[00:01:36] Guest Introduction
[00:03:00] Podcast Sponsors
[00:07:50] About this Podcast
[00:09:37] Katie describes her children, and why she's proud of them
[00:12:36] Elements of Katie's parenting style that are unique
[00:36:27] Podcast sponsors
[00:39:17] Indispensable resources for Katie's parenting approach
[00:43:03] Most important rituals and routines for Katie's family
[00:45:18] Rites of passage and significant moments
[00:47:38] Katie's parenting mentors
[00:49:56] What Katie teaches her children about raising their own children
[00:52:47] Katie's philosophy on educating her kids
[00:55:32] Proudest moment as a parent
[01:00:08] What Katie wishes she had known before becoming a parent
[01:02:25] Dealing with “imposter syndrome” as a parent
[01:04:10] Mentoring children without living vicariously through them
[01:06:25] Parenting decisions that kept you awake at night, worrying
[01:07:27] Regrets from experience as a parent
[01:08:50] What Katie would change as a parent if she could do it again
[01:10:59] Fear that being outside of the box approach, children would grow up weird or different
[01:12:56] Differing from the spouse on parenting principles and techniques
[01:15:04] Angst, frustration, or impatience when wanting to share something with the kids but fear that you may be overloading them
[01:18:04] Balancing passing of valuable knowledge and wisdom with not creating a scenario of the child worrying too much about the constant stream of information and adulting
[01:20:40] Balancing parenting responsibilities with business and self-care
[01:23:03] Engaging in one-on-one time or create space for dedicated present time for a child
[01:25:37] Non-negotiable rules for children
[01:26:22] Do you discipline, and if so, how?
[01:27:36] How to handle helping children establish responsible, moderated, conscientious use of books, media, entertainment, social media?
[01:29:20] Do you emphasize or encourage health, fitness, or healthy eating principles? What seems to work well?
[01:31:45] What would you wish your children to inscribe on your gravestone/ what would you wish them to remember about you, or remember you for?
[01:32:32] What do you want most to be remembered for as a parent?
[01:33:06] What do you think your children would say as their fondest memory of being raised by you?
[01:33:31] What one message for parents would you put on a billboard?
[01:34:41] Upcoming Events
[01:36:16] End of Podcast
Ben: My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.
Katie: Vulnerability is often the antidote to imposter syndrome. And, also, I think some element of imposter syndrome is natural and something that we haven't fully mastered. And, I don't think we can ever fully master parenting. It's a lifetime journey.
Getting to see them work together on that, those are really the moments that I get to just sit back and smile and be deeply in gratitude.
But, I try very hard to really nurture that, even if it takes longer or it makes it more frustrating for me. And, this has paid dividends with the older kids who are so, so self-sufficient and take ownership for almost all aspects of their life.
Ben: Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.
Well, hello, everyone. The episode that you're about to hear is another featured episode from my “Boundless Parenting” series based on the book that I'm currently deep in the throes of writing. The book is called “Boundless Parenting.” You can check it out at BoundlessParentingBook.com. But, as a part of the book, I'm interviewing several dozen of the most amazing parents from around the globe and sharing their deep wisdom and deep advice within this book. It's a tribe of mentors or tools of titans type of book if you're familiar with either of Tim Ferriss's excellent titles, but all based on parenting, family, legacy, and the like.
My guest on today's show is Katie Wells who's also known as the Wellness Mama. And, her ideas related to parenting are astounding, and super interesting, and are, of course, going to be featured in the upcoming book. But, she actually recorded some of her replies for you and it was just so good and so compelling. I want to release it for today's show. All the shownotes, you can find at BenGreenfieldLife.com/WellnessMama. The book, again, is at BoundlessParentingBook.com.
Now, Katie Wells is a mom of six with a background in journalism, but she's actually had a big health journey. She started researching health way back in the day to find answers to her own struggles. That research turned into one of the most popular blogs and podcasts on the face of the planet when it comes to healthy living, health, wellness, families, being a mother. And, when Katie's not reading medical journals and creating new recipes or recording podcasts, she is doing some pretty cool things with her kids and you're going to find out all about it on today's show.
I've interviewed Katie in the past and she's a doula, she's a speed reader. She hates bananas. She loves baseball. She's a scuba diver. She's INTJ if you know the personality typing they're in. She's highly experienced in answering the question why. And, she's a deep source of wisdom on all things mothering. So, sit back, enjoy the show, and again, the shownotes are at BenGreenfieldLife.com/WellnessMama.
You might be wondering whether your sleep is truly optimized. Well, the bed is obviously a big, big part of this, the mattress particularly. There's a mattress company that I've been working with. They're called Essentia. You may have heard the podcast that I did with their founder, Jack. And, what Essentia does is they dial in the seven key parts of sleep that you need for recovery, and for performance, and for optimization during sleep. Not just sleep but deep sleep. So, they've tested these mattresses by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. They're allergen-free. They got a bunch of technology packed into them for things like active cooling, EMF protection, accelerated recovery, better deep sleep cycles. I mean, this is the mattress that pro athletes sleep on for this reason. It doesn't have any electronic bells and whistles in it, so it's not blasting with Wi-Fi and technology all night while you sleep. It's one of those things where I just rather not be tied down to technology while I sleep but instead, sleep all naturally on these mattresses, and they're just organic as hell. It's pretty crazy.
So, they're having a Memorial Day sale. And, the way that you can participate in that sale, which is going to get you 25% off plus a free set of the GOTS certified organic cotton sheets, which is almost a $300 value in and of itself is just go to MyEssentia.com/BenGreenfield. That's MyEssentia, M-Y-E-S-S-E-N-T-I-A.com/BenGreenfield. And, if you want to get an additional 200 bucks off your mattress on top of the Memorial Day sale, here's the insider secret code. Careful, don't blast this too far and wide. It's just for you guys, BG200. MyEssentia.com/BenGreenfield. Code is BG200.
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I'm honestly shocked. Every time I see a bodybuilder or so-called fitness influencer or anyone really promoting these things called BCAAs, branched-chain amino acids, aside from the fact that BCAAs contain only three of the nine essential amino acids that your body needs, BCAAs can cause all sorts of issues like messing with your serotonin levels, depleting B vitamins, deleteriously affecting your blood sugar. They're fancy expensive flavored water. They're known as a good money maker in the nutrition industry, but they're not that great. So, it's starting to catch on now in the industry that essential amino acids are the way to go instead.
There's a reason that essential amino acids, when I go out to dinner with my friends, just out to dinner with one of my friends the other day and he's like, “Dude, my body just won't stop responding to these things.” You take some pre-workout, post-workout before bed when he's fasted, when the gut's not feeling right, it's the cleanest most bioavailable form of protein, period.
Some people, like the serious athletes, they're taking 40 to 60 grams of this stuff a day and dominating, 10 to 20 grams a day, even 5 grams a day makes a huge difference. If you haven't even experimented with or tried EAAs yet, you are totally missing out. It's so simple, it's so easy, and everybody's body responds to them because it's just amino acids. There's no crazy stuff that it might work for you, it might not, it's just they work. And, there's so much research behind them, it's silly to not throw them in pre-workout, post-workout, before you go to bed if you're fasted. I go through so many canisters of these things. It's nuts and they're good, they're the Swiss army knife of supplements. I can tell you that right now.
20% off though, you get 20% off of these things. You go to getKION.com, getK-I-O-N.com/BenGreenfield. That will give you that special discount for your first-time purchase, and it's got a lime flavor, we got a berry flavor. They taste amazing. They perform wonderfully. So, Kion Aminos, getK-I-O-N.com/BenGreenfield.
Katie: Hello, I'm Katie from WellnessMama.com. And, in this solo episode, I'm going to be answering some questions that were sent to me from Ben Greenfield. He is working on a parenting book, and I actually have been for the past several years as well. And so, these are some thoughts that I've gotten to hash out in my almost 16 years of being a parent, and also, in the last few years of committing this to paper and actually hashing through them myself. And, I think this is a very, very important topic. Obviously, I think moms, especially, have a very unique ability to form and shape the next generation. And, while parenting might be the most important thing we do, it's often not a thing we do entirely intentionally. And, there's all the jokes about parenting doesn't come with an instruction manual, but I would argue that it's something that we can, in some ways, write our own, or at least formulate ideas around. And, doing that can be really, really helpful.
And, in my family, this means that we've created a family culture that has been intentionally thought through and that is shared and communicated with our kids that they were part of creating. And, I feel like this family culture is actually one of the keys to a lot of these parenting things I'm going to talk about. I have very much taken outside-the-box approach to a lot of aspects of parenting, including some that would surprise people, considering my work in the health and wellness world. And, I'll get into some of those today.
But, I wanted to share some of these ideas in a high-level sense and with a few specific examples. And, this is a topic I've also talked about on my own podcast a decent amount. And, we'll be sharing more there, as well as in my new book within the next year or so. So, I'm happy to get to talk about some of these today and grateful for the opportunity.
I'm going to go through the questions in order as Ben sent them. And, I will try to answer them one by one and also make sure I state the question, so it's clear and easy to understand.
And, the first question was, how many children do you have? How old are they? What is their profession or passion? And, why, in particular, are you proud of them? And, I have six kids, age is from currently 6 to 15 years old, two boys and four girls. And, they are all very much each their own person. But, I think I would actually reframe this question a little bit. Instead of, why am I proud of them, one thing that I've always kept very top of mind as a parent is that it's not about me being proud of them. I want that to be a thing that comes internally from within. I want them to be proud of themselves, and also, to be able to objectively and thoughtfully analyze their own character and let their–how they analyze their character and whether or not they're proud of themselves, let that come, hopefully, from an informed place internally.
Of course, I also want to say my kids are not grown, yet. So, I'm very much still in the testing phase of this. I don't have adult data to share. But, I am really impressed with their character now. And, it's been a beautiful, amazing thing to watch each of them develop individually.
I also think it's very important to say that they are each their own people. And, this is going to be a theme that I talk about quite a bit today. But, that I try to be very aware that it's not at all about me being proud of them, which I know Ben is going to touch on in some future questions as well, but them learning to be proud of themselves. So, even when if they do something great, I don't even say, “I'm so proud of you.” I will try to point out specific things that I personally thought they did really good, usually their effort. I try not to praise based on innate things, but on effort or how hard they worked or how they thought outside-of-the-box or were creative or whatever the case may be. And then, I try to say, do you feel really proud of yourself? And then, also, give them the other side of the feedback as well, like, “What did you learn from it? What could you have done differently?”
And, also, making sure that they don't feel like they're dependent on approval from me. One thing I say to my kids–I try to say every single day, and I'm pretty good about saying every day as much as possible, is that “I love you unconditionally. There's nothing you can ever do that will take away from that. And, there's nothing you ever have to do to earn that.” And, I think the not having to earn it part is a big key, because I think, often, we don't get told that. I don't think I was told that as a kid. And, even if it may have been true for my parents, there were times when I internalized that love seemed a little bit tied to approval or toward accomplishment or achievement. So, I try to make sure my kids get both sides of that spectrum, and that they hear that they never have to earn it, and also, that nothing they can ever do will take away from it. And then, I try to nurture the core values that we have as a family and that they've talked about being important to them and to give them specifics to build from, and that if I compliment something, that it's based on a specific that they have control over.
Ben also asked, were there any elements of your parenting approach that you would consider to be particularly unique? And, I think, in general, every parent and every parenting style is incredibly unique as is each child. And, I would say I actually have six different parenting styles, one for each of my kids. But, I think there are some commonalities that, perhaps, are different than, at least, the norm. And so, I'm going to try to call out some of those today and explain them.
I think one area that I do that's probably a little bit unique is what I call first principles parenting. And, you might be familiar with the idea of first principles. A lot of people throughout history have talked about this. A lot of people credit this with their success. And, people who have mentioned using it or who are famous for this process are people like Elon Musk in modern times, throughout history, people like Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, even as far back as Copernicus and Aristotle. So, this is certainly not something I've created, but it's something I try to apply in a lot of areas of life.
And, the basic idea is that you are breaking something down to the absolute base concepts, the things that can be known without any other information or without any assumptions, and then trying to build the best process or outcome from there. So, think of it as like a Lego set. You're breaking it down into the individual bricks. And, from there, anything can be built. And, like I said, I try to apply this in a lot of areas of life. I think applying it to parenting is somewhat unique. This isn't something I've heard other people talking about. But, for me, this helped me to really refine–because, a lot of parenting can be reactionary if you don't think through these things in advance.
So, when my kids were really little, and even when I was pregnant with my first, I tried to think through, what are the actual goals of parenting? What are the things I'm trying to accomplish? What are the core things that I can know about parenting without knowing anything else? And then, to build my parenting style around that. And, I'll give some examples throughout the episode, but this has led to me doing things a lot differently than maybe some parents would, in lots of different ways. And, whenever I run into frustration with parenting, often, if I boil down to a first-principles approach, I can find a novel solution. And, it also helps me, I found, when I refine things to that level, to be able to stay calm, which is another unique thing that I do, that I think a lot of parents actually strive forward and do well. But, I don't yell at my kids. I can't actually remember a time that I've ever yelled at my kids. And, this, of course, has taken some restraint on my part, but it also is in realizing that, anytime I had the instinct to yell, that came from something within me, not actually something within them. And, children are wonderful mirrors of ourselves. And so, these have been great learning opportunities for me. But, I try very, very hard to maintain a no-yelling approach. That doesn't mean I'm always okay with what they do or that I don't tell them when something they've done wasn't okay, but I try to do that in a conversational and constructive way, not by yelling.
One thing that helped me really kind of angered this early on was the idea that, of course, children often can have meltdowns, especially when they're younger. They can yell. They can get upset. And, when we yell back as parents, we're having the same emotional response and, often, telling them it's not okay for them to have that emotional response. Whereas, it's much more effective to model the calm behavior, even if that requires, at times, removing myself from the situation or putting space, giving us both time to cool down. But, by modeling the calm, we're giving them at least an example of that and a tool to do it, versus just trying to shut down their own emotions.
And, I think tied on to this is the idea of not shutting down emotions. It can be a very normal human instinct when a child is crying or mad to say things like, “Don't cry, it's okay,” or, “Don't be mad,” or, “Don't yell, that's not okay.” And, I think it's important to step back to the idea of first principles and separate the elements that are actually going on. So, the child might be yelling or having an emotional reaction, and they might have done an action that's not okay as a result, but we have to separate those and give them the tools to separate those because having emotions is valid. And, that's important that they learn and can understand and regulate those emotions internally. And, also, that doesn't mean we can act in a bad way against another person just because we're having emotions. And, in times like that, as a parent, our wonderful opportunities to parse that out with our kids. And so, usually, it might not be in the moment. It might be an hour later when they've calmed down. Those are great amazing conversation times when we can talk about, what are you feeling? What is the emotion called? And, trying to get them beyond just mad or sad or the base emotions and help them to really understand, what are the intricacies of that emotion? And, where did it come from? And then, validating that it's okay to feel that. As an adult, I feel mad sometimes, too. And, where do you feel that in your body when you feel mad? What does it make you feel like? But then, also, giving them the tools to separate that emotion from any action that may have come from it.
So, an instance being if one child hits another child, helping them separate, “You feel anger. And, anger is a valid emotion. And, let's talk about it. Let's feel it.” I'm not saying that it's not okay to have anger. And, also, you hit your sister. And, you used the phrase, “She made me mad.” And so, I hit her. But, those things are actually separate. She couldn't make you mad. She could have done an action as well, but you chose to get mad. And then, you've chose to make this action of hitting her because you were feeling anger. So, what could be done differently?” Also, giving them tools like stepping back and asking themselves questions like, is this thing that I currently feel, is this true? Could something else be true?
I interviewed and really respected “The Work Of Byron Katie.” She has a great process called The Work, which I've done loosely with my kids since they were little to help them parse through that and separate. And then, we have conversations around how we are most calm and in our power when we focus on only the things that we can control. So, what are the things we can control? We can't control what happens to us always. We can't control what other people do. We certainly can't control what other people feel. We can feel our emotions, even if we can't always control the experience of them. We certainly can control our actions and our words. So, what could we learn from this situation? What could we do differently? What would be a more effective way to handle it?
Another part of this that's very mainstream of my parenting approach is the idea of radical self-sufficiency. And, this also stems from first principles and the idea that my goal in raising my kids is actually to raise responsible adults and to make them have the tools and the foundation to be self-sufficient. And, that doesn't happen magically when they turn 18. This is the process that begins from day one. And so, how can I best nurture and create that?
One of the ways I do this is with a simple rule for myself, which is that I don't do anything for them that they're capable of doing themselves. And, this means that, by age four or five, they're doing their laundry and they're keeping the room clean, they're helping in the kitchen, often, even cooking because they're capable of doing those things. And, certainly, these can be great bonding experiences. And, we often spend a lot of great time together while they're doing that. But, I won't jump in and save them when something is hard if they're capable of doing it. I will help teach them. I will help mentor them. I will answer questions. But, I'm not going to take away the ownership and the responsibility they have once they're capable of doing something.
And, this has led to, even with six kids, a very calm and, often, very almost no chaos household, because they have that ownership. And, this also segues into the idea that I'm very big on of natural consequences. So, anytime I'm able to let consequences happen naturally and not be the one who enforces them and not be the one who reminds or nags about jobs, I tend to let that happen. And so, whether that's things like them learning to do their laundry and forgetting and not having clean clothes, or whether that be, if they get in a fight with a sibling and they get punched, I'm not necessarily going to jump in and stop that right away, because I think natural consequences are great teachers. And, as adults, we certainly very much get to feel the results of natural consequences. And so, this is something I love for them to be able to experience and learn at an early age and a pretty low-risk way, so that they aren't learning these lessons in a really much harder higher stakes way when they're adults.
And, a little bit touch on the health and wellness side of this as well, being Wellness Mama online and being in this world for a really long time, a lot of people ask questions like, how do you make sure your kids eat healthy when they're not with you? And, how do you force them to make good healthy choices? And, all these things. And, the answer is sometimes can be surprising, I think, to people. But, the answer is that I don't. We talk about in our house a lot the division of responsibility. And, what I consider my responsibility as their parent is to, of course, feed and nourish them and make sure that we always have nutrient-dense food available. And, that's what we do in our home. Their responsibility is to learn to listen to their bodies, to eat when they're hungry, to not have to eat when they're not hungry, and also, to have the natural consequences of choosing not to eat.
So, I prepare food. They often help me with that. There's always nutrient-dense food available. And, if they, for instance, don't like something that's in a meal, I don't force them to eat it. And, they can always choose without me getting offended not to eat. But, my responsibility was to make the food. Their responsibility is to get to choose to eat or not. And, if they choose not to eat, a natural consequence of that for that particular meal might be hunger, which is fine, because hunger is a great teacher. And, I'm yet to hear of any child dying from missing one meal. And so, I don't let them make something else or make something else for them. But, I also don't force them to eat.
As an extension of this, my responsibility is to provide nutrient-dense food in my home. When they're not in my home, it's their responsibility to figure out what they're going to eat or if they're going to eat and for the natural consequences of that. So, if my kids are at someone else's house or at a birthday party and they choose to eat something that we wouldn't normally have in our house, that's entirely their choice. And, we have, since a very early age, educated them about food and the way that food works in your body, even in a pretty scientific way, so that they understand how nutrients interact even on a cellular level, even with their genes. We've talked a lot about that. So, they're aware of how foods can benefit or harm the body. And, I trust them, back to that self-sufficiency, to make that decision when I'm not there. I find that, over time, very often, they make the choice I would hope for them anyway, but it's their choice. And, there are times when they absolutely don't, and they eat the food dye, cupcake with gluten and vegetable oils. And, that's fine, too. Sometimes, that means they get a stomachache, which is a great natural consequence that's pretty low risk. They don't have any life-threatening allergies to any of those things. And, that's how they learn. I don't want to create the dynamic where something has been forbidden or I was their external governor of how they felt about this thing, such that when they leave my home, then now this is a forbidden fruit that they suddenly have access to. I want them to be able to self-regulate from a young age and them experiencing that as natural consequences of a stomachache from eating junk food at a birthday party is a pretty low-risk learning experience. So, all that to say, I'm not their external enforcer of that. I just cook nutrient-dense foods at home. I educate them. And, I trust them to make good decisions.
Along those lines, I also would guess that I have much fewer rules in my home than a lot of families do. And, this also goes to the idea of not being their external source of rules or action, or I want them to be able to make decisions and learn from their decisions early on. So, we have a few non-negotiables, obviously, about them not fighting or hurting each other. And, of course, I can't absolutely make sure that those things don't happen. You've heard the adage that, if you want an exercise in futility, try to make it to your old do something. But, the fact remains that, as soon as kids are mobile, we truly cannot physically force them to do anything they don't want to do or stop them from doing something they do want to do, other than, obviously, if it's a potential for bodily harm or death. And, even in those cases, it can be difficult to stop them. And so, this, of course, also goes back to education, making sure that they have the ability to make good choices, and then letting them make those choices, letting them make decisions.
As an employer, I find that, in a lot of my younger employees, one of the bigger struggles they have is that they have a lot of trouble making decisions. And, I think part of this is because, in our culture for a while, kids haven't been allowed to make decisions and to fail. And, I understand entirely the urges parent to want to protect them from those hard things and the results of their actions. But, that's an important key to learning to make decisions, even if it's things like climbing a tree that might be a little too high, and they could fall off and break their arm. That's part of how they learn risk analysis. In choosing to interact with their friend in a way that was mean, they might lose a friend. They learn from that. But, giving them the ability to make decisions and then not protecting them from the consequences. And, that, of course, does not mean that I'm not going to step in if any of my kids are in actual danger of long-term injury or death. Of course, those are instances when I would step in. Thankfully, those situations tend to be extremely rare. And, more often, I just find that it's my protectiveness as a mom kicking in and that they can learn more from being able to make that decision.
And so, I have very few rules and I very rarely tell my children no, but I also make sure to–well, the other side of that with giving them lots of tools to make good decisions from a young age and teaching them to trust themselves to make good decisions, to trust their intuition, and to process failure if they don't make a good decision because we have, of course, all been there. And, I think failure tolerance is another unique aspect to my parenting approach. I think it can be very tempting as a parent to want to protect our kids from failure and from pain. And, I get that entirely. At the same time, I can look back at my own life and realize that some of the things that were hardest in my life were some of the things that were the most impactful in becoming who I am today. And, while I can't, as a parent, and wouldn't want to, purposely make their lives difficult so that they can develop character in the same way, I don't want to protect them from the normal and natural difficulties of life that would be learning opportunities for them.
Of course, I'm not going to, like I said, create things that make their lives harder. But, as a family, this is why we really like traveling with the kids as well, because I think travel has its own set of unique difficulties and circumstances. And, it's a beautiful learning opportunity for that as well. But, all with the core idea of nurturing failure tolerance and both modeling and educating kids and letting them have opportunities to fail in small ways. I know, as an entrepreneur, this has been a part of success. Every entrepreneur has had failures of some sort throughout their time as an entrepreneur. And, I want my kids to see from an early age that failure is not fatal and that it often is a wonderful teacher. And so, we have conversations around that. I try to be very transparent whenever I've gone through something difficult or have tried something and it didn't work out and to let them see that I definitely don't get it all right all the time, but also, hopefully, let them see me learn from those failures and just having conversations around it. I think, often, kids are so much more capable than we give them credit for and certainly capable of understanding when we educate them at a young age. And so, this is just an ongoing conversation in our house.
And, I touched a little bit on decision-making, but ability to be confident in making decisions is another really big core principle in my house. And, this even is like little stuff, and going back to the idea of me not having rules. So, for instance, if one of my kids wants to climb on the roof, and we have a pretty steep roof, while my instinct as a mom might be to say no because it's potentially dangerous and I don't want them to, I also realize that they need to learn how to make those decisions, and that when they're teenagers, I won't always be there to tell them no. So, I'd much rather them get to learn these lessons now. And so, I ask them if they think they can do it and ask them, “Well, what do you think could go right? What do you think could go wrong? What would happen if something did go wrong? What would we do then?” Let them think through that. And, also, trust them that if it's within their ability level that they are actually making a good decision about that.
One other unique thing we have, or that I have, that is a non-negotiable and I think, maybe, different than a lot of families, is a verbal contract with my kids that they can't have a phone or a car until they have a successful, meaning profitable, business for one year. And, this was very intentional. Back to that first principles approach of parenting, I think that entrepreneurship, even at a small scale, teaches a whole lot of the core values that I want to impart to my kids. In a very hands-on way, it lets them try things and often fail at them. It lets them learn things like consistency and attention to detail and management of numbers. And, especially, when they have to do it for a year, it teaches them how to consistently show up even when it's hard. And so, this was a decision I made early on and one that we've talked about since they were little.
As an example of this, my oldest actually now had a couple of businesses that were profitable. One of them was he wrote a cookbook called “Chef Junior” with several of his friends. And, they spearheaded the whole process. They created the recipes. They worked with an agent. They pitched the publishers. They handled all of it. They negotiated. They got an advance. They paid a photographer. They mapped out the whole book. They wrote it. They went through the editing process. And, that book has been selling and making money now for well over a year. So, that was one of his first businesses. And, it was a great learning experience. He also, through that one, learned a lot about writing and a lot about editing, and a lot about cooking. And, now, I have quite the amateur chef in my house. And, he cooks dinner as often as I do these days. It could be something as simple as pet sitting or babysitting or lemonade stand or doing yard work or anything that creates value. And, that's led to some wonderful conversations as well about entrepreneurship and how, in order to start a business, find a problem that is a pain point and solve that problem, and that when you provide value for someone, that's when money is used as an exchange. So, that's been a great learning experience. And, it's also helped us avoid them wanting a phone at age 8. And, I feel like that has actually been one of the better things that we've done.
Another thing I still am very much working on but I try to be very, very aware of with my kids, and I touched on this with the separating emotions from actions, is giving them foundational tools to process emotions and speaking to their inner child while it's still their inner child. I think so many of us as adults have had the experience of having to re-parent ourselves or work through things that happened as a child because of how we interpreted them. And so, I try to be extremely proactive with my kids and having those conversations early, helping them understand and talk through their emotions, helping them validate their own emotions and not shutting down the emotions, not telling them not to cry or saying it's okay when they don't feel like it's okay. Validating their experience, sharing some of the tools that I didn't learn till I was an adult in how to process and release those emotions, rather than fight those emotions. And, also, making sure we have the conversation around separating emotions from actions. And, giving them the tools to do that going forward. I think this is something that can be really helpful approach. It also tends to lead to a much calmer home. And, even if kids still have emotional spikes or outbursts, they tend to get shorter and shorter as they get older. And, also, I see this even in my kids. The older ones, especially, emotionally regulate. And then, the younger ones regulate after seeing them model that. And, I think, like anything in parenting, modeling is, of course, a really big key here. And, I think that when our kids see us do this, it also gives them the example to be able to do it as well.
Another thing I do that I think is unique and unusual is that I highly encouraged my kids to ask and answer questions and to always ask better questions. And, I know very much first-hand the decision fatigue and the question fatigue that comes with being a mom. And, I've seen averages ranging from the average toddler asking 200 to 600 questions a day. I think it probably varies by toddler. But, I've had, at different times, several toddlers at once. And, I very much know how many questions they can ask. And, I committed early on not to say because I said so, because asking questions is very much how children learn, especially in the beginning, and truly, throughout life. And, I didn't ever want to shut down their curiosity or their questions. In fact, curiosity is one of the core values of our family and, also, of our educational experience, which I'll talk a little bit about in a little while. But, I actually encourage them to ask questions. And, I try to always answer their questions, even if sometimes that means I say I am in the middle of a business meeting right now and I can't answer that question right now, but let's circle back and I will come talk to you about that when I'm done. Or, we often look up answers to questions together. So, if I can't answer a question because I don't know, I want them to see me say I don't know, but how can we find out together. And, we'll research. And, we give them tools for being able to research. And, often, I will find them on a computer googling an answer to a question. And, they have learned, I would guess, more by doing this than they have in school. As a little bit of side note, in school, they actually have something called Topics, which is where every day they just look up and answer two questions they're curious about and write one paragraph about it. And, this has led to really fun random knowledge that often comes up at dinner time.
But, I try very hard, like I said, not to ever say, “Because I said so,” because I want them to actually understand. That doesn't mean I'm going to answer their question immediately or maybe in the way that they want, but I do try to always answer their question. And, if they ask questions a lot, I'll ask them often back, well, what do you think? What would be one possible reason that could be the case? Or, what would be the reason, maybe, that's not the case? And, we try to think through it together.
But, this also circles back to the idea of first principles, because, at its core, all first principles is asking why over and over and over until you can't ask anymore whys. And, children come out of the box inherently great at this. So, one thing I was very, very conscious about was trying to not shut down that natural curiosity and whenever possible, even at the extent of my own level of exhaustion some days, to try to nurture that, because I think some of the people that change society the most of the beneficial way are the people who ask the best questions.
A little bit of a build on the self-sufficiency is the idea of ownership and lots of conversations around, what is within our control? What is not within our control? And, also, letting them have ownership for things at a young age and help out with stuff, even if it takes a little bit longer. Kids naturally, in their early learning phase and they're curiosity, want to help with things. And, often, we want to shut it down because it takes more work for us or it's more patience to teach them early on. But, I try very hard to really nurture that, even if it takes longer or it makes it more frustrating for me. And, this has paid dividends with the older kids who are so self-sufficient and take ownership for almost all aspects of their life now.
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Ben asked, what books, systems, models, or resources did you rely heavily on or considered to be indispensable in your own parenting? And, like I said, I didn't really rely on any outside resources. I tried to really go to first principles and then tailor our family culture to our specific family, and then also tailor my parenting approach to each individual child. I did have conversations with parents that I admired, including relatives in my own family, but also, other people who I had seen them parent and admired parts of their parenting approach. But, I really just took pieces from those conversations, for the most part. I realized early on that each child is so individual. So, when you have figured out part of how to parent one child, you have figured out only how to parent that child. And, one approach doesn't work across the board. And so, I try to keep that top of mind and adapt to each child and to our family, in general.
I would say the books that have been most impactful, actually, my parenting, were not parenting books at all. They were books like “It Didn't Start with You.” And, I interviewed the author of this book, Mark Wolynn, as well. This talks about generational trauma. And, he talks about how about trauma can actually be physically passed on through DNA, but also about how the patterning of trauma can be passed on generationally. And, it was really important for me. This is a pretty recent book. But, to unpack that on a personal level so that I could present and show it better as a mom and, hopefully, break the cycle of presenting some of these problems that have been somewhat generationally passed on through families, we pass on our physical genes, we also pass on our patterns and habits. And, this is true in nutrition. This is true in speech. This is true in how we interact with the world. And so, when we become aware of that, it gives us tremendous ability to intentionally choose the ways in which we're doing now.
I also read, as part of my own journey, a book called “The Body Keeps the Score” about how pain, trauma, and negative experiences can actually physically store in the body. I recommend this book to a lot of people. But, that one helped me just keep top of mind how things can impact, especially, a child, so deeply and to try to really be aware of that in my interactions with my kids, especially, when I was frustrated or exhausted or angry to not hopefully pass on some of those things that I had to deal with as an adult. And, I think this one is really, really helpful. An interesting takeaway from that in my research around it is that kids are actually really great somatic processors. And, two-year-olds have temper tantrums, and then they're usually fine. And, if you parallel this to the animal kingdom, humans are the only species walking around with PTSD. Animals are very good at somatic processing. They don't let trauma store in their body. And, animals can have near death experiences all the time, and they're not walking around with PTSD. And, part of that is because they're not judging the emotions and holding on to them, but also because they're letting that experience process. So, this reframed for me trying to shut down things like childhood temper tantrums. And, again, that separates the emotion from the action. That doesn't mean that kids can hit someone else when they're having a temper tantrum. But, I don't shut down them somatically processing something, because that's actually a great way for them to process emotions, especially, when they're younger. So, I actually encourage, in their bed, in a safe place, temper tantrums. And, if you need to hit the pillow and yell, let's do that. If you want to talk about it, let's do that, too. And, I think that there can be great lessons around that.
One I would recommend, I've interviewed the founder of this one, is “Positive Parenting Solutions.” They have a lot of really good tactical tangible things for specific parenting instances and different ages. So, while I didn't have that or rely on that when I was a new parent or really until the last year or so, I do think there's a lot of really beneficial things you can pull from that system.
Ben asked, what traditions, habits, routines, or rituals are most important, memorable, or formative for your family? And, I don't know if he's asking about my family growing up, or my family now. So, I'll touch on both. Growing up, we had family prayer time, which I didn't always like, admittedly. But, I always appreciated the consistency of that. And, in our family now, there's elements of prayer, but also just meditation, gratitude, time spent together, and shared experiences. I'll touch on this more in a future question, but I think this is a really important one. However, it's done in a family to have as a touchstone.
A fun one that we do in our family now that is very silly but the kids remember and we actually all look forward to is something called Soft Rock Saturday Breakfast. So, on Saturday mornings, we cook breakfast together. We put on some classic rock playlist. We also clean the house a little bit during that time. But, those are just fun very silly tradition that we do.
Another tradition in our family is to value experiences over things. So, we're not big on gifts and lots of material possessions, but we very much prioritize and budget for experiences. And, I wanted this to be part of our culture. So, birthdays center around experiences versus just taking a party. We try to really just build that into our culture at a base level.
We also have the family motto that you are made to do hard things, and teaching them not to back away from challenge, and also, to find experiences that are challenging and fun. And, admittedly, this one has come back on me a couple times. So, I've been telling my kids that since they were little and one time on a family road trip, we were at a blue hole that had this cliff, and you could jump off into freezing cold water, and then you would swim to the side. And, it was not a super high cliff, probably 20, 25 feet at the most. And, my kids were jumping off of it. And, I very much did not want to do that and was just going to hang out with the baby on the side. And, my kids reminded me, “Mom, you are ready to do hard things, too.” And, I ended up jumping off. And, I survived. It was all fine. But, it's fun because it's become so much the culture that they now give it back to me as well.
Ben asked, what rites of passage or significant moments of maturation into adolescence or adulthood did your children experience, if any? And, admittedly, we're still in the early stages of this because my oldest is not 16, yet. But, it is something I have thought about. And, I want to create space as they get older. I think part of this is giving them ownership and ability to make decisions early so that they get to feel more adult and more mature just naturally as a progression. And, as they get older, and especially when they start hitting the teenage years, my goal is to not restrict them at all, if possible, because hopefully, they have a foundation to make good decisions. And, even if they're going to make decisions that could have natural consequences, they're not dangerous or big natural consequences, I can let them do that. And, even with teenagers, I often, even if there is something I think is slightly out of their ability level that they want to do, I'll put the burden of proof on them and say, “Well, convince me. Tell me how you're mature enough to handle this. What's your plan? How would it work?” And, I listen. And, sometimes, they actually do convince me, and they get to do those things.
But, some kind of experience-based rites of passage that we have with them is that, on their 10th and 16th birthdays, one or the other of us as their parents will take them somewhere. For their 10th birthday, somewhere in the United States. And, for their 16th, somewhere else in the world. And, those are great bonding experiences. And, of course, like I said, travel is a great teacher. And, those are rites of passage. And, those give us chances to have conversations with them and, hopefully, to cement that coming of age. We've also done a lot of things like international travel with them already, camping trips, road trips, all kinds of things that have been great teachers and that have some of that natural hardship built in.
But I think one of the things I'm most aware of when it comes about coming of age in children is the modeling aspect of that, and also, of talking about and setting boundaries, helping them be able to do that from the inside out. I've interacted with a lot of young adults who have trouble with boundaries. So, this is something I wanted to make sure that my kids had a solid foundation for early in life. And so, as they get older, and especially, in the teenage years, we have more and more conversations about around those topics, so that, hopefully, they have a lot of good resources in their toolkit to do that.
Ben asked, who did you look up to as parenting mentors? And, I don't have a lot in this category. My own parents were admittedly actually amazing parents. And, I have learned a whole lot from them. As a side note, my parents are both hearing impaired. And, my dad's legally deaf and can hear now pretty well with hearing aids, but hearing aids weren't as good when I was growing up. So, I had a very, I think, unique childhood in a relatively silent home. But, I also really admired how my parents modeled aspects of a lot of what I'm talking about today, and especially that answering questions, my mom always embraced our curiosity and answered questions and gave us tools. If I decided to get into sewing at one point, she made sure I had tools to actually learn how to sew. And, that became a passion for a while. The same thing with art. Same thing with math. They let us really pursue our creative passions. So, I've definitely looked up to my parents quite a bit in developing my own parenting approach. And, even when there were things that I decided to do differently than my parents, I was able to pull a lot of wisdom from their approach.
I also look up to some extended family members and learned from the generation before my parents before a lot of them passed away. And, I would say, beyond that, I also looked at the parents of people who had a positive influence on the world in some way and tried to pull lessons from that. And so, just like in first principles thinking, I looked at what people who have done this well, people who have parented well, who seem to have had good relationships with their kids and adulthood, whose kids went on to do something positive in the world, what traits do they share? What could I learn from them? And, really building, from there. And so, I really love reading biographies of people like that because you often get tidbits about their parents. And then, now, in modern times, you can often research and find out quite a bit about someone's parents.
In my business experience and interacting with lots of other entrepreneurs, that's a question I often didn't ask them. If I'm really impressed with some of the work that they're doing, I'll ask them lots of questions about their parents and their childhood and what it was like growing up and what unusual things do their parents do. And, I would say I've learned a lot and been able to take some really valuable parenting advice and strategies from some of those conversations.
Ben asked, what did you teach your children about raising their own children? And, again, my kids are not grown yet, so none of them have their own children, yet. But, I think my approach to this very much is almost entirely based on modeling and realizing that the older my kids get, they listen to less of what I say and, hopefully, still pay attention to more of what I do. And, I would guess that that bell curve might eventually shift again, and they might listen more when they're in adulthood at a certain age. I know that was the case for me and all of the jokes about how, when you're 16, you can't believe how dumb your parents are, and by the time you're 25, you can't believe how much they've learned. So, I realize there's a progression there. And, I try very hard not to feel all negative emotions related to the fact that kids naturally separate when they're teenagers. But, I think, for me, modeling is the most important part, especially modeling the part about every child being individual and every family being individual and realizing that my kids will likely raise their kids in different ways than I raise them. But, hopefully, modeling some good approaches that they can start from and uses a foundation, and, at the very least, showing them a way to parent that doesn't involve yelling or stress or chaos and giving them some of those tangible tools.
I also try to teach them and make sure that they know, like I talked about the beginning, that their approval doesn't need to come from me, being proud doesn't need to come from me. Those are internal things. They are their own people. And, that is something that I hope, by modeling, they will carry into their own families one day, is respect for each of their children in their individuality and in their autonomy.
I also think it's really important to model not projecting my expectations on them. And, it's something I have seen it seems that some parents do is live vicariously through their children or project their experiences onto them. And, I try very hard to make sure my kids feel empowered and safe in becoming their own people and, also, supported in doing that. And, I hope that, by having that experience, that's something that they will then, in turn, do for their children.
I also talk about parenting. And, I talk about being a mom and about the hard part and the great parts. And, I make sure they understand I'm not just a being who exist only for them and for their benefit and to be their mom. I also exist in other arenas within the world. But, I want them to understand and have a clear picture that parenting isn't always easy. And, often, it does take a lot of work. And, also, it's incredibly amazing and rewarding. And, I'm so grateful to get to be their mom.
But, I want to really pass on to them the idea that, while parenting has parts of it that require work, it doesn't have to be hard, and it should be fun because I think that mindset is one that will benefit them as parents one day. And, Ben has some follow-up questions for later that. We're all go into a little bit more detail.
Ben asked, did you or do you have any philosophies or strategies for educating your children outside of traditional schools, such as homeschooling, unschooling, self-directed education, or other alternative creative outside-the-box forms of education? This is another area where I very much went back to first principles. And, I developed something that I now call “Unstitute,” which is our own method of schooling. It has elements of unschooling, but there is structured school as well. And, like I said, it came from first principles as well. So, when my oldest was approaching school age, I started asking the question, what would best prepare him for adulthood? And, what even am I preparing him for in today's world? And, using first principles worked backwards, and I realized that none of the existing models, including homeschooling, actually seem to very accurately prepare children for an uncertain future. My job didn't exist when I was 5, so I couldn't have directly prepared for it. But, what are the things that universally make children have a good foundation, make them able to succeed and work hard in whatever area and whatever path they may choose? And, this went back to some of those core things like creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, asking good questions.
So, I built our system from the ground up around those core ideas. And, it looks much different than traditional schooling, which is often talked about as having not innovated much in the last 100 years, but not much has been done to change that. And, I think, as parents, we have the ability to change that and not wait on it to change.
So, it's a very hands-on approach to homeschooling that minimizes bookwork. I definitely want them to learn math and all of the traditional subjects in school, but I want to do that effectively and efficiently, not just the way it's always been done. So, our goal is to minimize the amount of time spent doing bookwork. We focus on mastery, not proficiency, and not just–they don't have to just keep doing every page in a book once they understand the concept. The goal is for them to actually learn and understand it and that they can demonstrate that, they can now move to the next thing. We also want to build in lots of time for them to pursue their own passions and to have time to maintain that curiosity and to learn. And so, our bookwork portion of school usually takes about two hours a day. And, much of that is self-directed as they get older. And then, in the rest of the time during the day, they have time to keep up with their responsibilities around the house, which goes to that ownership piece. But, also, to pursue the things they're interested in, to do sports that they like or creative pursuits. Currently, in our house, that looks like pole vaulting several days a week, chess club, gymnastics, tennis. Art happens relatively often. They have youth groups that they're involved in. They have a lot that they do. And, it often changes, but making sure they have time to pursue those passions as well.
Ben asked, what was your proudest moment as a parent, and why? And, as I touched on in the very beginning, it's not about me being proud. It's about that coming internally from them. But, that said, I, as their mom, do really, really, really enjoy getting to watch them and guide them and seeing all the things that they do. And so, I have certainly have moments where I feel proud. I just don't want to impart to them that that's something that they should be seeking from me as approval.
One of the recent one that I can think of off the top of my head is my youngest who is six was talking to her sister who's a little older. And, her sister was upset and was in one of those moments of processing her own emotions and feeling angry and was yelling and saying that she was mad at mom and all these things and that mom doesn't love her and all the things that children of that age can often say. And, my six-year-old starts, in a sense, almost asking the questions to my other daughter that I would have asked without me being there. So, I overhear from outside their bedroom, I hear the little one going, “Well, is that true? What else could be true? What would it look like if that weren't true?” And, she was asking some of these questions that I had asked all of them and supporting her sister and actually helped her work through it without any prompting from me. And, she's my fun one right now. Her age is so cute. And, she's losing the front teeth. And, it's a really fun age. And, I've got a book where I write down her little -isms that she says. And, recently, I asked her to do something and she goes, “Mom, are you speaking literally or figuratively?” And so, I love that age. It's so much fun.
Also, I mentioned my oldest in his cookbook, that's been really fun to watch how much they learned through that process and how much he worked really, really hard and how much fun it was and how that feeling of accomplishment he have to have that was truly his because he did it, he and his friends did it. That wasn't me. And, because I didn't step in and help out, they got to really own that accomplishment. And so, it was really cool to get to watch him experience that.
Also, most of my kids, they're all into athletics in different ways. And, a lot of them are into pole vaulting. And, I've gotten to watch them work really, really hard at this. And, it's very fun to watch because it's a fun sport. But, especially, right now, my oldest daughter who is 13, getting to watch her apply herself and really work hard for a goal and then getting to see it pay off has been really, really amazing. And, we're leaving, actually, tomorrow to go to the state meet for pole vaulting where she very likely will potentially jump a state record. And, that part's fun to see, not because she's doing so well at it but because she's getting to really see first-hand how her effort and her consistency is really paying off in her performance, and because it's been her effort and I'm not pushing it or living vicariously through her. She gets to feel that ownership and that excitement and the nervousness and the adrenaline and all the things that come with that and apply the ideas of you were made to do hard things. And, also, she's had many–Pole vaulting is a great lesson in failure because, very often, you don't make it over the bar and you have to readjust. And so, I've loved watching them all get to pursue that and get to learn so many of these lessons in a hands-on way. And, they have an amazing coach where we live who is very aligned in a lot of these things. And, he's been an excellent amazing voice for them that is outside their parents. And so, I'm very grateful for them to have that as an outlet.
And, that actually touches on something else that I think can be really helpful with teenagers, which is, if it's possible to cultivate a friendship or relationship or mentorship with other adults outside of just parents who they really trust, who they can go to when they have questions or problems and whose advice they might listen to a little more, especially, in the teenage years when they're less inclined to listen to their parents? I think her having that or all of them having that as an outlet has been invaluable.
And then, I would say the real moments that give me the most just gratitude and, I guess, the feeling of pride as a mom is seeing their culture and when they help each other or when they anticipate each other's needs or when the older ones sit down and help the little ones with math without being asked or help the little ones build something. Recently, my second oldest son, he was helping the little one revamp a Power Wheels car, so she could drive around the neighborhood. And, it was one that we found basically for free on Facebook marketplace. And, getting to see them work together on that, those are really the moments that I get to just sit back and smile and be deeply in gratitude.
Ben asked, what do you wish you had known before you first became a parent? And, lots of things. And, also, I'm glad I learned them as I did, and I didn't know them all. But, perhaps, this is why I'm writing a book and why Ben is writing a book. And, I think we can learn from parents who have been down roads. And, I haven't been all the way down the road, so I'm still learning from parents as well. But, I would say the things that come to mind for this are that, in many ways, our children are mirrors. And, often, having children can bring back inner child stuff from your own childhood. But, certainly, when you're feeling any emotion or frustration or negativity related to children, it's almost always a mirror of something inside yourself, which is beautiful, because, as of my friend, Aaron, says, never wasted a trigger, those are great opportunities for learning. But, I wish someone had told me ahead of time to anticipate that and just the degree to which that's possible. And, this is why I say often my children are my greatest teachers, and not just in the metaphorical way. They truly have actually been my best teachers about myself.
As a funny aside, I will say I also wish someone had told me just how loud children are, because I went into parenting not wanting to squash their creativity or their natural emotions or them being kids. And, I'm the mom who has the climbing hang board in the kitchen and the gymnastics rings in the bedroom and the bouncy track down the hallway. And, I will paint the house when they're all grown because there's going to be footprints from hands all over the house. And, I'm fine with that. But, it took some adjusting for me just how loud children were. Especially, growing up in a completely silent household myself with two hearing-impaired parents and one brother who is an introvert as well, we often either signed, we watch TV with the closed captioning on, there wasn't music on. It was very, very, very quiet. And, that's what I got used to.
And then, I had six kids in nine years. And, my house is never quiet. Occasionally, when the kids are all sleeping and the dogs and the cats are quiet, it's quiet. But, it's very rare that it's quiet in my house. And, it took me several years when I started having kids when they hit the toddler years to get used to the level of volume that come with kids. And, like I said, that's a wonderful natural part of childhood. And, I don't want to, in any way, squash that. I just had to adjust to it. And, I don't think I anticipated just how loud kids can be.
Ben asked, did you ever have imposter syndrome as a parent? And, if so, how did you cope with that? And, I would say yes, but with some caveats. And, I think I have found a little bit the antidote to this as well. Because, on the one hand, we're all learning as we go. You become a good parent by being a parent. You don't get to start day one like that. And, it's very much a learning journey for both of us as parents and for our children. And, I think that imposter syndrome tends to creep in for me, at least, when I'm–it's always linked to something outcome-based. So, when I find myself attaching to an outcome or an accomplishment or wanting them to do something, in particular, that's more of when imposter syndrome could skin, or when they're learning these lessons in a very normal natural childhood way but in a public setting and I feel the judgment of other parents. And, that's also a great opportunity for reflection and learning on my behalf. And, it recenters me in making sure that they get to learn natural lessons and make decisions and experience natural consequences. But, it seems like the antidote to this partially is detaching from the outcome and recentering on loving them unconditionally and also being very real and transparent about the fact that, as parents, we're all learning as we go, and making sure that my kids know that. I don't, in any way, have everything completely figured out. And, I also am learning all these lessons. And, I'm also learning from failure. And, having candid conversations about that. I think vulnerability is often an antidote to imposter syndrome. And, also, I think some element of imposter syndrome is natural and something that we haven't fully mastered. And, I don't think we can ever fully master parenting. It's a lifetime journey.
Ben asked, how did you tackle mentorship and passing on wisdom with not living vicariously through your children? And, I think this is another really, really good question. Like I said, I understand the instinct to live vicariously through your children. I think it's important to remember from day one that they are their own people and not to pass my expectations on to them, just to pass my love on to them. And, I just try to keep in mind that they aren't me and they aren't mine. I'm here and I'm entrusted with guiding them for a period of time, but they aren't mine, and they're their own people, and that I can love them best by helping nurture them in being their own people and helping them become people who are kind and loving. And, that they are not me and they're not mine, that they are going to make choices, and those choices are not actually a reflection of me. But, I do have very much responsibility to help give them the foundation and the tools to make good choices, but to separate my ego from that outcome.
I think another thing that's helpful here is focusing on efforts, not results, and focusing on efforts and not innate traits. So, rather than telling kids that they're smart–this is an often-used example, praise the effort they put in or a very specific aspect of something they did because there have been studies that looked at when kids are told they're smart, it can actually make them less likely to want to apply themselves because it feels like a higher-stakes game. And, if they feel like love and appreciation are attached to their accomplishment, which was the case for me, that isn't even harder thing to unravel. So, praising their effort, praising their creativity, praising when they work hard on something, when they learn a lesson, or a specific aspect of something they've done and not the result.
In sports, I think this is an area where you can often see parents living vicariously through kids. I think it's detaching from the outcome and helping them detach from the outcome and reminding them that it's about having fun, it's about learning, it's about all the lessons that come with it, and not just the outcome or the winning, and asking the questions related to that and not they come home from a sporting event to do in, but asking what it was like. “Did you have fun? Who was there? What's something cool that happened?” Not tying it to results.
Ben asked, did you ever have any big parenting decisions that kept you awake at night worrying or that you were afraid you would mess up on as a parent? And, yes and no. I've long been a believer that worry is just a waste of imagination. And so, rather than worry about something in the future, I try to go back to that idea of first principles and/or go back to the things that are what are within my control, which are my own actions and emotions and responses. And, I feel like if I center on those things, very often, I can find something tangible I can do that can help in whatever the situation is, or I get the chance to let it go. But, I think it's also natural because we love our children so much to want to make sure we do it well. And, I think that it's also a very human normal thing to worry sometimes that we're not. I think those are great learning opportunities. And, often, that comes from an insecurity in me that's mine to work out and not actually from something related to parenting, or it's a teacher that there's something I can improve on as a parent myself.
Ben asked, what do you regret, if anything, from your experience as a parent? And, like I said, I think regret is also a waste of imagination because it can't be changed. And, that phrase, it couldn't have happened any other way because it didn't, it's very true. That said, if I could have, I think I would have figured out how to process my own trauma earlier so that I could have shown up as a better parent earlier. But, I also think that there are probably lessons and benefits to my kids seeing me going that journey and how hard the process was. And that, hopefully, by being open about that, they were able to learn some of the lessons that I couldn't at an early age, or didn't. And, I think that's one goal I have as a parent, is to make sure that my kids have a solid foundation and, hopefully, more tools for that at an earlier age than I did. And, I don't think I would have gotten to do that, had I not had to go on that journey myself.
Same thing with I wish I had fixed my own health problems first, even though I was very much on that journey and striving to. They got to see me do that at ages that they're going to remember. And, they got to learn the lessons from my failures there. And so, I think it's a waste of imagination to regret or to wish things had happened differently. And, I think that staying in gratitude for the way things happened and learning from that is a great thing to model to our kids. And, hopefully, they'll see it the same way someday.
Ben also asked, what, if anything, from your parenting experience would you go back and change or improve? And, this also touches on the idea of it couldn't have happened any other way because it didn't. But, I think I've learned more now. I'm very grateful I had six kids because I think I got to speed through some of the lessons by sheer necessity. Things I couldn't do everything for them because it wasn't humanly possible at certain times. And so, it helped me let go and guide them in being more self-sufficient early on. I am very grateful I had six, which is exactly right for our family. And, I think some of those lessons would have even taken longer for me personally to learn if I only had one or two.
I think, if it were possible, if there were a time machine, I would go back and infuse myself at 20 with my first kid with the lessons I've now learned in the past 15 years of raising kids. But, I also know that that process of learning was really important for me and for them. And so, I don't know that I actually would change anything.
Ben asked, related to that, if you had multiple children, what did you think was right at the time with one child that you then went back and changed with the next child or future children? And, like I said in the beginning, I view the parenting of each child as its own individual experience. And so, I feel like, while you can learn generalities from parenting in general and from your experience with each child, you can't directly apply a system of one to the other. And, I think I've grown up and learned with each of my kids as individuals.
And so, I don't know that there's much I could have applied for one to the other. I think I probably was more strict with my first than I am now with my younger ones because I had the bandwidth to be and because he was only one and then one of only one or two. And, I actually probably would have been less so and done less for him, but as a new mom, I was enjoying the nurturing side very much. And, I think that's wonderful and there's nothing wrong with that. But, I think I would have probably let him be a little more self-sufficient a little earlier. Though, it's definitely evened out and he's extremely self-sufficient at 15.
Ben asked, did you sense or fear that, based on the outside-of-the-box approach you used as a parent, that your children would grow up too different or weird? And, how did you deal with that? I actually love that. I'm the odd parent who hopes my children grow up a little different and weird. And, I hope I'm cultivating a tolerance for that in them and that they don't need approval from the normal world. I know that they'll grow up to be their own people. And, I'm perfectly fine with them being different or weird, especially in this type of world. In fact, we encourage weirdness in our family culture. I wanted them to have resilience from needing to fit in this world. I also know that there are going to be places, especially in the teenagers, where it is important for them to have a social group and to feel like they fit in with their peers. And, I'm totally fine with that. But, I didn't want them to cultivate the need for approval from the outside. And, that goes back to me modeling that and their approval not coming from me. But, they thankfully have kind of their own culture and tribe because there's so many of them. And, we're very lucky to live in an area. With our neighborhood, there's over 30 kids in a little cul-de-sac neighborhood. And, they have an amazing group of friends who don't, probably, any of them fit the norm. And, they all have their own creative pursuits and passions. But, since they were born, our family, we've done things different than the norm in lots of ways. So, I feel like the tolerance to this is pretty high, and that it may not even be a thing that they're aware of that they should be caring what other people think, but if they are, I feel like they will have, hopefully, that grounded ability to be true to themselves, even if it's different than what the world wants.
And, we read lots of biographies and books about people who have done amazing things in the world. And, they all had elements that were different or weird. And so, that's something we have conversations around and actually admire and respect. And, the idea of be weird but be kind. So, hopefully, that's something they grow with from a young age.
Ben asked, did you ever differ with your spouse on parenting principles, techniques, or approaches? And, if so, how did you manage that? And, this is I think a really important question. The short answer is yes, we absolutely differ in a lot of things. And, I am the more hands-on parent. So, I've probably done more of the hands-on parenting, especially when they were little bit, now as well. But, I have tried from the very beginning to also respect the fact that their dad is his own person and he doesn't have to parent just I do, and I don't have to parent like he does. And, if we can agree on core values and the goals for our kids, our methods of getting there might be different. But, as long as we have consistency in the focus and in the unconditional love for our kids, they can probably actually benefit from experiencing multiple parenting approaches.
And, as a little bit of a side note, I made sure to think of him as this way as well even in the health side, which is not entirely related to parenting. But, since I'm in the health world, I often got questions along the years of, “How do you get your husband to do this, too? How do you get your husband to eat like this? How do you make sure he does this, too?” And, my answer, very much like with my children, was I don't. He's an adult. I'm not his mom. I'm not responsible for telling him what to eat or how to eat. I cook the food, and he could eat it or not eat it. And, I have zero judgment if that's not how he wants to eat at home. And, to his credit, he actually has researched a lot of these things as well. And, we've come to similar conclusions. But, I respect the things where we have differed.
This is also not something I've talked publicly about yet, but even now, my kids' dad and I are separated. But, we're, of course, still co-parents. And, I realized that he's going to parent differently than me. And, that's okay. And, like I said, we're aligned on core values. We're committed to not ever speaking negatively about each other, especially around the kids, ever. And, yet, we both have our own way of doing things. And, that's perfectly fine. I think that's actually another important lesson for kids to see, is that not everybody's going to do things the same way. And, you might disagree with someone on something they believe or something that they do. And, that's okay. You can still have respectful dialogue and conversation and work toward a common goal.
Alright, from Ben, this says, “Warning, this question is a long one, but, as you will see, interesting and important.” As a parent, have you ever experienced angst, frustration, or impatience when you discovered a new and important book, teaching resource method, etc., and wanted to share it with your children so they could learn that same wisdom or skill early in life for their future, but at the same time, you knew or sensed it could threaten to overload them too much, especially at their age? For example, did you ever wrestle with the notion that introducing your child to cryptocurrency, investing, breathwork, or three great philosophy books you've read last month, the new recipe you discovered, etc., could distract your child from enjoying being a kid and, say, building a tree in the backyard, throwing snowballs, or reading a comic book?
And, I love this question. But, the short answer is no, not at all, because one lesson I've learned as a mom is that kids are infinitely capable of learning and understanding and that we often don't give them enough credit for this, especially, when we don't nurture their curiosity. And so, I also am cognizant of not giving advice when I haven't been asked. And, this applies to my kids as well, and certainly, in other aspects of life.
So, we've built a culture around being able to talk about things we're excited or curious about, explaining them, sharing things we found impactful. Just like I encourage them to do, when they find something exciting or new, I want them to tell me about it and I genuinely listen and might also go read that same resource. But, I detach from the outcome of them adopting it or not. So, I might want to share it with them. And, just like with giving a gift, my responsibility is then complete. If I think it's important and I want to share it or if they want to share something with me, we share it. And, that is where the responsibility ends with me. So, I might find something out really cool and new about, for my athletes, for instance, a new supplement or something that could help them. And, I could explain it to them and tell them about it, and they can research it if they want. And, that's where I detach. And, if they want to try that thing or take that supplement or learn whatever the new thing is, I 100% support them in doing that. But, I don't attach my personal emotions to whether or not they choose to do that or not, because they are their own people.
Same thing with their dad. Same thing with anyone in life. And, this is the thing I've noticed causes frustration to me, is when people give unsolicited advice or they give advice and then get mad when people don't follow their advice, especially if the advice wasn't asked for. Or, similarly, if someone gives a gift. If I give a gift, the gift is then given. It's now entirely not my responsibility or business what happens to the gift. But, I've seen examples where people get mad when someone gives a gift away that they gave them or doesn't follow advice that they were given. And, I think a lot of stress can be avoided by just keeping that culture of curiosity and cheering and that's wonderful and also detaching from the outcome and respecting their ability to do or not do those things and realizing that kids are such amazing infinitely capable learners and that, very often, if we show up with genuine excitement about something and share it, they're going to listen. And, also, if they don't, that's okay, too.
Ben also asked as a follow-up, if so, how do you feel or how do you deal with the balance of passing valuable knowledge and wisdom onto your child while, at the same time, not creating a scenario in which that child is worried too much about or distracted by a constant stream of information and adulting? How did you decide when to let them just be a kid versus nudging them towards responsible adulthood and the intent of valuable wisdom? And, I think there's a little bit of a false dichotomy here because, yes, well, play is the work of children, and I absolutely want to create time for them to be bored, to play outside, to get to have creative pursuits that are not structured. I don't think that being exposed to information and new things, necessarily, is synonymous with adulting. I would actually argue that kids are better at it than adults are, and that part of being a kid is that amazing natural curiosity, and part of nudging them toward responsible adulthood is letting them have access to that conversation around it, but also, not having an attachment to the outcome of it.
So, just like my kids have responsibilities around the home that I don't worry or taking away from their childhood because we all live in the home and we're working toward a common goal of the family culture as a family, I also think they're living in an increasingly technological world, of which there is so much information available. And so, them having exposure to information and developing the tolerance and ability to curate that information themselves is going to be a very important life skill.
So, I think this starts and ends with creating a culture around love of learning and love of challenge and being inherently curious yourself. So, as a parent, when I'm curious, they tend to be more curious. When I sit down and do art, they're more likely to want to sit down and do art. If I model the behavior, they're more likely to follow it without me having to actually explain or enforce it at all. And so, I think creating that culture is really, really important. Also, modeling putting my phone down and having breaks from the constant flow of information and productivity and production in today's world. But, I don't think it's bad for them to have access to information. And, I don't think it takes away from them being a kid. And, if anything, I think that makes them potentially more effective as a kid because the goal of raising children is to raise responsible, kind adults. And, I think it actually helps them get there more effectively.
So, I feel like that's a little bit of better economy. And, I don't, at all, worry about my kids being exposed to it too much too early. And, I try to answer their questions about any topic very fully whenever they're ready and in as much detail as they want, because I think, like I said, they have an infinite ability to learn. They're naturally curious. And, I love to nurture that.
Ben asked, how did you find enough time to balance being a present and engaged parent with time for your own self-care, career, and interest that, frankly, may not have included your children? And, I love this question, because I think, especially for moms, it can be very easy to get lost in motherhood and to lose your identity. And, that isn't necessarily something we want to model for our kids. And, it's not what we would want for them. We wouldn't want them only to lose themselves in their own passions and love and curiosities and things when they have children. We want them to maintain those things and be able to model and pass them on to their children.
One thing that was helpful for me here in understanding that actually came from “Positive Parenting Solutions” that I mentioned earlier, is that, psychologically, each child only needs about 10 to 20 minutes of focused one-on-one time each day to feel connected and grounded and that they have a good relationship with their parent. And, if you front-load this, this actually helps a whole lot with behavioral issues, because many times, those stem from that lack of connection. But, I love this because it gave me a tangible target. And, it was, even with six kids, very easy to spend 10 to 20 minutes per day with that child doing what they love so that they feel connected. Those are great bonding times. And, I love those experiences with my kids.
I also think it's very, very important to model being my own person outside of being a mom and show them that it's okay to have their own interests and take time for themselves, because it is no secret that burnout is on the rise for parents, and this is a problem that many, many parents struggle with, burnout and overwhelm. And, we aren't effective parents when we're in that state. And, we have to be aware and proactive in avoiding that state. And, I think, for me, it felt very important to model for them that while I love them unconditionally and I'm always there for them whenever they need me and that I will prioritize them every day and make sure we get one-on-one time together, I also will do that for myself.
And then, I also will keep commitments to myself. So, if I say I'm going to work out every day or I have a training regimen I'm following right now as I get ready for a goal, I'm going to show up for myself. And, it's important that I model that. And, that doesn't mean, if I have a sick kid, I'm not going to skip going to the gym. Of course, I would. But, I want them to see me actually doing that, not just say that I'm going to do that, because that's I hope the way that they're going to internalize and know how to do that as adults as well.
And, as a follow-up to that, Ben asked, how did you engage in one-on-one time or create space for dedicated present time with your child, especially if you had more than one? And, as I mentioned, I make this a point to do every day for 10 to 20 minutes. And, that time, I'm doing what they love. So, that's not me asking them to do something I need them to do. That's not me having them come with me on an errand. That is time doing what they want to do, talking about their passions. I've had one son teach me Rubik's cube during that time, because that's what he wanted, and it was really fun. And, I now know Rubik's cube.
Also, I find that active listening, whenever it's available, does a whole lot here to make sure that you have present time with them. So, whether that's car rides and family meals, anytime that you, with one or more than one child, have the ability to be very, very present, not on your phone, and actively listen, those are really, really great bonding times. And then, for me, personally, I love the bedtime routine and time at night with each of them as a way to make sure that we have one-on-one time and that I'm present. And, often, especially with teenagers, when the younger ones go to bed, I find that those are the times they're more likely to open up and talk.
The last several question is about, if your kids have grown up and moved out of the house, which, of course, mine have not yet, but I wanted to just tackle this idea a little bit in how I anticipate handling that. And, of course, I might handle it entirely different than I think I will. But, when my kids are gone, if I'll feel any loneliness or desire for them to still be home or how I'll maintain the relationship with them, like I said, this is not here yet. This is not a stage I'm in. But, the goal from the beginning has been to raise adults. So, I have been also psychologically preparing for them to leave home since they were born. So, I don't anticipate having the same feelings that some moms might when they're gone.
I also have been very careful since they were young to be aware of the fact that, while it's my job to be emotionally present for them and to support them and to be an emotional outlet for them, it's not their job to do the same for me. And, I'm their mother, they're not my parent. And so, I don't emotionally lean on them. While I'll open up and be vulnerable if I'm going through something difficult, I don't put any of that emotional weight on them or expect them to help make me feel better. And so, I'm not leaning on them in that way. So, I hope we would move into a natural adult relationship and get to have a more friendship type of interaction than a parent-child type of interaction. But, I don't think I will feel that weight in the same way some parents might. And, I just think that's an important thing to say, that it's not my job to emotionally depend on them. It's my job to raise them to actually not need to depend on me.
And then, Ben send some more, as he calls it, boots on the ground, nitty-gritty practical aspects of being a parent. He said, do you have any non-negotiable rules for your children? As I said in the beginning, I have very few rules. More, we have experiential-based stuff that's non-negotiable in our family. So, that idea that they can't have a phone or a car until they have a profitable business. And, also, some experiences that we require as a baseline for them to at least try it. So, things like martial arts, which they've all done. We live in an area with water. So, they are all required to do lifeguard and junior lifeguard, to get CPR training, and to become strong swimmers. And then, just as a family culture, we all get scuba-certified because that's a fun family thing we do together. But, beyond that, there really are no hard and fast rules.
He asked, do you discipline your children? And, if so, how? And, I've referenced this in some podcasts. I went deep on this actually with Joe Dispenza on my podcast. But, I don't discipline in the same way I don't think that most parents do. We don't do the whole “Go to your room, you're grounded” type dynamic. Like I said, I also don't yell at them. I think Ben has talked about this as well, but the root of the word, “discipline,” is disciple, which comes from the idea of teaching, not enforcing. And, I think, often, discipline is confused with punishment, in a lot of ways. So, in the teaching-mentoring method, and certainly, there's a lot of that that actually goes on in our house, but there's not a lot of traditional discipline as you would think of it that way. And, I would say there's actually not much of a need for it.
I think when we educate our kids about these things young, respect their autonomy, help give them emotional regulation tools, and give them the ability to pursue the things that are important to them, and have these conversations, and that they feel emotionally grounded and rooted, that we avoid a lot of the things that will be needed to discipline for. So, maybe, it sounds a little crazy to say, but there's really not a need for discipline, so, no.
Ben asked, how did you handle helping your children establish responsible, moderated, or conscientious consumption and use of books, media, entertainment, screen time, and social media? And, he says this seems to be a question many parents ask these days. And, I love this question, too. I also have an unconventional approach to this. And, I don't have super strict rules or limits around it, other than they don't get their own phone until they have a profitable business. But, I think modeling is important here. I know I sound like a broken record, but teaching them that technology is a tool, not a weapon. And, conceivably, they're going to have an increasing amount of technology available to them throughout their whole lives. It's not something that they can easily avoid. So, it's actually important for them to learn how to regulate and use it effectively at a young age.
I also think boundaries come best from the inside out. So, if I'm their external governor of use of these things, they're going to depend on me for that. And then, when they're adults, they're not going to have the same ability to do it themselves. And so, like everything in parenting, this goes back to education and modeling. And, if I'm not spending all my time on my phone or computer, they're less likely to do that as well. But, also, recognizing that, on a phone, they have access to the entirety of human knowledge at their fingertips. And, that's an incredible tool. But, what goes along with that in today's world at the rapid amount of information we're creating is learning how to curate that information and not get swept into too much information and how to find the information you need effectively and quickly and sift through the information that's not good.
So, I actually encourage, especially, learning-based technology use whenever they want to. And, it's something I, of course, often work with them on. I don't just give them unfettered access at the young age to the internet. But, I think it's an amazing tool. And, it's that conversation from a young age of using it as a tool, not a weapon.
Similarly, Ben asked, did you emphasize or encourage any health fitness or healthy eating principles with your children? And, if so, what seemed to work well? And, I touched on this a little bit already, but division of responsibility, making sure they understand my role as a parent in providing them healthy food, their role in listening to their bodies and eating when they're hungry and letting them make decisions around it, not being their external force for that, letting those come from inside, but making sure that they're educated.
I think culture goes a long way. So, our family culture being more wellness-centered also probably goes a long way in making good choices here, but not because they're externally forced, just because that is the culture that they're growing up with.
And, I also have learned over time over and over just how important it is for me to model this because I think they listen to what we say but they do what we do a lot more. And, I realized I had a couple of fall-down points, and it's one being, a few years ago, I was looking in the mirror and my daughter was in the bathroom, too, and I saw her see how I was looking at myself in the mirror. And, I saw it register in her face, perhaps, for the first time that I was having negativity toward my own body. And, I don't think she had ever considered to look at herself critically like that. And, in that moment, I realized I don't want to pass on this critical self-judgment about myself to her by modeling it. And so, that was actually when I resolved it, no matter what it took, I would figure out how to address that. And, that lead to a beautiful trauma journey and, actually, health recovery for me. But, it really drove home the point of this and how what we model is often much more important than what we say, because I had been saying all the words around having a good relationship with her body and with food for years but I wasn't fully modeling it. And, I noticed, even through that journey, as I was losing a lot of weight, I was making comments about getting smaller. And, I realized she was trying to be really, really small, even wear shoes that were small. For a while, I was like, “Why is she doing that?” And then, I realized that was coming from me as well. And so, I shifted my language in a hopefully more positive direction there and about what my body can do, not what it looks like, and then being strong. And, she's now following along and wanting to get stronger. And so, I think it's just a good reminder that our kids pay attention to what we do and, especially, how we look at and talk to ourselves. So, that's a very important thing to cultivate.
If your child or children could inscribe anything on your gravestone, what would you wish and hope that they would write? Particularly, what would you want them to most remember about you or remember you for? I don't have a great answer to this, actually, because I've relatively detached from the outcome of what happens when I die. But, I guess I would maybe have them put something funny, like my name and what year I was born, and then, maybe, died 1450, tried time travel and it didn't work out, or something funny. I hope they remember me for humor. And, I hope that they remember that I was always there for them and that I loved them, and also, that I challenged them and didn't do things for them. But, I don't know. I will be dead. So, I guess I won't really care too much what they put.
Ben also asked, related to that, what do you most want to be remembered for as a parent? And, I guess it would go back to, for me, maybe, love, kindness, and adventure. And, I think, even more than that, it's intangible. I hope that they are able to feel the love that I feel for them every day. And, we have a really, really great relationship. And, I feel like they do. And, I hope they remember that. I hope they remember the small moments and the time spent together and the connections and the adventures. But, beyond that, I don't think of anything, specifically.
He asked, related to that as well, what do you think your child or children would say is their fondest memory of being raised by you? And, like I said, I think it's the small moments, not the big ones. I hope they remember the bedtime stories and the spontaneous funny jokes that happened or the random dance party at Saturday breakfast, or whatever it is. I hope they remember those things and that they each have their own little moments of connection that they remember.
And then, final question. This one might be the toughest one. What one message for parents would you put on a billboard? And, probably, something along the lines of it's not meant to be this hard. It's actually meant to be really fun. And, that they're mirrors. And so, if it's not fun and if it is hard, then embrace it as a beautiful chance to look inside, because they're our best teachers and they have a lot to tell us.
So, I think I've finally got through all the questions. And, I will probably show this on my podcast as well and, also, be sharing more detail about all of this in my own writing. But, I'm really grateful to Ben for the chance to get to hash this out. I think all of these are very important questions and important conversations to have. And, I think that the most important thing we can show up to if we have kids is being a good parent. And, that's a constant journey of improvement and self-discovery and taking care of ourselves and modeling and education. And, it can absolutely be exhausting and frustrating. And, it can also be wonderful and fulfilling. And, all those things can exist at once. So, thank you, Ben, for the opportunity, and to my kids for giving me the opportunity to be a mom and learn these lessons.
Ben: Hey, I've got a special announcement about an event that's taken place with me and my team at Ben Greenfield Life. We have our big Ben Greenfield Life team retreat this year in Sandpoint, Idaho. And, we're going to do what's called the Walk for Water during that event. We've partnered up with the fantastic charitable organization World Vision. And, on June 14th at about 10:00 a.m., we're going to be doing a 6k, 6k length event, which is the average distance people in the developing world have to walk to get water. Sometimes sadly enough not even clean or safe water. But anyways, what we're going to do is we're going to raise money for World Vision to be able to provide clean water for someone in a developing country for life. And, World Vision does a fantastic job equipping farmers, equipping people who would normally not be able to get water with the ability to be able to produce water or get clean drinking water.
So, here's how you can help. There's a $50 donation option that will help to provide clean water. Fifty bucks is all it takes to provide clean water for one person for life. And, there's also a $50 registration fee where you too can join in to do the 6k. So, here's where you go, BenGreenfieldLife.com/WalkforWater. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/WalkforWater. Check it out and get ready to join us on June 14th at 10:00 a.m. And, of course, you can just do this all virtually, you don't have to be in Sandpoint, Idaho for the event.
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.
Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder and CEO of WellnessMama.com and Wellnesse. Her ideas related to parenting are steeped in practical experience and deep wisdom, and will be featured in my upcoming book Boundless Parenting, which will showcase Katie and 30+ additional amazing parents from around the globe who are 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 Winter of 2022 and click here to stay updated for the book release.
So who is Katie, exactly?
A mom of six with a background in journalism, Katie took health into her own hands and started researching to find answers to her health struggles. Her research turned into a blog and podcast, and she’s now written over 1,500 blog posts and three books, and was named one of the 100 most influential people in health and wellness.
When Katie Wells is not reading medical journals, creating new recipes, or recording podcasts, you can find her somewhere outside in the sun with her husband (who she met walking across the country) and kids or undertaking some DIY remodeling project. Obligatory additional unrelated randomness: doula, speed-reader, hates bananas, loves baseball, scuba-diver, INTJ, highly experienced in answering the question, “why.”
I've interviewed Katie in the episode: Water Fasting, Trauma Release For Fat Loss, Homeschooling, Hidden Nasty Ingredients In Your Personal Care Products & Much More With Katie Wells, The Wellness Mama! and I've also been a guest on her podcast on the show: The Wellness Mama Podcast 241: Ben Greenfield on Biohacking for Moms, Anti-Aging, & Raising Amazing Kids.
In this episode, you'll discover:
-Katie describes her children, and why she's proud of them…09:37
- Want them to be proud of themselves
- Want them to develop individually
- Want them to find their own identity
- Point out specific things they do well, rather than a general “I'm proud of you”
- Don't want them to be dependent on approval from mom
- Love unconditionally
- Should not have to do anything to earn love
-Elements of Katie's parenting style that are unique…12:37
- “First Principles” parenting
- Breaking something to the base concepts
- Build the best process/outcome from these base concepts
- Never yell at the children
- Don't shut down the emotions
- Teach children to focus on what they can control
- The Work of Byron Katie
- Radical self-sufficiency (raising responsible adults, not children)
- “Don't do anything for them that they are capable of doing themselves”
- Don't take away the ownership of responsibility
- Learn concept of consequences in a harm-free environment
- Teach children how to learn from failure
- Natural consequences are great teachers
- Few rules in the homes; make their own decisions and learn from their decisions
- Allowing them to make decisions are a way for kids to learn risk analysis
- Give kids tools to to trust themselves to make good decisions; to trust their intuition; to process failure if they do not make good decisions
- Nurture failure tolerance
- No phone or car until they run a profitable business for a year
- Chef Junior: 100 Super Delicious Recipes by Kids for Kids!
- Speak to the inner child while they're still children (validate emotions)
- Encourage to ask better questions; asking questions is how children learn
-Indispensable resources for Katie's parenting approach…39:18
- Each child is individual
- It Didn't Start With You by Mark Wolynn
- The Body Keeps the Score by Vessel van der Kolk
- Positive Parenting Solutions
-Most important rituals and routines for Katie's family…43:03
- Morning prayer, gratitude and meditation, and shared experiences
- The family looks forward to “Soft Rock Saturdays”
- Value experiences over things
-Rites of passage and significant moments…45:19
- Giving them ownership and ability to make decisions early
- Experience based rites of passage
- Talking about and setting boundaries
-Katie's parenting mentors…47:39
- Katie's own parents were influential
- Biographies of successful parents
-What Katie teaches her children about raising their own children…49:56
- Modeling vs. teaching
- Approval comes from within, not from the parent
- Respect for each child's individuality and autonomy
- Not projecting expectations on the children
- Talk about the hard and enjoyable parts of parenting
- Although parenting requires a lot of work, it does not have to be hard and it can also be fun
-Katie's philosophy on educating her kids…52:47
- Unschooling and education podcasts
- Creativity, critical thinking, hands on approach, self-directed learning
- Minimize bookwork
- Focus on mastery, not proficiency
-Proudest moment as a parent…55:33
- Watching them doing things
- Chef Junior: 100 Super Delicious Recipes by Kids for Kids!
- When consistency and hard work pays off in their performance
-What Katie wishes she had known before becoming a parent…1:00:09
- Children are mirrors of us
- Children are the greatest teachers
- We grow alongside the children
- Very little quiet in the house
-Dealing with “imposter syndrome” as a parent…1:02:26
- We're all learning as we go as an antidote
- Creeps in when in a public setting
- We are also learning from failures
-Mentoring children without living vicariously through them…1:04:10
- Remember that they are their own people
- Not to pass expectations unto them; just to pass love unto them
- Help them to become people who are loving
- Focus on efforts, not results; focus on efforts, not innate traits
-Parenting decisions that kept you awake at night, worrying…1:06:26
- A believer of “worry is just a waste of imagination”
- Worrying could be great learning opportunities; often comes from own insecurities
-Regrets from experience as a parent…1:07:27
- “Regret is just a waste of imagination”; it could not be changed
- “It couldn't have happened any other way because it didn't” is very true
-What Katie would change as a parent if she could do it again…1:08:50
- Go back to being 20 with the first kid with the lessons learned from the past 15 years
- Also know that the process of that learning is very important
-Fear that being outside of the box approach, children would grow up weird or different…1:11:00
- Hopes children would grow up a little weird
- Cultivating a tolerance for that in them and they don't need approval from the normal world
- Want them to have resilience from needing to fit in
- Be weird but be kind
-Differing from the spouse on parenting principles and techniques…1:12:57
- Dad is more hands off than Katie but agree on core values and goals for the kids
- The method may be different, but remain consistent
- Kids can benefit from differing approaches to parenting
-Angst, frustration, or impatience when wanting to share something with the kids but fear that you may be overloading them…1:15:10
- Kids are infinitely capable of learning and understanding
- Sharing about new and impactful things but detaching the outcome of them adapting those things
- In giving a gift, the gift is in the giving
-Balancing passing of valuable knowledge and wisdom with not creating a scenario of the child worrying too much about the constant stream of information and adulting…1:18:05
- Play is the work of children; create time for them to bored
- Let them have time to have creative pursuits that are not structured
- Create a culture around love of learning and love of challenge
- The goal of raising children is to raise responsible and kind adults
-Balancing parenting responsibilities with business and self-care…1:20:40
- Psychologically, a child only needs 10-20 minutes of one-on-one time each day in order to feel connected and grounded and to have a good relationship with parents – Positive Parenting Solutions
- Focused one on one time with the children each day
- Actively listen to what is important to them
-Engaging in one-on-one time or create space for dedicated present time for a child…1:23:04
- Make a point everyday for 10~20 minutes to do with them what they want to do, what they love; talk about what they want to talk about
- Active listening, be in the present
-Non-negotiable rules for children…1:25:44
- Experience required as a baseline
- Martial arts
- Swimming – lifeguard and CPR training and SCUBA certified
-Do you discipline, and if so, how?…1:26:24
- Does not do the “go to your room, you're grounded” type of discipline
- The Wellness Mama Podcast 502: Dr. Joe Dispenza on Changing Your Thoughts, Emotions & Life
- Discipline is often confused with punishment
-How to handle helping children establish responsible, moderated, conscientious use of books, media, entertainment, social media?…1:27:36
- No super strict rules or limits other than, “No phone or car until they run a profitable business for a year”
- Teaching them that technology is a tool, not as a weapon
- Teach how to regulate the use of technology
- Boundaries come from within
-Do you emphasize or encourage health, fitness, or healthy eating principles? What seems to work well?…1:29:21
- Culture goes a long way
- How we model is often much more important than what we say
-What would you wish your children to inscribe on your gravestone/ what would you wish them to remember about you, or remember you for?…1:31:46
- Something funny
- Was always there for them and loved them
– What do you want most to be remembered for as a parent?…1:32:32
- Love, kindness, adventure
- Remember the small moments and times spent together
-What do you think your children would say as their fondest memory of being raised by you?…1:33:07
- The small moments
- The bedtime stories, the spontaneous dance parties
-What one message for parents would you put on a billboard?…1:33:36
- It's not meant to be this hard, it's actually meant to be really fun
- If it's not fun and it's hard, take it as a chance to look inside; they are the best teachers and they have a lot to teach us
- Being a good parent is a constant journey of self-improvement
-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 mentioned in this episode:
– Katie Wells:
- The Wellness Mama Podcast
- Water Fasting, Trauma Release For Fat Loss, Homeschooling, Hidden Nasty Ingredients In Your Personal Care Products & Much More With Katie Wells, The Wellness Mama!
- The Wellness Mama Podcast 241: Ben Greenfield on Biohacking for Moms, Anti-Aging, & Raising Amazing Kids
- The Wellness Mama Podcast – 483: Mark Wolynn on Why It Didn't Start With You, Inherited Trauma & How We Heal
- The Wellness Mama Podcast 502: Dr. Joe Dispenza on Changing Your Thoughts, Emotions & Life
- Ben's upcoming book Boundless Parenting
- Chef Junior: 100 Super Delicious Recipes by Kids for Kids!
- It Didn't Start With You by Mark Wolynn
- The Body Keeps the Score by Vessel van der Kolk
– Other Resources:
–Essentia Mattresses: Lifestyle, performance and whole body. Use code BG200 to get $200 off your Essentia Mattress. (03:01)
–Inside Tracker: Created by leading scientists in aging, genetics, and biometrics, Inside Tracker analyzes your blood, DNA, and fitness tracking data to identify where you’re optimized—and where you’re not. (04:50)
–Kion Aminos: Building blocks for muscle recovery, reduced cravings, better cognition, immunity, and more. (05:48)
–HigherDOSE: Get your own Infrared Sauna Blanket or Infrared PEMF Mat at HigherDOSE.com today and use my exclusive promo code BEN at check out to save 15% off! (36:27)
–Ketone IQ by HVMN: One Bottle of Ketone-IQ contains 10 servings designed to be taken daily in the morning to elevate your ketone levels. (37:53)