Eps 415: Navigating sibling dynamics with Erica Whitfield

Episode 415

My guest today is Erica Whitfield.  

I don’t have many episodes about sibling dynamics, so I’m very excited to have Erica here to dig into scapegoated siblings.  Erica explains what exactly a scapegoated sibling is and why some kiddos may feel disconnected from their parents.  We get into other roles that siblings may fall into and how we, as parents, can make sure we’re there to hold & support all of our kids.  Erica talks about how past trauma can affect our parentings and how we can recognize if we’re starting to scapegoat.  I ask Erica what to do if we notice that we’re in that dynamic, and we touch on how neurodivergence, birth order, & your own relationships and history can affect these roles.  Erica explains what to do to start repair – asking for feedback, negotiating, and finding balance, & justice, and we explore a few different ways to ask for that feedback.   

Guest Description

Erica is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and owner of Positive Development, LLC a therapy practice for gifted and neurodivergent children and adolescents. 

She specializes in providing strengths-based counseling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity.  

Erica has been featured on the podcasts, Raising Adults, The Gifted Mind,  and  Adventures in Being Gifted.  She has experience providing professional development to teachers in her local school system and has also written several parenting articles published by Jacksonville Mom, a well-known parenting online resource in her community.

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Takeaways from the show

  • What is a scapegoated sibling? 
  • Nurturing communication between siblings 
  • Resentment between siblings 
  • Other roles that kids can fall into 
  • How to communicate to your child that you can handle their challenges & journey 
  • Signs you may be scapegoating one child 
  • How to correct when you see yourself in this dynamic 
  • Neurodivergence, birth order, & your own relationships playing into these roles 
  • “Dynamics play out until they get healed” 
  • Inviting & preparing for feedback from your teens about their experience

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I love this question!  For me, joyful courage means being bold enough to show up as your authentic self and accepting the unintentional consequences along with the infinite rewards that come with doing so.



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child, sibling, parents, feel, kids, recognise, love, dynamic, scapegoated, happening, listeners, brother, realise, family, erica, sister, younger sibling, behaviour, experience, homeostasis
Casey O'Roarty, Erica Whitfield

Casey O'Roarty 00:04
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together, while parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people and when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead. It's browsable. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported. Today is an interview and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show.

Casey O'Roarty 01:25
Hi, listeners. Welcome back. I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest Her name is Erica Whitfield. Erica is a licenced mental health counsellor and owner of positive development a therapy practice for gifted and neurodivergent children and adolescents. She specialises in providing strength based counselling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity. Erica has been featured on the podcast raising adults that gifted mind and adventures and being gifted she is experienced providing professional development teachers in her local school system, and has also written several parenting articles published by Jacksonville mom, a well known parenting online resource in her community. Hi, Erica, welcome to the show.

Erica Whitfield 02:20
Hi, Casey, thank you so much for having me on.

Casey O'Roarty 02:22
Yes, I'm so glad to have you will you start off by letting my listeners know more of your story about how you got into the work that you do?

Erica Whitfield 02:31
Yes. So as a child growing up with two very loving parents, I quickly started to learn that my voice had a certain power to it, but only if it was something that my parents agreed with. And so what do I mean, when I say that, I learned that if I said the right things, then I'd get applauded, and I'd get rewarded. But if I went against the grain, or I disagreed with something, I might be judged. And so because of that I really lost my voice as a child and into adulthood is where I started to find it again. And so my love for this work in working with children and adolescents is, I don't want that to happen to any other kids. I want them to know that their voices are valid. I want them to feel like they're being heard, because parents want their kids to feel heard. And so I love being able to merge the connection, when misunderstandings are happening when kids feel judged. And when parents can open their eyes and maybe think a bit more flexibly so that their needs can be met. Happy Kids and happy parents.

Casey O'Roarty 03:37
Yes. I love that. And I'm really excited about our topic today. Because I don't spend a lot of time talking about sibling dynamics on the show. In fact, I don't know if I've really had a show that's been dedicated to siblings, which is crazy to think about right now. Because I do have a lot of clients who talked to me about how and what it looks like for their kids to get along. So we're going to talk about like a phrase that I saw you mentioned, which is scapegoated sibling. Yes. And that's what we're heading into. So to get us into it, talk to me about what that term means scapegoated sibling.

Erica Whitfield 04:17
Sure. So in the simplest form, the scapegoat sibling is the child who may receive a lot of the blame that happens for things in the home. So if you are constantly looking at your child in a negative light and thinking, Oh, there they go again, misbehaving again, they're always picking on their brother, or they're not very clear with their sister, or they're so mean to the other kids in the home. If that seems to be a pattern, then that's a sign that that child may have fallen into the escape. Go did sibling role. And so I encourage parents to just really reflect on that a bit, because I think it's so easy to miss. We're so busy. Looking at the surface behaviours, that we may not take the time to dig a little bit deeper, and ask ourselves why our child seems to constantly be doing these things that seemed maladaptive?

Casey O'Roarty 05:12
Yeah. What caught your eye? How did you become interested in this? What were you noticing?

Erica Whitfield 05:17
Yeah, absolutely. Well, it was kind of, you know, what I just described, it didn't seem right. To me, you know, instinctually, that one child was just this entity in the home that was creating so much drama, I don't think anyone has that much power. And so when we're constantly putting blame on one individual, I had to start thinking to myself, you know, how much of this is the child versus how much of this is the actual system that's been created, and this child trying to adapt, cope and survive in the system. So that's what really caught my eye, you know, and also seeing the kids and hearing their stories and their sides of what was going on. So I have a mom who comes in and is saying, he hit his brother again. And then I sit down with the child. And he tells me, I asked my brother three times to please leave me alone. And he kept bothering me, sometimes will even say things like, I told my parents that he kept bothering me and they didn't do anything. Or I heard once I think it was on another podcast and this sibling, he talked about how he had a little brother who would constantly interrupt his privacy. And he would try to tell his little brother, you know, hey, I need some privacy, please get out of my room. Brother kept trying to come into his room. Well, one day he had had enough and he started yelling and screaming. Well, his dad comes in, and guess who gets in trouble, because he was yelling and screaming. And because his little brother would have tantrums. When the older brother wouldn't let him in his room, the dad ended up taking the door off of the older brother's room to accommodate the younger siblings. So he didn't have to hear the older sibling scream. So it's just the stories, they're really touching. And the unfairness that a lot of our kids are feeling is something that I want to talk about and really bring to light.

Casey O'Roarty 07:12
Yeah, well, and I'm thinking too, about the little kid dynamic, and then how it continues to unfold as kids become teenagers. My kids are 20 and 17. Now, and my youngest is my son. And he has always just adored his big sister and wanted nothing more than to be with her and play with her. He would do whatever she was doing. And I remember him like, knock knock knocking on her door and her being like, now get out. And one of the things that I would say to her, like, we'd have a side conversation, and I'd say, you know, you just got to give him a little hope. Like, you don't have to play with him right now. But maybe you could try saying something like, I'm not gonna play with you right now. But in 20 minutes, I will play with you. And like, you know, her two year old brother, a three year old four year old brother didn't have a concept of time. But there was this hope, like, oh, not now. But soon, you're gonna play with me and just little things like that. Because I Erica, I was a nightmare. Big sister. I was the oldest. And I was so mean to everybody, like really mean, so much so that my younger sister is like, I don't remember you being mean, I'm like, okay, great. You've blocked it out. I've completely traumatised you. This is great. So with my own kids just have worked really hard imperfectly, I'm sure to pay attention to that and to try to nurture communication between them. And then as a positive discipline trainer, one thing that comes up for us in our training, and when we leave classes is oftentimes and I would love to get your take on it. Oftentimes sibling dynamics can be a reflection of how connected the kids feel to their parents, more so than even how connected they feel to each other. What do you make of that?

Erica Whitfield 09:11
Well, I think you're 100% on point. And I think that many parents too, don't realise that it can be very easy to show favouritism to one child over the other unintentionally. And you can look at some research out there that will even show you that parents sometimes unknowingly will favour the child who has a personality that's similar to them, or a personality that complements theirs. So if you have one sibling, who you just kind of naturally get along with, you share a lot of interest with and then you have another sibling who just kind of maybe challenges your thought or doesn't think in the same way. It could appear that you are favouring one sibling over the other. Let's say you have a father and he loves to play chess. You have a daughter who loves to play chess brother does not like chess. Yes. So it's very easy for brother to look at father and daughter and say, Oh, wow, you know, they've got this special bond. Dad likes my sister more than I do. But there are these things that are happening, that we're not really picking up on that are taking place. So and it's so hard for kids to understand that. Okay, you know, they just share an interest versus, oh, gosh, Dad likes my sister work, and he likes me.

Casey O'Roarty 10:27
Yeah. And do you think that sometimes it could even be not even in their consciousness, it's just more of this kind of underlying crack and that energetic foundation. So, positive discipline is based in Adlerian theory, which is that idea that behaviours about belonging and significance. And so a kid that doesn't feel that connection, is going to look for other ways to get that connection, right. And it's like, you know, because they're five, or 10, or 17, they're not really skilled and saying, like, you know, I see that you and sister are really love chess. And I'd really like to find something that we can do together too, because I want to be relationship with you, right? They don't have the skills to name what it is that's going on for them. And so then they're walking down the hall, Sister walks a little too close, sister gets a little shove, right are a variety of other ways that that can play out.

Erica Whitfield 11:27
There's a resentment that can build itself in these ways that, like you said, may not even be on a conscious level. So now I'm being mean to my sister that the underlying issue is I'm a little jealous of the relationship and the bond that she has with dad that I feel like I don't have

Casey O'Roarty 11:42
Mm hmm. Yeah, it's funny because, and I would love to hear the advice that you give to parents. But when I have parents that are talking to me about really tough sibling dynamics, and you know, maybe scapegoating is happening, and now I have language for it. But my offer to a parent would often be you know, I hear you saying that the kids are having a hard time getting along. And I'm an encourage you to get in some more one on one time, with whichever one is kind of rising to the surface as the one that is, you know, we used to say, Problem Child, right? Is that kind of the same as the scapegoated sibling would you say?

Erica Whitfield 12:23
I think many times yes, the skateboarded sibling is seen as a troublemaker in the home. And there's another dynamic too, and I don't even know if we can say this is the scapegoated sibling, maybe this is the martyr sibling, maybe this is another podcast. But you often have this dynamic where you have one child who knows maybe their sibling has special needs, or circumstances beyond what's considered normal. And so they choose or they have learned that they are supposed to sacrifice on behalf of their sibling at all costs. And sometimes they may say, Well, I don't have the same issues with being bullied or I don't have the same issues with having a disability that my sibling has, I'm fully functioning in my physicality. I haven't been diagnosed with a mental health issue, and so I shouldn't have any problems. So I'm going to suffer in silence because my sibling needs all of my parents attention and support.

Casey O'Roarty 13:20
Yeah, that is exactly what played out in my house, Erica, like, exactly, I was aware of that my daughter, and she's been on the podcast had some significant mental health challenges. And, you know, I was very conscious of how probably enmeshed I was in her experience and saying to my son, you know, like, I see you, I'm here for you. I remember him being like, Mom, I'm just going to graduate from high school, and go to college and get a career and get a wife. And it's all going to be very normal and traditional. And I was like, okay, but whatever you need whatever kind of break down, you need to have, like, I can hold it, it's okay. Yes, to that having the simple. Thank you. And it doesn't have to be right a little bit.

Casey O'Roarty 14:16
You know, he was able to say, I don't want that. And I don't want to put you through what you're going through right now. And I was so glad that he did, because it was an opportunity to let him know, like, Nope, you get to have your journey. And it can look however it looks regardless of this situation over here. Yeah, talk more about that. Because I especially working with teenagers, I mean, I have a lot of parents who have kids with some significant challenges, you know, especially around mental health that is the one that comes up the most and self harm and they're scared and they're worried and how does a parent help themselves, like stretch into a more mental emotional capacity to hold For the other kids in the family, oh, my gosh, million dollar question.

Erica Whitfield 15:04
It sounds so counterintuitive, of course. But we know this. First, we have to make sure as the parent that we have enough space, to hold our own emotions, we have to be able to at least get enough self care in, that we can emotionally regulate, so that we're not sending like these negative messages to our kids, and so that we can be there to hold space for them. And then I also think that sometimes we parents, we have trauma too. And we have our own things that we're bringing into our relationships with our kids. And so there's some self reflection that needs to be done as well. And we need to look at ourselves and maybe think, you know, why does it seem to be that my one particular child continues to trigger me, I read once that any issue that we have with someone else is just reminding us of an unresolved issue that we have within ourselves. So doing that deep work, and just taking time to reflect on your own stuff is really important. Yeah. To give you an example, I worked with a parent, and this parent was bullied by an older sibling over the course of their childhood. She ended up having two kids. And she was really hyper focused on making sure that that didn't happen in the home. But so much so that she laser focused in on one and not one became the scapegoat and sibling. Yeah, yeah. So

Casey O'Roarty 16:29
talk about that she lasered in on one. What does that look like? How can we help ourselves recognise when we are inside of that kind of dynamic?

Erica Whitfield 16:38
Yeah, definitely. It's so hard because you don't realise you're in it, you know? So look for signs like, do I have one child who seems to be withdrawing from the family? Do I have one child who's making a lot of comments about things being unfair and unjust in the home? A big sign is if you are constantly seeing one sibling be very vengeful and spiteful with the other. That's my red flag, because they're seeking some justice for something, something's happened to them. They don't feel like their sibling was held accountable. And they're seeking justice. And this is how they're getting it. They're hating, they're pushing, they're calling their siblings names. They're not including them anymore. And the things that they're doing, yeah, as a way to kind of say, I'm going to take my control and power back. And this is how I'm going to do it. This is how I'm gonna even score.

Casey O'Roarty 17:25
Yeah, that reminds me of one of the beliefs behind behaviour that we talked about in PD, which is revenge, right? I'm hurting, I don't feel like I can belong. So I'm gonna hurt others. And I had a mentor who talked about if you're carrying an energetic backpack full of nails, the easiest way to get rid of them is to pass them around. Right. And I think that's such an important point to make. And I think when we talk about beliefs behind behaviour, what I try to support parents with is recognising first, how does the behaviour make them feel. And the revenge misguided goal is energetically, it feels like a punch to the gut where you're just, I can't believe you would do that. Or you would say that that disbelief or disgust. And I think that absolutely comes up when our kids get into it with each other. And I think it's, you know, something listeners to be paying attention to, if you're having those moments, then this is a great opportunity to kind of lift up and out and start. Yes, looking at the dynamic between your kids. But I think it's also an invitation to look at your dynamic with each of the kids separately, and how that might be creating this space where there is some hurt and disconnection. Yeah, and I'm thinking about especially our sweet ADHD kids, right, who spend their whole childhood being told they're too much. Sit down, be quiet, calm down. Right. And I can only imagine how exhausting it is for the parent. Right, right. Yeah, so like this conversation, no blame or shame here and we see you working really hard. So what are some tips that you have for parents who do recognise they're in this dynamic and kind of creating this scapegoated sibling? How do we back out of that?

Erica Whitfield 19:26
The first thing when you realise you're in this dynamic, is this is taught in business, you know, ask why five times, okay? Why did sibling a hit sibling B? Okay, let's just say older sibling, a younger sibling. Why? An older sibling hit younger sibling? Okay, because younger sibling came into his room. Why did younger sibling come into his room? Because younger sibling was bored? Why was younger sibling bored? Well, because younger sibling was feeling under stimulated and needed something to do Okay, what can we do about younger sibling needing something to do? Alright, well, maybe we can make sure that he has a routine and structure and other things that can keep him busier. So he doesn't feel like he has to constantly bug his older brother. And then you keep going until you hear things. And then it's a way to just take the blame out of you know, any particular one person and look at the situation as a whole. So ask why something happened five times. The second thing you can do is really it goes back to that self reflection piece is, and I wrote down some really great questions. I'm going to grab them here, because I don't want to miss one. So the questions I wrote down, number one, sometimes we can have a scapegoat sibling because the child could be perceived as a threat. What do I mean by that? What do I mean by threat? For example, let's say we have a father, and his father has issues with alcohol. And when the kids are younger, you don't really make too much of a fuss about it, it just kind of go along with the programme and the dysfunction that may be happening in the home. However, when older brother gets even older, he starts to realise, oh, I don't think I like the way dad talks to mom. I don't think I like the way he talks to me when certain things happen, and I see drinking happening. And then he may start to challenge his father. And father isn't willing to do that self reflection and look inward and maybe work on issues that he's having that child can easily be seen as a threat to the homeostasis of the family. Yes. So now it's not Oh, that has a drinking problem that he needs to address. It's, he's being disrespectful and he's talking back to me. Another question, or, you know, that parents can consider is, are they advocating so much for one child, because maybe a mental health diagnosis or physical disability, that they also forget to meet the needs of the child who seems to be functioning in a higher level of functioning. So again, it goes back to a lot of our high functioning kids feel like they're not even allowed to have problems, because they don't have the same needs, that maybe there's special needs siblings now. So we have to pay attention to both, especially in the neurodivergent world, if you have a neurodivergent child and a neurotypical child, we have to make sure that both kids are getting their needs met. Another question that I posed appearance is, are you comparing one child and making one child the golden child and comparing another child to that child? So what does that look like? Well, your sister is in New York in college, and you're not? Or we may say something like, well, your brother makes all A's. Why can't you make all A's? So we got to look at the individual unique differences of our children, encourage them, of course, to be their best, but know that they may not be replicas of each other. Yeah. And then finally, a question of, you know, is my child reminding me of a dynamic that I have with someone else that I'm have had with one of my siblings, that's playing out again? So these are the things that I just encourage parents to do, you know, ask why five times, and then think about those questions to do some self reflection.

Casey O'Roarty 23:08
I love the asking, why five times, I talk on the podcast a lot. My listeners have heard me talk about the iceberg metaphor and right like behaviour, being at the tip of the iceberg. And if we keep chipping away at behaviour, whatever the dynamic is underneath, it's just keep it going to continue to come to the surface. So the why is what I'm hearing you offer right now is a pathway in getting under the surface. And recognising like the issue isn't big brother hitting little brother, the issue actually is little brother not being stimulated enough or not having the tools to ask big brother for help or to play and also big brother simply not having the tools either. Right? Right? We hit and hurt them. And that's what we know. Right? That's a quick and dirty way of getting our message across. I really appreciate the conversation around neuro divergence, too. And the comparison, and we talked a little bit about birth order as well. And you know, when one child is really good, you know, is the achiever. There's not always room for this other kid to be that and so it's like, well, you're really good at being good. I can be really good at being bad. Sure, take this other role.

Erica Whitfield 24:26
Sure. You know, an interesting dynamic I see in therapy too, is when I've worked with twins, and one twin may have been labelled as the scapegoated twin. And once that twin gets in therapy, and starts to work on things and is now behaving per socially and is functioning in more acceptable ways. The golden child sibling then starts to act out because the role is threatened. What do you mean we're giving my twin a reward? My twin is the one who always gets in trouble. I'm the one that gets Through reward, what's my role now? Let our kids know like, hey, we can share this role. You can both be the golden children.

Casey O'Roarty 25:07
Yeah, well, and you mentioned homeostasis, right homeostasis in a system when a system starts to get healthy, it's feels unfamiliar. And what systems ultimately want. Is that familiar, not necessarily healthy. And so it's so interesting how, yeah, like, you lift up here, and you drop down here. And it's just, but I think that awareness and that conversation around Oh, look what's happening right now. This is why it's happening. And isn't that interesting. And I just think that's so useful. Also, that last thing that you said, when the child's reminding me of a dynamic playing out again, I was just talking about this on another podcast episode, when things got really hard with my daughter, and she didn't want to live with our family anymore. In her moment of like meltdown. She said that, and I had an inappropriate reaction, like it was my whole body tighten up. And it was so interesting, I couldn't loosen it. Like, energetically, it was so bizarre until I realised I was her exact age when I moved into my dad's house, from my mom's house. And I never thought about the experience that I mean, I thought about it a little bit. But I was having this whole new opportunity to experience a little bit of what my mom went through, I ended up calling my mom and telling her about it. And we had this really powerful healing, that got to happen because of this thing that Rohan said, and it's just it is so interesting, the ways that dynamics are gonna play out until they get healed.

Erica Whitfield 26:54
Such a powerful example that you just shared, you know, and your ability to be able to reflect and have that insight, and then actually make change in action. I mean, that's what it's about, you know, this isn't about making any parent feel guilty. If they discover that they have been scapegoating. One child or one child has fallen into the scapegoated role. It's just about bringing awareness to it, doing that reflection, and then figuring out how can we make meaningful change so that our children grow up and can still have healthy relationships with us versus feeling like, you know, they turned it back on them or right, being resentful towards them?

Casey O'Roarty 27:33
Yeah. So again, Okay, we'd now okay, listener is realising Oh, shit, you know, I am doing that with one of my kids. And what is repair look like? Is repair an appropriate first step? When you realise that that's been a dynamic? What do you think about that?

Erica Whitfield 27:52
There? I think that having just a conversation with your child about just how they're feeling, you know, like, what are some of the things in the home that you feel are fair? What are some of the things in the home that you feel are unfair? Now be prepared for anything? Because some kids will say, Well, I think it's unfair that you make me take out the trash, but you don't make my little brother take out the trash? And the little brother's like a one year old? Yeah. So have the conversation about what they think is fair and unfair, and then just start to negotiate. That's how we can start getting back to this balance of justice. So okay, look, I'm not going to make your little brother take out the trash, because he's one years old. However, we can look at maybe taking trash duty off of your chore list a few times a month, okay. So meet in the middle and just start that negotiation process. They may not be able to get everything they want. But how can we show that we're hearing them and we're trying to make an effort to make things fair?

Casey O'Roarty 28:49
Yeah. And I love you know, what you said, be prepared. Yeah. Be prepared for that. Because I like to offer invite parents to say like, how do you experience me? What is it like to be I have a client who's got two daughters, and the youngest daughter is the tough one. And, you know, one of the things I invited her to do was to take her out to lunch and say, you know, I was the oldest in my family. I don't know what it's like to be the youngest. What is it like for you? I think it's can be so powerful to give our kids space to let us in on their experience. And it's really hard when your kids are like, Yeah, you're on my back all the time. I feel like I can't do anything, right, and that you're always really critical. It's an invitation to do your own work. Take deep breaths, not make them wrong, not get defensive, not justify your behaviour, but instead, hold it, use it, learn from it, right? Validate which is not the same as your right. But it does sound like Gosh, that must be really hard to feel like that and to experience me that way.

Erica Whitfield 29:58
Absolutely. And what a Beautiful conversation for every parent to be able to have with their child, like, how are you experiencing life here in this family? How do you experience me, I would have loved to have an invitation like that to open up and talk more to my parents, and knowing that they would receive it versus trying to prove me wrong or point in the other direction that my thoughts and feelings were not valid just to receive it, you don't have to agree, like you said, it's just about listening to how they're experiencing the world. And it's interesting because no two kids have the same two parents, because parents are always growing and evolving themselves. And so it's very interesting how one sibling can perceive their parents in one way, and another sibling perceive them in a completely different way. Because they're looking at their parents at different developmental stages. The adults, Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 30:53
or like I, my experience of family was from the perspective of being the oldest, you know, I have a different family system than my younger siblings. And I just that's so fascinating to me. And even the things that like, I think those of us that, and I definitely felt this early on a little bit was that really big desire to make sure my kids got along, and that they were kind to each other, but also recognising, and I want listeners to really hear this, even when things are like patterns are playing out again, your child is not you, they are in a different family system. Right? You are not your parents, you might have some, you know, moments where you're like, Oh, God, that was my mom, or Oh, my gosh, I just said exactly what my dad would have said. But at the end of the day, they're in a different family system, they are having a completely different experience that you're having, there's no possible way that they are going to have that sit with the same issues that you have. That being said, you also have a responsibility and an opportunity to you know, like, I like to say, lessen the amount of therapy that your kids are going to need as adults by doing your own work, and just being really willing to grow alongside them and realise, like I did, when that reaction to my daughter happened, that was a place for me to really get curious about the why is that why I was feeling that way? And I think that, you know, I don't know how old you are Erica, but if you're a Gen X or like me, you might be a millennial, you look a little younger than

Erica Whitfield 32:36
a dinosaur millennial, but I be considered like, excerpt.

Casey O'Roarty 32:40
Okay, okay, we'll let you in the club. But I think you know, I appreciate at least you know, in the bubble that I live in, I love that parenting has become this opportunity to grow and explore and learn more about ourselves more than ever before. And I think this conversation about how we're experiencing the sibling dynamic and whether or not we're willing to, you know, recognise our contribution to it is just one more indicator of our willingness to continue to grow and develop as humans. Absolutely. Yeah. So what are two baby steps do you think that parents can make to strengthen that homeostasis, that bond, that healthy bond inside of the family? Yeah,

Erica Whitfield 33:32
well, baby steps, you know, again, just about opening up that communication, you can get so creative with this, you know, argument, appreciation boards to parents. And so what you do is when you see your child, do something nice in the home, or you just like, see them, maybe do their talent, maybe they like to sing or dance, or they're they just finished a book, or they won the chess match, you saw them be nice to their sibling, you just write it down on a little note, and you put it up on a board where everyone can see, this board represents us appreciating each other. And if you're lucky, your kids will even start writing you notes back. So that's one small thing that you can start doing with a simple post it note. Yeah, another thing I recommend is have some kind of communication exchange system. We had a parent once, who just had a little notebook, and the notebook was at a community spot in the home. And when anyone thought something was unfair, or just had a problem with something or needed something but didn't feel comfortable talking about it, you could just write it in a notebook. And then the parent would go back and write their response in a notebook. And they never verbally talked at all. It was all in written form. And so it was just a great way to kind of keep a gauge on who's feeling what, and then how can I help meet the needs of that child?

Casey O'Roarty 34:51
Yeah, well, and I love that that doesn't assume that communication should look a certain way. I really appreciate that, you know, as you're talking, I was thinking like, well, Erica, this is one of our tools. It's called the family meeting, family meetings start with compliments and appreciations every week where we get to acknowledge each other. And then we get to, you know, share about what is challenging. But even as I was thinking, while you were talking about that, you know, there's going to be the kid out who's willing and able and happy to do it, share about all the issues that they're having, and then there's going to be perhaps another child, and that's not their temperament. So I really love the notebook as an alternative, another way to be able to express I think that that's really powerful. Thank you so much. Well, I am just so glad to meet you. Thank you so much for your work and what you do for families over there in Florida listeners, Eric is on the opposite side of the opposite corner. He's carrying me over the country. Is there anything else you want to make sure to leave listeners with today? Before we wrap,

Erica Whitfield 35:59
I would love listeners to connect with me enjoy my free newsletter, I send out tips that can help you with the mental health of your children with stress, anxiety, and you get out once a week email for me, we've just really great witty articles are fun to read. So if you're interested in that, you can go to my website, www dot positive development llc.com. And check that out.

Casey O'Roarty 36:23
Awesome. I'll make sure that links in the show notes. And are you on social media? can people find you on social media?

Erica Whitfield 36:30
You can find us on Facebook under positive development LLC.

Casey O'Roarty 36:33
Okay, awesome. Yay. And my last question that I asked all my guests is What does joyful courage mean to you?

Erica Whitfield 36:41
I love this question. So I wrote it down and I want to read it verbatim. Oh, cool. So yeah, for me, joyful courage means being bold enough to show up as your authentic self and accepting the unintentional consequences along with the infinite rewards that come with doing so.

Casey O'Roarty 37:02
Ah, that gave me the chills Erica, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to really think about that. I thank you for that. I love the word bold, being bold and that will actually will you say it again?

Erica Whitfield 37:16
The the whole thing?

Casey O'Roarty 37:18
Yeah, the whole thing. I want to get the whole thing again. How much I liked

Erica Whitfield 37:25
being bold enough to show up as your authentic self and accepting the unintentional consequences, along with the infinite rewards that come with doing so.

Casey O'Roarty 37:35
Beautiful. Yay. Thank you so much for spending time with me today.

Erica Whitfield 37:40
Thank you for having me, Casey.

Casey O'Roarty 37:49
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at BS for audible.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday.

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