Well, you become an awesome school principal and a business owner and a certified life coach! Okay, not immediately. There are lessons to learn in between, including how to stop thinking you’ve ruined your life in one incident. Join me while I chat with “Knucklehead Teen Turned Success”, Ben Pugh. We talk about having great relationships with teenagers, spouses, and of course, ourselves. Ben knows the power of building relationships and how that can create success for everyone involved. He also learned that knowing how to relate to others, instead of trying to change them, can make conflict disappear. If you’re struggling with teenager relationships, Ben is who you need to talk to. Listen in to our fun conversation and then, check out his podcast at Impact: Parenting with Perspective and his family membership program: Firmly Founded. Enjoy!
Sheila: Welcome everybody. I know today’s podcast is a little bit longer than normal, but that’s because I have a guest. I’ve interviewed an amazing life coach who’s doing a lot of great work with teens and families, and it was such a joy to interview him and to talk to him about what he is doing and creating out in the world.
He is. He has a lot to share about relationships with yourself and relationships with other people. So stay tuned. There’s a lot to learn from this episode, and I’m really excited to share this with you today. So let’s get started.
Hey everybody. Welcome to the relationship reboot. I am here with my guest Ben Pugh and I’ll let him introduce himself.
Ben: Yeah. Thank you for having me. I it’s always weird introducing myself. Like I go way back, like I’m a former teenage knucklehead who accidentally lit my school bus on fire when I was 13. I, I overcame that obstacle and I became a foster parent with my wife for 10 years. Uh, I was a high school English teacher.
I taught school for about five years on a native American reservation. And then I became the high school principal there for five years and, oh, cool. After doing that, I realized, you know, what, I really love helping teens and their parents. And I don’t like playing by the rules of the state or anyone else.
So I better just start my own life coaching business. So now I’m a life coach for. Parents and their teens, teens, and their parents. I don’t know. I just help parents and teen stop fighting and enjoy each other and make the most out of the teenage years.
Sheila: I love it. And it’s called firmly founded. Is that correct?
Ben: So my podcast is called Impact, Parenting With Perspective, and I do a business with some business partners and that’s called Firmly Founded. And that’s where we have a membership for teens, parents, young adults, and we just do group coaching one on one coaching. It’s really kind of awesome.
Sheila: I love it. So you’re kind of a relationship expert, not kind of, you are a relationship expert, so it’s really great to have you on here.
And I wanna hear more about the, the bus burning incident. How did that happen? What was going on?
Ben: Oh, when I was 13. I, so I’m the oldest of lots of children. And I just had no self-confidence, I didn’t really feel like I fit in. Like honestly to this day I don’t fit in. I don’t play by the rules. I’m the weird guy who works from home as a life coats and like whatever.
But when I was 13, I wanted to fit in. I had a hard time. With not fitting in. And I remember one of my friends stole some rubber cement for whatever reason. Like back in the eighties and nineties, we used rubber cement every day at school. Like mm-hmm when I go deliver this talk to schools, the kids are like, what’s rubber cement.
That’s weird. And, but the little jar with the little brush in it and the whole exactly love it. Yes. All the teachers are like, yes . And I’ll usually ask like, teachers, what did you guys do with that? They all do the same thing. We painted our hands rolled it. I made a ball, but my friend stole this and he is like, Hey bro, will you hold my rubber cement?
And I knew he had stolen it, but because I wanted to fit in because I wanted to be accepted, I was like, sure, I’ll stick it in my backpack. Mm-hmm and hold onto it for you later on the way home he’s like, dude, do you have my rubber man? And I was honestly, so. Excited to be rid of that thing. Like I had felt guilty.
I was like, yes, I didn’t get caught with this thing. Like, I’m digging through my backpack, pulling it out. And one of my other friends was like, I’ve got a lighter. Let’s see what happened. and so I opened this can of rubber cement and my other friend. So I guess he’s responsible. He’s the one who lit it, but you know how string it is.
Like I pulled a little stick out. He lights that strand of snotty, rubber cement, and, oh my goodness. It pop in flames. Oh my God. So fast. And I’m sitting there trying to put the lid on and you can like hear it. It’s like block burning and I tried to throw it out the bus window. The window’s like that big, like I could fit a small person through there.
I missed the window, hit the little bar in between windows and sent flaming rubber cement all over the back of the bus. Luckily it was towards the, towards the end of the bus ride home. All the good kids were in the front and USM hit in the back. Uh, I burned a hole in my pants. My friend burned a hole in his shoes. And we had to help pay to reupholster the back of the bus. And I can tell you that was a big strain on my relationship with my parents. My mom thought I had ruined my life. I remember going to church and having like church leaders. Be like, well, we’re not gonna mention any names, but like, someone’s going to hell because they let their school bus.
It was just, I remember thinking that I had ruined my life and I no longer had anything to offer to the world. Mm-hmm . And I remember being embarrassed about that for a long time. I worked for my dad doing construction work and I would kind of coach football. On the side because I love football and I just volunteer at any of the local high schools and they’d be like, yeah, come help us.
And one time we were building a home for a guy who was a high school principal on the native American reservation, where I ended up working. And he’s like, dude, you were amazing. I would love to hire you anytime you want a job. Let me know. And I’m like, yeah, but I was a bad kid. Like I started my school bus on fire, but he like, like I loved helping teens, my wife and I several year, probably five years earlier had gotten into foster care.
He’s like, no, you’d be phenomenal. I I’ll find a place for you. And then in 2008, the housing market crashed. And me and my dad were basically outta work and I was like, dude, I, what do you want me to do? I’ll do anything. Mm. Yeah. I started as a substitute teacher and he’s like, man, you’re different from all of our other substitutes because you don’t ever send kids to my office, you just manage it.
And I’m like, yeah, because I know how to deal with knuckleheads. Like I was one and it was weird. I went from being a substitute teacher to being like a tutor mentor. and anytime the principal would go away, like, he’d go to the city for meetings or outta state for a training. He’d leave me in charge. As far as behavior goes, mm-hmm and that rubs some people the wrong way, but they’re like, yeah, but he’s really good.
Like, here’s my knucklehead. And I think the thing that made me different is my experience lighting a school bus on. Knowing that come on, guys. I know you don’t wanna be here. I don’t wanna be here. Like, let’s just make the best of it and kind of building this common bond. And all of a sudden behavior started disappearing.
When I became the, man, I could give you my whole life story. Like I got fired from that school which is, uh, Tribal political garbage, but then a year later they hired me back to be their principal. So like when you hired the person that you fire, it kind of shows you, okay, there’s something going on with the system.
But when I was the principal there for five years, We took our graduation rate from 55%, all the way up to 88%. My last three years, like, we were just doing phenomenal things and we took suspensions from over 200 a year to less than 20 a year. And our focus, this was became before I officially became a life coach, but our focus was on building relationships.
We didn’t care about the test scores. We didn’t care about the behavior. We’re like, no. How do we build relationships? And I stumbled upon this my first or second year as a principal, by the way, I talk a lot. If you ever need to cut me off, you just like, gimme the big old…
Sheila: Dude, this is all about you right now. Just keep on.
Ben: Well, there’s this girl. So we would go on end of year trips to kind of motivate our students to graduate and to do well at school and not get in trouble. And we’d taken some kids to Southern California and this girl got caught smoking a cigarette, like on the balcony of her hotel room.
And so my staff bring her down to me and there’s like five of us plus this girl and her roommate in my room. And they’re like, yeah. So we gotta send this girl home because we caught her smoking and she broke the rules and we gotta like get her parents to come. Like, I don’t know. And I remember being like, wait a second, how long have you been smoking?
And she was like, I don’t know, since I was. In eighth grade seventh, somewhere in there. And this is like a junior now, a junior, by the way, who always glared at me would not speak to me. And if she did it involved the F word and she just hated me.
Ben, I gotta interrupt you for a second. Yeah, I’m gonna let my cat out.
And then, well, I wanna hear the rest of this story. He’s not supposed to be in here anyway. ,
Ben: That’s part of why that’s my dog out. Cause I knew I’d have to do the same thing,
Sheila: Okay. So you, you asked the girl, how long have you been smoking?
Ben: Yeah, and she said since about seventh or grade and I asked her, how long have you ever gone without smoking?
And she’s like, I’ve tried to quit over and over like two days is my max and we’re on like day three or four of this trip. And I’m like, I haven’t had a diet Dr. Pepper in about five hours. And I feel like I need one right now. Like I know what it’s like. And I asked the girl, what do you think would be fair?
And she’s like, send me home. Like I broke the rules and I’m like, I don’t want to do that. Like, what if you just like, hang out with me, like you in your roommate, you guys are both guilty for allowing this to happen. You hang out with me at Disneyland tomorrow and depending on your behavior. We’ll see how things go.
And like the day after will probably be normal and she was so grateful. She’s like, you’re not sending me home. You’re not gonna tell my parents. I’m like, no, like they don’t need to know what happens in California, stays in California. Come on. And from that time, when the new school year started, This girl who used to like glare at me and refused to talk to me and sometimes cuss me out, came running up to me and she’s like, Mr. Pugh, how was your summer? Welcome back, gave me this big old hug. And I’m like, wait a second. Who the crap is this? And what did you do with … ?
That was a relationship component. And that’s when we completely shifted our goals as a school to be more relationship centered. And we, we didn’t care care about the grades. We didn’t care about the behavior. We were just like, no, what are some activities that we can do to help build relationships?
And I believe that is what changed the school. That is the secret that made me and my wife really good foster parents. And that’s what makes us have a great relationship. And. A great relationship with our children because we are so intentional and so committed to our relationship and we know what it takes.
Like you gotta have a good relationship with yourself before you can have a good relationship with anyone else.
Sheila: I’m hearing compassion. I’m hearing authenticity on your part. And being vulnerable yourself, like sharing things with the kids that you’ve dealt with and that you understand, and I need a doc Dr. Pepper, like showing the human side of you instead of being the authority and, oh, here’s the rules and creating a disconnect between you and the kids.
And it sounds like this, some would say that this girl changed, but. You changed how you dealt with her and how you responded to her. And so she saw you differently.
Ben: And I would say so I typically coach parents and their teens but by coaching parents and their teens, like at least half of what I do is coach parents about their other parent and their spouse.
And like how things are going as human beings. We are really smart. We have this big old prefrontal cortex and we just like to think and plan and we see what other people are doing wrong. And I’m like, oh, I gotta fix them. I gotta change them. Yes. Which is what everyone had done in this school before me.
But I happened to stumble upon the podcast, The Life Coach School and so I knew, no, I gotta do the work on me. And what I learned is that change happens from the inside out and where everyone else failed was because they were trying to change everyone else on the outside. And where I seriously guys, like I was an amazing principal.
I’m not prideful or anything, but I was great. The thing… I got lucky. I knew these tools and I’m like, no, I’m gonna go to work on me. Um, I got fired from that school the second time. That’s just how the tribe works and I’m not tribal and politics and whatever. I remember not wanting to hate the people that I felt like were treating me unfairly that I felt like were being prejudice, being unfair, being dishonest, like, I hated them. And I realized, I don’t like how I show up as a principal when I hate people.
So I want to change this relationship. And I realized the only time we care, what other people think about us is when we worry that it might be true. Like, these guys are saying I’m a bad principal. I’m a bad influence.
I, I rough house with the kids and blah, blah, blah. Like the only reason I cared was because I was like, dang, what if I am a bad Principal? And when I realized no, that doubt is not helping me. I am the greatest principal who ever lived, and I’m just gonna believe that and I’m gonna love myself. And my last six months as a principal, I felt like it was a back to basics, like I’m out anyways, what can I do that will have the most impact on my students now?
I can be in the classroom. I can be, I can go to every sporting event. I can do everything. And I realized, no, I just need to show up as a principal that I want to be. And I believe in marriages, what happens is oftentimes, and I’m guilty of this. I’ll try and change my wife and I’ll be like, no, listen, you should be doing this.
You need to change. You need to whatever . And that brings conflict. And guys, we have evidence all around us, like look at politics and church and sports, like trying to change. Other people has never worked. It only creates conflict. And when we can learn that. And realize, no, I just need to manage me. I need to be who I want to be.
And that’s when that change starts to happen from the inside. And it works its way out. Like anytime I want to change my wife, I’m not perfect at this, but I try and remind myself, how can I be the change that I want to see in her? And when I commit to doing that, it does two things. It takes my focus off my poor wife.
Who’s doing the best that she can and it brings it back inward. And it gives me something to do rather than being the victim, thinking, gosh, I wish she’d change. I wish she’d be different. No, now I have power and I’m like, well, how can I be that change? Oh, I can do this or I can do that. And that gives me power in the relationship.
And I can’t tell you how many times, like my wife has been like, oh my goodness, ben is freaking driving me nuts. And she tries to change me and it doesn’t go very well. But then when she’s like, you know what, I’m gonna change. I see what she’s doing. And I’m like, Ooh, I’m gonna change too. Like, that’s how it ripples out. And works from the inside out.
Sheila: Y’all can’t see me, but I’m nodding my head with everything that Ben saying like, oh my gosh, this is so good. And you say it so well, I love it. It’s your level of awareness with what’s going on the dynamics in the relationship, the dynamics between a parent and their child, the school what’s going on there. That’s amazing. And thank you for putting that out in the world and sharing that gift with people. That. That aligns perfectly with my mission of having people understand that their thoughts about themselves impact their relationship with other people. It it’s just, it almost seems too simple to say it. Like, oh, we should all know that, but it’s, we’re, we’re not knowing that. We’re going around like it’s not a thing. And, and it totally is. And it makes such a huge, huge difference.
Ben: And I, I think there’s an important kind of balance here. There’s our thoughts about ourselves. But there’s also our thoughts about the other person mm-hmm and I’ll share a story with you. In my church, we set out flags on certain holidays and one day we had put out flags, but it’s during the summer and my oldest son wanted to go hang out with his friends and he is on the phone, planning this, get together with his buddies.
And I remember like being like, Hey, Brandon wait. And he shushed me and gave me the ugliest look ever and was like, shush. And I was like, what? You shushed me? And I was like, Brandon, we gotta pick up flags. I’m just trying to tell you. And he said, shut up and like, made that ugly face again. And I’m getting angry.
Like my emotion. It was probably like rage at the time. Actually, it was just mild annoyance. And then my wife comes over. And I’m fully expecting my wife to take my side and be like, Brandon, hang up the phone, listen to your dad. Like, this is what I’m expecting. And she just blindsides me and she’s like, Ben, he’s on the phone. Leave him alone.
And that’s when I went from mild annoyance to rage. And I remember just being pissed and. I’ve done this work for a really long time. And I so like don’t expect yourself to be perfect on day one. I’ve learned from lots of mistakes. But this particular moment I got lucky and I’ve like set off warning bells to go off when I get into rage mode and I’m like, wait a second. Why am I so upset?
And I realized, oh, I just thought my wife would come take my side. I thought it’d be like two against one. Tag team, this we’d win, whatever. And then I remember thinking I used to hate it when my parents would do that to me. I hated it when it was them two against me. And I love that my wife is taking my teen side.
I love that my teenager has a mom who is willing to stand up to a dad who obviously talks a lot and loves to hear himself talk. I’m just so glad he has a mom who’s willing to do that. And instantly that rage changed and transformed into gratitude. And it was a powerful moment for me to realize I don’t need to change my wife. I don’t need to change my son. I just need to be grateful for what I have. And I am so grateful for my wife. I’m so grateful for my son.
Now I could have dwelled on the thought. I’m in the right here. Like, I don’t wanna pick up flags alone. Like he should have listened. Like my wife should have taken my side. I could have stayed there all day long, but then I would’ve had a miserable whatever holiday that was. And when I was able to shift into this gratitude, I just remember thinking like, my wife seemed sexier and hotter to me after that my sons seemed like a better son and I’m like, no, I actually am proud of him.
Like, changing where I focused and how I felt it didn’t change my life. It didn’t change my teenager, but it changed how I showed up in that relationship. And I just remember really being impressed, like, oh my goodness, I could seriously do this every day. Why don’t I? Like, why do I spend so much my time mad when I can be grateful and appreciative of what I have
Sheila: I love that that’s like the classic reboot story. You like rebooted your brain and how you were seeing the whole, the whole situation and how you wanted to show up. And it’s funny that you changed how you were thinking about it and there they are still exactly the same, but suddenly you’re not angry at them anymore.
You’re grateful for them. That’s so beautiful. Oh my gosh, Ben, that’s so good. So we tried to get Ben’s wife to come on the interview today but it was, we kind of, you know, um, what’s the word you… uh…
Ben: I was trying to manipulate and use my Jedi. I’m like, come say hi, to Sheila. Like she wants…
Sheila: We kinda blindsided her,
Ben: Hey, I’ve got an extra mic. Do you wanna be on the podcast? And she turned us down.
Sheila: so I’ll talk to her and see if I can get her to come on. I’d love to hear some of the things that she’s experienced too. Um, and hear her story and what she feels. How it is for her being married to a guy that likes to burn buses like that kind of a thing.
Ben: Yeah. That happened once I no longer do that. and if there are any parents or teenagers listening, like just no, don’t do that. I don’t recommend it.
Sheila: yeah. Like I think we all have something in our past, right. That seems to be, oh, that’s the thing that ruined my life and we can look at it that way or we can look at it.
Oh, there was, that was the time that I learned this lesson. And then I grew from that.
Ben: The gift.
Sheila: Yeah, absolutely. That is so good. All right. So tell me more about, uh, the business that you do, the type of coaching that you do. We talked about it a little bit at the beginning. Um, but what does that look like?
How do you help people with that? Because I’m sitting here thinking, I know that there are people, people that I know personally that would be so helped by what you do. So say more about that.
Ben: Yeah. So basically I help parents and their teenagers enjoy the teenagers together. Like seriously, I just read something the other day.
That’s like, by the time your kid is 13, you have already spent like 80% of the time that you will spend with him. And by the time they’re 18, it’s like 95% or something. And like in my life, I have a teenager. Who’s a really good football player. He’s in high school, he’s gone to weights every day.
We’re like, I don’t see him as much. I have another teen that’s gone doing basketball stuff. And I want to help parents enjoy their teenager while they’ve got ’em. Like, this is the fun time your teen is finally starting to kind of be an adult, maybe like a brain damaged adult, because our brain doesn’t really develop until they’re 25, but it’s a fun time they’re exploring, like who do I wanna be?
What do I want to be as an adult? And so many parents hate that. And the teens are hating their teenage years. And if I can help them enjoy that, like all of a sudden mental health concerns, like they become manageable. All of a sudden, the fighting, like if you’re fighting with your teen every day, come talk to me because I can help you decrease that.
Like we’ll just fight six days of the week and we’ll have one that, just joking, we’ll decrease it. Maybe you only fight one day. I help parents stop trying to fix and control their team because those of your, those of you guys who know the model, we get really good at focusing on our model. But we, what we don’t realize is that we spend a lot of time focusing on our teenagers model.
And we’re like, no, no, you should think this way. No, you should feel that… no, stop being angry. No, you should totally do this. Like we’re spending so much time. Trying to manage their model. And when parents and teens learn how to manage their own model, that’s when they develop a healthy relationship, that’s when they can really thrive.
And so me and my business partners, there’s Joey Mascio and Ali Terry. We have started this business Firmly Founded, and we have a membership for… we say it’s for families, but really we don’t wanna work with kids that are too young. Like if your kid is three, or okay… 5, 7, 10, right? It’s probably not your kid that needs a coach it’s probably you. Like, come join our parenting thing. Um, when your kid’s a teenager, like it’s stuff being a teenager, there’s a lot of peer stuff. And so our family membership is for kind of pre-teens teens, young adults and their parents, and inside of the membership we have group coaching, we have video trainings, we have all sorts of stuff to help.
Like the team trainings are awesome. I do the parent trainings because. I don’t know I could do the teen ones. I’m just, I don’t like to be as entertaining. And I just like to get down and dirty with parents. Like, here’s what we’re gonna do. but the teen trainings are great. The parent stuff is great and the membership is only $97 a month for like basic.
If you want to add one on one, the price obviously goes up. I can’t even remember. I think it’s a hundred bucks for two, one on one sessions. It’s a good deal, but…
Sheila: That’s a good deal. Yeah.
Ben: So anyone who is a parent or if you know anyone who’s a parent. Uh, one of the best ways to start with me is by listening to my podcast, uh, a lot of the people that we get coming in, they’re like, I know you I’ve listened to every episode. And that’s the thing, like, if you like what you’re hearing on the podcast, that’s what you get inside of the membership.
Sheila: That’s cool. That’s like a, pre-training like, yeah, the pre pre-training before you get into. Into the group and go deeper with these things and get more personal help.
Ben: Yep. Exactly. So that sounds that’s where you find me.
And so my podcast is called impact parenting with perspective. If you wanna learn about our Firmly Founded Family Membership, you can go to firmlyfounded.com and in the past we’ve opened and closed doors, but at the time we’re recording this it’s late July. I believe we’re gonna keep the doors open all of August, possibly even all of September, because we know back to school is a little crazy, a little hectic, and maybe parents, you have a little more time, cuz you finally were able to send the kids back to school. And we wanna make it so you can get in if you’d like. So.
Sheila: I love it. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. Thanks for sharing your story about the bus. And, and I especially love the flags, putting out the flags and what happened there and that reframe, reboot, whatever you wanna call it.
Yeah. That little moment of realization and awareness. I, to me, I think it all starts with awareness. Like we can’t deal with ourselves until we start looking at, and that’s what stops people a lot is I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna start looking cuz I don’t know what I’m gonna find. It might be really bad or, or maybe I already believe that there’s really bad stuff, really bad stuff there.
So, um, thanks for being open and sharing all of that and all this, uh, information you just shared with us. I’ll make sure that’s in the show notes so people can reach out to you as well. So Ben, thank you so much for being guest. It’s been really great having you.
Ben: Yeah, thank you for having me.