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Creating a Healthy Culture for Our Kids

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
September 26, 2022 9:09 am

Creating a Healthy Culture for Our Kids

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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September 26, 2022 9:09 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Dr. Leonard Sax to discuss combatting the negative impact of culture on our kids while building a healthy culture in its place.


Welcome to Family Policy Matters, an engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. Hi, this is John Rustin, president of NC Family, and we're grateful to have you with us for this week's program. It's our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged, and inspired by what you hear on Family Policy Matters, and that you will feel better about your work. You are equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state, and nation. And now here is our host of Family Policy Matters, Tracey Devitt-Griggs. Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters.

As parents and grandparents, we may be a bit alarmed at the prospect of raising children in this current cultural environment. Despite our best efforts, culture does matter, according to Dr. Leonard Sacks, who recently published an article explaining why culture matters. Well, he's here with us today to talk about that, and Dr. Sacks is a practicing physician in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and a prolific author, having written four books and numerous articles about child and adolescent development. His most recent book, The Collapse of Parenting, became a New York Times bestseller. Dr. Leonard Sacks, welcome to Family Policy Matters.

Thanks for inviting me. When you say culture matters, what do you mean by culture? Well, I mean the culture that young people experience.

The culture, the most popular YouTube videos, TikTok videos, the most popular hit songs, and some of the television. In your decades as a physician working specifically with families and adolescents, what shifts have you seen in the perspectives and life goals of young people? Well, I think it's summarized pretty well by a recent survey where researchers asked 12-year-olds in the United States and in China, what would you like to be when you grow up? They gave them multiple choices like professional athlete, professional musician, social media influencer, astronaut. The most popular choice of Chinese 12-year-olds was astronaut. The least popular choice of Chinese 12-year-olds was social media influencer. The number one choice of American kids by a wide margin at age 12 is to be a YouTube influencer, and the last choice of American kids is to be an astronaut. And that's not just one isolated study. We have many recent studies in this country suggesting that young people, their number one goal for many American kids is to be famous, and that's a big change from 20 or 30 years ago when that was clearly not the case.

Okay, that's a scary change as well. Now, you asked this question, right, during your medical exams. Why do you think that's an important question for you to ask individually? I think it's useful to ask open-ended questions. So ask questions like, what's your favorite thing to do in your free time? Or where do you see yourself in 10 years?

And just let kids answer any way they like. And what does that give you insight into? Why is that a good question for you as a doctor? You tell me what you prefer to do in your free time, and you've told me a lot.

You told me how you choose to entertain yourself, what you think is important, and I have found that if you have only two minutes to get to know someone well, as well as you can, the best question to ask is, what's your favorite thing to do in your free time? So does that give you insights into things like depression, the potential for drug use? Are you seeing any correlations like that?

Well, sure. Some of the answers are obviously red flags. If a person says, my favorite thing is think about how I'm going to kill myself, and that's happened. Or actually, the most common answer I get now, which I would have rarely gotten as recently as 10 years ago, is sleep. American kids increasingly are sleep deprived.

And when you ask them, what's your favorite thing to do in your free time? They'll say, take a nap, because this boy staying up past midnight playing video games, this girl staying up past midnight watching TikTok videos, and they're exhausted. You mentioned music also in your opening statement. How important is music in forming some of these beliefs and attitudes and behaviors that make up this whole culture that's influencing our kids? Well, we have good research from the Rand Corporation and other scholars that how kids choose to entertain themselves, what kind of music they choose to listen to does influence their beliefs, their perspective on a wide range of topics. And yet the kids usually don't have any insight.

They insist that the music does not influence them, even though it clearly does. That sounds so similar to like movies and video games. Are you thinking that those things are also influencing our children as far as their aspirations? Without any doubt, how you choose to entertain yourself influences the kind of person you are becoming. There's a great line in the book of Proverbs chapter four, verse 23, above everything else, guard your heart, because everything you do flows from it. If you choose to spend your free time playing video games where you kill people, that's going to influence the kind of person you become.

If you choose to spend your free time reading a book, you're going to become a different kind of person or playing a musical instrument or shooting baskets, you'll become a better basketball player. What you choose to spend your free time doing has a big impact. And this is especially true for children and teens. You and I cannot change the culture, but we can change the culture in our own home. And we can limit how much of this toxic culture comes into our home.

And as parents, we need to do that. You also mentioned reading books. And I think you've written that you don't think young people are reading for pleasure very often at all. How important is this?

We don't have to guess. We have scholars at the National Endowment for the Arts who have surveyed American kids and find indeed that American boys have pretty much stopped reading altogether. It's a big change over the last 30 years. And it's a problem because reading, you and I know, can open up your mind to different worlds and different experiences. And you're creating that world in your head. Reading is a creative experience as opposed to watching a TV show or watching a video on YouTube where you're not creating, you're merely consuming more passively. So I do think we need to encourage our kids to read.

We need to model that and read to them. My daughter's 16. I still read to her every night at that time.

That's a pretty important point right there that you still read to your daughter who's 16. How does that go with her? And what kinds of things are you reading with her? We are reading the original Harry Potter books again, which I read to her years ago. It takes about a year and a half to get her all seven. And yeah, she has requested that we do those again.

Tell us how that works. Because I think some parents might be surprised to hear how you do that. Well, in our home, it's a tradition and my daughter looks forward to it and requests it. You need to create these rituals in your home that are about you spending time with your kid. I don't have a TV in my bedroom. My daughter doesn't have a TV in her bedroom. Bedtime is for us. We say a prayer together and then we read a book together. So a lot of parents will do this with their children when they're little, but they somehow along the way, they drop that thinking that it's just for little kids. But what a great idea.

Good for you. Talk about some other things. You talked about the rituals that families can create that will help them to have a more positive influence. What are some other things that parents and even grandparents, for those of us that are older, can start to instill in our children's lives? So I wrote a book called The Collapse of Parenting and one chapter of that book is Enjoy. That's the title.

Enjoy. And the point I'm making there is that you must prioritize, you must make time to do something every, certainly several times a week and ideally every day. Something fun with your kid. Driving them to school doesn't count.

Helping them with homework doesn't count. It needs to be something fun, whether it's going for a bike ride together or a walk in the park together or singing songs together. You need to do fun things together. That's got to be the foundation of the parent child relationship is fun things that you do together. And that makes everything else easy. If your kid loves you because of all the fun things you do together, then they want to please you.

And they don't want to disappoint you. And parenting is easy. If your kid hates you because you're always nagging them, then parenting is very difficult. I think most parents, especially in this culture where we put so much emphasis on getting ahead and on our children progressing, getting in the best schools and impressing the other parents on the block, that the advice to have fun would be surprising.

Why have we lost sight of the importance of having fun together? Well, American parents are very confused. They think that their kid has to be amazing, has to get into the top college. And so they pick them up from school and drive them to computer coding and then on to travel team soccer, and they're eating a sandwich on the way from computer coding class to travel team soccer class.

That's a big mistake. That parent is sending the unintended message that being amazing and doing all these activities is more important than having a meal at home with family. Cancel computer coding class, prioritize supper, a sit down meal at home with your kid is the single most important thing you can do each day.

And I defend that statement. There's actually a lot of scholarly research on this point, which I present in my book, The Collapse of Parenting. Prioritizing time to have a meal at home with your kid each evening is the simplest and most important thing you can do to restore that parent child bond. And we have very good research on this point. And yet what's happened over the last 30 years, the proportion of kids who have an evening meal at home with a parent has dropped by more than half because parents think and accept this societal assumption that it's more important to be amazing and do all these activities rather than have a meal at home with family, cancel computer coding class, have supper at home instead.

That advice, eating an evening meal together and having fun could be a relief, I would think, to parents who are kind of trying to keep up with the culture these days. So thank you for that. So talk a little bit about you discuss the difference between greatness and goodness.

You've referenced this a little bit. Why is that important? Again, we have good research on what the culture has prioritized over the last 30 years and how that influences kids. So for example, researchers at UCLA looked at the most popular TV shows in the United States from 1967 to 2017 and found from 1967 to 1997, what the shows were teaching is that the most important thing is to do the right thing, to be a good friend, to tell the truth, even if it hurts. But in the last 20 years, that's shifted completely. And now the most important thing, the TV shows are teaching, the most important thing is to win, to be famous on shows like The Survivor or American Idol. It's all about winning and doing the right thing.

You know, that's going to get you voted off the island. That shift is really harmful because anyone can be a good person. Anyone can tell the truth.

Anyone can be a good friend. But not everyone can win American Idol. Not everyone can be famous. And if the researchers concluded that our culture is now a cult of fame, and if being famous is now the standard by which you're going to judge yourself, most kids are going to be frustrated and disappointed because most kids are not going to be famous, and they can try as hard as they want. And again, the culture tells them if you work hard enough, it'll come true.

Your dream will come true. That's just not true. It's not a true statement.

And I've seen this firsthand. Kids who are way more talented, you know, I talked to girls about Joseph Seawat. Joseph Seawat is this 17-year-old woman who at age 12 did this video, Boomerang, which went viral, had over 900 million views, and she's now, you know, famous. But to be blunt, she's not a very good dancer. She's not very pretty, if I'm allowed to say that. So this other girl says, hey, I'm way prettier than Joseph Seawat, and I'm way better dancer, and my video's way better than her. And it is.

All those statements are true. But the girl's video fizzled. It didn't go viral. She's not famous.

And she's angry and resentful, and life isn't fair, and it's not. But the culture doesn't teach them this. The culture teaches them just the opposite. The culture now promotes a lie, which is that you too can be famous if you just put in a little extra effort.

You too can be famous. That's not a true statement. It's a very harmful belief. Do you have anything else that you would like to leave with our parents and grandparents as far as how they can counteract some of these negative aspects of the culture all around us? It's a long answer, and that's when my book The Collapse of Parenting is about. The original title of that book was The Collapse of American Parenting, and the subtitle was Why Most Kids Would Not Be Better Off Raised Outside North America.

But non-celebrity authors don't get to choose their title. But there are many aspects of American culture that are now uniquely toxic to kids, and I've seen this firsthand because our culture is different and in many ways more toxic than the culture that I encounter when I meet with kids and families in Germany, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland. I've spoken to families in all those venues on many, many occasions. So have the courage to do things differently. Prioritize the family.

Don't hesitate to cancel the playdate and make a family date instead. Dr. Leonard Sacks, where can our listeners go if they want to learn more? Read your article, Why Culture Matters, and follow your other work. Well, I hope you'll visit my website, Sacks is spelled S-A-X, and sign up for my newsletter there.

I'll never share your email. I send out a newsletter about once a month with links to whatever I'm writing or things that I think would be of interest to concerned parents, Dr. Leonard Sacks, author of the recent article, Why Culture Matters, and the bestselling book, The Collapse of Parenting. Thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to this show online and to learn more about NC Families' work to inform, encourage, and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at That's Thanks again for listening, and may God bless you and your family.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-08 10:28:14 / 2023-01-08 10:34:19 / 6

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