Full Show Notes
Welcome to our 200th episode!
In the past four years, we’ve covered a lot: dating, drug use, homework, hormones, screen time, sexuality, mental health, race and much more. We have had an incredible array of experts share their knowledge with us, and couldn’t be more grateful to see how our little show has spread to a worldwide community of parents of teens.
To help our newest listeners peer into our archives and remind long-time listeners of favorite gems, we’ve pulled together snippets from our most beloved interviews into a Supercut for our big 200th episode.
Episode 154: What to Say to Motivate Your Teen
Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson, authors of The Self-Driven Child, have some seriously smart tips for raising mature teens. In this clip, they illustrate the power of offering forgiveness rather than punishment can have in a relationship. It’s easier said than done, but Bill and Ned explain how granting our kids amnesty is linked to maturity.
Check out episode 19, which also features Bill and Ned!
Episode 137: A Different Way to Talk About Puberty
In this episode, we discuss the adolescent mind with Michelle Mitchell, author of A Girl’s Guide to Puberty and A Guy’s Guide to Puberty. Michelle explains that teens often make knee-jerk decisions with the emotion centers of the brain, and how we can guide them to check in with their brian’s logic center before acting.
Episode 97: One Trusted Adult
Sometimes kids become numb to our advice…even if it is the best advice out there! Brooklyn Raney, author of One Trusted Adult, helps us understand how a coach, teacher, or other trustworthy adult might be able to get through to teens with a fresh voice—especially when teens have gotten used to tuning us out. In our interview, she tells the story of how a trusted adult finally got her son to think critically about a friend group who encouraged him to vape.
Episode 7: The Science of Teen Persuasion
Jake Teeny, psychologist and creator of the blog everydaypsych.com, joins us to talk about the psychology of persuasion. In this clip, Jake speaks about the differences between promotion-focused persuasion and prevention-focused persuasion. Is it better to push teens towards rewards, or use punishment to motivate them? Which one works in the short term and which is the better long-term strategy?
Episode 122: Why Teens Rage and What To Do About It
Did you know males and females respond to crises differently? And not necessarily in the way that first comes to mind? Researcher and author of Why We Snap, R. Doug Fields saw the differences play out first-hand when he and his daughter were followed by a gang in Barcelona, in this episode on what triggers people to lash out, take rash action, and snap in anger.
Episode 3: Handling Self-Centered Teenagers
We all know people with narcissistic tendencies, but at what point does it become a psychopathy? Isn’t every generation becoming more and more self-centered? And how do we keep our own teens from becoming narcissists? Wendy Behary, author of Disarming the Narcissist, explains how parents may inadvertently reinforce narcissistic tendencies in their teens…and what we can do to raise self-aware teens instead!
Episode 88: A Conversation About Race
Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, dispels the myth surrounding “colorblindness.” She clues us in as to why it’s critical to have ongoing discussions about race with our teens, and explains why it can be more damaging for parents or teens to say they “don’t see color.”
Episode 107: Only 7% of Parents Do This…
Discussing sex with teens is always tricky, but these conversations are critical.. We often preach to our teens that they must communicate their boundaries around physical touch to potential partners. But if we don’t teach kids about anatomy and sexuality, they won’t have the language to do so. Megan Mass, seasoned sex educator and researcher of adolescent psychology, explains how discussing sex with kids and teens can help them better understand their bodies and make smarter, more considered choices.
Episode 68: What You Don’t Know About Teen Hook-Up Culture
Talking about sex is important to us on this podcast! We want to bust myths and separate fact from fiction when it comes to the birds and the bees. In this episode, we sit down with Peggy Orenstein, author of Boys & Sex, to talk about how boys are often stereotyped as only wanting sex without companionship or love. Peggy explains that this couldn’t be further from the truth–and how this notion is actually harmful for both males and females.
Episode 92: Raising Successful People
In this snippet, we’re talking to Esther Wojcicki, author of How to Raise Successful People. We discuss how parents are often afraid to encourage teens’ budding passions, particularly if it’s something the parents are wary of. However, Esther reminds us all teens go through phases and what they’re interested in now is likely not going to turn into a life-long career. Esther suggests we can build a deeper connection with our teens by encouraging them to explore their interests, which also builds a key element of successful people later in life: a deep sense of curiosity.
Episode 132: Break Down Barriers to Change
Does talking about taboo activities spur teens to take part in those activities? Or do these educational conversations help teens make more informed choices? Jonah Berger, Wharton professor and author of The Catalyst, helps us understand how we can crack open discussions on sensitive issues with teens in a productive way. We also take a look at the “region of rejection,” the term for…where teens store any advice they simply won’t follow.
Episode 79: How “Manhood” is Hurting Our Boys (and Girls!)
Dr. Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland, joins us in this episode to talk about emotional connections between men, and the importance of teaching a new generation of boys to be comfortable with their feelings. In this clip, he shares an anecdote about bonding with his son over sports, illustrating how simple pleasures can stimulate significant bonding moments between parents and sons.
Episode 139: Lessons on Living Justly From Malcolm X
Education is a powerful tool to bring about equality and equity. Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcom X and author of The Awakening of Malcolm X, details how her father’s education shaped him into one of history’s greatest activists. In the episode, Ilyasah shines light on how our teens’ education can give them the power to change the world for the better.
Episode 151: Is Your Teen’s Attachment Style Causing Problems?
Peter Lovenheim, author of The Attachment Effect, breaks down different attachment styles in this episode. Our attachment style is shaped when we’re young–but affects how we relate to the world for our whole lives! He shares a fascinating study about the difference between anxious and avoidant attachment styles and how rather than try to change our attachment style, we can work with it and embrace the unique strengths it gives us.
Ep 95: The Truth About Alcohol
When kids feel they can confide in us, they’ll come to us first when problems arise. If a conversation with parents is linked to inevitable punishment however, they’ll likely turn elsewhere for answers…and as parents we won’t have a chance to mitigate any false information. Annie Grace, author of The Alcohol Experiment, shares her favorite tip on how to become your childs’ go-to confidant when things go awry—especially in situations that involve underage drinking.
If you want to find more from any of these guests, their info is linked in the full episode. Don’t forget to share and subscribe, and thanks again for helping us make it to Episode 200![/restrict]
Complete Interview Transcript
Andy: Welcome to Talking to Teens. This is the podcast where we talk, not to teens. We talk to people about talking to teens and this is our 200th episode. In this special episode, we’re going to listen to some of the highlights of the show so far. First, Ned Johnson and William Stixrud are going to tell us about why it’s important sometimes to offer amnesty to our children.
Bill Stixrud: I was talking with one of my childhood friends who has four kids and the youngest daughter was just a pain in ass all through high school. It was just all through high school, was just constantly testing limits, breaking boundaries, breaking rules, lying to her parents. He said, “We just had a terrible relationship. There’s this complete lack of trust. We were trying to clamp down on her and she’d find a way to sneak out or whatever.” Told me this story that one night in her senior year of high school, that the mother was out of state doing something. My friend had a church meeting. And so he gets a call while he’s at the meeting from a neighbor who says, “You know there’s 20 kids. Your daughter and 20 of her friends are at your house. They’re all drinking.”
Bill Stixrud: So when the meeting’s over, he comes home and the kids must have gotten wind of it because they’d all cleared out. They’d cleaned the place and he confronts his daughter and she says, “There’s no party.” “Are you saying that John across the street lied?” “Yeah, he must have, because there are no kids here.” So my friend calls the neighbor again, and the neighbor’s wife is a therapist, and he says, “What should I do? We’ve taken away everything,” kind of idea.
Bill Stixrud: She says, “Offer her amnesty. Tell her that whatever she did, it’s like it never happened.” And so my friend goes to her daughter and says that, “If I was talking to my parents and lying just straight to their face, I’d probably feel guilty at some level, so I imagine that you’re feeling a little guilty and I’m not going to pile on. So I’m just going to want you to know that whatever happened tonight, you have amnesty. It’s like it never happened.” And he went to bed.
Bill Stixrud: Later that night, she came and knocked in his door and came into the bedroom and said, “I had a party and I feel really terrible about lying to you.” And he said, “The temperature in their house increased by 30 degrees.” Maybe it was that that cold tension can’t stand to be … The warmth of their relationship … He said it’s completely a game changing thing, not to do the knee jerk, “We’re going to punish you for this.” And what he said later, what he told me later was, “Drinking’s not good for the teenage brain but I went to parties and drank sometimes. I wasn’t so concerned about that. I was concerned about just the terrible relationship.” By prioritizing the relationship, it was complete game changer. He said that we started to communicate more openly, started actually have fun together, started to trust each other more, and her parole officers said she’s doing really good.
Andy: The next episode we are going to visit in on is with Michelle Mitchell. She’s going to talk to us about how the brain changes in teenagers.
Michelle Mitchell: So like we talked about before, whereas kids feel guilty for leaving that little child behind, we want them to know that actually their parents are expecting there’s times where they’re going to have different ideas and going to push back a bit more. And that they might start sleeping in later and finding organizing themselves a little bit difficult. And they might not, but it’s possible. And no matter what changes they go through, their parents are there to fill those little gaps. And I like to explain it to tweens like this, is when their brain starts going offline a little bit and that limbic system becomes turbocharged and it starts to get in charge of making decisions a lot more, your parents are going to look over and start freaking out sometimes and they’re going to say, “There’s no one sitting where the prefrontal cortex committee of management is supposed to be.”
Michelle Mitchell: And during those moments where parents look over and start to freak out, they’re going to start to want to come and fill the gaps and they’re going to be saying things like, “It’s time to get off that phone now. It’s time to go to bed. Have you brushed your teeth?” And they’re going to be doing all those things that you’ll be able to do all by yourself when you get older. Now, it’s so cute to watch them go, “Yeah, that’s me. My mom’s already doing that. That’s me,” because they’re actually trying to identify with being grown up. And even though it’s going to get more intense, they don’t realize that yet. We want to give them that understanding that their parents walking in that space in their lives is there to partner with and to help them with the journey.
Andy: And now let’s listen to a piece from the interview with Brooklyn Raney. She’s going to tell us an interesting anecdote about her son who used to vape and how he refused the suggestions that his father gave him, but accepted the very same suggestion from the cool drum teacher.
Andy: Does that mean there’s just no hope for parents to get messages through or what?
Brooklyn Raney: I think that you’re hitting on exactly my case for the trusted adult. There is lots of research out there that says a relationship with one trusted adult will change the future of a child so they will be able to adapt and overcome adversity versus bearing lifelong scars. The story you’re referring to was the best example of this ever, happened right in front of my eyes, when after this vape incident with my son, of course, our knee jerk reaction is take away the phone, take away this, take away that.
Andy: Grounded. You’re never going anywhere again.
Brooklyn Raney: Your drum lessons. Yeah, exactly.
Andy: In fact that you’ll never see daylight again.
Brooklyn Raney: Anything fun, so knee jerk reaction. And then I called this drum teacher and I said, “I’m going to have to pull him from drums, got in trouble.” Drum teacher almost served as a support for me in that moment as I’m telling him everything that’s going on. And he said, “You know what? If you trust me, why don’t we double the session this week because I think that through drums we can have a bigger conversation and I’ve had my own story in past and I think I have something to offer.” And I was like, “Yes.” I’m in the middle of writing this book. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, he’s totally embracing this relationship and stepping up.”
Brooklyn Raney: Had to negotiate that with my husband like, “It’s not a reward. It’s more like education. Let’s dive into this.” Took him to that session. He comes back from that session. We’re having dinner, we’re chatting about it. And my son is like, “He said something really profound to me. I really connected with him. It was, is a vape going to kill me today? No, but if I make this choice to be this kid that sneaks a vape and goes to the bathroom with other kids who are vaping and then those kids become my friends and then it leads to something else and I’ve chosen my friend group and who surrounds me and that’s the biggest predictor of my future, is who surrounds me. And so this one vape really represents a path to people and those people represent my future path.”
Brooklyn Raney: And I could see steam coming out of my husband’s ears and he’s turning red. And he is holding his forehead because he honestly had said almost verbatim the exact same thing the night before. And of course, my son was like, “Yeah, Dad. Okay, Dad. I hear you, Dad. Yep. I understand. Can I go now to shower? Can I go to bed?” And then of course, when the cool drum teacher says it, he hears it and comes back and regurgitated in this way that we really felt connected to. And so again, knee jerk reaction is for my husband to be angry and upset that he didn’t hear it from him, but what was the end goal? The end goal is that he heard it. Where he heard it is not as important as the fact that he heard it. That understanding of our job as parents right now while he’s in this pull away liberation phase is to surround him with drum teachers and coaches and theater directors and grandparents, other people who are willing to hold him accountable, but also love him and listen to him and provide their own context and their own stories and their own way of saying similar things to what we’re trying to say.
Andy: And now we’re going to listen to Jake Teeny. Thanks to his background in persuasion psychology, he’s going to tell us something about how to get a teenager to do what’s best for them.
Jake Teeny: But what’s a compelling argument? Usually things based on logic are very compelling and so there’s often two ways you can present things for why you would do it. You could do it in terms of a promotion focus or a prevention focus. So a promotion focus is, “Hey, you should study for this test so you can get an A.” That’s a promotion. You’re focused on this benefit, this goal. Prevention focus is, “Hey, you should really study on this test so you don’t get a D.”
Jake Teeny: Let me expand on the promotion, prevention for a second. They looked at the study between parents and children and they looked to see what kind of persuasive messages that the parents just naturally generate themselves. And people who tend to be promotion focused, who tend to think about all the positives they can gain, tend to generate promotion focused messages. All the parents who are prevention focused and think about all the losses that they’re afraid they may have generate these loss avoidance messages. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always match with how the kids think about things. And so these parents are delivering promotion focused messages to maybe prevention minded children, or prevention focused messages to promotion minded children and it’s not as effective. Now in general, as we were talking with the affirmations earlier, if you can frame it in terms of the rewards, it’s going to be generally more successful.
Andy: What’s all this stuff about loss aversion, negativity bias, and how the human brain is more wired to avoid loss than it is to … Okay, so given that stuff, why do you think it is that still framing it in terms of what you can gain is more effective than framing in terms of what you stand to lose?
Jake Teeny: Yeah. I think a large part of that is when you frame it in terms of what you stand to lose, you’re focusing on those negative emotions. You’re focusing on guilt, anxiety, and these are all tacitly associated with explicit persuasion, pressure tactics.
Andy: It feels more manipulative. That’s what I was thinking as you were saying that. If someone’s telling you, “Hey, if you don’t do this, terrible things are going to happen to you,” it just feels more like it’s going to trigger reactance like, “Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah? Terrible stuff’s going to happen to me. Oh, well, we’ll see about that.” Interesting. Yeah.
Jake Teeny: And so again, with the promotion focus, it’s like, “Hey, this is what you stand to gain. You’re free to do whatever you want,” again, eliminating that reactance. This is what you can gain. In terms of prevention, it’s like, “You will lose this if you don’t do that.” And again, it’s very commanding, like you have to do this, and nobody likes to be told what they have to do.
Andy: No. No, especially teenagers.
Andy: And now, Douglas Fields is going to talk to us about how the response to danger differs in the brains of male versus female children.
R Doug Fields: Well, that’s an interesting example of the differences in how the threat response circuitry involving the threat response in the brain differs in males and females. I saw this in Barcelona with my daughter and this research comes from Larry Cahill of UC Irvine, who noticed that in response to sudden threats, activity shifts to the left hemisphere in females and to the right hemisphere in males.
R Doug Fields: So back up a little bit, we have two brains, believe it or not. And we have these two brains, it’s bilaterally symmetrical, and if you think about it, you cannot be synthesizing, gestalt, taking information and making generalizations. At the same time, you’re doing the opposite thing of breaking down and analyzing, the reductionist approach, so we have the ability to switch between the left and right. And the left cortex is more analytical, breaking down and analyzing rationally the situation and the right brain is putting together, synthesizing, and getting the big picture.
R Doug Fields: So as you and I are talking now, you’re going about in your everyday life, we’re constantly switching between the left and right hemisphere so we can do both things. Yeah. That’s very cool. But it turns out, nobody expected, but in the face of a sudden threat, women tend to shift to the left hemisphere and men to the right. And why that is isn’t clear. Dr. Cahill doesn’t know either, it’s just an observation. But I’ll tell you, it’s true. So when my daughter Kelly and I, and that’s the part of the story, but we were chased by this gang for two hours through Barcelona. We’d leave the sidewalk, run down the middle of the three lane boulevard, against traffic, trying to allude these people. It was like a spy movie. You’re running in and out of stores in the front, out the back, trying to allude these people.
R Doug Fields: And it quickly became apparent that Kelly spotted the bad guys before I did. She was always the first to spot. We’re hearing a huge crowd. And it was so apparent that I just left that to her and so when you put these two things together, the male and female responses, you have a very powerful outcome, so here’s what’s going on. She’s picking out all the details. She’s finding these bad guys’ faces in the crowd and I’m thinking the big picture things. What am I going to do when I get these guys? Big strategies, that’s what I’m thinking. She’s down in the weeds. And again, together is a great combination.
R Doug Fields: Now he doesn’t know why this happens, but here’s something he suggests could be, and that’s because in most vertebrates and certainly most mammals in sex selection, it’s the female who makes the decisions. No more important decision in life than mating. And birds do it based on how well this other bird does the dance.
Andy: Right. What kind of plumage they got.
R Doug Fields: What kind of plumage it is and all these little subtle clues about how good a parent that prospect is going to be and it’s true for humans. Women make the decision, guys just audition. And profound outcome based on all this little information, whereas the guy is probably thinking big picture. “Yeah, she’s gorgeous. I’d love to be with her.” And she’s thinking, “Is this guy going to take out the garbage, if I get a relationship with him? Is he going to be a slouch?” And all this analytical stuff is going on in this very stressful situation in the female brain, where the guy’s thinking of big pictures. We don’t know if that’s the case, but certainly true that we have this different ability and it splits according to gender.
Andy: Now, we’re listening to Wendy Behary, who’s going to tell us what schema therapy is.
Wendy Behary: There’s a certain number of emotional needs that go into healthy, well-adjusted development of an individual. And when those needs aren’t adequately met, and they’re hard to get met, even the parent with the best of intentions doesn’t necessarily adequately meet all the needs of their child because parenting’s tough. We say that when needs aren’t met adequately, combined with the temperament of the child, schemas conform. And that means that if you grow up with this experience, “I was invisible. I didn’t get what I needed from my mother or my father or my teachers. I felt like I wasn’t seen, I felt like I didn’t matter,” narcissists typically grow up with the experience of feeling that there’s nothing about just being that’s really valuable. It’s what they do. It’s about performance. It’s about competition. It’s about achievements. It’s about being beautiful, handsome, special, wonderful, the best, extraordinary. So there’s a lot of emphasis placed on performance, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on ease of life, low frustration tolerance, being spoiled in some cases, a learned dependency.
Wendy Behary: And so they feel entitled to demand things, to feel superior to other people, to break the rules, to have privileges. And a lot of that comes from their background and the way that with messages, they were given the way they were taught the influences that were in front of them and the lack of unconditional love. So schema therapy tries to identify what those, not only the schemas are, because there’s 18 early maladaptive schemas, but what the triggers are. What are the conditions in your life now that activate those old life themes that live in your memory, because it’s natural and normal and part of being human, and also activate reactions that you might have had when you were very little when there was little survival power so you did the best you could, but you’re doing them still as an adult as if you don’t have any other choices?
Wendy Behary: So a parent of a teen who gets triggered when the teenager is acting unruly or is pouty or is upset or is whining or doing all the things teenagers might do, the parent of the teen who gets triggered back to a time and place in their life without even realizing it because it’s so behind the scenes, may react in ways that their parents did that they did as a child. They may actually, to get back to narcissism, work too quick, too fast to take the teen out of distress so much so that the child doesn’t learn how to tolerate frustration. And it’s one of the hallmark features in narcissism. They can’t tolerate not getting their own way, not being frustrated, not being uncomfortable. So I’m constantly urging parents, although it may be hard to resist the temptation to swoop in and make it all better, give your kids a chance to muscle through. Let them be a little uncomfortable because that’s good preparation for how the world works. It’s preparation for life. But if you’re triggered, it’s tough to do that, if your schemas get activated.
Andy: Next, let’s listen to what Beverly Daniel Tatum has to say about colorblindness.
Andy: Isn’t it better to just not talk about race and just assume everybody knows what’s going on and just not really focus on it?
Beverly Daniel Tatum: Well, the trouble with not talking about it is when you’ve got a problem, and we do have a problem, if you have a problem and can’t talk about it, you can’t fix it, so we all have to be better at being able to have these conversations so we can really work toward real change.
Andy: You talk about a father in here and there’s this little scenario where he’s telling you about when he’d pick his daughter up from school and asked her to point out her new friend. And she’s trying to point out her new friend from this group of girls on the playground and it’s the one black girl in the group, but she doesn’t mention anything about race. She’s talking about with the girls wearing and the backpack that she has and all these other things. And the dad is telling you about this and he’s really proud because his daughter is colorblind. Then you say, “I wondered if rather than a sign of colorblindness, it was a sign that she had learned not to be so impolite as to mention someone’s race.”
Beverly Daniel Tatum: Particularly, white families have this idea that their children should be colorblind. And I think what they really mean is that they don’t want their kids to be racist or they don’t want their kids to be discriminatory. And of course, I want that, too. But to say you don’t see somebody else’s racial group membership, where you don’t see their identity, is to erase a significant part of their experience. So the daughter who might have been thinking it was impolite to say, “Oh, it was the black girl,” is perhaps internalizing an idea that there’s something wrong with being the black girl and that message that it’s so unpleasant that we shouldn’t even mention it, is problematic. She should say, “Oh, look up. I’ve got Susie, the black girl,” is the easiest way to point out if she’s the only one. That’s the quickest identifier. But also, it’s like saying the one with red hair.
Andy: Now, Megan Maas is going to talk to us about porn and sex education.
Megan Maas: We are moving away from an abstinence-only approach in sex education because the study shows that it just doesn’t work. And actually if your goal is, as a family or a parent, to have your kid wait until they’re married to have sex or have your kid wait until they’re in college or a serious committed relationship to have sex, the best thing you can do is make sure they have comprehensive sex education because that actually requires a ton of vocabulary, lots of skills and comfort with their own body and knowing how their body reacts and being able to say things like, “I’m cool with oral sex or touching,” or “I’m cool with kissing but I’m not okay with oral sex. I’m okay with touching and making out or something but-“
Andy: What are your boundaries? Knowing them beforehand and maybe practicing how to advocate for those in really difficult situations.
Megan Maas: You need skills versus just saying, “Don’t do it,” because then what happens is they don’t have the skills to prepare for the situations that they will inevitably be in. And so when they get in those situations, they’re not prepared with contraception and then it also shows that actually for girls, in particular, then they’re more likely to have their first sexual experiences are sexual assault or unwanted experiences because they have no preparedness for those situations.
Megan Maas: But in terms of porn, the analogy I use and that I used in my TED talk is, thinking about porn as it is to sex as we would to think about how fast food is to eating and nutrition. It’s one of these things where you, I just want to think about, it’s fast and easy and cheap, but is it giving you what you want out of life? If it’s not impacting your ability to be aroused without it, can you masturbate without it? Do you feel comfortable talking about sex to another person and do you feel good about your body and yourself? These are all questions that you need to be asking yourself and these are typically questions that we don’t ask of ourselves until we’re in our 30s or older because nobody’s ever talking to us about our sexual selves.
Megan Maas: That’s an academic term that we use and in my research is thinking about the sexual self, so how you are as a sexual being, how that integrates into your other identities and parts of life and is part of how you express yourself and is part of how you express your love with somebody else. And so porn can hinder that for some people. Porn can help some people with that. And so really figuring out what it’s doing for yourself is important. One of the quick and funny analogies I use is that fast food one, just to get people to think like, “Well, if ethically produced porn is like your local farm to table restaurant where everything is humanely raised …”
Andy: It’s like going down to the farmer’s market.
Megan Maas: People don’t have access to that. And if you do, you’re usually not able to do it all the time, but you want to have good sex that is healthy and can sustain a relationship and that is healthy and can sustain our culture.
Andy: Now, let’s listen to a segment from the episode with Peggy Orenstein. She’s going to tell us how boys might want meaningful relationships, too.
Andy: There’s a point in this book where you got a text from Nate and he is in school in Southern California. And he’s texting. He says, “WTF is up with the hookup culture?” He wrote, “It’s like an orgy here. Is that the way to live? Should I be investing in that or forming meaningful connections with women?” And so then you are actually with someone else at that point Wyatt, so you guys talk about what would be the best way to respond. And then it says you don’t tell us exactly what you say to him, but it was some a summary or something of what Wyatt says. And then he says, “Thank you, really. Thank you, exactly what I needed to hear. This is where my heart is.” And I thought this exchange was really interesting for a couple reasons. The one, that he felt comfortable enough to send you this text message and that makes me wonder, “Well, how, as a parent or an adult that’s trying to act as a mentor figure, how can you be that approachable?” And then two, what you said or how you figured out what to say that was what he needed to hear.
Brooklyn Raney: Yeah. Well you forgot the part where he sent me a heart emoji.
Andy: Oh, that’s right here. And then he added a heart emoji.
Brooklyn Raney: Yeah. That actually is one of my favorite scenes in the whole book. I’m so glad that you pulled that scene out because what was wonderful about that was I was Skyping with one boy who had been heavily into hookup culture and then had come through to the other side of that and Nate texts in and he says what you said. And what I did was I asked Wyatt, the boy I was Skyping with and interviewing, “What do you think I should say to him?” And I read him the text and they had this conversation through me. I was not talking, that I was texting what Wyatt was saying to him and then he was saying, we were going back and forth. And it was this incredible thing because it gave Nate what he needed.
Brooklyn Raney: And I am still in touch with Nate. I just was texting with him the other day. And I know that conversation continued to affect him. And he really did go into college. He was a boy who really wanted to have connection and meaning in his personal relationships and he stuck with that. And I thought, “These guys are total strangers to one another. They don’t know each other’s names. They’ll never meet. And I’m a total stranger, really. They just know me because I’m writing a book.” And the serendipity of them being able to have this conversation is so rare and yet, it was so meaningful. And what could we do? What would it mean if we could create a situation where boys could have these conversations amongst themselves or trusted adult? And that’s really at the heart. I think of both Boys & Sex and Girls & Sex, was that I wanted books that that parents could use to understand where teenagers are right now in all these issues, but also that guys or girls themselves could read.
Andy: Get them talking about it.
Brooklyn Raney: To hopefully open up more meaningful dialogue.
Andy: A hundred percent.
Andy: And now we’re going to listen to Esther Wojcicki, Who’s going to tell us about how we can use teenager’s interests to get them motivated and to avoid depression.
Andy: You have a story about a student that was being disruptive in class, unmotivated, he’s called Caleb in the book. And what you decided to do was find out what he was really interested in. Everyone is interested in something, you say. Turns out he was interested in shoes, of all things, and that simple thing of encouraging his interest was a big turning point for him. He started showing up on time because he wanted to and started doing his work and wanting to talk to you. And I thought that was just such a cool example of how starting with what they’re interested in and then you stayed in touch with him and he’s not becoming a shoe designer or something, right?
Andy: Things that teenagers are interested in aren’t the things that they necessarily keep doing. It’s just a phase that they’re going through, whatever, but I think adults are worried that if they show an interest in the thing, then it’s like, “But I don’t necessarily want them to be doing that or whatever,” but by just showing the interest, I think, that’s just what teenagers need. And they just want to experiment with this thing. I guess, how do you see past your vision for what you think they should be doing or what they should be doing differently and actually find what they want or what their vision is for their life?
Esther Wojcicki: So I’m really glad you brought up this example. Yeah, this is actually the key to the success of my journalism program with all those publications and all those kids, because a lot of kids, they come in unmotivated and I think one of the reasons kids are not motivated is because they’ve heard no a lot. No, this isn’t a good idea. No, don’t do that, no all the time, so a lot of nos. And so this kid Caleb with the shoes, he is, at this point, a typical ninth grader who just like, “Ah, I don’t know what I want to be. First of all, my feet are growing all the time and every day I look different and whatever.” And the fact that I showed interest in him and I was interested in what he said he was interested in, oh my God, that made all the difference because then all of a sudden, he wanted to talk to me.
Esther Wojcicki: And I think that’s the key for all teachers. If you get to know your students just a little bit and see what they’re interested in, it’s a turning point. There’s a study that was done just within the last six months that asked students how often did teachers ask them what they wanted to study. And the answer was never for 90% of the kids. Never. So in the journalism program, my thing is, “What do you want to write about? I don’t care what you write about. You get to write about whatever it is you are interested in writing about. And don’t worry about what other people think is better. I want to know what you think is better.” They could write about shoes. They can write about how I like to stay in bed all day on Saturday. They can write about anything that they want to write about.
Esther Wojcicki: And all you have to do is capture them once, just get their attention. And then from that one point, you can expand and say, “Well, are you interested in this, too?” And they’re like, “Well, maybe, maybe not,” but they’re more open to being interested in those things once you show some interest in them. A lot of my students stay in touch with me for years. I have some of them who are now 40 years old, older than you, who are still in touch with me. And I’ve started a company and the company is basically all my former students who are now in their 30s, 40s, and they just want to be in touch, which is … I must tell you, this is the best thing of all for being a teacher. The students really want to be in touch with you.
Andy: Yeah. Your legacy is out there in the world, just spreading and …
Esther Wojcicki: Right. The class that I was talking about the shoes was an English class that I was teaching. But in social studies, you can do a lot of the same things. Actually, it’s even easier because I’ve taught social studies, so what’s happening in the world right now that is making you the most angry? Can you tell me about it or what is making you the happiest? And then put them together in groups and let them talk to each other. I’m not kidding. They never will want to leave your class.
Andy: Yep. Start from whatever they’re passionate about, what gets them just going first on something
Esther Wojcicki: So if you have a kid that is …
Andy: Start there and steer them
Esther Wojcicki: … really depressed, depression means basically you’re not interested in anything and you gave up. Usually it’s that kid, like I said, everything that they’ve tried before has been rejected. They’re like, “Oh, that’s not a good idea,” so just try saying yes once in a while. Teenagers are the most creative people on the planet. You just need to appreciate that and the parents need to remember they are creative and their desire is really, independence.
Andy: And now we’re going to listen to a piece from the interview with Jonah Berger. Let’s hear what he has to say about dealing with children who do things that we wish they weren’t doing and therefore, how to deal with the dilemma that is born when we do not want to sound authoritarian, but at the same time, we don’t want them to keep doing these things that might be damaging them.
Jonah Berger: I think the challenge here as parents is, sometimes you say, “Well, hold on. I don’t want my kids to do drugs at all.” And if they’re smoking pot frequently, and I say rather than smoking pot once a day, smoke pot once every two days, they’re still smoking pot. I don’t want the smoke any pot. That’s fine, but that’s focused on what you want rather than where they are. And I think one big message of this book is we have to start with them. We have to start with where the people we’re trying to change are, understand them, understand where they are in their journey, and use that to help us. And in the pod example or in the doctor example, if you ask for too much, they ignore you. Start by asking for less and then ask for more.
Jonah Berger: I’m not saying stop with only two liters a Mountain Dew a day. I’m saying use that, start moving in the right direction. Sometimes, people call it stepping stones. You take a big change, you break it up into smaller chunks. If there’s a river and you ask someone to ford the river, they’re saying, “No way. It’s too far across. There’s no way I’m going to make it.” Okay. If you say I’m going to break it up into stepping stones, jump from this stone to the next stone to next stone, takes a little bit longer, but people are much more likely to make it to the other side, and so the same thing with your kids. Don’t start by asking for everything. Don’t start by asking to for too much. Start by asking for less, move them in the right direction, chunk that change in smaller chunks, and eventually they’ll be more likely to get there.
Andy: And it also strikes me that this is similar to why there’s evidence that advocating complete abstinence from sex is not that effective. And parents who just adopt the approach of saying, “Don’t have sex till you’re married. Never have sex,” it doesn’t work. Their kids don’t comply with this and actually are more likely to have teenage pregnancies compared to parents who are more realistic and talk about safe sex and talk about pleasure and being able to advocate for yourself and all of these other things. And because as a parent, we don’t want to feel like we’re advocating sex. We don’t want to feel like we’re saying, “Hey, go out and have lots of sex,” so we put ourselves in this place of saying, “No, don’t do that.” And with all of these behaviors, we don’t want to feel like we’re saying, “Oh, yeah. It’s okay to vape,” so we feel like we need to take the hard line approach and say no drinking, no vaping, no sex, no drugs. Don’t do any of these things ever, terrible. But when we do, then we’re jumping into this problem of we’re in that region of rejection. We’re too far away from maybe where their mentality is right now that it’s not actually helping at all.
Jonah Berger: Yeah. And look, I want to be very clear. Different parents are different. What you’re okay with as a parent may be different than what someone else is okay with as a parent, but I think the most important thing is that you have clear, honest communications with your children and allow them to make these decisions themselves. Because if the only reason they’re not smoking or having sex is because they think you want them to do those things, that’s not going to be as helpful as if you get them to figure out what they want for themselves and instill that set of values. And the only reason your kid is cleaning their room is because they don’t want to be punished, as soon as you stop punishing them, they’re going to leave their room be a mess. They’re going to go to college and the room’s going to be a mess because you’re not around to clean up with them every day.
Jonah Berger: And so the question is not how can you get someone to do something because you told them to. The question is how can you get them to come up with their own value system that helps get them to what you think is a good place. And so imagine having the following conversation with your kids. They’re going out on a date. You say, “Hey, what do you want? What do you want? What are you comfortable with? What are things that you want to get out of this? What are things you’re okay with and is there anything you’re not okay with? Okay. If there’s something you’re not okay with and it moves in that direction, what might make you feel comfortable to do this to …” but encourage them to have that conversation with themselves.
Jonah Berger: What’s so interesting about questions is if someone asks you a question, you have to think. If someone tells you what to do, you don’t have to think at all. You don’t have to come up with your own ideas. You don’t have to internalize it. You don’t have to figure out what you feel. All you have to do is tell them yes or no, I’m going to do what you think, whereas if someone asks you what you think, then you have to say, “Well, hold on. What do I think? Huh? What do I want? What am I comfortable with? Maybe it’s not having sex. Maybe it is having sex. Maybe it’s only having sex under these situations. Maybe it’s waiting until this thing,” but then if I’ve articulated for that for myself, now when I’m outside the house and I’m at someone else’s house and something comes up and you are not there, I’m going to be much more comfortable going ahead with what I’ve thought about because I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about what I’m comfortable with. Not just what you’ve told me to do or not, but what I’m comfortable with and he’s going to make me much more likely to stick with it. And so guiding that conversation, not forcing it, but guiding will make it much more likely to reach a good outcome.
Andy: Michael Kimmel is now going to tell us how a parent can use sport as a tool to start the conversation with their child.
Michael Kimmel: I went to a game with my wife and one of my best friends and Zachary. And it turned out it was Mickey Mantle anniversary appreciation day. And Billy Crystal was at Yankee Stadium and they had out all these players and widows and all these guys around me are, “Oh, Mickey. He’s the greatest.” And my wife is going, “Who said men don’t cry? This is unbelievable. Try watching Field of Dreams without crying. That is a male weepy. It’s unbelievable, but there’s something wonderful about this. I was sitting at Yankee Stadium with my son and I guess he was about 10 and A-Rod hit a home run. And I said, “Zach, you’re going to remember that. You watched A-Rod hit a home run.” And I said, “When I was your age, I was sitting here with my dad and I watched and Mickey Mantel hit a home run.” And I said to him, “He hit it right over there. I can still remember that.” Zach and I are sitting there with that, holding that moment, and a guy in the row behind us leans over, taps Zachary on the shoulder, and Zachary turns around and he says, “I was sitting here with my father and I saw Babe Ruth hit a home run right there.”
Michael Kimmel: And there was something wonderful in that moment that was something just moving to us, sitting in that place of fathers and sons and grandfather, the timelessness of sport to men. I think there’s something lovely in that and I don’t want to just throw it all away. And I think it’s usable because if it was an important part of our lives and we share that with our sons, it gives us a foundation to talk about other things.
Andy: And now, we’re listening to Ilyasah Shabazz, who’s going to tell us how important it is to control the narrative that is taught to our children.
Ilyasah Shabazz: I think when we look at our education curriculum, I think that it’s important to learn to control the narrative. We can’t just sit back and think that someone else is going to do something for us. And so that, again, being participants in the laws and policies being critical thinkers …
Andy: Because it’s so easy just as a student to think whatever information you’re being given is just, that’s what it is. And to not question, “Well, why is this what we’re learning and why is this what we’re being taught and what else are we not seeing or not thinking about?”
Ilyasah Shabazz: For example, when we look at slavery, we don’t say that they were indigenous African American people who were held in bondage, psychologically terrorized. We don’t see it that way because we just dismiss it as, “Oh, yeah. That was slavery.” But I think when you control the narrative, that we are grateful to these early Americans who were held in bondage against their will, terrorized. However, they made a significant contribution. They cultivated the land, they made a contribution to our American culture. And had it not been for them, we would not have this great opportunity to call the United States of America our home. And so it’s giving honor to all of those early founders, those early foreparents. I’m grateful that both of my parents, Malcolm and Betty, challenged systemic racism and understood the importance of our education curriculum to be based on historical facts so that, for example, each of us understands that African American history is American history and that American history is also Hispanic history and Native American history and Asian history.
Ilyasah Shabazz: And that when we think in terms of what happened in slavery, what happened after slavery, about the massacres of Black Wall Street in Tulsa and in Rosewood, for example, in our high school US history classes to be as American as the Boston Tea Party, then more of us would understand the necessity for reparations. We’d have an opportunity to provide a value system without teaching our children hate and racism and discrimination. And rather, we have an opportunity to teach love and respect, to provide a value system of truth, honesty, and human compassion. And I think this is what controlling the narrative looks like and these are the kinds of activities that I utilize in my courses.
Andy: And now, let’s listen to a segment from the interview with Peter Lovenheim. Let’s hear what he has to say about insecure and avoidant attachment styles and the benefits that they might have.
Peter Lovenheim: There was a very interesting Israeli study done a few years ago where they brought a group of people into a laboratory and they had a computer set up that was pre-programmed to start smoking at a particular moment like it was going to burst into flames, but the participants didn’t know this. This group of 10 people are put in a room with a computer. Sure enough, the computer starts smoking, but beforehand, the researchers had learned the attachment styles of all the people in the room. So in this study, they found that the people who detected the smoke first were those with an insecure, anxious attachment because they’re more attuned to threats, some of the things they’re good at. And the people in the room who were the first to find the exit and get out were the people with the avoidant attachments because they’re more inclined to independent, self-reliant action. And it’s a good illustration how, even with these insecure attachments, if we understand them, they do have their advantages and we can direct our teams to take advantage of those things. I think it’s important.
Andy: And I like that because it’s about working with the things that your teenager is naturally drawn towards and good at. And a lot of people are talking about strengths and focusing on strengths. And sometimes we just have the urge to fight that or to think that it’s our job to push them against what they naturally are drawn to.
Andy: Annie Grace is now going to tell us how vulnerability and transparency are key elements in any conversation with our children.
Annie Grace: One thing I’ve done with my kids is I have a free pass. And that basically means, “You can come to me with anything that happened, anything someone else said, anything someone else did, doesn’t matter, and you won’t be in trouble. All you have to do is say, ‘Mom, I need to tell you something and I need to know I’m not going to be in trouble for this.'” And a lot of parents, I think, have a really hard time with that because what if it was something really bad? What if they need to be in trouble? But what that’s done is it’s increased the chances that they will tell and involve me. And so when I told my kids this, they both were like, “Oh, thank goodness. No matter what’s going to happen. I have one place that I can take this free pass out and I can come to my mom.”
Annie Grace: And so for me, that’s been really important. And I framed that with, “Look, I know what it was like to be navigating this stuff and feel like if I went to my parents, I was just going to be in trouble. And I want to be the one giving you my thoughts on this stuff, but I know that’s not going to happen if you don’t feel like you can trust me to hold your confidence. If somebody comes and like, ‘I went over to so-and-so’s house and they were drinking,’ and I’m immediately on the phone with their mom and say your kids were drinking and my kids told me and then their whole relationship is ruined and their reputation is at risk and they’re not going to ever come to me again,” so I framed it like that with them and that’s something that works for me.
Annie Grace: Obviously, people can take that or leave that. But for me, it means that my son comes to me with some things you wouldn’t believe. And I tell my friends, “Oh my gosh, he came to me about this video that him and his friends were watching and it was totally inappropriate and he didn’t know what all these words meant and he called me at midnight from his friend’s house, from the condo that they were at. He called me from the bathroom to ask me and he knew that was because he wouldn’t get in trouble. And now he has information that’s actually true. And I answer all his questions rather than either having to guess at it or having to find out things that aren’t true from his friends and I get to put my slant on it.
Annie Grace: I think another thing about the vulnerability though, is really just being human. So talking really honestly about the first time you drank. The first time I drank, I was 12 and we were in a hot tub and someone passed around what I thought was orange juice and it had vodka in it. And I was like, “Who ruined the orange juice?” and it was horrible tasting. And the first time you got drunk, just tell them your experiences and say, “Do you have any questions?” This is going to happen. I’d like to be here for you. I know that me just telling you what to do, it’s going to fall on totally deaf ears. Talk to them about, are you curious how hangover feels like? Do you want to know why people get sick when they’re drinking? People get sick when they’re drinking because it saves their lives. Let’s think about that for a minute. The reason that somebody throws up when they’re drinking isn’t because they’re so cool. It’s because their body’s saying, “Hey, we’re going to die unless we get this out of you.”
Andy: The stuff you’re putting into me right now, it’s got to get out. It’s not good. We can’t, no.
Annie Grace: And so I would talk to them about all that sort of stuff in this way, that as much as your personal experience you can share, the better. Or if it’s not your personal experience, share a very close friend or family member that you know about and maybe you don’t have to name them. But when you start to talk to your kid, in my opinion, as a real person, they start to respond as a real person and they would be so much more interested in what you have to say. And my goal for parenting is that I want the rapport with my kids, no matter what the whole world looks like. Maybe I look like I’m too tolerant, maybe I look like I never get my kids in trouble, whatever, but my goal with my kids is that they trust me enough to come to me first.
Annie Grace: My goal is rapport above all things because if I know that no matter what’s happening, they can come to me, then I know that I even have a chance of influence. Because I know what happened for me, I moved out of my house at 15 years old because I was like, “Forget these people. This doesn’t even make sense. I’m going to go move in with my boyfriend.” And they didn’t have any rapport with me. And so they weren’t who I went to for stuff. Now that I’m 40, I go to my parents for advice but it’s because we have a relationship. People don’t go to the people they don’t trust and so that’s my goal. And it’s just recognizing the really stark reality that all the rules in the world don’t take the place of a relationship. And the relationship, a hundred percent of the time, relationships, human to human are built on vulnerability. That is what builds relationships.