#59 - How to gain confidence in parenting with licensed professional counselor Kyle Wester

March 5, 2024
Kyle Wester

Episode Summary

This week on The Aro Podcast, Joey is joined by Kyle Wester, a licensed professional counselor and Parenting Coach with over two decades of experience working with children. Kyle, along with his wife Sara, co-hosts the podcast ""The Art of Raising Humans,"" where they share insights from their parenting journey. In this episode, Kyle gives us insights into how to gain confidence as a parent and walks us through his unique parenting quadrant, explaining various parenting styles and how they can be applied not only to raising children but also to marriage and navigating technology use. He highlights how conflicts with children often stem from parental expectations and shares his experience giving a phone to his oldest child, along with his tips for introducing a phone to your children. The conversation wraps up with Kyle and Joey discussing the normalization of distracted parenting, its impact on children, and strategies for cultivating intentionality at home in the digital age.

Spotify Icon- Radio Webflow TemplateApple Podcast Icon - Radio Webflow Template

Watch the Conversation

Episode Transcript

Kyle Wester (00:00):

I think in almost every area, Joey, every area, even as we're doing podcasting is my confidence in podcasting came from practicing it, but also seeking out the wisdom of other people who are doing it the way I want to do it. Watching people succeed at it and saying, can you help me do this better? And I want to just pinpoint that because it's the shame that keeps so many parents from doing that. Shame is that barrier that says reaching out for help on that. I should know what I'm talking about. We should know how to be parents and yet it's the hardest thing you're ever going to do. Why should you know how to do it?

Joey Odom (00:49):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's your good friend Joey Odom. So glad you're here and we have an episode that might just transform your life as a parent if you're a parent or it may just transform your relationships if you are in a relationship. We have Kyle Wester. Kyle Wester is an artist at raising humans. In fact, his podcast is called The Art of Raising Humans. He's been in licensed professional counseling for over 20 years and he focuses on kids, he focuses on their development, on coaching parents, on how to raise good humans and he's got some really, really great insights that you're going to love today. We do talk and you've all have asked for it and we've heard you loud and clear. We're going to talk about Cream of wheat and I know a lot of you want to hear about that and we're not going to make you wait on it.

We kick it off talking about a little bit of cream of wheat. In fact, Kyle, we found him. He is the sole remaining fan of Cream of Wheat. So we're going to talk cream of wheat just like you asked for, but then we're going to get into, if that's not interesting enough, we are going to get into the four parenting styles, four approaches to parenting, and he goes through a quadrant. That to me, when you see it and you'll actually, this is what I did when I was listening. I actually drew it out and it's really, really interesting how we can look at our parenting styles, then how we can shift into maybe a more appropriate quadrant that you're going to hear about. And then he does something really interesting. He overlays onto that parenting quadrant. He overlays how we can handle technology in our homes and he talks about co-creating with our kids.

It empowers them. It's something that I'm going to immediately implement into my life as a parent with my kids. My kids are going to be glad I did it. So I'm really excited for this. He walks away. He's going to leave you with a 30 day challenge. Save that for the end. We're going to talk about that and I'll give you a challenge after the episode. But before we get into that, will you do me a favor real quick? Will you go to Apple Podcast or Spotify and give us a five star rating? Just pause for just a minute. It would mean a lot to us. It makes a big difference in the guests that we're able to bring to you. So please take a quick pause, give us a five star rating on Apple Podcast or Spotify. Now that you've done that, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy my great conversation with Kyle Wester

Gang in a first for The Aro Podcast. Today we welcome an artist, but this Picasso doesn't paint canvases or sculpt clay. You see, he's practiced in the art of raising humans. He's from Tulsa but loves the Packers and you are going to Lambo leap for joy as you listen to the Vince Lombardi of Peaceful Parenting. And even though it's Easter season across the world, it's western season on The Aro Podcast. So get out your bowls of cream of wheat and get ready for a belly full of parenting wisdom as we welcome our guest Kyle Wester.

Kyle Wester (03:44):

Wow, that was awesome. You basically summed up my life.

Joey Odom (03:48):

We did it. So we got to talk Cream of wheat here. This is a real thing. You are the one we've been looking all across America for the person who loves Cream of wheat. I understand you love Cream of wheat.

Kyle Wester (04:01):

I do. And Memphis, I think I mentioned you in Memphis, had the best cream of wheat I've ever had.

Joey Odom (04:09):

Wait, there's better cream of wheat in these different places. I don't understand

Kyle Wester (04:12):

This. In Memphis, we stayed at the pyramid, right, the big cipher lodge and there was a restaurant called Sunrise Memphis and they had a cream of wheat called the King, the king's Cream of wheat, right? Kings. So it was like they had bacon, they had coconuts, they had honey. I mean peanut butter.

Joey Odom (04:37):

Wait, is this all in one or do you have your choice of cream

Kyle Wester (04:40):

Of wheats all in one? They had a queen's as well, and oh my god. And then I'll tell you, my favorite cream of wheat ever though beyond that was I was in Siberia. I was on a trip to Siberia and we were helping at a youth camp. This was like 25 years ago and it was just like we had no showers, we were barely getting any sleep. And then one day for breakfast I wake up and the Russian people were helping her have this big pot of cream of wheat and I was like, yeah, I was,

Joey Odom (05:09):

Who needs a shower? You could just be showered with the goodness of cream of wheat. How wonderful is that? Gosh, that is great. I had a little inside knowledge, a little help on the cream of wheat tip there for you, but we did, I kicked it off. And you are a science guy, so you're a licensed professional counselor. You and your wife Sarah, you are specifically, you help kids and you help in raising kids, you help parents raise kids, and so you're such a specialist in that. But I'm curious, being a science guy, you also, you talk about the art of raising humans. Will you tell us a little bit about maybe even how you came to, I love that title, the Art of Raising Humans, that's your podcast title and it's a lot of the basis for your practice. So will you tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your practice and how you landed on that, the art of raising

Kyle Wester (05:56):

Humans? Yes. So Joey, we fell in love with that name simply because we feel like parenting is an art form. What I mean by that is I think a lot of experts in this field to just tell a bunch of techniques and techniques are important. They talk about a lot of theories and sometimes parents hear all that and they think it's about, its doing parenting the right way. It's about finding what is the exact right way and they're always afraid of messing up or doing the wrong thing and there's a lot of shame around it. Whereas I think what's beautiful about art, it's about creativity. And when you really have confidence in your parenting, yes, you have some theories in there, you understand better child development. I mean there are things that need to be taught and need to be coached and we do that with parents, but the goal isn't for anybody to parent like me.

The goal isn't for them to go, how does Kyle and Sarah do it? I want to do it like them. I mean there's ways in which we are modeling it that I think are super healthy. And I definitely think there's ways other models that are really unhealthy. So for sure there's are those things. So it's not like just do whatever, but it is once you get some confidence and you understand how to connect with your kid and you really, Joey, you don't just have one kid, you've got multiple kids, just like we have three kids. Each kid is unique in the way in which I use those techniques. And so through the connection, through the understanding of the little human I'm raising, then I can be creative. And so a great example of that, Joey would be the way my wife shows empathy is your classic, the kid is upset and she's like, oh my gosh, she's just some of the really good ones in this area like Dr.

Markham or Dr. Bailey or these kind of she'll just talk to the kid and the kid will start to cry. And I tried that Joey, and it was like it wasn't working, it just wasn't working. I felt like I was trying to be her or be one of these other women experts and instead I was like, you know what, that doesn't feel like congruent. So then I found other guys who would be like, Hey, you look really mad right now. Why don't you grab a pillow and let's have a pillow fight. So we just doing the pillow fight or you look really anxious, I'm going to pick you up and shake you upside down to get all that anxiousness out of you. And that's something my wife would never do and I found the creativity of just saying who am I as a dad? Who is Sarah as a mom? How do we show empathy in this moment? And it's going to look different, but it's going to have the same outcome, meaning in this moment we are going to connect with the kid, help them regulate that big feeling and then be able to learn from this moment.

Joey Odom (08:36):

I love that. And you said something almost in passing that I think is maybe worth kind of scratching on for a second, which you talk about parents getting some confidence and I think that a lot of parents, our kids look at us, we should know everything, but you know this, I know this, we're first time parents, all of us, every single parent I've ever met is a first time parent. And so will you talk about what that looks like? Maybe how if parents are feeling unsure about am I doing this technique, how do you gain that confidence and then maybe how do you walk in that confidence? You talked a little bit about their walking in the confidence, but how do you gain that confidence and move from unsure into confident parent?

Kyle Wester (09:17):

I mean to me, I think the way we did it, Joe was with other people, meaning we reached out to other, we had no model when we were saying, hey, we're going to get rid of any fear-based or shame-based techniques. Why? Because we don't like it when anybody does that to us. I don't want a boss who's scaring me to do what they want me to do. I don't want a boss that's shaming me to somehow be. So we knew we didn't want that model, but somehow we were like, who's doing this? So there was a lot of uncertainty and fear of like, are we screwing up our kids? Are we going to raise up these entitled little spoiled creatures that just think the world revolves around? And we knew we didn't want that either. So that's where we started obviously through reading, I mean learning new techniques, but then making relationships with some really great experts in this field. And so there was so many times, Joey, where Sarah and I, there's something happened with one of the kids, especially maybe my oldest Abby, who was a huge fireball of energy and emotion and it'd be like, I think we should do this. And she would say, I think we should do this. You know what? I don't know which way we should go. Let's contact this person that we know has been doing it the way we want. And then every time Joey, unfortunately my wife was correct, so he was always like

Joey Odom (10:37):

Hundred percent of the time, sure,

Kyle Wester (10:38):

The expert would say, oh Kyle, I hear what you're saying. But the way Sarah was wanting to do it was more healthy. I think in almost every area, Joey, every area, even as we're doing podcasting is my confidence in podcasting came from practicing it but also seeking out the wisdom of other people who are doing it the way I want to do it. Watching people succeed at it and saying, can you help me do this better? I want to just pinpoint that because it's the shame that keeps so many parents from doing that. Shame is that barrier that says reaching out for help on that. I should know what I'm talking about. We should know how to be parents and yet it's the hardest thing you're ever going to do. Why should you know how to do it? Reach out, get help for it

Joey Odom (11:28):

And maybe that's a good, I'd never associated that word should with shame. But there's a real connection there, isn't it? Just when you start saying the should, and I've heard people say before, I love don't should your pants, that's just stay away from the shooting

Kyle Wester (11:43):


Joey Odom (11:43):

That ties to shame

Kyle Wester (11:45):

When a famous psychologist would always say, stop shooting on yourself.

Joey Odom (11:48):

Yeah, I love it. And it's totally true because it does tie back the shame, which then ties to identity. I feel shameful so I am a bad parent versus when you look at voices like Dr. Becky today saying, talking about I am good inside. And so you kind of separate the action from the person and then when you get that identity and it makes perfect sense. So real quick, and I know I'm rabbit trailing here, but even on shame, what are a couple things for parents if you do feel shame, one, I know it's recognizing even if it's just like a little micro shame, what are a couple maybe quick little thoughts on how should parents, when they recognize shame, confront that and begin to kind of diffuse that?

Kyle Wester (12:32):

Okay, great. Well first of all I'd say I want to expose it, right? So I love it. Can I give you a quick way? So shame for me, I just want to share my own personal of the problem with shame for me was Joey and I think a lot of parents, I didn't want to keep yelling at my kids and I found that I kept blowing up at them and then I'd go back and beat myself up. So the shame would be like, God, especially in my field, you're supposed to know what to do, Kyle, you're a freaking licensed professional counselor. You tell parents somehow I thought perfection. So I think part of it was I needed to get rid of that goal. Being a perfect parent was not the goal. So that helps get the shame out. Then the next thing I got to start telling myself, and this isn't to excuse at all the mistakes, but you're doing the best you can, Kyle, you're doing the best you can.

So there was that component, but then there's a third component that a lot of parents don't think about and this is a real vulnerable thing to do, Joey, is what happens with shame is not only does the shame cause me to pull in more into myself and actually make it more likely, I'm going to act the way I don't want to act. But then I also, the shame goes on my kid too because when my kid sees me yelling in that way, the kid will say, I'm bad. I must have done something wrong. Even speaking for Dr. Becky, I saw a Ted talk she did last year where she quoted a psychologist who he has his favorite quote where the kid says, I'd rather be a sinner ruled living in a world ruled by God than living in a world ruled by the devil. And that was a really powerful quote. What a kid will do is the kid is actually feel safer to believe they're the bad one and you're the good one. I know. Isn't that powerful?

Joey Odom (14:17):

That hits you while they feel safer believing they're the bad one? Yes.

Kyle Wester (14:23):

Yeah, because if you are, that's a scary world. It's better if I am. So a technique I love to do that I think really changes the dynamic of shame. Joey is after I've blown up with one of my kids, I will follow up with them and I encourage every parent, if you're not following up, in a way the follow-up isn't a lecture. The follow-up is for you to come back and for you to come closer together. So for those who can't see me, I'm putting my hands together instead of us pushing each other further apart. So the conflict is a moment of growth and intimacy to dispel the shame and become closer together. That's what I want the conflict to be. So I'll come back Joey, and when they were really little, I would say to them they were like seven, five, whatever, three. I'd say, Hey, when I got mad was my anger about you or about me?

And a hundred percent of the time joy, they would say about them and I would say, Hey, let me tell you something. My anger is never about you. My anger is always telling you about me. And then they would look confused and I'd say, can I tell you what it says about me? And they'd say, what dad? It tells you I was afraid. And they'll say, you were afraid of what? I was afraid that I was losing control of the situation or I was afraid that I was powerless to change what you were doing. Or I was afraid that my voice no longer mattered to you. And so I felt like I had to get bigger, stronger, and louder to then control that moment. And then the kid would look at me and say to me, but dad, you don't need to be afraid. Actually you don't need to be scary when you get big like that, it actually makes it harder for me to hear you. It makes it harder for me to do what you're asking. So worried about you getting more mad. So just doing that conversation on a consistent basis. It was really one of my proudest moments was when I said to my youngest, who's now seven, I say, Ellie, when I got Madam Indigo, is that about me or about you? She goes, totally about you dad. I was like,

Joey Odom (16:16):

Yes. That's so great. Well, I mean I think parents should take comfort in everything you just said. One, you're one of the top guys in doing this and you blew up your kids. So take a little comfort there. You're in good company. Yes, totally. But then if you've done that, you're halfway there. You're halfway there. The first part is the mess up and then the second part is the cleanup, right? So you're halfway there to really getting closer. So what a

Kyle Wester (16:45):

It's modeling redemption, Joey. It's modeling redemption. A friend of mine once said to me, I came back from a anniversary trip with my wife and Abby, my big fireball was maybe four, and she kept waking up every night on this anniversary trip and I was so tired and I was so mad at, so I came back from that trip, how was the trip? And I said, it sucked, man. He's like, why? I just blew up on my daughter several times. And he said, okay, but did you go back and tell you're sorry and ask her, oh yeah, I did all that. He's like, oh, well okay, I figured you would, but isn't that good? What's good about that? He's like, you just showed a redemption. You modeled to her what it means to mess up and redeem somebody like Kyle. If you did it perfect all the time, how would she ever know what that looks like? I mean, think the pressure you put on her. So actually the fact that you messed up and then came back and redeemed it, oh my goodness. And he teared up. He had tears in his eyes and he's like, how else could she have seen that? What a cool weekend you had with your daughter.

Joey Odom (17:44):

What a neat message for, and again, you have teenagers. Your oldest is a teenager? Yes. Is your second teenager?

Kyle Wester (17:51):

Yeah, 14. And then my second's 11 about to turn 12. Okay,

Joey Odom (17:55):

So we have teenagers as well. And what a neat message for people who are maybe young in their parenting journey or really frankly at any stage in their parenting journey. I'm thinking about this, how I can apply this now even with a 15-year-old and 13-year-old, but for young man, what a headstart we can get just by this alone, just by that shame message. And it goes into, I think it goes into these four parenting styles you and Sarah talk about in your podcast, which again, I'll side note, your podcast is terrific. I mean it's meat and potatoes, just great stuff for parents to listen to 30 minute chunks. So I'd encourage everybody to listen to the art of raising humans. But will you talk maybe touch a little bit on the first three parenting styles, but then I'd love to stay in that upper right quadrant.

Kyle Wester (18:38):

So if there's any listeners, this is a fun thing I always do when I'm coaching parents, Joey, I'd ask them just to draw a big plus sign on a paper as they're listening. So anything draw a big plus sign and basically that middle line that you have in the plus sign. So the vertical line is going to measure expectations. So the top of that line is high expectations. The bottom of that line is low expectations, and then that horizontal line is measuring the support you're giving your kid. So emotional, financial, just time, energy and so on. The far right would be high support, far left, low support. So what I love about this quadrant approach is helping parents Joey expand their understanding that there's not just two ways to parent. Because too often parents are in one category or the other, and I don't know about you, but I think my parents feel like that was the only two, either you were dominating or the kid was, and it's this really dichotomous approach to parenting that isn't helpful.

So I want parents to be creative like the art of think and imagine of a different way. It isn't just these two. So when you're giving low support, you have low expectations. That's just neglectful parenting. Now most of your listeners probably are never there, but we do get there times when we're stressed or we're overwhelmed, we're tired, we're sick, we're just thinking about ourselves, we're not really supporting them at all or whatever the kid wants to do. I'm not feeling well, I don't care. Whatever that might be in those moments. Then the top left is where you have high expectations but low support. That's the authoritarian model. So there the parent has all the power and they're the ones kind of dictating where we're going and what we're doing. And a good example of that would be the captain from the Sound of Music. I watched that again this past couple years.

The captain one, he's a great dad, but he's a dad who his kids don't open up to him. His kids don't tell him things because they know if they mess up, dad isn't going to support him. He's just going to get mad. Then you've got the bottom, which is where other parents think they think either you're authoritarian or you move down to the high support low expectations. That's the permissive parent. And I'll tell you Joey, this causes a lot of problems in marriage is you typically have one who's in the authoritarian, the other one who's in the permissive. And what happens over time is the authoritarian parent is judging the permissive one as being too soft. And the permissive one is judging the authoritarian is too hard. And the problem with these approaches, Joey, is they're all based in power. So it's all about me either using power to control you or the kid using power to control the parent.

And I want to get out of that, not because there's not power there is, but the difference in this approach that we do is the power is always meant to help you. It's always meant to be for you. And I want your listeners to hear this, this lots have never thought about this. It's the same in marriage. You can have a neglectful marriage, you can have an authoritarian approach in your marriage, you can have a permissive approach. And what does that look like? Well, it looks like my wife doesn't do what I want. So I get mad at her and I yell at her, I give her the culture. Then finally she relents and does it. That's not healthy. I don't think anybody think or the other side is the wife or the husband who's secretly resenting their spouse for not doing the things they've asked and they're just like, oh, I guess this is just the way it has to be.

It doesn't because no healthy relationship is based on power dynamics. The power is always meant to be used to help support, guide teach. That's what the power is for. So I don't want my kids to ever think I'm opposed to them or against them. I am always for them. So my big strong muscles, my intensity, it may look like it's against you and at times I may believe I need to turn it against you, but that is a lie. I do not. It is always meant to help you. So those are the first three. So the top one is where we want to help clients go. People we're coaching and that's where I'm giving high expectations but high support. So Joey, I'm telling any listener I have high expectations. One of the expectations I have is every place my kids go, I think that place will be better there.

They will be an asset in every situation. They will not be a deficit. They're going to come in and bring all the best of them to the, and if that's not happening, I just need to support them to help that happen. So that's how high my expectations go. But in that approach, and you could call it a lot of different things, you could call it peaceful parenting, which I've been trained in that you could call it loving guidance, which is another expert, something we're kind of playing with. So I kind of like the idea of inside out parenting, which is really like then instead of focusing on the outward in, I'm focusing on helping the kid from the inward out. But whatever you call it, some people call it authoritative, it doesn't really matter. But the point is we're focusing on what is the expectation and how am I supporting the kid to get there?

So in marriage, Joey, that's a simple example. If I yell at my wife, my wife could yell back at me and say, don't yell at me. Or my wife could say, oh, Kyle's just mad I have to take it. Or she could say, Hey, you look like you're mad. You don't need to yell at me to express that. Okay, so I'd really like to have a healthy conversation where we keep our voices low and if we can't do that, let's just take a break till we can. And you see how in a marriage, my wife doing that, that's supporting me. She, she's calling me to be a better human being because she knows Joey. I don't want to yell at her, I actually want to talk to her. But in that moment, I'm letting my emotions get the best of me. So with a kid, it's the same thing is I basically think when there's a conflict, the conflict is only happening Joey, because of the expectations I have. So there is no conflict with my kid if I don't expect them to do something different. So that's a beautiful realization because then that means I have the power to change the conflict. And so now what I can do is I can go, how am I supporting the kid to do the thing I'm asking them to do? Have I equipped them? Do they have the confidence?

Are they too confused or discouraged to do the thing? So when I'm in that top quadrant, it's all about me discipling my kid coming alongside my kid and us co-creating that moment together. It's not me demanding, it's me inviting.

Joey Odom (25:07):

You think if the lesson in resilience that happens with the kid here, they do feel empowered. Then if you're supporting them and you're coming alongside them, it's not as if we want to naturally any of us, we want to rescue our kids from difficulty. We want to rescue our kids from, so even if this is just a third party conflict versus us, like us being the ones that initiated a conflict, just a third party thing, something happening at school for them to believe, Hey, you have valid feelings here, I going to come alongside you. I think that I'm going to support you towards this. And they feel like they can do it themselves rather than us rescuing it. What a powerful thing for them to know they can do it, right?

Kyle Wester (25:45):

But that's discipleship. Joey, you just described discipleship, I mean discipleship. And I don't know if your listeners have ever thought of this, but that's the root word of discipline. So the root word of discipline is disciple. So in our culture, all too often that word is co-opted and it's really what they're saying is punishment. And so when they say discipline, they mean punish. That's not discipline. Discipline is discipleship. And if your listeners can take a moment and think how different if I say Abby needs to be discipled or we need to discipline Abby, it just has a different feel to it.

And really discipleship can only be done with a person giving the invitation and then taking your hand and saying, I want to do it with you. And so the relationship has to be good in order to invite them. So that's why lots of parents lean towards punishment. One, it's all they know, but two, because if they did try to do the invitation, the relationship has been so broken that the kid doesn't trust it, the kid believes that they need to be punished to make them do good. And that isn't how it works. Actually them doing it with you and trusting that you're for them, that is going to make them do better.

Joey Odom (27:02):

Wow, that's a lot to process there. That's a pretty amazing concept. And by the way, punishment is a heck of a lot easier too. I mean, just as a parent it's very easy to punish versus taking a step back, how can I disciple here versus discipline?

Aro Member (27:25):

I've been moving in the direction of presence and being present and seeing the good that's all around me because it's there, but we forget. And I think our era with our phones right now really dovetails into where I'm at personally, and it's very evident to me that it's a distraction that I'm spending more time on this device than in real time with people that I care for and that I don't want to look back and be like, shoot. So it has been evident for a while and Aro has been amazing because I am one of those people that I need to not have it close because if it's there, these whole moderation attempts at it, these things that are part of the Apple phone where limit your time, none of it really was working for me. I just needed it to be not somewhere where I could pick it up. So that's been so helpful.

Joey Odom (28:16):

We love hearing stories from the Aro community. The one you just heard actually comes from our Voices of Aro episodes where I sit down with Aro members and they share about their stories and their lives with Aro. Make sure to check out the Voices of Aro episodes and if you're a member who would like to share your own story with Aro, please email us at stories@goaro.com.

Kyle Wester (28:40):

Joe, I want to say one thing that just delves into that. You love sports, right? You like sports? Yeah,

Joey Odom (28:46):

I love sports.

Kyle Wester (28:47):

Okay, so think about a really disciplined sports team. It's not a team that we think the coach is punishing them all the time. It's a team that knows who they are, they know the game they want to play and it doesn't matter what the ref is doing or what the other team is doing, they show up and they do what they intended to do. So that to me, going back to the high expectations, that's what I want for my kid is discipline is a gift you give to the kid by helping them be self-disciplined, not externally controlled, but instead them being internally controlled to any situation no matter what the circumstances, they have the tools and know how to be the human. They want to be in that moment just like the team. So that's the beauty of the discipleship model where you're coming alongside. Every moment is a moment to do it with you. I'm not against you. And then what's cool Joey, then they see the whole world as opportunities to say, oh, I need some help. I have no problem. There's no shame here. I'll reach out and say, could I get help from you? Or I need help from you, right? Because

Joey Odom (29:51):


Kyle Wester (29:52):

Go ahead.

Joey Odom (29:52):

Well, which is funny, full circle. You said that's how you became a good confident parent was by going and getting help and you establish that practice very, very early and so they can establish that practice now and then it's going to be a lot easier when they are first time parents someday because they will be and they can go ask for help when they need it.

Kyle Wester (30:09):

Yes. Because the goal isn't for them to know everything and for me to know everything, it's to know we, here's what we know, we love each other and we're for each other and I want help you and that's enough. And once we know that, then I can reach out my hand. You can take my hand and we can say, let's go. And then what's really cool, Joey, is in those moments where I'm needing to do some discipleship, maybe my kid has done something, we need to have a conversation. If I reach my hand out and the kid doesn't take it, well that's a sign to me, that's something's broken in our relationship. So I need to go back. I need to connect better. I need to spend more time, be more intentional with them because somehow they don't believe I'm there to help them.

Joey Odom (30:43):

Yeah. Will you take this model and will you overlay on this? And you have a 14-year-old, so you're probably in the throes of this, will you overlay when it comes to, and this is just the biggest battleground in families today as we all know, is phones, when your kids are getting a phone, technology is the biggest battleground. It's overtaken drug, sex and alcohol is the biggest battleground in families. Will you overlay smartphones in technology onto this quadrant?

Kyle Wester (31:08):

Totally. Yes. Yes. So you think the authoritarian model would be like, Hey, you're getting a phone, let's get a contract written out and if you mess up this phone, then you're going to get it taken away and it'll be this long. So there's this very much like it's parent's job to control the kid to be healthy with the phone. And I'm using this particular, the goal here, even for that parent is they're thinking they want the kid to have a healthy relationship with the phone, but it's still the parent's job to control the kid to do that.

Joey Odom (31:39):

I don't mean to cut you off. Do you think that comes from lack of confidence and fear? The authoritarian is what you do, that's how you act when you're fearful or you're lack

Kyle Wester (31:47):

Percent. Yeah, no, it's for those who are watching video, you get closed hands. So when I'm scared and I move back to the most primal thing, which is power and control. So if my personality tends towards that, when I get afraid, I get controlling. Great. Now other people move to the permissive and it still blows my mind, Joey, how many parents just hand their kid a phone and they're like, see you have fun with night. And they're constantly, there's so many times where I've seen kids at my office in Tulsa and I try to help parents with this where the kid is 8, 9, 10, and the parent will come up to talk to me and the kid will say, mom, I need your phone. I need your phone. And the mom will just give the phone and I'll say to them, Hey, once we get to my office, how come you gave the kid the phone?

Well, he can't handle it down there without it. Oh, I think he can actually, there's a lot of fun things down in my office that he can do. I think you need to trust. I think you need to be able to raise that. So how about we try it next time? And I'm not just going to leave the kid there. I'll guide the kid, I'll say, Hey, what would you like to do while mom and I are up there talking and I'm going to give the kid some things to do. And you find almost a hundred percent of the time, Joey, the kid can do it. The kid actually is just using the phone because that's the tool we think we have to give the kid because their expectations are so low the kid can't handle. I remember a time when the kids were little and we were still figuring this out where we were at a restaurant and my youngest, I looked over, my youngest was on the phone.

Abby at the time she was on the phone, she was maybe five and Brendan was two and she was on the phone doing some kind of little game. And I just said to my wife, how come she's on the phone? And she said, well, because I'm trying to take care of the baby. Those two are that you're talking to your brother and they're just like, okay, listen, just ask me. I'll stop talking to my brother. I don't want them using the phone as an escape because this is not going to happen. I'll guide Abby to go talk to her cousin. She did it. And so the whole situation was great and we just made, as a couple made a commitment to each other that we are not going to use devices to somehow escape these difficult moments. We instead need to be more present and more connected.

So flash forward that to a 14-year-old. So what we wanted to do, we had no idea. Joey. Once again, we've talked to experts, we've read books, but we'd never done it ourselves. So it was all new. So the goal wasn't to be perfect. My daughter wanted a phone, so I wanted to figure out a way to co-create this. So there is a great book that I really enjoy called screen Wise. And on screen wise she talks about not being laissez-faire or not being overly controlling, but teaching them how to be healthy digital citizens. How are they going to use this tool? It's your job while you're with them to teach them how to have a healthy relationship with the device. And all this device is, this phone is just a tool. It's just like teaching 'em how to use a hammer or a drill or anything else.

So what we did, Joey, that so far has worked fantastic so far, has worked fantastic. I like how you said this so far. That's good. Yes, so far. So I'm not saying we got it figured out, solved, but here's what I'm saying. It sticks to the high expectations, high support inside out parenting idea is said to my daughter Abby, Hey, you want a phone? Okay, I love that. I think having a phone is important and I want to help guide you with that. I want you to write down for me, take a moment. And she took a few weeks on this. What are all the positives that could come from having a phone in your life? What's all the ways this tool could help you and benefit your life? Second, what are some ways it could hurt you? I want you to take a moment and think, how could it be hurtful in your life?

What damage could it do to your relationships and to your mind and all these kind of things. What ways have you seen us as mom and dad handle it in a negative way? And then the last thing is, and this is an important part, what boundaries are you going to place on your relationship with your phone? What boundaries are you going to? So she took a few weeks, she put that together, she came down and it was beautiful. I mean she talked about all the positives. I couldn't argue all the positives are true. There's all these ways she couldn't, all the negatives, she hit 'em on the head. Even ones where at times it's been negative in our lives. She pointed and then she said, here's what she said, that blew me away, and this is why I knew I was ready to give her a phone.

She said, dad, I don't want any social media on my phone. Wow. I was like, okay, I love that. Then she said, dad, I want it downstairs every night. Plugged in downstairs, not in my room. Great. I want you guys to have the freedom to give me feedback when you think I've been on it too much. Okay. But I said, do you want us to put a time limit on it? And she said, not at first. No. I'd like to see if I can manage it myself, but if I do have a problem, then we can try that if we need to do that. And then I added this, I said, here's three things I want to add. I love everything you said, AB one, it's I always want you to be free. I never want you to be a slave to it. So I think my job as a parent is to guide you towards freedom.

And if I see it enslaving you, we may need to say, let's take a break for a bit. Right? She goes, okay. Second thing is I never want to see it hindering your relationships. So what I mean by that is if your younger brother and sister are seeing you on it and they feel like you're not spending as much time with them, or are you open to them saying that and articulating, and here's how I'll know you're open to it, is you're not going, oh my gosh, I'm not get off my back. Instead, you're willing to receive it with open hands. Not saying their version is factual, but I'm just saying that's their perspective and I want you to be open to hearing it. And she said, I am last one is I want this tool to always be helpful to you and not hurtful to you.

If it ever begins to get out of balance to where it's hurting you more than it's helping you, I want you to trust me that I will shine a light on that and we will need to once again maybe take a break for a bit. And she was like, that's cool dad. I want to do that. So that's when I was like, yes, let's get on this journey. Let's check in. There was some check-ins, let's check in once a week, see how we're doing. So for the first year she had it, we checked in weekly. How do you feel like it's going? Do you feel like it's helping you more than it's hurting you? Do you feel like you're keeping to the boundaries you said? And she was able to feel this success and feel that it's not controlling her. It was actually fun, Joey, for her to come back and be like, dad, last week I was on it less than the week before and she was like, I'm proud of it. It was telling her, yeah, she was keeping track of those minutes. Not in a shaming way, but in a way that she was using it to develop that muscle of self-control.

Joey Odom (38:13):

What I love, there are a couple things that really jump out to me there, Kyle, you just described such a co-creation between you and your daughter. You co-created that. You allowed her one thing you could, if you look through the quadrant, the permissive parent would say, write out your rules and whatever you say goes,

Kyle Wester (38:31):

Yeah, exactly. That's good.

Joey Odom (38:32):

The authoritarian dictates it versus Hey, give me your thoughts and then it becomes hers and then you add it in a couple more. So you co-created that moment with her. And I've heard Andy Stanley say this, he talks about it in a marriage, particularly when your hopes become expectations, then the other person can only disappoint you. There's no way, there's no upside beyond when it becomes an expectation. And so by her creating that, it added joy into that relationship with her phone and into that journey as opposed to if you would've just laid down a list of laws and she would've achieved all of them, it would've been like, well, yeah, you're supposed to do that. Those were my expectations, right? Yeah.

Kyle Wester (39:09):

And then what I love about it too, if you see that quadrant, I started inviting her into doing that quadrant for herself. She was creating her own expectations on what she wanted in regards to her relationship to technology. And then she was asking for ways to support her to then be successful with it. So inevitably that's what I want to guide the kid to. So if I'm ever helping a teenager, I do that same model with them and I'll say, you seem really mad at mom and dad. I think you're mad because you have expectations on how you, oh, I do and I don't want them to do this. Okay, I agree with you, but how are you supporting them to be that kind of parent with you? So I'm inviting the teenager in that so they realize they have power not to oppose the parents or just give in to them, but to actually support the parent to be the parent they would like them to be.

Joey Odom (39:58):

Man, that really sounds a lot like art to me. I mean it sounds like there's the little bit of the scientific framework. When you have that down, then you can get creative and you can be artful about it. This ties into, I want to close out with talking about connecting with our kids. And I think this really ties in a bunch how to connect your kids. A lot of us as parents, we have different styles in doing that sometimes when we miss the mark, but I want to specifically talk on the topic of tech. I want to talk about the distracted parent. So kind of what we're normalizing as parents, knowing that our kids maybe let's just set a baseline. Let's just go ahead and assume that our kids want to connect with us. So will you describe a little bit of this? You talk about four, the multitasking parent, the distracted parent. I only do what I want to do, parent and the intentional parent, which is the good one. Will you talk a little bit about the distracted parent and how we segue over into becoming the intentional parent? By the way, side note, you have a great Facebook video on this, a post that really illustrates it beautifully. So I encourage people to go check that out. But that's a long enough question to say what you walk us, us through it come to tech, that distracted parent and then shifting into the intentional parent.

Kyle Wester (41:05):

Well, Joe, I want to say it a little bit more firm that I don't just assume they do. I know they do. I know kids want to connect with their parents. I've talked to thousands of kids for the past 20 years as I've been working with kids, and I am so surprised how even in the really conflictual moments that when you really get to the heart of the kid, even the kids are saying, I don't want to connect with my parent. Initially you find it's because they don't believe their parent actually wants to connect with them. And many times they'll point to all these times where they prioritized the device over them. Like mom and dad will come home and immediately just veg out with the phone or get on even a video game and they're not intentionally making time for them. So the kid shame comes in there.

I think as all of us would, I mean think about once again, I just related to marriage, Joey. If my wife came home every day and she's on her phone and disconnected from me, I've sat there. There was that time in our marriage where my wife was like, she'd be on the phone and I would sit there and watch her and be like, why does she think, why didn't she talk to me? Why didn't she reach out and say, Kyle, how was your day? And so at first I'd let, and they'd be like, Kyle, just chill out. Just go talk. So I'd say, honey, hey, I feel like you've been on the phone a lot lately. What are you doing? She's look at me and say I'm ordering groceries.

What was funny how I was projecting onto her, because really I would've been just reading sports stories. Exactly. And she's like, I'm buying clothes for the kids, Kyle, getting something done. Yeah, exactly. But in my mind I was thinking, no, she's just avoiding me. She's just like, so you'll see this dance happen where the parent has for lots of years, they have disengaged from the family because of shame. They've come home and it's not a place they feel successful. It's not a place they get filled up. So they come home from work and they're just biting their time till they go to bed. And so they're constantly doing other things. So the kid sees that and the kid thinks it's about them. The kid thinks that Dad doesn't want to spend time with me. That dad, every time we do, when dad does get off the phone, he's just mad at me.

And it's really like the kid begins to go, maybe this is better for us that we both just disconnect. And you've seen that Joey, I'm sure kids from an early age where right when they get in the car, dad's doing his own thing, the kids put on their headphones and even in the car, one of the best times to connect with them. It's all about distraction. And really it's a misunderstanding, going back to the science, it's misunderstanding of the science that the science does not back that up. That distraction does not energize you. It does not fill you. And so if I could, joy, I'd love to tell you that kind of moment that I shared with you a few weeks ago, the moment where this really changed me, where I was that distracted parent where I came home and I had two little kids and I was spent, Joey, I was tired and I had bought into this idea is that when I was a single guy that playing video games or that was going to fill me up, it was going to give me the energy.

I just need some time, just need some time to decompress. And so I came home and I felt like I was really intentional. I came home and I just played FIFA because FIFA was a game that it was 15 minute games and I felt less shame about that. But I would come home and to Sarah, Hey Sarah, I just need to play a couple games on fifa. I'll be ready. So she'd be like, okay, she's a sweet wife. She's like, if you need to do that, you do it. And I really, I thought it was going to energize me. I thought it was going to make me be more connected to my kids because when I turned it off, I would be more ready to love on them. But that's not what happened is that I just was more tired. I was more annoyed after I got off because I wanted to keep playing the game.

And it's the same thing our teenagers feel and our kids feel when they get off. And so instead, I decided to believe in the science. I decided to say, I'm just going to trust this. And here's what the science says, Joey is if you want energy, you get it through connection. If you want to feel more peace in your life, you get it through connection. And Dr. Becky Bailey with conscious Discipline, she talks about four ways to specifically get joy juice in your relationships. And she says, neurologically, we're wired to feel more joy with people when we include touch, eye contact being present and being playful. And so I just decided to say, Hey, I'm going to put away the video game. I'm not going to come home and be distracted. I'm not going to buy into this lie that somehow I need to decompress by disengaging the very people who love me the most, that the very people I'm doing all this work for.

So I decided to come home and I'm just going to do stuff that includes those four things. So it was hard. I had to sit in my car and get my mental state and be like, you got this. Come on Kyle, take a deep breath. Come on, bring the energy, bro. I walked in, I'm like, Hey, kids. And I immediately started rough housing playing. I mean Joey, sometimes it even looked like me. I was so tired. I'd just be laying on the ground and letting them crawl over me and just letting them crawl. But my wife was much happier because my wife now wasn't trying to do dinner, trying to take care of the kids. She was like, oh, cool, this is great. Help my marriage. But I found after 30 days of doing this, just did it for 30 days. I actually didn't even think about the video game system anymore.

Now I was actually looking forward to coming home and engaging them. And so this went on for a year, Joey. I'm like, if it worked for 30 days for a year, then I sold the video game system. I got rid of it. And that was roughly 12 years ago. And we had never had a video game system in the house since then. Amazing until we got a Nintendo Switch. But even with the Nintendo Switch, Joey, we got the Nintendo Switch, had a family time together and just like I did with Abby and the phone, co-created what the Nintendo Switch was going to be in our family. But up until then it was, I did not buy in to needing a device or needing the distraction because for every distracted parent out there, the message the kid is receiving is you value it more than you value them.

And then what it's modeling to them is there will be a point where they will return the favor, they will value their device over you as well. And then what that leads into Joey, is a bunch of power struggles of parents then taking the device from the kid. And I tell parents, all you're doing is buying into that whole belief system that now you're saying to the kid, I believe you think the device is more important to you than us. And the kid will start going, yeah, it is more important. And it's not that kid would rather be enjoying you and be enjoyed by you than play any device.

Joey Odom (48:04):

Gosh, that's so true. I'll tell you, I haven't shared this with you. You and I had a pre-call a few weeks ago, and it was on a Friday. My wife and I had a date that night and you said the touch, eye contact being present and being playful. So we had a date night that night, and candidly, we were a little bit not in a super happy place with each other in that particular week. I've been traveling a little bit, but I said, I'm going to go into this with those four things as we sit across the table at dinner, touch, eye contact, being present, being playful. It was probably Kyle, the most deep conversation we've had in years was, I mean, it was a real, actually kind of a breakthrough moment. It was one of the best date nights of our entire lives. And I do think it comes back to that intentionality between when she's talking, putting my hand on her arm, eye contact, being present, making jokes, being playful, kind of felt like we were dating again. And so there's a little bit of magic to what you just said, and I hope people really internalize that.

Kyle Wester (49:04):

I hope people do it Joey? 100%. When I do it in my marriage, it works every time. My wife does not get mad when I come from work and rub her back and look her in the eye and say, I missed you today. I missed you. She's never disliked that. She's always liked it, right? And here's what I found was I noticed, here's the opposite side of that. When I was mad at her, I noticed how hard those four

Joey Odom (49:29):

Were. Interesting,

Kyle Wester (49:32):

Interesting. I was more apt to be on my phone and distracted. I was more apt to not make eye contact with her. I was less apt to be playful with her, and I didn't want to touch her. So I want people to notice that what's at the core of that anger is shame. It is shame. And that's why you're disconnecting and that's why. So when the kid is also disconnecting, it's the shame. And what is the shame that I'm not good enough for you? You'd rather spend time with somebody else. You seem to enjoy doing that other thing than you do. Enjoy being with me, Joey. We feel that as adults in our marriage. So why wouldn't our kids feel that way?

Joey Odom (50:14):

Yeah. Well, I think we fellows have a tendency sometimes to overcomplicate things, overcomplicate our marriages, overcomplicate our us being dads. And so this is for everybody, but just for maybe guys out there, what if we just started there tonight in any interaction with your kids, with your spouse? What if we just began with this, sit in the car, pump yourself up like Kyle did, and begin with touch, eye contact, being present, being playful, and let's just see, let's just have a little experiment here. I think it'll do some pretty dramatic things. Yeah,

Kyle Wester (50:46):

Do it for 30 days. And I want you to notice how your inside changes, meaning you feel like your perspective of these little kids and your wife's shift, you start to see them in a more positive way. And part of that pumping up Joey is just me sitting in my car feeling gratitude that I get to come home and I get to be with these people. And not everything is perfect. Not everything is going to go great, but I get to be with them. And that my life would really be dramatically different if they weren't around anymore. So just taking that moment to just sit in that truth then allows me then to turn towards them and engage them and connect with them in an intentional way. And I'm telling you, Joey, I mean the kids can feel it, man. The kids can feel it when you come home and you're ready to see them. I mean, I know about you, Joey, when your kids were little, nothing felt better as a dad than when you came home. And the kids are like, dad, dad, dad. Best. It works the exact same way. When I come home and I say, kids, oh my gosh, I'm so excited to see you. That feels really good.

Joey Odom (51:50):

That is beautiful. It really, really is. People are going to get a lot more Kyle Wester in their life, Kyle and Sarah Wester. So where can they get more Kyle and Sarah Wester in their lives?

Kyle Wester (52:00):

So obviously we'd love for them to go check out the podcast, the Art of Raising Humans podcast. We have a lot of content there to help support you, but also go to our website. So the website is parenting legacy.com. And what we do, Joey, is throughout the world, we're helping parents, coach parents. And so what we're coaching them on is really to create these type of relationships that many people have never heard of this other option. They've never heard of a way to co-create. They always think either the kid's ruling or I'm ruling and I want to help families change that. So if they go to parenting legacy.com, they can reach out and we can set up an initial phone call and see if they're a good fit for that kind of style of pairing that they're wanting to do and they can get more information.

And then I love the journey with these parents because really just as a side note to that is really, I think every kid I meet is secretly hoping, not that their parents would be different or change, but that they would be willing to ask for help, that they'd be willing to say, Hey, things aren't the way I would like it to be. I'm doing the best I can, but I would like some help from somebody else who could help me do it better. And that's all we love to do is just help you be the parent that you really want to be.

Joey Odom (53:10):

That's beautiful. Kyle, thank you my friend. I appreciate you joining us. Everybody go. We'll put all this in the show notes, but thank you, man. Thank you very much for what you're doing for your message and for joining us today.

Kyle Wester (53:20):

Thank you for having me on, Joe. I appreciate it.

Joey Odom (53:26):

I got a page full of notes from Kyle there, but let's leave you with a 30 day challenge. When you show up, when you show up in your relationships, whether it's with your partner, your spouse, your kids, let's do that 30 day challenge. Let's show up with touch, with eye contact, being present, being playful. Just try it for 30 days. What if we just tried it for 30 days just to see what would happen? Now, Kyle says his 30 days turned into 12 years. You don't have to worry about the 12 years yet. I bet you that will follow. But let's start with 30 days. Show up with touch, with eye contact, being present, being playful. Everybody go out and listen to Kyle and Sarah's podcast, the Art of Raising Humans. Thank you for joining us this week on the Aro Podcast. Can't wait to see you again next week. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support and to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.