Todd Adams on Dads, the “Man Box”, and How Men Can Better Show Up for Their Kids and Families

gender nonconformity kids
This episode explores the subject of vulnerability, male culture, and parenting specifically in the context of heteronormative relationships and how men can show up as better dads to their differently wired children. And I have the perfect guest to explore this topic with — Todd Adams, half of the duo of Zen Parenting Radio, and a leadership coach for men and the executive director of the international men’s organization, Men Living. 

Todd and I looked at the societal norms and pressures on men that get in the way of their being vulnerable in their relationships, feel more connected at home, and hold emotional space for their families, especially in families with neurodivergent kids and where the demands on relationships (emotionally, mentally, and physically) may be more intense. We also talked about what women can do to support and encourage their male partners to do inner work and show up as dads in a way that will better support their relationships and their family as a whole. 


About Todd Adams

12 years ago Todd co-founded Zen Parenting with his wife Cathy. Zen Parenting is a top 10 parenting podcast whose grounding forces are self-awareness, mindfulness, compassion, and connection. He also serves as the Executive Director Men Living, an International Men’s organization. Todd is a life and leadership coach for men certified through the Conscious Leadership Group as well as Tony Robbins Life Coaching Program. Todd is a staff member of The Mankind Project, and blogs for the Good Men Project. Todd is married to his amazing wife Cathy and has three daughters and one rabbit.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • What the a “man box” is (and how it differs from “toxic masculinity”)
  • The barriers in “typical” heteronormative relationships that stand in the way of men feeling connected, including the additional challenges when raising a differently wired child
  • How families can benefit when men more fully show up and become more vulnerable in their relationships
  • What women can do to encourage their male partners to do the work and how they can support them through it
  • How dads can find other like-minded dads and connect with them


Resources mentioned for Toddy Adams & Helping Men Be Better Dads


This Season’s Sponsor: Fusion Academy

Is your family’s school year not going as you’d hoped? Does your student go unseen or get under-served in a big classroom? Well, I’ve got great news for you. Fusion Academy is a private middle and high school with 1-on-1 classrooms customized to your student’s pace – academically, socially, and emotionally. Fusion has more than 80 campuses across the US, along with their virtual campus, Fusion Global Academy, which serves students online worldwide. My teen attends Fusion and it has truly been a game-changer for our whole family in the best possible way.

Learn more and experience the world’s most personalized school with a free trial session at

Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

Tilt Parenting is proud to partner with Fusion Academy this season. Fusion Academy is a private, middle and high school with one on one classrooms to meet students exactly where they’re at, academically, socially and emotionally. Learn more about the most personalized school in the world and how they’ve changed the lives of 1000s of families, including mine at

Todd Adams  00:23

It’s wired into me and it’s pounded into me that my first priority is to make sure that I continue to do a good job professionally. And I’ll let my wife navigate the emotions in the household, because she’s better at it. So it’s easier for me to just kind of step back and say, You know what, honey, you’re better at that than I am. So I just might come in heavy handed when there needs to be some serious discipline. But you do most of the heavy lifting. And in my experience, it has to happen. We need to meet our partners at least halfway as matter of fact, even more than halfway.

Debbie Reber  00:58

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. And today is a different kind of episode for this show, because we’re doing a deep dive into the subject of vulnerability, male culture, and parenting specifically in the context of heteronormative relationships. And I have the perfect guest to explore this topic with Todd Adams, half of the duo of Zen Parenting Radio and a leadership coach for men and the executive director of the International Men’s organization, Men Living. Todd and I looked at the societal norms and pressures on men that get in the way of their being vulnerable in their relationships, feel more connected at home and hold emotional space for their families, especially in families with differently wired children where the demands on relationships emotionally, mentally and physically, may be more intense. We also talked about what women can do to support and encourage their male partners to do inner work and show up in a way that will better support their relationships and their family as a whole. And you may recognize Todd, he’s been on the show before, but in case you’re new to him, here’s a little background. Todd Adams co-founded Zen Parenting with his wife Cathy 12 years ago, and then parenting radio podcast is a top 10 parenting podcast whose grounding forces are self awareness, mindfulness, compassion, and connection. And incidentally, it is one of my favorite podcasts. In addition to being the executive director of men living, Todd is a staff member of the Mankind Project and blogs for The Good Men Project. So if you, like a majority of listeners of this show are a woman in a heteronormative relationship. I encourage you to give your partner a compassionate nudge to listen, there’s a lot of food for thought throughout this conversation. And I hope it can be a catalyst for finding deeper connection within your relationship. And before I get to that, I have been busy working on some new free resources for members of the tilt community, especially those newer to this journey who are looking to deepen their awareness and understanding about showing up for their differently wired children. If that’s you, please check out my newest resource, a free 10 Day video series called 10 Things You Have to Know When Raising a Differently Wired Child. In this new series, I share the 10 most important things to know, also known as the things I wish I’d known when I first realized I was on this path of parenting a neurodivergent child. To get this free series just sign up at tilt things again, that’s And if you’re ready to dive deeper with me and seriously uplevel your parenting progress, I invite you to check out the Differently Wired Club, think virtual office hours, coaching calls, expert guests monthly themes, connection with other parents like you and much more. I open the doors to the club for a few days at the end of every month. So that’s coming up soon. To learn more just visit for all the details and to get pre registered today. Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Todd. Hey, Todd, welcome back to the podcast.

Todd Adams  04:22

Thank you, Debbie. Appreciate you having me on.

Debbie Reber  04:24

So I’ve had you and Cathy on together. And then I did a solo with Cathy to talk about her awesome book Zen Parenting and you all should go back and listen to that. I’ll have links in the show notes pages for both of those episodes, but now we are having our own one to one. So I would love it if you could start by just doing your own intro to who you are in the world and what you do?

Todd Adams  04:44

Sure. My name is Todd Adams. I’m married to an amazing woman named Cathy Cassani Adams. We do a podcast together called Zen Parenting Radio. I’m also the executive director of an International Men’s organization called Men Living. I’m also a life and leadership coach and I have three amazing daughters, ages 19, 17 and 15.

Debbie Reber  05:04

As a way to get started, you mentioned your international organization Men Living. I want to know more about the work that you do with men and why that has been the area that you’ve dived deep into.

Todd Adams  05:16

Yeah. So I think the easiest way for me to tell the story is to begin at the beginning, I went on a golf weekend with my buddies when I was like 32 years old, and they were college friends. And we did the things that most guys do on golf weekends, which is gamble and drink, and play golf. And I got home from the weekend, exhausted and also joyful, because I spent the weekend with my buddies and I got home and Cathy’s, like, how was the weekend I said, Great. She said, how are the guys, I’m like, they’re great. And we went to school together, she knows these men. And she’s like, I know, but what’s going on with them and their worlds and relationships. And I realized over a 72 hour period, I did not have a single moment of meaningful conversation with these men. Meanwhile, Cathy would go out with their girlfriends for two hours, and know everything. And I just kind of like saw my future of this superficial, artificial, shallow relationship with men. So fast forward, Cathy started doing this women’s circle out of our living room. And I’m like, I want to do that. So I invited a buddy and to kind of do the meeting with me, and then we invited her a few other buddies, and we just decided that we’re going to get together without booze, and without ESPN and without TV, and we’re just gonna, like, connect authentically. And that’s how it started. And that was, what 11 or 12 years ago, and since then, we’ve turned it into an International Men’s organization, men from all over the world connect on Zoom free of charge. And the whole idea is for us to share authentically and vulnerably. So that we can be better connected to ourselves connected to each other show up in our relationships with our children, with our partners, in a more invigorated, more conscious way. So that’s the genesis of what we do and how we do it.

Debbie Reber  07:10

And in terms of the guys that show up to your spaces, I’m wondering even how they find you. Because it seems like the discourse in our culture is that this isn’t your typical guy, your typical guy isn’t plugged in, your typical guy isn’t doing that deep inner work. And so I’d love to know how men find you.

Todd Adams  07:29

Yeah, they’re the unicorns most guys grow up in the man box. Most guys are taught that vulnerability is a weakness, I happen to believe that vulnerability is a strength. And that’s the only way we can truly connect with other people is with vulnerability. And I’ll tell you a quick story. I was at a YMCA, Father, daughter weekend, and I went year after year after year. And it was just an awful time because the girls are going one direction and the dads are going the other direction. The dads just talked about sports and work and all that. And I kept waiting for the men that I was around to be vulnerable. And I got sick of waiting. So I decided that this next year, I was going to just dive in with something kind of like deeply personal and authentic and vulnerable. So when a guy is like, Hey, how are you doing, instead of me saying, oh, work is good. And the kids are good. I’m like, actually, I’m struggling with my relationship with my wife right now. And it’s because she thinks that I’m always trying to fix her problems when I feel like fixing her problems helps blah, blah, blah. And what I noticed was that some guys would run away scared, most guys just need an excuse, they need the door open. And now at that place in my life, where I really don’t care much about how I’m perceived. By all that’s not true. I do care how I’m perceived, but not in the same way. And so now I just like to jump in with vulnerability and all that because somebody’s got to start if we keep waiting for the other guy to start, in order for us to feel safe, because we need to feel safe if we’re gonna have conversations with people in a vulnerable way. So I take a risk. And even though I don’t know a man and the report, the report hasn’t been built up to the point where I feel safe. I’m just willing to outsource that and just try to lean in with some vulnerable conversation. And like I said, most of the time, the guys will meet me where as long as I take the lead and I hope to continue to cultivate them so they can go do that in their own lives, whether it’s with their partner with their kids or with their boss or with their employee with another man doesn’t really matter.

Debbie Reber  09:29

And you mentioned the man box. Can you tell us more about what that is? And I’m also wondering, Is that the same thing as toxic masculinity? Are they related?

Todd Adams  09:38

Oh, so interesting. You brought up that term. So I’ll first explain my version of the man box a man box is the box that we are painted into not as soon as we come out of the womb, but pretty quickly after parents will sometimes give the boys the fire trucks and give the girls the dolls and that’s the beginning of the man box but where the man box ends up evolving into Is I am how much money I am. My value is predicated on how many trophies or athletic trophies I have in my bedroom. I am how many girls like me, all these authentic ways of valuing human beings. And we work from this unconscious place that we’re just always trying to be on the social ladder. So I know my value is not predicated on how much money I have, although I still have money baggage that I’m continuing to work through. But when, when you’re in your 20s, and 30s, you’re trying if you happen to identify as straight. A lot of guys think that you’re only as cool as how many girls that you are able to court, the man box means I can’t have any feelings. Or if I can have any feelings at all, it angers the only one that’s tolerable. I can’t be afraid I can’t be sad. I can’t even be joyful, it’s uncool to be joyful. And if there’s any middle aged men like me listening out there, my invitation is when was the last time you like had a big belly laugh was last time you literally jumped for joy. That doesn’t happen very often. So let me pivot over to the toxic masculinity thing. It’s funny because I don’t get triggered by that term, toxic masculinity. But some of the men who I care deeply about who’ve done men’s work forever, they get so reactive to that term, because they think it’s an assault on them. I’m navigating whether or not I still want to use that term, because it’s something I feel comfortable using. And it describes, it doesn’t take much effort to find out why that term is used. You know, one in six college age girls are sexually assaulted. Although sexual assault does happen to boys and men, most of the people get assaulted are women by men. So I know that not one gender owns the idea of it happening to them or being victims of it. But most of the time, it’s men doing this to women. And right now, in this moment, I’ve had an exchange with some other friends. And they’re like, yeah, that that language, toxic masculinity is one that draws a line and separates the guys. And if we really want to call these guys in, we have to stop using that term. I’m still not on board with that. But what I did find out from a friend is that there’s another term that might be more appropriate, which is restricted masculinity. So in other words, we can’t be the best version of ourselves, if we live in the man box, and that might be a little bit better language to approach it with. I consider myself both masculine and feminine. There’s masculine traits for me, and there’s feminine traits in me and I don’t consider myself wholly masculine or wholly feminine. I’m both if I’m from navigating through this world, and from a healthy place, I’ll use my feminine energy, which is the nurturing the, the empathic, that deep listening from a more feminine place, and then there’s times when I need to use my masculine energy. And so I don’t feel the assault that some of the other guys do, because I feel like they’re interchanging toxic masculinity with toxic manhood. There’s a difference between, you know, gender, and those terms. So it gets really mixed up.

Debbie Reber  13:09

My mind totally wants to have a different conversation now than we planned to. But no, we’re gonna stick with our plan for today. But I do think it’s fascinating to me, and I appreciate you sharing that backlash, or that reaction to that term among men. I want to pivot to talking a little bit about relationships. And I think we’re primarily talking about heteronormative relationships for this conversation. What is it that creates a disconnect for men to really show up? Is it just a factor of being raised in this culture? And this man box? Or are there other barriers that are in place in a typical, I don’t even know if typical exists, but a typical heteronormative relationship that stand in the way of men feeling more connected in those?

Todd Adams  13:56

Yeah, I think the question is, is it nature and nurture? And I do, you know, there’s obviously differences in the way boys mature. I know boys mature much more slowly than girls. So there is, you know, hard wiring going on. But for me, personally, I think it’s mostly conditioning. It reminds me of the story that always brings me some sadness. I have a bunch of really wonderful relationships with other men and for the men I feel comfortable with, we hug and we say hi to each other. And we there’s physical touch involved, which I know in this homophobic society is really scary to a lot of guys out there, but I was in downtown and the suburb I live in, and there’s two boys holding hands, and they’re about four years old. And I just almost started crying because it was so beautiful to me, like, what a wonderful thing. And the reason I almost started crying was because I know that as soon as they get to kindergarten, they’re going to hear something in school that says that’s not what boys do with each other. So there’s like this little sweet spot of we’re all human beings and whether we’re boys or girls closer, we can be affectionate towards one another to answer your question, Debbie, I think it starts out really young, and this conditioning is pounded into us from the get go. Personally, I feel really safe in my head. So when my wife comes home from a hard day at work, and she’s talking about what went wrong, it’s very natural for me to say, Well, why don’t you try this, or this or this. And I learned very early in my marriage, that that is not a good way of being in relationship with my wife, she wants an empathic ear, she wants to be paid attention to not while I’m on my phone, and trying to pay attention to her, like, can I give her my full presence. And it’s not something that’s taught, that’s the bottom line is we are not taught any of these things, you would think it would come naturally to us, but it doesn’t. And it’s pounded out of us. So my hope is that us guys in a heteronormative relationship can get curious about, okay, if you’re not connecting with your partner, what’s stopping you, instead of blaming the other guys or be like, Oh, my wife is crazy, there’s something else available, if you can get curious about how to more deeply connect with your counterpart. And it’s not a skill that’s taught, like we need to read, we need to work on ourselves, we need to be in relationship with people that model it for us. And this comes to parenting, like my dad, bless his heart was not a good model of how to be in a relationship. And he taught me that it’s normal to yell at your wife, that’s the household I grew up in. And that is an issue. So all these societal conditioning usually starts in the home. And it comes from the modeling that we have for our children. And then one other quick thing is, I know that if my three daughters end up wanting to pick a male partner there can compare every relationship they have in their lives with the way that I treat my wife, our kids learn a lot more by observing what we do versus listening to what we say. So if it’s normal for me to yell at my wife, they’re gonna think it’s normal for their partner to yell at them. So there’s a lot there and a lot that we as guys need. And I don’t want to be a man hater. I love guys, I’ve started an International Men’s organization, to create a space for guys to connect deeply so that they can go out and spread conscious masculinity out there. And I think that we as guys have a long way to go.

Debbie Reber  17:29

And I’m wondering through the community that you’ve created, and the men that you’ve worked with knowing the audience for this podcast, our parents and caregivers who are raising neurodivergent kids, I hear from so many, mostly moms who are struggling with their partner feeling disconnected, or their partner not being on the same page. And we talked a little bit about this when both you and Cathy were on the show, but I’m wondering, in your experience, are there special considerations or challenges for dads feeling connected in relationship when their kids are more challenging? Or neurodivergent?

Todd Adams  18:05

Yeah, I think it goes back to what do we prioritize? And you know, the fact that I’m guessing most of your audience, Debbie, are moms lists who have neurodivergent kids? And most of the people that listen to our podcasts and parenting are mostly moms. Why is that? It’s because us guys think that we have it all figured out. And we’re not willing to look at it. Although we, you know, a lot of guys out there, they say, Okay, what I do is on this is totally old school, not the way it is anymore. But as long as I put food on my family’s table, my job is complete. And that’s simply not the case. Cathy wants me to meet her halfway with everything with caring for her daughters to be empathic listeners, to washing the dishes, to cooking the food to cleaning the house to all that stuff. And I still struggle with it. I would love to say, oh, yeah, and I’ve processed through all that. It’s wired into me. And it’s pounded into me that my first priority is to make sure that I continue to do a good job professionally. And I’ll let my wife navigate the emotions in the household, because she’s better at it. So it’s easier for me to just kind of step back, say, You know what, honey, you’re better at it than I am. So I just might come in heavy handed when there needs to be some serious discipline, but you do most of the heavy lifting. And in my experience, it has to happen. We need to meet our partners at least halfway as matter of fact, even more than halfway because I have the attitude that my wife simply gives more than I do. And I’m trying to make up for lost time because I spent the first 10 years of my parenting career just focusing solely on work. Then when my kids get home and they have a bad day, they will. First question they’ll ask is where’s mom, and it’s so disheartening to me. And I’d be like, what about me? I’m right here and it’s because I haven’t created a safe enough space for them to share with me because Cathy has been doing all the heavy lifting

Debbie Reber  20:00

And now a quick break for a word from our sponsor. Is your family school, you’re not going as you’d hoped, does your student go unseen or get underserved in a big classroom? Well, I’ve got great news for you. Fusion Academy is a private, middle and high school with one on one classrooms customized to your students pace academically, socially, and emotionally. Fusion has more than 80 campuses across the US, along with their virtual campus Fusion Global Academy, which serves students online worldwide, my teen attends Fusion and it has truly been a game changer for our whole family in the best possible way. Learn more and experience the world’s most personalized school with the free trial session at And now back to the show.

Debbie Reber  20:51

When men join Men Living your organization, or come to do this work, I’m curious to know what brings them to you. I imagine there’s fear there or concerns, what do you find that they’re struggling with the most?

Todd Adams  21:05

They’re lonely, guys are lonely. And it’s weird, because my judgment is that women are better at connecting with each other more authentically. And most men, I don’t know how many billions of men are out there, most of them would have no interest in stepping into a space that men living with or any other wonderful men’s organization might create. Because they’re going to be asked to be vulnerable. And that’s a scary place. Because we’ve been taught since we were born, vulnerability is weakness. And for me, the only vehicle connection and relationship is vulnerability. So the ones that find us, some of them are ready to jump in with both feet, some of them are testing the waters to see if it’s something that’s helpful, but it’s a lot easier to you know, see a bunch of guys drinking at a bar watching Monday Night Football, that it is, you know, a bunch of guys sitting in a circle sharing something really authentic and vulnerable. It’s not something that happens, but the answer is we’re lonely. And the statistics back it up. I mean, the highest demographic is suicide is middle aged men, I figured it was kids, and it’s not. And it’s because the quality of our lives as human beings, in my judgment, is based on the quality of our relationships. And if we’re not connected in an authentic way to other people, then we’re lost. And we just live in a society where guys are taught that they should be able to do it all on their own and not ask for help. And it’s a warped way of understanding manhood in my judgment.

Debbie Reber  22:34

Derin, my husband has been on the show a few times. And we’ve really talked about how we have navigated our journey of raising Asher, I’ll share the link to that in the show notes too, if you want to listen to those. But I feel like Darren is a very connected husband. And I still imagine that even men who are pretty plugged in are still under the surface grappling with the same issues that they’re always kind of there.

Todd Adams  22:59

Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. We’re trying to peel the onion back. And the onion has been kind of closed up for a long time, I do have a little more hope for this generation that’s coming behind us. Hopefully we’ve modeled a little bit better. And it’s a little bit easier to see what healthy masculinity looks like these days. Although when you turn on the news, in most cases, the news is because man has made a bad decision, whether it’s Ukraine and Russia, whether it’s climate change, us trying to get richer, faster at the expense of the environment. Sometimes when I speak, I trigger a lot of guys out there because they think I’m just beating up on men. But the bottom line is, we’re the ones that have the most influence. You know, if you look at how many people are in Congress, and how many of them are white men, it’s most, if you look at the fortune 500 companies, it’s mostly white men. And if we have this influence, let’s use it to connect with ourselves, our partners, our community, with our climate, and we simply have a lot of work to do. So what men living does is try to do our own version of raising the consciousness of what healthy masculinity looks like.

Debbie Reber  24:10

What does that do for a family? So you’ve talked a lot about vulnerability, again, thinking about listeners living their challenging existence with their neurodivergent kids and maybe being in a partnership where people are on different pages, like, what can actually happen for those families, when men do commit to doing this work and showing up more vulnerably in those relationships?

Todd Adams  24:33

Well, I feel like the only way to connect for real is to connect with vulnerability, which requires a little bit of self reflection. It’s so much easier for me to try to fix my wife or fix my kids than it is for me to fix myself and fix is probably not the best word. I would probably use personal growth. But instead of looking at why our kids aren’t the way that they are or why our wife doesn’t love us the way that we think she should or Our partner, instead, let’s look at ourselves, let’s look in the mirror and how can we be the best version of ourselves. And when we do that, it just kind of seeps out into whoever you happen to be around my personal struggles or not with blaming my wife or my kids, I happen to be really hard on myself. And I think that’s more of a human condition, I think. I’m sure there’s some people out there that like to blame others quicker than to blame themselves. But I am by far my worst critic. So if I can get my arms around, okay, Todd, you’re doing your best. Take a breath, go easy on yourself. If I can do that, I’m guessing that it’s easier for me to be in relationship with the people that I love. But yeah, it just naturally kind of seeps out if we’re working on ourselves that it seeps out into the people that we’re surrounded with.

Debbie Reber  25:45

Yeah, and when raising challenging kids, so much of it, we talked about, and the experts I have on the show, we talked about being present, being mindful, like really just showing up. And so I just imagined that any of this work you can do to be more vulnerable, opens the door for that presence, and that ability to show up in a way that would better serve the whole family.

Todd Adams  26:08

Yeah, the term that we use on Zen Parenting all the time is self awareness. And really, what that is, is, can I pause for a second and respond instead of react? There’s a lot of people out there that are really good at reacting without thinking. Can I have enough discipline that next time, something triggering happens to me? Can I locate to see if I’m in a place of openness and curiosity, or instead of I’m in a place of closeness or defensiveness, and that or that I have a need to be right. I don’t think I’m gonna get anywhere unless I first try to just locate where I am in this present moment. And it’s not easy, you know, because when we get scared, we go back to the back of our brain, and we react from that place. But we do have this wonderful thing called a prefrontal cortex, which differentiates us from the animals. And we have the ability to pause and reflect, and then respond from that place. And like I said, maybe eight times out of 10, I am still kind of getting to this reactive place. And my goal is to make that ratio a little bit more friendly.

Debbie Reber  27:11

Yeah, I’m in the same place as you are, it is a fledgling skill, the pause and reflect and then respond, as opposed to reacting. So I wanted to ask this question in two parts. For women listening again, that is the majority of this listenership. And I hope that women listening will share this episode, and gently encourage their partner if they have a male partner to listen to this. First, how can women encourage or open the door for their male partners to do this work? That’s part one. Part two is if a man is willing and open to doing this work, how can women best support that process?

Todd Adams  27:56

Yeah, those two very good questions. So I’ll start with the second one. First, how can women support? It’s funny because I think a lot of women will be like, can we just get more vulnerable, I have been in rooms with men that get vulnerable with their wives and their wives are very surprised and end up negatively reinforcing that behavior. They’re not used to it, it scares them. You know, if your husband is Houston, never cry, and then all of a sudden, he gets in this vulnerable place. It could scare the woman, in this case, my invitation for the women out there would be if your guy is brave enough to be vulnerable to support him, and love him through it and connect with him in an authentic way. Because for us guys to do that. It’s a really scary place. We’ve been taught that this is not what guys do.

Debbie Reber  28:49

Are there things that women with a male partner listening to this can do to encourage their partner to explore this?

Todd Adams  28:57

So that’s tricky, because those guys, I can’t speak for us guys. I sometimes don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like somebody telling me you know, even like my marriage, I love that I’ve met a great marriage with my wife, Cathy, but sometimes I’ll bite my nails when we’re sitting next to each other watching TV. And she’ll like, you know, just gently tap my fingers because it’s annoying hearing somebody bite their nails. And even that, like we talked about that reactivity like I’m like, there’s, I don’t say this out loud. But there, I have a body reaction, which is Don’t tell me what to do. So this is a very fine line for the women out there that are married to men because if the guys receive this as their women are telling them what to do and how to do it. It’s very easy to get defensive, but at the same time, in a heteronormative relationship, if they don’t, if the women don’t say anything, then they’re just going to keep moving on and nothing is going to change. So there needs to be a sweet spot. in there that you can do it … the phrase I like to use is gentle nudges. Like, I don’t react well to ultimatums. I don’t know if anybody else does. And it is possible that somebody might be in a marriage where it is an ultimatum. Like, listen, if you don’t start showing up for me in a way, then we’re gonna have to make some serious decisions. But if there’s something workable than a gentle nudge, it makes me think of a story. Cathy’s been reading self help books for men. She told me about this guy named Eckhart Tolle wrote this book called A New Earth, and I started listening to it on an audiobook. And I’m, like, I came to understand this guy’s got like a thick accent. And she’s like, Yeah, I just thought you might like it. And she let it go. And then like, Oprah did her series with that car a few years later, and I loved it. And it’s a book that changed my life. But what Cathy did was she just invited me to it. She wasn’t attached to me reading the book. She simply like, suggested it. And when I said no, she didn’t say, Well, what are you going to read that book like, that’s, that’s a recipe for disaster. She just gave me that invitation. She was detached from the outcome. And then, you know, she was really patient. Two years later, all of a sudden, I started really taking a good hard look in the mirror, seeing how it is that I show up through some of the teachings of Tolle. And, you know, any number of other authors out there.

Debbie Reber  31:17

Oh, two years? That’s what we can expect from that first? No, I appreciate that. And I love the language of a gentle nudge. I think, to me, that phrase also just equates compassion, I always try to remind, you know, anyone in this parenting journey, that we’re all going through this with our own baggage, our own challenges, and in our own way, and if we can see our partner with compassion for their own unique experience that can really make a big difference in terms of talking about dads by run a parent community, the differently wired club, it’s probably 97%. Women, there are a couple of dads in there. But can you talk a little bit about the importance of dads supporting other dads, you know, sometimes people, former colleagues of my husband will reach out and they’ll have a challenging kid in the end, Darren loves, when people do that, to be able to be that point of contact, it can be especially challenging for a dad to have a complicated kid, it can confront them in ways they weren’t prepared for. So can you talk about the importance of that dad community? And why that’s so important.

Todd Adams  32:25

Yeah, I mean, if I let my wife do all the heavy lifting, regarding parenting, and all I did was provide, there’s something that we as dads can bring to the table that moms sometimes aren’t as good at whatever that is. And sometimes it’s role reversal. Sometimes it’s the mom showing up as this like, warrior type strength. And my guess is, if you’re the mother of a neurodivergent kid, I think of like mama bears, like Do not mess with a mama bear. And where I get challenged sometimes is, you know, whether it’s in your community and our teams and community or conferences. We even did a screening of a documentary called The Mask You Live in. Have you ever seen the mask you live in? That? It’s a wonderful documentary created by Jennifer Siebel Newsom? I think it’s Governor Newsom’s wife. And it’s all about healthy masculinity. And we did a local screening of it in our movie theater. And we promoted it saying, Guys, this is your opportunity to show up and know what healthy masculinity might look like, the negative impact of toxic masculinity, please show up and we had about 200 people in the audience watching the movie with us. And I would say about 175 of them were women. And it was about masculinity. It was directed towards the dads, and they simply do not show up. When we are lucky enough to be courageous enough to show up in a circle of whether it’s other men or a parenting community. The group is stronger for it, if it’s a bunch of women trying to not fix the problems, but get their arms around something. And if it’s just a woman doing it, it’s at the expense of your children’s experience. So I don’t really know if I have an answer for it. And I think it is getting better. But I just find it so interesting. How guys will spend two and a half hours picking up their fantasy football pickups on a Wednesday night. Yet they won’t listen to a podcast that their wife wants them to listen to. And I would love to say I’m in a better place that I know exactly why but I’ve been doing this work for so long. Sometimes I forget the way I used to be. And it’s important to have compassion for those guys and also ask them for accountability and to step up. A lot of times Cathy and I will be talking to a parent and it’ll be the mom and she’ll say my husband is completely tuned out of this family. And he doesn’t show up for this and that And we’ll ask, what does he say, when you bring this up to him? And she’ll say, Well, I’ve kind of given up, I don’t even bring it up anymore. And I’m like, well, that’s a problem. If you really want to directory of this family unit to be a certain way, you at least need to bring it up to him. I know, my wife had to bring it up to me many, many times, I’m lucky enough to be with a woman that even when she does get reactive, and she’s like, you know, Todd, you’ve been traveling too much for work. She’ll start out by saying, This isn’t about you, I just need to like vent and say some of these things. And even to this day, I still get really defensive. And then I take a breath, and I’m like, okay, I can hold the space for a second, about my initial reaction, no matter how long I’ve done, this work is one of defensiveness. And then it takes a little bit of work to kind of locate where I am, take a breath and then engage in an empathic way.

Debbie Reber  35:51

Yeah, I think sometimes just starting that conversation, I No, I didn’t start conversations for years, because I just wasn’t worth it, getting into it. And like, I’ll just handle this on my own. But it has definitely been worth it to get through the other side of that and have those conversations. I’d love for you to tell us a little bit more about men living and what you offer through that. And just generally speaking, how dads can find other like minded dads to connect with if they want to find that community.

Todd Adams  36:18

Yeah, I mean, it’s as easy as googling men’s groups. And there’s, there’s so many of them out there, Men Living happens to be one of them. But as far as what we do, we have six programs a week, Monday night meeting Tuesday night specific for separated and divorced guys, Tuesday mornings and meditation group, and then Wednesday, noon, Wednesday night, and Saturday morning. And we have facilitators that lead a discussion about sometimes it’s just about checking in what’s going on in their lives. And we just share openly and organically. Other times, the facilitator comes in with a piece that they want to work on, whether it’s about countability, or feeling their feelings, or withholding or listening skills. And it’s all free. 99% of what we do is free. So we’re not trying to make any money off of anybody, we really just want to provide a space to offer guys to connect deeply and live fully. And then that’s really what we want to do. We also do some in person gatherings every now and again. But mostly, it’s virtual. So it doesn’t matter where you are, we have guys from New Zealand, guys from Australia, guys from India, most of the people are from the United States. And it’s one of those things you’ll get out of it as much as you put into it. And it’s been working out beautifully so far, and we just want to grow it, we have a vision to build a world of healthy, intentional, connected men. And what we do is we create spaces to let that happen.

Debbie Reber  37:32

I love that. Listeners, I have links to Zen Parenting to everything we talked about today and to men living on the show notes page, it just sounds like such a wonderful resource. Is there something you want to leave listeners with something you hope that they take from this conversation or that they can play with in their life.

Todd Adams  37:49

I just want to say if there’s any guys out there listening, just keep working on yourself. There is a bunch of support out there available, whether it’s through men living or somewhere else, to the women out there that are in a heteronormative relationship, step into a place of empowerment with empathy and ask for what you need. And you know, for guys out there, our typical reaction is sometimes we react with grandiosity will get very big, will start yelling, or will crawl into this little hole of shame. And usually I don’t get grandiose, very big, but I do get small sometimes when Cathy has a lot cooking and she’s like tiny been traveling too much, I’ll get really small and scared. And that’s an invitation for me to look at myself. So it’s all an invitation. And how do we navigate through the conflict because the conflict is, is how we get even more deeply connected. And this is coming from somebody who has an aversion to conflict. I’m getting more and more friendly with conflict as I go, but I still have a lot of work to do on that front to

Debbie Reber  38:47

Great, thank you so much. I’m just really happy that you’re doing this work. I knew that you were doing this work, but I didn’t understand all the nuances of it. And it just feels it’s so critical. And I love your mission, your big picture mission. I’m all for that. So thank you for everything that you shared with us today.

Todd Adams  39:04

Thank you, Debbie. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Debbie Reber  39:08

You’ve been listening to the Tilt Parenting podcast. To go deeper into this episode, visit the extensive show notes page. For every episode, there’s a dedicated page on my website with links to all the resources mentioned, a full transcript and a podcast player with key takeaways marked so you can easily go back and re-listen to the sections you’re most interested in. Just go to tilt and select this episode. The Tilt Parenting podcast is hosted by me, Debbie Reber, author of the book Differently Wired and the founder of Tilt Parenting. This episode was edited by Andrea Curtis-Amezquita and show notes were put together by myself, Andrea and Lindsay McFadden. If you get a lot out of this podcast and want to help cover the costs of its production, please consider joining my Patreon campaign on Patreon. There you can sign up to make a small monthly contribution as little as $2 a month, and it’s super easy to sign up. Just go to To learn more, or click on the Patreon link on any show notes page. To follow Tilt Parenting on social media, go to @tiltparenting on Instagram and Twitter and on Facebook. Lastly, please help this podcast stay visible and easily found by the listeners who need it by subscribing and leaving a rating or review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you so much. And that’s all for this week. Stay safe, stay well and take good care. And for more information about this podcast or any of the resources that Tilt offers, visit

THANKS SO MUCH FOR LISTENING! Do you have an idea for an upcoming episode? Please share your idea in my Suggestion Box.