A Behavior System that Works!
with Penny Williams and Sarah Wayland, Ph.D.
We don’t want to change who our kids are, but we do want them to feel empowered to function well in our neurotypical world so they can build a fulfilling life for themselves. And the only way to do that is to see behavior as communication, understand the biology that triggers challenging behavior, and implement a systematic approach that uses those foundations as it’s core. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, Penny and Sarah talk about their Behavior Revolution and the new system they developed to finally address behavior in a compassionate and informed way, grounded in brain science and honoring neurodiversity. If you struggle with your child’s behavior, this episode is a must listen.
Sarah Wayland, Ph.D., founded her company to help parents learn how to confidently and effectively help their children with ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, and other brain-based differences at home, at school, and in the community.
In addition to working with individual clients, Sarah teaches parenting workshops and trains professionals on a range of topics relevant to supporting neurodivergent people. In addition to co-hosting the Parenting Autism Summit with Penny Williams, Dr. Wayland is co-editor of the book “Technology Tools for Students with Autism”, and frequent contributor to parenting and special needs publications. You can learn more at www.guidingexceptionalparents.com.
Thanks for joining me!
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Penny Williams 0:03
Welcome back to the parenting ADHD podcast. This is a little different episode that I have for you today, my good friend and colleague Sarah Wayland is here. And we're going to talk about kind of our journey to doing the work that we do, why we do what we do, and also our new behavior revolution system, which is launching the day this podcast episode goes live. And it's really, really exciting for us, I think it's gonna be exciting for a lot of parents, because I really honestly think it's going to change a lot of lives and a lot of families. And so we wanted to create this episode about some of the struggles that we had, that I'm sure a lot of you can relate to, and how we came to create a system to try to alleviate some of that struggle, or some of that overwhelm as parents, some of that really helpless feeling. Sarah, thank you so much for being here. Again, you've been on at least a handful of times, I think already and always enjoy it, of course, do you want to start just by introducing yourself, and then we'll jump into kind of our backgrounds?
Sarah Wayland 1:16
Sure. I'm so excited to be here. And I'm especially excited about our course. So I'm glad we're doing this podcast so we can let everybody else know about it. I'm Sarah Wayland. And I have my own company. It's called guiding exceptional parents. And it is a company that helps parents of neuro diverse kids help their kids figure out how to be successful and also just how to restore your relationship with your kids. I am a parent coach, a special needs care navigator and a certified relationship development intervention or RTI consultant.
Penny Williams 1:57
Many things we try to do all the things don't we. So you want to start with kind of your background, and however much you're willing to share about your family and kind of what led you to become a parent coach and a special needs care navigator?
Sarah Wayland 2:19
Sure. So I, I started my life out, thinking I wasn't gonna have kids actually. And I got a
Penny Williams 2:30
Sarah Wayland 2:31
Yeah, I know. Life works out in ways you don't predict. So yeah, anyway, I got a PhD in cognitive psychology, I was studying how people process spoken language and understand spoken language. And in particular, I was working with people who had had strokes and had trouble understanding language, after their strokes, and we were trying to develop interventions that would help them learn how to communicate effectively. So with that background, I, my husband, and I actually decided we didn't want to have kids. So we had kids, and my younger son, or my older son, who was the first one when he was born, then he was definitely different than the other kids. And we could see that something was different. And especially when he hit around two years of age, we could see that other kids were connecting with each other and he tended to hang off to the side by himself. I can remember a couple of episodes where I was just both my husband and I just thought something was really up by one of them. I remember leaving him at his daycare. And he just sat under a tree and he had some woodchips and he was just flinging them up in the air, looking at the woodchips falling down and all the other kids were on swings and playing with each other. And I was like, something's up with my kid. Something is really up, I'm just leaving him flinging woodchips that was definitely I knew something was going on at that point. And then we went on a vacation with some friends. And these are people we'd been friends with for many years and their kids who were born we were they were all born within a few months of each other. And their kids were playing together and interacting with each other. And our son was off in the corner and I remember just looking at my husband and when we went to bed late that night and I was like something is really really up like something he is really different than the other kids but nobody would listen. And so we took him to the doctor and doctors like well let's test his hearing because he was doing this classic autistic thing of when the emotions got high he would cover his ears and and like watching a movie or something and and so we went to the doctor and the doctor said well let's check his hearing which was of course fine. And so finally, when he was for his nursery school teacher, I remember she walked into the room and she was shaking, like when she came in. And it was like, Whoa, why is Laurie shaking, she never shakes. And, and she basically told us that she thought he needed to get a neuro psych evaluation because something was clearly going on. He had been with her since he was two at that point. And so that's what started us down the path of trying to figure out what was going on with him. At the time, he was diagnosed with a language delay, and ADHD, and developmental coordination disorder. And then later, we realized he also had autism, I think he was nine, his brother was born when he was four years old. And at that point, he wasn't even talking Actually, he was communicating with us through magnetic letters on the refrigerator. So he would write things out using the magnetic letters on the refrigerator. And we would, we would write things down to communicate with him, he was very visual. And again, I joke that when I saw that he wasn't acquiring language, the way the book said that kids acquire language, my first thought was not something might be up with his language acquisition, my first thought was, the theories are all wrong. It's, I always laugh at myself on that one. But anyway, his brother also is on the autism spectrum. He was, as I like to say, a more effective self advocate. So he got an earlier diagnosis. And he, he was a lot more just overwhelmed by his emotions. And so it was very clear when he was struggling, or as our older son was very calm, and did not get overwhelmed. So anyway, we really struggled to figure out how to help our kids and how to support them. And with my background and training, I was thinking, if it's this hard for me, and I supposedly should have a clue which I did not, then how must it be for other parents, it must be just unbelievable. And so I started my business with the goal of making sure that no other parent makes the same mistakes that we made. That's my goal in life.
Penny Williams 7:26
sounds so familiar. I feel that Yeah. Because that's also how I ended up doing what I do. It was so hard that I felt like I had to figure out how to help other people have it not be so hard. And our story is pretty similar to yours to your family. I got this diagnosis, because my poor kid just didn't fit when he started school. And I was constantly being called by the teacher and his behavior was being called out, he can't do this in the classroom. But nothing that would give us any clue that something was wrong, or what might be wrong, what might be different, other than his behavior didn't match the other kids. And that was a problem for his teacher. So it was really a struggle. In that way. Before he started kindergarten, he stayed with his grandma, he was not in preschool. And so we just thought he was a super, super hyper boy, he really didn't realize what was going on at all. And then when he started struggling in school, I realized that he was really sad all the time. Like he was crying all the time. He was defeated, all the time. And it was heartbreaking. And we change schools for first grade thinking that a lot of the environment was a problem. And he had the most marvelous teacher ever. And he was still struggling in the same ways. And her communication to us was different and more effective and more helpful, right. But he was still having the same sort of struggles, even with a really tuned in teacher. And so he ended up with an ADHD diagnosis. And then I ended up, day in and day out hours and hours, hours every day, researching, trying to figure out how to help him. How do I help him at school still in school? How do I help him focus on a math worksheet? How do I make his handwriting better? All of these things, which there isn't an answer to you because that's the wrong approach. But I didn't know that at the time. And so I felt like I was working incredibly hard. And I was, I was doing nothing but obsessing about ADHD. I was putting my job at the time. Almost on hold, I was doing the bare minimum. I was just really obsessed with trying to help him and after a few years, I realized that I was going about it the wrong way. And there It was a better way. And then I thought, well, why in the world isn't somebody putting this information out there? Like I read the explosive child from Ross Greene, two or three years in, at least because my kid was an explosive. And that was the first big lightbulb. Like his behavior is telling me something, he isn't telling me, I'm trying to make your life miserable. He's telling me, I need your help with something. And that big shift, I wish had been that like the first information that we had gotten, right, I wish that that was where we had started, because it would have been so much more helpful, much more helpful than your kid is hyper, their brain is different, they're gonna have a hard time paying attention, set them in the front of the classroom and give them medicine, like that just was not helpful enough rain. And so I started with blogging right away when right actually before his diagnosis, and then that led to books. And then that led me to online courses. And that led to coaching, which led Sarah and I to do summits, and now to do this course together to create the system together. And it was just really born out of one necessity and desperation. And then also realizing that the information was not being gathered and curated and put out there for parents in a way that can really help from the beginning, in a way that could like Sarah was saying, keep other parents from struggling as much as we did, making the same mistakes. And then, Sarah, and I got together and have worked on these online summits for parents and other things, and realized that we were both kind of trying to integrate all of these different things that are great that we've discovered over the years with our coaching clients. And it's still kind of discombobulated, right, we have all these things, we have some of Ross Greene's work and collaborative and proactive solutions. And we have some of Mona Dell hooks work, and top down and bottom up thinking and we use an incredible five point scale, or maybe the zones of regulation or some other thing to try to teach emotions and emotional regulation. And, we're trying to pull all this different stuff together. And parents are getting overwhelmed and confused. So I'm sure that it felt that way for you too, Sarah.
Sarah Wayland 12:32
Oh, my gosh, yes. And, and, the thing that that was so hard is that this the tool that would work for my friend whose kid had ADHD didn't work for my kid with ADHD? And so they're like, No, no, I'm doing it wrong. And it just turns out that every kid is their own unique self. And they need things that are tailored to their particular profile. And so I did have to learn about the different tools in the toolkit as friend of mine likes to say, but I needed to figure out which tool was going to work for my kid, and and to be able to customize that, so that that he could be successful. And, it wasn't that there was one true path. Like I think I kept hoping that there was one true path that would help me figure out the answer. And, and then we, it'd be all sunshine and roses from there on end, but it isn't, and it just took, it took me a while to realize that every kid is unique. But there are basic fundamental things like what you just said about, your kid, I it's from you, I learned your kid isn't giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time. And it's such it's such an important message. Because I think a lot of times our focus is on the behavior, being inappropriate, as opposed to what is the underlying message behind the behavior took me forever to figure that out.
Penny Williams 14:09
Yeah, so long, way too long. For sure. And, for some people, they could work with a therapist or a coach or someone to tailor something for their child, but a lot of people don't necessarily have access to that. And that I think, was also a big piece for me was to create something that parents could use online, that was accessible to a lot of families. When you work with somebody independently, if the dollar signs out up really quickly, sometimes and some people, that's no problem for a lot of people it is a problem. It's a barrier. And I don't want barriers. I can't stand for these kids to struggle and be misunderstood and, and I know you can't either and so, we also really take into Count? How can we reduce some of those barriers? You know, that's a big piece of why we do the parenting ADHD and parenting autism summits every year is because it's accessible all over the world, people can take advantage of it. And so I think that that, that's a big piece of why I started making online courses was Parents need information, they need it now. But they need to be able to use it on their own timeframe, because neuro diverse families are chaotic, and busy, and sometimes just absolutely crazy. And so we needed something that really sort of fit for a lot of families too. And, and an online course can be that. And I think the other piece, too, is community for Sarah and I, when we started the behavior revolution website, we started doing community meetings, because it's so, so important to not feel alone and isolated. As a parent of a kid with differences. There are other people who are struggling in very similar ways to. And that's a really valuable thing to know. And when you take an online course, a lot of times, you're getting a little bit of that sense of community as well, seeing other families commenting, and maybe you're on the Facebook group with the course and you're really integrating with other families in a way that just makes you feel a little better about yourself and your parenting, right. Like, okay, it's not just me, and that that was one of the biggest things that I had to accomplish first, when my son was diagnosed and took me a really, really long time to get there. It wasn't just me, it wasn't what I was doing. It was more about what I wasn't doing. If that makes sense. I wasn't approaching it in a way that was successful and helpful. But I didn't create the issue. My child just has a different brain and different neurology, I did not do anything that made that happen. It wasn't my fault. But I did have to shift and be a different parent, in order to help him to create a life that's the kind of living his best life. What's true for him, given that he has ADHD, given that he's on the autism spectrum. Right. And so we're not, we're not trying to change who our kids are, most of it is changing ourselves.
Sarah Wayland 17:26
Yeah, and, Penny, there's a couple of things I just wanted to respond to, and what you just said, One is, you said you can't stand seeing these kids struggle. And I so agree with that. And also I can't stand to see their parents struggle, because the parents are trying so hard to figure out how to help their kids. And, they're just trying to figure it out. And it's very hard to figure out what is going to be the thing that actually helps restore, my connection with my kid, and then, helps helps me to be the kind of parent I want to be. And the other thing you said, that I also just think is so important is that the one you just touched on, I always tell myself, This is my kids journey. It's not my journey, journey. And so I have to help them, help guide them wherever it is that they want to go. And so I think sometimes our culture tells us that, there's only one right way to be, and yeah, that's not true. There's so many wonderful ways to be exactly.
Penny Williams 18:43
I could not agree more. We really need to start raising individuals instead of trying to raise conformists. You know, we're just we're, we're doing every child a disservice by trying to make them fit in a box. But it's especially hard and actually traumatizing to try to make kids with neurological differences fit in that box. And it's an unfortunate part of my own son's story is that he was very traumatized throughout school, because everyone saw how smart he was and decided that he must be able to fit in the box. He's just choosing not to write and, and when we approach kids as though we think they can do it, and they're choosing not to do it. Oh my god, it's so damaging. It's so traumatizing. It's only making behavior, emotional sensitivity, all these things that we struggle with with our kids. It's only making all of that worse. Oh, of course, because they don't feel safe. Exactly. And I'm glad you got there. I'm glad we got their safety, because that's the biggest piece. Kind of the crux of our behavior revolution system, in course, is feeling safe versus feeling unsafe and the This comes, of course, from Steven porges polyvagal theory. And that's very integrated into our course and system as well. But I didn't realize this until recently, like, maybe two years ago, my son was diagnosed almost 13 years ago. And it's maybe two years ago, that I read something or someone said something to me, where I realized, hey, my kid is not feeling safe a lot of the times. And it's not just that very stupid, stereotypical idea of safety that we all have, where you're in physical danger, or you're being abused or victimized. You know, safety is just an everyday sense. I think, if you're feeling safe, then you're feeling comfortable, you're feeling connected, which is a big part of our tools. And of course, naturally, it goes right there. But it's such an important way to look at our kids experience. And I didn't know it until 10 years, 10 years after diagnosis, which is nuts. That's ridiculous. And so that, I think, is part of one of the big reasons why we got together and made this course right, we there, there wasn't a lot out there that was on helping kids with ADHD and autism and feel safe or when they're feeling unsafe. What, what does that mean? What does that telling us? What do we need to do with it?
Sarah Wayland 21:28
Right, and, and not just, what, what, what do we need to do with it? And what is it telling us, but also how we can change what we are doing to help them feel safe and connected and valued for who they are?
Penny Williams 21:45
Yeah, yeah. It's not our job, to raise happy and financially successful adults. It's our job to help our kids figure out who they are, and how to be themselves and also be successful and happy. And to teach them how to feel safe, to help them figure out what are their needs, in order to feel safe from day to day. And a big piece of that is, is understanding them truly, truly understanding who they are, what's true for them, what is happening in their day to day, like, I remember my son, when he got to high school, in ninth grade, it was like, he was going to a battlefield every day, he was so on edge, he was so overwhelmed with just the fear, that kind of the bottom was going to fall out every minute plus you piled on these loud, chaotic, touchy hallways where everybody is bumping into you that feels like an assault all by itself, for a lot of people with neurological differences. It's like somebody's out to hurt you. And you've got, 20 Kids bumping you between your locker and a classroom Plus, it's super loud, and you're sensitive to that. Plus, you're, you're just on alert for a teacher to say, but you're smart enough to do this, or why aren't you on task and, and all of that had just piled up to a point where he had practically shut down. And he honestly, he looked like he was coming back from war every day. And that was only if he would stay there the whole day. Because most days, he was texting me constantly begging me threatening to leave if I said no, I wasn't gonna pick him up. And it was such a massive struggle with him with school avoidance and school refusal for many years before and after that, but this was by far his most challenging here. And I didn't know what to do with that, like, it didn't strike me until things got that bad that he just really didn't feel safe. He was so worried about what was going to happen, that he couldn't be present. And I still wasn't really thinking about how, all throughout his day in his life, maybe he doesn't feel that safe. A lot of the times that still didn't even kind of sink in yet. I was still, just trying to figure that kind of thing out. And I hadn't hadn't learned anything about polyvagal theory yet. And so having had if I had had that information, then oh my gosh, what a difference I could have made, right. And instead, we finally figured out that he just couldn't handle seven hours of that environment every day. And I asked the school if they would do half in person and let him do half online at home. And they actually said yes. Which I didn't think was going to happen. I thought, how would freeze over before they would say yes to that. And it was the easiest request I've ever made to the school and I think it's because it had gotten so bad and they had all seen how much he was struggling and he wasn't learning. You know, my point was, he's scared to death. He's sensory over While he's shutting down, he's freaking out. Do you think he's learning if he's in the classroom with you? No, and, but that's how big of a role feeling safe or unsafe can play for our kids? And, and how monumentally important it is for us, to recognize it, and to use it to inform how we're helping them.
Sarah Wayland 25:23
Right, and also how to how to build a safe environment for them. So, there's so many things that like, you just you brought up their sensory issues. And, I think if you don't struggle with sensory overwhelm, it's very hard to understand you were describing the hallway, and just the sensory overwhelm from navigating the hallway, my older son totally had that problem. And by the time he got to class, it did feel like he had been in a war zone. And I think that the point you raised about how you can't learn, unless you feel safe. That is, it's the foundation, just feeling that sense of safety, and in the course, we talk about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And, that sense of safety is right there at the bottom, if we don't have that none of the other stuff matters.
Penny Williams 26:21
Yeah, none of the other stuff can be achieved. Yeah, if we don't feel safe. And and I think we can somewhat relate to it as parents, we can think back on a time where maybe we were super uncomfortable, super overwhelmed. That's kind of what we're talking about, when our kids don't feel safe. It's it's that they're not calm, they're not connected, they're not able to regulate, they're not able to maybe think straight at that point. From the dysregulation, maybe the emotional brain is taking over. And the thinking brain has gone offline. You know, there's so many aspects to that. But to understand that, throughout our lives, we either feel safe or unsafe all the time, I think is really helpful framework for parents to go from. And I want to just real quickly to jump back to talking about how our kids felt like they were in war. I'm not trying to take away from what the actual experience of war is like for people. I want to be sure that we say that, we're not trying to minimize that experience at all. What we're trying to do is create an analogy that gives that sense of how significant and how overwhelming and how unsafe our kids can feel at times. I just wanted to be sure to mention that too.
Sarah Wayland 27:47
Right. I think I think that's such such an important thing. And there's a big discussion, of course, in the community about what counts as trauma. And, we're not saying I'm not gonna weigh in on that question, but what I am going to say is that the individual person's experience needs to be taken into account. Absolutely. And the way they process the world. Yeah.
Which is neuro ception, which is a big part of the behavior revolution system, too. Is that the way our kids see and feel and process the world can be monumentally different than the way we do. Yeah. Yeah. So Penny, I wanted to talk really briefly about why we decided to call this the behavior revolution. So um, so I thought we should talk about like, what is revolutionary about this?
Penny Williams 28:44
Yeah, one big thing, I think, is that it's all integrated. And, and really, I think that we started with this idea of a revolution, because we understand how crucial it is to look at behavior as communication as a symptom of something else. And we really want the whole world to start looking at behavior that way. We want teachers to be seeing that when a child is acting out in class, or they're off task, there's a reason for it. There's something there that you need to uncover and decode and figure out how to help. You know, if you're a parent, and your kid is screaming at you, it's not just because they want to hurt you. And likely it's not that at all, it's that they're having a hard time, that behavior is trying to tell you something. And when we don't look at behavior that way, we punish, we try to punish behavior out of kids. We give punitive approaches to it. And those don't work. And they're actually harmful in many, many instances, especially if it happens over and over and over again. And for me, that was a kind of the biggest piece for the revolution. I just want to turn around the way everyone looks at behavior, the way we talk about it. It's not good behavior and bad behavior. It's regulated and dysregulated. It's, feeling safe, feeling unsafe, there's just such a more helpful perspective on it. And I know that Sarah and I both just really want the world to start seeing behavior in this different way.
Sarah Wayland 30:27
And the other part of the revolution for me is, is understanding that my behavior, and can really have a huge impact on my kids behavior. So if, if I can keep myself calm, and, and centered and present with my kids, then they're going to be able to calm down a whole lot faster than if I start, dysregulated with them, that doesn't help them calm down. And for me, that was a big realization is that my behavior had an impact on how my kids were experiencing the world.
Penny Williams 31:06
I would say our behavior as parents is 90%. Yeah, 90%. It's huge. It's everything. Because we are the navigation helper, right? We're the guide. And if we are co escalating, what are we doing, we're teaching our kids to yell or scream or get angry when something happens, if we're co regulating, if we're staying calm, then that's what we're teaching. And that's the tone and the environment that it takes for them to be able to do that.
Sarah Wayland 31:40
Yeah, exactly. And so, just understanding our contribution to it. And, and also, in the course, one of the things I love is that we give parents strategies for how to help help them stay calm. Yeah, the moment because that's not easy when, I have a friend who likes to say, never argue with a thunderstorm. But it's not just that, right. It's not just that, it's also that we are wired to respond in kind. So trying to stay calm, can be very challenging. And so, one of the things that really helped me as a parent was getting some strategies under my belt for changing my thinking about what was going on. And also just some real simple physiological things I could do to calm myself down, like, breathing in and out. And now, like my parents said, When growing up, just take a deep breath, or count, or whatever. But guess what, it actually really helped.
Penny Williams 32:42
Yeah, yeah. And that, that piece that you just said, about responding and kind, that also works the opposite direction, when we're calm, our kids can respond in kind, right, it's a two way street. And, and there's, scientific data to back that up, that our bodies, our brains want to respond in kind they attune to what is going on and what is happening. And that's not to say that you're going to remain calm when your kids exploding, beyond suddenly, they're going to be calm, like we're not trying to, to minimize it. That's just one very small piece of it. But it's kind of foundational, everything else is not going to help. If you're not able to stay calm as a parent, and to look at behavior as communication as a symptom. I want to be sure that we talk about the tools that we created to because I think this is like the biggest piece that kind of sets apart what we're doing right now, versus what else might be out there. You know, we talked a bit at the beginning of the episode about wanting to integrate all of these other people's ideas and tools and ways of addressing behavior, our ways of addressing ADHD or autism into something that was more cohesive, but also something that you could tailor to your child and your family. And so we created two different wheels, actually their circle, that's why we call them wheels, but one is a behavior wheel. And one is a feelings wheel. And the behavior wheel is for the parents, and the feelings we all is the tool for the children to use. And the behavior we all is outlining and helping you to determine if your child is feeling safe or unsafe, and where their autonomic nervous system is. So if they're feeling unsafe, are they in kind of fight or flight or are they in freezer shut down? And it helps you to take some of the signals that you're seeing his behavior, look at the wheel and find them or something similar, and say, Oh, I see my kid is really dysregulated right now and I see why, he's really agitated and trying to run off and get away from the situation, then that informs what you might do to help. And so that tool can be really helpful just to figure out kind of what area the behavior is, is a signal or symptom of to help you then know how to best help them, rather than we see this behavior. And we go, Oh, my gosh, I have no idea why this is happening. And my kid can't tell me, right? This is, sort of a guide, a general guide to help you to really determine what's going on for them underneath and within their nervous system. And then that informs how you will approach helping, what will be effective? And then, of course, there's a lot of customization that can happen there as well. Sara, anything else you wanted to say about the behavior wheel?
Sarah Wayland 35:55
Yeah, one of the things I wanted to say is I was talking to a friend and telling her how excited I was about the course and all this and, and, and she said, Well, why don't you show me some of these tools. And so I showed her the behavior wheel. And she just looked at this and she said, You, you made this, you develop this. And then and she said, this is really, really helpful. So she was all excited about it. And I'm, I'm truly excited about it. Because if I hadn't had something like this, when my kids were little, it would have made such a difference for me to understand that, when my older son became frozen, it wasn't that he was ignoring me or shutting me out. It's that he was terrified.
Penny Williams 36:40
Right. And I think that's an important thing to point out here is that we make courses and tools that we wish we had, yeah, we've lived this life, we know what this Parenthood is, like, we're in the trenches as well. And we're creating things that we wish we had had, that we know would have helped us so that other parents can kind of skip ahead, maybe does that sound relevant? For me, I just wish I could have like, skipped the first two or three years and really understood better and started being effective right away. Right. And I think this can really help parents do that.
Sarah Wayland 37:19
Yeah, yeah. And, and, the, the behavior wheel helps me, interpret what's going on. And then the feelings wheel is, I, so I don't use it with my kids right now, because they pretty much get it. Although there are parts of it, I think they could really use even though they're 19 and 23. Now, but I have been using it with clients of mine. And it just, I haven't been using the wheel itself, but an adapted version of it. And, um, and, the what it does is that helps you think about how much energy you have how much energy you're feeling. And then, just that safety component that we were talking about earlier. And then labeling those emotions in the context of feeling safe, or how energized you feel. And there's, we just help kids understand, oh, here's, here's what this emotion is, and then help them go through the process of developing tools that will help them manage those emotions so that they can get back to a place of, of feeling calm and happy and able to learn and able to interact with the world.
Penny Williams 38:37
Yeah, big piece of the feelings we all have developing that for me was that I were seeing so many families whose kids really only had one way to show very sort of primitive emotions. And they just were not seeing a spectrum of emotions, the kids were not understanding that or they were not, didn't yet have that emotional intelligence. So a child who might have been frustrated or agitated, was raging and throwing things and screaming and destructive. And it's just because they see mad or angry as one way and there's one sort of instinctual reaction to that. And the same with sort of sad or happy and so I had been talking with coaching clients for a long time about you have to work on developing their emotional intelligence, you have to work on helping them identify different degrees of happy or sad or angry different ways that the emotion might, might come up for them and then also, what's really an appropriate way to communicate it. You know, if you're, if you're just frustrated, raging and throwing things, I mean, destructive probably isn't the most effective way to communicate that or the most appropriate way. And so we put this together, sort of based on helping kids develop the the, the vocabulary of emotion of all these different degrees of emotion. And then to help them take that information and use it in two ways, there's the interoception, or how their body is feeling at different times. With that you can add to the feelings wheel to customize it for your child. And you will just learn those things over time as you work with your child on how their body is feeling when they're feeling different emotions. And then we also have regulation activities, and a place on the feelings poster where you can try different regulation activities with your child, determine which ones help them and different emotions, and they can actually Velcro those or stick them or however you decide to use the poster on there. So next time, they're raging, maybe, or before they get to the raging point, when they're sort of rumbling and getting worked up, they can look and say, Oh, yeah, I if I do this activity, if I blow bubbles, maybe that will help me to stay a little calmer, or whatever it is, there's so many, I think there's 42 different regulation activities that we have put together, plus, there's some blank cards as well, because every kid is different. And what works for mine might escalate your child and vice versa. And so, you have to customize these things, you have to think about those body feelings and interoception as well, on an independent, tailored basis, my body when I'm anxious, my skin feels tingling, but maybe in when my child is anxious their stomach flip flops, or, one child feels an immediate need to flee. That's, that's the feeling like I got a run and it's overwhelming feeling and in her body. And so we're all different in those respects. And that's why it's so customizable. That's why there's lots of blinks and ways to move things around with the feelings posters so that you can completely make this work for your child and your family.
Sarah Wayland 42:14
I was just thinking of my younger son. So there's this prayer, the Serenity Prayer, which is grant me the serenity. Well, let's see what grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. And this is one of my mantras, and I'm always telling my younger son, this is the Serenity Prayer question, Is this something you can change? his comment is shut up with the Serenity Prayer. Because it doesn't work for him, it works for me.
Penny Williams 42:53
And it doesn't work when our kids are already struggling, like a lot of this stuff is, is to intervene earlier before. before they're they're thinking brain is offline and their emotional brain has taken over. And we do talk about there's a worksheet in the workbook to talk about your circle of influence. And to figure out what can you change and what can you not change and just sort of completing those in the right circles and seeing it written down, can help you to let go of some of that stuff that you're trying so hard to change, but you don't have the ability to change it. It's more about accepting it and letting it go, than it is about changing it. Because you'll never be able to change it. You know, think about trying to drive a car that has no tires, you desperately want it to go, you desperately want to get somewhere you're pushing the gas, you're pushing the gas, you're ready to steer it. You've done everything, you filled up the gas tank, you've done everything. Is that car ever going to go? No, because you don't have the ability to change it. The tires are not there, you can't have any tires. And so you can't go right. Like you, we just have to realize that there are things that no matter how much effort and energy and desperation we put into them, they're never going to be different. We don't have the ability. And it's important lesson for our kids to but it's it's one that sometimes we have to go about in a far different way than just saying, Now this is something you can't change because they don't believe us, right. Just parents, the other Yeah, well, exactly. But, the other thing too, is that's a very cognitive strategy. Right? And when you're, you're really feeling an emotion intensely, like you can't, bring those cognitive processes into the into it. It has to be something more physiological, so of course it doesn't work. Exactly. So yeah. Yeah. So just to kind of wrap up about The system in the course, I just wanted to maybe run through what the different sections are in the course. Because, yes, you've got these great tools that we've created that we think are really going to be valuable for your family. But there's also a course behind that to teach you everything you need to know, in order to be able to use the system effectively, and really to, maintain or create a healthy relationship with your child to create the family dynamic, and the family that you crave. You know, all of these things are outcomes to doing the work that we've put into this program, and then using the tools. So the first module is, who is the child? Who are we talking about behavior and why it happens? And what feelings of safety and unsafe, that sort of stuff? module two, how do I get myself together so I can help my child. Again, as we've said before, it's 90% on us to change. And so we talk about the work that you need to do for yourself to be able to accept and let go and see life as a hopeful thing, rather than feeling sort of helpless to help your child and, and kind of hopeless for what their future might look like, which is so natural for us of parents, parents of kids, who are, who are different. Number three, why the heck does my kid act this way? Hello, I need to know, right? Like, and this is all the biology and the science and in a way that, every parent can understand and use. But this really when we start to understand what happens our kids bodies and brains, holy cow, we get it, we can see what the behavior is communicating, we can help them right, we can really start to make change happen in a positive way. And that's where the wheels and the tools and systems start coming into play to. Number four, you mean the way I act impacts how my child acts? Yes, it does. We've already talked about this, right? We've talked a lot, I think in this episode about it, and I've talked a lot about it. In other podcast episodes, too, it's super, super important. where, again, we're that 90% how we respond and react to our kids, hopefully more responding than reacting is is gonna affect how the behavior, what behavior you're seeing, and how you help them sort of get beyond it be able to regulate, be able to be successful, neuro atypical kid in a neurotypical world or as an adult, as well. And then number five, module five is let's help your child get regulated. So now we're talking about using the feelings, we all helping them to identify their feelings, helping them to determine the tools that belong in their own toolbox to help them to regulate, because when we see behavior, our kids are dysregulated. So we want to help them to self regulate eventually, but right now we're, we're teaching the skills we're supporting, we're scaffolding we're giving your visual tools like the feelings wheel, and the activity cards, to support them learning these strategies, so that eventually, they may be able to call on some themselves before things escalate. And then lastly, module six is empower your kids and watch them thrive. taking everything that you've learned and how you've been able to help your kid. And moving forward with that from, we're trying to go from barely surviving to thriving to raising kids who can be happy, successful adults, in whatever definition of that is right for them.
Sarah Wayland 48:54
Yeah, and Penny, I did want to say the empowering your child piece, is a piece that I think I missed for a long, long time. Oh, yeah. So I was all busy, trying to address behaviors and help with little things like handwriting or writing an essay or whatever. But I didn't realize that by hovering so much. I was giving them a message that I didn't think they could actually figure things out for themselves. And so switching my framework to how am I going to help us succeed in the life you want for yourself? was a real mind shift for me that I really wish I had gotten earlier.
Penny Williams 49:38
Yeah, absolutely. Me too. Yeah, that's so relatable. I think it's relatable for most parents who are listening. We do tend to put our own stuff on our kids and not realize it and we tend to add a lot of pressure to an already boiling kid, right? as you were saying that I was just writing down, putting out the fires is not what we want to be doing. We want to be preventing the fires. And that putting out fires mode is where we start. Absolutely. We're getting the calls from the school. What do we do about this specific thing today, where, having a lot of sibling fighting in the house, and we're trying to figure that out, our kid is melting down at soccer practice, and we're trying to, figure that out and ease that situation. We want to go from that to prevention. It's about fire prevention, fire prevention, it's also like creating a vision for the future that is exciting for your kid and for you. Yeah. Yeah. So it's not just putting out forest fires, it's like, how are we going to create a forest where we all want to live? Exactly, yeah, that's kind of the second layer of it. First, we have to stop being on this whole reactive mode, that we can only work on what's happening, because that's all the bandwidth we have, we have to go to being proactive, being somewhat preventative. And that's then where we have the ability to add that second layer of thriving and really enjoying life and feeling like you have purpose. You can't do that. If you're just always putting out fires. You can't do that as a parent, but you also, the kids can't do that. They're never going to get to a place where they feel connected and comfortable and safe. If they're always just trying to deal with the latest blow up the latest struggle. Yes.
Well, I know we could talk another 20 years about this topic, you and I and we have definitely created a longer podcast episode. But I think it's so so important. There's been so much valuable information that we've shared. But we also really wanted to let everybody know that the behavior revolution system and courses available to families now. And and for anyone who's interested in getting more details or signing up, you can go to the behavior revolution, comm slash ADHD podcast that will take you right to the registration page with all of the details. There's tons of detail there about what the course covers what you'll get the outcomes that you will have once you complete the course. And of course, you can always reach out to us and ask us and ask questions. You can email us at info at the behavior revolution, comm if you have any questions about the course of their system, or if you want to see if it's right for you, we're certainly available to field those questions and, and get back to you as soon as we can. And then there will also be Show Notes for this episode like every other, which are at parentingADHDandautism.com/135 for Episode 135. And of course, I'll link up to the course there as well, for anyone who may want to go there and link over from there. Anything else that we have neglected? To talk about that we definitely need to talk about in this episode, I think we've covered everything. The one thing I would say is that one of the things that we want to make sure parents understand is that our course isn't about changing your child into something they are not. Our course is about helping your child be successful. about helping them be the best version of themselves they can be and to navigate a neurotypical world as successfully as possible. I don't like using the word successfully. I feel like there's a better word for that because people in our culture often equate success to, job security and financial security. And that's what I was just saralee a measure of success for everyone but to feel safe in a neurotypical in a neurotypical world. How about that? Yeah, thank you for clarifying that. I meant success for that person, like, yeah, was defined by your child, it has to be an individual. We all have to have our own definition of that for sure. Yeah. Well, thank you, Sarah, for getting excited with me. And for all the work that you have put in to the system in the course and I'm so glad that we're doing it together. I wouldn't do it with anyone else. I think we complement each other so well in the way that we approach helping parents of kids with ADHD and autism and other neurological differences. So again, if you have any questions, reach out to us or visit the course page at thebehaviorrevolution.com/ADHD podcast. And with that, we will see everyone next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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