ERP 324: How To Get More Aligned In Parenting To Strengthen Your Marriage & Family — An Interview With Nellie Harden

By Posted in - Podcast June 14th, 2022 0 Comments

Different factors, such as social, political, and cultural, influence parenting styles. While one parent may be more concerned with their child’s sense of agency, whereas the other might be more attentive to their child’s sense of feeling supported. These differences can pose conflicts that not only confuse children about how to behave and what to expect in response but can also destroy a marriage and a family.

In this episode, Nellie Harden discusses these differences further, as well as how parents can align their parenting styles to strengthen not only their marriage but also to equip their children with the confidence, respect, and wisdom they need to go out into the world as their unique and amazing selves.

Nellie is a Family Life & Leadership Coach who focuses on helping parents eliminate power struggles with their daughters and help them grow into confident, wise, and respectful young women that are actually ready for the world!

She is a wife and mom to four daughters, an author, speaker, podcaster, a homeschooling parent, and an adventure chaser and believes in a life of intention and making dreams and goals realities. She knows that the best way to help the world is through one living room at a time!

In this Episode

6:20 Two significant events that awakened Nellie’s sense of purpose.

13:37 The egocentric nature of children and how parents can help them have positive confidence and self-esteem.

20:23 Conflicts over parenting styles and decisions and how to deal with them.

31:47 Honoring and respecting both parents’ core beliefs and getting the right balance.

38:13 How to identify and choose the right path towards growth.

42:04 Tips for strengthening family bonds.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Have goals as a family.
  • Schedule regular fun and exciting family activities.
  • Make everyone in the family feel valued, honored, protected, and loved.
  • For parents: Be intentional in helping your children have positive confidence and self-esteem.
  • Keep in mind that raising children is a team effort, so work as a team.
  • Ensure that everyone has a safe space to express themselves without fear of being judged.
  • Do not get into an argument in the heat of the moment. Compose yourself so that you can think logically.
  • If there is a disagreement between parents, always lean toward growth.
  • Respect and honor each other’s opinions.
  • If you have trouble expressing yourself, try writing down your thoughts and feelings to have more clarity.

Mentioned

Ignite Her Joy Workshop: 5 Steps to Grow Your Daughter’s Self-Esteem During the Tween and Teen Years

Map to Maturity

Connect with Nellie Harden

Websites: nellieharden.com

Facebook: facebook.com/groups/the6570project

Instagram: instagram.com/nellieharden

Podcast: The 6570 Family Project

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Nellie, thank you for joining us today.

Thank you so much for having me. 

Yeah. I’m excited. This topic is so important to couplehood and families. Well, when we talk about family, usually we’re talking about immediate family and having children and what couples are up against when they’re negotiating parenting. 

Oftentimes this is ranking in the top short list of conflicts is parenting styles when people maybe aren’t in agreement. I know we’re going to be talking about how that can strengthen a relationship or can really be stressful on a couple. Before we turn to that, I’m curious what got you interested in really supporting people in this way?

Yeah, it is a long-convoluted story of not going where you thought you were going to go, such as life. But I’ve always been interested in the sciences, both psychology and biology. That’s where I have my degrees. And so, I love to know how things work. I love to know what the result of how things work are, which is psychology and biology when it comes to the human brain. 

I worked actually in the animal field for a number of years in marine mammal behavior before I retired from all animal work and when I got pregnant with twins. So, I’m married. We’ve been together for 25 years. We have four daughters that are now 12, 14, 14, and 17. So twins in the middle there. All girls. 

When I got pregnant with the twins 14 years ago, or 15 I suppose, I was like, I’m done with animals. I love animals but it was just so strenuous. And so, I retired. And just the way life had it, my husband actually went into cardiac failure just less than a year after I retired. It turned out to be a congenital issue so that meant that we not only had to change our life for him, but we had to change our life for him and all of our children too which I was along for the ride for of course. 

We had to make so many different lifestyle changes, mental changes, mindset shifts, all of these things over a period of a couple of years that culminated with him having heart surgery that we didn’t know if he was going to make it out of in 2012. And so, after going through infertility for a number of years, we had four kids in four and a half years. 

I was sitting in that waiting room with my husband in surgery with four kids four and under and I didn’t know if I was going to be leaving a widow or a wife. And so, he’s fine. He’s still here today. He made it but less than five weeks later, one of our twins had a non-fatal drowning accident in my in-laws’ pool. Those two events that happened right after one another, we’re just such a wakeup call to what we are doing. What we’re doing as parents, what I’m doing in my life, what we want to have our children leave home with at the end of this childhood experience in order to equip them for life. 

That’s really where everything started getting, you know, cooking, so to speak as far as my family and human work. Not humpbacks anymore but humans. And so, yeah, it’s really where everything started. Since late 2012 I’ve been working in some sort of discipline area, discipline being teaching your children not consequences, but discipline with families I’ve been working with for about 10 years now. It’s been a beautiful ride. 

It’s been a growth experience in every aspect you can imagine, but really helping families come together as a team and figure out what can we do now in order to get our children to this point equipped with confidence, respect, and wisdom, especially in the foundation of who they are before they leave home. And so, I really work with families that have daughters in the second half of childhood right now in order to make that happen.

Wow. Nellie, I just want to say as you share your story, I can feel the impact and I can feel my Heart clenching in just that moment of being in the hospital not knowing if you’re going to be a widow or what your situation was going to be with four young children, and just how tenuous and just how impactful that is, and also with your second twin or one of the twins in the drowning incident, just how much that brings a halt to all the busyness and really shifting priority to family and the character building. And just what role parents are in fostering and guiding humans in their development and the power of that. It sounds like that just really awakened a real purpose for you. Am I hearing that?

Yes, it really did. Just because everything in my life, I’ve gone from me having to go through a learning experience and then me turning around and teaching. I mean, everything. After the drowning accident, I turned around and I taught pool safety. And so, everything I have done, it’s because I’ve walked through the fire first, and then I’m turning around going back through the fire in order to help other people go through the fire, right. 

And so, if I can turn around and I can help other people get their families to come together as a team work together. I mean, in so many places you look right now, families are very separated, they aren’t working together, they don’t even know how to communicate with one another. Spouses don’t know how to communicate with one another. And so, if I can bring a family together and have goals as a family and everyone honoring, protecting, and serving one another as a team, I mean, it would literally change the world. That’s my goal. 

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“You can change the world one living room at a time.”

I say you can change the world one living room at a time. It’s very, very true. Because everything that we do as adults has a trigger point back in our first 18 years, our first 6570 days. That’s how many days are in our childhood, 6570.

Yes, I couldn’t agree more that just that early imprint of the upbringing and how that gives us that relational roadmap and just how informative it is to our sense of inner security or insecurity based on what we’ve experienced. And it sounds as though your paradigm, and I really appreciate this and I endorse this. I was a parent coach for many years. It’s not what I’m doing now. 

To really help the family work together—there’s such strength in that, that when parents are approaching whatever discipline or behavior, I think especially teenagers and I’ve worked as a mentor and I’ve done a lot with children and adolescents but a lot with adolescents. I ran a teen program for many many years. 

I feel like stereotypically teenagers have this BS radar. Right? And so, if the whole family is not bought in and in practice of pushing back, pushing limits, speaking one’s voice around the hypocrisy sometimes. Right? And so, I think when parents are really transparent and are willing to enter into the work and are in their own practice, but in this collective family space, I think it’s synergistic, I imagine. It’s not just all the numbers and that just adds and that equates to however many members are in the family. I think it has this exponential powerful effect like squaring or 10x-ing or something.

Yeah, absolutely. And so, when I’m working with a family as a whole, the parents are the team leaders but everyone in the team needs to be able to contribute. Everyone needs to be able to feel valued, honored, protected, and loved. When you can give that space to everyone, then yeah, you can go out into the world with more esteem. 

Esteem is valuing and appreciating yourself. If you have certain people, like I can say for certain these people value and appreciate me, I am more apt to value and appreciate myself. Right? When you’re alone on an emotional island and you don’t see anyone out there valuing and appreciating yourself, you start living the lie. You start believing everything out there that says you are nothing, you are what popular culture says today—you are basic. You are basic. You are nothing. So, I’m not going to value and appreciate myself. Therefore, I’m going to act out in all of these different ways or close myself into a shell and not let anyone in because they can’t value and appreciate me and I can’t either. 

I see this with couples, especially teens today. The not so elephant in the room, that T-Rex in the room is always social media today. I am not a total anti-social media person. I think there’s some benefits to it but there’s also a lot of really, really sharp side effects that we have to be aware of, and it’s not going away, which means we need to fortify our children in how to use it and how to take it in and use it toward positive growth, right. 

It can be used towards positive growth. It just can also, like anything else, be used negatively. So, let’s make sure that we teach our kids how to use it toward the positive. It isn’t a perfectionistic comparison trap that they walk into every single time they pat their screen. 

Right. Well, just to reflect because you’re saying so much that’s really important. 

I know. Sorry. 

No, I love it. 

I’m just going. 

I love it. It’s great. I’m with you. And if I can just hear you, you’re saying as if we can help them. And look, this is happening regardless if we’re being super mindful about the characters that were developing. And you mentioned confidence, respect, and wisdom. I can see how these are just guiding principles. And as you mentioned, social media. I’ll turn to that in one second. 

And that what’s happening in the family system is that children are stereotypically going to be egocentric. They’re still developing their ego and their brains so they’re going to personalize it and internalize whatever the messaging is or the lack of it. 

And so, if you’re saying we can be so explicit and so intentional to help them be able to have positive confidence and self-esteem, helping them have their inner wisdom and discernment and having that regard and respect for themselves. And perhaps they can be able to look at having some strength as they might encounter social media, or feel in levels of comparison or whatever might be getting evoked in social media, that they have some real strength and access to how to navigate that in a way where they can be empowered. Because if they don’t, it could just be fuel for a lot of downward spiral. Am I hearing that?

No, you’re exactly hearing that. The point is, and I want to be very clear, it’s not about bloating your child like impregnating them with this false sense of esteem. Like, you are so good, you are so valued. It’s not about that. It’s about sitting down and being real with them. That takes vulnerability on the parents’ part. It has to be part of the equation. 

So, we’re talking, you want to be able to have a vision for what is going on. This is happening right now, which means this is going to happen later on. Vision is what creates a path. And without a path, we’re all just meandering, and being pin balls in the machine. And so, we want to create a path with vision. And then we definitely need to have disciplines in there where we are teaching ourselves to walk forward in a way in response to whatever’s happening. 

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“Vision is what creates a path, but vulnerability is key. We need to be very real with our kids. You want your kids to be able to see you as a real person that they can come and talk to.”

But vulnerability is key. So, if your child is having trouble with something, maybe something happened on social media, maybe they’re not feeling very valued or appreciated. You can say (A) you can reflect on a story from your own life because I guarantee there’s been times that you haven’t felt valued and appreciated. And (B) you can apologize if you were any part of making them not feel valued and appreciated. 

We need to be very real with our kids. Like you said, they definitely have BS meters out there. And let’s face it, the world walks around with this candy coat on it so many times and you want your kids to be able to see you as a real person that they can come and talk to. Not just, oh, the parents, right? They are the parents, and I am the kid, and I am down here in this world, and they’re up there on their throne in that world, right? There’s no relatability there, and you’re going to lose a lot of your connection. And if you lose your connection, you lose your communication, and you definitely lose the clarity of the path that you have in this 6570. You have all of those days. 

Unfortunately, so many parents are like, “Oh, they’re 13. They’ve got this. They’re fine.” I’m like, “Oh, no. They still have so many days left that you can guide and teach them.” There’s Driver’s Ed. This is Adulthood Ed, you know, in the second half of childhood, and that is our responsibility and honor in order to do that.

I appreciate you giving some examples around the vulnerability. So many times, when you talk about the hierarchy of the parent being in a power position, and sometimes there can be a lot of question marks. What’s happening behind the scenes? I’m picking up certain things, but I don’t quite know how to connect that all or how to translate that into my life as a child. 

And so, I think having this open dialogue and the transparency that allows this is what it looked like for me or this is what I experienced and feel in comparisons or inadequacies or these types of things. So, it really can just be that sense of attunement and transparency that makes it human but also creates that bond that you’re referring to that this is a safe space. This is a place where we can reveal those inside parts. 

Right. 

Go ahead. I would love to hear what you had to say. And then I want to pivot towards couples and where they might be in that care. 

Well, I just want to say too, speaking of parents, we’re parenting our kids in a world that didn’t exist when we were their age. And so, it’s very, very difficult. So, part of that vulnerability is, “I can relate. I was a teenager too. I’ve been through this.” 

I mean, comparison can happen on a screen, but it can also happen in Spanish class back in 1986. You know, whatever that is. And being vulnerable to that, but also saying, “You know what? You have more on your shoulders, more visibility than I ever had. What can I do in order to serve you in this area?” Just being open to your parenting, knowing you don’t have all the answers, but it is a team effort. 

Yes, and being curious. Tell me what that’s like. I want to know more. Help me get into your world. I think just sometimes those “I don’t know” can stop the conversation. And just with that rapport and that interest, and the softness, I think there can be a lot of openings that will come. So, this is so powerful. 

I love just what you’ve described around the togetherness, having a vision and a clear path and intentionality and the practice, right? These are all principles that we don’t go and exercise once and think, “I’m good for now and the next 18 years.” Right?

Yep, check the life box or something.

This is such a practice and just the life skills of this and just conflict, how we resolve conflict. I mean, there’s so many things that wouldn’t work in practice and in dialogue that this can accomplish and really get into the inner workings that it is safe to have these engagements around things that are difficult and the safety around that’s huge. 

Okay. So, if you’re willing, let’s pivot towards it because I recognize there could be parents that are like, “Oh, this is wonderful.” And like, we are in perhaps a 13-14 age, and we didn’t maybe necessarily, for whatever reason, whether or not it was focusing on business or having other children or, you know, whatever the moving parts. Maybe we weren’t as explicit about the way you’re describing. 

I guess that one challenging scenario is like, let’s say, halfway through a couple is like, “Okay, we want to change the game a little.” We want to change the norms. And that might be a little bit of an adjustment. But how somebody could pivot towards doing this. And maybe even before we do that, I guess another question would be if a couple is noticing these parenting conflicts or the parenting styles that really are different, and what might a couple do if they just keep having this conflict in their relationship parenting their children together.

I deal with this a lot, as you might imagine. Many times, parents have different parenting techniques. They have different parenting ideas. One cares about outcomes a lot more. The other one is just like in survival mode. There’s a lot of different power differentials that are happening here between parents. 

Our kids pick-up on that and then play the power differentials on their parents. Like, “I’m going to ask mom this question, because I know what she’s going to say. But that question, that one goes to dad, because I know he’s going to say yes to that one.” Right? 

And so, it breaks a family apart. It puts cracks in the family when you can’t work together as a team. Now, with couples, it’s obvious that if you can come together as a parenting couple and have a cohesive plan of action, then you’re going to be able to come as a joint front. To the kids, they’ll be able to see that. 

But it’s also really important that the kids don’t just see that there’s this magical leprechaun that happens behind closed doors, and they come out and there’s an idea, right? And so having this open forum of discussion can sometimes be very appropriate. Sometimes it’s also appropriate to get your head together behind closed doors, if it’s more heated, if there’s more contention there and then come to a consensus before you go see the kids. 

And then sometimes it just surprises you at the dinner table and there’s a conversation in front of you and it has to be had. But when you’re having that, being able to make sure everyone has a place in order to speak their mind, and that they’re not speaking their mind out of emotion. Right? 

When our emotion triggers are on and our brainstem, we are in fight or flight and things get said that are not meant that you didn’t even really necessarily think of. They just flew out of your mouth and that instinct, and then you aren’t using your frontal cortex, which is that logic side of our brain, where we can actually be like, “Oh, we’re not going to throw away every single toy that the kids have, or make them sleep on the floor for the next two months, or whatever it is. 

Some of the consequences that roll out of parents’ mouths in the spur of the moment, there should be a book about that, because that would be really, really funny. Like, you are not going to date until you’re 42. You’ll never have a car. I don’t know. Just all the things.

But being able to have a settled, grounded conversation. And that takes practice too, right? Being able to check yourself and be like, “You know what, I’m really emotional about this right now so it’s probably not a good time for me to talk about it.” That’s okay to say. That’s great to say. It shows everyone at the table, you know what, they’re a little worked up about this and it’s not a good time to say because they aren’t going to say things that are really logical or are well thought out. It’s good for the kids to know, so that they aren’t just spouting off and saying crazy things to their friends or to you as well. 

So, that would be number one. Speak out of calm. And so, you’re actually using that beautiful frontal cortex that we’ve been gifted with. So, speak out of calm. And then, if there is an altercation or a difference in opinion, maybe even a power differential between parents, then always go toward growth. So, go toward growth. Whatever he is saying or she is saying or whatever, always go toward what is going to be the best growth. 

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“Speak out of calm. Always go toward what is going to be the best for growth. Sometimes that’s a compromise. Sometimes it’s one conceding to another. It just depends. But if you’re speaking out of emotion, then that is where things are going to start to crumble and go where you don’t want them to go.”

Sometimes that’s a compromise. Sometimes it’s one conceding to another. It just depends. But if you’re speaking out of emotion, then that is where things are going to start to crumble, and go where you don’t want them to go.

Thank you. I’m curious, just as a follow up question. Could you speak a little bit more about how to identify what going towards growth is because as I imagine a couple that has a perpetual difference, where perhaps one parent is a little bit more on the, if we imagine a spectrum of being a little bit more focused on freedom and self-efficacy, wanting the kids to be able to have their own experience and learn their own strengths. And then maybe the other parent is a little bit more on the nurturing and feeling like they’re supported and shown up for and, you know, those types of things. And that can look very different. 

I’m curious because I can imagine that it would feel way more comfortable to be visible to the children in these dialogues if we trusted each other in negotiating these conflicts. Right? And so, I guess I’m curious if you can just back up a moment before you answer the growth question about how do people get towards this workable ground if they’re not in a habit of doing that?

Yeah. And that is going to take, obviously, your one-on-one time with your spouse. That is where that growth is going to happen. Because as team leaders, right, just like with anything, think about any team out there with team leaders, the team leaders have certain meetings and then they address the entire team, and the entire team works together. That’s the same with parenting too. 

In your one-on-one time with each other, it needs to be, “Okay. These are my feelings. I want to be respected here but I also want to respect your feelings in what we’re doing with, I don’t know, little George or little Mary or whatever. And just know that I honor and respect your opinions, but I need you to also honor and respect my opinions.” And that has to be this constant conversation between you. 

When you were talking, curfew came to mind right away, right? And so, the age-old curfew. Maybe there’s one person that’s like, I don’t know. They just come on, when they come home. They’ll be fine. They’re just out there. They’re having their teen experience. And then you have one that’s like, “I want them home at nine o’clock.” Or eight o’clock, or you know, before sundown. 

Maybe this is happening at the dinner table. And you’re like, “Well.” So, this is where the child gets involved too and asks them, what do you do? What are you going to do after dark? Where are you going? Who are you going to be with? And having that guide the conversation in, you know what, are they just going out? And they’re like, “I don’t know. I’m just going to hang out with my friends. We’re going to like to do something.” 

Well, is that going to benefit you? And going down that road with them to see where growth is going to be. Growth is going to be where they have optimal friendships that they’re having fun. They’re getting out there. They’re building relationships. I don’t know. They’re doing something academic or not academic or what have you. But it has to do with building and growing them as a person. But once you get into this place, I don’t know, we’ll just figure it out. 

And then, you know, if they’re 14-15 years old, you’re like, “I don’t know if that’s the best idea.” And maybe you compromise at 10 o’clock, or what have you. But honoring and respecting one another’s opinions has to be foundational. I mean, it just has to be in there. 

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“If you’re single parenting in a co-parenting house, that is resentment in the making right there. It’s going to break, hands down.”

And if it’s not, which, unfortunately, I’ve seen many that it’s not, then you have one parent that is giving up and/or just conceding everything to the other parent, and then there is a load on that other parent’s shoulders, because they are single parenting in a co-parenting house. That can destroy a marriage right there. Right? If you’re single parenting in a co-parenting house, that is resentment in the making right there. It’s going to break, hands down. 

Yes. And what I’m hearing in the way that you’re describing this, it’s almost that there’s a tenet that is part of how things are being operated on, which is we are allies, we have each other’s back. I know that a lot of couples don’t necessarily feel that. Is there anything that you do to support people in cultivating more of that? 

It sounds like respect is so much a part of this collective and being part of this team. What if couples don’t really trust each other or partners don’t trust each other, and they’re really having a hard time getting to these win-wins or really understanding and respecting? Is there anything that you want to offer or mention around that?

Something that I really believe in and do is a journal being passed back and forth, because something that is verbal, like words, can just get out of hand, and then you feel like you have to say something and you don’t know what to say, so you just fill in the space. But if you have a journal that passes back and forth between you where you can be truly open and honest about how you’re feeling, I mean, there was a reason, hopefully, that you got married in the first place, or you’ve been together in the first place. And taking it back there. Right? 

I remember when, you know, we had that conversation ages ago. I remember how I felt when you respected this decision that I made. I would love to feel that way again. I haven’t felt that way in a while. Or, I truly love our kids and I just want to see them be able to succeed. In my eyes because of my past, this is where I struggle with that. I would love to have you help me with that. Can you tell me where you struggle with parenting? Because we all have baggage that we bring in from our own childhood experiences into parenting. 

One of the things I work with parents on, so much of what I do is working with parents, but children are a mirror of parents, especially in the emotional mental field. And so, I teach the parents so that the parents can teach the kids. We talk about core beliefs. 

Our first pillar of my program, it’s called Map to Maturity. In the first pillar which is vision, we talk a lot about core beliefs. It’s about what core beliefs are you bringing into parenting that you want to keep? There are great ones. What ones are you bringing in that you really want to leave at the door that you might not have even realized that you were bringing in? How do you feel about finances? That’s a huge one, right? 

A lot of people don’t think about finances when it comes to their kids. But our financial mindset is set when we are children. And anything that we do to change it is like taking a chisel to cement later on. And so, yeah, financial. How do you feel about that with your core beliefs? How is your worthiness? Do you feel worthy? Do you feel loved? Do you feel like the world is a good place or not a good place? Right? 

All of these perspectives are all built. And bringing that to the surface, a lot of parents don’t realize what they’re bringing into. That’s why you run into it so many times, like, “Oh, I’m turning into my mother.” “I’m turning into my father.” Right? And that’s not usually said with, “Oh, I’m turning into my mom.” or “Oh, I’m turning into my dad. It’s so great.” 

And so, those things are what we need to bring to the surface so that we can start the process of dropping in them at the door. And then also, what are some core beliefs that you want to start with your family? Because it starts now so that it can be a part of the foundation later on. But yeah, so a journal going back and forth is a great way. Letter writing—we do a lot. If there’s any sort of misunderstanding happening or someone is all flustered, I mean, our kids’ brains are literally changing. And so, we have different levels of maturity within their brain from the back to the front. 

And so, if they can sit down at a desk or a table after some time away from whatever occurrence happened, and be able to write down some things, and how they feel, then have a talk about it once they’re calm, that’s very effective. That happens with couples as well. 

I really appreciate you naming that. I haven’t ever—Well, I have experienced through text or writing. And that can be a really safe way when things escalate, because it can slow things down. But I will say personally, it allows me when I write, just to kind of get it out. It’s kind of all the first layers are like blah, blah, blah, and it’s not anything I would really want to say, but then I get into those softer, more vulnerable, and if that’s the intention of that journal, that there is that space, so it perhaps feels a little safer. And then we have some understanding about what that journal represents and what we can get to in that because it’s huge. 

I’ve worked with couples. One couple comes to mind where they have three children, and I think it was their youngest, and a lot of different life circumstances that were creating stress, but their youngest was just having some floundering as far as grades. And one parent was like, “I’m not letting this ball drop. I really want to do everything we can to support them.” And the other one was like, “By all measures, he’s doing fine. He’ll figure it out. He needs to figure this out.” Kind of similar to what I was just referencing. 

And when we processed it, it was really clear that she had some floundering and she didn’t get the support, and it really had a big impact. She’s like, “Had I had the support, I would have been in a totally different position. And that would have propelled me in getting into college in a certain way and all the things.” And so, part of the invitation was to really make this known and have this be part of the conversation because there was a lot of conflict between her and her son and the father was like, “I don’t think he understands. How come this means so much to you?” Right? 

So, I think what you’re describing and having the core beliefs and the values be really visible and clear, and we might need to evaluate them because sometimes we might even not know where they’re coming from, or how something matters so much. But then it also sounds like this role modeling when you’re going back to what you were talking about around having a grounded conversation and being able to set boundaries if one is not right, even with kids watching that, that that can be really powerful as an example of what it looks like when we lose our cool and how we can negotiate that. And then, let’s go to the growth. How do people identify what growth might be? 

It really is anything that is moving them forward along the path, not holding them back. So, anything with shame, anything with blame, anything with guilt, those are going to be walls that are going to hold people back and sometimes push them backwards even more, right? 

Comparison, perfectionism, all of those things are going to stop any sort of growth that is happening. And so, if we can go toward, you know, what way am I growing in my wisdom, all facets of wisdom? So, there is academic, of course, but there is also self-wisdom, there’s interpersonal wisdom with other people. And there is then your respect, self, others’ time, and property. We have all of the respects. We have our confidence, which is actual belief in ourselves. 

So, if we can grow toward those things, then we are on the right path toward what we’re looking for. All parents have these. We give them 6570 goals of what they want. It’s a team effort. Everyone puts them together. It’s really interesting with perspectives because I have the parents fill out where they think the kids are with all of these things. And then the kids where they think they are. It’s a wheel that is kind of clunky because it’s not all put together. But you know, some kids are like, “Oh, I’m super high in confidence.” And the parents are like, “I don’t think you’re that high in confidence because I see this, this, and this, and it brings things to the surface. 

I want to touch on what you said too. A few years ago, my husband and I stopped trying to hide any agitation or friction that we have with each other around our kids because we started seeing two things. Number one, if they did hear us, not that we like super yell or anything like that, but if we were having an argument behind the door, doors are thin, and they would be like, “Oh, my goodness. Are you getting a divorce?” And I was like, “What?! No!” But that’s the world we live in, where 50% or more are getting these divorces. There are so many parents. It’s so rare to have a family that has two parents that are together anymore. 

My husband and I got married at 22 and 23. We were super young. We made a vow that we were never allowed to say the D word to each other. Anyway, they were coming in and worried about that. And that did not come from us, because we never ever talked about that, but it came from the world. So, we’re like, okay, they need to be able to see that it’s okay to argue with people that you love, and have a resolution to it and move forward and be you know, sitting on the couch cuddling in 20 minutes. That’s okay. 

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“A few years ago, my husband and I stopped trying to hide any agitation or friction that we have with each other around our kids. They need to be able to see that it’s okay to argue with people that you love, have a resolution to it, and move forward and be sitting on the couch cuddling in 20 minutes. That’s okay.”

I really implore parents to do that, and couples to do that. Now, I say that as long as you can have a conversation, and you can get to a resolve and find peace on the other side of that. And if you can’t, then I definitely recommend getting into some couples coaching and things like that as well. But it really is important for kids to be able to see their parents be able to do that, so that they learn how to do that themselves.

This just sounds really important, not only in the tenets and the character building and the values that you’re speaking to, and the alignment of the togetherness, and just the way in which the whole family is working together. Like, again, I can’t underscore that enough just how that in and of itself could change so much. I’m recognizing there’s a piece of life, right? I’m wondering. Do you recommend for families how to carve out time to make space for these types of practices if it hasn’t really been attended to a lot thus far?

Yeah. During my program, we do weekly family meetings, and you don’t have to call it a family meeting. That’s a very sterile name. You can call it, I don’t know, lollapalooza if you want, whatever you want. And have fun, like you can go somewhere, sometimes we can go out to the beach. We live on the beach on the east coast of the United States so we can go out to the beach, and have hours to go out on the dock. 

Or we can just take a family walk. You can have a new dessert every night when you’re having them. Each person in the family can rotate on who gets to pick the fun dessert for the night whenever you’re having them. So, make them fun and something that you actually want to attend. It’s not somber, and it’s not trouble. 

Even if you have big things happening in your family. I work with a lot of families that have big things happening, and some that are just going from good to great. And even if you have big things happening in your life, you can still make the family experience very good. And so, weekly at the start in order to just get the ball rolling. And then once a month or once a quarter at the least I would say, once a quarter you get together to have these. 

They’re just convergence points. Every time we go out every single day, we’re on our computers, we’re doing all this stuff, we’re all growing outward. And we need these convergence points in order to come back and get everyone on the same page and have accountability toward one another. We talk a lot about value systems and every person in the family is going to have different values. But then as a family, you have certain values. 

And for me, one of the things I’m working on this year is just building. I’m building. I made a lot of things and now I’m building them. But our family this year is focused on support. And so, each one of us has our own thing we’re working on. And as a family, we’re working on something together. But that accountability can come in that time as well. It’s just a great opportunity to realign, make sure everyone is still on the same page, redirect if needed. And then you can go off into the world again. It’s like a huddle. Right? You come together and do that. 

My husband and I got married really young. And before we got married, I suggested and he agreed that every 10 years we would get remarried because we’re going to become different people along the way. And we have. We’ve gotten remarried twice now. So, we’ve had three weddings. The last one was last June. And when we did that, the girls were old enough now that we had our own vows to each other and they’re different vows every time because the vows that I gave 10 years ago don’t pertain to the person I am anymore. And vice versa with my husband. But now our girls, they also wrote vows in order to commit to the family. 

And so, all of us came together. We had a cute little ceremony on our front lawn with our friends and things like that. It’s a smaller version of that. It’s coming back together. It’s committing and saying that we’re in. This is what we’re focused on. I love, honor, protect, and respect you. And this is what we’re doing.

Thank you for that. I know we’re winding down our time together. Is there anything you want to say about the structure? As I said, there might be people listening that want to really incorporate some of this into their lives and maybe haven’t done a lot. How much do you structure a family meeting, if it’s a new thing that you’re introducing?

It doesn’t have to be a CEO meeting. Just get in and talk. I mean, have a topic that you’re going to be covering that day. I mean, 30 minutes would be great. If it goes to 45, fine, but no longer than that. We want to stay within the attention spans of our kids and not have them slumped over trying to look at their phones, you know, doing the thing and checking the clock. But keep it fun, keep it short, and keep it moving in that direction. But also, if something does come up, no one can interrupt. No one can mock. Right? There needs to be those floor rules. Everyone is respected. You will not be mocked. You will not be interrupted here. When you are speaking you have the floor. 

Yeah. So, have a topic and make sure everyone gets to speak on the topic. If they don’t want to speak at that time, really encourage it, but don’t force it either. They’ll come around. Once they understand it is a safe space, then they can come around or maybe they’re too hot on the issue right then and they can’t speak and that’s okay to have him write a letter later or come to you later with that. But yeah, just a central topic. Go around, talk about it. 

And then you can have like a Q&A, if you will, the last 10-15 minutes. Does anyone else have anything else that they want to bring up because this is our time right now. Everyone’s here. I want to say that too. With my family, as an example, my husband and I both work from home and we homeschool. So, all six of us are together all the time. That does not mean that we are together all the time. And so, even as the six of us are roaming around these walls of this house all the time, it still doesn’t mean that we don’t need to come together. 

I hear that sometimes. Like, “Oh, well, we’re all home.” or “I see them a lot so we don’t have to do that.” There’s a different intention about this family Lollapalooza huddle time. And that is everyone is coming together with open hearts, honesty, supporting one another, no interrupting, no mocking, full respect, and everyone is being heard. And so, even if you’re together, you want to be intentionally together during that time. 

Lovely. Well, I can tell there’s so much more that you have to offer, Nellie, and I just know we are winding down at our time. Is there anything else you want to say before we pivot to how people can get in touch with you and your work?

Nothing except for it’s not too late. It is never too late you guys. I get that question a lot. “My kid is 17. Is it too late?” No. I mean, the answer is no. It is much easier to turn a ship that is 17 than a ship that is 21 or 35 or 40 and they’re trying to do it on their own. When you can do it together as a family before they leave home, it is going to be exponentially easier for all of you, you as parents and them as children, and even you as parents after they leave. Almost like a coupleship in your relationship. If you can do this work before they leave home.

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“It is never too late. If you can do it together as a family before they leave home, it is going to be exponentially easier for all of you. You as parents and them as children, and even you as parents after they leave.

Thank you for just voicing that. I couldn’t agree more. How do people get in touch with you and what you’re offering?

Yeah, absolutely. I like to keep it easy. So, it’s at NellieHarden.com. You can find everything. And that’s Nellie with an I-E. So many people tried to spell it with Y. So, at NellieHarden.com. I’m on Instagram. I have a private family group on Facebook called The Family Architects Club. I call parents architects because we’re planning, designing, and building the beginning of someone else’s life. So yeah, I have that. And then yeah, I also have a free parenting workshop called Ignite Her Joy. If there’s anyone listening that has a daughter between nine and 18 years old, and that is all about getting a simple system that can be uniquely tailored to any girl in order to build her self-esteem.

That sounds beautiful. It rings a bell for me that I think there’s some research that for daughters in particular, that the idea of one’s vocation can come at that middle school time and just supporting that confidence and that that blossoming interests and calling, if you will, or purpose in the world. It’s not too young to start fostering that. I think I knew I wanted to be a psychologist in middle school or seventh or eighth grade. So, such a beautiful thing. So just to get clear, you have everything in your hub, which is NellieHarden.com. You also have the Facebook group, The Family Architects Club for the family. And you also have this free, is it a workshop you said?

It’s a parenting workshop. You can get to everything through NellieHarden.com. 

Okay. And what else might people find on your website? Are you offering coaching groups? 

Yeah. So, I have a coaching program called Map to Maturity. I have one coaching program. I do one on one as well. But it really takes parents, again, parents that have young women between nine and 18 through a 12-week program, where there’s one-on-one, there’s small group coordination and community. We go through all four of these pillars of vision, discipline, vulnerability, and resilience and application of all of it as they are moving through their teen and tween years, so that they can be ready to leave home equipped with that confidence, respect, and wisdom that they need in order to go out into the world and be their unique, amazing selves.

Lovely. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I’ll make sure I have all of these links on today’s show notes.

Oh, thank you so much for having me. This was wonderful.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching