Parenting is a wild and confusing trip — to put it mildly. So this week we’re learning how to teach our kids the ins and outs of how to be decent, responsible, adult people with help from writer Catherine Newman. Catherine is the author of multiple books for both kids and adults, including Waiting for Birdy, Catastrophic Happiness, and One Mixed-Up Night. Her latest book is How to Be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn Before You’re Grown Up.
Listen in to hear Catherine talk with fellow parents Editor-in-Chief Alice Bradley and Parenting Editor Meghan Walbert about her own experiences of raising her two kids, why it’s important to have your kids see you doing the work, and how to get defiant children interested in her book.
Highlights from this week’s episode
On how we sometimes miss opportunities to teach our kids important life skills:
I think we incorrectly assume that [kids] kind of get it the way they get language, by osmosis. But I think it’s funny, I was talking to Asha Dornfest and she had this really awesome description of the pandemic moment, which I appreciated so much. She feels like because everyone’s been home all the time, the veil has been pulled aside and kids can actually see how a household runs. And she feels like sort of by accident, we’ve been concealing it from our kids. Like everything happens when they’re in school or while they’re sleeping or, you know, whatever. And now we’re just home doing the things like, in fact, the laundry gets done this way on this day. And cleaning the bathroom, you’d usually be at school, whatever it is. And I really love that because it made me feel like not only do kids not always know how to do this stuff, they don’t even know it’s happening.
On the importance of teaching our boys life skills in the same way we teach girls:
[T]here was just a recent study that men don’t do that much more housework now than our fathers did, and I find that kind of dismaying. And we know that that makes women’s lives harder, and we know that contributes to various kinds of workplace disparities…I do feel like we don’t want boys to just be like, “oh, we have no idea how this happens,” you know?…So I feel like we have to compensate a little bit for that by making sure that the boys know it. I mean not teach it differently, but just make sure the expectation is there.
On the culture of helpfulness within her own family:
[I]n my family — and I’m not putting us out as a model because there’s so much that’s a problem. That said, the culture is kind of like anyone will help you with anything when you need help…I mean, there are things that people do routinely taking out the trash or recycling, that kind of stuff. But the flavour’s very, “oh, my God, I just dropped a gallon jug of milk. Can someone help me mop?” And someone will. And I feel like my kids are totally helpful. And I don’t wait till I’m annoyed to ask, you know what I mean? Like, that vibe’s not a nagging vibe. It’s just a like, “oh, my God, I’m drowning. Help me vibe.” And they just do. And that’s nice, I think.
Catherine Newman’s Upgrade of the Week: the Ally Facemask pattern.
Listeners and readers can get Catherine’s book, How to Be a Person, here for 20% off by using the code PERSON at checkout.
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