectation. Then that's when I question.

[Kyle]: Exactly, well said and I also-- I’m just looking at my notes, I also put this, is I don't think I actually wanted to change myself. So, I think working meant “I change you”. It didn't mean “I change me”.

[Kyle]: That was my expectation. If I do this technique, the technique wasn't to change me, the technique was to change you. So, I think even when I’m early working with some parents and we're talking about instead of yelling, being composed and like, regulating yourself. For a lot of parents it looks like, I just act calm, you know? So, I’m not really changing it, I’m still really upset. But if I can just not yell and just act calm, then the kid should also do that, you know? And they'd be like “oh, man! I actually have to like, really regulate my own emotions? I have to really compose myself? I actually have to do what I’m asking my kid to do? Oh, come on!” It's like-- So, like “I just want the kid to do it!”. Because I think my brain was so wired to that's typically the approach, not only my parents, but most adults in my life were when I was little, you know? It was just like “okay, listen. I have so much patience and then once we've crossed, I’m just gonna go back to you need to straighten up”, you know?

[Kyle]: So, typically it working as a kid for me, it was always presented as like, the parent will become patient, patient, patient to a certain extent and then the parent will get mad and you need to fall in line, you know?

[Kyle]: And so, that's where I was thinking “well, I’m not-- I don't want to be that, I’ll make my patients go a little bit further and then they should now fall in line without me getting mad”.

[Sara]: The parent isn't the one that needs to change, it's the child.

[Kyle]: Yes, and that's--

[Sara]: Right. The child is the one that needed-- Something is wrong here, it's the kid.

[Kyle]: And I was kind of sick of always hearing it was about me and I needed to change me. It was like “no, it works when the kid just changes themselves, stop blaming me for this!”.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, and that's-- This approach definitely is a lot of inner work.

[Sara]: It's that's the biggest piece.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and so, I think early on, like I said, we didn't have a road map. We heard, we read, we talked these people, we trusted, there was some trust we put in these people that we really talked to, felt like they knew what they were talking about. We looked at the science of the brain stuff [Unintelligible] and we just took a leap, right? And we kind of had to trust the process, you know? No doubt we questioned a lot along the way and we would go back and read something else or talk to somebody else, you know? Back then--

[Sara]: In the beginning especially, I remember I would read things and I would think “that's wrong”, right? That it didn't line up with what I-- What my truth was at that time, it didn't line up and so, I thought “well, that's just a skewed study” or “that's just a--”

[Sara]: You know, “That sounds all lovely, but you're gonna have problems later”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, “come in the real world”, you know? I actually, you know, we hear from a lot of parents too and some of this, even I remember when I was working with Dr. Markham, she'd say this too, that a lot of these authors-- I mean, many of them, not all of them, but many of them only have one kid too. So, lots of these authors-- So, then like, it was easy to go “oh yeah, it worked for them because they had one kid, you know? If you had two, three, four, five, that ain't gonna work, you then have to go back”. So, it really goes back to it. I want all the listeners to be thinking about this. When you're thinking it isn't working, what does that mean? What are you actually saying?

[Kyle]: Because you can make a lot of things “work”, you know? If your goal is just to control a kid. If your goal is just to make negative emotions go away, you could do a lot of things and justify a lot of things. So, I feel like for me, Sara, the thing that was-- That I was really trying to switch and this may not be true for our listeners, what they're saying, but I think I had deeply ingrained in my brain that the ends justify the means.

[Kyle]: So, for me, whatever I had to do to then “make it work” and for me that was typically use some form of fear or anger, some kind of threat, some kind of external control. If I had to use that, that's okay as long as it “worked”. Meaning I got the end outcome I wanted.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. I think that's probably accurate for a lot of people, because we think with kids, you know, “well, now they're doing their work” or “now they're going to be--” in which we take that as “now they're going to be a successful adult”, you know? But a lot of that, you know, looking back you think “well, that was a lot of stuffing emotions, a lot of hiding, a lot of--" You know, things that were buried, that kids never got to talk about. Things like that because-- “But they all looked good or they were accomplishing this thing”, right?

[Sara]: “And the ends justify the means, they look like a successful person”. A lot of people even say “look, I turned out just fine”, but then when you sit in your quiet moments and you think “am I really just fine? You know, what if that some of these things had been a little different? How would I be in my relationships with other people? How would I feel in my career? Would I be less anxious? Would I--” You know, some of those things that crop up in our adult years, some of that groundwork, it was late in our childhood.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah. Well, I’m even thinking back to the business metaphor, if a business was making a ton of money, right? And they looked like they were successful on the outside, you could easily say “the ends justify the means”.

[Kyle]: However, that person ran that business “it doesn't matter because they got success”, right? And I think that's the real-- It's real deceitful, you know? I really think it's important if you're going to approach parenting with intention and you're going to be conscious and you're going to be mindful about the kind of kids you want to raise and the kind of family you want to produce, you know, the kind of culture. I guess I’ll use that word, that's a real popular business term. If you want the kind of culture you want in your family is, for me, I had to switch that idea. No longer could the ends justify the means.

[Kyle]: The end was not the point. Although I believe the end is important, you know? Just like when we go on a road trip, Sara. We love to take road trips to Colorado. Of course, the end is awesome, I love to get to the mountains, right? But how we get there is actually more important than whether we arrive, right? I’m thinking of how many people-- We're in Tulsa. A lot of people on Sundays, families go to church, right? And it's a real classic story you hear in churches, about how the family got there, but the whole way they were screaming and yelling. There was a lot of threats “get your clothes on! Get dressed! Get to church! We got to go love god!” and this stuff.

[Kyle]: There's a lot of jokes made at church about and it was true. I know a lot of families growing up in church that that was how it was, right? And I’m sure the people who don't even go to church can like-- It's the same kind of thing of going to the grocery store with your kids or going to that fun thing-- “It doesn't matter how we got that, we just did”. No, it does. Like, how you get there is actually super important [Unintelligible]

[Sara]: So, how you get there, how your kids do wind up as adults someday matters.

[Sara]: The culture in our family, the way we take the day-to-day and so, we may not see that happen at two, but we're looking to when they're 22. And it's that big picture long term and I’m gonna keep doing that thing to yield that result down the road. A couple decades down the road. This is a long game. This isn't a short game, it's a long game in parenting.

[Sara]: And you have to, you know, that steady. “I’m going to keep doing this, I’m going to keep doing this, I’m going to keep laying this great foundation.” Sort of like a retirement fund.

[Kyle]: Oh, that's good, that's true, yeah.

[Sara]: You know, you can’t just [Unintelligible] and go “wait a second, how come I don't have a huge retirement fund?”. You keep adding to it and adding to it and tending to it and working it, to eventually get that and that's how the parenting story should be, but we often take just these little moments. “It's not working right now because this thing I did, I empathized and they're still upset. So, it's not working, forget it!”. Yeah. We can feel-- I felt like that.

[Kyle]: Of course, yeah. Well, going back to-- I’ve also yelled at the kids and they've gotten right in line. I’m like “it worked, way to go, Kyle. Look, look at that. Occasionally they need, that a good yelling at them”, right? And so, I would justify them because I got the outcome I wanted. But you know what? It became kind of my baseline, Sara.

[Sara]: In that moment.

[Kyle]: Yeah, in that moment, that’s what I’m saying, yeah. Yeah, and lots of times I’m talking to parents, we'll talk about that, you know? That they-- Actually I had one parent who, I remember was telling me the kid would not do their homework and he's like “I tried to do the empathy thing, I tried to like, be kind and then I yelled at him and smacked him in the back of the head and he got his homework done, you know? He doesn't seem to listen until I do that!”. I’m like “well, you kind of set that up. Like, the kid doesn't think you're serious until it happens. So, even though the homework got done, you've now set up a thing where you're going to keep being that kind of dad to the kid, to then motivate the kid to do the homework”, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, stepping back at the whole big thing.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, in in doing this-- So, I try to like, Sara, maybe with our listeners, I hope they think about this too is-- Then, okay, then how do I define what works? Right?

[Kyle]: So, if I’m saying okay, I don't-- It's not just about the end outcome. Although the end outcome is important, I’m not denying that. We definitely want to raise kids who are respectful, responsible, self-discipline. That is our goal, we have that goal there. But how we get there is actually the better barometer of success, than whether or not we get there and look at it with our eyes, right?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: So, I started using as like a baseline, just the simple golden rule, treat people the way you want to be treated, you know? If I just started there. Now, obviously I can expand out of there, but if every given moment I try to think in this moment, how would I like to be treated in this moment if I was acting this way? Or how would I like this person to approach me if I was doing this thing? You know? And if I just use that as a barometer, it really helped me go back to “wait, it's not about the end outcome, it's am I being consistent with how I actually want others to treat, talk to me, interact with me, engage me?” All that kind of stuff, you know? What do you think about that as a barometer?

[Sara]: No, I love that, because sometimes it is hard when you can't predict the future. You don't have a way to know that this is getting you where you want to go, but that way, you can take each moment and say “was this moment the way I wanted to show up? Was this moment a success? The barometer for that?” and I really-- I love that one.

[Sara]: Because it's a real quick read and we know ourselves and think “okay. Yeah, I would love to have been treated like this”. If I was the eight-year-old messing up right now and someone had approached me this way, I would have loved that or come alongside me that way. So, I think in the moment, that's a great--

[Kyle]: Well, how many of us have a story of accidentally as little kids, a memory of accidentally knocking over--? The spill, the proverbial spilled milk.

[Kyle]: And a parent freaking out and yelling at you and you going “I didn't mean to do that. Like, it was a total accident. I would--" and yet, you got this whole lecture about how irresponsible you're being and all this kind of stuff and even as a little kid, you're like “I don't think you need to do that. I don't think it's--”, right? And so--

[Sara]: I’m a little kid, I spilled milk.

[Kyle]: But then as an adult, we do the exact same thing, because it's what was modeled to us, right? And so, there's all these moments if we're being honest with ourselves, we look back and yes, we turned out okay. But there's these moments we thought “I don't think it needed to be done that way” or “I think if my parents just would have handled it this way, I think I would have responded really well to that”.

[Sara]: “I could have learned and grown and built a skill”.

[Kyle]: Yes! Well, I mean, like one of the funniest memories I have is, when we would get spanked, my brother told me “Hey, when dad spanks you, you just put a wallet in your back pocket and think of something funny” and so, the idea that I was being taught anything in that moment of being punished with the spanking, all I was doing was trying to think of funny things to just get through it. So, even though it may have looked like it worked, because I got the punishment, I guess, to whatever crime I committed, I just saw it as complete nonsense. Because it made no sense to me why this was happening, you know? I wasn't thinking about how to improve as a person, I was just like “okay, how do I get through this?”, you know? And so, the ends that were being used-- I mean, the means that were being used, didn't even lead to the end outcome that they wanted to lead and that's so often what happens with fear, is it's really deceitful to believe that “yeah, it's going to somehow change things” and we just know from the brain science it doesn't. It perpetuates things, it makes it more likely that behavior happens.

[Kyle]: So, I was thinking about this in line to-- Which is another example, Sara, just like, you know, dieting. How many people listening have tried to diet or get exercise? Right? So many times, it's such a common notion that you plateau, that maybe you're eating differently, you lose a lot of weight or you're working out and you gain a lot of muscle and then you plateau and then, what do most people do? The majority of people quit, because “it's not working”. Even though we know working out does work, even though we-- There's so much science behind it. Even though we know eating healthy is always going to work, you know? Or I’m thinking of something like, a skill like meditation. So much science by meditation, right? How many people tried it, “it's not working”, right?

[Kyle]: And so, I want to encourage listeners, there's so many different areas in our life where we use this kind of, you know, kind of thinking and it gives us an out to just give up, instead of trusting the process that the working out is working. You might need to switch the way you're working out, but the working out is always going to work. The exercising is always going to be good for you, eating healthy is always going to be good for you, right? So, these things-- Meditation is always going to work for you, it's going to always lead to positive outcomes. It's really about you being able to trust the process and give yourself to it, instead of being afraid that somehow, you're taking the wrong direction or you're leading your kids or yourself down a place that isn't healthy, right?

[Sara]: Yeah. You look at the skills that you have, you know, I look at the skills I have and I think, okay, we tend to parent the way that we were parent, the way the adults in our lives interacted with us. Not even parents, could have been a coach, a teacher. We tend to approach then a child the same way we were approached in that situation and so, instead, you want to switch that to “I’m going to approach the child in the way I wished an adult would have approached me in that situation”.

[Sara]: And that's kind of to me what you're saying with the golden rule too.

[Sara]: And so, let's say, you know, I’ll throw out just a couple, you know, empathy and approaching them, listening and those kinds of things. That even though in that moment maybe I’m not getting that quick fix that I was really hoping for as a parent, because it's just so much easier on me, but I’m approaching them the way I wish someone would have come and listened to me as a child. The way someone would have empathized with me and stepped in my shoes and saw the world the way I did in that moment. The confusion or the fear or the anger I felt in that moment, instead of maybe shoving those emotions down or whatever happened.

[Sara]: But if I fall back on those, these are the skills that I believe I want to put in my child, that I want to live from in my life in any relationship, then I’m successful.

[Sara]: I’m successful moment to moment, because I am showing up in this moment the way I hope to show up and build the relationship the way I want to build the relationship.

[Kyle]: So, let's word it this way. Maybe for all the listeners, let's word it this way. So, in any given moment, I guess the baseline could be “am I treating this person, this child, my spouse, the way I want to be treated?”, that's one. Second “is in this moment, am I being helpful and am I doing something healthy?”, right? So, I think those would be good barometers too, right? Helpful and healthy.

[Kyle]: So, whatever I’m gonna do in this moment with my kid, is it helpful? Is it healthy? And is it treating them the way I would like to be treated as a child? Right? Does that sound good?

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, see, I like that. So, if you can take that down of maybe using that as a way, then your “is it working?” is different. Because even if you don't get the outcome you want necessarily, you can walk away saying “I was the human being I want them to be”, right? And that's even why we call this podcast The Art of Raising Humans, you know? Is I need to become the human I’m asking this person to become.

[Sara]: Yeah, it's kind of a-- I don't know if we've ever said this, it's The Art of Raising Humans and we think of children, but I always think too “I’m raising myself, it's the art of developing and raising myself too”. We're never done growing and learning, we all have that. Honestly, we all have, you know, people call inner child. We still-- That little kid that you were is still there, it's still you, it's still in there and it's still impacting how you live your day-to-day life and so, The Art of Raising Humans is also doing that with yourself.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, if you've been questioning lately “is it working?”, I hope we've tried to give you a different way of framing that question, to really understand what that means when something is working or not working.

[Sara]: Look at your barometer for working, what does it work in?

[Kyle]: Yeah, and also, switch that “the end justifies the means”, to really emphasizing the means. How you get there, how you do the journey is more important than whether you actually get there. I mean, this whole raising kids’ thing is a journey, it's an adventure, you know?

[Kyle]: So, I hope this is really helpful to you and gives you a different way of kind of measuring and just assessing your parenting at this point and hopefully, maybe moves away some of the shame and the fear you've been feeling about that and also, helps you lean into it and trust the process and really believe things, crazy things that we believe like “love never fails”, you know? “Love is more powerful than fear”, those kinds of concepts that are in there too and so, what does that look like to do that? If I believe that? How do I live differently and interact with people differently? So, I hope that gives you some stuff to think about. Once again, please share the podcast, would love to hear your comments and feedback back and hope you have a great day.

[Sara]: Thanks for listening.

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