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The Parent Compass: Support Your Teen’s Wellness, Education and Set Them Up For Success

One of the hardest things about parenting is discerning when to step in and help your kids and when you step back. This is especially tough during the tween and teen years when our kids are going through huge changes – socially, emotionally, academically, and physically. We are in a huge transitional phase when our kids hit the tween and teen years. And it’s really hard to step back when you’re watching them make choices that you don’t like. This is NOT easy!

We want our kids to be successful; of course, we do. We love them, and we care – but when are we actually caring so much that they don’t have to care as much? 

If you are relating, you are going to find this episode super helpful. 

My special guest today is speaker, educational consultant, and bestselling author Cindy Muchnick, 

Who co-author the book, “The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World.” 

As a mom of four herself, Cindy is on a mission to educate parents on how to support and empower their kids to develop resilience and a sense of purpose without putting too much pressure on them.

A few of the things we talk about are – what kids wish parents would quit doing and allow them to do themselves, the effects on our teens when we over-parent, what to do instead when we are afraid our kids won’t be successful, and what to do to motivate our kids and build a stronger bond with them.

Let’s dive in!

What You Will Learn: 

  • What kids wish parents would quit doing and allow teens to do for themselves. 
  • Why you shouldn’t constantly be checking your teen’s grades and assignments. 
  • The effects on our teens when parents are over-parenting. 
  • How we tend to measure ourselves based on our kid’s success.
  • Tips for posting on social media about our teens
  • Helping your teen feel empowered and proud of their accomplishments without placing burdens on them. 
  • How to motivate your teen.
  • Connecting with your teen over their interests to build a stronger bond. 
  • Applying the 80/20 rule to parenting.

Where to find Cindy:

Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:

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And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you were failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone, and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our families and impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and the woman that you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

One of the hardest things about parenting is discerning when to step in and help your kids and when you step back. This is especially tough during the tween and teen years when our kids are going through huge changes – socially, emotionally, academically, and physically. We are in a huge transitional phase when our kids hit the tween and teen years. And it’s really hard to step back when you’re watching them make choices that you don’t like. This is NOT easy!

We want our kids to be successful; of course, we do. We love them, and we care – but when are we actually caring so much that they don’t have to care as much? 

If you are relating, you are going to find this episode super helpful. 

My special guest today is speaker, educational consultant, and bestselling author Cindy Muchnick, co-author of the book, “The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World.” 

As a mom of four herself, Cindy is on a mission to educate parents on how to support and empower their kids to develop resilience and a sense of purpose without putting too much pressure on them.

A few of the things we talk about are – what kids wish parents would quit doing and allow them to do themselves, the effects on our teens when we over-parent, what to do instead when we are afraid our kids won’t be successful, and what to do to motivate our kids and build a stronger bond with them.

SHERYL:  Hi, Cynthia. Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. I’m so looking forward to our talk today. We’ve already been behind the scenes, and we’ve had so much fun chatting, so I’m really excited about what you’re going to share.

CINDY:    Me too. The title of your show is a perfect match for the title of our book.

SHERYL:   Exactly. And I was telling you before reading your book, I was like, Oh, my gosh, this hits all the pain points. And what I find, as a mom myself and supporting so many moms and parents, is that everything that you’re talking your book does hit the common pain points.

CINDY:    I love that word. Nobody’s called them that before, at least the way I’ve heard them. So I think that’s actually a pain point. We can also just call them toolbox learning, learning moments, or whatever, you kind of look at it from both lenses.

But you’re right. We really tried in one place to kind of bring it all together in an easy, relatable, read-it-over-the-weekend kind of book that you could then start to sort of apply some of the strategies and ideas that we share in the book right away and start to change your parenting and your life and your relationship with your kids.

SHERYL:   Yeah, well, I just love the Parent Compass Navigating Your Teens, Wellness, And Academic Journey And Today’s Competitive World. And I want you to share. Do let’s start by you just sharing a little bit about your background.

CINDY:    So my career many years ago actually began well. I’ll go really far back when I was in college, I was a tour guide. I would walk backward and take groups of families around the campus. And little did I know that that would sort of turn into a career of guiding not just parents but also eventually working in college admissions.

So my first kind of job out of college was in the Midwest, actually working in two different admissions offices and learning what it looks like on the other side of the experience that had created all this angst for families for hundreds, I don’t know how many years a couple 100 years since, since universities were founded.

But it’s only gotten more intense, I guess, and more competitive. And, I would say, a bit worse and more uncertain. So in kind of peeling back the curtain and having that experience, I was raising my own small children doing business and private college counseling. So I did that for almost 20 years, just out of my home working with teens in Southern California and really falling in love with just the middle school and teen experience.

I realized I could relate and connect with these kids in a way that felt very authentic. And that felt like I was their cheerleader and their advocate and a sounding board. And without really a background in counseling. As the years progressed, in psychological counseling, because I’d had in college counseling, but you don’t realize how much these kids really open up to you and share with you not just in their writing but in their time in your office.

And so fast forward. So anyway, I also raised four kids of my own. So I have 16, 18, 22, and 24-year-old. So I’m at the very end of the teenage years of raising kids. So it was kind of going through that concurrently. And what I realized in early 2019 was when the college admissions scandal broke for Operation varsity blues, it was like a gut punch to me and to my co-author, John Curtis, who wrote the parent conference with me.

And the two of us were just appalled at what was going across the headlines and how ridiculous things had really gotten. And we said, we have to take action, we have to be intentional about doing something to help combat how crazy this world has gotten now that’s a very, very extreme version.

But what we started realizing was we saw signs, some signs of not like illegal and illicit, plans for teens, but we did see parents who were really creating, I would say, like kind of toxic relationships and toxic environments for their kids to grow up in and that would come out in our meetings with them in our offices.

So we said okay, what can we teach our population and hopefully spread this parent compass message, which we like to call now apparent compass movement, of moving into a direction of really paying attention to our teen’s mental health very closely, and also our relationship with them and how important that is.

So the book really has those two goals. And the way we did it was to interview parents, college counselors, Deans of admission heads of schools, teachers, and other teens, and we used a lot of stories from our own offices, a lot of case studies of students who seem to be parented in a parent compass way.

And then students who might have been parented in a way that really inhibited their kid’s ability to self-

advocate to grow, to be happy, have a good relationship with them, et cetera. So I answered that question in a long-winded way. But the bottom line on all of it is The Parent Compass was really written just to kind of remedy some of the problems that are going on out there that come from a place of love and support but often are expressed in a helicopter in kinds of ways. So no to the helicopter is kind of what the book is saying.

SHERYL:   That’s why you say pain point because I think this is one of the biggest challenges because, as you said, we love our kids, we want them to succeed, and you surveyed for the book over 200,000 students. And if I got that right?

CINDY:    We will challenge success, who has a lot of the data. Some of the data that we used in the book did a survey. We surveyed kind of all of the students we’d worked with through the years that Jen and I kind of had in our community, and then we reached out to other college counselors to share their stories.

So I don’t know if I have an actual number of how many students whose stories were shared and whom we researched. But what we did was we went to the experts like Lisa Demore, challenge success, and Carol Dweck, heads of school to really share with us their data so that everything we’re talking about is supported by the data, the Pew Research Institute, all sorts of, important, data gathering sources out there so that it wasn’t just Jen and me preaching this way.

It was saying, here’s what the data is telling us kids need to have family meals, and here’s why kids need to have parents who really allow them to self-advocate. And here’s why the data shows that, so that’s kind of sprinkled in without being boring.

SHERYL:   Yeah, yeah. What did you find that the kids were saying, the kids that you worked with? What is the message? If parents could hear right now, the kids would want their parents to know.

CINDY:    Yeah, that, I mean, that’s such a good question. Because honestly, some of the kids were saying nothing and couldn’t even speak for themselves because the parents were consuming the oxygen of the conversation, and we were speaking for their kids. And a lot of times in that initial meeting, a lot of times you meet the parents, but then after that, you’re working one on one with the kids.

And that’s where the dynamic can often be seen, also, in emails back and forth. Sometimes the kids weren’t even writing their own emails. It was their parents writing their emails. So there’s, there’s this sense of parents that what we hear from the kids is, my parents are trying to fix or are trying to kind of control my life, my parents are trying to tell me what I need to say and how I need to do it.

There’s a real fine line there because, obviously, we want to raise kids with nice manners and who can, yes, speak for themselves and who can chart their own course. But when we have sort of a mixed agenda, and maybe agenda is the wrong word, when we haven’t, our pride gets in the way.

Parents often just are like, Well, I’m wiser. I know more. I’m just going to kind of handle all this. And we sort of say to parents, back off, like you had your turn, you were a teenager, it’s your kid’s turn to be a teenager, and how do you do that separation? How do you kind of let them have the space to make mistakes and to fail and to speak their own voice and to kind of grow up?

I think what the kids were just saying is like. We’re feeling smothered. We’re feeling pressured. We’re feeling too controlled. And that is a really valid response. And what we did in the parent company was we created this questionnaire, actually a questionnaire for parents and a questionnaire for teens.

SHERYL:   Oh, my gosh, questions that you ask for us to ask ourselves. You even know how we were raised.

CINDY:    Bits of help, right?

SHERYL:   That really impacts us more than we want to admit or acknowledge. But then you ask the kids, what don’t you like? I bet this is exactly how it went. What don’t you like that your parents do?

CINDY:    Yeah, so yeah, so I a lot of this. It’s interesting at my daughter’s high school. They do a lot of mental health counseling. And it was interesting because they did a workshop where they asked all the teens actually in Middle East Cool.

And in high school, write something you want your parents to know or something you want. You wish your parents would do differently or something you want them to know about how you’re doing in school. And they took all these posts, and they presented them, they kind of distill them, and they stuck them on the walls at the back to school night, and they presented them to parents.

And when I’m telling you, it was like holding up a mirror. A lot of them were really painful to read. And so that idea was so fascinating to Jen and to me that we thought, well, let’s give the teens a chance to share their voice in the book.

And there’s really only one page where we asked him to do that. And it’s great exercise. The parents do their own reflect self-reflection. And then they asked their teen, can you just take five minutes, pull the plug on the social media and grab a brownie, and help me be a better parent by answering these questions when the kids hear you say, help me be a better parent, their ears perk up, and they think, Oh, that’s interesting, the tables are kind of turned or admitting you’re not Yeah, perfect.

And so when kids share this information, the parents really can let it process, and we say to parents just take it, take it in and listen and try to understand where they’re coming from putting yourself back in their shoes, if that’s even possible, because their shoes are so different than what our shoes were like a generation ago.

I mean, it’s so much more complicated and stress-filled to be a teen nowadays. And as you know from your work, it’s not just because of social media. It’s because of the college pressure and the expectations that society has, and then throw COVID into the whole situation. And it just creates a whole whirlwind of the not-great mixture. So The Parent Compass is here to untangle that.

SHERYL:   Yeah, I love it. Yeah, even you write about the things like even how when I think about how things are different, my mom could not see my grades. Now, I was not a good student, but I had a lot of learning differences. They didn’t know that much about it. But I would have been in real trouble if she had been able to see such a focus on much negative.

CINDY:    Yeah, I don’t have the login. I don’t even know how to see them. I get them old school. Like when the report card gets emailed. That’s when I see things. And those are two conversations, like the one-semester report card, like, becomes a, hey, how’s it going? Why don’t you run me through your classes? And do you think this is reflective of how you’re doing? And do you have any goals you want to set for next semester? Do you feel good about it? Was this a B that you’re super relieved to have, or that you probably could have done some things a little differently, and you learn from your mistakes, or, because I always say, or we say in the book too, like a B for one student is a celebration, and a B for another student might feel like a failure, which is crazy, right?

I mean, you could go down and say a C for one student and also could feel like, okay, I’m passing the class. This is really hard. I feel good about this, and really challenging myself, or a parent, or more students could be like, oh, a C is a total bummer. It’s like, I don’t know how that happened, or I need to make some changes or figure things out, or I’m on the wrong level, or whatever it might be.

So, I think that that hyper-focus of checking your kid’s portal all the time, I mean, that’s their job to know when the assignments are done, to turn them in on time if they have a zero and it hasn’t been factored in. I mean, parents freak out. These are tiny little moments in a high school or middle school career, have a little five-point quiz or a 10-point quiz, or a homework assignment, whatever it may be. That is up to your kid to manage. That is their job as they are a student and go to school.

So if we just lop on more pressure on that, it’s looking wrong. It’s quantifying them as numbers. And as what they can earn, as opposed to just recognizing the journey, you put in a good effort. I know this is really hard.

So I just think that the beginning, the mid, the mid-year, and the end of the year are great times to have the conversations face-to-face with your kids and just let them walk you through their report cards. They can explain it better, right? They’re the ones that are in the class.

And sometimes, it’s the teacher relationship that’s challenging. Sometimes it’s the subject or, or there’s not enough time on the tests, there just isn’t there’s a time issue that your kids have, and then you can address those concerns with them or help them learn the steps to go forward to the study’s feel center or to their teacher or whatever it might be.

And by the time they’re in high school, goodness, you shouldn’t be involved in those conversations with teachers anymore at all really starting in middle school, you start to kind of break away from that, obviously, get involved if there’s something scary, but the day to day, it’s not the parent’s job.

SHERYL:   Yeah. I love that because you talk in the book, I like calling it the helicopter parent is like the over when we’re over-functioning when we’re suffering more than they care, and then they don’t have to care because we’re caring. You weren’t caring too much. And did you find that the more that parents were pushing, pushing, pushing, the kids were resisting? Because I see that a lot the resist or avoiding it’s like bad.

CINDY:    I think you’re right. I think the repetition of that pattern does cause a lot of things like what Jen and I would see in our offices as a result of that pattern was either the kids weren’t listening, but more, but more sadly, the kids were like breaking down and having mental health issues.

It was making them worse; it was adding unnecessary pressure onto a life that already feels like it’s got a good amount of pressure. And there are just better ways we can focus on our relationships with our kids than hounding them about, did you turn this in? Did you turn that in? What were the grades, focusing on the journey more than the destination?

We have a chapter that’s called that because we get in this day-to-day, the tidbits of it all. And that’s really not, as we know, as adults, there are lots of fits and starts and twists and turns and ups and downs. And that’s where all the learning happens. That’s where the growth is happening.

So whatever it kind of is leading to it, we’ll get there at some point. But if we make that the focus that, it’s all about getting in here, it’s all about looking good for this college, it’s all about manufacturing a teenager into some kind of, I don’t know, a reflection that you feel is of you, making your kid your trophy, all those things just aren’t, aren’t unhealthy. And the data tells us that.,

SHERYL:   Yeah, I think we have blind spots. It’s easy to have blind spots around that. But that’s very eye-opening. I think for moms, when you think of it like we see our kids as an extension of ourselves. And, as you said, you have a whole chapter on that. Is that what you are talking about that a, little bit? Because I do think that feeds that and what you share in the book about how we tend to measure ourselves based on our kid’s success.

CINDY:    Yeah, so there’s the bumper sticker and the sweatshirts and the obvious ways that we celebrate our kid’s accomplishments, right? But, I love the t-shirt that just says the word college across the front. It just says college. There’s another one that can just say, Trade School, beauty school or whatever, Army, whatever route, these kids can kind of take, but yes, I think we’ve become this culture that focuses so much on the braggy part of our kids, and we see it, we see it starting with the parents on social media, the parents more than the kids.

How many recitals do I want to watch of my friend’s kids doing their thing? Or how many soccer kicks or how many, whatever. And let me just rewind by saying we talked about this offline, but I started my life parenting kids on Facebook, and I did post. My group was pretty small. It was just immediate family and close friends whom I trusted, not public, but I probably posted things a generation ago that I was just trying to chronicle a few of my kids growing up and an easy way for my parents and grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and siblings, whatever, to see some of those moments.

But now, we live in a world where things are curated. And there is music involved. And, there’s a lot of kind of content that parents are sharing about their teens that’s probably pretty inappropriate or pretty. I don’t know. I do take screenshots of things and send them to my husband and go like, Oh, my God, I can’t. I mean, I can’t believe it’s almost awful that it looks to me like entertainment as opposed to real parenting.

I think that’s obviously a reflection of the parent way more than the kid. I mean, I do feel it’s important to, like, share the happy news, but you have to kind of temper that and remember, who is the audience? And what’s your intention?

I know you’re writing a book about this, or you’ve written a book about it, but the idea of posting with intention, like, whom do you want to see that and what do you want it to say, but not in the way of tension. So we write that in the blog post with intention, not in tension. So it reads better when you read it, but the point is, when you’re talking about how the parent can not do the kids, it’s just an extension of them.

That’s where we need to back off and just say, Let’s appreciate these kids for exactly who they are. And let’s find out who they are. It’s our job to find that out. Right. Like, you expose your kids In K through sixth grade or nursery schools or sixth grade till all sorts of experiences, sports activities, courses, and things that excite them. And some of them are things that excite you. So you’re excited that they might get involved or interested in something that you really like.

But they start to share their voice by saying, like, I don’t like this anymore, or I want to try this, or I want to try that. And some kids are tasters, they like to taste lots of things, and others might find them their direct path early on. And then there are the periods of burnout when they don’t want it anymore. And they might go back to it later, whatever it might be.

But we feel so invested in helping them navigate that and find these things when they change their minds or when they decide they want to do something different. It’s almost like the parent takes it personally as I’ve already driven you, I’ve already paid, I’ve already done this, I’ve already done that.

And honestly, we just need to really see and appreciate and hear those kids that we have in front of us and help find out what makes them tick and what makes them excited, what are the classes that excite them the most, what are the activities that excite them the most doesn’t mean they’re going to love every minute of them. But it does mean that it’s our job and our responsibility to be sure that we’re not projecting or vicariously living second-hand through them, like, I never got to do this.

So I want you to do it. Like you never got to do it. So try and do it as an adult, whatever it is, right? Like, don’t push your kid through that, to have them kind of do it right.

Kids are afraid to tell their parents that they want to quit their sport because they’re afraid they’re gonna let their parents down, or I mean, their parents want them to become some scholarship athlete, whatever it might be. So I know there’s a lot invested.

But again, it’s not our journey. It’s their journey. So I think it’s something if we can keep that reminding ourselves that it’s their turn, it’s their turn, let’s listen to them, let’s hook into what excites them, what makes them tick, and then make that are the way that we help we help them, by getting them to those places, or helping them research it or brainstorming about it, or asking them about it, letting them talk to us about it, and why it excites them.

And then we build those connections in those bonds, that that is the key that is the relationship that we want to have with them. So that when they do leave, they want to come back and visit, right?

SHERYL:   I love that because The Parent Confidence talks really about how to have a really good relationship with them when you drill it all down and empower them to be who they are. The book is going to actually help your kid to succeed. It’s the opposite of one viewpoint that helicopter parenting, it makes them, I always say they’re like cats, and it’s gonna make them run under and hide in the bed, and then you try to grab them, and they’re gonna scratch and claw and then, getaway.

CINDY:    Yeah, it’s interesting, kind of phrasing it that way. Because it feels counterintuitive, right? Like we feel by doing and fixing and being involved that, we’re showing our love. That’s a way to show love. But there are a lot of other ways to show the love that don’t involve you micromanaging your kids.

I tell some stories in the book. If you’d asked me about one of them about the Star Wars camp, that was an example. So that was an example from my own family. And I don’t always – I had to get my kid’s permission to write about it.

But when my kids were in eighth grade and sixth grade, my two oldest said they wanted to make some money in the summer. And how can you do that when you’re in eighth grade, and they’d already been delivering newspapers and newsletters through the neighborhood? They walked 1600 homes and delivered them door to door and made like hourly that way. They dragged in garbage cans when neighbors went out of town and got the mail, and walked dogs, and they kind of wanted something more substantive in the summer.

So they decided to create a one-week Star Wars summer camp. And we had to figure out what that looked like. They had to figure out what that looked like. I had to just help them collect, and be a chaperone, basically to this K through fifth graders that join the Star Wars camp, and it lasted for actually lasted for five summers until my kids graduated.

And even when they graduated, these parents with younger siblings were like, oh my god, like you can’t move away. You can’t graduate they my kids want to do the Star Wars camp. And what did that look like? So I always tell my students that I worked with you can kind of create a summer camp for anything for any interest they have.

And my kids happened to just be obsessed with Star Wars. This was in the years when only the movies four or five and six were out, and then one, two, and three might have been coming out. it was like the early Star Wars, and then it got bought by Disney, and the whole thing, but the point is the camp that they did was darling the kids would dress up as Star Wars characters, they would visit planets they would write these little signs and put them on the trees in the neighborhood, and the kids would walk from planet to planet, and they would talk about what happened on the planet.

They would play different games like they played Darth Vader instead of Mr. Fox and red lightsaber, green lightsaber instead of red light green. And they brought Legos over, and they showed little video clips. And the kids were, they were having a ball. I mean, it was run by the kids, and the kids were doing it.

I just had to kind of, like, make sure nobody got hurt. And walk kids to the bathroom right at the park. And this went on for five summers. It actually grew to an afternoon Star Wars movie camp for kids who wanted to stay and watch each episode. And they would then analyze and pause and find all the easter eggs and talk about it.

And my kids not only did they make a small fortune at a young age, but they learned so much about teamwork and partnership. They felt so empowered they felt so proud of like what they accomplished. They even employed their younger siblings to help them set up the chairs and take them down the chairs. And the last day, they did a little Star Wars parade where everyone dressed up and put on music, and they walked around the neighborhood and their costume.

So it was very, very cute and low-key and fun. And it became this tradition that I would say, looking back on it, really, formed a big part of who they were and their own identities and feeling, ownership of something, feeling responsible for something taking care of little people realizing how tiring that is, it made them appreciate, I think what parents go through is the same time.

 And these parents who sent their kids to the camp, it was all very word of mouth. And very old school, it felt very old-fashioned. There was something not canned about it. I don’t know if that’s the right word. But it just felt very wholesome. And, very fun.

I tell parents, your kids have so much ability to do so many things. If their thing is basketball, they can do a basketball clinic. If their thing is cheerleading, they can do a little cheerleading camp, like arts and crafts. Parents are always looking for places to put their kids in the summer. And your kids can help be in charge of younger kids if that’s something you want to sort of help take on in an advisory kind of manner.

I mean, I really was pretty invisible. They signed the kids in, they signed the kids out, but they created each summer it kind of grew and built on itself. And I don’t know. It just was a big part of their childhood memories. And now I think as they see kids when they’ve grown up, they’re like. I was one of your campers at the Star Wars camp. And I didn’t realize how formative that would kind of be in their lives.

But I like to share the story because they want parents and most kids to also feel like they should have ownership over that time. They should enjoy the things they’re doing. They should feel like they’re working hard and they’re bringing something else of their own into the world. And it can be any interest. So that’s just one example.

I like to share it for kind of inspiration. But also, it did so much for my kids in terms of them feeling self-assured and self-aware, and self-actualized. And I just encourage parents to kind of help their kids do those things where they can explore it. They don’t have to run a camp. I mean, that’s just an example. They can sign up for camps too. And all those things.

SHERYL:   Oh, that is so awesome that they did that. And they went all in. They went all the way with it. I mean, which is super cool.

CINDY:    It was really fun. And on rainy days, we had to open up the garage and come into the layout legos. I mean, they had to improvise, too. They had to learn some ways when things don’t always work out. We’d look at the weather in the morning. Oh, are we gonna get some rain? So yeah, it’s really fun. A lot of fun times.

SHERYL:   Well, let’s talk a little bit about motivation. Because I know moms are listening. And they’re thinking, Oh, my kid would never do that. They don’t want to do anything. They don’t want to come out of the room. I can’t get them to want to do anything. What words of wisdom do you have from your book?

CINDY:    So, first of all, not every Yeah, not every kid is motivated. And whether it’s academically or athletically or whatever, it seems like, Oh, some parents just say, all my kids want to do is be on their phone. So if they like to scroll on their phone, which I think most teens do, we should ask them what they’re looking at, like what do you like show me the sights you like and show me what it is you’re reading and not that’s just social, but like, my son scrolls his phone for sports scores and for the stock market and for whatever I mean, I know what my kids are looking at, because I asked them about it.

So I don’t spy on them, particularly when they were really little or not really little, but when they start, we had some cell phone etiquette when they first got phones, but the point is for parents who feel like their kids need to be motivated, my real advice would be finding out what does excite them.

If just one class at school, whether it’s the teacher or whether it’s the content, has to be worth some time for waking up that day. So they have whatever, six or seven classes, ask them what the great ones are right now and what the frustrating ones are right now, and focus on the ones that are really special.

So it might be a teacher that excites them about content. I have a daughter who never told me anything out of her mouth relating to science in her entire life. She’d never really liked it. She didn’t really care for it now, a sophomore in high school. And the topic I hear the most about is science. We were in the car yesterday. There were some clouds. She was, oh, those dark clouds are cumulus. And I’m like, wait, what, what are you talking about?

Now, she’s probably not going to go on and become a scientist. But she’s so interested in science right now. Because she has this teacher that makes it interesting and fun, and creative, and so bravo to teachers, by the way. Let’s just get that out there. Like, they don’t all have the energy to do it that way.

But when you have one that really engages your kid, there’s a great example. So science happens to be something of interest, for now. So we’re at we’re talking a lot about it. I’m asking her about the things she’s learned, and she can share them with me.

She had to invent a planet, and they did something with planets, and I learned about that. So hooking in as a parent to what does excite them or something will excite them about the school, I mean, even if it’s lunchtime, and what they ate that day, like talk about that, and see if you can make it at home like you have to be a little creative sometimes.

So look for the positive in what does excite them, and then try to grow that. So if they do love English, and they’re reading a book in school, read the book with them. I read Bear Town by Frederick Bachman when one of my kids was in eighth grade because that was the eighth-grade read. And we talked a lot about it. It had some hard themes and hard content. And the school said we’re reading a book that has some tough stuff in it. You may want to also read it. So I did.

And that created a connection and some neat conversations where I felt a little bit more engaged in their school. So pick any book they’re reading in their English class, and maybe read it with them. And it would give you something if they like English to give you something else to talk about that would connect you or let them teach you.

Like if they’re in the robotics club, or doing some project, say like, Hey, do you want to practice your presentation for me? And don’t give critique. Just listen and say, Wow, that’s cool that you learned that. Where did you find that information or whatever it might be? And then they might say, Oh, well, do you have any feedback? And then, if you do, then you can gently offer constructive criticism, but I’m not saying this is a way for you to micromanage more.

I’m saying this is a way for you to connect and engage and prove to yourself that know your kid does have interests, they exist, and they might not be academic. So if they are outside of academics, in their club, in their sports, in their activities, support those and, and then try to facilitate ways to kind of engage more, so if they do play on a sports team, then you can watch those teams together. L

If they’re into soccer, you can watch a World Cup game with them. If they’re into football, you can ask them about their fantasy football team, if they are doing that, or whatever it might be. But I would say that’s kind of the best way. I think to get to find the spark to find something that does excite and motivate them.

And really, if you feel like it’s only on their phone, then ask them what the sites they’re visiting are, and have them show you. I have parents who have told me they’ve learned to play video games because they felt like their kid was in front of the Xbox. And they’re like, well, show me how to play, then show me about, and it became hilarious because obviously, the parents usually never on.

Maybe they did once in 20 times, but it became a way for them to connect and engage. So I think if you want to have a relationship with your kid, hook into what excites them, or help find what excites them, and then ask them about it, let them be the expert, teach you about it.

And if they’re not if school is not their thing, which sometimes it has to do with learning challenges, sometimes has to do with anxiety or issues going on at school, then do explore that also if you need to with a school counselor, or finding someone else that they can talk to, I mean, if things are more serious, and you just feel like they’re really just down its not just motivation, there are other things going on.

Then I would say you can also seek some professional you should seek professional help when needed. And I have found therapy to be amazing for all of my kids, for all of our family in a lot of different ways at times when we’ve needed other tools other someone else that’s neutral to kind of help reflects on something we’re struggling with. School counselors are great for that.

Older mentors parents who have older kids are great resources as well for parents and teens to find their own mentor of an older kid who has been through all that kind of stuff. So anyway, I don’t know I threw it a lot there.

SHERYL:   It’s wonderful. Yeah, a third party – somebody else to come in where it’s not just us.

CINDY:    Yeah. And also gratitude, teaching our kids to show gratitude for those other adults that are in their lives. Modeling that and saying, I’m so glad the pastor or I’m so glad the coach or Mrs. Whoever has been able to be supportive to you, let’s send them a holiday card, or let’s show our gratitude to because those adults in our kid’s lives are really key. And sometimes, they’re the people that our kids open up to more quickly than they might open up to us.

SHERYL:   Yeah, yeah. So good. And another thing I’m struck by is how you ask versus tell, let them lead, find out what they’re interested in, then follow them, rather than trying to force them to do something we’ve tried to, make them because we can’t make them from it.

CINDY:    That’s right. Exactly. And it’s interesting my co-author, Jen Curtis, has a background in social work. And she’s brought a lot of the content of the book that relates to psychology and counseling, and a lot of that forward in writing. And we wrote the book together, but each of us sort of took the lead on different chapters and then edited and added to each other’s work.

But, one thing that Jen taught me a lot about and as good as a talker as I am today, on your show, I hope you think I’m a good talker. I’ve always had a t-shirt that said: I got an A plus in talking. So I don’t know if that’s something to brag about. But Jen and I created a chapter about asking good questions and being good listeners.

And it sounds so basic, right? It sounds so basic. Because usually, it’s not one of the hardest things to do. Because asking our kids good questions, not just the how was school today? Question. In fact, that’s one of the worst questions we can ask- how did you do on this? Or how was school today? It just – scratches that and goes to our question list.

We consulted even professional question-askers in the book, and we picked our favorite 30 or 40 questions to ask teens to spark dialogue and to spark conversation. But then, once you ask the questions, they’re not for you to answer unless your kid says, Well, how about you, Mom or Dad? They are for you to listen to.

And to hear the answer and to reflect back and say, Aha, tell me more, and to really use the questions as a way to also engage, and the same comes when they come to share with you when they come to do something, whether it’s some frustration, or highs, lows, whatever it is, for you to not just do what might feel natural to jump in and offer the advice and offer the solution.

And because you’re older, you’re wiser, you’ve been through it, but let them figure out how to come out the other side of it with you being right next to them. You’re shoulder to shoulder and Lisa Demora, whom we love. We love her work and the writing that she does. She’s a psychologist and author who says all the time. It’s important that when your kids are sharing with you, you ask them, what do you want from me right now? Like, do you just want me to listen? Do you? Would you like some advice? Would you just like a hug? Do you want to get up and go now that you’ve said that, so we can even gauge what it is they’re looking for?

Because oftentimes, they just want to let it out. They just want to get it out and leave. They don’t even want it. Yeah, they don’t even want your feedback or anything. And when your kids go to college, which I know this Sheryl when your kids go to college, they pick up the phone, and I call these phone dips – they call you with a lot of content. And sometimes it’s really tough stuff like a bad thing about a relationship or a bad grade or they overslept or whatever it is, and you get some positive, but you get a lot of negative sometimes in these phone calls, and you don’t know how to process that, like, oh my god do I need to go get on the plane or are they okay, and whatever.

And sometimes, just by releasing it, they’re fine. Like they’ve moved on. They just needed to get it out. But we are left with that and wondering what we’re supposed to do with it. And there have been times, I will say, through the years, and I’ve had two of my kids go to boarding school, so it’s happened when they’ve been even younger.

I think that I have a little bit of a hall pass to occasionally call the resident fellow or the resident advisor at their home and be like, can you just put eyes on them because I just got a really heavy phone call, and I just want to be sure there were some tears, and there was some anger and whatever. And usually, the reply back is, oh, they’re actually in the lounge, like playing the piano right now and hanging out with friends and laughing. They’ve moved on, and you’re left with it. Those are some helpful things.

SHERYL:   Yeah, I love that I say 80/20 – listen 80% of the time and talk 20. If you just do that.

CINDY:    I love the 80/20 rule. I apply the 80/20 rule to pretty much everything in life. It’s really funny. I probably should write an essay about 80/20. Because I think if like 80% of the job you do, the place you live, the friendships, you have your marriage, a lot of big things that 80/20 Rule can really apply because 80% of it is good, that’s pretty, pretty high. And there’s always going to be 10%. That’s never going to be good enough.

We’re never going to feel totally 100%. Forget it, like we’re never gonna get there. I mean, it’d be nice if we could, but maybe we get there when we’re like, 90, I don’t know, I don’t know if you ever get that. But 10% is always going to be kind of working on. And that 10% is just going to be stuff you can’t control. It’s just going to be whatever allows you can’t fix it. It’s just there. It just doesn’t. There’s no perfection. So I love 80/20.

And a lot of in a lot of ways, I also wrote this essay, which I’ll share with you later, but about four for four. And our parenting strategy is we all know, as a parent, how hard it is when one of our kids is suffering, or they’re, whether it’s physically or mentally or just something hard is happening in their life, and you just feel like that’s your weak link.

And as a parent, you want to go in and, and be there to support and sometimes be there to advise too, because those tend to be the times when maybe a little bit of advising helps if they want that or it seems like it would be helpful.

But, when my husband and I, we kind of do a little judgment of okay, are we one for 4 or 2 for 4or 3 for 4 or 4 for 4 – meaning, everyone’s kind of good, where they are right now, like everyone’s in balance, the world has that moment where we all take a breath and go, Wow, like nobody has a major need right now. We’re all kind of living our worlds and living our best selves.

But there have been times when we’ve been like one for four. And when three kids are down, I mean, it is the worst feeling as a parent. It’s just awful. And then when those three are resuscitated at some point out, sometimes it’s just time and getting them getting out the other side, and it hurts our hearts so much. But a lot of times there isn’t really anything we can do. It’s just a life experience, and it’s painful. But then once those three are kind of back, then the one that didn’t go down goes down.

SHERYL:   I always call it whack-a-mole.

CINDY:    The same thing, I call it four for 4-for-4, whatever it is, but we all know we all only are as good as our oldest child. But I feel like we still get curveballs with every kid, right? I mean, you’re never fully prepared for all of this. It’s such a 24/7 job. That’s why there are books, movies, podcasts, and a lot of content out there about it.

I really think as parents, we are kind of doing our best, but I think we can do a little differently. And following your parent’s compass requires bravery. It requires you to kind of do it differently than everyone around you might feel like they’re doing.

And to just sort of see that and just kind of let it fall down, let it go, let it water off a duck’s back, and just go, okay, that’s not how I want to be. That’s not how I want my relationship to be. That’s not how I want to do it.

And we all know those parents that make us cringe at the sidelines or at the back-to-school night that just ask the question about their kid that’s kind of inappropriate and embarrassing, or that are screaming on the sidelines, or whatever it is. And you just think, oh my God, I feel awful for that kid. Like, I hope I’m not that parent.

I think we’ve all been that parent at some point. We just have, and we’re not proud of it. And so how do we pull back and say, I’m not going to be that parent. And sometimes our spouses will remind us that you get that elbow or that squeeze, like, oh, you said the one time or whatever it is, and then owning it, apologizing, saying I am not proud of what I just did. I’m not proud of the parenting choice I just made; I need a do-over.

We can say that to our kids all the time. In fact, they love it. They love when we admit we’re wrong or we made a mistake. And we show that we’re human, and I’ve talked about this on Podcast, sometimes, not very often, but I mean, my kids have seen me cry. That could be a whole topic but not often. I mean, I know parents who excused themselves to go into the bathroom or get into their bedroom or whatever, to kind of not show that real deep emotion in front of their kids, and I would be on the school of its kind of okay for your kids to see your human I mean, I think that it does something with in regard to kind of reverse empathy and a feeling of they feel like they want to protect you. They want to. They see how low you might be feeling. And that’s okay because they felt that way too. So anyway, those are some of my pearls.

SHERYL:   Yeah, it’s. This is so good, Cindy. I just highly recommend that everybody get your book, The Parent Compass, to help them. And the questions are great and really shift your mindset to what we, our natural inclination, is to do. And what it means to really love our kids well, help them to be resilient, and develop that grid. And you know that well-being. Tell them where to find you where to get your book. And, of course, I’ll include all the links as well.

CINDY:    So yeah, The Parent Compass can be found on our website, which is https://www.parentcompassbook.com/. And we’re on Instagram @parentcompass and Facebook @theparentcompass. We’re even on LinkedIn under our name, Cindy Muchnick and Jen Curtis, and we’re on Twitter and a little @parentcompass.

But you can reach out to us, and we love to visit book clubs; if anyone’s picking our book for a club read, we’d like to pop in on Zoom, and we’re in life. If you’re local, we’re both in California. But we are trying to spread the movement. We’re trying to spread the message.

And we’ve so are so grateful for your show that shares the content so generously with your listeners, and I’m so impressed with your grown kids and how you’ve navigated to and followed your parent compass and then helped teach parents lots of ways to, kind of get through these challenging years.

Because none of us, I mean, there’s not really a full-on instruction manual, right? I mean, we’ve read what to expect, some people call the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting Teens, which is also a big compliment, but we know that parenting is 24/7. And it’s kind of reactive.

And so, at times, the way we react, and then we look back and go. I wish I could have done that differently. And then we wake up, and we do it differently the next time, or we try another tact, and they don’t always work with all kids.

So some things work with others, and it is a kind of pride trying to find the right recipe and the right blend for each of our kids. And they are, I mean, they are amazing, right? We all think our kids are amazing. We all think our kids are wonderful, people that we’ve, supported and helped grow and helped create and all of that. But we don’t have to blast that across the whole planet. And we certainly don’t have to make all these choices for them that aren’t our choices to make. It’s their turn.

SHERYL:   Yeah, thank you for that such wise words. Gosh, those with us. And so glad this is gonna be in a blog post, too.

CINDY:    You’re gonna have a lot to write.

SHERYL:   We transcribe it. So they can just revisit this and buy the book and thank you for all that you’re doing, and we’ll have you back to do a workshop.

CINDY:    That would be great. I would really enjoy working with you. Thank you so much. It was a lot of fun.

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