209: Foundational Principles of Behavior, with The Behavior Revolution

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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We’ve been busy recording the sessions for the upcoming Decoding Behavior Summit, March 3-5, 2023. In this episode of the podcast, Sarah and I reflect on the common principles and strategies we heard from the experts in this Summit, including your role in your child’s behavior, the importance of adult regulation, the transformative properties of a sense of control for kids, and more. 


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My Guest

We’re Penny and Sarah, parenting coaches who help neurodiverse families like yours understand your child’s neurology and behavior, and shift your parenting to help your child thrive — without the frustration of trying to figure it out on your own. We’re also moms of boys with ADHD and/or autism, so we get it. We live it, too.



Penny Williams 0:03

When our kids don't feel like anything's doable, eventually they give up. But when we give them a sense that they are capable, they can thrive they can succeed, then that just helps overall with behavior.

Penny Williams 0:22

Welcome to the beautifully complex podcast, where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams 0:46

Welcome back to the Beautifully Complex podcast. Sarah Wayland and I are here with you today from the Behavior Revolution to talk all about our upcoming Decoding Behavior Summit, which we are super excited to be sharing with you again this year. And wanted to just talk a little bit about some things we've been learning as we have conducted and recorded these interviews, that you'll be able to watch March 3 through the 5th of 2023. And just give you some insights as to what you would learn there. So that you will hopefully get as excited as we are about watching the summit sessions with our experts. And the summit is really all about decoding behavior and helping our neurodivergent kids with behavior. And we talk about how to help kids feel good, so they can do good. How to use their individuality and uniqueness, to help them to do good. And to be able to make things doable, to be able to meet expectations, all those sort of things. And then we cover some specific behavior challenges, such as aggression, lying screentime related behavior, which so many of us deal with on a regular basis, who are raising or educating are divergent kids. So Sarah, you want to start with maybe some common threads that you have been hearing as you've conducted these interviews?

Sarah Wayland 2:12

Sure, but I'm going to add a couple of behaviors to your list that have been popping up in my interviews, which is motivation, so a lack of motivation, and burnout and shut down. So those kinds of behaviors also, and those have showed up in multiple discussions that I've had. But I would say the thing that really just keeps coming up in almost every conversation is how your emotional state as the adult in the room impacts your child's emotional state. So for example, Mercedes, some of the oh actually loved this interview, she talked about the role of shame that you feel in how your child responds to that. So your kid thinks that you're ashamed of them, that makes them feel bad, and that does not improve their behavior. And so, you know, that's something we haven't really talked a lot about, and you know, our work together, but other issues that are coming up are things like, you know, the fact that when your kid is really being aggressive, it's hard not to respond aggressively, for example, because we're wired to respond and kind. And that just keeps coming up over and over again.

Sarah Wayland 3:28

So how about you?

Penny Williams 3:29

Yeah, that role of the parent or the adult in the room is really, I think, highlighted in pretty much every conversation and workshop that I've recorded, because it's so important, and it really does guide our child's behavior, the way that we address behavior, the way that we respond, or react, you know, comes back to our favorite phrase, are you co escalating or Co regulating? And so often we're co escalating. And it's our intention. And I think that's the other common thread is intentionality. Mm hmm. If we just react, we cannot respond with intention. And with a lack of intention comes just that sort of instinctual response, right, that we talked so much about in our program as well is now your body, and your instincts are just behaving on their own without your cognitive input on them. And that is a really common thing that we have talked about in a lot of these sessions. How do we change from being reactive to being proactive which I talked with Laurel and nine about we have a whole session just on that on what actions we can take, what information we need to know, in order to be able to make that shift ourselves as the adult. And it's just, I can't even express in words How much of a difference that mindset shift made for my own family? And I'm so glad that lots of people are seeing it and seeing how crucial that it is. So that it keeps coming up in these conversations. We know that it's like one of the top few things that we need to do as the adults in order to help our kids improve behavior, and to help them feel good.

Sarah Wayland 5:27

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, so often families want to know, how do we deal with the crisis in the middle of it, right? But if you shift your focus, to anticipating situations where a crisis might occur, and helping your child learn the skills that they'll need to navigate that, or thinking about how, you know, you can set them up for success ahead of time, then you're gonna have fewer of those blowouts. And so you don't have to know how to handle it, because it's happening so much less often. And that proactive approach is just so so critical, you know, something that did not come up in a lot of my talks. But that I think, is critically important came up in my discussion with Dr. Stuart Shanker, self Reg, guru. And, you know, one of the things he talked about is stress, and what stress is, and his way of thinking of stress is any thing that uses energy. I thought that was so interesting. So even being really happy and exuberant, uses energy. And if you have less energy to deal with whatever situation is in front of you that it requires, that is going to cause a problem. And, you know, he talked about different types of stress, you know, biological stress and emotional stress and social stress. And, you know, he talked about these multiple areas, there were five areas that I'm forgetting them right now. But you know, just thinking about all the things that your kid is navigating that can stress them out, is part of figuring out how to be proactive.

Penny Williams 7:17

Yeah. And what drains their energy, right? And we have to think about what's in their tank. Right, what is draining their tank, and what is filling their tank. And stress just wipes it out. But I love that he talked about so many different ways that stress impacts kids. It's way more than I think we really realized. One of the other common threads that I found was about building our kids up helping them build self confidence. Yeah, helping them build a sense of competence. So that confidence and competence that I learned from Dr. Jerome Schultz years ago, that is so crucial. And it actually comes from his work on stress, toxic stress. So it dovetails right into what Dr. Shankar is talking about, you know, we need to feel confident and competent, in order to put forth some effort, you know, when our kids don't feel like anything's doable, eventually they give up. But when we give them a sense that they are capable, they can thrive, they can succeed, then that just helps overall with behavior and helps with their emotional and mental health IT, you know, it's so many things. And that's the other sort of common thread that I found is that in the ways that we need to shift to help our children with behavior, we're also helping them with a lot of skill building, and a lot of mental health challenges, and self worth. And, you know, all of these things have such a complex interplay that I don't think we think so much about, you know, we know like, you don't just have ADHD, there's a whole host of things that come along with it, right, or autism, like there's a lot of right, co occurring conditions and stuff, but also like, just this interplay of our mental and emotional health, and building skills and helping kids succeed and meet expectations. It's like all just mingled up in the air in a powerful way, though, right? Like, when we make one change in the way say that we address consequences, for instance, that can help with problem solving. It can help with impulsivity skills, you know, like one shift can help in a lot of ways. And I think that's sort of the crux of the work that you and I have done together is helping set the foundation because we know, so many of these other things, then automatically shift and get better with that.

Sarah Wayland 10:06

You know, another thing that's come up in a couple, more than two actually talks is how video gaming and screens, you know, one of the things they do so well is sort of meeting you where you are and providing a just write challenge. And then you get a dopamine hit from that, Ryan. And what happens is that kids start expecting a dopamine hit all the time. And life is not filled with dopamine hits. And so one of the things that Brendon Mahan and Dr. Sankar also talked about is how when kids expect that all the time, it can really make living life in the real world more challenging. And I thought that was interesting, because I hadn't really thought about that impact. You know, and I always hate saying, like, play video games less. But I feel like we kind of did something weird with the pandemic, where all bets were off with gaming, and now it's really changed. And that stress load, one of the things Dr. Shaka talked about is like, you know, kids are playing the games, and they're excited, and so on. It's fun. But it's draining their energy for dealing with other things, even though it's fun itself. And I just hadn't really thought of it that way.

Penny Williams 11:28

Yeah, I think that our opportunities for balance, were handicapped during the pandemic. Yeah, it's didn't go see other people in person, they couldn't go, you know, down the road and play with their friend outside. And together, we lost the ability for some of that balance. And, and we got out of practice, yeah, we got a new normal. And now we have to figure out how to find that balance again.

Sarah Wayland 11:51

And it's not just balance, like you lost the skill for doing. All right. So like social stuff, you know, lots of people are talking about the fact that you basically see this social maturity delay of however long they weren't in the classroom, you know, so teachers, you know, are saying, they're teaching sixth graders who have the social skills of fourth graders. And it's very challenging to figure out how to make up for lost time, which I actually think is unreasonable. And that gets to another theme that has been popping up fairly often is that expectations aren't reasonable. Right now. Yeah. Right. And so our kids are expected to not have missed two years of math learning or, you know, two years of social skills, practice or whatever. And we just expect them to be jumping right back in, but unfortunately, they can't. And so it's no longer a just right challenge.

Penny Williams 12:53

And they've missed coping, practicing coping. You know, I've talked about this, I don't know if it's been here on the podcast, or in other places, but my social anxiety post pandemic has gone way up again, because I was out of practice for being in social situations where I was anxious, and I coped with it. And I, you know, I find myself avoiding more again, than I had been. And so I see that in our kids, like kids with anxiety, if their anxiety wasn't challenged as much, then they're out of practice with coping with that with being resilient with being able to manage it in a healthy way. You know, I think that's part of the reason we're seeing so much more of a spike with school avoidance and refusal, they no longer have the confidence and being able to cope with and manage the anxiety and the other struggles that they were having at school, because they didn't have to do that for so long. They're out of practice. And it's scary to jump back in. And, you know, there's so much going on, and it's going to be so many years before we stopped seeing all of the effects, you know, we can't just flip the switch as you were talking about, it just isn't realistic. I want to talk to you in our conversation here about how we've addressed aggression, and hostility, and kids who are very reactive, right? Because that is such a common struggle. And we often don't trust ourselves to handle it, if that makes sense. Like sometimes people are telling us what we should be doing right. There's that shooting again. And it's harder to put into practice in the middle of your kid, you know, throwing a vase at your head or, you know, screaming expletives. To you and leaving the house or whatever happens, it's so much harder, I think, to be more calm and more responsive instead of reactive. Right? Right. And so both Tasha Schore and Dayna Abraham, talk about sort of these situations and that aggression, Tasha talked about just kind of the beginning steps of being able to manage that sort of behavior. And part of it is taking care of yourself. Exactly in order to be able to have sort of the energy, right, those reserves that we've been talking about, yeah, to be able to deal with what's happening and be able to make change, you have to be able to get through the moment, right, the stuff the crap that's going on, and be able to have the energy to find moments to create improvement as well. And it can feel impossible to some families.

Sarah Wayland 16:08

Yeah. Eileen Devine and I talked about that quite a bit. You know, and she was just talking about how those behaviors are biological, they have a biological Yes, source. And so you have to address them biologically. Right. So through physical co regulation, for example. So trying to talk your child into being calm isn't necessarily going to work so well. But yeah, she talked a lot about how important it is for parents, you know, to do self care. And in fact, Elizabeth thought, or also talked about that, you know, how self care and really tending to your own needs. So as you said, you can just bring your full bucket, to these challenging situations for learning how to deal with them.

Penny Williams 16:57

Yeah. And I've noticed, too, that a lot of our experts have been very real. Not that everyone isn't real. I'm not saying that. But like, they have really been very open about the real struggle. And we have this common thread, as we've talked about, about how it's on us, as the adults, a lot of it, we play a big role in a child's behavior. And then biology, you know, couples with that to play a role as well. But we often when it comes to aggression, and aggressive behavior, we deny it, we blame ourselves, we're shamed, we don't want to talk about it. And Tasha really talked a lot about the fact that we can't ignore our kids cries for help, that their aggression is a signal that they need help. And we can't let the shame hold us back, from helping them from talking to people about what's going on from getting help with professionals from all of those things. Because if we just sort of stay in that pit of McInnes, we don't have the reserves to deal with it, right? Because we're feeling so awful. But we're also not helping. You're not doing anything to help to change the situation. And it's really, really valuable. And she really talks a lot about how to make that shift, how to work through that shame, which, you know, you wouldn't necessarily think you were going to listen to a conversation about aggressive kids, and have somebody talk to you about your own feelings about it. Right. Right. It's that important.

Sarah Wayland 18:48

It's so true. Yeah. You know, I want to echo what you said about my speakers being very real. I think this is the first year where I felt like a lot of the speakers confessed that the reason they got into what they do is because of their own family, right experiences they had had like us. Right, exactly. But so often, I think there's this idea that you're supposed to be professional, and separate what's happening in your own family from your professional expertise. But in the end, of course, your own experiences inform your approach to things. And you know, the shame thing, actually, Mercedes simaudio, her thing came from being the child growing up with a parent who was ashamed of her. And she wanted to help her mom and people like her mom, so that she could help kids like her who grew up in a house where the parent felt so powerful, right? Yeah. Powerful to bring that very real piece to the work you do.

Sarah Wayland 19:58

So the other thing I just I wanted to mention is we do have some talks on some specific topics that I think will be interesting. So for example, Caron Starobin, and Barri Turkheimer. Talk about sibling relationships, and how we can help siblings of kids with big emotions, and really had a lovely conversation with them about how to help those siblings, because so often siblings, you know, get ignored. Because the issues around the other kids are so much bigger. And so you're just trying to deal with that. And that can be really hard.

Penny Williams 20:36

Yeah. And what I love about our summits, and how they're different than some of the others, because we've lived to it, but we also tend to have a lot of speakers who also live it. And there's a real sense in participating in the summit and listening to the sessions, that you're not alone. I even get more of that sense. Every time I do one of these interviews. Yeah, like, okay, it's not just me. Oh, look, this professional who is a counselor also struggles with their own kid. And, yeah, it's sort of a relief that was provided with the summit's, but so often, you just walk away feeling less alone and less like, it has to be you and your parenting or your teaching style, when it's not just the life of this sort of journey.

Sarah Wayland 21:36

Yeah, it's so true. And I feel like it gets back to the shame stuff you were talking about, right? Like, if you know that other parents are navigating it, then you feel like, Oh, well, if other people are navigating it, maybe it's not that I'm totally clueless. Right. Maybe it's just really hard.

Penny Williams 21:54

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think there's so much compassion that's offered and empathy that's offered in these sessions. And just the feeling that there is a community. It's not just you, oh, there's a whole community. And I love to that we have the Facebook group where we encourage everyone watching to support each other. To have that community is very, I say, It's crucial. I know, I keep using this word. But for me, I can't imagine having gone through the last 14 years, without knowing other people, even if it's only online. Yeah, who have a similar parenting journey. I don't know how I possibly could have survived it without that and continue to without that. So I'm glad that we're able to sort of provide a place for that. Yeah, for folks to and of course, everyone can join that group as part of the summit.

Penny Williams 22:53

I want to be careful that we give you links and all the information on how this works, before we close this episode, so you can go to the behavior revolution.com/summit. And that will take you to the registration page for this decoding behavior Summit. As I said, at the beginning, you can participate for absolutely free March 3 through the fifth, we will air eight sessions each of those three days, and you will have 24 hours each day to watch those sessions. absolutely for free. We're also hosting a masterclass on February the 24th, that is free as well, if you are registered for the summit, and we are talking about your role in your child's behavior in that presentation. So you can absolutely participate in that as well and learn some more in depth about what we sort of talked a little bit about here in this episode. And then you have the ability to buy a fast pass as well. Because not everybody has the time to watch all these sessions for free when they happen. But we want to be sure that the information is available for free for families who need that. So if you want to you can also buy a fast pass. And that gives you forever access to all 24 of the sessions. It also gives you transcripts of those sessions, a bonus from each speaker, a follow up coaching call with Sarah and I in April with the group of Fast Pass holders. And that ability to be able to listen when you need to, I think is really valuable. You know, maybe there's a topic that isn't really relevant for you right now. But two years from now, it might be and then you could access this you know, you can go back and you can rewatch things to that maybe you feel like you've forgotten so there's some value there also, you get all the sessions a week early. So the Fastpass hub We'll have everything in it on February the 24th. So that's a week before the free event even starts. So you know, there's value in that for some people and our Early Bird costs for that is $97. So $97 will get us all of those benefits in that entire Fast Pass. Did I forget any? Sarah,

Sarah Wayland 25:19

You did not.

Sarah Wayland 25:20

I just wanted to throw into that very often, I hear a particular session one way when I listened to it the first time, and then a year later, I hear different things in it. You know, just because our situation is different our experiences have, you know, I have more. And so that's another thing that I've learned is that when I go back, I'm like, Oh, I wish I had heard that the first time.

Penny Williams 25:44

Yeah, you know, sometimes we're not ready to hear some things. Yeah, we're not ready to process them, is a really good point. And you also have access to our upcoming Revolution Llibrary, which is actually launching in March. But if you purchase the Fast Pass, you get early access at half cost for six months in the library. And it contains all prior sessions from all prior summit does not have the sessions for this summit. But it has the sessions from all prior summits. There's about 215 in a very searchable library. And I just like, Sarah, and I keep talking about this, this is exactly what I wish I had when my kid was young, like, this is what I literally dreamed existed when my kid was younger, I would have given anything to be able to sit down and like search a problem, and have some helpful advice and, and stuff to watch.

Penny Williams 26:49

So we're hoping that it can be that for all of you. And so like I said, there's early access at a discount for that if you choose to purchase the Fast Pass for the summit, as well. But again, I want to reiterate, you can watch all 24 of these sessions, march 3rd through 5th, absolutely 100% free, and to make sure that people understand that because it's really valuable. And it's really important to us that we're able to offer that as well. So I think we're at the end here, we have given you a really good snapshot of what's inside the summit. We really hope you'll join us.

Penny Williams 27:29

Again, go to thebehaviorrevolution.com/summit. And you'll get tons of details there a list of all the sessions and speakers, and the ability to register in whatever way you want to participate. And you can also get that link in the show notes for this episode, which are at parentingADHDandautism.com/ 209. And I will see you on the next episode. Take care.

Penny Williams 27:56

Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parenting ADHD and autism.com and the behavior revolution.com

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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About the show...

I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

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