Episode summary:

Dr. Jane Goodall speaks with Susan about how her mother nurtured her dreams, even when they seemed impossible. You’ll hear Susan share some of her takeaways from this conversation, as well as talk about how parents can help their children discover their unique passions.

Through nearly 60 years of groundbreaking work, Dr. Jane Goodall has not only shown us the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction; she has also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environment. Today she travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees and environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things and planet we share. https://www.janegoodall.org/

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

  • How Jane’s mother encouraged her daughter to be independent, assertive and optimistic
  • How Jane chased her dreams, even though they seemed “impossible” for girls at that time
  • How you can encourage your own child’s dreams by helping them uncover their passions and innate talents

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Transcript here:


Speaker 1: (00:17)
Hello and welcome to the parenting without power struggles podcast. I’m Susan Stifelman, I’m your host and the author of parenting without power struggles in parenting with present. And I’m excited to share with you in this podcast some of the things I’ve learned in a 40 plus year career as a teacher, as a mother, as a family therapist, and a parent coach. So let’s get started because whether you have kids who are toddlers or grade schoolers, or they’re in middle school, or they’re teenagers are just about to go off to college or get their own apartment, you’re going to hear in this podcast how to have more fun, more connection, more love, more ease, more joy, and fewer power struggles. So one of the things that I often say in my programs and classes is that we’re not just raising children, we’re raising adults. And it’s easy to forget that.

Speaker 1: (01:14)
It’s easy to think in the course of the day that what we’re really doing is just trying to get our kids to do their homework or to put their shoes and socks on, or to take a bath. And in the course of all those interactions, we forget that at the end of this whole process we have an adult, but in the course of those thousands of interactions everyday we are actually also influencing the grown up adult person that our children will become someday. How are they to, you know, approach chores with dread like, oh my gosh, I just can’t believe I have to empty this dishwasher again. How, how will your children handle things that don’t go their way? How are they going to handle disappointment? Do they handle frustrations with grace and with acceptance or do they blame other people and get really angry or shut down?

Speaker 1: (02:04)
So all these attitudes are formed while our children are growing up kind of in the background of our daily lives. And even though ultimately they are going to have their own experiences. And of course not everything that happens in their adult life is a result of our parenting. We do get to play a big role in influencing how they’re going to move through the world as adults. I believe that one of the strongest elements for living a happy grownup life is when we get to live out our gifts and our passions. I know that that’s true for me. I know that so much of my life is infused with joy because I feel that I’m lined up with what I’m meant to do. What kind of takes advantage of my natural talents and abilities and interests and so we’re going to talk about that today.

Speaker 1: (02:50)
How as parents, we can encourage and we can support our kids to follow their dreams because I actually do believe that each baby, each one of us come into the world with kind of preloaded unique talents and interests and leanings and passions and that when we get to explore those things or we get to develop our gifts or pursue our curiosities, we just live more meaningful and fulfilling lives. So that could be cooking. It could be that you have a child who has a love for cooking or food or really interested in what makes people tick. That was one of my interests and passions or a great love for music or a natural pull to exploring our inner world. You know, there are some children who are very introspective. They want to have a lot of time alone. They become writers or scholars or meditators.

Speaker 1: (03:42)
So when we give our kids room and encouragement to pursue those interests, they tend to carry that forward into their adult lives. A prioritizing of those things and uh, and an alive ness around the things that Enlive in them. Over the last few years, I’ve had dialogues about parenting with some of the world’s most interesting speakers and teachers and authors, and I have learned a lot and I’m excited to share some of what I’ve learned with you today. You’re going to get to hear from one of those wonderful people. In fact, this is one of the people I have most admired in all the world, Dr Jane Goodall. Honestly, from the time I was a very little girl, she was one of my heroes or sheroes. I loved the stories and the images of her with chimpanzees. I read books about her life and I followed the stories about the chimps and the families that she studied.

Speaker 1: (04:38)
Honestly, I was completely starstruck. I did get to meet her a few years ago on, on. Um, it was, it was just an amazing experience and she has been a tireless advocate for the environment. She founded roots and shoots, which is a fantastic organization. I urge you to look into it. It’s a worldwide organization for young people and actually even elderly people, all people of all ages, but particularly with children, to give them opportunities to take action, to make the world a better place. It’s very empowering for kids. And there’s chapters all over the world. And then of course, as you know, she’s done monumental work with chimpanzees. She’s made breakthrough discoveries about their intelligence, their social structures and systems, their capabilities, and has worked relentlessly to protect their fragile habitat. So Jane Goodall really exemplifies the idea that one person can make a massively huge difference in the world.

Speaker 1: (05:43)
And of course she seems to have still in her eighties be living out her dream beyond what I’m sure she or anyone could have imagined. And this is the most important thing I want to say today. Her mother played a huge role in all of it. So I’m going to play you an excerpt from a conversation that I had with Jane and you’re gonna get to hear her talk about her mother and how her mother encouraged her to follow her dreams. And after the clip I’ll share some thoughts about what I took away from our conversation.

Speaker 2: (06:14)
Dumb. I think if I hadn’t had an amazing mother and she was fast for me right from the beginning, supported my love of all kinds of animals. She didn’t get mad at me if I disappeared. Like I did one for $5 in the head and house one thing in my back end. And um, she supported my love of animals in different ways. She found books for me to read. Plus there was no television back then when I was little. And when I decided that I would grow up and go to Africa and live with animals and write books about them. Well I was 10 years old, World War Two was raging Africa was still the dark continent, very far away. We had very little money and I was a girl back then in terms, you know, go and test those opportunity. So they laugh. Jane veem about something you can achieve. Forget this nonsense about Africa, not my mother. What she said to me is what I say to young people around the world. I see those in disadvantaged areas. That’s what my mother said to me. If you really want something, you ain’t have to work really hard. Take advantage of opportunities and never give up.

Speaker 2: (07:35)
Thank you. Wow. I am so happy that you shared that because I wanted to ask you, you know, what your parents did do to foster and nourish and encourage you and um, it sounds like they were, they gave you really the greatest gift they could have by doing that. Well, it was just my mother because my father was off fighting in the war. And then my parents, I got people with mum but also, um, her sister and her mother. So we were a house of women. My sister. Yeah. It really, well, one of the things that I hope that you investing your time with us today, yields is an understanding in the parents listening are the adults, the aunties, the uncles, the grannies, each child has their own gift. You know, I feel like raising a child sort of like unwrapping a present and you, you don’t know who they’re going to be, but each one brings their own unique, um, passions and interests.

Speaker 2: (08:33)
And for many children, if it’s not going to be, let’s say academics, it could well be this love for nature, for animals. And I just strongly urge parents to recognize the value and, and the boost in, in a sense of self esteem and self worth when they can contribute and feel meaningful. And I hope that you’ll visit um, roots and shoots. Maybe I’ll let you, um, recite the websites again so that we have them. Because parents, you know, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children really is TIF. Help them feel that they can make an impact around them and um, and support them in whatever unique way that might be an many children. It’s animals, but it could be the environment and you have so many programs. Could you please repeat your websites again, Dr Goodall as well. The main one, www dot [inaudible] dot org uh, of course that includes the back has its own website, um, w w. Dot. Roots and shoots.org. Is there anything you’d like to close with? Any final thoughts that you want to share with us?

Speaker 2: (09:45)
Yup. [inaudible] watching can tendencies all those. Yeah. That just as in human society in Chimp Society too, that a good mother and bad mother and the good mother protects his, but nothing is a protective. They are sexy and playful. But the most important characteristic is support. As with mother will support the child even if she knows that she’ll get beaten up by a higher ranking individual and those young sister up to be more assertive, to play a more important role in their society. The males are higher ranked females that best that mother and I had just thought your mother. So I learned that from the chimpanzees and they teach us so clearly isn’t a sharp line between us and the rest of the animal kingdom with pots of it not separated from it. It’s the center of roots and shoots realizing that that is a bridge between us. He just set up our respect, our compassion and our love. Thank you. Thank you. What a joy it’s been to have this time with you and please let me speak on behalf of thousands of thousands of listeners to, uh, who would join me. I know in wishing you the happiest of birthdays and honor you for your relentless devotion and commitment to preserving our planet and its precious creatures. Thank you so much. Thank you very much too.

Speaker 1: (11:27)
Oh boy. I hope you enjoyed that. I know, I sure did. There were two things in particular that we talked about that I wanted to recap here, and one was just the incredible way she talked about chimpanzee mothers, that the good ones are protective but they’re not over protective and that they’re affectionate and that they’re playful and that they’re supportive and she says that a good mother will support her child even if she knows she’ll get beat up by a more highly ranked individual and that these children tend to grow up more assertive, more confident, and the males are more higher ranked in the females are better mothers. So I find it fascinating to see how similar the Tim pansy social structures and behaviors are a match for humans. The other thing of course was the role her mother played in honoring Jane’s Longings on her passions.

Speaker 1: (12:27)
Even from a very young age. It’s such a gift when a child has a parent who believes so completely and so cleanly in their child’s dreams and feelings, meaning that Jane’s mother wasn’t projecting her own unfulfilled dreams onto Jane, you go to Africa because I never got a chance to, or you should follow and study animals because it’s one of my interests. She wasn’t projecting her own interests onto her daughter. She was just a presence there for Jane to observe and pay attention and honor that longing that Jane was expressing as a deep interest in passion. Who knows what could’ve happened if her mother had encouraged her to be realistic? You know, when she was little after all, there were a lot of obstacles. There was a war going on. They had very little money. She was a girl, you know, in those days, that was just almost outlandish to think that a girl might be able to, you know, somehow get to Africa and live among animals and study them.

Speaker 1: (13:32)
But instead her mother, Jane’s mother found books about animals and she told her that if she was willing to work hard and to take advantage of opportunities and to never give up, her dreams could come true. And boy didn’t they just do that. They really came true and they came true not only for Jane, but for hundreds of thousands of us around the world who have been inspired by her activities and motivated to take steps and contribute to making the world better by following her lead influence our children to be engaged with life and to dream their dreams. Whether they’re dreams are big ones like Jane wanting to study animals or just something like a child showing an interest in wanting to paint or make music or cook incredible desserts. Um, and again, I want to remind you that we’re not talking about pushing a child to become that star or that incredible singer to live out the dreams we didn’t get to fulfill because it is not our children’s job to make us look good by excelling at something and it’s not their job to live out our dreams.

Speaker 1: (15:04)
So please don’t sign your kids up for all the classes that you wish you could have taken, but just watch your child and pay attention to their natural leanings and interests. You may want to take Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence tests, which you can find online. You can take that with your kids and engage them in a conversation about their gifts and talents. You know, again, it doesn’t have to be curing cancer. It could just be putting on skits with friends because they love acting or fooling around on a little stage, or making music or writing funny scripts. Or it could be that they love to build things with Legos. Oftentimes, the interests that our kids have aren’t necessarily a precursor to what they’ll become. So your child’s interest in Legos may not mean that they’re going to become an engineer. So we just allow them to explore and be curious.

Speaker 1: (15:54)
And I would also suggest that you just think about ways you can support that interest without signing them up for every kind of enrichment class. In fact, it’s actually important that we give kids lots of unstructured time to find out what they’re interested in. And often we deprive our kids of that because they’re so used to being hooked up to a device or a video game or a screen or social media that there’s no space in their lives to see what their gravitational pull might be toward. And then don’t forget how much our kids take in by watching us, by seeing what we do, not just hearing what we say. So what passions or interests are you exploring or pursuing? I know it can be hard to even find a few minutes to read a magazine or take a shower, but when our children see us pursuing our passions, our interests, our gifts, our curiosities, they get the message that it should be a priority for them as well.

Speaker 1: (17:01)
It is important because we live at a time when teen suicide has never been higher. I am seeing more and more kids in my practice as a therapist, even at younger and younger ages who are plagued by anxiety and depression. And a lot of parents say that the only thing that excites their kids is when they’re on their digital devices, they just want to be on their screens. We know that one of the greatest antidotes to depression or anxiety is feeling a sense of purpose and meaning. I’ve seen this again and again with kids who seem to be very disengaged from life, that when we create opportunities for them to do something that kind of activates their natural interests, they come alive. So here’s a tip. Think about your child’s natural callings, the things that they seem drawn to or interested in, and then think about how you can let them know that you’re excited about what they’re excited about.

Speaker 1: (18:02)
That’s such a joy for a child to see us enthusiastic about something that has captivated their interest and maybe choose one way that you can support that dream. Maybe it’s getting them a book on a subject that they’re drawn to, or letting them take a cooking class or just invite someone to dinner who shares that talent and passion and maybe can talk about how it’s been incorporated into their adult life. Anything that we do to nourish our children’s dreams will encourage them to pursue them. So that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed listening to Dr Jane Goodall as much as I did. Check out roots and shoots, and of course, Jane Goodall’s website. You can find out lots more about her work and I look forward to joining you on the next episode. Please subscribe to this podcast so that you’re notified when a new release is out. And of course it’s great when you can mention it to your friends. And meanwhile, remember, no matter how busy life gets, look for the moments of sweetness and joy. Have Fun. Thanks for showing up and I’ll see you next time.

Speaker 3: (19:12)

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