Rewarding and Punishing Kids: Finding Balance in Parenting

Andrew Huberman and clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy challenge traditional parenting paradigms and explore the deep emotional world of our youngsters. 

From discussing appropriate rewards and the underpinnings of good behavior to recognizing the innate goodness in kids, Huberman and Kennedy provide insights rooted in psychology and neuroscience. 

They cover the power of words like “I believe you,” the significance of apologies, and the challenges of managing rudeness. 

With the wisdom of Kennedy’s hands-on advice and Huberman’s theoretic frameworks, these conversations offer a wellspring of guidance for parents striving to foster resilience, self-regulation, and emotional health in their children

Rewards & Punishments; Skill Building

Dr. Becky Kennedy questioned traditional parenting strategies. She reflected on her pivotal shift away from classic rewards and punishments. Kennedy once relied on time-outs and the old “carrot-and-stick” approach, but not anymore.

Kennedy believes in the inherent goodness of children. 

She views what might appear as bad behavior as simply unrefined emotional skills. Instead of punishing or offering arbitrary rewards, she suggests teaching kids to handle their emotions with finesse.

Kennedy shared a personal story about her son who kept forgetting his towel. Rather than offering a reward, she helped him create a simple reminder. 

This small act of writing a note not only addressed the immediate issue but also promoted self-sufficiency and contribution at home.

She advocates for parenting that builds resilience and a sense of purpose. Kennedy’s stance is that true parenting forges long-term character, not short-term compliance. 

It teaches children to be self-regulating, responsible, and prepared for the challenges of adulthood.

Kids & Inherent Good

Huberman believes our identity emerges from the impact we make on the world. This includes our emotions, creativity, and actions. 

The talk took a reflective turn with Dr. Kennedy. She discussed how societal systems, especially those using rewards and punishments, might suggest children are not inherently good. 

Dr. Kennedy critiqued the reward-punishment system. It hinges on control, not trust, and fails to affirm a child’s “good identity.” 

Instead, it signals a continuous doubt. Though no one said outright that children are bad, the implied message was clear to her. She believes in nurturing a child’s good behavior with boundaries and trust, not control.

Kennedy also addressed how quick judgments based on recent actions could harm a child’s self-identity. 

She argues that the feedback adults give shapes how children see themselves. Negative reinforcement might lead to harmful self-perceptions. 

Kennedy links this concern to rising mental health issues in young people, suggesting a potential connection.

Rewards, Pride

Dr. Kennedy spoke with conviction on recognizing kids’ feelings. She stressed that understanding their emotions can build true connections and respect.

Dr. Huberman shed light on confidence as self-trust. This view reshapes parenting and self-growth. 

The intriguing part? Dr. Kennedy’s thoughts on rewards and hope. She explained that real growth comes from kids conquering challenges, not from external bribes.

Take solving a tough puzzle—the joy of success, the internal spark—that’s the real prize. It drives kids toward self-fulfillment, a trait priceless in adulthood.

Their conversation was more than parenting tips. It touched on the essence of developing resilient, happy lives. 

The most profound rewards fuel our inner fire, driving us to embrace our own triumphs.

Tool: “I Believe You”, Confidence & Safety; Other Relationships

Huberman says that “I believe you” builds trust over time. “I hear you” might be followed by a brush-off, but “I believe you” truly validates someone’s experience.

Dr. Kennedy explains that belief satisfies our core need for validity. It makes us feel ‘real’ and boosts our self-assurance. 

She remembers a college peer who, by asking questions, showed belief in her own feelings rather than discounting them.

For children, being believed is crucial. When a child is upset, parents may try to distract them. But this can teach the child to question their emotions. Instead, acknowledging their feelings with “I believe you” can be healing. 

This isn’t just for kids. “I believe you” works wonders in friendships, romances, and coworker relations. 

In difficult times, a few words can create comforting dialogue: “I’m glad you’re telling me this,” “I believe you,” “Tell me more.”

In any relationship, believing someone’s feelings opens up honest communication—even without full agreement. It creates space for respectful, fruitful discussions.

Trauma, Aloneness & Repair

Huberman tackled the definition of trauma in a psychological lens. He clarified that trauma isn’t just any tough experience. It changes how the brain and nervous system operate, leading to harmful reactions. 

He distinguished between microtraumas and macrotraumas. The key issue, according to Huberman, is confusion over who’s to blame. 

This is especially tricky for kids who might feel responsible just by observing something distressing.

Dr. Kennedy built on that. She argued trauma is about internal response, not the event itself. Drawing from Gabor Mate’s insights, she focused on the individual’s psychological aftermath. 

The loneliness felt when processing emotional events is what can make them traumatic.

Pulling from her TED talk, Dr. Kennedy underscored the importance of repair. She used Ronald Fairburn’s analogy. Children thrive with an authoritative figure in their world, instead of an erratic and mean one. 

Kennedy pointed out the normality of tough parent-child interactions. The aftermath is what counts. Picture a parent yelling and both retreating – the child is alone, and the parent is wracked with guilt. 

If they don’t reconnect, if there’s no repair, the emotional gap widens. The child might develop harmful thought patterns like self-blame, which could stick around into adulthood.

It’s not just the event that can be traumatic, but how a child is left to cope. 

When kids face stress alone, trauma is more likely. But if parents provide support and reassurance, if they repair the bond, the child can move past it.

Tool: Good Apologies

Andrew Huberman explored the art of the genuine apology. Social media rarely shows real life, where a sincere mea culpa matters.

An authentic apology takes work. Kennedy offers a mantra for those times we mess up, especially as parents: “I’m a good parent who is having a hard time.” 

This helps separate actions from identity. It opens up space to address what went wrong.

Even a simple “I’m sorry I yelled” makes a difference. It’s about acknowledging the mistake, no excuses. 

To deepen the apology, share your struggles: “I’m sorry I yelled. Like you, I’m working on controlling my emotions.” This shows empathy and a shared path to improvement.

Remember, children might think they caused the adult’s anger. We must reassure them they’re not at fault. 

A brief “I’m sorry” can be powerful. It validates the child’s feelings and confirms their understanding of the event.

The key is in the authenticity and empathy of your apology. Life is chaotic. Apologies may be short and amidst disorder. But, as Huberman and Kennedy note, the essence stays the same. Believe the other person. Reflect. Commit to do better. Simple and sincere.

Tool: Rudeness & Disrespect, Most Generous Interpretation

Dr. Andrew Huberman and Dr. Becky Kennedy tackled the topic of handling disrespect in the home, particularly when it comes from children. 

What do you do when a kid says, “I hate you,” after being told no? Huberman asked. 

Dr. Kennedy sees inaction as an overlooked parenting tool. Don’t jump to conclusions, she says. Pause and try to understand why your child is upset.

They went on to discuss that “I hate you” might not be about hate at all. It could be about hurt, love, and an inability to deal with strong feelings. 

Kids have big emotions just like us, but they’re not as good at managing them. Kennedy’s advice? Skip the punishment. Guide kids in handling their emotions instead.

When confronted with an “I hate you,” silence might really be golden, suggests Dr. Kennedy. It stops the back-and-forth and gives the child a moment to think and cool down. 

If you respond, acknowledge their feelings but not the hurtful words. Teach them to express upset in a respectful way.

Taking a short break can also set a healthy boundary, says Kennedy. But make sure your child knows you’ll come back to discuss things calmly. 

The goal is to separate feelings from behavior, helping children to learn that skill too.

Walking on Eggshells, Pilot Analogy & Emotional Outbursts, Sturdy Leadership

Huberman pointed out a tricky issue. Some parents are overly fearful of their kids; others, not enough. He noticed that kids can influence the family dynamic with just a meltdown. 

This isn’t just at home. It happens at school and other places, too. Huberman himself grew to be taller than his parents. He wonders if size impacts who feels in charge, especially when there’s already some fear in play.

Kennedy talked about the phrase ‘walking on eggshells.’ Parents are often cautious, trying not to upset their kids. But this is scary for little ones. 

They need to feel sure about their place at home. Kennedy compared kids in full-blown tantrums to wild animals. They growl. They bite. They just don’t know how to handle their big emotions yet.

Think of parents as pilots, she said. They must keep the plane steady, even if passengers – the kids – complain. 

Parental fear shouldn’t mess with keeping everyone safe.

Kennedy isn’t for being too bossy or too laid-back. She suggests ‘sturdy leadership.’ It’s a mix of kindness and firmness. These deeply emotional kids can do great things if they learn their limits.

Take picking a movie to watch as a family. Kennedy says to tackle it with care. Describe what’s happening to your child. Stay with them if they throw a fit. Make it clear you’re not afraid of their feelings. 

Kennedy stresses that children with big feelings need love, structure, reassurance. Good, strong parenting helps them express themselves properly. They learn to fit into their family and society.

Deeply Feeling Kids; Fears, Sensory Overload

The conversation kicked off with Huberman questioning if children also experience joy as vividly as they do sadness. He shared anecdotes indicating that their deep feelings aren’t solely negative. In fact, these kids can show profound love and kindness.

Dr. Kennedy, reflecting on experiences with her daughter, labeled these children as “super sensors.” They’re especially attuned to things like scents. She tied their strong emotions to fears of abandonment and an underlying vulnerability. 

These feelings can trigger dramatic outbursts as the kids grapple with their emotions.

Traditional parenting tactics often don’t work here. Dr. Kennedy suggested gentle, indirect strategies instead. 

These can affirm the child’s emotions without overwhelming their delicate senses.

On gender differences, Dr. Kennedy hasn’t observed many. Yet, she’s open to more study. She estimated that deeply feeling kids might compose up to 20% of any group. She also theorized an increase in these children could be due to our world’s sensory intensities. 

Huberman expanded the discussion to adults. He speculated that the traits seen in deeply feeling kids could persist into adulthood, sometimes leading to relationship misunderstandings. He also proposed that many compelling artists and performers may share this trait.

The takeaway? We need to rethink our approach to emotional sensitivity in children..

Tool: “I’m Noticing”, Asking Questions; Emotional Regulation

The conversation began with Huberman emphasizing the importance of kids learning from experiences. But there’s a catch. Kids often think short-term, like just to the next class. 

Do they really take life’s lessons to heart? Especially after tough times, like stressful tests or tricky social moments?

Dr. Kennedy jumped in, stressing that while kids do learn patterns, our approach matters. It’s about helping them reflect, not making them feel controlled. 

For example, use “I’m noticing” to start talking. Say something like, “I’m noticing you were worried about that test, and now you seem happy about the outcome.” This approach acknowledges their experience without pushing an adult viewpoint.

Kennedy also noted the power of genuine questions. They’re not sneaky statements. They encourage kids to think about their successes and how they can repeat them. 

Open-ended questions empower kids to own their coping strategies.

Huberman brought up Lisa Feldman Barrett, an emotion expert. She found that a rich emotional vocabulary helps people handle emotions better. When kids learn to express feelings beyond “good” or “bad,” they navigate their emotions more effectively.

Dr. Kennedy agreed and linked resilience to tolerating many emotions. It’s not about forcing kids to label feelings. 

Instead, resilience involves validating how they feel, offering support, and setting necessary boundaries. It’s crucial that children feel connected and supported, not alone or punished for their emotions.

Tool: Entitlement, Fear & Frustration

Kennedy introduced the idea of healthy entitlement. It’s the belief that it’s okay to want things and to work to get them. 

Problems occur, though, when entitlement means not being able to deal with frustration. It can stem from avoiding frustration, not just from wealth.

Kennedy shared a story about a 16-year-old’s public meltdown over flying coach. It led to parental worry about raising an entitled kid. 

Looking deeper, Kennedy found a pattern. Whenever the teen faced disappointment, a quick fix followed. This created an association of frustration with fear, and a lack of coping skills.

Huberman agreed with Kennedy’s insights. They discussed how entitlement is portrayed in films like “The Toy” and “Wall Street”. 

They concurred that real fulfillment comes from facing and overcoming challenges, not from endless resources.

Kennedy discussed the challenge wealthy parents face. They want to provide for their kids without making them entitled. 

For some families, life naturally includes frustration. Others might need to introduce challenges intentionally. This can help build resilience and better emotional responses.

Tool: Experiencing Frustration; Chores & Allowance

Dr. Andrew Huberman and Dr. Becky Kennedy delve into a vital lesson: teaching kids to manage frustration through daily life experiences. 

Huberman underlines a critical skill—learning to face life’s tough moments.

Kennedy and Huberman believe in small but powerful actions. Saying thanks for dinner or acknowledging the effort behind a task nurtures humility and gratitude. 

These qualities act like a shield, guarding against entitlement and easing frustration.

Dr. Kennedy shines a light on the power of everyday interactions. She shares her personal strategy: involving her kids in routine errands. 

The message? Life includes tasks we don’t necessarily enjoy. At an airport, she once turned a long line into a lesson in patience for her children. She showed them that rules and processes matter, even when they’re inconvenient.

A poignant anecdote comes from Kennedy’s home life. When her son balked at folding laundry, she saw a teaching moment. Why not hire someone? he asked. Kennedy explained that daily chores are part of life for everyone. They are not always enjoyable, but they are necessary.

Should kids get paid for chores? DrThere’s no universal answer—it depends on a family’s values and goals. Chores, in her eyes, are multifaceted: they keep a home running, teach responsibility, and yes, introduce kids to life’s duller moments. 

Dr. Kennedy doesn’t pay her kids for such tasks. She wants them to understand that contributing, even in small ways, is part of being in a family and in society.

Huberman and Kennedy’s conversation cuts to the heart of intentional parenting. Kids learn through the examples set by their parents. They absorb lessons not just from what is said but from what they experience.

As Kennedy succinctly puts it, life comes with frustration and boredom. Parents’ guidance in these moments is pivotal in shaping how children will face life’s inevitable challenges.

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