Building Strong Family Connections with Aly Pain

Building Strong Family Connections with Aly Pain

by Chris Tompkins | July 4, 2024

Parenting expert, life coach, and relationship systems coach, Aly Pain, returns to the podcast to talk about how parents can nurture and strengthen their relationship with their teens. Her belief is that neither parenting a teen nor being a teen has to be as hard as it sometimes is, and has found her passion in helping to set parents up to succeed. In addition to helping heal familial relationships, Aly brings her expertise to the corporate world, teaching business leaders how to manage human dynamics and create a healthy company culture.

Creating a safe space for parents

Aly explains that because we’re not trained on how to be a parent before we’re sent home from the hospital with our babies, we’re automatically set up to fail. No one is perfect, she explains, but because of the current culture of parent-shaming, pressure to be the “perfect parent” forces parents to either pretend or isolate themselves completely. Aly explains that she acknowledges what parents are going through first, and foremost.

“I create a safe place for parents to come and say what is actually real,” Aly says. “There’s no challenge too big. There’s no problem that’s too insurmountable. There’s nothing that is so shameful that they can’t say it, and creating that one tiny corner of safe space on the internet … that’s what I do.”

Be the change

Aly urges parents to “be the change” in several areas of life that are impacting our teens that often see the generations pitted against one another. One of those areas is social media. Aly explains that it’s not enough for parents to throw their hands up and say that we weren’t raised with this, but to dive in and help our children who are “drowning in a lack of emotional intelligence…to be able to thrive in a world that is connected 24/7.” According to Aly, our kids are better served by parents who say, “I don’t know. It’s messy. I’m scared. Okay, I’m wading in.”

Parents have to work to understand their kids emotions and to help their kids understand and express their emotions themselves. The basis of Aly’s coaching framework is that emotions are messy and nonlinear.

“There’s no ‘you do that and I’ll do this’ [when it comes to working through emotions],” Aly says.

Pressure to perform

Another area where we have to learn to change is to stop praising our kids based on performance. Aly explains that most of us were raised in environments where high performance in school was praised (and meant that we were worthy of love), which is informed by a holdover from the post-Industrial Revolution days that saw education as your ticket out of oppression. Because we were raised with this way of thinking, we are, in turn, imposing it on our kids. The problem with this train of thought — that the only way to be successful is to get good grades, to get into the top schools, and to get a good job — is that that outcome is literally not possible for many kids today (because of population growth, a changed job market that includes many jobs that don’t require a degree, etc.). Aly says that our insistence on it is putting a ton of undue pressure on our kids. She argues that the reason we even put this kind of pressure on them in the first place is because we are so insecure in our inabilities as parents, and our kids getting a good job somehow validates us.

So what can we do?

Aly underlines the importance of changing the way we talk to our kids. Instead of asking our child how they did on a quiz or whether their homework is done, she says the real questions we should be asking are, How are you doing? Who are you? What’s it like to be you?

For more on what Aly has to say about improving the quality of our relationships with our teenagers, listen to the full episode at the top of this post. And don’t forget to listen to her first visit to Shaping Our World here.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.

Transcript

[00:00:02.320] – Speaker 2
Well, hey, I’m Chris Tompkins, and welcome to the Shaping Our World podcast. My goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you more confident in understanding and inspiring the young people in your life. Each episode, we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive deeper into the world of our youth today. Every once in a while, there’s a guest who really sparks conversation after the interview with our listeners, and I find that even myself, I’m quoting and referring to what we talked about really frequently down the road. Today, we’re bringing back one of those Season 2 guests for another great conversation. Today, we’re welcoming Aly Pain back to the show. Growing up, Aly was the smart, fun girl on the outside, yet a frantic, anxious mess on the inside. She spent years healing the pain of dysfunctional family relationships, including eating disorders and a suicide attempt all to break the cycle. Raising her own children, Aly spent 10 years immersed in personal development programs before becoming a certified life coach and certified relationship systems coach, pursuing additional healing and learning and seeking to provide the same for others. Throughout her career, Aly has helped top entrepreneurs, CEOs, and executives understand how to manage human dynamics and remove toxicity from their corporate culture.

[00:01:35.650] – Speaker 2
Today, Aly uses her experiences and skills in working with families to create healthy, happy relationships. She’s passionate about empowering parents to build healthy, respectful relationships with their teens without giving up or giving in, even if they’ve tried everything and are at their wits end. Her resources and YouTube channels are a place that my my wife and I actually go to learn and get support for issues that we’re wrestling with as parents. I can’t wait for you to hear the chat we had this time as we talk to Aly about what she thinks about all these topics that are so important to us as parents. A quick word about an opportunity at Muskoka Woods. Starting as a staff member here, I found it to be more than just a job. I discovered a pathway to and professional growth. We are committed to intentional staff development, providing training, and building a network that can propel your career forward. Imagine working where you’re nurtured to grow with access to amazing facilities and staff care events. If you’re seeking a role that prepares you for what’s next, visit jobs.muskokawoods.com for more details. Now, let’s get into the heart of our show.

[00:02:57.170] – Speaker 2
One of our favourite guests is back. It’s great to have you, Aly. Welcome to the conversation today.

[00:03:01.750] – Speaker 1
Thanks so much. I feel so privileged to come back twice.

[00:03:05.130] – Speaker 2
I love it. You and I were talking before we hit record, too, about how you have been one of our previous guests that so many people refer back to me on, even in my own house, my wife is all over your website, loves the stuff that you do. And so I’m really looking forward to this because you always have something that… And I said this to some friends the other day. I’m like, When I do this podcast, I walk away going like, Oh, was just so good for me personally to hear. So I have a feeling there’ll be a few of those for me today and for our listeners. So thanks for being here.

[00:03:39.080] – Speaker 1
Yeah, for sure. I love it.

[00:03:40.630] – Speaker 2
You were in one of our previous seasons, but for those people who weren’t listening then, tell us, what shaped your world when you were growing up? What were the biggest influences in your life?

[00:03:50.300] – Speaker 1
So I would definitely say family. I mean, those are the people… It wasn’t an awesome experience for me. I believe what I firmly came out of that was understanding what I didn’t want, not them as people. I want to be clear about that. But how I didn’t want to experience relationships with people who were close to me. So that would be definitely one of them. And then I would say sport. I was very, very involved in sports. There was times where I had three sports in one night. My mom was literally throwing me a cup with a smoothie in it between sports. It’s honestly That’s honestly what kept me happiest and busiest and out of trouble. And sports really taught me more about not dealing with things in a super sassy back-talking way, and that Even when I didn’t like what was going on, and this is both in the micro moments of fast-paced dynamic sport, like volleyball, for instance, but also just as a team dynamic that I needed to figure out a way to to communicate my needs and my requests and respect other people even when we didn’t agree. And so I had this duality going on in my life that I think I learned a lot from both of those.

[00:05:13.810] – Speaker 2
Yeah. Wow. So are you still playing sport today? What’s going on in your life? Family probably still shaping it. What’s shaping your world today? Help us get to know you a bit more.

[00:05:23.940] – Speaker 1
Yeah. Healing, I guess, was what I was going to say. I’m not as involved in sport right now. Right now, I’m in a yoga phase. But so relative to yoga and healing, I’m at a phase where I think Brené Brown, Dr. Brené Brown says, it’s like where the midlife crisis where life smacks you upside the head and all the coping strategies and everything you learn before, you know they’re not working for you anymore. And there’s no pretending. I’m in that phase where I’m like, dang, I don’t I don’t want any more of this, and I need to take responsibility for why it’s showing up. I am spending more time being still. I’m great at being busy. I’m spending more time in my faith with God and really having some hard looks at what is showing up and what I learned in my life that I have, well, I guess I could continue to blame other people or just be frustrated, but instead, I could also have the opportunity to take ownership of and heal, really visit that pain and be with it and see what is it trying to tell me, and then what is a new direction that I can take that?

[00:06:46.140] – Speaker 1
How do I create more of what feels right? I think a big part of that is I’m currently, in the last four years, I’ve just been really placed in the most incredible community of friends that are, relative to my answer to your first question, are people that I want to spend time with, that I feel seen and heard around, that I can say when things don’t work for me and they want to understand and sit and have coffee, and we Even when we don’t agree. And so healing, healing and really healthy relationships, I think, are shaping my world today.

[00:07:23.880] – Speaker 2
Well, that’s great. Good for you for doing that, sometimes uncomfortable and difficult deep work. I’m sure that hasn’t, as you talk about it nicely now, I’m sure that hasn’t always been easy, but good for you for doing that. I did talk to our staff at Ms. Cookwoods the other day talking about our corporate community, and we’ve been looking at some of the factors for employee engagement. Having a friend at work is a big thing, and just talking about relationships, and I was sharing with them, I’ve been doing so much reading lately about the second half of life and how to thrive. There is so much research and science behind the importance of community and relationships in who we are. Even to disease prevention and recovery from illness. There’s researches out there, but just how important that is of finding friends, being a friend, and opening yourself up to others in relationship, which is, I won’t get too far ahead of us. In seasons of life, as a parent, is predominantly focused around the relationship with our kids. How do we continue to build friendships in that season and then continue them as our kids go off in adults and do all that stuff?

[00:08:45.320] – Speaker 2
Anyways, we’ll get into all of that. So love hearing that as you share. Tell us a little bit, especially for the listeners that don’t know about what you do. We talked about it in the bio, but where are you spending your time today shaping the world of teens, young people, families, parents. Talk a little bit about your work and role with young people.

[00:09:07.490] – Speaker 1
Oh, this is just my passion. I really believe that I am walking a privileged opportunity to turn my past pain into a purpose and empower parents, because I don’t think that being a parent needs to feel so dang hard. My parents were not set up to succeed at all. And I don’t think that being… Because they’re not bad people, and they’re certainly not stupid. And I don’t think that being a teenager needs to feel so hard either. But the problem is we’re not giving decades-old research at school, there’s no parent training. I mean, I barely got six hours how to get the kid out of my body and keep it alive for 30 days. I certainly didn’t know how to raise a teen. And so I was set up to fail, and I think teens are being set up to fail, too. So I spend pretty much all my day, I have a joke that I have a monogamous relationship with my phone because I’m making videos all day based on comments I get on social media and getting to work with parents in my private community and in my online programs with daily support and Zoom calls and things where I’m addressing all of this, I just think, heartbreaking disconnection and heartbreak and defeated and resentment and frustration.

[00:10:35.650] – Speaker 1
It’s very real. It’s very, very real. Helping parents to, first of all, feel seen and heard that it is true and it’s hard. Also, I think because parent shaming is at an all-time high. When you’re not a perfect parent, which I don’t even know what that is, and I don’t recommend it anyway, because it’s pretty much impossible and it creates more disconnection. That parent You open yourself. So parenting can be really isolating because shaming is just so at the ready, gosh forbid, if you’re not getting it perfectly, which none of us do. And so we’re either pretending or we’re isolating. And I create a safe place for parents to come and say what is actually real. There’s no challenge too big. There’s no problem that’s too insurmountable. There’s nothing that is so shameful that they can’t say it and creating that one tiny corner safe space on the internet where they can say what’s true and feel seen and heard and supported. And that’s what I do.

[00:11:38.900] – Speaker 2
Well, for those of you, we give all this out who want to find out more about Aly’s work. It’s Aly, A-L-Y, pain, like being sore, ouch, alypain.com. And so you can find out more about all that stuff. So let’s dive into your brain and your experience and the work you’ve done. And it’s interesting because I find we start off our conversations or we end up here, particularly talking about stress and anxiety when anybody’s talking about where kids are at today. I don’t know. There is data and research about how anxiety rate has changed. It’s doubled in Canadian teens from between 2011 and 2018. We definitely have different language around it. I think a lot of kids, when I were growing up, were stressed and anxious. This is a real thing, and probably at the root of a lot of the relational tension and some of the things that we find with young people today, who they are, who they’re becoming. This is written right into the fabric of who young people are. So what’s going on in the lives of young people that may has caused a rise or a different experience around stress and anxiety for young people today?

[00:12:51.750] – Speaker 1
Yeah. Well, so it is multifaceted, as you said. I think it’s really important as a parent to not think Wangle out social media, which is part of the equation. I absolutely will say that. And there’s so much data that shows that as well. In fact, that part of the increase in teen mental health struggles and challenges is directly related to the inception of platforms like Instagram, and then took another dramatic rise with TikTok. And it’s also not just the pandemic. It’s not just the social isolation. And there their entire world, as they know it, got stopped. None of us had the coping strategy, the coping techniques to manage that for such a prolonged period of time and then figure out how to get back to a new normal, whatever the heck that is. So yeah, this goes beyond the pandemic, is that social media access to the world is very stressful, to teens access to… Everyone has 24/7 access to your child. That is very dangerous. It’s not good. The fact that you and I didn’t grow up with social media, so how would we know what is good and what is bad? And we’re dealing with these lagging metrics, which is not helping teenagers.

[00:14:13.440] – Speaker 1
So we do need to set reasonable helper teams, develop a social media hygiene, like limited time, limited exposure, private accounts, so that they understand the hit that it can take on their mental health Because essentially, I’m going to put you just straight. Social media is a 24/7 comparison device, and not one time in the day does your teen come out on top, ever. So that in itself will be a dramatic rise in stress and anxiety. Now, growing up in a digital world requires more emotional maturity and emotional intelligence than ever to be able to discern what is true, what is not true, when communication is lacking the third dimension, which is that in-person. I know you’re like, Well, my kid watches videos, so that’s someone’s face. Yeah, no, I understand that. But the messages and the intention behind messages are really twisted and lost because that person is not in front of you. And that’s how our brains were intended to communicate. Not that there’s anything wrong with video. In fact, it’s how we all maintain some sanity during the pandemic. But the amount of snapping, someone takes a picture of the wall and then sends a message, there’s no intonation inflection to be able to properly interpret that message.

[00:15:37.620] – Speaker 1
So there’s so much misinterpretation. And this is requiring the increased level of emotional awareness and intelligence for the CERN meant to live in a digital era. Problem with that? Well, you and I were never raised with those skills being real high on the list because our parents weren’t raised with them and so on and so on and so on. And so we’re having, I think, pardon the pun, the expression, but we’re having some come to Jesus moments about saying, Well, we can’t not know anymore. We as parents, cannot say, Well, I was never taught. I didn’t know. This is what we’re… We can’t not know anymore because our children are drowning in a lack of emotional intelligence, therefore, interpretation, discernment, emotional awareness, and emotional expression to be able to thrive in a world that is 24/7 connected. Yeah. And so it is time. It is time for us as parents to stand up and say, No, I don’t know. It’s messy. I’m scared. Okay, I’m waiting in. And that’s probably the foundation. I’d say the basis of my framework is because emotions are messy, they’re not measurable, they’re nonlinear. There’s no like, you do this, I’ll do this.

[00:16:54.260] – Speaker 1
It’s not transactional, and there’s no avoiding it. There’s no avoiding it. And so So that, to me, is one of the biggest things. I struggled with anxiety as a child because I grew up in an environment which was normal. It was command and control, ultimate authoritarian, and I had no room to explore my emotions, let alone ever express them. That was dangerous and came with direct punitive action. So I did not know how to identify or articulate my emotions, which is necessary, by the way, for a positive mental health. You must know how to identify and articulate them. I have no safe space to process them. Therefore, our brain cannot heal or release those emotions. And so instead, they built up inside me. I didn’t know how to self-advocate, and I turned into just a hot, anxious mess and turned it all inward through self-harm. And so it was a bad thing. Yeah, pretty bad.

[00:17:53.420] – Speaker 2
I have a two-pronged question here on this, and I’ll give a little context building off what you said. So Totally agree and align on this 24/7 comparison, kids not coming out ahead. One of the things that you hear often is the pressure to measure up, and social media can give it in so many different ways. But I also know our society, in a lot of the anecdotal and technical research and stuff that I’m hearing and seeing, there’s growing pressure for kids to get the right grades to get in. And those marks are way higher. I listen to my daughters applying to universities right now, and I listen to the marks, the cut offs. They’re way higher than when I was in school. There’s this pressure to do more and more. And I was talking to someone the other day, and we were talking about that young people today, even kids, and I can’t remember where I read it, have this fear of the future, and they’re never going to be able to afford a house. Now, we live in Canada. Housing prices are ridiculous. That might be a real thing. But when I was growing up, I didn’t really hear about that.

[00:19:06.530] – Speaker 2
So this access to information, the messaging all the time, there’s this pressure coming down on them. First question is, as parents, how do we help mitigate that, come alongside that, listen to it, understand it? And then B part is, how do we not replicate those same pressures and tension? I’ve been working at that around grades with my daughter. What questions I ask her about how did she do on a test or what? So that I’m not reinforcing the pressure and anxiety that that creates to get the right grade to get into the right program.

[00:19:45.390] – Speaker 1
Yeah. So this is actually a generational, another generational thing that we as parents, we’re either going to stand up and be, I hate to cliché, but be the change or we’re dealing with some of the mass consequences. I was, as most of us, were raised in environments where we were praised based on our performance. There’s a lot of science and more to this, but I’m going to try and make it really simple. Essentially, what you and I learned, what parents listening learned, is they were more lovable and pleasing when they performed externally in a way that made their parents feel good.

[00:20:31.200] – Speaker 2
Right.

[00:20:32.060] – Speaker 1
So what do we do as parents? Exactly the same thing. Because most of us, our parents might have grown up in the industrial era, and this is when education was becoming a thing. In fact, education, earlier, even in our grandparents’ generation or even earlier, was the key out of oppression. Education was the key. It was the only ticket out of blue collar factory work. That was reinforced in the industrial era, so 1960s. We have this obsession with education in school. This is when corporate and the whole executive mentality, the white collar versus blue collar, that all came out in the industrial era, and that’s going to be very real for your parents. And so that obsession with… And remember, our parents were raised at a time where it was like, well, just go get a four-year degree. Just go get a degree and you’ll get a good job. And it was true then. The problem now is, just based on population increase, there’s fewer jobs at that level of education is that, as you said, grade inflation is very real. You and I could easy peasy get into a top university with a B, high B, maybe A-s.

[00:22:01.650] – Speaker 1
You are darn lucky if you can qualify to even get your application looked at if you don’t have a 95 plus because it’s just being squished, the numbers, the funnels being crushed. So you’ve got that problem with this reinforced generational thinking of the only way to be successful is to get good grades, to get into the top schools, to get a good job. It is the only path, one and only. That’s it. Singular. Do not vary outside the lines. This is putting this massive expectation and fear on teenagers in a world where that same expectation and outcome literally is not possible. But there is also thousands of careers and jobs that exist today that pay very well that didn’t exist when you and I were young. And I don’t just mean being a YouTube That’s not what I’m talking about. Yeah, totally. Okay, that’s not what I’m talking about. This obsession comes from this existentialism where parents believe that your value as a parent and a human being comes from raising a child who understands how to perform. Go to school, get good grades, be compliant, be friendly, respectful, talk when you’re asked and otherwise, don’t do it.

[00:23:33.610] – Speaker 1
That makes me a good parent, so therefore I am doing okay. Our egos have become more and more insecure as parents, and so we reinforce this because we’ve got this existentialism thing that that is my value as a person. No, that’s messed up. So not only do our teenagers have the reality of the whole math equation, there’s just less jobs for more people. There’s less positions at higher levels available in universities for more people. And so that creates great inflation, which creates this whole massive pressure cooker for teens. We, as parents, are reinforcing this because we’re so insecure. We don’t think that we’re a good parent if they don’t do this one singular path to success. It’s messed up. Stop it. And so, as you said, what do we do? We don’t ask our teen how they’re doing. We don’t ask them who they are. We don’t even ask them what it’s like to be them. What we ask is, How did that quiz go? Did you talk to your teacher? Did you get that paperwork in? Have you got that assignment done? Did you get that application in? What grade did you get? Oh, my goodness.

[00:24:40.660] – Speaker 1
Okay, maybe you should go retake the test. How long did you study for that? It’s all performance It’s based metrics as if they are a doing that is intended in this world to somehow give us a stamp of approval. They are a being. They are human being first. And how we deem Their performance to be successful is a very, very limited view of what success is now. Because if they don’t have, as I said in my last, we talked about our previous topic, if they don’t have the emotional awareness and the emotional intelligence to cope in this world, they will never have the confidence or resilience to perform. So what are you focusing on?

[00:25:25.490] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I think that’s good. I think there’s probably some parents who are listening to this who are taken back, not because of the ego thing. And that’s great.

[00:25:34.430] – Speaker 1
Oh, I have one, too. I’m just saying.

[00:25:36.140] – Speaker 2
Yeah, we have to be honest with that. I think there’s legit people listening going, Wait, so that isn’t the path? I just thought that’s what you do, right? You have to go to university. And I think part of it is, and why we’re doing this podcast is to help parents like ourselves, is to take a step back and better understand the world that our kids are in so that we can help them navigate their world today, not trying to shove them through the things that we did, the way we did them, and that success or thriving looks the same way it did 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years ago. And so this is back to that understanding to go… All the stuff that you just said, I’m sure there’s parents are like, Really? I didn’t really think about that. And so how can we, like you said, be the change makers, help change the whole narrative for our kids in what does success look like down the road? Who are they becoming, as you talked about, and helping them say, you don’t have to get into the engineering program at this school to be successful.

[00:26:46.490] – Speaker 2
In fact, there are a whole lot of jobs and different things and different paths that don’t go down that traditional way that we grew up thinking, you either went down this one or this one. A whole lot more options today. I think that that’s a wise insight that maybe parents can take a step back and go home. Okay, maybe that isn’t success at the end of the day.

[00:27:12.290] – Speaker 1
Well, and Chris, I just want to add a piece of data to this. So It was a study that came out last year, 2022, where a professor followed Fortune 500 CEOs and executives and looked back at 20 years of their career and education. Okay, 20 years. He did this study, and he didn’t only look back 20 years, but he continued with those on the success path in organizations and followed their way up. It was looking forward and looking back. It was, I think, over Well over a decade, this study. The majority of those executives, in fact, it was something like 80%, went to a community college, not not an Ivy League school. If they went, if they went to a post-secondary education, it was a community college, not an Ivy League school. And of those 80%, Almost 100% of those only went back to school if they hadn’t already or went to a higher-level university when they had started their path up the ladder, not before.

[00:28:31.680] – Speaker 2
Right.

[00:28:32.780] – Speaker 1
So for all those parents who are saying who that feels way too fearful that there isn’t that one singular path to success, that’s the data I want you to put toward that. Wow. It’s simply untrue.

[00:28:47.700] – Speaker 2
That’s great. Really helpful. You spend a lot of your time. We’ve talked about where kids are at and the pressures, and we started to get into how as parents, we can come along and change the narrative narrative and be change makers, you do spend a lot of your time navigating the relationships that parents have with their kids. So what are you hearing? I know you’re hearing a lot. You have a master class, and people can find it, how to transform your moody hormonal teen into a compliant, respectful human without the daily nagging or punishment. So in there, there’s a whole bunch of insights into what you’re hearing and seeing. But what are the more common pain points? What parents come to you going, I need coaching with this? What’s going on? Mostly because you and I have talked, there are no perfect parents, and it’s great for parents to go hear this and go, Oh, others have to navigate this, too? I thought I was the only one, right? Yeah, right. What are some of these potential pain points or issues that emerge?

[00:29:51.360] – Speaker 1
For sure. The first and foremost, I would say, is school. It’s what we’re I’m talking about, is that you and I were raised and parents listening at a very different time, and we were raised at a time where performance mattered more than the person. We affirmed performance, not the person. We cared about performance, not the person. Then this is why so much mental health was going on, including learning challenges like ADHD, like myself. I was undiagnosed of ADHD until I was an adult, and yet now I know why. I was a gifted child but got kicked out of the gifted program because I couldn’t pay attention. All these things are making sense. Parents struggle the most with their teens with school. This tension between parents want their teenager to live up to their potential and feel good about themselves and have a teenager that other people make comments about that is compliant and does all the things. But the teenagers are feeling more overwhelmed than ever. Parents are increasingly frustrated and feeling at their wits end about their teenager’s fear of school, which seems so unfounded. What are you even talking about? And then anxiety about school.

[00:31:12.040] – Speaker 1
You have one job, just go do it. Just do the very minimum. It’s not that hard. And then that turns into avoidance, which is hair pulling out, smoke out the ears frustration. What do you even mean? You’re blowing off school, you’re blowing off assignments. Are you literally No, you’re not living at home until you’re 30. This won’t happen. And so then using greater and greater punitive action to elicit pain or fear in their teenager to change their behavior, which doesn’t work and only builds apathy, which is where their teenager just finally goes, Do whatever you want to do to me. I don’t care. Whatever, I don’t care. School is definitely one of them. Wrapped up in there is boundaries. Boundaries, I get more messages every day. What’s the consequence for this? As if somehow I have this magic- You’ve got the chart, Aly? No, I do. I’m wearing a white robe and there’s music playing, and I just like, Excuse me. Then I look up the alphabetical, like a white pages phonebook, and I flip to whatever the consequence is. The misunderstanding, again, of how we were raised, of what we were taught a boundary is, which is not at all what a boundary is.

[00:32:18.200] – Speaker 1
You are not failing. It is the model you were taught is failing you. I can’t say that enough. Boundaries is a big one. Then relationships. Their team is in a toxic relationship, and they are terrified. They don’t know how to get them out. I think those are really big ones, school, boundaries, relationships. Then, of course, there’s all the normal, which is tied up into boundaries, which is all the risky behavior. They’re skipping school, they’re drinking, they’re out partying, they’re lying, lying all the time to my face. Those are really, really big topics.

[00:32:55.940] – Speaker 2
When we’ve talked, and I know at As you talk about these things, you really emphasize relationships and connections with parents and kids as a mean to help, as a way to alleviate some of these issues and to journey with our kids through them. Why is connection such a powerful tool, particularly for kids and young people?

[00:33:22.790] – Speaker 1
This is the science, the science of connection. There was the CDC CDC, Center for Disease Control, did an adolescent connectedness study in 2019, and it was studying teenagers and youth and the things that were leading to risk factors like attendance, school engagement, like when they’re at school, are they actually doing the work? Risk factors like premarital sex or substance use, partying, stealing, lying, all of those things. This study showed that the number one tool that is the antidote for all of those things across the board is connection. Then they further said, The way to create that is frequent conversation. Well, okay, I love the study and I love the data, but if that is supposed to just be so easy, I would be doing it. How am I supposed to do it when my teenager only says, I don’t know, or gives me the shoulder shrug and then walks away to their room and is talking to a brick wall? That’s just It’s yay on the study. Then there was also a Canadian Mental Health Association study that looked into what teenagers feel they’re missing the most at home or at school, and what would help them to engage in their lives, and what helps them to feel better.

[00:34:49.180] – Speaker 1
The answer was, voila, connection. The science can prove connection is actually the thing that we need. We also scientifically know that All behavior is driven by emotion. Behavior is a symptom, emotion is the source. 100% of the time, it’s not refutable. The problem is, again, part on the skills and tools that we were raised in and generationally have been true, which we actually were disproven in 1960.

[00:35:21.010] – Speaker 2
Yeah, we’re taking so long to catch up, right?

[00:35:23.840] – Speaker 1
Okay, but here’s why it’s taking so long to catch up is because that old model Behavioralism, behaviorists thinking focuses only on looking at the behavior and then you using an action, a. K, a behavior to change that behavior. And it’s very tit for tat. It’s transactional. It’s an equation. It feels simple. It’s linear. It makes sense. So we keep trying it. The problem is we know for decades now it doesn’t work. But what does work, this whole connection thing that’s supposed to sound all good and we’re wired for it. Then intuitively, Why does it feel so hard and elusive? Is because it’s based in emotion. And emotion is not an equation. Emotion is not linear. It is messy. It is vulnerable. It is hard. It is all the things that we were not raised learning. Unfortunately, to the bane of my existence, is still not taught in schools.

[00:36:19.610] – Speaker 2
What do we do about it, Aly? You can hear some parents being like, I love this, but like you said, frequent conversations, great. My kid’s not talking to me anymore. Yeah, great. So… Yeah. Okay, cool. What do I do there?

[00:36:33.500] – Speaker 1
I think I knew that.

[00:36:36.040] – Speaker 2
Yeah. So again, and knowing that… And this is one of the interesting things, right? We defaulted to this behavior modification through change your behavior, my respond to you behaviorally, et cetera, because it is simple and easy. We can check a list, right? And back to your parents want to know, if my kids do this, I punish them this way. End of story. When you live in the nuance and you’re like, okay, this is about connection and emotion. How do I enter in? It’s not like you can just say, well, Chris, here are the three things you do every time, and this will work. And I get that. But how can we start to journey in and deepen those connection points, have more frequent conversations when it feels like they’re not forced? And it’s not like we’re tying our kids down now and saying, we’re going to talk, because that won’t work either.

[00:37:28.500] – Speaker 1
Great question. So I think it’s a couple-pronged approach. And this is, I guess, partly my answer to the previous question is we have to redefine what connection looks like and what it means. Because, again, you and I were taught that connection as a parent means I do the talking because I have the sage wisdom, so I should talk. That’s my job is to teach my teenager how to not only… They’ve figured out how to human, that’s the first part, that’s like child. But now that they’re a teenager, they’re learning to adult. The consequences are much higher if they get it wrong. I need to talk.

[00:38:05.670] – Speaker 2
Yeah, and we know because we are adults.

[00:38:08.130] – Speaker 1
Yes, we made all the dumb mistakes. We don’t want our teenager to go through those the same. We need to redefine what connection is. Connection actually means that you’re talking less than listening more. That alone feels really frightening. You’re like, Yeah, but what if my dean doesn’t listen and we have no current connection or communication? It’s redefining what what that looks like. And what that looks like, which is my framework that I use, which is based on science, is creating a groundwork where you do talk less. And I’m going to tell you for free, I’m a talker, in case you haven’t figured that out. So that was really hard For me, I also raise a child who is autistic, ADHD. I needed to do a lot more quiet and listening. And that was really hard. Is that if you want a relationship, it’s not a monolog. So connection Mission looks like getting to know that person who is actually a separate and autonomous person from you. They’re not a robot. They’re not here to make you feel better. In fact, they’re probably here to make you look at all of your buttons you didn’t know you didn’t have.

[00:39:16.130] – Speaker 1
We got to redefine connection, and that can really start by listening more and talking less. We need to look at ourselves as part of the solution, not just our teenagers, because our teenagers aren’t the problem, but they’re also not also the solution. The problem, I guess, I don’t believe really in fault and blame. I don’t think it serves anything. The problem is a lot of the ways that we were taught to think and then trying to live within those or live up to those expectations. That’s the problem. And that the solution lies in yourself and your willingness to look at, what do I believe is true? Where did I learn that? Is it really true? Like, based on science, not some like, wacko doodle internet lady. And how can I go about challenging what I believe is authority and an effective parent and challenging also my own thoughts of going to the other extreme that I’m now pandering and coddling and raising a snowflake. It takes a lot of courage, it takes vulnerability, and it takes support. That’s That’s why I do what I do. So I’ve got lots of free resources on my website, for instance, under Resources, I have a free 10-day listening challenge.

[00:40:37.550] – Speaker 1
Exact scripts, everything on how to listen more to get your teen talking so that they actually do want to hear what you I’d like to say when you have some necessary stage advice. And my free master class that you mentioned, where I actually break down the whole thing of the top three things that we’re doing based on past generational patterns that we now know don’t work. And then what you can do, specifically, as well as what it means to redefine connection, because emotions are the base of relationships that actually change behavior at a lasting place, not behavior. It’s emotions.

[00:41:20.140] – Speaker 2
My wife has listened to a lot of your stuff, and this stuff has been so helpful for us. Even this tension of seeing… And doesn’t have a ton of risk behavior, but like any teen struggles and goes through stuff and seeing things and going, I want to fix that or I want to change that. And how do we not? And just for listeners, it’s been helpful for Amber and I, my wife, to be on the same page with some of this stuff, because then when we listen and we let her go off and do her thing, then we talk together and are like, I just wanted to say that, but I didn’t. And we’re like, encourage each other. But then can Because I get that same. And again, I think you and I had this same conversation is like, the instinct of me is like, yeah, I can listen. I can get empathetic, but I so desperately want to help her not have to walk through the same stuff. I know it’s important. I know that’s where most of the learning happens. But if I could just save my daughter from some of these things, it would be so good.

[00:42:23.750] – Speaker 2
So it’s so hard to not jump in and want to change and fix and ground or whatever, and then- Control, basically. Control. Really? Yeah, that’s it. It’s so hard. But when you do, there is a freedom in that and you navigate it. But it has been great for Amber and I to have those conversations together. I just wanted to, I know, but we can’t. And there’s that safe space to wrestle it down so that you don’t then… You get so good, and then all of a sudden you just snap and react away. And so that encouragement between us. And I know not every parent listening has the ability to co-parent kids together. And so that’s tough. But like you said, there are other people, like yourself, friends, others who you can enter into with this. It’s just been really helpful. And I know, I imagine in parenting, when there are two parents involved, that there is tension between what one wants. Because not only are we generational, but we’re also what worked for us or didn’t work for us for kids is slightly different across the board. And we all have different personalities and different fears and different things that drive us.

[00:43:35.440] – Speaker 2
So for Amber and I to be on the same page about this has been actually really helpful because it gives us a safe place to vent and/or to work it through not alive when it’s happening. That’s been really encouraging.

[00:43:53.690] – Speaker 1
I think that letting, releasing control thing is really hard. I just want to validate, parents who are listening, for a second, because when you were teaching your child how to human, zero to 10-ish, it worked. It was a tell, sell model. That’s how they learned was to mimic was to take basic direction and do what you asked. Did they do it every time? No. But it basically worked. It was a directive relationship. The slap for parents that no one tells them is the moment that… This is what parents tell me. It’s like it happened overnight. It’s like a light switch, just like it flipped, just poof. Their brain gets hijacked by hormones and they hit puberty. That parenting model that you were amazing at for a decade doesn’t work anymore because of the fundamental, the physiological changes in their brain, which actually do change their personality. And so what works now is more mentorship. I am not saying you give up being a parent and you don’t have authority. I’m saying that your teenager’s brain, their executive function, actually develops when they… Now, I want you to hear this. When they are allowed to fail and make mistakes, hopefully not super consequential ones, but unfortunately, that does happen.

[00:45:23.250] – Speaker 1
I’m saying that as someone who went from straight A’s to F’s and failed out of courses and had to redo them in my grad That year. Oh, yeah. But you know what? Look at me. I’m even somewhat employable, so Exhibit A. When we allow our teenagers, as they’re learning to adult, to get it wrong and to fail is actually the scientific process of how their executive function, their brains, process and learn how not to do it and how to do it in a way that is less painful with less consequence when they’re allowed to fail. Now, here’s the other key of failure, as much as we would like to avoid it at all costs because it feels very uncomfortable and we don’t like it. We certainly don’t like watching our children go through it because of the existential crisis that it creates. In order to build confidence and resilience, I must fail. Failure is a necessary part of learning. Think of when they learn to walk. They probably didn’t learn to walk and fell flat on their face at least 10,000 I am not being trite. That is the same learning process the adolescent brain is in, which requires so much more patience than what we were told, because it looks like they have the capability.

[00:46:45.340] – Speaker 1
It’s like, Oh, my gosh, you’re as tall as me. You can get dressed, you can eat. You know how to use a toilet? For heaven’s sakes. Yeah, but their brain is going through a massive renovation, and this learning process of all these new adulting skills is similar to a toddler when they learn to walk. We We need to normalize failure. We need to normalize struggle as a part of learning that nobody got to the top without struggle, because if they didn’t struggle, they wouldn’t have learned and be who they are today. No one got to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company without probably going bankrupt a couple of times and even losing all their family’s money invested in the process. And everyone has a story because of the struggle. Struggle is what builds success. It is also scientifically proven. Again, I’m not trying to be trite. And the key to motivation, if your child is struggling During the school, the key to motivation, number one, confidence. So all that struggle stuff I just said. Number two, the risk of failure. And if the risk of failure is risking more punishment, more punitive action, more criticism, and losing your love or affectional affirmations, they just won’t try because the risk is too high.

[00:47:53.780] – Speaker 1
Because the truth of risking means all the things, the terrible things they’re telling themselves in their head, like I’m a failure, I’m stupid, I’m worth nothing, I’m such a bad, all these things, those become true. So they will not try if the risk of failure is too high. And that is, again, that was a study done in 1990, around motivation and hopefulness, which is the lack of internalization of struggle and failure, and instead just using that as reinforced information about what works and doesn’t, so they stay in the game and want to keep trying to get better, to develop mastery, which is how they learn to walk.

[00:48:33.950] – Speaker 2
That was such good stuff. Really enlightening and encouraging, but also it can be scary to walk through that. Yes, it can. But I think we all know how important that is in the long run because that’s it. At the end of the day, what we all want is our kids to thrive and to be doing well. Yes. And whatever it takes to get there, we should be prepared to do. And if that means actually taking a step off and becoming, like you said, a mentor and giving space for failure, as sometimes hard as that feels, I think we will see the fruit of it in their own life down the road. And I think that’s really wise advice, Aly. Just as we’re wrapping up our conversation, it’s been so helpful. Can you give us some resources, opportunities that you can direct parents to who are wanting to help their kids become caring, cooperative, resilient, all the things that we hope for in our young people And please point people directly to what you’re doing and then any other resources or opportunities or tools that you think would be helpful for parents.

[00:49:39.360] – Speaker 1
Sure. So the first thing I want to do is say thank you for listening this far, if you hear, because what I already know for sure is you are a caring and courageous parent who wants the best for their child. You’re already successful. And that parenting is a is the long game. Parenting is the long game. So please, please, please stop beating yourself up or questioning everything about yourself or taking it out on your teen based on moments of success or failure, an exam, a really dumb choice. That does not define who they are becoming in their life. It is a moment in time. If you are using parenting skills and your teenager doesn’t like them, that doesn’t mean you’re a success or a failure. I just want you to let yourself off the hook a little bit. Be a little kinder to yourself. Have compassion for yourself first. And as far as tools, oh, man, please, please, please watch my free masterclass. As Chris mentioned, it’s on the top of my website, allepain. Com. Big pink banner at the top. It’s free. Go in there, how to transform your moody hormonal teen into a compliant, respectful human without the daily nagging or punishments, and also no unicorn dust required.

[00:51:07.280] – Speaker 1
Because I worked hard on that and putting together the science and to make it in language that I wanted when I was a very troubled teen acting out in all kinds of ways I wish my parents knew. Things I learned in decades of therapy, healing myself, and then reparenting and changing the cycle with my own sons who are now adults. I can’t say that enough. It’s free. Go watch it. Get a pen, get a paper, take notes. And under the resources section of my website, you’ll also find, again, there’s free downloads there and my free 10-day listening challenge, which will instantly have you start to turn your relationship around so there’s less frustration and arguing, more calm and more connection. And you don’t need to I have a PhD, and I can’t say enough, this isn’t about your intelligence. You’re not stupid. You’re not failing. The tools you were given are failing you. So I believe in you. You can do this. Wow.

[00:52:12.590] – Speaker 2
So encouraging and a great place to leave this. Thank you for all that information, Aly, and just for doing what you do. I know you’re helping so many parents, and you’ve helped me, and I know so many of our listeners. So thank you for your time today and for all that you shared. It was so great. Thank you.

[00:52:28.850] – Speaker 1
Thank you so much for having me.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins is the CEO of Muskoka Woods. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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