Challenging Conversations

Books and Podcasts List To Help With Parenting

Delaney Ruston, MD
November 2, 2021
Books and podcasts illustration

On Saturday, I was walking with a friend who is the mother of a spunky 8-year-old boy. We were talking about books, and I asked how reading was going with her son. She explained how she, her husband, and her son all sit in the living room and read their own books almost every night after dinner for about 30 minutes. Later the son and dad also watch a bit of a show like Mr. Bean or a space-themed show.  

Wow! That sounds so relaxing to have such a routine. My friend expressed her delight that her son is big into reading these days, but then she added, “I know it might not last.”  I was also wondering what things would come along and cause the routine to go sideways. 

Ah, parenting, such a complicated maze. Sometimes there are some lovely ongoing routines, and other times we can’t even remember what the word “routine” means.

Time for some book and podcast recommendations — Thanksgiving and winter breaks are coming up, and you might have a bit more time to read. I am sharing some suggestions of books and podcasts I have liked — a few of which are just for parents and others are for tweens and teens. 

BOOKS


“Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence,” by Anna Lembke, MD

Anna Lembke is the medical head of Stanford Addiction Medicine, and her book just came out and immediately went on the New York Times Best Seller list. Anna is a friend of mine from medical school, and I was so jazzed a few months ago when she told me this book was on the way. It is very compelling. While it is a book for adults, the themes and science can help with parenting decisions and conversations.

Anna’s book is based on a central theme of what happens to us physically and psychologically when we seek pleasure (and hence dopamine). I love the book because it is chock-full of interesting ideas that feel very fresh. Also, she does a wonderful job of recounting stories of her patients (mainly adults but some young adults) that are all very illuminating (but not for young people to read). 

One of the best sections of the book is when she talks about the power of radical honesty. 

“The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want,” by Rosalind Wiseman (and with assistance from many high school young men from around the country.)

I have enjoyed discussing topics around young people and parenting with Rosalind Wiseman over the past few months. She is the author of several books on young people, including “Queen Bees and Wannabes” — a book that Tina Fey optioned so that she could use the research and themes in it to create the movie Mean Girls. Rosalind has a wonderful organization which I encourage you to check out called Cultures of Dignity

While the book targets tween and teen boys, parents can get plenty out of it, and even tween or teen girls might find it useful. It can be a conversation starter if people in the family read sections of it and then come together to discuss. The book includes actual quotes from boys, which adds so much — FYI, there are some swear words. 

Another suggestion is that you might just leave the book on your teen’s bed or desk and purposely not bring it up for many weeks. Rosalind has found that this technique has led boys to read the book precisely because they did not see it as a “must-do” or that would lead to many awkward parent conversations. That said, in a few weeks, mentioning some themes related to the book, and keeping any discussion that arises short, can work well. 

Emotional Agility Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David, PhD

This book includes a section specifically on parenting. In that section, Susan focuses in part on how we can help children develop more empathy. I believe that things we do as parents absolutely impact our kids’ level of empathy and their abilities to express it in various ways. So much of it has to do with valuing empathy, and when we, parents, talk about empathy, we are showing that we value it. Things like having intermittent chats about seeing people’s behaviors from different perspectives can help. For instance, you might say something like, “I wonder if she might have been feeling XYZ, what do you think?”

Another hook can be to talk about various jobs and in which having more empathy truly helps. The other night, a friend’s daughter studying forensic psychology told me about a man she met who set up a  program to recruit and train peer mentors for incarcerated people. He told my friend that the trick to finding successful mentors was identifying people with high empathy levels.   

I enjoyed the section in the book about how to nurture honesty in our kids. She includes a study in which teenagers were asked about their parents’ treatment of them over the recent past. The teens who said things like, “When my parent asked me to do something, he/ she explained why h/she wanted me to do it” were more likely to show that they understand the benefits of telling the truth.

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PODCASTS

The recent  episode of Freakonomics, The Economist’s Guide to Parenting: 10 Years Later (Oct 20, 2021) 

I start with this one because it can work for the whole family to listen to together.  In the episode, you hear from several teens about their views on their parent’s child-raising techniques. Do I need to say more? Talk about a conversation starter. 

Ask Lisa 

Psychologist and author Lisa Damour, Ph.D., creates excellent podcast episodes, and I highly recommend you take a listen. She is the author of the hit books “Untangled” and “Under Pressure,”  and writes a parenting column for the New York Times. 

Lisa tackles all sorts of tough issues, and some of the shows are geared more towards issues with younger kids, and others are towards older teens. Her attitude and approaches to topics are very much aligned with what I write and speak about. I rarely disagree with her on any point. 

A couple of episodes that I have listened to and recommend:

Sexy Social Media. Where Should Parents Draw the Line?  (April 13, 2021)

How Do You Help a Kid Who Shuts You Out?  (September 07, 2021)

Talking To Teens: Expert Tips for Parenting Teenagers Podcast

Host Andy Earle interviews a range of experts on many different topics related to teenagers and parenting. I must let you know that some of the episodes are a bit tangential to parenting. 

Here is one recent episode I recommend:

What to Say to Motivate Your Teen (Sept 5, 2021)

If you have seen Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER, you may recall that author Ned Johnson is in it, and he and his writing partner Bill Stixrud have a new book out, What Do You Say, (which is on my reading list) and this episode with them that is very well done.  

Before signing off, I just have to say that I can’t wait to be cozy and read with my kids a bit over the holidays — even if just a couple of times :)

And...be sure to read next week’s blog because I have some good news about BOOSTING BRAVERY. 

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Questions to get the conversation started:

  1. What books are people considering reading during upcoming breaks?
  2. What types of jobs can we think of where being strong in empathy can be a real benefit?  (Is there any job that it does not help?) 
  3. How do people feel about creating a time where the whole family reads together? 
  4. What podcasts have people heard that we can listen to while driving or spending time together during the break?
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Challenging Conversations

Books and Podcasts List To Help With Parenting

Delaney Ruston, MD
November 2, 2021
Books and podcasts illustration

On Saturday, I was walking with a friend who is the mother of a spunky 8-year-old boy. We were talking about books, and I asked how reading was going with her son. She explained how she, her husband, and her son all sit in the living room and read their own books almost every night after dinner for about 30 minutes. Later the son and dad also watch a bit of a show like Mr. Bean or a space-themed show.  

Wow! That sounds so relaxing to have such a routine. My friend expressed her delight that her son is big into reading these days, but then she added, “I know it might not last.”  I was also wondering what things would come along and cause the routine to go sideways. 

Ah, parenting, such a complicated maze. Sometimes there are some lovely ongoing routines, and other times we can’t even remember what the word “routine” means.

Time for some book and podcast recommendations — Thanksgiving and winter breaks are coming up, and you might have a bit more time to read. I am sharing some suggestions of books and podcasts I have liked — a few of which are just for parents and others are for tweens and teens. 

BOOKS


“Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence,” by Anna Lembke, MD

Anna Lembke is the medical head of Stanford Addiction Medicine, and her book just came out and immediately went on the New York Times Best Seller list. Anna is a friend of mine from medical school, and I was so jazzed a few months ago when she told me this book was on the way. It is very compelling. While it is a book for adults, the themes and science can help with parenting decisions and conversations.

Anna’s book is based on a central theme of what happens to us physically and psychologically when we seek pleasure (and hence dopamine). I love the book because it is chock-full of interesting ideas that feel very fresh. Also, she does a wonderful job of recounting stories of her patients (mainly adults but some young adults) that are all very illuminating (but not for young people to read). 

One of the best sections of the book is when she talks about the power of radical honesty. 

“The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want,” by Rosalind Wiseman (and with assistance from many high school young men from around the country.)

I have enjoyed discussing topics around young people and parenting with Rosalind Wiseman over the past few months. She is the author of several books on young people, including “Queen Bees and Wannabes” — a book that Tina Fey optioned so that she could use the research and themes in it to create the movie Mean Girls. Rosalind has a wonderful organization which I encourage you to check out called Cultures of Dignity

While the book targets tween and teen boys, parents can get plenty out of it, and even tween or teen girls might find it useful. It can be a conversation starter if people in the family read sections of it and then come together to discuss. The book includes actual quotes from boys, which adds so much — FYI, there are some swear words. 

Another suggestion is that you might just leave the book on your teen’s bed or desk and purposely not bring it up for many weeks. Rosalind has found that this technique has led boys to read the book precisely because they did not see it as a “must-do” or that would lead to many awkward parent conversations. That said, in a few weeks, mentioning some themes related to the book, and keeping any discussion that arises short, can work well. 

Emotional Agility Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David, PhD

This book includes a section specifically on parenting. In that section, Susan focuses in part on how we can help children develop more empathy. I believe that things we do as parents absolutely impact our kids’ level of empathy and their abilities to express it in various ways. So much of it has to do with valuing empathy, and when we, parents, talk about empathy, we are showing that we value it. Things like having intermittent chats about seeing people’s behaviors from different perspectives can help. For instance, you might say something like, “I wonder if she might have been feeling XYZ, what do you think?”

Another hook can be to talk about various jobs and in which having more empathy truly helps. The other night, a friend’s daughter studying forensic psychology told me about a man she met who set up a  program to recruit and train peer mentors for incarcerated people. He told my friend that the trick to finding successful mentors was identifying people with high empathy levels.   

I enjoyed the section in the book about how to nurture honesty in our kids. She includes a study in which teenagers were asked about their parents’ treatment of them over the recent past. The teens who said things like, “When my parent asked me to do something, he/ she explained why h/she wanted me to do it” were more likely to show that they understand the benefits of telling the truth.

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