Transcript – That Early Childhood Nerd Podcast: Consequences and Euphemisms

This post is a transcript of the podcast/video, which can be found here.

Narrator 0:01
Grab your highlighters! Can’t find them? They’re probably right there in your pocket protector. It’s time for That Early Childhood Nerd Podcast! Let’s get nerdy. Hey, there’s Heather!

Heather 0:25
Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of That Early Childhood Nerd. I’m Heather Bernt-Santy. If you are on Facebook, you might want to check out today’s guest, I’ve learned so much and been so excited about the things she’s been posting that I invited her on the show. So, welcome Kelsie Olds.

Kelsie O 0:46
I’m super excited to be here.

Heather 0:47
Yeah, Kelsie, tell folks about yourself, please.

Kelsie O 0:51
So I write, I do online advocacy, under the name of The Occuplaytional Therapist. I am an occupational therapist, I work in pediatrics. I’m in a school setting right now, although I have hopped around a lot in the past. But schools is really where my heart and my passion is. And a lot of the online work I do is in the realm of the OT domain, like what all OT is talking about. But then I also kind of overlap with just kind of child development and parenting coaching and stuff like that, in general too, that, that isn’t necessarily just contained within OT.

Heather 1:36
Yeah, I’m learning so much from occupational therapists the last five or six years or so. Right now I’m a Early Childhood Program Chair and professor at a community college in Indiana. And before that, I was at Purdue University in some early childhood clinics for the Speech, Language and Hearing department. And had, you know, had never really thought about occupational therapists being something for children.

Kelsie O 2:10
It’s not a, it’s not a super commonly…it’s not as much well known as speech or physical therapy. We somehow are like the forgotten triplet.

Heather 2:17
Right, right. But when I, when I find you all out in the internet world, or social media world, I learned so much. So what I’m saying is, I need you and people like Greg Santucci and other playful occupational therapists to write more books for me, okay? I can’t find good books.

Kelsie O 2:17
Put it on my to do list.

Heather 2:35
Write a book for me, please, so that I can dig in.

Kelsie O 2:44
And I’ll say the dedication is to Heather.

Heather 2:48
Thank you, I appreciate that, too. Um, so anyway, Kelsie, I, I already said that I love your posts so much. But one this week really caught my attention and comments were so — as you would expect them to be on this topic — kind of all over the place. And you did such a nice job of being down in the conversation. But you’re talking about consequences. So because we have to start with a quote, this is what this is the first sentence of your post from a couple days ago… So when would that have been? June 21ish? 20?

Kelsie O 3:25
Yeah, something like that.

Heather 3:26
So if people want to go find it. You said, “I think we would actually all be fine if we would drop the word ‘consequences’ from our vocabularies entirely.” And when I read just that sentence, I could like hear the collective gasping…

Kelsie O 3:40
I know. Like, complete anathema to the “any adult” interacting with “any child” world.

Heather 3:47
Yeah, yeah. So make your case! What are you talking about?

Kelsie O 3:50
So I just…And it came from, I am a part of a lot of parenting groups. Both like, you know, like to ask questions and to learn, and all of these things. And, and I just feel like I see so much conversation where people are like, “Help me figure out the natural consequences for such and such,” or, “My kid did XYZ. What should…what consequences would make sense for that?” You know? And it– first of all, if you’re going by anybody’s definition of…there’s like, several different parenting frameworks that teach well, there’s punishment, which is arbitrary. And then there’s natural consequences, which is just what happens naturally. And then there’s logical consequences, which is when either like, whatever happens naturally isn’t, like, you know, isn’t like allowable as parents– like you can’t be like, “The natural consequence of going in the street is you get run over by a car. Now you’ve learned your lesson,” you know? So like, oh, so logical consequences is the thing that parents should do when, you know, when either the natural consequence isn’t– isn’t safe and allowable. Or, I feel like people don’t say, but I feel like the unspoken thing is, or if the natural consequences aren’t bad enough. You know? Your kids are not learning your lesson enough from whatever would naturally happen. So just do something logical to hurt and punish them.

Heather 5:24
Right, I mean, let’s be honest. What we’re talking about is something that will make them feel bad, or or make them sad.

Kelsie O 5:32
Yeah, exactly. Like I said, in the post, I’m glad that we’ve societally decided to move away from, “Kid did something I don’t like? I get to revenge myself upon them in whatever way I see fit.” It’s like, we’ve taken a step, like a tiny little step. But we’ve just walked over to like, “Kid has done something I don’t like? I get to revenge myself upon them in a logical and like, reasonable manner as determined by society.”

Heather 5:59
Yeah. [laughter] Yeah, you know, I think about that a lot that it really, it’s so harsh to say, and I can acknowledge that most of these questions from parents or other people — early childhood teachers, or whatever — most of it comes from a good place. They feel like they need to teach, they feel like they need to protect or whatever. But if you don’t stop and make what’s implicit in your brain explicit, you’ll never reflect on it, you’ll never think differently about it.

Kelsie O 6:30

Heather 6:30
And so that’s why what I think your post really did was make some of that, I mean, really implicit bias against children, more explicit and make people talk about it.

Kelsie O 6:45
I know it’s very provocative language. I don’t mean to imply that, like, everyone who’s ever tried to, you know, teach their child something, or, or stop their child from doing something that they feel like is dangerous, or anything like that is just doing it because they’re like a power-hungry dictator. Like, that’s not like, that’s not what I think. And it’s also not what I’m trying to say.

Heather 7:07

Kelsie O 7:10
I just think that it could be coming from a good place, or meaning well, and it can still be like, rooted in a framework that I feel like… We don’t just need to like, swap out one thing and sub it in with another in the framework, we need to like abandon the framework is the thing. And after making that post… because when I write a post, it might be very much in advance, or it might be just a little bit in advance, but it’s usually I almost never write something and then post it right away. And so when I write it, I’m in one headspace, because I’m thinking about what I’m writing and all this. And then, by the time that it posts, I have had more and more time to think about it or whatever. But it’s only been a conversation in my own head. So it’s almost like a whole second conversation happens when people respond to it. And I interact with people in comments and stuff like that.

Heather 8:03

Kelsie O 8:04
And so for the past couple of days, since that post posted, then I’ve been walking around thinking about all of my own, like, second wave of thoughts and stuff. And I came up with this analogy that’s like, absolutely bonkers. So it’s, like…go on, go on a, an absolutely. bananas ride with me for a moment.

Heather 8:24

Kelsie O 8:24
I was like, so, okay. Imagine that there’s like a whole entire society, a whole human society. And the way that anybody like gains nutrition is via, like, like powders that have been like synthesized by scientists or whatever. Maybe it’s an alien race, and we landed on their planet, and we find out that the way that they get nutrition is that they have a powder and they mix it with water, and they drink the water. It gives them all of their nutrients, but it tastes terrible and nobody enjoys it. And it’s like, completely out of necessity for prolonging life. And, and so, I show up to their society, and I’m like, “Did you guys know that there’s like, other ways that you can get nutrition? Like you could get nutrition by like eating a piece of cake or a hamburger? There’s pleasurable things out there!” And then they’re like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right. This is really terrible. And everybody hates it. I know, we’ll mix the powder with juice so that it’s like, slightly more palatable.” That’s not what I was saying. I was saying that you can take it away entirely. Like, “Yeah, you have to get nutrition by mixing powder with liquid, but you’re right, we should take away the water and we should replace it with juice.” And I’m like, “No, I’m saying eat a pizza! Join me! Eat a snack, it’s a fun time!” You know? And so that’s where I’m like…that’s what I feel like. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right. We shouldn’t just like, enact whatever punishments. We shouldn’t hit children. We shouldn’t send them away from us. But we do still need to figure out how to swap out hurting them extremely, with like hurting them a little bit, but like, a reasonable amount.” And I’m saying, no, you don’t have to hurt children for them to learn things! Nobody has to be hurt to learn things.

Heather 10:11
Yeah, yeah, you know, but I, you know…you’re talking about strong language and provocative language. And that’s such a good analogy that it threw me off for a minute. I’m having so much fun with it.

Kelsie O 10:24
I made you think about pizza. I get it.

Heather 10:26
Yeah, I’ve already used up my one pizza night for the week, though, so… [laughter]. But you know, nobody, I don’t think any adults are like, “Yes, I need revenge, I must seek justice” or whatever, right? You say things like, “Well, you can’t just let them get away with it.” So it’s like, you’re just grabbing attention with a different word for something.

Kelsie O 10:51
I–so I don’t want to make anybody feel called out at all. So I’m trying not to use any examples that anybody specifically did in the comments. I’m trying to think of either, like, a hypothetical, or like an example from my own childhood, but like, because I was, you know, I was raised in a in a traditional, like, “normal,” you know, parenting, punitive mindset.

Heather 11:14

Kelsie O 11:15
Um, and there were several parents who like asked me with specific examples, I’m, like, okay, like, I get what you’re saying, but like, I told my kid to do this, and my kid forgot to do this, you know, and maybe they even like, gave them extra chances, like, “And I reminded them and they forgot again, and it was important. And I reminded them again, and they forgot again. And so I didn’t know what else to do. So I did something that I knew would bother them, even if I don’t…” You know, I know when I say “hurt” people think of like, corporal punishment, or, like really dramatic stuff. “I did something that I knew would be upsetting to them,”

Heather 11:51

Kelsie O 11:51
I did something that I had to use the like, the… You have to fall back on, “Because I’m bigger than you, and I can.” Like, if you’re going to take something away from somebody, if you’re going to, if you’re gonna tell somebody that they can’t do something or block their access to something that they have, you know, like, the only kind of relationship in which you can do that and it like be societally okay is a parent/child, or maybe a teacher/child — adult/child relationship. And people were like, “They couldn’t have this thing for two days,” or, “They couldn’t do this privilege that they usually have. And now they remembered the thing.” Or whatever. “So what are you saying I should have done differently?” You know, and it’s not that I think that those people are unreasonable or terrible, or, you know, horrible parents or ruining their kid for life or anything like that. But I kind of broke down the, I was like, “In a parallel universe, you said to your kid, like, ‘Okay, I wanted you to remember this. And you forgot, so I do something that hurts you or bothers you a little bit. And maybe now next time, you’ll remember.’ In a parallel universe, maybe next time, they also forget. You know? Like, there’s no guarantee that this works, or whatever. Yeah, in a parallel universe, maybe without you punishing them, then they like, still remember, because this time talking with you about it made them remember, or they’re at the level of maturity where their body was ready for it. In a different parallel universe, maybe you don’t punish them, because you don’t believe in it or whatever. And they also still forget and need to be reminded again. They could just need help with things again.” It’s not that I’m saying, you know, “This is absolutely bonkers! Where did you come up with this idea from?” because I know where you came up with this. It’s a mega societal idea. But I am saying that I don’t think that the cause and effect is as strong as people think it is. Because I could also add another parallel universe: you do this, and it really ruptures something in your relationship. And the kid doubles down on the thing that you didn’t like. Because there are kids who are more naturally desperate to be compliant. And then there are kids who are more naturally like desperate to be autonomous. And both of those are like normal, child development appropriate… You know, like, I hate the word “behaviors,” because…

Heather 14:19
Yeah, me too. I would not use it.

Kelsie O 14:22
It’s another word that may not be used in a literal sense. Those are both appropriate behaviors for children to have, but I don’t mean it as a euphemism for misbehavior. They’re both appropriate actions–

Heather 14:32
There you go!

Kelsie O 14:33
–For a kid to seek autonomy is an appropriate action, for a kid to seek compliance in connection with their adult is an appropriate action for kids. Some kids will do one or the other.

Heather 14:41
Yeah. Yeah. I think part of it is that, that it’s, I mean, it’s just harder to do it a different way. It takes a little bit more…I’ll say skill. I don’t mean that as name calling to the person that that’s hard for whatever, you know, but it does take some understanding of what’s really happening. And some effort on the adults part to try and understand what’s really happening. And that’s why it’s hard because we think, “Well, I could just have this recipe. And then I don’t have to stop and think it through.” You know, “I don’t have to put so much time and effort into it every time. It’s automatic.” But like in the description, the example you just gave of the, they ask the child to do something and the child forgot, you know, there’s so much we could we could be like, is it even appropriate to expect that they’d remember at this point?

How many things in my life do I forget on a daily basis?

Exactly, that’s the other thing I was thinking while you were talking. I locked myself out of my office at work four times this week. I’m 52.

Kelsie O 15:55
That is a lot of times.

Heather 15:59
And I’m not, that’s not even an exaggeration. By this morning, I just walked into the main office, and they just like didn’t even look at me, [laughter] just handed me the master key. So but– but I laugh about it. And everyone thinks that’s just a quirky thing about Heather. No one drew up any consequences for me! The consequence was I’m embarrassed because I had to go ask for the key again.

Kelsie O 16:27
And if somebody wanted to, like, actually, you know, if somebody wanted to… If it was a big problem, and somebody needed to legitimately make an action plan with you about solving it. If their first step was to be like, “If this ever happens again, this is how we will punish you,” versus like, “Hey, is there like a hook we could put up that you could put your key on?” Or like, “Is there a, you know, if we put it on a lanyard for you? Would that help you wear it?” You know?

Heather 16:53
Yeah, my husband had similar suggestions!

Kelsie O 16:57
If somebody jumped– if your boss or your coworker or whoever jumped immediately to “How can I hurt you to make you remember this harder?” Versus “What in yourself or your environment or your circumstances can I change to support you?” Then even if the threat of whatever really did make you think about it really hard, really did make you find your own accommodation solution so that you could do it… It would hurt your relationship with that person! Like you’d be walking around thinking like, “This person, you know, they just threatened me.”

Heather 17:31
Yeah. I think, you know, I think a lot of consequence decisions do… even the gentlest, impact the relationship if, if the adult hasn’t really tried to figure out what’s going on. You know, I think like even something as common and seemingly simple as the child who “won’t sit still” (“won’t sit still” in quotes) during a storytime or whatever. And so we send them away to sit in the timeout or whatever. There’s so much damage to the relationship with the teacher who didn’t understand or see me or take any time to figure out what was going on with me. And even then, in the community. Because those children who are still in the circle learn there’s something wrong with the kid who keeps getting sent out of the circle. And so those relationships are impacted.

Kelsie O 18:24
I had a kid who I was working with in– so there’s “pull out” setting and then there’s “push in” setting, and I usually significantly prefer “pull out” for a lot of reasons that are not the point of the podcast. I understand the purposes of wanting to keep them with their peers as much as possible, but I find that the work that I do usually works better when they aren’t feeling looked at and they aren’t… and they’re feeling, “I’m safe and not distracted by all the other kids”… Anyway, lots of things. This kid had an IEP coming in to the school and IEP said “push in”, and so until we had a meeting to change it, legally, I needed to follow what was on an IEP. So I was doing “push in” in a setting that, for a lot of reasons, even more than just my own personal philosophies, wasn’t working well. And so I was supposed to be helping this poor second grader. She was like eight or nine. And they were doing like a little writing and reading worksheet together. They were supposed to be doing it in like little groups of four. She was severely dyslexic and the work was like, so far over her head. And what I was supposed to be working on with her handwriting and pencil grip, and all of this default OT stuff. And um, and so she’s just like sitting there with the with the paper in her lap and she had kind of this fake frozen smile like you do when you’re uncomfortable in a situation and don’t know what else to do.

Heather 20:06

Kelsie O 20:07
And the other three girls in her group were working together with one another, but they wouldn’t slow down enough for her to write any of the things down, or tell her what any of the words said. Because they said, “She’s just not trying, she should know how to read this stuff by now.”

Heather 20:21
Oh my gosh, right.

Kelsie O 20:22
And, “She doesn’t pay any attention. And she doesn’t even remember words like ‘the’, and she doesn’t know any of the sight words.” And she was just sitting there like, again, with like, this fake smile, just kind of staring at her lap, like she didn’t know what to do. And I also didn’t know what to do, despite being the adult. So I ended up just like pulling her a little bit to the side so that we could just work together. And then I, I talked to the teacher about it later. But I was just thinking — that framework isn’t one that was invented by other seven year olds. Other seven year olds are not the ones who said, “You’re not paying attention in class, and you’re not doing the work. And you’re not even trying to remember these sight words.” Like they weren’t the first ones to say that. They weren’t. They were picking up that modeling.

Heather 21:10
Yeah, somebody else.

Kelsie O 21:12
And they were– they didn’t say it in these words, but they could just as well have said, “The natural consequence is we’re not going to help you on this paper, because you’re not even able to help us. So why–” You know? “This is supposed to be a team assignment. Why would we help you even read the words? The natural consequence is you have to do it yourself.” And that was a completely unreasonable thing, because she couldn’t even do the thing to begin with.

Heather 21:33

Kelsie O 21:34
And that sounds so outrageous to any adult listening to it that they’re like, “Well, of course, *she* couldn’t even do the thing to begin with. But when *I* think about consequences, I think that my kid is completely capable of doing it and that’s exactly why it’s totally appropriate for me to punish them.” And I’m saying that if there’s something in the way, then there’s something in the way, whether it sounds like a valid reason for you or not.

Heather 21:56
Right, I think one of the things that the framework of consequences does is it puts the responsibility squarely on the child to change. And it sort of puts the problem outside of me. This problem clearly just lives in the child, sits on their shoulders, and there’s only so much I can do if they aren’t willing to try. And if they’re not willing to try, we need to make the not trying unpleasant. Whatever that is. And it’s just so natural, because we’ve all grown up with it. And some of us have been explicitly taught it in our coursework, and our teacher prep, or, you know, whatever we’re doing, to prepare for our work with with children. And you know, it just sort of pathologizes instead of humanizes. That’s what I loved about what your work down in the comments was, that you would give those two alternatives, you know. One was really pathologizing and one was really humanizing.

Kelsie O 23:03
Yeah, I was about to say that. Because some people really gave good examples where they’re like, “But are you saying that this isn’t what the end result would look like?” And I’m like, “No, if I was in that situation, that is probably what the end result will look like. But my mental framework behind it would be different.” And that might sound like I’m just being, like, pedantic about it. But I actually think that the mental framework behind it is a really important component of it. So, I don’t feel like this one was too personal or anything. But somebody gave the example of a kid screaming in a movie theater. That one felt public enough to not…

Heather 23:41
I think it was several kids screaming?

Kelsie O 23:44
Well, if it was me, it would be a maximum of two kids if I was the one parenting! But um, but yeah, they were trying to watch a movie and kids were screaming in the theater. And their feeling was like, “Isn’t it a natural or a logical consequence to take the kid out of the theater?” And I was like, “Well, first of all, the natural consequence of yelling in a theater is that it is loud in the theater.” Like, that’s the natural consequence. It just happens by itself. The logical consequence might be you should take the kid out of the theater. But then I was like, “So imagine two scenarios with two different parents. And both scenarios begin with kid yelling in a theater, and both scenarios end with the parent removing the child from the theater.” Because I’m not– It’s not that I’m saying that that’s an unreasonable end result. But Parent One is thinking, you know, “I warned him and he’s still yelling and running up and down the aisles. So the logical consequence for this is that I’m going to pick him up and take him out, because that’ll show him that he should have sat down and listened when I told him! That he should have!”

Heather 24:47

Kelsie O 24:47
And the second parent is thinking like, “Oh, boy, we were not ready to sit through a whole movie. Okay, well, that’s how it is. He’s just too wiggly at this age, and this movie is too long, so we’re gonna get up and go.” Even if neither parent ever says that out loud, it’s still going to affect how they move with their body, and how they don’t… the demeanor with which they pick up their child, like how they handle the child’s body. The way that they talk about it to their partner or their friend when they get out of the theater and explain why they’re out of the theater. And the way that the child then hears their self being talked about. You know? And, and, and I just… I think that those invisible parts of it are actually also important, even if they didn’t go out and talk about it in front of the kid, even if all they ever did was silently pick up the child and leave, and the child was just reading the parent’s vibes about it. I still think even then, even with no other external thing ever, I still think that it actually makes a difference what the vibes are.

Heather 25:53
Yeah, yeah, I’m with you on that. Yeah.

Kelsie O 25:56
Because I just– and I’m talking about myself! I thought of an example that I can give that only embarrasses me and nobody else.

Heather 26:05
Yeah, and I want to be clear, I wasn’t making– when I said several children, I just, that tickled me, the idea of several children screaming in the theater.

Kelsie O 26:12
But um, so like, my kid has spilled many things before. And some of them have been more accidental. And some of them have been more on purpose or via silliness, or carelessness, or whatever. And I have absolutely had times where I’ve been like, “Well, you need to clean it up,” and my kid won’t clean it up. And I have physically, hand over hand, tried to take my child’s hand and arm and forced them to clean something up with a towel that I am really holding, and moving. And I’m like, dragging them along for the ride. And everybody’s mad about it. And you could say that that is a logical consequence. Like, “Oh, they didn’t clean it up–” er, I mean, “They spilled it, so the logical consequence is that they have to clean it up.” The natural consequence of spilling something is that it is on the floor. Because again, the natural consequence is just whatever happens with no intervention whatsoever.

Heather 27:06
Yeah. That’s a great distinction.

Kelsie O 27:07
But yes, it is logical to say, “You spilled this, you have to clean it up.” But the only reason I’ve ever, ever done that is because I, personally, Kelsie, was feeling stressed out and angry about it or feeling mad. “You make messes all the time! And you never clean up anything! And I just clean up all day long! And blah blah blah blah!” It never had to do with my kid. It really had to do with me. It makes a lot of sense that my kid kind of freezes when I’m approaching him– again, with that vibe. Oh, you know, “Woe is me, I have to clean up your mess all day long.”

Heather 27:42

Kelsie O 27:43
“And you just don’t even care.” And, um, and in the times when I haven’t been stressed out, and when I’ve been like, able to take enough of a step back or enough of a pause, I have seen that usually, just, like, immediate embarrassment of having spilled something– whether by total accident, or by like what looks to me like carelessness– usually the embarrassment of it freezes him for a couple of minutes before he can do anything about it. And if I say nothing, or react to it in no way, or just like super casually put a towel nearby– then in an amount of time, that feels like more time than it would take me to move my hand back and forth to clean it with a towel, but in an amount of time that accounts for him having to process at a slower rate than I do– which I already know he does, because both he’s a child, and because of his unique neurodivergence… And then he’ll sometimes clean it up or sometimes he won’t and he’ll walk away. But also, I’ve tripped and fallen while holding things. And he’s rushed over and been like, “Mommy, I got you a towel. Let me help you.”

Heather 28:55
Oh, yeah, sure.

Kelsie O 28:56
“I have no shame in this situation. None of it involves me and my clumsiness. I would love to help you because you’re a member of my family and I love you.” And so like, I don’t need to do this thing where I project a million years into the future. And I’m like, “He’s never gonna take responsibility as an adult! Because he dropped a strawberry one time on the carpet and blah blah blah.” Like, what? That only ever comes from me having my own “well” be running dry.

Heather 29:22

Kelsie O 29:23
That doesn’t have anything to do with him. And I feel like that’s the case in a lot of– especially, I think that, for many parents, it’s just the default and they haven’t ever questioned it.

Heather 29:35

Kelsie O 29:35
But for parents who have questioned it and yet still find themselves falling back into like, “Oh, well, what else am I supposed to do?” kind of– I think that it’s got its roots in sometimes fear, sometimes helplessness, sometimes embarrassment, especially if like other people are around and so you feel like you have to “teach them” or else “they didn’t learn anything from it.” And I think there could be a lot of other emotions too, and I don’t think that any of them are like, super duper, like, confident decision-making type emotions. They’re like this scared, hurt, you know, “I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to make this better. I don’t know how to make you into a competent adult someday.” You know, like those types of fearful things that aren’t the well from which I want to draw when I’m parenting anyway. They’re not anything that I want to build this on.

Heather 30:24
And with our concerns so far in the future, we forget about what the child’s experience is. And ours too! What our relational experience is in that moment. And, and the messages about competence and acceptance and, and second chances and all that get really muddy. You know, if nothing else, if we can practice a pause, you know, if that can be our first thing…

Kelsie O 30:51
That’s like the most… probably the one most profound difference in my parenting journey. My entire– and also it affects my OT journey a lot, too. It’s that I literally just have spent so much time being like, “How about I think about this for like, more than 1/8 of a second before I react to it?”

Heather 31:12

Kelsie O 31:12
“How about I just…” I really grew up with this like…almost the new learning, the new big, great child development thing was that, “Oh, well, we used to punish kids by being like, ‘Okay, wait till your father gets home,’ and that’s in like, five hours, and then the kid doesn’t even remember it. So what you have to do is you have to do something right away, right away, right away, right away, it has to be right away, or else the kid’s not going to learn…”

Heather 31:48
The “teachable moments”.

Kelsie O 31:50
Yes! And I think that that destroyed the ability to like, like– it doesn’t mean that if you respond in five seconds instead of in one second that the kid like will have– unless they’re like, literally, like one year old or whatever, that probably doesn’t evaporate that fast. But like, “You can take a second to think,” has been the biggest thing to me. The message to me.

Heather 32:10
Yeah, yeah. Well, and you know, a lot of folks who listen to this are working with kids, you know, birth to five, or before they go to elementary school, and especially in those ages. Like I think zero to three, which is a national organization, here in the States. Because you’re in the UK, right? We didn’t tell you.

Kelsie O 32:32
I am from the US. And I have dabbled in EI [Early Intervention] but I am living in England.

Heather 32:36
Yeah, I just thought people would think it was weird that I said “Here in the States.” But anyway, anyway. They did like a survey and they asked parents, “At what age do you think impulse control is there? Like at what age do you think you should be able to just say, and they do.?” And, you know, most parents started, you know, thought it started and was a reasonable expectation about 18 months old. And I’ve definitely worked with early childhood teachers who think that and that’s so, so much earlier.

Kelsie O 33:08
Oh my gosh, like–

Heather 33:09
Without considering any you know, neurodivergence or, or individual difference, even just just outside of labels. And, and so realizing that that’s where a lot of us are starting. Right? This becomes so valuable.

Kelsie O 33:29
And the other like, big half of that– both that parents think, “Just verbally saying something should be enough.” And then also that, like, “Everything that they’re verbally saying is totally being understood.” “Because a kid did something once then it means that they can do it in all situations forever.” Like there’s this trio of things that I feel we attribute…

Heather 33:58
Yeah, and “It’s just a function of being smart enough.” Like, if we’re only thinking about them from the neck up, “You’re smart enough to follow this, to do this, to remember this…”

Kelsie O 34:08
I will sometimes say “Which can be like”– “Such-and-such, which can be really hard to remember when you’re talking to eloquent small people.” Because people will be like, “Well, my two year old could repeat the instructions. So that means that they can do them at all times. And in all places, and after only a verbal command from 50 feet away,” you know. And it’s like, “No dude, they’re two! They’ve been in the earth for two years!”

Heather 34:32
Yeah. You know, I think sometimes those developmental checklists that are supposed to help adults understand children confused this. Because they’ll say things like, “Follows one step directions,” “Follows two step directions,” and that translates into our adult minds as obedience and behavior situations, and not “Give me your shoe!”

Kelsie O 34:53
Right. It’s, it’s, um, it’s one of those things where, when you try to take something and explain it with absolutely no jargon from the field that you’re in…

Heather 35:04

Kelsie O 35:05
And the more that you try to simplify it down, the more you basically have to like lie in order to do that. Because like, you have to make it so simple that it’s like no longer even true.

Heather 35:14

Kelsie O 35:14
So you’ll be like, “Well, what I want to assess is like, ‘Do they hear you say the word no, and do they turn, and do they look at you, and then do they continue to do the thing anyway, because that’s developmentally appropriate?’ And like, ‘Do they seem like they care about your input at all? Or like they acknowledge that you have spoken to them?'” But then like, the questionnaire will say that and what it will say is like, you know, “When you say no, do they know what that means?” And they think it means, like, “Oh, yeah, they follow the obedient– like, they obey the command ‘no’ from a distance when they’re, like, 18 months old or whatever,” and it’s like, no, they don’t! None of them do!

Heather 35:46
Yeah. So, so what do we do about this? What should we be doing if not using the word consequence? I mean, you’ve kind of– you’ve touched on that, of course, as we go through, but I want to…

Kelsie O 35:58
Well, and then, the other interesting thing that I was unaware of, in the comments was how many people are like, “Yes, this is why I say limits and boundaries,” and then proceeded to, like, describe the same thing, but now with a new word on it. And I was like, “Dang it! Don’t take that one from me!” Like, hang on, stop!

Heather 36:17
Yeah. Yeah.

Kelsie O 36:17
Because people were like, “A boundary is when you say, ‘If you keep doing X, then I’m going to X.” And I was like, “That’s, that’s a threat!” If you’re, if you’re like… And again, it’s like one of those things where it sounds semantic. Or like I’m just being super pedantic about it. But like, the difference could be with the thing that’s in your head. Because if you’re saying…I’m, I’m, I’m trying to think of something that I routinely say to my kids. Oh! I’ll be like– well, because I really don’t word it in threat form. But I guess I could. If I was, if I was not thinking about my language, or whatever. I could see myself conceivably being like, “Hey, if you’re not going to brush your teeth, then I can help you.” And there could be a–

We do that! [menacing voice] “Do you want me to help you?”

I still think that keeping the language helps me keep my mind in the right place, even when my mind is like, [angry voice] “I’m going to help you!” Like we’re angry about it. But, um, but– I could see one parent being like, [angry voice] “Hey, if you’re not going to brush your teeth, then I’m going to help you.” Everything about that completely conveys, like, “You brush your teeth, or else.” You know?

Heather 37:37
Yeah, that’s what I mean!

Kelsie O 37:37
And, and if I, I am at a point where if I say those words, I am legitimately just being like, “Do you–do you want–” It’s an actual question! It’s not a leading question. “Do you want to brush your teeth? Or do you want me to help you brush your teeth? Like, which? Which one would you prefer?” Because my kid routinely prefers both. And so that’s the only reason why I would say that.

Heather 37:56

Kelsie O 37:57
I think I would be more likely– I usually, by tooth brushing time, then everybody’s really tapped out. So more likely just hand a toothbrush in his direction and say no words at all, because he’s more likely to take it and just start brushing or whatever. Or be like, “I’m too tired” and lay down and just open his mouth. And then I brush his teeth. So but, um, but if I was saying it, it would be a legitimate question. If I was– if I, if I’m saying– there’s like, things where they were they sound like threats or, or they could be used as threats. And it’s, so it’s not just like a magic incantation, where if you say the right words, then you are not threatening your kid or whatever. It’s super duper like a mindset shift first. To like, again, step completely out of this framework where you are thinking, like, “The way that kids learn is either through trial and error, cause and effect, or through aversives of some kind. Something has to feel bad,” or, you know, “unhappy or negative about the situation that I don’t want them to do again, in order for them to never do it again.” Like, it’s not that simple for many, many reasons. Um, and it is a lot slower. And it is a lot of like setting the groundwork. And for kids zero to five and especially zero to three, it is a lot more active and hands on.

Heather 39:28

Kelsie O 39:29
To, to, like, legitimately be like, listen, if you haven’t demonstrated a skill… like, like, “You will know that they can do it when they do it. And you will know that they can do it reliably when they do it reliably.” And I assume that my kid wants to be like me, because everything that they ever do shows how much they want to be like me. And so I assume that my kid generally wants — when my kid’s feeling good, and loved, and connected with me — my kid generally wants to go along with what I want to do on the things that are important and I don’t spend so much of my parenting capital on the things that are unimportant that it, you know that it’s just like an endless string of demands forever and ever. And so they run out at some point. And, and all of these things are so many things in my head that aren’t things that I have even pulled–even before I approach my kid, even before I’ve pulled them in on it. And so, like, it is, it is tiring. It is hard to set that groundwork. And also, mine are 4 and 5. And it’s not like I think we’re coming out the other side yet or anything, but I have read people saying that like zero to three is like, where you’re the most setting the groundwork. And if you can do that, then you’re in a really good place for the rest of– for the rest of their childhood, for the rest of their life. And I can already see like, the tiniest little seeds of that at 4 and 5. I can already see it, I really can. That, like, that, even when I get super mad for no real good reason, and, you know, like, fall into some parenting style I shouldn’t, or whatever it– like, we bounce back from it, because there’s this whole entire background of connection capital that I built with them. And, and I can say like, “That was,” you know, “That was wrong of me, and I’m sorry, and that’s not how I want to be your mom,” you know, and they can like, believe that I mean that. Because I like show it as much of the time as possible.

Heather 41:29
Yeah. And I think that, you know, translates to early childhood teachers, too, and caregivers, and other folks who are in power, you know. Potential positions of power over young children.

Kelsie O 41:46
I find that in my OT role it’s both a blessing and a curse. Because, you know, if the kid has no real good relationships with any other adults in their life, then that’s just like, heartbreaking in every way. But I find that they’re usually desperate for the one adult, and will– you know, and so like, whether it puts you in a, especially with zero to five, like especially with zero to five, because they’re not even old enough to be like jaded, you know? Like, I have some who are like 10 or whatever, and it takes longer to be like, “No, I really am a reliable adult.” But like a three year old will like, they’ll trust you pretty fast if you prove yourself to be reliable.

Heather 42:30
They’ll at least try you out.

Kelsie O 42:33
Yeah. They’re, they’re– typically, I mean. There’s obviously situations with with severe trauma and things like that. But typically speaking, they’ll recognize an adult who’s on their side pretty fast. And even if they haven’t had great experiences with adults in the past, they’re still like, “Oh, hey, here’s one who’s like, they’re supposed to be like. I knew it! Something in me innately knew it.” You know?

Heather 42:58
Yeah. It’s that vibe again. It’s that…

Kelsie O 43:03
And I, and I, um– there’s– I like how my parenting bleeds into my OT, and my OT bleeds into my parenting, because I can feel times where I’m like, I can feel myself pause in a way that I would do better at work than I do at home. Because I’m not around my work kids 24 hours a day.

Heather 43:22
Yeah, the context is so different. Yeah.

Kelsie O 43:25
They haven’t been been doing things that annoy me, since they were like, you know, like, four months old and learned how to pterodactyl screech. So they’re there, but I can feel times where I’m like, “Oh, wait, I can have the patience that I have at work. Like, I can. I can just try it. I can try being that type of adult with you, can’t I.” And then my kids are like, “Yeah, you can! You totally can.” Not verbally, just behaviorally. Although they have both picked up on the like, super duper preschool phrase, “You’re my best friend. You’re not my best friend.”

Heather 44:03
Oh, sure. Yeah.

Kelsie O 44:05
They’re both constantly telling me that I am or I’m not their best friend. Whether I’m like, giving them snacks, or making them go to bed at any given moment.

Heather 44:12
Yeah, yeah.

Kelsie O 44:14
But well, if we’re all like sitting and just, like, if we’re doing anything, and we’re all content, and we’re all enjoying each other’s presence, they’ll be like, “Mom, you’re my best friend.” And I’m like, “Thanks, bud. I love you too.”

Heather 44:26
Yeah, um, that’s always a big topic of discussion, too. You know, it’s, it’s just the language they have for the feeling they’re feeling.

Kelsie O 44:33

Heather 44:34
But it’s so funny.

Kelsie O 44:35
I think that–

Heather 44:36
When you’re looking at it from outside of the emotion…

Kelsie O 44:42
I think that having kids who, who had real interesting, like, language journeys to being able to speak made me really predisposed to take no kid language literally, like almost ever. I just like, run it through a translator before I ever even think about it, about anything. And so that one is always really funny to me when people are freaking out about– about super non-literal language.

Heather 45:04
Right, right. That’s a whole other episode.

Kelsie O 45:07
I’ll just– you want to talk tomorrow? [laughter]

Heather 45:10
Yeah! [laughter]

Kelsie O 45:11
I can just talk and talk and talk!

Heather 45:14
Yeah, I definitely want to have you on again! So it’s about time to wrap up a little bit. But I want to ask, what were the things you wanted to say that that you haven’t been able to share yet? Or thoughts about the post, the ideas?

Kelsie O 45:31
I think that, um, if people can– Dr. Ross Greene has the “Kids do well if they can” framework and that’s a real hard one to wrap your head around when you are coming from a totally different framework. That you’ve never heard that before, or you’ve never thought that before. Because it’s really easy to look at your kid not doing well and be like, you know, “No, this is because they’re choosing not to,” or, “This is because something– this is because something–” like you said, “the locus of the problem is in the child and not in something else.” And so it can be really hard, especially, I think– I don’t know whether all your listeners are in the States, but there’s a really built-in, like, American individual responsibility, individualism and the most important thing in the world is independence. And that’s super baked into American culture, in a way that people will be like, telling me that they want like independence, like, “My child needs to be dressing independently,” or “My child needs to be x independently by the time they’re like two” or whatever. I’m like, “Hold up.” Like sometimes people need help for longer than that. Even people without any kind of delay or struggle or anything, just… you help for longer than that. But–

Heather 46:52
And, and sometimes asking for your help with something they already know how to do is just asking for a connection.

Kelsie O 46:58
Oh, absolutely. Like, yeah, sometimes you just like love your mom and want to hang out with her? Love your dad and want to hang out with him? Like, that’s a good thing!

Heather 47:06
Yeah! Yeah.

Kelsie O 47:09
But I think that that kind of societal expectation underlies the thing where it’s like… and so if, if you ever, you know, if something is ever going wrong, it is your fault. Like, that’s very baked into American society, in a way that it’s not globally. In both kids and adults, and tragedies. Like it’s a thing that truly permeates society, because of religious factors, because of historical factors. Because a lot of things. There’s this really big message that if something goes wrong, it is *your* fault. And that gets applied to kids in ways in which it’s like, not developmentally appropriate. And so it’s like– it is a big, powerful, cultural, societal, whole entire upbringing– whatever factors it is; for an individual parent who’s trying to decide that they want to try to buy into something different, it is big to shift your thinking from everything that my kid does “wrong” — air quotes around “wrong” — everything that my kid does, that I don’t like, the fault of it is on them, to like, they would be doing well if they could. And so if they can’t, then something is in their way. And I am a person on their team who can help them move that thing out of their way, maybe.

Heather 48:36

Kelsie O 48:37
And, um, but that’s like the groundwork of where all of this started for me, and for a lot of people. And, um… oh, gosh, I could like literally do so many episodes on this.

Heather 48:55
Well, you just make a list.

Kelsie O 48:57
And I hope I’m not stepping way out of bounds with this one. But I want to just like, just touch on something that I could probably talk about for 10 hours. Which is that the religious context is a big part of it for me and my personal history.

Heather 49:10

Kelsie O 49:11
It’s a big part of it for a lot of people in the States. Whether just because of their history and how they were raised, or, or, or something that they still believe, or something that they want to believe but never but don’t anymore. But there’s like kind of a culturally religious, but not necessarily actively religious belief of like, “Kids are inherently bad. Kids are inherently trying to defy what you say. Kids are inherently disobedient.” Um, and um, and the shift to like, “Kids are really trying to be close to you. Kids are really trying to do their best. Kids probably have thoughts in their head that don’t have to do with just how can they make your life harder.” All of those things are like– they can be a shockingly big shift. Especially as someone who doesn’t have any of those factors, they might be like, “What the heck are you talking about?” But it’s like a really big thing for some people. And it’s a hard hurdle to get over. But there are people out there who have… you’re not the only one doing that journey, or thinking that for the first time that maybe your kid isn’t actually super duper horribly terrible and evil from birth. And if they look like they’re laughing while they’re doing something that you don’t want them to do, or even if you think that they repeated back your exact instructions, or whatever a million scenarios are. And that’s one that I have a lot of grace and a lot of care for people because it has a lot to do with my own personal journey and stuff like that.

So, and it– whatever the reason, if you’ve been raised in that kind of a framework, it’s not just questioning how you’re responding. It’s questioning, “Did my mom screw up?” Like, you know, I love my mom! She was a great mom, but… you know, and that’s, again, a whole other… whole other insert length of time…

Right? We’ll be like, “Here, this is the consequences episode, and then we can do the like, generational trauma episode.”

Heather 51:17
Yeah, yeah. This, this has been really fun for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed the conversation.

Kelsie O 51:25
Yeah. I absolutely love it when somebody points me at a topic and I just ramble and ramble.

Heather 51:32
That’s kind of why I started the podcast! And tricked people into talking to me about things that we think are cool. So So I mentioned that I found you on Facebook, where else where can people find you if they want to see more of you?

Kelsie O 51:49
Facebook has the most of everything, but I do post on Instagram. Um, I’m gonna be honest, I don’t post on Instagram as much because of the character limit. Somebody tries to tell me, “We would like you to ramble, but it needs to be 2200 characters long.” I’m just like, “Never mind. I’m not gonna talk to you.” Yeah, um, but I do try to cross posts on there sometimes, because people will be like, “I don’t use Facebook.” I’m like, “I know!” I have a website, which is I am trying to get all of my Facebook posts ported over to that website. Right now I have about 210 of them, but there’s a lot more than that on the Facebook page. The website is a million times more searchable. It has categories across the top, it has tags on the side, and it has a search bar. So you can search like, by the age. So maybe your listeners would be most interested in babies, toddlers, preschoolers, I’ve got all of those ages on there. You can search like, like autism or ADHD, specifically; you can search by like activities or by philosophy; by like fine motor, sensory, child development; like it’s got lots and lots of categories to try to help people find what it is that they’re actually looking for. Versus Facebook is kind of, you just get a stream of whatever comes out of my mind. But you do get the community of it on Facebook and it’s really lovely. It’s genuinely– I’ve only had like a couple of times where people have been really mean in the comments. And the vast majority of the time everybody is really lovely. And, and even when this was a real contentious one when I posted it. But people were still like, “Listen, I usually agree with you. This one is really throwing me. Can you please help me understand what you’re talking about?” Nobody’s like, like, comments section some places on the internet where people are like, “You’re stupid and everything you’re saying is stupid!” You know.

Heather 53:45
You’re not my best friend.

Kelsie O 53:48
You’re not my best friend and you’re not invited to my birthday party!

Heather 53:52
Yeah, I have so much respect for people who get into the community of their comments. I don’t use my Facebook the same way like that you do, you know? Self promotion kind of stuff. But when I used to put more of that kind of post out there, I generally just dropped it and ran. [laughter]

Kelsie O 54:12
That’s fair. And I do have–

Heather 54:13
So I just think it’s great.

Kelsie O 54:15
I do have posts like that. Or I’ll be like, “Hey, I’m gonna drop this. I’m gonna keep comments open for one hour and after that they’re closed because my brain needs a break.” But yeah, but but I do really love getting to talk to people. Cuz I’m just a talker. So.

Heather 54:30
Yeah, yeah. Well, that works out perfectly for podcasting.

Kelsie O 54:33
It does.

Heather 54:35
All right. Well, thank you again for your time. And I hope we get to talk again for more episodes in the future. So that was Kelsie Olds, The Occuplaytional Therap– therap– Therapist. My words stopped working! And thank you all for listening to another episode of That Early Childhood Nerd.

Narrator 55:00
That’s the show. Now go get your nerd on. This has been an Explorations of Early Learning Upstairs Studio Production.