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Episode 110: Mindset Shift: When Parenting Feels Hard with Penny Williams

Brief summary of show:

In this episode, Penny shares her valuable insights on how to shift our mental habits and overcome negative thinking and victim mentality.

A parenting coach for neurodiverse families, Penny Williams is the award-winning author of four books on ADHD, including "Boy Without Instructions," host of the Beautifully Complex Podcast, co-host of the annual Neurodiversity Summits, and co-founder of The Behavior Revolution, an initiative devoted to celebrating and supporting kids with ADHD or autism through neuroscience-backed insights, hard-won strategies, compassion, and guidance. Penny empowers parents to help their neuro-atypical kids — and families — thrive.

We start by discussing Penny's work helping families and how she discovered the power of positive psychology and mindfulness in her own life. Then, we explore why our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative experiences than positive ones, and how this can affect our mood, relationships, and decision-making.

Next, we delve into the topic of victim mentality and how to recognize when we're stuck in a pattern of blaming others or feeling helpless. Penny shares her personal story of learning to make an internal shift that allowed her to take control of her life.

We also talk about how to deal with being in the 'muck' of life, that is, facing challenges and setbacks that can be overwhelming and discouraging. Penny offers practical tips on how to stay focused on our goals, maintain a growth mindset, and seek support when needed.

Whether you're a parent, a professional, or just someone who wants to cultivate a more positive and empowering mindset, this episode has something for you.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:40] Penny's work helping families

  • [4:05] Why we are more wired to pay attention to the negatives

  • [9:05] Going from victim mentality to making an internal shift

  • [13:25] How to deal with being in the 'muck' of life

  • [17:55] Not ignoring the problems in our lives or putting them up on a pedestal

  • [19:25] Tips to shift our mentality as parents

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Penny

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View Transcript for this Episode

Natalie: Raising children when life throws you curve balls. Join me as we delve into the world of parenting when things don't go as planned.

Natalie: Hi everyone. It's Natalie. I'm so glad you're joining today. It's a big week in my house as I get my college kids home for the summer after another year away at school. I can't believe we're nearing summer, but I am so grateful.

It's been a really particularly hard, long winter. I'm working a lot this summer, but. Also happy to be doing a lot of podcast planning and you know, one topic that continually comes up. A D H D and a D D I even talked about it last week as so many people struggle with some form of this in organization. I see it in my high schoolers.

I see it with my coworkers. My. Friends, there's so much we are still learning about neuro divergence. What does that mean? Neuro divergent is a non-medical term that describes people whose brains develop or work a little bit differently. This means the person has different strengths and struggles from people whose brains develop or work more.

Typically Penny Williams is a leading authority on parenting and coaching parents of neuro divergent kids. In this episode, penny and I are gonna discuss how to shift your mindset and cultivate a mindful approach to parenting. Penny shares her insights, her practical tips on how to manage the challenges of parenting kids with A D H D and autism, and how to create a supportive environment that encourages positive behavior.

She also emphasizes the importance of consistency, practice, intention, all of these things, and achieving long-lasting change. So whether you're a parent of a neurodivergent child, or simply looking to improve your parenting skills, this episode is packed with valuable information and advice.

I encourage you to hit subscribe so you don't miss an episode. And with that, let's dive in. Penny, great to talk to you today. I've enjoyed, uh, sharing resources with you and I wanna talk today your expertise, and you've got quite a story about changing your perspective on parenting. You know, sometimes life just smacks us in the face, right. With what we don't expect.

So tell me, uh, a little bit about your background and how you help people with that.

Penny: Right now I'm a parenting coach for neurodiverse families, so that means families who have kids with adhd, autism, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, things like that. And of course I got into that work because I have that kid myself. And when he was first diagnosed, it was 2008 and there. Nothing online to help me.

Mm-hmm. There was Attitude Magazine. There were a couple books by Dr. Hallowell, but there was no real guidance for parents to say, this is what you need to know, this is what you need to change, and this is how you go forward. And so I got really obsessed, right, because I really wanted to help my kid. And dove in too deep, honestly.

Um, my son's therapist one day put me on self-help restriction because mm-hmm. I was always walking in with a stack of books and telling her all these new things I've learned over the last week and, and she could see that it was taking over, which was really unhealthy. And I did that for, for quite some time, a couple of years probably.

And then I realized one day that when my husband walked in the house, he would avoid me and the kids like didn't wanna come and sit at the dinner table. And it was, cuz that's all I talk, all I talked about was D h D. Right. All the time.

And we are wired to pay more attention to the negative and to the struggle.

Mm-hmm. Because, We needed to be, mindful and aware to, to protect ourselves, right? It was a protective mechanism mm-hmm. In our biology. But the problem is it makes it so much easier to really get stuck in the muck, to really fall into that pit and really focus only on the negative. And so I finally realized one day, just like.

Was so tired of being so negative and heavy, and I had always thought that people who were happy had something I didn't have. They had something in their character, they had life circumstances. They had all these things that somehow weren't available to me, and it wasn't. It wasn't my sort of fate to be happy, which was bogus.

It was completely ridiculous. Mm-hmm. But that somehow was my belief system for a long time. And so I just honestly sat down and said, I know there's a lot of research on happiness and I'm gonna start looking at some of it. And I started Wow. Listening to podcasts. Like that's when I really started getting into listening.

I wasn't even podcasting myself yet. And. Just searching for conversations about happiness and realized that I had a very victim mentality. Things happened to me. I had no control over them. Why is this my life? Right? Why does my kid have to struggle? And I didn't have to be stuck there? And there's, um, some talk in psychology about, The victim mindset versus the survivor mindset.

Mm-hmm. And so I just started reading a lot about that and, um, listening to more and more podcasts and realizing that I really could affect my own thinking so that I could affect how I felt about the world, about what was going on with me just in general. Right. And so, I ha this epiphany listening to a podcast called the.

Oh, I'm gonna forget the name now. It's about Coaching. Coaching School podcast, I think. Hmm. And it was a conversation about the neutrality of circumstances. And the neutrality of circumstances just says that everything that happens is totally neutral. We attach thoughts and feelings and emotions to it.

So every single thing that happens is completely neutral, starting. We choose what to do with it. We have that power. Sometimes it doesn't feel like we have that control, right? Some things are really hard. We get super flooded with emotion. We get really upset, right? And it just takes us over before, yeah, we have a chance to think about it, but there's so much in our day to day that we sort of are on autopilot and we don't think about.

How we're thinking about it, right? Mm-hmm. We don't think about what's going on behind the scenes. We're just moving through the motions, and so. That one podcast episode was a light bulb for me, and I was actually on a road trip to visit my daughter who had just left for college for the weekend, and I played it three times in a row because I really just wanted that to sink in.

I wanted to really focus on that concept because it felt really pivotal for me. Right. It felt like this was the thing that I needed to hear, and then there was a lot of work. Right. It wasn't just this light switch. Mm-hmm. It was a lot of work. Mm-hmm. It's still a lot of work and I still find myself, I'm, I'm in a period of more stuckness right now, honestly, and I'm working on it.

and I have to be like really mindful and really aware of what's going on and if I feel good about it or not. And that was what kind. Helped me to see that I'm getting sort of stuck again in the more negative was I was just like, I don't feel good like this. Right? I'm not feeling great every day. And then really reflecting on that and realizing that I've started shifting back into that more negative thinking.

And so now you know I'm doing the extra work again. Right. And that's really what it is. It's constantly practicing and being. Of our thoughts and, and what we're doing with what's happening around us. Yeah.

Natalie: Well, especially as a parent. So what you're telling me from 2008, so it's 15 years mm-hmm. Since you got this diagnosis.

Yeah. It changed the course of your life. Completely. And your business completely. Mm-hmm. And you've been able to help thousands of people because of it. So talk about going from victim to actually making something out of it that's good in the world and helping people. Yeah. But if you go back those 15 years, your epiphany of, what am I gonna do with this?

how did your family react to that? How did your family, did they notice, my gosh, that you were doing this?

Penny: Yeah, the whole tone in our household changed, right? It went from being really heavy, always thinking about what was wrong, what was hard to just a lightness. And it's not that we were ignoring the problems, we were just saying, okay, they're here to stay.

I started out by just fighting. It was fighting what was going on, and I couldn't do any good in. Mentality in that space, because I was only focusing on the negative. How was I gonna help my kid have this life where he didn't only focus on the fact that there were things that he struggled with, right?

How was he going to possibly succeed and be happy if all he thought about was the challenges I had to recognize, right? That. The way that I think about it is the way he's gonna think about it, because he is just a little guy, right? He was six years old. Yeah. He was taking on whatever we put out there, right?

And so I had to make that shift for everybody and it made a huge difference. You know, they weren't all avoiding me in the house anymore. And we talked about other things at the dinner table and everybody was just lighter. And that makes a huge difference. And you know, I talk a. In, the behavior revolution about the fact that we have to feel good to do good.

If I don't feel good, I, I can't put good out there. I just can't. It's not biologically possible, actually. And so we have to focus on just. Feeling good about what's going on, and that's how we help our kids who have challenges make something of it, right. To be able to say, okay, I have adhd, I'm on the spectrum.

Um, for my son, he has dysgraphia, so handwriting is abysmal. He's 20 and it's still, you know, looks like nobody taught. Yet, and he's still in preschool. And it's just the way it is. Right? And so how do you live with that? Well, how do you make a life where, yes, I have some challenges, but I figured out how to navigate them and I figured out how to enjoy my life.