In this episode, we're going to discuss skills, behavior, and belief as it relates to parenting. Try to imagine for a minute that you take a time machine, you go back in time, and you are a young kid at summer camp. This is your first time really away from home, away from your parents. You've gotten dropped off the day before.
Summary and Quotes
[00:01:14] – The Swim test
[00:07:09] – Identifying where you are lacking
[00:09:17] – immediate action drill, short-circuiting the panic response
[00:10:49] – The differentiation between skills and behavior
[00:15:15] – Plan vs Disorganization
[00:19:18] – Conditioning can be situational
Quotes from the Episode:
“Skills can be coached, but behaviors need to be mentored. “ [00:08:00]
“We behave one way when we're not being observed, and then as soon as we realize we're being observed, we change our behavior completely” [00:12:44]
“So the real big takeaway from this is distinguishing between skills and behaviors and also the beliefs that we have about that and how parenting is really complex because it's not just a skill and it's not just a behavior. It's a combination of those with which we can sometimes deceive ourselves, but at the same time, we also have the ability to look in from the outside on what we're doing and change our behavior accordingly to be more resourceful in the situation, which is ultimately going to make us a better parent.” [00:14:15]
Transcript continues below
Your parents gave you a big kiss and hug and everyone has gone to sleep. Waking up refreshed for the big swim test the next morning because everybody has to demonstrate that they can swim a hundred yards in order to be safe for the rest of the summer camp. Most of the kids have had a lot of experience in the water before.
Some kids have been swimming for a long time and other kids have been coming back to this camp for many, many years, and so even if they don't swim outside of here. They know how to swim pretty well. Now the morning you wake up, it's a little bit Misty. The sun still hasn't come up yet, and there's a chill in the air. Some of the kids are kind of grumbling and they're saying, Oh, we don't want to get in the water. It's not, it's too cold. You know, we can swim. Not a big deal. So the instructor. Tells the children, listen guys, you know you can do this. It's in your head. Get out there, make your laps and we'll be done.
We'll have a good rest of the day. There's one kid who's really nervous. Yeah. Because he doesn't know how to swim. He's never been really in the water before everybody jumps in except this kid, this kid. Here's those words of, well, it's all in your head. Get over there, you'll be fine. You just have to believe you can do it.
And he pauses. Then he jumps because that kid does not have the skill of swimming in his ability. He hasn't learned how to swim yet. Okay. He hits the water and what does he do? He panics. The reason that we panic is because our brain doesn't have any other instruction on what to do in that setting or in that environment.
So of course the kid gets pulled out of the water and then he's taught how to swim. He's given the tool. The skillset of swimming is introduced to him and outside of the. Traumatic effects that the, that the child indoors life goes on next time the swim test happens. A little bit of hesitation.
Okay. But there's no panic because that child has learned
what he needs to do in that situation. Okay. To put it another way, before that child jumped in the first time. He was unconsciously incompetent. You literally did not know what he did not know. Second, he hit that water. He became conscious of his incompetence. Very, very conscious of his incompetence at that point, getting dragged back out onto the shore.
He had a decision to make. He could choose to stay unconsciously. Competent, aware of his competence. not doing anything about it. Or he could choose to put the work in and develop himself to become consciously competent. And then as he developed an even higher level of skill, he didn't have to think about the swimming anymore.
It became unconsciously competent where he could just go in the water and swim and have a good time with the other kids. The reason I'm telling you that is not to bring up a flashback for myself. the reason that I'm bringing that up is because oftentimes as as a parent, and this is something I recognize myself, we don't recognize when we have a skill versus a belief because.
There are two different tools that we need to bring to the table in our parenting. No amount of belief was going to get that kid to go across that a hundred yards without acquiring first. The skill of swimming much in the same way. If you asked me to have a conversation in in Mandarin, there's no way I, I don't have that skillset.
I don't know how to converse in that language, so no amount of belief on my part warrant anyone else's part is going to enable me to converse. On the other side of the coin, we have skills now. At least from my perspective, I didn't really think as parenting of as, as a skill. I thought it was just something that you do kind of like, it's, it's programmed into the subconscious and that's the problem is that whenever we are faced with an unknown situation and we do not have a requisite skillset to address that situation, we panic just like that little boy.
In the water. As soon as you install even a rudimentary skillset, you equip that person with something a lot more sophisticated to deal with the situation. Um, the second time this happened to me was, uh, I was, I was leading an outdoor trip. This was probably 20 years ago, and I, I was the leader in terms of.
I knew where we were going, but not in terms of, of, uh, having authority over anyone, any event. Um, somebody, uh, broke there, their ankle, and also, uh, got a concussion and at the time I had no skills in emergency medicine, so I very rapidly realized that I was incompetent in handling that situation.
And that was not feeling that I liked. So in college, I went and I became, I became an EMT and I worked as an EMT for a while, which then later served, um, my interests in, in my career as a, as a supporting role for going, uh, to some, to some interesting places. Mmm. But the point is, is that I learned the skill.
Of identifying areas where I was lacking and then trying to backfill those areas or develop skills in those areas. And for me, this was really important. I've had to work really hard, um, to get a moderate amount of success in, in areas. It's not like things come supernaturally to me. Um, but one thing that I have been fairly proficient at is identifying.
Uh, the difference between skills and between beliefs and also between behaviors and identifying where I really need a skill versus where I really need an upgrade in my, in my belief. Um, so a great way to think of this is that. Skills can be coached, but behaviors need to be mentored. So, for example, to use an example, like a gym example, uh, if my form is not good on a particular movement, uh, at the gym, like if I'm lifting weights or something like that, and my form is not good, a coach can help me correct that form.
On the other hand, if I show up periodically at the gym and my diet is maybe not that good because I cheat a lot, then that's a behavior that needs to be mentored. It's not a skill, it's a behavior. And so the point, the reason why I'm bringing all this up in terms of parenting is that there came a time where I realized that.
What I thought was behavior was actually skill that I was lacking. There were times where I would be frustrated by my children and I thought that that's just the way it was. What I didn't realize was that I was simply unconsciously incompetent and that there were skills that I could develop. To deal with that.
Um, if you're working in emergency medicine or, or, uh, folks in the military may have heard of something called an immediate action drill, and that's something that is done in the heat of the moment. And sometimes a very dangerous situation, too, short circuit, the panic response. So instead of somebody panicking, they have something useful to do, and that's . Was kind of a watershed moment for me and also for my wife, where we realized, Hey, let's break these things down and let's figure out some skills that we can bring to the table here versus just handling it the way that we've handled it by getting frustrated and, and perhaps raising our voice or, or a, you know, withdrawing from the situation entirely.
I mean, different people handle it differently. Some people withdraw from the situation and ignore it. Some people. Um, try to appease some people, get frustrated in and yell or, or you know, use a physical coercion. But the point is, is all of that is because of lack of a skill. And that's really what I wanted to bring to bear in this episode.
Have any questions? If you have any comments, please let me know and we'll see you in the next episode. So this is not actually the end of this episode. I reviewed the podcast. My wife reviewed it with me, and she suggested that I add two things to it in order to make it more actionable and more relatable.
So the differentiation between skills and behaviors becomes really complex when it comes to parenting because it's a mixture. So going back to our example of swimming, swimming is pretty much a pure skill. What I mean by that is if somebody who doesn't know how to swim, jumps into the water, they, and pretty much everyone else around them is going to realize that very, very quickly.
That they do not possess the skill of swimming. There's no way they can believe their way out of that. There's no way that changing that behavior is going to be possible in the moment without developing that skill. First, let's use another example. Let's say that you and your spouse have decided that.
You don't want to curse around the children. That's something that is really important to you. So one day you're walking through the house and you trip over a toy that's not supposed to be there, and you stub your toe really, really badly. You believe that there is no one in the house and you start cursing up a storm.
But unbeknownst to you, your spouse and little kid. Have actually come home early and as the door cracks open, you realize that they're coming in the house and you instantly turn off your stream of. Epithets in your stream of cursing and the pain has not abated in your toe, but you were able to change your behavior in the moment based on what was important to you.
You were able to become more resourceful in the moment, even though you were in a lot of pain. That's a great example of a behavior and, and we've all can think of an example of where. We behave one way when we're not being observed, and then as soon as we realize we're being observed, we change our behavior completely.
What I want you too, take away from this is that there are a lot of instances where we have to provide that observation to ourself. We have to look from the outside. As though we were standing and observing us and saying, what does this look like? Is this how I want to be showing up right here? Is this how I would want to be perceived?
Is this the most resourceful that I can be in the moment? Now, before we conclude, there's one example where. You can't actually change your behavior in the moment, or where it would be very, very challenging to change your behavior in the moment. And a great example of this is a diabetic who is, is, is suffering a, a diabetic event.
They may have an altered mental status. They may become belligerent. They may become violent. They may become nonresponsive or appear as though they're not with it. That it's not a choice. They're not making that choice no matter who was watching them from the outside, they're not going to be able to change that.
Behavior that they are exhibiting until their diabetic emergency is over and they return back to their baseline. So the real big takeaway from this is distinguishing between skills and behaviors and also the beliefs that we have about that and how parenting is really complex because it's not just a skill and it's not just a behavior.
It's a combination of those. With which we can sometimes deceive ourselves, but at the same time, we also have the ability to look in from the outside on what we're doing and change our behavior accordingly to be more resourceful in the situation, which is ultimately going to make us a better parent.
So that's it. That is the end of this episode, and we'll see you in the next show. So this is not actually the end of this episode. I reviewed the podcast. My wife. Reviewed it with me and she suggested that I add two things to it in order to make it more actionable and more relatable. The first thing that she suggested I add is a universal example that everybody could understand in terms of how an outcome can change wildly when so people have the option.
Of a plan versus disorganization, chaos, and panic. The second thing she recommended I do is give a practical parenting example, and I'm going to give one from my own life experience. So I had to think really hard about the first example, something that would be universally relatable to almost any parent and . Uh, fortunately I was able to find a really good example, and if you.
Have gone to school in the United States in the past 60 years. Then you know this and you know it down Pat. You don't even have to think about it. The reason for this is on December 1st of 1958 in Chicago culture cargo day, there was a small fire that broke out in a waste basket. In the our lady of angels school, the fire spread slowly at first and over the course of about an hour, it had taken the lives of 90 students and three of the nuns there was complete chaos.
There was not a defined plan to get kids out of the building. There was not a defined plan to communicate what was going on. There was not a defined plan to contact the fire department on that day was born the modern fire drill, if you, that's why I said, if you have gone to school in the past 60 years, then you have experienced a school fire drill.
The great thing about a fire drill is that everyone in that building, from the janitor to the principal, to the phys ed teacher to everybody, the smartest kids, the honor students, to the kids in the special needs class. Everybody understands what to do in a fire drill because it is trained and it is ingrained.
Now. Prior to this, our lady of angels incident, there were other school fires as well that had happened previous claiming hundreds of lives each time. School fires were not a rare thing to happen after the modern fire drill protocol was spread to schools throughout the nation. After this event in 1958.
There has not been a single K through 12 fire related fatality in the United States now that it's pretty phenomenal. There have been billions of student days that have been reflected over that period of time. The fact that. People have something to do. They have a job. They have a task. They have a purpose that everybody can understand.
Hey, it's fire drill. Okay? There's no question about what I do. This is how I respond. It's almost autonomous. that's what happens. People go out, people's lives get saved. Now, I'd like you to also think about this. Let's say that you hear if fire alarm in a shopping mall, do you respond the same way?
Chances are, if you're in an educational environment here, fire alarm, nobody questions what to do. Everybody goes outside. If you're in a shopping mall or you're in Walmart or some other place like that, the first thing that most people do, and I myself am guilty of this as well. look at other people to see what they're doing.
So my point is, is that a lot of our conditioning. Can be situational as well. So now for the example. So I hope that that really helped you drive home. The point about how valuable having a plan can be in terms of having an, even if you want to call a evacuating from a fire drill, that's a, that's a, a procedure.
It's not even a skillset like swimming. It's a simple procedure. Much less complex, the new skill set. The point is, is that even having a simple procedure for how you're going to handle something can mean that many, many lives have been saved over the six decades since that fire. So as I promised, here's an example from my experience as a parent, a procedure that I had to come up with in order to.
Prevent me from going into my default mode of frustration and maybe even anger. Um, this is something that I came up with when my kids were say in the two to four year old range where they, they started to kind of differentiate from us as parents and they became independent. They started to become more independent and I became frustrated because I would give an instruction.
And for whatever reason, that instruction was not followed through on. Now, at the time, I thought that that was just them being willful, but when I learned to apply some sort of procedure to things, I asked myself, well, what are some other reasons. That they might not be doing performing what I'm asking them to do and what I realized is, yeah, one possibility is that they're being willful.
Another possibility is that I am not communicating clearly to them in a way that they can understand what my expectation of them. Yes. So the procedure that we came up with. Uh, it was a two step procedure. The first part of the procedure happened in just the house when we're just kinda hanging out doing our thing, not when we're, it happens before we're actually getting into the car.
So. We would discuss and we'd say, Hey, here are our expectations. When we get in the car, we're going to give you a couple of choices. The first choice is that you can climb into your car seat on your own, and the second choice is that we will lift you up into the car seat. If you're just too distracted and we'll, we'll help you get buckled in.
Now I realize that sometimes you just don't want to get into the car seat. We'll give you the chance to talk about why you don't want to get into the car seat, but sometimes we just have to get you into the car seat, but we'll always give you the chance to talk about it. Is that okay? And I realize that's kind of a leading question because they're going to say, okay, because it's not how it's happening kind of in the heat of the moment.
But we're giving, we're setting the expectation that, Hey, sometimes we need you to follow the instructions and we'll always hear it from you. But. Sometimes you just need that compliance right away. So the second piece for me was, let's say we're out at the car now. If they're not following my instructions to get in the car, what I would start to feel was I would start to feel anger or frustration over lack of compliance.
But I realized that much like somebody who's just fallen into water, who doesn't know how to swim, that frustration or anger. It was kind of like panic and that did not make me a more effective parent much in the same way that panic does not make someone a more effective swimmer. So I replaced that with something different.
I replace that with, all right, here's, here's, here's the first option you get in the car seat. Here's the second option. I put you in the car seat and that's that. That's the end of it. And what I came to realize was that a lot of times, especially when we had that, that discussion, which oftentimes the kids would then what, what would happen is the kids would actually, they would know what was going to happen.
They would know that they were either going to get in the car seat or that they would be put in the car seat. But what would begin to happen was they would express why they didn't want to get in the car seat right then or what they would express is. That they actually didn't mind getting in a car seat, but they just wanted to take their jacket off before they got in the car seat because it was too hot and uncomfortable on the long ride that we were going to be on.
And that really gave me the opportunity to say, okay, well maybe this is more nuance than just, this kid's not complying with what I ask. Maybe they do want two. Be compliant, be helpful and follow the instruction, but maybe there's something that I can do to grease that skid for them, so to speak, and make it easier for them to do that.
I realize that life is a lot more complicated than a fire drill. The point of this particular podcast is to show that sometimes something really simple can go a long way in terms of taking away a lot of pain. So this really is the end of this podcast episode. If you have any questions, if you have any comments, please send me an email and we'll see it in the next show.