The Art of Manliness – The Self-Driven Child

  • Rates of anxiety and depression are up among school-aged children and teens 
  • Bill Stixurd is a clinical neuropsychologist and Ned Johnson is a college test prep coach
The Self-Driven Child
  • As a clinical psychologist, Bill has noticed quite an increase in anxiety and depressive disorders
  • Ned, as a test prep coach, has observed many students who are extremely stressed about high school
  • “You can’t become truly self motivated in a healthy way, unless you have a sense of autonomy over your own life” – Bill
  • “A certain amount of stress is good, but too much stress is distress” – Ned
Anxiety and Depression
  • A lack of a sense of control, is one of the major drivers of these high rates of anxiety and depression for kids
    • Compared to young people 20-30 years ago, the feeling of a loss of control has sky rocketed
    • Our culture has this idea that there’s a very narrow path to success – achieved only by doing well in school.
    • “It feels like, to a lot of people, that all great things in life – a great home, spouse, vacation, etc. – all results from how we do academically” 
      • “We know this isn’t true, there are so many paths that someone can take to find success” – Ned
  • Sleep deprivation also accelerates feelings of anxiety and depression
    • “The proper way to success, is to work hard and rest hard”
    • Our culture prides itself on a lack of sleep, which needs to stop
  • Check out Has the Smart Phone Destroyed a Generation? – The Atlantic
  • For more on anxiety, check out these Podcast Notes on how to better deal with anxiety
The Locus of Control
  • The prefrontal cortex regulates the amygdala
    • Roles of the prefrontal cortex – planning, logical thinking
    • Roles of the amygdala – the brain’s threat detection system
    • Some kids are born more prone to stress – their amygdala is much more sensitive to signs of threat, due to a lack of control by the prefrontal cortex
    • To further the development of the prefrontal cortex, we have to allow our kids to make choices….even if they’re dumb choices
  • The problem – parents like to feel in control, and derive much of their social image by how well their son/daughter is doing in life
    • By always being in control – you’re hindering your child’s ability to develop their own sense of control
  • Many kids are terrified of making a mistake, because they’ve never made one
    • It’s important to instill a sense of the “It’s okay to make a mistake” mindset into our children – we need to give them confidence that even if they do make a mistake, they’ll be able to deal with it
  • “Experience is the best teacher”
  • “Kids often make as good of a decision as the parents would make” – so let them
  • Part of the reason kids have so little control of their lives – they don’t play as much anymore, all their time is structured
  • Kids who have never been forced to make choices for themselves before, are thrown to the wolves in college – leading to higher instances of anxiety and depression
    • “Don’t send your kids to college unless they’ve demonstrated for 6 months that they can run their own life”
  • Stop making every decision for your kid
    • If it helps – give them choices, instead of total free reign
  • “If you want someone to do well at something, you have to be comfortable with them doing it poorly first. That’s how we learn.”
  • The most effective parenting style is, authoritative, as opposed to authoritarian or laissez faire
    • This means you set limits, but also negotiate more with your children
    • You’re still very much involved in their life
    • You should almost see yourself as a consultant, rather than a parent
  • Instead of saying something along the lines of “Shouldn’t you be doing your homework?”, say, “Would you like help with your homework?” – it puts the decision on them
  • How do you instill intrinsic motivation in your kids?
    • Hold family meetings, and talk about things
    • Give kids a choice of how they contribute to the family, as opposed to making them do a certain type of chore
  • Let your kids experience stressful situations – don’t steer them away from them
    • That’s how we develop resilience
  • Another effective parenting strategy – think out loud
    • Talk to your kids about situations you are going through, and how you’re dealing with them
Kids and Downtime
  • The world is so fast paced, and everyone is so busy. When we’re not busy, we find something to focus our attention on – it’s a real problem.
    • The default mode network (DMN) in the brain is activated when we’re not doing anything else
      • The DMN is essentially the ego 
    • “We don’t allow ourselves enough time, to just sit with our thoughts, to think stuff through and figure out our place in the world” – This is incredibly important in order to develop a sense of who you truly are
    • Kids are never bored nowadays
  • If kids want to perform better, the single most important thing they can do, is get more sleep
  • Set rules for your family
    • No digital devices at meal time
    • Charge your phone in the kitchen or living room, not the bed room
    • Don’t use a cell phone as an alarm clock – use an actual alarm clock
    • Have scheduled family time, where no one is distracted by a cell phone