#71 Sue Elvis | Intuition and Independence: Unschooling Tips and Practical Advice

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🗓️ Recorded May 3rd, 2024. 📍Belton, Missouri, United States

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About this Episode 

Sue Elvis is an Australian author, blogger, and podcaster renowned for her work in the unschooling community. She runs the blog "Stories of an Unschooling Family," where she shares her experiences and insights about unschooling and radical parenting.

Join us as we welcome Sue Elvis back for her third visit and discuss the ins and outs of unschooling. We dive into this educational approach's everyday challenges and triumphs, from getting kids to brush their teeth to planning for college. This episode is a helpful guide for parents thinking about leaving conventional schooling behind, highlighting the importance of trusting their instincts and valuing personal freedom in raising children.

We also discuss balancing parental guidance with giving kids the freedom to choose. We examine how societal norms can influence our decisions about haircuts or education. Our conversation emphasizes supporting children’s autonomy while dealing with societal pressures. This episode isn't just about unschooling; it’s about the joys and rewards of parenting.

▬ Connect with Sue Elvis ▬

Website: https://www.sueelvis.com
Unschooling Website: https://www.storiesofanunschoolingfamily.com
Books by Sue Elvis: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Sue-Elvis/author/B00QTDRCBM
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/stories_ofan_unschoolingfamily/
YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/@SueElvis
Podcast: https://www.storiesofanunschoolingfamily.com/my-podcasts/

▬ Watch the full interview on YouTube ▬

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With love


Jesper Conrad 


00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Today we are together with Sue Ilves, and it's actually the third time we are hanging out and recording a podcast. So first of all, welcome, sue.

00:10 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Thank you, jesper, and hello Cecilia. It's such a delight and a pleasure to meet up with you and I think we've become friends now. Yeah, I've been looking forward to this, this. Even though we've spoken twice before, I think, oh wow, I get to speak with the Conrad's again.

00:29 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I feel very honored sorry, go on.

00:34 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Yeah, I'm glad, I'm really glad, that I've got the invitation to come back. I, as I was saying to my daughter the other day, I mustn't be doing too badly. You've invited me back, you know.

00:44 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I'm thinking the same. I'm like, oh, I'm looking forward to this. I kind of want to chat um and then I'll do it again.

00:53 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
We can do a fourth yeah, we can totally talk and then our excuse is to do a podcast, and then people who are listening will just be forced to us hanging out.

01:05 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
No, the listeners, they are here voluntarily. They can just you know.

01:09 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
They can skip this episode if it is. Let me start out by, if you're listening to it, I recommend you to check out the other two episodes as well, because we in the first one, covered Sue's story, heard about how she ended up unschooling and how she ended up in this life where she is as an unschooled mom, and in the second podcast, we took a deep dive into unconditional love, which is fantastic, and we decided we wanted to talk again, but, honestly, we haven't prepared a subject.

01:46 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And we totally forgot what it was. That was the cliffhanger last time, because we're not very organized people, to be honest, but we did come up with a new one.

01:58 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

01:58 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I sort of did.

02:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Let's take it.

02:01 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And basically it's about doubt, I think. So we were chatting a little bit about it before we started recording. Just to align, and top of mind for me at the moment is the ever emerging, ever returning question of the toothbrush and the other very big question. These two questions probably are the most often asked questions, right after um do they have any friends and how do they learn to read?

then comes uh, what do I do about the toothbrush and how do they get into college? So these are the two things and what they have in common. Is that, honestly, my, my spontaneous answer, and this is I mean, I'm a professional, I have a university degree and I have 25 years of experience of being a mother. I'm the oldest sister of a lot of siblings, I brushed a lot of teeth before I was even a teenager and I have all these children and I've unschooled for since forever, it feels like, and my answer to both questions is I don't know that's.

03:17 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
I think, one of the things that we've been talking about over the past a few episodes is that there there aren't answers to everything. Are there that we're not going? There isn't a perfect way to bring up, educate and raise our kids and just follow all the steps and it will all go perfectly and we'll have all the answers. Sometimes there isn't an answer. So I was talking to you earlier, cecilia, about these tricky questions people ask, and I admire you greatly for mentoring other women. My help with people is one step removed. I get a chance to sit there and type my answers out to people and to think about it, and but you, you're in the thick of it. You people come to you for help and I guess they expect you to give them an answer. So what is your question, what was the question that you got asked and what are you going to say? Because I'll be interested in finding out your perspective on this.

04:27 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So I will say as a professional, when I do mentoring and coaching and helping and hand-holding, I call it the abuela job, the grandmother job.

So basically I don't call it therapy I think it's the wrong word to use.

But more I'm like the elder, someone who's walked the path before you and what I do is to hold your hand when you start the journey.

That wouldn't be you personally, because you know. But that's what I do is to help people cope with the fact that they don't know, and not lean into intuition to what feels right, to maybe applying the principles of personal freedom and and therefore the unschooling idea unfolds from there that it's not our hours to steal that all of the hours of the childhood, we are not here to decide what our kids are supposed to do for 10 000 hours while they are young. So when we suddenly realize that we we do something so far away from from mainstream that we can very easily feel alone and we will become very insecure because the entire support system of what, what makes sense to everyone else, suddenly doesn't make sense at all, I have a client at the moment who is also exiting some other ideas from her life, and and it's so interesting to follow how it all unravels Once you start questioning one thing and you realize, oh, maybe I always thought that this was how it works, but what if it isn't?

Then you start looking at another element of life and you realize, oh, maybe I could ask the same kind of question over here, and then you maybe look at it could be your health, and then it could be schooling, and then it could be your work life, and then it could be your living situation and it could be a lot of things. And it unravels from there and the big question everything you know neon sign has to be plugged in, hanging over your life as it is, and my job becomes basically just walking there right next to you, learning to cope with the fact that you don't know.

07:17 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
I guess I've done a bit of counseling in the area of breastfeeding. So I did a counseling course and I've always sort of approached people's questions with the attitude that, as you said, we walk alongside people and give them people things to think about and to ask questions, but ultimately the responsibility should remain, the power remain in the other parents hands, and I've always felt that that's they have to make the decisions. I'm just here. I don't know you're a professional, I'm not.

07:56 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
But uh, not sure I am either not sure anyone should be. I mean, I don't want to become the new authority once people leave the mainstream authority. That would be wrong and that would be against my philosophy.

08:08 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
So I think we're basically yeah, then we're just here to bring up some new ideas, ask questions, direct thoughts, because I think questions sometimes make people. It clarifies what, what the problem is for people. Sometimes people don't really understand what the problem is and you keep asking questions and they think, oh yeah, that's the problem, that sort of thing. But I've always been reluctant to take on that role of fixing people's problems because I don't think that we can fix people's problems. Really. That control has to remain with, uh, the person who perceives they've got a problem. So maybe that's uh. For me it's like a way out. I don't have to fix people's problems because that's not, that's not my role, that's not what I'm doing but.

I wonder if you feel a responsibility towards your clients or your parents, if you feel a burden there or not so much a burden, because we want to help people, but you feel a responsibility for, yeah, fixing the well, helping them fix the problem. And if there isn't an answer, that's it must be bit frustrating.

09:26 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It is for me and it is for the clients as well. But it is also the truth and I think the other word here that you introduced the responsibility. That's the other thing that happens when you walk into this path of unschooling or anything that looks like it, that you realize you can't just, you know, push that responsibility for the decisions on to someone else. It's not the government, it's not the doctor, it's not some fancy psychologist, not even me, who can come up with the answers to what's right and wrong up and down in and out of your personal life. You know you have to to live with the fact that you have to make some decisions, even though you don't know. You know we walk through this life forward, learning and, and all of us could stop and say, oh, had I just known 10 years ago what I know now, then everything would have been better. But that's just not how it is and I think my job as a professional is more to help my clients cope with that fact. It's more like an existential role that I play and of course I can come up with some ideas and some perspectives.

I've seen a lot of kids learn to read outside of the school system, and if you're young and you and you have one child reaching the age where maybe they would learn to read, the level of insecurity is huge and of course I can fix it. I can give some perspective because there are things I know and things I've seen. Some perspective because there are things I know and things I've seen. But I cannot decide whether you should sit down and teach or not. That's not my decision to make and I cannot guarantee that the child will learn to read anytime soon. And I can just, you know, be there right next to that person who is at the beginning of the journey and maybe you know, at least make them know that they are not alone and it's not totally crazy.

11:34 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I think there is an interesting path. When you start to question what you have been brought up into, how you have some people would call it indoctrinated, some people would just call it as you could say learned.

Learned. You could say Gabor Mate, I'm reading his book the Myth of Normal and I like the title of it and it's just if you have been brought into this. All this is normal. And then you start to question should children go to schools? Do they learn best in the setting that is the school setting? At some point you can end up questioning yourself so much that you get very insecure as a parent on what is right and what is wrong and at the same time you have most likely not led a life where you have learned to trust your parent, parental, into you, into intuition intuition, because we we have been in a system where we have dislearned our intuition through life, and I think this is what we unravel when we live outside the box.

We question a lot of stuff and then there is this relearning. What do I actually feel about this? What does feel right in this situation? And, for example, to go back to the question about the two bras, there is an interesting dialogue around what is bodily and autonomy. Is it autonomy? It's called difficult words here. No, no, but how do a child have the right to its own body? On which level and what are you actually telling your child with different levels of deciding over it? If you are in a school setting, you are not deciding when you want to go pee and poop, and that is really why to take that decision away from people.

A lot of homeschool children of the boys end up with long hair because nobody is saying to them that boys don't have long hair. I know it's also seen in school setting, but there's a majority of the unschooled homeschooled children I've seen with long hair and they have the freedom to choose over their hair. But imagine someone is deciding over your hair. Your hair is not even your own For a lot of children. When they wake up in the morning, there's laid out clothes to them. This is what you have to wear today. So, in many, many small steps, we are telling children who grow up to be adults. You do not control your own body. Someone else is tied over you.

14:21 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Do you?

think yeah, please go ahead oh no, sorry, I interrupted, sorry, sorry, just something you said about the long hair and the messages that we give our kids, because I was. I read an article once about a family in the news and it was an article about supposedly about unschooling and how these terrible unschooling parents didn't make their kids wash their hair. And these kids had really dirty, dreadlocky hair. And the parents said, well, you know, if that's the way they want it, we're not going to tell them what to do. But then I was thinking about that and they said it's up to them to decide their hair. They can decide.

And I thought about it for a long time and thought the parents, there's no such thing as never influencing your child, whether you say, well, I'm going to step back and not, you can do what you like with your hair, you can eat what you like, you don't have to brush your teeth if you don't like. But are we really doing our kids a favor if we let them do things which exclude them from main society, for example? Well, the message that Parent gave me when I read the article was it doesn't matter about hygiene, about personal hygiene, it doesn't matter about good nutrition and it doesn't matter about what other people think of you, and we were talking, cecilia, the first episode, about doing things to be accepted into groups and how we make that choice to be accepted, and in some ways, there are certain standards that we all need to adhere to in order to be part of society. Now, long hair and short hair, it doesn't matter to me, that's a personal choice. But when you're smelly and you haven't washed your hair and you're not pleasant to be around, that's another matter altogether. We bring our kids up to believe that it doesn't matter.

What I think it was is other people don't matter. What you want matters more than what other people want. But there are times when we have to put our own preferences aside and do what's right, which is care about other people. Otherwise, we all end up in our little bubble, self-focused, and of course, we're going to get criticized if we don. We don't shower, don't bath, don't wash our hair, our teeth fall out, we get obese because we don't eat properly. So I wonder what you think about that, because that is sort of um, giving the control to our children? Yes, but are we? Do we have to guide our children at the same time.

17:25 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Let me start out by saying first of all uh, absolutely 100 percent agree. Uh, my, my point is uh, basically, when we take the, if we look at the, the myth of normal that the boys have short hair and we put them to school and you're not deciding over your own body when you need to pee and poo and all this stuff, and then you open up the door to, to hey, you can actually be a real human, then there, of course, needs some guidance, and I can understand why some people might lose the. The. It's more, I think, fear of interfering, uh in their children's lives than it is parenting, because you that could be received a little judgmental by someone you know being on that spectrum it might, and I think that what you are saying really is.

18:26 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
There is a pendulum. And if you let go of the strictness of the mainstream and the school system and all the rules and the parental control and realize, oh, it's not my body to decide over, it's not my hours to decide over, let me set my child free, then sometimes it swings a little too much to the other side and uh, the interesting and I just wanted to please go ahead.

No, no, please go ahead I'm saying that we shouldn't judge those who are you know they did let go of something wrong and then maybe you know, it swung a little too far. On the other side and we've all done that in our life, you know balance is is not a stable thing, it's a navigation of, um, yeah, steering and, and I think, um well, the headline to my answer to these kind of questions usually is that unschooling is not unparenting, and yeah, I think.

I think, of course, we have to teach our children to navigate all these things and a lot of other things, and I think it has to do with the quality of how we do it. And I remember having some conversations with you in the beginning of our journey where I had all the time in the world plus I was already a psychologist so I could think about these things. I was home with the children, I'd read all the books and you know I was in the process of reading them and you were still in the mainstream life, in the office, busy making all the money for us, and we had to discuss. Do I spend the good part of an hour sitting waiting for a three-year-old to swallow a pill that she has to swallow because of something you?

know, medical or do we just force it? And I would, you know, say I'm waiting, I'm not forcing the pill is going into that child's body before I go to bed tonight, because it has to, because I know it has to. And the child doesn't understand it, she's basically too young. But this is about not about whether the pill goes into the body and that could be whether the hair gets washed or the teeth get brushed or the t-shirt gets changed before we leave the house. It's about how I make sure that happens. Yeah, and and, and that is the big difference. We had another rule and I it's it's ringing in my head in Danish, so I don't know how the translation will come out but we would usually say when we left the house and now it's just basically a standard rule because we are based out of a van, so you breathe and then you're outside that your clothes have to be clean, no stains, no holes, preferably no holes. You know we can live with half sort of broken clothes, that happens, but it has to be clean. And uh, the hair actually, as you brought it up, is a big deal for me because it's such a marker on how good you take care of yourself and uh, and we have a lot of hair in our family because our kids have a lot of hair. It's very long and huge and curly and overwhelming and now finally, they're all old enough to take care of it themselves. But it has been a big deal that.

There are two things here, really. There is what I really believe about it, which is I have to teach my children to carry themselves in the social field in a way that that is just respectful to other people and and honors the culture that we live in. In some cultures you kick off your shoes before you enter a house. In some cultures that would be too private to do. In some cultures you can't show your shoulders. You have to read the culture and you have to somehow honor and respect the other people around you. And in our culture, you know, if there's ketchup all over the t-shirt and the dreadlocks are not.

I mean, dreadlocks can be nice if they're maintained, but if this is unmaintained, chaotic and just looks like neglect, well then it looks like neglect and I would say it is neglect because you have to teach the child to carry him or herself through their society. The other thing is I'm a radical unschooling mom. I live a very different life from everyone else. I'm public about it. So people look at me and they look at my kids, and I have to know that that I could ruin it for everyone else if we look like neglect, if we look like suffering, if we look like well, just something not nice. So we have to just do it a hair better than if we did all the mainstream things. Then maybe you know, we could skip the hair now and then and there could be ketchup here and there. But as we're sort of representatives of of a group, a very vulnerable group, doing something radically different, we can't go around looking like what people think it looks like if we're full of ketchup and dreadlocks.

23:52 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
So so it's, it's a two-sided thing yeah, I, uh, I like what you said about. We're unschooling or radically unschooling, but we're not unparenting, and I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about what radical unschooling is. And maybe a lot of people also feel insecure, that they feel that they have to let go completely of everything and so there's no guidance, because maybe people parents want to look like they're doing the right thing as far as unschooling goes, uh, because they might get judged by other unschoolers. Uh, oh, you, you, you, you into.

You intervened or guided some child to overcome some obstacle that had to be overcome, instead of just letting it go its course and letting the child not brush their teeth, not wash their hair, whatever, not take the pill, and maybe a lot of parents feel that that's the way they have to be if they want to be radical unschoolers, not really real understanding the concept of radical unschooling. It's not the same with unschooling. It's not just do what you want. You've got the freedom to do what you want and, uh, you should always do what you want, regardless of around you what you were saying, cecilia, about uh, we have to respect other people around us.

25:32 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And we have to take care of ourselves. I was thinking about this personal hygiene element that actually this theme has sparked so many interesting conversations in our family. We talked about it for hundreds of hours. A lot of interesting conversations come from this and this is about again and I think this is the important part and the important answer to both of the questions in the headline. It's about the quality of how we guide our children through this and and how we we think about what we're doing when we do it. It's about spending that hour every day waiting for the child to swallow that what is it in english? Antibiotics when it's necessary, and just knowing that hour is really well spent. Or spending hundreds of hours having conversations about the hairbrush and whether it's needed or not and why. Or about clothing what you wear and why you wear it and why you don't wear it to a funeral or a wedding, and you know all these things.

We've learned so much about what life is and what society is and who we are in it and what kind of people we want to be. There's been a lot of ethics spiraling off from this and we all became wives and sometimes we learn from the children. They say you know, this is the last time I'm doing it. I don't want to ever be late again. If we have an appointment with other people, we make sure we're there on time. And he was like he's a very soft and kind child At that day.

He was like I've had it, this is too chaotic child. At that day he was like I've had it, this is too chaotic. We can do it. If we say we arrive at four, we're there before four. I'm done with being late and and we had some amazing conversations about that and about navigating yourself in the social field and and how you take good care of other people and you know about ethics and moral and and and flow of life and friendships and all kinds of things, and took a lot of time instead of me just putting out my index finger and telling my children you have to be on time to be a good person or you have to brush your teeth twice a day, two minutes do you think that, um, our kids pick up a lot of things just naturally, because they're part of our family and they're part of the way we run our lives and the things that we do?

28:21 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
For example, after that story of the kids that didn't wash their hair Now, I didn't mean to put down dreadlocks, I should have said matted, I should have said their hair was matted. Uh, because, yes, what you said, cecilia dreadlocks can look good and it's not something that, uh, we should avoid. Uh, if you, that's what people want to have. But and people read those sort of stories and then they say, uh, I'm not going to you, unschool my children if that's the way it stories. And then they say I'm not going to unschool my children if that's the way it is. And then they start worrying about all sorts of things.

But I remember one of my daughters once said the same question about the toothbrush or it might've been showers, and it was a little person how am I, if I unschool, how am I going to ensure my child or my children clean their teeth? And her answer was, as a teenager was parents have to be confident. Don't look around and find problems. Your child is closely connected to you as a parent and they're going to look towards you for guidance and what's normal for the parent will become normal for the child most times. So none of my children have ever had a problem with toothbrushes or showers. When they were babies they showered with my husband or had a bath with me and we all cleaned our teeth together and they never sort of stopped and thought, oh, is that not normal to clean your teeth? It's just part of life, part of that. We might anticipate problems, but we might not have certain problems. I'm not saying that you won't have problems with toothbrushes, but people, we didn't. But when I wouldn't, I wouldn't know what to say to somebody who does.

30:27 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I'll say we'll do what we did, I mean, but we're just a family you just said it, because I think a lot of parents never brush their teeth in the presence of their toddlers because they do it in the morning before the toddler wakes up. Especially if you live a mainstream life and you have to leave the house, it's so much more practical just to get up before the children, get your own body up and running, you know, and uh, the child goes to bed a few hours before yourself. If you can stay awake, at least you think you can. Um, so it's not part of now. Now we all go to the bathroom and get our body ready for sleep. It's more like you have to get your teeth brushed and we all have to do that and the dentist says so. So this natural part of life thing, I think it's a big part of a solution.

And then the other thing you know we talked about responsibility and not so nice, not very warm thing I often say to parents now you're warned. Warm thing I often say to parents now you're warned is you know, suck it up. It's your child, it's your job, it's your problem. If your child hates that toothbrush, you know you broke it. Now you have to fix it, because the toothbrush is not in and of itself a problem. You pushed too hard at some point, or you made the child afraid or you used it to. You know, maybe the um the paste the paste?

um, it was had too much mint, or you know. Something happened, and, and where did it come from? What? Could be six hours exactly yeah, or forget about why, but you have to solve it now.

32:10 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But, cecilia, I also remember back when we had our children in the kindergarten and our oldest went to school, the amount of stuff that needed to take place after waking up the children, after waking up the children in the morning and before we had to go out of the door and they should be in school and I should, or kindergarten and I should be at work. It was so stressful when I look back at it that I understand how many many parents in in a top-down controlled morning where you decide. I mean I got crazy waiting on our oldest to put on her socks. She could take literally one hour to put on one sock.

You're tired when you think about it, absolutely no. No, but I'm just putting myself into the place I were. It was crazy. So you end up kind of saying, oh, now I, I do it and you are actually kind of forcing a shock on another person.

That's, that's not very nice and that is taking a control where, where you and that's what I talked about bodily autonomy that sometimes it breaks if you have led a life that has been more controlled top down because you have created an environment around you where stuff just needed to take place so fast in the mornings.

If you look at the normal mornings for an everyday family with two jobs and the kids going to school and institution, it is a crazy amount of stress they put on themselves before the day actually starts and and that I think, breaks a lot of both connection and trust in my parents want the best for me and all these things that needs to be mended. When you decide that school or institution doesn't work for you and you take them out, and then you start here and you start to question yourself, you start to question all you're doing and it's a really tough job to to walk down this path and I just want to give a lot of love to all the parents, starting because I remember how difficult it was and I remember the feeling of freedom when we started to have our children at home.

It was such a good time especially because you know, all these things were now my that was now cecilia's problem and I could just go to work in the morning and it was wonderful. No, but I felt a little cheated in the morning. Sometimes they were still sleeping, but I came home to children who were happy and well slept and I didn't have a fight with everybody before we left for work and school and institution in the morning and it's just a very stressful life. So I think a lot of what happens is that there is a lot that needs to be mended and I have been brought up with going to. I was lucky.

My mom was at home until my sister started in school, which meant I was three years old when my my mom started working. So my first three years have been a bliss, in a wonderful family with a garden, and all was good and funny than funny, um, but after that I was needed to go away every morning a big change in life and and this is what I've grown up with as normal and that is what I because that was what was normal for me thought should be the way life was when I got children um, so, yeah, I just think there's, yeah, there's a lot of so many the parenting uh, it's like the normal parenting advice.

36:00 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
There's so much of it that is contrary to what kids need, but it's out there and I think new parents especially looking back myself when I was reading all the books you sort of think, if I don't, if things like if I sleep with my child, or if I don't force my child to eat everything on the plate, or if I carry my child around all the time, I'm going to spoil my child. There's a lot of that around and it can take a lot, a lot of confidence to put aside all those views and say, um, I'm just going to listen to my child and do things our way. Well, not our way, but the way of the child that suits the child better, and I'm going to risk being called a bad parent because there's so many um, you hear so many things. I once read a blog post called how to have demanding children who rule the house and, uh, it was pro, radical and schooling. That it sounds like if you let your children do whatever they want or whatever they need, then you're going to end up with kids who are very demanding, they're going to run the house, and it doesn't happen that way. But there's that fear at the back of a lot of parents' minds that we have to stay in control, otherwise our kids are just going to rule our lives and they're not going to turn out the other end very responsible, or, yeah, just the contrary advice that parents are bombarded with. And it takes a lot of confidence, I think, to listen to new ideas and to try new things out. And, most of all, to listen to new ideas and to try new things out and, most of all, to listen to children and not be afraid of listening to children. If they don't want the meal, don't make them have it. If they're not ready for bed, don't make them go. That sort of thing.

There's certain things we want kids to do. If there's certain things, you know, we want kids to do as they want, certain things that kids have to, um, you know, like we were talking about personal hygiene, there's certain things, standards that the family adheres to, but there's certain things which they don't make any sense. What at all? By forcing kids to do them, what does it matter if a child goes to bed at eight o'clock or 10 o'clock or midnight, if they don't have to get up the next morning, if there's no good reason for it. If that's their cycle. There's no good. Yeah, to me it seems.

Why should children empty their plates if they don't like the food? And I guess the good reason would be some people would say well, they've got to learn to eat what's on their plate. Because they don't, they're not, they mustn't waste it. And what if we go to somebody else's house and they're given food that they don't like, and then I'll be embarrassed because my child won't eat it? It's best they get used to emptying their plates whatever. And there can be reasons. But are the reasons are valid and do they work for the benefit of the child? Because it's the child that we're thinking about, isn't it so when we're talking about it's necessary children have a certain level of hygiene. It affects the family, but it also that's a benefit for the child. The child might not see that of to start with, but it is benefiting the child to have that look after themselves, have those standards and to be able to interact with other people without being thought of as weird or smelly or whatever.

39:55 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think you actually hit a nerve right there when you said we are thinking about the child, because I think very often we're not. Very often that's the problem. We think about what if we go to someone else's house and we have this embarrassing child that will sit there at the tape dinner table and say that looks disgusting, I refuse to eat it. That will be embarrassing for us as parents and with many of these things I and I think sometimes we confuse things and I'm no saint. I sometimes confuse things and I take into account other people's opinions and you know this is a circle of dance here, because in the beginning of the conversation we talked about how important it is to actually take in other people's opinions and standards and emotions and comfort zones, and. But sometimes we overdo it and we think, oh, if my child doesn't learn to finish what's on the plate, then it will be embarrassing next time I'm at my in-laws place or my sister's place or whatever. So I have to teach them that.

But do you really? Do you really? And is that more important that your three-year-old might, you know, embarrassingly, embarrassingly, shout I hate broccoli at grandma's place? Is that more important than the child learning to put something in their mouth that they want to put in their mouth and have a good relation with what is my body calling for, what do I like? And having fun around eating, letting the dinner table be a social, funny, happy, laughing conversation situation and not a teachable moment with demands and standards and rules. And I think actually, once you ask people that question, they're like oh yeah, duh, of course I don't care. I'm just gonna tell my mother-in-law that they hate broccoli and whatever you know.

And sometimes we confuse it and and because there are so many, so many levels of standards and things we learned when we were children and things we heard other people say and things we see in the streets and things we imagine, sometimes it becomes very confusing and we're not thinking about the child and the child's need and just staying in that zone of hey, I'm the parent, it's my responsibility, I have to fix this. Let's say it's the toothbrush. It might take you two hours every day for the next six months. Too bad for the next six months.

42:50 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Too bad Do you think that from what Jesper was saying, that if you, the answer to the client about the toothbrush would start with some questioning about why does the child not want to use the toothbrush? Did something happen? And to investigate that first.

43:12 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I would do that if it was a client, but in this case I have to write something about it, so I have to have an opinion without getting any more information.

43:21 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
So but maybe you could suggest. You could suggest that sometimes children might have a problem with certain things because of something that happened. Is it worth thinking about that before you find a solution, because the cause might be the solution. Like you said, it could be the toothpaste, it could absolutely, or the situation Like you said.

43:49 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It could be the toothpaste.

43:50 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, absolutely, or the situation you know. Take it into another room at another time of day and do something else around it and everybody's brushing their teeth and hair and you know whatever. Make a spa situation at home, whatever, whatever to solve, if you okay, if you believe the children have to have their teeth brushed at least once a day most people believe that. If you believe that and you have a child that refuses to do it, there's been a lot of shouting and maybe some force and a lot of tears and now it's stuck. You can't get anywhere and the child is only two years old. There's no way you can explain about cavities and all these things. It's a waste of time. So what do you do? And my answer is well, you do whatever for whatever amount of time it takes, do whatever is needed, but do it with a different quality. It's about the, it's about the feel of it. Make it something fun, make it not at something that you demand, something that has to happen, and it also has to happen very late at night, when everybody's too tired and in the bathroom that maybe is too small or whatever Other people need it. We have to hurry up all these things. Change the setting, change the room, change the feel of it and spend whatever amount of time it takes, and it can be very annoying.

It can be so annoying to be a parent, really. I mean, I'm not a very patient person, I'm not. I don't like waiting, I really don't like waiting, and I have a very long agenda. Every day of things I want to complete, every day of things I want to complete. And I find it so annoying if I have to spend time again discussing the toothbrush or the hairbrush or you know basic things. I'm like, can we get over this?

But I know that if I get angry and I start pushing and if I don't have the emotional space for whatever protest my child has or whatever, I just have to wait. I just have to wait and maybe this day again, we didn't read Shakespeare and we didn't bake a cake and we only went for a very short walk with the dogs and a lot of things never happened because we spend all the time discussing the toothbrush or whether hair should be washed or not or these things. That it can really push my buttons. I know how it feels. But I also know the only right solution is patience. Patience is my job. I'm the mother I put them into this world. Raising them is them is my problem, my job, my task, and patience is that's just the price I'm paying.

46:37 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I would like to go back to something you said that make me think, which was the attitude of thought that some people can have that you can spoil your children, that you can spoil your children, and I've been sitting while you've been talking and pondering about how do you actually spoil someone. Is it when you are doing something to try to get people to behave in a certain way? Is it kind of manipulating them? Because spoil is a really weird word in parenting, I think. I mean, have I ever tried to be loved too much? Would I if everybody sent me a lot of love in the family and just sat down and told me I saw something funny.

Yeah, it was not about the topic, sorry. Have I as a parent or as a grown-up, ever complained about being loved, about people doing stuff for me because they love me? It's a really wild way that when we love children and do stuff for our children because we love them, then we call it spoiling.

uh, I don't think you can love the parenting yeah, I don't think you can love people too much. It's just why that some people have this idea that and and I'm questioning then what is the motive behind doing the things? If it is spoiling, maybe? I don't understand what they actually mean with spoiling.

48:18 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
We have animal themed podcast today. It's our poodle.

48:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

48:25 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I got a cat sleeping behind my back. Perfect.

48:27 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Yes, spoiling, I think you're right, yes, but when people are talking about spoiling, I think you're right, yes, but that when people are talking about spoiling, what they're talking about is showing too much love towards their children, and we can't love too much. They're afraid of showing too much love towards their children. Uh, or maybe they're. I always wonder sometimes about joy. You know, what we've always loved doing is making things special, giving joy to each other, making an occasion more joyful. So, for example, we might go to town to do the shopping and I might think, oh look, I'll buy some finger buns at the bakery while we're there, and then we'll stop at the park and we might think, oh look, I'll buy some finger buns at the bakery while we're there, and then we'll stop at the park and we'll extend the experience. I'll bring a little bit of joy into our ordinary day.

Or when my kids were doing music exams and we all felt so joyful for that, but I wanted to show my joy in a concrete way. So I bought flowers for my kids, my girls and we went out for lunch and it was full of joy. Or you have one-on-one occasions with your children and you just delight in their company and go somewhere special and then one day this is normal for us. One day a friend said to me oh, I'm going she. She said if my children do all their schoolwork, uh, quickly, I'm going to take them out for a special lunch. And then I thought oh, but I take my kids out for a special lunch without any conditions. I just do it because I don't worry about rationing it out.

I just want to bring as much joy and as much love into our lives as possible. I'm not thinking that my kids have to deserve it and that I'm going to spoil them by saying oh look, we had lunch together last week, a special lunch. Is it too soon to have another one? Perhaps they'll get used to the idea that we're always going to have lunch and they have to earn it and deserve it. And I think just by being my children and me loving them, that's enough reason for showing them love and for wanting to make life joyful for all of us.

And those things I'm saying about you buy a finger bun or whatever. They're just physical representations of my love. For my children it's just like hugging them. It's sometimes we buy a finger bun, sometimes we hug, sometimes we go and get, buy a flower, a bunch of flowers for somebody. Sometimes we'll go pick flowers from the garden. Sometimes a little person might bring a dandelion. It's not the value of the things, it's the thought behind. I want to show this person I love them. I want to spend special time with this person. I want to go to a cafe and talk over the table and have coffee and connect with my child, and it's not not. Those sort of things shouldn't be rationed out and also I don't like the strategizing.

51:39 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You know the, the manipulative way that it can be done, that you know, if you do this then I'll be nice to you. It's, it's a weird um and also the what's that in English. You know that things should be balanced out and be fair. I, I do a lot, so I agree and and also try to do the joy thing. But I also think spoiling what other people would call me spoiling my children is all the little things I do for them that they don't even notice I do, even though they are quite old. At this point they're 12, 15 and 18, living with us and and you know I'll take their dirty dish from next to their gaming computer and bring it back up and throw out the napkins and put it in the dishwasher and I'm, I'm fine, I don't care, it's, I'm happy. You know I'm making their life easier. It's fine, really, and if it's not, I'm not doing it.

I, lots of parents would, you know, disagree with these choices and say that they get off the hook too easy or they should contribute and they should have their chores. But really, what I see is I see it as my job and it is part of my joy as a mother to to, you know, carve out a path for them if they need it. And when they are older children, very often the demands become huge. Mine are not in school, thankfully, um, so the demands from school is not there, but even the idea of how much they should be contributing and how much they should be able to, you know, scan a room and see that the bin has to be emptied and the coffee machine should be turned off, or whatever it is. It's not the job of a 14 year old.

Their minds are doing other stuff. And and I'm a housewife I'll do it in five minutes. I don't care, it's like I do it without even thinking. So this strategizing that, you know, I have to make them do these things. I'm not touching their plates, because it's their problem. It becomes so hard and and so it's so far away from the unconditional love we talked about last time and it's so far away from from just, you know, making life easy for each other. And really we have children. If we ask them, if we say now it's time to clean the house and we all have to contribute, they'll get up and they'll do their best until we're done.

54:28 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But that is also the joy of having many children.

Uh, compared to, I remember, with our now 25 year old, I had never tried to live together with someone whose brain is going from being a child to being a teenager, with all those stuff going on, and back then I was just annoyed with her not remembering.

Or how can can't you see that there's a plate right there, or you put it in the sink but the dishwasher was empty all these things that you can get annoyed about because you don't remember how it was to be a teen and and you haven't had a child living through that phase. And and what I'm pointing at is that I I think there's something wrong with the way we have decided to live in these small enclaves of of one family units today, where we don't learn from each other that well, people are sitting and listening podcast where where earlier they would just look over the shoulder to their cousin who was in the next room, you know, in the next house, right over but really also, we've had a long phase of our societies in the western world where where the agenda has been to, to, to, to get workers ready.

55:49 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You know, really we we've needed to to make sure the children grow up and they become um, they become disciplined and they become obedient so that they can work in, in, in factories. And nowadays maybe we think that they have to be disciplined and obedient so that they can work in an open office space writing emails all day. And you know, I'm saying this because this is also what's on people's minds when they ask the other question. Now they're done with the toothbrush and they're moving on to the college problem. They want to set their children up for success and maybe they haven't thought too long about what that success really is, because I don't know who has the time for that. And and um, and we all agree, if we don't think too long about it, that that you know, college or university could be a good, solid, not stepping stone but cliff rock to stand on to have a successful life. And I don't even disagree, I like university, I think knowledge is great. I'm just saying that that we're sort of doing the same thing still as a society not me personally, but doing the same thing, that we're trying to get the children ready for the life that we think they are going to have, with the skill set that we think that they will need at that point, and even down to toddlers.

Some parents are afraid, you know, my child will never be disciplined or my child will never be obedient, and that's why they can't rule the house which of course, they can it house. Why am I the king of the house? We're, we're all living here, but there's this idea, you know, they have to learn to obey and they have to learn to go to bed and they have to listen to their alarm clock in the morning and they have to clean out their backpack and they have to do their homework and they have to tie their shoelaces and and comb back the hair and say yes, yes, general.

57:54 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
There isn't any time for joy in a life like that. No, your story about what you were saying about taking the cup away from the gaming when your children are playing games or bringing some food because they get absorbed in the game and then they forget to eat it just reminded me of something that I wrote about and was thinking about how one of my children is terrible at retaining mugs from her bedroom and I go in there and I just grab them and take them away and wash them. And other parents might say you should make your child do it herself. How is she ever going to learn? Why should you do that?

And then I was thinking one day about my husband, who never takes his library books back. He'll go to the library, he'll buy, borrow a big stack of books and then, if he won't take them back which is a problem sometimes when he borrows them on my ticket, because I can't borrow any more books until he's returned all the ones that he borrowed on my ticket. And I think the problem isn't a child problem. The problem is some people are just not set up for remembering to bring cups back or to take their library books back, and so what I do with my husband is I'm trying to help him. I'll take his books back for him and say, well, where are your library books? I'm going into town today, I'll take them back for you. My daughter, she doesn't think about her cups until the point where we're making coffee. And I'll say, well, where's your cups? And she'll say, oh, they must all be in my bedroom. And I'll go and get the cups for her. And to help each other. That's what we're here for is to build each other up and to help each other.

And I wrote that as an article and I called it Acts of Love. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? It's about loving our children, not what you were saying, cecilia, about the way where society is set up these days. There's less time for that joy, less time for those acts of love. We've said it a few times during this conversation that sometimes you just want the kids to do things. Bring your cups back. There just want kids to do things. Bring your cups back. There's no time to do it. It's just one more thing that has to be done and life would run smoother if everybody remembered to bring their cups back. But in the way that we're living our lives. We've slowed down and we've looked at what's most important. Yeah, as you, as you say, we have to learn patience and become a community, we're a group.

01:00:38 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You know, if I do what I'm good at and I do it with joy. So I'm bringing joy into the room and, and I say stop, when I'm tired, I'm not moving any more cups today. I'm sorry, if you need a cup, you have to go get it yourself, because I'm not getting up anymore. Today I'm doing it, you know, wholehearted and honest. Other people in the family are doing their thing, you know, to the best of their abilities. Then, in my experience, there are only a few things left that no one can do and you have to share. Be like.

We all hate whatever, taking out the trash. We all forget it, and now we have 200 kilos of trash in the kitchen. Maybe we should, you know, set an alarm clock for every Tuesday or whatever. It seems like trusting the process and trusting each other in the process is a big part of it, and doing all these things from a point of love is. It's just a so much healthier way to live your life than this strategizing, this manipulative. We all have to wash our own cup, sort of way to be a family, or you can't have any tea today because you have all the cups in your room and I'm holding on to mine, like you know what's that. And if I have to say something off topic, which is I have something in the oven and I smell it's burning, yeah, would you who are closer yeah, yeah, take it out, I was just gonna finish this, though I was just thinking about Jesper's.

01:02:20 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
You know spoiling, and can we spoil with too much love, and I was thinking what we really want for our children is to love in their turn, to be loving people. And how does that come about? We can't be something that we can't give, something we've never experienced. So it's we can't be something that we can't give, something we've never experienced. So it's like being generous people. We learn to be generous by having generosity shown to us. We learn to be loving by having been loved. What sort of love do we want our children to show? We want them to show extraordinary love, generous love, joyfilled love, not rationed love, and the only way for our kids to learn that is to experience it, and that gives us permission to love them as much as they want.

There's a good reason we're not going to spoil them. We're going to set them up so that they are extraordinary, extraordinarily generous and giving people. And in that I think that we talk about spoiling. Well, I don't spoil, but other people say we can spoil, but that sort of infers that our children are going to become very self-focused, very self-selfish, whereas I think, like we talked about last time, that when we give generous love to our children, they learn a generous love themselves and then they are in their own turn willing to go get the cups for somebody, to make a little sacrifice here or there to fit into. It's not all about getting your own way and doing things your own way and to suit yourself. That when we love properly, we look outwards, away from ourselves, to other people that we love, and we think how can we love them best? Not how can I get as much, but how can we love? I know what it feels like to be loved. How can I do that for somebody else? And when that is in a family, you get that flow of what you said, cecilia. Some people go get the mugs, some other people do other things and we work together.

But I also think that, though kids might seem like they don't realise that we're taking their mugs for them or giving them food, I think there does come a point where there's occasions where they'll and we spoke about this last time when kids realize that we need that uh consideration as well. We're overworked or we're busy. We're sitting there at the computer and someone brings us a cup of coffee and says oh, you haven't had time to make a cup of coffee. Mom, here's a cup of coffee for you and I'll say thank you, keep on drinking. And it looks like I haven't noticed really. But you know, I sit back and think, yeah, they're looking after me. I didn't mind looking at them it.

01:05:27 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It reminds me of um. Well, the backstory for this is I said yes to work for Janet Atwood some years ago, who have written a New York Times bestseller called the Passion Test, and she has a facilitator education where people can learn to give the passion test. And I went through that training and on the last day we ended with an exercise called what I Love and Appreciate About you and for me I was like that's some weird hippie, weirdo thingy man and I mean it's people I've spent four days with intensively in training and we have talked about many things, but I still remember and it's now 10 years ago I remember both how overwhelmingly fantastic it felt when people stood in line in front of each other and they said to me what they loved and appreciated about me, and also how on trained I was in giving that acknowledgement to, to grown-up people around me. It is not something we are very good at and it's something I try to remember to do still from time to time, and it is forward to it.

Yeah, you're welcome, I'll be your exercise what I love and appreciate about you, cecilia, is you always honest and rough and very sarcastic, and it actually makes me laugh I want to know what the other people said about you.

01:07:15 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Yes, but what? But what did they stand up and say about you? What did they love about you?

01:07:20 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I can't remember actually. I can just remember I was standing actually more and being afraid of what should I say about the other people? That could be deep-filled Good enough. And feel good enough and not superficial. So I was back then more in a oh, am I good enough, Can I do it good enough? State. To be honest, I think, but what?

I love and appreciate about you, sue, is your ability to be in these conversations with us and a wonderful mix of listening, asking, sharing, and and then I also love your laugh and your eyes. I think you you seem very present when we talk, and I like that you did really well it was.

01:08:17 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Well, I tell you that it's very easy to sit here and get involved in the conversation. What you're saying is so interesting that I want to listen, and what you're saying sparks a thought within me that I want to continue the discussion. And I find it's easy to express what I feel because you're very accepting and I feel that we're different families, we're different countries, but we have a lot in common and we're all willing to listen to each other and to learn from each other. And I've been most interested to hear, cecilia, your views as a psychologist mother because I imagine your two roles sometimes overlap and as a pure amateur over here trying to help people. I find that really fascinating. And well, when I was um, oh, I'm not not good on social media, you know that, but been trying, and you, uh, yes, yesterday, yes, but you followed me on Facebook and I have four whole followers. It's just amazing, four followers and you're one. But I did notice scrolling through your page, that you're giving some talks and I thought you know there's there's a lot to us that nobody knows about, or that that we there's always more to find out about people if we're interested in people, and I'm thinking, oh wow, I want to know more about that and, um, I was thinking I don't know how you feel about this, but we should do an episode where I am the one that's, you know, welcoming everyone to the podcast, and I will ask you some questions, because let's do it we have

to be with you because, otherwise I'll miss you too much, I think, turn the tape. Turn the tables a bit have an equal discussion, but let me be um. Are there so many things I want to find out about you?

01:10:30 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
but I'm certainly open to that it said before we started this recording. I was thinking it's the third one and I don't want it to be the last one.

01:10:39 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
No, but maybe we should get down under at some point also.

01:10:42 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
The only thing is that they changed the policy of importing dogs to Australia.

01:10:48 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

01:10:49 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Oh yeah, we travel with two dogs and we can't get into Australia, so I don't know. No, maybe there's a nearby island where we can be.

01:10:59 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Well for me. I don't know. No, maybe there's a nearby island where we can be Well for me, I don't know, it would cost us a fortune. It will come at some point at that point.

01:11:07 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yes, we should get down under at some point.

01:11:10 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But it is time to round up.

01:11:12 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
We should just make dinner.

01:11:14 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, it is time to round up. It has been an episode going in many directions. We still don't have a certain answer about the toothbrush that sparked the start or the college. What I know and feel is that when you are on this path of starting to question yourself, that when you are on this path of starting to question yourself, there is a time and a period if I look at my own life and time where first you go all rebellious because you need this kind of stamina and breaking free and then you end up being anti-everything. I've seen that in myself and in a lot of others who start their journey, and then when you relax a little and come back to finding out what your real values are in life, then it's an easier journey to take.

01:12:04 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
you don't need to be against stuff to stand for something what I really love about this episode is last episode was unconditional love, and we said that that was sort of like the foundation of everything, and somehow we started talking about toothbrushes. But before very long we're back to love again, which just sort of proves that it is um, it just, it just, yeah. It's our guiding light, it's uh, it's the most important aspect of our family's lives, not the toothbrush, not the mess, whatever. It's unconditional love and with that we'll um. As long as we love each other, we'll be fine. Life won't be perfect. Kids won't always want to brush their teeth, but we'll still be fine so we're doing a love round.

01:12:53 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Now I will say, um, the short version of my admiration for you is that I try every morning to be you. It's actually it is exactly what's going through my mind. I'm like, okay, I have to do like her. I have to sit there with my coffee and be available. I stopped doing having all of that agenda. She did it with all of her children and I have to keep doing it. Don't do a lot of things, cecilia. Sit down, be available, and I think I'm doing good To you. I think I've become a better mother, a more present person, and I've carved out more hours to spend with my precious children doing what's right to be there, to be available, with no agenda or agenda for them, but supporting them in agendas they have and wanted me to help them complete. The only downside is that a lot comes up. I realize the morning is not enough. I know I have to be you all day, or at least available all day. And yeah, thank you.

01:14:06 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
In that, in that being available all day, there's also that kids I found my kids were very considerate and thoughtful in that they knew there were certain things I would like to do, and so they also helped me achieve my things as well. So that because, again, I listened to them and gave them my time, they were willing to give up some of their time so that I could do my stuff.

So, I'm not saying that we shouldn't do our stuff, but my priority definitely was my kids first. But the other thing I was thinking about, cecilia, was I one day realized that my time was running out, that I want to do this Facebook post and I want to do this Instagram post and I wanted to get involved in this conversation and that conversation and I wasn't spending enough time with my kids and and I thought my kids aren't going to be here much longer get your priorities right. And today I'm sitting here with a cat and there's a dog out there and I have no children at home and I could sit here and talk to as many people as I want, write as many blog posts as I want, and you know, I think, oh, I wish my kids were here. Well, I hear you, not that I'm not enjoying my life, but I'm glad. I have no regrets, I'm glad that we spent all that time together. Amazing again.

01:15:37 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
We have enjoyed the talk and we will put in the show notes links to where you can find out more about sue and everything she's doing, and sue thanks a lot for your time today for your time.

01:15:49 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Thank you so much to celia and jesper. It's been a great delight.


#70 Laura Grace Weldon | Rethinking Education: Unschooling and Parenting in a Digital Age.
Da Ladies #9 | Navigating Parenting Conflicts


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