Reframing our Thinking about School and Schooling, with Cathy Kawakami

Casey: Welcome to the Parenting Teens with Positive Discipline audio summit, I am your host, Casey O'Roarty, certified positive discipline trainer, coach and founder of Joyful Courage. This audio summit is designed to dig into the principles of holding the foundation of positive discipline while navigating the very real and messy experience of being a guide for our teenagers.


Special thank you to Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott, authors of Positive Discipline for Teenagers and the Positive Discipline Association whose mission it is to create a peaceful world by teaching Adlerian social and emotional life skills for respectful relationships. All the guests you will hear on this audio summit have extensive knowledge in positive discipline and have or are currently raising teenagers themselves. Thank you for listening and be sure to join us in the Joyful Courage Parents of Teens Facebook group for more discussion about this particular interview.  


My guest today is my friend Cathy Kawakami. Cathy is a lead trainer with the Positive Discipline Association and the owner of Middle Ground Parenting based in San Jose, California. She is passionate about sharing positive relationship building skills with schools, families and communities. She has over 10 years of experience offering professional development parent training and specializes in early childhood and parent participation in schools. Hi, Cathy, thanks so much for being part of the summit.  


Cathy: Hi Casey, thanks for having me.


Casey: Can you tell the listeners a little bit about your experience with parenting through the teen years?


Cathy: Sure, I am currently a mother of a 15 year old daughter and an 18 year old daughter, my oldest just turned 18 which has been a whole world of change for us, kind of, and just realization getting to the end of the teen years, but not the end of the parenting years.


Casey: Right.


Cathy: Yes, so, it's, you know, been a journey, I've been fortunate to have found Positive Discipline, you know, early on in my parenting years but it is really paying off in how our relationship is with our daughters now teenagers, for sure.


Casey: So is your oldest a senior?


Cathy: She is, she will be going through the college application stage right now and just. kind of a little bit in that waiting zone so, you know, a lot of the stuff is still very fresh for me, you know, about her schooling and things like is, you know, we're seeing that going to come to its arc as far as the college thing goes.


Cathy:And then your youngest daughter, she, what is a senior in high school now.


Casey: The oldest and the youngest is.


Cathy: My youngest is a freshman.


Casey: Got it. OK.


Cathy: So high schoolers.


Casey: Right, oh man, so when I talk to parents of teens in the Joyful Courage Community, one of the things that comes up and that came up when they I told them about "Hey, I want to do this summit and I want to highlight what the biggest, you know, kind of touch points are for you, school shows up" and there was a lot. It wasn't just, like, homework, it was, like, what you're going through college prep and you know, the traditional model and structure of school versus more alternative settings, the pressure around performance, when to step in, when to let it go and there's just, there's so much ground to cover, right, there are so many different things that show up for parents around school and I think you and I both have, I mean, I'm still, you know, my daughter's only in 10th grade but you and I have both had some similar paths as far as like "Oh this isn't a fit. OK. We'll go the nontraditional route a little bit, here, right?"


Cathy: Yes, both my daughters, you know, even though they're both in high school, they go to two different schools because it was really about finding that right fit and I think you know, personally, as a parent, we have actually had to try a lot of different situations for my older daughter that did, you know, those challenges that we experience when she first got into high school in her freshman year and it was not a good fit immediately. And we had to try another school that didn't work out and then when we got to the thirrd school that was a great fit and has been fine since, but we learned from that experience so when it came time for my younger daughter to go to high school, you know, we had a lot more knowledge, fortunately, that we were able to use to really hone in on what would be the right choice for her and really having that conversation with her. A lot of time her older sister was definitely able to help share some of the things that did not work for her so that I think my younger daughter was definitely able to make more informed decisions and we were all able to work together toward, you know, what our actual was for education.


Casey: Yeah, right and that's, I think, so key, right, what's the actual goal?


Cathy: Yes, I think that is, you know, because sometimes when you're going from the junior high to high school transition they don't totally know and I have my ideas, a lot of my ideas were based on my past experience so it really had to transfer though, you know, what is life like for teenagers now and what is school like?


Casey: Yeah and what do they want?


Cathy: Right.


Casey: Yeah, I mean, that is big for me because when I and I, you know, it's definitely something I've bumped up against and I've talked about it on the podcast and a little bit in other conversations on the summit that, you know, I had this fairytale high school experience I was just, I mean, I'm still really close friends with, you know, a lot of people from high school and we just had the best time and it was totally positive and so I want, I noticed like this longing, I want my kids to have this, like, fantastic high school experience and you know, slogging through freshman year that clearly was not happening and it wasn't really even something that she, it wasn't top of mind for her and so to be able to kind of release and say and she actually demanded, you know, this is not the environment, this is not the experience, I want something different and her conviction was so supportive, which I didn't realize at the time, but in looking back, because I was, like, "What?"


I mean, we were talking before I hit record and I know there's about, you know, there's places in the country where there's not a lot of choice around educational environments, you and I both are on the West Coast and pretty liberal areas where people are doing all sorts of things for education but even then I was like "What? This isn't how it's supposed to look. You're just what?" And letting go of that.


Cathy: It's scary, right?


Casey: Yes, it was like, "Oh my god!" So being able, you know, like, what I'm hearing you say is really opening yourself up to one, is this, really knowing our kids and I think, you know, with our oldest kids it's a process of really getting to know them at a deeper level than we already do because, you know, you just think things are not going to be as hard as they turn out to be.


Cathy: Well, I think it's getting to know them better and I think it's also them getting in touch with themselves a lot better, because during the teenage years, I mean, sometimes they're just a big ball of I don't know and stress and anxiety and they're sometimes even afraid to verbalize what's going on in their heads and sometimes as a parent you're just kind of taking stabs in the dark about what you think will be right for them, but you know for me the fear part of it that I think I really had to work through and not avoid is allowing her to make the mistakes and genuinely figure out "Oh no, this is, I thought I wanted this but this is not what I wanted" but to not be standing there going "I told you so, you should have listened to me."


Casey: Or "You chose this and now you've got to follow through till the end."


Cathy: Exactly, you can't do that because they don't know any more and it's just that actual experience of doing it, giving it a try and then reflecting and saying "No, I don't think this is what I thought it was going to be."  And being a soft landing place, right, have to be that soft landing place to be like "OK, that's OK. You know, there's lots of other options and to just let go of the fact that, you know, in my mind education and what I really really wanted for her is just to be a lifelong learner and I really had to let go and make sure that I wasn't letting actual school get in the way of her education because there is just too much to learn out there in the world and you know, kids and teens today, they are not restricted in the way I was restricted when I was growing up.


Like, you know, education, that only happens in a school and they didn't have the Internet. Now, you know, the kids have access to so much more information, the real key is that they know how to learn and they know how to evaluate information and that they take ownership of their own education, their own learning because those skills will hold them on for life, right, becoming that lifelong learner and it's not like they need to learn it all now, which is a lot of pressure off parents, you know, it's like "Oh no, we only have 12 years, you know, they've only got through 12th grade, they've got to shove all that information in so they can get to college," which is just another 4 or 5 years and then, you know, that's it, all the information they have is in those schooling years, but that's not true anymore. You go back and when you find you don't know something, there are ways to go back and get the education you need and search out different answers and explore different things. So lifelong learning is really what I wanted for my kids to be able to do.


Casey: Well and it's so funny, when you think about, like, I'm 45 years old and I, you know, what I know now versus what I knew fresh out of college? It's like, "Oh yeah" and yet we still, there's this old paradigm, right, there's this old idea, that we're just kind of, it's hard to shake off that you know this 12 years is this key, you know, make it or break it. It's so big and it's, you know, this is something that I've said, you know, this is such a significant time and it's such a non-significant time when you look at the timeline of, you know, life, that 4 years of high school, it's so small.


Cathy: Yes.


Casey: And there are some pretty big impactful things that can, you know, there's, you know, I always hate, I hear my dad's voice all the time, "Well, Casey, we just want" and I've said it to my daughter "We just want you to have as many doors open as possible as you move, you know, on to the next thing" which I get that and our technique of supporting them with that kind of is not always super supportive, right.


So let's talk a little bit about that, like there is this idea, even though we know, or many of us, I think, recognize that how much learning happens outside of the classroom, that the traditional model is very outdated and yet here we send them off and here they go so often into this traditional model of grades and being assessed on their performance and again, we want them, we come from the place of just wanting them to have a good life, wanting them to have opportunity and when we focus on those grades and performance, which is really all we get back from schools, what are the messages that start to show up? Maybe that we don't mean to be giving but that start to show up for kids from their parents around grades and performance?


Cathy: I think we really need to start changing the conversation about kind of opportunities and the pressure because, you know, for a long time our conversation, I mean, you know, we've worked with parents for a long time, offering parenting courses and things like that and the talk is around pressure. It's too much pressure and yet as parents we're kind of pushing those pressures when it comes to this thought about "I have to give them as many opportunities as possible."


Let's start changing the conversation to curiosity and curiosity about, you know, what are the more realistic opportunities they want, because every opportunity under the sun is just overwhelming and not really necessary, because at any given moment kids have interests, right, they have things that they want to explore at that moment and focusing more on individual kids and their emergent kind of learning, what they're interested in at the moment and know that there's value in learning how to learn anything.


Which is different than kind of, "You have to do good at everything," you know, that's the 'inch deep but a mile wide', but that's not as good as in depth learning and if kids are allowed to explore deeply things they are directly interested in, it improves their motivation, their self efficacies, being able to go deeply into that and that part of it, that part of the learning is what is transferable to something else that might later help them. I mean, you know, as far as what they're learning.


Casey: Oh my gosh, Cathy thank you for that reframe.


Cathy: Yeah.


Casey: That was really great, my daughter is also probably going to thank you for that reframe. Because you're totally right, like, I mean it makes sense to me, sitting here right now. Like, of course I want all the opportunities to be available for my kids but right, like they're not going to Harvard.


Cathy: Yes but my daughters told me that, one of the things I just noticed going through this college application process that I am just on the tail end of right now is that, you know, that the schools that when we started investigating that she really wanted to go to for herself were not the schools that I was pressure, pressure, pressuring for to have that opportunity and when I started looking deeper at it I'm like, you know what? You're absolutely, right, it makes no sense for you to apply to this school because A, you have no interest in going there, it's doesn't have anything you want, it's not even the right environment for you, so why are we pushing to make this an opportunity when that's not what you want or need.


Casey: Yeah. I'm like kind of dumbfounded right now. It's so simple and it's been, like, right in front of me and yet I think there's so much conditioning, right, that comes up for us parents. This is absolutely one of those places where I was raised in a family where education was absolutely valued which, you know, great. There's nothing wrong with valuing education but there was definitely personal value tied to performance and personal value tied to, you know, where you went to college and you know, fortunately for me as a teenager I was like "Meh, I''m going to U of A," you know, like, I want to go party, like what's going on? So yeah, but that is, it's like a release. It's like a relief for me to and permission for my kids to yes, like encouraging them, I want them to have interests, I want them to care deeply about learning about what's interesting to them and so yes, thank you for that.


Cathy: And, you know, there are so many amazing schools out there and you know, for me, part of the parental pressure too was "How the heck can I afford this?" Because, you know, that kind of comes into play too but when you really, really start going out there and looking at the different schools and you know, one of the things my daughter learned from her transition from middle school to high school was and this is one of those things where I had to let her make mistakes, because she went to a very small K-8 middle school and in her mind, she wanted a big high school, big experience, you know, I think she thought it was going to be like High School Musical but it was not.


Casey: If only. If only. Oh my gosh I wish it was High School Musical.


Cathy: So, you know, she got into, we said, "OK, if you want to go to a big high school, you know, go for it" and she got there and realized "Wow!" there's, it did not feel connected to her. Her teachers barely knew her name and she was, like, getting lost in the crowd and that's where she immediately clicked in and said "You know what? This is not for me. I think I do better when people know me and I have a small group of close friends and I could build relationships with my teachers."


So when we were able to make that switch, you know, that was a big, big learning there that when it came time to look for colleges, we immediately crossed off any giant college, you know, off our list or, you know, more small liberal arts colleges that kind of went with what she wanted to study, and we focused more on the environment because environment plays a huge role in kind of your whole feeling about school and where you are and your ability to feel safe so that you can learn.


Casey: Totally.


Cathy: And, you know, her feelings about "Do you want to go far away from home? Do you want to be close to home or just somewhere kind of in the middle?" which is what she ended up choosing to apply to but those kind of conversations were so much more helpful in really thinking about college, because it's not just about the school, the name, you know, what, you know, status, things like that. It's much more about "How are you going to operate once  you're there.


Casey: Yeah and schools give out grades.


Cathy: They do, yes and that is one of the things too. So in my children, because I've always had them in alternative schools, they did not receive grades in K through 8 and you know, that was something that I was really pushing for as far as I really just wanted to focus on them and their learning.


My daughter and I, it's interesting, because I just talked to her last night to just really have her reflect with me a little bit on what that meant for her. Once she got into high school and both of them get grades now, right, in high school, what that has meant for them. They both like it now because it keeps them, it gives them feedback on kind of where they are but as long as the grades are kept in perspective of, you know, it's not subjective. It's just more "Did you turn this in? Did you get, you know, these numbers right?" and it makes sense. I think a lot of grading in schools can get out of whack just from the kind of mindset we put around it as as far what teachers are actually grading off.


Casey: Right, right, like, your assignment is late so you get a 0 but that 0 doesn't reflect what you know about the content.


Cathy: Exactly and you're grading on if they just, you know, it was like an all or nothing, there's no room for any flexibility in there on how they did it, what they attempted that should be able to just tell you if they got it all wrong, they turned it in but they got it wrong, that in the teaching there has to be something to go back and help them learn it because that was the point in the first place.


Casey: Right.


Cathy: Not about the grade, but in a lot of schools it kind of gets a little stuck there and it becomes this whole discouraging thing for students as well. So really, the way grades are given and the purpose of them, I think that's something for parents to look at as well when they're trying to support their child in school. What does a grade mean and is the teacher working with you? Is it about the learning?  


Casey: Yeah, it's interesting, you know, all through, I mean, the kids in elementary up here, they get numbers, right, whatever and then middle school were like "real grades" and but both my kids through elementary and middle well, Ian's only halfway through middle school but there, they've just, it's always been, you know, all fours, all A's, like, I very, you know and I'm thinking, you know, I'm so, I just totally let go, like, it's just fine, they can do how they need to do and you know, because I came from this really hyper family around G.P.A. and grades and like my car was tied to my G.P.A. in high school, so of course I had to have a 3.0 So guess what I got?


Cathy: Okay.


Casey: A 3.0 and I figured out, like, well 2 C's counteracted by 2 A's, there you go, 3.0. So, you know, what was the learning there?


Cathy: Gaming the system.


Casey: Yeah, totally, which hey, resourceful. Lifeskill. But then as, you know, high school rolled around and grades started to shift, I really had the opportunity to recognize how much of my conditioning existed and like, "Oh my gosh, yes, there is this, like, what is this C?" You know, and I'm hearing you, like, It is, what do they know? Like, right now my daughter's struggling with Algebra 2, which she's in online school and elected to learn Algebra 2 in that kind of forum, like, of course, oh my gosh, to not be able to walk up to a teacher and have a conversation and sit down together and look at the same piece of paper? Anyway.


Cathy: Yeah.


Casey: You know and so we have conversations, you know, and what I say to her is how, you know, "Do you feel like you understand the content because this is an indication to me and this is just getting me curious, when it's a C, it just makes me curious to if you understand. I just want to know that you understand." So it's feels really slippery, like even as I'm saying it out loud, I'm like "Oh God" I mean, how do we both back up, how do we back off? How do we back off, Cathy, while also encouraging them to get straight A's? Like. Just kidding, just kidding.


Cathy: Maybe the question is-


Casey: Yes, reframe.


Cathy: What help do you need to learn this concept?


Casey: Yeah.


Cathy: What would help you, maybe it's, you know and for sure for me in math, that was not my strongest suit, so there became a time very early on where I couldn't help my kids with math because I didn't get it and there were many new ways that they're learning it now. But since I couldn't be the most helpful one there, I asked my kids, what do you need? What would help you to get this concept?


Maybe it's, you know, finding an extra tutor, maybe it's setting up, you know, an online school which both of my kids did at certain times as well, it was finding an online resource that they could go to that just really broke it apart for them and opening them up to, you know, other avenues where they can go to get help and that became a strategy, that became one of their strategies on "It's not that I'm getting a C in this and it's just really hard for me, instead of focusing on that, where, like, that's just where you are, what do you need to get to the next step and being open to exploring anything that could help you get that and sometimes it was literally just time. It was like they just did not have the capability to get that at this moment. They had to let it rest a little bit so the C was just  a representative of where they were then, that doesn't mean that's where they are always going to be.


Casey: Yeah and you know, I'm just, of course, thinking about my own experience and so one of the things that Rowan said was, she e-mailed, you know, I encourager her to just email her teacher and let her teacher know that she was aware of where she was at and you know and ask for help, right and I'm, as I'm thinking, like, that's way more important to me, her being willing to advocate for herself and you know, ask for help and the follow through, like, I'm not really getting this, like, when I think, when I project into the future when one day she has a job and perhaps one of her tasks is something that she just is missing information on or whatever, for her to be willing to say "Oof, what's going on here, I'm going to need to ask for some help around this or a reframe." I think that that's a really important skill that they only learn if they get to practice it.


Cathy: Yes and collaboration, I mean, if you look at, you know, some of the more progressive schools and the way they teach, it's a lot more hands on, a lot more project based and a lot of collaboration in how they do things and you know that collaboration to be done online or in person, you know, all those different mixes of how they do it but it involves more of a showing what you know and contributing because when you work together with somebody else and have that, you know, that back and forth going on, you learn from them and they learn from you and it becomes an synergistic.


Like, you're actually amping up your learning versus what you could do alone in your own bubble. And so that collaboration skill is just one of the one of the big skills that kids are going to need to learn and so valuing that in how your kids are progressing, I think, is is another way that parents can really just look at the big picture.


They need to step back sometimes and look at the whole big picture of what people learn because that was really a hard skill for my daughter, both of them, to learn because they were definitely more in the shy and quiet side but having that smaller environment where they felt safe enough to go to other adults or to approach their teachers, that systemic practice of doing that, it paid off later on.  It did and is still paying now and that was something they have to work through and they could do it pretty well as teenagers.


Casey: This is such a useful conversation both for me personally but also, I know that people are listening and taking notes here and I think that, you know, I just want to acknowledge that it is a tall order, everyone who's listening, I fully recognize that it is not so, it's not easy but it's important to have this mindset shift. Right and I just want to acknowledge that everything we've been raised with, right and that conditioning is still going to exist, it's still going to rear its head, it's still going to kind of tap on our shoulders and we get to come back to "Well, wait a minute, right, what is the, what is that, what is the long term goal, what it is that I want most for my kids and what is it that my kids want most?" Right, so we can recognize when it's like "Oh God, I am not excited by this report card."


Cathy: I think parents need to really, and I think parents today can really start thinking about the skills that they themselves are using in their adult lives, so their working world or whatever kind of skills that they need now and see that bigger picture and to also recognize that schools and education, it has been, it's kind of a hard thing to shift around, however-


Casey; Slow institution.


Cathy: Yes, however, as a person who, you know, I do a lot of training with schools, most of my positive discipline work is working with schools and schools in a lot of different places and the good news is I see, I do see major shifts and I see opportunities, I see new things cropping up that are, you know, taking all of these things we've been talking about into account. I think the challenge for parents is to not be afraid to try something new. Because it's really that fear, because what starts to set in in your mind is, "This is one of those things I can't take a chance on? This is too important".


And it's fear that I'm going to go the safe route, when in fact that's what makes school and education so hard to shift. It's not that there's not opportunities out there, it's that people are afraid to have that appropriate risk taking, that try it and give it a chance and see what fits for your child.


Casey: Yeah. That was definitely has been my experience the last 4 months when we started online, I was like "What is this?" And she was struggling and it was, well it was the learning curve, first of all on the technology but also this realization, like, this is kind of a lonely route in, you know, there were tears and it was like, "How long are we going to give it?" and you know and now there's rhythm, I mean, she's still like "Meh, school" but there's a rhythm, it's, I feel 100 percent confident today, the beginning of December, this was the right move for her and that feels great.


Cathy: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, my kids, like I said, we tried the all online school, and we tried the all in class school and then we even found a hybrid, a hybrid that's kind of more individualized learning that uses online school but you're actually in a school. So all of these different things exist and you know, if you find out and it's not even that it is or isn't working but if at some point you just want to shift, know that there are options out there and don't be afraid to try them.


Casey: And everyone that's in the states that's listening, K12 is the online school program that we're using and it's a national program and then each state has their own kind of, I don't know if they call them districts or whatever, but F Y I. So curiosity, which you've already mentioned and relationship, those two things have definitely, are definitely rising to the surface in this summit as themes, right.


Cathy: Yes.


Casey: In all the interviews and you know, I think that it's kind of chicken and the egg, right, especially when it comes to grades, whatever, performance, now I'm like "Don't say grades." But you know, like, if we're going to be curious with our kids, if we're going to ask questions, like, you know, "Tell me about what's happening in Algebra 2 or you know, where do you need support, where, you know, what are you learning?"


Whatever our questions are, it's a very different conversation with kids that we, with our teens who are feeling of a solid sense of connection, who are feeling like it's an environment of non judgment, who are feeling safe to really express what's happening for them, it's a different conversation when you're having this conversation with a teenager who's already discouraged inside of the relationship, inside of the home, so can we just talk a little bit because I know there's people listening who, like, who are like, yeah, I mean, we, I could go and ask my teen what's happening and they're just, they just keep shutting me out.


So what are some ideas or some really practical things that we can share with parents who are really at the beginning of this journey, not so much the beginning of the journey, like their kids are 13 but really recognizing that under the surface of, you know, performance and grades and whatever involvement in the school environment is this deeper relationship situation happening? What's a baby step that they could take to start nurturing the environment so that they can be having these curious conversations with their kids?


Cathy: It's a really hard balance for teenagers because, you know, they do go through this period where they just really need a lot of privacy as well and so I know, as a parent, you know, I went through this and sort of I'm still going through this frustrating stage where they just really don't want to share with me and they find all my questions irritating.


Casey: You too?


Cathy: I get really short answers and kind of eye rolls and things like that. That is part of life of raising a teenager, and they do, it doesn't mean they're not hearing us, doesn't mean they're not listening, but it just sometimes means they just don't really want to have a long conversation about this. So I take a lot of things into account when I do this. I think about the times at which they are most likely to talk to me and I make sure my timing is right. For me, that is the car. I have to say I get the, they sometimes throw these hard random questions to me when they're sitting in the back of the car and we don't have eye contact and there's music playing and it's kind of like they know that I have to pay attention to my driving so I'm going to give them the short kind of answer that they need and they can ask questions and get an answer but it's not to be too much of an answer.


Casey: Right.


Cathy: So it's more of a surface question but we do have it for a length of time sometimes so I think timing is important when adults ask questions. I also think that, you know, sometimes it's just about paying attention to what they're actually doing. So for me, I have also tried to step back a little more. I'm curious more in my own head than I am about having a conversation so what that might mean is I am having, you know, I pay attention when they show me what they know.


Which means that sometimes my daughter might come to me and have a question or want to show me something that's like a video she's done to show, a lot of times when they do their final project they have a number of different ways they show what they learned and sometimes it's a piece of art, sometimes it's a video, sometimes as they put together our point and when I just get the opportunity to watch the final product, right.


I could see all the steps and think about all the things that went into producing that and making that and when she does that enough, which again, it comes kind of rarely, not all the steps along the way, but when she's willing to share something that she felt proud of when she was finally done, I have to just stand back, admire that journey and also say, "You know, wow, I can see you put a lot of hard work into this," you know, no judgment, no blame, no "hey, could you improve this" or "hey, you can make that a little better." It's just stop, shut up and just admire the journey that they went to when they're willing to share something.


Casey: Oh, that's huge. I remember being a teenager and my dad would read my essays and you know, back in the day when you hand wrote everything and he would literally go through and be like,"You should change this" on my paper-


Cathy: With red marker?


Casey: Oh yeah, and finally, I remember I would do two or two and finally I was like, "Dad, I am not going to show this to you. I am turning it in as it is, like back off, man."


Cathy: Yes!


Casey: And I think that that's so valuable what you just said because process is so important and one of the things that I'm seeing too is the way that my kids are, the way that my teenagers are responding to feedback, however that feedback looks, you know, my son is in 7th grade but he's in 9th grade, he's in algebra and it's hard and there's homework and he's so irritated by it all, because it's, you know, I mean, I don't know what this says about the schools but this is the first time anything's been very challenging for him and he just gets all up in his head and I'm like "Hey, babe, this is high school math, like this is how it feels to be really challenged and pushed."


And so any time he sits down and spends a significant amount of time doing homework without, like, falling apart about it I celebrate and same with, you know, my daughter as far as like getting the feedback and struggling in a class but having this really, like, connected, it just doesn't send her over the edge and that is exciting to me, is that she can navigate and not like, not in a way where it's "Oh, I don't really care," right, it's really like, "Yeah, darn it, you know, I could have done better or I'm not really getting this and it's not like "I am bad at this," which we've been there and and it's like, that's growth.


Cathy: And it's not about me because, you know, there's that tendency for me, I want to jump in, I want to fix it, I want to rescue and I need to step back and allow them to go through that process because that is the learning, right? Learning is hard, it is challenging. And so I have to fight my own urge and realisation that, you know, at this stage of the game, this adolescence and teen years, that's not what they need for me anymore.


Casey: Yeah.


Cathy: They need something different, they need me to stand back and not, especially the "Oh, you know, fix this or trying to improve it." I have to value that process.


Casey: Yeah.


Cathy: It is hard.


Casey: And I think it's all like, I feel like we've come now full circle, right, because this question of "So when do we step in, when do we step out?" and I think it's a really awesome place for parents to pause and think, which, let's be honest, not all of us are very good at this.


Cathy: Right.


Casey: Pause and think, "Why am I? What is this urge to step in here? What is it? Where is it coming from? Is it that old that mentality of I just want all these doors to stay open? I just want good evaluation, I just," like what is the drive?


Cathy: Or am I parenting in public?


Casey: Right!


Cathy:  Am I worried about what everyone else will say about me or my kid or if I can't brag about my kid.


Casey: Oh my god, I had to just throw that out the window last year. I say, if you make me, you help me to be a very good parenting coach, so thank you.


Cathy: That's right.


Casey: To speak from all the experiences. Yeah, absolutely and I, you know, I'm guessing there are pockets in the world where that, you know, how does my child's accomplishments reflect on me are more heavy than other pockets of the country?


Cathy: Yes and I definitely, I've gone to a lot of different places and that is actually something to take into account is kind of the culture and then we talk about environment earlier. There are some counties at which those grades are actually kind of a life and death importance in that there are so few higher educational opportunities that only the very few can get into like a college or university and it is all dependent on grades and test scores so there is a lot more pressure, simply because there are not so many opportunities available. When we talk about here in the U.S., you know, there are a lot more opportunities available, that doesn't always hold true for other places.


Casey: Right and stress is toxic.


Cathy: Yes. It is toxic and it is, it's just, again, going for that long term, what we want in the long term because all this pressure for any of us, I think, as adults when we go back and look at the pressure that we felt during those high school years and it's not even just the pressure or the grades but, I mean, all that social anxiety stuff that I know that was a real one for me.


Casey: Yeah.


Cathy: Yeah, that I just did not feel comfortable or safe throughout most of high school and it was hard for me to find, you know, an outlet. Fortunately, I played sports a lot so that helped me with that but there's just, school has change and as adults kind of working with our own children, we have to recognize where those changes have taken place and again, focus on our long term goal.


Casey: So I'm thinking about, I have, like, the parents that I work with, the parents in the community in my ear right now and it's so funny because I'm being pulled to totally "Yeah but" right now and  I get it but it's like, you know, the whole purpose of the summit is I want to offer some really practical, because I think that, you know, we were talking before, I don't feel like there's a lot of really whole, like, holistic resources for parents of teens because it just feels crazy, kind of par for the course, it's like having toddlers and you know, I know that there is that, "yeah, but how do I, you know, when they just don't care about homework or they just don't care" or like, even as I say that out loud, Kathy, I'm thinking to myself that "it's not a homework issue."


Cathy: Right. You know, here's what it is.


Casey: We think it is, we think it is, right? Iceberg. We think it's a homework issue. We think it's a motivation issue but where is the shift?


Cathy: Where is the conversation shift? I think what has helped me, and it probably started when, maybe started for me with my kids about 14, 15 and it's still kind of ongoing, is helping them, be that coach, that person that they can collaborate with to start to visualize their future and what is it that they want and sometimes my question is just so, you know, like, what's your plan to support yourself, you know, once you get done with high school?


Because part of it is, I could also decide what I wanted to do and part of my way of encouraging college and that ongoing education to make sure that we kind of live up to my family values and this is what my parents did for me too is, you know, you don't have to go to college if that's not for you, however, if you're going to keep living in the house, there will be some rent to pay and some food to pay for and so you know, what's your plan? What's your plan there as far as how you're going to support yourself and contribute here, you know? We're here to support you and you have to be doing something to figure out what your next steps are to operate on your own, to be out of the house, to be independent.


I can understand if that's not school, we hope it is because that's something that we value, however we're open to your ideas and you know, I'm going to have faith and trust you that you're going to explore different paths. Doing that early is helpful so that you can start to figure out what's going to work for you, but know that that is kind of how I'm going to have some boundaries around it as well. It's not going to be a never ending live at home and be rent free. That's not how it's going to work here.


Casey: Yeah, I so appreciate that curiosity and it reminds me of one of the other conversations that I had, I can't remember, there's been a lot now but where, you know, we have this challenge, writing "problem" or "challenge" and there's the visual of here I am, the parent and across from me is the child and in the middle is this challenge and how that feels versus sitting side by side and that's what I'm, that's what's coming to mind as I hear you in this conversation and kind of both of us, like, looking at this challenge and it's not about the dynamic between parent and child, it's more about, like, it's just, it's, I don't even, like, what are the words I'm looking for, it's just like, it's collaboration and it's support and it's unconditional love but it's also like, "Here's what we're looking at."


Cathy: Yeah, kind of like the copilot scenario, right, flames are flying over, we're looking around this whole mountain thing that we've got to get through, it's like "What's your plan? What's your plan?"


Casey: I plan not to crash into the mountain.


Cathy: We need to know what each other is going to do, we're not going to abandon each other but you've got to have a vision on it and think about it.


Casey: Yeah, so I'm looking at the time and I'm thinking, there's so much more, is there anything else that you would like to share on this topic, Cathy that didn't come up?


Cathy: You know, I think the teen years and really parenting and school stuff through the teen years, you have to always look at these as an opportunity. It's an opportunity just have kind of some new challenges to work through with your kids. I mean, parents, when I work with parents of preschoolers and then, you know, young children and adolescents, like, you know, there's always something to go through through the years.


It's been like this rollercoaster, right, of ups and downs and I think the good thing about having a teenager is that, you know, she's really focused on that relationship piece. Having a teenager where they can are making a lot of their own choices and you're starting to let go a little bit more, there is a beauty to it to be able to see it all kind of coming together, it really is and I have to say my relationship with my daughters as they become older has been one where I've had the opportunity to practice a lot of trust with them and you know, we're just, we're, you know, it's not perfect but I know I'm not experiencing some of the kind of really, really difficult stuff where that sometimes happens when I didn't have that foundation of relationship. So I think at any point when you can start to make sure you focus on that, that goes a long long way to all of this stuff.


Casey: And I just want to say, because relationship has come up in just about every interview, well, every interview is and this is directly to you that are listening, is also, check yourself when you are attached to what that relationship looks like because if you are holding relationship as being your teenagers want to tell you everything and share their darkest emotions and deepest, you know, then you're going to start to judge the relationship that you do have. To me, relationship is "Can we be really authentic with each other? Can we, you know, is this, is this a surface thing or is this something where we're really willing to be vulnerable and willing to connect? And it doesn't always look like, you know, an all the time constant thing. I mean, I don't know if I'm doing justice with what I'm trying to point out right now.


Cathy: I think you hit it on the head in that it does shift over time. And it can't be a totally interdependent kind of thing because that's also more on the enabling side, it has to be more of an empowering relationship.


Casey: And some of us just have temperaments that are not necessarily, that don't look like, you know, I think that, yeah, this is probably a whole other interview that I should do but you know, like, temperament shows up here too and because I'm thinking specifically of some lovely mothers that I've worked with who are raising teenage boys and it's like, it feels really challenging to get them to open up and be connected and all those things, I think there's girls too that are like this, so I just want to throw out some encouragement to parents, like, recognize when you are attached to what relationship looks like and just really celebrate any time that you know that that opening shows up and I loved what you said about timing and just take advantage of those moments and celebrate. Celebrate when they arrived for you. So great to be in conversation with you, Cathy.


Cathy: I really had fun being here, Casey, and talking to you and I hope this has been helpful to everybody.


Casey: Oh yeah. If there are parents listening who would like to get in touch with you where can they can they find you?


Cathy: I'm based in San Jose, California. You can look for me at Middlegroundparenting.com, that's my website. I offer classes for parents and work with a lot of schools and offer a lot of early childhood education training as well, so, look me up.


Casey: Great, thank you so much!


Cathy: Thank you, Casey.