“Not even the best parenting in the world will guarantee the best outcomes that you want for your child, but it certainly improves the chances” – Chris Santillo
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Today, Commander Divine talks to Chris and Holly Santillo about parenting, taking months off to go travelling with their sons, and their book “Resilience Parenting.” You can follow their progress on their trip at fivebackpacks.family. They talk about how to prepare children to overcome obstacles and to be independent.
- A parent’s job is to pass on their values and to both bring out what’s already in their kids.
- Connection is part of independence – in order to be fully connected with someone else your kids also need to be independent
- Martial arts practice was an early inspiration for Chris and Holly’s parenting style
Listen to this episode to hear more about how you can parent in a better way.
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Hey folks this is Mark divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for your time today.
We’ve got a great show. We’re gonna talk about parenting with Chris and Holly Santillo. It’s gonna be really interesting and something near and dear to my heart. Raising kids is not easy work and these guys have written a book about it called “Resilience Parenting.”
But before I get into a little deeper introduction of Chris and Holly let me remind you that it really helps if you could rate the podcast on some of these new platforms that it’s on. Stitcher, SoundCloud, Google Play. Pandora even.
So we have a ton of five-star ratings over at iTunes, but if you listen to it on the new podcast go ahead and rate it. Also you’ll hear an offer from me for I think the Unbeatable Mind online or the Unbeatable Mind experience. They’re both incredible. Unbeatable Mind experience’s new. It’s three days working directly with me and some of my top coaches learning the Unbeatable Mind integrated, whole-mind, leadership development process. We go pretty deep and we do a lot of embodied and somatic work during that. As well as introduce the tools of the mind-body development of Unbeatable Mind.
It’s a really cool three days. Our next one is coming up in September and I’ve completely – over the last 18 to 24 months – actually, completely revamped the online program for Unbeatable Mind. You can find more information out at unbeatablemind.com.
All right. Enough on that.
So today my guests are Chris and Holly Santillo, as I mentioned. Interestingly enough it’s – a really quick fun thing about them – they’ve just literally sold everything, hopped in a car with much backpacks – five to be exact – and are traveling around the country and the world for a year with their kids.
Wow. How cool is that? What a bold move.
Holly. So far it’s a little disorienting.
Mark. I bet it is. But you just started. I mean you literally are one week into it, right?
Chris. It feels like a long weekend so far. Except that there’s just no home we get to go back to. So other than that it’s exactly the same. It’s just a normal, four-day trip.
Mark. Has the reality sunk into your kids yet? Or are they thinking they’re just on a short little vacation?
Chris. I think they’re mostly getting it. Every once in a while we get little subtle like “oh well, you know, we can store this at home. Oh wait…”
Holly. This morning I liked my youngest – my six-year-old saying “mom, what would you like better? Staying lots of different places, traveling around the world? Or being back home with friends?”
Mark. (laughing) That’s a really good one. “Can I get back to you in a month on that?”
Holly. “What do you think?”
He said, “I see there are pros and cons to both.” and the pro for instance would be the really cool dogs that we have right now staying at this house. Cause we don’t have dogs. (laughing)
At any rate, yeah, I think we are slowly gonna figure out what it all means.
Mark. You let it unfold right? How old are your kids?
Holly. 6, 8 and 10.
Mark. So they’re right in that sweet spot. So impressionable.
Holly. That’s what we think.
Mark. I was just gonna say I want everyone to know the book you wrote is called “Resilience Parenting.” which is a really neat title. And kids – you know, I love my son dearly – but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s super resilient, right now. Like he’s got a lot to learn about dealing with resistance and overcoming it. Still.
So I’m not sure that I was a great parent in that regard. (laughing) We’re gonna find out probably in this podcast.
Holly .for all those all those listeners out there, just so you know, we are not perfect parents. My experience today, was like, “man, I thought we were doing better than this.” but so we went on a hike today – we’re in Elkhart Indiana – it’s beautiful. Wildflowers everywhere, a gorgeous stream. And we’re like “oh, let’s go – you know what? Let’s go try crossing that big tree – that fallen tree to get that tiny island. That looks doable.”
And we get to the front of it you know the beginning of it and I thought “well, let’s go ahead and discuss a little bit about our game plan here. If anybody slips and falls into that water.”
“Kids, what are you gonna do if you slip off the tree and fall in the water?”
“Uh, grab for the tree branch, mom.” and I’m looking at this and I don’t actually see any tree branches. So I’m like “okay, and if that doesn’t work what’s your next plan?”
Mark. Scream for help.
Holly. Good. And they said “well, I think we’ll just try to stand up.”
I said “yes. The water is not that deep. Just try to stand up.”
Well sure enough my youngest one… In he goes and he’s holding on for dear life. It really is it was a fast though shallow stream… He’s holding on for dear life he’s like “ah, oof.” “Okay, that was plan A, remember plan B.”
And yes he found his feet and he got up. I was like “that is brilliant. Like, we did it.”
One of our key pillars in our book is learning. I was like “yes we taught the lesson.”
Mark. That’s pretty cool.
Holly. “It worked. This is amazing.” okay, well then 20 minutes later he’s in tears you know he’s having total breakdown about not having a turn on the swing.
Chris. We’ve been working on this for years. So we have our good moments and our less good moments.
Mark. Everybody does. As long as they’re resilient for the hard things.
Holly. I was glad he didn’t drown. I mean, in the end that was a win for today.
Chris. The not drowning. Another gold-star day.
Mark. (laughing) I’m glad he didn’t drown too. We wouldn’t have been able to do this podcast if he drowned, so that’s not good.
Chris. Oh yeah. We would have had to reschedule for sure.
Mark. (laughing) So that’s kind of morose, but it’s funny as heck.
Why did you decide to write this book? I mean, what qualifies you guys to write the book on resilience parenting?
Chris. Oh shoot. You promised there weren’t going to be hard questions.
Marks. (laughing) That’s true. I did.
Chris. So we are both child educators both through martial arts – both of us martial arts and Holly in music.
Mark. Awesome. Okay you just you just nailed it right there. So martial arts is such an incredible tool for parenting. And I had my son in Kenpo karate. I trained with him all the way up to brown belt. Sensei Giuseppe Alito I think is his name? Here and in Encinitas. Runs an amazing kids program.
So I’m imagining I mean something like that is what you guys do. Is your focus on kids in your martial arts program?
Chris. Well we teach all ages but obviously these days there is a large contingent – majority is children – and you know I kind of joke about it. You know, a decade before I had kids people were asking me for parenting advice. I was like in my late teens – I started teaching part-time while I was still in school – and I was being asked questions I was at the time completely unqualified to answer.
But it’s amazing how educational and informative all of that experience is and then everything I learned from all of my mentors. And everything that we learned through the process of educating.
And there is a discernible difference in the children who were raised through a strong martial arts program – whether it’s Kenpo or any other strong martial arts program. And the kind of outcomes that they experience.
And as we became parents 10 years ago, there was kind of a realization that you know this is something that as parents we have an even greater influence on our children – far greater influence on our children than any martial arts instructor ever could – as powerful as those lessons are.
If we can take those lessons from the martial arts world and apply them to how we raise our children. And in particular we put a big emphasis on the pillars of learning, integrity, and service. And how we can kind of integrate that into how we raise them that we can create that not just about us as martial artists, but then everyone can have those same kind of positive outcomes with their children.
Holly. So the answer to why we wrote the book, was to be able to reach a broader audience than just the parents and the children in our studio.
Mark. Oh, that’s great. And so do you foresee some sort of platform for training? You know like online training or some way to take this into seminars or something like that? Or is the book it?
Not that it’s not a significant accomplishment, of course…
Holly. That’s a new idea to me. You’ve heard that one before, Chris?
Chris. Yeah it’s come up before and I think it’s a great idea. The book’s been out for 48 hours so far…
Mark. (laughing) What are you waiting for, for God’s sake? Get busy.
Chris. Just yesterday, we hit the bestseller – number one bestseller on Amazon which we’re very happy about.
Mark. Great. So now you’re taking a year off now that you have all that success?
Chris. Yeah one, maybe two. We’ll see how it plays out. Yeah we’ll see.
If we lose a kid we’ll have to reassess…
Mark. Right, you’ll have to change the name of your book or something like that.
Chris. Oh shoot. Well and our blog is called fivebackpacks.family. Scratch that. Four backpacks. That’s just awkward.
Mark. Brutal. (laughing)
So strength, integrity and service. Cover a lot of territory with those three words. Were those things that were actively trained in and talked about in your martial arts program? Or are those things you just said “okay, these are really the key pillars that we want to teach in our family’s parenting paradigm?
Holly. Mark, I’m so sorry, I have to correct you. Because it’s important – they’re the pillars after all – learning, integrity and service.
Chris. Listen to her.
Holy. And yes, absolutely…
Chris. Hanging in all of our studios is “I am a Kenpo-kai. I’m dedicated to improving my mind, body, and spirit. I live my life with integrity. Always honest with myself and others. Each day I strive to serve my friends family and the world around me.”
And that’s kind of what we what we built our program around. But I’ll be honest – that is an evolutionary step in the articulation of our values to our student base we had. That I created after my kids were born.
So we’re always looking to how better teach the life skills in the studio and how we can best help our kids and improve our teaching methodologies. And so that’s growing and I’m gonna say about seven years ago is when we shifted to the learning, integrity and service as the three pillars.
Holly. Reflected on what we were seeing in our own children and what we wanted more from them.
Chris. Absolutely. And then so obviously when you know when it’s time to write the book, that just became the foundation of that as well.
Mark. Excellent. I want to get into those a little bit in a few moments. But let’s first… What does a resilient to child look like to you guys?
Holly. Yeah, we left the dictionary of course… So we went to the dictionary and said, “What does good old Webster say about this?”
And after contemplation we broke it down to three main parts. Being strong, being adaptable, and being able to recover. And we compare it to being like a tree, you know -but not just any tree – bamboo. Bamboo is so strong and rooted into the ground, but at the same time it can bend and if it ever breaks it’s quick to regrow.
Chris. And so we discussed the idea of challenges that we run up against. And how your first line of defense is the strength that… You know, there’s this obstacle… We want children, that when they encounter an obstacle or challenge of some kind, that they see “I’m strong. I can do this.” and they have that reservoir of strength, that perseverance -mental, physical and emotional – that they can overcome whatever is in front of them.
But then also sometimes realize some challenges are too big for us. Sometimes just meeting things head-on isn’t going to work. And so adapting, so changing your plan and coming up with another way around. Or a different goal, or a different way of adjusting. And adapting in that way.
And then the largest problems in life sometimes knock us down flat. We’ve all been knocked down flat once or twice. And just knowing that you can recover.
And so a child that goes into the world confident that there are gonna be challenges out there, and I’m either strong enough to take them on, or I’m smart enough and clever enough that I can figure out another way around. Or – worst case – if they do knock me down, I know I can get back up again. A child who goes out into the world with those confidences, is able to do anything.
Mark. Yeah. That’s cool. I agree.
You know one of the things I loved about the martial arts program was that these types of things are almost easier to teach in a structure like that where you have uniformity. I.e. uniforms. You have the discipline of the culture – the bowing the respect and that kind of stuff.
And also the authority figure who’s not the parent, but the mentor, coach, teacher, guide.
And using my personal example there’s no way that I would have been able to teach my son martial arts at home or even working out. I tried, but he had just no interest and I wasn’t the kind of guy who’s gonna force it on him.
But I did get him into Crossfit for a few years, so he had that structure. And I did you know do the Kenpo. It hasn’t really taken yet. He’s now 19 and I’d love to say he’s cranking out cross it was every day or training to be a Navy SEAL, but he’s not, right? So his Dharma has been a little different path.
But he has that foundation. And I think that eventually he’ll realize that that’s an important thing. Probably when he gets a girlfriend you know? And he’ll take it on.
But it’s interesting you know… I’m just gonna put this out there you could do all the great things you want when your kids are in their formative years. And then when they become teenagers, they might just do the exact opposite for a few years.
Mark. And then you’ll be wondering… As a parent you’ll be like “yep, that’s exactly what happened to me.” well if it is – it’s also happening to me, but I’m confident than when he’s 25 he’s gonna turn around and start to mirror a lot of the stuff that we tried to teach him when he was your kids age.
Chris. That’s the reality – in any situation, you put your best foot forward. You do the best you know how to do. And the outcome’s gonna be what the outcome is. And not even the best parenting in the world will guarantee the outcomes that you want for your child.
But it certainly improves the chances. And so you go ahead and you do it 15:02 and you play out the game as best you can.
Mark. For sure.
Holly. You plant the good seeds that you want to grow. They may take a while to grow, but they will.
Mark. They will, right. And you guys as martial artists working on yourselves every day, and educators right? Clearly you are becoming more whole, more healthy every day, and as part of that, it’s making you better parents. Without having to deploy any special tactics around learning, integrity and service.
Which in my opinion, the most important aspect of parenting is to be working on yourself first. In fact, that was a whole subject of the last interview I did on parenting. With Dr. Shefali. She said work on yourself, first.
You know, they have this saying in the therapeutic profession the first five yours will dictate the next 95 years. And so if you’re not there in a very whole and present and healthy way for your kids in the first five years – like you were, obviously, with your kids – then the next ninety-five are gonna be challenging.
And that’s one of the things that I’ve been dealing with – cause to say that the first five years of my life were idyllic would be a gross overstatement. And so there’s been some unpacking to do.
Chris. Well and I agree with everything you said. I think that the other point that can be made – by working on oneself, one is also modeling that behavior for their children. And so we encounter parents all the time that say “you know, oh my kid you know doesn’t want to learn, doesn’t want to do this… Doesn’t want to read. I have trouble getting them to do their homework and whatever.”
And then we often have to look in the mirror and be like “are we doing the same things that we are asking of our children?”
Kids want to do what their parents do. It’s why they make toy lawnmowers. Dad’s out there cursing that he has to mow the lawn and little Johnny’s like “well, I want to do whatever dad’s doing.”
Mark. My dad just put me on the mower and said “go.” there was no intermediate step with a toy.
Chris. Yeah, that’s fair. I wasn’t given a lot of option too. I recall that pretty distinctly.
But if we are doing the kinds of learning and growing and developing that we want our children to be doing, then it just seems very natural. And the reading, and the learning, and the picking up a new language, and learning martial arts, developing… You know, participating in a program like one of yours. These are ways for us, as adults, to become better and more whole, and more complete versions of ourselves. And when our kids see us doing that then it is vastly more likely that they will choose to do some of those same things. Which is we want for them.
Shaping versus Freeing
Mark. Do you think the job of a parent – let me ask Holly first – do you think the job of a parent is to shape your children? Or to allow their character to unfold the way it’s supposed to be?
Chris. That’s a loaded question you gave her. That’s harsh.
Holly. (laughing) I think it’s both, Mark. There are things that are important to us to pass on. There are values that we have and we’ve been talking a lot lately – Chris and I – about how… With sending our kids to other experts to teach them things. Including Kenpo.
I heard you say something sometimes it’s hard for us to teach things. And so I was so proud of seeing my son get it from another mentor. And I agree with that wholeheartedly. We are those mentors in many cases. So I can’t knock that.
But at the same time, if you have values that are important to your family, there is no person better than you to teach it. And you better put some time into it or they’re gonna end up something other than that which you value and hold dear.
Mark. But what if what if truly they grew up to value something completely different than you? And then they get into some conflict, because every is every family supposed to value the same thing? You know, I don’t value the same things as my parents. And it took me a long time to unpack and realize that that story was not my story. That was this story that was fed to me by my parents.
What do you guys say about that?
Chris. No, I think you’re absolutely right. And in the book we kind of lay down our framework right? Our learning, integrity and service. And those can be broken down a lot. But then we have a whole section of the check the book dedicated to exploring your personal family values, exploring the things that are important…
Mark. Coming up with a collective culture is what you’re talking about.
Chris. Exactly. And as your kids are old enough to participate – making sure that they are participatory in that process, and feeling a sense of ownership. I think the values that Holly is getting into – talking about the foundational things like integrity, of course, being the most important. Making sure that we fulfill our obligations, making sure that we’re honest with ourselves and others.
And the kind of stuff that lacking our life won’t work very well. You know, the fact that I value fitness and the fact that I value martial arts. The fact that I value reading.
These are things that maybe my kids will adopt, and maybe they won’t. And they can have very happy successful lives even if they don’t choose the same path that I’ve chosen.
But the foundational values of integrity and learning and service those are obligatory, I would argue, for a happy, successful life – with the functional, fulfilling life that we want them to have.
And so we kind of start from there. And then we start layering on top the stuff that is more specifically who we are and accept as you said that our kids aren’t gonna have all the same ones. But as long as they have integrity like we do, I think we’re gonna turn out okay.
Holly. My other answer to your question is we do need to allow them room to be who they are individually going to be. There is no question – as you look at any set of siblings raised by the same set of parents – we are individuals. We are not clones of the people who made us, right? And so we believe wholeheartedly in that, right? That our children need to be allowed to explore what it is that they are most interested in. And be who they are.
And I really appreciate that Chris pointed out that as we’re talking about our values, it is a communal process.
Mark. Yeah, that particular point was poignant for me because my son is adopted. And what I’ve noted is just how the epigenetics has taken on the main role. And it’s been fascinating and I’m sure they’ve done studies on this, but there’s no amount of culturalization at a family level that is going to override that, in my opinion. Because, for instance…
Holly. Say that word again, Mark…
Mark. Epigenetics. Who he was from his family of origin and in the many generations that effected that.
And also in utero. We adopted him at Birth. He’s 25 percent Hawaiian, roughly 25 percent Cheyenne, and then 50 percent Texan. And so now the Texan is coming out.
Chris. (laughing) I’m sorry, is Texan its own class now? I was unaware of that.
Mark. (laughing) You didn’t know that?
Chris. (laughing) Was he born with a cowboy hat? And a large pickup truck with
Mark. Yeah, he loves country music, and he’s got the big tires on his Forerunner
Chris. Well, I have to support him on the country music. And I just be clear – and if you ever discuss country music with him – country music is not a genre of music. It is philosophy distilled to pure essence.
Mark. (laughing) Absolutely. I’m gonna tell him that. He’s gonna love you for that.
Yeah, so like I said – you know, my family is all California and land of the fruits and nuts. And he’s like “yeah, you know, I’m pretty much a Trump supporter.” and we have some really fun conversations like that.
Like he didn’t get that from my family. Not to say I’m not a Trump supporter… But we won’t go into politics too much here. But my point is the rest of my family is not. And so where did he get that, you know? It didn’t come from our cultural conversations around the dinner table. And there’s so many families these days that are just different, you know what I mean? In that regard.
It’s almost becoming the new normal. There’s so many adoptions. There’s so many you know that sexual… I don’t even know how to say this. What do you say…? A gay couple having a surrogate baby or…
And so you just gotta be aware that there’s a lot more going on than just the conversations that you have with your kids, in my opinion. And not being an expert, of course.
Chris. No, for sure. And then we’re all coming to the table as it were with a different set of cards, a different background, different expectations… And like you said some is genetic and some is gonna be what we learned through here, and some it’s gonna be what happened at school yesterday.
Mark. Yeah, and like we said earlier, the biggest part is like “how was your own parenting?” right. And you start to play out those roles from your own father or mother and vice versa.
This leads me to our next question is… It seems to be just like coded either into our genetic makeup as humans or maybe it’s our culture – that you know okay it’s time. The biological clock is ticking, I’ve got to have kids. And in my opinion and this might be controversial there’s a lot of people out there, a lot of you know couples who really shouldn’t be having kids. At least not without a little bit of work, you know what I mean?
Because they’re gonna take a wrecking ball to what they create. And maybe that’s okay. What do you guys think?
Chris. Well I channel just a tiny bit of like Eastern philosophy that… What we can and what we cannot control. Trying to take a deep breath and accept the things that we can’t control.
Yeah, you know the joke about you know you need a license to drive a car, but any idiot could have a kid. I don’t think that’s very politically correct…
Holly. Reminds me of my aunt who really wanted people just to have to sign a paper before they’re allowed to have children.
Chris. Some intentional act, right?
Holly. “I wish to have this child.” and that would be enough to counteract all the troublesome parents in the world.
Chris. Well, we just we just think that all of those parents – the really good ones and the not-so-great ones – we want you all to read our book. (laughing)
Mark. Right. Absolutely. That’ll be maybe the prerequisite, right? (laughing) If you get through the book and you learn from it then you’re good to go.
Chris. I like that. We could also change our line our byline. Our byline could be you know “for good and bad parents alike.”
Mark. (laughing) Well that’s the sequel. “Resilient Parenting for Bad Parents.”
Okay so… This is kind of getting to the real heart of the matter… What is the job of a parent? You know, we started this whole discussion out with kind of like nature versus nature, but I think there’s probably multiple roles that we take as parents. So our job is to kind of manage those different roles.
And sometimes you’re the teacher, sometimes you’re the disciplinarian, right? I mean, what do you guys think about that? What’s the ideal job of the parent?
Holly. I feel like our job is to create in eighteen years someone who’s going to lead a functional, fulfilling life. That we want people who as adults are going to be able to go out and do what they need to do.
But at the same time not be robotically doing so, but have something that keeps them in touch and brings them joy. And in the book we break that down into being both independent and connected.
Basically functionality comes from being able to do what needs to be done without needing to seek help from others. Right?
But at the same time – our greatest joy, I would argue – comes from being connected with other people. Assuming that you are able to do so in a healthy and positive way.
Mark. That’s awesome. How do you parent for independence? Versus co-dependence?
Chris. Actually, it’s a great conversation, because we had a conversation about the difference between independence, and connectedness, and codependence just the other day. That our observation both inside the studio and outside of the studio, just talking to parents is that somehow in the last generation the emphasis on connectedness seems to have trumped the emphasis on independence that used to exist. And we feel that there’s a false dilemma being discussed there. This idea that you kind of need… You’re gonna help your child to be independent, or you’re gonna help your child to be connected.
And there are a lot of parents now who feeling that they have to make that choice are choosing to be connected to their children. And not teach them to be independent. And that happens from the earliest age, in the smallest way. When a child hides behind his parent’s legs and you could either insist that they stand up and shake hands and give a high-five and make eye contact with this stranger. Or you can say oh that’s cute and cuddle them some more.
And a lot of parents seem to be choosing that. Whereas in the ’50s, that was clearly not an option.
And we just want to say to the whole world that you don’t have to choose between independence and connectedness. That you get to live your own life obviously and raise children who are both independent and connected. And we would actually argue that the most connected people… The highest levels of connection that you can have with a person, are only possible if both of the people in the relationship are sufficiently independent.
And lacking that, you end up with what you were just mentioning – the codependence. So you have two people that they function together, but in the absence of this other person kind of supporting them and holding them up, they are not. So whether it’s a parent-child relationship, or a husband wife, or coworkers, or friends, or whatever – that we need to be independent, stand on our own two feet, be able to take care of ourselves.
But then from that place of strength, we want to connect to the people around us and have those kind of deep fulfilling relationships that Holly was talking about.
Mark. Yeah, I love this in theory and I’m still struggling for like a mental example of maybe some skills or like do this as versus don’t do this for both independence and both independence and connection. Can you do that?
Holly. Got it. So that’s where the real brain work of this book came. We said “all right. This is a great idea right? But what is it that we actually do as parents to accomplish this for our children?”
And the three pillars are the avenue for it. So let’s see if I can give you some details. We’re gonna go into learning.
Learning helps people be independent, of course, because once you learn a skill, then you’re that much closer to being able to do that which you need to do. But beyond that as parents we also want to instill into our children the ability to – I should say – to trust in themselves that they know how to acquire any knowledge that they need to.
So we teach them not only the information that they need to know, but how to acquire it. And then even beyond that we advocate for learning. It’s like “this is a wonderful thing you know? You’re gonna go and you’re gonna the mentors or the other resources that you need. And here’s how you do it.”
And we as parents are also gonna make sure they have a great learning environment around them. And sometimes that means great, stimulating field trips. And activities.
But sometimes that means just having a quiet space where they can read or explore and learn what they need to learn.
Was that enough actionable stuff there?
Mark. That’s great. So that really helps me understand independence. And I agree with that. That makes a lot of sense.
And then connection is probably more related to service, I imagine, right? How do you develop…?
Holly. Yes, we found that to be true as well. Although honestly, I think you can find some independence in service as well. And I’ll speak to that, and then to about connectedness.
We think that that when you help other people, you find that – we call it the “hero effect” in the book – we find that you gain a lot of strength by realizing “oh, I actually have something that I can give to another person. I have an ability, I have a strength that other people need.”
And that gives you independence, right? It helps you realize you don’t need others.
Chris. And it also creates that connection that you were alluding to – that when you serve another person in any format – we break service down into gifts, and acts for justice, and helping you know people through labor, and teaching, of course. And that when you serve a person, there’s a tremendous feeling of empathy. You can’t help but connect more directly with that person’s plight through your service.
We also find that there’s tremendous connection opportunities with the people that you’re serving alongside.
Mark. Can I ask like what are some of the service oriented things that you’ve helped your kids execute? Just to get some ideas flowing for the listeners.
Holly. Yeah, absolutely and I think one of the main points and in that we want to get across, is that service can be so small, you know? And I find myself daunted… Like “okay, I really want to serve my community,” and instantly I’m thinking like “okay, what huge project…?”
Chris. Multi-national, multi-billion dollar non-profit…
Holly. I want to do amazing things. That’s good, okay? Don’t let that go. And we’ll work on that.
But in the here and now, and today, a gift that you can give can be as simple as a smile to somebody walking down the street. And that is a service to someone to letting them acknowledging their presence and that they bring you joy. And vice versa.
We were having some trouble connecting with some folks yesterday. And we talked about it. I said “okay, kids. We know service is a great way to do this. So let’s run through the four different ways that we can serve. Can you think of one that we could do?”
And we got onto gifts, and I said “is there anything that maybe you could make for the kids?”
They said “oh, I got it mom. Let’s make some origami for them.” and sure enough they folded some little things, and they were so excited to give these pieces to someone. And you know for one person it didn’t work. It was like “uh…” (laughing)
Mark. (laughing) Awkward.
Holly. Another, she slipped it in her pocket and it was there for the rest of the day. Like, there it is. She’s gonna pull it out tonight. And have a connection to my kids, just because of this piece of paper. And it only took a minute of folding…
Chris. And it’s also about the joy that our boys received from giving it as well. That there’s just such a reciprocal… Both sides of that equation really benefit as well, just by a simple act. And a little bit of brainstorming, you know? Which of these four components of service can we exemplify?
The other story that always comes up and it’s more on the bigger scale than Holly was talking about – a number of years back we flew to Romania to help build a house for a family over there…
Mark. Wow. Cool.
Chris. And part of the reason… Yeah it was one of those weird situations of a pastor knew a guy… A pastor in Romania knew a pastor in Massachusetts. And he knew a guy in DC who happened to be my father. And I said “hey, if you decide to go to Romania to build that house, we’ll come along.”
And a month later he’s like “hey, buy some tickets. We’re going to Romania.”
And initially I thought that I would just go and help my father build the house in Romania.
Holly. They were 3, 5 and 7 at the time.
Chris. 3, 5 and 7. And dragging three young children halfway across Europe…
Mark. Did you have your 3 year-old laying bricks over there?
Chris. (laughing) Well, they don’t have any year child labor laws.
Holly. I’m trying to remember what his jobs were. I know he had them. He was definitely the trash picker-upper.
But the five year old was totally into putting the stucco on the side of the house.
Chris. Yeah, a lot of stucco. Good stucco photos with him. It was like making mud pies, but on the side of a house.
But it seemed as we sat down and talked about it, it seemed like such an opportunity for them, obviously to participate in their own small ways. But also just to see, and to talk about and have the conversations. “Why are we doing this? And what comes of all of this?”
And what’s neat about this is it was such a small project. You know, my folks were there, and Holly and I were there. And for part of the week there was one other young man from America. And then there was one full-time staff from the church. And a handful of part-time volunteers… And the three Swedes who showed up randomly who were awesome. And we are eternally grateful to them, because they were very talented and hard workers.
But we’re just cobbling together this house over the course of two weeks. But it’s such a small project, with all the infrastructure that you know sometimes goes into more developed projects. That we met the family… The mother, her husband had passed away a couple years ago. Which is why they were in need.
And she came and helped out in the afternoons. And the kids played after school. And so our kids are playing in the field, kicking a soccer ball around with the boys who were gonna end up living in the house. No language in common, except this is you kick a ball holly. This is how you play.
Chris. And this is how you throw people to the ground in a field full of horse dung. But they just had a grand old time. And it was neat to have that connection and those conversations. And it created – and this goes back to one of the points we make in our book – is a lot of the learning just takes place in conversations. And those conversations often exist around the stories. Whether the story comes out of a great book or even a decent movie… Or just as something that happened in our own life. That when we talk about that story “remember the time we met Romania and we did this? Let’s talk about this. How did you feel about this?”
And when our youngster fell in the river today, there are lessons to be learned from that. “Do you remember how you got scared, but you stayed focused? And you were able to remember what you needed to do?”
There are lessons available to us, and we can reach those by just grabbing those stories and talking about them. And taking the time to do so pays huge dividends.
Mark. I imagine you guys homeschool your kids? Since you’re taking a year off?
Holly. We do. Yeah.
Mark. So what would you say to a parent who just like “I can’t homeschool?” I mean that was what we… We tried it for a year and my wife was just like “I just can’t do this. I’m not built for this.”
So Devin went to public school. I don’t think he learned too much there.
Sounds like I’m being down and I’m not trying to be down on him. He’s an awesome kid.
But I think the public schools in California aren’t really doing that great. But he came out with some great friends. He doesn’t regret any of it. I don’t think we do either.
But what do you think about public school, versus some of these other charter schools, versus homeschooling? And how does it affect the parenting relationship?
Chris. Well, sure. And the first thing I want to say is the book is not geared towards homeschooling. We actually try to… I think we were very intentional in not mentioning it, because we wanted to make sure our message went out to all parents whether they homeschool or not.
Mark. The reason I brought it up is because not everyone can pick up and go to Romania. The best thing about homeschooling is you set your own schedule. You do what you want to do and you turn it into a learning experience.
But at public school, you get a block of time off in the fall and a block of time off in the spring and then summer… So you have to be a little bit more cram it in, in other ways, I guess.
Holly. You have to be more efficient, right.
Well back to the idea that service doesn’t have to be a big trip to Romania, right? It can be a weekend cleanup of a creek. Or it can be you’re in a music ensemble and you sing in a retirement home. It’s more about the conversations and the frame that you put that action into. What is the conceptual idea that you want to pass on to the kids?
Holly. And then with regard to homeschool – when parents say “oh, I could never homeschool” – that does touch on a point in the book. I get that a lot as people learn that. When I say I homeschool, they say “Wow, that’s amazing. I could never do that.”
And I don’t contradict them, you know? Maybe they’re right. But we do really want to encourage parents to not be afraid to accept the role of teacher when it comes to – again -those values that they hold most dear. And the things that lead to resilience.
You are the expert on you. No one else can be that for you.
Chris. And we want to be very intentional – as parents – of making sure that we bring into our child’s experience all of the positive mentors and experiences that we’ve talked about. You know, you talked about your son doing martial arts and Crossfit. And we learned this from school and maybe if someone’s in band and someone else is here. And all of those different resources we want to make sure that we bring in.
But it’s also very, very important that we never give up our role as parents teaching the most fundamental concepts that we want our children to internalize.
Holly. And I’d like to add that the book gives tools. I understand that folks who have not had experience being teachers… To them, perhaps, this is a foreign realm. How do I successfully convey information?
And the whole third part of the book is tips of the trade – tricks of the trade. Good stuff and if you want to dig into any of that I’d be happy to go over it with you.
Mark. Yeah I mean I agree with you. The art of teaching as a parent who doesn’t feel equipped to teach. Like, where would we go with that Holly? Like, what advice could you have given to Sandy to help her overcome the resistance to homeschooling?
Because I will admit that I think homeschooling is the most natural way does to raise parents… Or raise parents…. Probably both right? Raise kids…
Chris. They feel like they’re raising us. That’s what they feel like for sure.
Mark. Exactly. Which is a win-win, right?
Holly. So we talk about striking the right balance. That you want to find things that are challenging and not overwhelming for your kids. And part of that is being really good about assessing when they’re ready for things. Which I confess, is a bit of an art form in itself. But you know your child better than anybody else. I’m going to presume. Assuming you hang out with them at least a little bit in the day. You know them well, and you’re gonna know when they’re ready for one thing or another.
But also you need to be prepared for the fact that a lesson needs to be taught more than once. We continually learn this, actually.
Chris. Well, most of the lessons I try to teach Holly, I realize that…
Holly. (laughing) That’s right. We’re not done. And it’s called – there’s a fancy term for it – it’s the spiral method. That you may one day feel like you’ve completely you’ve got it. Like “yes! They got the lesson. And they accomplish that which we were hoping to accomplish.”
And then the next day it’s absolutely gone. You’re like “okay.”
Mark. Repetition is the mother of learning.
Holly. Absolutely and it’s mindful repetition at that. You want to rep it out, and you want to do your best every time. And you need to also reflect on what it is that you did. That’s another tool, Mark.
Thank you for bringing that up. The RBR method. Reps, best and reflect.
Chris. Yeah, but we as parents need to make sure that we stay patient and responsive to the whole process. And make sure that we don’t do what we all so often tend to do – and I find myself doing this – “we talked about this yesterday, and we’re done, and why didn’t you get this right?”
And instead we need to take a deep breath and understand this is the process, and it takes some time. And that’s normal.
Mark. Yeah, you can shut a kid down pretty quickly by scolding them for their failures, right? So to make them resilient you want to show them how they can rectify it, or improve it. And to iterate it. And the next rep will be better.
Chris. Exactly. And then we can end on a positive note. Say “okay, well we didn’t get it this time. Try it again.” and then we get to end with that instead of ending with me scolding them – like you say. That’s a very good point.
Mark. So my son was born in 2000. In 2008, this little device shows up created by Steve Jobs. Fits in the palm of your hands. Anyone guess what that’s called?
Chris. (laughing) The “I” something.
Holly. We were having this great conversation with our kids about “so what revolution do you think has happened in your lifetime kids?” they’re like “something about the environment?” they are so used to this technology wave, that they don’t even know about the time before.
Mark. Be part of their kind of bias around this is the way things have always been. But it hasn’t been…
Chris. Exactly. When we look at social media and technology and whatnot we kind of come at it from the standpoint that there are obviously so many wonderful attributes. You know, we’re having this conversation right now from you know hundreds or thousands of miles away, because of technology. And that’s spectacular.
And so as we travel around the world our children can video-chat with their grandparents. And that wouldn’t have been possible not that long ago. Or at the very least prohibitively expensive. It’s a wonderful opportunity.
You also have the opportunity to reach out to find your tribe, wherever they are. Find people who connect with you and share your values or your interests, no matter how obscure they might be. All around the world.
And in those ways technology and communications, social media is just such a wonderful, wonderful thing.
I also feel very, very strongly that you know our most important relationships are those that happen face-to-face. Our most formative moments… The greatest parts of ourselves happen in the here-and-now, in a physical way. And so to the extent that we use technology to reach out to those people far away and find those people who share our interests, that’s wonderful.
But if we ever start trading in our real friends for you know “facegram” friends or whatever they are, then we really start to lose something. And that’s where we kind of want to… You know, it’s a delicate balance and we need to make sure that we… There’s no absolute answer and there’s no perfect solution for every family. But I think we want to be very aware and kind of talk to parents about this that we need to be attentive to how much time and how much energy we’re spending staring at this little screen in our hands. And how much time we’re engaging with the world around us. And building real relationships.
Because when you have one of those inevitable breakdowns in life – your Facebook friends aren’t going to swoop in and rescue you – unless that Facebook friend is also a real friend. It’s the real people in your life who are gonna support you, not somebody that thought you posted pictures of kittens…
Mark. I love that. That’s such a great point.
So what are some of your boundaries or family rules around screen time? Do all of your kids have a screen? You know, like an iPad or an iPhone? Or do you have a family unit type thing?
And how much time and…
Holly. I think we might be pretty strict on the scale.
Chris. We’re kind of on the end of the spectrum. And I do want to also say our book does not lay out any strong opinions on this subject. We deemed this outside of the scope of the book.
We obviously have are our own personal way of parenting. We talked earlier about our values. There’s kind of the integrity and the learning and service count is foundational. We think everybody needs to incorporate those. And then the Santillo family, we’ve kind of layered on top of that some of our specific feelings.
So we’re pretty minimal on the screens our kids. Our kids all have Kindles – and when I say Kindles I mean the real honest-to-goodness ebook Kindles.
Mark. The black and white one, hunh?
Chris. Exactly. We could rename our blog the five Kindle family. Cause those are pretty important.
And now we literally own no TVs. We had one TV back before we sold our house it’s still hanging on the wall. It conveyed with the house.
Holly. And it turns out there are two phones that the children use. But they call them the language learning phones. And that’s because that’s what they’re for.
Chris. Rosetta Stone and Duolingo and that kind of stuff.
Holly. And other like quiz… You know, flash… Basically, there’s a digital flash card.
Mark. Do you have parental control so they can’t search YouTube on it?
Chris. Interestingly, we actually don’t. And that was kind of an interesting decision as I looked at that they’re getting older. But we’re still kind of in this world – and I know we’re gonna grow out of… Because our kids are so young, I know that we’re gonna grow out of this world.
Where their time on the Internet is currently completely supervised. And so that’s something that we will need to re-address as they get older and get into space where they’re spending time researching things on their own.
But currently, they’ve never… I don’t think they’ve ever seen a YouTube video that I didn’t see.
Mark. Wow. I can imagine my son being like, “dad, stop staring over my shoulder.”
Chris. They’re just so used to it. They’re used to this hovering presence over their shoulder. Mark. Wow, interesting.
Holly. I think within the same room counts as supervision.
Mark. (laughing) You don’t have a spy camera up in their bedroom.
Chris. (laughing) As I said, they don’t have bedrooms.
Holly. With the oldest one, an important conversation… I don’t know how much it fits into the scope of this conversation now. But I will just share that we talked about how important it is if he comes across something that’s inappropriate. We laid out what that means and what the course of action is to take.
Come, talk to us… We need to know what to do to make sure it doesn’t infect the entire computer.
Mark. Infect your mind.
Holly. Yes. Infect your mind. Know what’s appropriate for you and what’s not. For your brothers, of course, as well.
Mark. Those are definitely very practical considerations that parents are dealing with all over the place…
Holly. Well we aren’t gonna be there at all times, right? This whole book is about independence and being able to make your own choices. And steer your own way without my help. So if we stick in the supervision mode, then we’re gonna be in trouble, right? So now we are moving into the next phase of self-assessment. We didn’t get into that very much but in the integrity pillar, the independence that goes with that is being able to honestly say to yourself “what’s going on?” and assess what course of action to take.
That’s huge for being a functional adult.
Mark. Yeah. That is huge and I can imagine that taking some time. And being a challenge to develop. But what a great goal. It’s awesome.
By the way World Health Organization literally just published these guidelines today on screen time. They said for newborn kids – 0 to 1 – zero screen time. Don’t expose it to them at all.
Makes you wonder… We had Baby Einstein. So Baby Einstein was probably a no-no even though…
Chris. Yeah, good marketing – it sounds like Einstein – it must be smart.
Mark. I know. I don’t know if… Yeah it probably made him smarter…
And then from one to five years old – one hour a day max. Which is pretty interesting so everyone’s thinking like “wow I got to tighten it up a little bit.”
Well, we’ll have to continue that discussion another day. Screens and I think it’s changing the nature of what it means to be human. Your kids are part of that, right and so you’re trying to maintain the semblance of the old order with them.
Holly. We are in your camp.
Chris. But I had a conversation with one of my students, recently – he has a three year-old son and he thinks that we are on the wrong side of history – he thinks that the next generation… His kid’s just gonna be living in a virtual reality world. And he thinks the fact that our kids are not engaging enough with technology to feel totally immersed in social media by the time they’re five is a mistake.
And I just looked at him, and just going back to the values we talked about earlier. Like we just don’t… Our values don’t overlap in that sphere. And he’s gonna raise his kid as he sees best and then we’re gonna raise our kids as we see best. And do the very best we can for them, based on our worldview.
Mark. Yeah. Thank you for doing that. I mean you’re right, there’s the post-humanists and then there’s the humanists and yeah it’s heading toward some interesting and unknown future. There might be a split, you know what I mean? Like evolution in the human race, and then there’s going to be those who are like “I’m not going there.”
Holly. That sounds like a great movie.
Chris. I’ll be in the woods with a knife. If you need me.
Mark. (laughing) I’ll come find you.
Chris. Sounds fun.
Mark. Alright. This has been fascinating. Thanks so much.
Great job with the book. Really important to get this out there. “Resilience Parenting.” it’s available on Amazon and probably Barnes & Noble, right? Of the online platforms?
Holly. We’re really excited, Mark. I do hope it’s helpful to create the direction that we are looking for in the youth that’s coming up.
Mark. Oh for sure. And I think it’s really powerful work. And I appreciate it. And I know a lot of parents out there and aspiring parents are gonna find it valuable. And if people want to follow you on the road they can meet you at the 7-eleven on the corner of Jackson…
Chris. Or alternatively they could go to fivebackpacks.family if they wanted to check out our blog. And then if you don’t mind me throwing it out there, our webpage for our book is resilienceparenting.info.
Thanks again. And good luck with your journey this year.
Holly. It’s been an honor and a pleasure truly. Thank you.
Mark. Come say hi if you end up in San Diego.
Chris. Thank you, sir. We will be in San Diego, and we will take you up on that.
Alright folks. That was fascinating. And lots of really good information from Chris and Holly Santillo there. So check out the book “Resilience Parenting.” you heard the URLs and it’s listed below in the show notes.
Once again, thank you for your time today. Thank you for being a conscious human being and developing your Unbeatable Mind. And also becoming unbeatable parents if that’s your thing. Or if you’re already a parent, we can always do better. And it starts with you.
So day by day, in every way, we’ll get better and better. But you got to do the work. So let’s show up and do the work every day.
That’s it for now. Until next time, Divine out.