In 2002, American writer Augusten Burroughs’ memoire, Running with Scissors, was launched and spent eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The memoir is littered with a litany of bizarre childhood encounters experienced by young Burroughs, whose emotionally unstable, aspiring poet of a mother sends him to live with her psychiatrist. The book, while entertaining, captures the confusion and pain of growing up in a household with no rules, no boundaries, and no guidance. Our good faith effort to raise well-adjusted, emotionally balanced and psychological-wise children and teens is far too often met with challenges, uncertainty, and even chaos revealing the herculean task of preparing children to become responsible adults.
On this episode, licensed clinical psychologist, expert in the application of TEAM CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) to children and adolescents and director of the new Feeling Good Institute-New York City, Taylor Chesney, Psy.D., discusses how hard it is to educate children on top of raising them to become well-adjusted adults. She shares her work in improving mental health and coping skills while getting kids to cooperate, engage, and manage themselves.
About Taylor Chesney, Psy.D.
Dr. Chesney is a licensed clinical psychologist with unique expertise in the application of TEAM CBT to children and adolescents. A graduate of the School-Clinical-Child Psychology Psy.D. program at Pace University in New York City, Dr. Chesney then trained with Dr. David Burns at Stanford University and her fellow therapists at FGI for several years mastering TEAM CBT. She teaches TEAM CBT for the Feeling Good Institute and is the director of the new Feeling Good Institute-New York City. Dr. Chesney also supervises psychiatry residents in the Department of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.
Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function. In 2002, American writer Augusten Burroughs published his memoir called Running with Scissors, which became an instantaneous hit. However, the book is quite intriguing and fascinating because it describes life events of particularly bizarre childhood life events of Augustine, when his mother, who was an aspirational poet, probably suffering with some mental disorder, sends him to live with a psychiatrist. And then everything that ensues is something unimaginable for all of us who are getting a window into a child's experience into becoming an adult. The reason I'm sharing that, that getting kids do you know, children live very complicated lives, and not every adult is designed to understand how children think how children come to be, how they thrive. It's not as intuitive as we think, and getting kids to cooperate, engage, manage themselves, our everyday staple for parenting and raising children. The pandemic's certainly has unveiled a parent for parents how hard it is, in addition to raising children to educate them. So our good faith effort to raise well adjusted emotionally balanced and psychologically, psychologically wise children and teens is far too often can be a pipe dream. So with that in mind, I have a fantastic guest, who specializes in helping us achieve that dream. And also kind of recognizing that these are processes and skills that can be developed with guidance and training. So it's my pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Taylor Chesney, she is a licensed clinical psychologist with unique expertise in the application of Team CBT, cognitive behavior therapy to children and adolescents. It's a specialized approach, a graduate of school of this school clinical psychology, Psy D program at Pace University in New York City, Dr. Chesney, then trained with David Burns, who has been a guest on our podcast at Stanford University, and her fellow therapist at FGI, which is the Feeling Good Institute for several years, mastering team CBT. Now she teaches team CBT for the Feeling Good Institute, and is the director of the new feeling good Institute in the New York City. I personally had the pleasure of being trained by her, I took her course and I highly recommend to the listeners, those who qualify to take the course and become empowered with strategies. So welcome, welcome. Welcome to the podcast. How are you doing?
Taylor Chesney: Thank you so much Sucheta I'm so excited to be here. I know you've tried for a long time to do this together. So I'm just so happy to be here. And it was such an honor to have you in my class.
Sucheta Kamath: Thank you. So my first question is about this challenge that, uh, you know, before we started the recording, we did talk about that, you know, it's being a child, in current times, I don't know if it was hard earlier, but my childhood I feel was not as hard and harsh as I feel our children are experiencing. So what, in your opinion, are everyday challenges that parents children face in coming of age and becoming young adults?
Taylor Chesney: A wonderful question, and I'll share that I both will answer this question with professional knowledge, as well as myself raising three young children during a pandemic right now I have a seven, five and four year old and have to get used to saying four because he just turned four.
Sucheta Kamath: Oh, congratulations.
Taylor Chesney: Yeah. So both professionally and personally, I share I share this knowledge. It's hard to be a child these days. And it's hard to be a parent. Right? I think a lot of the unique challenges of parenting during a pandemic mean lots more time together. Lots more anxiety, and lots less predictability and design need to roll with the punches. Right? And what we Yeah, children is that they thrive, being social being out and having predictable schedules, right. And that's just what has been on the table for the last 18 months, almost two years, right. And so we had this period where everyone was at home. And then this like in between where people were in a hybrid school somewhere at home. And now this is sort of returning to normal and we don't know what normal will look like or when it will be normal. And we have kids that have been all impacted in lots of different ways. So I think children these days face just such challenges kind of recovering and coming back from that, as well as the trauma that this has been for parents.
Sucheta Kamath: And interesting thing you say that, and my heart is with you, because you're raising little, little kids. And it's not easy. My kids are older now. But, you know, the are these challenges you feel they're distinctly different than how it was 10 years ago. And we do have a lot of literature that talks about particularly social media and handheld technology that has transformed the way to know I was reading about an anthropologist are talking about that as human being in their lifetime, we're not designed to know more than 100 and people encounter 150 people. And then here we are encountering millions of people that we will never meet, and their opinions and their their ways of life, which was not even supposed to be part of our knowledge. And that's one of the things is very overwhelming.
Taylor Chesney: I think their world is so different than kids worlds 10 years ago, right? I think this has been going on and being said, for a long time, but when we were children, we would go to school, you know, maybe someone was mean to you, maybe you were left out, maybe you weren't invited to a birthday party, maybe you didn't make the soccer team, but then you left, right and, and had a break from that. And you got to retreat to your family, and you got to retreat to the one or two or maybe three or four friends that you chose to have a playdate. Now kids don't have that separation. And not only don't they not have that separation, but all of those things, whether it's academics, social athletic, that they're struggling with at school are now being brought home. And then on top of that, they have to manage that addiction. Right, like, do I do my schoolwork? That is delayed gratification? Or do I engage in social media? Right? And so I think it's even if we're just looking at technology, the world that our children are living in is just completely different than it was even 10 years ago.
Sucheta Kamath: And then, on top of that, I think, you know, the distinction that what we thought was unique to children with ADHD, or some impulsivity was unique to, you know, or behaviors that we thought was disorders is now to me a commonplace, you know, you have a father who's at a dinner table can put the his own phone away, and then is telling the children to not do the same. And there's just that hypocrisy saying that as I do, right.
Taylor Chesney: Yes, exactly. Shaping behavior and child development, that modeling behavior. And what our children see in us is the number one way in which we learn so yes, in theory, parents can have one set of rules for themselves, and children can have another, but it's just not as effective that way.
Sucheta Kamath: So then, just to circle back to the question about parents, are they facing in your mind? Or in your opinion, similar challenges in parenting that also are looking a lot different than 10 years ago, or when you and I were children? How has that changed over time you see, the parenting responsibility?
Taylor Chesney: I have these conversations with my parents all the time, that being a parent now is much harder and much more complicated, right? Because it's not only the rules that you have for your children, but then when you're involved in a community, whether it's rules around COVID, whether it's rules around technology. Yeah, so I think both parent, you know, parenting is more challenging, we have more decisions to be made. And that home, home work life balance is really hard as well.
Sucheta Kamath: So then, let's talk a little bit about a cognitive behavior therapy, before we dive deep into the parenting aspects. So when we talk about emotional psychological development of children and cognitive development, a maladaptive response to stressors or are adjusting to challenges in a not so favorable way, is, is a commonplace thing. And that leads to distortion. So can you talk a little bit about the premise of how commonplace This is to have a way to make meaning of unfortunate or unsavory experiences in life? And how does CBT work? And then we can maybe also talk a little bit about specialized training of Team CBT?
Taylor Chesney: Well, so many wonderful questions there. I'm not sure I'll be able to answer every aspect of it. But I'll start with sort of a general layman's term definition of what cognitive behavioral therapy is and how we can use that to benefit children. The idea is that it's not the events of our life, what happens to us that determines how we feel, but what we tell ourselves about it, right? A child can get a 90 on an exam and one child can be thrilled and one child can be so upset. And it's because of the story they tell themselves about it. And that story is not always based in fact, right? That story can be based on cognitive distortions such as, they'll always be this why I'll never do better. I always put a lot of effort in and I never get the results I desire. Right? So it's not so much about what happens to us, but what we tell ourselves about it.
Sucheta Kamath: And when we tell ourselves, when does one come become aware that these are distortions versus this is a, I don't even know, proper way to process information? Like, there needs to be that self check, right? That awareness of awareness, and it's a developmental process that doesn't emerge until a little bit later. So how do we discover that child has processed processed information? And what are the factors that influence that? How Children make meaning, and bridge the gap between reality and how they think it really happened?
Taylor Chesney: Well, I think one of the important things we have to look at is everyone has cognitive distortions. But what to look at, to what extent is it impacting their functioning? Right? It we want to think of shaping a child's thinking and behavior to have fewer cognitive distortions, we don't want to tell them everything they're thinking is wrong, right? Like this, you know, I never get what I want, right? Like, or, you know, kind of common things that children say, we don't need to correct all of that. But we want to look at it and see, is it causing a problem for them? Right? Are they excessively angry? Because of the way that they're thinking? Are they unable to get their schoolwork done, because they're always thinking is going to be unpleasant? Right? So we want to see how their distortions impact their functioning, you know, for me think of executive functioning as a habit or an addiction. Right, procrastination, for example, there's the cognitive distortion of thinking about how how difficult it is, right? We're thinking about all the things they can't, right. And so to the extent that the distortions impact their functioning, is when we really want to start to intervene, and help.
Sucheta Kamath: And what I have learned so much from you, and David and all the work in, so my work is in cognitive retraining. So we're working on teaching children, adolescents, and adults how to think about their thinking how to categorically analyze information, make deductions and engage in higher order thinking abilities. But I felt that my training really left this important piece of distortions and managing your beliefs about your behaviors and your attitude towards life experiences. And second thing, I think, what also became so evident to me was this. I am not my thoughts. So the thoughts that I feel are temporary, and they also are under the influence if you think about it, and they change and shift and that was such a such a powerful revelation. So can you speak to that a little bit? That is this, this idea of cognitive behavior therapy, where you're helping people, if I'm understanding correctly, develop a relationship with their own beliefs and thoughts, but also change using some agency over it? Are these easy to do? And why are they so important to engage in?
Taylor Chesney: They're very easy to do if someone is willing to, right?
Sucheta Kamath: Yes, so maybe we have motivation, we can talk about it.
Taylor Chesney: The challenges with working with children and adolescents is was this a problem before? And who wants to do the work to change? And that's one of the reasons that I love team CBT, which looks at in motivational interviewing, right? Is it the parent that wants help? Is it the child that wants help? And who is this really, right? So if the child wants to get into a good college or wants to get good grades or wants to have privileges and is not, and they're willing to work on it, then it's somewhat easy to kind of teach them these tools and techniques, right? But it's not like a medical doctor or a mechanic shop where it's like, oh, my child has this problem. Let me drop them off and get a tire changed, right? It requires work and an effort and a and a willingness to say hey, this isn't working for me.
Sucheta Kamath: So So can you walk us through this TEAM approach? The acronym stands for T for testing, e for empathy, a for agenda setting and for methods and correct.
Taylor Chesney: Specific you want me to You just kind of explained?
Sucheta Kamath: Well, no, it's just one thing that interests me. Two things actually wouldn't one is the empathy for empathy. This is such a such an important process, that I also like, you mentioned that when parents are concerned for their children, and children's future, they see the need for something needs to be done. They recognize that it's not me who can help you. And they bring it that child to us, you and I, but they want that change happen, whether the child is motivated, interested, invested or not. And second, they never questioned whether their own motivations are appropriately aligned to the child's best interest or not. Right. Yeah. so and so. So empathy, you talk a lot about empathy in your work and in your training, so maybe you can share with us what what role does it play and how valuable it isn't supporting both the whole family?
Taylor Chesney: Yeah, I don't think family can be successful helping their child unless they're willing to look at their own communication style. And David Burns is credited with developing the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. And I've worked a lot to try to think about how to adapt those techniques to better help parents communicate more effectively with their children. And the Five Secrets of Effective Communication are the first is the disarming technique, where you find some truth in what the other person is saying, even if you don't disagree, even if you don't agree. And I agree at all, with this the most right? Because when a child says it's not fair that I don't have phone privileges at all night, right? The parent thinks that they should say like, No, you're wrong, it is there. Whereas you can empathize. And you can agree without changing your mind. So I think a lot, there's been a movement recently towards more positive parenting, right to seeing the world through their eyes. And I think a lot of parents reject that, because they think that just means I'm going to become a submissive parent, right? You can set your limit in a way that pushes your child away. Or you can set a limit in a way that gets your child to want to listen, right? You're right, that is so unfair, that you don't get it all night, I wish there was a way for you to be on your phone all night, get your schoolwork done, and wake up well rested. Like it's just not fair. I agree that you can't do that. Right. So that's an example of disarming, you can find the truth in what they're saying, even if you're not going to change what you're doing. And then the next part is thought empathy, and feeling empathy, where when we're communicating with our children, we really just repeat that exactly what they're saying. And this convey is that you hear what they're saying, right? Because I often hear from teens or children, you're not listening, you're not getting right. So rather than interpreting or saying something like you want, I imagine you want your phone privileges because all your friends, right, like you don't need to interpret it right? You can just say like, you really want your phone and it's not fair that you're getting and then feeling empathy, how you imagine they might be feeling and I imagine you might be feeling be feeling really angry or frustrated with me that you're not getting phone for.
Sucheta Kamath: It's you know, can I just interject here? I think it's so interesting that you say that, I think in my experience, a lot of times the point that you made earlier, there is some fear about becoming permissive. That acknowledgement to people feels like I'm giving in and somehow giving in means I have lost control ultimately, that's what it comes down to. Right and so and I feel that same way these negotiating spaces difficult spaces when we don't agree with people that acknowledgement empathic stance can be so productive and and deeply meaningful because the other person feels seen as a person. And it's such a simple thing and it's lost on people.
Taylor Chesney: Right, let me you give a really quick example. Last night, I was putting my son to bed and we do rest time and I hold his hand and it's very sweet. And he asked us how many minutes you got some you negotiate that all the time and he always asks for an extra minute and a lot of the times I give it to him because I love cuddling with him. But last but I worry that if I say yes every time when I actually need to leave it's always gonna be a debate. So last night he said 5 more minutes Mommy and I said I love sitting in bed with you it makes so much sense that you want one more I'm going to say no today because I worry that this will always become a pattern and he's like okay love you and I left right where as I think if we if we kind of say like no you know I'm leaving like you always asked for one more minute I'm not doing it right I think it would have become more of a battle.
Sucheta Kamath: Lovely. I think that's such a such a great. So is it a good good way that path? sort of parenting is also kind of revealing some of the trepidation. So you might feel and make it part of the conversation.
Taylor Chesney: As to the secrets that I was going to share. One is an I feel statement, right? Rather than hiding behind your feelings, sharing it, so I feel a bit worried, or I feel, you know, a bit annoyed or this is hard for me or I feel a bit frustrated. Without saying, like, You're so annoying, or you're so frustrating, I can't believe you're doing this to me, right, just kind of sharing it openly and non judgmental, II, and then stroking like, even if you're annoyed or frustrated saying something loving or kind or caring, right. So to my child, I love our time together. I love you so much, right? And it's so opposite of what we think of like when we're annoyed or frustrated, right, we go with angry, but I think if we're able to insert that into our communication, then I think it just warms it up, right? Who wants to say who wants to be angry at someone that's saying how much they love you. Right? So I think that really does ADD, or, or when they say, you know, I love how hard I heard you tried in school today, right? That just helps a child just fill their bucket so much and allow them to to be a better version of themselves. I know in the book, How to talk so kids will listen and listen. So kids will talk they, yes, that's a good book, right? They talk about when kids feel right, they act right, right, and we get hits, you're right, by being empathic and supporting them and giving them love.
Sucheta Kamath: Fabulous, I think I wish you know, I kind of developed my empathic acumen earlier, when I was a young parent. I was very strict rule based parent and I have warmed up a little bit now. I'm glad.
Taylor Chesney: We talked about like the pandemic, right, and how to survive. Kids thrive off of structure and predictability. Right. So I think by being a strict parent, you did do a lot of things, right. But I think a lot of times it's like polar opposites. It's either like your strict parent who's very rigid and rule following or you're permissive and Lovey Dovey, and the kids rule the roost. Right. And I think this happy medium really exists in between where you can gain the positive from being Lovey Dovey, you know, Kumbaya, that setting limits, but I think there's a misunderstanding that not setting limits makes you like a good, you know, loving a kids thank my parents don't set rules, it makes them a good parent, but it's just not that why kids just thrive off structure and predictability that sounds like you've provided your children with, which is wonderful.
Sucheta Kamath: Thank you, I think I do see one. One idea that really helped me was this concept of, you know, soft front, firm back. So having principles that are clear, consistent, and a something that the expectations are made made clear to children that really helped. But the second thing is to also situationally, you know, like, particularly, you know, letting your children come into your bed, you know, sometimes you see the circumstances, and they have had a really rough day, and then you make that allowance, and make an exception. And just like you said, this is an exception, but I understand why this is so. So you kind of kind of touched upon that. Can we just talk a little bit about the COVID-19. And the parenting shift, which is, one, their own relationship to uncertainty and their own anxiety. And so many adults I see are not managing that child. And they are not fully aware of how it's impacting their children. So do you have any suggestions for one parents to become a little bit more aware? And then how can they shift their relationship to the way they are raising children in these times of uncertainty, and collectively a family that is almost I feel like it's, it's like being on a boogie board, you know, you're not on the sand anymore. You're always going to be in the ocean, kind of getting a feel for the waves?
Taylor Chesney: Absolutely. I think the tricky thing with anxiety is it's helpful. It's adopted, right? When I first started we had to turn up our degree of anxiety, right? We had to worry about everything. I remember having a conversation with myself like how am I going to treat my patients with OCD, right because their fears, their obsessions, and the compulsions are very valid right? I think I one patient one say like finally, like I'm doing fine during the pandemic because finally everyone else is as worried as I am. So anxiety helps us achieve and helps Just be attuned to the things that could go wrong. Like David Burns says it's on a dial, right? We could kind of think of it just like music. If we're listening to our favorite music, and it's too high, we can't enjoy it. And if it's too low, we also can't enjoy it. So we want to find that volume that works for us, that protects us, but also allows us to live. Right. And I think for parents, it's becoming aware of what that balance is, how much anxiety is helping us and how much of it is hurting us. And I think as the pandemic progressives, that dial has to go up and down, my husband and I have these conversations all the time, like, should we go here? Or should we not? What's our master policy? Who should we be around, right? And anxiety is adaptive, it helps us stay safe, it helps us prepare for sporting events, it helps us prepare for schoolwork, right? We need to feel a little bit up if we were just kind of like chill and on a beach all the time, right and never had a care in the world we wouldn't function well. Right? So anxiety isn't a switch that we want to turn on or off. But we want to kind of take a sense of how is it positively impacting us and negatively impacting us? And I think as parents that's how we can first check in with ourselves right? And and see how our own anxiety is impacting our children we want to look at, are there changes in our children's sleep, their eating their folk ass right? There weight, right weight sometimes could show that they're not getting enough exercise too much exercise, eating too much not eating enough. So we all want, we want to look at the big picture of how we're functioning and what role anxiety is serving.
Sucheta Kamath: So helpful, so helpful. So as you think about your own pandemic parenting challenges. What, what came easy, and what came hard for you, as somebody who trains people and guides people, did you find anything became a challenge for you?
Taylor Chesney: While it all became a challenge for me, my husband is an ICU and emergency room doctor. So Oh, my goodness, the pandemic started, he moved to a different apartment so that we would all stay safe. And so I was thrust into home school, running my practice, and taking care of my children's emotional well being I feel fortunate that my children were very young, like, I think little kids little problems, big kids big problems, right? You know, they their needs for protection were met, their love, you know, they were on the computer with friends. So I felt very fortunate in the sense that they had a lot of the things that they needed, not that much was taken away. But I think it became on us to kind of, you know, usually you go off to work and your kids go off to school, and then you come home later in the day when work is over. And when school is over, and you get to play and hang out and have fun. But all of a sudden, we had to kind of manage homeschooling, physical activity, social connection, structure, free time, right. So all of those needs of children kind of fell upon me. So it was definitely challenging. But I think what really got me through was sort of choosing my battles. And I think this is a parenting strategy that can help during a pandemic or not, kids have a need for control. And the more you can give them control, then the more you can take it away in certain areas, right? The example with my son, if I was always taking things away from him, when I said, you know, tonight is not going to be a night that I can give you an extra minute, he was able to take that, right. But if he's just always, if you're constantly taking everything away, we're not giving them choice, and then it can be challenging. So I think also the idea of choice, like do you want to do your reading now? Or after this activity? Not like do you want to do your reading by giving them the choice and control of when they can do it.
Sucheta Kamath: And, you know, I can give you a fast forwarded example of a kid that I worked with who was in 11th grade. And parents never practiced these choice making process or even setting limits with and giving freedom within limits. So finally, the kid was not doing homework. He was not attending a was attending but sleeping in the class all kinds of motivational mismanagement, and just definitely not connecting to schooling experience. And so this kid was so finally one by one the parents started stripping things from his room. And by the time he came to see me he had a bed, a pillow and a comforter. They had taken even the door of office room now talk about insane parenting strategy.
Taylor Chesney: So I do really help you know, when we're thinking of facing a challenge and something that a child's not doing. We have to think of the role of positive praise and positive reinforcer, reinforcement. Right? Kind of that I remember when I was in elementary school, they had like the caught your being good cards, right? They would hand out these cards, like if you were nice to a friend or helped pick something up, right. And I think a lot it feels cheesy a lot of the time when you're like, I saw how nicely you shared with your sister. That was great. Or I got the sense that you didn't want to be in class. But I noticed you raise your hand anyway. Right? Like I felt really proud of you for that. Right. So kind of catching the things that they are doing? Well, because we're so accustomed to pointing out all the things that our children that our spouses that we don't do. Well. And I think if we want to work on shaping more desirable behaviors, we also have to set real realistic expectations. Yeah, right.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, it's interesting. And the other thing I also see, sometimes, people don't spend enough time explaining the expectations, they make comments or give negative feedback when the expectations are not read. But it's never clear to children, this was a norm, this is what we expect to do. You know, so yelling and screaming children for not putting their backpack away or putting their shoes away. But it's never like, let's power out. And this is what being a good citizen of the house means. Put the shoes away, hang the backpack, empty, the, you know, take out your homework, all those things that are expected. Some children tend to be oblivious to these insidious expectation.
Taylor Chesney: I think hands in hand with that is sometimes we say general things like, I want you to be more respectful, or I want you to get dressed, I want you to get ready for school in the morning, right? So I know what that means. But we need to be very specific, and look at what they're capable of doing. Right. So if we want a child to get ready for school independently, that that means picking out their clothes, putting their clothes on putting weather appropriate clothes on brushing their teeth, eating their food, right? So kind of breaking down each of their steps and figuring out what are they able to already do on their own? And how can we then help them get to the next step.
Sucheta Kamath: So, so true. And as you mentioned, these are like making the implicit explicit and making explicit rehearse.d And once it's rehearsed, then you can go back to making it implicit. So then you are speaking the same language. And you know, I always give people, one of the most beneficial things for my executive function development was coming from another country to another country, because you have protocols that are insidious to the system. They're embedded in the system, nobody walks you through or orients. You. I remember, this is the silliest example. But when I came from India, we, the ATM card had not still come to parts of India that I was in. So you couldn't put a card in some machine and you had to stand in line, you had to get the tellers, little coin. And so when I opened my bank account, they gave me a box. This was my first bank account by myself at 25. And I had no idea what the box had never read. I'm the experiential learners. So I said, I don't need it. I got this. And then we two weeks later, a friend of mine American friend, and we went for a movie and she said, Oh, I just need to withdraw some money. But I said, but the banks are closed, and I couldn't understand. Then she stands in front of this little hole. And then she takes out money. And I was like, what just happened? I said she must be rich, you know, so many things went through my head that this is a privilege that some people have. And then when I first then she said, Don't you have a bank account? And I said yes. And she said, Well, you must have an ATM card. I said really? And then I dug through got my ATM card. So my first ATM withdrawal. There were five people behind me and they were rolling their eyes like what is up with this woman? I accidentally chose the Spanish instead of English, you know, then I didn't know what I went wrong. I couldn't read it. Anything. What I'm saying is this.
Taylor Chesney: Yeah. That you take for granted, right? It's like, yes, seeing a child is being taught how to get money out of an ATM in the US.
Sucheta Kamath: Yes. So you talk about independence, I was highly motivated. I had great grasp on language I had great desire to manage myself, just didn't know the protocols.
Taylor Chesney: A gift for our children, right to really kind of break it down, right? If you want your kid to be more respectful, more organized, right? Like what are the specific steps that are involved in that? And then how can you reinforce you know, I think the technical turn term is successive approximations, right? Getting closer and closer to that desired goal. It's really hard right? You know, Parenting is hard and then to think about fixing behaviors, it really requires breaking them down and rewarding the specific behaviors, even if it feels like something they should know, just like your ATM example, right?
Sucheta Kamath: So, as we come to an end, what, what are your thoughts about punishment? Or we talked a lot about desirable behaviors and talked about positive encouragement? And what how, what do you do for infractions that cause harm, or are inappropriate, and socially unacceptable, or even more morally unacceptable, and what is a good way to teach children to one, understand that this was wrong, and why But second, not to repeat it. And lastly, not to lie, because I see a lot of trend in my practice of children being so afraid of their infractions, that they blatantly lie. And then the parents make a federal case about the line, then the reason why somebody may feel a desire to lie.
Taylor Chesney: So my thoughts on punishment are, it's not so much about the punishment, but getting a teachable moment. And I think all children are different. For my for my children, and a lot of children that I work with, I can't think of a single punishment that has led to a teachable moment or a change in behavior. There are some kids that I'm sure it does work for. But a punishment without teaching doesn't. And I think punishment, often not all the time leads to a shutdown of a child's ability to learn, right, they're so defensive, they feel so bad, that they're not able to grasp what's going on. I do think with a combination of empathy, like the talking about the five secrets of effective communication, if you're able to communicate with your child in a way that they can talk back to you in an appropriate way, and you can have a dialogue about it. I think that's where the teachable moments are. And I find that a lot of times lying comes from fear, right, and children thinking that if they do share, that they won't be listened to, right. And that's why I think a lot, that's why I think the five secrets can be really helpful. Like, if my child comes home and says, like, the teacher got upset with me today, I think you're gonna be mad. And I might say something to him, like, that must have been really hard for you, for the teacher to get upset with you. And you know, it would be amazing if she never did. But that's not how life is. And as long as you're continuing to try to improve upon what you're doing, I don't feel upset, right. And I want you to be able to talk to me. And so I think a lot of times lying comes from fear. And sometimes it's valid fear, right, like based on appearance, behavior in the past of like, getting overly angry and not talking with their child and not having a teachable moment there. Right. I'm not someone that ever says like punishment can ever happen. But punishment without the teachable moment is just a slap on the wrist like kids are shutting down, kids or kids have such low self esteem these days, I think all of these factors contribute to punishment not being affected. I think things like, let's take a break from the situation, or even if parents are angry, like, I'm going to walk away from this situation, I think modeling a way that you would like them to respond or act is, is much more effective than punishment. So So I respect families and their cultures and their home dynamics and what they value if someone needs to give a punishment, that's their choice. But if we're thinking of that as a way to improve behavior, I'm not sure that that leads to a teachable moment.
Sucheta Kamath: So important, and I really appreciate you kind of really redirecting parents attention to teachable moment, because I think that is one thing that can really cast growth in the child of mistake making is so essential. And mistake making is so integral. By definition, when you're a child, that means not knowing a lot of things. And so mistakes and also faux pas that harmful, even can be integral to that life experience. Another thing that I see that parents don't do often enough is they don't share their own vulnerabilities. They never show or reveal their own faux pas or misgivings or miscalculated moves. So almost projecting this perfection of some sort that I get this right. I remember I had a strange strange apparent in my office once where The little girl was nine years old, and she was getting bullied. And she, she definitely had a lot of social pragmatic difficulties, she was not able to read the cues, social cues, she was, didn't have friendship making skills. And so she would go to another kid and grab what they were playing, and to play with me. So this was her strategy, completely wrong and not working for her. And then the other people would grab it back, and then she would complain. So then the other child would get reprimanded for grabbing things. So this went on and on. And so finally became the teachers observed, and the parents brought her to me and I, for first visit kind of brought the parents in, the father says to me, I don't understand what the big deal is, I was exactly like her. And now I'm a CEO of a very large company. So I don't care what the other kids are doing. Look how I turned it off. And so I felt like, look how you turned out, you know, you actually don't care about other people's feelings. And that's not cool. I mean, I didn't say any of that. But so there is that definite sell blindness a little bit do you encounter that? When parents are not expressing their own experiences that I don't want to say punish worthy, but you know, somewhere they cost harm, or, or that was not cool. To do something to other people?
Taylor Chesney: Yeah, I think all of us as parents bring our own baggage right for, for better or for worse. And I always tell parents and think of it this way that I assume all parents are doing the best that they're able to right now. And if someone you know, is the way that you're talking about it's they're likely I think it's helpful as a therapist, to see the parent is doing the best they are able, and that's what they're able to do. And I see it as my job to see if there are skills that I can help them with to be a better parent, right? To kind of work through some of the challenges, right? And as parents, we're, we're human too, right? We're not We're not perfect? Yes, I think the Five Secrets of Effective Communication is also really helpful, you know, to us, with our spouses or partners, our children, right, to kind of admit our flaws, like it's okay to upset someone, but it's also okay to accept responsibility for it too. We're not going to be perfect as parents either.
Sucheta Kamath: So as we and I always love to ask my guests, what are the some of the books you're reading that have influenced you or you feel the audience might benefit? Reading the same so they can be as empowered and ready to take charge of their own parenting as well as raising children?
Taylor Chesney: Yeah, I mean, my my two biggest mentors in the field are Dr. Jacob Towery at Stanford and Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good and Feeling Great. So that's kind of like my bible of everything I do is the book, his newest book is Feeling Great. He also Feeling the Love and then Jacob Towery, who's a wonderful child and adolescent psychiatrist, who I've learned so much from, wrote the book, The Antidepressant Book, which talks a lot about the application of Team CBT. For children, and adolescents. I think that's a great one. And then as a parent, one of my favorites is how to talk to your kids will listen and listen to your kids will talk, I read that, as a mom, as a therapist, it's just been something that I've referenced a lot that I really feel like the core and the foundation of child development is in your relationship with your children. And I just feel passionate about helping parents develop that and I I treasure that with my own children too.
Sucheta Kamath: Well, fantastic. Well, that's all the time we have. Thank you, Taylor, for your insights, your wisdom, and warm and compelling ways to invite parents to look at children as wholesome beings and really supporting them in all possible ways. Even though we are doing our best and our best may not be the best all the time. Not yet. Yes, yes. So with that, oh, thank you. And so stay tuned. If you love what you're listening, share with as many people as possible. And until next time, once again, thank you for tuning in to Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function. Thank you.
Taylor Chesney: Take care.