Catherine Newman on How Kids Can Learn Social Skills & How to Be a Good Human
Today’s episode is all about social skills, but from an updated lens that really speaks to the lived experiences of today’s kids. My guest is writer and journalist Catherine Newman, and we’re going to dive into her new book, What Can I Say? A Kids Guide to Super Useful Social Skills to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself.
What Can I Say is aimed at kids ages 10 and up, and it includes practical and accessible advice to help kids and teens learn social skills, including everything from introduce themselves, express empathy, be persuasive, and apologize to compromise, ask for help, be grateful, and comfort a friend.
In this conversation, Catherine and talk about why learning social and interpersonal skills are more important than ever for our kids, despite the fact that their lives are evolving to include more time spent online. We also talk about the climate for social emotional learning and ways parents and educators can to reinforce the social skills our kids are learning.
About Catherine Newman
Catherine Newman is the author of the memoirs Catastrophic Happiness and Waiting for Birdy, the middle-grade novel One Mixed-Up Night, the kids’ craft book Stitch Camp, the how-to books for kids How to Be a Person and What Can I Say? and the novel We All Want Impossible Things (forthcoming, Harper, November 2022). She edits the non-profit kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop, writes the etiquette column for Real Simple magazine, and is a regular contributor to the New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Parents magazine, Cup of Jo, and many other publications. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- Why it’s still important to learn social skills and interpersonal skills even though our kids’ lives are evolving to include more time spent online
- Why it’s important to spend time learning social skills just as we would learn any other type of skill like algebra or singing
- The importance of learning interpersonal skills that focus on empathy, setting boundaries, being curious, and being supportive and inclusive of people with different identities
- How OT can help neurodivergent kids grow up with advanced social emotional skills
- What parents and educators can do to support and reinforce the social skills they are learning
Resources mentioned for how kids can learn social skills
- What Can I Say? A Kids’ Guide to Super Useful Social Skills to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself by Catherine Newman
- How to Be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn before You’re Grown Up by Catherine Newman
This Season’s Sponsor: Outschool
Whether you’re homeschooling your child, looking to enrich their learning, or just want to give your kids a new way to dive into their interests, Outschool is for you. Outschool takes kids ages 3 through 18 beyond the classroom to explore the topics they love through small, live classes taught by expert teachers, all through an accessible online learning platform.
Back when we were living abroad and I was homeschooling Asher, we tapped into Outschool for classes in writing and Minecraft. Today, Outschool offers more than 140,000 classes in just about every topic under the sun — I just love how passionate they are about celebrating the needs, interests, and learning styles of differently wired kids around the globe.
CLICK HERE to learn more about how Outschool can support your child’s learning journey, and use the code TILT to get a $20 credit towards your first class.
Debbie Reber 00:00
Tilt Parenting is proud to partner with Outschool this podcast season. Outschool’s unique approach to education empowers differently wired kids ages three through 18 to dive into their interests in small live classes designed to foster a love of learning, create connections and cultivate independence. Learn more at outschool.com/tilt
Catherine Newman 00:23
You can now be a queer kid in a rural place where you don’t know anybody queer and you can have an online community that makes you feel as alone as you’ve ever felt in your life. And that is absolutely life saving. There’s I can’t think of anything more important that the internet can be doing. But they know that the brain chemistry when you release dopamine when you release oxytocin, all the reward system is really geared towards in person relationships.
Debbie Reber 00:52
Well, 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. Today’s episode is all about social skills, but from an updated lens that really speaks to the lived experience of today’s kids. My guest is writer and journalist Catherine Newman, and we’re going to dive into her new book, What Can I Say: A Kid’s Guide to Super Useful Social Skills to help you get along and express yourself. What Can I Say is aimed at kids ages 10 and up and it includes practical and accessible advice to help kids and teens learn how to do everything from introduce themselves, express empathy, be persuasive and apologize to compromise, ask for help, be grateful and comfort a friend. In this conversation, Catherine and I talk about why social and interpersonal skills are more important than ever for our kids, despite the fact that their lives are evolving to include more time spent online. We also talk about the climate for social emotional learning and ways parents and educators can reinforce the social skills our kids are learning. And a little bit more about Katherine in addition to the book we’re talking about today, Catherine is the author of the memoirs Catastrophic Happiness, and Waiting for Birdie, the middle grade novel One Mixed-Up Night, the kids craft book Stitch Camp and the how to book for kids, How to Be a Person. She edits the nonprofit kids cooking magazine, Chop Chop, writes the etiquette column for Real Simple Magazine, and is a regular contributor to The New York Times. O, The Oprah Magazine, Parents Magazine, Cup of Joe and many other publications. Before I get to my conversation with Catherine, I do want to give a quick shout out to Sarah Holzman, Shelly Sullivan, and Martina, three new supporters of the podcast. Thank you so much for joining my Patreon campaign and helping me cover the costs of producing this show. If you get a lot out of this podcast and want to join Sarah, Shelley and Martina in supporting it, you can sign up at patreon to make a small monthly contribution. To learn more visit patreon.com/tiltparenting. Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Catherine.
Debbie Reber 03:21
Hey, Catherine, welcome to the podcast.
Catherine Newman 03:23
Hi, Debbie. I’m so happy to be here.
Debbie Reber 03:25
I’m happy to be having this conversation. And we were just saying, we both feel like we know each other yet. This is our first actual conversation. So I’m really excited just getting to have this chat with you in sharing you with my audience.
Catherine Newman 03:38
I’m so excited to get to talk to you.
Debbie Reber 03:40
Well, can you start us off by telling us a little bit about yourself. From the bio that I read in the intro, it’s clear that you are a multi passionate person. And you do lots of things in lots of different spaces, which I love that really resonated with me. I’d love to just hear in your voice kind of a little bit about what you do in the world. And and then as part of that how writing these nonfiction books for kids became part of your body of work.
Catherine Newman 04:06
Okay, well, that’s Thank you. That’s great. I love multi passionate, I just wrote that down so that I can have it tattooed onto my wrist because that’s such a polite way to describe what I do. I have been a raider in some ways for my whole life. But I had a long divergent path through grad school. I actually had a PhD in literature in the 1990s. And then we had a baby. We were living in a friend’s room, a friend’s house, one room and a friend’s house. My partner and I with a baby, both of us trying to finish PhDs and we thought what are we doing? moved from California back to the East Coast. And so then neither of us actually wanted to be academics. And so both of us finished our PhDs and then my husband went to massage school. He is a massage therapist. And I wound up writing kind of full time as a freelancer. So that has looked like writing, copy for Kotex. That’s like don’t worry, you had a baby, the tampon won’t fall out, that kind of like terrible work. I’ve written so many different things for so many different people. But along the way, I got hired by Baby Center and you just have to picture this is back in the early 2000s. I had not heard of the word blog. And I got written to write a weekly column about my kids and that really launched my career as writer even though they paid me $50 A week for 750 word column if you’re not a writer, that’s really bad money just heads up but it became a memoir, it became another column that also became a memoir. And then I was really a writer and that’s and then there’s others I know you’re looking at the bio like what about the food writing? What about the etiquette calm, I do all kinds of other work and writing too. I love cooking. I love feeding my kids. I have to put that in the past tense because they are both in college now. But I still love feeding them even though it was totally relentless. Sidenote dinner every single night you’re like seriously again with the dinner but it turned out everybody needed to eat every single evening while they were growing up which was baffling to me. But I read a lot of recipes. I’ve been the real simple etiquette calmness for 10 years even though I have horrible table manners and never had a wedding like I’m so not a traditional etiquette person. But I love love to think about relationships. And that is why I ended up writing the book which is why I’m with you today the What can I say book for kids is really in many ways an etiquette but but not etiquette in the you know, tea with the queen way but etiquette in the sense of how do we make our relationships? How do we treat them as primary and make them as strong as they can be? Because they are our greatest asset? They’re my monologues.
Debbie Reber 07:14
Sorry no, it was great. You took us on a journey. And we ended up right where we want to be, which is great. And I just have to say, too, with this book, and you wrote another book in a similar vein called How to Be a Person for kids. It’s a totally different thing to write a book for kids of, you know, what’s the age group for these books? How do you identify it?
Catherine Newman 07:36
Well, it really depends on I mean, what they say is sort of based on an unspoken idea of like a neurotypical kid. So that we say like 10 to 14 for both of these books that said it can skew younger, older depending on who your kid is, you know, we feel like, we know that young adults are using the first book, How to Be a Person, which has a lot of life skills in it. And we know that that’s a useful kind of backup for kids who’ve done a lot of occupational therapy, who are just needing a little reference, you know, and what can I say I would think would have a similar range, but it just came out yesterday. So we’re not totally sure yet who’s reading it?
Debbie Reber 08:25
Well, yeah. And it’s for this audience, I think you’ve really nailed it just in terms of the tone and the accessibility. It’s bite size. There aren’t a lot of words in it. But every word matters so much like you cover so much ground in this book. I was delighted. Like every time I turned the page, I’m like, Oh, and this. And this. So Oh,
Catherine Newman 08:46
I’m so glad that makes me so happy. I haven’t gotten a ton of feedback on it yet because it’s just coming out.
Debbie Reber 08:52
Yeah, no, it’s I just feel like it’s so important. And you really covered so many things. And I want to get into a lot of what you you share in the book. But I guess before we get into that, it’s What Can I Say: A Kid’s Guide to Super Useful Social Skills to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself. So why now? Can you just kind of talk about this book in the context of where we are in the world and why this book is so necessary?
Catherine Newman 09:19
Yes. I mean, there’s so many answers to that question. You know, one answer is the pandemic. I mean, these are evergreen skills. Anyways, there have been people talking about this stuff forever. But in this I used to say post pandemic, and now obviously, it’s evolving pandemic. I don’t know what to say anymore. In this world where kids have been in and out of their normal social lives. Over the last couple years they’ve been in school, not in school, over zoom. A lot of kids have dug deep into their phones. They are on social media a lot and people talk a lot right about feeling like their kids are not very fluid in their social relationships. I think that’s true of a lot of adults too. By the way, it’s just harder to teach adult stuff because adults don’t tend to want to be taught anything. But kids are open, I think to, I think if you, you know, present these skills as learnable skills, kids will learn them instead of somehow presuming that these are skills that are in the era kids are breathing, which of course they’re not. And then the other thing I say, besides the pandemic, besides that you and I are speaking soon after a horrific Texas school shooting, where we are just thinking all the time about what is missing from everybody’s life, besides gun control laws. And then if you think of this, I keep having I’m so struck, by the way that something as vast as foreign policy is an extension of social skills. If you think social skills at bottom, they’re what they are, they’re dealing with the fact that other people are different from you, that’s kind of it, if everyone was the same as you, you would need no skills, they would just be exactly like you and you could just do whatever, people are different. That’s a beautiful thing. And then what you do with that fact, is really up to you. So if you think about war over differences, that kind of thing. This is basically a huge version of how do we get along with other people? How do we turn somebody’s difference into an asset instead of a liability?
Debbie Reber 11:50
Yes. So as you were responding, I was thinking about, well, first of all, I’ve heard so much about kids these days, who have, as you said, spent the past couple of years really immersed in their devices, their social relationships have really played out online. And they may have gained skills with that kind of communication. But even those same kids put them in a room together, it will be crickets, like, they don’t know how to engage with each other. And I’m wondering if you’re noticing that and I just wondered, too, I feel like I’ve heard pushback from people who’ve said, you know, what, that’s where we are evolving, and kids, their lives are going to be played out on their devices, and we don’t need to fight that as much. So what would you say in response to people who, who may be feel that these types of interpersonal like in real life, social skills don’t matter as much.
Catherine Newman 12:49
So I feel strongly that they do and, you know, there’s evidence that they matte. People who study depression and anxiety and how it relates to loneliness, loneliness, as defined, you know, defined as not in actual human real life contact with people. My daughter who deals with anxiety and is on tik tok all the time. And it is a lifesaver. It is so great, like people are doing brilliant things online. So I’m not just globally dissing that that’s so important. You can now be a queer kid, in a rural place where you don’t know anybody queer, and you can have an online community that makes you feel as alone as you’ve ever felt in your life. And that is absolutely life saving. There’s, I can’t think of anything more important that the internet could be doing. But they know that the brain chemistry when you release dopamine, when you release oxytocin, all the reward system is really geared towards impersonal relationships. So and that’s true. I love to say this. That’s true even for introverts, so I’m an introvert. I’m like, whatever I’ve I’ve been diagnosed as like an outgoing introvert, whatever. Even for me, what makes me feel good is human interaction. Do I need to then like, Go lay down with the cats for five hours? Yeah, maybe. But what is protective of our mental health? What is in fact, the thing that gives us the will to live is in person human interaction. And I think that’s a worthwhile thing to actually explain to kids to be honest, like, just be transparent about it, because there is science to support that it is a fact.
Debbie Reber 14:37
And I think, you know, my hunch is that this is something most kids want a lot of kids especially this is an area where a lot of neurodivergent kids struggle anyway. Right is socially relating to other people understanding how to navigate social situations, not as you say, you know, this isn’t in the water or in the air like these. A lot of times social cues are things that differently wired kids may just not be good at in the first place. So I think that’s what I so appreciated the nuances that your book went into. And I’d love to talk about some of them. A lot of what you share is about emotional regulation, really, you know, how to be angry, how to forgive, how to express empathy. Can you say more about how you kind of identified the things that you wanted to include in here? Because it is so comprehensive?
Catherine Newman 15:30
Thank you for that question, which is a great question. It was a very multi pronged approach. We did a lot of crowdsourcing, we got a lot of feedback from kids about the first book, The thing kids most wanted that the first book didn’t include, almost everything was social skills. Kids wrote us letters that were like, but how do I make small talk with my grandma on how to ask someone out on a date and, and we thought, oh, yeah, this is going to be another book where we just dig deep with social skills. And then because I’ve written that real simple column for so long. The truth is, adults are dealing with really similar stuff. So when I distilled at some point, I distilled basically all of the major kind of themes and questions of 10 years of that column. And it’s a lot of stuff that’s in this book for kids, you know, how do you deal with being excluded? How do you extend to someone? When you’re not feeling necessarily generous? How do you say no? How do you know all of the skills in this book, how do you keep, keep, keep re centering yourself around empathy, which I think is probably, you know, if there’s one global suggestion, it’s that to keep trying to imagine what it feels like to be somebody else. And that’s a really hard thing. And I know, there’s controversy about whether or not empathy can be taught. But we know it can be taught to some extent, and that it is a skill that takes practice of imagining what it feels like to be somebody else. That’s if somebody smiles at you, and you smile back, you’re practicing empathy already, I feel like it’s a good thing to remind kids that they actually already know what it is. But then we had to deal with a lot of nuance that I didn’t really know about. And so I had to learn really fast, like at some point, and you’ll laugh, because like, this is so ignorant of me. But at some point, I had said, like, oh, it’s really important when you’re meeting somebody to make eye contact with them. And one of our beta readers who was reading for accessibility was like, yeah, lots of people can’t do that, like you can, that can’t be a prerequisite for meeting somebody, we were able to fine tune to accommodate kind of much subtler questions of personhood than we had started with. So to make eye contact, if you can to try again, to make eye contact, even if you think of it as something you can’t do. And if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. That’s fine. You have plenty of other things to offer that there. We just didn’t want it to feel like a book where you would think, Oh, shoot, this is not a book for me, because I know I can’t do this thing.
Debbie Reber 18:24
Yeah, I noticed that in the eye contact. I was like if you can like it felt very inclusive to me because of course, as a parent of a neurodivergent kid, I’m always reading everything through the lens of okay, but this is work for my family. And, it did feel very inclusive in that way. So well done on that. And that’s awesome.
Debbie Reber 18:48
And now a quick break for a word from our sponsor. Whether you’re homeschooling your child looking to enrich their learning, or just want to give your kids a new way to dive into their interests. Outschool is for you. Outschool takes kids ages three through 18 beyond the classroom to explore the topics they love through small live classes taught by expert teachers, all through an accessible online learning platform. Back when we were living abroad, and I was homeschooling Asher, we tapped into Outschool for classes in writing, and yes, Minecraft. Today outschool offers more than 140,000 classes and just about every topic under the sun. And I just love how passionate they are about celebrating the needs, interests and learning styles of differently wired kids around the globe. Learn more about how outschool can support your child’s learning journey at outschool.com/tilt and use the code Tilt to get a $20 credit toward your first class. And now back to the show.
Debbie Reber 19:53
I took notes like of course everything as I said every time I turned the page, I was like yes, yes. Oh, interesting. You know it again, it covered so many things. I loved the inclusivity, how to be an ally, you include how to react to a racist joke, which I thought was wonderful. How to talk about pronouns. Can you talk about some of those issues that are more centered around identity and, and issues that could be considered tricky right now for, certainly for a lot of adults to handle?
Catherine Newman 20:27
Yeah, yes. And as I’m sure you can imagine, these were the parts of this book that the most people had the most comments about. So we had different, we hired different sensitivity readers, we hired a black writer and thinker to read the book, through the lens of both potential racist assumptions in the book, and also potential opportunities. And we had a wheelchair user read the book for sensitivity to ability and disability, and body differences. And, I really had to practice some of the skills in this book, have been really reminding myself to be grateful instead of defensive. For example, it’s really, it’s, I got a ton of feedback, and it was really vital to me, and I treasured it. And also, it’s really hard to be criticized. So that was just an interesting process. And you know, is I’m always so grateful to have those experiences where I experienced a social interaction as challenging because you learn so much from that, you know, you can really expand into that anyway, we assume there, you know, maybe we’ll be some pushback out in the world about some of these issues. I’m not really sure yet, or people thinking these aren’t really kids issues. But of course, they really are, we are seeing kids kind of give up the gender binary all over the country right now, that is just a fact, kids are no longer always comfortably identifying as a boy or girl, kids are either experimenting with gender or fully changing deviating from the gender they were assigned at birth. So all of these things, they are real issues, and they are in our kids lives, our kids that are, as far as I can tell, our kids are handling it much with much more grace than the adults are, by and large. So I’m learning a ton from young people. And then there are things like how to respond to a racist joke. And that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do. As anyone who’s ever done, it knows I have done it. And as an adult, it makes me so sweaty and nervous. And I’m pretty good at responding to stuff. And so we have a lot of caveats about like, if you feel safe, and this is really hard, but it’s also really important for people, and especially white people in this moment to start seeing themselves to start using that power for good, for the good of our whole society. So to just start, even if you read that, and you don’t practice it, that it’s in your head with some actually some scripts you could use, you know, we were really trying to be practical, not just aspirational, like, Wouldn’t it be great if you could respond to this, but like, what could you actually say, if this happens in front of you? So anyway, some of these things are going to be too hard for some kids, and that’s fine. That’s why we keep saying, you know, if you can’t do it, that’s okay. And make sure you’re safe, above all, but also it’s okay, if it just sneaks into your head as like, Hmm, this is maybe something I’m going to try at some point.
Debbie Reber 24:03
Yeah, I love that. It’s so practical. And as I was reading it, too, I was thinking this is a book, especially again, for those of us raising differently wired kids that we may, like, read with our kid, we may practice some of those scenarios and do some role playing to to use some of those strategies and see how it feels like because they’re hard to do. You know, if you’re in an awkward situation, how do you leave it? How do you, you know, how do you handle this, right?
Catherine Newman 24:33
Yes. And when you say that I’m thinking too, about the fact that like, neurodivergent kids who’ve done a lot of OT, interestingly, often have a much easier relationship to learning social skills because it’s, they’ve already been aware of learning them. And that’s just an interesting thing. Like, if you like neurotypical kids don’t always have experiences of being taught these skills, which often means they haven’t actually learned them or practiced them. So it’s kind of an interesting phenomenon like my kids, neither of whom identify as neurodivergent. But we were going to a funeral two years ago, and these kids, so my kids are 22 and 19. And in the car, they were like, can we role play offering condolences? And I was like, yes, because it is so hard. It’s so there, they felt so awkward and uncomfortable. They knew they needed to do it. And it just felt embarrassed, or like they were going to screw it up. And we practiced in the car, and we talked about how it was actually fine. You didn’t need to go on and on, you could just say I’m so sorry for your loss. But like practicing skills the way we would practice like algebra or singing, like, it’s just another learnable thing, as you well know. But I think for lots of parents, it feels like you should learn social and emotional skills, the way you learn a language, that it’s in the house and your kids just pick it up. I think being deliberate is probably a better way to go for everybody.
Debbie Reber 26:21
Yeah, especially now, knowing that our kids are there social engagement looks so different than when we were their age, and in high school and kind of, you know, I think of my high school life of like, going to check practice and then hanging out to go to waiting for play rehearsal to start and just hanging out talking to each other. Right?
Catherine Newman 26:43
I know, or like winding the long cord from the kitchen phone. So you could talk privately and like the coat closet. Like I just know. It’s so so different. I totally agree that I remember childhood exactly the way you just described it.
Debbie Reber 27:00
Yeah. And I would say too, I love what you say about these kids who’ve been in OT and I often say that neurodivergent kids can grow up to be some of the most kind of emotionally intelligent humans you’ll meet, because they have spent time exploring and thinking about relationships with others and how they show up in the world and how they experience being in relationship with other people.
Catherine Newman 27:26
Yeah, oh, I know, I think that’s an incredible thing and should be a source of great pride, you know, that a lot of kids who’ve been in OT are basically students of human life in the way that lots of people maybe should be.
Debbie Reber 27:43
Yes, absolutely. And just to go back to you mentioned that you’re expecting some pushback. Certainly, as I was reading this book, I was thinking, I’m curious to see what the response is from certain communities, especially right now, I’ve been very much kind of outraged about the attack on social emotional learning, and just this idea that we don’t want to be talking about things that we know are so critical. And so I don’t know, do you have a game plan? Or what are you thinking about in terms of this book as being part of this bigger conversation on sel? That’s happening right now, especially in the US?
Catherine Newman 28:22
I don’t have a game plan. That’s a great question. I’m not probably super interested in criticisms in that vein, and I don’t really know. What do you think someone could say to me? Like that these aren’t really skills or that people should just know this stuff?
Debbie Reber 28:43
You know, this is a whole other conversation, but especially surrounding the inclusivity, gender, those things that this is perpetuating ideas, ideas that we know are already as you said, like, this is the reality for our kids and their experience.
Catherine Newman 29:00
I guess maybe what I would say is just that, like, for me, none of this stuff. Like these are not controversial things. These are just phenomena that exist in the world. And so we get on board and be supportive, like I don’t, especially like I’m thinking right now saying that I’m thinking about the gender thing, like whether or not anybody feels some way about it. This is just happening. Kids just are not the genders they were assigned at birth, or they are non binary, or they don’t use the pronouns you expect them to use. I mean, it’s not arguable, you know, it just is a fact. And so I feel like if we raise our kids to be supportive and inclusive, then that’s the way to make the world the way we want it. And the truth is, so many kids already are supportive and inclusive and they’re doing an absolutely incredible job and in the face of, of really daunting odds. It’s really, it’s a moment where there is so much hatred. And I feel like I keep seeing kids just rise to the occasion over and over again, of being brave and of being inclusive and kind. And that kills me. I feel like we have left it to them. And they’re, and they’re really doing it.
Debbie Reber 30:27
They aren’t doing it. I’m wondering if you could, I don’t know if you have a favorite skill or but it because your book is again, it covers so many things. But what do you think would be if we could focus on one area? Is there one thing that you think is most critical?
Catherine Newman 30:44
I mean, oh my God, I have so many favorite skills in my How to Be a Person book when people ask me like what the most important skill was? And that was like my trick answer because that book was full of like, how to do the dishes and take out the trash. And I always said my favorite skill in that book was how to apologize, which is still, I think, an incredibly useful skill. I feel like one of the skills I really think about and, you know, love to help people cultivate and this is true in the real simple calm as well with adults, but in urine interviewer like by trade, so probably it’s hard for you to even think about the skill. But how do you cultivate curiosity in other people, so that sense of like, we want our kids to feel about other people like, I don’t know, I just remember I have a metaphor in my head. And it’s like being a kid and watching someone crack open a geode. And there was just this like rough gray rock. And then on the inside, it was just like all glittering purple. And this feeling that if we approach other people with enough tenderness and curiosity that we will have access to that kind of beauty. Now that sounds very aspirational. And I realized that there’s nothing in the book that quite matches that. But just that curiosity about other people is a learnable skill. You ask questions. You listen, when somebody talks, you look up from your phone to indicate that you’re curious and interested. So I feel like that’s a weirdly kind of underrated skill or kind of way of moving through the world. But it seems to me that it’s at the heart of so much. And again, just to expand it out. Like if you think about things happening at a global level. If people stopped and said, Wow, what’s it like to be you? What, what is the significance of this to you tell me more about, you know, what you believe and why? Those are just the biggest possible ways of being the most significant ways of moving through the world. That’s a huge worldview in and of itself, just curiosity.
Debbie Reber 33:18
I remember that so much. I love your geode metaphor. And I felt that, you know, I’ve had that experience of people that I maybe judged initially, and then discovered who they were and how powerful that can be. And I think that’s such an incredible skill for our kids who can be a little self involved, especially if they’re struggling.
Catherine Newman 33:43
Oh, my God, I love that you said that about being wrong about people, because that is one of my favorite things. I love to be wrong about people in that way. I love that. And that’s coming to me, you know, I’m 53. That’s new for me to just lean into being wrong. I anticipate you know, myself, Oh, my God, maybe I’m wrong. Instead of just like, hey, hanging from the mast of my opinion, you know, through the winds of change. It’s really I just love that. Yes, to be wrong about somebody. It’s so good.
Debbie Reber 34:19
Yeah, that’s awesome. So before we say goodbye, and wrap this up. Again, we know this isn’t a once and done thing, that our kids are going to read the book, they’ll be good to go. You know, we talked about role playing. Do you have any other ideas for ways we as parents and caregivers and educators can be really reinforcing and strengthening the skills in your book?
Catherine Newman 34:42
I mean, it’s so obvious that it’s almost painful to say it and I don’t want to just make everybody want to lie down on the floor with tiredness about this idea. But you know, modeling is, I think about it all the time because I can be such a horrendous hit. I can be so judgmental about my kids being on their phones. And then I can be on my phone and like not greet somebody when they come into my home, one of my kids, or my husband like that weird thing where you can feel like everything you’re doing is so pressing and urgent. And so I guess just, you know, other than like practicing with kids, but just modeling it just like walking the talk of put your phone down, turn your phone off, which I know is insanity. But that is something I’ve started doing is turning it actually all the way off. So it’s not just talking to me from across the room, you know, the way you feel. So like your phone has something to share with you like I just turning it off and looking up and standing up to greet people It sounds so it’s like embarrassing to say because like, I assume most people are doing all those things. But I was in a habit of not doing that for a little while of just I don’t know, I just feel this feeling of sitting up and looking up and being really present when one of my kids is talking to me, even now even at 22 and 19. Just centering into the experience of being with them. And what that model is for them, which I really hope is the kind of attentiveness and caring that we want them to practice.
Debbie Reber 36:30
So good. Love that. Love that. Thank you. So well before we say goodbye. Again, I just want to remind listeners, the book is called What Can I Say. And by the time you’re listening to this, it will have been out probably for about a month. The subtitle is A Kid’s Guide to Super Useful Social Skills to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself and Catherine are their favorite places where people can track you down online and follow your work.
Catherine Newman 36:58
I have a website, which is catherinenewmanwriter.com. And everything is there, my books, and it’s not very updated in terms of articles, but lots of stuff is there. And I love hearing from people and I love hearing from kids. So if your kid ends up with this book in their hands, and they have anything to share, or anything they’d like to see different or covered in another book. I really, really hope they’ll write me because that’s like my favorite thing.
Debbie Reber 37:26
Awesome. All right. Well, thank you. Congratulations. Today is actually your book birthday. So happy birthday. And I’m so glad that you wrote this book and put it out into the world. And thanks for sharing with us today.
Catherine Newman 37:37
Thank you so much for having me and for asking me such incredibly good questions.
Debbie Reber 37:45
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