[Episode 9] Discipline

In episode #9 of "Moms talk with a French accent", La Petite Creme co-founders Cecile and Fanny, along with NY-based Pediatrician and Holistic Health Coach, Dr Varisa Perlman explore the theme of discipline. Together they dig deep into the personal and cultural meaning of a word that is major in parenting.

What is discipline? What are the parenting strategy to put in place to control it? Is there such thing as too much or too little discipline? Let's find out.  

(full text transcript below the video)


Moms Talk with Dr Varisa Perlman [episode #9]: Episode


Cecile: Bonjour.

Fanny: Hi, everyone.

Cecile: Welcome to Episode number 9 of Moms Talk with a French Accent. I'm Cecile from La Petite Creme.

Fanny: And I'm Fanny.

Cecile: And we're happy to have you today. Hi, everyone.

Fanny: Hi.

Cecile: Welcome, welcome. We are going to wait a little bit for our co-host to join. Here we go. Hello. [inaudible]

Fanny: Hi.

Cecile: So happy to see all the familiar faces here.

Fanny: There she is.

Cecile: Hi.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Hey, how are you?

Cecile: Welcome.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: How's everyone doing?

Cecile: Episode number 9.

Fanny: Yeah.

Cecile: We are getting closer to our 10th anniversary already of these episodes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Oh my gosh. Wow. That's amazing. Wow. How old were your kids when you started?

Cecile: When we started our business, my boy was 9 months old and my daughter was 2.

Fanny: I didn't have kids at that time.

Cecile: Fanny was on the other side of that.

Fanny: Yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right?

Fanny: Yeah.

Cecile: Of her parenting journey.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Oh my gosh. That is so amazing. Wow. Time flies, right?

Cecile: It does.

Fanny: La Petite Creme was my first baby.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] Yes.

Fanny: It's sentimental, yeah.

Cecile: It is.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes, it's quite a bit of adulting, right? [laughs]

Cecile: It has its similarities, being an entrepreneur and being a parent. A lot of the things are-

Fanny: Similar.

Cecile: -similar in many ways.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: What similarities have you found?

Cecile: Well, the dedication that it needs, the work that's needed.

Fanny: That it's never stopped. When you close the office, you still have the company on your shoulder even if you're home. So that's the same with kids. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] Yes.

Cecile: Keeps you up at night.

Fanny: Yeah, sometimes.

Cecile: And it finds a way to always pull you back in, even though you thought you could have some free time, all those aspects. And also, the reward of it, the joy of it.

Fanny: And create some memories also. So yeah, there is good and bad sides of everything in life. It's the same for everything, so yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, I would imagine that the evolution over the differences between what you thought was gonna happen and what did happen, and kind of realizing that that journey is already there. You just have to follow it and be at peace with it.

Cecile: And very much like a kid. At first, you hold it in your hand and then eventually, it becomes its own entity that wants to gravitate and live on its own and you end up holding it, bringing it somewhere, but not so much of you driving. So it is very similar.

Hi everyone joining. Hello, hello. So let's—

Fanny: Bring up the topic.

Cecile: Yeah. So today, we are talking about discipline. Ooh. We love to go for those topics that are just a little bit of that, but we don't shy away from anything in this talk. So we're going for that one.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So let me introduce myself real quick. I'm Dr. Perlman, pediatrician in Miami and New York, and I currently work as a holistic health coach. That's my kind of credentials. And I have two college-age kids. I consider that part of my resume.

Cecile: [laughs] It is.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] That's part of my resume. So, between you guys, let's just use the word—discipline. When I say that word, what comes to mind? Just curious.

Cecile: You want to go first?

Fanny: So discipline, for me, it's a way to try to get your kids on the right path. For me, I would say with my own words, that would be that. So behind discipline, you can put whatever you want. It can be like pulling them away, talking to them, different kind of discipline that you want to have with your kids. And I think each parent may use different technique because of their kids, because of who they are.

So yeah, for me it's to try to drive them in the right path, the right path for you because everyone has different rules at home, but obviously, you want your kids to follow your rules that you think are important to have for home and in the society in general. So for me, I would say that.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: What about for you?

Cecile: To me, I would say it's boundaries. Boundaries for them, boundaries for me, boundaries for us to interact with one another. So when they're crossing my line, when I'm crossing their line, which is usually where the need for intervention gets in, right? To me, it's usually negative. I don't know if we have a way to explore a point where it can be positive. [laughs]

Fanny: Maybe it can be positive. Yeah, it's negative

Cecile: But to me, it's a negative word. Discipline is something where it's repressive, right? It's not preventative, now that you talk about it.

Fanny: Or maybe it can be, but we don't know. [laughs]

Cecile: We're only parents. We don't know. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Well, it's interesting because I feel like sometimes, words and concepts, they vary. Sometimes even based on where you are in your life and where your kids are in their life. So gazing at a toddler, you see things that are very concrete. You're like, "This is a road. You don't run into the road. You must have the discipline." You can either use it as a active form. "I'm going to discipline you," or, "Do you have discipline?" as a noun.

And I think that a lot of times when you're talking about the younger age, you're talking more about physically what to do. So it's that kind of thing where I remember, I would always joke that crossing the street with my kid was so exhausting [laughs] because if there was a crossing guard, I would be like, "Look up. Look at the crossing guard. Make eye contact with the crossing guard. Say hello and good morning to the crossing guard. Say goodbye to the crossing guard. [laughs] And then look. Make sure that there are no cars and cross the street."

By the time we crossed the street, I was like, "Oh, that was exhausting." [laughs] But I almost felt like I really wanted to get them into—for me, getting into the discipline of properly greeting people, saying please and thank you were skills at that moment that was relevant.

And I feel like as kids get older, it's interesting because now I see the world a little bit differently because now, I have two kids who don't live with me anymore. So they're in college. And the discipline part becomes a little bit less active and you probably see it in your pre-adolescence. We start talking about discipline as a noun. "Do you have discipline? Do you have the discipline to do your homework? Do you have the discipline to have a regular schedule to wake up on the right time?"

So it becomes a situation where it's not really us telling them to do things, but we're starting to hope that whatever lessons we have presented, infused in them because the ultimate goal is that when they're out of your coop, [laughs] they're out of your house, that they hear almost like your voice or like an inner monologue.

Cecile: So it's self-discipline, from disciplinary to self-constructed thoughts.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. And I think that it's interesting because there are a couple of things—and I completely get like from where—but it's hard because I feel like—It's interesting when your kids are younger, things are actually so much clearer. They always say like, "Bigger people, bigger problems," right? And once you pass adolescence—And I feel like when they're younger, it's actually very clear. It's like, "Don't touch the knife," right? When you say, "Act the right way," I'm like, "I'm with you." Yeah, there is a right and wrong. That's very clear. It's black and white.

But I have to tell you, 9 years old, 10 years old, 12 years old, 15, all of a sudden, the right and wrong gets a little fuzzy. [laughs] And you start to understand that right and wrong is probably not gonna survive those years. [laughs] The idea of what would be a successful disciplining practice for that age then becomes more about them. In the beginning, it's about you figuring that out. As they get older, they have to figure that out. Because if they don't figure that out and don't have that inner monologue, they're gonna have a hard time when you're physically not with them.

Fanny: But you hope that at the young age, you put the right seed for them to remember like the limit and what is mostly wrong and good. So you really hope that you did a good job this past year because I think that's what they get for reference, when they were young and the limit when they were young, as you say, it's yes or no, it's dangerous or it's not dangerous. But when they grow up, they have to transfer this limit in their world. So they have to remember it.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. And that's the problem. Sometimes, like you said, they're going to take what you learned, but there's going to be a moment where every situation is actually much more complex. And now they're like, "Wow. When I was younger, everything was clear. I understood that right and wrong. Now, I feel like I can't use that, I can't use that formation. I have to use a little bit of judgment."

This is where things become different. This is where I think things start to become a little bit more culturally dependent. Sometimes I feel like—It's interesting, I'm not gonna necessarily say Western or Eastern. I'm always blown away. I still haven't quite made it through it all. But all these Japanese kids on the subway at like 3 years old. [laughs] And this whole concept of trying to give tasks to kids at a very young age so they develop that confidence because it is connected.

And one thing that you had said, Cecile, is that you kind of were upset that you're like, "The word discipline is kind of a negative term." We say it, kind of like, "You've been bad." Because we have a little trouble transitioning to the concept that our kids have to learn how to self-discipline. It's a little scary. You're almost there. Your daughter is how old now?

Cecile: She already turned 11, so yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. You're in that transition zone. You can see it. It's right there. Every now and then, it comes out. And it's like, "No, I don't think that that's wrong. Why can't I do that?" So they're already kind of trying to knock down those walls and say, "Hey, there isn't any right path. I got to figure this out on my own."

Cecile: But they also do that in the 2, 3 years old.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Absolutely.

Cecile: They're also getting to that path of like, "I can do it."

Fanny: Independence.

Cecile: [laughs] Fanny's right into it. She knows.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] Right. And I do think that it's funny because you have to give them credit. At that age, they have—I agree with you, the conviction is there. The conviction is like, "No, I believe that I have a right to do this." They double down at that age, 2, 3. I would almost take a 15-year-old before a 2-year-old. You know what I mean? They're all in.

But I think that in some ways, as a parent, the things that they argue about, you're like, "Okay, no, this is actually very clear to me." Whereas, as they even start to inch that 9, sometimes they'll make a decent point where they're like, "Well, why can't I do that?" And you're like, "Ah, that's a good point. [laughs] Maybe I should let you do that." I don't know. They start to get kind of convincing. And that's where this idea of how do you transition, "I'm going to discipline you" to "I am now developing my self-discipline." How do you transition that so that it is actually a positive thing?

Discipline can be an incredible thing. To be able to say, "These are things that make me feel safe, that I know certain boundaries, that these are things that kind of make me understand the world better," is actually great. Remember when we talked about the boat, right? It's them making that boat stronger.

Cecile: So the discipline is also—can we agree that it's not only coming from the parent, right? The world is also going to do some part of the discipline because when they say, "I want to walk outside without my coat on," then they get a cold. And that's the universe telling them, "Hey, [laughs] it wasn't the brightest thing to do."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And to this day, my husband will still not wear a hat outside because his mother told him to wear a hat when he was 4. So I can't tell you that we all mature necessarily. [laughs] You know what? Maybe she was trying to keep me from getting a cold. He'll still argue like, "It doesn't make a difference [laughs] if I wear a hat or not." So, I mean, sometimes we are still pretty adamant. We still are doubling down.

I think what you're talking about, and I tell people this a lot of times if they have—I want to say permissive parenting where they're not really giving those boundaries is that it's either going to be you or their boss. Somebody's going to put that line and there's something in the concept of frustration tolerance.

Cecile: Okay. So what is that? Tell us more about that.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Frustration tolerance is something that you kind of want to gradually build in your kids and also yourself. And I'm not saying to—while on one hand, I'm saying trying to empower toddlers whenever you can, if they want to wear the red shirt with the orange pants and they look kind of crazy, let them. This is not a situation where—give them that confidence. But they've got to hear, "No, you can't do that." If there's a situation that actually isn't really in their best interest, you have to say no. And when they say, "I want to do it," they are just trying. It's their job to try to see how firm you are.

But if they get to a space where they're like, "I can't take it. I want to do what I want to do." And they can't develop that skill to be like, "You know what? In this scenario, at this moment, I don't really 100% want to put my jacket on, but I'm going to get past this. I'm going to get on with my day. I'm building my frustration tolerance," because, frankly, the world, there's a lot of nos. And sometimes the nos are not right. So I'm not saying that every no is right.

But I think that if you can't hear no, and you only hear like, "Oh, well, whatever you want to do," it becomes a situation where it's a lot harder to hear it later on.

Cecile: Okay.

Fanny: And at some point, society will give them a no anyway. Like you said, like their boss or even the police. You don't do whatever you want in life.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. It's kind of a controversial thing I'm going to say, because a lot of times, I feel like, especially this generation of parents, there's a lot of like, "Okay, let me see what teacher they're getting. I want to make sure that they're in this class." There's a lot of that handling. My parents barely even knew where I was like half the day. [laughs] They dropped me off to school, they had no idea, they didn't get involved. If I didn't like the teacher, they were like, "Too bad. Whatever."

I understand that temptation. I understand that desire. However—And I'm not saying every teacher is perfect. I'm not putting that carte blanche, but frankly, how many of us love our bosses? You have to learn how to work with other people.

Cecile: We do. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes, besides you guys. [laughs] It's that kind of thing where the truth is, is that life gets complicated. So it is a skill set, but there has to be a transition from where someone—Let's do this. "Don't act like that because I'm going to be mad," as the parent to, "I don't want to really do that because that's actually not a good idea for me to do." So one word goes from, "I'm getting disciplined," to, "I personally agree. I don't want to do that myself."

This is the main reason [laughs] you are a parent is to build—those are the shingles on that boat. Those are the pieces of wood that you're putting together.

Fanny: And sometimes you have to let them understand the no by themselves because for example, my daughter, she cannot have too much dairy, and at school, they will sell her whatever she wants yes. And I explain to her many times, "Zoe, it's not quite good for you," but I have no control then, so I let her do, and after a week, she get sick about what she ate and at the end, she told me, "Okay, you were right. I'm gonna eat my lunch box now." But she had to learn the hard way and by herself. So now, she decided that, "Okay, I'm good with the school stuff. I'm gonna eat what mommy and daddy put in my lunch box." But three weeks of explaining for her to get sick. Now she eat the right thing.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I can't even tell you how many times I'm like, "Oh, I know that ice cream is going to make my stomach hurt." So most of the time, I'm like, "Okay, not right now. But sometimes, I'm like, "You know what? I want ice cream. [laughs] I think my stomach's gonna hurt." I want to be able to make that choice.

Fanny: That's difficult as parents to let them do something that you know it's wrong but what you can do? You already said a million times, you try to explain a million times different ways.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: But it's so much more powerful that she's doing it on her own because already—How old is she now?

Fanny: 5.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So already at 5, she has a lot of time without you. So, honestly, this whole idea that I'm going to literally— I hear sometimes like, "Don't do that. Mommy's gonna be very mad at you. You're gonna make Mommy very sad. You're gonna make Mommy very disappointed. You see how it's still keeping all of that you're trying to make me feel better, versus like, "Yeah, you eat that cheese, you'll just be congested or have diarrhea this week." [laughs]

Fanny: Yeah. I told her like, "If you eat that, your belly is gonna hurt. You know it, Zoe." And she's like, "Eh."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Already at 5, she's making a decision, a [inaudible] decision than probably a lot of adults too. [laughs] Because sometimes it's that kind of thing. To me, one of the things that we dropped in one generation is this idea that food affects how you feel. I don't know how this happened. [laughs]

Fanny: That's very different from kids to kids because I think maybe my daughter need to learn by herself to her own experience but maybe some kids would have understand that. The second time you say it, they will say, "Okay, I'm gonna listen to mommy." So we have to adapt to each kid because maybe I just discovered that it is the way that she will function and for future thing, I will have to let go a little bit and let her do her own experience, but it's not easy.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: But that's why those first five years of life are so important for you to be around because you get to see a little glimpse of how she is. I guarantee you, she won't be different at 15.

Fanny: [laughs] It's very scary for me. [inaudible]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] They don't change. It's the same freaking kid. That's why I think that if you—It's interesting 'cause I like the fact that you put in quotations, it's like the right path is a different path for every kid and every interaction. This whole idea that like, "Oh, you treat me different than my sibling." Yeah, because we're all different. But one disciplining modality for one kid will work completely differently on another one. And I guarantee you, it'll fail. I feel like I never could copy and paste. [laughs] That never worked.

I guess I'm trying to spin this positively. It really is this process of you saying, "Hey, listen, there's this whole bundle of stuff that I generally feel you should or should not do." And then you're literally transferring that decision-making tree to them slowly, infusing it, so that when they're sitting there—

Cecile: It's also admitting—and I'm kind of talking to myself here—that they start from scratch in their knowledge of the world. And I know for myself, I usually use discipline as a matter of efficiency. I know where it's going. I don't have the time for it. I'm just gonna push it to you because my time is valuable, which means they never really understand why, except "because mommy said so," right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Can you give me an example?

Cecile: Like preparing for your homework. I'm gonna do all my homework, but then I realize that it's not done in the chronological order that the homework is due. So I go behind, I'm like, "It doesn't make sense. We're gonna be here until like 11 o'clock at night. Let me shuffle everything around." And I mean good. I'm trying to just be like, "It's gonna be more efficient if I show you how to do it." But back to Fanny's point, they're not learning anything because they're just gonna do it the way mommy said because they trust that I know better because I have more experience and I've proven through younger year that usually when I say something, it happened to be correct.

But you're right, it's not helping them to think for themselves and have that stick to them besides the fact that, "Oh, I'm doing that because I remember mommy making a point about it."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [inaudible]

Fanny: We don't have time. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: What is it?

Fanny: I said sometimes it's very easy because you don't always have time for everything to try to let them learn by themselves. It's so many tasks in life that sometimes doing the shortcuts is necessary.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I'm going to embarrass my son, who I love dearly, but is in college now. And up until the day he left my house, if we were in school, the night before, my husband would catch me untying his shoelaces [laughs] because if his shoelaces were tied and he was running late, as he usually is, woke up late, it would be literally 15 minutes of trying to untie his shoes, which would make us even later.

So my husband would catch me and he's like, "What are you doing?" And I'm like, "No, you don't understand, this is a game changer. If the shoelaces are tied, we're screwed. We're gonna be totally late." This is a 17-year-old person. And he's like, "He knows how to do it." I go, "Yes, I know he can do it and I trust that he can do it. However, it's not efficient." [laughs]

Fanny: I know what's gonna happen.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: We have a five-minute window to get him out of the—And thankfully, he's in college, so I have no freaking clue. Ideally, I would hope he would do that. The night before, "Oh, my mom used to untie my shoelaces. Maybe I should do that." He's not doing that. [laughs] He's not doing that. And whether or not he's late because he's doing his shoelaces, I don't even know. I don't even want to know.

So it's that kind of thing where occasionally, we almost create these things that make life more efficient. I think that's really insightful because it's efficient for us, but is it necessarily something that they will carry on themselves? Maybe, maybe not.

Cecile: It's efficient short term. It feels efficient because we're in control and we can anticipate what the timeline is going to be. In my case, I feel like if I let it go, who knows which turn and twist it's gonna make? I mean, we get there eventually, but my state of mind when we get there and the time that we get there and the overall mood can vary from one way to the other. So I'd rather keep control of that. But from what I'm hearing, it's probably not the most beneficial all the time.

Fanny: Yeah, all the time.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I mean, listen, the kid knows how to tie his shoelaces. His time management is crap, but he knows how to tie. So honestly, there does come a point where it's like, whatever, you get what you get. I guess my point is that don't feel bad about it. Sometimes it's just things that we have to do because we gotta frigging get the day through. And if they wanna continue that habit when they're out of our face, they choose that. [laughs] They get to choose.

Cecile: But it also feels—And I'm gonna just admit my guilt here. It feels nice to have control over something and it's easier to control their life than ours because ours have problems that are just not manageable short term with something very easy. So tying those shoelaces is a lot easier than having to plan the next meeting or like think about the next—It's just an easy win, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. I don't think it was even—my parents—Again, and I only refer to other generations just because I do think it's stunning to me sometimes how generations change so quickly within one generation. I just don't remember my parents ever—I don't know if I came up with stuff on my own. I don't know. I don't remember them even going through my stuff, making sure that everything was—I just kind of did it.

Cecile: Maybe they did. And it's just you don't remember that because you think it was your process, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. This is the part that gets a little bit fuzzy. Again, that gray zone where it's like did you do it because you yourself understood that was important? Did you do it because you saw someone else do it for you and you're like, "Oh, that's a good idea"? When does that click where you're like, "Okay, this is something that I think is important and I think I want to continue this habit"? I see the word habit and discipline all interchangeably. They're all decisions. These are all elements of discipline.

And I think that we just do so much. Everyone needs to kind of pick their battles and say, "Okay, this is what is really important for my kids. These are the things that I know that they might be frustrated with, but I want them to learn." So that's definitely a personal choice. That's why I'm saying when you say "the right way", it really is a decision between you and the kid. You shouldn't be necessarily doing, because everyone else says this.

I'd make something even preposterous where for me, it was making sure that my kids said please and thank you. Some other people, they're like, "Well, I want to make sure that my kid runs five miles a day." That's not one of my priorities [laughs] for my kid. But for some people, it is.

Fanny: Who has time for that? [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: That's beyond laughable. [laughs] But the point is, is that everyone's definition is different from family to family. But again, the gold standard, the thing that you strive for is that your children have a decision-making tree that maybe occasion refers to you and sometimes may outright not refer to you. Maybe it's something like my husband, he was 50 years old and still refusing to wear a hat. You know what I mean? He just clearly was like, "No, never. I will never do it."

So it's that kind of thing where it's not a failure if they don't do every single thing that you suggest. That doesn't mean that you didn't "do the right thing", that you didn't "give them the right path." They have a right to decide somewhere along the way.

Fanny: Yeah, they do their own choice.

Cecile: So sometimes we feel like we still need to get some kind of boundaries and, as you said, like if something is completely off limits for safety or for whatever reason. Sometimes we hear or we can be in situations where we feel like, "I've tried everything, they just won't listen." How do we tackle this? I'm sure we all live that as parents where it doesn't get in. How will I do that in different ways? There are different approaches out there. I'm sure everybody heard of positive parenting and all different approaches where what's the trick there? Any word of insight that we can provide on like, "We've tried everything. I can't get my word across."?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Okay, so I think there's two elements that bring you above and onto the table. So for me, when I say above, I mean go into context, come out of it. How important is this one issue? Is this a battle you wanna take? And it's not fair, unless you want your kids to fight you for the sake of fighting, don't fight your kids for the sake of fighting. They learn by modeling. So if they just feel like you're just doing it just to spite them, "Because you got to follow my word. I don't really feel that strongly about it, but I want you to listen to me." Not so fair. Not fair, right?

And I'm not saying sitting there like—I feel like sometimes we do over-explaining, especially when this kid hit other kids or hit the parent or do something. This is whole like, "I want you to understand why that's wrong." You know what? They don't need to—that is wrong. The more you understand it, you're trying to almost like justify to them why you think it's wrong. So there's certain things where that line has to be very clear. And sometimes a big discussion is not worth it. But sometimes, you have to pull up and say, "Okay, how important is this one issue?"

And also, a big thing that I always talk about in a good way is that raising children is like having this perpetual mirror being brought to your face. If it's really important, why is it so important to you? Is it something that you fought your own parents about? Is it a pet peeve of yours? Is it something that your partner does that really annoys you [laughs] and you don't really want your kids to do it?

Fanny: Maybe.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right? [laughs]

Cecile: You know which one. [laughs] She has one. I'm not saying, but she has one.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] She's like, "Me."

Fanny: It could be that, yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Those are all elements that give you a little bit—It fleshes out that idea of like, exactly what are you trying to discipline? What's your point? If it's something that is really not that bad, but it annoys you because your partner does it, is it really the kid's fault if they're doing it? Because they are genetically related to that partner, so is it really their fault? And is it something that can really be changed?

Again, the explanation changes the bigger or older they are. You'd be surprised, even 9-year-olds if you came to it—It's funny because sometimes—Okay, so this is kind of a weird example, but my son is a little bit more of like a giver, and then my older one is more of like a taker sometimes. [laughs] So what would happen sometimes is that Izzy—for example, Andre had a little—this is an elementary school—had a little bit of a bag with all their money from birthdays and stuff like that. Not that much, but you know. And then unbeknownst to us, Izzy was taking a little bit from the bag and buying all kinds of stuff at the gift shop, you know. Apparently, a shopper even at third grade.

So when we found out about it, Andre was like, "That's fine. Izzy can have my money." Literally didn't really care. And Izzy was like, "See? I told you." [laughs] Felt victorious. And I explained to Izzy, this is a situation where I was like, "No." Now you can just say, "No, it's not right." And it's funny because we try to use these terms, right and wrong, but it doesn't make any sense at this age.

And I don't know why I went through to explain to an elementary school kid, and excuse the cursing, but I was like, "Clearly you just took this money from him. Do you want Andre to be married to a bitch who bosses him around and takes money from him all the time?" I don't know why I told that [inaudible]

Cecile: Yeah, sometimes we go there. We just go for it.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] It just came to my head. And then Izzy was like, "Oh, that's a good point," literally, for whatever reason. So it wasn't like if I would have stopped and said, "Don't do it. It isn't right." I don't know. I feel like Izzy would be like, "Eh, right, wrong. He says yes. He doesn't care about the money." I mean, Izzy already had—the logic was already there as to why. But when I kind of circled around the logic, they were like, "Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. I didn't think of that."

So you'd be surprised if you just spend five minutes thinking like, "Why is this point?" Tell to yourself, like, "Why is this point?" You will see a window as to how it would make sense to that kid. Sometimes it may not work still, but it's amazing. Sometimes kids just demand to be spoken to fair and square. And I think that consequences, I think that even when you were talking, Fanny, to your young one and you're like, "You eat the dairy, your stomach will—" [laughs]

Fanny: Yes. What works for Zoe, because Martin is too small, but when she does something and she doesn't want to stop and we are waiting to the point that we cannot get what we want, I always ask her, "Do you want me to do it to you?" If she hits her brother or she speaks bad and she has an attitude then I say, "Do you want me to speak to you this way, like you are talking to me? Do you think it's a good thing? Would you be happy if I talked to you that way?" First, she doesn't answer, and I say, "Answer to me. I want an answer." [laughs] And she said, "No." So I said, "Don't do it if you don't want people to do it to yourself."

If you involve her, she understands that she doesn't want to be treated like that. So maybe it's more clear for her what feeling she did. But that work for us, try to involve her in the situation.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Again, I think, like you said, a lot of these things have to be tailor-made for a lot of—but I think the more concrete your images can be, the more powerful, that they're like, "Oh, okay, I can see that. I can see how that goes." It's just, I think that sometimes I'm always kind of a little tepid about making it a whole—because misbehavior can come in many different forms. You have to see if it's a situation where there's attention seeking. You have to understand the entire context and not make a blanket like you're misbehaving and that's it.

Sometimes they're tired and they're misbehaving. Punishment doesn't make any sense because they're actually really tired and they're not really even understanding the whole context. Tantrums, a lot of times—we talked about that last, right? It's that kind of thing. Sometimes it's like the situation is really hard and you just have to spend one moment to say, "How can I help you understand how this is not healthy or this is healthy?"

Cecile: So the more we talk about all the different topics—and as we said, it's our ninth one today—the more it feels like we're not equipped as parents to necessarily be able to take that step back and look at those things. I mean, we never got the—you're a professional, so you got this education to know what to look at, but we're just mere human being. [laughs] How do we know what to take into consideration and how do we find the bandwidth mentally to sit down and look at it as almost—it's not therapy, but it's like really looking at the problem and breaking it apart and be like, "What can we do?" and "Where do we talk?" And you have to repeat that multiple times because it's not one time that you say that, the kids will be like, "Oh, yeah, I got it," and then move forward, and the next day they wake up, it's a brand new person. They're like, "Oh, I'm gonna try that again because it's easy."

So sometimes it feels a little hard to climb that mountain because we're also working on us. I feel like as parents, we're also working on our own emotion. Everything that's going on in our own head that we can't put words on. So it's such a—not a burden, but it's a heavy weight to have to carry on our shoulder to be able to identify those things and do it the right way for them, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Disciplining is one of those topics. We've all been disciplined by someone in our lives, whether it be a caregiver, a teacher, a boss. So we all have baggage. We all have things that were good, things that we're like, "That was crap. Why did that happen like that?" You started the conversation, two things. You started saying that this is their first time, that they're still young, that they're trying to figure things out. It's our first time being parents. Yeah, fine, I'm a doctor. But honestly, I friggin' still feel lost. [laughs] It can't be that much. [inaudible] they gave me this big golden book and they were like, "You will know all." No. There were many times where I was like, "Yeah, that did not work."

And so going back to the initial thing that we started talking about, where your workplace, your job, your business is like your child. How do you learn in business? Because it's going to be the same, is through trial and error. I know that sounds like, "Trial and error? [laughs] What do you mean trial and error?" Trial and error, because everything is so complex. Things are so nuanced that there is no linear road.

They were interviewing an Olympic athlete. Olympic athlete, so they were at the top of their game. And they said, "So what's your process? How do you keep improving?" And they're like, "Every day, there's a little bit of a tweak, something I did really well that day, and there was something that I totally messed up that day. And I kind of declare it in my head, and then I go to the next day." And I have to tell you, I did that all throughout my training, I did that all throughout my work, and I did all throughout the time when I was a parent.

Because honestly, there's never a moment where you feel like, "I've done it. I'm done," right? Like, "I've achieved it." It's like whenever you feel like that, look over your shoulder, buddy 'cause just down the street, it's headed to you, so don't get too comfortable. But there's also days where you have to admit like, "Yeah, that did not go well. [laughs] I got pulled around in that one." And that's okay. Trial and error.

I think where I have a hard time, and I'm not saying that any generation is better than the next and we have our own challenges and whatnot, but I love my parents and I don't feel like they ever really spent a moment reflecting on, that they ever went on to reflecting about—maybe they would reflect like once every 10 years. [laughs] But I felt like in the moment, it wasn't part of their repertoire to be like, "Hey, this is not going in the right direction. How can I—" I don't know. I felt like their path, they saw the path to be much more linear. If you're misbehaving, they'd almost just wait for you to come back. But it was almost like, "You either follow my rule or not. So the moment that you realize that I know everything, you are back in." [laughs]

Cecile: Yeah, that's true.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: But if you don't do everything I tell you to do, you are back out. And that's kind of harsh. I mean, just to go back to what we were saying culturally, I always say that I didn't question my parents until I was in college, which was not so awesome because I was really grown by then. And my husband, on the other hand, grew up in a Brooklyn Jewish family. And there was always yelling and people would get stuff out. Things were out. Whereas Asian families are a little bit more quiet, but with my eyes, I will tell you that I'm not happy. It was just completely the opposite if you could be any two opposite places.

And with my husband, I asked him, I said, "When did you start to realize that maybe you had some say in it, that your parents maybe didn't know everything?" And he was like, "I think I was like three years old." [laughs] And I was like, "Three years old? What do you mean?" [laughs] He's like, "Yeah, they did something. I was like, 'Oh, that's messed up. You shouldn't do that.'" And I never—I was 25 when I was like, "Oh, my parents didn't do that great. [laughs] That wasn't great that they did that." It was too different. It was like the complete opposite. You do want your kids to question it and make the mistakes and absorb the mistake as soon as you can.

Cecile: So you're saying that, and that's interesting because we're sometimes told that the kids shouldn't see any disagreement between the parents, so it feels like we should always have that facade of everything is wonderful. And social media is not helping in that where now to the outside world, everything is always fantastic. So there is this fear, I feel like now with parents, that if you screw up once, your entire life of your kid is just like, that's it. You've broken the thing. It's never going back to normal or to okay. So can you reassure us on that, that if we screw up every other day, we're good? [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I mean, I'm at the every day, so [laughs] I'm good with that. I think that there has been nothing more amazing to me as I've watched my kids grow older than to almost apologize to my kids sometimes. And sometimes I am. Sometimes I am a mess. And they have to know that. I feel like sometimes our parents were messes and then they would just like take it out on us. "I'm distressed because you guys did this to me." There's a lot of that weirdness when sometimes it's like, "Yeah, no, I think you're actually a mess today and I've been home doing my homework. I don't know how I caused this."

But it was this whole concept of subservience, which I don't think really breeds the self-disciplining piece. It doesn't really grow that, and that's a real problem because life comes fast and hard from a very young age and being able to get knocked down, get up again, have that resilience, you got to start practicing that dance very early.

It's interesting, and maybe tell me if I'm wrong. I always talk about food as a space or when you're eating together or when you're spending time together. We have very close French friends and I remember our kids, we had toys [inaudible] because we like to go out to dinner with our kids, but they needed something to look at. And I remember my French friend, his kid was like three years old and he had a little car. One car, not even a barrage. I had a basket of things. One car, and he went back and forth with the car.

And then the minute the food came, the food came, and the kid kept playing. Whatever, he's a kid, he doesn't care that the food came. And he was like, "Put that car down. Put it." He was really very stern about the fact that the toy and the food should not exist at the same time. And I was like, "Max, I am so glad I'm not your kid." [laughs] Not that I'm saying that you should have all these but I feel like from a very young age, they have some of these rules, it becomes second nature.

For some reason, I spent the weekend in San Diego with some friends and a lot of them were actually military kids. Their parents were in the military. And I have to tell you, that's a whole other kind of beast. You can really see the difference in the way they approach the world sometimes. Again, the same way that I have issues with the way my parents—who are kind of like, "No, you will have no questions. You will never question."

And it's that kind of thing where discipline is this very—I think that we have to be willing to see how it fits, both from our end and from their end and what optimizes the kid and what really speaks to them the most because only in that way will be the most effective in, again, having them go back to their mind, go back to their soul, and have them create their own code of discipline, the things that they feel like are the most important that honestly don't involve you anymore.

Cecile: So for those who are watching and are either pregnant or with a newborn, when does that start? They're ahead of it, so they can start hoping that they get ahead of the game.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] I tell people, I'm like, "I've seen a six-month-old manipulate a whole room of grown adults." So, yeah, I'm not gonna give you a lot of time. I mean, really just—I mean, I think that a good example—sounds awful, but the truth is when you're pregnant, you have no control over what's happening. I remember the midwives would be like, "The birth is very similar to their person— their birthing personality is the same personality."

And I think that it's a very humbling experience to have children because you realize there's only so much that you can control and the rest of it just evolves the way it's supposed to evolve. And so your boundaries—again, I always say, we would make these arbitrary things, but I would say, make sure that they say please and thank you and try not to get arrested. I say try not to get arrested because my husband, of course, being the lawyer, was like, "What if they were in a political protest?" [laughs] And I was like, "Okay, forget it. Okay, I will not say that anymore because clearly, you cannot back me up on this one thing I was just gonna say."

But that bar is really quite—it's like when you're dating and you're like, "I want him to have curly hair." You have all these—and then at the end, you're like, "Could he just be nice? Could he just smile more than maybe other people?" I don't know, your bar changes. So I think that you have to be kind of limber and be like, "Trial and error, trial and error. And this is something that's important to me. This is not important to me. This is important to me because of this. Oh, well, maybe it's not that important. Maybe I shouldn't—" You have to put your foot out there and create that ship with them, that boat with them.

Cecile: So yeah, that two people dance, right? You're saying discipline as a reciprocal thing and not a one-way street, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, because everything is digested completely differently and the logic is completely different. You're different, you're more stressed, you're less stressed, you're in a good place, you're getting triggered because this is something that makes you remember. Then all of a sudden it may trigger you too, because maybe you grew up in a space that was a lot of discipline and you don't want to discipline your kids for that reason.

We're all human. It's our first time, it's their first time. We're still trying to figure it out. I think that as long as you make the effort and that you're honest with both yourself and your kids, I think there's nothing else that you can expect. You're gonna mess up and they're gonna mess up and everyone just is gonna have to learn to interact with each other. But what a skill that you're teaching. Such a great skill. You're really teaching them how to exist in society and be someone that someone enjoys to be around.

Honestly, you can be the richest person in the world, but if everyone hates you, what's the point? [laughs]

Cecile: To that, I think also if we get some perspective, even if you don't say hello, please, or thank you and you're not on the right track, you'll find people to surround yourself, right? Nobody is left out of society or life altogether because they are not cleaning up their room. You'll find ways. You might not have the perfect life on paper, but also, the risk is limited to the outcome. There's gonna be an impolite adult. There are many out there. And you'll still find your happiness in life.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. I think the "right" is kind of a funky one because honestly, I had to say, if there's anything, when I look back, what are ways that I discipline—honestly, I don't think my kids did a lot of the stuff that I wanted them to but it's the kind of thing where I generally think they say please and thank you, but the rest of it, it's really not from me.

But you're absolutely—you may think you're a awful person if you don't clean your room. And you're absolutely right. You will find someone who doesn't care that you didn't clean your room. This is not one to—what do they say? Go on the sword for. This is not something that. You have to pick your battle. And your battles are slim. But if you can just cultivate in them a sense of boundaries, cultivate a sense of responsibility, both personal and to others—

Cecile: And a sense of listening to other people's need too because the boundaries is also tied to the boundary of somebody else. So let's say they have a roommate tomorrow, or they have a significant other, how do they talk about their boundaries, the other people's boundary? They coexist with others, right? Because it's all about that. It's like it happened to be at home where they hit on my pet peeves but if they go to somebody else's, they hit on their pet peeves. And if they want to get along with someone, they have to also adapt to other people, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. And also know that if it doesn't work, then that just doesn't work. It doesn't mean that you're a bad person. It just means that you guys are different and that there's different boundaries that other people have, and be able to hear that boundary and not be like, "Oh my God, they must hate me," or like, "Oh my God, I'm an awful person." That's not necessarily true.

So everything becomes a little bit more gray, a little bit more fluid, but you have—I think that as parents, we have a responsibility to create self-aware but also that they could create boundaries and be like, "This is very important to me." We always talk about people [inaudible] but you also want people that can stand up for themselves and not be bossed around.

So, again, speaking to that whole thing of like dating a bitch, [laughs] basically, if you boss around your kids so much and never let them have a say, guess what partners they'll choose, as friends, partners—

Cecile: Oh my goodness, I just had a vision like, "No." [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] Partners for life, right? Because they're so used to being like everyone else is telling them to have boundaries. But sometimes, it's actually a very powerful thing when they're like, "Hey, this actually annoys me when you do that." When they start to say, "Hey, there's different boundaries here. Fair enough. Let's coexist. Let's figure out how to do it."

That's the dance that gets a little bit more complicated starting around seven, I'm gonna give you seven years old. [laughs] That's where it gets really complicated. [laughs] Having children is wonderful though. It's really wonderful. [laughs] If you're pregnant or expecting, it's fantastic. It's just—it's a little complicated. [laughs]

Cecile: But we'll be here every step of the way like we were here today.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] Right.

Cecile: So we'll wrap it for today. I think we brought again another different outlook on discipline. For people who've been watching the previous episode, you know that we usually start with one word and we digress or end up making the scope even bigger. When we say we're going to have practical tips, it's usually more blurry after. But we hope that whatever you heard today is going to bring some slight change in your life for the positive. And we hope to see you soon in two weeks for another episode of Moms Talk with a French Accent. Bye, Dr. Perlman. And bye, everyone.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.

Cecile: Have a wonderful day.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: All right, you too.

Cecile: Bye.

Fanny: Bye.


Watch other episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1dpfz3OiZoOwHuST-GmH9sTD0TfF3rIp

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