Podcast 118: How to Raise Confident Children (Confident Kids) with Marilyn Faulkner
Listen to the episode and see full show notes here.
Rachel Nielson: You’re listening to 3 in 30 Takeaways for Moms, Episode 118—How to Raise Confident Children or Confident Kids.
Welcome to 3 in 30, a podcast for moms who want to create more meaning and motherhood. Each 30-minute episode will feature three doable takeaways for you to try at home with your family this week. I’m your host, Rachel Neilson. Thank you so much for being here. This week we are going to talk about how to raise confident kids.
Back in November, right when my podcast was just first getting started, I attended a branding workshop to help me get focused and gain clarity about my mission and what I hoped this podcast would offer to listeners. The workshop was put on by Alison Faulkner, who many of you might know as The Alison Show on Instagram or you might listen to her popular podcast Awesome with Alison. I went into the workshop knowing that I was going to get some valuable guidance on building my podcast and I also knew that I was going to get some good laughs because Alison is known for her completely out of control dancing, which I might add, did not disappoint, because there were some pretty great dancing at that workshop. But what I did not know as I headed into the workshop was that I was going to meet some truly incredible women who would brainstorm with me and encourage me and who would become future guests on this podcast.
Today I’m interviewing one of them. Honestly, she’s probably the most important person who was at Allison’s workshop that day because without her, Alison wouldn’t even exist. I am interviewing Allison’s mother today—Marilyn Faulkner. She has some pretty confident kids and we all want confident kids right? She is going to help us learn how she raised confident kids and how you can confident kids too. Let me tell you a little bit about this incredible woman because though she’ll gladly claim the title of Alison’s mom, there’s so much more to her than that. She has a master’s degree in literature and four almost five published books. Her first book is called Back to the Best Books: How Classics Can Change Your Life and it gets rave reviews for how she unpacks those must-read classic novels that we all hear about and helps to make them relevant and inspiring to our individual lives. I, as a former high school English teacher, am really excited to read that one. She’s done the same thing with the scriptures, making them relevant to our lives and exciting and interesting. She’s published The User Friendly Old Testament and The User Friendly Book of Mormon: Timeless Truths for Today’s Challenges and her next book in the series The User Friendly New Testament will be published in July, and I will put links to all of those books in my show notes if you’re interested in checking them out.
On top of all of that, Marilyn and her husband Craig have raised five rock star confident kids who, like their mother and their father, have followed all their passions and found success in their chosen paths. I already mentioned Alison, who’s a writer, podcaster and a branding expert. You may also know of Allison’s sister, Andrea Williams, who’s the founder of Tubby Todd bath company, which is a great company that sells all-natural body care products for little ones and for moms. And then the three boys in the family aren’t slouches either. Kirk got a Master’s in screenwriting from NYU. Evan is the Head of Acquisitions for a real estate investment trust and Blake works for the global marketing team at Adobe and is headed to graduate school soon, so some really impressive kids! But I do want to emphasize that it’s not just what they do, it’s who they are, kind, vivacious, committed, service-oriented and confident people. And isn’t that what we all want our kids to grow up to be? So my question is “how do you raise confident kids?”Marilyn is going to give us a little insight today. I’m so thrilled to have her on the podcast. So Marilyn, welcome to 3 in 30 podcast.
Marilyn Faulkner: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here. We’ve been kind of giggling along, having fun off air. But really, it’s much easier to think of what you did wrong with your children and the mistakes you made. It is very hard to go back and say, well, what have I done? I mean something happened that led to these confident kids. It can’t be pure luck that they seem to be doing pretty well and all are confident kids. But I did often say to them as I was raising them, just make a note of this because you’ll need to tell it to your therapist later. I was kind of kidding, but that has actually come true and they have actually talked to their therapist about the mistakes I’ve made. So I just like to start out by saying to you moms, it’s okay if you’re screwing up as long as you do a few things right, it may turn out okay. They can still be confident kids.
Rachel Nielson: I love that. That’s such a hopeful message. We’ve actually recorded once and then it got erased. So, we’re recording again and Marilyn’s been such a good sport. We were laughing about our mishaps, but one thing that she mentioned, because she’s heard that intro twice now. One thing that she mentioned to me was that she, she really wanted to emphasize that this is not just her, that this is her husband Craig too who has taught the kids this confidence and this entrepreneurial spirit and all of these things. Both of them contributed to the confident kids. I love that you wanted to include him and we’re going to be talking about you today and your motherhood, but I’ve gotten to know him a little bit from following Alison’s Instagram account. He was battling cancer last year and she would post videos of him during his treatments, kind of dancing in the bed. I literally just fell in love with his positive attitude. So I knew him from Instagram but I hadn’t seen that much about you and so when I met you at Alison’s workshop, you were my favorite part of the workshop.
Marilyn Faulkner: It was wonderful to meet you too. I have to say I’m a very odd person that the only people in the world that I am jealous of are high school English teachers.
Rachel Nielson: Well you would have been a fabulous one!
Marilyn Faulkner: Well that’s what I sort of always probably should have done, but when I was in college, my rebellious attitude came forward because all the girls were majoring in education and I thought ‘I’m just going to do something else’ and all the rest of my life I thought I should have been a high school English teacher. That’s really what I was sort of made to do. But anyway, I’m glad you did it, somebody needed to do it. So I’m really glad.
Rachel Nielson: Well I’m so glad we’ve connected, and we have so many similar interests and I really admire you as a mother. One thing that I loved that you told me at Allison’s workshop was we were in our small group meeting together and you and I were talking and you said how meaningful it was for you to see your grown child up on the stage teaching, doing her thing. And just realizing how confident she was and how she was shining and in her element and what that was like for you as a mother to watch that. I just loved that. She is one of your very confident kids. I love that because I’m a mom of little kids still—three and seven—and so it gave me great perspective to think they’re going to grow up and be awesome people. Sometimes the tantrums and everything that I’m going through right now seems so hard, but it’s going to be worth it.
Marilyn Faulkner: Yes. And they’re going to start to bring stuff to you. I was raised by a wonderful mother who was not a very confident person, but she raised confident kids. She had a great many fears. She suffered from some depression and in fact, after my father died, she basically didn’t leave her house for the next ten years. It was my dad who really helped her get out there into the world. She had eight children and she liked being in her home. But the positive side of that was that we were her friends. She just loved us, she got the biggest kick out of us and she enjoyed us so much. As we got older, she was always saying, “Oh, you teach me so much. I’ve learned so much from you.” I think that was a great confidence builder in all of us. Her learning from us turned us into confident kids.
But it was also a big surprise to me that when my kids grow up, it’s true! You learn so much from them and it’s such a thrill when they can turn around and bring that wisdom and insight to you instead of you having to do everything. It’s pretty crazy. So, young moms—look forward to that. Your kids will grow up and they’ll be smart, interesting people and you’ll really enjoy knowing them. It’ll be fun.
Rachel Nielson: It does give me so much hope to think about with my little ones. So we’re going to talk today about raising confident kids. I wanted to make the point before we start that confidence doesn’t necessarily mean outgoing, willing to dance in front of thousands of people like Alison. It doesn’t mean that they will have big careers or in the public eye. To me what it means is just that they are confident in who they are and what they offer the world, even sometimes that’s just quiet confidence. What would you add about that?
Marilyn Faulkner: I think that’s absolutely true. We’re raised in a system where we are rewarded for things that show if we test well, if we can play the violin, if we can sing, if we get straight A’s, we get lots of kudos if we’re good athletes. I used to say to my kids who have really none of those skills (they tried), but we just don’t. We just don’t. My husband and I don’t either. I used to say to them, “Your talent is your personality.” I echo what you’re saying, Rachel, in that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge personality to be confident kids. You think of the night that you had a baby in the middle of the night and the nurse that came in and sat with you and was quiet with you, how much you appreciated that. There are things that we can bring to the world that are different than just being huge and visible. I think that early on, hopefully we can appreciate the gifts that our children have and begin to encourage them that that little set of gifts that they have can make the world a better place, and it won’t necessarily be the ones that are on television. Confident kids don’t have to have showable skills.
Rachel Nielson: Yes, I love that. Your talent is your personality. Confident kids are confident in their personality, not just their skills. So I think that is such a perfect lead in to what we’re going to talk about. What is your first takeaway or bit of advice for us about how to raise kids who are confident in who they are?
Marilyn Faulkner: I think the first thing that I would like to emphasize is that criticism is dangerous stuff. Criticism is very powerful. It’s dangerous. I think we should consider it more like a medical procedure than a way of life. I heard some advice early on in my marriage that made a big difference to me. A man said, “if you think of your marriage as building a wall or a fortress or a structure, when you criticize, you’re taking bricks off and you simply can’t build a wall by taking bricks off.” Sometimes you have to take a brick or two off. Something is defective. It has to happen. But it’s something that should be done carefully and thoughtfully because when we begin to criticize a child, we are in a sense deconstructing that child for a few moments.
One thing that is true about criticism is that it’s generally very specific. I am criticizing you because your room is messy. I’m criticizing you because you eat with your mouth open. But when I praise you, I generally am not as thoughtful. I’m not very specific. I might say “you’re a good girl” or “that was a good job.” That means that my criticism is more powerful than my praise so I’m actually taking more bricks off because I’m using powerful criticism and this criticism will hurt the possibility of becoming confident kids.
I love a book by Stephen Covey called the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I read it many, many years ago and he talks a great deal about that in this book. One of the things that he asks you to think about is thinking about criticism and praise as deposits and withdrawals from a bank account. We have an emotional bank account with every person in our lives and we are making deposits into that bank account by the positive supportive things we say. We’re taking withdrawals out when we criticize. There’s a balance and you can get overdrawn. Keep that bank account in a positive state to raise confident kids.
When you think about the number of criticisms that a child receives every day, not just from you, but from all of the encounters they have—their friends are mean to them, their teachers are tough on them. These criticisms do not lead to confident kids. Then when they come home and you’ve got stuff to say to them, it’s pretty easy to get overdrawn. So we need to be thinking, ‘before I say something critical, have I made enough deposits that there’s money in the bank, that they can stand it, that they can take it?’ That way we won’t get overdrawn.
I think that’s a very good thing in marriage as well by the way. If your children hear you as a couple taking bricks off the wall all the time that also will erode their confidence. It’s just a feeling in the home where we’re either putting bricks on or we’re taking bricks off. That’s the first one. Criticism is dangerous. You cannot build a wall by taking off the books. You cannot build confident kids by always criticising.
Rachel Nielson: That was a major light bulb for me when you said that criticism is usually specific and praise is usually general. I’m like, “Oh yes, that is so true.” I did want to point out to listeners that last week, we had a licensed marriage and family counselor on who talked about specific ways to praise our children so it’s not so general, so it is more specific. If people want to listen to that episode, they’ll have some ideas of how to make some deposits into the account so that when they need to make some withdrawals and make some corrections, there’s enough positive in the account to not overdraw that relationship with that child so you can create confident kids.
Marilyn Faulkner: I listened to that episode and I got so excited about that because I had the point that criticism is specific and praise is not, but he just takes it so much farther of showing you four different ways that you can positively praise your children and really build that. I thought it was fantastic.
Rachel Nielson: Well, thank you. I thought it was great too. His name was Tony Overbay. Then what is your second takeaway about how we can raise confident kids?
Marilyn Faulkner: I think that it’s wise to treat your child like an intelligent adult, like the intelligent adult you hope that they will become and I think they will become that person. I read a book many years ago called Miss Manners Guide to Rearing Perfect Children. And one of the things that she talks about in that book is how to talk to a child. And her whole point is you should talk to a child like they are an adult. In other words, if you’re sitting next to a child at a meal, what would you say to an adult? Well, you’d ask them about their favorite books and movies and what they like to eat and what they like to do. You wouldn’t talk to them like a child or like an adult. You just talk to them like a person.
Once again, I was very fortunate in having a mother who needed a friend. She had four sons before she had me. She was ready for a girlfriend! From the time I was very young, she talked to me just like a friend. And in fact, she talked to all of us that way. I also love to read and she loved to read. She talked to me like I was a friend. I think that contributed to making us confident kids. I was raised in a religious home where we went to church a lot, but I don’t ever recall my mother like telling me to read my Bible or read my scriptures or do those things. But she had one on a wire rack on the kitchen table and in the midst of her chores, she’d always go over and she’d read a little bit.
One day when I was about ten, she said to me, “Marilyn, I have a question. Do you think Jesus was married?” And I thought, “what?” And she said, “well, you know, he’s 30 years old.” She had this whole thing, she’d been thinking about this as a pretty intellectual question and perhaps even a controversial one. They weren’t talking about anything like that in the children’s primary at church, let me tell you! She said, “well look, he could stand up in the synagogue and you can only do that if you’re married.” She just treated me as if I was on an intellectual level with her that is something you do with confident kids. Well, I scurried into my room and got the little New Testament that they had given me at church and I started to read it and I read the New Testament when I was ten in order to be in the conversation with my mother. I think there’s something very important in that if you are having interesting conversations with your children, they will scramble around and try to get smarter and brighter in order to engage. This will build confidence and help build confident kids.
Rachel Nielson: Yes. What strikes me about what you just said in that story you shared about your mom is talking to your children at all. Talking to you kids can turn them into confident kids. I think that it’s easy to just address them about the specific things that you need, like pick up your room or how was school, but to engage in conversation with them as a friend just like you would if someone else was visiting your home, I think is huge. To show them that ‘I see that you’re there, I recognize you. You’re important to me. You’re a valuable companion.’ So talk to them about the things that matter to you and that you’re thinking about and let them into that world and this could lead to confident kids.
Marilyn Faulkner: Just “I am interested in your opinion and I’m just going to let it flow here and let you just talk to me. This is going to be fun.”
Rachel Nielson: I think that this also builds on your first takeaway about criticism because you wouldn’t criticize an adult as freely as you sometimes criticize a child. Criticizing a child doesn’t make for confident kids.
Marilyn Faulkner: Oh heavens no. You wouldn’t talk to your worst enemy the way you talk to your children or else you wouldn’t have any friends. Along that line, you have to be very careful. You don’t label your friends. You don’t say “you always do this, you never do that, you’re this kind of a person” or else that person would stop going to lunch with you. I think you need to be very careful once again with your children of throwing out these blanket statements about what they’re like. Blanket statements do not build confident kids. Who knows what they’re like! I don’t like people to tell me what I’m like, unless they tell me I’m lovely and funny. So I think these blanket statements are a little bit dangerous and that goes with the criticism. It kind of goes with talking to them like they’re an adult. Treat them with that respect. Respect leads to confident kids.
Rachel Nielson: Yes, definitely. And then what’s your third takeaway?
Marilyn Faulkner: My third takeaway would be to go ahead and have a fulfilling and productive life of your own as you raise your children. You should model happiness for them. Confident kids see confidence and happiness modeled in others. When I left college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but my graduate director handed me the honors reading list from our university and said, “read these books while you raise your confident kids and it will help you think what you want to do next.” I thought, “eventually I’ll get married and raise confident kids and that will be forever.” That’s what raising confident kids feels like is forever. And I even had five of them. So that’s a bigger investment in time. That’s more like 30 years than 20. But most people only spend a couple of decades raising your children. And we really live to be old these days.
So I actually did that. I began to read those books as I raised my children. It had a big effect on how I raised my confident kids because we were talking, I listened to books, we talked about books. Also, I began to get more and more focused on literature and realized I wanted to get a master’s degree. I was 40 when I went back to get my master’s degree. I drove to the university the day that I dropped the fifth child off at preschool for the first time. I mean, it was that day. School had started two weeks before, but I had to wait until the last child went to preschool. So I went and got there two weeks late, but then for the next five years, it took going part-time, my kids did homework with me. I had homework to do, they had homework to do. Doing the work together made confident kids.
They listen to Dickens in the car because I needed to get the book read. They were involved and I was involved and they all came to see me get my master’s degree and it was a great moment. I get a little choked up thinking about it because I think they were as thrilled as I was. Me going after my dreams helped my kids become confident kids.
But here is a real fine line. It’s very much a ‘me generation’ and everybody’s got to go out and do their own thing. I really believe in sacrificing to be with your children as much as you possibly can and in giving them some of the years of your life, but don’t give them your whole life. Have a life if you want confident kids. So I did, I stayed home with my kids as much as I possibly could, even though we were building a company and I had to work at times. But there came a day that they also needed to help me begin to get some life going to, and I think they roll with that and it helps them see that life is long and that there’s a lot to it. Working together made for confident kids.
Rachel Nielson: I love the point that you made, that you were modeling happiness for them and making confident kids. You were modeling the things that you loved and giving them permission to follow their dreams and love what they loved as they grew older. I feel like I have a personal experience with that just this past year where I’ve always been home with my kids. I taught for five years and then when my son was born, I decided to stay home. I felt like I was raised in a religious culture where that’s encouraged. So it felt like what I should do and also what I wanted to do.( confident kids)I did, and I did it for about six years. And honestly, it was very difficult for me. Every single day. I missed teaching as part of my life and who I am. And I really struggled thinking, “why don’t I love this more? Isn’t it supposed to be natural for me to just nurture?” Last year I looked in the mirror one day and I just realized, “this doesn’t fit and how long am I going to try to force myself into this box that doesn’t fit. Making changes for myself had a positive result on my kids and making them confident kids. I’m not happy and that’s not good for my kids either, to see that their mom is not happy.” And I really thought–I mean there was a lot of guilt that went into this and tears–but in the end I really thought I would want Sally to do what she loved and to not feel like she had to be a full time stay-at-home mom if that isn’t what fit. My confident kids will get to choose what make them happy. So this year I decided to put my daughter in a four day a week preschool that’s most of the day. It’s similar to what my son does in first grade.
I started this podcast and I started working for my husband, for his business. When my kids get home from school, I am all in. Being all in makes ky kids, confident kids. So they get home about two and I’m feeling fulfilled and I’m all in and I feel like I’ve never been happier as a mother because of the decision that I made to follow my heart and realize that I didn’t have to fit in the same box as I thought that I would or that I saw other women in, and that it was okay and that my kids would benefit from seeing me model that and become confident kids themselves..
Marilyn Faulkner: I applaud you for that. You know, we have started two companies over the years and when we started the first one, Andrea was a baby and Kirk was in kindergarten. That means I had four kids under the age of six. And because I was 26 when I started having babies and I thought, “Oh, I’ll have four or five babies in ten years and this will be great.” It just didn’t even seem like a big deal. I really had no idea what I was doing. So anyway, when we had this idea, I needed to write the products. Craig was a stockbroker and he had come up with a training course to do and it ended up being 500 pages in 13 binders with 350 slides. It was a year of work that we did on this. And then after that I needed to go into work to continue to write products. I had these little girls that were not even preschool age and I had to put them in daycare for a few hours a day. So I understand what you’re saying. I also had the same reaction as you: with this make my kids confident kids? I had been working a few years when I had my first child and I thought I was just going to love it and instead it seemed like watching paint dry. I was just kind of around the house and there was no one to talk to.
So as my daughters have come forward, it turned out the two girls have really inherited my husband’s entrepreneurial spirit. And that means they have to go to work and I’ve been behind them 100% on that. I feel like they’re wonderful, committed mothers of three children each and they are tremendous with their kids, but they are making the life that is presenting itself to them. And that is a tricky thing to do. It doesn’t look like anyone else’s life. And that’s one of the things that you have to, as a parent I think you need to really support your children and say, Hey, you know what? Your life doesn’t need to look like mine. Mine doesn’t need to look like yours. It just needs to be a good life.
Rachel Nielson: Yes. I do feel like I want to emphasize that for some women being home fulfills them and they have a wonderful natural instinct with their children and they do all the things well that I honestly wish I could do. Again, this goes back to like your personality is your talent. it doesn’t mean that you have to work to be valuable or not work to be valuable. It’s just knowing who you are and then having the confidence to say, I can pursue that and it’s okay for me to be me.
Marilyn Faulkner: Absolutely. My son, Evan, his wife was a world-class soccer player and a CPA and of all the women in our family who I thought would go on working after they had children, it would be Megan. But she found as she had her babies that she was working as a CFO of a company and she found that she had her babies, that she just loved being home with her children and she was good at it. She kind of brings that same type A personality to it where she can’t do it halfway and she is the greatest stay at home mom you’ve ever seen. This can also make her kids confident kids, I so respect her for just embracing that about herself and, and saying, Hey, who cares if I’m a CPA, I just set that aside for awhile.” I love it. And I think that’s part of confidence is just being able to say, my life and my loves doesn’t look like anyone else’s.
Rachel Nielson: Yes. And showing our kids that they can do that too. So I love those three takeaways. I was wondering if before we end, if you could recap them to remind the listeners of what we’ve learned.
Marilyn Faulkner: to raise confident kids, We begin with the idea that criticism is dangerous ground. Be careful when you tread on it. You cannot build a wall by taking off the bricks. The second one is to treat your child like the intelligent adult you hope they will become and they will become that. The third is to have a fulfilling, productive life as you go, as you raise your children and model happiness for them. That will be the biggest example they could have.
Rachel Nielson: Yes. These three things will definitely help them to gain that confidence and self assurance that we want all of our kids to have to be confident kids. So I thank you so much, Marilyn, for your time and your wisdom. I did want to read something from when I first asked you to come on and we were kind of brainstorming some ideas about what you could talk about. You said this part in your email that I loved and I wanted to read that when we closed. You said “I’m assuming that you want to know, how do you come up with an Alison and an Andrea? I really don’t know the answer to that. I think it might just have been pure luck, but I’m delighted to take some credit to go along with the gray hair that I have to dye every month.”
Marilyn Faulkner: Exactly true. We were fortunate. I think that is a really good point in that there is an element of chance involved with kids being confident kids. Sometimes you get dealt a very difficult hand with a child and you listen to all the self-help things in the world and there are some kids who are just going to have a very difficult time. Don’t blame yourself. You’re doing a good job.
Rachel Nielson: Yes. You still do all of these things for that child. So thank you for ending with that. And I’m so glad that you are willing to take at least a little bit of credit and teach us.
Marilyn Faulkner: It was so fun to talk to you.