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Aug. 1, 2022

Episode 58: The Joy of Service with Natalie Silverstein

In this episode, DJ talks with Natalie Silverstein, an author and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Stay tuned as they discuss how service comes into play in our families, in creating a positive attitude in our kids, and how it promotes the desire to make a difference. Listen in as they discuss raising grateful, grounded, empathetic and compassionate kids by broadening their horizons through volunteering and serving others in your community.

Natalie Silverstein is an author, volunteer and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back, was published in 2019 and was named as one of the Top Books for parents who want to raise kind kids by the HuffPost.  Her second book, The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference, is launching on July 12th. After a successful career in healthcare, Natalie became the New York coordinator of Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. She lives in New York City with her husband and three teenagers.

• [6:21] “I understood instinctively, as most parents do, that serving others working in our community, volunteering with them was probably one of the most important things that I could do to raise grateful, grounded, empathetic, compassionate kids…”
• [9:44] Natalie discusses how it became her purpose, her mission to help parents and their kids to find their purpose… to find some meaning in their lives through service to others.
• [14:40] “It's not about giving money. It's about giving your time.”
• [22:08] “I want everyone to realize you have time, you absolutely have time in your calendar, you have time for everything else, right?” 

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DJ Stutz  0:13  
We think you should know that Imperfect Heroes podcast is a production of Little Hearts Academy USA. Perfect. 

You're listening to Episode 58 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 Natalie Silverstein is an author, a volunteer, and a passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book Simple Acts, The Busy Families Guide to Giving back was published in 2019, and was named one of the top books for parents who want to raise kind kids by the HuffPost. Her second book, The Busy Teens Guide to Making a Difference was launched on July 12. After a successful career in health care, Natalie became the New York coordinator of Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. In this role, she curates a free monthly email listing of family friendly service opportunities that is distributed to 1000s of subscribers. And her personal essays have been published on several national platforms. Natalie earned her master's degree in Public Health from Yale University, and she lives in New York City with her husband and three teenagers. We'll all pray for her. And there's so much to learn. So let's get started.

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You know, we give to charities and we donate to our church and we feel like we've done a good thing and we have but do we get to see the faces and the circumstances of the people who are being helped. What is more valuable than money. Actually, there are a lot of things that are more valuable than money. But one of them is time as we in our children see how we can be part of something more important, bigger, and they begin to see how they can truly make a difference for good in the world. They end we will understand how blessed we are and find a new outlook on life. People who volunteer have a more positive outlook on life, suffer less to suffer less from depression, and are more confident. Natalie started out with a desire to teach her children gratitude and to understand the value of service. And as she worked to find opportunities, she found that having small children was a pretty big roadblock, and her journey started there. And along the way she found some opportunities and wound up helping other families with similar goals. Find those opportunities as well. Natalie Silverstein is now an author and a collector of resources. And she knows how to find opportunities for Even small children to make a difference. Let's listen. 

Hey, everyone, I'm so glad you've chosen to spend this time with us. I have an amazing guest with us this week. Her name is Natalie Silverstein and she has this great story but we're going to be talking about that and then how service comes into play in our families and in creating a positive attitude in our kids, and a desire to make a difference. So Natalie, thanks for being here with us and just share a little bit about yourself and what you've got going on.

Natalie Silverstein  5:22  
Absolutely. Thank you so much, DJ, this is such an honor and a pleasure to be with you today. I love the name of your podcast, because I just think Imperfect Heroes is perfect. That's what we all are as parents. But I am first and foremost, a parent of three children. My kids are 21, 19 and 14. We live here with their dad in New York City. And I raised them here, which is interesting and challenging in its own way. I had a career in healthcare, health policy, I worked in hospitals and managed care companies and things like that. And at some point, after my third child was born, I decided that that wasn't for me, I needed some time to actually raise these people into real human beings. And so I actually, my work sort of grew out of this parenting journey, which I think is really important for people to hear that what I'm doing now is not at all what I set out to do, and what I studied in college and graduate school, but when my kids were really little, I think I understood instinctively, as most parents do, that serving others working in our community, volunteering with them was probably one of the most important things that I could do to raise grateful, grounded, empathetic, compassionate kids, I like to say the first title of my book that I thought of was how not to raise a jerk, you know, I wanted to raise, I wanted to raise good people. And I think that that's a really important distinction. Not successful people are smart people, I think good people, because ultimately, all those other things will come. And so I was frustrated, and sort of amazed that I couldn't really find a lot of organizations, nonprofit organizations in New York City, a city of 8 million people, as we know, where they would accept us as volunteers. Because my kids were young, let's call it 10, and eight, and four, or five. So I started pushing back on that. And I started to collect this sort of Rolodex old fashioned word of places organizations where we could do meaningful hands on service with kids. And eventually I became that lady. I was the one that everybody calls, when they wanted to donate some stuff, they wanted to volunteer, they needed to know what to do around Thanksgiving and Christmas, their child was having a Bar Mitzvah coming up, what were some service projects, I became like the service lady. And I thought to myself, I'm happy to share this information, this, you know, hard earned information. But I also thought, huh, feels like parents really want this information. And if it were packaged up in a really simple format, and handed to them on a silver platter, because if we're being honest, everybody wants this information, no one thinks it's a bad idea to do this. Unfortunately, people won't take the time to find it for themselves, it was my joy to share it. So I thought I would write a book. And I've always been a writer, I've always enjoyed writing. So I created a proposal and I stuck it in a brown paper envelope. And I sent it off to a publisher. And by some miracle of God, some woman, a mother, who does service with her son plucked it out of the garbage out of the slush pile. And they published it. So it's sort of one of these I hope, inspiring stories for other folks who are listening that it's never too late to sort of follow your dream. And if you believe in something, you should go for it. But I published that first book, it was very successful, it was named, like one of the top books for parents who want to raise kind kids and I was on the Today Show and all this great stuff, which is all just networking that I was able to do here in New York City with friends and, and other professionals. And it occurred to me after I wrote the book, and a lot of people started asking and saying, gee, this is great. But this is really for young families. And the first book was really for families with kids about zero to 1010 10, or 12. And I had people come up to me on the day that it came out and said this is great. But could you write one for teenagers because my teenagers are really neat, all hell. And I had teenagers at the time and I was like, I get it, you know, let me enjoy my cake and ice cream from my having published this book. But so I said about writing the same book, simple acts. So it's a very prescriptive, sort of, it's a resource guide. It's very actionable. It's kind of step by step with suggestions and tips and resources. That was the first book and so I wrote the same sort of book, but fourteens and that is coming out in July. So now it's really my purpose and my passion and my mission to help parents and kids and adolescents and teenagers and even young adults and even older adults like us to really find their purpose to find some meaning in their lives through service to others. That's it. That's what I do.

DJ Stutz  10:04  
Well, gee, is that all? You cute got so much going on. And I'm so excited to have this resource. And what a great idea for a book. So your first book is more for families all around, but you've got opportunities for younger kids, and places that they can serve there. And then you've got the second book, which is for teenagers and to help inspire them. So my question is, are the things that you are listing? No, they exclusive to the New York area?

Natalie Silverstein  10:43  
Oh, no, oh, no. In fact, the first book really tried to be sort of international, the hope was that people in other countries would pick it up. And so a lot of the ideas were more general. So how do you incorporate service, for example, or generosity or getting back to your community in a birthday party, or in a milestone event or around the holidays. And in fact, the first book goes kind of month by month, and talks about all the different holidays, you know, I think we all tend to think of service and giving back around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Hanukkah, I think that that becomes people's like, oh, we need to give back because it's Christmas. The funny thing is there are hungry people, and there are people who need help in January and February, and March. And in the summer, especially, I think we all have this motivation around certain key moments in the year. And we forget that people still need our help every day of the year, every every month of the year, 365 days a year. So that was really the goal with the first book, it does have resources, national resources, and websites that you can tap into, I should also mention that I work with an organization called Doing good together, which isn't based in Minneapolis, I was the first person to sort of take the concept of helping parents raise kind and compassionate kids and bring it to New York City. So I curate, I gather together a listing of family friendly volunteer opportunities that is pushed out to subscribers here in New York. But if you go on their website, which is doing good, they have so many cities now that we cover where there are people like me who do this work in other cities. So the goal of the book was really to give families ideas, generally not specific to New York City, of course. And then the team book similar. I have ideas for internships, for scholarships for grant writing, you can't believe how many organizations out there provide small grants to young people who have an idea and want to help in their community $500 $1,000. And these are national organizations, the Hershey Chocolate Company has won, and other organizations like that. So the book is full of these types of tips and resources, so anyone can use it. And they're meant to be used as resource guides. So they're not meant to be read from page one to the last page, like straight through, right, my hope is that people will pick it up and scroll through it and say, Oh, that's a great idea. I'm going to try that this summer. Or if there's something specific, they're looking for that they'll use the Table of Contents to find that. And I have heard from folks with the first book, which is so gratifying, that they'll leave it on the coffee table, or the dining table, and their kids will pick it up and kind of run through it and say, Oh, that looks like fun. Let's try that. And that. That means the world to me,

DJ Stutz  13:17  
oh, that's got to be so meaningful and exciting to know that you're making a difference through service by helping others make a difference through service. So that is really, really exciting. And I do know, I have friends who have their kids have Hang on just second that I had that on, but I didn't. Okay. So but I have friends who have kids who have gotten grants to reach out to others. And one of them he's still going, and he is getting shoes for families actually in South America. But it's been going on for years now that he's been able to move that forward. And and it's really gotten bigger and bigger. And it all started with that idea of wanting to do some

Natalie Silverstein  14:13  
something and how empowering for him, right? And I bet you kind of get bit by the bug of this, right? So a kid has a wonderful idea. It should not be this one off thing. I think the goal is to have it be consistent and to continue over time. And I appreciate that kids grow up and they go to college. And so what happens to the organization then, but the goal here is for them to see the impact that they've made, right? My goal always in both of these books is not about money. It's not about giving money. It's about giving your time and hopefully giving your time in a way where you're interacting with in some way. The folks that are benefiting from this work, because I think the most powerful way for us to understand the impact we're making is to see it in the folks who are being impacted the way that your community is being changed. And so if this young Man had an opportunity to travel to one of these countries to interact with folks who have received the shoes or received videos or letters from them. What a wonderful and inspiring and just a fulfilling, feeling confidence boosting feeling for him. And so no wonder he wants to continue to do it. Right?

DJ Stutz  15:16  
Oh, for sure. And, yeah, he's an adult, now he's married, got kids, and he's doing his thing. So I'm really proud of him. I think you bring up a really good point in making it personal for the kids. And young kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for 100%. So last Christmas, it was I guess, in November, I put a challenge out there for families when they're going through and organizing and do we really need this toy? How many toys do you need, or whatever, we made a bingo sheet for parents to use to help their kids go through and see what they could donate. And it was, so we had something blue, a car, or we had all these different things, we had a big bingo sheet, and I got the sweetest email from this mom. And her little guy is only three years old. But his rooms covered and toys, you know, Christmas is coming, right gonna add up pretty soon, it's gonna be like that room and Harry Potter, where it's just expands so fast. So she got the bingo sheet. And he was so excited to fill that out and to get something and Fill and Fill the sheet up. Yeah. Then when they were done, she explained, now we're going to take these things. And we're going to help other little kids who don't have toys and don't have, oh, really, he went in and started getting more stuff he was willing to give away and she was just so pleased that even at three, Matt was able to get their concept.

Natalie Silverstein  17:11  
You bet. And I think the important point there is she gave him agency, she gave him the ability to decide both in terms of the game, which I think is a wonderful idea, by the way, but also in terms of this is gonna go to help someone else who maybe doesn't have. And so he he looked around the room, and it wasn't her saying, Oh, he has four of these, and I'm going to take three of them and donate them. No, because then that's going to make him feel bad. Those are his things. Give him the power and the control over his own environment, you know, children really, we do everything, they don't have a lot of control over what what happens in their lives. So to say that we are going to donate some of our things, because Santa is going to bring us some new things. So if you had to get rid of if you had to say, to make room for the new things that Santa is bringing, what could we possibly give to a little boy or girl who maybe doesn't have as much, and to let them choose? I think that that's the most empowering thing. And I think you also raise a good point about you know, it's never too early, I say this all the time, never too young and never too old. So I hear this, like, Oh, my kids only five and a half. So I'm not gonna get started until they're seven. And it's, you know, very arbitrary. And also, if this isn't work you've been doing all along as a family for any number of reasons. It's never too late if your child is 15, or 18. Like this is important work that should start today, whether today your child is three or 13, or whatever. And I remember very clearly speaking to a woman once at a session where are speaking to young mothers, and she said something about like, how old should they be to get started because I remember doing this work as a child, but I actually don't remember the first time we ever did it, we would go to the food pantry and we would work in the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, we would do all these things. And I just don't know the first time I did it. So can you tell me what age? And I said? You just answered your own question. Because you don't remember starting, you always did it. This is just something your family always did. And it is a part of the culture of your family. It is how you move through the world. And it is the way that your parents raised you. This is how we operate. This is who we are when other families look at us in the community. Who do they see? What do they think of when they think of our family? I hope they think of a family that gives back and that goes to the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving morning. And so she's like, Yeah, just it was just a part of who we were growing up. And I said, Well, there's your answer. There's your answer.

DJ Stutz  19:34  
Exactly. And I think to letting the kids be a part of choosing what you're going to involve yourself in is a great idea. You have

Natalie Silverstein  19:46  
to because if you know you have kids, you tell a kid we're going to do so on the one hand, people always say oh, how do you make them do it? I said listen, we make our kids do things every day. We make them get up out of bed and put their clothes on and brush their teeth and do their homework like that is part of parenting. On the other hand, if you get buy in, if they have a sense of agency, if this is something they enjoy doing. So we are going to go out and do a car park clean up and your kids love to be in the park and they love to play soccer, we're going to play soccer, we're going to have a picnic, we're going to have fun. But first, we're going to pick up some garbage. First, we're gonna plant some flowers, or whatever it is. So that is both doing something they enjoy. And they've chosen and doing this work that is so important. And for them to have those two things married in their mind, we can still have fun, and we can do the things we want to do. And we can help others. That's the goal.

DJ Stutz  20:40  
Absolutely. And it's funny that you bring that up, growing up. So my dad was a professor at UCLA, and I grew up in Los Angeles. But he loved the outdoors, skiing, hiking, camping, anything like that. He loved it. And I can't even remember when this started. But it was just what we did, when we would go to a park to play or to have a picnic or whatever. Before we left every kid now there were seven of us, every kid had to go and pick up 10 items that were left on the ground garbage. And we were going to throw them in the trash. Yeah. And it couldn't be stuff that we brought. Right. So we couldn't be picking up our own garbage and counted. Right? It was funny, we it was almost like a easter egg count at some point, you know, you're just looking around to find and get it done before you're I have five brothers one sister, but trying to get it before the boys were done, you know, Beat that man.

Natalie Silverstein  21:43  
Well, it's back to your bingo idea, right? How do you make fun? How do you make it engaging? How do you make it light hearted? You know, there is this perception in our society, like volunteerism and service is so serious, and it takes so much time and you have to carve out all this time. It's just another thing on our checklist. I absolutely disagree. And that's the whole theme of the books, which is why they're both simple acts, you know, the busy family or the busy teens guide, because I want everyone to realize you have time, you absolutely have time in your calendar, you have time for everything else, right? You have you prioritize so many other things that you think are so important. What does that phrase they always say, if you want to see what someone prioritizes? Or what really matters tend to look at their calendar. How do they spend their time? And so how can you say to your children, we have soccer and we have ice skating, we have this and we have that all these things. But we don't have even a half an hour to drop off a donation at the food pantry. We don't have an hour to go and clean up the power? Of course we do. Of course we do. And that's being intentional and mindful. And that's just really prioritizing it and and not letting it be just random. Right? I I love that expression, random acts of kindness. But I would like us to shift that a little and make it intentional acts of kindness, right? Nothing is random, right? Holding the door for the person behind you a random act of kindness. No, you you had to think about that. You have to be intentional and mindful that there's someone who's struggling to get through the door, and I'm going to hold the door for them. So that's just a mindset shift. Right. And I think it's important when you're raising young kids, and when you're role modeling this for older kids even probably more important while you're role modeling or for older kids,

DJ Stutz  23:21  
right? That's absolutely true. And it's funny, you mentioned random access to show called random x. Yeah, I seen it.

Natalie Silverstein  23:31  
Yeah, I mean, this is like you see this all the time, right? Like everyone lists, you know, these huge list and I have it in my own book, right? Here's 101 things that you could do today. Like, I didn't invent the wheel here. This isn't rocket science. Right? Like write a note? How about it's the end of the school year right now? And how about, this has been a rough time to be a teacher, I don't need to tell you that. Your children, even if they can't write, how about they write a little note and stick it little sticky note, put it on the teacher's desk, right? You don't need to do big presence or anything. Just a little note, little sticky note,

DJ Stutz  24:07  
as a teacher, when I would get those sweet little notes, a picture of them doing something they learned in class, or any of those things, man, they mean the world to me, and I say those special book that I keep all of those things in, and I'll go back and look at him when I'm down or when I was having a rough time with a class or whatever, to call back and see that I actually made a difference. And I'll tell you something else that is huge. I have families from even 10 years ago that will stay in touch through Facebook or whatever. And they will send me things of the kids doing something or graduating from something or making it an achievement and I even had one family It was two years after I had this kid. And he was testing. I don't know which kind of martial arts but one of the martial arts go up on a belt. And he said, I would really love if Mrs. Stutz would come and watch. Sure not his mom got a hold of me through Facebook. And absolutely, I was there. But yeah, it just meant the world to me, as a teacher, and so it's an easy thing to do.

Natalie Silverstein  25:32  
No easy, because it made you feel seen and appreciated. Yeah, that's it. I think that's all anybody wants in the world, right? These are not huge gestures. And again, the themes of my books are not, we don't have to change the whole entire world, we don't have to quit school and fly around the world, build houses or build schools, you know, sail the ocean to speak to the UN, right? These are not big grand gestures. These are small things done with great love, right? This is showing you that you made an impact on my child and our family. And he still remembers you. And He wants you to be there you are seen you are loved you are appreciated. To me, that's a huge gift. And so I used to live with a teacher and she would come home at the end of the year with the big bottle of Jean attai, you know about the big coffee mug, she doesn't want any of that. But when she got a handwritten note or a picture, if a child couldn't write or a picture and a handwritten note from a parent, specifically talking about why this was essential your the difference you made for my child and my family, that means the world and so again, these are small, small things done with love done with done intentionally. And it takes a little bit of time. I'm not suggesting parents are spread very thin people are working multiple jobs, managing their households managing their children, sometimes they're not well, I get it. And I'm not here to say that this should just be another big thing that you have to do every single day. But when your children are sitting at the table, waiting for a meal to be delivered to them like they're in a restaurant, right. And there's a stack of construction paper or cards right there and some crayons and you can encourage a young child to write some cards or draw some pictures that you might deliver to the senior center that you might just send to a children's hospital, a cancer center that you might send to our active duty military and our veterans. These are just small things, keep those little hands busy. And it all sort of like drops in a bucket, it just accumulates. And it has this incredible ripple effect. I think

DJ Stutz  27:31  
it does. So we just moved. And one of the saddest things was moving away from my next door neighbor, they have three little girls. And every once in a while, it wasn't an any set day or time or connected to any holiday, I would just get a note on my front porch, from the oldest and she would just say, thanks for being such a great neighbor. And I kept every one of those, it was so inspiring.

Natalie Silverstein  28:00  
Awesome. And also, by the way, she may have come up with that on her own, her mom may have planted that seed whatever that story was. But she'll remember that she did that. And then the next time she'll do it on her own. Right. And it's just

DJ Stutz  28:13  
started as a school assignment, of course to do, of course, great teacher mail, obviously. But I was the recipient of that. And then I think because I was so happy, and I actually bake some cookies and took them over. And maybe that was a bit of an incentive. But I love those. I love those. I just did. In fact, it was episode 50 I was talking to her name is Bailey Olsen. And she's a teacher and a gymnastic coach and the mother of two. And we got talking a little bit about this. And she said something that they go to the library quite often and get books and stuff. And before they take their books back, they write just a positive note like you are awesome. Or, you know, you can do it whatever. Just put these notes of affirmation. And they'd slide them inside the middle of the books. Is that awesome? No idea who was going to get it? No idea what context it's going to be. But the kids got such a big kick about the battle simple acts of service and the imagination of how that could impact somebody. Absolutely.

Natalie Silverstein  29:30  
And that those kind words could change someone's whole day as you know, change someone's whole life who's feeling very depressed and down on themselves. You know, there's other similar ideas like when you're donating a coat to a coat drive, put a little note in the pocket that says you are loved and I hope this coat warm or hands if you ever take cans from your pantry and you're delivering them to a food pantry. Take get those little stickers that around and have your kids do smiley faces and hearts or whatever or say you know you are loved and have them stick all these on the top. So when people pull from the shelves of the food pantry, they'll smile and they'll get this thing. You really just don't know how this is going to impact someone's life. There's another great organization called car window poetry. And you can download a sheet from their website. And literally while you're in a restaurant, let's say you're on a road trip with your kids, while you're in a restaurant, the kids can write a poem or a little loving note. And then you go and secretly stick it on the windshields of people in the in the parking lot who you don't know, we're going to their car and think, Oh, I have this, someone left me a note, someone hit my car, it's a ticket. And then they read this beautiful thing from a child like what a wonderful little thing to show your kids that they have the power to brighten someone's day. You know, I just think right now we're in such a bad way, we have such a mental health crisis with our teenagers and our young people, all of us. We're all pretty sad and lonely and depressed after these last two years, and doing for others is scientifically proven. Oh, yeah, make us feel better. We get an endorphin rush that is similar to a runner's high, it's called the helpers high, we actually get like a quickness in our pulse, we absolutely feel better. When we do something that makes someone else happy, or we help another person, even if that person doesn't know us and doesn't acknowledge us, it makes us feel better. So the giver actually gets more in some ways. And so I say this all the time, especially with the teen book, given what has gone on in this world, and what is currently going on, why would we not give this gift to our children, to have this feeling of confidence, and not to feel so lonely, and to feel more connected to our humanity and to other people, the gift of that is serving serving others.

DJ Stutz  31:46  
I truly believe that. And another place that we can serve that is right in front of our faces is within our own family. And sneaking in and cleaning up brother's room, or folding the laundry or doing one of their household chores or more again, just leaving a note. I have little guys and they bring their lunch to school. And on their lunchbox, I had certain kids there was a note every day about mom knew or dad knew was gonna happen that day, or I hope you really enjoy the field trip or whatever. And then just remember that I love you. Those things are B, we will tend to encourage those kinds of things around the holidays, right? All year long, like your lawn

Natalie Silverstein  32:40  
every year. Absolutely. I have a son, I'm in his room right now. He loves Sticky Note Pads, you know, the little stickies one of those calm, post it notes, post it notes. Yep. And the day that his sister went off to college a few years ago, he covered the front door with loving messages, telling her I'm gonna miss you, you're gonna do so awesome. All this one or like so when she left in the morning for the airport. This is what she saw when she walked out the door. I mean, so special, so wonderful. But yes, I think all of these tiny little things are don't take a lot of time. Right? This is not a big deal. It's like a little piece of paper, it's having that in your purse with a pen, or whatever. And I think that it really does. These are tiny, tiny things. And all of these little things combined, sort of make a much larger impact.

DJ Stutz  33:29  
I think you are exactly right. And now let's think of the psychology that's going on with that. Not only does it help a child, and an adult, come out of a depression, it really helps. I have fought with depression for most of my life. My mom was bipolar. And it really does when I get to feeling really down and you can feel yourself shutting down when you've got that. And when you start getting those feelings, the first thing that I need to do is call someone up that I know has a rough time or just check on somebody or take some cookies over. It really does help. It helps our children in their understanding of the world to our podcast, we look at mainly kids ages eight and under parents of those kids. This is when they are developing is the safe place. What is my place in the world? How do I look at other people? Do I look at them as something I could get something out of when we overindulge our kids we're encouraging that piece or Wow. The world is a great place and I can make a difference and when you're teaching them that young, you're winding up with boys who are covering the front door with post it notes.

Natalie Silverstein  34:54  
Well, it's just a level of affection, confidence in themselves. I also think that you raise a really good point about sort of exposure to other people and an understanding of others. So this work service work is probably the most important tool we can use in terms of helping to keep helping our children to know that not everybody looks the same as us praise the same as us, has the same number of things has the same life experience, the only way to get out of our little bubble, because kids tend to stay, you know, families, neighborhoods, schools tend to be very sort of homogeneous. I think this notion of diversity and inclusion, and all of us accepting one another understanding that we have more in common than we are, you know, we're more similar than we are different. The best way to do that is to help kids get out of their own heads, and to go out into the world and to experience other people and to interact with other people through this work. 150%. So you can read books about this for very young children are wonderful books. And actually, the doing together website has a terrific resource library, where pretty much any social justice issue that you care about homelessness, poverty, the environment, our military, how to help our military, all those things, they'll have a little listing of wonderful children's books. And that's a great way to access this work is to start with a book, I talked about this in the first book, if you want to do an activity, start with a children's book that kind of deals with the issue, and then do the activity, whatever it is, let's say baking cookies for the elderly or something like that, or making Valentine's around Valentine's Day, and then have a moment at the end. And this is really important. Have a moment at the end where we kind of recap, or reflect or talk about the things we liked. What did we like about that? What did we enjoy about that activity? What might we do differently next time? Do you want to still do things for the elderly? Or should we think about trying to help animals should we think about trying to help the homeless, things like that? So it's, again, it's not it's giving them agency and choice. But it's saying we're going to do this right? One or the other, we're going to do this work together. And it's going to be fun and fulfilling and meaningful, and then we're going to go off and do our fun thing. But giving them the opportunity to reflect on it afterwards is super, super important. And again, doing good together has terrific resources like that with reflection questions, and my new book for teens actually starts out that way. There's a whole assessment for teenagers to use, what are their strengths? What are their skills? What are they good at? What are the things that they want to share with the world, and I'm not talking about being like, a concert pianist or an Olympic athlete, I'm talking about, you know, the things that kids actually are good at and that they enjoy doing. And I want them to know that they can share those, whatever their gifts are, yeah, they can share them, and then going out and figuring out what are the issues that they care about what makes them sad, angry, worried for our future, curious, and then trying to marry those two things. So these are my gifts and skills. This is what I'm worried about concerned about? What are the organizations in my community where I can make an impact on this, and then every chapter afterwards, provide some reflection questions based on what they learned in the chapter. So it asks, it bounces it back to them. So now it's their turn. And they can write some notes in there and whatever. I think that that is a really important part of this. I think just doing the work sort of blindly, is fine. It's important to do the work no matter what. But doing the work. And then really thinking about the ways that you made an impact and how that made you feel. I think that's where the change happens. That's where the transformation happens.

DJ Stutz  38:29  
Yeah, yeah. And you can even add an element of excitement and intrigue in things went well, inside into DJ, when I was a little girl. We thought it was Derek able to play this game ding dong ditch, right? Oh, sure. Sure. So you go up, you ring the doorbell you run off and

Natalie Silverstein  38:54  
those were simpler times DJ simpler times.

DJ Stutz  38:57  
It's true. But how about if you add as a family, maybe a vase of flowers and leave that on the porch and did the running away and not wanting to be caught? Your adrenaline is just like, boom, they're right. They're excited and you're hiding and so that is an element that can add just a lot of giggles and fun. Yeah, and

Natalie Silverstein  39:25  
and then watching the person's reaction from like a bunch of seeing how joy they are, you know, when again, you want to give your kids the opportunity to see the impact that their kindness had, right there is you could do the flowers and run away and never see how the person reacted. But if you're watching and you see the joy that's on the person is even just making a you know, and again, this is scientifically proven. When you make another person smile. You get an adrenaline rush.

DJ Stutz  39:51  
Yeah, literally,

Natalie Silverstein  39:51  
you could just if you make someone smile on the street right now, you get an adrenaline like why would we not want to do that with regularity? You know, it's just a way Living, it's just optimistic. It's hopeful, it's joyful. You know, there's plenty to be sad about, there's plenty to be upset about and angry about, there's plenty. But if we can just turn it around, it's a lot. Attitude is choice, right? It's a choice. Optimism is a choice. hopefulness is a choice and kindness, absolutely as a choice. And so we can choose and also if we are being treated poorly by someone else, as a reminder to everyone out there, and I think we can all agree on this. If someone is nasty to you in line at the store, or as nasty to the cashier in front of you, or they won't let you cut in and traffic, that person is having a bad day, something bad happened to them, they were hurt, or they were traumatized, or they've just had an argument with a family member, something bad's happening to them. So instead of attacking back, what if we took a minute, and were kind to them? Or smiled at them? What could that possibly do for them? And also, could it defuse whatever this situation is, right. And I just think that that's, again, this is not rocket science. But I think it's proven that that's what that's why people are mean, mean, people are only mean because they're hurting. Right?

DJ Stutz  41:14  
Yeah, I agree. It's funny. So I had an experience living in Las Vegas, we lived there for 20 years. And there was this road, we were out in the desert, it's all built up. Now. It's when we first moved there, we had this road, and it's a two lane road. And it's dirt desert on either side. And there was a stop sign. And then you'd get on to Rancho, which is a main crossfire in Vegas. And I'm stopped at this time. And this car comes buzzing along, I'm almost where I'm gonna go. buzzing along passing everybody that has stopped at the stop sign driving in the dirt, and then getting out to go on Rancho. And I see them kind of coming up in my sideview mirror and I thought what the heck is going on there he is. And as they drove by, because I was right up to where everyone stop. And he's stopping to make sure that he doesn't kill anybody Rhenish had a chance to see into his car just a little bit. And I his wife was in labor, you could just I was just gonna say he was trying to get to the hospital. That was life changing. For me, that was absolutely life changing for me, right. And so now I have found that when someone is driving, erratic or won't let me in or whatever, I find that I just kind of say a little prayer in my heart that are though, right to where they need to be. Right? Everything's okay.

Natalie Silverstein  42:56  
Right? And at the end of the day, that person who's driving radically now may not be having a problem, they may just be a jerk, okay? Or they may be breaking the law. But isn't it better for your psyche? Isn't it better for your mental health isn't better for your heart, to send love to that person to send hope to send a prayer to that person versus getting yourself all worked up and getting yourself all angry and all those terrible things. So yeah, everything that we've talked about, and what the books are trying to put out into the world is it's just a mindset. It's just a philosophy of living. It's just how we go about our days and how we live our values, both in terms of parenting small children, because it's really challenging to do that. And then, so now you're expected to feed them, clothe them, educate them, help them do zoom school, and make them good people and make them kind I'm sorry, that's like a tall order. But again, the way that you move through your world, doing all those other things, they will organically drops in the bucket. This is who they are, their emerging character will be built on the way that they see you live and live your values. And the then with teenagers, or adolescents and teens and young adults. I think, again, this is encouraging them to and not giving them an out, right, encouraging them to find out what their gifts and skills are, what they're worried about, they come home and they're upset about something they've heard about on the news or in school. Okay, you're upset about that? Let's go online. Let's research this, let's find an organization that's trying to help. How can we sign a petition? What can we do? Can you do voter registration? can you how can you get involved? So it's such that you feel so I think we feel really powerless and helpless. And that is going to be the death of us, right? Everybody needs to believe that every small action we take every next right move we made is going to move the needle even a little bit and that's what optimism is. That's being up. Yeah. So

DJ Stutz  44:50  
looking to things in the future and having a positive attitude about it. And we have a society that is very angry with each other right now. And It's usually what I believe or you're right, the devil. And so we're not very understanding about other people in their opinions and asking, Well, that's an interesting opinion, how did you get there, I'm curious on how you came to that conclusion. In the end, you may or may not change your mind. But you understand that person a little better.

Natalie Silverstein  45:24  
And being curious and having I love this expression, sort of intellectual humility, right? This notion that you don't know everything about everything, right? Even if you are the world's leading expert on whatever it is that you're the world's leading expert on, there is something you don't know. And so a little bit of intellectual humility goes a long way and a little bit of curiosity, as you just said, and asking questions and saying, Tell me more about what you just said, and want to learn more about it. And at the end of the day, you may not agree, but you also didn't fight, you also didn't have like an uncomfortable exchange, you just, you're just two people who are entitled to their opinions, right. And then you move on, and you do whatever you need to do to, to make sure that you feel like, comfortable in this in this relationship, and whatever it is. But at the end of the day, I say this to be about service, you know, this notion of like, we're gonna go out and change the world and help other people because those people are needy, and we're going to help them. You know, the perspective we need to tell our kids is that we're helping others today, because we're fortunate enough to be able to do that we have the time or the resources to help someone today, because absolutely 100%, we will need help someday. Yeah. Could be tomorrow, right? We give others our help, and our attention and our love and our focus today, because we can, and we know absolutely, we're going to be the recipient of that we hope to be the recipient of someone else's goodness and kindness at some point in the future. So this is a reciprocal relationship. This isn't an US Route of coming in and saving everybody. Right? This is what this is about. And that's absolutely and again, that's comes from a place of humility, right? We're just lucky enough to be living on this planet together. What can we do to make it a little bit better?

DJ Stutz  47:09  
Yeah, that's such an important point. Do all these poor people, I'm better than them? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Not service. Right. Right. So anyway, that's,

Natalie Silverstein  47:21  
that's just the way that you think about people and people who are different than you. And people have different perspectives and different lifestyles they knew and and Isn't this what we're trying to get to right, where we're all a little more open and inclusive and tolerant, although tolerance, it's like you're sort of putting up with somebody, but like, just loving of one another, and, and allowing people to be who they are.

DJ Stutz  47:44  
Yeah, Tim? Exactly. I love it. You're right on track. So people want to find out more about your book, or what you have going on connect with you, where would they go? Well, they

Natalie Silverstein  47:56  
can find me on social media, I'm mostly on Instagram. And it's simple acts guide at simple x guide. And that's also the name of my website. So it's simple x And you can order the book, the team book right now on Amazon, or bookshop, or any of those places. And the old book is still available, I think you can still get it on Amazon, it's probably on sale. It was published about three years ago. But that book, again, is is you know, there are probably a few things in there that are a little bit dated, but generally the concepts are the same, and it's best for families with younger children.

DJ Stutz  48:28  
That sounds great. I'm so excited. We'll have all that information in our show notes, of course, and I'll try to get some of the other things that we've talked about in there as well. So I always end my podcast with the last final question. And so I'll ask you, how do you describe or define a successful parent?

Natalie Silverstein  48:51  
I think a successful parent is a parent that lets kids be who they are, right? I love the expression. You parent, the child you have, instead of the child that you thought you were going to have, right? Yeah, we've all had this experience, we all have a vision of what it's going to be like to have a son or a daughter, they come out as the person that they are meant to be. And it's our job to just give them the room, the roots and the wings, right? Just plant the seed and let it grow on its own. And to me successful parenting ultimately means that we raise kind, compassionate, grateful and grounded people who care about others. That's it because everything else will work itself out. Success in life and business success in relationships, right? Whatever. You think the financial success is important, right? Education, all of that will work itself out. If you have raised a person who is grateful for what they have, who is grounded in who they are and what their values are. And who cares about other people. That's it.

DJ Stutz  49:54  
Wow. You can't say it any better than that. Can you? Thanks, DJ. Well, Oh, thanks so much. So Natalie, I just appreciate you spending the time with us. And thank you so much. It

Natalie Silverstein  50:06  
Was so nice to meet you. Oh, so nice.

DJ Stutz  50:08  
I've been really looking forward to this because this is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. And so you express, it's just so eloquently. So thank you very much. Thank you be well, you too. Bye, bye. I never knew that there are grants available to young kiddos who want to do something positive for their communities. I did know that there are scholarship opportunities for kids who have a history of volunteering. I just super loved how she brought in the idea of not just serving with whatever is easy, but really looking at yourself and your kids, and assessing what is important to all of you, and what's speaks to them. Where can they find opportunities to use their talents and their interests to help others. And she's right, that the goal is to raise kind, confident and contributing kids who will be happy, good adults. So I'm including several links to Natalie's nonprofit and the work that she does and her newsletter, I'm also including a link to the show random acts of kindness that you can find. And another service opportunity in organization called just So between all of those, I'm sure you're be able to find something that you and your family can be involved in. Now, next week, I am opening the Cicerone society. This is my group coaching program that I only open three times a year. And we all want to be great parents and do the right thing for our kids. We want them to be independent, courageous, kind, and contributing adults. And I know the parents are trying their very best. But you can be better when you have the right information. And we are all more successful when we have friends to work with as we support each other. Now you can register on my website, the I'll have the link in my show notes. And if you are ready to get the right information, new ideas, and a team that is there to help you don't miss out. The doors are closing on August 15. I keep asking. But while you're looking over the shownotes, go ahead and leave that rating and review and follow the podcast. It really does help when the powers that be see that you like our little podcast, and that you find it useful. And remember to join me every Tuesday night for my Facebook Live event. So we know the new podcast comes out Monday morning. So that gives you all day Monday and all day Tuesday to listen to the podcast. And then you can join me and ask questions, share stories, share your thoughts about the episode. It is lots of fun. And so you can find me at Imperfect Heroes podcast on Facebook. And if you didn't have time to listen to the podcast, don't worry, join us anyway, you'll get to hear what the thoughts are. I will share some more background and different ideas. And then you can go ahead and listen to it when we're done with the live. And next week on the podcast. I am talking with Tim B., a martial arts expert and podcaster and we are discussing the pros and cons of having your little ones in a dojo and how to know if a dojo is right for your child. So until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Natalie SilversteinProfile Photo

Natalie Silverstein


Natalie Silverstein is an author, volunteer and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back, was published in 2019 and was named as one of the Top Books for parents who want to raise kind kids by the HuffPost. Her second book, The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference, is launching on July 12th.

After a successful career in healthcare, Natalie became the New York coordinator of Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. In this role, she curates a free monthly e-mail listing of family-friendly service opportunities that is distributed to thousands of subscribers. Her personal essays have been published on several national platforms including Medium, Grown and Flown and Motherwell.

Along with her husband, she is the co-founder of The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA, a non-profit focused on finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers.

Natalie earned a master’s degree in public health from Yale University. She lives in New York City with her husband and three teenagers.