When we’re having a hard time interacting with our family members, it’s pretty common for our first reaction to be: “I need this person (or these people!) to change their behavior” – especially when this person (or these people!) are children. After all, we’ve been around for longer and we know what we’re doing and we were fine before our children started misbehaving, right?
My guest today, parent-of-three Chrystal, had encountered this mentality not just about her children, but also about her husband. In fact, when she went to couple’s therapy with her husband it was with a sense of relief: “Finally, I’m going to find out what’s wrong with him, because there’s nothing wrong with me!”
She always figured: “If that person didn’t act like that then I wouldn’t need to react the way I’m reacting…and I legitimately thought that everyone else was responsible for my behavior.”
Then she realized that her husband wasn’t responsible for how she was feeling…she was.
Now she was ready to make the same leap related to her relationship with her spirited children, but needed new tools. They would melt down over every tiny issue (not enough honey on the oatmeal! Now not enough cream! I don’t WANT to get dressed!), and Chrystal found herself constantly scrambling to placate them.
Join us for a conversation about the new ideas she’s learned, and how her children now don’t cooperate blindly because she’s forcing them, but express their agency while finding ways to collaborate that also meet their needs. They have real agency in her family (they know she’ll hear them and respect their ideas) and because of this, the little issues that used to provoke regular meltdowns are easily solved. And Chrystal is learning how to set boundaries so she doesn’t get walked all over – by her children, or by other members of her family.
Want to make a similar shift in your own interactions with your children? My Taming Your Triggers workshop will help – doors open July 31, and sliding scale pricing is available! Click the picture below to learn more and join the wait list…
Jump to highlights:
- (01:00) Inviting listeners to join the Taming Your Triggers workshop
- (04:43) A little bit about Chrystal
- (11:06) Chrystal’s journey as a parent
- (13:58) How Chrystal found it difficult to build lasting relationships with parents who were raising their children the same way they were raised and how she found her people in the Taming Your Triggers community.
- (16:32) The fight, flight, freeze, and fawn responses and how Chrystal resonated to the fawn response.
- (18:22) The first time Chrystal was able to connect what she’s feeling in her body with her belief systems
- (20:36) As the eldest of eight children, Chrystal felt that it was her responsibility to make sure everyone is happy when her mother couldn’t cope due to severe postnatal depression, and this has continued on with her character now that they’ve grown up
- (24:51) When Chrystal decided to set boundaries and have it respected, she found out that her family’s issues can resolve themselves without her getting involved
- (28:14) The profound shift with for Chrystal in terms of what changed in her family after going through the Taming Your Triggers workshop is that she is now able to see situations as more than a win-lose situation
- (32:20) With two strong-willed daughters and a son who is also energetic, breakfast has been a challenge in Chrystal’s home. She’s learned to apply problem solving to find solutions, but the biggest revelation for her has been that it is okay for her children to have these big feelings
- (38:15) Chrystal explores the question, “Why should our children listen to us?” as she discovers extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
- (38:55) A beautiful moment when Chrystal was having a hard time getting her daughter ready for school, and another instance when she was having some friend over their house
- (47:08) Having the tools is great but it is just better to have a framework to implement it and really being intentional
- (51:20) Wrapping up with a sense of compassion.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Taming Your Triggers workshop
- Upbringing with Hannah & Kelty
- Nonviolent Communication Podcast Episode
- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind , by Daniel Siegel
Click here to read the full transcript
Your Parenting Mojo – Chrystal Potter
Jen Lumanlan 00:02
Hi, I’m Jen and I host the Your Parenting Mojo Podcast. We all want her children to lead fulfilling lives, but it can be so hard to keep up with the latest scientific research on child development and figure out whether and how to incorporate it into our own approach to parenting. Here at Your Parenting Mojo, I do the work for you by critically examining strategies and tools related to parenting and child development that are grounded in scientific research and principles of respectful parenting.
Jen Lumanlan 00:29
If you’d like to be notified when new episodes are released, and get a FREE Guide called 13 Reasons Why Your Child Won’t Listen To You & What To Do About Each One, just head over to YourParentingMojo.com/SUBSCRIBE. You can also continue the conversation about the show with other listeners in the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. I do hope you’ll join us.
Jen Lumanlan 01:00
Hello, and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo Podcast. Today we’re going to talk with a parent, Chrystal all the way from Tasmania, Australia. I’ve been working with Chrystal for a few months firstly in the Taming Your Triggers workshop, and then she joined the Parenting Membership after that, and she’s seen some truly profound shifts in how she interacts with her children. She recently posted about them in our private community and she gave me permission to share these updates that happened since we talked a few weeks ago. So not long ago, Crystal’s toddler was having tantrums every morning at breakfast and for about 20 to 40 minutes she would grit her teeth through that as well as through a 30 minute car ride to school as he screamed through the whole thing. Now she’s found ways for him to have more autonomy over his own breakfast, which means he’s not resisting every step of the way. And it sets their whole day on a different track.
Jen Lumanlan 01:53
Her relationship with her eldest daughter had been marked by resistance as well. But recently they were in the car together and her daughter asked to put on pop music while they were driving. Chrystal said she was too tired for music, so her daughter asked if she could put on some quiet music instead which crystal likes. Crystal was shocked by her daughter’s willingness to work with her because just a few weeks ago, her daughter would say no to her all the time. Just not do what crystal asked or ignore her. But now they’re in a flow of working together. Now when her middle daughter’s screaming whining having tantrums, Chrystal now sees that her daughter is having strong feelings about something like not being able to go to a party. And rather than getting angry herself crystal is able to reframe her daughter’s anger because crystal understands that underneath that anger is disappointment about missing out on a fun event that all her friends are going to and that helps Chrystal to truly empathize with her daughter. Later on that night, they were able to have a problem solving conversation about seeing her friends over the holidays instead. And her daughter was completely on board with it.
Jen Lumanlan 02:55
And finally, through this work, Chrystal realized that she basically has never put up any boundaries in her life. She’s always been a people pleaser, and put everyone else’s needs first. So when her children used to cry or rage, she would do anything to get it to stop. Through this work, she realizes that her children have needs that really matter. But Chrystal herself also has needs that matter. And she signed up for therapy to help her work through the guilt and shame that she has when she even thinks about setting a boundary. So if there are echoes of your relationship with your children, and any of these stories are the ones you’re about to hear, or if you’re struggling with triggered feelings in other situations with your children, I invite you to join my taming your triggers workshop. It’s open for enrollment from Sunday, August 1 through Wednesday, August 11. You’ll get the knowledge you need to make the same kinds of shifts that Chrystal has made, a supportive community of parents, one of whom will often ask a question that’s just floating below the surface of your consciousness. So you couldn’t even articulate it yourself. But yeah, once you hear it and the answer to it, you realize that was just the key you needed to unlock a big revelation. And you also have the option to partner up with an Accountabuddy to provide encouragement, to dig deeper, and maybe even to develop a lasting friendship. You can learn more about the course at YourParentingMojo.com/TamingYourTriggeers. So without further ado, hello to Chrystal who joins us all the way from Tasmania, Australia. It’s great to have you here.
Chrystal Potter 04:20
Thank you. It’s exciting to be with you.
Jen Lumanlan 04:22
So can you tell us a little bit about you and your family, please?
Chrystal Potter 04:25
I’d love to, firstly that I just want to start by thanking you for everything that you’ve done to invest into my life in the last couple of months. It’s just been such a joy and an honor to get to know you through the Taming Your Triggers workshops. I just wanted to start with that.
Chrystal Potter 04:41
A little bit about me. I am the eldest of eight children. Blaine is 210 years old. So that’s my you know, extended family, my family. Now I have three small children at home. So I’ve got an eight year old, a six year old and a three year old and they would what I would classify as strong willed and spirited children, so life is a lot of fun. A lot of high energy, a lot of high needs, um, you know, a family situation. So that’s a little bit of a background about me.
Jen Lumanlan 04:41
Jen Lumanlan 05:14
Okay, super. And I’m curious to just get to know you a little bit more and understand a bit more about your values and your beliefs as a person. And I think this is going to take us into some interesting territory.
Chrystal Potter 05:28
So values and beliefs as a as a person, I think he’s a really interesting one like family’s hugely important to me. And then growing up, as we will explore as I go through, I’m sure but growing up in a family context, where my family was very religious. And being the eldest of eight children, I felt a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to not only please my parents, but from a faith-based perspective, I felt like not only did I have to keep my parents happy, I then had this figure in the sky, I guess, kind of view that I had to keep this, God happy as well. And so it’s been so interesting, I really walked away from my faith for a long period of time, because I’m like, well, I can’t make my family happy. I definitely couldn’t make this figure in the sky happy, and then it’ll be so interesting as we explore like that ACE score. I was when I was reflecting on, you know, just the different modules and how that is an ACE or A.C.E.?
Jen Lumanlan 06:25
ACE. Yeah, yeah.
Chrystal Potter 06:28
I was really something that came out for me over the last couple of months has been you made this comment once that said, after everything I’ve been through, it’s no wonder I react the way that I do. And that just was like the start of these amazing self-compassion for me and this realization. And so I had walked away from my faith for like a really extended amount of time. And then as a young adult, I found myself in a situation where I was heavily caught up in the drug scene, heavily caught up in drinking alcohol, and I thought, Ah, you know, there’s something wrong with me, I can’t believe that I’m in this situation, doing the things that I’m doing, you know, in really toxic codependent sort of relationships. And it was so eye opening to have this score and realize these are all contributing factors for how you end up in this situation. And so I found myself probably in my young, probably around about 20, had had a drug overdose moved from I hadn’t moved away from my family situation, but obviously needed support. And I found myself back in Tasmania, where I grew up, and my family was going to this church at the time, and I was like Ugh church, but I went along with them. And from the minute I walked into the doors, I experienced this grace that I’d never experienced before. And I experienced, you know, what an actual faith based community could be like, which was loving and accepting, and grace. Yeah, I just had this experience that I’d never had before. And, you know, that has really contributed to where I am today. And I guess the journey that I’ve been on, but yeah, it’s really interesting, looking at different people’s values and faith based perspectives. And so that’s Yeah, really important part of my journey, but has definitely changed from, you know, thinking that religion was about punishment and control to really been about acceptance, and love and grace, and so has really contributed to that self-compassion and self-awareness that I’ve been on over the last couple of years.
Jen Lumanlan 08:25
Yeah. And wow, I had no idea about all that background, I had thought we were going to get right into the part where you’re a pastor and I’m an atheist. And you sent me a link to a sermon that you preached where you were essentially talking about Taming Your Triggers in this context of being in church, and wow, so so all of that backstory behind it, I mean, just to add so much more context to your journey, and how far you’ve come.
Chrystal Potter 08:55
It was a funny moment, wasn’t it? I thought, um, I had obviously been so focused on these Taming Your Triggers for three months and like, Oh, I wonder what Jen’s background is, maybe, you know, I can see that you are hopeful. And you know, all of the components of what I would think from a faith based community saw. Jolly. An you respond, like, Oh, yeah, it was, but it was fun. It was a fun time.
Jen Lumanlan 09:19
Yeah, for sure. And so I guess the point that I took really take home from it is that it doesn’t matter whether you have a strong faith based perspective or not, that the this these ideas can really fit into a value set that prioritizes unconditionally loving relationships with our family members, and with a higher being as well, if that’s the way you perceive it. Is that sort of what you take away from it, too?
Chrystal Potter 09:43
Yeah, definitely. But I also think, kind of that shift for like, there would be a high number of people in your community I imagine that do come from a faith based perspective, and helping people along like this is my passion helping people move from a God who just wants to punish them and you know, that control as we were growing up, and it’s so interesting, that often how people perceive, you know, God or Jesus or a higher being is exactly how they would perceive how their family interacted with them. And so I’ve learned, you know, in my worst moment, I want a God who is able to be loving and compassionate and kind. And yet you my worst moment, you know, I’m running 100 million miles away, because I’m just going to experience more judgment and condemnation and guilt and shame. And so it’s been really beautiful to bring those two into context of being actually I’m just welcomed for how I am and I am accepted how I am, and I’m worthwhile and valuable because of who I am, and not because of what I do what somebody kind of says about me. So that.
Jen Lumanlan 10:40
Yeah, how fascinating that the the model that you grew up in with your family, is essentially what you imagined God to be like.
Chrystal Potter 10:49
Jen Lumanlan 10:49
Yeah. And it makes sense logically right, that these people are supposed to be looking out for me, they’re supposed to be caring for me, and this is how they show it. And therefore, this must be how everybody shows that they look out for you and care for you, even when it can be so damaging to us, as well. So Wow, that’s super fascinating.
Jen Lumanlan 11:06
And so let’s go a little bit more into your journey as a parent, and I think you’ve put a lot of thought into this before you ever stumbled on my work. And, and I know you were already familiar with respectful parenting, can you tell us a bit about how that process unfolded for you?
Chrystal Potter 11:22
Yeah, sure. So I have a daughter who’s turning nine in July. And, um, and it’s just so interesting how all the components come together, but she was born, and you could see from day one, that she was strong willed, like she, you know, from six weeks old, want it to be held in a certain way, and you couldn’t lie her down and you know, just was really very strong in how she wanted to be treated. And, and as she grew up, probably, you know, as she hit two or three, I was looking at all my friends around me who had essentially that toolbox of control and authoritarian, and I could say that the majority of my friends’ kids just wanted to keep their parents happy. And so they were super compliant, and the parents could throw at them, you know, this whole toolbox, and the children would comply. And yet here I was, with this toddler who, I mean, I could send her to timeout, I could, you know, put in these authoritarian things, but I could see long term a, when she was 12, or 13, what would I have when she says, you can no longer control me? I’m like, What am I going to have at that point? And, you know, that’s where we often see these super uncompliant children just completely rebel, you know, and that was my experience, you know at 13, 14, when you realize your parents can’t control you. And so I was like, I need a different I want a different style of parenting and a different paradigm. And at that time, I found this Facebook thing, which was looking at the gifts behind your children’s misbehavior, like that’s how it kind of framed it up. And I had never thought about that before. And so that was kind of a start of this whole journey of opening up around respectful parenting and gentle parenting. And I know for myself, I swung, you know, way at this other side, where I was so permissive, I didn’t, you know, want to do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing. And so to go from authoritarian to permissive, and you know, now it’s been probably seven years, and I feel more, you know, kind of in the middle of walking that line a little bit. And to start with.
Jen Lumanlan 13:19
Yeah, and I imagine that that’s really challenging, not having community around you who see parenting in the same way that you do that it’s very much sort of a traditional command and control approach, combined with the fact that your children, you describe them as being strong willed, you know, you put those two things together, and you’re, you’re kind of figuring things out as you go. Right?
Chrystal Potter 13:38
Exactly. And so I had found Janet Lansbury’s work around about that time, which was so helpful, and just kind of immersed myself in that in in, you know, podcasts and people who had that really similar line of thinking, and then I found, actually, I found you, because I had been listening a lot to the Upbringing girls, and they are…
Jen Lumanlan 13:58
Hannah and Kelty yeah.
Chrystal Potter 13:58
Yeah. And then they talked about the Taming Your Triggers workshop. And so I had really struggled. I found that in my parenting networks, I actually couldn’t maintain the friendships that I had had when I felt so uncomfortable with the way that parents were parenting and, you know, my whole thing had been, what’s the need, beneath that behavior? What’s driving this behavior? And parents would just say, oh, they’re a brat, or they’re spoiled, or, you know, that type of thing. And I was like, I can’t, I can love them and come along, probably can’t spend a lot of my time with people that don’t have that same view as me. And so it was just a relief to find, obviously, Hannah and Kelty, and then the group with Taming Your Triggers was just like, Oh, I’m home. Like it was just so nice to have a group of people that although it’s not perfect, are all on the same journey of wanting the same thing. You know, you’re signing up for the course because at least you want to do things differently. And I just, I was always contributing and just like putting all of my ideas out there because it was just so nice to have a space that I could connect with them feel comfortable and be like, oh my people. Yeah.
Jen Lumanlan 15:09
And so what made you want to take the workshop? Like why? What made you think, Oh, yeah, this is the thing that I need.
Chrystal Potter 15:14
So I just love I have done so much work probably in the last two or three years. You guys call it therapy, we call it counseling. And so I had done counseling for about three years prior. And the first time I got to see a psychologist, my husband and I went together and I was like, finally I’m going to find out what’s wrong with my husband, because there’s nothing wrong with me. And I’m like, if that person didn’t act like that, or didn’t they didn’t say what they said, then I wouldn’t respond the way that I did or have the issues that I had. And I just legitimately thought that everybody else was responsible for my behavior and the way that I reacted. And so it had been probably a three year journey of just really looking at belief systems and unpacking what’s driving your behavior and how growing up impacts on how you view the world. And so when Hannah and Kelty talked about the Taming Your Triggers, I was like, Oh, that’s exactly, you know, my passion and what I’m excited about and what I’m interested in, and I love them. A quote that says, when the student is ready, the teacher appears, I don’t know if you’ve heard that before.
Jen Lumanlan 16:21
You’ve quoted it to me, yes. That’s where I heard it.
Chrystal Potter 16:26
I’m ready for this next step of digging a little bit deeper beneath the surface of what’s going on.
Jen Lumanlan 16:32
Yeah. Okay. So one of the reasons that I asked to talk with you was because it was so clear from the posts that you were putting up in our private community, this journey that you were on, and you were all in on this, like you were, you wanted to do things differently, to make some progress to really see some shifts in the 10 weeks that we were working together. And I’m wondering if we can maybe walk through some of those and actually went through the posts that you would put up in the community to sort of get a feel for how this was developing for you, and I think maybe one of the first things was seeing how stressed you felt all the time. And that you were in this constant feeling of being stressed from the moment you were waking up, all through your day, rushing your kids from one place to the next. What was it like to see that for the first time.
Chrystal Potter 17:17
So it was a shock. I remember signing up for the course in module one. I was like I you know, I know. I know quite a bit really, I felt like I knew a lot and I had, you know, done some work. And module one just opened up with bang, you you were introducing, you know, triggers or being flooded. And you introduce the terminology around freeze… fight… What is that fight…
Jen Lumanlan 17:39
Fight, fligh, freeze, and fawn is the…
Chrystal Potter 17:43
And I was like, Whoa, I hadn’t heard that additional fawn one before. And that was just such a shock to me, because the other ones hadn’t really resonated so much. I was like, oh, maybe a little bit of flight, but you said foreign and from that it just opened up that I might like in every situation with my children in conflict in situations that I just the fawning aspect is I just want to do whatever I can to make that situation stop to please that person to make it go away. And you had this slogan, this, quote, harmony, what was it? Where you want peace at all costs?
Jen Lumanlan 18:17
I don’t remember it exactly. But yeah, that’s essentially how…
Chrystal Potter 18:22
You said to harmony. And so I was really intrigued by that. And so I was kind of thinking about that a lot. And then as we kind of went on, because I’m, you know so much about belief systems. I’m like, I know, belief systems, I know what’s driving my behavior, but then we do this whole, really starting to journal, what am I feeling in my body? And I’m like, what, what am I feeling in my body? And I remember the first time my daughter, I don’t know, it must have been bedtime and should call it out for the fifth time, you know, for me to come in, whatever it was. And I felt my and I never connected these two before I felt my arms go back and puffed my chest up. I like marched down the corridor with my arms like I… it was the first time that I really had realized what’s happening in my body connected to my belief, or what I was thinking about. And so I then was able to then soften up my body and walk in and have a smile on my face and, and like the other thing that I’ve realized is when you’re triggered your child, or your family context becomes enemy number one and so you know, my body responds to you are my enemy and, and just learning to let go of that. And so, as I started to realize these sensations in my body, I then realized from the moment I woke up in the morning, I was running on adrenaline, I had this list of what I had to do and my heart would race and I think there was an element of I would utilize that like I didn’t mind running on adrenaline because it helped me get through the day but it’s not good, you know, overall for your mental health or your physical well being to always be running on the this adrenaline. So that was incredibly eye opening to realize what’s happening in my body as well as what’s happening in my mind.
Jen Lumanlan 18:39
Wow, thank you for tying all those elements together. And just to kind of go back a little bit to the beginning of what you said, and the idea that you would sort of default to this fawning mode, whenever somebody did something that you found difficult. I mean, I’m just thinking of you as the oldest of eight kids sort of being probably the one who had to pacify everybody and keep everything under control and make sure that nobody was annoying anybody else and don’t don’t annoy the parents. And was there a big element of that in play?
Chrystal Potter 20:34
Yeah, one hundred percent, yeah. So my mum had children every three years. So there’s a seven year gap between me and my next sibling. But then after that, there was a child born every three years, and around about the fifth child, my mum just went into severe postnatal depression because she carried the weight of she home educated them or my dad was studying and then went into full time work. And she was driven by this belief system that I have to do it all I have to, you know, have it all together, I’m home educating, I’m the perfect housewife mother kind of sitting within that belief system. And so she really didn’t cope for a very long period of time. And so I felt that it was my responsibility to make sure everyone was happy, keep peace. And they tell this cute story that is just quite confronting to me when I think about it. But from five years old, I would offer people cups of teas to make sure that, you know, the environment was peaceful and happy. And, you know, they think that’s cute. And I think that’s horrific, you know, that is a five year old, reading the environment, just to make sure that everybody was happy. And I, you know, you can’t, you can’t keep everybody happy all the time. So I felt like I was probably treading water, you know, my whole my whole life and, and hadn’t realized that until I was about 30 years old, and really started to explore that.
Jen Lumanlan 21:50
Wow, that’s really hard to think about and look back on and, again, brings up the context of what you said, of when I look back on where I’ve come, no wonder, no wonder this is how I respond to people.
Chrystal Potter 22:05
Yeah. And that was something I got out of the Taming Your Triggers workshop. I still hadn’t developed probably this self compassion, and that more open minded thinking of looking at my situation, why am I thinking like this, or responding the way that I have? And as a perfectionist, you know, I want everything perfect. I want my parenting perfect. I want you know, I’m a perfectionist. And so I carry so much weight around that, instead of just, yeah, this open minded curiosity of what’s going on for me, why am I responding like that? Why am I thinking like that. And in fact, it’s been really interesting, kind of looking at that parental journey that I grew up under. And at the same time as Taming Your Triggers, my parents had separated after 33 years of marriage, or it had been kind of in the background. And so in this week, of my parents separating, being the eldest of eight, and then supporting my parents, there was like, 10 people that I was trying to support as the weeks kind of progressed. And I remember writing something and it was just such an ‘Aha!’ moment, it must have been just after the Xavier Dagba boundaries thing, and and I wrote something around my parents or a situation and you just said this thing that was like, What are you wanting to contribute? Or what are you willing to contribute? And I thought, actually, nothing, I really don’t want to be really, I don’t want to be contributing anything. And so I looked at what am I contributing versus what I want to be contributing, and then I was able to kind of work back from that and go, this isn’t my responsibility, you know, this has been 33 years in the making, and really being able to step back from that. And then in that process, I was able to identify that I was feeling responsible for my mum’s health and well being and I thought, if I’m not supporting her and contributing to her health and well being, then who knows what is going to happen. And so after you said that I had a conversation with my mum, and who would have thought, you know, this would be an aspect of the Taming Your Triggers workshop, but I called up my mom and I said, Look, I can’t carry this, I it’s impacting my family, how I’m, you know, relating to my own personal children and husband, and I said, I feel responsible for your mental health and well being, let’s chat about that. And then say, you know, I’m gonna have to I love you, and I support you. But I can’t keep carrying the weight of this. And it was just so freeing. And you know, the timing was just incredible for me.
Jen Lumanlan 24:26
Yeah, for sure. And how did that process play out? You’ve been in this role for for most of your life, and all of a sudden, you decide, you know what, I’m going to set a boundary. What happened? Because I think a lot of people are afraid, like, Oh, I could set a boundary, but the other person would never respect it. You know, it would all fall apart if I didn’t step in and navigate the situation and hold everything together for everybody. How has that played out over the intervening weeks?
Chrystal Potter 24:50
It’s been interesting. I mean, it’s, it’s always a working process. I think it’s two steps forward, two steps back. As you know, these are roles and responsibilities that I’ve carried for my whole life, but I’m really starting to see that my mom and dad, um, there’s a quote that I love that says families get healthy one person at a time. And so it’s been interesting for me to kind of feel like I’ve been that person for the last, you know, five or ten years of really getting healthy and doing the work around, you know, some of those things. And so, it’s just been a natural progression of putting those boundaries in and not enabling and having the conversations and when you have the conversations, in your mind you know I think it’s so much worse, potentially than it actually is in in real life. And so that has been my experience of just saying, what I will do what I won’t do, what I’m happy to do. And the other thing that has been so helpful, is actually understanding my role as a daughter and a sister. And I’ve really started to say, that sounds like a great question for a counselor, that sounds like a great question for a psychologist, and really removing myself from that I don’t have the answers. Or even if I do, I don’t want to contribute to that space. So you should write that down and ask your counselor or a psychologist, and that just having like, that’s what I would say to listeners who are wanting to put in some boundaries around that just having some go to things so that something that I learned from you is the thing that surprises they just keep coming up and coming up. And so why are we so shocked when we’re, you know, addressing the same thing. And something that I’d learned from the Taming Your Trigggers workshop is, I had thought each crisis was a new crisis. Oh, my gosh, my family’s going through this crisis. A week later, two weeks, three weeks, they’re going through another crisis. And I paused and I was like, Whoa, my crisis, my family, because they’re so dysfunctional, is going from one crisis to the next crisis to the next crisis. They’re not new, we’re going to have this until people change, how they relate and how they respond. And so I’m you had said, why have a drama when you can have a crisis? And I thought, that’s so true. And so when these next crises has come up, how do I want to respond? It’s not my responsibility, what am I going to say when they come knocking on my door? And another thing that I realized is don’t answer the phone call. Just leave it for 24 hours. People call me when they’re triggered, leave it for 24 hours, they’re often fixing their own, you know, issues within that time was a big response.
Jen Lumanlan 27:11
Wow, that’s incredible to hear how it’s impacted so much of your life, because most parents, when they sign up for Taming Your Triggers, they’re signing up for it, because their child’s behavior is triggering something in them. And they most of the time, they want to know how to get their child to stop doing the thing that is causing them to feel triggered, much as you said that it felt as though everybody else in your life was responsible for how you were feeling, and if they would just act differently, then you wouldn’t need to feel so triggered all the time. And so we talked a fair bit about your family of origin. I wonder if we can talk a little bit about how this has played out with your family with your children as well, because I think there have been some fairly profound shifts as well that are happening there.
Chrystal Potter 27:50
Yeah, yep. So the question is how this has kind of impacted on my family. So the thing is…
Jen Lumanlan 27:55
Yeah, so maybe we can start with your husband, because I think that you you had mentioned something around there around really connecting with his needs. And instead of sort of seeing being in this antagonistic relationship where you wish that he could respond in a certain way to you. And he’s not responding in that way to connect with his underlying needs instead, what was that like?
Chrystal Potter 28:15
Yeah, exactly. So from that kind of counseling experience, it was really eye opening. This is about five years ago, I think of I hadn’t realized that conditions that because I had grown up with so many conditions placed on me, I then placed these conditions on other people. If you love me, then you will do X, Y, and Z. And so what happens when that person has a completely different temperament than you and so we were on completely different pages, like the psychologist had said to us, if you don’t kill each other, you can be a powerhouse, but we were in that space where we had no points of compromising our relationship. You know, he’s a high doer, I am not. He’s got a huge capacity. I like to be at home in a peaceful environment, I’ve got a high need for social interaction. He has no need for social interaction. He find so much joy in his task, I find all my enjoyment in people, but we didn’t know any of that stuff when we went to this counseling session. And so from that, and we’ve looked a lot at temperament, or we look at that as their needs, what their needs are because of their temperament and what my needs are because of his temperament. And so it has been really interesting and something that came out in probably the last modules of the Taming Your Triggers, which I’ve never seen before and just was like this all encompassing ‘Ah!, this is why we’re here!’ was the NVC or Nonviolent Communication, and I could just, I just couldn’t work out. So you have needs I have needs, I feel like it’s often still a win lose situation or a lose win situation, especially because of what I’m bringing to the table in terms of the fawning and the people pleasing and and I’d had a, you know, this really shift around not having to walk on eggshells. I knew it I have to walk on eggshells. I knew I wasn’t responsible for somebody else’s happiness. But I couldn’t work out how do you communicate your needs in a way that they can understand? And so we did this, you know that really looking at the Nonviolent C ommunication. And suddenly, it just really became clear for me of the difference between, you know, those requests and demands. And I had always thought, that demand, what I essentially understood is a demand is the other person either submits or rebels, but there’s no middle ground and a request is, you have choice here, you get to say, yes, you want to do that, or no, you want to do that. And so learning to make those requests versus demands, and then equally, being able to bring my needs to the table and being open minded with Why did you respond like that? What was going on for you. And so the standout experience was, we had had were very both of us are strong willed and very, can clash when it comes to conflict, and both coming from dysfunctional backgrounds, you know, there’s a bit of baggage that you, you bring to that. And so we were in a, you know, checkmate position and being a couple of days, and I’m like, he’s so rude, what an obnoxious, you know, like, My thoughts are just really negative. I can’t believe he thinks like that. I can’t believe after all these years, you know, that real that spiral that if you’re not, if you don’t pick up back here, this really starts to spiral that. And then I was like, Oh, well, that’s a really judgment statement, as opposed to an evaluating statement and evaluating statement is what’s going on. So I went to him after a couple of days, I’m, I’m going to, I’m going to emerge, I’m going to offer grace in this situation. And I said, it sounds like you’re really frustrated about this situation. And I wonder if x, y, and z and he said, Yeah, I felt really powerless. I felt, you know, all of these things. And I was like, Whoa, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t know that. And here I was in this position of, you’re rude, you’re obnoxious, you don’t care about me, all of these types of things, when he was just had all of these things going on to him. So that was, yeah, that was hugely eye opening and about how you can communicate your needs, and have a win win situation.
Jen Lumanlan 32:05
Yeah, and then, of course, to take that forward with your children as well. Because you’ve had so many of those with your children over the course of the workshop as well. And, and I’m just thinking about the situation at breakfast time at your house. Tell us about breakfast time at your house?
Chrystal Potter 32:20
Well, I think that backtrack, and that is when I had two children, I just thought I was perfect parent, I really was like, I was not at that much pressure, I could implement the respectful parenting really well, you know, I had two hands for both children. And I just thought, I’m just gonna add a third child, and I’ve had two girls, and then I had a boy, and I just thought, he’s just gonna slot these babies just gonna slot in, and it’s gonna be great. And it was a disaster, like, it was just so intense of just being on all the time, and I just had never had this experience. And so my girls are really strong willed. But he’s like, next level, strong willed, as well as energetic. And so I as he grew older and older, and he started to come to the surface, and he’s three years old. Now, I suddenly was in these environments quite often when there is three kids yelling at me all the time for what they want, and what they need. And so that has been incredibly overwhelming for me. And so one of the biggest things that I’ve got has been to really be able to see in that that and going, I don’t have to fix these, it’s okay for them to have needs, it’s okay for them to have feelings. I can take a deep breath, and I’m okay. And I’m safe. And how can I work with these children for both of us having then having our needs met? And so so I need to go, Okay, what is your need? And what is my need? And so my toddler just at the moment, he was what I liked about the Taming Your Triggers is you’re learning in real time what you can implement, you know, yeah, so it’s so amazing, like, put up a question in the community and be like, I’m struggling with this all the modules and then you learn pretty much in real time simultaneously what you can then transfer into a practice. And so my toddler would come to the breakfast table every day so angry, because he didn’t have enough milk/didn’t have enough yogurt/didn’t have enough honey. And in my fawning state, I was getting to a place where I’m like 10 times putting on more milk and more honey and more yogurt. I’m feeling so frustrated that I’m doing this but then the outcome, it could be 30 minutes of screaming if he doesn’t have what he wanted. And so I problem solved. Well, maybe he could put the yogurt and the honey in that whatever on and that worked for one day. It was so much fun. And then the next day, once the yogurt ran out on his way, bigs You know, it was it was all over. And so then we came I came up with a solution of giving him his own pot of milk and is own pot of honey and yogurt, and that has really helped with that. But then I equally learnt, because I’m now signed up to the Your Parenting Membership, actually, if he screams for 30 minutes, because he’s disappointed, that’s okay. It’s okay for him to have big feelings about that. And it’s okay for me to do the work of sitting with him and going, you’re disappointed. Yeah, that looks different than you thought it would. You were hoping that your Weet-bix would have an endless supply of milk or whatever it is. And so that’s kind of, although I’ve problem solved, and it’s been great to go, Yeah, I do have solutions, sometimes they don’t work. And sometimes you are just gonna have to sit with this child who is having their big feelings and just do whatever you need to do to keep yourself calm and the hard work of I’m here for you. I’m with you. And this is what this moment looks like for us in our family.
Jen Lumanlan 35:26
Wow, yeah, there’s so much in there. So I want to slow that whole thing down because you the all of the different pieces of it really come together in there. And so I was looking back through the posts in the community. And so one day you posted “my child is melting down at breakfast, because he wants an unlimited amount of yogurt, and he always wants me to keep coming back and and how do I put a limit on this?” And then nine days later, your next post was in our Sharing Wins and Gratitude section was saying, we have found a path forward on this, and that you had taken the time to understand his need, in this situation for autonomy, that he wanted to choose how much milk and yogurt goes on his cereal, and your need for peace and the ease. And when you hold those two things together, you can start to find solutions that seemed impossible before when when the only way you think about it is how do I set a limit on this child’s behavior because they’re not doing things in the way I want them to do it. And instead, you see, okay, they have a need for autonomy, they want to have some control over what their breakfast looks like. And I have a need for peace. And those two things can work together. And then you find solutions that, as you discovered may work for one day, and then you realize, you know what, actually, that didn’t give him the amount of autonomy that he was looking for in this situation. So we come back and we try again. And we’d look for another solution. And then that solution works for a while maybe it works indefinitely. Maybe it works for a few weeks or a month. And if it stops working for one of us, we can come back and use the same process again to understand Okay, what changed here? Because it seems like this isn’t working for us anymore. Did your need change? Did my need change? What’s going on here. And so you’ve just beautifully illustrated the entire process of seeing that a limit is not helping you getting underneath the difficulty that was causing you to feel so triggered, to immediately go into anything, anything you want to make it stop. And and to see the needs underneath to propose solutions that actually work for everybody to have it not work and then come back around and find another solution. And then to say, you know what, sometimes, I’m so sorry that breakfast isn’t what you hoped it would be. And you know, this comes up all the time if the cracker breaks, and we cannot put the cracker back together again. And that yes, there are going to be big feelings because in our child’s world, this is a huge deal. And it is not our responsibility to fix that. And that just brings so much calm that we can be with this and say I hear you This is hard for you. And also, this is how it is. Yeah, that’s that’s such a beautiful illustration.
Chrystal Potter 38:05
I loved when I was listening to the NVC podcast, what was that one called again? Because it is just so good.
Jen Lumanlan 38:12
I think it was actually called Nonviolent Communication. Yeah.
Chrystal Potter 38:15
So, yes. And I always write down the resources when you say what resources are in there. And there was one parenting from the heart. And so I started reading parenting from the heart. And I had written in Taming Your Triggers, because I was really working through why should our children listen to us, like I had written and I thought it was a bizarre thing to ask. But I was like, I don’t want my children to be controlled. And I was really wrestling through why should our children listen to us. And I had written that up. And I felt really vulnerable, you know, asking those questions. And then something just popped out at me when I was reading it. And it says the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic, intrinsic, can you say those two words? They’re tricky for me.
Jen Lumanlan 38:54
Intrinsic and extrinsic?
Chrystal Potter 38:55
Yeah, yeah. And so I obviously came from external motivations, all the time – consequences, fear, guilt, shame. You know, that type of thing. And what we’re really wanting to do, and what I’m learning from this is, as you communicate with your children, you have needs, and I have needs, we actually work in this beautiful environment where our children are motivated, because they’re part of a family, and they’re part of a team and they know that they’re safe, and that their needs are being met. And because their needs are being met. They also feel that they’re happy to contribute or meet the needs of the family. But they’re equally I would say, Actually, I don’t want to do that, or that doesn’t feel right to me. And so it’s been so interesting, the journey for my nine year old daughter, because obviously my toddler is irrational and there’s a lot of you know, that that still comes into play where she’s much more, you know, solid and in her thinking, and so she’ll start to say to me, hey, that felt really manipulative, or I feel like my boundaries aren’t being met or respected right now. And so like the other day, because I’m really you know, what is your need here? What are you feeling but equally, I’m using the language of, I’m setting a boundary here on myself with what I need and what I feel, and I may have to remove myself from the situation, or I’ll say, I’m struggling to support you, I’ll be right back, you know, just really starting to put in those boundaries. And she’s eight, and I had, she was in the bath the other day, and she normally jumps out of the bath. And then the other two jump in, and she’s really, you know, as she’s getting older, wanting privacy, but with, you know, in this place of still learning that. And as I was trying to get her out of the bath, and then I just took a deep breath. And she said to me, you’re not respecting my boundary right now. And I think you know what, you’re right, I’m gonna put the towel here, I’m going to shut the door, and you can get out of the bath. And you know, do that for yourself. And so really starting to have that language in our family and having that respect and autonomy. And really, every time I feel resistance from her, I’m able to stop and say, Hey, what’s going on for you. And there was this beautiful moment where it was so hard to get her dressed for school for months. And it’s hard to get her to go to school to start with, because she would much rather stay with me all the time if she could. And we just had this resistance for school clothes, and I would help her get dressed. And she would just take them off. Like one morning, I think I addressed her three times that she just kept taking them off. And I’m like, What do I do. And so I sat down with her and like what’s going on for you. And she’s like, I like knowing that you’re the last person who touches my clothes. And I’m like, what, you know, when we’re having a children’s resistance, that’s the last thing that we would think that it was going to be this, you know, heart melting reason as to why she wasn’t wanting to get dressed. And so, you know, now I just work with her, she’ll put our pants on, but I put a top on, and I had that top and I snuggle in and you know, we don’t have any resistance around that. And in saying that she sleeps with half of our school clothes on now anyways, after the bath, she puts on fresh pants, and that worked for us to not have that battle every morning. And then so what I’m seeing from that is, as she knows that she’s safe to have her needs met, I’ll now say to her, can you do this? Or will you do that? And she’s like, Yeah, no problem. Or the other day we came home and we had people coming over for lunch and I said, can you clean up outside? And normally, she didn’t want to do something. She say no, I’m not doing that. And that’s that. And she said, it’s too cold for me to clean up outside. Is there something I can do inside? I was like, “Whaaat?”, you know, like, she was able to see, you could tell that I needed that wanting to clean up for people to come over and she was able to contribute. I don’t want to do that. But this is what I’m happy to contribute and all of that. Awww, amazing.
Jen Lumanlan 42:23
For sure. Oh, my goodness, there’s so many amazing moments in there. And I mean, going back to the example of the bath and thinking of a child saying to a parent, you’re not respecting my boundaries, I think too many parents that would feel incredibly threatening that the child would answer back in that way that we’ve been sort of called out, as you know, it’s sort of like, yeah, I’m not, but you’re not supposed to know that or say that, right? Because I’m your parent, you’re supposed to do what I want you to do. But if we want to raise children who understand what their boundaries are, who are coming into the teenage years and beyond, and who are going to start exploring romantic relationships with other people, what do we want them to know about boundaries when they get there? Or do we want them to know, a sense of what is okay with them? And if so, if they have a gut feel, you know what, this is not okay with me, Do they feel as though they can actually say something about that to another person, I mean, what parent doesn’t want their child to be able to say that. And so but if the first chance we’re giving them to practice that is with another kid their own age, who feels maybe in even in a position of power, maybe the child isn’t a year or two older than them, and we’re putting them in this position where we’re asking them to understand what their boundary is, and to set that boundary for the very first time because we’ve never allowed them to use that language with us. I mean, we’re putting them in an extremely difficult situation, whereas what you’re doing is you are giving her actual real life practice at understanding her physical feelings, okay, I’m feeling this is not right. For me, this is this is not comfortable for me, I can express that to my parent, and she doesn’t take it personally, this is not an attack on her. This is me saying what’s okay with me, and my parents not gonna have a massive reaction, she’s gonna look to understand what my need is and say, you know what, yeah, I don’t have a need to dry you. When you get out of the bar. If you have a need for privacy right now, then, as long as you’re getting dried, that’s what counts. I mean, that’s such an incredibly important thing that you’re doing right there. And that’s going to set her up in good stead for relationships she’s going to have throughout her life.
Chrystal Potter 44:29
Yeah. 100%. And it’s interesting to helping them navigate through their relationships to as in the sibling relationships of respecting each other and bringing those needs to the table. And it is interesting, you know, I blow it all the time. And it’s so nice to be able to come back and say, Hey, this, is this what you were feeling or what what were you needing and just having those beautiful conversations of actually, that didn’t feel right or that didn’t go how I wanted it to go and we say do overs in our family. I’m like, Can I have a do over and then just addressing that again, and so I used to feel so much guilt and shame and condemnation if I didn’t get it right. And now I’m just like, oh, that didn’t work. After everything I’ve been through, it’s no wonder I reacted that way. I’ve never been in this situation before, with three children, and you know, the intense pressure. And so we just come back and have a do over and experience grace with each other and move on it. Yeah, it’s awesome.
Jen Lumanlan 45:22
Yeah. And the second part of your example, was your child, the way your child responds to you when you ask them to do something. And, you know, I think it’s a constant struggle with parents where they’re asking their child to do something, and they say, No, I want you to do something, you say no. And what we don’t realize is that very often, we’re not giving our child an opportunity to share what’s actually going on with them. We’re seeing this no as an act of resistance and acts of defiance, when actually is usually just saying, I don’t know how to do this, or I’m invested in doing something else right now, it’s not that I’m not willing to do it is that I’m busy doing something else right now. And that when we do really use this approach of giving the child a choice, like you can actually say, no, that you’re not going to do this right now. It helps us all out if we work together as a team. And when we can see that I have needs and you have needs, and we’re going to work together on this, but you actually do have the freedom to say no to this particular request, what the child will very often then do is to say, this part of your request is not working for me. This other part, I’m more than happy to help with and let’s figure out a way to, for me to contribute to this gathering event that you’re hosting and that you need help preparing for. So there’s this such a meeting of relationships and of people and of goodwill, I think when you come from that place of I’m not demanding that you do something I’m requesting, and you can say no,
Chrystal Potter 46:44
Jen Lumanlan 46:46
Yeah. And so I’m curious about, if you cast your mind back, it’s probably 12 weeks now, isn’t it since you started Taming Your Triggers? And not that this has obviously fixed everything in your family. But I’m just curious about where you think you were headed iIf you hadn’t taken the workshop? How would things have been different than the way they’re going right now?
Chrystal Potter 47:07
I think the real benefit from the Taming Your Triggers, and then why I’ve chosen to continue on with the Your Parenting Mojo is often, when you’ve done quite a bit of work around, you know, I read all the books, I listen to the podcast, but there’s such a disconnect between the knowledge that I have, versus being able to implement it, especially in the environment where these things are just happening all the time, because I’ve got three children with, you know, very three strong willed children. And so I think what happens from joining the Taming Your Triggers, it was just that focus of really being able to be intentional. And even though I wasn’t, you know, there was a slot, a couple of weeks there that I really did fall behind, because I just had so much going on, I knew that and there was so such a supportive community that just catch back up, like there’s no shame or guilt him that you get here when you get there. I think having that accountability of just knowing hey, there’s other people in this who are going through the same thing is me having that, knowing once a week, I’m going to get some course content, which is going to refocus and recenter me, there’s people that are in this together going through this journey with me, I can ask questions when I need to ask questions. And so I think that really put in the framework of being able to support me moving forward. And I think, if I hadn’t signed up for the course, I just wouldn’t be having the same outcomes, like I would be still having positive experiences, but I wouldn’t be having as many as I was having because you know, you’ve got that support of the community, it makes you much more intentional, when you know that you might be having a conversation about it, or you’re studying something. And so I think there would still continue to be and this is what I’m working on now the disconnect between how I want to behave versus how I actually do or how I want to show up or how I want to parent versus how I do. Whereas the Timing Your Triggers workshop, and then obviously going on with Parenting Membership, it gives me the opportunity to just continue doing the work and not necessarily slide behind from where I want to be.
Jen Lumanlan 49:12
Yeah. And I’m wondering about the sort of the sense of, of where you’re going as a family, like, what do you feel about the direction that you’re heading in as a family at this point?
Chrystal Potter 49:21
That’s an interesting question. I mean, we’re still very much in it feels a bit like sometimes it does feel like survival mode, because we’re in a new season, we’ve moved house. So we’re like 45 minutes away from school return trips. So there’s a whole bunch of elements that I knew in our environment that we’re kind of working through, but I think what’s amazing is it helps me be so intentional about Okay, what do I want my life to look like? What does my parenting, what do I want my parenting look like? But then the other thing that’s been so freeing, is my husband and I are 80% on the same page in our parenting style, which is absolutely incredible. But there’s probably a 20% that wee’re not. And it’s been really helpful if I hadn’t realized how judgmental I could be around that, like, Oh, are you gonna parent like that, or I can’t believe, and I didn’t know I was doing it, but there would be a look on my face or I always think, well, I wouldn’t do it like that, and I’m better than you. And so really being able to go actually, this is your relationship with the kids. And in this moment, if that’s the best that you can do, or if that’s what you want to do, I’m here to love and support you and not judge you for that. And I love kind of the idea that children can switch between caregivers. So I think there’s just so much hope for parents who maybe their partners aren’t, you know, on the same page as them to actually you can still love your partner, and support them in their parenting style, and do your own thing in the way that you parent as well. So I think I’m not sure if that answered the question 100%, but you know, there’s just, we’re still bringing in a whole bunch of those elements. And we’re still very new, like in the parenting aspect of respectful parenting and, and learning all of those things. So it’s still a journey, but we’ve got maybe like a cake, we’ve got all the ingredients, we’ve put them on together. And the next kind of step is we’re putting it in the oven to kind of see, see that next outcome I guess.
Chrystal Potter 51:16
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, there is a lot of a lot of hope in that. And I think just having compassion for life doesn’t look a 100% how I thought it would with three small children, my husband, and I often laugh, you say, let’s have a baby, oh, I didn’t realize we’re gonna have a baby. And then you have another one. And all of these things come up for you and they don’t sleep. And it doesn’t look like you thought it would. And you don’t respond and react like you thought it would. And so you really have to you and this definitely happened with my first child, I thought, This is what it’s going to look like. And so letting go really letting go of those expectations of this is what I thought it was going to look like to this is what it is like and how do I parent this child now not the one that I thought I would have in 18 years and getting rid of I’m learning this from The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel Siegel, getting rid of the shark music, oh my gosh, like if I let my child do this now then in 10 years time, they’re going to be a brat or sport or whatever, and just go just parent the child in front of you. So you know, I mean, this season of, it doesn’t look like it is gonna look in five years, and I need to have compassion for just the intensity and that it’s overwhelming, like three children can be so overwhelming when I’m driving in the car and got a 45 minute trip and someone is screaming for that whole time. You know, that is what it is. That’s my life at the moment. And sometimes I can’t fix that but I can take a deep breath and know that, you know, I’ve got support and resources and things to be able to move through that well.
Jen Lumanlan 51:16
Yeah, it feels very hopeful. The sense that I’m getting for you is very hopeful.
Jen Lumanlan 52:48
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Chrystal, it’s such an honor to talk with you.
Chrystal Potter 52:53
It’s been so great to chat with you too. One day I want to sit down and hear all about you. On a podcast with somebody who is on the other side hearing, bringing all your stories and things together.
Jen Lumanlan 53:04
Yeah, yeah, we’ll have to try and make that happen. And so for anyone who’s listening to this thinking, I need some of that in my life. You can find out more about the Taming Your Triggers workshop at YourParentingMojo.com/TamingYourTriggers.
Jen Lumanlan 53:17
Thanks for joining us for this episode of Your Parenting Mojo. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show at YourParentingMojo.com to receive new episode notifications and the FREE Guide to 13 Reasons Your Child Isn’t Listening To You And What To Do About Each One. And also join the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group.
For more respectful research based ideas to help kids thrive and make parenting easier for you, I’ll see you next time on Your Parenting Mojo.
About the author, Jen
Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.
Her Finding Your Parenting Mojo membership group supports parents in putting the research into action in their real lives, with their real families. Find more info at www.YourParentingMojo.com/Membership
She also launched the most comprehensive course available to help parents decide whether homeschooling could be right for their family. Find out more about it – and take a free seven-question quiz to get a personalized assessment of your own homeschooling readiness at www.YourHomeschoolingMojo.com
And for parents who are committed to public school but recognize the limitations in that system, she has a course to help support children's learning in school at https://jenlumanlan.teachable.com/p/school