June 11, 2022
From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/impactfulkids
[00:00:53] Podcast Sponsors
[00:04:12] Guest Introduction
[00:07:24] Todd shares about his children, and what he's most proud about them
[00:15:26] How to train children in the skill of divergent thinking
[00:25:12] Podcast Sponsors
[00:29:38] Resources Todd uses to raise his daughters
[00:34:56] How to approach relying on others for children's development
[00:39:36] Things Todd learned while writing his book he's passing on to his children
[00:45:12] Reconciling differing parenting styles when mom and dad live under different roofs
[00:47:48] Exposing children to societal taboos in an environment the parent can control
[00:59:38] How to carve out one on one time with children
[01:07:11] Final questions for Todd
[01:14:57] The message for parents Todd would put on a billboard
[01:19:06] End of Podcast
Ben: My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.
Todd: The idea of you having an authoritarian presence in your kids' lives doesn't stop their hormones and their bioengineering to enter the romantic world. All it means is you lose access now and there's no point that you're going to get to where all of a sudden, “Well, now that you've graduated high school, your opinion matters. Now that you've crossed the arbitrary threshold of it, I'm going to listen to your opinion. You're starting now.”
Ben: Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.
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Alright, folks. Some time ago, not too long ago actually, I released an interview with the author of a very interesting book, very thought-provoking book, the book was titled “The Art of Insubordination: How To Dissent And Defy Effectively.” And, it was written by a guy named Todd Kashdan. And, I actually wound up interviewing Todd, and it was a fantastic interview about how to just gracefully be an insubordinate in an era in which many people are sheeple and swim downstream. The book really teaches you how to swim upstream, how to defy the status quo, how to stand up for your rights and stand up for what you believe in. And, it's a great book for anyone who wants to create a world with more justice, and creativity, and courage.
And so, that interview with Todd was fantastic. But, there's one chapter in the book, and Todd and I didn't spend too much time on this chapter but it was about how to raise just super resilient and impactful children, how to make them or allow them or teach them to think for themselves in a very independent fashion. So, I dug that section of Todd's book so much and also just our conversations so much. I wanted to have him back on the show because as you might know by now, I'm working on a book myself called “Boundless Parenting” in which I interview 30 plus amazing parents from around the globe who share deep wisdom and practical advice on how you can raise better humans. And, I wanted to showcase Todd in that book just because of his unique approach, and his thinking style, and what it is that he's up to. So, Todd is back.
And, I'm going to put the shownotes for everything, including my previous episode with Todd over at BenGreenfieldLife.com/ImpactfulKids. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/ImpactfulKids.
Todd, welcome back to the show, man.
Todd: I am so psyched to be part of this crazily coolly named book.
Ben: Yeah. I think it's going to be pretty epic. And, it allows me to just dig in and see these almost repeated themes amongst parents, see differences amongst parents. And, as I tell people, my kids aren't yet fully grown. There's no proven model that they're going to wind up in prison but at the same time, I do know a lot of other parents who are doing a pretty good job who even farther ahead than I am in the game. So, I figure at the end of the day, the book's going to be super-duper helpful at least. In my own editing so far, the 800 plus pages that are in it thus far, I wish it had existed when I'd first become a parent.
Todd: I cannot tell you how many times to say where was the parenting manifesto when they just let you out of the hospital with two twins and say, “Hey, listen, you have a high school education, so good luck. You got this. And, that's all we got to say to you.”
Ben: Yeah, exactly. No, they don't teach you too much about how to raise a human even though it seems it should be a pretty important part of the curricular upbringing of a young human learning how to foster the introduction of new members of our species into the world. But, alas, we're working on it though, man. That's part of this discussion.
So, tell me about your kids.
Todd: So, I have three daughters. I'm part of the rare breed of man who if you believe in karma, if you are not an acceptable dater during your young years, you get all women later in life to make amends. I've got 15-year-old twin daughters in high school, freshman year, and their nine-year-old younger daughter who's in fourth grade.
Ben: Okay, got it. Yeah, I had forgotten your daughters were fifteen. They're actually pretty close to the age of my sons. My sons are twins and they're 14 years old. So, maybe we'll get together and bring the families to Disney some time or SeaWorld or wherever people go on vacation these days. LEGOLAND, I suppose. I don't know if 15-year-old —
Todd: If we could get two 15-year-olds and two 14-year-olds to join us, that is a sign that we've done well as parenting.
Ben: We win in the interview right here. So, in terms of your parenting approach, this first question that I have for you is just a chance for you to maybe humble brag a little bit and let people know about what it is that your kids are up to. So, can you tell me a little bit more about what they do, what their interests are and how it is that you as a parent and I realize that it might seem a little bit of a humble brag as you go through this. You as a parent, what is it that you're proud for them about right now?
Todd: Great, great question. So, Chloe and Raven, my 15-year-old twins, they have just entered the world of dating in their own incomprehensible way. There's about seven different steps now between being friends and dating someone, which I'm not going to go through because TikTok can offer that to somebody. And, one of them, Raven is on the high school soccer team. She made the high school varsity volleyball team. She's on a travel soccer team. So, she right now is a hardcore athlete. And, probably what I'm more proud of than that is because, like you, I am a really big fan of mind, body, take care of them for the rest of your life is she's really gravitated towards the two years during the pandemic of me working out in the garage with elastic bands, and dumbbells, and kettlebells. And, she wanted to learn everything. So, I bought her gloves and we lived in that garage and she wants to have an athletic Venus/Serena Williams body, not to be skinny. She really embraces this new model of women of physically muscular fit agile —
Ben: Like functional fitness type of stuff.
Todd: Exactly, exactly. So, that's Raven. I can think of back in when she was around four or five years old and we'd go on car trips and I would just — I'm a psychologist, I'd experiment on my kids all the time, and I would do word association games of how creative is her thinking. And, I would say meatball and then she would say unicycle or I would say light bulb and then she would say vegetarian hamburger. And, it was so quick the reaction time that I remember turning to our mom and be like, “Oh, my god, to figure out the associations in her brain, how did one lead to the other one? You're supposed to say spaghetti when you have meatball. You're supposed to say dark when you hear light.” So, she's a very creative quick extroverted thinking, She's very extemporaneous, she processes information quick. It also has a dark side. You're blurting out things, you're impulsive, but you also come up with answers quickly in social settings, which is really fun to interact with.
Chloe is my more deliberative thinker. She's the analytical machine of my daughters. She reminds me — so my father was one of the first computer engineers for Apple back in the Newton meters long before it was popular and you had billboards and Steve Jobs existed.
Ben: Did he transfer his employee ownership stock onto you, so you're independent and filthy rich now?
Todd: I should be, except he walked out of my family when I was two. So, it's mostly stories that I hear about him as opposed to actually he's a part of my life, which is an interesting conversation for us of being a father when you didn't have a father figure when you were young is very interesting. But, Chloe, she's a very rational thinker. She comes up with really good arguments. If I offer discipline towards her, she'll say, “Listen, dad. Here's why it doesn't make sense. Here's why you're hypocritical. Here's why it's not going to work.” And, she's usually right and she thinks quickly about that. And, I mean, with Chloe, my 15-year-old, I probably make more mea culpas the next day which we'll get into than any of my other kids because she is right more often than not and she's going to be a prosecuting attorney, a private investigator or takes down serial killers as a profiler for the FBI. So, that's her. She used to be really into sports, and I think she got burnt out which I'm sure a lot of parents can relate to by being really good, really early. Other people, including myself, overly defining her as an incredibly exceptional athlete. Her hand-eye coordination is something I could have only dreamed of. Think of Barry Sanders, think of Michael Jordan, think of Peter Sampras, athletes when they jump in the air, they know where they are even if they're doing a 360 on a soccer field. That's Chloe.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, that makes it. By the way, the first time I've ever heard someone called Pete Sampras, Peter Sampras.
Todd: Oh, yeah. Am I wrong or right?
Ben: I don't know. I thought maybe you knew more than I did, but anyways, that's a rabbit hole. Go ahead.
Todd: Yeah. Yeah, lots of things to play with in there. And then, Violet, my youngest who's 9, she is the imaginative one. And, in some ways, I'm parenting her a little bit differently because she's the last licks on this thing. And, she's still into stuffed animals even though she's in fourth grade, but she has an entire world, her entire closet has no clothes, it's just she will create these mausoleums, and hotels, and large landscapes where the animals have personalities, stuffed animals and she'll spend more money buying them food, supplies, furniture, food trucks, then she will spend on herself. And, honestly, it's something we'll dive into is I'm such a big fan of training her to be as big of a divergent thinker as possible and school provides nothing but convergent thinking that I'm not going to do a premature closure on any of this imaginary play even though most of her friends have moved on into more parallel play sports and outdoor activities. She likes to design videos and she's very perceptive of picking up other people's emotional states. She almost has the instincts of someone that was physically and emotionally abused where they can recognize just by the pace of someone walking through the household, whether this is going to be a good day or a bad day with their parent. But, she does this with everyone so she has this interpersonal intelligence that's off the charts.
Ben: Wow, wow. Now, are you married, Todd?
Ben: Okay. Alright. So, you're raising these girls as a solo father/author? Do you actually work from home?
Todd: Well, from the pandemic and onward, I've changed my lifestyle where I'm going to be spending much more time with them until they go away to college, so yes.
Ben: Okay, got it, got it.
And so, one thing that you already brought up that I think would be a perfect place to dive into when it comes to the unique ways in which you're raising your girls based on what you've learned from things like writing this “Insubordination” book and your unique approach, you talked about training them in the skill of divergent thinking. What do you mean by that and how do you pull that off?
Todd: Yeah. The second one is a tough question, which is why I'm glad you have a diverse series of parents, they're going to talk in your book. The first one is as such convergent thinking is, imagine is you have a problem or situation with a clearly defined set of possibilities or answers. So, if someone asks you “What's the quadratic formula?” there's a very clear answer. If someone says to you, “Listen, can I have breakfast? I need at least 30 grams of protein because I just read at the New York Times yesterday as someone who's 48 years old, it's important.” Well, there's an answer. There's that's conversion thinking though. The divergent thinking part is how do you get that protein, the diversion thinking part is the quadratic formula the best way to express the mathematical relationship with whatever it is you're thinking about. You're thinking about playing billiards. You're thinking about trying to create a party and thinking about where should people go and where should the furniture go.
Once you have a more open-ended range of possibilities of exploring terrain, problems, and decisions, you're moving into the creative world of diversion thinking. And, there's also an element of this where as soon as you move away from conventional and orthodox approaches, you're moving into the world of divergent thinking. And, a good example of that, not that we want to get stuck into that cultural issues that people are fighting around incessantly is when someone offers an idea of, “Hey, America started with the mayflower, America started with the slave trade, America started with the constitution,” those are all taught often in classes and by adult figures as if they are convergent questions. There's very clear answers. And, just by me mentioning those three possibilities, it actually could involve great divergent thinking of thinking of, well, okay, when we think about what America is, what are we talking about? Are we talking about a thing? Are we talking about something that's inscribed in text? Are we talking about culture? Is culture fixed? And, as soon as you start exploring questions about the initial question, you're entering the realm of diversion thinking.
Ben: Now, are there specific strategies that you use to teach that? Because the reason I ask that is it seems to me, and correct me if I'm wrong that the modern educational system largely specializes in teaching convergent thinking, cooperation, putting a square peg in a square hole and a round peg in a round hole lining up in a row, and being a good little factory worker painting with a broad brush. There's obviously some exceptions to the rule and some notable exceptions to the rule in terms of public schools or Montessori academies, et cetera, that stand out. But, it seems to me that there must be some strategies to train a child in divergent thinking even if they're simultaneously as it sounds your daughters are enrolled in a school that might specialize in a more convergent thinking type of education.
Todd: Yeah, it's very challenging when you're not doing homeschooling which we don't. So, they are in public education. There's so many things I do. So, one thing I do is I walk my 9-year-old daughter and I walked my 15-year-olds until high school every single day of their lives, I walk them to school, except if I was traveling abroad. So, we're talking 95% of their days I walked them to school.
So, there's a couple things to do every single morning. Every morning, I get up before them, work out and then I'll find something in the news just to bring up to them but without me offering my lens of how to view that topic. So, obviously, as we're talking today, we just had the tragedy in Texas of 19 elementary school kids being shot down by an 18-year-old. When I introduced that story to my daughters, obviously very different to the 15-year-olds than to the 9-year-old, I don't introduce my lens, I allow them space to actually offer their own thoughts and op-eds about that experience and then I'll build off of their experience. So, when I talked about it to my 15-year-olds, they told me that they heard about it before from their friends and on TikTok. And then, I asked them, “Well, what's the information source?” And then, “What did you hear that you think is true and what did you hear that you think is you're not sure about?” And, it's that unsure piece that I play with almost every single day of their lives. In terms of, “Well, what did you hear was the motivation behind the killing that happened there?” We'll be going there. And, they got to go on that.
So, this leads to the next question, which is there's no answer, which is, “What do you think the motivation is? So, here, you have an 18-year-old, we know nothing else about them, what are your guesses?” Again, they're being raised by psychologists, so they brought up loneliness, they brought up bullying, they brought up body dysmorphia, something that we talked about relatively recently. They brought up, maybe they don't have a good relationship with their parents, maybe they're not going to get into college. So, they're talking about a whole number of different possibilities, and then it leads to the next question, which is, “Wow would those adversities, if they happen, lead them down the path of they would actually bring a gun to school?” And, this is where you have the divergent thinking and the critical thinking starts to pick up. So, every single morning, I have no idea where the conversation is going to go and I don't really care. It's really about just having time with them where I'm not the authority figure, we're not trying to find answers, we're just exploring really cool interesting topics every day. That's one part.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And, by the way, just a real quick thing about the current events piece, I think that's important. My son subscribed to current events weekly called “The Week,” fantastic little weekly digest of current events specifically targeted towards adolescents. Now, that magazine arrives once a week and I actually read it when it arrives, and then I give it to them to read. And, by me reading it and knowing what they're reading as well, it provides really good fodder for the dinner table for me to actually say, “Hey, what do you think about what's going on in Ukraine right now? Do you think the Putin made the right decision? What do you think the people of Ukraine should do? What do you think we should do to help out? Do you think we should help out or do you think we're contributing to something that you don't believe in or stand for?” And so, I really agree that having some current events digest even though I know there's a lot of people who say you shouldn't look at the news, the news is negative, just keep it out of your lives, I think it actually is our prerogative to stay up to date on what's going on in the world even if that simply means we're staying up to date on it so we can figure out how we can help people or contribute to society in some way. But, being on the same page of the current events digest that your children are, to be able to foster discussion, I think, is actually really important.
Todd: Yeah. I love imagining, Ben, your dinner conversation with your kid because there's a lot of pieces that come in there. One is you're giving your sons to have agency in the conversation where they're contributing members. The other section of that is you're treating them as you are not the curator of a 3-pound brain that's going to turn into something that's valuable, it's valuable now. And, there's no point that you're going to get to where all of a sudden, “Well, now that you've graduated high school, your opinion matters. Now that you've crossed the arbitrary threshold of 18, I'm going to listen to your opinion. You're starting now.” And, the thing that I like about that that you do with your son, which I espouse as well, is one of the modern phrases I despise the most, I don't know if you feel the same way, is when people say, “Stay out of your lane,” this just happened yesterday, it happens every three days with me. And, my —
Ben: I get that too, by the way. “It's always stick to fitness, bro.”
Todd: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, my response is always the same. Where do you think creative ideas come from? It comes from how are you going to find the flaws knowing that you have so many biases and you have so much psychological conflict of interest and that this is your area, you have a paycheck that's dedicated to it, what is your motivation to find the flaws and see the problems or see possible solutions? And, you want tons of people out of lane, and here's where we get back to parenting. If you say you should stay in your lane, what you're saying is is that no kid's voice matters because they don't have a lane yet. They're still roaming around the highways that there's no yellow lines or white lines, they're zigzagging and they're taking motor scooters and they're taking their bicycles up and down hills going through people's yards, they don't have freaking lane. So, when you say that, you're saying students and kids don't matter, it's only pseudo quasi experts that have vegetable soup after their names or people who have titles after titles and degrees. And, that is an absurd approach to a culture that's trying to continue to evolve and continue to improve in terms of decision making and getting rid of dysfunctional ideas and systems.
Thank you for letting me air it out as my therapist.
Ben: No problem. That's what I'm here for, bro.
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As far as the actual development of the style of thinking that you're trying to foster in your daughters, do you actually use any type of curriculum, or books, or systems, or models, or resources that you rely upon? Do you just piece things together on your own? Or, do you have any type of approach as far as resources are concerned?
Todd: So, the answer really is no except for this. After being trained as a clinical psychologist, I found one framework to be most beneficial to me above all and to my clients which was acceptance and commitment therapy, which in a nutshell comes down to being in the present moment, being accepting an exploratory of experiences that are outside the self and in the self and engaging behaviors that are aligned with your values. It's a triangle. You've got presence, you have exploration, and then you have commitment. And, that approach to psychological experiences and that approach to being very situationally aware of what behaviors will work best in a particular situation and not being rigid in your thinking or rigid in your behavior is something that I've adopted for my own life, and it's something that I'm training my kids in as well. One example of this, one of my kids have seen a therapist before and one of the difficulties that they had was just this mental chatter of self-doubt and self-deprecation that “I'm not good enough, I'm not attractive enough, I'm fat at a very young age.” And, what I did with the therapist was say, “Listen, I want them to work on the skill which I can't do it because I don't want to add therapist,” formal therapist on top of being, a dad, a coach, and a friend, and everything else.
Todd: I want them to be able to see that their thoughts are just these words that your brain is constantly producing and that your identity is not attached to any of the statements that your brain says. Your brain is always talking to you and just like a friend that sometimes has good advice and sometimes gives horrible advice. Your brain is the same way. Just because it's attached to you doesn't mean the advice is always good or that statements are factual. And, I want them to have this relationship with their brain that they could say, “Okay, listen that's an interesting idea, it's an interesting hypothesis that you say that I'm fat. Let me go test that. Let me go ask three people.” I can see whether over the past week has anybody pointed out that I'm overweight. So, no to both questions. Okay. So, right now, I have less confidence in that hypothesis that I'm fat. And, that approach fits with acceptance and commitment therapy and it's a nice psychological toolbox to train my kids to be more tolerant of strain that arises as they're navigating their social world.
Ben: It reminds me just a little bit of something that might go hand in hand with mindfulness-based meditation, observing your thoughts and feelings as you meditate without judging them or trying to change them and simply stepping back and paying attention to almost what your brain is doing, almost as though you're observing yourself in the third person. I think that mindfulness-based meditation or some form of meditation in which you're just sitting and allowing yourself to observe your thoughts without judgment is pretty important. Even for kids, I actually do meditation every morning with my kids about 10 minutes and then we do a repeat, self-examination of the day, at the end of the day. And, I think it actually really, really helps them to get to know themselves and to be able to understand their thought patterns.
Todd: All of these models steal from other models. So, I mean, yeah, this is definitely Venn diagram overlap with mindfulness meditation. I mean, we're New Yorkers, so my kids are like me; hyperactive, hypomanic. Meditation has never worked. What works for them is what has worked for me. I mean, they have a good genetic linkage to me, which is when we do activities, we really absorb ourselves to the degree where we lose our sense of self and our ego in the activity. And, that's the form of meditation that we use. Whether it's playing soccer, whether it's lifting weights in particular, whether it's cardiovascular activity in there is our form of meditation. And, I say this not just about what I do is that I'm really strong proponent of, listen, everybody has to figure out. Here's a methodology that works as you're saying mindfulness meditation, do not think that the only way to do it is to sit down or lay down on a cushion. If it's within an activity, the more that the activity is routine and simplistic, the easier it is potentially of maybe that's the way that it'll work for you. Some people, it's gardening, some people, it's knitting.
Ben: Yeah. For my kids, it's probably art. They do a lot of painting that would classify as that style of activity.
One thing that you mentioned, by the way, that I think is important to note especially for parents or to-be-parents that are listening in is the idea that you outsourced some of that cognitive awareness and the assistance to a third party. And, I think that's important for a couple of reasons so that as you noted, you're not stepping into the role of therapist as parents especially when that's your profession, it's bringing your work home in a way. But then also, I think that it's important to rely upon others and accept that even if you don't have the mentality of “It takes a village to raise a child,” outsourcing certain things can be important. For example, my sons have done a rite of passage, and traditionally, rites of passages are not overseen by the father, they're overseen by an uncle or a tribal leader or some other man who is overseeing it so that the child is actually able to cut the connection with the father, to not be dependent on the parent as they're going through a difficult scenario so that they're required to think for themselves or at least not think that their parent is going to be there all the time to help them because that's simply, as we all know, not the case as you grow old.
So, they have another guy who's going to be featured in the book, Tim Corcoran, he's their wilderness survival instructor. He oversaw the rite of passage. And, he even does a monthly mentorship call with them as they go through their nature awareness and self-awareness course that they go through right now. And, sometimes, I get a little jealous as a father, listening at these long calls with my sons and when she's telling them stories and hearing their thoughts and feelings and emotions. But then, I think, “No, no, this is good that they have someone other than their parents teaching them something that goes beyond what they might learn in a traditional schooling setting.” I'm not talking about the idea of outsourcing your entire education to a schooling system, which I think is a failure of a lot of parents, getting kids off the school and assuming all the work is done and you have nothing left to do when they come home aside from just hanging out with them and have fun. There's a lot that you have to teach them, the convergent versus the divergent thinking patterns that you were talking about earlier being a perfect example. But, this idea of having other people come on board to actually help to foster your child's progression towards becoming a fully grown human being, I think that's important. I think some parents struggle with that idea of opening themselves up to having other people who are pretty close to playing the role of a parent, be in their kids' lives.
Todd: This might be one of 20 places that are the most important parts of your book. I love that you mentioned how you sometimes feel a little bit jealous because, I think, by naming it as parents and caregivers, we can really do this better. So, I do this a lot. I mean, it's different. When you were an '80s kid, you would sleep over someone's house sometimes for a week and then not come home. I mean, it was just a different environment and I'm not saying it was better or worse, it was different. And, to try to foster some of the good parts of the '80s, I've encouraged by talking to my kids and also talking to the parents of kids who they really click with and then talk to them like, “Listen, I really value that my kids appeared very comfortable disclosing stuff to you, especially because I have across sex relationships. I'm the only male in the house with three daughters.” And so, some of these moms that are out there, I communicate with them like, “Listen, I hope that they tell you stuff. You don't have to tell me everything that they say. I wish that they would tell me all the things they tell you, I'm just glad you exist in their lives. And, I show them a ton of gratitude, I should give them a ton of very explicit free range to work with my kids however they want to, their styles of incentives and punishments and interacting with them.” And, with that, my kids regularly say, “It's like we have other moms and dads that exist in our lives.” And, it's so touching to me and yet still, as you said, there's a level of jealousy of, “Oh, my God, I should be able to do it all. Why would I need other parents to play this role?” But, my kids need a little bit of a buffer or some degree of a force field between the person that's basically responsible for their physical welfare and then all these experiences are happening in their lives. They need some separation there. And, it's good for them also because they learn how to communicate with other adults. And, that just prepares them for real-world practical intelligence.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.
Now, regarding your book, “The Art of Insubordination,” in writing that book and preparing to write that book, were there certain elements of knowledge that you learned that you specifically made it a point to pass on to your daughters?
Todd: Oh, yeah. The fun part about writing a book is you get to unearth science that nobody's talking about. And, there's a guy in Greece, I'm not going to even try to pronounce his name, who basically he would introduce —
Ben: I'll bet it has a variety of consonants including most notably K in it, though, right?
Todd: There's a lot of Os and Us in there unnecessarily. And, he tested out this of maybe we can get people into science, kids into science if we told the stories not just about that there are these amazing innovators but the psychological and social difficulties of being an innovator. I mean, one of the things about if you're a Galileo or Tesla is that you get socially persecuted because you're basically being told, “Listen, this is not the way. You can't do it your way. You're under house arrest, we're going to try to kill you. If it's about something with civil rights that happens there, so you have this researcher in Greece that few people know about who basically asked the question how do we get people interested in science and innovation who show no passion for this.” And, he tested out of if you tell the stories of people like Galileo or Nikola Tesla, and you don't just talk about their inventions, you talk about the social difficulties they had, the adversaries. So, Tesla and Edison, for decades, they would subvert their own work, they would try to steal each other's patents, they would try to burn down each other's laboratories. So, that's part of the storyline. And then, there's Tesla's loneliness and his difficulty of having friendships and romantic relationships because he was so obsessed with his work. So, this lack of balance in his life. And, if you tell the stories with the emotions and the psychology in there, people are interested and he found not only is this the case but people are more interested in being a scientist. They realized like, “Oh, this is exciting and challenging. And, this is like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. And, this is like fighting for the civil rights of people who are being marginalized. This is an adventure. And, it's not just learning formulas, learning math, and learning engineering.” And, that approach is something that I've adopted having learned that into the kids' lives.
So, for example, for Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther King Jr. day in school, I would talk about the things that they wouldn't talk about in school. So, one of the interesting things about Martin Luther King Jr. is that he had a tough marriage and he had some very interesting friendships that frayed at the seams because you had some people that wanted to have a more violent approach for the civil rights of Blacks in America and he wanted a non-violent approach. And, having conversations about how he navigated that humanizes him that here's a floored guy who had a lot of infidelities, who had a lot of difficulties with friendships, who made some questionable decisions and yet he changed the world. And, when you do it that way, when you tell the story with the warts and all, then all of a sudden, a kid doesn't just look up to Martin Luther King Jr., they say, “Oh, someone like me who's all messed up with the weird, jagged profile of strengths and weaknesses can be a Martin Luther King Jr.” And, that's what you really want for kids is you don't want them to idolize people, you want them to see templates of what's possible.
Ben: Now, you said your twins are 15. How old is the other daughter?
Ben: Nine, okay. So, having gone through that many years of child-rearing already, are there things that you did with the 9-year-old that are different than what you do with your 15-year-old as far as something you learned raising them that you did or didn't do with your 9-year-old?
Todd: The category would definitely be physical and emotional affection. I mean, when kids are young and you can carry them, I mean, I was someone from a third world country. I mean I had them on my back and they'd be in a Bjorn, they'd be fizzling next to me. But, when they get older, for my older ones, I let them loose and stop hugging them as much or tucking them in every single night. And, my 9-year-old, every single day, I will make an effort to come home from a concert early and miss — what's it called when they have the epilogue to a concert? The —
Ben: Oh, gosh. Encore?
Todd: Yeah, encore. Thank you.
Todd: Oh, my god, how embarrassing as a music lover. Okay, so I will miss an encore from an amazing band like Pearl Jam where they normally play cover songs of Jimi Hendrix to make sure I tuck in my kid. It's so essential to my life that they go to bed knowing that they are physically loved and emotionally loved by them. And, I don't think I did that as well. I think my masculinity and being raised by a single mom who couldn't do everything as well as she optimally could but she did amazing, not having that physical affection as much, I got caught up in how I was raised as opposed to I can invent any way I want to raise my kids. And, I think I got it better, I got this right with my 9-year-old.
Ben: Do you ever struggle with the idea? Because obviously, I mean, I assume they're going back and forth between your place and mom's place. Do you ever struggle with things she's teaching them that you might disagree with or vice versa? And, how do you navigate that in terms of conversations? I would imagine that it's a little bit more difficult when the parents are together and living in the home and there might be a little less fluidity in terms of the type of things your daughters are learning from her versus what they're learning from you. I mean, have you run into that at all?
Todd: Yeah, of course. I mean, one thing, this gets more into relationships other than parenting is, I think, people are starting to realize you can create any type of relationship you want to. And so, one of the things is when my 9-year-old says, “Hey, dad, can you stay here for the night?” I almost always say yes. And so, I'll sleep at the house. And so, the boundaries are much more fluid than I think the prior generation much less two generations before. We get along —
Ben: When you say you'll sleep at the house, you mean, you'll sleep at mom's house?
Todd: That's right, yeah.
Ben: Okay, got it.
Todd: Yeah. I mean, whenever they ask. And, I'll often ask them, “Hey, you want to sleep over?” because it's no big deal. I mean, the only reason we have non-permeable boundaries between two houses is because society said that's what happens when people separate but there's no rule. And, I think this is a good lesson about everything in life is, what's the norm, and then is that norm working for you? I mean, this is the conversation we had last time. And so, we have these much more diffuse boundaries about that. And, some of the areas where we have disagreements, we will regularly say, “This is a place where I want us to be right in front,” or “Okay, let's just make sure that you're respectful to my approach to this.” And, I think if you can separate it into those two categories, then you can navigate this a lot easier. So, what we don't do is have a battle of MSNBC News versus Fox News in terms of two approaches, and your job is to choose which one you like, it's more like, “Listen, we have two perspectives on this, there's probably other perspectives of looking at this, here's what I think, here's what mom thinks.” There's no right or wrong answer, the thing is that the way that you're doing it now is not the best way and here's why.
So, just take a concrete example, profanity. As a New Yorker, I'm very comfortable with even my nine-year-old. She just saw her first R-rated movie this week. So, my 15-year-old, her first R-rated movie was “Deadpool,” which is an amazing first R-rated movie as a plane was stuck on the tarmac for three and a half hours and she just asked me, “Can I watch my first R-rated movie?” Again, my approach is, yeah, of course. Listen, we're stuck in a horrible situation right here. Relatively speaking, I'm like, “Let's enjoy it. And, if you hit something weird as you're watching it, we'll talk about it.” And, what a great one.
Ben: But, you were aware of what was on the screen. So, if there were conversations that needed to come up about something she was seeing you were able to have those conversations and foster her introduction to certain elements of let's say the rougher aspects of society that you might not have been exposed to yet.
Todd: Right. And, because I've seen the movie multiple times I knew if there was a sexual innuendo that I didn't want her to hear, I would just pull off her headphones like, “Hey, hold on for 20 seconds and you're back in the movie.”
Ben: Oh, Ryan Reynolds never has any sexual innuendo, so I don't know what you're talking about.
Todd: But, the beauty was actually watching so much of it go over her head and her laughing at something that had nothing to do with the dialogue. I mean, again, this is the fun part. Parenting should be fun along with the difficult — the moral imperatives you're trying to introduce to your kids. So, to go back to the complexities of two different perspectives that they're hearing which is basically any kid that has two parents, you're going to get two perspectives is there's something really powerful of having the humility to realize this is not for you to win, the question is, what's in the best interest of the kid? And, for the best interest of the kid, sometimes multiple perspectives is great. So, when it comes to profanity, I am of the belief, let your kids be exposed to all of the scary difficult things in life in the safe environment of a caregiver who's going to be able to answer questions and be non-judgmental as opposed to them learning about profanity being the last one of all their kids to learn it, and then it's being an unnecessary humiliating enterprise and they learn the wrong things, the wrong ways and they don't learn which words can be said in front of an adult, why you wouldn't use this word. So, for me, learn all the profanity that exists and you can't use them in front of other people outside the household. And so, there's no taboo. You take away the taboo and kids don't have the desire to be delinquent with their language outside of the household. And, that's what —
Ben: Right. It doesn't create a forbidden fruit. It is funny because I grew up in a very strict household. I mean, my mom's interviewed for the book and she talked about this in her chapter, I was chuckling. So, I was editing it the other day, we had this thing called TV Guardian when I was growing up, and it would literally make the movie quiet every time a swear word or a profanity was uttered. And, what would happen is me and my brothers became obsessed with reading mouths figuring out what these people were saying that was getting covered up every time it went silent. And then, we'd go and look up those. It almost made us good at swearing to have that forbidden fruit of swearing but placed on the threshold every time that we were watching TV.
Now, with my sons, I do use a couple of websites. I use one called Common Sense Media and I use another one called Screen It to look up movies before we watch them. And, for me, it's not a no-go if the movie has sex or violence or swearing, but I'll always look at the context of it and also investigate. Is it the hero? Is it glorified? Is it something that's depicting the good person in the movie doing something that we might consider to be a moral failure or is it more depicting the moral failures of something that the evil doers in the movie would be doing? And, in most cases, I'll be okay with the latter as long as it's not explicit and extremely graphic and I can explain it to my sons. It's very similar to swearing. I've taught them every single swear word exactly what it means. And, the very rare context in which those swear words would be acceptable, here's where the F word could be used for dramatic emphasis or here's where the SH word could be used to show an emotion of disgust or something like that but don't use these words in this situation, this situation, this situation be careful who use them around, et cetera, et cetera.
And so, I do agree that you have to instead of completely shielding your child from things that they're going to experience at some point when they're outside of the house, it's better for them to experience that when they're actually under your care. I mean, even things like pornography, for example, even though I have protection software, one called Canopy installed on my son's iTouches and on their MacBook so that they don't accidentally stumble across something that might shock them or might show them something that they really aren't ready to experience. I also do not completely shield them from aspects of sex or the opposite sex. And, what I mean by that is where we're very open and transparent in our household about how sex works, what happens, and I've taken them through all the anatomy books rather than them googling what does a naked woman look like when they're 10 years old. They've gone through all that stuff with dad.
And so, I think it really is important as parents that we take on the responsibility of fostering some of the more fringe and risky aspects of the world and exposing our kids to that in the house before they grow up and discover on their own or find something or sleep over at their friend's house.
Todd: Yeah. And, let me play with that for the critics who are listening to this conversation right now, which is you're not doing it also just for your kid to learn it and so that they can kind of apply this to their own knowledge system, it's also psychological armor. So, you're raising boys, I'm raising girls. So, for me, I want them to be exposed to pornography because I want them to realize that there are some boys, this is the only way that they're learning about their bodies and how they're supposed to relate to women. I'm focusing on heterosexual relationships here because my kids are heterosexual. So, in this case, I want them to recognize the cue when there's a boy that pressures them to do something and the intent is actually not malevolent, it's just they don't know better. And, here is one of the avenues where boys are learning things from. And so, if boys that don't have a Ben as a dad and they don't get to bounce this off somebody, I want them to pick up like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hey, hey, this is not what romance or a relationship with me is like.”
So, I've trained my girls to have psychological armor and I've trained them also is to not fall under the role of the social script where boys are the hunters and they're the hunted. I've trained them of great neutrality in terms of, listen, here's what's going to happen most likely in terms of descriptive. If boys spent more time with women, they're going to be treated as heroic creatures. And, for girls who are in high school, they're going to be treated this kind of slutty, stereotypes can be applied to them. Your job is basically not to be in the camp of accepting what they're going to say about you or apply it to everybody else. Be a heroine waiting for every other girl of just hanging with the opposite sex, 50% of the people you associate with is the other sex. This doesn't mean that you are doing anything with them, it means that you gravitate towards that energy, those personalities that happen there. So, train them to be very, very e-genetic in their lives and not allow any no matter how modern society is we still have these incredibly divergent acceptable modes of behavior romantically for boys and girls. And, the only way that you could have your kid transcend them is for them serendipitously, they figured out themselves which is unlikely or more probabilistically is you work with them. Here are the likely scripts, here's what you can do with them, and here's why they're not the Ten Commandments that Moses is bringing down on rock, these are laws, these are just beliefs that people have held and pushed down for a few hundred years. That's all they are. And, you get to challenge them any time that you want to and I will always defend you if you have good benevolent intent as you're doing it. And, this is how I approach their lives.
And, because of that, I get all the intel that I want for my kids. They tell me everything about their lives because I don't judge them. And, as much as humanly possible. And, part of the reason for that is I really want them to figure themselves out on their own who they are as distinct from me and their mom. And, the other one is is that I want more intel. So, the only way to get access to intel is can you be open and receptive to hearing something that you don't want to hear? So, when your kid tells you they tried pot and your kid tells you they drank a beer before their time, if you slam down too hard on them, great, you punish them and now you lost access to information, so for the future micro delinquency that they engage in.
Ben: Yeah. It's so interesting hearing you talk about raising girls and especially when it comes to relating to boys and we got on this chat when we were bringing up pornography, for example. From my perspective on my end, I'm educating my boys about it from the standpoint of, how do you think you're going to interact with women when you're training your mind to objectify them in that matter? Or, how do you think you're going to interact with this or that girl if you're fantasizing about her or masturbating about her or something like that? And then, you're hanging out with her at a birthday party, she's going to totally change the way that you interact with her and what you think about, hey, all of a sudden, she's not a sacred human being or a friend, she's somebody who you're objectifying sexually. It's very interesting to hear the difference between raising boys and fostering their thought patterns versus raising girls.
Todd: Yeah. I mean, I love that what we're modeling here because these are not warring factions, I mean this is the origin of the greatest source of well-being in people's lives, which is healthy romantic relationships and friendships. And, if you're not willing, let me just think about how many fathers that you've met that I've met over the years, which is why I'm going to come out, that's why I work out, I'm going to come out with my guns, I'm going to intimidate these kids to come to the house. Nobody's going to touch my daughters, whatsoever. Just think about the idea of you having an authoritarian presence in your kids' lives doesn't stop their hormones and their bioengineering to enter the romantic world, all it means is you lose access now. And, you've stunted the growth of your kids to figure out what works and what doesn't and it's complicated. I'm 48 and I haven't figured it out yet. So, how do you expect your 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old to figure this out if you have this machismo approach that's actually overriding your kids' motivations, intentions, attitudes, and personality traits?
Ben: Yeah, it's tough. It's tough. But, hopefully, this conversation's helped with some people out with that.
And, one thing that comes to mind. So, it's a little bit of a shift from the discussion we're having right now. But, I got to ask it because you're a dad with twins, I know it's even more difficult. But, in terms of the one-on-one time, have you decoded that? Do you have protocols for really carving out quality one-on-one time with your girls?
Todd: Yeah. And, the reason that I'm able to figure this out is because I'm a twin also. So, I'm a twin with twins. And, when my parents got divorced and my dad left us when we were two, I got a letter when I was about 17 years old. One of my cousins gave me a letter of like, “Listen, you've never seen your dad's side of the story.” So, just as some background information, my mom passed away when I was 12, I was raised by my grandmother. And, my grandfather died a year before my mom. So, I had no father figure. So, I had no male figure in my teens, adolescent years, or later.
And so, when I was about 22, around then, I got some letters from my father where my cousin said, “Listen, you've never known his side of the story.” And, this letter was really tragic, it was an apology that he never differentiated between my twin brother and myself and he never spent sufficient time with us individually. And, part of the divorce was he only got us for the weekend, and because of that, it was so little time that he couldn't figure out how to separate time with my brother and myself. That letter, long before I had kids, had a profound impact on me of. I don't want to reconcile with my father, but I want to make sure that if I have kids, I spend sufficient time one-on-one. So, one thing that I do, part of my work is doing public speaking around the world, is I'll take my kids separately with me. And so, Raven came with me to Japan and I gave a talk out there and we climb Mount Fuji, we explored Japan beforehand in terms of learning some of the language to make sure that we can start some conversations. We hired a guide together. We went to temples together. We did everything together. We woke up at 5:30 in the morning. The rule was no cabs unless necessary when we travel. So, all mass transportation. And so, she got to see all of that cultural, yeah, culture shock and cultural anxiety of not knowing what to say, not sure where we are, not knowing what to do and experience that with me. And, as you're pointing out or alluding to, that one-on-one experience is the most profound moment in my relationship with Raven. And, I've been meaning to write an article about that trip to Mount Fuji because if I died today, that would be that two-week period is what created our relationship today. It's cemented for both of us.
So, for Chloe and for Violet, the idea is traveling with them individually, you learn so much about a person. There's so much grumpiness, there's so much novelty, there's so much discovering of how people respond to stress and potential opportunities that you don't get that in your domesticated life. And, I strongly encourage not just one-on-one time with my kids but literal adventures with one-on-one with my kids.
Ben: Yeah. I almost got chills when you were talking about that letter because that's a little tiny piece of angst for me always questioning, “Gosh, are my kids going to grow up?” and wish. Their names are River and Terran. Is river going to grow up and wish he'd have more one-on-one time with dad? Or, is Terran going to grow up and wish he had some time away from his brother, River, to be able to express himself in a different way? And, I do carve out time. We go on one-on-one dates every month, I go on walks with them, we do eye gazing at night, one-on-one solo once a week where it's like five minutes of playing a song, hands on each other's hearts, looking deep into each other's eyes just not saying anything or saying very trite or just short things like “I love you” or “You mean so much to me.” And, at the same time though, I'm constantly asking myself, gosh, I do, kind of like you're talking about, Todd, a one-on-one vacation with one of them. It just makes me think about the importance of that all the more. So, thanks for sharing that.
Todd: Oh, my god. Thanks, Ben. I mean, what you do with your boys, I've never met anyone remotely who does that with their kids. I mean, that's amazing. I can say that having a dog is also a nice thing because going for walks and intentionally choosing one kid to come with you, and there's so many opportunities to swap out, and this is a lesson from being a clinical psychologist is particularly with boys but also just with teenagers, in general, is talking side by side. It's amazing how unfiltered the conversation comes when you don't have the eye gazing. And, you have the freedom to let your let your body go elsewhere as you're talking. I just noticed that in the car shooting hoops, walking the dog, this is when real intimate details of their lives comes out about feelings of, “Was I depressed as I was experiencing this despair here?” The rejections, the doubts and also the triumphs of in terms of there are things that your kids want to tell you that they won't tell anyone else because it seems so stupid because in terms of them figuring out how to do an ollie on a skateboard, that's a weird thing to tell your teenage friends. But, your dad and your mom and your primary caregivers, your grandparents, they want to hear everything.
And so, your job is to really be receptive and curious and exploratory for not just the bad stuff but for the wins and the accomplishments and achievements and really breaking it down into molecular parts. Tomorrow night is going to be my youngest 9-year-old, she's going to be in a volleyball tournament. And, after her practices, which I try to go to every single one because she wants me there, not because I'm a helicopter parent, I would rather not be there because I'd like to give her the independence but whatever she wants. And, I can point out of, “Hey, listen, I noticed that you're doing a lot better job of standing on your toes and your lateral movements side to side, my god, you're getting so much closer to the ball so much often.” That molecular detail, that win, it's not that she got the winning point in the game or that she had 30 bumps, I'm noticing her physical movement of her calf's muscles and her toes is different. And, I say this because to me, it's this attentiveness to detail which is a marker to them that I care about their well-being because they do care about their well-being. It's not enough to say, “Nice job getting an A in science.” It's not enough saying, “Nice job, you're now a brown belt in taekwondo.” The very small details trains your children because I strongly believe and it trains them that there are milestones that are unmarked by society because there aren't words to capture it. And, your job is to find the words to find all the mile markers on their mission in every domain of their life that's interesting or that they care about.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. I love that. Well, I've got a few fun and final questions for you, Todd. These are good. These are really interesting to hear your feedback on. So, if your child or your children could inscribe anything on your gravestone after you've passed, it could be a big gravestone if you want but that could be a super small one. But, what do you wish and hope that they would write? What do you want them to most remember about you or remember you for?
Todd: I think the unique one is that you taught me how to be an independent critical thinker in the world that can create my own path through life.
Ben: Independent creative thinker in the world who can create my own path in life.
Todd: I really spend a lot of time. I mean, I wrote a whole book on this. I really spent a lot of time of them. You have to find your own niche and really allow it to deviate from anyone else's approach to living their lives. I mean it's like the conversation we had before about the way that you can have your marriage. I have a friend of mine who just decided that they might have a better relationship if they live in separate apartments. They're married, but they actually realized that spent living together, five days a week, seven days a week wasn't working and now they're happier. And, many people look on that and say, “Oh, there must be something wrong with the relationship.” It's like, “No, this is their personality, their values, this is what works. And, if it's not infringing on anyone else's well-being, we should just look and say, “Cool, thanks for pointing out another way.” And, I want my girls to actually have that approach to everything that they do.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, I get it. I like it.
Alright. So, what do you think they're going to say their fondest memory of being raised by you, something that you do on a regular basis for them, for example, or something they wake up to or something you do at night, something that they'll think back specifically, like a specific memory that you think will really come to mind for them?
Todd: Well, I'll do one for each kid. I mean, Raven is definitely going to be at Mount Fuji. I mean, one of the things about climbing Mount Fuji is we spent overnight and they have different levels as you climb the mountains, lodges. And, we stayed at a lodge and she was sick and I had this cute picture of she got the cold or the flu and she's laying on her stomach and her palm is up backwards, she's holding a lot of tissues. And, I was like, “God, this girl did not complain once climbing this whole mountain.” And, she's got some illness and I think she was 9 when she climbed Mount Fuji with me in there. And, when we got to the top of that mountain, we left with the 20-something crew at 4:30 in the morning so they could be there with the sunrise and holding her because it's so cold on top of Mount Fuji and we did not dress appropriately, holding her, drinking hot chocolate on top of Mount Fuji and saying that literally, we are on the top of the world in a foreign country that we can't speak the language is that's the moment for me and Raven. And, I have pictures of it of being above the clouds, the films, and I mean it excites me just to even talk about it —
Ben: Oh, my gosh. Speaking of common threads throughout this book. Some of the most amazing parents, they have gone on some adventure with their child that elicited even a little bit of discomfort, something you might even consider to be a mild rite of passage for a child. But usually, it's climbing a mountain, taking them on their first fishing expedition or hunting expedition, going and doing something hard, some hike or tour or climb. And, it's something that pops up over and over again, getting outside the norm of their extracurriculars, and baseball, and football, and volleyball games is like going off and doing something epic. So, I get it, and I'm sure that she'll remember you for that.
So, what about the other two?
Todd: Yeah, I love this, I love the rite of passage. It's such an antiquated term that should come back into the modern-day life as we have less religiosity and less tight-knit communities. So, thank you for bringing that term back in.
So, Chloe, she is the greatest Kashdan athlete ever. And so, when she played soccer, would travel three-five hours to get to some of her games and there was one game in the rain. They made the finals of the soccer tournament and then she scored this goal and then she came right over the sidelines to give me a hug. I mean, what I love is that she was young and she's never been trained that stoic approach of like, “Hey, when you score, act like you've been there before.” I've never believed in that. I believed in like, “Listen, don't be a prick and jump and point at the other team. But, if you're excited, why would you suppress the emotions in that moment? I mean, this is what rite of passages are about.” And, just on the sideline me hugging her and explicated exactly how she got from midfield to score that goal in detail. That moment of this real pinnacle of winning the game for her team, that's me and Chloe. It was her moment and I just made sure that it got stuck in her brain, dog-eared, underlined, italicized by really describing exactly what she actually did because it's so natural for her that she probably didn't even notice.
Todd: And, for Violet, I mean, honestly, nobody makes me laugh as much as Violet. I mean, I think what she will remember is just yesterday last night. We went to one of these modern Chuck E. Cheeses that aren't as creepy and they don't have vermin people dressed up as vermin and chasing you around. And, we won these balls, these big, huge rubber balls, and a claw machine. And, even just last night, we were going to play ping-pong against each other. And, she's like, “Hey, do you want to” — I invented this new game and we basically try to keep the ball up as much as humanly possible. And, every time you do more than five, you have to take a step back. And, we were smashing each other in the face and hitting each other in the privates and then just trying to gas each other out by eating as much black beans as possible as we were down there as a strategy. And, we just laugh so much when we design these games. I think that she's going to remember these moments of we constantly are creating new rules for every single thing that we do together. I hope she'll remember them because I write this down in my journal of delights every day. Again, it's the idea of being a diversion thinker of you have rules for games but we're not trying to be in the Junior Olympics here, we're just trying to have fun and trying to also try and figure out a way to make it a competitive approach to doing things. And, why would you not fuss with the rules and add all sorts of idiosyncratic approaches? And, we do this, and damn, do we laugh, man. It's such a great salve to the tragedy of the human existence.
Ben: Yeah. Well, you're an inspirational father. I mean, the information that you're sharing with me definitely convinces me that you care a lot about your daughters which is just — yeah, it's inspirational. I mean, it's going to be really cool to be able to feature you within the book. I take a lot of these interviews and I take the best of the best, and I write out little articles and essays and chapters. And so, it's going to be cool to take some of the snippets from this interview and weave it all in.
But, there is one more question, Todd. And, that is, what one message for parents would you put onto a billboard?
Todd: The key to being a good parent is recognizing that flexibility is more important than positivity. And, I know there's a lot of messages about being empathetic and rightfully so and compassionate and positive. But, I think the most important thing is being flexible. Sometimes what kids want is novelty and what kids want is structure but they're not going to tell you. We haven't talked about screens, thankfully, because that comes up in almost too many of my conversations, but kids, they won't tell you if they want structured time but they do want limits and constraints, and other times, they need absolute freedom. And, your job is not to be about positivity, your job is to be agile enough to know your kid well enough and also keep updating your beliefs about your kids as they learn and change over the course of time, be flexible enough to realize, “Oh, what they need here is for me to step back away and not ask any questions. What they need here is for me to elaborate on their stories and help them do that by asking a ton of questions. And, what they need here right now is someone's going to support them because they really like this kid even though I think they're a bad seed that they're potentially going to be dating right now because now is not the time to point out all the flaws of this kid. Now is like a kid who's really proud that they landed a really cool catch in their eyes. And, later maybe, you might point out those things.” And so, flexibility trumps positivity.
Ben: Flexibility trumps positivity. I love it. And, related to the screen time issue, don't worry that it didn't come up. Sometimes I think it's best to not make it as big a deal as many other people make it. For example, my sons have a phone, we didn't make a big deal at all. They didn't even know they were getting them, we just got on the phone and put it in their room and said, “Hey, if you ever need a phone, here you go, you can call us or do whatever you need with it.” And, we don't even talk about screens, we don't set screen time rules, they're probably on a screen for 15 minutes a day, we just make the rest of life so much more fun as far as what we put outside and the toys and games and books and family adventures. And, mom and I also when there's downtime, we aren't looking at a screen, we're playing musical instruments and hanging out and hitting the Jazzminton ball, or playing tennis, or playing bocce ball and [01:17:24] _____. So, our sons have just grown up like seeing the functional utility of a screen and that's about it. It's like, “Oh, we use this for business and to make a phone call and that's it.”
And so, yeah, it is interesting. I think sometimes when you make screens a big deal, kids make screens a big deal. When you're just like, “Yeah, here's a phone, whatever,” then the kids don't even think about it being this thing that's so, so special that they've waited for so long to get.
Todd: Oh, my God, I got to tell you, man. I wish I was raised by you guys. I mean, honestly, this has been such a nice two-sided conversation. I mean, listening to what you do is it is so antithetical to the people in my Suburgatory world where I live, it is like, “Man, it is cool to know you, Ben.”
Ben: Oh, well, thanks. And, honestly, I've gotten known you quite a bit over this two-peat series. So, I'm super stoked to know you even though we've never actually hung out. The next time I'm in New York or next time you're on the west coast, we'll have to do it. But, in the meantime for folks who are listening, it's BenGreenfieldLife.com/ImpactfulKids. So, if you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/ImpactfulKids, I'll link to the first interview as I did with Todd about his book and then also all the shownotes for this interview. And, you can leave your own questions and comments and feedback. I love to read them. And, I sometimes even shoot them over to the guest too, so Todd might see them too.
But, anyways, Todd, thank you so much for coming on the show, man.
Todd: Yeah, I love talking to you. This is even better than the last one.
More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.
When I first received the book The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy Effectively by my guest on today's show, Todd Kashdan, I thought it was going to be some fringe rebel handbook or something like The Alchemist's Cookbook, or a title that was meant to incite riots and violence.
I was dead wrong.
Instead, this book is a research-based toolbox for anyone who wants to create a world with more justice, creativity, and courage. I eventually wound up interviewing Todd for the episode “The Art Of Insubordination: How To Dissent And Defy Effectively, With Todd Kashdan.”
But now, Todd is back—and he's back specifically to focus on content that will be featured in my upcoming book Boundless Parenting, which will showcase Todd and 30+ additional amazing parents from around the globe sharing their deep wisdom and advice so that you can be a better parent and better human.
Look for that new parenting book to launch in the winter of 2022 and click here to stay updated on the book release.
In the meantime, if you want to know how to raise kids who swim upstream, who aren't sheeple, and who can gracefully decline to participate hook, line, and sinker in the anemic social standards of modern society, you'll want to tune in.
In this episode, you'll discover:
-Todd shares about his children, and what he's most proud about them…07:25
- 15-year-old twins, getting into the dating scene
- One is an uber-athlete; the other is an analytical mind
- Chloe's hand/eye coordination is off the charts
- Violet (9 yo) is the imaginative one
- Todd is separated from spouse; raising children as a single father
-How to train children in the skill of divergent thinking…15:40
- Convergent thinking: A problem with a clearly defined set of answers
- Divergent thinking: More creative, unconventional thinking, problem-solving
- Exploring questions about the initial question leads to divergent thinking
- Public schools for the most part excel in convergent thinking
- Allow space to express their thoughts on a problem, and how to approach resolving it
- The Week magazine, targeted to adolescents
- Be aware of what your kids are reading
- “Stay in your lane” = your opinion doesn't matter
-Resources Todd uses to raise his daughters…29:39
- Acceptance and commitment therapy is most beneficial; being in the present moment
- Test a theory (“I'm fat”) by surveying friends, associates, etc.
- Mindfulness meditation
- Podcast with Emily Fletcher:
- Venn-diagram overlap
-How to approach relying on others for children's development…34:58
- Rites of passage are not typically conducted by a parent, to build self-reliance
- Podcast with Tim Corcoran:
- Twin Eagles Wilderness School – camp run by Tim Corcoran
- Kids need a buffer between a primary custodian and the real world
-Things Todd learned while writing his book he's passing on to his children…39:39
- Discover the adventure in “boring” subjects such as math and science
- Stories (with warts and all) approach to sharing history (ex. MLK)
-Things done differently with the twins and the nine-year-old…43:28
- Physical and emotional affection
-Reconciling differing parenting styles when mom and dad live under different roofs…45:13
- Are societal norms working for you
- Defy societal norms regarding co-parenting
- Respect the other's boundaries; offer tactful suggestions to differing parenting styles
- It's not about “winning”; it's about what's right for the child
-Exposing children to societal taboos in an environment the parent can control…47:48
- TV Guardian
- Common Sense Media
- Screen It
- Consciously spend time with members of the opposite sex
- Exposure as psychological armor
- An authoritarian air risks losing access and respect from your kids
-How to carve out one-on-one time with children…59:40
- Take kids on travel separately
- One-on-one adventures with kids
-Final questions for Todd…1:07:12
- What would you want your children to inscribe on your gravestone?
- “You taught me how to be an independent, critical thinker in the world that can create my own path through life”
- What would the children's fondest memory of their childhood be?
- Mt. Fuji
- Soccer game in the rain
- Creating new rules for games
- Rites of passage
-The message for parents Todd would put on a billboard…1:15:00
- Flexibility trumps positivity
-And much more…
- World Vision's Global 6K for Water on June 14. Click here to join the BGL team virtually from wherever you are for this year's Walk for Water.
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldlife.com/calendar
Resources from this episode:
– Todd Kashdan:
- The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy Effectively by Todd Kashdan
- The Art Of Insubordination: How To Dissent And Defy Effectively, With Todd Kashdan.
- A New Style Of Meditation That Helps You To Stress Less & Accomplish More – The Emily Fletcher Podcast.
- How To Go On A Vision Quest & Embark Upon A Rite Of Passage.
– Other Resources:
- Acceptance And Commitment Therapy
- The Week
- Twin Eagles Wilderness School
- TV Guardian
- Common Sense Media
- Screen It
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