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March 21, 2022

Episode 39: Building Resiliency in Children with Lisa Sugarman

Our children absorb, internalize and regurgitate our behaviors and actions. If you’re so busy trying to stay perfect and inside the lines with your parenting techniques, what do you think that creates in your children? 

Stay tuned for this episode! DJ speaks with parenting book author, radio host & nationally syndicated humor columnist, Lisa Sugarman, about finding humor and positivity in parenting perfectly imperfect children and about skills you can utilize when you screw up, have a loss or disappointment. Listen in to hear how to embrace the imperfection, laugh at yourself and ultimately make humor and positivity the great equalizer. 

Lisa Sugarman is a parenting author, a nationally syndicated humor columnist, a radio show host, and the mom of two grown daughters. She writes the syndicated opinion column “It Is What It Is” and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It, Untying Parent Anxiety, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold. She is also the co-host of the weekly radio show LIFE Unfiltered on Northshore 104.9FM and a regular contributor on Healthline Parenthood, GrownAndFlown, TODAY Parents, Thrive Global,, LittleThings, and More Content Now. Lisa lives with her husband and two daughters just north of Boston. 

• [7:39] Lisa speaks about finding positivity in things that can be tough or challenging. 
• [9:16] “We really are just so focused on staying inside the lines, if that's how we are, all of that stuff trickles down to our kids and they absorb that and they internalize that and they kind of regurgitate that in their own life.”
• [12:”40] Lisa talks about having a choice in the way we frame and handle things… 
• [20:47] “ I think that what it all boils down to is acknowledging and accepting that everybody's truth, or everybody's head space, or heart space is their own, and is very unique. And if it's real in your head, if it's real in your heart, it's real to you.”

How do you find and emulate positivity & humor in parenting your perfectly imperfect child? Tell us about it and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @littleheartsacademy!

For more information on the Imperfect Heroes podcast, visit:

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DJ Stutz -
DJ Stutz:


Lisa Sugarman


DJ Stutz  0:13  
You're listening to Episode 39 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. I'm your host DJ Stutz. And it seems our children have been through so much these past couple of years. Additionally, there are so many things that cause stress. And additionally, there are the normal things in the other things of life that happened that caused stress for our kids. It could be something as simple as misinterpreting a laugh to the loss of a family member. And these events can have lifelong implications. Today's guest Lisa Sugarman is a parenting author, a nationally syndicated humor columnist, and is the author of a couple of books. The most recent is how to raise perfectly imperfect kids and be okay with it. untying parenting anxiety, and then her other book is life. It is what it is. And in addition to all of that, Lisa is also the co host of the weekly radio show life unfiltered on North Shore one Oh 4.9 FM, in Boston. So today, wow. So much. Lisa and I are talking about building resilience in our kids. As life happens. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

I remember being about 12 years old, and my twin brothers were two. And we had a standard Doxon Doberman mix dog named Blackie. He was a crazy dog, he would chase us all around our backyard, and really only safe place was at the top of our slide. But we loved him. And one day my dad was in the backyard entertaining himself by holding up some kind of I don't know, it was some kind of meat and laughing as black, he would jump up and take the meat from his raised hands. And one of the twins Chuck had the bad timing to walk between the dog and his meat. Just as Blackie was in mid jump. Black he had a huge mouth if you can imagine those two breeds together. And his teeth actually connected with Chuck's cheek. So wasn't really that Blackie bit Chuck, it's just that Chuck was in the way, like his mouth was open. And the teeth bashed into Chuck's cheek. And my dad lost it. He started yelling at the dog and he kicked it to get it away from Chuck. And this little two year old looked up. And the only one who seemed to be violent at the moment was my dad. So he figured it was my dad that had hurt him. And he wound up having some stitches in his cheek. And honestly, that's how I told those twins apart. Sometimes even today, I was looking for the cheek, but it really affected check. And for the next seems like it was about two years, at least, Chuck would not sit by my dad. And he would run off when my dad would try to talk with him. And so it took lots of work to get things worked out. And it was so hard on my dad, it just broke his heart. And it was hard on Chuck as well. Whether things happen to our kids or around our kids, or if it is their interpretation of events, it is our job to give them the skills that they need to move forward and shine. Lisa has some amazing ideas to help us as parents and in helping our own kids. So let's listen in. I'm here with my new friend Lisa Sugarman. And we're talking today about resilience. And Lisa has so much to offer. Lisa, why didn't you introduce us and tell us about your background and what you do? 

Lisa Sugarman  4:37  
Sure, sure. I'm just so glad to be here. It's fun that you and I have had so many great opportunities to chat before we we did this today. So I'm just excited to be here and be able to connect with with your community. So I'm here in Boston. I'm a mom of two grown daughters. My oldest is 24. My youngest will be 22 and I do love I have different things I'm really kind of, I guess, at my core, I'm a writer, I write parenting books. I've written a few. Now onto a fourth. I'm a writer. I've written a syndicated humor column, also about parenting, that's probably the biggest theme that runs through all my columns, or most of my columns. I've done that for, like 12 years now. 1112 years, it's called that is what it is. I've been doing that for a long, long time. And I was on the radio for a couple of years with kind of a spin off of my last book, The Last most recent book was how to raise perfectly imperfect kids and be okay with it. And my great, great friend, Deb Ginsburg, and it she was a contributor to the book, she and I spun the book off into a radio show that's been here in Boston, for the last couple of years, really just about how to embrace your perfectly imperfect pneus. As a human, as a parent, as a partner. It's really just been a blast. Everything that I've done, centers really around that idea that we need to cut ourselves a whole bunch of slack, especially as parents, especially now as parents living through a pandemic now for going on year three. So that's who I am. That's what I do everything really kind of jives together somehow in some really neat, organic way. So yeah, I have a lot of fun with it, I get to do a lot of this, which I love. I love having these great conversations. And, and that's who I am. That's what I do. And I'm just glad to be here.

DJ Stutz  6:36  
With you here. And I'll tell you, one of the things that first caught my eye when I heard about you was that imperfectness and kind of embracing it. And that really goes with our name of our show imperfect heroes, right, that's what first caught my eye. And then, as we've been able to talk and get to know each other a little bit better. It's just been fun getting to know you. And I feel like humor is a medical

Lisa Sugarman  7:04  
necessity. necessity. Yeah, it's

DJ Stutz  7:07  
so important to our well being and not just our emotional well being. But it's also so important to our body, to be able to laugh, and then endorphins that are developed or released, when we laugh. And that process and think that people who can laugh and stay positive, in many ways, heal faster.

Lisa Sugarman  7:32  
I totally agree. Absolutely agree with that. And I think that it kind of creates a layer of bubble wrap. For us in some ways, I guess if that's the right analogy, it really just kind of cushions us against a lot of the crap that we go through day to day, the things that that are tough, and that are raw and real and maybe challenging. And if like you said, if we take that positivity, that really is a tool. And it's something that I've always kind of worked with and leaned into, even if I'm talking about hard stuff, because it you know, I mean, you're a parent, you have a bunch of kids, I have kids and you know, at some point or another, usually like 47 times a day, if things go off the rails, and if we're so wound up, and we're so afraid of making mistakes, or dropping the balls or screwing up, when we're afraid of that outcome, that you know, we're gonna live in constant fear. But if we can kind of step back, and we can kind of laugh at the ridiculousness of it, because most of the time, it's ridiculous stuff that happens to us, like we wouldn't even believe it if it hadn't happened to us. And I think there's a lot of power in that. And once we really kind of take that and recognize that and then harness that and use that to our advantage. I think it's just an asset for all of us.

DJ Stutz  8:52  
I agree. And if we can start building some of that confidence, and that attitude of finding silliness, in things in everything, we can start that at a younger age. They're gonna be more equipped, I think, to manage things as they get older.

Lisa Sugarman  9:12  
Oh, definitely, definitely. I mean, if we're so rigid, and we really are just so focused on staying inside the lines, if that's how we are, all of that stuff, trickles down to our kids and they absorb that and they internalize that and they kind of regurgitate that in their own life. And if they become so wrapped around the axle about being flawless and not making any kinds of mistakes and being serious, then what do you do when you screw up? What kind of skills do you have to lean into when things don't go well, right? And when you do have a loss or you have a disappointment, or then you've got nothing to help you overcome that nothing to help you create a new path and work through it. So I think humor is that great equalizer. I think people who have that sense of humor and can cut and not only can make other people laugh, because they're, I think they're, you know, goes in both directions, making other people laugh, but it's also like being able to laugh at yourself. And, you know, if we can't laugh at ourselves as parents, then I think we're in trouble. So I think you're absolutely right. Like, the sooner we embrace that, and the sooner we teach our kids to the earlier we teach our kids to embrace that, I think we're just kind of arming them with that secret weapon, right. But it's not just the humor, it's the positivity that I think kind of goes hand in hand with that. And that's something that they can always draw on. And it really can change the game, we've got a lot of life out there to live. And it's not always going to go in the direction that we want it to go in. But if we can at least have a little bit of humor, as we go through, I think we're going to be in much better shape than we would if we didn't, if we didn't have that.

DJ Stutz  10:55  
And I think too, is as much as that positivity and finding humor, and all of that is contagious. And you can help other people calm down. But the opposite is true as well. So if you're super tightly wound, if you're constantly finding fault, or the negative thing, or everything is such a huge ordeal, that is contagious as well. And so you will find the people that you're dealing with the most having to deal with that negative adds to their negativity,

Lisa Sugarman  11:29  
it does. And it also, I'm sure you've had experience with this, because I've had experience with this, my kids have had experience with this that get back what you put out. This is not to say that you have to be in a good mood, you have to be smiling, and you have to be laughing 24 hours a day, because that's ridiculous. And that's unrealistic. But the point is that if you are that type of person, who is always finding fault, and who is always stressing and anxious. First of all, you're going to get yourself sick, you're going to get yourself to a point where people just don't want to be with you people are repelled by that. I mean, I know myself, everybody has a bad day and you know, condemn somebody because they're in a bad mood, or maybe they vent a little bit, but when it becomes like a person's rhythm and their pattern, and that's who they are. And that's how they're always behaving. I don't know about you, but that is to me, I'm going to run as far as I possibly can in the opposite direction, from someone like that, for the most part, especially somebody who makes the conscious choice to be negative, and to find fault and to take issue with everything. Because it doesn't have to be that way. You know, sometimes things don't go our way. And we have that choice. We always have that choice, like how do you frame it? How do you handle it? How do you pivot from it. And they're just people who can't, they just have to kind of sit in it in a really sad and I guess hard way. And that's hard to be around?

DJ Stutz  12:55  
Well, and I think too, I mean, when things are honestly tough or sad, or you're worried about, you might lose your house, or things are really awful at work, or maybe your marriage is struggling and you've got a child that has some issues where there's just screaming and yelling all the time, for whatever reason there might be. There's lots of reasons a child might be doing that. But it can be overwhelming. And I think there's a difference between just denying what you're going through, and completely denying all your feelings, or recognizing them and then coming up with a plan to move forward rather than sitting and wallowing in it for too long, to where it just becomes part of who you are.

Lisa Sugarman  13:45  
Yeah, no, I agree with that. And it's funny that, you know, what we're talking about is just another version of the whole, everything in moderation idea that can apply to anything, absolutely anything. So I think what you said a second ago about, you don't want to just sit in it and wallow in it and never move from that place of sadness or anger, wherever you are bitterness, it is actually important to sit in it. I say that all the time. Like it's really important to sit in a loss, sit in the disappointment, sit in the sadness, sit in the anger sit in the whatever it is for a period of time, so that you can cycle through it. Because if you try to avoid it, you and I both know what happens, you try to avoid it. And you're just going to shoot yourself in the foot because you can't outrun it. You have to deal with it. You have to acknowledge it and then you have to find a way to rebound from it or go through it, work through it and walk directly into it because that's how you come out of it. Right? No, and you know, like anything that's balanced. You know, you don't want to be in one headspace for too long, because that's not healthy, but at the same time to like we just have to acknowledge The places that were in that heart space in that headspace as a way of just kind of honoring it, and dealing with it in a healthy way,

DJ Stutz  15:08  
I agree. And there's nothing wrong with getting therapy. And so if you feel like it's getting to a point where you feel like you can't get yourself managing through it, you can't move forward on your own. most insurances nowadays, will cover some type of mental health issues or help some kind of therapist or I know that with a school district, because teachers

Lisa Sugarman  15:35  
struggle. Yeah, I know, I know, teachers struggle, nurses, struggle, therapists struggle. I mean, nowadays, one of my close friends, actually my co author, for this last book, she's a psychotherapist and man, it like she has just been through it these last two years. And I mean, I'm such a big, big believer in supporter of mental health, resources and counseling. And it's that notion that we take care of our physical selves, we make those doctor's appointments, we make those wellness visits, we go to the doctor, when something's wrong, internally, we go to the dentist, your tooth hurts, you do all these things. And we still don't get it, we get it more than we did. But we still don't get the fact that our mental health is just as important as any of our physical issues and our physical health. And that we have to maintain those and I outs think that people should even necessarily be waiting until like a bottom falls out to go see a therapist, I think it's such an important thing. It's like see a chiropractor, for instance, every couple of weeks every month, to keep yourself limber, to keep your joints moving, you would do the same thing with a mental health professional, and see someone maybe every month or every couple of weeks to do the same thing, just as a check in just to stay in balance is just as important. And I think we're very quickly moving toward D stigmatizing mental health, we need to move a little faster, I think. I don't

DJ Stutz  17:10  
think anything when I have a friend or someone who says, Oh, I've got my therapist appointment this day or that day. Good for you. Wonderful. Ooh, therapist, you're crazy. Yeah, but where that might have been the case 50 years ago, or whatever

Lisa Sugarman  17:26  
have you, the more that would have been? I was gonna say that would have been the case a handful of years ago, 510 years ago. It's sad that I think so many people were so hurting for such a long period of time back in that world where it was so heavily stigmatized, that people didn't want to acknowledge and own that they had issues certainly didn't want to go asking for help. I mean, I lost my own dad to suicide when I was 10 years old. And I thank you, thank you, and you never would have known never, it was a big shock. Because there was never only into the last couple of months of his life. He started seeing a therapist, but he said it was just you know, too little too late. But I often wonder I had this conversation recently, actually, with someone I wonder what would have happened if he had lived in in today's world where things were so much more accessible, and were so much more mainstream, but I can't agree with you more that it needs to just become a part of everybody's day to day life and celebrated and embraced. You know, that's how we take care of ourselves. You know, we don't just do a couple of little parks, we have to do the whole self. Right. And that takes work. And that's part of the work.

DJ Stutz  18:45  
And when you're going through all of this. And you're trying to parent some kids on top of it. Yeah. And let's face it, as much as we love our kids, they can drive us to distraction.

Lisa Sugarman  19:00  
Yeah, that's a nice way of putting it.

DJ Stutz  19:03  
And you can feel like a failure when you shouldn't feel that way. But whether you should or shouldn't feel that way is irrelevant, honestly. Because if you do feel that way, that's your reality. Right? And so when I hear people say like, Oh, you shouldn't feel bad about this. Okay, so put more guilt on me. Yeah, so that the feelings I'm feeling are no longer valuable or productive or whatever. Let's add some more crap on that hill.

Lisa Sugarman  19:36  
Yep, yep. Yep. Yeah, I know. It's really hard. I think people. People don't want to know that people are feeling bad or I don't want to say they don't want to know because they do more now than I think ever but I think people just feel badly when they see someone struggling in it. There's that knee jerk reaction to say, oh, no, no, no, like you're you're you're fine. You're fine. Well, you No, maybe you're not fine. And the only way to get fine is to acknowledge that you're not accept that you're not. And then go get the help that you need to get yourself to a place where you will be okay.

DJ Stutz  20:16  
Right. And you can be the person that you want to be. You can relate to others in a positive manner, which makes you feel more successful, and it feeds that positive moving forward. Yeah, yeah. And people, they don't mean to make you feel worse. When they're saying, Oh, no, no, no, you're okay, you're okay. They're really trying to Hello, they just don't have that it's not productive.

Lisa Sugarman  20:46  
Yeah, I think that what it all boils down to is acknowledging and accepting that everybody's truth, or everybody's head space, or heart space is their own, and is very unique. And if it's real in your head, if it's real in your heart, it's real to you. Just like what you said a minute ago, it's like, it's what's inside your own head. And that's in those of the feelings of guilt or feelings of, of shame or feelings of anger, but whatever they are, they're your feelings, and they're real, and they may seem unjustified to somebody else. But it doesn't matter. Because if it's happening to you, that's your truth. So I think the first step is trying to block out maybe a little bit of the white noise of what we hear around us. And acknowledging that it's really okay to not be okay, that's what it boils down to. And we hear that now that's like, that's like a rallying cry now, which I am thrilled about, we hear it all the time you see it everywhere. And think, you know, turning this back to parenting, and how challenging it can be as a parent, like if we don't acknowledge that we're not okay. And that we're capable of making mistakes and dropping balls and kind of crumbling under the pressure. If we don't do that. How the hell are kids going to do that? How are they ever going to admit to themselves or to us? Or to a therapist or a teacher or a friend? How are they ever going to acknowledge that they're not okay? Right? Because they're not brought up to believe that it's okay to not be okay, then they're going to keep that mindset indefinitely, right, and then get crushed.

DJ Stutz  22:33  
And I know what I do in my school, in my classroom, to help my little guys start to recognize feelings and how it goes and recognize that sometimes you get a tummy ache because you're scared, or you're worried, or sometimes your head will hurt. Because you're stressed out over whatever. And when you're looking at my age kids that I'm working with, that's pretty abstract for them to kind of feel but oftentimes, they'll come up and say, My tummy hurts. And you check everything, they're fine. So then we start asking them questions about, are you worried about something? Are you upset with somebody in our class or whatever, but and then pushing with them? When you feel scared? Who can you talk to? Yeah, that those are things that three year olds, four year olds, five year olds can understand. You're giving me something more concrete hair, that when I'm upset, it's okay to talk to somebody. And so who would you talk to and start having them think in their mind? Who would be safe for me to talk to? And so we're pushing them to kind of understand I don't know if you've heard of the program called second step? I haven't. It's kind of big out here in Colorado. It's just a program of, we're looking at pictures and giving them stories about what this boy or this girl is feeling in this picture, or what just happened? How do you think they feel? And it's just opening those kind of conversations with our little guys. So at least they're starting to think about it.

Lisa Sugarman  24:20  
It's those building blocks. It's like Responsive Classroom that we have here in Boston, getting kids to think in an empathetic way. And understand that feelings are attached to actions and mean it's a much bigger concept that involves an awful lot more, but it sounds like they're all basically the same kinds of building blocks that you're giving to your kids, your little guys early. And even though like you said, is kind of abstract right now because they're so little. You just keep reinforcing it. You just keep reinforcing it. And you keep encouraging the parents to reinforce it so that eventually, they can grasp those ideas and those abstract ideas become internal realized, and they get it and they understand it, and then they start to see it in the world around them. And that's how they learn how to utilize those skills, when they are in trouble when they do have issues.

DJ Stutz  25:14  
And I even had success with some of my kids who are on the spectrum, or have some reactive attachment disorder, it might take them a little longer to get there. But when they start using language, like I'm not okay with that, or somebody's sad, and they have traditionally had a hard time recognizing emotions in someone else's face in in their body language, and they just barely start making those movements. And it's like,

Lisa Sugarman  25:46  
yeah, that's a win, that's a win, because they're making that world to self connection. And that's big. That's powerful.

DJ Stutz  25:55  
Yeah. And as a parent, and when you're talking about our little guy, so we're with our podcast, we're really concentrating on kids eight and under. And so the last two years have not been great for them to be able to recognize the emotions in someone else. We've had our faces all covered, we have had this distance thing going on, and so wide at the time, where it's developmentally appropriate for these kids to start learning. Oh, someone, so a sad look at his face. So and so is angry, look at, you know, what they're doing, and they start identifying. We're now two years behind on that education that is so key. And so there's the question of, how do we catch them up? Do we catch them up? Do we just say, Okay, here's where we are. Here's the next step, just kind of where I go.

Lisa Sugarman  26:57  
Yeah, I don't know. I mean, you and I were kind of talking about this a little bit before we went live to record. And it's that issue of resilience, and how to build that resilience in a world where people are fragile, and people are worn down and frayed kids and parents, and I don't know who's worse kids or parents. I mean, I was very, very fortunate. My husband and I were really fortunate that our girls were out of school out of college, to their grown women, they weren't dealing with the same kinds of issues that these parents have younger kids that your parents are dealing with. And man, like, it's so difficult. My youngest daughter works in the school system. She's also a special ed teacher, and she's got young, special needs kids who are like you said, wearing masks all day, they can't see someone to an effect, they can't build those emotional connections and that emotional intuition, because it's like they're kind of flying blind. They're the person that they're dealing with is behind the curtain in a way. And you know, there's this complete void of contact that we forget about the hugging contact. I mean, that's a whole separate issue, but and the development that goes along with that. But they can't read someone's face their expressions, they can't see a smile, they have trouble hearing. I mean, I know a lot of kids that have hearing issues or speech impediments. Everything is just compounded. And it's, yeah, so much worse. I have

DJ Stutz  28:31  
kids that are most of my kids, whether whatever else they have going on, they tend to also have speech issues. I've had a little boy in class that he won't speak above a whisper. Everything's a whisper put a mask on him for get it

Lisa Sugarman  28:48  
working. Yeah, it's a hard, it's a really tough call. It really is. And I really, I empathize a lot with these kids and with these parents and with these teachers, because it's a struggle and continues to be a struggle. And I don't know how you make up all that lost ground. I mean, I think you could only just be right here, right now and try to make up all that last round and, and then you're over saturating them, and you're not going to get to it that way. But you also want to try and ensure that they are where they're supposed to be roughly in some way, you know, at this point. And I guess, you know, the only way to goes forward and that the end, the best you can do is, is just try and empower them as much as you possibly can, every day doing the things that you're doing and continuing to be creative and supportive and nurturing and find those workarounds. I mean, they've been some pretty incredible developments, or hacks or whatever you want to call them that people have figured out throughout the pandemic that have allowed teachers to continue teaching and kids continue learning and I guess it's just you know, continuing Get creative and embrace where we are right now and bring them along as as well as you can. Yeah,

DJ Stutz  30:06  
I've been really fortunate to teach in the district that I teach in. So Colorado has been kind of, there are people who are very fearful and very worried about COVID and wearing the masks and double masks and all that. And then you've got the other side of the spectrum that are like, Oh, my God, I can't know. Yeah, yeah. So but I think, well, I know, earlier than Denver county, or Jefferson County, which is a neighboring county to Denver, and then Douglas County neighbors that the South, but Douglas County went with parents choice earlier than those others. And so I think it just kind of depends on that atmosphere of the state you live in, in the county you live in, and the city you live in, all of those people have different jurisdictions. But I think that whatever you decide to do is really stop and think about, am I inspiring fear in my child? Were decision making in my chart?

Lisa Sugarman  31:15  
Right, exactly, exactly. And I think it's so important. And this becomes a little more challenging for your age group, kids, the younger kids, to be honest part of empowering them is informing them and educating them, and letting them know, in as much as you can, that you in as much as you think is appropriate. As a parent, you know, age appropriate, I guess. We tell them what we need to tell them that allows them to understand why things are happening. And you hear some crazy stuff about what people on both sides of the fence are saying to their kids. And because I have two daughters, who are teachers, and it's just a split here in Massachusetts, in a lot of ways, you know, there are a lot of people who have been in a constant state of panic, and others who, you know, are cautious and mindful and aware, and then others who are just, you got every end of the spectrum. But the most important thing, I think, is just to be as honest as you're able to be and give your children that information that helps them to understand and process and keeps them from being super fearful and, and lets them be in school day to day and focus not on how close they're getting to someone and whether or not someone is vaccinated or masked, that you want to just trust that your kids understand what they need to do to keep themselves safe. And reinforce that, and then allow them to get back to the business of learning.

DJ Stutz  32:47  
Right? Exactly, exactly. So all of this that's going on, I mean, kids have always struggled with their own forms of resiliency and managing through not getting their way or having to wait or even before COVID. It's just normal for little guys, to and I'm talking even in kindergarten in first grade, they're still learning about how to manage their emotions, how to manage their life. And up until two years ago, I always taught in very low income schools, where there's a lot of stress about money, and stability, and food and all of these things that are going on. And so there's a lot of stress in these parents crime in the area of where they live, and just trying to keep people safe, you know? Yeah. And so you'd see kindergarten kids come in, and you can see them feeding off of that stress. And you would think they would be more resilient because they've dealt with more problems. So they should learn how to get over them. And that is not true. And so when we're thinking about helping our children be resilient. Now we've added more upon it with COVID and the whole stuff. What are some ways that we can really sit down and think about our kids and think about what can I do to help them live a life that is not stress free, but stress manageable?

Lisa Sugarman  34:31  
I think it starts at the top. I think that whatever age we're talking about, whether it's college kids, high school kids, your age group kids, yet the little guys what our kids are going to do, how our kids are going to react and act is really all predicated on what we're doing and how we're acting what they're seeing, and it's like we talked about a little while ago Everyone, everywhere, outside the school system inside the school system, everyone is frayed and tired. And this pandemic has been here now for years. It's been several years, we're working on our third year. And I think that layer of stress has gotten away from a lot of parents, people don't want to stay the course anymore. People are short tempered people are anxious, people are afraid people are losing jobs people. And I get it, you know, I understand from having seen and gone through experiences, either myself or with friends or family members, are you people losing jobs, people losing homes, people under such incredible amounts of stress, and there is a massive trickle down, that's happening with the kids that we're parenting, even when we think we've got it together, we don't have it together. And our kids are absolutely picking up on all of those vibes. And they're internalizing them, and it's causing them the same stress that it's causing us. So I think the very first thing that we do is just take a second, take a second and just take a backpedal a little bit, and just slow down and try and keep our own stuff. And there's a lot of it, keep our stuff in check, and be super conscious of what we're saying and what we're doing and what we're saying and doing around our kids. Because it's in doing that, that we can kind of help to reverse some of that trickle down. Because if all we're doing is freaking out around our kids, well, then that's exactly what you will end up seeing from your kids in the classroom or on a playing field or in the group or in the club. So I think, as far as I'm concerned, that's the thing that I tend to talk most about with parents who have that issue of like, what do I do? My kids are out of control? Well, you know, take a second and look at what your behaviors been. And ask yourself, How can I change that? How can I reframe that? How can I talk with my child to let them understand what's going on in a way that doesn't create a ton of fear, more fear than you know than they already have. But that goes back to the whole knowledge is power kind of idea that we instill in them the truth to a point that they can accept and understand that's appropriate. And then that gives them less to be fearful of so that it will empower them a little bit more, to understand what's happening around them. And we give them some coping skills. We use those coping skills ourselves, and then we give them to our kids so that they can use them when we're not there. Because I think there's been such a drastic jump in the whole helicopter parenting population, think parents are ratcheting down and they're paying so much more attention, and rightfully so to what's going on in school and how things are being handled. And but to a point where they're not even allowing their kids the freedom and flexibility of having their own experiences. They're trying to control everything. So I think the sooner we get ourselves in check, the sooner our kids will have the capacity to get themselves in check.

DJ Stutz  38:27  
Right? that I was talking to my parent, I love my principal of all the people I've worked with, and for she is the best administrator I've ever worked with. She's amazing. That's great. Oh, yeah, so lucky. But we were talking about how, you know, now we've got some of these kids who grew up with these helicopter parents, and would fix everything, or if someone was mean, they jump in and manage it. Even if the kid is being mean to your child, doesn't mean you need to jump in and fix it. And we're gonna hurt your child for that. Now we're getting some of these, like younger teachers, and not all of them. But there's a few here and there that are not really able to manage kids who are struggling with social emotional behaviors, because they've never had to manage it before. Mom and Dad always jumped in. And so when they see a child that is misbehaving, but not out of control, but to them that misbehavior is out of Yeah, because they're not able to really manage with that because they haven't been giving the tools growing up. And so we're having to spend time helping some of these younger people, and I say teachers, but I think it's across the board. I have family that they're entrepreneurs and add their business. And they are finding that they're having to deal with some of these young people and now with again, let's go Back to all the stress of the last few years, they're really having to spend some time in the workplace, helping people with social emotional, here are some skills, here are some resources that we've got for you, and how to manage if you're not happy with the way someone did something, or vote in a manner that maybe you didn't appreciate whatever it is, that it's not the end of the world, we can move forward. And so it's interesting hearing to people who are supervisors or business owners that are talking about how do we make this really happen? For my employees?

Lisa Sugarman  40:43  
Well, I think that in terms of at least in terms of children, or or employees, or anyone, I think the biggest, most important tools that we can give to them, is that space and latitude to figure it out for themselves, to make the mistake, to course correct. To ask for help, to use the resources around them, you know, for handing out solutions, and solving problems. There's no development of any of those skills, right, they have to understand what it's like to, you know, it's like letting the baby cry themselves to sleep. It's not pleasant, don't be likes hearing it. It's not great for the baby. It's not great on the parent. But it's how you those, that's the earliest experience that our kids have in being resilient is learning how to cry themselves to sleep, or learning how to get back up when they fall. And if we're always running around, with our arms out underneath our kids ready to catch them and catch their stuff and handle their problems, then there's absolutely no way that they're going to develop those resilience skills that allow them to navigate through the loss or the failure or the disappointment, or the argument or whatever it is that they're dealing with. And that starts immediately. It needs to start immediately. And we need to be letting that's what we're doing right now. And these are tough times these are really tricky, challenging times emotional times. But it doesn't mean that we need to be stepping in for our kids. More, it means that we need to create the opportunities for them to do that for themselves more than we ever have. And that's the best thing I think we can do for anybody right now, especially our kids.

DJ Stutz  42:42  
Well, and one of the things that I've done with some of the parents that I coach is talking to them about the opportunity to practice. And so to have a fun, kids love to pretend, right? Yeah. And so have an evening where you're just you and your kids, and you let someone be the bully kid and someone be kicked the victim kid out, though. I don't like to use the word victim, but and then how do you handle that? How do you respond to that, and you practice it and you laugh. And you joke around and you can be silly and whatever. But giving them the opportunity to practice that in a safe environment with mom and dad and my goofy brothers, goofy sisters, and nobody's going to get hurt. We're just practicing and having fun with is somebody says something. I hate your shoes. Okay.

Lisa Sugarman  43:45  
Like, how can you handle that?

DJ Stutz  43:47  
Yeah. Don't tell them what to say so much as what would you say? And let them work that out, then you're giving them some tangible tools that are at the ready, when a situation really does take place?

Lisa Sugarman  44:05  
Yeah, that role playing is invaluable. And another thing you can do, depending on how old your kids are, there are so many resources, so many videos and movies that you can sit and watch with your kids and talk through those situations and see them acted out. That's another safe way see them acted out in a way that they can connect with in a way that makes sense to them, and then talk that through. Why did they do that? Why do you think she said that? Well, I think we'll see what happened when she handled it this way versus that way. And you have that tangible example, that kind of levels up the role playing situation and makes it a different kind of like a visual aid. So there's so many different ways of creating those situations. I think you're right, just put your child in that position and then help them navigate what the right and the wrong outcome a productive and a hurtful outcome. Could be, yeah. And young kids and how to get there.

DJ Stutz  45:04  
Yeah. I mean, I pre K's here. They could do dress up and they role play and they'll use a block for a phone. Yeah, it'll be interesting to hear what they say. Yeah, is the phone. Yeah, so cute. I had one little boy, he was talking on the phone. I don't know who he thought he. I mean, it was the block, you know? And then I heard it at the end. He says, Okay, gotta go. Love you, babe.

Lisa Sugarman  45:33  
Love you, babe.

DJ Stutz  45:35  
That's great. You Babe. Yeah, it was so cute. It warmed my heart. But he's learning tools. From what he heard his parents say to each other. Or maybe when daddy's talking to him, Daddy's at work and just call the check in. And maybe he says love you, babe are love your kiddo or whatever. But they're learning. And there's no time that they're not learning.

Lisa Sugarman  46:01  
Oh, right. Right, for sure.

DJ Stutz  46:03  
So if you're not showing that positive, and that resilient attitude, they're learning from that, too.

Lisa Sugarman  46:13  
That's why it starts with us. Absolutely. And that's why we have to be very cognizant of what we're doing and what we're saying, across all the grade levels. Because they take it all in no matter what it is. And when when we think they're listening. They are. And when we don't think they're listening they are. So we kind of have to stay on our game all the time. But that's part of the job. That's what we're supposed to do. And the more often we can keep ourselves in check, and at the same time, allow our kids the freedom to handle situations on their own and screw some of them up. And maybe it takes handling something really badly. And then us helping them navigate. Okay, well, what what did we do in that situation? Let's deconstruct it. What do we do in that situation? Why do you think that didn't work? And what do you think you can do better the next time. And that's how you chime in. That's how you jumped in. That's how you act as a resource. It's not by coming in and fixing it all. It's not by being a lawnmower parent, and just kind of creating a flat straight road and never allowing your kids to hit any bumps. It's letting your kids hit the bumps, and then teach them how to roll with it. That's the name of the game.

DJ Stutz  47:26  
Yeah, as a parent, we need to recognize those bumps are valuable.

Lisa Sugarman  47:30  
Absolutely, absolutely great. Yeah, they are, we can. That's when we have those teachable moments, or we have those failures of those losses, or those really difficult situations like those are gold. That's where the learning happens. That's where the growth happens. That's where you develop and build that resilience. It's within those moments that you're challenged, or that you don't think there's a way out, or a way through, and you find one anyway. And that's what leaves I think the most permanent mark on us. It's those really hard wins, that you can draw on again and again and again, because you waited through it. And you didn't think you could make it. But you did.

DJ Stutz  48:17  
Right. Right. Absolutely. So what are some of the things you have going on? How would people contact you,

Lisa Sugarman  48:26  
I have a lot going on. In a great way. As I said, I'm working on a fourth book. This one is a very personal one. It's a memoir has to do with with my father and my father's suicide. And so it's a powerful one. And it's got me going really deep. But it's been a beautiful process so far. So that's coming, but not for a while. I contribute to a lot of different parenting platforms. I work with social mama. It's an ad out of Houston, Texas that helps connect moms that have similar interests and unique needs. And it's kind of like a cross between Tinder, Tinder and LinkedIn for moms. So I do a lot of content creation for them. And I work with another company called Helping it's helping parents teach their kids resilience and gratitude and generosity. And so I do content creation for them as well. Yeah, and then writing my column and talking on the radio and you can find me everywhere. My books are all over. You can certainly find them in bookstores everywhere on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, you can find anything that I'm doing is on my website, so you can just come visit me at Lisa and check out everything I'm doing. And you can find me on Instagram at Lisa underscore Sugarman and Facebook at the least Sherman. I don't know if you and I talked about this. I also moderate a pretty big community on Facebook called the vomit booth. It's a group it's an open group. Not just preparing It's for anyone who is a parent or in a relationship. And it really is kind of an interactive component, like an interactive companion to all the books and the columns and the content that I create. And it's really a place to just kind of vent about life about the stupid stuff and bond over the stuff that we laugh and we cry about, and I have a really, really, really active community on Facebook. So if you search the vomit booth, you will find it and I am there letting everybody who comes in her lap, whatever's on their mind, and I will hold your hair back. Let it out. Yeah, yeah,

DJ Stutz  50:38  
we're gonna have all that information in our show notes, too. We'll get all of that in so people can join in and participate and maybe love that and help with their own resiliency, right?

Lisa Sugarman  50:50  
Yeah. Yeah, I hope so. It takes a village, like we said all the time. But it's so true. We're supposed to lean on each other for sure. Because we definitely do not all have all the answers.

DJ Stutz  51:01  
Yeah, nobody does. So I want to ask him one last question. Yeah, sure. I asked this of all my guests. How would you describe a successful parent?

Lisa Sugarman  51:15  
Wow, successful parent? That is a loaded question. And it could have so many different answers. You know, for me, though, I think it's really kind of a pretty simple answer. I think a great parent is just somebody who makes the time to intentionally listen to their child, someone who resists that urge that we all have, I think, to be the one doing all the talking, and shuts up long enough to hear what our kids have to say. Because in my own experience with my own daughters, and decade's worth of working in the school system, with so many different students, over the years, kids have a lot to say, you know, you know this better than anybody. And they don't really have as much of an opportunity to share it, I think, as they should have. Because as parents, we're hardwired, we've got this instinct to be the ones doing all the talking, and all the teaching and all the modeling, and we're totally missing out on what our kids have to offer. So in the spirit, I think of creating space for our kids to share what's on their mind, the good stuff and the bad stuff, too. And we just need to step back sometimes, and spend more time listening and encourage them to be part of the conversation, that bigger conversation. And no, and even though we may not always like what each other has to say, I think it's important to make sure that that communication extends in both directions. And I think we're great parents when we can do that. Because it allows for some really beautiful stuff to happen when we stop and listen.

DJ Stutz  52:42  
I absolutely agree. Yeah, listening is. It's, it's hard to do sometimes. Now it is key. Our kids have to feel heard. They do

Lisa Sugarman  52:53  
You're right. And there's an ego thing, like we all have that mom and dad ego that we're taught that we need to be the ones kind of handing out all the advice and doing all the talking and making all the suggestions. But every single time I've listened really, like stepped back and let my kids listen to what's on your mind. What are you thinking, what do you need? How can I help? And that's another one, I think a great parent will be the kind of parent who will look their kids in the eye and say, What do you need from me? How can I help you? I think those things go hand in hand. And I you know, like I'm totally guilty of not doing that as much as I probably should. But you know, I try, especially as they're older and older. Because they've got an awful lot to share.

DJ Stutz  53:41  
Yeah, they do. But isn't that the imperfect part? It is trying and just don't give up?

Lisa Sugarman  53:49  
Yeah, that's right. That's right. That labor of love. Right.

DJ Stutz  53:52  
Absolutely. Okay. Well, thank you so much. And Lisa, I'd love to have you on again sometime. And maybe I would love that. And just see where we are. And I just love talking to. I looked at the time, I was like, Oh my gosh. So yeah, you know, a wonderful conversation.

Lisa Sugarman  54:12  
Thank you. The fun conversations always do fly by and this has definitely been a fun one. I've loved all the opportunities you and I have had to chat over the last couple of weeks. And this has been a blast. I'm just so grateful for the chance to come on and talk the talk.

DJ Stutz  54:28  
All right. So Lisa Sugarman, thank you so much. And we'll be checking in with you later. And so find joy in parenting.

Lisa Sugarman  54:37  
Thank you. Great. We'll see you soon.

DJ Stutz  54:42  
I really felt like this episode is such a great companion to last week's episode with Paul Henderson. And if you haven't listened to that episode, I would highly recommend it. Lisa brings such a great point that if we are able to set the example of laughing at spilled milk or not becoming overly upset ourselves, we opened that window of calm and low stress levels for our kids. Do you have a story about a time when you or your kids managed to laugh your way through a stressful situation, we would love to hear about it. Post your story on my Facebook page, Little Hearts Academy USA, or post on Instagram and be sure to tag us at Imperfect Heroes podcast or Little Hearts Academy, I would love to hear your stories. And I'm going to have all of Lisa's information about her books and her website and all of the things that she's involved in and the ways that you can get in touch with her in the show notes below. And you know, while you're looking over those show notes, just go ahead and leave a rating and review, taking time to give the podcast of five star rating. That's the appropriate number of stars. And leave a review. It makes the podcast easier to find. And then we're able to help more families. Have you hit the follow yet, make sure you're following the podcast so you don't miss anything. And those follows along with the ratings and review really do help people find us. Are you up to date on all things, imperfect heroes, go ahead and register for my free newsletter at and never miss a beat. And that's in the show notes as well. 

We are in the midst of parent teacher conferences. In fact, I just finished mine Friday. So do you know how to have a conference that lets you in on how your child is truly doing? And what questions do ask, what information does your teacher need to know. And even if you have already had your conference, you will still have some of those quick conversations for or after school. at year end. There might be some emails and phone calls. You can learn about communicating with your child's teacher in a one hour webinar called "Parent Teacher Conferences, What to Ask and What to Share." And that is currently available on my website. And for this next month or maybe a couple of weeks beyond that. I am offering that for free. It's not going to be free forever. But right now you have an opportunity to get in on that for free and it's at the website you just scroll down and you'll see it. Next week. I'm talking with Megan Edinger, who is the host of the no BS mama podcast. Fun podcast I'm just letting you know. Listen in as we share our goof up stories and how to cut yourself some slack. Learn what I mean by tuning into that next episode. And until then, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Lisa SugarmanProfile Photo

Lisa Sugarman

Author/Syndicated Columnist/Radio Show Host / Mom

Lisa Sugarman is a parenting author, a nationally syndicated humor columnist, a radio show host, and the mom of two grown daughters. She writes the syndicated opinion column “It Is What It Is” and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It, Untying Parent Anxiety, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold. Sugarman is also the co-host of the weekly radio show LIFE Unfiltered on Northshore 104.9FM and a regular contributor on Healthline Parenthood, GrownAndFlown, TODAY Parents,
Thrive Global,, LittleThings, and More Content Now. Lisa lives with her husband and two daughters just north of Boston. Visit her online at She digs company.