How to Connect with your Kids (Before they Stop Listening!) with guest Dr. Amanda Craig

About this Episode

If you want to set yourself (and your kids!) up for a successful relationship as they enter their teen years, it starts with deep connection with tweens! Research shows that kids between the ages of 9 and 12 are starting to think for themselves, but they still listen to what mom and dad have to say. That makes tweens the perfect age for building deep connections that will last them into and beyond their teenage years! This conversation with Dr. Amanda Craig, author of the book, Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Kid? Connect with your Tween While They’re Still Listening was a fascinating look at the four pillars of connection.

Even as they parent older kids, Dr. Amy and Teri were able to glean some great ideas for deepening connection, from creating daily and nightly rituals, to owning our mistakes and being vulnerable in our relationships with our kids. Dr. Craig’s four pillars are instinctual, but so incredibly helpful in framing our approach to parenting.

About Dr. Craig

Dr. Craig specializes in treatment of relationship issues such as communication, conflict resolution and infidelity, as well as individual challenges like depression, anxiety, addiction and life-work harmony. There are three things she knows for sure: 1) We are not defined by adversities, but rather how we handle them. 2) Taking healthy risks, setting boundaries, and stepping outside our comfort zone will bring fulfillment in both life and relationships. 3) Make the most of today. Whatever that means to you, no matter how small it seems.

Dr. Craig lives in Darien, CT with her husband, six-year-old daughter, 13-year-old son, 10 chickens, one dog, two cats and two fish.

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Read the transcript for this episode:

Dr. Amy Moore: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms, brought to you today by LearningRx Brain Training Centers. I’m your host, Dr. Amy Moore, here with my co-host Terry Miller, coming to you today from a very sunny Colorado Springs, Colorado. We are super excited to introduce our guest to you today, Dr. Amanda Craig. Dr. Craig works with families and couples often saying that relationships are her clients. Her focus is on helping families stay emotionally connected and repairing connections that are injured. She’s the author of the book, Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Kid? Connect with your Tween While They’re Still Listening.

Teri Miller: Welcome, Dr. Craig. So good to have you with us, and we’re excited to dig into the topic of emotional connection with our kids. But before we even get into that, if you would tell our listeners, a little bit about yourself, about your background and how you came to do what you’re doing now.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Well, hello both of you. Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to talk about parenting and connection today. I’m born and raised in Minnesota. That’s where I did my training. And I think I knew really early on I wanted to be a family therapist because I love relationships and systems and I’ve learned over time how important they are to our individual wellness. And so early in my career working with mostly parents and children, seeing the connection. Seeing when there’s a disconnection or a conflict and then seeing how families repair those is just really inspiring and it’s exciting to work with people and see relationships change and grow. And so I’m in Connecticut now, and New York City and so I’ve gotten to see a lot of different people from urban to rural to suburban to city. And there’s one thing we all have in common, which is this desire to connect with those that we love and we’re closest to.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, absolutely. So why tweens? Why did you decide that that was gonna be the age that you would focus on in this book?

Dr. Amanda Craig: So, I love these tween years. Super exciting. I started to do research on the teen years and looking at development of a teenager and how we parent teenagers, and through the process I kept coming into this little window of 9- to 12-year-olds. And what happens in the brain is quite extraordinary. We see that they get all this new neuro sprouting or neuropathways in the brain. And with that come new feelings and new thoughts and new ideas and opinions. And while all that is growing, they still want parents at the table with them. They still are curious of our opinions. They want to make sure they make sense, and they’re looking to us for those answers. And so it’s a really great opportunity for parents to connect and, and have a good foundation for those stormy teen years that are gonna be here before we know it.

Teri Miller: Yeah. So, hey, before we even started recording, Amanda, Dr. Craig, you and I were talking, uh, just about our personal experiences and like I had mentioned that, Amy’s boys are a little bit older, but I am right in the thick of it. My three youngest kids are 10, 12, and just turned 14. And then you were saying that—tell us—you have a…

Dr. Amanda Craig: I have a 13-year-old for one month. And I’m, I’m super scared of what the teen years are gonna look like, because it’s much more complicated. I can feel him taking the seat from the table away from me and it becoming more peer-related. Yeah. And I can feel like, him pulling away a little more. And before, in these tween years, I could say like, “wow, what do you, what do you think you feel about that? Is it this, that, or the other?” And he would say, “well, mom, I think it’s the second one because of this and that, but I don’t know for sure.” Whereas now the answer is, “I don’t know. I’m not talking about that right now.” And so, it’s a huge transition.

Teri Miller: It’s, it’s so interesting. I mean, with all of my kids. I was telling you that there is something and it really—I mean, it didn’t happen like day of—but there’s something about age 13, from the 13th birthday to the 14th birthday in that year, that there’s a really, really big transition for all my kids. And it, it doesn’t mean that, that they turn into terrible, awful teenagers. Not at all. And every kid’s journey was a little bit different and our relationship’s a little bit different. And yet with all of ’em, there was definitely that transition. You know, age 12, like you said, there was still that connection of listening to mom, you know, that mom still had some good input and value and then there’s something that transitions where it’s a little bit like, “I’m sorry, I just, I’m not gonna talk about it. I don’t wanna get into those feelings.” One word answers . No discussion.

Dr. Amanda Craig: I’m so right there. Yes. And I think, you know, in the teen years, their brain starts to prune away some of the neuro sprouting that was happening. And so, you know, there’s that. And then the other thing is they’ve been around the block, you know, 9 to 12, they have started to go to birthday parties without us, and started to have a sleepover, started middle school. I mean, there’s really a lot they experience in those years that we are not involved in, like we were when they were six, seven, and eight.

Teri Miller: Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Amanda Craig: They have some ideas they pull from and some life experience now when they’re 14.

Teri Miller: Absolutely. I love the title of your book. For my 10- and 12-year-old, for parents that are listening to this. For moms that are listening. Yeah, that if your kid is 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, like this is so relevant. Connect with your tween while they are still listening. And I know when they’re 11, you know when my daughter that just turned 14 when she was 11, I was like, “this is golden. You know, we’re so close. Well, it’ll always be great,” and, it’s not that it’s not great, but I want moms to hear if your kid’s 8, 9, 10, there’s some really intentional things you can do right now that Amanda, I’m so glad you’re gonna talk to us about, because let’s just glean them. Let’s just soak this up and make those intentional parenting choices.

Dr. Amanda Craig: I love that, and I think you’re so right If we do during 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, those years, if we can do these kind of pillars of emotional connection, I think it serves us so well when they’re teenagers and beyond. So, it’s really kind of setting some work that really, transcends through the lifespan.

Dr. Amy Moore: So you talk about the four pillars of emotional connection. Walk us through those and why we need to know that.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Yes. So, I love these and you know, I talk to parents about: think big picture. It’s not so much, “here’s a tip. Go practice.” It’s more about kind of watching the dance, watching the flow between us, and so different kids will gravitate to different parts of the pillar, more connected or more emotionally, and we as parents are gonna be better at some of them than others. And you’ll know what I’m saying as I kind of spell them out. So I talk about four pillars: I see you. I want to know you. I am here for you. And I will keep you safe. And what we wanna do as parents is kind of dance between the four pillars. It’s not a step by step, but it’s engaging in all of them in a kind of fluid way. Sometimes using, seeing them, sometimes using, “I will keep you safe.”So it’s fluid and it’s about kind of where we are, what we need, what our kids need. So, if we break them down, The I See You is looking at the lens, they see the world. So, it’s putting our value system, our opinion, our perspective to the side, and really understanding what they think about things, what the day is that they’re experiencing, how they are interpreting relationships. Just really giving them space to talk out how they view life. Yeah, and what is so important about that is, when we give our kids time and space to think—it seems so basic, but when we give them think time, they hear themselves have a thought out loud, and then they judge themselves, do I make sense or do I not make sense? And, like, that process will serve them so well. What we often do as parents is, we might hear them start talking and say, “well, instead you should do this…” Or, “oh, that sounds really hard. Here, go do this.” Or, “oh, why don’t I call and do this for you?” And what we do is shut down quickly, the opportunity for them to think through and share out loud what is going on in their head. And that process is invaluable. To the point earlier, of the brain growing, we want that to stay when the brain prunes.  In other words, we want them to practice so much thinking through that, that stays. And in their teen years, they’ve had three years of practicing thinking through something and being able to communicate it into the world. So that’s a long winded one.

Dr. Amy Moore: well wait, let me ask a question there. So, What I’m hearing you say is that we need to give them the opportunity to problem solve, like, while we standby, ready to help if there’s an issue, but we rob them of the opportunity of learning those logical thinking skills, right? And so, Bob Goff wrote a book called Everybody Always, and he talks about catching them on the bounce, right? So, when you fall out, your parachute fails. You hit the ground, you wanna catch ’em right as they bounce up, rather than letting them fall again, which is when all the bones break and puncture all the organs and then, you know, whatever. And so it just kind of reminded me of that idea, that like, we need to be next to them as they’re working through everything. Like not be a hands-off parent, but say, “I’m gonna let them approach this through the lens that they see the world and we’re just gonna guide them.” Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Amanda Craig: Absolutely. And you know, now you’re kind of [giving me a] nice segue into the second, pillar, which is, I Want to Know You. Right? So, the first one is really just giving them space to talk. Watch how often we as adults, whether it’s coaches, teachers, parents, will cut kids off short. We really don’t give them a lot of space to really talk out. They think slow. Sometimes it takes ’em a while to answer the question. Sometimes we don’t like what we hear. In fact, that’s a lot because they’re so, like, naive or unsure still. And then the second piece that you’re getting into is, “and what is that like for you?” So this gets into that emotionality: “when that happened in your group, when they, started whispering, when you walked up.” Right? That’s seeing you. I got to hear your story. “Wow. Tell me what that was like for you? Now I wanna know your personal experience. Were you embarrassed? Did you think they were talking about you, and you felt a little insecure? Or did you not really notice until later when Abby mentioned it to you?” We kind of wanna give them a language for feeling. We wanna help them connect experience with emotion, and then help them regulate emotion, right? So, if each day they go into science and they feel nervous, “oh, help me understand. What do you think it is about science class that makes you nervous? Oh, you said that yesterday that you were nervous in science. Do you think the topic is hard? Do you think it’s just the unit and you normally do well? Does the teacher provoke something? Do you find like their teaching style is complicated? Is the classroom, are the kids in the class, you know, loud and off task or like what is going on in that class and what’s that like for you?”

So there we’re pairing these two together to help them think through, identify emotion. They’re not gonna get it right at 9 and 10. This is more exposure, right? So, by 12 and 13, they start to really be able to pair: “Oh yeah. That’s nervous. I’ve been thinking about that for years now,” right? “I’ve been seeing what nervous is like for me. Oh, my heart beats. Oh, there’s nervous.” Right? So we wanna start pairing what their experience feels like, how they feel it in the body, and then what do you do with that? To tell a 15 year old, “can we stop and breathe through that like this? We go three breaths in…” right? They’re gonna say, “no, I’m not doing that.” But when you tell an 11-year-old, “would you breathe with me? Like sometimes this helps me.” “Oh my gosh. This helps you, mama? Okay. Like what, now?” Right? “I don’t know if it’s gonna work for me. I might not do it, but what are you saying?” They’re a little more open to it.

Teri Miller: Yeah. And then you can help teach that and model that so that then that can carry on when they’re 14, when they’re 15. It’s that intentionality I think that you’re talking about that’s so important and that… Man, we just miss in the busyness of life.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Absolutely. The busyness. And you make such an important point there of, how do we model emotion, right? Because they feel if we’re anxious, or if we’re angry, or when we’re exhausted, they see that. They may not put words to it. But if we can say—I always say to my kids, “nine o’clock, I’m tired. Right? Like, my patience is low. You’re not gonna get much from me after nine.” So, they know, “oh, this isn’t personal, you’re tired. It’s 9:15.” Yes, I am! Right? Because we’ve had conversations about that. So, they know, “oh my gosh, she got impatient with me because she thinks I’m not smart.” Right? They know that’s not it. They know mama’s tired. So, I love that point of also modeling, right, what emotion looks like and naming that for them. So that’s that second pillar.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. And that takes vulnerability as a parent too, right? Like so many times we think, “well, if I show vulnerability, then, then they’re not gonna trust me because they’re gonna think that we’re not perfect or we’re not, we don’t know what we’re doing as parents.” And so we’re doing them a disservice by putting on a face of perfection, because then we set that expectation that that’s what they’re supposed to be. Right? But if we can be vulnerable and say, “Hey, sometimes I have to breathe through this and I’m gonna show you how I do that. Because my heart races too, when I walk into something new.”

Dr. Amanda Craig: Yes, a hundred percent. And we do, and you know, I talk about apology in that same regard, it’s okay for us to say, “oh my gosh, I really lost my temper and I’m embarrassed and I feel bad about it. And you know, I gotta let you know that. And I also need you to know that’s not your fault. You didn’t do that.” Right? It’s my responsibility to own that. “And so, I want you to know like I am sorry I put that out there. You know, I’m definitely thinking about that and, and how I can do that different next time.”

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. I, I actually had to fall on my sword last week with my 17-year-old. I told him I was disappointed in him, and that is not a phrase that I use. But I was triggered by something he had done, right? I brought my baggage into this, and it was something super simple. It was his one-year anniversary with his girlfriend, and he was not going to buy her flowers or a gift. He was just taking her to dinner. And it made me so angry because, for years, my husband decided he didn’t need to buy me anything for our anniversary, right? So it was like this, right? It just brought up all this emotion in me and I’m like, “you need to take dating advice from me, not your father.” And he’s like, “mom, it’s fine. I’m taking her,” you know, whatever. And so, he’s storming off and I’m like, “I am so disappointed in you.” And so, I sat there for a good hour. And I finally walked up to his room and I said, “I am so sorry. I need to walk that back. I brought my baggage, my frustration with your dad back in the olden days before he learned how to buy me flowers for our anniversary.” Right? “And so, I am sorry, like I, I should have never said that to you. This was not on you. This was all me.” You know? And you could see as countenance change, right?

Teri Miller: That’s so good. Oh…

Dr. Amy Moore: We do, we bring our own baggage into our conversations with our kids, right? And do damage.

Dr. Amanda Craig: That’s humanity, right? Here, we’re all educated women teaching this stuff and we still bring it into our homes. That’s humanity.

Dr. Amy Moore: And he forgave me—he’s like, “it’s fine mom. Like, you probably thought I was just being crazy and that’s okay too. That’s okay too.”

Dr. Amy Moore: But you, you taught him there, right? I’m safe, I’m, I’m modeling something that he will take in. He felt that, and, and that feeling will be something he’ll wanna recreate in other relationships. And that kind of segues into the third pillar, which is I’m Here For You. And I love this one. It’s kind of twofold to me. One is, you have a family that has your back and is there when, not if, when you make mistakes, when you fall and when you fail. Right? It’s okay. If our 12-year-old fails a test, it’s okay if our our 12-year-old fails in a friendship. It’s okay if our 12-year-old is too tired and doesn’t do well at that soccer game. Those are all opportunities to learn. And when they come home in that defeat, they’re gonna have us with them and we can talk it through. We can see where they are, right? We can hear that experience for them and that will help them learn, right? It builds confidence for them to know they’re not alone in the world, and that makes them more open to taking healthy risks, raising their hand in class, because they know even if something bad happens, they still have a family that’s there and will love them, and that’ll be right there with them in it.

And so that’s the one piece. And then the other piece is, as a family, I will expose you to community. Right? I will put other adults in your life, whether it’s at church or in our, in our community of culture. As coaches, right? I will expose you to other adults that will be there for you. And in that spirit, not everybody will be just like us. I will expose you to different cultures and different people in the world, so that you know, when you get to a table, you will invite others in. You will be inclusive because you know they all have something really important to say.

Dr. Amy Moore: I love that. Teri’s so good at that. I mean, she takes her kids on mission trips and really is intentional about helping her kids see that there’s life outside of their home.

Teri Miller: Thank you.

Dr. Amanda Craig: It’s so important. I know, I love that. Because we can, you know, I’m in a bubble, right? I live in an environment that’s kind of a bubble and our kids can start to think that that’s the way the entire world works. And then they’re shocked when they’re exposed to a different socioeconomic status or people of different culture or different color, and they shy away in uncertainty rather than show up at the table and invite in curiosity and how we can work together and how we bring different things to the table.

Dr. Amy Moore: Talk a little bit about—so, for example, you know, when my kids were still in school, you know, our school district was one demographic—one—so, I’m sure that I’m not the only family that lives in a school district with one demographic. So, talk a little bit about what ways parents can broaden those experiences and exposures to other demographics and cultures for their kids, without going on a mission trip, for example.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Right. And you know, we’re in the same experience where I live too, and you know, it’ll vary depending on where you are. But often, there might be, first of all, I love how we’re getting more exposure to holidays outside of, you know, when I grew up it was like we had Columbus Day, we had President’s Day, we had, you know, Christmas. Well, now we have so many other holidays we’re celebrating and that kids are aware of, right? The school systems are honoring communities outside—we’re seeing, and I’m on the East coast—we’re seeing a lot with the Yom Kippur and Diwali, and so we’re getting in Day of the Dead, right? Those are all different cultures that my family isn’t experiencing in our family. But yet they’re learning about in school, and we’re bringing that into the house to learn more about it as well. So just bringing that awareness of different holidays, inviting our school systems to have books that showcase different holidays or celebrations that come up from other cultures that maybe we’re not as familiar with. And then where do we vacation? Where do we travel? Who are our neighboring communities, right? Although my community doesn’t have a ton of diversity, both sides that I neighbor on have a lot of diversity. And so how do we blend the line of those towns so that we gather in ways for common good, rather than staying just in our bubble or having hard, hard town lines.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. So you could even take your kids to restaurants in your neighboring towns.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Exactly.

Dr. Amy Moore: Simple things.

Teri Miller: I wanna hear you talk about, you mentioned just a little bit how these different pillars you, sort of access them, or use them, or they are stronger, from one kid to another with different relationships. And I’m really curious about that personally. Because I do have a lot of kids and they are all very different. And in those tween years, and even teen years. You know, there are some of my kids that it’s real easy to do that, to ask that question, to, you know, say, “how are you?” That pillar of I’m here for you, I see you, I wanna get to know you. Those are easy to build with some of my kids, and then I’ve got other kids that, that’s really, really challenging. Even when they’re 9, 10, 11, I mean, It’s really hard when I ask my 10-year-old, “how was your day?” She does not wanna talk about it. She doesn’t wanna answer my question. She doesn’t wanna talk about her feelings. And so, kids that are neurodiverse, so when we’re talking about maybe autism spectrum disorder, you know, kids that maybe are adopted or foster or, you know, have different maybe trauma issues or attachment issues, how can we as parents, think about those pillars? Access connection with our kids, but in the way they need it? Because if I sit there and press that, “you need to tell me about your day. Well, how did you feel when that happened with that kid?” I mean, I am pushing her away. That is not connection, you know, that is combative to her.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Absolutely. Oh, I love what you’re saying because emotional connection is about seeing them. And so, you know, to your point of getting information, I love like multiple choice questions. You know, “do you think this happened, that happened, or this happened? Was it either this or that?” Another one, especially with tween boys, which is great is “correct me if I’m wrong” questions. So, I know they had burgers today. “So you guys had pizza today. How was lunch?” Right. Kids will love to correct incorrect information, right? I might even tie on more. So, things like, “no we didn’t, we had pizza today and Jimmy was at the table and he took a piece of his crust and he threw it a press and it hit this girl and then the teacher came.” Right? And you get all this other content sometimes cuz a story comes.

Teri Miller: I love that!

Dr. Amanda Craig: Right? Some ways to like, get in there. Now to your point though, not every kid is gonna answer all those questions. And actually, you’re right. We can be off-putting. So, if we notice our kid getting frustrated, right? We wanna take that cue and kind of pace the conversation. So that’s where we get into like love languages. Right? We may have a kid that sitting next to each other and reading a book is when conversation comes, “oh my gosh, this character just bought his horse and took it down the road.” Right? That is connection for them—just sitting quietly and in that space and talking about that content. Another great opportunity is at night in the dark when it’s bedtime, right? That’s often when the brain naturally starts processing the day, and you don’t have to necessarily say, “how was your day?” Just you being in the room, as they start to process, all of a sudden they’ll say, “you know what Sarah said to me today,” right? You know, “in math today this thing happened,” because they’re thinking and they’re just gonna put it out into the world. So, some kids like touch more than others, right? Some kids, when you come close and sit close, they open up; some kids, when you come close, it can be a sensory issue or a trauma response, and they actually pull away. And so knowing does our kid feel comfort when we’re close, or does that feel almost triggering? Right? And then the other thing, rituals. What are the things we do, especially with big families, when you have you know, four kids, I think, I don’t know how you do it. When someone comes in with four kids. I’m like, I don’t know how to help you. Just like, hold on tight. Right?

Dr. Amy Moore: You need a different therapist! [laughs] I only work with families with three or less!

Dr. Amanda Craig: It is so hard, right? Because there are so many moving parts and so many different personalities. And so, I love this idea of rituals and it’s like, you know, for me and my daughter, she is more like sit close to me, but not too close to me. And if we draw together, I’ll open up, but if you start hammering me with questions, I for sure will give you nothing, right? My son and I like to, (and he’s my 13, she’s six) We like to go for a drive, we go get a Starbucks, and then we have a drive pattern. We go on, and during the drive we chit chat. Right? When you get into those rituals, it’s like it feels fun, right? The heart feels happy, and that’s when we let our hair down. And so whenever we can have little rituals, you know, maybe there’s three kids walking home from elementary school with mom, and it’s like on the walk until we get to the stop sign, you know, Jimmy gets to share about his day, and then from the stop sign to the blue house, that’s Abby’s time to share about her day. Right? And now we know like, “okay, we’re almost at the stop sign. It’s gonna be my turn.” We get into these rituals that feel good. And so, these are some of the things I play with that kind of create those good memories for each of our kids in their own unique way or how we get into like, knowing each of our kids uniquely. Does that that make sense?

Dr. Amy Moore: I love that you mentioned, um, those connections that you can make at bedtime. We’ve talked about this before on our show, that so many parents, by the time they get to bedtime, they’re done. Right? They’re done with their day, and so it’s like, “you need to go to sleep so that I can go have my time” and to think of bedtime as part of the day, and an opportunity to really connect and build your relationship, right? Your day doesn’t start until later. That bedtime is just as important as dinnertime. It’s just as important as that drive home from school. And so, I love that you talked about how the brain starts processing their day. I mean, so that we need to take advantage of those moments to connect.

Teri Miller: And that is interesting. As you’re talking about it, I’m thinking… That is often, my youngest, it’s really challenging to connect with her because she does not like being asked questions. Any question. She does not like sharing her feelings. She does not talk about her schoolwork, her friends. It is  very different from my other kids because of some of her trauma, her struggles, from early years before she was with our family. But bedtime, what you’re saying, bedtime is often a time where she is softer, more talkative, more connected, and I never realized that. That, that could actually be a neurological process that I can take advantage of, that I can try to use that time to connect with her.

Dr. Amanda Craig: I love that. That’s so true. And you know, when my six-year-old’s getting to bed around 8:00, I get my jammies on. And you know why I get my jammies on? I’m tired, but I know if I’m in my work clothes, I’m gonna be more antsy to get out of her room. If I’m in my jammies, I feel more cuddly and can hang in her bed with her longer, and more enjoyable. And if I’m enjoying it, that’s just gonna come out in the room. Right? If I’m antsy because I’m uncomfortable, even if I try to hide it, odds are it’s coming out in the room. And so, I get my jams on and then I go in and, you know, I have a daughter that’s adopted. You know, I feel like sometimes that that adoption stuff is coming into the room, and we’ve done like butterfly tapping. We’ll, do you know, she’s sick, so I’ll help her stretch. Right? I put on my physical therapist hat and we’ll do different stretches and I find that so comforting and our lighting is dim, right? And we might have soft music that she chooses, right? So, there’s that control piece of like, she’s creating an ambience and we’re creating this stress-free zone and like releasing the body’s tension. And it is, they just open up, right? They feel supported and like cared for, and that brings such an opportunity, and I love how you describe it with your daughter because it’s organic, right? It’s a dance. It’s just we’re moving, and they pick up on safety and when they feel that safety, and they’re not pressured with time or expectation, right? The dynamic changes and it’s really, it’s really a powerful experience.

Teri Miller: Oh yeah, I’m, I’m thinking of so many ideas now. I’m just thinking, there’s a candle that I light in my bedroom, right on a table that’s kind of right by the door near her room. And I’m thinking, what if like you’re talking about something that you do repeated, you know, that you, you keep that consistency, you know, a special thing thinking, what if I light that candle? Cuz oftentimes I do in the evenings, I light it so my room smells nice. If I light that candle and what if I carry that jar candle in there with me, and while I’m in there with her, that’s a special candle. And then even she can blow it out when I leave. You know, that kind of thing. When we’re finally like, “goodnight, I love you.” You know, she can blow off the candle. So anyway, I’m just…there’s so many things. So, parents start brainstorming, what can you do? Moms, as you’re listening to this.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Yeah. Ritual. That’s a beautiful ritual. And then you’re at the store and you’re like, “oh my gosh, look at all the candles. Do you wanna pick out your own fragrance? You wanna try smell them? Do you like this scent?” Right? Like I love how the expansion of these rituals and these times as parent and kid connecting, like love that.

Teri Miller: Very nice.

Dr. Amy Moore: So we need to take a break. Let Teri read a word from her sponsor. And have we gone through all four pillars, or do we have one more to go?

Dr. Amanda Craig: We have one more pillar!

Dr. Amy Moore: Okay. So, when we come back from the break, we’ll wrap up with that last pillar.

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Dr. Amy Moore: And we’re back talking with licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Amanda Craig, about the four pillars of emotional connection with tweens. And so we have one more pillar to go. Let’s hear about that.

Dr. Amanda Craig: So I often have parents come in and say, “I feel like if I do the first three pillars, the kids are running my house. I have lost all power and control.” And that’s really not the case. The fourth pillar is, I Will Keep You Safe. And that’s where boundaries come in. And, what I say to parents, boundaries are so important because it does teach our kids what it feels like to bump up against a limit, and feel that discomfort, guilt, regret. If we have no boundaries, our kids don’t know what it feels like to bounce up against something that’s not good. Right? They don’t have that, and they will like veer off into the sea, right? If they don’t have a limit, they need that. So those are super important. And what I often say is: have two. Start out with two, and really practice those two, because the consistency and the follow through is so important. It’s easy to try, get some pushback, and then give up. We really wanna continue because that’s where change occurs. That’s where they start to learn what it feels like to have a limit when they get that feedback from us that “you’ve pushed the limit and I have to follow through.” What that tells them is they practice delayed gratification. They practice the accomplishment of, of having a limit and stopping at the limit. And they also practice resiliency. So, if my limit is you need to do homework before you have screen time, they practice the hard thing, right? Do hard things, do your homework, and then you get rewarded. That’s resiliency. “I do hard things and I bounce back. I do hard things and there’s a reward.” So, there’s a lot of good reasons we wanna have that. I say the two, because I think that’s easier to parent. I think when you have a ton of rules, it’s harder to parent and we often don’t follow through. So, stay with two, really get good at it. Do it for a few weeks. Add another one then. But really start and focus on like what you’re gonna be able to manage and follow through with. And then the other thing I say is, natural consequences are our best friend. There’s so many things we, we parent and we o kind of over parent when really it doesn’t have such a long-term effect. If I, like, push my kid to wear a coat, right? He might fight me, and he might finally wear one, but that’s not gonna be as effective as a teaching, as if he goes to school and he is cold. We wanna give kids opportunities.

He gets a C on a test. I’ll tell you this, and parent seem to be surprised: kids don’t feel good with a C grade. Right? They don’t feel good with that test. Now if I push him to study, study, study, and he gets that B+ or the A, we’re looking for, you know, he’s learned, “study hard. You get the desired result.” And that’s a good lesson. But there’s also a really great lesson in, especially in seventh grade, sixth grade: “Don’t study for that test, get a C that you’re not happy with, and see how that feels.” Because by sixth, seventh grade and even fifth, the kids are starting to compare grades. And so now they’re gonna get that feedback, and they’re gonna get the personal feedback of what a C feels like. And that is an invaluable lesson that we can’t teach in 11th grade. Right? By 11th grade, if they’ve gotten all A’s, that C’s gonna matter more than it does in eighth grade. So, I really encourage parents, let there be times—the place I veer away from natural consequence is safety, of course. Like, you have to wear a helmet. We do have screen limits because too much screen time is just not good for the brain development. But there again, I have to parent that. The kid is not gonna like that parenting practice. You will get the tantrum or the outbursts, and we still have to parent that because that’s just healthy for their brain. There’s a lot of places outside of safety that we kind of parent, when we can really let natural consequences take over.

Dr. Amy Moore: Oh, I love that distinction. So just to recap, we over parent sometimes and so pick and choose where we’re going to impose stricter limits, and allow natural consequences to happen on those other things.

Dr. Amanda Craig: Yeah, I love that. Yes. Yes. And we have more energy then, we have more bandwidth.

Teri Miller: Well, I think that you are gonna write a great book, next, about how to navigate teenage years—

Dr. Amy Moore: If you missed connecting with your tweens. [laughs]

Teri Miller: Exactly. That’s what I’m thinking about because—

Dr. Amy Moore: It’s not too late!

Teri Miller: We are out of time for this podcast, but we are not out of time as parents. And this is, gosh, this is just so great, such valuable information and yeah, my job was supposed to be, to keep up with the time during this podcast and I failed because I was so intrigued and into what you were talking about. So, yeah, I, I think we could go on and on, but we gotta close down here.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, we do. This has been a fantastic episode.

Dr. Amanda Craig: I appreciate you guys having me, I love what you’re doing. Your podcast is great and thank you for having me.

Dr. Amy Moore: Oh, we were so excited that you took time out of your busy schedule to join us. So, if you want more information about Dr. Craig’s work, her website is You can find her on Instagram @amandacraigphd. And on LinkedIn at Amanda Craig, PhD and we’ll put all those links and her handles in the show notes, and including a link to purchase her book: Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Kid? Connect with Your Tween While They are Still Listening.

So, thank you so much listeners for listening to us today. If you loved our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. If you would like to follow us on social media, we are on every platform @TheBrainyMoms. You can watch us on YouTube @TheBrainyMoms and find us at So, look, until next time we know that you’re busy moms. And we’re busy moms, so we’re out.

Teri Miller: See ya.