Madeline Levine, PhD on Pandemic Parenting & Resilience

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This week’s episode is focused on pandemic parenting, and to talk us through it is Madeline Levine, PhD, a psychologist with over 40 years of experience as a clinician, consultant, educator and author. In addition to her large clinical practice, Madeline is a co-founder of Challenge Success, a school reform non-profit affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and is a highly sought after consultant, lecturer, and speaker on all issues related to parenting. 

Madeline’s New York Times bestseller, The Price of Privilege, explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems. Her follow up book, Teach Your Children Well, tackles our current narrow definition of success – how it unnecessarily stresses academically talented kids and marginalizes many more whose talents and interests are less amenable to measurement. Her most recent book, Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, focuses on how to best prepare our children and ourselves for an uncertain and rapidly changing world, which just seems like the PERFECT book for what we’re collectively experiencing right now in this time of pandemic parenting through so many unknowns.

In our conversation, we talk about the ideas behind her book, what Madeline sees as the lessons and gifts of the pandemic, why she thinks hope and optimism are the “ultimate life skills” and more. Just like Madeline’s book, this was a thought provoking conversation for me and I hope it provides you with some interesting food for thought.


About Dr. Madeline Levine

Madeline Levine, PhD is a clinical psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who is an expert on parenting and child development. Madeline is the author of two New York Times’ bestsellers — The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well. Her newest book is Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World. Madeline is the co-founder of Challenge Success, a project of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. School reform helps to bring schools in line with what we know about engagement and well-being. 


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • All about Madeline’s new book READY OR NOT: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World and why she wrote it
  • What Madeline sees as some of the lessons and gifts from the pandemic, including surrounding education and learning for differently wired kids
  • Why no child has a fixed intelligence or unchanging set of abilities
  • What are some of the more important shifts we as parents can make in supporting our children in building their own resilience
  • Why Madeline believes that hope and optimism are the “ultimate life skills”


Resources mentioned for pandemic parenting


Special message from our sponsor

Progress Parade specializes in one-on-one online tutoring for differently wired kids through executive functioning coaching, Orton-Gillingham and Wilson instruction, specialized math tutoring, and educational therapy. At Progress Parade, they know what makes you different, makes you strong. Visit and schedule your free consultation! Based on your child’s unique needs, Progress Parade will hand-pick a specialist to turn learning challenges into superpowers in the classroom.


Visit Join the Progress Parade!

Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

This episode is brought to you by Progress Parade. Progress Parade specializes in providing one on one online tutoring for differently wired kids through executive functioning, coaching, specialized tutoring for learning disabilities and educational therapy. schedule your free consultation at, come join the Progress Parade.

Madeline Levine  00:24

I have never ever had a kid in my office say, you know, my parents just listened too much. Never. They always say my parents talk too much. And my advice for parents now, such as it is, is listen.

Debbie Reber  00:46

Welcome to Tilt Parenting a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber. My guest this week is Dr. Madeline Levine, a psychologist with over 40 years of experience as a clinician, consultant, educator and author. Madeline is also the co-founder of Challenge Success, a school reform nonprofit affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and is a highly sought after consultant, lecturer and speaker on all issues related to parenting. You may be familiar with some of Madeline’s books, including the New York Times bestseller The Price of Privilege, which explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems. And then her follow up book Teach Your Children Well tackles our current narrow definition of success. But her brand new book and what we’re going to be talking about today is called Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World. And I have to say I think that Ready or Not, is really the perfect book for what we’re collectively experiencing right now. In our conversation, we talk about the ideas behind her book, what Madeline sees as the lessons and gifts of the pandemic, why she thinks hope and optimism are the ultimate life skills and more. Just like Madeline’s book, this was a thought provoking conversation for me, I hope you get a lot out of it. And before I get to that, a quick note to remind you that Seth Perler, my friend, colleague and executive function coach, who has been on this show many times, has opened the doors for his next executive function online summit. The summit will run on August 20, through the 22nd. And you can learn more by going to That stands for the executive function online summit. And as always, I thank you so much for being part of this tilt parenting revolution. If you want to stay in the loop about important news, new classes and special live events, sign up at tilt parenting calm. And if you’re on Facebook, be sure to join my tilt together community for sharing resources and insights from other parents and caregivers like you. You can find tilt together at Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Madeline.

Debbie Reber  03:27

Hello, Madeline. Welcome to the podcast.

Madeline Levine  03:30

Thank you so much. I’m excited to have this conversation with you.

Debbie Reber  03:34

We haven’t done a podcast before but we know each other we’ve been in conversation. We’ve had lots of interesting conversations, along with a lot of other folks about the issues we’re going to talk about today. Right?

Madeline Levine  03:46

I have to I have to tell you that that I did really thorough look at the work you’ve done, which, you know, I sort of know you from chatting, but I am stunned by the amount of work that went into the podcast, but also Tilt Parenting and I really didn’t have any idea how far reaching and important it was. So that was a pleasure to find out.

Debbie Reber  04:12

Thank you so much. That means so much to me. Thank you. Well, you have such an incredible body of work. And you know, you’ve written a number of really big books, you wrote an incredible book, The Price of Privilege, I think that was probably 2008, 2009 where you really pulled back the curtain on the ways in which growing up privileged was actually resulting in a slew of emotional problems and hurting kids healthy development. And you have another amazing book called Teach Your Children Well, where you talk about the short sighted definition of success. And now you have this incredible book which is so timely that we’re going to be talking about today it’s called Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World. So I would love if you could just tell us about that book, and why you wrote it in the first place.

Madeline Levine  05:06

So it’s kind of an interesting story. I wrote it for two reasons. The first one probably was my sense that, while the other books I had written were very popular, there’s a cadre of us, the people in our group, but other people as well, going out around the country with the same message, which is, you know, pull back a little bit. Performance is not everything. There’s a whole bunch of other things that matter, for kids to have good lives. And well, individually, I was feeling like I was making progress. The reality was that rates of mental illness did not go down over the last 12 years, at 13 years. Now, as a matter of fact, they went up. And so I think part of it came out of a feeling of either Well, I’m done, you know, that’s the best I can do. And it hasn’t made a profound change. And also, feeling like, people were still eager to find out how they could do things differently, and why they should do things differently. You know, nobody wants to feel that their kid is an experiment. So at the end of the day, I was still hearing, well, you know, going to Brown can hurt or Harvard sends all of its people into high paying jobs. And I knew, because I had friends in business and in the military, that there was really a shift in who was being hired. So I wanted to expand what I had to say from just Hey, look, you know, the rates of anxiety and depression are unacceptable. And they’re partly a result of the kind of culture we’ve set up. But now I had a lot of evidence that it wasn’t only bad in childhood, it continued to be a problem, because it wasn’t good preparation for the kinds of jobs that these exact same people were hoping to get for their children. So that was the reason. It’s like my last stab at, you know, my last step, can we change the paradigm, the book came out three weeks before lockdown. So I wasn’t prescient, I had no idea like everybody else that this was about to happen. So you know, a lot of people assume that it started during COVID. It didn’t, it was published three weeks before COVID, which meant I didn’t have a book, you know, everything got canceled around the publication of the book. But it was very timely, as you say, in terms of the kinds of things people were going to need, not at the very beginning. At the very beginning, you just had to survive, you just had to figure out how you were going to live your next day because nobody knew. But you know, as people adjusted to some degree, I think there was more interest in, well, what else? What can I use this time for? I’ve got more time, what can I use it for? I can answer that.

Debbie Reber  08:21

Well, and also, I feel like we’ve spent the past year and a half, almost getting a really close up view of what anxiety looks like and experiencing it as adults, many of us for the first time. And so it is just it’s just to me such an interesting time in terms of maybe this collective growth, and maybe a deeper understanding of how pervasive and challenging anxiety and depression and other mental illnesses can be.

Madeline Levine  08:57

So your audience can’t see I have a big smile on my face. Because I’m thinking, if this is the first time you’ve had anxiety, you’re lucky. Because I’m somebody who’s quite anxious. You know, and there’s a difference between having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. And I think part of what happened here is that, you know, if you were a little anxious, you became really anxious. If you were a little dysphoric, a little depressed, you became, you know, wherever your cracks were, in this period of time. They were heightened, because the reality was, nobody knew what to do. And it was interesting for me dead in the sense that I was, you know, I must have given 3040 talks, and everybody was looking for answers. And nobody really had answers, including experts, air quotes, because we’d never been through it before. So you know, we had a lot of best practices around challenges and stuff like that. But the length of this, the life or death of this, the fact that there was no celebration that we had defeated an enemy, there was only divisiveness in the country. So yeah, you know, I felt like we were thrown into the deep end of the pool without water wings, or swimming lessons. So it was a hard time for everybody.

Debbie Reber  10:24

Yeah, and I’m wondering, you know, so then, you have a revised edition of the book, which we’re recording at the end of May, but as listeners hear it, the book should be available, or will be within a week or two. So can you tell us? Were there some bigger changes that you wanted to make as you went through the book based on what we’ve been through?

Madeline Levine  10:45

You know, not really. So I needed to, I needed to write a prologue and redo parts of the book, because to have to ignore what we had just gone through seems impossible to me. But the basics of how do you promote resilience, what goes into resilience, I, I listen to you, and Michelle was recently talking, you know, we’re all talking about the same thing, which is, you know, it’s great, your kid gets into Brown, or whatever it is, that’s great, if that’s where that kid belongs, but the reality in life is, it’s an entirely different skill set that is protective, both of parents and children, by the way, everybody thinks I’m a child expert, and that’s my training. But I really think I write to parents, because like, if we’re not, okay, our kids are not okay. And we all have different kids, you know, I know your area of expertise, but everybody has different kids, and not necessarily neurodiverse, but different. And you have to make all kinds of adjustments to that. And so this one size fits all, notion of success. It’s outdated, period. And we’ve just lived through a period of time, where people needed flexibility, where people needed curiosity. And if you were low on those skills, you had a really hard time, especially young mothers, with younger children, who had to work and be a teacher, and it was really, I think, close to an impossible task. If you stuck with your old metrics, the bed’ss not made, the dinner’s not cooked, the kid got, you know, didn’t get a good enough grade, you stuck with those metrics. You were in for a very bad time, you know, the prologue talks a little bit about, I really hope we’ve all learned something through this about what’s important and what’s not important. And the other thing I want to say about it is, I also think there was a huge opportunity. And it’s hard to talk about that in terms of the tragedy that it was. But I was just talking to my publicist. And they were saying, you know, how are you positioning this, as it goes out again, and they were doing all the things about high rates of mental illness and, and deaths of despair, opioid all the things that were wrong. And I think those things need to be acknowledged. But I also think it was an enormous opportunity for people to rethink the paradigms we are so attached to. I’ll bet you’ve decided to make some changes in your life. Yeah.

Debbie Reber  13:39

Oh, yeah. 100%, including a lot more baking. But beyond that, yeah. Tons of

Madeline Levine  13:45

Yeah. Your baking is as notable as anything I’ve done. Like, sometimes I’m looking at your pictures just because it looks delicious. Like one day, I’ll get some of that stuff. Yeah. And I am not going to spend that every week of my life on an airplane, again, period. And I think about what matters. And how we allocate time has become incredibly, you know, I’m a lot older than you are. So it’s like that has become incredibly important. So when they were doing all this thing about, you know, all the increases and bad stuff. I said, “ I think what you also have to attend to the fact that people had an opportunity to think more about how they want to live their lives. I don’t believe we’re going back to normal. I think, you know, my daughter in law, who works in tech. There’ll be some hybrid models. Everything I know is on some kind of changed model. And we’re going to have to adapt to that. It’s not going to be the same as It was before and and I think the opportunity to think about what matters was a great opportunity. And I think one of the questions is how do you maintain that going forward?

Debbie Reber  15:12

Yeah, it’s I mean, a lot of the conversations I’ve had for the podcast for this summer season have been surrounding education and just how this has given us an opportunity to really reflect on the different ways that kids learn and can express their, you know, abilities and competencies. And I hope that it shook things up enough that there’s going to be more flexibility or more room for accommodations in the classroom to support different kinds of learners.

Madeline Levine  15:42

Right. And, I mean, you know, about my project Challenge Success at Stanford. So you know, I co founded that, that stuff is very, very important to me, because I started out as a teacher, long before I was a psychologist. And it made no sense to me, when I was 27, the way I worked in our city, and there were lots of kids with all kinds of issues, and one rigid curriculum, and nobody learned anything. And that was the hardest job I ever had, was teaching. And the degree of respect, I believe, that teachers deserve is not an evidence as far as I’m concerned. You know, I don’t like words, like heroes, it’s that job. But being forced to teach in this rather narrow range. And, you know, you may not I have three sons, and, and they were incredibly different. My first son was the straight A student athlete, schoolwork was great for him. And my middle kid was extremely creative. And school didn’t work as well for him. And my third son was totally hands on with some learning differences. And it really slept for him. So you know, it was a living lesson in, okay, maybe it works for a third of kids. I don’t know what the percentage is, but it’s small. And there were plenty of kids, by the way, which I suspect, you know, who did fine, who did better on distance learning. So I think there’s so much to rethink in what we think the goal of education is, and how many kids have been absolutely hobbled. By the way, education does not meet them where they are. So tell us successes work on that lots of organizations are working on rethinking that. I just have one funny story. I said, My middle son was very creative. And I never went up to school for my kids. It was like, you know, you can handle it, whatever it was, but he was in middle school. And he wrote a story. My mother, unfortunately, has had Alzheimer’s for about 15 years now. And he wrote this story about an elderly couple, and the man thought his wife was Marilyn Monroe. And it was just so sweet. And embedded in my family. Anyway, he got a lousy grade on it, and the teacher wrote on it, Marilyn Monroe was not alive when your grandmother was alive. And it’s the only time I ever went up to school, because it’s so missed the boat on the creativity and the curiosity and and thinking about what that’s like, for a child on an ongoing basis, not just this one story that I’m telling you, almost 20 years later, but on a daily basis. So that needs to change and it needs to change radically. Not, you know, and I’m gonna sound cynical because I’ve been doing this for a while, I’m not interested in putting FCL in the classroom once a week for an hour. That is not the solution to this, you know, even with SEO, it needs to be cross curriculum. It needs to be embedded in culture. And that’s the way we need to be thinking we need to be thinking as revolutionaries as radicals about how to change school. Oh, no. Okay, I was off on my scale. I

Debbie Reber  19:24

love the way you think. And listeners also, you know, I always have links on the show notes page for each episode. So I’ll make sure that you guys can check out the challenge Success Program because there’s a lot of good resources and research and content there. No, I love that you can go on a rant like that anytime. But I appreciate everything you said. So one of the things that you do is you outline what you see are the key traits for dealing with a tumultuous future, including adaptability, mental agility, curiosity, collaboration, tolerance. for failure, resilience and optimism. So as I read that list, I think about the listeners, many of our kids have more, I would say they’re more in the fixed mindset camp than the growth mindset camp. And I just would love to hear your thoughts on how possible it is to help these kids who might be more rigid thinkers to become more agile and adaptable?

Madeline Levine  20:27

I’ll tell you, if I write again, it will be the seven myths of parenting. And that’s one of them, that you can’t teach these things. And I don’t know where this cuts started this idea that you were either curious or not you were either creative or not. So I’m interested, very interested in epigenetics, right. epigenetics is that intersection of what you came into the world with, with your genetics and your environment? Do I think that all three of my kids were, I don’t think they were all three equally came into the world with creativity, there are different levels of kids who have different levels of everything. But the environment at the end of the day is what for all of us, expresses our genetics or not, we all have within us the possibility of anxiety, the possibility of depression, maybe the possibility of substance abuse or psycho, you know, the genetic pool is really big. And an awful lot depends on the environment. So the idea that you can’t teach creativity, or you can’t teach self regulation, we try to teach self regulation all the time, right, with varying degrees of success. Just because we know each other, I had my two year old granddaughter, and I had her here for the week for four nights, my husband and I. And it’s the first time I’ve had her for a period of time, and it was fabulous. She’s fabulous. She also had a temper tantrum that looked like he came out of the exocyst. To me, I mean, out of her mind, screaming and yelling and throwing. And I was looking at that. And in reference to your question right now, I know that that child who was terrifying in that moment, will grow up to not do that, how, because she’s been taught a degree of self, she’s been taught over time and developmentally appropriately, how to control herself. So this idea, this fixed mind idea that, you know, we’d all be still trying to parent screaming, yelling, you know, exorcise babies. And we’re not. So most of our kids learn some of your listeners probably have kids who are more difficult to teach several self regulation, two, you know, again, I think we asked so much of parents, the flexibility, the willingness to tolerate outbursts, the getting rid of all these shoulds, my child should do this, or this shouldn’t do that at this point. That’s not true for any kid, or many kids. But it’s certainly not not true for neurodiverse children. But everybody who’s listening had a child who once couldn’t walk, and they crawled. And then they started to learn how to walk, they stood up, they fell down. We didn’t criticize them for falling down. We didn’t say she’s never gonna learn to walk. We knew we had a ride, the amount of time it took for that particular child to walk. In my house, my first kid walked at nine months, which we thought was great at the time was so great. He had zero judgment, and he was running around. So I think we have pictures of the way in which we intuitively know that children need a period of time that they develop differently, that we have to be okay with that, that we have to keep whatever anxiety we might have in check as best we can with some support around us. But children, absolutely, absolutely change. And part of it has to do so. I’m hoping maybe this is of interest to your audience. I think in general, we spend way too much time looking at deficits, and nowhere near enough time on kids’ strengths. And I’m a basketball fan. They say you go to your right means go to your strong, strong side. That’s life. You go to your strong side and the call set I not anymore because I think people know my response that I get. I’d like to talk to you About my child, what’s with your child? Well, she’s got four A’s and a C. And I know that that call is not about the four A’s. It’s about the C. And it’s like, I think, in my own life, and I always ask people to do this thing in your, in your own life. What are your strengths? What were your weaknesses? I was a very good English student. I was I wrote, well, I was a very mediocre math student. Guess what? I’m not a math teacher. And I mean, clearly, tutors and support help are very useful. I think they’re overused, by the way, in the general population, things like that, like, nobody’s good at everything. And so I think what kids need is some confidence, how do they get confidence because you’ve noticed the things that they’re good at, and you’ve supported them, and you’re curious about it, and you’re interested in, you’re listening. And, and I think that I think there’s more being asked of a kid with diversity. It’s just like, more intense, but it’s the same thing that we all have to learn, which is, you know, take pleasure in what your kids are good at and look at yourself, you know, we graded everything, probably not. And so why would you want your kid to do that. And if my parents had worried about my math scores, that meant I would have gotten a tutor, which was impossible in a working class family back then. But it would have taken the time away from reading and writing from me. So I was really glad they didn’t. And I had mentioned, my third kid had some reading issues. And to this day, if he was talking with me, he would tell me, I made too much of a big deal out of it. At the time, it was, he’s a lawyer, now, his language skills came in, that just came in really late. And I had to sit with that, you know, with two other kids who are extremely uncomfortable. So learning to live with the child, you have to say whenever I spoke that we all have two children. We have the child we expected and the child we got. And you know some people have this alignment between that and for a lot of people. They have very different pictures.

Debbie Reber  27:27

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Debbie Reber  28:15

I mean, that is really at the heart of everything that I do within this parenting community is like learning to uncover all your own, like my own, our own baggage or expectations or ideas or visions for what this should look like. or we thought it would look like and just really focusing on the child that we have. And that is life’s work right there.

Madeline Levine  28:38

That’s right. It’s sort of like when I started out, I always said see the child in front of you. You have all kinds of ideas of who that child is supposed to be. And to the extent to which you can’t let go of that and try and mold the child in that way. You’ve done a huge disservice to the incredible authenticity of every child. And I think you know what I think he missed the pleasure of if you’re disappointed in the fact that your kid doesn’t control themselves so well and you know, sensory stuff bothers him and they sort of blow up if you’re disappointed in that you miss part of the best part of parenting, which is the uniqueness of what’s standing in front of you and your relationship to that. So there’s a lot for us to learn as parents in that. There’s just a lot to learn. I remember my youngest kid who was not a great student, wanted to be a fireman. And my history is my dad was a cop. My husband’s a doctor, surgeon I want one of my kids should be a doctor, not a fireman, like my dad was. That was a hard life. And this is the one who became a lawyer ultimately But there were years where that’s what he wanted to do. And I had to learn. And that’s my background, to see that in an absolutely wonderful, positive, interesting way, which meant a lot of why questions instead of what, instead of what it’s like, Oh, that’s interesting. Why do you think that would be? Why do you think that’s a good way to live your life? Why do you think you would say interested in that? Just lots of why questions.

Debbie Reber  30:32

I would say, to just one thing to add, I think about this a lot that differently, wired children demand more of us as parents, because we often have to be more like, in the thick of it, advocating, understanding, you know, how their brain works on a more detailed level than a parent of a neurotypical child would. And to me, that is a gift, you know, if we can kind of lean into that and see, wow, this actually, it might seem more challenging, but it also can create a deeper connection sometimes or, or push us to really grow in ways that we weren’t expecting to.

Madeline Levine  31:13

You know, I think it’s interesting. There’s always this choice about which side you’re going to see things on, you know, so is it, that’s awful, I’m sorry, you know, or is what a great opportunity to, to expand your parenting skills and expand your capacity for self reflection. I think you do better if you fall on the side of opportunity. And the one thing I do wonder about after thinking about this some more is how parents with neurodiverse Kids refuel, if you have a kid who’s less demanding you refuel by going in your room, or getting your nails done, or going for a walk. But, you know, I’m curious to hear from you in this conversation. Like, what are the ways in which, you know, people in your situation, parents, like you can extract themselves so that they can revive themselves? Mm hmm.

Debbie Reber  32:14

Well, you know, I don’t know if you know, this, Madeline, but I am really big into self care. And I and I talk about it as these little small moments. And certainly, it’s harder when our kids are younger, because it can be harder to even find someone to watch your child. So you can’t dismiss them, we send them across the street to the friend’s house, you know, and so, there are a lot of parents who take advantage or try to find respite care to something and have an hour to themselves to go grab a coffee and get kind of clear, clear their heads. And certainly community like leaning on community and having your team of people that you can reach out to and share, vent, you know, do whatever you need to do to kind of work through that emotion. But yeah, it’s challenging. And as I say, all the time that it isn’t an optional kind of thing. Like it has to be a priority. And so I really encourage people for me, like, I’m a podcast listener, not just a maker of podcasts, but I consume podcasts. I’m a runner, I listen to podcasts while I’m cooking. That, to me, is self care right there. You know, I find ways to weave in things that I know, fill me up in different ways into everyday life. So so that’s what I did

Madeline Levine  33:31

Your point is well taken that everybody was really young kids, your time is hard to come by. And so to the extent to which you can structure or normalize small things, although I do not consider your baking a small thing to all your listeners. Debbie is the best baker in the world. Yeah, so what do you know, everybody thinks self care is Canyon Ranch…

Debbie Reber  34:04

I wish it was but not for me.

Madeline Levine  34:07

Right. And that’s a one off thing. But if you don’t sort of when something into your daily life, I think it’s exhausting. And I don’t know what I found through this. I’m very unstructured person and, you know, I write it to in the morning, and that’s when you have three kids, you find ways to find time for yourself. But I found that actually, that structure helped me through the pandemic, which I had never had before, you know, and now if you try and take away my morning cup of coffee, you know, whoa, No, that won’t work. It’s sort of like learning the value of a little bit of structure around taking care of myself. Half an hour has really been good. So you know, all the people who say structure is important, like Mark Kelly, the astronaut, senator who talked about being in outer space and how he would have gone crazy in the day wasn’t totally structured. So, you know, those are the kinds of things you learned through this pandemic, because I didn’t have to be at the airport. And so I had time to think about things like that. I think it’s gonna take a lot, you know, you said, fixed mindset, that’s a bad thing to have right now. Because it’s exactly the opposite of what people are going to need to get through this period, you gotta have to believe that you can do this, you’re going to have to believe that you can change that your child can change, that education will change, that hiring will change, or else you become fossilized in an expired paradigm. That really, I mean, nothing can be clearer than what we just lived through that flexibility and risk taking and adaptability and resilience, all those things made this possible. Mm hmm.

Debbie Reber  36:03

And we’ve all done it. I mean, certainly, you know, it has been ugly. And there have been lots of very serious mental health challenges faced by a lot of kids, whom we most kids have, have adapted, they have adjusted, they are doing it. And that’s something I don’t remember. Some guests I had helped me kind of reframe, not to just say that we can do hard things, but we are doing something really hard. Right. And

Madeline Levine  36:35

I have a thing about brave families. And I think bravery is critical. And what is bravery. It’s the willingness to confront challenge. It’s not to hide, it’s not to get into your squirrely places, it’s to confront challenge. And I do think one of the outcomes of this for kids will be I made it through, I got through, I know how to do that, in the same way that you know how kids learn anything, like the baby, they got to fall down first. And you know, you see the exuberance of a child when they take those first steps like the world has been handed to them. And I think a lot of kids, I think there are a lot of problems, I don’t want to downplay that. I think there really are a lot of problems. But I also think we have a whole generation of kids, many of whom have made this through intact and have every reason to be proud. And their parents have every reason to be proud of that fact. And that will be a story. I mean, one of the things I would like people to do is to write this story, you know, generations from now this is going to be in the history books, for sure. Right? The political, the social justice, pandemic as just a confluence of things. And, you know, what’s your story going to be? How are you going to tell? What’s your narrative about how you got through this? What was hard, what you’d learn, I think that’s a good thing to do.

Debbie Reber  38:08

I agree. So in your book, you referred to hope and optimism as the ultimate life skills. This is something I’m just thinking a lot about and hearing a lot about and reading a lot about. And so I’m just wondering, what you see is maybe some of the most powerful ways that parents and caregivers can help foster a sense of optimism and hope in our kids again, having been through such a disruptive time.

Madeline Levine  38:36

So I think I told you, I was an anxious mom. So I was always saying to my kids, you Okay, whatever they would do you Okay, that was my go to response. And I think it was Mike one of my kids pointed out to me like, Why are you always saying that like we’re fine. And so then I started thinking about the alternative to that which is, you’re fine or I think you can do this or you’ve got this or you know, and I think that language change is an important one that kind of hovering anxious…Is everything okay? You okay? I don’t think serves kids and I think sets up a mindset around the world is dangerous you got to pay attention to stuff you’re always in danger of being hurt you know, this is for anxious for all you anxious moms out there, switch it from Are you okay to you’ve got this because most of the times kids do have it. And if they don’t, then you can come in and be helpful but like, I have a whole section in the book on accumulated disability. How when we push our hyper vigilance and hyper parenting we make our kids very risk averse. And this is not this is not the time to have kids who shy away from challenge or risk, whatever you want to call it. So, I think having a positive attitude yourself on a personal note, I’m a pessimist. I have read every book on optimism. I have every book on cultivating Seligman you know, he’s a positive psychology. Has it moved my needle? Not very much, but, but I’ll tell you what … it becoming closer, better friends with a couple of people who are profoundly optimistic. And so every time I would say something in my usual little bit of darkness, they would say, but Madeline, look at it the other way. And that has profoundly profoundly changed me. So, you know, seek it out, and then bring it into your home, it was nice to have people who were so positive, I can always find, you know, people who think there are all kinds of problems. But it was very refreshing for me to have close friends who are optimists.

Debbie Reber  41:08

My son and I have been researching Martin Seligman ‘s work and looking into a positive psychology course on Coursera, to just see what we can do to cultivate more of that. So super interesting. And also I just share, as you’re talking about this, my husband is the one who’s always like, be careful, be careful, I’m in my 16 is my kid, but you know, tripping on the up, be careful. And I think I just made that connection that that’s an anxiety response. Oh, sure. It really connected. I was just like, Why are you saying that? Now? I get it. So thank you. So um, let me just ask one last question, then, as we you know, as this airs, we’re going to be moving back into tube school and whatever life looks like, and I’m sure you’re getting asked this all the time, like any word of advice, or something that we might want to bear in mind in order to best support our kids for a transition in back into school.

Madeline Levine  42:09

So I’ve been a psychologist for almost 40 years, which makes me anxious. And I have never, ever had a kid in my office say, you know, my parents just listen too much. Never. They always say my parents talk too much. And my advice for parents now is, listen, what you and your child, if you have a partner, other children are going through should be a source of tremendous curiosity. Tell me about going back to school? What was it like not what tests did you get? Not? How’d you do, not what part  did you get? What was interesting about today, what did you learn about today? What was hard about today? You know, stuff that spin around rose and Thorn and those kinds of things, things that have been around forever? I think the biggest thing is check in with your own level of anxiety, because you know, there’s a boatload of research on how contagious your level of anxiety is, basically. So you got to be sure you’re okay. Some kids are thrilled to be going back to school, some kids are terrified to be going back to school, some kids benefited from distance learning, some kids didn’t, you’ve had the opportunity to get to know your kids a little bit better, hopefully, through this period of time. They’re not the same, they’re going to have different kinds of reactions. And you’re just curious to start with about how they’re reacting and your own anxiety is under control.

Debbie Reber  43:52

What a great intention to set. And I love that you use the word curious, it is my favorite word. And I think when we can show up with curiosity without an agenda that is really serving our kids.

Madeline Levine  44:04

Well, anxiety gets in the way of curiosity, like what happens? I mean, I’ll have to think about this. But when we’re not curious. And I’m saying that’s a really important thing, both for our kids going back to school, but in general for the world. What keeps us from being curious, we’re afraid of the answer. We’re afraid our kid might say, you know, it’s terrible. I hate it. I feel like killing myself or our kid might say, I’m so glad to be out of here. You know, I can’t stand hanging out with you guys anymore. I mean, I think it’s always about anxiety and to the extent to which we can hold that and hold an open point of view about our kids being different, having different experiences changing over time. I think we serve our kids better,

Debbie Reber  44:55

Right, a wonderful way to close out this conversation. Thank you. listeners again, Madeline’s book is ready or not preparing our kids to thrive in an uncertain and rapidly changing world. And thank you again, thanks for writing this book. Is there another book or is that Are you done?

Madeline Levine  45:14

Well, I thought I was done. But I am sort of taken with these myths that people have. And if I write again, that’s what I might think about, but not right now.

Debbie Reber  45:29

All right, well, you’ll keep us posted and back on if you write that book, but thank you so much. It was great to have you and thanks for the conversation. Sure. You’ve been listening to the Tilt Parenting podcast, you can find links to all the resources my guests and I discussed on the detailed show notes page, just go to and select this episode. If you love this podcast and want to help cover the cost of its production, please consider joining my Patreon campaign. For as little as $2 a month you can help cover the cost of the hosting platform, editing, production and more. Just go to to learn more. Lastly, please help this podcast stay visible and easily found by subscribing and leaving a rating or review on Apple podcasts. Thanks so much for considering. And that’s all for this week. Stay safe, stay well and take good care. And for more information on Tilt Parenting, visit


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