In today’s complicated and often unjust society, it may seem too daunting to bring children into the world. We want to protect our kids, and with danger seemingly at every turn, it seems an impossible task.
But in today’s conversation, I was encouraged by our guest who taught me how it’s still possible to raise healthy, responsible, and compassionate kids today and prepare them well for the world outside.
In this episode, we break down the most important principles all parents should know right now, how to raise children without over-parenting them, the important conversations you should have with your children, how to navigate raising children in a world filled with injustice, and so much more.
One of the most important things we discuss is that there is no such thing as a perfect parent and that it’s okay to admit to your kids that you made a mistake. In fact, it is a great way to model to them that they don’t have to be perfect and that your love will always be unconditional.
Our guest Dr. Traci Baxley says it so well in this quote:
“I go to my kids and say, ‘You know what? I screwed up, and I should not have said that or I shouldn’t have said it in that way. This is what I really meant. I was feeling hurt, angry, hungry or whatever at the time and what I said to you does not align with our core values of our house.’” – Dr. Traci Baxley
I’m so excited to dive into this conversation with you and discover how to raise healthy children and create healthy families. Let’s get started!
Dr. Traci Baxley is a professor, consultant, parenting coach, and speaker. As an educator for over 30 years with degrees in Child Development, Elementary Education, and Curriculum and Instruction, she specializes in diversity and inclusion, anti-bias curriculum, and social justice education.
She is a mom of four sons and one daughter and has the mission to raise globally-minded, empathetic, and mindful children. As a biracial family, she and her husband openly talk to their children about topics of race, politics, and current social injustices.
Dr. Traci has written a new book called Social Justice Parenting that helps parents everywhere discover their opportunity to nurture a future generation of humane, compassionate individuals to help create a more fair and just world.
Traci has more than 30 years of experience as a social justice educator, but her biggest experience has come from raising her five children.
She and her husband created household values and a family mission statement to be intentional about how they wanted to raise their kids. She added that she and her husband shared many core values before they had kids as well. Their political views, social leanings, basic foundations, and values are the same. They may show up differently, but their core is the same, and that has made all the difference in the strength and unity of their family.
“‘Social justice’ doesn’t mean that you are at every rally. I really believe that social justice and activism really starts in your own house. Like, what are you saying to your children? What are you reading with your children? What kind of conversations are you having with your own children? How are you raising them? What are the core values in your house? That really is the start of social justice work because what you do in the privacy of your own home shows up in the public spaces.” – Dr. Traci Baxley
Traci explained how important it is to learn through listening — to listen to understand, not to speak. It’s also important to practice humility.
“Even if I’m not saying much, it’s because I’m listening and I want to take in and get more knowledge and stand in the gap using my platform or my power so other people’s voices are being heard. I think oftentimes people are being canceled because instead of standing for the work, they are really standing for themselves in the middle of the work. So I think less talking and more listening.” – Dr. Traci Baxley
When it comes to navigating the complicated terrain of race and belonging along with the other myriad of issues that come with adolescence, Dr. Traci said that family meetings were their core stabilizer. It was a safe space where the kids could say and do what they feel, and they don’t get reprimanded in that space. They used to do these meetings once a week, usually on Sundays after dinner. Now, as the kids are older, they are doing it once a month.
They would have a jar where each child could write concerns, and then Traci and her husband would ask if they are listening to the concern as a friend or as a parent, which can be very different responses. Sometimes she had to restrain the “mama bear” inside so that she and her kids could get to the real heart of the matter.
“I have four black boys and I worry about them, and I want to make sure that the world is safe. I need other parents, white parents, to say, ‘That’s my kid too,’ and I think we need to get our country in a place where we see the human in everybody. So it’s my job to look after your children, and your job to look after mine, like a big village.” – Dr. Traci Baxley
Each child has gone through their own journey of being biracial and had to figure out what that identity meant to them individually. Traci explains that her job is to guide and explain how others may perceive the way they look.
“My oldest son actually has the darkest skin of all of my kids. He’s very much like, ‘Mom, I am biracial. I’m not black, I’m not white.’ He’s six-two and has a black male presence. And I say, ‘You know your presence alone. … Nobody cares that you’re at Harvard. Nobody cares that you play piano. No one cares that you’re soft-spoken. … They’re going to see you in your six -foot-two-black-male frame, and they’re going to make judgments about who you are, and you have to be prepared for that.” – Dr. Traci Baxley
Dr. Traci says these conversations are the antidote to fear, confusion, and identity issues. She says that parents today are too busy and over-scheduled that they don’t check in with their kids enough. It’s important to take a breath and just ask, “How are you feeling? What’s going on?”
Checking in with kids is a great activity for parents to practice on a weekly basis, but I also asked Dr. Traci if she could share five principles that all parents should learn to improve their relationships with their kids.
This can look like separating your own childhood from your parenting and realizing that the way you showed up for your kids yesterday is not the way you want to show up tomorrow.
Model to your kids what you want them to emulate. This includes apologizing if you have done or said something wrong.
Shut down the negative self-talk, and give yourself positive words. The more you love yourself, the more it shows to your kids.
We’re not experts in everything. Surround yourself with a village of people who can help advocate for you and help you fill in the gaps where you need it.
The pandemic has shown us that we need to slow down. Reconnect with your children for no other reason at all but just to reconnect. Disconnect from technology, and have fun!
According to Dr. Traci, the three most important things are to teach kids to be kind and compassionate and to love them with a radical love, which is loving even when it’s hard.
Kids need to hear that their parents love them unconditionally and that perfection is not an expectation.
This is an example of what Dr. Traci says to her kids:
“[Being good at all these activities] is not why I love you, and that does not define my love for you in any way. You could do nothing, and my radical love would be my radical love.” – Dr. Traci Baxley
Another part of radical love is to raise your kids to not be narcissists in today’s world full of TikTok self-promotion. It’s imperative to take your kids out of their bubble and see how other kids live. They also need to learn how to deal with losses. Not everyone is going to get a participation trophy in life, and that’s okay. We win some and we lose some, and kids need to be able to reconcile with both.
Finally, parents need to stick to their “no.” Each time they give in, kids will learn how to manipulate and get their way and make life centered around them.
Ultimately, Dr. Traci said the key is to have more conversations with your kids and within your community.
“We are living in our silos with people who look like us or act like us, and we’re not talking enough. Like we’re living in such a black and white world, and I don’t mean that racially, but just wrong and right, black and white, and we have forgotten about all the gray in between. I think we need to get back to more gray areas where we have dialogue. … We get so caught up in not saying the right thing, being afraid to apologize, or being afraid to say what we want to say in a very respectful, ‘radical love’ kind of way.” – Dr. Traci Baxley
Listening, loving, and seeking to truly understand another person are the building blocks of a successful society. It’s why the golden rule is golden. Parents have the power to mold and guide their children to be a light and break through barriers from previous generations. It just takes one conversation at a time.
I am not even a parent yet, but I gleaned so much wisdom from Dr. Traci on the art of parenting well in an unjust world. I loved her idea of creating a safe space for her family to talk during family meetings and passing journals back and forth between her kids when they just wanted to be raw, open, and honest.
I want to acknowledge Dr. Traci for doing the work because this is information and wisdom that a lot of us need to know. Whether we’re parents or not parents yet, we’re going to need to know this information if we want to raise children in a healthy way. So I acknowledge her for doing the work for 30 years in all different sectors from early childhood education to parenting. I appreciate and acknowledge her for creating information we can understand through this book, by showing up, by being a leader in her community, and by trying to be of service in a messy world right now.
The common theme of this episode is having honest conversations with your kids every step of the way. The more they can trust their parents, the more parents can prepare them for the world.
I really liked her simple but powerful definition of greatness:
I believe greatness is about being of service to others — allowing who you are and what you have to serve other people. I want my children to know they can always serve somebody else, so I think when you see yourself as a servant leader, that, to me, defines you as someone great.” – Dr. Traci Baxley
To learn more about Traci and her work, you can follow her on Instagram and check out her website and book here.
Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode, #1179, and are inspired to continue on the path toward greatness. Make sure to check out the show notes in the description for a full rundown of today’s show with all the important links, and also make sure to share this with a friend, leave us a review and subscribe on Apple Podcasts.
In case no one’s told you lately, I want to remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter. Now it’s time to go out there and do something great!
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