96 Transcript: The 6 Things That Matter Most in A Child’s Life (with Kristen Ivy)
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J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 96.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Welcome back, I'm Dr. Jen Riday, your host, and I am so glad you're here. We're so grateful for our listeners. And last week, you heard from Ellen Leanse all about Technology, how we need to master our use of technology so we'll have happier brains. Let me tell you, that one led to so many discussions with various women, but especially in my own household. So we are buckling down on our technology use and really requiring our kids to do more creative, interactive, fun and nature based learning and experiencing in their lives. So I would love to hear how that episode affected you. Send us an email at email@example.com and tell us about it. Today, I'll be talking with Kristen Ivy all about the 6 things we can do that really matter in a child's life from birth to age 18. And these are love, words, stories, fun, work, and tribes.
We’ll hear what she's talking about in just a moment, but first, I want to share our review of the day. The review today is from Nancy and she says, “I've been binge listening to episodes on my drive to work. I've picked up so many helpful tools to help me live a more balanced life. I love Jen's voice,” thank you, Nancy, “and enthusiasm for the subject matter, ‘how to live a vibrant life’. You can tell this is her passion and I love how she shares personal insights and her own life stories to relate to her audience. I don't normally leave reviews unless I love something, so that says a lot about this podcast.” Nancy, that means so much thank you for reaching out and sharing that. And you're right; I am really passionate about this. Because my work, aside from being a good mom to my own kids, is to help other women be happier, as moms, as women, in their careers, you know, because when we give everything for everyone else, we feel empty and no woman should feel that way. So I love being able to share insights, stories, have guests that help all of you to kind of rise up into your happiness, your having more meaning and purpose. Thank you so much for that review, Nancy, that really makes me feel good today. Anyone else who would like to leave a review, we would love for you to do that; it means so much and it makes a difference so that more women can find the show. You can learn how to do it by going to jenriday.com/review. I know you're excited to hear about those 6 things I just told you all kids need from age 0 to 18 or even beyond, so let's go ahead and dive into this episode.
I'm talking with Kristen Ivy today and she is a child development expert and she talks about the stages of child development. And I love that we get to have her on today. For the past 15 years, she has worked with a company to create resources that help adults help teens and kids have a better future. She's the co-host of The Parent Cue Live, a podcast, and she and her husband, Matt, are currently parenting their 3 amazing kids north of Atlanta. Welcome, Kristen, I'm so glad you're here.
K: It's great to be here. This is fun!
J: So before we dig into the stages of development, (I'm rubbing my hands together) tell us a quote that you've been enjoying lately.
K: You know, this last week, I had an opportunity to listen to someone who works in a corporate world for a marketing firm and really inspired me a lot. One of the things that he said was just really basic. It's not something that we should have to say or maybe even think about, but he just said that, “Our goal should be to improve the story of everyone we encounter today.” And I just keep thinking about that, thinking every day, if each person that we encounter, our goal is just to improve their story a little bit. That's a fun life to live.
J: Yeah; everyone we encounter. So, well, take us back to a low point in your life and how you were able to learn how to be happy despite it.
K: You know, I think we all experienced a lot of different low points. For me, over the last 3 years, I had a little bit of a low point in a 3-year span of time. I lost 5 family members so I was at 5 funerals back to back. And very close with my sister and was walking with her through 3 miscarriages and a sober at 23 weeks. And so dealing in a season of death, I think, for me, left me at a place where it felt like I was out of control. You know, there was a helplessness to it, there was anger, a lot of stages of grief that I experienced that I was kind of unfamiliar with.
K: You know, you can read about grief and then going through it and just riding those waves of when it kind of crashes it on you and you weren't expecting it, definitely kind of put me in a low spot in that season.
J: Mm-hmm. And how did you get through that?
K: You know, it's surprising that life just keeps moving when you’re in one of those low seasons. And so you can be in the middle of, you know, going over to my sister's house and purchasing a baby urn and then turn around and go to a work meeting and then be home in time to get my kids tucked in for bed. And some of that just doesn't really make sense in your brain when you think, “How can all these things be happening simultaneously? How does the world keep moving and keep turning and keep going and everyone still has demands on your time?” And I think the one thing that I come back to again and again and again is the value and importance of having somebody who really knows what you're going through when you're going through something like that, and having some people that you really can let all the way in. I think I would have kind of gone into that season upfront thinking, “Hey, the world doesn't have to know all of this.” And there's a sense in which, you know, everybody in the world doesn't need to know everything that you're going through all the time; that can be a little bit destructive. But having a few people who you can let in to be fully known and fully transparent is critical. And I think it's critical even to the rebuilding side of it. I think, as you're coming out of a season of something like that, maybe you're turning a corner, it's important that the people who are closest to you really understand who you are and maybe how your low point has transformed you or change you or shifted your perspective on things.
J: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and just having those social connections in place, that safety-net emotionally to get through it, like you said. Yeah.
J: Well, let's talk about stages of development. So I'm going to preface this with, you know, we all know that toddlers have… are terribly 2.
J: And I'd like to say that 3 or… if toddlers are terrible, then 3-year-olds are hellish. And I've always had this perception that 5-year-olds or angels because that was just such a great age, and then 13, and all hell breaks loose again, you know? It's so fun to think about these stages.
J: So just tell us what, you know, and what you have observed as you've written your books, and teach us what you thought in the past few years.
K: Yeah. You know, it's been really fun. I think I started out in the world of Education. So as a classroom teacher, I loved teachers. I think some of the best humans on the planet are found in school environments, teaching in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools. And transferred kind of over into this world where I work for a non-profit now, creating resources to help leaders engage with kids and teenagers. And there's something about intersecting somebody's story from birth to 18 that I really do think matters significantly more. I mean, you are stepping into somebody's world as they're forming and growing and developing in a way that really can give them a better future. But it's helpful to know a few things along the way because every year of a kid's life looks a little bit different. And you really, if you're a parent, you only get one chance to know your second grader as a second grader and then they turn into a third grader, and you don't get to know them as a second grader anymore. And so, you know, there's unique things that are great about each phase, there's also unique challenges to each phase. And oftentimes, as parents, we're left wondering, “Hey,” you know, “is this normal? Is this just how it is when they're 13 or is this something that I should be paying special attention to with my kid right now?”
And so we spent 5 years bringing in experts who've worked with kids and teenagers, interviewing them, reading child development books, trying to kind of pull out the bare essentials so that we could turn around and communicate to leaders, “Okay, here's what you need to know about your kid right now in this phase of life.” But most of it is just the opportunity that exists. I think for all of us to acknowledge that there is tremendous opportunity when you engage with a child or a teenager.
J: And the opportunity’s lost with each new phase, is that kind of where you're getting to?
K: You know, that's kind of a distinctive… I think that there is grace in all of this for us. It's easy to get kind of bogged down in development books where you start to feel like… and maybe, I don't know if you can relate to this, but I remember sitting in a child psychology class in my early years and I was listening to the professor and I… I was actually… this was when I was in grad school. And so I was thinking about myself as a parent and thinking, “There is no way that I am not going to screw up my kid.” (Laughs). Like at some point, they're going to be 5 and I'm going to be looking back at all the things I did to them or didn't do when they were 3 and just feel this sense of hopelessness or helplessness. And I think for a lot of parents, you know, you have a 15 year old, a 16 year old, you can look back across years of regrets of things that you wish you'd done maybe differently or better. But the hope of phases is actually that there are unique opportunities regardless of what's come before you. And that, if you begin to see the opportunity or the window that you have with a tenth grader, for example, that opportunity is still there and you can always do something to engage a kid to move them in a better direction.
K: And so I have this belief that guilt has never made anybody a better parent.
K: Guilt just doesn't inspire us to do more or be better. And if we can let go of some of that, I've also found that kids and teenagers tend to be some of the most resilient and forgiving people. And so their ability to forgive what's come before, their ability to be resilient, even in hard times or difficult circumstances, can surprise us. I'm not trying to say that it's not important or that there aren't consequences sometimes, you know, to what's happened in a kid's life. But I do think it's important for us to always look for the opportunity that's in front of us.
J: And so what led you to feel passionate about stages, you know? Did you see a need somewhere or gap where you needed to supply this information? Because I think it's really cool what you're doing, but I want to get by where that came from inside of you.
K: Yeah. So part has started with an illustration that we've kind of used for several years, where we'll tell a parent, when they have a kid, one thing they could do is get a jar and put 936 marbles inside the jar. Part of is just because marbles are beautiful and it looks really cool, but the other side of that is, 936 is the number of weeks that you have with a child from the time they're born until they graduate high school. And then, if you have that visual… and I actually have 3 marble jars in my own home because I have three kids. If you have that visual and you remove a marble every week, it's a reminder that your time with your kid is limited.
K: And I know… like, it's that thing that people say when you're passing in the grocery store. I actually had a stranger stopped me 2 days ago on this street. And literally, I'm walking through the parking lot, they turned around, they stopped me, they like made us made… this moment. I've never met this person before in my life and they're saying, “Hey, your kids are so cute. I remember being exhausted when I was in that stage. But just wait, they grow up so fast, they'll move on.” And every parent's heard that message. But we wanted to be able to say, “Okay, what are older adults trying to say when they stop you and say that? What are they trying to lean in and remind you or… or pass on to you when they make that comment?” And I think it's more than just, “Hey, try to enjoy this season where your toddler is banging their head on the wall because you cut their sandwich wrong and you haven't slept in months,” you know?
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
K: Like it's draining and sometimes you're not going to enjoy all of it. But I think what they're trying to actually communicate to you is, “Hey, you're in a season where you have
tremendous potential and you can make the most of the weeks that you have if you just remember that you have a set number of… you know, of weeks with your kid and there are small things, small deposits you can make in your kid's life that will add up, especially when you begin to view your child holistically,” which is one of the biggest approaches that we take to phase that we often times, because we… we’re so busy, it's hard to know what to prioritize in a kid's life, right? I mean, do you prioritize helping them finish their homework and get good grades? Do you prioritize making sure that they're involved in a sport so that they can develop athletically? Do you prioritize, you know, their health? Do you prioritize..? There's all these different competing priorities. And so we wanted to put on the map that kids are changing in 6 ways; you know, they're changing mentally, they're changing physically, they're changing socially, they're changing relationally, morally. You put all these things in the map and go, “How can we care best for our kids as a whole person about the things that really will matter most when it comes to their future?” And part of that comes with understanding and empathizing with where they are developmentally, and part of that comes with just the routines that you put in place with your child every week.
J: Ah! Yeah. So what would be the most important things we should be doing across all the stages or important things we should have in every routine or in our routines with every child?
K: Yeah, I love that question. We identified 6 things that we think matter in a kid's life. And those things are consistent from birth all the way through 18 and through high school. So the first one of those is really simple, and it's something that everybody kind of knows instinctively, you know, intuitively, but we just say love.
K: Love matters because it's what gives a kid sense of worth. And in the books and the guides that we just released, (we have 18 guides, one for every year of a kid's life) we've identified some ways that you can love your child specifically in the phase that they're in, that connects directly with the primary questions that they're asking developmentally at that stage. But when you give your kid the kind of love that they're looking for at each stage, it does let them know that they're worth something. The second thing that we say that a kid needs are words, and they're words specifically that applied to them in a specific way because words, over time, can change a kid's direction. If you think about your own life, for most of us, there was somewhere along the way that somebody said something to you that changed how you view yourself and how you view your talents, how you view your contribution to the world.
J: Oh, yeah.
K: And so the words that you give have this distinct ability to speak over your child and into your child. You know, things like, “I love to watch the way that you work at that and that you'll never give up,” because you're instilling in your child a direction for their life that they have perseverance, that they can keep trying. The next thing that we say… so there's six things, love, words, then we say stories over time will shape a kid's perspective. And that you engage your kid in stories partly through fiction. I mean, I know every teacher out there is, you know, cheering on and saying, “Yes, that's right. Read to your kids! Read to your kids!” But part of it is the way that you engage them in fictional stories like reading or movies, part of that is the way you've engaged them in your family story and you tell them the story of your history and your heritage and, you know, how you grew up when you were a kid, how your grandparents grew up when they were kids. And you get to be the narrator of your family story. You get to kind of edit out the things you don't want to say.
K: And you get to build in, you know, your own editorial commentary along the way to give your kid a perspective. Another thing that we'd love to talk about, because I think it gets so underplayed in a kid's life, is the value of fun just for the sake of fun. I know, for me, as a parent, I have a hard time sometimes just turning everything off in my adult world and just playing. I’m like one of those people where I have to work really hard at playing.
J: Me too. (Laughs).
K: And my… my middle child, I mean, she's imagination central and so, you know, she always wants me to be a fairy or a mermaid or a… you know? And I'm like… there's times that I'm like, “Oh my goodness, I just don't know if I could do this again,” or, “I don't know what else a mermaid would say right now.” But the value of playing with our kids is so important. And the reason it's important is, it connects us to each other. When you have a rich play history, it does something for you relationally that nothing else really can do. And we met with counselors, read a lot of counseling materials, but there's so much literature out there about the importance of play. And it doesn't get less as a kid gets older. Actually in the teenage years when sometimes the conflicts can be intense, when the disobedience costs you more, it's even more important to get time on the calendar just to have fun with each other, just to enjoy each other, where there's no agenda, you know, you're not going to be talking about whatever it is that might be tension free right now, but just to go, “We're going to play together and like each other for a moment because that connection will give us what we need for the future.”
K: So that's love, words, stories, fun. The next one, kind of the counterbalance, I guess, to fun is work.
K: That every kid at every phase needs a level of challenge, a level of work so that they know that they can do something, so they have, you know, this view of themself that they are a contributor. And so one of the things we did, for example, is outlined all the different jobs that a kid could do on their own at every year of life. So that as a parent, you're like, “Oh, wait, you're old enough to actually make your bed right now. I'm going to have you do that,” just to give you some ideas of the work that your kid can be doing. And, let's see, there's one more, right? Am I down to one?
J: Yep, one left.
K: Love, words, stories, fun, work, and one more and I love when, it actually comes right back to where we started when you were talking about kind of a low point in my own life. And it's this idea of tribes; that every kid at every phase needs to belong somewhere. And that's what tribes do. Tribes, over time, give us belonging. And in the early years of our parenting when we have young kids in the home, we are their primary tribe, but as kids get older, that expands; it goes out to, you know, friends of your family and then, pretty soon, your kids have friends that you don't even know their families, but you have to kind of reinvent a kind of know their tribe. And it's important for us to constantly be learning about our kid’s tribe and finding a place for them to belong, finding a place for them to connect. One of the things that I think is interesting is even that that… that shifts and changes so significantly at every phase, but it's always a value.
J: I love these and I want to put them on my wall; love, words, stories, fun, work, and tribes. Yeah, everyone needs a tribe. (Laughs)
J: So those are important.
K: Yeah, at every phase.
J: Looking at these, a lot of moms listening might immediately feel like, “Ah, but when? How? How do we fit them in?” (Laughs)
J: Give us some practical ideas.
K: Yeah. So one of the reasons we wrote the 18 phase guides was to give you like a really, really, really simple checklist. So actually, for each one of those things, we put like a bullet point checklist of ideas. So when it comes to words, we actually wrote down words that your kid needs to hear at this phase. When it comes to stories, we have a book list of books that have kind of been sourced by educators librarians, experts in the field for this phase. When it comes to, you know, each one of these things, with work, like I said, we have those lists. So some of those, we've kind of collated the best ideas that we could find out there to make it really, really simple. My favorite part about these things is that you're probably already doing them. And so I like having those 6 things; like, I love your idea of putting it somewhere where you can see it. Because, for me as a parent, it wasn't that I wasn't doing those 6 things and that all of a sudden I had to add this to the calendar because there's so much going on, there's so much already on the calendar, but it was just beginning to identify these things so that I could say, “You know what? Today, I am going to go to frozen yogurt and we’re going to be having fun and that is… that's it.” And it has value in and of itself and it just shifted my perspective so that I felt like I was winning sometimes, you know? It wasn't a whole lot more that I had to do, it was just reorganizing my priorities so that I see where I'm winning.
J: Yes. And sometimes just doing it that one time is one of your kids foundational memories from their childhood, because…
J: I have memories of my parents taking us to the lake or planting this garden together. There's just random memories that are always at the top of my mind when I think of my childhood. So I suppose it's just creating a few more positive memories that they're going to draw on for the rest of their lives.
K: Yeah. And one of the things I would say too to that because I love that idea that, it doesn't have to be something that feels significant, and a lot of times, especially if you're a parent of teenagers, sometimes you're creating a moment that they're going to remember for years and years and years to come, even though they may not be letting, you know, in the moment that that's what that is. Like, sometimes I think it feels like you're losing. They may not be talking a lot or they may not seem as engaged, but 2 years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, this will be the moment that they look back on and that they call out and they draw attention to and they tell you that it mattered to them. So a lot of it is just, as a parent, continuing to do those things anyway, even when you don't get a lot of positive reinforcement.
J: Yeah, yeah, that's true. And, you know, one of the easiest ones on the list really, for me, is the words I know. I don't have always the time to give, but I can walk by and just spew out a compliment really fast, and I can tell if they soak it in and like it. Hey, you know, for example, the other night… I'm not bragging on myself, I just have to sometimes celebrate what's going right because, you know, everyone listening is probably feeling guilty.
J: So I would encourage you to do the same, “What are you doing right?” But the other night at the dinner table…
J: … our 12 year old, who is clearly entering some kind of puberty, was just so grumpy and he wanted to argue with everyone. And so there's 6 kids and my husband and I were there, and it can wreck the whole meal for everyone. And so I just looked him in the eye and said, “You know what, Silas? We love you,” and I just stopped and he stopped and the argument was over, and then I gave him a compliment and we went on our way. But those words are really easy.
J: So if you're feeling guilty, just try the words and go from there. (Laughs)
K: Yeah, you know, it's so true. And actually, I have a friend who found a bit of research where it says that, “The average person hears 7 words of criticism for every 1 word of encouragement.”
J: Ugh, that’s terrible!
K: Which I think is… another way to reframe that and go, “You know what? Like, most of us already know what we're bad at, and our kids are the same.” Like, they know where their failures are. And as parents, because we feel the pressure for them to succeed and make it, a lot of times our tendency is to lean in to try to shape their character, you know, make them better people and remind them the thing that they maybe need to improve on. And yet one of the most powerful things we can do is that bit of encouragement to just to go, “I still actually like you,” you know? (Laughs)
K: Like, “I’m still in your corner.”
K: And, “I see potential in you. I see value in you. I see something really great.”
J: I agree. And one time with that, I was trying to figure out what was most important to give my kids (this was several years ago) and I thought back to my own childhood and what I desperately craved; I really felt into my thoughts as a teenager. And I realized the 2 things, the 2 things I wanted, which it's so simple if you boil it down, but it was just love and approval. And really, as adults, that's what we're seeking; we just want someone to validate us and tell us we're okay and tell us we're important.
J: That alone, even if we don't have a lot of time or money, we can sure do it with our words every time we drive and, you know? Oh, but I love what you're doing.
J: Tell us again the name of your books and where we can find them.
K: Yeah, we call them ‘The Phase Guides’. You can go to phaseguides.com and see more about those. They're intended to really… we put together a list of the ways that a kid is changing each year. So it's the ways of changing mentally, physically, socially; so we've got all those kind of bullet pointed out to help you understand your kid better. And then, when we go through the 6 things, it's not only some lists of ideas, but also a few questions for reflection. So we say it's a guide because it's somewhere between a book and a journal. It's more… yeah, it's like just… I don't know; like if you took a book and a journal and you put them together. Because we wanted to say, “Here's what's normal for most kids in this phase,” and then give every parent a place to customize it and personalize this to your kid because we know that you kid is something that you're kind of the expert on. So you get to kind of answer the questions and personalize this and add in, you know, where you see your kid right now and the thing is that you're kind of weighing out in your parenting issue; rediscover them and re-engage with them right now.
J: Hmm, sounds really, really helpful. And to keep it top of mind, “Oh, this is what I can do with a 5 year old,” yeah.
J: That’s at phaseguides.com. Okay.
K: That's right!
J: Let's take a quick break for our sponsor and then we'll come back and talk about a few of your favorite things.
(Interview resumes) [27:09]
J: Alright, welcome back. Kristen, what does your morning routine look like?
K: Well, I wake up at 6:00 in the morning because elementary school starts early and I've got 2 kids and I've got to get out the door. So I wake up, I get them ready, we get out the door. I love our morning commute actually because we get a lot of time to kind of just be together and talk. And so, for me, that's kind of a fun moment. And after that, then I am right headed back into work just start my day.
J: Okay. And what's a favorite easy meal?
K: (Laughs). Takeout, is that…? (Laughs)
J: Yeah. Why not?
K: Am I allowed to say that? (Laughs)
J: Why not? Because you…
J: You didn't list… among your 6 things, you didn't list home-cooked food. So I call it; perfect.
K: I didn’t. Yeah.
J: What is your favorite way to boost your mood on those tricky days?
K: You know, I love to do something for someone else that I don't have to do. There's something about doing something for somebody else when you don't have to do it, when you don't stand… you know, have anything to gain by it that, you know, it just is life-giving.
J: Yeah, I feel that too; just serving, volunteering.
J: What's your favorite book besides your own? You know, what do you like to read for fun?
K: (Laughs). I would not ever say my own. I was a English teacher, I love to read. And, honestly, I love Harry Potter.
J: Mmm, yeah, me too.
K: I think I could read that book all the time. I know it doesn't have any, you know, self-care tips or anything, but it's just one to read.
J: Right, yeah. And the best advice you've ever received.
K: I think the best advice I received was probably from my dad when I was in high school and I had a lot of good opportunities in front of me. And he said, “You're going to have times in life when you have to decide to do the right thing instead of the wrong thing, but more often in life, you'll have to decide to do the best thing out of a list of good options.”
K: And I found that that's true. A lot of times, it's just good or better and you have to prioritize, you have to pick; you can't do them all. But when you evaluate everything else is going on in your life, you sometimes just have to choose the thing that's best.
J: Yeah. And I want to remind our listeners they can find links to your books and those stage guides and everything else you talked about on our show notes page at jenriday.com/97. And let's hear for you, Kristen, what does it mean to be a vibrant happy woman.
K: I think it means that I am doing the things that I feel I was made to do and that I feel like I am being present for the people who are closest to me. If I'm distracted and my attention is drawn out doing work for people that I may never meet or may never know, I feel more drained then when I know that I am still able to be present for the people who I know and love the most.
J: Hmm, I agree 100%; beautiful. Well, let's have a challenge from you to our listeners and then we'll say goodbye.
K: I think a challenge would be… I actually love something you said earlier when you said, “I'm going to pay attention to the thing that I'm doing really well and celebrate it.”
K: That is challenging to me. And I was… I think that's the challenge to say, “Hey, where would you in your own parenting say, ‘I am doing a great job of this,’?” And not in a comparative way because I think it's too easy for us to compare ourselves to other people, and your win may look different than someone else's win.
K: But what is it that you know that you're doing well, and just celebrate that.
J: Yeah. Ooh, I love it! It's a party, ladies, the game is on, celebrate yourself; whoo-hoo!
J: Well, this has been amazing. I can't wait to get my hands on your books. I might buy them one by one so I'm not overwhelmed.
J: But I wish I had started when I started having my kids, but there's always today. Thank you so much for being on the show, Kristen.
K: Thank you for having me.
J: Thank you so much for listening today and be sure to come back next week, I'll be talking with Mary Shores all about conscious communication; communicating with words that have power behind them rather than empty meaningless words that keep us stuck. For example, let's say you want to write a book one day, and you say, “I want to write a book but I'm not a writer.” Well, you're declaring what you want and cutting yourself off through a limiting belief, all in the same sentence. What would happen if you said, “I want to write a book and I am a fantastic phenomenal author,”? You change your whole identity. And we do this all day long, especially in our own heads, but even out loud, we verbalize things that hold us back. So learn how to consciously and mindfully communicate next week in my interview with Mary Shores. I will be back on Thursday with a happy bit, and I hope you make this a phenomenal week. Take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.