Where does the voice in our kid’s head come from?
April 3, 2023
In Episode 71, Sara and Kyle, LPCs, discuss the power we have as parents in shaping and forming the voice our children will hear in their head for the rest of their lives. It is a conversation free from shame and full of empowerment. It is important to be reminded that our words have power and what we say does matter.
[Kyle]: In today's podcast we're going to talk about the voice in your kids head and how we can shape it.
[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 71 of The Art of Raising Humans podcast. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: And I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: And I'm still saying podcast. I'm trying to get that down. Okay, yes, and you know, hopefully some of you were able to a few weeks ago, join us at the luncheon we spoke at and we have a few more speaking opportunities in the future. We'd love to continue to throw that out there, that we are open to doing that. We love helping as many parents as we can and so, we know the podcast is just one platform. I’m seeing clients in a private practice where we do some coaching and counseling is also another way we do that, but speaking events is a great way to reach a lot of people.
[Sara]: Yeah, they're a lot of fun.
[Kyle]: And it's really great to get to know parents in the Tulsa community, but also throughout the world. So, it's a really great chance. But I also want to throw out there that, you know, we'd love it when you share the podcast, when you reach out to other families that, you know, could use some help and support. That's what the whole podcast is for, it's really to help parents become the humans they want to become, to therefore raise up kids who are healthier humans, right? More whole humans, because the world needs more of that, right?
[Sara]: Yes, and I think that's what we all want as parents, right?
[Kyle]: Yes, yes, and so, we'd love it if you-- When you like it, you know, give us five stars, comments, all that kind of stuff is great and you can always go to our website at parentinglegacy.com and when you go there, you'll see there's courses we've done that you can purchase to help support your family, that are-- Got a lot of great content there, You know, it's almost like the same amount of content you get like, in three private sessions, but you get it all in one video course. So, a lot of different ways we try to help and support you, okay?
[Kyle]: So, a few weeks ago, you know, we're doing this new two times a month type podcast, we're doing two a month and a couple weeks ago, if you listen to that podcast, we talked about this thing we do as parents where we kind of project ourselves onto our kids, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, I want to kind of continue that conversation, because something that you and I are really passionate about, is not just diving into skills and techniques all the time, which we should do occasionally, but really helping parents be able to understand themselves better in their relationship with the kid.
[Sara]: Kind of freeing them to be the parent-- Well, you know, for us it's like it frees us to be the parent we want to be.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and instead of always feeling like, the goal is just to change the kid, you know?
[Kyle]: It really focuses you on the only person you can change, which is you.
[Sara]: Yeah, and which you can feel very stuck. So, hoping to get out of that space.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, I want to start with this. I don't think we've ever mentioned this in all the podcasts we've done, but one of the things when I went to the conference in Florida with Dr. Becky Bailey several years ago, who does Conscious Discipline and she was showing all of the brain signs from Dr. Dan Siegel. One of the haunting things she said to me and I want to give like, a shame alert. Do you have like a sound you can make for--?
[Kyle]: Like… So, like shame alert that in this podcast, we're not here to shame anybody, you know? So, I want to-- You know, if you do feel shame in whatever I'm gonna say here, that's not the intent, okay? I want to share this information, because I thought it was empowering to me.
[Sara]: Well, and shame can-- It really likes to slip in there and I think when your heart is so invested in something like it is for parenting. I don't know, I think we're-- You're in a kind of a vulnerable place for shame to come in and be like, you know, telling you how horrible you are.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, the point of this podcast is about having honest conversations about the power parents have to shape the narratives that guides their kids’ lives, you know? So, it's one of the main things we're trying to do, is we have a lot of power to do that. I think so often the parents don't think they have that power, you know? So many times, by the time they come and get help from us, they've just thrown their hands up and they feel like nothing they do is working and they have no power. The kid never listens to them, you know, they've kind of--
[Kyle]: And they don't-- They kind of give their power off to other people like, teachers and coaches and they just think “oh, they'll just listen to them, but they don't listen to me anymore”.
[Kyle]: So, I like to always bring parents back to “you would not even believe the amount of power you have in shaping your kids”. One of the books I really like before I get to this statement is by Desmond Tutu, it's called “Made for Goodness” and he talks about in South Africa, how-- You know, kids that were born there weren't born racist, you know? They were taught to be, you know? They were taught to by the people there in South Africa, who were really a part of apartheid and all that stuff. It's a really powerful book that these kids didn't want to be this, they naturally wanted to play with kids of all colors and races and religions, but they were taught to do otherwise, you know? And so, we really do have a lot of power to shape how our kids see the world and how they talk to themselves.
[Kyle]: So, going back to what I said when I went to the conference in Florida, Sara, one of the things she said that really just got my head reeling, was she was discussing how kids from zero to seven, eight years old, they don't really have an inner voice, you know? They don't really talk to themselves, you know? And she said when that voice comes online and they can now have these inner conversations, that voice sounds like ours. You know, it very much mirrors what we say to them in those early years and then she was saying even as adults, the voice we hear in our heads is typically our parents or the other influential adults in our life at that point: grandparents, aunts, uncles, you know, teachers, that kind of thing. That they had such an impact on-- They gave you this gift or this curse, which is this voice in your head.
[Sara]: Oh right, Yeah, you have both.
[Kyle]: Well, and so, I would love for the listeners to take a moment and even think about, when you get stressed, when you're-- When you've messed up and you've made a mistake, when you've spilled the milk on accident on the table, what's the voice in your head say to you? You know?
[Kyle]: And that voice came from somewhere and it came from the other adults who were helping raise you. So, that really rocked me. I don't know what-- How does it hit you, Sara. I know you've heard this before, but how does it hit you when you think about that?
[Sara]: Yeah. It's-- I think we all kind of know that, sometimes that voice slips out of our mouth and we're like “wait, where'd that come from?”. But we have that voice in our head, we-- There's nothing, it's just there, it's the first-- You know, when a child is born and their parent is everything in their world and so, it makes sense that that voice would be really powerful. How they saw you, the messages they said to you, both good and bad, there will be a mix.
[Sara]: You know, whether is “wow, you're so persistent, you figure things out. You're so lazy”. I mean, it'll be a whole mix and that's there and its sort of gets in our brain and stays there and we function from that and--
[Kyle]: Yeah. I remember one time in particular, Sara, right after we did this, there was that moment we'd gone to somebody's house for a holiday and I remember Abby wanted to-- She was young, she was maybe like five and she wanted to jump on the trampoline and so, she'd worn a dress that morning, to church that morning and then wanted to change into that, but she had forgot to bring her clothes, the changing clothes and if you remember, she was very upset. Abby could get big, big feelings and still can, but she could get big feelings about this big disappointment, you know?
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, trampolines. I mean, we don't own one, so they're pretty magical.
[Kyle]: Exactly, and I remember we were at this friend's house and she was upstairs with you and I was like “what is taking so long? I thought Sara was taking care of this”. So, I come… Come up there and I'm like “what is happening!? What are you doing, Abby!?”. Like “come on!”. I remember I just started saying stuff, I was almost mindless in what I was saying. But when I came downstairs, I'm still kind of in a huff and really exasperated and annoyed by the whole situation, just thinking “why can't my daughter just get over this stuff?”, you know? And I come downstairs and my mom was like “oh, what's happening?” and I said “oh, yeah. Well, Abby's got this, this--” and she goes “oh my gosh! You were just like that as a kid” and I said “what do you mean?”. “Oh, if you had clothes on and you got water on it in any way or some kind of-- It just would bother you so much and you would want to change clothes and be so mad you didn't have the clothes you wanted to change into” and I said “what would you tell me when that happened?” and what came out of my mom's mouth was exactly what I just said to Abby upstairs and it was like “oh my gosh! What is happening!?”. That I was reliving what happened to me and getting mad at her the same way my mom kind of said it.
[Sara]: And you weren't even conscious of it until you--
[Sara]: I mean, you had that moment with your mom, which is so cool, because then you could have that light bulb go “oh, what!?”. Yeah.
[Sara]: That's so true, it's a great example.
[Kyle]: And so, I remember just feeling kind of powerless and helpless like “how did that happen?”. You know, “how do I change this?”. Because I didn't even know I was going to say it when I said it, you know? And I'm sure listeners-- You've-- I've said stupid things like “grow up” or “stop being-- Stop acting like a child”, you know?
[Sara]: “Get over it”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and as it's coming out of my mouth-- I think that was success for me for a bit. Is as it came out of my mouth, I could kind of see it, like I was having an out of body experience going “what am I about to say? That doesn't make any sense. I wonder where that's coming from, you know?”
[Sara]: “I know that's not going to be helpful”.
[Sara]: “Why am I saying it!? Stop!”.
[Kyle]: Yes! And somehow, it just seemed like that's exactly what should be said right now.
[Kyle]: You know, to me as it came out of my mouth, it was like a mix of “this totally makes logical sense” and “this is completely irrational, it makes no sense what I'm saying”, you know? And I'm sure everybody who's listening can relate to that and I know it's even popular in-- You know, comedians talk about this or you see sitcoms do this, where we end up just saying exactly what our parents said to us. The very thing we said we would never say and then we are saying it, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, I want to shine a light on that, Sara, because it is a real thing and if we want to change the legacy for our kids to give them a different voice in their head, then we've got to first be honest about the voice in our own.
[Sara]: Yeah, and shine that light as often as you can. There's so many times we don't even know, but as much as you can, like “oh, okay”. Not even-- Even if you can't change in that moment, just to at least go “I know where that came from” or “I know what was happening there” and reflect on it, go back to that moment in your own childhood.
[Kyle]: And so, Becky Bailey uses-- This conference was back in the mid-2000s, so she uses kind of-- Maybe she's updated this language, but she talks about how we all have a CD-ROM. If you know what a CD-ROM is, I need you to know because--
[Sara]: Physically is like programming--
[Sara]: You have this app that's running.
[Kyle]: Yes, yes. So, you have the CD-ROM in your head that is hardwired in your brain.
[Kyle]: You know? And it's not something you can just change.
[Kyle]: It's there.
[Sara]: Just like a computer can't go “oh, I don't want to run on that software today”. It's just going to because it's how it was set up. The computer was set up with the software, that's what's going to run.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and of course, like a-- Unlike a computer, you can't just erase your-- Your brain, right?
[Sara]: Right, you can’t just get rid of that.
[Kyle]: Yes. Maybe in the future that's possible, but you just can't do that. So, there's actual literal wiring and that's why you default when you're-- When you're getting upset, when you're getting exasperated, frustrated, annoyed and you're basically resisting this moment, you default back to how people resisted that moment when you were a kid, you know?
[Sara]: Well, in the brain really, you've got those neurons that have wired, right? And they've built this pathway. Same as I've learned how to ride a bike, I learned how to tie my shoe. I think you and I actually tie our shoes differently.
[Kyle]: Uh huh
[Sara]: And I don't even need to think about it.
[Kyle]: I do it the right way, but--
[Sara]: Uh huh, yeah. This is what I live with. So, I tie my shoe and I don't even think about it, just boom, shoes tied. You do the same thing.
[Sara]: And that wiring is so strong, we can just-- We can just tie our shoes.
[Sara]: And so, it's the same thing with this voice in our head, it's wired in there so much, your brain is programmed with that, you know, those neurons. You can't just decide to not know how to tie your shoes anymore.
[Sara]: It's in there, you can't just decide to not have that voice. It's in there, but [Unintelligible] where you're going “could I learn to tie my shoes like you?”.
[Sara]: “Could I add more wiring?”. Not that I would forget how I used to tie my shoes, but maybe I can learn more, can learn different than that.
[Kyle]: Yes, yeah, yeah. Even as you're saying that, I remember watching the YouTuber we like, SmarterEveryDay. Where he had-- He took the bike and he made it to where when you turn left, the tire goes right.
[Sara]: Oh, right. Uh huh.
[Kyle]: And how it took him over a month.
[Sara]: Yeah, that was fascinating.
[Kyle]: Over a month to be able to ride the bike the way he turned-- And then after he did that, he couldn't write it the way he used to ride it the other way.
[Sara]: Oh, so he actually got rid of--
[Kyle]: Yeah, but he didn't get rid of it, it was there, but it-- And it took him less time, but he was able to relearn it again. But just--
[Sara]: Yeah. Well, that's actually hopeful because, you know, that wiring will still be there, but if you do this other thing long enough, it supersedes that other wiring and you don't default in that so much, because you have strengthened this way of talking to your children.
[Kyle]: And that goes back to the science of neuroplasticity and we won't get into that today, but your brain is changeable.
[Sara]: It is, yay!
[Kyle]: But it's not-- But we have to be honest that this is hardwired in there. So, like you said, I'm not going to ever forget how I tie my shoe, right? So, what she would say is the point isn't-- You don't need to keep resisting that and be like “don't say that to yourself!” or “talk differently!”. Instead, you just need to offer an alternative, what's another thing you could say to yourself, you know?
[Kyle]: So, in that moment when you're getting upset, what's another statement you could say? You know? Something she would say is “I'm safe. I'm loved. I can handle this”. So, instead of turning towards your kid and blowing up at them, you can remind yourself you're safe, you're loved, you've got this. Dr. Markham would say “it's not an emergency” or “this too will pass”.
[Sara]: Yeah, I like that. “I accept this moment. I accept myself. I accept my child in this moment”. For me it’s just sort of like take a deep breath and just accept it, you know?
[Kyle]: Yeah. I remember there was a while where-- I mean, I think you do better at this than I do. I need extra support, so I've even asked the kids to help me. Like “tell me this moment is as it is”. So, I'll smile and be like… For a while there, I even just wanted to change it to just Gandalf. I like Gandalf, so it's like “just say Gandalf to me” or say “Choose love” or there's different statements I even asked the kids to tell me, because, man, the wiring was so difficult to change.
[Kyle]: I kept defaulting to the same judgment.
[Sara]: Just like pushing a little button on the computer.
[Sara]: Esc. Esc. Yeah, you hit that and it can bring up that other programming, like “oh yes, this other program. It's weaker, but it's there. So, let me get there and write them down, put them up somewhere”. Even if you just look at it in the morning and go “this is what I'm going to do in these moments. I'm going to try to pull this file”.
[Sara]: And your brain will get stronger and stronger and stronger with it.
[Kyle]: And if you can do this with your spouse, I mean, I think it'd be really helpful for you to say that to me or me to say it to you, right? “Hey, just remember this isn't an emergency, you know? We've got this, we can do this”.
[Kyle]: And so, once again, you're not actually changing that wiring, you're just offering a new alternative and what's powerful about that. I just want the listeners to really understand the power of that and the reason why it moved me so much. Is you think about in counseling, a lot of stuff you're doing with clients is you're really trying to help them with that voice in their head. You know, they spend every day wrestling with it, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, you know? In ways that really hinder their growth and it really makes it more difficult for them to achieve the goals they have for their lives, you know? They're really held back and it is-- It can be in some ways a real hindrance to them, you know? In their relationships going forward, having good friendships, having a positive marriage, all those kinds of things and so, once again, this is a shame-free episode, you know? So, we're trying to get [Unintelligible]-- So, it's not about “man, look how you can screw up your kid”, but it is-- I want everybody who's listening to see the power you have. Because even when you and I go away someday, Sara, even when we pass away and we die, our voice will live on in their head and I want to take that seriously and I want to take that with a lot of sobriety. I want to be sober about that. I want to-- I want you and I to-- I want to take a moment and be intentional.
[Kyle]: “What do I want that voice to sound like in their head?”.
[Sara]: As in anything where you have a big responsibility, you want to be intentional about how-- What you do with that responsibility and it's-- It's scary, it's a heavy weight and definitely an invitation for shame. It's also an invitation to step forward and take steps and go in a direction you want to go. You won't be perfect about it, but it also gives you that chance. “What do I want to do? Now that I know this, what do I want to do today? Tomorrow? The next day? How am I going to go forward?”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, if you have an older kid, if your kids are older, past that seven or eight-year-old stage and you're going “oh my gosh, my kid has such a negative, you know, self-talk” and “oh my gosh, I do it too!” and like, you can really see that and that's happening. What would you advise them, Sara, to do about that? You know, because they might be throwing their hands up going “oh! Well, it's over. I've already hardwired their brains”.
[Sara]: Again, we're not going to talk too much about the brain, but it's not over! Yay!
[Kyle]: Yes, that's right, it's not over. Yes.
[Sara]: Yeah, you can actually go ahead and start choosing that other layer and that wiring is there, but let's go ahead and start adding that other wiring, the wiring we want. So, let's start today, you know? Put up something, decide what you're going to do.
[Sara]: Decide and don't “I'm going to do 50 things”. Pick a few things and start adding that wiring into yourself, accept you and into them.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and I was thinking as well you could do it with them, right?
[Kyle]: That's the cool part about doing--
[Sara]: Say “Hey. So, I've noticed something”.
[Kyle]: And you know, “that voice, I've got that in my head too”.
[Kyle]: “And I want to change it. Are you open to changing it?” and once-- If you were here, if we were on video, which we still haven't done that yet. If we're on video, we could-- I could show you an open hand and you could be hand in hand with your child and say “could we co-create a new-- Another alternative voice? That I think your voice is like that, because that voice is like that of me or in your other parents or this other person that's been around you a lot. Let's try to rewrite a different one”, you know? And then you could do things like some mindfulness, like some meditation, like some intentional putting things up. “How about we try to start defaulting that? I'll remind you, you remind me”, you know? So, you could do that in partnership, which would be really exciting.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, come up with those phrases together if, you know, you're a perfectionist and your child's a perfectionist, you know? To give yourself grace.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and if your child is still young. So, zero to eight… Yes! Right? This is really cool! It's great! Because then you now have some awesome opportunities to give them a voice that is encouraging and supportive. You know, I'm thinking, what if our kids at that age just heard a lot “I'm for you. I'm for you. You're not alone and I am for you and we are here to help you. You can do this; you can do this. I know you can, I believe in you” or “you've got this, you've got this. You are strong and courageous, you've got this”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, like I mean, just think if that was the voice. When they face hard times and stress and doubts begin to come in, they heard that voice.
[Sara]: Yeah, “you are loved as you are”.
[Sara]: “I love you, you're so lovable, you're likable”.
[Sara]: You know, all those things that-- “you're capable”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. “You are good enough”, you know?
[Kyle]: We could do a Stuart Smalley thing like “you were good enough, you were smart enough and doggone it, people like you!”. But you could-- These kinds of voices, I would love that to be more of what our kids hear as they grow up, you know? And I know they're still going to be another part of the voice that says "why are you doing that? What has happened? How many times have I told you?”, you know? So, that voice will be there, but I want the other voice to hopefully be louder and hopefully win more, right? And so, if you have a younger kid, zero to eight, talk with your spouse, you know, “what is the voice you're hearing coming out of you?”. But also, “what is the voice you're hearing come out of them?” and how can you at these early stages really be intentional about molding and shaping the wiring in their brain, to default towards a voice that encourages them, that uplifts them, you know?
[Kyle]: That will help them when times are tough, when the world is crazy. You want that voice to be able to give them the strength to endure it, persevere through that stuff, you know? So, in wrapping this up, we just want to say in summary that voice in their head is going to be ours and we have a choice about the voice we listen to and we can give our kids a choice as well.
[Kyle]: So, I hope today you take on the challenge of just being honest about that voice, maybe even talking to them if they're older kids about that voice in your head and about ways in which you want to change it and invite the kids on a journey of listening to a new voice, that is supportive encouraging and helpful to them and so, that way then they know they're never alone and they can get through these hard times.
[Sara]: Yeah, that'd be great. Just what a powerful opportunity we have for ourselves and for our children.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, once again, we thank you for your time, thank you for listening and we hope this was helpful and if you have some feedback about this episode, we'd love to hear it, you know? Like, you can go to our website parentinglegacy.com, you can email us there or also, find us at the Art of Raising Humans. Either one of those will work and we'd love to get your emails, your comments and just to hear how this is impacting your family and your life as a parent. So, we hope you have a wonderful day.
[Sara]: Yeah, we appreciate you, we appreciate you listening and just want you to know that we're, you know, just kind of doing this parenting journey with you.