Eps 373: The Parent Compass through the teen years with Cindy MuchnickEpisode 373
My guest today is Cindy Muchnick.
Listen in this week as Cindy and I talk about “The Parent Compass” book & movement, a guide for parents on how to pull back & let go through the teen years. Moving from managing everything for your little kids to pulling back & giving your teens the reins can be really hard, but we have to do it. Cindy shares some tips for inviting feedback from your adolescent and why, sometimes, we do want our kids to struggle. I ask Cindy about how to talk to teens and stay solution-focused when they don’t seem to be a good fit or interested in a typical, four-year college path. We end by sharing thoughts on over-tutoring, letter grades, monitoring your teen’s grades, & picking colleges.
Cindy Muchnick, MA, is a graduate of Stanford University and has been working in education for the past 25+ years as a former Assistant Director of College Admission, high school teacher, educational consultant, and author of five other education-related books. Her essays have appeared on Zibby Owens’ Moms Don’t Have Time To Write Medium platform, Your Teen Magazine, College Confidential, Raising Teens Today, The Los Angeles Times, and The Mom Experience, among others. She is also an experienced and always-learning mother of three sons and a daughter, ages 24 (a teacher and graduate student), 21 (in college), 18 (high school senior) and 16 (sophomore). Cindy speaks professionally to parent, student, teacher, and business groups on topics such as study skills, the adolescent journey, college admission, and now the parent compass movement.
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Takeaways from the show
- “The Parent Compass” book & movement
- Moving from manager to consultant during the teen years
- Inviting feedback from your teen
- Staying “fiercely committed & lovingly detached”
- Building resiliency by doing hard things
- Gap years & options outside of four-year colleges
- Conversations when your teen is struggling with academics
- What does “do your best” really mean?
- Over-tutoring, letter grades, & choosing colleges
What does joyful courage mean to you
I think that joyful courage means to keep it light & joyful in perspective. This is life! We need to laugh, we need to hug, love, touch, and feel all the feelings – the joyful ones and the painful ones. But the courage part was so perfect because it’s having the strength to be brave. That’s what we’re asking parents to do in “The Parent Compass.” We are asking you to be brave for the sake of preserving that relationship and for equipping our kids to be ready. You know, they still will call and still ask for advice. I still get, from my 24 year old, laundry questions and food questions. To be brave enough to have the courage to follow this path and try this path, and knowing we’re just doing our best. When you said “doing our best” before, that to me translates as “do your best and achieve the most,” but I’m referring to “doing our best” as, “all we can do is the most we are capable of doing or giving in the moment.” It’s okay to apologize, too, because we’re going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. I love the title of your podcast and am so glad we made the time to have this really neat conversation.
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Cindy Muchnick, Casey O'Roarty
Casey O'Roarty 00:00
Hey all of you out there living with and loving teens and tweens, I'm really excited to let you know that I am offering up everyone's favorite free introductory workshop positive discipline with teens, Tuesday, April 4 from five to 6:30pm PST. In this workshop, you will get the basics of positive discipline and how it looks. As your young people move through adolescence, we'll touch on brain development, move through a few experiential activities, and all of it will help you learn the mindset and the tools for being who your teen needs you to be. Check it out and register now at BS browsable.com/free-workshop. This is a useful and interactive 90 minutes with space at the end for some q&a with me. The workshop will be recorded and shared with everyone who's registered. So go now to be spreadable.com/free-workshop and sign up today. See you April 4.
Casey O'Roarty 01:03
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together. While parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people and when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer space holder coach and the adolescent needed spreadable. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported. Today is an interview and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show. Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. My guest today is Cindy Muchnick. Cindy is a graduate of Stanford University and has been working in education for over 25 years as a former Assistant Director of College admissions, high school teacher, educational consultant and the author of five other education related books. Her essays have appeared on zoobi Owens moms don't have time to write medium platform, your teen magazine college confidential, raising teens today The Los Angeles Times and the mom experience among others. She's also an experienced and always learning mom of three sons and a daughter ages 24 teacher and graduate student 21 In college, 18, icecool, senior and 16, a sophomore in high school. Cindy speaks professionally to parents, students, teachers and business groups on topics such as study skills, the adolescent journey college admissions, and now the parent compass movement. Hi, Cindy, welcome to
Cindy Muchnick 03:31
the show. Thank you for that exciting introduction.
Casey O'Roarty 03:35
It was very exciting. Oh my gosh, you've appeared in a lot of places and you have a lot of children. I well. The old women in the show here or the old woman in the show. What are those ages all accurate today?
Cindy Muchnick 03:47
Those are all current you have. My third one turned 18 Just a couple days ago. So I technically have like three adult children
Casey O'Roarty 03:54
a well come on. We know that 18 does not mean adult. Just as you can vote and buy porn does not mean you're an adult, or join the military. There you go. Anyway, I am so glad that you're here. I mean, we literally were just talking for like almost 20 minutes before I even hit record because this has been a long time coming. It's so exciting to have you on
Cindy Muchnick 04:18
No, we have been trying to connect for such a long time. We've had a couple random postponements here and there but we never gave up. We knew we had to have this conversation today and we can't wait for your listeners to absorb all of our parenting solutions.
Casey O'Roarty 04:32
Right? We know everything. Well, everybody knows that is not the truth. Okay, so the parent compass movement start us off by talking about that. Yes, and what it is and how it came to
Cindy Muchnick 04:47
be? Absolutely. So I am the co author of a new book called The parent compass, navigating your teens wellness and academic journey in today's competitive world and the AI idea for this book was born in March of 2019, when the college admissions scandal rocked our headlines, also known as Operation varsity blues, where parents went bonkers breaking the law, doing all sorts of naughty things in order to try to get their kids into what they thought was a magic elite list of colleges and having worked in educational consulting, which means I worked with teenagers for the last 20 years, helping them through middle school and high school and ultimately culminating in the college admissions process. i And Jen, my co author, were shocked and freaking out. And there was, you know, without repeating history and giving this story more airtime than it deserves, we started to talk about how in both of our practices and meeting with students, we saw students who were really suffering from the wear and tear of being adolescents. This is even pre COVID. And oftentimes, we saw that the behavior of their parents directly influenced or impacted the way that the students were behaving, meaning there were students that couldn't speak for themselves, or make their own appointments, or advocate or answer a question without turning to their parent, or, you know, just we're depressed and anxious and overwhelmed by the process of school. And then there were kids who seem to have figured most of it out. And while we didn't do any direct scientific data research on our pool of students, we did notice that there were these parallels between the way we interacted with the parents, or how they behaved towards us, and what we were seeing in the students. So we sort of said, we need to help parents learn or relearn how to behave better. And honestly, the book began as an etiquette book, to kind of teach parents how to navigate the middle and high school years in appropriate ways, while focusing on the mental health of their teens, and preserving the parenting relationship. What evolved was kind of more than that, and really a book that was meant to kind of guide parents through these years, in often ways that felt counterintuitive and felt uncomfortable for them. Because in order to apply some of these ideas in the parent compass, you have to be really brave. And we can talk more about that. But that's sort of where it was born. The parent compass motto itself, or what the parent cup is stands for, is really a way to check yourself. So your viewers can't really see this, or listeners can't really see this, but you can because we're also on Zoom, which is I'm wearing a necklace that my co author Jen gave me when the book came out. And it's a compass. And I wear it as this tangible reminder to remind me to help stay on the right path, and that I will make mistakes, and I will, you know, blow it at times, but I will try my best to kind of follow the parent compass and what it is that we're trying to do here.
Casey O'Roarty 07:57
Yeah, I love that. I love that tangible. Listen, I have a tattoo that literally says surrender that I got when my daughter was 15. Because I was like, oh my god, I gotta let some stuff go. Yeah, what
Cindy Muchnick 08:09
happens? That's right. So
Casey O'Roarty 08:10
I love reminders like that. So what is the parent compass path in a nutshell, and you wrote a whole book about it. But in a nutshell, that
Cindy Muchnick 08:19
book, basically what we did was we interviewed and surveyed heads of school therapists, fellow authors who worked with teens and tweens, fellow college counselors, both in schools and private counselors, as well. We also interviewed teachers who had their boots on the ground in the classrooms. And our main question was, what do they see parents doing? Well, and what did they see that parents could improve upon. And we use that a bit as like a skeleton to address these ideas that the parent compass movement basically walks you through an approach one approach or multiple approaches, depending on which chapters you pick to try to follow or to try to put into place and again, having different kids with different learning styles or different communication styles, some things will work and some things won't depending even on your kid or on your willingness to try something new. And some parents when they read the book, say, Oh, I'm doing a bunch of those things. That's good. But there's a lot of things that you could also maybe haven't thought of. And so we're teaching parents how not to be helicopter Tiger militaristic, hovering, micromanaging parents, and we're teaching them really kind of how to pull back and why that is so crucial and so important in the journey of their teens as they parent their teens. So we kind of guide parents through this whole process. The book is a relatively quick read. It is not meant to be preachy, it's meant to be accessible, and light, and we use data to support you know what we're talking about from all the experts and research out there. But we also share stories with students who have sat in our offices and stories of mistakes we've made Jen and I have made personally as parents And along the way, and how we've learned to come out the other side of that, too. And the mistakes we still make, that we didn't write about in the book.
Casey O'Roarty 10:07
Yeah, turns out we're humans, parent educators. That's right. They're just like you. Those are all the things that I really appreciate about this book, I love the stories that you include the real life stories. And I really appreciate the symbol of the compass, right? Because, you know, anytime I'm going to speak or present, I use that visual as well, like, where do I want to go? Right? Where do I want to go? And so I love that a compass is a guide. But it also allows for like, a lot of just like fluidity off the path. Yes, fluidity off the path. And, and allows, like you said, we're the experts on our kids. Right? And so anytime there's a resource that is offered as like, here's the buffet, you know, learn some things, check it out, try it on, see what fits, make it yours. And I really feel like this book. Does that. Thank you. Yeah, yeah, thank you. And like, so, you know, about five years ago, I completely niche down and stop talking about like diapers and breastfeeding, and only focused on adolescents, because of my own experience, with venturing into adolescence as a mom and really lacking resources that I loved. And what I have found, and what I talk about with parents is that the teen years are a time to let go, like you said step back shift roles. And that's what you highlight in your book. And so how do you describe beyond that? Like, how would you describe the role, because even as we say that, like I just recently was, my son is a junior, but he's taking classes at the community college where it's like, you know, oh, college, so he should be dealing with all the stuff. But oh, wait, he's 17 years old, and still a junior in high school. And I want to give him space to deal with the things but then I want to show up to so even as we say like, step back let go. It's elusive, right, it's still a little wobbly. That's
Cindy Muchnick 12:11
such a good way of putting it. I love the idea. You know, and we've talked about this before, I mean, our book, instead of having a compass on the front, it has like a maze. So like you hit the walls of the maze, and you bump into things and go the other way, sometimes in the maze, the compass can guide you, but only until you hit a wall. And then you know, Veer back. And it is such a metaphor for life in terms of, you know, we don't get anywhere from a straight line. And unfortunately, the way our kids and the way that the sort of college journey or college path seems to be calculated or map is like, you do this, and then you do this, and then you do this, and then you do this. And then you get this. And that's where you're going from point A to B, C, D. E College, and what are the steps we're taking to get there. But really, the path is so much curvier and nuanced. And, you know, we get off the path, and then we get on the path. And then we've changed the path. And you know, whatever it is. And so, in describing for parents kind of what this looks like, I do like to and we talk about this in the book, I do like to refer back to Mike Rivera, who has written a lot of good books for teens as well, and what he describes in late middle school, as something where, all the way up until middle school, you as a parent, and just like you shifted in your podcast, you are managing everything, you're driving them places, you're making their appointments, you're choosing their activities, for the most part, you're helping them, you're feeding them, you're doing all these things, because they're your kids, and they're minors, and they're not driving and they're a little people. And then by middle school, they start to change as they grow. And as their hormones change. And as they start to kind of start to get a feeling of their independence. And what happens that my career describes is, in middle school, at some point, when you've been the manager for all this time, your child fires you, you get fired. And if you're lucky, and if you've built a good foundation, you get rehired back as the consultant, some people call this like the driver, like you're not the driver anymore, you're the pastor or whatever it is. And I like the consultant versus manager, you know, idea and that kind of that, you know, you are there to be shoulder to shoulder at that point. And you need to be so that they can learn those skills that we want them to have. Because no parent needs to be making their kids doctor's appointments for the rest of their lives and needs to be their alarm clock in the morning and needs to order food for them at the restaurant. I mean, come on, like, you know, let's cut the umbilical cord at some point. So it's hard. It's hard to do because we know more. We've lived longer we have all this wisdom and advice we want to impart on them. But we have to let them explore and we have to let them make the mistakes and we have to let them learn to self advocate and all the things that the parent compass is trying to teach. And in order to do that, it feels really counterintuitive. We have to pull back. So that's hard. And it does take kind of bravery and discipline and even to say ooh, oh, that was too much. Hold on. Let me try that again. And even saying that in front of your kid like I just blew it, erase rewind, yeah, here we go again. And I think that kids when they see as parents that we are working on being a better parent, that we're not pretending that we know everything, even though sometimes we do have to do a little improvisation, certain scenarios to protect our kids, but in the times that aren't, you know, life or death, when we admit to them that we're just trying to do better, they perk up and go, Oh, well, what can I do to help you do better? Like you need me to help you do that? And the answer in our book is yes. Because we created right at the beginning of questionnaire for parents to look backwards. And to really go deep and investigate. How were you raised? How was education treated in your home? What were your parents parenting styles? What do you want to keep from those? And what have you changed from those depending on what you've learned in this generation? What's your spouse or partner's style? And how do they, you know, parents and you know, view things? And are you on the same page in certain ways, or different pages and other ways, et cetera? So you do this deep self examination? And then you say to your teenager, Hey, can I borrow you for five minutes? I'll make you brownies, or let's just turn off the phones for five minutes. And let's sit on that couch because I want you to help me be a better parent. And honestly, they go, Wait, am I being punked?
Casey O'Roarty 16:23
And they listen, what do you want from me. And
Cindy Muchnick 16:24
then you say to them, I'm reading this book, it's parenting book, kind of embarrassing, but I'm trying to do better. And this is for you. And for the whole family. I don't like how much I yell or I don't like how much i Boss or I don't like how I'm being so I'm looking for some new tools to add to my, you know, kit. And there's a student questionnaire. And that's the only time teens are invited into the book, really, although they could read it, I guess, if they want to. And hopefully they'd be like, Yeah, this lady is like, helping Bob, dad read this, you know, this is what I want you to do. So anyway, the kids then get a chance to kind of chime in on questions like, What do you wish your parents knew? Or what do you wish your parents were doing differently? Or what do you think is a great thing about your mom, or dad, or grandparent or whoever's raising you? Or what do you think you would like to see done differently, and there's this opportunity for a dialogue. So you get this conversation where your kid is giving you kind of feedback? And you have this sort of feedback loop that then you process and go, Okay, how can I put some of those things into practice and show them that I respect them as well, it doesn't mean you're giving up all control. It doesn't mean you're not, you know, in charge anymore. However, you want to view it in your life, you're still a parent. Yeah. It's
Casey O'Roarty 17:32
deeply respectful, respectful, so respectful to go to your kids and be like, What do you think? What's your experience of me?
Casey O'Roarty 17:53
I just have to tell you, Cindy, I love that I get to podcast like this with people and read books and connect with other parent educators. Because especially when I'm like, I'm having this experience right now, where it's like, oh, yeah, we're saying the same things. Like I'm so excited for the listeners to hear somebody else, saying the things I say all the time, like, have conversations, pull the curtain, right, right, hold the curtain back, be transparent. Connect with your kiddo.
Cindy Muchnick 18:20
It's so funny that you're saying that because this is by Casey, like, I knew we had to have a conversation like we had to because we are speaking the same language, we might be expressing it differently,
Casey O'Roarty 18:29
totally different metaphors. That's what I love about it. But it's the same message. And What's
Cindy Muchnick 18:35
funnier is, which is kind of weird. And this is not to say everyone needs to go out and hire a private college counselor, but a big reason, a big reason why people do it so that the parent says, I'm working on my relationship with my kids, and I don't want to be writing them about the college process, like, let somebody else do that, you know, let me take that off my plate so that we can do like fun stuff together. And I don't have to worry about the deadlines. And I don't have to hover over them. And I'm not saying like, Oh, go hire someone. Because there's great people within school systems. There's peers that can help. There's older siblings that can help and a lot of students do do it on their own. It's not like you have to shell out you know, a lot of money but I hear over and over again, families I've worked with through the years like you're saying exactly what I said, but they listen to you because it's not coming from me. And same with any coach, right? Do
Casey O'Roarty 19:23
you still do college counseling,
Cindy Muchnick 19:25
I do a very small amount of help with writing just the writing. Okay. Yeah. And my co author has a wonderful full scale college counseling business and where she sees students face to face but she also has a new virtual version that she's launched as well where you can you know, connect with her in a different space but for me yeah, I'm pretty much had been retired since about like 10 years, but I do you know, still read articles and I still do from time to time a little bit of writing consulting for kids but not get
Casey O'Roarty 19:56
that was totally for personal reasons. I asked you that Oh, So, you know, speaking of speaking the same language, and pulling back, one of my favorite mantras that I love to share with parents is to be fiercely committed and lovingly detached, which is easy to do when our kids are, you know, on paper, doing well and following the path. And I was just talking about this with a client like, there is no real timeline, except for the timeline that, like the majority of people tend to fall into. But it's not real. It's just happens to be this common familiar. It's familiar, right? So it's more challenging to sit inside of fiercely committed to you and your well being and how much I love you. And I'm also lovingly detach to how this is all going to play out in the lessons and the mistakes. What do you notice? When we're talking about the parents that sparked you to write this book? When you said a little bit like the over doing it parents? Yeah.
Cindy Muchnick 20:58
So Jan, my co author, I'm going to kind of borrow this comment from her because I think she has said this very, very well, she tells the story. And I think we tell him in the book to have a student that she worked with many years ago who really stuck with her in her mind is just kind of an all around kid who really had it together. But not in a way that was like just like a just, it was like the just right kid like, sort of not overly crazy and zany and freaking out about grades, but like hardworking, and knew how to talk to adults, but also knew how to take feedback and just a really kind of all around well balanced kid. And we do this a lot at the end of working with the students once they kind of graduate and you know, or have picked their colleges is, you know, we hear how they're doing afterwards, or we check in on some of them, or some of them give us updates. Sometimes we never hear from them again until they find us on LinkedIn like 10 years later, and you're like, didn't I work with you? And you're, like, 10 years ago. So anyway, but what Jen did is she asked this student because she just Jen's kids are younger. And she also, you know, feels like these are learning opportunities for her as a parent of like, how do I get a kid to turn out like, these parents clearly did something right? And so that she asked the students, what do you think your parents did, or you know what has happened in your life that sort of made you shaped you into kind of who you are. And she said, My parents made me do hard things. They made me do hard things. And by watching her struggle, and by helping her go through that journey, I mean, she knew her parents loved her, they weren't being like, you know, tough love. It's just, you know, the hard things can start when your kids are tying their shoes, like we watch them stick out their tongue and struggling and tying their shoes is the hardest thing they've ever done. And all we want to do is just tie the darn shoes and get out of the house. But if we watch them, and we encourage them, and we are frustrated with them, and we remind them about the bunny ears and all of that, and then they tie the shoe. Oh my god. Like even if it comes untied a minute later, they tied the shoe. So starting then, if we let them do these hard things, they develop that resilience, they develop that, you know, sense that I can do it without mommy or daddy, you know, being there. And it's very hard to separate that from how much love we feel for them and how fierce it is because of course, we want to fix we want to protect, we want to give her advice, we want to have wisdom. But I tell parents, and my big mantra is you had your turn, we had our turn to be teenagers. It's not our turn anymore. It's not as hard as that is and a lot of the choices our kids make are not the choices we would make now or have made back then. But it's not our turn anymore. So how do we connect with them and appreciate them when they're making these choices that are very different, or they're a very different kind of student than we were or they're a very different kind of communicator than we are. Therein lies the magical question that wild parenting books are written to try to get to some of those answers. And we are a compass does a pretty good job because a lot of counselors and therapists and coaches have said to us, like, I recommend your book to so many parents because I just say read this. Yeah, I'm gonna tell you a lot of things. And then let's work together and talk about some of these things. So
Casey O'Roarty 24:06
yeah, I mean, your book is like there's an assumption around academics and college in your book. Yeah. Right. And, you know, I'm thinking about my listeners, I'm thinking about myself, my own kids, and they're two super different kiddos. My younger one is totally so far as a junior, really college bound, like typical situation. And then my older, dropped out of high school, got her GED, went to trade school, and is just on a completely different path, which was not easy for me to talk about, like, how did your family hold education like, Oh, my God, I was like, what is happening? Right, but I've talked about it a lot on the podcast. I don't need to talk about it today. You know, I would say there is an assumption in your book around like college bound kids, right. And so I'm curious. I'm trusting to that you also recognize that there's like loads of paths that kids can take.
Cindy Muchnick 25:05
Right? So I don't know if you finish the book all the way. No, I know there's a chapter. I'm not putting you on the spot. But the final chapter of the book is alternative routes. Right? Right. Right, right. And we do recommend, first of all, Bravo as a parent, for supporting your kid who chose a different path. And trade school
Casey O'Roarty 25:22
was not perfect in that, but first of all, she's
Cindy Muchnick 25:24
probably going to make much more money, college graduates. So if that's a concern of parents, I would say, hey, check out trade school or don't turn your nose up at bat. The students agenda I've worked with our four year college bound, however, not every sibling in their family is. And I even worked with kids who like their goal was to just go to community college and get a few classes underway. And that's ultimately what they decided to do and then transferred out of that or just got their associate's degree and then went into the workforce, whatever everyone's path is different. So trade school, the military gap years, tech school, internships, immersions, or the working world. There's a lot of other choices out there for kids. And what I've really noticed is a decade ago, if you heard that a kid was going to take a gap year, like the other parents receiving the information and kind of be like, Ooh, Oh, like, you know, I wonder what went wrong? Or wonder what happened? Is it okay, whatever. When you hear people say, Now, I would definitely say post COVID. But even like leading up to COVID, these kids who discovered these Gap Year opportunities, or brought them to their parents, where the parents were like, God, my kid is so stressed out, and so burned out, like they can't go right to college. We celebrate gap years now. Like, it's almost like cruel and unusual punishments for some kids to go straight into college. And sometimes the gap years don't even lead to college after that. But the point is, I think that the flexibility and the awareness, is there much more now for parents than it was. And I think the acceptance and the perception publicly is more open to alternate routes.
Casey O'Roarty 27:02
Well, I think that we all think like that for everybody else's kids. I think that when it's sitting down at our table, yeah, it is much more difficult to stay in that mindset. That was my experience. I thought I was the most laid back like, right kid centered, you know, but then dropping out of high school showed up and I was like, Wait, whoa, that wasn't a slam on your book. I love it. It's like that. And I love that there. Is that chapter on those alternative routes, too. I didn't know that I'd forgot. That's okay. Don't worry, don't worry. But I do have a question. Because, you know, I would love to know how to put the parent compass into practice for parents who have those kids who don't seem in their perspective, right. From the parents point of view, kids aren't putting in the effort in school, or missing assignments or getting bad grades, right? What do you advise, as conversations to have
Cindy Muchnick 27:56
her? That's hard, right, that's hard no matter what, that's hard when your kid seems a little bit different than the mainstream when it comes to getting through school. Or if you have a kid that's in, let's say, like, for sake of comparison, the lowest 20% of the class instead of the, you know, the rest of the 80%, right? Or a kid who really does struggle in school. And maybe there's other things behind it, whether it's learning challenges, or whether it's mental health stuff, or who knows what the reasons are just boredom, or burnout, or all the things that have happened since COVID, are just online learning, for example, is a perfect example of how many kids just that just shattered. Yeah, cool experience. And for others, it was like, Oh, my God, this is kind of almost a dream come true. Like, I actually have to go back now and get dressed and shower, and you know, whatever. But so that being said, if you are a parent of a kid who really is struggling academically, to me, my first thing is like, the communication is obviously key, and sometimes really hard to have. But to have those open conversations of, let's figure out what's going on and where things are coming from, and what can I do to support you? So is it teacher driven? Is it you're in the wrong classes? Is it that there are some learning challenges that maybe we want to evaluate that and do a little bit of educational testing, not because there's anything wrong with you, but because maybe that will help us connect the dots better. And obviously, to partner with your kids school, whether it's through their counseling office, or through their study skills center or Learning Center, whatever it might be. So that's part of it would be to kind of be solution focused in that way. And as a parent, I do think at whatever age this might happen, because kids all blossom and bloom, and some of their issues come out at different stages in life. So you don't even know like maybe it was no issue in middle school, but suddenly, it's an issue in the jump to high school or maybe just to jump to junior and senior year. You don't know when these things might show up, or what might be the triggers for them. But what I would say the other pieces is even through that whole difficult space and difficult situation. There are things your kids like there is at least one class or one teacher that They do like, I mean, there almost has to be by definition, because you can even if it is the art teacher, or the health teacher, or the coach or whatever, there has to be an adult somewhere in that environment. And of course, somewhere in that environment that they like the best, even if they say they like none of them. And I always say it's really interesting as a parent to hook in and say, like, I think this is such an interesting conversation to have, but like, so like, kind of rank your teachers from like, who you connect with the most to maybe the least this year. And then let's go through the classes themselves, like which ones are you the most excited about and which ones are a drag. And a lot of times kids love a subject, but a teacher that they don't click with in that particular year kind of ruins it for them? Yeah, or my daughter, for example, who has never been a Science Kid suddenly is like, turned on by this one teacher. And the reason is because of the way he lights up the classroom and makes it exciting and interesting. And I could not believe coming out of her mouth were anything scientific. Now, she's not going to go on to be a scientist, I don't think, right, this teacher, she said, I'm going to take whatever he teach us next year, I don't care what it is. So kids can get excited. And if you can find out, just give me one. And let's focus on that as your positive. So that's the highlight of your day at school, whether it's that teacher or that class, or that experience, it could even be an extracurricular, it gives a sense of hope, in my view that like you're saying, this is a good thing, how can we maybe make more things like this, it might not be totally possible. But looking into that, and then knowing like, how can we add more to this, like, if English is your thing, junior and senior year, you can take a second English class, and you can drop the math that's been plaguing you for forever, or you can take my daughter wants to take us history this summer, she finished take it in five weeks. And then she doesn't have to take it her whole junior year, because she can have an extra free period. So that's important to her, she wants that extra free period to either hang out with a friend or go get extra help or take a nap at the library. I don't know. But she wants that. And so if that means she's figured out that she can go to summer school, it's kind of great. Not everyone wants to go to summer school, I certainly wouldn't want to do more academics in the summer, but she hasn't a plan. And that would work for what her goal is. So to me, it's like those kids that are struggling, like try to get to the root of it in a way by not making them feel like they're a failure in some way. And let them know that you love them unconditionally. Like you're totally here for them, to support them. And if you can come up with any stories even made up about your own struggles. Academically, they brings you right back to that same kind of level that even playing field when you say, Oh, I hated when this happened in my math class, I totally know how you feel, or oh my god, I remember when I flunked this thing, and I shouldn't have flunked it. But the substitute teacher was there and it ruined it, whatever the story is, try to create a parallel for you guys. I don't know if that's helpful or not. But I mean, that's hard. That's hard stuff.
Casey O'Roarty 33:07
While and it's interesting, as I'm thinking about the conversation of kids who are struggling, I'm also thinking about the word struggle, and how subjective it can be right? When Mike I heard somebody, it might have been Dr. Becky, I don't know who it was that said this. But around, well, I just want them and you'll hear parents say this all the time, including myself, I just want them to do their best. Which like really means, like, perfection, like if you're doing your best, all your assignments or in all of your grades are good, you study the right way to get there. I mean, it's like it's funny and like struggling, you know, because I have some clients whose kids aren't, you know, just basically not living up to what they hope they'd be living up to. Right. Like, and I'm there too. I literally send a text to my kid yesterday. And I was like, hey, just checked on your grades, you know, like, curious about, you know, a couple of missing assignments. And also I wrote, I'm like, also really aware that I'm not the one in high school right now you are so just wanting you to think about like, what you want colleges to see on your application. And now I'm going to zip it right. So I'm like, one foot in one foot out of it. But
Cindy Muchnick 34:19
I think that's good. Like I actually like think that's a healthier approach than storming in and saying what's going on with you? Right? Like,
Casey O'Roarty 34:27
you know, you can't do anything until all of these assignments are complete.
Cindy Muchnick 34:31
Yeah, I mean, I'm so lazy fair that I don't even like know how to log it. I wouldn't even know the password to looking at any of that stuff.
Casey O'Roarty 34:38
I'm pretty good. I don't look too often.
Cindy Muchnick 34:40
I don't know how I feel about all that much. Way too much information.
Casey O'Roarty 34:44
We get way too much. Like remember
Cindy Muchnick 34:45
when we were kids, they got the paper report card that came in the mail. Yeah, that sometimes the kids will look into the mailbox before there. Yeah, and themselves a few more weeks where the parents like didn't really get the report cards, you know, and they're trying to sweat to figure Got what they're gonna tell you or whatever it is. Yeah. But anyway, with all that being said, Yes, I think this is, you know, a complicated area. And this is an area that sometimes I mean, it is okay to ask for help and it is okay to do some investigating. And I think the key is first you partner with your team, and then you partner with the school or with other support if that's needed, what I don't like what I can't stand and we wrote pages and pages in the book about it is this whole over tutoring thing that's going on? Yeah, we're tutoring is become this extracurricular activity. Like after school kids are going to tutoring centers to have someone help them do with all their homework, like what happened there. Like, I have nothing against tutors, but a tutor to me is like, kind of the last resort, like you've got the teacher to go to, you've got the peer center to go to you've got an older sibling or a friend, as an older sibling that can help. You've got opportunities to go into help meetings, like tutorials, or whatever the school has created to provide that support. Before you just say, oh, we'll just get a tutor on every subject to help us through. It's like, what happens when the tutor is not there? Or the tutor goes away? Or the kid just feels like no, these tutors, no offense to them because I've tutored in years past but the tutors also feel a sense sometimes of will the kid has to do well, in order for the parents to be happy with the tutor send them the tutors are like doing work for what like sometimes doing the stuff for the kids. And then it's like, then the kid gets to the test and they don't know how to do this stuff.
Casey O'Roarty 36:22
Yeah, well, and I wonder too, like, just the idea that if they're not getting an A, like if a kid is like, you know, I'm fine C's and B's. Like somehow that's a character flaw. I
Cindy Muchnick 36:35
know, we posted that like a B for one student is a celebration of B for another student feels like a failure. Right? Yeah, like where did like where did like B's and C's become taboo? Right? Like, right? And why is it that you know, A's are kind of all that's expected or hoped for or dreamed for, like, if that's what you're doing your best years ago really to try to educate the what I call 80% of students that are in schools, not the top 20%. Academically, who, in my opinion, just haven't figured out, they're wired, they actually self motivated, whatever, so forget them. But I worked
Casey O'Roarty 37:13
out quit patting yourself on the back parents, you just came out that way. That's right. But I
Cindy Muchnick 37:18
worked with so many kids who were kind of in the middle and the lower third. And their self esteem was so low, they were sort of like that I'm just like a BNC student tell me what college is like will take me. And I would say well, like tell me a little bit about your study skills and tell me what you're doing this and that. And I was one of the you know, very motivated ones. And they would tell me things and I'd say Well, do you know that? Like, where do you sit in your class? You know, wherever they assign us and like, do you know you could sit up closed, and that makes a really big difference? Like you can get your seat moved? Or you can ask to be moved? And just say you can't see very well? Or did you know that like building a relationship with your teachers is really important. Do you know how to do that? Or what that looks like? It's not just about this or that, but whatever. And did you know that like extra credit like exists in certain classes where you just ask for it and why it's so important that you do it to just give yourself that extra like insurance cushion when grade 10 comes around, because it shows your effort and demonstrates this and that. So I go through this stuff, and I was telling all these kids and they're like, they're like, oh, okay, okay. And then suddenly, I'm like, why am I just telling this one kid whose parents is paying or paying me a lot of money? Let me tell everyone. And so I wrote this book called The everything guide to study skills. It was this everything book, it's still out, came out in like 2016. And it's in those stacks, like the dummies guides, everything guides. It's not it walks every kid through like, do you want to know what those 20% of kids are doing? It's all right here. Yeah, this is everything that you don't have to do at all. And some of it might not be your thing. And you may not see yourself as a student. But there are things you could do if you want to just differently to kind of take the C to a B minus or take the B minus to a B plus, you know, like, there are things but you can't make your kids do it. Right. I mean, it's just kind of up to them. How important is that to them? And if they're like, yeah, like I'm good with my B's, and C's, let's come up with that college list. There are 4000 colleges in the country, KC
Casey O'Roarty 39:06
4000. Everybody can go to college, everybody
Cindy Muchnick 39:09
gets to go. Most of them, most of them the majority. And I wish I had the more exact number I want to say 80% of them, except more than 75% of the applicants mean like, yeah, it's not that hard to go to college. It's just we've made it into this competition and this frenzy for as only a specialist of schools that we think is the magic answer. And yeah, that's what parents can do is ignore US News and World Report. You know, use those rankings if they want. It's just a way to familiarize yourself with schools. And maybe yeah, sure, pick a couple fantasy schools if you want but like don't focus on that focus on fit, focus on, you know, schools that people haven't maybe heard of. And don't feel like you have to make excuses for your kids of why they go to a school that Maybe nobody's heard of like that first when the parents like my kid goes to blind In school, when the receiving parents is like, Oh, look, where is that? Oh, it's in blah, blah, blah, blah. And here's why they chose it. Because better than and they feel like they need to make an excuse about it. Instead of just like proudly wearing the sweatshirt, or wherever your kid goes, Yeah, wearing, you know, like, well, and
Casey O'Roarty 40:15
I really appreciate, I think that what you're saying is so important, because I think that there is in the community that I hold of parents, there is this idea that there is this overwhelming sense of urgency, and this idea that if their kids are struggling, which, by the way, the struggle is where life skill is developed, right? Oh, yeah, the struggle is the gift. And so whatever struggle we're talking about, like making it through, whether it's mental health, whether it's substance use, whether it's schools, like whatever the storyline of struggle for your kid is, is growing and developing them and giving them an opportunity to grow and develop in a really valuable way. If we say out of the way, that's right, which isn't like abandoning, but if we can not make it about, I will make you do something different. Right. Right. Because then then forget it, then you've lost Yeah, forget it. And so yeah, I just really appreciate what you said. And like, here are like this, is it right? This is the consultant, here are some things you can do. If you want to, right, bring that up, if that's important to you, because if it's not important to you, yeah, you know, then, okay.
Cindy Muchnick 41:36
It's not important to you, it's not your value. I
Casey O'Roarty 41:38
mean, if it's important to me, as the parent, I get to do some like inner work around that, because I already had my chant,
Cindy Muchnick 41:44
we have a good chapter that Jen took the lead on, on goal setting, and on, you know, yeah, for your kids to set their own goals. And it's actually interesting as a parent to see the goals they set and then to create, it really walks you through how to set goals, and then how to create like measurable objectives to meet those goals, right? Yeah, well, is I want to become a better reader, then the measurable objectives are, I'm going to try to read one book a week, I'm going to try to listen to a literary podcast once a month, and I'm going to try to get involved in my local library. So those would be like three measurable objectives. And then as time goes on, is that helping you become a better reader? No, because I'm not really listening to the podcast, but yes, I'm involved in the library or whatever. And then you can rewrite those measurable objectives. And when kids really see their goals, like written down, and that they're a concrete, you know, just the act of writing, it is half of it's sort of a concrete goal that you can set, then those objectives become, like simple steps that you can take to try to get there. And another thing that you said, which I thought was kind of interesting about the kind of idea of pulling back, which I think is, does feel counterintuitive, and it feels hard. And that's why we say following a parent compass, you know, requires bravery. And it requires a village, it requires finding a few like minded parents, who are on the journey with you that you're not competing with that do know and care about your kids too. And that feel in a similar way, because most of the parents out there are either like hiding half of their fear, or they're, you know, preaching all this stuff, that doesn't make sense to you. And you just have to kind of smile and nod and say, I'm not going to take that advice, right. So finding that that sense of community can be very comforting, and finding like minded parents or like minded podcasts to listen to, or, you know, whatever it is, that gives you as a parent, some comfort that, okay, I'm not alone in doing this. And I feel really lucky, because just yesterday, someone put a book review on Amazon, which these book reviews crazily mean so much to authors, and it was a verified purchase. So it's somebody who
Casey O'Roarty 43:42
bought the book, real person, but
Cindy Muchnick 43:45
a real person, it's not a friend that's changed, or whatever it is. And they wrote that they felt so comforted in knowing that it's okay to not, you know, push your kid, it gave them permission to kind of step back and say, I think what I'm doing is actually okay, and I don't have to push them for X, Y, and Z in order to achieve a, b, and c, because that's me projecting myself onto them. Instead, I can just enjoy this journey, we have to gather and laugh at some of the mistakes we make and some of the failures that they make. And at least a demore, who, you know, has written under pressure and untangle that who we all you know, adore as a guru. She talks about one thing you mentioned earlier, which was, you know, we're not here to eliminate anxiety, right? Like the science tells us that some anxiety is good. It gives us the adrenaline it gives us the, you know, the courage, even if we sweat and even if we breathe deeply and read, you know, short breaths or whatever to conquer, like the fight or flight fears or to approach the exam or the things that kind of make us panic. The anxiety isn't something like, oh, let's just get rid of all of it. And so we're again, if we're eliminating all the discomfort, then we're also not giving them some discomfort, which is good for us. It actually is good to have that discussion. because that makes you have the courage to speak in front of the class or it makes you have the courage to go up and talk to your teacher and disagree or ask a question if you're shy, or whatever it is. So I think that's kind of another thing to keep aware of. I don't know, Casey, let's just solve all the problems.
Casey O'Roarty 45:15
I know. Well, Cindy, I know, I know. Now I know what happens when the two of us get on Zoom. I know, I know,
Cindy Muchnick 45:22
this might we might have to do this. Again, we have a part two,
Casey O'Roarty 45:25
oh, my gosh, I know for sure. Because I have so many other places that I want to take you. And I want to go with you. And time is running out. So okay, so we've covered a lot. And there's more one day to cover more of and listeners, the parent compass, navigating your teens wellness and academic journey in today's competitive worlds by Cindy, much Nick and Jen Curtis is available in all the places. And before we get to where they can find you and follow you. Yeah, out in the world. I want to ask my last question, which I always ask to. Okay. Yes. Which is, in the context of the parent compass. What does joyful courage mean to you?
Cindy Muchnick 46:10
Okay, so I kind of knew you were going to ask me this question. So I had to think about it, because I didn't think I could do it on the spot.
Casey O'Roarty 46:19
So Oh, good job you prepared? Love it.
Cindy Muchnick 46:22
I did prepare, because I thought this was such a unique question. And I like to ask sometimes at the end of those podcasts, you know, like the Charlie Rose asks, like, those quick takes on things, you know, so my answer to that, in light of the parent compass is, I think that joyful courage means, you know, to keep it light and joyful in perspective, okay? Like, this is life, we need to laugh, we need to hug and love and touch and, and feel, feel all the feelings, the joyful ones, and the, you know, the painful ones. But the courage part was so perfect, because it's having the strength to be brave. And that is what we're asking parents to do in the parent compass, we are asking you to be brave for the sake of preserving that relationship and for equipping our kids to be ready. And you know, they still will call, they still will ask advice I still get from my 20 ready enough laundry questions. Good question. But you know, to be brave enough to have the courage to kind of follow this path and try this path. And knowing we're just doing our best, right. I mean, when you say doing your best before, that, to me translates is like do your best and achieve the most, I'm referring to doing our best is like, all we can do is kind of the most we're capable of doing or capable of giving. And in that moment at the marae and we know that for ourselves and and it's okay to apologize to because we're gonna make a lot of mistakes along the way. So anyway, love the title of your podcast, and I'm so glad we made the time to have this really neat.
Casey O'Roarty 47:57
Yay, me too. Where can people find you follow easy to
Cindy Muchnick 48:01
find? We're parent compass book.com on the internet, www. And we are at parent compass on Instagram. And we are the parent compass on Facebook and we're even our name Cindy Muchnick and Jen Curtis on LinkedIn if you're a LinkedIn kind of person, and we love connecting with readers, so reach out to us if you have a book club will pop in on Zoom. We'd love doing that. And if you have any schools that you want us to come speak at or you know, want your business to have a little parent compass, induction ceremony, whatever. I love to get out there and spread the parent compass gospel.
Casey O'Roarty 48:37
Love it. Oh my gosh, this was so fun. Thanks so much. Thank you
Cindy Muchnick 48:41
so much, Casey.
Casey O'Roarty 48:49
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at B sprout apple.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday. Peace