#36 - How to spot anxiety in your kids with therapists David Thomas and Sissy Goff

October 24, 2023
David Thomas and Sissy Goff

Episode Summary

In this week’s episode of The Aro Podcast, therapists David Thomas and Sissy Goff join Aro Co-founder, Joey. With over three decades of experience at Daystar Counseling Ministries, David and Sissy have dedicated their lives to helping families through their counseling, books, podcast, and speaking engagements. During the episode, they delve into the immense amount of pressure children face in today’s world, and how technology can exacerbate that anxiety and pressure. They also explore the crucial role of available and present parents as predictors of a child’s learning. David and Sissy provide valuable insights on identifying anxiety symptoms specific to boys and girls, emphasizing that girls are twice as likely to deal with anxiety, but boys are more likely to be taken in to get help. They also touch on topics from Sissy’s new book Worry-Free Parenting, including the concept that anxious parents will often produce anxious children. This trio's conversation offers practical help and hope to families navigating the challenges of modern parenting.

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Episode Transcript

David Thomas (00:00):

In all the decades that Sissy and I have done this work, all the years, I have never seen kids carry so much pressure. I'm fascinated by that. I'm heavy hearted about that and where it starts and obviously that pressure is what parents are feeling. I've never seen parents so pressured to get kids in the right preschool, which will lead to the right elementary school, which will lead to right all the things. I've never seen so many kids worried about their resume when it's time to apply for college that they won't have volunteered enough or taken enough AP classes or have a high enough a c T score and then kids carrying that pressure athletically. Oh my goodness, if I don't play enough of this travel sport when I'm 10, I won't get to play high school sports when I'm 16 and all the different ways that that pressure shows up.

Joey Odom (00:55):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's Joey Odom, co-founder of Aro. And you might notice if you've listened, if you've been here before, I tend to kind of project where I am in life onto the podcast and people say when you go to church and hear preacher, you know what they're struggling with because they preach on the things that they're struggling with. So we talk a lot about parenting and I say struggling. We're all really struggling. If you're parents, if you're struggling, that's probably a good thing because it means you're fighting a difficult battle. And so two of my heroes really, I mean that in parenting. Sissy Goff and David Thomas join us today and it's really an opportunity for me to lay down on the couch and just ask questions and them talk to me and talk about what kids are going through. Sissy generally focuses on girls, David on boys, and they've written 23 books between the two of them and I've spent a little bit of time with them before.

But you really in this, and I think you'll capture this in this interview, they just know their stuff. They talk about things. I didn't prepare them for any questions. They just speak so fluently on this whole thing. And here's to me where that's really encouraging is that they can speak in some generalities and everybody has their own separate specific issues, but they can speak in generalities because they've seen it before. So that makes me think with my kids, and I hope this makes you think with your kids that other parents have been through this before and other kids have been through this before when you know that when there's a name for something, I've gone to counseling before and when I would describe something and they would give a name to it, I would think, okay, that's encouraging because this is something that other people have faced and it's not uncommon and that means that other people have also gotten through it.

So even right now, if you're a major issue, just an encouragement, people have gone through it or if it's even something small, hey, people have gone through it. There's a playbook here and every situation will be a little bit different. It'll have its set of challenges and unique circumstances because it's a different child, but people have been through it and I think you're going to love this conversation. I just texted Heath Wilson, our co-founder and I said, this may be the best episode we've ever had. I think it's the best content we've ever had and it doesn't nearly go as long as I would like for it to. I think I could have gone for four hours talking about it and talking about where they are. But one thing I would love for you to do after you listen to this, will you support Sissy and David?

Will you go follow 'em on Instagram? Will you go buy some of their books for yourself? This is a challenge to me to go back and reread their books and so-called the in because we need the refreshing with boys and girls both. There are four stages of until they're through high school, until they're out of their teenage years. So we need a refresher on each course, on each stage, and it's just a good reminder to me to go do that. So sit back now, enjoy this one. Send this to your spouse as well. Maybe even talk about it with your kids. Use this to spark conversation, maybe even listen to it in the car with them. And I would encourage you if you feel any defensiveness rising up on anything to really lean into that one too because that could be the area where you have the most potential for growth. I know for me I felt that and that's where I really need to lean in. So please enjoy this amazing conversation with Sissy Goff and David Thomas.

Alright, gang, I have an admission. This whole Aro thing has just been a long con. It was complicated, it was time consuming, but a successful long con ends in a payout, which for me is today. You see, all I've really wanted this whole time was to have an hour long conversation with Sissy Goff and David Thomas. Like many of you, for years, I have soaked in every single thing they have said about raising boys and girls. David has taught us how to raise emotionally strong sons. Sissy has taught us how to rave braver, stronger, smarter daughters, and as a result, they've helped train up countless worry-free parents. On top of all that, they're as genuine, gracious, and kind as you would hope. The long con is over and I'm now able to have a conversation that might just change how you raise the next generation. They say to never meet your heroes, but I disagree. Please welcome to the r o podcast, two of my heroes, sissy Goff and David Thomas. Welcome To The Aro podcast.

Sissy Goff (05:23):

Can you say that to us every day? My day would be different every single day if you said that out loud, Joey, that's so kind.

Joey Odom (05:29):


David Thomas (05:30):

Incredibly kind. We're such fans of yours. Yes,

Sissy Goff (05:33):

We are.

David Thomas (05:34):

And remain grateful that our paths intersected along the way. It's been a joy to know you.

Joey Odom (05:39):

Well, what's funny about all of that is little did you know that our paths crossed years ago before you even knew me, and that was when I started reading your work. And my other version of the intro was a little bit sappy because of just really going into how the two of you truly have impacted my parenting, how it's impacted my son, my daughter. And that's no hyperbole. Really truly, it's been amazingly impactful on my life and therefore my kids' lives and hopefully that means other lives as well.

Sissy Goff (06:11):

Thank you Joey. Thank

David Thomas (06:11):

You friend.

Joey Odom (06:12):

How does that feel just to get just showered with praise? Is that fun or is that just like, will you stop, please?

Sissy Goff (06:18):

Maybe a little of that.

Joey Odom (06:19):

I can

David Thomas (06:20):

Do that. I was thinking the same thing You were sissy, like I'm going to play that out loud through my speakers every morning. Your intro, Joey. That's how I'm going to start my day with that deep encouragement.

Joey Odom (06:28):

Thank you. I'm just in Knoxville. I could just make the drive every morning. I'll just show up at the porch.

Sissy Goff (06:33):

I love that idea.

Joey Odom (06:35):

So I don't know this story. I wanted to get into some real practical stuff, but I don't know the story of how the two of you came together. Will you share that story?

Sissy Goff (06:47):

It's kind of a funny story. Oh,

Joey Odom (06:48):

I like story. It is.

David Thomas (06:49):

You started,

Sissy Goff (06:51):

So I was a grad student in Nashville and from kind of a funny circuitous route through a guy that I was dating, I ended up writing for C C M magazine, which was the big, maybe they're still doing a lot of things. Christian Music Magazine back in the early nineties when this was, and I was tasked to interview this fabulous dear woman named Andy Landis. And so I went to interview her and what was your title?

David Thomas (07:23):

I was tour manager at the time,

Joey Odom (07:26):

Long David Long Hair David, what do we have?

David Thomas (07:28):

Longer? Longer definitely. And I yes,

Sissy Goff (07:31):

Kind of a bob.

David Thomas (07:32):

Yeah, it was the backstory to the bob was this, I had finished undergrad, knew that I wanted to go to grad school to be a therapist, but wanted to take some time off. I was exhausted with school and I announced to my parents that I wanted to travel for a year or two and my dad said to me, I'll never forget it. Well that sounds like a great idea. How are you going to pay for that? And so I had not thought through all the how I was going to find that journey and I said, well, I'm going to find a job where I can travel. And so I took this detour into working in the music industry, was working with this delightful woman and artist that Sissy mentioned. And so that is what caused our paths to cross at that point.

Sissy Goff (08:17):

And then fast forward to I guess 1996 ish, probably David and I remained friends and he called and said, Hey, I'm in grad school, we'd love to have lunch with you and hear more about Daystar. And so we went to lunch at Clayton Blackman, I still remember where we were sitting and David said, Daystar sounds so amazing. I would love to talk to y'all about a job. And I said, oh, we're not hiring.

David Thomas (08:44):

Funny. She did. That's great horse. I shut that door.

Sissy Goff (08:48):

I did. And then of course went back to our dear friend Melissa, who is much more visionary than I am, and she said, this guy sounds amazing. I'd like to talk to him.

Joey Odom (08:59):

That's amazing.

Sissy Goff (08:59):

That was 1997. They

David Thomas (09:01):


Sissy Goff (09:01):

Join staff

David Thomas (09:02):

Interview, join the staff and have been there ever since.

Sissy Goff (09:05):

And we're like brother and sister, we've been working together for so long.

Joey Odom (09:08):

It's amazing. And even the, we'll get into some of your books as well, but it's interesting kind of the bookend nature of your books too, the way you're able to really compliment each other. And again, for me, a father of a son and a daughter, it's quite a combo for people like me. And so between you 23 books between the two of you, which is amazing, I'm curious from, let's think back to 1997 to now, so 23 books between then and now, what would you say is the biggest change that you've seen in kids since you started? And then maybe the other side of that question, everybody says kids are so much different. What stayed the same? What's constant that's not changed in that time period from when you started to now?

David Thomas (09:50):

That's great question. I'll throw out something of what's different. I think in all the decades that sissy and I have done this work all the years, I have never seen kids carry so much pressure. I'm fascinated by that. I'm heavy hearted about that and where it starts and obviously that pressure is what parents are feeling. I've never seen parents so pressured to get kids in the right preschool, which will lead to the right elementary school, which will lead to all the things I've never seen so many kids worried about their resume when it's time to apply for college, they want have volunteered or enough or taken enough AP classes or have a high enough a c t score and then kids carrying that pressure athletically, oh my goodness, if I don't play enough of this travel sport when I'm 10, I won't get to play high school sports when I'm 16.

And all the different ways that that pressure shows up at that I'm just grieved that kids and parents carry so much pressure. And it's why it's certainly no surprise that anxiety is considered to be a childhood epidemic in our country and that we are seeing more kids than ever struggle in that space and how grateful I am that Sissy Golf has written what I think is the best content out there for parents in terms of understanding what anxiety is and more importantly how to help and support kids when they're carrying it. And then most recently, how to pay attention to our own anxiety that so easily spills over onto the kids we love.

Joey Odom (11:23):

David is all of the stuff. So there are two things. It's what you just described, it's all of the activities and it's all of the push for achievement and all the sports and then it's the pressure associated with those two things. Are those two things inextricably linked? Is it, will pressure necessarily come from trying to do too much? Does that make sense?

David Thomas (11:45):

It does, yeah. You speak to that reality a good bit?

Sissy Goff (11:49):

Yes. I mean I think part of what we're seeing is the overscheduling with kids. I mean it's too many activities and the activities are too hard. It's both things that I think I always wonder has the s a t changed or the a c t changed because the scores that kids are making today, I didn't know anyone, maybe two people in my class

Joey Odom (12:13):

I know,

Sissy Goff (12:14):

But everything has gotten so much more intense. And so kids are, I mean they're having to jump to these standards and expectations that are too much and the activity, I'll never forget a girl who said to me she was here working on anxiety and she said I had to ask my mom to stop scheduling activities for me because it was too much. And so as parents, I think it's so easy to feel like, well, I don't want 'em to miss out. And I know all the good that comes from all the sports and all the activities and there is so much good that comes from every single one of them, maybe not every single one of them at the same time. And that's part of what's happening. Yeah.

Joey Odom (12:56):

Would you agree with David that it is the carrying too much pressure? Would you say that's the biggest difference you've seen between then and now?

Sissy Goff (13:03):

I would say anxiety across the board, yes. And that certainly is contributing to it, but to a shout out for the amazing work that you all are doing. Technology is a piece of it too. I mean we cannot dismiss that because I was trying to remember when you were talking, I was thinking, okay, in 1993 when I first started counseling, how much was I talking about technology and kids? And I don't know that there were many kids who were sitting still long enough to wait for the dial up for a O l. I just don't think it was much of an issue back

Joey Odom (13:38):

Then. That's true. That's

Sissy Goff (13:39):


Joey Odom (13:39):


Sissy Goff (13:40):

That has considerably changed the game with the kids and parents.

Joey Odom (13:45):

So you want to bring back the modem. That's what I've just heard. You want to bring back the dial up modem and then by the time kids will just leave, by the time the internet loads up sissy about what stayed the same, what is constant? I mean kids still are kids, so what is constant between the nineties and today?

Sissy Goff (14:02):

I think what kids need and that they need

Joey Odom (14:05):


Sissy Goff (14:05):

Who are steady and secure and love them and engage with them. I mean we could talk about one of the other shifts is, and David has written a fabulous book on boys about raising emotionally strong boys that you mentioned before, Joey, and one of the best predictors of kids learning regulation, which is a lot of what he talks about in that book is attunement with a parent and not just a parent who emotionally understands, but a parent who is strong and steady and kind and puts up good, healthy, safe boundaries at the same time. And so I think that's no different what they need and what they really long for, even though they're going to push against it sometimes, and that hadn't changed either.

Joey Odom (14:49):

It does make you think, and then since you talked about this in your most recent book is just this whole notion that maybe what's changed is kids need the same thing. So maybe it is the pressure, maybe that does come because parents aren't necessarily as steady or as secure. Maybe they're projecting their own anxiety. So maybe the difference really is we try to put a lot of things on our kids. I think that kids have changed, but maybe we need to look in the mirror a little bit. That's probably something for all of us to consider just how much kids pick up on stuff.

I wanted to talk briefly, I mentioned the book end books. So David, you're raising emotionally strong boys, sissy raising worry-free girls. So kind of a similar question, maybe a similar train of thought. They deal with overlapping issues, so there are some similarities, there are some differences. I would love to hear a little bit about the distinctions between what boys and girls are going through, maybe the same things are going through and then maybe some things that are a little bit different between the two of them that they have to battle, they have to fight differently.

Sissy Goff (15:52):

Well, I'll jump in first because one of the things that we both talk about that's fascinating is that girls are leading the statistics on anxiety. So one in four children, one in three adolescents, but girls are twice as likely as boys to deal with it, but boys are taken in to get help more

Joey Odom (16:10):


Sissy Goff (16:10):

Isn't that interesting? Yes, and I think that is probably reflective of where they land in very different spaces. We talk about kids kind of on this continuum from floaters to exploiters. And if I were going to very much overgeneralized because there are definitely girls who are explosive, but by and large the majority of girls are more on the ILO side of things and they're trying really hard and they're working really hard all day long and trying to please the teacher. And so the parent goes to a parent teacher conference and the teacher says, I wish every child in my class acted like your daughter. And we don't realize sometimes because she's hitting all the marks that we want her to hit that she's doing that because she's feeling anxious at its root. But on him it looks profoundly different a lot

David Thomas (16:57):

Of times. Yes, in fact, I think with boys anxiety, often Joey in a classroom setting looks like a D H D anxious boys are often fidgety and restless,

Joey Odom (17:08):


David Thomas (17:08):

Focused and attentive. Again, it's coming outward more than inward. And as sissy said, there certainly are exceptions to that rule, but even as I think about A D H D, you've talked so much over the years about how one of the first indicator lights with girls will be that she's missing social

Joey Odom (17:25):


David Thomas (17:26):

Whereas with boys it's often going to be impulsivity. So it's again, more of that acting outward that so often shows up with boys. That I think is one of the key differences we see often.

Joey Odom (17:37):

Sissy, how in the heck do you figure out when a girl, I mean it's all internal, what are the things, again, this is no longer for the listener, this is just for me. How do you begin to decipher that? How do you then begin one, notice two, then begin to extract that to get them to a place where they're able to start processing that outwardly?

Sissy Goff (18:00):

Well, I would say to watch for three primary things. One is I want you to watch for physical symptoms because a lot of girls who lean towards being more ilo, it's going to show up by recurring tummy aches or headaches, something with their little bodies because anxiety shows up there most often, first, second watch for looping questions. And so you're putting her to bed and she says, what's the schedule for tomorrow? What are we doing next? Then what's happening? Then what's happening? And she just is so fixated on the schedule or on throwing up or on being away from you or on the test that's coming up, whatever it is she's got. I talk about it with kids like the one loop rollercoaster at the fair. She's just got something she's stuck on or three to pay attention to how you can tell she's either putting pressure on herself or talking to herself.

Because when you can tell that she is spending inordinate amounts of time working on something that shouldn't take that long from an academic standpoint or you hear her when she misses the basketball goal driving home, she cannot stop talking about the fact that she missed it and she let the team down that she's really angry with themselves or with herself. I think all of those are indicators that there's more brewing inside of her even though she may not be showing signs in other ways. And I think I would say one of the first things I want you to do to extricate it is literally extricate that voice, help get to what is happening inside of her head in those moments. And one of the first ways that we both do it with boys and girls is give it a name. So with little ones, I call it the worry monster often unless they're afraid of monsters.

And then we call it the worry bug with, I have a book for elementary age girls and one for high school girls with the high school girls. I call it the worry whisperer. And I think we can call it the voice of perfection, the voice of control, however it shows up. I have a girl who named hers Bob. I still don't know why, but I love that. But when they can separate that voice out, then we can help them start to realize it's not truth. Because when it's just in the back of their little mind, they think it's truth. And so separating it out, they can see that it's not true and they can talk back to it in a way that they start to see that they're stronger themselves than that voice is.

Joey Odom (20:16):

Cici, I've told you this story. I still have the drawing of my daughter's worry monster from when we went through Braver, stronger, smarter years ago. And what's funny about what you described is that was at the time it felt like it was for a seven year old girl, but that's for 17 year old girl. That's for a 27 year old girl, 37 year old. I mean for all of us. I mean to be able to separate, that's I think maybe one of the bigger battles, not just for girls, for boys also is just stopping the train track, the train coming into the station and just accepting that that's real, that that's true, and then being able to isolate that out. David, did Bois have that same, are they kind of fighting that same little, whether it's called the worry monster or whether it's just the voices and the self-talk? How do boys process through something like that?

David Thomas (21:05):

They absolutely do have that same process in motion. Now it's presentation as we were discussing is often going to look different. And I have talked so much over the years about how anxiety and depression, both with boys looks more angry, so

Joey Odom (21:20):


David Thomas (21:20):

Boys look more angry and controlling than worried in terms of presentation. Depressed boys look more irritable and volatile than they do sad and lethargic often. And so that's where again, I think we can miss it. I'll even have parents, I'm talking about boys and anxiety and they'll say he doesn't seem worried. He's just mad a lot. And so

Joey Odom (21:42):


David Thomas (21:42):

Below the mad, we talk so much about how anger is a secondary emotion. There's always something underneath. And I am fascinated by how often I'll see anxious boys show up as controlling and rigid and inflexible. The plans change and they don't have on a one to 10 scale, a two to three response. They have a nine to 10 response over insignificant things just lose their minds over change that takes place or unexpected things showing up. So anytime that's their, I would encourage parents to pay really close attention to the possibility of that anxiety being in the mix.

Joey Odom (22:23):

David, I'm laughing because I've had a, I would say I think I've used the word anxious the last couple of days and I missed, a terrible thing happened to me this morning. I missed a green light, so that sounds awful. I went to a red light and I am driving by myself and I yell and dang it while I'm driving. So what you just described was anxiety coming out as being mad at missing the green light and it delay again, it was significant. It delayed me 24, 25 seconds, so it really did ruin my whole day. Being facetious obviously, but it does, it comes out as those insignificant things. So with a boy, David, with the boy, if you notice, hey, there's a little bit of anger that I've not seen before. How do you, which is interesting, I would, maybe I'm wrong here, but even though boys externalize, they may not be able to verbalize as well as girls. I could be wrong there. So when they're externalizing, how do you get them to verbalize?

David Thomas (23:22):

Yeah, it's tricky territory I think with boys in general, not just anxious boys, getting them to a place where they can articulate their experience more. It's why I wrote my newest book. I want so desperately for boys to grow up with the skills of being able to name and navigate their experience because I think the world is full of adult men who still can't do that. And all the ways I think that gets in the way relationally, vocationally on so many levels. And so I think it really does start there. And I wrote a workbook, Joey for elementary age boys called Strong and Smart, amazing. You're kind

Sissy Goff (23:59):

Wait and back up. It's younger than elementary age. My nephew Henry was reading it at three with his mom. I mean he couldn't read, but she was reading it with him and he was practicing.

David Thomas (24:09):

I'm always so encouraged when I hear stories like that and to a conversation I had with a mom recently for older. I had a mom say to me, I bought the workbook for my seven year old son, but I'm using it a lot with my 37 year old husband. And I'm like, great, wherever it

Joey Odom (24:23):


David Thomas (24:24):

But the thing I talk about in the workbook is doing some detective work like let's chase down that angry and see what might be underneath that and we've got to do some work to figure out. But that search I think is so important. Or else around nine to 10 boys instinctively begin to channel all primary emotions, fear, sadness, confusion, disappointment into anger. And so unless he learns to do that detective work early, he will just become that much more skilled around that space because it's instinctive at that point.

Joey Odom (24:58):

Man. Is this, I think you just answered the question I was going to ask, which was for a 37 year old husband, so this again, let's say I have a 13 year old daughter, 15 year old son. The principles in raising emotionally strong boys and raising worry-free girls, would you say, I mean it's not too late, right? It's not too late to begin applying those things.

Sissy Goff (25:19):

Never too late.

David Thomas (25:21):

We've lost count with how many, I've heard so many moms say after reading, raising worry free girls, I'm practicing these things right alongside her. And had I been taught this at 13 or 15, it would've changed the game for me in my twenties. And so I'm so encouraged when we hear parents say that one is the reminder of it's never too late, but two, the gift of doing this work alongside kids so they don't feel so alone in it. We're all working on these things. We all can have the voice of perfectionism in our heads and we've got to learn to combat that whether we're, as you said, 13 or 33,

Joey Odom (25:57):

It is funny to think about the, I think that kids seeing your own, you got to be careful, I believe as a parent on being too open with your struggles at times. That could be, not that you want to project yourself as Superman or superwoman, but you can go a little bit too far. But I think if you just show yourself as is completely perfect, that seems unrelatable as well. It seems like that is a very good thing to say, Hey, I'm struggling with patients right now too. I get it. It looks different. I have different problems, but it comes across different. I assume that that's probably, like you said, that's a helpful thing for kids to hear the relatability factor without necessarily an overshare from parents.

Sissy Goff (26:33):

Yes. And it eliminates some of that pressure of perfection because the person who is my hero struggles sometimes too. So it must be okay for me to struggle as well and still be learning

David Thomas (26:43):

And then talking on the other side of that. And here are the things that I'm doing that are helpful. Here's where I name my worry today, I was about to give a presentation at work and I was kind of swimming in it and I did some deep breathing for a minute. I think that is so helpful for kids to see on the grownups they trust the most in this world.

Joey Odom (27:02):

Sissy, we've alluded to it, but you've recently ridden the WorryFree parent and will you give us maybe just a teaser enough for people to go purchase it, but you talk about anxious kids often mean anxious parents and how parents need to uncover the roots of their own anxiety. What does that look like for parents to figure out one, identify one, I am anxious, and then because they may have lived with it for so long and not recognize it or name it as anxiety, but then two to go dig in to find the roots of where that anxiety's from?

Sissy Goff (27:35):

Yes, I think we have certainly seen in the last three years such a rise in anxious parents. And you're right, often they don't realize that they're anxious and it comes out in a variety of ways. I mean, it can come out as anger sometimes. And I've never had as many moms saying to me, and I think you too. I'm blowing it. I'm getting so angry so much of the time. And really if we were to pull that back, they're yelling at their child trying to get out the door on the way to school because they know they've already had five tardies. The six tardy means Saturday school. Saturday school means they don't get to go to the birthday party they want to go to. And so it's this really well-intentioned reason that they end up screaming, but it's just the delivery is off. And so I think when we can help parents understand that not only what they want for their kids is beautiful and part of why they've gotten stuck in this loop themselves, and I think then understand, I think we often think anxiety equals good parenting.

Well, it moves from vigilance to hypervigilance and then that ends up becoming more of a problem and spreading over into the labs of our kids. And so to be able to dial that back in and say, okay, this wasn't just me being aware, this was me being hyperaware, and I can tell here I am expecting them to work on their worries and I'm not working on my own. And so figuring out, and I have a workbook that goes with the book that has a lot of journal prompts to get people to go back to say, okay, what was the atmosphere in my home when I was growing up? Because I'm hearing my mom's voice out of my mouth a lot and I don't think I've ever put together how anxious my mom was and how that anxiety made me more anxious. And so I'm ready to stop the spread. That's where we're wanting parents to feel encouraged and empowered so much is to say, you can make a profound difference in this work against worry.

Joey Odom (29:32):

And it

David Thomas (29:32):

Is just going back to being a

Joey Odom (29:34):

Detective and doing

Sissy Goff (29:35):


Joey Odom (29:36):

Work. And the other thing you mentioned about moms, you just mentioned the line of thought, Hey, this means, this means this means this. That's where moms, and this is where I'm glad to not be quite as smart as women, is that moms just connect everything. They know the implications of one thing, seven things down the line, right? Where for the dad, it's just you're late that day. And I'm just speaking in general terms, but it seems like because moms, they really do see how everything connects together. Is that true? Am I assessing that correctly?

Sissy Goff (30:06):

I think you're definitely assessing that correctly. And out of that, I would say it's easy for us as women to start to micromanage, and that's one of the way anxiety shows up and then that makes our kids in the Worry-Free Girls book. I talk about how anxiety is an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of ourselves when we're micromanaging and controlling everything, we are basically affirming that definition to say, you're right, you can't figure it out on your own. And so you need me to step in and control all these variables so that you're okay. And instead we want them to feel like, I've got this, I can do this.

Joey Odom (30:44):

What would you say with parents worrying, and there may not be a great answer to this, but what would you say right now, parents, two questions. What are parents too worried about? And then secondly, what should they be more worried about? Worried may not be the right word there, but what do they may be thinking about too much and maybe they're not thinking about enough? And that's for both of you.

Sissy Goff (31:08):

I don't even know that I would say worried too much about any one thing because I think it's everything.

Joey Odom (31:14):


Sissy Goff (31:15):

I mean maybe there's success, but it feels like it doesn't matter because one of the things we can talk at length about anxiety is that it's always searching for context. So anxiety is something that happens in our bodies and it's looking for something to attach to, which is what that one loop rollercoaster is at the fair. It's why kids are afraid of throwing up or whatever the schedule. The same is true for parents. And so for some it's their grades. For some, it's that they don't feel like they have friends right now. I mean, it's just different for every parent you may hear more specifically certain things. So I would say all of it.

Joey Odom (31:51):

All of it. And

Sissy Goff (31:52):

Yes. And what was the second part of the question?

Joey Odom (31:56):

Afraid Austin. What should they be more, I'll say worried about, more concerned about where should their mental energy be going instead of the places where they're worried, they're worried mind is going,

Sissy Goff (32:07):

I want them. We just did a podcast interview with some amazing folks who started Lady Bird, taco in Nashville,

Gabe and Keely Scott, and they talked over and over because it's part of their story about being in the moment. And I would love for all of us, not just parents. I mean, I had my little nephews over for, I'm from Arkansas and we call 'em bunking parties instead of sleepovers. I had 'em over for a bunking party last night. And I find myself thinking about what needs to come next on the schedule more than the fact that my four year old nephew saying, did he come build with me, come build with me, and I want to go build with him. And so I want to be focusing more on being engaged and playing with them and enjoying them in the moment because as soon as I'm building with him, he starts talking and I get to start connecting.

David Thomas (32:55):

I love that. Julia. I would say this to that. I was actually thinking in the same space you were sissy when you mentioned achievement. I do think we're thinking too much about achievement and I think the culture is pushing us to think about that more academically, athletically in all the spaces. And even back to the first question, how that translates to the next stage and the next stage and preparing them. And I would say the thing I want them to think more about is actually sleep. I wish more parents thought about sleep

Joey Odom (33:26):


David Thomas (33:27):

Even to your very first question about what is not changed, the amount of sleep that toddlers need, that elementary aged kids see that adolescent team has not changed by one minute from a hundred years ago, and it'll still be what they need a hundred years from now. And when we dial up all this expectation, pressure, opportunity that we've been talking about, inevitably we're going to have to dial down sleep. There'll be less time for kids because they've got so much homework or they've got a longer practice. And back to sissy's, great point about connection. There will be less time just even around the dinner table together, which kids desperately need, they need rest, they need connection. Those basic ingredients that have always been the same and really always will be foundational to growth and development.

Joey Odom (34:13):

Isn't that amazing? That's sleep. Yes. It's so, so true. And it is, I would say there are more impediments now to restful sleep than there ever have been.

Sissy Goff (34:22):


David Thomas (34:23):

Well, and can I just say too, Joey, not to interrupt you, but it's so connected to everything we're talking about. If I don't have enough sleep, I'm prone to being more anxious and hearing that voice of perfectionism because I'm not rested enough to be discerning and I'm more dysregulated. All the things that we feel so passionate about are harder to do or harder to battle when I've had less rest.

Sissy Goff (34:44):

But when we as a family have an r o box, technology goes in the box, we get better sleep because we're not distracted by the lights, by the dings, all the things.

David Thomas (34:55):

It's the truth and why we talk so much about what you've created Joey, because it's a tool. It's a beautiful looking tool. We talk about that so much too, that is easy to access and allows parents to move toward those foundational things like connection and rest.

Joey Odom (35:11):

Well, now I'm blushing, so thank you for that. We

David Thomas (35:13):

Mean it. We do mean it.

Joey Odom (35:16):

Okay, I could do this literally for hours. I want to go briefly, and actually this is a little teaser because this is for everybody else. I'm going to make this purely about me for the listeners. So you all talk about the four stages in an adolescent's life in boys and girls. They are different. So again, I'm going to be very selfish. Again, this whole thing's been a long con anyway with Ro, just to have this conversation. David, I want to start with you. Stage four of a boy's development is the wanderer ages 13 to 17. My son Harrison is 15 years old. Will you tell me about the wanderer stage, what that's like? Just all the things that go along with it for me as a dad,

David Thomas (35:57):

Joey, it may surprise you to hear me say this, but I love talking about the stage. It's hard to talk about because 13 to 15 is what every developmental theorist would say is the worst episode of a boy's life. It's a period of development that's plagued by a lot of biological change, a lot of emotional intensity, a lot of relational complexity. So a lot's changing both internally and externally. And we tend to back away from talking about this stage because it's hard and because boys struggle often greatly in this space. But I think it's the reason we need to talk more about it. And it's a key, what we call identity formation stage of a voice development. So he is going deeper into questions like who am I and where do I fit in the world? And that's often behind his behavior. And that's important to note because he is, in this stage, I hate to say this, but it's true, often arrogant and argumentative.

And what I have long said about a voice arrogance is that underneath that arrogance, underneath that bravado, it's often just a cover for his insecurity. There's just not another point where he feels as unsteady, as uncomfortable in his own skin and in more unsure about who he is. And to the degree that we know that's going on and that's what's underneath, we can relate differently. We can navigate that differently. And it's all just part of, he's individuating, he's finding his own way, he's asking those questions, he's figuring out who am I in this world? So it's a really important stage to talk about.

Joey Odom (37:26):

How does, if you were to give a piece of advice for parents, maybe one of them who could be on this call right now, what would you say? Here's your focus, Joey. Focus on this one thing today with your son in the wanderer stage.

David Thomas (37:43):

I would say play the long game. That's my best advice to a parent of a wanderer. Look for glimpses of who he's becoming and don't get locked into who he is in this moment. It's easy to make long-term determinations. And I had a mom of a 14 year old boy in my office recently, and he's struggling greatly. They're struggling in their relationship. And she said he is never going to, and I stopped her right there. I said, okay, time out. I'm not even going to let you finish the sentence because whatever you're about to say, we don't know that that's a hundred percent true. He's 14, he's not done developing. He's in the most complicated stretch. So let's play the long game. And I think part of that is let's call out the evidence of goodness that we see that reminds him of who he is in this stage. He needs to hear that more than ever. So if he's volunteering and helping coach a younger sibling soccer team, and he's amazing in that space, which a lot of adolescent boys will be like, I want you to call out the strengths of that. If you see him being really patient with his grandparents or a younger sibling, call out those character strengths. He can't hear enough of that.

Joey Odom (38:49):

So, so good. I mean, that's so spot on. And to your example of, well, he will never, that beginning of that sentence I've heard before, people describe fear. Fear comes to you as a fully formed story. So as a parent, that's a parent feeling fearful, right? A parent saying he will never, because they're fearful that he will never, and fear is never, it's not the truth. It's not something that in that parent's mind, it is a fully formed story that he will never do X, y, z. So sissy, back to yours, raising WorryFree parents, you got to recognize your own fears and not then project that on.

Sissy Goff (39:25):


Joey Odom (39:26):

Alright, sissy. So I'm going to go to, and I sent my wife this a few months ago. You had an Instagram post on the narcissistic years, which is stage three, and it felt like you were just looking in on us and talking about this stage. And our daughter's absolutely wonderful. But here you are, 11 to 14 or 15 years old. Will you talk about those narcissistic years for a girl?

Sissy Goff (39:48):

Yes. I'm glad for you to say she's absolutely wonderful because every wonderful, wonderful girl passes through it to some degree. And that's the hard part. I mean, and Joey, I'm sorry to say that what David said that the psychologists say about the wanderer years, they say about the narcissist years and a girl's life. So you've got two kids who are both living in the most frightening episodes of life that they can go through and the narcissistic years, I mean when we called it that, we were a little tongue in cheek, but the reality is it does feel like that and it feels like it shifts overnight and she is thinking about herself pretty perpetually or her friends, one or the other, and she has to do it to become her own person. And so to help you understand as a parent that it's not that you're doing something wrong or that she's developing this personality disorder, that's not it at all. It's that she is individuating and it is a hard stage for kids. It is a hard stage in a mom and dad's life too, because she's going to push off of you tremendously to become her own person. It's like a pendulum that's got to swing out.

Joey Odom (40:57):

And the natural tendency is parents is to criticize probably, which probably only increases anxiety within the natural tendency. It's almost like we have to just take a pause, I would assume, and then do the complete opposite thing of what we think we should do. One thing I just absolutely love what you say, sissy, you say A girl in narciss cystic years is asking two things at the very same time. Will you finish that statement for me?

Sissy Goff (41:23):

Well, I can't take credit for it. Dan Allen is a psychologist that we both really love and he's the one who said it first, but she's asking one, can I get my own way and 2:00 AM I left?

Joey Odom (41:33):


Sissy Goff (41:33):

You're exactly right. It's at the same time. And they need us to answer with, no, you can't get your own way. The boundaries are still in place, but I'm going to listen to you. I'm going to connect with you in any way I can in this season of life. And yes, you're still loved deeply.

Joey Odom (41:48):

That's so good. And continuing on just saying, come close, get away, come close, get away, all of that, all of that together. So give us a little, maybe just one little nugget then for parents in the narcissistic years.

Sissy Goff (42:02):

Well, my nugget would be true for every stage, but especially in this one, find what she loves and then figure out how to join her there. Whether it's music that you wouldn't choose otherwise, whether it's a show. I wish that I got royalties from the Gilmore Girls for how many moms and daughters I have specifically encouraged to watch that over the years. But anything that you can do that is purely for the purpose of enjoying her, that you're not correcting her, teaching, her exhorting her even. I mean just that you're enjoying her. And I think a lot of conversation is going to come out of that.

Joey Odom (42:38):

I love that. And Lorelei did do a great job with Rory and the Gilmore Girls. You're right.

Sissy Goff (42:43):

She could have worked on, no, you can't get your own way. Maybe a little bit

Joey Odom (42:46):

More. She did. She was a little permissive.

Sissy Goff (42:47):

Boundaries were a little bit of a struggle for her. But yes,

Joey Odom (42:50):

Good support system in Stars Hollow. Are you impressed or embarrassed that I know so many Gilmore Girls references?

Sissy Goff (42:57):

I'm really happy about it. Joey knew friends that I like it even. Yeah, I feel even better about it.

Joey Odom (43:01):

I don't know if I'm that happy about it or not. You all I was going to close with, Hey, give us one thing for each. You've given us so many one things and I have pages of notes that I've written on here. I would love for people, and this is the time in every podcast. So hey, tell us where people can find you. I really do mean it. I really want people to go find where they are in their stage of parenting and if they have the self-awareness to say, Hey, I'm feeling worried as a parent, go pick up the book. Hey, if you're saying, Hey, I really want to nurture my son and the wild things of life, go get wild things. I want people to go find where you are and say, Hey, I want to raise a braver, smarter, stronger daughter. I think it's really, really important for people to do that. It's challenged me to go back and reread these books. So I want to go through places where people can find you raising boys and girls.com.

Sissy Goff (43:52):


Joey Odom (43:53):

Books galore on the site, the newest of which is The Worry Free Parents by You. Sissy, your podcast is just full of hot fire as well. The Raising Boys and Girls podcast Instagram at Raising boys and girls at Sissy Goff. At Daystar Counseling Ministries.

Sissy Goff (44:10):

Have hit where? Put

Joey Odom (44:11):

These, did I do 'em all? Is that

Sissy Goff (44:12):

All? Yes. Way to go.

Joey Odom (44:14):

Well, I do mean it. I don't know exactly how to say it, where it captures it enough without making you blush, but I'm just so grateful for what the two of you're doing. You're so gracious with your time. And I said it in the intro, I was shocked that you're exactly as you on screen when in person, you're just who you are. And I'm very, very grateful for all your work.

Sissy Goff (44:37):

Thank you, Joey. Thank you, Joey. Joey, it means the world. We're so grateful to partner with you.

David Thomas (44:40):

Yes, we are.

Joey Odom (44:42):

Well, thank you all very much. You got a flight to catch. Tell Lucy I said hello, sissy.

Sissy Goff (44:46):

You're so great. I will. She's right beside me.

Joey Odom (44:50):

Thank you all for joining us here on the RO podcast.

Sissy Goff (44:52):

Thank you, Joey. Thank you.

Joey Odom (44:57):

I feel like I just went to parenting school, so grateful for Sissy and for David. And again, I told you in the intro, but just the stuff they were throwing off the cuff, just the hot fire, they were spouting there without any kind of preparation. They just know it so well. And again, I'll remind you, it's because they've seen it all and what you're going through is not specific to you. Others have gone through it, and you can get through it as well. So seek out the help. Have those hard conversations with your kids. Be the detective for your kids. Be a detective for yourself. Notice in yourself what you're feeling. Go pick up Sissy and David's work please. And I'm going to leave you with something that Sissy said at the end. This was specific to the narcissistic years for girls' development, but the one piece of advice she said, and she said she would apply this to everybody for boys, for girls at any age.

She said, find out what your daughter loves and meet her there. So what's your daughter interested in? Does she like Taylor Swift? Go listen to some Taylor Swift with her. Does she like something else that you don't like? Go listen and learn about that thing and meet her there. Same with your son, same with your spouse. Where can we find those things kind of acting selflessly to go be a detective for what the people around us love and love those things along with them. And it reminds me a quote of a quote that I heard the other day. It's from Catherine Wallace and she said, listen, earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what, if you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they're little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they're big because to them, all of it has always been big stuff.

So let's listen to our kids, listen to our spouses, even if it's seems small, it's big to them. And that means they'll tell us the big things when it comes up as they get older. Thank you so much for listening to this week's episode. Thank you to Sissy Goff and David Thomas for joining us, and we can't wait to see you again next week on The Aro Podcast. One last thing, will you do me a favor? Will you go give us five stars no matter where you listen to podcast, the five star rating goes a long way for us. Thank you so much. We'll see you next week. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support and to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.