I love Ted Talks. They're not too long, and they are usually packed with interesting ideas that stay with you for some time, working their inner magic. To start the last month of the year, I've curated the best, most inspiring TED talks about parenting. Some of the talks tackle important issues such as parental depression or shame; some talks are moving; some are just funny. But they are all a trove of inspiration for parents.
There are ten TED talks in this post, so I suggest you keep this page for future reference and take the time to watch the talks in the following weeks. I'm sure you will find inspiration for your own parenting and relationships.
Happy holiday for you all!
Let’s Talk Parenting Taboos
Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman are a couple and they also work together. The started the website Nerve.com which Rufus described as “a smart online magazine about sex and culture” but after they had children they developed babble.com.
In this funny and moving TED talk, the kind that made me nod my head so much I lost count, they talk about what we tend no too – taboos about parenting. And I LOVE that they do that. One of my goals with Apparently Parent is to promote a discussion on the parts of parenting we tend to swipe under the carpet. Our struggles, our failures, our feelings of self-judgment and unworthiness as parents. We all feel them and looking in the other direction just doesn’t help.
How to Raise Successful Kids Without Over Parenting
In this talk, author Julie Lythcott-Haims talks about something that is very dear to my heart – how much parenting is too much parenting.
I bet you already heard of the phrase “Helicopter Parenting”, describing the kind of parents who hover around their kid, trying to protect him or her from every little obstacle and doing the lifting (heavy and light) for their kids.
Helicopter parenting is not beneficial in the long run. Your child may feel more protected but as he or she grows up, the encounter with the real world will be so much harder and they’ll have to learn to take care of themselves in a much older age.
Here’s a quote I wrote for myself from that talk:
But if you look at what we've done, if you have the courage to really look at it, you'll see that not only do our kids think their worth comes from grades and scores, but that when we live right up inside their precious developing minds all the time, like our very own version of the movie “Being John Malkovich,” we send our children the message: “Hey kid, I don't think you can actually achieve any of this without me… if our children are to develop self-efficacy, and they must, then they have to do a whole lot more of the thinking, planning, deciding, doing, hoping, coping, trial and error, dreaming and experiencing of life for themselves.
For Parents, Happiness is a Very High Bar
Author Jennifer Senior talks about how parenting has become this race to gain happiness and it’s just so. damn. hard.
“Why is it that so many mothers and fathers experience parenthood as a kind of crisis?”, she asks, and continues:
Something about parenting right now at this moment is the problem. Specifically, I don't think we know what parenting is supposed to be.
And I totally agree. I believe that these days parenting is so confusing because we don’t really know what it should look like. One of the reasons for this confusion, in my opinion, is that there are so many mixed messages about parenting and we lose sight of what is important to us.
That is why I believe that as parents we must get to know our own parenting values and set a course design our lives in accordance with them. That’s what I’m teaching in my free email series Your Parenting Values.
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What I’ve Learned Being a Stay At Home Dad
OK. So this is one of the funniest TED Talks I’ve watched. Ever.
Glen Henry is an artist and YouTuber who decided to become a stay at home dad so that his wife could go back to work. He thought that he had in nailed down but he was up for a surprise.
In this funny and moving talk, he describes the process he went through and shares some funny moments with his kids. And if you want some more, you can catch him on his YouTube channel Beleaf In Fatherhood.
See, we're walking on a certain path, as parents. We're all in this together. No one can deny that family is one of the biggest foundations in anyone's life. And we're all walking on this path, and we're pulling these thickets out of the way, and these thorns, making it easier for the ones coming after us. It turns out, parenting has a lot more to do with landscaping. And learning. More than teaching. And the best thing to do is to show up for class. Be present is what I learned as a stay-at-home dad. And let your presence be a gift.
What we don’t teach kids about sex
This is a short talk but it is so good. Writer and film-maker Sue Jaye Johnson talks about what is lacking in the way we teach our children about touch, intimacy and sex.
And don’t think it’s a talk about “the talk”. Not at all. Johnson talks about the importance of our senses in childhood, how we learn about the world by being connected to your physical sensation and how we lose this connection when we grow up. In a beautiful way she describes how she realized this with her little daughter:
I'd been treating her like she was on some assembly line of children needing to be fed and put to bed. And I realized that when I dry my daughter off in a towel tenderly the way a lover would, I'm teaching her to expect that kind of touch. I'm teaching her in that moment about intimacy.
How my son’s short life made a lasting difference
OK. Look. I’m the first one to admit that I can be emotional and tear up when people talk about their relationship with their children. But I didn’t expect to feel so much when I clicked play on this truly inspiring TED talk.
When Sarah Gray was pregnant with twin boys, she learned that one of them, Thomas, had a terminal condition called anencephaly. It meant that he will not survive much after his birth. I don’t know where she and her spouse found the strength but they decided to carry him to term and donate his tissues for research (as he was too young to be an organ donor).
Several years later she contacted the scientists who received those donations and used them to promote the scientific knowledge in their field. Gray talks about these experiences in such a moving way, you can’t stay indifferent.
To Raise Brave Girls, Encourage Adventure
Caroline Paul is all-around awesome. She was one of the first female firefighters in San-Francisco, she’s an air-gliding pilot and in her youth, she tried to break the Guinness record for crawling.
In this TED Talk, she talks about how our society teaches girls to be non-risk takers, to be not brave.
we adults act as if girls are more fragile and more in need of help, and they can't handle as much. This is the message that we absorb as kids, and this is the message that fully permeates as we grow up. We women believe it, men believe it, and guess what? As we become parents, we pass it on to our children, and so it goes.
Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection
Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, continues the same concept of girls bravery in her talk about perfection. She talks about how our society teaches girls to be perfect and afraid to be wrong, and thus silences them. Saujani started a program that teaches girls how to code because you can’t expect perfect coding all the time, you must allow yourself to be wrong, and then fix things.
“We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and raising our boys to be brave”
A new way to Think About the Transition to Motherhood
Alexandra Sacks is a psychiatrist with a special interest in motherhood. In this short but important TED talk, she describes the concept of Matrescence – becoming a mother. I think this quote says it all:
A woman calls me up, she's just had a baby, and she's concerned. She says, “I'm not good at this. I'm not enjoying this. Do I have postpartum depression?”
So I go through the symptoms of that diagnosis, and it's clear to me that she's not clinically depressed, and I tell her that. But she isn't reassured. “It isn't supposed to feel like this,” she insists. So I say, “OK. What did you expect it to feel like?” She says, “I thought motherhood would make feel whole and happy. I thought my instincts would naturally tell me what to do. I thought I'd always want to put the baby first.
Love, no matter what
Andrew Solomon is a prolific writer. His book “The Noonday Demon” is one of the best books I’ve read about depression. He has three moving and inspiring TED talks under his belt and I recommend that you check each and every one of them. This one is about how we make room for those who are different in our society, by looking at how families deal with children who were born not like their parents wished them to be.
Listening to Shame
I bet you already heard of Brené Brown, that’s why I kept her to the end. Her inspiring TED talk about vulnerability went viral, and for a good reason. Now she addresses the same issues but she points her view to the concept of shame. I think shame is a really, really important emotion that we must deal with. It’s there, it can be toxic, and in parenting, we sometimes feel shame and use shame in detrimental ways. That’s why I believe parents must learn to differentiate between shame and guilt.
If we're going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy's the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too.
Featured image by Hermes Rivera