About this Episode
If you’re raising a girl (or FOUR, like this episode’s guest, Dr. Kimberly Palmiotto), we encourage you to listen to our discussion about navigating adolescence. From challenging family rules and navigating life on social media to developing mutual respect and finding ways to communicate, Kim offers unique and useful insights into parenting during the transition between childhood an adulthood. Grounded in both personal experience and her work as an educational psychologist and licensed therapist, Kim shares with Dr. Amy and Sandy what she’s learned, seen, and discovered about these fun and fascinating developmental stages.
About Dr. Kim Palmiotto
Kim is an educational psychologist, licensed therapist, and mom of 4 girls. She has worked in the school systems as well as in private practice with families and teens for 25 years and is a published author of multiple books including “Marigold Girls” and “Not Your Grandma’s Journal” developed for tweens and teens to manage the ups and downs of puberty and adolescence. She founded Nurturing Girls to help moms and daughters navigate adolescence together through workshops, coaching, and educational videos and material.
Connect with Dr. Kim Palmiotto
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Read the transcript for this episode:
DR. AMY: Hi, smart moms and dads. Welcome to another episode of the Brainy Moms podcast, brought to you today by LearningRx brain training centers. I am your host, Dr. Amy Moore, coming to you from Colorado Springs, Colorado. And I am joined by my co-host, Sandy Zamalis, coming to us from Virginia. We are super excited to have a conversation with our guest today, Dr. Kimberly Palmiotto. Kim is an educational psychologist, licensed therapist, and mom of four girls. She’s worked in the school systems as well as in private practice with families and teens for 25 years, and is a published author of multiple books, including Marigold Girls and Not Your Grandma’s Journal, developed for tweens and teens to manage the ups and downs of puberty and adolescence. She founded Nurturing Girls to help moms and daughters navigate adolescence together through workshops, coaching, and educational videos and materials. She is here today to talk with us about that difficult transition from childhood to adolescence in girls and all the stuff and struggles that go along with that. So welcome so much, Kim.
KIM: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here with you guys and have this chat. It’s going to be fun.
DR. AMY: It is.
SANDY: Yeah, we are excited and we’re probably going to go deep because as a mom and raising girls communication is probably the hardest thing to learn. But before we jump into all that, why don’t you start by telling us how you got into the field of therapy and psychology and why you started the Nurturing Girls program.
KIM: Okay, sure. Well, so I actually am a school psychologist by trade, and then I do private practice on the side as a licensed counselor. I got into the entire profession because I really kind of loved psychology in general, but I wanted to work with kids. Started out really as just a school psychologist and was in the public schools. I’ve worked in preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, kind of the gamut. And what kind of led me to where I am now is it’s a combination of things. It’s that whole experience and understanding that I feel like middle school and high school are the two areas that kind of get left behind sometimes because so many people think that our girls and kids in general should be more independent than they really are developmentally. And so we miss a lot with that. And then on top of that, I have, like you said, four girls and myself, three of which are in that tween-teen stage. And in private practice, I had so many girls coming in that were in that range dealing with anxiety, depression, parental conflict, just things that to me seemed like we could address if we needed to, but nobody had the tools. So my own struggles compared with my education and then what I was seeing in real life kind of led me to develop in this Nurturing Girls, which is really just helping moms and daughters kind of find a way to navigate the adolescent process because we don’t have a lot of tools out there to help us with that. And we, you know, there’s a lot of great books, but sometimes it just doesn’t hit the mark. So that’s kind of why I created it, to really focus on just that relationship between our moms and daughters.
DR. AMY: So talk to us a little bit about those primary struggles that you see in that transition.
KIM: Yeah, I think that there’s a couple of different things that are usually pretty significantly normal that we see, right? The first one is communication. I think we go from being the parent that is kind of dictating and setting all the rules, to now a parent who is getting challenged a little bit more with some of those rules. And it’s hard to understand how to make that switch over to allow the kids to be more independent and our girls to be more independent without losing the relationship. So that’s one, the communication seems to be a very, very big one on how do we communicate with our daughter who is kind of stopping some of the communication with us. The other one is helping, I hear a lot helping our girls manage the social aspect of their lives because it gets very complicated very quickly for them. And sometimes as moms or as parents, it’s hard for us to figure out when to step in, when to back off and kind of how to help with that advice. Those are kind of the big ones. There’s the conflict at home becomes pretty significant in the teen years. And I think what people forget is that that actually is really normal. And we try to, we often forget that, that because we’re trying to make it kind of this non-conflict environment, but really that’s part of what adolescence is, is conflict, as they’re moving through it into adulthood. Because they’re really just trying to achieve their own identity and figure out who they are. They can’t do that by just always following the rules. They have to challenge them sometimes. So, we need to give them the latitude and room to do that without throwing in the towel on respect. And that’s where that balance is really hard to achieve without some help.
DR. AMY: And so what does that look like?
KIM: Achieving the balance, you mean?
DR. AMY: Yeah, like, so what does it look like to be able to say, “I understand this need to push the limits and, you know, explore your own identity.” And so what does that look like for moms in a way that, you know, we can do that in a way that’s supportive without throwing out a hundred percent of respect for your parents? What does that look?
KIM: Yeah, that’s actually a really good question. Kind of the $25,000 question, right? I think that a lot of it has to do with understanding the brain development itself and what’s happening in your daughter’s brain as she moves into adolescence. It has to do with understanding what your own history is and what your triggers may be, because that’s a very big aspect of all of this that we often ignore or don’t understand. It has the largest impact, I think, on the way that you’re interacting with your teen daughter. And then, you know, also there’s, there’s also just the physical components of understanding what she’s going through physically from the hormones to periods to, you know, what’s happening with her brain. Like I said before, those are all things that kind of wrap this package. So what it looks like in terms of that balance is being able to A) for example, this is like a really, really simple example, but understanding kind of her own menstrual cycle is something that we don’t talk about enough and understanding how that impacts her behavior, her emotions, her mood. You know, we all say like, “Oh, are you PMSing?” Well, it’s not just that. There’s also a very small window in the beginning of that menstrual cycle where she’s going to be really open to having conversations. And that’s when you see your girls coming to you with, you know, like wanting to talk more, opening up more. You have this little glimpse of what they were like when they were maybe a little younger. That’s important to understand as one piece. The other piece with the brain development is that with our girls, they are going through an entire reconstruction in their brain right now, similar to how they were when they were a toddler. So there’s these two times in your life when your brain is literally kind of going through an entire reconstruction; pruning off the things that you don’t need, keeping the things that you do. Those are the things you practice. That along with the there’s kind of like the limbic system, especially that amygdala in the brain that’s involved with things like the emotions and the fight flight and really kind of just the really emotional center of their brain. That is the front runner to anything else. While this part of your brain, that prefrontal cortex is actually not even developed yet, which you guys probably already know, right? So if you think about that in terms of behavior and what that looks like for her when she’s interacting with you, she’s running on the emotions first and the problem-solving and decision-making second. So when you’re having a conversation with her, if she’s reacting very largely and emotionally, understanding that that’s where she’s coming from is one really big factor, because if that happens and then you have a trigger, let’s say like, for example, my trigger absolutely 100% is disrespect. If I get the eye roll, if I get the back talk, that’s my trigger. And that’s my trigger because I know as a teen myself, I didn’t feel respected from my parents. I didn’t feel heard from my parents. So I know bringing that into my relationship, if I’m aware of that, then when she does do that, I can either A) completely fly off the handle and then repeat that generational pattern. Or, B)I can, I can identify during that time, “Oh, okay, this is mine, not hers,” number one. Number two, she’s reacting this way because the emotions are running first. So I need to help her by kind of co regulating as I would a toddler in that moment, and helping her understand that I’m there, I understand. Can you try that again? Because the way that you just talked to me, you might not even understand. And I realize it, but the way that you just talked to me was really disrespectful. So can we try that again in another way? Right? So just really kind of giving her the opportunity by reflecting back in a really nonjudgmental way that the way that it came across was probably not the way that she intended. Because most of the time it’s not. Most of the time, when my girls are communicating to me, when they appear disrespectful, when they appear flippant, it really isn’t that way in their head. The way that they’re giving it to me is very different than the way they’re intending to give it to me. So just giving them that feedback I think helps. It’s a very long response, but does that make sense?
DR. AMY: Absolutely! Can you go back to the very beginning of that response where you talked about there’s this small window at the beginning of the menstrual cycle, where you have this opportunity to really connect. Talk about the physiology there like, that’s new to me.
KIM: Yeah, I’m actually just learning about this myself because I’m actually I’m doing I’m in the middle of kind of creating this summit for moms and one of the founders, one of the speakers specifically focuses on the menstrual cycle and how it’s important for girls to understand it. And so she highlighted a lot of this for me in terms of, there’s this this window, this two-week window right after her period that has to do with the release of the progesterone, I think it is. I’m going to speak, I’m going to be really honest, like the actual nitty gritty of this, I’m still learning. So, but the way that it, the way that the hormones react to it causes this rush of dopamine and serotonin that helps them to be more receptive, be more open, really identify, like around them, how they can communicate a little bit more effectively. So this is when you might see that they’re not necessarily in their rooms all the time. They may be out interacting a little bit more. When you’re having those deeper conversations with them, that’s something that is going to be the time to do it right then. Those are the, those are the, that’s the window that you want if they need to take a really big test like an SAT test or other big tests that you can schedule, those are the times you want to schedule it. So those are those. That’s just kind of little things to think about when you’re interacting with her.
DR. AMY: That’s fascinating.
SANDY: I hadn’t heard that either. But that’s totally fascinating. One of the things I keyed in on what you said, Kimberly, was really about that parent dynamic and really trying to understand. Do you find when you talk with parents that, especially I’m thinking, you know, from my generation, I’m a generation X and like my kids’ generation, there is a little bit of a disconnect between what teenage and adolescence looks like now for our kids and what it looked like for us. Do you have any thoughts on that or how do you help bridge that communication gap? Because sometimes we don’t understand. Sometimes we don’t have the perspective that our kids have because we didn’t have the internet.
DR. AMY: Or we default to that, “Well, when I was a teenager, right, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
KIM: Yeah, I am so glad you brought that up because I think, I think I’m also Gen X and I think I’m actually very proud Gen X because I feel, you know, like we had, we went through our own generation, which was kind of a big shit show sometimes anyway. But I think the difference between that and now is enormous and it’s not just, not just the internet. Social media has changed the game for adolescents. It just completely has changed the way that they experience life, the way that they experience social interactions and it is 100% something that we truly cannot understand. Because they’re now going through all of these developmental pieces of their puberty and their adolescence with social media and internet. That’s a very different experience than what we had, which was real life. You didn’t have everything documented. You didn’t have to worry about, you know, people, you know, taking videos of you without you knowing it and posting them. You didn’t have to worry about people taking, you know, pictures of something you sent them and sending it to other people. So the whole social interaction and navigating that has changed completely. So when we say things like, “Well, when I was a teen,” or “I used to,” you know, trying to compare, you can’t. There’s no comparison because what they are experiencing right now is a completely different mindset. They have to be aware not only of what they’re doing now, but of what they’re doing now, how what they’re doing now can impact them in the future because everything is documented. Everything is out there. They have to understand that there’s this—I’m sure that you’ve heard of the Jean—I always say her name wrong—Twenge book, “iGen.” She did a ton of research on understanding how social media and technology has impacted adolescence and the brain. What she’s really kind of highlighting is the fact that what we as Gen Xers, or even, you know, prior to that, prior to the whole social media outbreak, when we would have social experiences, we would have them, we would store them in our memory, and we might have a few pictures here and there, and then we would move on. But if there were a party going on that you weren’t invited to, you didn’t really know about it. Or if you did, you might hear about it a couple days later, and then people moved on to the next thing. Well, nowadays, it is in your face. It is. I mean, because our kids are on their technology constantly. And if someone has a party, they’re posting everything they’re, you know, they’re cultivating and curating their profile so that everything looks perfect.
And there is this, I mean, they talk about FOMO, but it really, it’s a real thing for our adolescents because when you log on and you see all these people at this party you weren’t invited to, it then becomes almost an obsessive feature where you go down the rabbit hole of, “Well, why, what, who was invited? Why wasn’t I invited? Look, I want to see more pictures. How many likes are they getting?” And then the comparison trap that happens, which is a normal part of adolescence is exaggerated. Because now we are, we are stuck in the vortex of social media and we’re not able to get out. And so when that happens, and it’s easy for kids to fall into that anxiety and depression spiral, because all they’re seeing is what they missed out on, or the fact that they didn’t get as many likes as they wanted when they posted something, or they don’t have as many followers as they’d like on certain platforms, whatever it is. So, by taking that away, then we give them the opportunity to have more in-person social experiences, which allow them to make those mistakes without having it documented, if that makes sense.
DR. AMY: Yeah. So what is that conversation sound like between a mother and a daughter who is struggling with the anxiety, the social anxiety, the FOMO, all of that, that you just talked about. What does that encouragement sound like?
KIM: So I think one of the, one of the first things that you can do from a proactive standpoint is to really try to help them understand what is happening to their brains when they’re utilizing social media and technology. And one of the, one of the things that I did with my girls that actually was very helpful was to have them watch “The Social Dilemma” because it’s not me telling them, it’s them watching the documentary and understanding the research behind it. And they actually made their own decisions based on that because the bottom line is teenagers do not like to be manipulated. In any way. So if we can give them the information that shows them you’re being manipulated with social media, and here’s how, they tend to kind of make their own decisions, because they don’t want that to happen. So they might like, for example, my girls decided I don’t want to be on it at all and then they added a couple things here and there, but they’re very, very conscientious of it. So, you know, I can, you know, hear a lot of people saying like, “I can’t even get her to watch the, you know, the movie.” Well, for me, it was about, “I want you to understand what’s happening when you are on social media. I want you to be educated. You get, you get to make the decisions about a lot of things in your life, especially after you’re gone and, you know, graduated and on your own. But I’m also responsible for giving you the information so that you have the education to make the informed decisions. So can you sit down and watch this video with me, this movie with me? And we can maybe have a discussion about what you think afterwards.” It’s also really, really helpful to just let them know that you support them non-judgmentally with whatever comes up. So for example, if you find that your daughter maybe was sexting with somebody and there’s something that maybe came out of that. It’s easy for us to kind of jump into that from a fear stance and be like, “Oh my gosh, now we’re all the way to Z of what’s going to happen.” And so then we are coming in with the help. The “I want to help you fix it” lens. But really what she needs is to be able to understand that you’re there to support her and then problem solve together. So I think anytime that we can approach situations with our girls that have to do with social media and technology in a way that is from a curiosity standpoint, instead of a judgment standpoint, you’re going to get a lot further in the conversation, you’re going to get a lot more information from her, and you’re definitely going to help problem solve. You’re going to move into that problem solving stage a lot easier.
DR. AMY: Talk a little bit more about that curiosity versus judgment. Like, can you give our listeners some examples of what that conversation would sound like?
KIM: Sure. Yeah. So, I mean, from a curiosity standpoint, what you’re doing is you’re asking, you’re asking questions to learn, right? So, for example, if you see that she’s spending a lot of time on social media, and you see that maybe her personality and mood is maybe changing a little bit because of it, you can enter the conversation by, by asking her like, “Hey, how you doing?” “Oh, I’m fine.” “Okay, well, what’s been going on on social media lately?” Right? Or you can ask her specifically straight out, “How do you feel when you’re on Instagram?” Or “Why would you be posting … “ or “What is the purpose of posting this particular picture or this particular post?” You get I want her to start thinking about, “Am I posting this because I want feedback from others on how great my outfit is? Or am I posting it because I just want to share this experience that I had with the friends and followers that I have? Like, what is my purpose in it?” So helping to guide her through that with questions that don’t become defensive-making questions, right? So a defensive-making question would be more something like, “Well, why did you post that?” I mean, “Did you, were you expecting to get something out of that?” Right? That’s going to immediately cause defensiveness. But if you say, if you ask her, you know, like, “Think about for a minute, how do you feel when you are making your posts on Instagram or Snapchat or whatever it is? Or what is it about Snapchat that you really love?” Right? Finding ways to help understand what it is that she enjoys about it, benefits from when she’s on them, and even the things that, after those conversations, it will start to highlight some of those things that she also, maybe doesn’t like. But you don’t have to focus on that, because if you focus on that, her interpretation is going to be more about, “Oh, well, see, she’s just trying to get me off of it.” But if you can highlight, “I really want to understand, I want to understand what do you love about it? Like why, what is, tell me more about Snapchat. I don’t really understand it.” Right? Helping her, let her educate you. And through that conversation, you start to get more and more information about why she’s using it, how she’s using it, how she feels she’s benefiting from it.
DR. AMY: And I would think that those conversations would have additional benefits as well, not just related to the social media platform that you’re asking about, but the fact that you’re showing that kind of interest in your child, in your daughter, builds trust, right? “Hey, my mom is really interested in what’s happening in my life.”
KIM: Absolutely. Yeah, I think again, this kind of goes back to the very beginning when I was talking about how when kids get into secondary school, you know, even the message from schools is kind of like, “Okay, parents back off,” you know, “You can be a part of the PTA if you want to, but don’t show up at school and don’t volunteer here” and you know, there’s that message is like, “back off, let them be independent.” And I think often we misinterpret that as like, “Okay, my kid’s ready to fly, I’m gonna let them go.” Even if we are kind of holding the reins a little tight, the emotional piece of that we tend to back off of, and really we should be leaning in with them. They really need our, they’ll need, even if they roll their eyes or kind of shrug you off, I guarantee you that they love the physical attention, the hugs, the small things like sending them a little text throughout the day if they have a phone, telling them something you appreciate and love about what they did that morning or that day or who they are. You know, leaving a little post it in their lunch that maybe like you used to do when they were in elementary school. All of those things really need to continue throughout secondary because they are really walking the tightrope between being a child and being an adult. And they have one foot on each side of the fence and it’s very confusing. And some days they really want to be over here as a kid and other days they really want to be over here as an adult. And that’s number one, what feels confusing for us because we never know which foot is down each day. But also, for them, it’s confusing and they need some of those anchors that we were giving them as kids in order to help them make that transition. So yes, I mean, showing them that you’re interested, showing them that you are engaged emotionally still is probably one of the most beneficial things that you can do for your relationship with them.
SANDY: And do you recommend when you ask these questions of your child that you engage in, you know, sharing or doing more listening than talking? Where do you think a parent really needs to kind of be in those adolescent years?
KIM: I think using those active listening, like tools and skills is really, really important. I am of the mindset of sharing even personal experiences is probably one of the most powerful things that you can do with your teenagers to help them understand that you’re human. I think sometimes we get caught up in I’m the adult, I’m the parent, I can’t show them that I made these mistakes, or they’re going to repeat the same mistakes. But the reality is that when they understand the mistakes that you made, how you benefited from them, what you did to kind of resolve whatever it was, it gives them the roadmap as well, because more than likely they’re experiencing quite a few of the same types of conflicts. They may look very different because of the generation, but the theme is always the same, right? There’s always going to be, you know, a mean girl at school that they’re trying to navigate. We’ve had that experience from our generation. They’ll have it with theirs. So understanding kind of what your experiences was, how to share it with them in a way that obviously is developmentally appropriate, but mostly in the teen, as they get older into the teen years, they’re going to understand more and more. That’s the thing I love about having a teenager is you can have these philosophical conversations and they get it. So I don’t, I think sharing is definitely important. But before you share, you have to listen, because if they don’t think that you’re hearing them and they think you’re just giving them the information and expecting them to use it, they’re going to tune you out. So finding a way to start with listening, and then I always will ask, “Do you want my feedback?” Sometimes they’ll say no and I have to be okay with that. And that’s actually, I think one of the hardest things is being okay with that because I’m like, “I have information that you need and I want to give it to you like right now.” And she’s like, “Nope, not ready for it.” Okay. I’m going to bite my tongue. I’m going to step away and I will circle back later. Right. But I think that is signaling to them that you also respect them and their, their uniqueness and their independence. And so if she’s not ready and doesn’t want that feedback, that’s okay. Most of the time I think that they’ll take it, but the fact that you offered it is why they take it.
DR. AMY: Yeah, I would always ask my kids, “Do you want my advice on this or do you want me to just listen?”
DR. AMY: Right? And, and then now—my kids are above 18 and I have all boys, by the way—but I will say things like, “Hey, I have a couple of, ‘I wonders.’ Would you like to hear my …”
KIM: I love that! Yeah!
DR. AMY: And so my 24-year-old will go, “Yeah.” And I’ll say, “I wonder, if you do that …” You know, whatever, right? Whatever the scenario is. And so, and then it’s not advice that they feel like, “Oh my gosh. My mom thinks I should do it this way.” It’s, “Oh, she gave me food for thought.”
KIM: Mm hmm. I love that. Yeah, I do think that the ‘food for thought’ method is one of the best things that you can do with teenagers because that’s, again, they don’t want to feel like you’re telling them what to do. They don’t want to feel manipulated. They want to feel like this was, this, you know, you can plant the seed, but they have to make it grow. Like, they have to make the decision that this is what I want to do. And if they believed that it was their decision and their idea, they’re much more invested in moving forward with that, good or bad, right? So I think that’s fantastic. I love it.
DR. AMY: Let’s talk about those explosive arguments. And what happens when your daughter says, “I hate you”?
KIM: Yes. Um, so that happens. That happens very often, I think, in households with families and it’s, and it’s really extremely hurtful. I mean, it’s, it’s one of those things that when, when your child says that to you, it’s hurtful because you think they mean it, right? But the bottom line is 99. 9% of the time they don’t mean it. It is the emotional reaction that they’re having because, like we talked earlier, that that amygdala is the frontrunner, and that’s an emotional reaction in that moment, and it usually is linked to something that they’re either not getting that they want, or they feel like you’re not hearing them and what they’re saying, or you’re not responding in the way they want you to say it. And so the emotional dysregulation causes them to blurt out the “I hate you.” Do they really hate you? No, of course not. They love you. But when you hear that, it stabs you in the heart. So, I think that when someone says that, when a teenager says that, or a child says that to a parent, the first thing that you need to do is understand that, “Okay, I hear that. It hurt me, but I also know that they, that they don’t hate me. And so the response could be as simple as, “It sounds like you’re really upset right now. Is there, is there something else that I can do to help you with this?” Right? Or even like, sometimes if I get a response that’s really kind of sharp to me, I might even just turn around and say, “Ooh, ouch. That hurt.” Right? Just to kind of give that feedback to her of like, “The way that you just responded to me was really big. So big that it hurt me.” And that alone might just diffuse it for a moment. You’re not going to get an apology right away. She’s not going to go, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.” Right? Because she’s all, she’s already still way up here in this emotional dysregulation arena. So what has to happen is there needs to be a break. There needs to be a little bit of a time out in order for everyone to deescalate. If your child is at a point where maybe they instead could receive like a physical touch, a lot of times that does help kind of with that regulation. Sometimes kids don’t want you anywhere near them. That’s okay too. So you might say to them, “Oh, ouch. That really hurt. I need to take a little bit of a break because that did not feel good. I’ll come back to you in 10 minutes.” Right. And then circle back and say, like, “Can we have a conversation about what just happened? Because that was really, what you said was very like painful. And I don’t know if you meant it or if there was something else happening.” So, really, what you’re doing is walking them through that whole, kind of, reconciliation process in order to help them understand that what they said was not okay, but it doesn’t mean that you love them any less, just like you know they don’t hate you.
DR. AMY: Yeah. I love that.
SANDY: Yeah, me too.
DR. AMY: The rule in our house was ‘You can be mad, but you can’t be mean.’ And so we understood, right? Like, okay, instead of saying, “Ouch, that hurt,” right? I would just respond with, “You can be mad, but you can’t be mean. So I’m going to walk away right now and we’ll talk about this later.” Because they amygdala has hijacked their prefrontal cortex anyway, right? Like you’re not going to move forward in that conversation when they get to that point, right? So one of you needs to walk away for a few minutes.
KIM: Yes. And if you haven’t really identified your triggers, that might be a trigger for you. And that means you’re going to blow, and if you blow, then the whole thing is going to go up like a volcano or dynamite. Right? And then, and then there’s a lot of repair to do on both sides. So that’s a whole nother conversation.
DR. AMY: Right. You got two people in Hulk brain in the same room. That’s not going to work. That’s a recipe for disaster.
SANDY: I love how you kind of talk about that. And I was thinking like, in one of your posts you talk about, you know, respect goes both ways and that’s really what you’re sort of delineating here is. I’m wanting to model how to be an adult that can reconcile, so I’ve got to be able to do that, not go into Hulk brain and freak out and then back to it so that they can see it happen in real time. But you’re also respecting their right to, you know, blow their top. You know, and not holding them, you know, necessarily judging them for it, trying to keep it separate, trying to, come back to that reconciliation point with them.
KIM: Yeah, absolutely. I think sometimes I think that we forget as parents, you know, I have to, for me, remind myself sometimes when I’m interacting with my kids, well, would I treat a friend the same way? Would I treat a co-worker the same way? Right, not that they’re a friend or a co-worker, but would I give them the same respect, right, in the way that I’m reacting to them? Would I scream and yell at a coworker? Would I scream and yell at one of my best friends if I was upset? Probably not, right, unless I was in a really bad space. So, helping to understand that, like, the respect really does go both ways, and if we want them to give it to us, we really do have to share that as well.
DR. AMY: So, we need to take a break, let Sandy read a word from our sponsor, and when we come back, we will keep talking.
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DR. AMY: And we’re back talking with Dr. Kim Palmiotto about that relationship between mothers and teen girls. So Kim, I wanna read a quote from one of your blog posts and then have you kind of speak to that. You said, “Parent your daughter with relationship as the goal in mind, not obedience. We are born to innately follow the lead of someone we are connected to before anything else.” So would you talk a little bit about that idea that obedience should not be the end goal?
KIM: Sure. Yeah. I think that It’s a human. It’s a human thing, right? So if we are, if we have a relationship with somebody, regardless of if it’s a parent-child relationship or friend-to-friend relationship, obedience is never the primary goal in those relationships. And so I think as we’re raising girls at a young age, we tend to infuse obedience because we want them to understand kind of the rules of life and we want them to, we want to develop and create, you know, human beings that are, you know, can function in society and we have all these reasons why we have obedience in place. As they get older and they start to become more independent, we really have to move away from that whole model of discipline for obedience and move into the relationship itself so that they’re becoming more autonomous. When we are thinking about relationships versus obedience, I think you need to ask yourself, “Why do you want them to be obedient?” Like, what is the purpose behind that? Is it because you were raised that way and that’s just the way that it is? If it is, then that’s just creating generational patterns that maybe aren’t as helpful or successful. I think one of the biggest questions I have moms ask is, “What did you need as a teen from your parents?” More than likely, they’re not going to say, “I needed them to discipline me more. I needed them to expect me to follow exactly what they said and never ask questions.” What I, what I do hear from moms a lot, and they reflect on this, is, “I really just needed them to kind of be there for, for me a little bit more, maybe have more time with me. Just ask more questions to understand who I was, because I was not who they were.” And so when we’re, when we’re parenting from obedience, especially at that teen point, you are going to get much more pushback because falling back to what I was saying before, teens don’t want to be manipulated. If you’re telling them you have to do it this way, if you don’t do it this way, you’re never going, you know, you’re not going to get X, Y, and Z at home, you have, the obedience is number one, then that is interpreted as “I’m being manipulated.” Right? I also think that, um, when we’re, sorry, I’m losing my train of thought. Hold on one second. That’s okay. Um, I just had something I was going to say and I completely forgot what I was going to say. Oh, I’ve lost it. Darn it. I had a really good point for you guys.
DR. AMY: Hey, we have a brain training program for that, by the way.
KIM: It’s a really great point and I can’t remember what it was now. Help me get back on track if you would.
DR. AMY: So I really wanted to talk about that notion of connection being the end goal and relationship being the end goal, not obedience. And so, like you were saying how you ask moms, “What did you need most from your parents?” Right? And discipline was not what they respond to, right? They, they say, you know, “I wanted them to understand me more. I wanted them to be connected to me more.” That’s what we were talking about.
KIM: Yeah. I completely lost it. I’m sorry. I had a point, but I don’t know what I was, I don’t know where I was going with it.
DR. AMY: So, okay. So then let me kind of, ask a follow up question about, okay. Let’s talk about curfews and … what’s your opinion on curfews? What’s your opinion on breaking curfews? I mean, it kind of related to this obedience idea. If that is not the goal, then what does that look like?
KIM: That’s a really good question. So I think curfews are important because I think it gives a framework to kids to understand, but I think—I’m going to say that with the caveat of, I really believe that when you put rules in place, you need to have, you need to help your, your kids understand the why behind that. That’s what I was circling back to. See what happened there?
We circled all the way back. Okay, perfect. So I think we have to help them understand the why behind the rule. If you can do that, the manipulation gets thrown out the window. They don’t even care anymore because they understand why you’re saying what you’re saying. So if you just say, you know, “just because, because I’m the parent.” That’s not going to fly for them. But if you say, “Look, the reason why I have this curfew in place is because I need to know …” because you know, you can even fall back on previous conversations you’ve had. I’ll give you an example that I use with my kids where I’ll say we’ve had multiple conversations about the brain in our household to the point that they probably roll their eyes whenever I kind of bring it up, but they understand that you have to have a certain amount of sleep in order to function at your best, especially in your teen years. And so even though your clock may move, right, it may move backwards a little bit, you may go to sleep a little bit later. We have to ensure that you’re going to get that sleep in order for you to function efficiently and be a good student and have all these, meet all these goals. Part of curfew is to help ensure that for you. Now, not necessarily because I don’t think you can manage it, but if you’re out with friends and they’re staying out until 2 a. m., it’s much easier for you to say, ‘Hey, I have a curfew and I need to be back by 11’ so that you know that you can get back and take care of yourself and meet that meets your own needs. It’s much harder to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to go home now because I need my sleep.’ Right?
DR. AMY: You blame it on your parents. Right?
KIM: Exactly. Right. And so helping them understand that like, look, this is, it’s not, it’s not just for my benefit. I’m doing this because I want to help you establish a framework for yourself as well. That helps you, um, with being consistent in your routine. It helps you with being able to manage the social pressures of maybe trying to stay out later. And I’ll say, like, if there’s a time that you maybe want to stay out a little bit later, let’s talk about that. You know, if you have something that you want to stay out until 1, let me know why. Right? Are you just going to be hanging out with no direction? Well, let’s talk about what could happen in those circumstances, right? And so it’s really just about having those conversations to help them understand your thought process as a parent, because you’re really acting as that frontal lobe for them in those, in those circumstances, because they’re not going to be able to do it in the moment. Like they just, they won’t. If they can, you’ve got a pretty advanced teen that can, you know, make those decisions from that kind of decision-making, problem-solving standpoint.
DR. AMY: And so when your daughter does not honor that curfew, then what does that conversation look like?
KIM: So I think, again, having the conversations beforehand is really crucial. So if you have a curfew in place, before they even go out or you, you agree to what the curfew is. Say, “Okay, so let’s, I’m sure that you’re going to come home on time every night, but let’s just say that you don’t. What do you think should happen?” Give them a voice because I think you’d be surprised at some of the reactions that you might get. So, you know, it may be that she says, “Oh, I get my phone taken away for a day.” Hmm. Okay. So let me talk to you a little bit about what’s happening for me when you don’t come home for curfew. Right? Because it’s important for them to be able to understand that it’s not just about you setting the rule and trying to enforce the rule. When they’re late for curfew, it causes a lot of things to happen for us as parents that are very scary. We go down the road of the what ifs, not knowing. Also having the conversation of the mutual respect is really, really important. You know, by you coming home on time, you’re showing that you respect the agreement that we made. Now, you know, when we are making these agreements together, it’s based on trust. And so if you don’t come home on time, you’re breaking that agreement, which in turn breaks the trust that we have together. And we have to have that trust in order to build more opportunities for you to show me that you can handle these other things that you want to do. So those are all kind of the conversations you need to have beforehand so that she really understands the why behind it and what’s going to happen if she does. Now, if she decides to break curfew and comes home late, the first thing that you need to do is to kind of, again, stop your initial reaction of like, “Well, you’re late, now you have a consequence!” Right? I do think that sometimes. Things happen. And so it’s important to understand. The first question needs to be, “Hey, you’re late. What happened?” Right? Because it may be, “Oh, I got a flat tire. I forgot to, I forgot to let you know,” whatever. Right? And then that’s the conversation that you have of like, “Okay, so let’s problem solve and walk through that. Now, and then again, if that’s a lie, then that’s another conversation that you have about the trust and the agreement. And so like, there’s like this domino effect in different directions that you take based on the conversations that you have. But sometimes it may be a very good explanation as to why she’s late.
And so instead of throwing the hammer down immediately, it’s important to be able to give her that opportunity to share with you what happened. And if it was, “Yeah, I just lost track of time and I got home late.” Say, “Okay, well remember we did talk about this beforehand, so you know, we’re gonna have to impose that consequence that we already talked about. You understand that, right?” She’s probably not gonna be happy about it, but is she gonna understand it? Yeah. Because you’ve had that conversation.
DR. AMY: I love that. So it’s actually, this is a, now I can’t talk. It’s actually a process, right? It’s not a one-time conversation. “Hey, your curfew’s midnight. If you break it, here’s what happens. You’re grounded, right?” This is a conversation that continues again and again and again. “You know, this is an agreement we had. This is about trust. This impacts the, you know, us as parents. This is …” Right? And so it isn’t just a one-time consequence type.
KIM: Absolutely. And that is, I think, the biggest change that parents have to make in their relationships with their adolescence, right? It’s not just a one-time conversation with anything. The trust and the communication and the respect is infused in pretty much every conversation that you have, it just the topics may change as you’re discussing it. But the more that you can talk about it ahead of time with a lot of different things that you think might be issues, the more, the easier it’s going to be, I guess I should say, in having those when those things do come up. Because you fall back on what you’ve previously talked about.
SANDY: To come full circle from where we started to kind of where we are in the conversation right now, what I’m hearing you say is that, as you work through that transition between when they’re young and you’re really developing those rules and guidelines, because your job is to keep them safe, right? And we’re transitioning into adolescence, where, you know, for as parents, um, all full fears come into being because you have these independent people out in the world, your heart is traveling around and anything can happen. So you’re trying to not squelch their growth, right? And learning how to be independent and also trying to manage that fear as a parent that it could all those South, you know, cause we all have great imagination. If you could give one or two tips to parents that are really trying to manage, because I think that’s what you’re kind of alluding to in this conversation today, is that, you know, that transition is all about as a parent letting go of our fear about the outcome and about who our children are going to be, or if they’re going to make big, huge mistakes, and how we help parent them through that and, you know, build a relationship.
KIM: So are you asking for kind of two things that we’ve focused on?
SANDY: Yeah. What would you say to parents just as a takeaway from our conversation today of, you know, this is essentially what it’s about.
KIM: Yeah. I think that, I think, you know, you talk about the fear and I think the fear is real and huge as a parent of a teenager because you are about to launch a human into society and you don’t know whether you did it right or wrong. Yeah. Let’s just be honest. You don’t really know until they get out there. And that’s a giant burden to hold in terms of a parenting, like, fear. So I think, number one, acknowledging that, right? And just being like, okay, and the reality is that the majority of the time, people find their way, right? And what you’re giving them, your kids are going to use. So knowing that what you did was the best that you could do, and that they’re going to take all of those positives and move forward. In the moment, right now, while you’re going through the teen years, I think my big, my big takeaways are make sure that you know yourself and you know, your history, because that is a very, very big component in parenting teams. So that you know what your triggers are and how you can respond. And I think that you need to have, like we just talked about, these ongoing conversations that involve trust and respect. Those two components are probably the saving grace when you’re having communication and conflicts with your teens. So if you understand how to establish and maintain mutual respect and have those conversations and help them understand what trust is, how to keep it, how to lose it, how to get it back. Those things are really important for them because that’s what they keep in mind when they’re not with you. So when you are giving them life lessons or you’re having conversations that create life lessons, those two things that are infused when they go out into the real world and they’re on their own and they’re making their own mistakes, those things are kind of kept as values for them that they will then bring back and have conversations with you about. So that would be probably my big takeaways.
DR. AMY: I love that. So one of the things—we are out of time so we need to wrap this up. But one of those things that we really want a chance to talk with you about is talking with your teen girls about sex and consent and boundaries. Would you be willing to come back and have a full hour-long conversation with us again about that?
KIM: Yeah, I would love to. I think that would be great.
DR. AMY: Okay. All right. So we want to just thank you so much, Dr. Kimberly Palmiatto, for joining us today, sharing your wisdom, your insights, your encouragement, your work. We appreciate you so much for that focus and your time today. Listeners, if you would like more information about Dr. Kim’s work, her website is NurturingGirls.com. You can connect with her on Facebook at NurturingGirls, Instagram at Nurturing_Girls, as well as TikTok and YouTube. We’ll put all those links and handles in the show notes for you. Thank you so much for listening today. If you like our show, we would love it if you would follow us on social media. We are @TheBrainyMoms. You can find Sandy on TikTok at TheBrainTrainerLady. We’ll also put those links and handles in the show notes. Look, that’s all the smart stuff we have for you today. So catch you next time.
SANDY: Have a great week.