Dr. Dana Dorfman is here today, and we’re talking all about parental anxiety. We talk on how it’s ingrained in us that education, achievement, and productivity are so important, which makes us anxious parents. We talk about how adolescents are dealing with a lot of stuff we didn’t – active shooter drills, the pandemic, constant social media & news. The pressure on our teens is real and accelerated, but there’s also some hope & inspiration there. Dr. Dorfman shares about her 8 parent anxiety reaction types and how we can use that info to do better.
Dr. Dana Dorfman, MSW, PhD, is a New York City based psychotherapist with 30 years experience treating adolescents and parents in her private practice, schools, and agency settings.
As a passionate advocate of adolescent mental health, she is a lecturer and consultant for parenting centers, schools, and corporations.
Dr. Dorfman resides in NYC with her husband, her teenage daughter and son, and their beloved dog, Winnicott. WHEN WORRY WORKS is her first book.
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Takeaways from the show
- Dr. Dana Dorfman’s new book: When Worry Works
- Parental anxiety
- Generational divides & what adolescents are dealing with today
- Not letting our narrative get in the way of our teen’s path
- Achievement pressure
- 8 parent anxiety reaction types
- When & how our anxiety can be helpful
- Defining your values
What does joyful courage mean to you
I love this question, and I wish I had a more creative response! I think that it takes a lot of courage to be able to take a step back and look at yourself and to approach yourself with compassion, and I think that joy emerges from that. We can see the value of any kind of parenting experience when we can look at ourselves and understand ourselves and appreciate the context in which we arrived where we have (not that we ever fully arrive). I think there’s something about self-awareness with compassion.
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Casey O'Roarty, Dr.Danna Dorfman
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 favourite 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 01:01
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 sprout double. 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, I am so excited to introduce you to this week's guest on the pod. I get to talk to Dr. Danna Dorfman and Dr. Dorfman is a New York City based psychotherapist with 30 years of experience treating adolescents. Thank God for you, and parents in her private practice schools and agency settings as a passionate advocate of adolescent mental health. She is a lecturer and consultant for parents, centres, schools and corporations. Dr. Dorfman resides in New York City with her husband, her two teenagers, right. They're both teens love that. And their beloved dog when it got when worry works is her first book. So hi, I'm so excited Dr. Dorfman to have you on the pie.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 03:11
Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.
Casey O'Roarty 03:14
I mean, we were just talking before I hit record about how much we love talking to people who see things through the same lens and get excited about these topics. I love that you specialise in adolescent mental health, I can't tell you how many parents I support and work with who are looking for help for their kids. And just the waitlists are so long, or they end up with someone who's not useful. And I just really appreciate anyone who's stepping into that arena and supporting our teenagers because they need it now more than ever. So thank you for your work.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 03:49
It is my pleasure. It really is. It's a privilege to do this kind of work. I think I don't take it lightly. You know, I don't take it for granted. I think it's a privilege to have people entrust you with their most shameful and private selves, you know, so
Casey O'Roarty 04:07
yeah, their inner world. Yeah, yeah, for sure. For sure. I definitely feel that privilege just in my coaching relationships that I have with clients, big time, like we're holding their souls, you know, with tenderness and love and compassion. What drew you to working with teenagers and adolescents?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 04:25
I was originally trained to work with children. I've always been really interested in human development and personality development. And so naturally kind of learning to work with children really kind of solidified that. And then I think that when I started my career, I was much younger, obviously. And I think in many ways, I appealed to adolescents at that time because I was older than they were but younger than their parents. So I think that there was like a simpatico or something that happened and then by virtue
Dr.Danna Dorfman 05:00
of developing an expertise with adolescents than I just kind of continued as such, but I must say that I guess as I became a parent, also, I probably became more interested in the parenting element of that duo.
Casey O'Roarty 05:17
Yeah, well, for me, you know, I started facilitating positive discipline classes. That's what I'm trained in, when my kids were young, like under the age of five, and just kept progressing. And really, I felt at the time, like I would every once in awhile, I would have some parents of teenagers in my class. But I was always really aware of the fact that you don't know what you don't know until you're in it. And then you really know. And so, as my kids became teenagers, my whole foundation was shook, honestly, because I was like, and I've talked about this before on the podcast, just like holy shit, what does positive discipline like in this context? Like, have I been duped what's going on. And so I'm curious, we have similar age kids, your daughter's 21, and your son 17. How has having adolescence of your own in your home influenced your work?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 06:18
It has absolutely influenced my work, I would say that, especially as I was writing this book, and I think that it is natural to be much more judgmental of anyone who is in a life stage outside of ourselves. And I think about it a lot, even when I was working with newer parents, and I did many new mothers groups at some point in my career, and how many parents would say, you know, I promised myself that I was not going to do A, B, and C, or, you know, when I had children, I'm going to do blah, blah, blah. And then we realised that the reality is so much more nuanced. It's so much more complex. And so I think that I became much less judgmental, and much more nuanced, even in my thinking that as much as I prided myself on not being a binary thinker, I think I really had to kind of extend my continuum as I raised my own kids. And undoubtedly, it's influenced me as a person. It's absolutely, as you have said many times on your podcast to that it's humbling, it's humbling to have adolescents who are looking at you and trying to identify what the hypocrisy is, are and sort of, in their critical thinking, which we very much want to be developed, it also gets applied to us. And that can feel they hold up a mirror to us, that can sometimes be a really, I say, shameful I don't know,
Casey O'Roarty 07:51
shameful, painful. I mean, it doesn't feel good. I think there's some of us that see the mirror and recognise it as an opportunity, right? And then I think there's other people that just aren't really there yet. And it's more of like, How dare you wonder you make me feel this way? Right. And like Project projects for Jack? So yes. Oh, my gosh, my husband teases me he's like, so when our kids are like in their early 20s, are you going to be the expert on having kids? You are? I'm like, probably, I mean, I'm just kind of following along. And noticing too, like, my experience was, as I was moving through some really, really hard teen years, I couldn't find the resources that I needed. Not that there weren't resources, you know, go to Barnes and Noble. There's a billion books on teens and adolescents. But conversations that were messy. And like you said that were nuanced, real, raw, like I wanted to consume that content. I was like, it'd be great. If there was a formula, maybe there is a formula, where is the formula? You know, there's a collective experience of adolescence, right and development. But then there's all these unique flavours and layers and experiences and relationships that kind of, you know, make it so formulaic thinking around how we're going to raise our teens isn't necessarily useful. So anyway, yes. All that to say, I'm so excited about your new book. I'm so excited to preach it to parents and to tell the world like get your hands on this book. I'm hopeful that my membership can do a book study around it and that you'll come and hang out with us, but we'll talk about that later.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 09:37
We could geek out yes, because
Casey O'Roarty 09:39
it's all around you listeners, I'm telling you it's centred around parental anxiety in the context of achievement pressure. So talk a little bit about that and why it was a topic that you felt called to write about.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 09:54
I would say I'm still trying to kind of condense like my own kind of origin story because that Have to was so multilayered. But I would say that it kind of comes from three different places, I have been working as a therapist in New York City, which is a hotbed of achievement and high achievement and competition for decades at this point, and I was seeing the upward trend in anxiety and depression among my adolescent patients, and they were from families that were highly privileged, many of them and very loving, well intended, high achieving families. And these were kids who were checking the boxes, they were high achieving kids, and had resumes that, you know, many people aspire to. However, they were the kids who were anxious and depressed, and feeling lost, and soulless, and disaffected and disconnected from themselves. And so I knew that there was some kind of a disconnect between the parents intentions of wanting their kids to be happy and successful and fulfilled in life, and what I was seeing in my office, additionally, I was raising two kids in New York City and could really appreciate in that nuanced way, the complexities of wanting kids to achieve and also trying to find the balance or how to integrate in their mental health and their mental well being into achievement, because it seemed as though the two were more separate in their presentation. And lastly, and probably why I kind of had a particular attunement to this is because of my own history, as under achiever that I was really curious, interested kid who, around middle school or so kind of bowed out of school, like remained in school, at least physically, but I just didn't do any work. I really underachieved I almost didn't graduate from high school, much to my parents dismay, and for somebody who wanted to learn and was curious, but I was not applying any of that, or was unable to apply any of that, to my achievement, was the source of, you know, great pain for me. And also curiosity, I just sort of wanted to understand, how did I get to be this way, you know, so, I have always had kind of an interest in achievement, and the interplay of emotions, in academia and in learning and in motivation. And so I did deep deep dive into it, yeah.
Casey O'Roarty 12:55
Well, and I'm thinking to, as I listen to you, about all the different family systems that exist, culturally, like just demographically how things look. And there's such a variety, I mean, your patients, like you mentioned, come from a lot of affluent families. But I'm also thinking about, you know, single parent families where like, this is the ticket out, you got it, this is the path, this is what you got to do, or even, you know, families of colour, where it's like, if you want to catch up, if you want to be the person in the room, you know, and all of the layers that come from all the different scenarios. I mean, I'm similar to you, where as I came from a high achieving family, I came from a family where education equaled value. And something that I thought, sorry, listeners, I talk about this all the time, but I'm going to talk about it again. You know, for me, it was like, Oh, I'm not going to be like that, I'm going to value my whole kid, I'm gonna make sure that they know that they are valuable regardless, right, and then come 11th grade with my daughter, who completely fell apart and dropped out. And I was completely confronted by this conditioning that I thought I had let go of, when in fact it was or just waiting for the opportunity to be like, Oh, no, no, no, Casey, this is not your value. This is your value, which was actually not a value, it was just conditioning, you know, disguised as something that I was like, basically freaking out about, right, because how can your future possibly play out in an optimal way? You know, and like I mentioned before we hit record, to her credit, my daughter knew what she needed, and dragged me along. But it's just so fascinating, all the nuances that bring us to this place because I do have clients. You know, I talked to the parents and whether it's, they're not getting their homework done, or they don't care about school or debt, or Yeah, I get that our relationships Courtney, I get that I get that, and I don't care. You know, this is what I love to like, we don't care what their grades are, we just want to know that they're doing their best. Right? When, ultimately, and I fall into it, too, I'm like, it seems really easy. So I don't understand why you're not getting XYZ grade. And then I'm like, Ah, what am I doing?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 15:21
Yes, yes, what trap Have I fallen into, and it is part of such an ingrained belief system that we have. And certainly, I am not anti achievement, I am just sort of pro achieving, applying yourself toward the things that excite you and interest you, you know, and cultivate you. And so I can appreciate, though, so much of the time, kind of the mixed messages that I offer my kids, despite my writing a book about it, despite my having gone through my own therapy, you know, really dug deep into this topic, yet. We are also in a world that really revered achievement and productivity. And as the pressures and as the complexities of the world intensify, I think that we feel that much more anxious about the future, because we all know that the future is uncertain. And so we look for certain kinds of anchors or markers or guarantees, like at least we know, if she has, you know, a high school degree, at least we know, she'll be able to dot dot dot. And so
Casey O'Roarty 16:31
as if like, it's such an illusion, it is great. Yes, yes,
Dr.Danna Dorfman 16:35
our generation is really conditioned. I mean, previous generations were, as well. But it's interesting, because actually, the books somehow or other has been released, despite it not having been released yet. Like I don't have any copies of it. But some people who have pre ordered the book have gotten it. And my mom was one of those people that she called last night and said, You know, I was reading your book. And, you know, she was very complimentary, and knew how long and hard I had been working on it. But she said, she
Casey O'Roarty 17:05
says, Good job, you achieved it,
Dr.Danna Dorfman 17:08
kind of you I'm kind of like, wait a second here, is this a bashing of me. And she said, I can't tell you what she had only gotten like, halfway through. But she said how much I identified with those moms, the moms that I used in certain parents, in certain scenarios, were trying to get their kids to do what they thought they should be doing. And she said, this kind of parenting is very hard for me to relate to like sort of what I was espousing, or what you perceive that I was, she said, it wasn't even within our consciousness to think about doing it. And I really, really appreciate and try to describe to her, you know, how much I understand from where she came, and why she believed what she believed in. There were many socio cultural generational factors and scientific that contribute to each generation has kind of general parenting style. And she said, and I still think that it's important. And I said, I do too. I grew up in
Casey O'Roarty 18:08
your house. Yeah, yeah. Right. Because we kind of got our feet in both places, like we've got one foot in and understanding our parents were like, everything you just mentioned, all the things, all the conditioning, the environmental influence that found them where they were parenting, the best they could with the tools they had. And then we've got that like, in our bones, right, because we lived with it. And then we've got the other foot in this. You know, I mean, there's a lot of terminology that I don't love. But to me, it's basically a more relationship centred approach of being with our kids. It's actually a hard thing to straddle, right? Because it's like this old conversation, some of you are listening, and you're like, Yeah, I'm over the old conversation. I'm good, great. Congratulations. It is still very present for me. It shows up, it sneaks in, right? And I'm also constantly in that leaning in and choosing into okay, how can I come at this through a relational place? Right? How can I let go of this old idea of carrot and stick? Or, you know, what I heard was, you cannot be a successful human being without a college degree. Right? Or you cannot be a successful human being if you ever smoke or if you get a tattoo or like that was pretty much the reigning argument was like only successful human beings. Look this one way. Versus tell me more about what's going on for you. Tell me about what you want. Tell me about your vision for the future. Right. I mean, my kids are, I'm an AW, right. I'm an associate with my oldest right now because she's really in this transition into young adulthood and seeing She can do anything she wants. Right? And she's teaching me it can look so many different ways. And I think back to that fear that I had deep real fear when we were in the gauntlet with her, and how, like none of the things that I was afraid of have played out, right. And to be able to tell parents and some of you that are listening, I know that you're here, the fear and the struggle right now is temporary, it's going to morph, it's going to change, your kids are going to mature, it's going to look different. I can't promise how it's going to learn. Everything is temporary.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 20:27
I hope my mother listens to this at some point,
Casey O'Roarty 20:29
too. We love our mother loves her mother. Appreciate and our step mothers, I have a stepfather.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 20:38
Yeah, she was even saying we had such a defined sense of right and wrong. She said, our goal was to get you to comply, like to behave to adhere to what the rules were. And you know, she's a child of the 50s. That's certainly like, where the world was. And so they were trying to, you know, get us in line and kind of fit us into I know, you talk a lot about like boxes. And I think even now, you know, as my parents have six grandchildren, and all of whom are either adolescent or young adult, and has been very involved in everyone's lives and their wonderful grandparents, we have many conversations about even like, you know, gender fluidity and language, and they are very liberal people. And even then they're just like, I just don't get this, like, How could there be so many people who don't know what gender they are? Their whole paradigm has been called into question. And in order to accept some of these elements of it, it would require almost it feels like or the fear is that you have to deconstruct or dismantle the entire paradigm in order to understand or avail yourself to some of these new expansive ideas. So I find that very intriguing to the generational shifts, or even just sort of the changing of ideas or expanding of ideas, kind of how change happens in cultures and societies and systems. I mean, our kids are really holding up the mirror to the systems that we accepted never even occurred to me to question, you know, it was the way it was.
Casey O'Roarty 22:20
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, and that's our privileges white women, too. Right. I think part of that is our privilege for sure is, and the other thing too, I think, and I wonder, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I feel like, for a long time, you know, there's that Oh, teenagers like Ira Oh, you know, teenagers, they think they know it all? Or, you know, it's the same as what was like for us. And I just want to stand for this generation of kids that are coming of age, with, you know, I keep finding myself saying like, Are you kidding me? Active shooter drills and crazy freakin government leaders and the pandemic, which that wasn't something that can happen, like, there's so much extra, you know, and then I'm like, Well, I was talking to a girlfriend of mine. And I was like, Well imagine being a parent. And like, 1967, you find out that your 17 year old is like, doing acid and like, they're hippies. And they're doing all the things like, the jarring nature of that. I mean, it's like, yes, there's been definite critical times in history where the generational divide is so different, but I just I do I feel like we've got to we cannot dismiss what the world has been like, you know, for these kids that are coming of age, it is different. It's social media, like computers in your pocket continuous news, like, Yeah, I mean, no wonder they're anxious, and we're anxious. And we're
Dr.Danna Dorfman 23:47
anxious. I think that the magnitude of it because I do think that every generation, like, as we understand even adolescent development, the beauty of them from an evolutionary standpoint, and why their brain is wired, the way that it is, is so that they leave their cave, the cave, yes. And that they look around, and that they start to develop and improve upon the previous generations sort of take with them what they like or agree with, and then try to improve upon it. And I think that there is an innate resistance to, you know, to change certainly, and the more mired we become in a certain kind of thought or belief system, then I think, sort of what I was describing before, like, the fear of having to dismantle an entire paradigm is much more jarring and frightening if we start to so I think that that is always the case. You know, certainly we see it with music and you know, the parents are notorious for not liking their adolescence music. However, this generation, I completely agree with you. This is a whole other scale of pressure and also it is so accelerated. I think that that is part of what makes it especially it's like we are inundated with information at all the time, it is accessible to all of us, like, I talk about it with my friends too, like I was really, I knew current events, kind of sort of like, you know, it was something that my parents worried about. And if the news was on, or I were to venture to a newspaper, which I didn't do very much, I was clueless about the issues of the world, and even learning about it in school, which I also didn't pay much attention to. But it was irrelevant to me. I mean, just once again, a total place of privilege. Anyway, but now, it is so inescapable. I mean, both of my kids were so aware, you know, during certain presidencies, I think that that informed a lot of their like their own life goals, and we live in Brooklyn, there were protests going on right in front of our window. There is such a questioning of so many systems, in addition to the fact that it is just coming at us all the time, from all directions, and it's fast, and our brains are not built, wired, capable of keeping up with it. But even a developing brain of an adolescent, it's like putting on weight, too much weight, you know, on a dumbbell for somebody who's never lifted weight before. It's just impossible.
Casey O'Roarty 26:28
Yes, that's a great visual. Yeah. And I wonder though, too, as I listened to you talk about that, we are going to swing back into your book, because it's all related, we've taken a left turn, and I love it. But I wonder, too, you know, the pendulum swing, right, like, I wonder, too, if all of these breakdowns are exactly what's needed for a new generation of leadership, to be nurtured, and grown, and show up, meaning, like, the leaders that are part of Gen Z right now that maybe haven't been actualized as leaders yet. What they are doing is they're observing, and they're participating, and they're pulling back and leaning in, and they're having this experience that is informing them and inspiring them to be ready. You know, because it's all crumbling, like, so many things are falling apart, that need to fall apart. And in that fall apart, we've got to have people who can be scaffolding for that, and be the ones that have the voice. And the wherewithal and the understanding of the critical moments that we are in will continue to be in and so I wonder, too, while it's easy, easy to talk, like that's a shitshow out there. Yes. And, you know, somebody was telling me about a taxi driver that she had one time who had this prophetic, and let's see if I can remember the statement, he said, you know, something like, we can't know what's wrong, if we don't see the wound, and I feel like the wounds are so in our face right now. Which is a good thing, even as it's painful and scary. And, you know, it's radical to think about Holy cow, we're going to dismantle, like, can we dismantle the school system, please, and get it together? But oh, my gosh, I don't know what that looks like. I don't know how long that's gonna take. What are we gonna do with the kids in the meantime, like, all of that is true. But I think that our kids are moving through this time, some of them in preparation to actually be the leaders that say, I have an idea. I know what this can look like. And so in the meantime, their parents are full of anxiety. So Oh, yeah, that's. So in your book, you talk about the parent anxiety reaction types, which I love. It's this whole section where you've kind of identified eight different archetypes of parental anxiety. So here's where I find myself, I am a blend of the avoider and the corrector with a wee bit of the crowd pleaser. So I really do trust in everything is temporary. I trust that we're all here on a journey. I trust that I get to like stay in my lane and be parallel and have my own journey while my child is growing and developing through the highs through the lows through the pain in the suffering. I feel like all of that becomes threads in the tapestry. That is their life. I also have very clear things that I don't want to repeat. So this is more of the corrector like I know, even though they show up, right, but I'm really clear on I'm not going to place all of their value on this academic conversation. You know, I want to do better I want to do different and I can find anxiety in like, Oh God, my son plays basketball. On one of his teammates is like, you know, he's a senior and he's graduating, he has a 4.0. And he has so much stress because he's trying to keep up this 4.0. And I'm thinking to myself, like, my kid could give a shit about four point knows, and I'm glad about that. But I'm also like, should he care a lot, you know, like, it's that crowd pleaser POS in that comparison is also kind of peeking in. So we you share a little bit about how you created the parent anxiety, reaction types and what they are. And yeah, talk a little bit about how we can use them as information to support us in just awareness and doing better.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 30:37
Sure, I'm so glad that you even identified sort of where you fall, sort of among the different types. And I think that everybody will see parts of themselves in the different parts. But we usually do have a predominant word dominant part. But I was noticing as I was kind of watching the themes and patterns, and was looking a little bit more closely at what was emerging in the dynamics of the families that I was working with. And I did see that there were sort of very specific kind of trends as to how people were managing the anxiety that they had, that they weren't even necessarily identifying as anxiety, they were sort of styles of problem solving, or approaching parenting and things. So once I kind of distil down that I thought that anxiety was one of the dominant propellers behind these certain kinds of parenting behaviours, especially when parents were conflicted about something that that like that they felt when they weren't sure what to do, which happens to us on the Daily in the throes of the conflict, they felt more anxious, and then became more reactive to the anxiety than responsive to their team. And so yes, I really wanted to figure out a way to get parents to sort of recognise when they're anxious, and then be able to almost like, either suspend it or channel it, the more aware, you know, knowledge is power, it's your real proponent of self awareness to. So the more aware a parent can be of kind of when they are anxious than the better equipped, they are to be able to direct their energies in an intentional way, like sort of really what it is that they want, as opposed to what it is that they're afraid of happening. And so, you know, in psychology, there are different defences. And so I was realising also that there are kind of, you know, defence mechanisms that all of us use, that our psyches use in an effort to protect ourselves. And a lot of times, that is also to manage anxiety. And I was also realising that each of the different styles were also kind of mirroring different defences. So I also kind of was able to use that as a theoretical thread. Anxiety can be helpful and anxiety can be harmful. And we oftentimes hear more about the harmful side than the helpful side. But we all have styles of managing our own anxiety. And we have pretty developed styles by the time we become parents. And so a lot of times too, we use that style, whatever has worked for us in the past, for our children, and a lot of times we impose it on them, because that is the right way to do things. So also, if parents can know how it is helpful to have that style of anxiety, they can also channel it kind of in what I was describing before, rather than react to it.
Casey O'Roarty 33:44
Yeah, yeah. Well, and it's interesting. So there's eight. What do we call these styles?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 33:50
Yeah, parts parent anxiety reaction types part. Yep. So there's
Casey O'Roarty 33:53
eight parts. So there's the sculptor, the game show contestant. I just liked the title of that one. I was like, ooh, I wonder if that's the crowd pleaser, the avoider, the clairvoyant, the shepherd, the corrector and the replicator, where do you fall?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 34:11
I am a character through and through. I think that because so much of my identity, and so much of what I struggled with was this kind of over emphasis on grades and achieve not even achievement. It was really like the concrete markers of achievement like grades and school status and rankings and GPAs that I pushed up against pushed up against Thank you very much. You're like, similar to what you're describing that I was really determined kind of not to emphasise these things. And to really emphasise learning and development and growth and emotions and learning your own learning style. You know, I had all of these sort Have, which I'm sure sounds flowery to some people. But I really was intent on that. And I think in many ways, my kids have really internalised those messages. And my I kind of proselytised enough to my husband that he to like, sort of drink my kool aid, but actually didn't take that much, because I think he was raised very similarly, and sort of saw the drawbacks of it. And I think what happened was, is that I ended up over correcting to that there were times so I was so intent on not emphasising grades, and really ignoring to some degree, some of these quantifiable metrics that my kids felt like I was really insensitive to the world that they live in, you know, and my daughter, she said, one point, she was in this gifted and talented school where kids were, it was highly competitive. And I was de emphasising grades, and she said, you know, all you care about is if I'm a good person, and I was somewhat pleased, but I also the blatant message was like, You don't understand kind of my world and where I am, and like for you to act like this is that you're above this or something is really insensitive or an empathic to me and the world that I live in, and thanks, because I probably went overboard. And my, you know, that doesn't matter to me, you know, kind of
Casey O'Roarty 36:23
Yeah, I definitely resonate with that, as well. And I wonder, too, because as I'm listening, I think, and I want to say, all of these styles, and you've already said it, I want to reiterate it, we all find ourselves in these places, there's no like, oh, and we should all work towards being this one thing, because it's better than the rest, or not being any of them because they're all negative. Like there's really some positives, negatives, like you said, how do we use it? Versus how do we let it get in our way. And I also want to say, because I noticed this in some of the parents that I work with, there's this idea that, okay, you know, I might hold in my mind that I want my kids to, you know, achieve certain things and, you know, and follow the path, right, the path that I've deemed as the most successful path. But I also might be listening and thinking like, Okay, I'm not going to focus on that I'm going to follow through, I'm gonna do what Casey says and lean into relationship. And that's the right way to get them to stay on the path that I ultimately want them to stay on. Right? Like, there's this idea that it's just another like, it's a reframe of outcome. It's such a big reframe. And sometimes, you know, we have kids that are achievers, and they have their vision is top of class, elite college, you know, pre med, whatever. There are those kids that exist. I'm guessing I don't have one. But I'm guessing there are those kids that exist? And guess what? It's not because of their parents. Right? And then there's the kids that might be on that track because of the unhealthy pressure of their families. Yes. I feel sorry for those kids. And then there's, you know, the rest of us who it's like, you get to decide what this looks like and what we get to keep having conversations around. You know, what do you want? What's important to you? Is it important that you don't go to summer school this summer? Do you not want to go to summer school this summer? Okay, what do you need to do to make sure that you can avoid that? Or is it important to you to walk with your class through graduation? Okay, great. What do you need to do to make sure that you can make that happen for yourself? And in the meantime, yes, celebrating who they are, and what's exciting for them and recognising when our own narrative, or condition narrative is kind of peeking its head out and getting in the way. I mean, I don't know I just I'm really thinking about people who are like, Okay, I want to be relationship centred, and I want my kid to go to Harvard. Can both of those things exist? How do I make both of those things? Like, what do you hear in that?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 39:10
I hear that the way to be in relation with somebody else is to as you have said, I feel like I'm sort of feeding back to you things that you've already said in previous podcasts, although I guess we could always be okay.
Casey O'Roarty 39:25
We can say a man
Dr.Danna Dorfman 39:27
may even say it similarly. But, you know, anytime we want to be in relationship with someone else, we have to acknowledge where they are and meet them. They're like, sort of yanking someone in our in the direction that we want them to go, while they may follow is only going to make them repress or ignore parts of themselves. And so the more that we can kind of respect their inner lives and bring it out in some kind of way. The more they will be related to, and sort of develop a relationship with themselves so that they are able to tune into what it is that makes them feel good, what makes them thrive, what makes them you know, get into flow, and if that is studying medicine and science, like have added, so yes, you can have a relationship with your pre med student. But if that is the only condition on which you are getting any worth reflected back to you, that's problematic. So I don't know if that completely captures kind of the web of issues that I would want to address in it. But like, I want to encourage achievement in the way that like, it sounds like your daughter is absolutely achieving like it is achieving in accordance with who she is, what her needs are, what she wants, how she's developed, like, I was thinking about it this morning, I don't know why some random free association, I was thinking like, if the world were based on like being good at soccer, like there would be many people who would feel like failures that don't world kind of thing. And so it seems as though, if the human brain is so multifaceted, and individuals are so highly idiosyncratic, and so highly individual, then how could we even say that Harvard is the goal? For most people, you know, we're an IV even prestige? Who's to say, it just seems like it just doesn't make sense. Yeah.
Casey O'Roarty 41:45
And, you know, well, you have one that's been through the college process, and our boys are getting there. And, you know, I find myself some anxiety showing up thinking about the college application process and the fact that, like, how he looks on paper, right? How are kids look on paper, and I'm hearing parents in the back of my mind talking about like, Okay, well, you know, all these other things, which I'm a huge proponent of, and find them to be way more valuable than their grade and algebra, but all of these other things, there's nowhere to reflect those social emotional skills, you know, those characteristics that I value? Well over the GPA, there's nowhere to display that for somebody who's like, do we want this kid? Do we not want this kid and, and I'm thinking about your daughter to like your don't ignore the context of what our kids are living inside of, but also, as I listened to you don't allow it to be the driver? Yes. So I guess it's that kind of like both and
Dr.Danna Dorfman 42:51
yes, it is ability. And and I think that also, I'm hopeful that or optimistic that maybe even some of our perspectives about our kids futures, are even kind of shifting or expanding also, so that, yeah, like a college application is not the be all end all have kind of like a kid's future or future potential. And I think that also, or at least, higher education institutions are all also kind of supporting the idea they want to know sort of who would kid is holistically. So if a kid is showing strengths in certain areas, but an algebra get to see, it seems as though first of all, like the whole GPA thing is a little bit questionable. But also, yeah, so it could very well be this kid who wants to become a journalist, it doesn't really matter if she or he is get to see in, you know, while that doesn't mean like, throw it out completely, or whatever, but it does. It's sort of the idea that kids are, you know, have a job after school are showing initiative in some other way, have a sense of who they are, who are they in the community at school, their community outside of school. And I think that those can be reflected in ways that are very, seemingly you don't have to fly your kid to Cambodia for some kind of, you know, service project to prove there, that they are compassionate, like being the babysitter of the building, that everyone wants to go to shows a hell of a lot more compassion, as far as you know, unless they're doing college, but
Casey O'Roarty 44:27
their college application
Dr.Danna Dorfman 44:28
Yeah, it's just it's so detracts from the richness of an experience. Once we say like, yeah, we'll look good for college. Because if you're sort of going down a path of like, I want you to be whatever your values are, but if your values are like, I want you to just kind of go off to one tangent, I'm sorry. Okay, do it. I was on the phone just yesterday with a mom of two teenagers also who is an Ivy League attorney who has internationally recognised and really has the credentials of I was going to say who my parents would think are very impressive. And so you know, when I, my
Casey O'Roarty 45:08
parents are already impressed, they don't even know. Oh, no.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 45:11
And then I was impressed also. And interestingly, she was saying how she is really challenged because she and her husband were both Ivy League educated, they have a son, who is a teenager who doesn't, who is a musician and really wants to become a musician. And of course, she said, like, it takes every bit of strength for me not to kind of convey my disappointment, she said, We never thought that we would have, we just assumed we would have a kid who would have a similar kind of mind and desire to us. And she said, I just don't understand this whole thing, you know, a more creative mind. And my point, was it that was not only her disappointment, and so she said, You know, I just want him to show some initiative, I want him to show some discipline, I want him to dedicate himself to something I want for him to really invest himself in something. And as we were talking a little bit more, she said, Well, he loves horseback riding. And then actually, he goes to the barn on his own over the weekend to help out with there's no expectation that he does it. But he just goes because he really, he feels like he wants to help out bla bla bla. And as she's describing this kid who is not only see a musician, but he's also shown and demonstrated, like, such tremendous, not only character growth, but also certain things where certain skills had been challenging for him. And he just persevered. And really try. He was determined to be able to if I knew anything about horseback riding
Casey O'Roarty 46:45
Dr.Danna Dorfman 46:46
jump or whatever. And then he really worked toward it. And so I said to her, like, it sounds to me like he's actually doing what you're describing that you want for him to be able to do. And that those are transferable skills, the ability to work, yes, something the ability to find pleasure of being able to develop some mastery and competence and agency. So not necessarily, you know, when I wasn't trying to kind of espouse, like, futures of being equestrian, it was just more like, this is what it is that you're valuing. And this is what you want. He is he's doing. Yeah,
Casey O'Roarty 47:25
it's there. It exists.
Dr.Danna Dorfman 47:26
Casey O'Roarty 47:27
Yes. Yeah, I think that's such an important story. You know, such an important point to leave people with is, you know, and you do this, in your book, you talk about this, and working from our place of value parenting from our place of what is it that we value, and for all of you out there that are just feeling a little bit lost, and not sure how to support your kids. You know, I would encourage you, like, make a list. And you can add to this to Dr. Dorfman. But make your list of values and look through those lenses, at the ways that those values are coming to life. I think we can have a narrow lens for that. But just like your story shared, we can expand our lens and see those values being developed. Right? And development probably not mastered none of us can claim mastery, I don't think so what else would you encourage parents to do just as we're coming off of the call, regardless of which of the type of anxiety, anxiety or parent they are? What would you leave parents with right now to help them shift out of that place of fear and into that place of value so as to be who their teen really needs them to be?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 48:39
I would say, just to piggyback on what you already introduced is that the more that you can identify what it is that is truly important to you the values by which you live your life, not what you think you should because a lot of times we have ideals that we think we ought to live by, but what is most important to us, and what we value most, that can also operate a little bit like a mission statement. So that you can always use that as your north star whenever you are in the throes of having to make some kind of decision and not quite sure what direction to go. That at least you can use that as kind of like your GPS. And it's easy to say values and we know what we value but there is great value to even looking at a list of values. There is one in the book and there certainly get them online as well. Yeah, even to highlight those three or four things that are of greatest importance to you in your life and or in parenting. I would hope that to align and then figure out a creative way that you can also apply that or see how it is applied to whatever it is that you're struggling with. Whatever dilemma you're struggling with. And I think that the more that you can isolate your values and your anxieties that you can make sure that the anxiety is not what is driving the bus and that the values are kind of in the driver's seat. It sounds much more simplistic. I have used it so many times in my own parenting when my husband and I are really kind of deliberating about something like, Well, what is it that is most important to us? And then kind of using that as the guide to how we should make the decision?
Casey O'Roarty 50:28
Yeah, yeah. So good. Oh, my gosh. And it's a daily practice, everyone. Oh, yeah, momentum, we love to talk about that here. It's a practice, we get to step into that practice. And when we let that anxiety get the better of us, we also get to, you know, work towards making things right. And coming back to that practice of value driven parenting, I really like that. So my final question that I asked my guests, as you know, because you listen is What does joyful courage mean to you?
Dr.Danna Dorfman 51:02
I think it that I love this question. Of course, I wish that I also had a more creative response. But I think that it takes a lot of courage to be able to kind of take a step back and look at yourself, and to approach yourself with compassion. And I think that joy kind of emerges from that, that we can see the value of any kind of parenting experience, when we can sort of look at ourselves and understand ourselves and even appreciate the context in which we arrive where we have not ever fully arrived. So I think that there's something about sort of, like self awareness with compassion as a practice. Yeah.
Casey O'Roarty 51:48
Oh, I love that. Thank you. Where can people find you and follow your work and get your book. So the book,
Dr.Danna Dorfman 51:55
you can order it on any website, any place where books are sold, and also, you can order the book on my website, which is Dr. Danna dorfman.com. And you can also go on my website if you want to take the quiz, which is actually kind of fun. And I think an opportunity to be able to reflect a little bit on the ways that maybe we're operating and anxiety is rearing itself unknowingly.
Casey O'Roarty 52:23
So the quiz is to figure out which archetype Yes, I'm just going to use the word art. Yes, that's fine. Which style which anxiety, okay. And then I'll make sure the links in the show notes every way. Yeah. Thank you. That
Dr.Danna Dorfman 52:35
would be great.
Casey O'Roarty 52:36
Well, thank you. This was really fun. It was fun to get to know you. And I mean, I could talk to you for another three hours, I'm sure. So we'll have to do this again. But thank you for your time. Thank you for your work. I really appreciate you This was fun. Thank
Dr.Danna Dorfman 52:50
you. Thank you so much. This was great. Thank you
Casey O'Roarty 53:01
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 beasts brought audible.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday. Peace