Episode summary:

Susan talks with Byron Katie, teacher, speaker, and author of Loving What Is and A Mind at Home With Itself, about using inquiry, or The Work, to foster connection with our children and teens.

Katie has been bringing The Work to millions of people for more than thirty years. Her public events, weekend workshops, five-day intensives, nine-day School for The Work, and 28-day residential Turnaround House have brought freedom to people all over the world. Byron Katie’s books include the bestselling Loving What Is, I Need Your Love—Is That True?, A Thousand Names for Joy, and A Mind at Home with Itself. For more information, visit thework.com.

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

  • It’s never too late to parent from connection!
  • How to create healing with our children
  • Why giving advice to our kids often backfires

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Read the entire episode!
Transcript here:

Speaker 1: (00:09)

Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m Susan Stiffelman, your host. I’m a marriage and family therapist and the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting With Presence and I’m glad you’re here. We have a wonderful show today featuring one of my favorite humans, Byron Katie, but first I want to share a few resources with you, including a very special offer to our podcast listeners. If you visit Susanstiffelman.com you’ll find lots of parenting support. You can get my free newsletter. It has lots of tips and lots of news about upcoming events and you’ll find information on the site about my monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program where I work with parents personally twice a month. We have a great promotion going to encourage people to give the program a try. So if you visit Susanstiffelman.com/membership and you enter coupon code Podcast19 (that’s Podcast with a capital P one nine) your first month will be just $1. 

Speaker 1: (01:16)

I host two sessions a month and I answer questions or I coach parents through whatever they’re needing help with. Sometimes we deal with issues like bedtime or homework or when parents are, are wanting to help their child who is adjusting to a divorce or having issues with friends. You can tune in live or you can submit questions for me in advance. And there’s other special discounts that we offer our members. So if you could use more ongoing personal support, I hope you’ll check that out. Also on the site you’ll find a list of masterclasses like Birds and Bees in the Online World. Very interesting class where we even touch on how to help kids who may have stumbled on porn. There’s Raising Screenwise Kids with Devorah Heitner where we explore some of the strategies for incorporating digital media into our daily lives with our families. 

Speaker 1: (02:06)

There’s handling homework with Williams Stixrud and Ned Johnson, um, authors of the self-driven child. And then there’s mindful parenting, a session on mindful parenting with Susan Kaiser Greenland. So there’s lots of resources for you if you’d like more, is it Susan woman.com. Now, let’s get started. Byron Katie is a writer and a teacher whose work has made an enormous difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including me. Katie is the author of loving what is a thousand names for joy and a mind at home with itself along with other books, and she teaches a powerful method of self inquiry that she calls the work. I first discovered the work of Byron Katie, gosh, more than 18 years ago when a friend kind dragged me to an event with Katie in Los Angeles. Honestly, I knew next to nothing about her teachings, but I respected my friend’s sensibilities and I went along for the ride. 

Speaker 1: (03:09)

If you don’t know about Katie’s work, you can visit the work.com to find out more and on her website you’ll see a link to something called the judge your neighbor worksheet. It was this worksheet that was sitting on everybody’s chair when we arrived at the event and once the event began, Katie walked us through a process for filling it out and basically the worksheet was set up for us to choose someone who had upset us. In some way and we answered a few questions that would help us get our judgements about this person out in the open. So I didn’t have much trouble filling it out. Let’s say I was upset with Eddie because he had lied to me about something. So I worked on that. I sat there with my pen, you know, filling out the questions. The room was quiet, everybody was filling out their worksheet. 

Speaker 1: (03:58)

Then when we were all done, Katie asked if someone would like to share what they had written. So if you’re getting to know me, you know, I was one of those people who raised her hand. I raise my hand and now remember I knew almost nothing about Katie’s work and I definitely didn’t know what I was in for. But for some reason my hand shot up and Katie called on me. She invited me to sit with her at the front of the room and to read what I had written on my worksheet aloud. So all I can say is it was mind opening. It was life changing. It felt like something inside my head got shaken loose. Like this grip that I had had on my views and opinions about this person who had, you know, done me wrong, suddenly looked very different. And somehow my anger and my hurt and my judgment turned into compassion for Eddie and a really honest look at myself and how he had done me a service really of helping me see things in myself that I had been blind to. 

Speaker 1: (05:05)

So I ended up learning more about the work and doing many, many worksheets. Katie’s work’s been an incredible tool to help me grow and grow up. And when I wrote my first book, parenting without power circles, I mentioned it actually in the very first chapter. And I also talked about it in my second book with [inaudible] is imprint parenting with presence because it can make such a difference in Parenting Without Power Struggles and parenting with greater presence when we do inquiry. So I’ve used this work now for many years in my counseling and in my coaching with parents because when we let go of those judgments and stories that we have about our children or the beliefs that we hold onto about their behavior, that creates so much tension. We’re so much better able to be with them in a way that strengthens connection and lets us parent them with less stress and conflict. Over the past few years, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have teamed up with Katie in a variety of ways. We filmed a series of videos on parenting and she’s joined me on many of my online events like parenting in the digital age and raising tweens and teens and grandparenting. So today I’m going to share part of one of our conversations with you. Hopefully you’ll get a feel for her approach and the freedom that comes when we question our thoughts and shift from judging to loving our kids. So enjoy the clip and then we’ll come back together afterwards. 

Speaker 1: (06:34)

All of my work has been about really helping parents be what I call the captain of the ship in their children’s lives. And Katie’s work has been so vital to that premise, to this idea of holding a place for our children where we can love them and support them and stay connected with them without coming across as what I call the lawyer or the dictators. So I’m going to use my hands to kind of lay that out for you. If my right hand represents the parent and my left hand that the child, then when you’re the captain of the ship, cause it here, so you know their child might say, I want to stay up and watch a scary movie. If you’re the captain of the ship and you’re in that place of calm connection, you can acknowledge their desire without going to battle with them. 

Speaker 1: (07:24)

And this is where your work is so instrumental because if we don’t stay there, we go into lawyer mode, which is where we’re pushing against our kids. They’re pushing against us, nobody’s in charge and if it goes worse, the child says, I hate to. Or you know, you never do anything nice. You don’t know what you’re doing. And we’re down here feeling, you know, desperate and out of control and enraged because of the story we’re believing. And so we go into dictator mode. And so your work, Katie has been so personally transformational for me and in my work with parents. I can remember times when my son was a teenager and I’d have the story, he should remember to take his cell phone, you know, and the lawyer’s in my head build the case. How hard can that be? So then he walks in the door finally and I’m coming at him as that lawyer. Well why can’t you remember your phone? But when I would do the work around that, it would make perfect sense. And that’s what we’re really here to introduce to parents around the world today is the possibilities of the, um, how to be the parent. We always wanted to be without, you know, parenting without guilt and parenting without shame. Parenting, without anger, parenting with, you know, [inaudible] sense of understanding that’s all centric where it’s not a pretended or put upon ourselves as something we it to be 

Speaker 2: (08:57)

rather something that it really is connection. Connection. Yeah. Because, you know, human beings are actually wired to resist coercion. We’re actually wired for survival to, um, resist the influence of those outside of our realm of attachment that our children have. This instinct that gets awakened when we come at them. You know, when we push against them that they mirror back to us ourselves. Exactly. You know, if lemon resistance, my child learns the way to deal with life is to resist. Yeah. So, and, and I can’t stop my children from thinking and believing whatever it is I think in and believing, but I can’t deal with myself and out of that be the example which we’re always the example. I mean it’s just like, it’s, it’s just a matter of what are we teaching? What is it where, you know, if, if I have, um, if I’m arguing with my children, I’m teaching them, you know, if you want to get on live, sweetheart argue and if you win, then you know, you, you know, that’s how you, that’s how you do it. 

Speaker 2: (10:09)

That’s how you live. But there is another way. And thankfully on, thankfully I came to realize a lot and I called it the work and I want people to hear a little bit of your story, you know? So it’s such a pleasure to have this time with you. I don’t dislike a bounty to, to really take what you’ve understood and apply it in this case to parenting, although it’s all over, you know, you can apply it to every possible aspect of life. So in 26 years ago, something happened for you. And I’d love to, well, I was very depressed and a depressed mother, a depressed parent is not the most high functioning parent. And just, you know, anytime I would strike out and anger or say something unkind or um, you know, those angry, the way we come at our children and an Oh my goodness, you know, today I can see I was believing my thoughts and of course I was angry, but at the time I couldn’t. 

Speaker 2: (11:19)

And so I was just, you know, just in that depression a, a terrible parent, basically. And then there was a moment in time when I recognize that when I believe my thoughts, I suffered. But when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer. And I’ve come to see that this is true for every human being and no human being has more wisdom than another and to to communicate this it, I saw that it wasn’t something that could be taught, but I saw it was something that all us could understand. And that understanding came out of this process of inquiry. I just continued to question my beliefs about my beliefs about life. I came to see that life was fine. It’s what I was believing about life, that my children were, they were fine. We’ll just say that, you know, very proudly it’s what I was thinking and believing about them that needed a little work. 

Speaker 2: (12:20)

I shifted my life and, and my children, you know, it’s never too late to parent. They were, my youngest was 16 by then and, and just through example on my children’s shifted, never too late to parent. Wow. So what’s an example of the before and after or maybe with one of your children? You know, um, an example, Oh, for one thing, you know, who recognizes a mother that spends most of her time in bed happily, uh, singing, which is shocking to hear a song come out of my mouth after all these years, maybe since high school choral group or something, but to, to experience that kind of mother and, and to say something and just kind of back, you know, just waiting for, for, for this angry response. You know, this fearfulness that my children were so who will say very wary of how I would react to what they said and did. 

Speaker 2: (13:27)

And then to see the smile on my face. And then they were, they became a little braver. They could stay a little more and wait for the, for the, the trouble to hit and, and just nothing but a smile and a conversation and a connectedness and an authenticity. And then they would get a little braver and a little braver, a little breather. And until finally, I was hearing stories coming out of their mouths about me that I, that, that were so shocking. I don’t know how they survived it, but it gave us a sense of intimacy and a relationship where they could say anything about me. And yet it was received in a way where we could both cry together, laugh together, um, uh, this fearless relationship that developed and on and, and, you know, for my part, I was clear enough to be able to take this in without resistance as we were pointing to earlier, the resistance, there was no coerciveness there. 

Speaker 2: (14:39)

Yeah. They, they might say, mom, you were terrible. You were so you, you, you, you, you scared me, you, you, you know, on and on. And they weren’t coercing me into some angry mode. They weren’t telling me that Ruth, and, and, and if it really hit me hard, I knew it was something I needed to slow down. And here I really need to, they say like, Oh, honey, wouldn’t you just say that again? What’d you just say that again? And say it slowly. I want to take it in and, and this, this identity just died and died and died and died. You know, to the point where, you know, they’re parenting me and, and, and that’s what a loving, um, that’s what, uh, you know, for me, a loving parent is one that listens no matter what my three children or my five grandchildren now and come back and, and, and offer as a way of sharing themselves with me sharing their most intimate selves with me. 

Speaker 2: (15:44)

I mean, how, how does it get more intimate than that? In my work, I talk about how we override, one of the ways we build connection is, is, is by fostering attachment. And there are, Gordon Neufeld has six stages that he talks about that every one of us go through in the first six years of life, if all as well, that, um, kind of like the roots of a tree, these roots go into the ground and the final stage is being known. So as you were talking like the deepest root, the place where that is the sturdiest and deepest is in being known. And what you were saying was really, can we hold ourselves in a place where we allow our children no matter their age to reveal themselves to us? 

Speaker 1: (16:35)

I hope you enjoyed that. If you’re new to Katie’s work, some of the things we talked about may sound a little new or different, but if your curiosity has been peaked, I encourage you to check out the work.com to find out more. It is truly wonderful work and now here’s this week suggestion. The next time you feel the urge to give your child advice, just pause for a minute and ask yourself a couple of questions. Do they need your input? And even if you think they need your guidance, have they asked for it? Have they shown an interest in your advice? Because when we come at our kids with advice and they have no interest in hearing it, they instinctively push back. So pay attention to whether your kids are open to your guidance or your input. There’s lots of ways to foster receptivity in our kids, which you’ll hear me talk about in other episodes of this podcast series and in my newsletter and all my classes, but creating receptivity starts with resisting the urge to decide for our children or our teens that they need to hear our pearls of wisdom. 

Speaker 1: (17:41)

I know it’s not always easy to hold back, but it’s much better not to decide for our kids that they should hear all the wise words we want to share. Again, if you’d like more personal parenting support, I hope you’ll check out our online Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program. We cover everything, as I said, from toddler meltdowns to adolescent anxiety. Pretty much everything related to raising a toddler tea and again for a limited time. If you enter coupon code podcast 19 on the signup page, you’ll get your first month for just a dollar. There’s lots of other resources for parents@susanstifelman.com so check it out. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. It’s a joy to share this time with you. If you’d like to leave a rating or write a review, that’s always appreciated and I look forward to joining you on our next episode. Meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy 

Speaker 3: (18:45)

[inaudible].

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