(39) Raising Resilient Kids with Denise

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This episode’s theme is on all of our minds as parents: resiliency. We hear a lot about “grit” and “entitlement” these days, and my guest, Denise, shares her expert view as someone who worked for years in the study abroad department at a university. She has seen what happens when our young adults are put to the test and must problem solve all by themselves. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. But lucky for us, Denise’s professional behind-the-scenes insight – along with how it affected her own parenting – can inform us so our kids have a better chance at becoming confident problem solvers who have a strong struggle muscle.

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Brandy:            Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. The theme of today’s episode is one that’s on all of our minds, whether consciously or subconsciously. But if you’re an over-thinker like me, it’s something you are overtly trying to build into your kid’s: resiliency. We hear a lot about this these days with conversations around grit and the Millenial generation getting a bad rap for their so called “lack of hard work ethic.” That’s a whole different podcast, one that would include a conversation about them inheriting a bunch of broken systems from us, but let’s keep on track here. Today’s guest, Denise, shares her expert view as someone who worked for years in the study abroad department at a university. She has seen what happens when our young adults are put to the test, many for the first time, and have to problem solve on their own. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. But lucky for us, Denise’s professional behind-the-scenes insight along with how it changed her own parenting can inform us, so our kids have a better chance at becoming competent problem solvers who have a strong struggle muscle.

Brandy:            Once again, this episode was recorded before the pandemic hit. I was really on a roll there for a while with interviews pre-pandemic — you know, back in the good old days when this thing called school existed. I’d be curious to know how Denise and my conversation would have changed had it happened now since, thanks to COVID-19, our kids are getting a resiliency boot camp of sorts. Onto the show —

Brandy:            Today on the podcast, we have with us Denise Cope. Welcome, Denise.

Denise:             Thank you.

Brandy:            Denise has worked in higher education for 20 years with a focus on the study abroad program. She has seen young adults really have to find and flex their resiliency muscles, and this has obviously given her a unique viewpoint of where our grown-up kids are lacking and where they’re hopefully succeeding. She gets to see, sort of, the end result of our parenting which is kind of scary. And having this vantage point has surely shaped the way that you parent your child, I would imagine. Right, Denise?

Denise:             Absolutely.

Brandy:            Okay. So, we are going to talk about all of this today: what Denise has seen firsthand, what she’s noticed about certain parenting outcomes, how that shifted her own parenting, and basically, how we can harness her knowledge to help us teach our kids to be resilient. And this is a topic that I am so here for. I mean, I’m physically, literally here for it, but I think about this all the time when I’m parenting. It’s that fine line between nurturing and providing, but also stepping back. I think our generation of parents have a hard time with this because I think a lot of us are parenting in response to how we were parented. Being a kid of the 70’s and 80’s, there was, I think, a disconnection that really doesn’t exist as much today, like, emotionally and all of those things. So, I think a lot of us parents — we give our kids more than we had in that way, but then I think we’re doing our kids and ourselves a huge disservice. And so, I want to get into all of this today because this is a topic that personally interests me, that I think about in my own parenting all the time. So, Denise, thank you for being here. I’m so excited to talk to you about all this stuff.

Denise:             Great. Well, I’m thrilled too. Thank you for the opportunity. I’m hoping that this will be a part deux to Beth’s conversation around revolution – Revolution Starts at Home – because what Beth talked about was how society as a whole doesn’t support parents, so we have to overextend ourselves and step in. But I’m here to talk about what I saw with that over-parenting and how it affects our kids, and how it actually does a disservice.

Brandy:            Yeah. Okay. And I believe that you’re a regular listener of the podcast, correct?

Denise:             That is right.

Brandy:            Okay. So, you know that I ask this of everybody. What do you think the listeners need to know about you?

Denise:             Alright. So, I have thought about this question a lot. But I think the thing that’s most important for listeners is to know that I’m passionate about two things. I’m passionate about international education and the opportunity of transformation and growth that it does for me as a person but also our kids. In addition, I’m also really passionate about making sure I’m growing that struggle muscle, that resiliency, not only for the kids at university but also my own twelve-year-old son.

Brandy:            Okay.

Denise:             And I, myself, have lived in France, Morocco, Japan, and Turkey for six years. Two of those as a mother, and I had to grow my own resiliency muscle there. And I believe that I’ve seen so much with young people today that they haven’t grown this muscle and then without that, the leap is too big for them to then go abroad. And so, wanting to make sure that we’re — I don’t know – I sound Republican here, but competing internationally.

Brandy:            Oh, my God. {laughter} The arms race. Are we talking about the arms race here?

Denise:             No, but it is an independence race, right? If the kids abroad are able to troubleshoot and problem solve and our children are not, then we’ve got a problem.

Brandy:            That’s so true. So true.

Denise:             And so, I really just am highlighting this difference that I’ve seen through my lens and my vantage point in an effort to inspire parents to consider parenting differently.

Brandy:            Yes. Okay. And then also, I feel like I need to know from you, what is your favorite TV show? I just need a taste of, like, quirky? Weird? Personal side?

Dense:              Oh, God. Let’s see. Well, right now I’m actually just watching old episodes of Glee.

Brandy:            Okay. {laughter}

Denise:             Because Glee makes me happy. {laughter}

Brandy:            See, that’s exactly what we need to know. So, there’s so much here. Tell us what have you seen at your job? Years ago (like, ten years ago) were the young adults coming through your program and that you were seeing, were they more resilient, and then you’ve noticed a drop off?  Or what is the timeline on how non-resilient we’ve become?

Denise:             I’ve just noticed a change within like the last ten years. Particularly, within the last five years where I feel like it’s gotten accelerated.

Brandy:            Okay.

Denise:             I think it’s multifaceted, right? There isn’t one answer here, but I will say that what I was witnessing at the university level — and I’ll give some examples — I saw it as an alarming trend and saw it as a course correction for myself as a parent because at the end of the day, I want my twelve-year-old old son, Cayden, to be a resilient problem solver. And I want all of our kids to be resilient problem solvers and not crumble when there’s a challenge in front of us or in front of them.

Brandy:            Right, but that’s that hard place, which is like, “Well, resiliency comes from sometimes struggle and suffering.” And I think that so many of us want to provide for our kids because we know that the world has endless suffering for them in every way. So many of us that are trying to be thoughtful and are trying to give them — and I would imagine you’re included in this too — are trying to give them this stable foundation of a home life. But then what I realized — I mean, I joke with my husband. I’m like, “I feel like we need to send our kids to a resiliency camp of some kind because they have not been tested in the ways that many of us were tested as kids.” But I mean, so many other kids are. So, what do we force on them?

Denise:             Mm hmm.

Brandy:            And then what do we allow? So, what’s your take on that?

Denise:             Yeah, I think you’re spot on. Before I get into solutions, I want to just frame because you said something really interesting.

Brandy:            Yeah, I’m like, “Just tell me how to do this right. Just tell me how to parent right.” {laughter}

Denise:             {laughter}

Brandy:            Okay. Yeah, we skipped over a lot. Okay. {laughter}

Denise:             Yeah. I mean, what I saw is that in the US, as parents, we are not letting our kids struggle when they’re young. And as a result, our “grown kids” are crumbling out in the real world. So, other countries are just doing this differently, and they’re flexing this independence resiliency muscle more for their kids. And the benefit is that it actually is good for us too, as parents. It gives us balance. It gives us sanity. So, let me give you an example. I was in Spain two years ago for work, and I was staying in a residential neighborhood. I went out for, actually, a beer. So, I’m sitting in this Plaza, drinking my beer, and noticing there’s all of these families and kids. It’s a giant Plaza with kids just running around. You can’t even see them. They’re just everywhere.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Denise:             And the adults are just sitting around, drinking beer, enjoying each other’s company, and creating community. The kids have independence within the context of this Plaza. The parents aren’t supervising them. There’s nobody to, you know, make sure there’s no stranger danger. And I was thinking to myself, “We would be arrested in the United States for this very same behavior.”

Brandy:            I was gonna say, this right here is like CPS is called on everyone, and everyone is shamed in their mom’s group, and people have taken photos and are like, “Do you know these parents?”

Denise:             Right. Now, here’s another cultural example: Japan. So, if you have not had an opportunity to watch this on YouTube – I can send you a link to for your listeners. It’s called My First Errand, and there’s a tradition in Japan where young kids, age 3, 4, 5, 6, go out on their very first errand by themselves.

Brandy:            That’s adorable. Oh, my God. Why is Japan adorable?

Denise:             Right? And so, they go to the butcher. They go to the laundromat or something. They’re going and doing something out in the world. The show captures these moments, and the kids are like, “Oh, my God. I have to walk down the street by myself to go to the butcher. This is scary.” But they get it, right? And it’s a rite of passage to gain that independence and that struggle muscle of like, “I got this.” In the United States, if I were to send my six-year-old to go to the butcher to pick up some meat, I would be arrested.

Brandy:            Totally.

Denise:             So, there’s a cultural difference here that’s happening, but the end result is what I’ve seen at university is students are scared to be in the world, are scared to take action, and are scared to self-direct. It makes me sad. So, I’m going to give you, actually, four examples. These are all true stories. I have changed the names to protect the identity.

Brandy:            Are you sure you want to do that? You don’t want to just shame these people and give their email out so that people can email them like, “You little shit.” {laughter} No, I’m just kidding.

Denise.             {laughter} I mean, I’m sure all of these were coming from good places, right? It’s just here’s the end result when we over parent.

Brandy:            Right. Okay.

Denise:             So, first one: Kayla, age 18. This is a college student who feels overwhelmed by lunch choices in the cafeteria.

Brandy:            I love Kayla. Wait, I already side with Kayla. Like stop.

Denise:             {laughter}

Brandy:            You’ve been to Cheesecake Factory, like, who does not get paralyzed?

Denise:             True.

Brandy:            Okay anyway, I’m on Kayla’s side, but prove it different. Prove it different.

Denise:             Her problem-solving technique was to text her mom to find out what she should eat.

Brandy:            Okay, I’m not on Kayla’s side anymore. {laughter} That was quick.

Denise:             {laughter} Okay, that’s Kayla. Maddie, age 20. So, Maddie goes to study abroad in a small European town. She leaves after one-and-a-half/two days because it feels daunting how to learn how to ride the bus. Now, there were staff on site. She could have asked this question. They give guidebooks. There are other students she could ask, but she just felt too nervous. She just left, and the parent called me and was so mad at me and threatened to sue me.

Brandy:            Oh, gosh. What? What could they sue you for?

Denise:             I don’t know. I mean, I think it was because feeling like his student wasn’t being handheld through every step of the process.

Brandy:            Oh, wow.

Denise:             Alright, that’s Maddie. Clarissa, age 20 also. So, she flies to her study abroad site. She has to get through immigration and customs on her own which can be daunting.

Brandy:            Sure.

Denise:             But as soon as she does, she has a whole team of people on the other side who are going to guide her through all the next steps, but this part she has to navigate on her own. And I will say, in this case, Clarissa is very well-traveled. Her and her parents have done a lot of international travel. I would imagine that she probably just followed along and probably didn’t have to troubleshoot and use her own judgment. So, this would have been probably first time to use her own judgment in the airport.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Denise:             But she felt so overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. Her solution was to text her parents who are not on the same continent. They are not on the same time zone. That was her “go to.”

Brandy:            {sighs}

Denise:             So, Zach, age 25. He is a top graduate from a top tier institution in the United States. He got a job at a large aerospace firm, but after a year, he has a poor performance review. Zach’s dad calls the manager to discuss the performance review.

Brandy:            Oh, my God.

Denise:             Ironically, the performance review covered Zach’s lack of self-direction in agency.

Brandy:            {laughter} That’s funny.

Denise:             And I don’t know if the dad saw the irony in all of this or not.

Brandy:            Yeah, probably not.

Denise:             {laughter} But the point of it is, what do all these stories have in common? There’s a need to scaffold skills to grow that struggle muscle so at the onset of a challenge, a kid, or in this case in a grown kid, won’t crumble. So he and she can problem solve when there’s an unexpected challenge and to have that agency and direction to problem solve. Alright, so I’ve got to speak some truth here. I think that I have to say it out loud. Texting mom and dad is not problem solving, and I think that’s, like, a “go to.” That’s a “go to” for a lot of young people today. It’s this umbilical cord where it’s like, “Oh, I don’t know what to do. I’m going to text mom and dad. They’ll give me the right answer.”

Brandy:            Yeah. As you’re talking, in these stories and even your story about in Japan the My First Errand, there’s so many different things at play here. One of them, obviously, is the cultural difference. I’ve been to Japan before, and I was blown away that a society could be so kind and thoughtful and nice just for no reason. Like, they aren’t scared. From my point of view, they weren’t scared that they were going to get in trouble if they weren’t nice. They’re just a kind, kind culture. There was one time where we were on a train, and my friend had just bought a new DVD player. He left it on the train, accidentally. We walked home. You know, this was when we were in our 20’s. We walked home, and he goes, “Oh, my God. I can’t believe I forgot the DVD player.” And of course, he went back to the train station. It was right there where he had left it. There’s just a kindness and a trust that doesn’t exist here. So, I’m thinking, “Well, if we have that same society, we could send our kids on errands, and maybe, it would be okay,” but that’s a whole thing to unpack. But then, the texting of the parent, this is the thing where this technology has given us so much. And then one of the ways that it’s throttled us is, you know, 15, 20, 30 years ago, I’m sure we all found ourselves in situations where if we had a phone, we would have texted our parent, but we didn’t have the phone. So, we didn’t. So, it’s like, “There are so many pieces to this.” And the “having the phone so accessible,” like basically, a connection to somebody saving your ass is just a thumb tapping away. It doesn’t take away how ridiculous this is, but also how do we even combat it? I mean, here’s me again trying to get to the solution, “But tell us how we do this right?” {laughter} Like, how are kids going to be able to be resilient when there are so many things in our specific society that have it stacked so that we are in constant contact and constantly micromanaging them?

Denise:             Right, and I think one of the challenges that exists in the United States is that we have a fear-based parenting style. We’re fearful of kidnapping. We’re fearful of our kids crossing the street by themselves. We’re fearful of strangers. We’re fearful of, “Oh maybe they’ll get lost if they walk home by themselves.” We’re fearful of, “They’re not going to get into the right institution or the right college if I don’t micromanage this.”

Brandy:            Yeah.

Denise:             And we disguise this fear through love.

Brandy:            Right. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Denise:             But fear is really driving the bus.

Brandy:            You’re so spot on about that because I was thinking about this before our interview, and I was trying to put my thoughts together. And one of the things that I realized is that so many parents today are making up for certain things that they didn’t have. So, I think sometimes we misunderstand love with doing things for your kid that ultimately makes them lack independence and self-sufficiency. And I think that right there is the spot-on thing is that we think that it’s, “I want my kid to know their loved.” Because I struggle with this. I have a thirteen-year-old son, and I grew up as a really independent kid. I came home after school alone for most of elementary school and the rest of my school experience. And I knew how to make Chicken By George frozen chicken after school at, like, grade two. My parents would send me on trips to go visit my cousin in North Carolina, and I would just travel alone and have layovers. I’m so grateful for it now because I’m a pretty independent person, but this is what goes on in my head when I’m parenting my kids. So, I teach my son how to cook because I want him to be able to do some basic things, but I’m struggling currently with breakfast because he will wait in the mornings on the weekends. He will wait until I’m awake and until somebody makes him breakfast. And I’m like, “Hey, buddy. I’m sure you were hungry two hours ago. What’s this waiting about?” So, he and I have had these conversations, and I think, he just likes it when I do it. But I’m torn about whether I should do this or not because the thing that plays out in my head is, “I want to make him breakfast because that’s the memory. That’s the love. When he looks back, and he’ll go, ‘my mom made me breakfast every morning. It was this nice thing that she did for me, and she showed me her love.’” So, I’m held captive by that thought. And then the other thought I have is, “I make his dinners. Why am I making his breakfast every morning while he’s sitting on the couch? This seems wrong, and is this part of that-non resilience problem. If he can do this himself, why isn’t he doing it?” So, when you look at that kind of scenario where I feel like there’s such a gray area – like, I make him make his school lunch every day, and that I have no qualms about because that’s something he gets to have the agency to choose what he wants to eat that day (based on what we have at home). That’s like, “This is for you. You need to do this.” But then the breakfast thing is a little hazy for me because it also is this warm, waking up to the day, feeling loved before you go out into the cruel middle school world.

Denise:             {laughter}

Brandy:            So, what’s your personal take on the breakfast?

Denise:             I love this question. Two things. One is I’m suggesting we need to reframe how love manifests for us in our kids. By constantly doing things for kids that they can do — and there can be special occasions where we’re having a nice breakfast on weekends and things like that. But I worry that without scaffolding skills together, and I’ll use my son as example, it doesn’t serve him in the long run. And I keep thinking to myself, “Alright. I’m in this for the long game. I’m in it for the long game. I want him to be able to problem solve, you know, just life.”

Brandy:            Right.

Denise:             And I will say, with all of those examples I gave, I’m not just pointing the finger. I am guilty of it too. And at the same time, I realize, alright, I needed to do some type of interrupt because, otherwise, I would be stunting Cayden’s growth.

Brandy:            But that’s my question is that when you said, “I’m guilty of it too,” is how do we know when we’re guilty of it or not? How do we know when the thing that we’re doing is, actually, a loving gesture, and it’s also taking away their agency? And I think, maybe, the answer to it is it can be both, and that’s why parenting is not, A + B = C. Because I could see my son growing up, and if I make him make his breakfast every morning, I can see him sitting on a therapist’s couch going, “You know, it was like my mom didn’t do the things I thought mom’s did, which is make your breakfast.” But then on the other hand, if I do make him breakfast, I can see him sitting on a therapist’s couch saying, “My mom made me breakfast every morning, so I didn’t have to do it myself. So, I don’t know how to do some of these things.” And obviously, I’m clearly overthinking this, like I do all things, which is why this podcast even exists. It’s this thing that we always talk about here which is either way, you don’t know how this is going to pan out. And so, do you have any tips or insights for how to tell when something is like, “This is clearly — you are coddling, and this is a gray area. This is love.” How do we know the difference?

Denise:             Ah, good question.

Brandy:            I mean, you don’t have to have the answer. I’m just curious from your mom point of view what you think.

Denise:             Yeah. I’m going to answer the question by giving a framework, and then giving really concrete suggestions.

Brandy:            Okay.

Denise:             From a framework perspective, what I see is parenting falls into this long continuum, and it’s constantly changing because your kid is constantly changing. So, as soon as you go to figure it out, you have to change it. So, that’s the crazy making of the whole thing.

Brandy:            Right.

Denise:             But I’d say on one side of the spectrum, we’ve got neglect. And I think for many Gen X people, and I’m a Gen X’er. We were latchkey kids, and we were kids that had to fend for ourselves. So, as a result, we’ve gone to the other side.

Brandy:            Exactly. Yes. We’ve swung so far. Yeah. Yes.

Denise:             And so, this other side, I call it the overparenting side. And so, there are three types of over-parents that I encountered at university. There’s helicopter parent, concierge parent, and snowplow parent.

Brandy:            Oh, my God. I love this. Yes, yes. Okay.

Denise:             Part of this, I think, is building awareness. As parents, what is our go to style? So, for example, helicopter parent is — oh, honey, I love that. Like, that is so my go-to style. So, I hover. I remind. I nag. “Don’t forget this. Have you done this chore yet?” So, an example would be, I’ll say to Cayden, “Oh, don’t forget to bring your cello to school.” All right, so that’s me constantly reminding him. So, that’s the helicopter parent. Oh, do I live here.  So, I also live in concierge parent. Not as much, but I do it. Concierge parent is a parent who doesn’t just remind the kid of the task, but actually, does the task for the kid.

Brandy:            Oh, yeah. {laughter}

Denise:             So, for example, with using the cello, it would be — you know, I don’t even remind Cayden of the cello. I just stick it in the car. Or, maybe he forgets it, and then he would call or text me and say, “Please bring me my cello.” And then I zoom to school with the cello. So, here I am taking care of his problems for him, so he doesn’t have to feel those consequences.

Brandy:            Yeah. Side note, I had a friend text me last week, and she was like, “(So and so, one of her kids) forgot their lunch. Do I drive it to them or not?” And it was just funny because it was a group text. It was exactly what you’re saying. There were these different ways of parenting. I’m like, “Did my parents ever drive me lunch to school? No.” I got hot lunch anyway, but it was just funny to see this come up and then to see our different styles get in there. So yeah, that’s fascinating.

Denise:             Yeah, yeah. And I get it, like, I live there too, right? Because it’s just easier sometimes, and we don’t want our kids to feel pain or in this case you’ve given, feel hunger. But what would happen if the child did feel that consequence? Would that then feed them (ha-ha, pun intended) to remember to bring a lunch?

Brandy:            Yes, and that’s where I tend to live, is in the natural consequences spot because I know from being a person myself that somebody can tell me something all they want, but if I feel the natural consequence of “you forget your lunch and then you’re starving,” I will intrinsically — I will not forget to bring my lunch the next day because of that memory, not because of a parent telling me. I always want them to have the inner motivation rather than, “I’m doing this for my mom.” I am such a fan of that, and I think I was brought up with that. To me, that is that is the easiest, laziest parenting way that works. I feel like every time that works. I mean, obviously it doesn’t work when it’s life or death because that’s not a good scenario.

Denise:             Right.

Brandy:            Okay, so I didn’t mean to derail you because I love hearing about this. Okay, so concierge?

Denise:             Yeah. So, the third one is snowplow parent. So, this is a parent who blows through any barrier out in the world to ensure success and ease for their kid. For example, in my professional life, I would sometimes get parents calling me to inquire or sometimes outright demand that I bend rule or policy for their 20-year-old child so as to prevent a consequence, usually from a lack of action on the on the student’s part. This is a way to prevent natural consequences. A nefarious example, right? This would be Aunt Becky and the whole parental entourage blowing through all the rules to make sure that their kid has ultimate success.

Brandy:            Right. Yeah, the scandal.

Denise:             The scandal, right. But the thing is, what do all of these types have in common? All of them teach, “You can’t handle life. I don’t trust you to handle something on your own.” And this kid internalizes this and feels that and then feels scared to take action and try things and fail and get up and try it again because they feel like, “I don’t know what to do unless my mom or dad is telling me what to do.”

Brandy:            Yes.

Denise:             So, here’s the part that’s super exciting. So, you’ve asked, “What is the answer?” I have boiled it down to a five-step process. The overarching theme is, “Parent less. Don’t care less.” So, you care enough to let your kids struggle and grow. You’re there as a thought partner not the fixer. This isn’t the mob. These are some steps that I’ve boiled down based on my own experience both as an educator and a parent. Number one — this one, I think, is the foundation for the whole thing. You have to commit to a goal of building independence, resiliency, and that struggle muscle. And you have to commit to this not only for your kids but yourself.

Brandy:            And here’s the hard part about that. I mean, it’s obviously not easy, and we’ll talk about that in a second. But one of the hard parts of that is if both parents are not on the same page.

Denise:             Amen.

Brandy:            So, that can be a tricky thing. Because I know for me, I was brought up in this way where my parents thought I could do anything. They, in fact, expected me to. And one of the benefits of that was is I always felt so confident because I had walked through an airport alone and gotten to my layover. So, it’s like, “Yeah. Shit, I can do anything.” So, I have that when I parent our kids, but then my husband comes from a little bit different thinking. He’s less inclined to see them struggle or suffer. And so, it’s a hard place, right? Because in my mind, I’m already going to the place of like, “I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re not loved — or this is neglect.” But then when you parent with somebody who almost validates that feeling — then when I when I look at my husband and I next to each other, I’m like, “He’s the fun, nurturing parent.” And I’m definitely those things too, but not in the same way as him. So, I think, it gets tricky. Especially, I bet there’s a lot of listeners out there who they are the fun, loving nurturer, and their spouses are the one that are more like, “Don’t coddle them or whatever.” And so, after you give me these steps, we need to talk about how to handle that because I think that’s a really real thing.

Denise:             Yeah, you’re totally right. But I think as parents, we also have to model resiliency. For example, I have started my own business, and I will tell you, there are days when I am just like, “Oh, my God. What am I doing?” It’s really hard to figure out all of those steps that take to really run a successful business. But I include Cayden and my husband into this conversation. We announce, as a family, “I really want to take this challenge on.” And we support each other as we work through challenges. So, I think it’s announcing, like, “We’re doing this as a family. We’re gonna work on challenges,” and making it into a positive thing instead of just feeling like it’s a punishment.

Brandy:            Yes.

Denise:             So, that’s step one is committing to that goal and announcing it. Step two: identifying your parenting “go to” style. So, for me, I am helicopter. That is where I live — sometimes in concierge. And I will catch myself in moments where I was like, “Ah, I just did it. I just helicoptered. Oh, my God.” And Cayden will catch me at it too. Because he knows I’m trying to work on this. Steven will catch me at it (my husband). He’ll be like, “Ah, guess what you just did?” And not from a way of blaming or, like, “You’re a bad person,” but as a way to grow. And I think there has to be humor involved and self-love. Because this is hard, and it’s hard to look at yourself and hard to look at your parenting style.

Brandy:            Right. Well, and I think how cool would it be — this makes me want to tell my son about this, actually, even my daughter. She’s more independent than my son is, and she’s only six. It would be interesting to talk to a kid and tell them these different kinds. Here’s how they look. If you feel like I’m doing one of those things, and you feel like ultimately it doesn’t benefit you, let’s point them out. Like, won’t it be funny? I think that that could be strategy as long as the kids aren’t shaming you, and you’re not feeling awful about yourself. What a fun thing to pick apart the way that you parent incorrectly. Doesn’t that sound fun? {laughter}

Denise:             {laughter}

Brandy:            But if you have other people on your team, you’re not doing all of the mental gymnastics about it, but you have somebody else who can say – especially when your kids are like “Mom!” But then if they’re like, “Mom, you’re doing the concierge thing.” And then you can be like, “Oh.” That’s different than just a kid going like, “Mom!” Like, what is that behind their, “Mom!” And so, maybe, this helps give kids the words to tell you what you’re doing. I mean, some of them probably don’t want to because they don’t want to give it up. Like, I know my son would probably not tell me like, “Mom, you made me breakfast this morning. Isn’t that kind of like a little concierge?” I’m sure he would just shut his shit on that one so that he keeps getting the breakfast {laughter}, but it’s an idea. It’s an idea.

Denise:             Yeah. So, step three is to build a developmentally appropriate skills map with your child. It’s not you creating a giant checklist. You’re doing this together as a family.

Brandy:            Okay, so what is it what the hell is a skills map? {laughter}

Denise:             Okay. I will tell you what we did. Every family will have to do what works for them. So, for example, with Cayden, at age nine, we announced this long in advance, so he had mental time to prepare for it. But it said, “Alright, age nine. This is when you get to learn how to do your own laundry. I’m not touching your laundry from here on out.” So, I taught him how to do his laundry, and now he does it like clockwork.

Brandy:            Does he do it every time?

Denise:             He does, except when he’s sick. That is when I do it for him.

Brandy:            Okay.

Denise:             Age 10: setting an alarm, waking up, and getting out of bed on his own. This one’s huge. I will say, I know of instances where parents call the university to say, “Hey my kid really struggles to get up in the morning. Can you please knock on his door? Because that’s what I did at home.”

Brandy:            Oh, gosh.

Denise:             So, this is what — we’re trying to prevent that, right? We’re trying to build this self-reliance model. And I’d say, “Don’t do it with a phone. Actually, get a real alarm clock and get out of bed on his or her own.” So, that was age 10. Age 11. I was like, “Alright, age 11. You have to plan and cook the family meal one time a week.”

Brandy:            Oh, my God. Yes. Okay. Yes.

Denise:             And I was expecting hot dogs and mac and cheese.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Denise:             That’s what I was like, “Alright. It’s okay, I’ll be alright. It’s not the healthiest, but this is a long game. It’ll be fine.” But I will say, I got a cookbook, and it is amazing. And every family absolutely has to run out and get this cookbook because it gives kids the confidence to cook. And they’re really awesome recipes. Two nights ago, Cayden made this barbecue chicken. It was delicious.

Brandy:            Oh, my God. Sign me up for this. What is this cookbook?

Denise:             It’s called America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs. I use it for my own cooking because it’s so good. But it’s so great for kids. It really just walks them through it.

Brandy:            I’m totally doing this, by the way, because we’ve talked about this. My son’s in a home ec class right now, and he loves it. And he was telling me about what they were making the other day, and he said, “Maybe, you know, maybe, one of these days I can make a dinner.” And so, he’s gonna come home from school today, and I’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, boy? You’re gonna be making dinner every Wednesday night.”

Denise:             {laughter}

Brandy:            “And you know what? There’s this great cookbook, but you know what? You gotta earn the money to even buy it.” Nah, I don’t know that I’ll go that far, but I’m feeling inspired. {laughter} So, thank you.

Denise:             {laughter} That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And then also at age 11, we had him make his own lunch.

Brandy:            What about breakfast? When did that happen? Or has that happened?

Denise:             Truth be told, we’re still making his breakfast, but I think it’s coming because I think we’re reaching a point where Steven and I are like, “He’s being pampered too much.” So, it’s time for him to get to work.

Brandy:            Okay, good to know.

Denise:             Age 12: walking home from school alone or riding a bike home. Now, every family’s different. We’re about a 30-minute walk from school. For me, that feels doable, and I just like him to build that muscle. I know that there are a lot of young people out there that get shuttled here or there, and they, actually, aren’t paying attention. They aren’t paying attention to where they are in the world and how to get from point A to point B.

Brandy:            Good point.

Denise:             So, I want him to actually know how to get from point A to point B, and if he gets lost, I’m not worried about that. I feel like that’s an important part of getting found, and building that muscle of like, “I got this. Alright, I struggled, but I got this.”

Brandy:            Yeah, and the amount of just mental chill time that happens on the walk home — my elementary school, I swear, was like a three-hour walk home. I know I’m remembering it wrong, but when I think back, I’m like, “How did I do that?” But every day, even in the snow, we would walk. I mean, it sounds like, “I walked uphill both ways.” But I just remember some days I’d have a friend with me and some days I wouldn’t, and I can just even, close my eyes right now and put myself back in my body and my brain and just the amount of creativity happening, thinking through things, looking at the world, being aware of what’s around me, and the seasons changing. There’s so much that we don’t realize that happens when kids are in the world (or adults), but kids are in the world on their own just going from point A to point B. The trust that I felt and the kind of things — I mean, there was scary shit that happened sometimes. And so, just even to know that, “Oh, that person looks a little bit — I’m unsure of that.” Okay. So, here’s what I’d do. I’d go hide in the Rec Center for a second. And then, maybe, I’d wait to come out. “Oh, there are friends. I’ll walk with them for the rest of the way.” Like, that kind of stuff that you don’t know goes on then, goes on then.

Denise:             Mm Hmm. That’s right. That’s right. I think it’s key. I often get questions of like — this is my mom and family members will say to me, “Aren’t you worried that he’s going to be kidnapped?” When I look at statistics, the statistics are very, very small for stranger kidnappings.

Brandy:            Totally right, but we think they’re huge.

Denise:             Right. But meanwhile, I know the statistics for what happens if we don’t allow kids to solve and navigate complex situations on their own. So, that means that they can’t do it, and that is very catastrophic. If I don’t allow Cayden to struggle, then he’s got, like, an 80% chance he won’t be able to navigate out in the world.

Brandy:            Uh, exactly.

Denise:             So, last one that we’ve got so far is age 13: taking public transport, knowing how to do that, knowing how to read a map, and not just relying on GPS and Google Maps to tell us the next step. Obviously, you know, GPS is very helpful, and I want to make sure Cayden has that but not to rely on it. I want him to mentally know, “Ah, here’s where I am in the world. Here’s where I’m trying to get. I can figure out those steps.” It is both, I think, a necessary tool, not only to physically walk through the world, but also to know how to manage complex situations and walk towards that end goal.

Brandy:            Okay, I’m down. I’m down with this — what did you call it a skill map?

Denise:             Yes. Skill map. And cautionary thing here is make sure that that it’s a collaborative project building the skills map together. And it’s not just a checklist item, right? Because you have to remember the main goal is to build the struggle muscle. That is why we’re doing it. It’s not just to check a bunch of things off a list. It’s to build that struggle muscle.

Brandy:            Okay.

Denise:             Step four, and this one’s super hard for the over-parent, is to ask advising questions. So, instead of just solving the issue for our kids, we shift to asking questions.

Brandy:            Yes, this is my favorite thing.

Denise:             Yeah. “What do you think the best way to handle this is? What do you think the steps would be? What do you think the priority should be?” It’s letting them problem solve and giving them those guiding questions to problem solve it on their own. And I will say this is super hard for me because it is way more expedient for me just to solve the issue.

Brandy:            {laughter} Yes. Mine usually looks like — especially if he’s looking for something. He’s like, “I can’t find the whatever.” I was like, “What would you do if I wasn’t here right now, and this was the one thing that would save your life. What would you do? Would you grab a stool and look deeper and higher and harder?” I always have to make it way dramatic. And again, my daughter and my son are so different. My son will let me do everything for him if I would, and my daughter’s like, “Get off. I’m doing this.” So, it’s a different thing. Obviously, our kids need to be parented differently.

Denise:             And I know for me as a parent, it takes way longer to ask these advising questions. Sometimes it’s grueling, and I would much rather just be like, “Alright, well, here’s the right answer. Let me just give it to you.” But then I think of Kayla, one of the earlier —

Brandy:            Yes, I remember her. {laughter}

Denise:             This was the younger one who couldn’t make a decision on lunch, and that’s what happens when we continuously solve issues.

Brandy:            Yes.

Denise:             Step five is to get resources and build community. We are in a culture that likes to over-parent. So, here are some resources that I use, and I love. So, one of my favorite books is called How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of The Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.

Brandy:            Hmm.

Denise:             I love this. In fact, I wish I had written this book. It’s very, very inspiring. The other one that I love is Love & Logic. They have one for toddlers and for teens. We’ve gone through the toddler book. Now, I’m on to the teen book. It’s all really about how to let kids experience consequences and use that as a learning model.

Brandy:            Yeah, and so we had talked about something before that was how hard it is to watch your kids suffer and struggle, and that is partially why we don’t do it because it just breaks our heart. So, how do you, in the moments where — because I think you said that specifically, “Sometimes it’s hard for me to watch Cayden struggle with a challenge,” or something. So, is there a mental talk that you go through in your head when it’s happening? You’re probably so well versed and focused on the end goal of having a resilient kid that, maybe, you just quickly go to the place of, “Oh, I know this is better. This is a long game.” Do you just say the word “long game” anytime you feel that pain of watching that? Or do you still struggle with that? How do you get through it?

Denise:             For me, where I take it, I not only say “long game,” but I try to bring compassion. Growing up is hard. Parenting is hard. God, I wouldn’t wish middle school on anybody. And so, I think by having a long game, it doesn’t mean we’re not showing up with empathy or not showing up with compassion. We’re still showing up compassionate and empathy. We’re just shifting it so our kids can also grow in that love.

Brandy:            Yeah. Okay, so can we go back for a second to talking about having a spouse that parents differently? So, how have you seen that play out in the kids that you worked with more, or have you? And/or how have you seen that play out in your own marriage? Is that something that you’re on a different page in some ways than your husband?

Denise:             I mean, in my own marriage, I’m really lucky because I feel like we, as a family, both my husband, myself, and Cayden, have made a commitment to this together. And not to say we’ve got it all dialed in. We’re constantly growing and learning and screwing up, but I do feel that Steven and I are on the same page. We have friends that I would say are in these different camps. Sometimes they’re divorced, sometimes they are together, and that is really hard when you have very different parenting go-to styles. I think, as somebody who’s not walked this path myself, I extend compassion, but I also wonder if it’s possible to announce like, “This is my commitment. This is what I’m working on, and this is what we’re working on together.” But knowing that your spouse may or may not want to join in, I have a friend where the man is more, “Let’s build the struggle muscle, and let’s let natural consequences occur.” And the mother keeps coming in and rescuing and not allowing those natural consequences to occur. And it’s embedded in the system, right? It’s a family system. That’s how it’s functioning. I think all you can do is the best you can do from your side, right? You can’t necessarily change the other person.

Brandy:            Yes. Yeah. I mean, that’s just a part of marriage also, but it can be hard because parenting is already so challenging. It can be hard to overcome some of our modern conditioning about how we should mother and how we should over-parent and micromanage and give them engagement and love and nurturance in every second. It can be hard sometimes if you’re trying to work against that and then you have your spouse who’s also — you’re pushing up against that. And we’re all pushing different things, right? But I can see how that could be problematic for people who are trying to build resilience in their kids, and then to have the other spouse not be totally on board. It’s not an undermining, but it’s just like having to do double work in a sense.

Denise:             Mm Hmm. Yeah. And that’s why I also feel that building community with this conversation is important because, otherwise, it can feel really isolating, feeling like you’re doing it all doing it all on your own, and you don’t have that overarching support systems. I think using the resources but talking about this within your own friend circle to build this community up so we as parents allow for struggle, and we’re not shamed for giving our kids the opportunity to struggle.

Brandy:            Yes. Oh, that’s such a good point. Well, and also too, I think there’s the balance, right? So, even if you are in a marriage situation where you have a different take than your spouse, whatever that is, I also think there’s something beautiful to that balance. If you come from a home where both parents are, “Let’s build struggle muscles. That’s our number one goal.” I could see how there could be some warm, touchy, nurturing things that could more easily fall through the cracks. But then also, on the other extreme is if you have both parents who are absolute nurturers, over-parenters, then there’s a lot of resilience that may not be happening. So, I think sometimes it’s easy to look at. If you’re in a situation where you and your spouse parent a little bit differently, I think it can be frustrating. And then there’s also another side of it, where it can be a really nice balance so that it’s not all one way or the other way.

Denise:             Yeah, I could see that. I think that it’s useful then to name it, and then, as a family, you’ve just got a vocabulary to use in regard to these two different parenting styles. And I think it helps kids navigate it, too, to understand this difference as well. So, it doesn’t become a shaming exercise.

Brandy:            Right. And that’s what we’re all up against it feels like these days and what a lot of my podcast stuff is about. The one with Beth, for sure, about the revolution from home is we have these expectations of us that are this intensive parenting, intensive mothering really (but even just parenting in general) but this intensive nature of it and for those of us who are fighting against it, it’s real easy to feel like you’re being neglectful when you’re, actually, not. So, I think you’re right in talking to people about this and being open and honest about it and realizing that other people are choosing the same thing or finding value in not just jumping in and saving kids. I think it’s hugely helpful because a lot of us are in our own little homes parenting the way that we’re parenting every single day, and it’s pretty isolating. And I hear from so many moms, “I thought I was the only one that felt this way.” And so, I would imagine this would be another thing that people feel that same way about which is, “I want my kid to know that I love them, but I also want them to be able to do things for themselves. And sometimes I make X choice and sometimes I make Y choice.” I think just even knowing that parents are questioning that and struggling with that is helpful and is validating.

Denise:             Yeah. So, I think community is key which is why your podcast exists.

Brandy:            That’s right. Yes, I want people to have somewhere that we can have these real conversations that aren’t just about how great it’s going in all of the easy parts. But, you know, this is really what is going on behind the scenes and there are so many of us that overthink and are thoughtful about the way that we do it. So, that has its own benefits and its own pitfalls. I was thinking about a friend of mine who has a daughter who’s college-aged, so when she was applying for college, my friend (her mom) was helping her get all that organized and doing the, like, “Do you have the forms ready? Are you writing the essay?” And then the mom read the essay and it was not — she didn’t think it was that great, and it was embarrassing in some ways. So anyway, my friend is helping her through this, and she was caught in this place. She goes, “I want her to do this herself because, I want her to know how to do this, and I want this to be her thing. I want her to be resilient.” She goes, “And also, the stakes feel so high that if I don’t help her with this and she doesn’t get into college, then I now have somebody living at my house. Then where does she go from there?” So, I know my friend, actually, got herself more involved in the process than she knew she really should have. But when we were talking about it, I’m like, “I don’t know what I would do in your shoes.” Because sometimes, as parents, we feel like we want to put in the work to get them there, to get them to the place where then they can be resilient, but I don’t know that it works like that. So anyway, I just I think that’s one of the things that college-aged kids and parents of college-aged kids are going through is like, “Well, yeah, you want them to be resilient, but you don’t want them to have the consequence of not going to school if that’s what they want or you want for them,” (which is a whole other thing). And then you’re — I don’t want to say that you’re stuck with them, but then, I could see a parent beating themselves up later, saying, “If only I’d help them with the essay or I had helped them with the forms, they would be living this life and learning to be resilient.”

Denise:             Right. I know that there are a lot of parents out there completing their college application for their student. And I think that is what happens at university, and then all these students get to university and then don’t have the skills to succeed. So, it’s not helping them by preventing a consequence. Now, are there ways to mitigate it so your student’s just not sitting around eating bonbons and watching Glee.

Brandy:            {laughter} Right.

Denise:             But this arms race with college is bullshit. It is a broken system, and there are lots of opportunities to continue your education that doesn’t involve you completing your student’s essay.

Brandy:            So, what would you have done in that situation? Like, if my friend had hired you to consult her on that, would you have told her, “Don’t do it. Have her do it, and if she doesn’t get into college, then she learns that she has to work hard to get into the things that she wants to get into.”

Denise:             Right. And I would also say, “Let’s create the dream colleges as well as your safety colleges. And so, you’ve got an opportunity to go somewhere and continue on, but it’s on your own two feet.” This is where you step into the advisor. You’re an advisor for your students saying like, “Hey, would you like some feedback on these essays? Here’s what I notice.” And quite frankly, Cayden at age 12, would probably say, “No.” Like, he does not want my feedback. {laughter} I have to step back and be like, “Okay, we’ll let those consequences exist.” And there is a foolish assumption that you have to be in “the right college” to succeed. That is not true. There are many, many, many valuable, wonderful colleges, and you want to find the right fit. My new business is helping students and families, but students primarily, find good fit colleges for them abroad. Why? Because it’s affordable, but also because it builds resiliency. Students are treated as adults abroad, and so, they have to have these skills.

Brandy:            Yeah. I have a I have a friend who moved to the Netherlands, and one of the stories that she had was, she said, “It’s crazy over here because I went to get my kid a haircut, and I was talking to the hairstylist and said something like, ‘Maybe, just trim over here and then here,’” and the hairstylist just like looked away from her and looked at her kid and was like, “How do you want your haircut?” So, there’s just a difference overseas that I know you know really well because you’ve lived overseas, but these little anecdotes that I hear from people who are parenting overseas on just, like, people in the world, like, other adults engage in conversation with your child in a way that never happens here. Kids have an agency over in other countries that they just don’t have here. So, I can imagine what you’re saying about doing a program abroad is they just expect that you grew up like that. So it’s almost like the boot camp that I was thinking of that I was saying to my husband, “Do we need to send our kids to a resiliency boot camp?” Maybe, abroad and travel is a great boot camp without having to burn your house down and be like, “So, now we’re going to rebuild because it’s going to give you a resiliency.” Maybe, instead of doing that, maybe, there’s something about the abroad traveling angle. And not that everybody has the means to do that, absolutely of course, but I think that’s an interesting point that you bring up that college abroad — I mean, obviously, our system here is broken in so many ways that college abroad is great for a variety of reasons financially, but then also just how it’s set up to not coddle.

Denise:             Mm Hmm. Right. But I will say, based on my own experience, we’ve got to scaffold these skills because it’s too big of a leap. If everything has been taken care of, and the student hasn’t had to problem solve, and all of a sudden, they go into this other culture where they’re expected to problem solve, it’s too big of a leap.

Brandy:            Well, and so, one other question I have for you is, with little kids — this is where I think we start out with a gray area because from the beginning, they just need us for everything, and then slowly, they gain independence. But with the little kids, it’s tough to know, and they’re so darn cute. So, when they ask you for things, it can be hard to say “no,” but I know we did Montessori School for both of my kids. I think that motto is something like, “Never do for a child what they can do for themselves.” And at the beginning, I was like, “That’s a little harsh,” because then that means my kids are doing everything for themselves or more things for themselves than I would probably have them do. So, do you have any insight on things that listeners who have little kids — because you gave us this great map for this older age. What are some of the things that you think parents of little kids can have their kids do that will start to build that resiliency and just the mindset of resiliency at that younger age?

Denise:             I mean, there are two things here. I still think advising questions are really key. Now, I don’t really feel like I did that when Cayden was six, and I wish I would have. I probably didn’t start this until eight or nine. But I was at a restaurant recently and I was overhearing a dad talking to two kids who are probably four and five. And I wanted to stop this dad and give him a hug because he was — I can’t remember the context, but he would just ask questions like, “Well, what do you think the answer to that could be? Or how would we problem solve this? Or what do you think?” So, building that agency to think through problems. And these are little kids, but they were so excited to try to solve the problem. And I was enthralled sitting there at the restaurant and wanted to videotape the whole thing.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Denise:             I think asking those questions, but I think little things, right? It’s expectations like, “You put away your toys.” That can be a two-year-old.

Brandy:            Uh, that is so hard. You’re absolutely right about it. I walked downstairs this morning. and our front room has kids’ things all over and I think, “I’m not going to pick this up. They’re totally capable of doing this.” But I know the trap of this. You know the trap of this. We all do. If you have the kids do it and they whine about it and then they don’t do it and then they lag and it’s bedtime, and you just want to get bedtime and bath started and all of that. It’s easier to do it yourself sometimes. I’m not saying parents should do this, but I’m just saying that I understand that struggle.

Denise:             Right.

Brandy:            This brings up one of my last questions. I was talking with some friends the other day about how we know when to allow our kids — and we were talking about middle school age, but this could be this could be applicable for really any age — how do we know when to allow our kids to have a mental health day? And when do we push them and say that some days are hard, and yet you still have to show up. And we were saying that it’s such that fine line between listening to them and valuing what they’re saying and seeing them suffering and knowing that a day away from all that will benefit them versus if we do that it shows them, “You can just get out of it and not have to do the thing.” So, what’s your take on that? What criteria would you use with Cayden to decide, “Okay, this is a mental health day,” or we need to push him and have him be resilient day?

Denise:             Mm hmm. We, actually, just had this last week, and I can’t remember the context. I think he was concerned about some social interaction or something like that. It, of course, took a while to get to understand that that was the real issue happening. Steven was away traveling, so I was solo parenting. And basically, what ended up happening — at first, I was more like drill sergeant parent like, “Oh, you gotta go to school!” Then, I stepped back a little bit, and I started with empathy. I was like, “Wow, I can tell you’re really, really upset about this. This is really hard. This is a real struggle for you.” I think that relaxed him. He was really angling for a mental health day. And I said, “I don’t know if this rises to a mental health day, but would it feel okay if you ride to school a little bit later?” And he said, “Yeah, that would feel good.” And I said, “Well, what do you need to get grounded right now?” And so, he said, “Well, there’s this documentary I like watching. How about I watch that for 15 minutes?” I said, “Okay. Alright, seems like a good solution.” And so, he watched his documentary for 15 minutes, we got in the car, and we went to school. He, actually, wasn’t late at the end of the day. I was proud of myself because in the past, I would have been that drill sergeant mom, like “No –.” I was so proud of myself for approaching with empathy and allowing empathy and letting him problem solve. That versus me figuring it out. Is it appropriate to do a mental health day? Of course. But I also think that making sure kids know how to ground themselves and they’ve got those skills to do that can also be a gift. And there isn’t one way or the other way, I think, that’s the right answer.

Brandy:            Yeah, I think you’re right about that. And then, with this friend, we were also talking about the idea of if a student is having a hard time at school who comes home often and says they don’t like school, and how you figure out, “Should we pull them from school and find an alternative?” My other friend said, “Yeah, but in life, there’s gonna be this kind of stuff all the time, and so, they’ve got to learn how to deal with that.” But it’s like I said at the beginning, it’s this hard thing where you know the cruel, cruel adult world is waiting for them, and so it’s like, do you just wear them down so they become — so they’ve got like a callus so they know how to handle it and have them go through that stuff? Or when do you know that it’s like, “No, this is not good for their mental health. Let’s pull them back?” And I think sometimes the scary part is sometimes you don’t know until it’s too late with awful things, and then you go, “I wish I had done something sooner.” And so, I don’t know. There’s no answer here. I guess it just validates for all of us parents that it’s really fucking hard to know that and to know what the right thing to do is. I think all the things we’re talking about, like having the dialogue with your child about it and asking them how they would problem solve it and some of these things are a way to answer that in a certain way. But I also think this is just hard. And I think we’re all doing the best that we can. The kids, the parents, none of us are coming out of this unscathed. We’re all having to fail and win and fail and win constantly, like, over and over again, but man, this is the stuff that What to Expect When You’re Expecting does not cover. It’s like the gray area of when your kid wants to take a mental health day, and then the whole rabbit hole that you’re in about, like, “Well, then they’re gonna ask for one next week, and then they’re gonna ask for one two times a week.” It’s all that mental stuff.

Denise:             You’re right. I mean, it is so hard. I think as parents we have to also cut ourselves a break, too, because we’re not going to nail it every time.

Brandy:            Yeah, absolutely. So, if our listeners wanted to find out more about you, where would they go?

Denise:             They can go to http://www.affordabledegreesabroad.com. That’s where they can find information on overseas universities and, basically, have discussions to find out, “Hey, would this be a good fit for us?” Not only from a cost savings but also just from that building resiliency and building that struggle muscle to have agency and be confident at the end of the day.

Brandy:            Nice. Is there anything else that you want to add?

Denise:             Well, I’ll say this, and you can decide if this is beneficial or not.

Brandy:            Okay.

Denise:             I have thought so many times about Clarissa, the one student I refer to earlier. The one who melted down in the airport and wasn’t able to make it out of immigration. I’ve thought so much about this student because she’s a sweetheart, and I saw her crumble. And so, I have imagined an alternate reality for Clarissa. I imagine Clarissa feeling overwhelmed in the airport, same situation, not knowing what to do. But based on years of practice of growing that struggle muscle, she gets it. She knows the drill. So, she takes some deep breaths. “Okay. I’m going to observe. What are people doing? Okay, people are queuing up. What happens if I stand over here? I don’t know. Wait, there’s an official. Maybe, I’ll try asking them. Okay, well, that didn’t work. Alright, I’m gonna go back to the queue. I don’t know what else to do. I’m just gonna stand in this queue and see what happens. Take some more deep breaths. Alright, the person behind me looks friendly. Maybe, I’m gonna ask them.” And then, she does it. She makes it through. She gets it. And imagine that sense of confidence. Just imagine this for Clarissa. And that’s really what we all want for our kids. We want them to know that when some new unexpected situation occurs, that they’ve got it. They’ve got the ability to problem solve and figure it out and build that confidence.

Brandy:            Yeah, and it’s a trust in them to be able to do it so that they then trust in themselves based on, “This really hard thing happened. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then I did it, and I came out the other side.” We don’t want to interrupt that process.

Denise:             That’s right, and that’s the part that’s so hard for me to watch as an educator and as a parent. But I also know that allowing for the messiness of being a human and figuring things out is the brilliance of what this process does.

Brandy:            Denise, thank you so much for giving us your viewpoint on this, and I love how left-brain thinking you are and that you have it in the five — what did you call them? The five steps, and then you’ve got the three different kinds of parents. I love thinking orderly like this. My perfectionist side really loves it. So, thank you so much for sharing your story and for helping us talk about a topic that I think is on all of our minds whether consciously or subconsciously.

Denise:             My pleasure. Thank you so much for the invite.

Brandy:            First off, I wanted to say that I got that cookbook Denise recommended, and she’s right. It’s awesome. My son has a goal to make two dinners per week for us during the summer. He’s done two: salmon and then pizza. They were amazing. The salmon even had a glaze. My favorite is when he has to try to find a recipe that works for his vegetarian dad, his gut sensitive mom, his picky eater sister, and himself who has food allergies. When he seems exasperated by it, he quickly remembers and says, “I know, Mom. This is what you do every single night.” Damn right it is.

Brandy:            And I know there could be a lot of offshoots to this episode. Diagnosed anxiety in kids would change the discussion and other health issues or life circumstances. A friend of mine has a son with diabetes, and we’ve often talked about how living with that has helped him be more resilient than his peers. Also, I want to acknowledge what a privileged place many of us are in where the color of our skin or the current balance in our checking account does not force our kids to be resilient. I know that this specific podcast episode, and likely many of them, highlight what it’s like to live without inherent struggles that many others have. That is not lost on me. I do my best to point it out and to create a supportive community that is for every parent, not just the privileged ones, and I keep thinking of ways to do even more. My overthinking would have it no other way. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.