Leadership Unfiltered | L.A. Tribune TV with Jessica Abo
In a recent episode of Leadership Unfiltered, Jessica Abo sits down with Dr. Aliza Pressman, a developmental psychologist, to discuss her new book, The Five Principles of Parenting. She emphasizes that perfect parenting is not possible and can be burdensome for children. Dr. Pressman’s goal with the book is to provide practical advice and alleviate the stress and self-doubt that parents often experience. The five principles she outlines are relationship, reflection, regulation, rules, and repair.
Jessica Abo: I would love to know a little bit more about the people that you talk to and work with on a daily basis.
I speak with parents themselves, caregivers themselves, teachers and medical professionals. So a lot of my work is teaching the teacher or training healthcare providers. I also speak to people on my podcast, and those are usually colleagues who are very focused on a particular area of human development of some kind or psychology or some related field.
In your book you say that perfect parenting is the enemy of good parenting. Why is that?
It’s so developmentally appropriate to have a child and be responsible for this human’s growth and want to get it right. The reality is for rearing children, the last place that perfectionism has helpful is in this space because for one thing, it’s not possible, but for another, and this is, I think the kicker and the thing that really resonates: it’s a burden to a child. There’s something inside of us that feels like I have to be able to live up to this person. So if that person is perfect, it is painful and burdensome because you grow up and you think “I’m supposed to get there”. Imagine the burden that you can lift, that you can relieve from your children. Not only do you say that your expectation isn’t that they’re perfect, but you actually believe it in yourself and that you’re compassionate with yourself when you blow it. Because as a perfectionist, if you really want to get it right, you have to make mistakes in front of your kids.
What made you want to write this book right now?
Sometimes people love listening to podcasts every week, and that’s sort of their way of getting the information that they need. Some people like to talk to friends at the playground and some people call their parents and some people like to read parenting books. So I want to meet people where they are, and I decided if I could find something that would clear away the noise and alleviate some of the tension and the sense of less than then I would do it. My whole goal is that nobody would read the book and go, “oh my God, I’m the worst parent”. But that they would read it and say, “oh, okay, I could do this. This is doable”.
What are the five principles and what’s something about each that we should know?
Relationship, reflection, regulation, rules and repair. Relationship is how we move through the world with other people and how we connect with them and how we attune with them. Reflection is about taking space to think before taking action. And if you have time to breathe, you have time to reflect. Regulation, being intentional, control of behavior, attention or thinking, it’s freedom to pause, reflect, and then be able to make intentional choices. Rules are a combination of boundaries and the limits that we set behaviorally. So the boundaries are about us in relation to other, and the limits are about the behaviors we are expecting of our kids and the people around us. And finally, repair. Repair is what happens for growth. Repair is what happens when there are ruptures and repair helps us understand that there is a sturdy foundation and that things happen above the ground, but nothing is breaking.
A word I’m seeing in the news a lot these days is regulation. Why do you think this concept is so important and why is it getting so much press?
We want our kids to be self-regulated. We find out it’s more important than IQ in terms of looking at outcomes for later in life. That’s major. But the biggest predictor of regulation is your caregiver’s regulation. We co-regulate until we have the brain fully available to us to self-regulate. Self-regulation is a skill that’s housed in your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that develops last. So we’re talking about a fully developed human who’s probably left the house before they have full capacity for self-regulation. So how does it grow? We treat it like a muscle that we practice and exercise and we need to co-regulate, which means our adult nervous system sort of lens. Its calm and ease to our kids.
Another hot topic I’m seeing a lot is boundaries, boundary setting, why we need them as adults, why we need them as kids. What can you tell us about boundaries?
It is not a safe feeling if your parent does not have clear boundaries, there has to be a difference between you and your child. You and your child can be so close and they can feel like they are really a part of you, but for the purposes of feeling super safe, they need to know that you are separate people because sometimes they really feel like they are our best friend in the sense that we love them, they’re our favorite. But the truth is that would be really poor boundaries because a best friend is mutual. I’m going to take care of you, you’re going to take care of me. But that’s not appropriate with appropriate boundaries between an adult and a child. They might feel like you are their best friend, that’s fine. But if you are actually depending on that child for your emotional needs being met, that would be a boundary problem. They’re not supposed to take care of us, we’re supposed to take care of them.
What else do you want to add about repair in terms of parenting and leadership?
Somebody was asking me the other day, if you were thinking about equality in a person and what kind of parent they might be, if you had to pick one quality, what would it be? And I was like, watch how they make repairs. Let’s really consider leadership. What’s one quality of a leader? You want them to be able to recognize when they make mistakes and be able to have a plan forward and shift gears and forgive themselves, but know what’s going on. And you just need that in parents so kids can then again embody that.