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Podcast Ep. 14: Destroying Myths Around Parenting Teenagers With Vanessa Baker, Parent Coach

In this episode

This conversation is a game-changer for parents of teens (or kids who will one day be teens). Justin is joined by parent and teen relationship coach, Vanessa Baker. They dive straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talk about all the hard things parents come up against. Vanessa breaks it all down and lays out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. You won’t want to miss this!

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About our guest

Vanessa Baker is a mom of six and a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is the founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book “From Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

Show notes


Justin: Audra and I are currently the parents of two teenagers, and let me tell you, the struggle is real. I don't know very many people who love parenting through their teenage years. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who really loves parenting teenagers. I'd wager most parents dread the teenage years and see them as a dangerous river that has to be crossed. Well, my good friend Vanessa Baker loves diving headfirst into that river.

She's a mom of six. That's right, six. And a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book From “Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “That You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

This conversation was mind-blowing. We drove straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talked about all the hard things parents come up against. She broke it all down and laid out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. So without further ado, here's my conversation with Vanessa Baker.

Let's just jump in because, as I said, it’s going to be super conversational. And what I want to start off with is the fact that I did not just meet you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: No.

Justin: We've known each other since high school. My memories of you in high school are that you really had it together.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: Yeah. What's coming up for me is like you had an idea of who you were and what you stood for and you had it together in a way that not every high schooler does.

Vanessa: Wow. I could’ve used that back then. Why didn’t you say so 25 years ago? Did you go to the 10 year class reunion?

Justin: No, I went to the 20 year.

Vanessa: Ok. I think I went to that one too. At the 10 year one a bunch of guys were standing around and they were like, “Wow, we thought you were so cool with your Jeep.” I had a ‘78.

Justin: Oh, I think I remember that.

Vanessa: Yeah. They’re like “you're so badass, you just had mud all over,” because I went off-roading all the time with Catherine Schultz.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I was like, “what?” I was like the only kid in my mind who didn't have a beamer and the old Jeep, you know, and it was just so funny that I'm like, all these things come out like way too late. But thanks for saying that. I didn't have that experience of myself at all.

I mean, I was like in the throes of a few, pretty serious eating disorder. I was like my parents were dealing with all kinds of stuff. My sister was constantly in crisis. I never felt like I fit in ever. I was apathetic.

I remember in Honors English senior year. I remember walking up to the teacher. Do you remember the redheaded teacher who's a runner? Who was the… uh… she's really adorable. And she's like pregnant. She's like a track-like cross-country lady.

Justin: So, Vanessa, I smoked a lot of pot in high school, so I don't... especially like senior year. I have just bits and pieces of memories of school. I mean, I have a lot of memories of the parties. I just… like school was...

Vanessa: That’s funny. So I went up there and I was like, I'm apathetic. I remember like search synonyms. I'm apathetic. I was like reaching out, like somebody help me.

Justin: Oh, my gosh.

Vanessa: And I love that you said that, though, because that just shows something that shines a light on something so important, which is the way we view people, has almost nothing to do with the reality of what they're dealing with. Like ever, probably.

Justin: Ok, so what about, is there another, maybe, truth alongside that? That what I was seeing was something deep down.

Vanessa: Yeah. You must have been really high. But yes, you're right. Because I do like that's how I would say that's how I describe myself now, and especially in the last five years. But you, I mean…

Justin: And it was always there. It was always there.

Vanessa: I like that. I like that. Thanks.

Justin: Awesome.

Vanessa: Thanks.

Justin: Awesome. So. So tell me a little bit about what, I mean, you know, from a I don't know the five-minute elevator pitch of like what has happened since Vanessa in high school. Yeah. So I mean, you can like, Yeah. Just like boom, boom, boom.

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, boom, boom, boom, boom. Ok, so I went to college. I kicked in with my academics in college. I was like super, like I was like the first woman president of the business college counselor at ASU. I was like getting awards and like causing like amazing things to happen. And like honors, call it like the whole thing, just like showing off and making just like waves over there. And then I got like a really hard job to get, a really hard internship to get.

And I was like, business, business, supply chain management. Oh, I love supply chain management, logistics, manufacturing. It's my life. And then I got married to a guy who I said, “You know, I'm gay. Right?” And he's like, “That's hot.” And so we just got married.

Justin: Oh, oh, oh. So he knew. He knew going in.

Vanessa: We knew. Yeah. Like I remember telling my friends, my high school friends, I'm like, I can just see myself being a lesbian, living in New York City. And like I mean, I was saying it, but it was only, it wasn't like something I could do something with, I guess. I mean, what was I going to be like, Richard Simmons? Like there weren't like a lot of gay people to look at for me at that point. There wasn't social media. The 1999, 2000, it sounds recent, but it's not, and things have changed a lot with who you think you can be.

And so. So we got married, got pregnant on the honeymoon. Okay, here's the boom, boom, boom, literally. Pregnant on the honeymoon, nine months later, baby number one. Then 18 months later, baby number two. 17 months later, baby number three. 16 months later, baby number four. 14 months later, baby number five. And now…

Justin: Amazing.

Vanessa: I know, right? Just unbelievable. I'm blessed to be fertile and have these wonderful children. I'm not talking crap about my blessings, but that was a lot. And then we carried on and, you know, doo-de-doo, regular, you know, natural progressions of life and raising kids and all of that.

And then when I was 38, I came out and I tried really hard to like be a gay person in a hetero marriage. And I thought coming out would be like enough, you know? But then I was like, no. And so I asked for a divorce. So the kids were between seven and 12 or something like that, close to that when that happened. I met my wife got married, I actually met her before I got a divorce, but we were friends. And I mean, there is a deeper story there, but it was all out in the open kind of stuff.

And then I got married to her. She had a baby who's two now, and we got a donor. And so now I've got these kids and this wife. And when I got the divorce and I wasn't able to be a stay-at-home mom anymore, homeschooling my kids and just doing that whole situation, I had to do something. And so I'm like, I love teenagers, like that’s as close as I could get to like what I was passionate about.

Justin: Well, that in itself is a rare skill, to love teenagers.

Vanessa: I do.

Justin: Cause most people don't.

Vanessa: Exactly. And, you know, my business mind was like, you can say the word teenager in a room anywhere in the entire world, and people go, “Guuuuuh.”

Justin: Oh, totally.

Vanessa: And I'm like, oh, I feel this could be a good niche where everyone will agree that there's a problem.

Justin: And nobody wants to solve this problem.

Vanessa: Yeah, and the ways they do try to solve it are not scalable, don't model anything that's workable, aren't how adults want to be treated. And I mean, I remember being at my son's basketball games and like there'd be like this crowd of like stranger teenagers. And I'd be like, I want to go talk to them, like I want to know them. And Stephanie, my wife would be like, “That's weird, babe.”

Justin: Stop being weird.

Vanessa: I know. But I'd be like, I don't think I'm one of them. I don't like think I'm cool. It's just like I'm so interested. Like I'm dying to know what they think about and what they want to do and just be like, yes, yes, whatever you're like into now, whatever you are lit up about.

Don't lose that. Like we get older. Not me, not you, buddy. Not me and not you. But a lot of people get older and they just like die inside. And I'm always like I want to like just harness their flame because the teenagers have it figured out.

Justin: Yeah. We have this one life to live. Like, don't let that flame go out.

Vanessa: Right. Don't sell out. Don't sell out. Like I'm so anti-sell out.

Justin: Ok, so I just want to do a little bit of a rewind. Did you ever have a moment when you knew that you wanted to be a mom or did it just happen?

Vanessa: I actually literally out loud said, “I never want to have kids.” When I was in my 20s, but right before I met my ex-husband, and then I really like I mean, it's just like a knowing. I mean, these kids are just like their world changers. They're so cool. They're imperfect. They're not like I'm not saying it like they all have straight A's.

So they're going to change the world like these people that I raised. They are. I mean, if you got to talk to one of them for five minutes, you would just be like, what? The things they think about. So somebody somewhere knew that I needed to get knocked up, like right away. A bunch of times.

Justin: Five times.

Vanessa: Yeah. These kids are amazing. I was driving around my boy, who's 15, has his permit, so he lives at his dad's. And so me and Charlotte, she's 12 or just turned 13. We went and picked Miles up, and he was driving us around. We went to Chick-fil-a, having all kinds of fun. And then we dropped them off. And she's like, who would say this, right? Thirteen, the youngest of five. She's like, “I have,” literally this sounds like a lie, but it's what she actually said, she goes, “I have the best siblings. I love them all so much and I feel so lucky.” And I'm like, “Yep.”

Justin: Awww, those are, that's poetry to a parent. Like, oh, my god.

Vanessa: I know. I'm like oooh, oh, oh. So that's the culture, you know, like that's the culture. So, no, I didn't want to have kids. And then I converted to be Catholic. And because I'm like this like, oh, person, I'm like, “Well, let's be Catholic.”

Justin: Yeah. Right. You don't go half in like there's now just like let's do this thing, ok. You alluded to a little bit of your story about becoming a parenting coach. And so, from what I gathered, a part of it was seeing that you loved this weird time in growing up that not a lot of people love. And so you saw like, ok, I think I can help there. Can you tell?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. Well, when I taught high school, so I got my business degree. I worked in consulting, and then I went back to ASU because I was like, I swear, every day at lunch I'd be like, do any of these windows open? I'm about to dive out of this second story. Like I'm being silly about something serious. But I was very depressed. I was very, very like unfulfilled. I got the company going with like Valley Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I got them going with Junior Achievement, like kind of all these lunch and learns.

I'm like always in HR’soffice, like, can I bring everyone into this? Can I bring everyone into that? All these things that were about kids. And then when I ran out of, you know, victims, to volunteer everything I cared about, I quit and I went back, got a high school, secondary education certification and all that. And I taught business. So when I taught high school, I was teaching in an inner-city school in South Phoenix. And it was like flying, like it was just like flying like, my connection and my ability to get through to them. It just lit me up and I just knew it was a thing. Right.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: So then I had my own kids and I was like, yep, it's a thing. It's a thing like my whatever. I don't know what even to call it, but just my desire to connect to people who aren't yet adults, I guess. I guess that's all I could say.

I just have this desire to just like get in there and like check out for, check for stuff. When that person said that, did you believe it? Do you know that’s a lie? That's like what do you see yourself doing? Did you know you can do anything like all these cliche-sounding things. But I like to just get in there. So, then when I needed to work, I'm not the kind of person who can work for someone else. You might be able to get that. I can't follow rules.

Justin: You blaze your own trail.

Vanessa: I am a trailblazer. My dad died almost two years ago, and that's something that I wrote in his eulogy. And when I spoke at his funeral. Exactly. So that's cool how you said that just now. A lot.

Justin: Beautiful.

Vanessa: Yeah, I'm like a trailblazer. I also consider myself a maverick, you know, like I just, I know what to do. I know what to say. Not because I'm righteous and not because I have a plan. But like there's this like deep trust that I have in myself that I want…

Justin: Inner knowing.

Vanessa: Yes. That I want to impart on people like as soon as I can catch them, as soon as they start realizing that they're about to face a fork in the road where people want them to be something that maybe they aren't, that maybe doesn't align. Like I'm obsessed with alignment and congruence and integrity inside of ourselves, that everything has to match, everything.

Justin: So that makes perfect sense because you have developed a system for teenagers and their parents by the whole system is in alignment. So you've developed this system based on these three acronyms, MEAN, REAL, and CLEAN. Can you just give us the like 3,0000-foot overview of what these acronyms mean?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. So MEAN stands for Misunderstood, Entitled, Authoritarian, and Numb. And my stance is that parents aren't really mean, they get called mean and they feel mean. But that's not the case. So when we look into mean, we look into what are the obstacles that are in the way, we poke around a lot, very gently, very nonjudgmentally there with tons of compassion and empathy, because I know, too, what that's like. And so we clear that away. So consider that the debris, right? We’re clearing all that away.

Then I help them create a foundation, and that's the REAL part. So REAL is a new foundation, right? Like we bondo up whatever they had and then we really, like solidify this foundation, which is the REAL part. Resilient, Effective, Authentic, and Loving. And so once that is set, we are looking at like that's what we all want. We want it to be effective. We talk to our kids and we hope our kids are resilient. Right. But we need to be resilient first. We can't be taking everything personally. Are all we're going to get our kids who are taking everything personally, including what we say to them. And we're not able to influence our kids when we're not being real. Period. They smell our shit from miles away and they're not into it. So…

Justin: I want to get into that later. Yeah.

Vanessa: Yes, for sure. So that's the thing. Authenticity, realness, like all of that. That's the foundation. Without that, like we may not move on.

Then CLEAN are the tools, like this is where we start building on our foundation. So that's being Connected, being Level-headed, being Expressive, being Aware and plain old, ordinary, Nice. Just nice. You know, like what happened to being nice?

Justin: Oh, my gosh. And I imagine by the end of it, being nice is just something that naturally flows, if you’ve like, if you've cleared away all the stuff, you've built the foundation, you're now practicing the stuff, nice is just flowing. Right?

Vanessa: Right, right. Because this is something that confronts a lot of people. They come to me because they want their kid to wear deodorant more often and get their grades up or care more about their sport or something. And it's never. Those are all symptoms. And it doesn't matter at all, that all that works out, though, all the cooperation, all of the like connections stuff, the being, having kids who care about what you have to say, all of that works out once you've dealt with yourself as a parent. They don't want to do anything you say if you're a fake person.

Justin: Oh, right. In grad school language, we would call all those things epiphenomenal. And so they're like epiphenomenal in the sense that they are real and they're coming from set. But they're not the source, like the phenomenon is the source. This other stuff is the epiphenomenon. This stuff that is coming from the real source.

And so what you're doing is you're like leading parents back to the source. Yeah. The fact that your teens are doing all these things and acting in ways that you think are problematic. That's not the issue. Right. Let's trace it back to the source.

Vanessa: Exactly. And I have this wonderful ability that I don't understand. That is where I'm able to diffuse and make light of it in a very helpful way, like to make it like, I don't want to say insignificant, but there's something where we're laughing. We're laughing about how ridiculous it is that we as parents do these things. And then I'll still like, “You mean how your kid does that and that and that and that?” And I'm drawing lines like that to you, like that to you, like that. And they're like, oh, my god.

Justin: Oh, do they ever get a look like they've seen behind the Matrix? Once you've shown them like oh my god…

Vanessa: Exactly.

Justin: Actually, I'm the source.

Vanessa: I almost thought about naming the book. “Great news, parents. It's all your fault.”

Justin: Oh, my god. All right. So your book just came out and it's, the book title is “From Mean to Real Clean.” And what’s the subtitle?

Vanessa: The subtitle is “How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.“ And so I would like to just say a moment, if you let me, about fully functional relationship. Like that's a thing. I don't think people even think that that can happen in and the people… Our standards are so low. We really. I hear, I feel I hear I like I feel most things more than hear. And I'm telling you, people think that teenagerhood, is that a word? Is just something to survive.

They're thinking like just to that and they get off to college thing and then they're going to stress about all new things. But the parents. But it's like they're not thinking about like sitting on a front porch with they're 55-year-old kid and they're 80. They're not thinking about what a fully functional relationship can yield for the rest of their life.

They, people don't, their head is so down and I get it and I get it. They're just blinders on. Survival mode is the best way to say it. And I'm, I paint a beautiful picture in the book about like, what is this look like? Like what could you have, like, broaden the perspective. Speaking of thirty thousand feet. Let's look like. How do you want it to go when your child has their first baby, say. You know, like how do you want that to go? Like, let's think bigger, guys.

Justin: Yeah. So would you say that 99% of the parents that you work with, if you ask them what is the most important thing in your life? They would probably say their kids andthe relationship with their kids.

Vanessa: Yeah.

Justin: And so there that must be such a oh, my god. I'm just feeling into how emotionally painful that must be for parents who say, yes, this is the most important thing in my life. And I don't think it can be functional or healthy or tough or good.

Vanessa: Yes. And the hope, the hope is what I'm, I'm a hope dealer, you know, like that's what I'm doing. I'm like telling people they think they're the worst parent. They think they're kids, they ruin them, even though on the outset they'll say, my kid is this, my kid is that I can't stand them, blah, blah, blah.

And but deep down, they think that's their fault. And that I'm going, it's not your fault. You're not to blame, your kids, not to blame. This is what it is to be human. I want to show you some blind spots. The second that you see it, it's a switch. I mean, there are habits doing bold, but it's a switch. You're like, that's what I'm doing. My kid’s addicted. I'm an alcoholic. Do you know how many people tell me there are alcoholics within five minutes of meeting me? A lot.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: A lot.

Justin: This goes straight into what I really want to focus on. I just want to start off with MEAN. Just looking at this idea of MEAN, and it's connected with what you just said about addiction or other ways that parents are really coping and avoiding.

And so it starts with this first one, misunderstood. And when I was reading the book, I was struck like when I started, it was misunderstood. I thought it would be maybe I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be, but I didn't expect for you to go into self-care.

Vanessa: Yes.

Justin: If you're not taking care of yourself, your behaviors and your communication are going to have all these unintended effects. And you're, you know, you're going to feel misunderstood. Can you talk a little bit about parent health care?

Vanessa: Yes, it's the first thing to go. I mean, right. When you have a baby. Isn't that just like the, I haven't showered in two weeks.

Justin: I haven't slept. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Vanessa: Right. Right. It's the first thing to go and then it doesn't get better from there. It's like, it's some people are able to, I don't want to generalize all parents or anything like that. I never want to do that. But yes. And it's like it's a martyr mindset where like I can't if I take my eye off the ball, if I'm not checking their grades before they even know their grades on their quizzes, if I'm not, you know, that whole like vibe, right. That way of being where you feel like you can't stop to take care of yourself. That's a huge, huge problem of why the parents are so reactive and take things personally and are angry and yell.

I mean, have you ever had low blood sugar? I mean, that's not a recipe for anything. So it's just like we can't overlook that. We have to build, again it's like the foundation in a way. Like unless you're healthy and whole and fully functioning as a human, how are you going to model that and have kids who are that so that the relationship can function?

Justin: And I imagine well, what struck me is this idea of self-care, I think is absolutely vital. I'm so glad that it was at the beginning of the book because like we got to start there. If you're not getting enough sleep, if you're not eating right, if you're not, you know, taking care of yourself, then none of this other stuff is going to work.

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: And with our nonprofit MaxLove Project, we work with childhood cancer parents. And, of course, whatever's going on with regular parenting like ratcheted up times 10 for a cancer parent. And so we talk about the oxygen mask principle that you can't put the oxygen mask on your kid if you're passing out. But then the addiction thing, what struck me there is I think, that so many parents, because they're not taking care of themselves, reach a point where the only way they think they can manage is to numb and pass out.

Vanessa: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. So that's the M and the N, right? The misunderstood, because you're just suffering. This is the part where I did. I got to tell you, this whole framework, you know, like it, like this sounds kooky, but I don't care because it's true. I don't even feel responsible for like making it up like it came to me, like I birthed a 10-year-old kid.

Like that's how it was. Like that's when you're in the zone of alignment, for example, of spirituality, the universe, like I just have to say that I didn't like labor. Oh, god. What should it say? You know, like, it just like came. So that's something I can't take real credit for.

Justin: That's awesome.

Vanessa: Yeah. I just don't know why I wanted to say that out loud right there. But so the numb thing, what's the biggest epidemic with teenagers? Right. They're numbing out. They're they're evading. They're drinking. They're doing serious drugs. They're...

Justin: Well, I don't know how you feel about this, but I think for boys, at least for my boy who turns 14 today. Yeah.

Vanessa: Oh, cool. Happy birthday.

Justin: Video games. Video games are a way to numb out.

Vanessa: Yep. Yep. Video games for sure. Like just, you know, social media. So those are the kid versions.

And then there's the mommy and the daddy, or the mommy and the mommy, and the daddy and the daddy version. Like they're all the versions of that. You can like, if somebody could be brave enough and just brave and courageous enough to look for on purpose how the exact attitudes, behaviors, tendencies, vices that their children have, that they're concerned about are reflected in us first.

Justin: Hmm. Oh…

Vanessa: That's it. That's it. You might say…

Justin: You just yeah, so I just had this like moment of reflection, because my thing is definitely with our son, it's the video games. And so I just had this moment of reflection when you said that. You know what I love to numb out with? Twitter. I love to numb out with.

Vanessa: That's your daddy version.

Justin: And yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so, oh, my gosh. I feel seen.

Vanessa: Awesom.e And I'll give your son a birthday present right now, ok? I'm a polarizer. I'm down with it. I don't need everyone to like me, agree with me. I don't give up. You know what. If people believe me or agree with me or like what I have to say, like I do what I do, I think what I think it works. And if it doesn't work for someone, we're not a fit. Like I don't care.

One thing that I say that is so counter. I don't know if it's countercultural, but it's kind of like against the grain is. Yes, I know about video game addiction. Yes, I understand. I understand. Like, I follow things like that. I read about things like that. I get it.

However, I have seen, out of speaking about my own children. Confidence go up so much. They have their little world. They have their people on Xbox Live or Minecraft servers like my daughter, who's 14, she's been in therapy for over three years, for one day a week, for over three years now. And I was just catching up, you know, mental telehealth. I love that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: Thanks for that. Think of Covid for that, I suppose, because that really got went into gear. She and so the therapist, the doctor, she's PHd, like you. And so she was like, I can't believe the growth. And I got to say, all these months of not being in school, the place where my daughter has like cut her teeth in, like realized who she is and like who she's becoming is largely due to her being on group chats and servers and discord and all the things, all the things. And it's the place in her life where she has that sense of confidence and friendship and working through lots of drama and like cool, real drama to work through, even with people you don't see.

Justin: Oh, my gosh, you are freeing me right now from a lot of shame and guilt that I, you know, there's some like bad parenting narratives that I'm working out. But, ooh, but this leads me into the second thing that I wanted to talk about with MEAN, and that is the authoritarian section. So there's a lot to say about authoritarian.

But you were talking about the parents needing everything to look perfect to the outside world. And this hit me, like when I really investigate some of my deepest emotional issues around my kids. A lot of it has to do with like what would people think about me as a parent if they knew how much, how many, how many hours my child plays, you know, video games with his friends, like what would people think that I like, you know? And so that's actually him is like how much of our parenting hang-ups are around our concern about how the outside world, whether it's our parents, are our extended family or just the world in general, sees us and our family and the judgment that we're trying to manage.

Vanessa: Avoid.

Justin: Avoid.

Vanessa: Futile, it's futile. Do you ever feel like, oh, my god, utility cologne is what you put on in the morning? Let me put on my utility. Oh, yeah.

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: It sucks. And I've got the best, best kid of my own example of another. Like, you can't, we can't care about that. There's no recipe for what a good kid and a good parent can look like.

So I've got this kid, Ollie. I wrote about her in the book. Right. She is almost 17 this month. She'll be 17. And if you could like, I wish you'd like walk in the room right now. But she's not. So she always has different color hair. She has like piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, like all these piercings, right? Yes. I know how old she is. Like, judge me, bring it. I don't care. Right. Like, well, but wait. There's more. She smokes cigarettes.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: All the time. And she probably... I think she's like she I always ask her. She's like probably like seven a day. So not like half a pack a day, right? Yeah, it's not packs of cigarettes, but, right, look, look at your face, by the way. This is awesome.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: Like...

Justin: Well, now I am a public health PhD.

Vanessa: I know.

Justin: You have to take that into account.

Vanessa: I know, I know. And I know smoking's wrong. And we've gone around and around about this for a long time, right? A long, long time. Just so you know, like I've tried everything. I've showed her videos, I've showed her lungs, I showed her black lungs, I've told her stories. I've tested her with her. You know, we've worked on quitting.

And then she's like, “Mom, I don't want to be a nonsmoker. So all this stuff like you've got to let me work through this.” And then it and then it's like comes to me and it's like, oh, and she buys them herself. I don't buy them. She goes on the reservation. She gets a good deal like she does. She has her whole system worked out. Right. She even bought one of those preschool things with the pockets so that she knows when she's allowed to allow herself to have the next pack.

Justin: Wow. Oh, wow.

Vanessa: Right. So like. So it sucks. It's stupid. I hate it. I hate it more than anything that she smokes. I hate it. I despise it. And will I. So this is my moment of am I going to make every day, every conversation, every time I smell her stanky smoking ass walk in the room or whatever. I make her walk away down the street.

By the way, she has to walk like ten blocks down to smoke, like you're not smoking on my property. Get out of here. Right. But our relationship is so incredibly deep and solid and full of communication.

Justin: I love that.

Vanessa: She’s never not answered my call or my text. I literally never ok, like she, where she struggles in school. She has a myriad of disorders, mood learning, like all kinds of things, which, by the way, I have a lot of compassion. Maybe if I had all that stuff going on, I'd need a little whatever to calm down too.

She's medicated, she has a psychiatrist and all of that and were responsible for her mental health. But what if I could realize, which I have, that smoking and that thing could be a war that we fight till the end of time. And what would happen? Like fill in the blank. Fill in the blank. What if I focus on that aspect of one thing about her?

Justin: So, Vanessa, have I asked you about authentic relating before? Because this is the thing that I like to talk about. Ok, so. Well, I’ll, after the show, I will send you info because it's like my favorite thing in the world.

Vanessa: Ok.

Justin: But authentic relating is really just a set of ideas and practices around communicating in just a deep connected way. And so I've taken several classes on this, and I've done it quite a bit over the last eight or nine months. One of the principles in authentic relating, well, it's this idea that in any relationship, any, of course, differences are going to pop up. Like we're not the same. No, you're you're going to choose to do and think in a different way than me.

The question is, is the relationship, is the connection more important than the differences in the conflict? And it's so beautiful, because what you just showed is that even something big like smoking, you know, for a public health Phd is like, oh, my God. But even that you have said that this relationship is more important. Like I'm really touched. Yeah.

Vanessa: You get me. That's right. That's right. And everyone, I mean, gasp, the parent and teacher coach. Let's, I'm air quoting here, her kids smoke. Oh, I didn't even mention all of her tattoos, you know, I mean, like all of our stick and poke tattoos, all of the things that look wrong about her. I could go ape shit on and, oh, to back to your point, how the public views certain people like a different level, like I'm putting myself out there.

So what people think, all my kids have straight A's and all my kids are perfect and don't ever look at porn or don't ever play video games too long or what? Vegetables all day long, like none of that, like nothing has worked out in my family. All of us are full-blown human beings.

Justin: But the relationships take priority.

Vanessa: Yes. And then when you have a relationship, then I'm able to influence them. I know where their heads at. I know what they're struggling with.

Justin: But the cool thing that is coming up for me around this is that even if you're not able to influence, let's just say, I mean, let's just throw that out the window, to go back to like what we were talking about a couple of minutes ago, we would say the most important thing in our lives, our kids and our relationships with our kids, these relationships are ends in themselves. Like if through it all, we maintain a connected, deep, loving relationship. We won. Like we're doing it.

Vanessa: Yes. Right. Influence. Influence. Like I like that you said that because I've never when I say influence, you're actually what you said is more what I even mean. I think that people think, oh, you mean you get to like make them do stuff? No, no.

I get to like, my love that I give them and the love they receive, to me, is like a one to one ratio. There's no like thing in the middle that like catches the stuff. There's no wall. There's no barrier. Like the fact that I. I walked into her room the other day, by the way. Shocking. She's messy. Right. Your brain, her executive functioning is just like, what's that? You know, and so I walk in a room the other morning and I'm like, Ollie, you know what I love about you? That you have 17 half drank water bottles all over your room. You know what else I love…

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I wasn't being a bitch. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm like I love, I said, I love that you're sloppy. I love that. I and I just told her, like all the things I love, like these. Ok, and just to get a little bit heavy if I lost her. From an accident or from a disease or from a mental health, you know, like crisis…

Justin: Tragedy.

Vanessa: Tragedy or suicide or something like that, right. If I did. I would look back and say to myself, why did you focus on all these little dumb things? Because you were worried about how people would think about you, Vanessa. And I would regret that my whole life. I would never get over the fact that I had to make a big deal about all the things that are wrong with her, which would develop her into someone who thinks that something's wrong with her and that she is broken and that I can never fix her.

Justin: Mm-hmm. That's beautiful. Oh, thank you. Thank you for that. Yeah, I kind of want to dig into this a little bit as parents. One of our charges, one of our responsibilities is that we are preparing these human beings to go out into the world and to be human beings among many other human beings.

And so in the book, you said it's not like you're arguing. You just let your kids do whatever they want and you just sit back and chill. And so you are making a distinction between discipline and punishment. And so can you unpack this a little bit?

Vanessa: Yes. Thank you for the opportunity. Yes. I think that sometimes when I speak, people think that I, assume that I'm passive and that I'm some hippie, like, hey, whatever you want, you know, and it's absolutely not the case. Instead of what I call cheap power plays. Ok, well, your phone is mine now. Well, I guess you lost your privileges. I guess you lost your stuff, didn't you? I mean, because they did something that I did my version of two hours before.

Who’s punishing me? They're never going to get to this point where they are perfectly meeting all the expectations of life. They're just not going to have anyone to catch them when they get older like us. Right. You see what I mean there? So this punishment thing is manipulative. It's cheap. There are way, it's taking advantage of the role. It's like using the power differential to force an outcome. So that's why I'm against that. Did that answer that part?

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: Okay. So then the alternative, though, that's what we want. We want to replace it with something better. There are, you know, there's extrinsic rewards from things we do in life and there are intrinsic rewards. So if we're always focused on the external metrics that kids come with, like grades are just like the most obvious one. Right. And like tardies and attendance and, you know, blowups or I don't know, like if you're keeping track of all these episodes of things and problems. Right. Number and frequencies of things.

If that's what you're focused on, all the outside stuff going back to, like, what will people judge you for, you know, and what will look bad and all of the above. If you're focused on that, then the kid just knows how to jump through hoops, follow directions, play the game, be a sneakier rat. You know, like there's every kid I know knows how to override life 360.

Every kid I know knows how to get Wi-Fi when their parents turn it off. Every kid I know, kids have, I forgot what it's called. Oh, my kids told me the other day, fake phones, though, like give them your phones mine. They'll have a phone. They passed around among their friends. That's the phone that or something like this where they give, they have a backup phone, guys. They have a backup. So you can't cut off their lifeline from their support system and their friends.

Justin: Oh, my god. So what do you do?

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, I know, right. You can't beat smart people. And you don't want your kids to be less smart, do you?

Justin: Right. Right.

Vanessa: And you can't beat them. And the more you try to beat them, the smarter they get about how to beat people. And you're teaching people how to be manipulative.

Justin: It's an arms race. Yeah.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Perfectly put. Yes. Ok, so here we go. Intrinsic. Are you someone who want, these are things that I say to my kids. Are you someone, do you see your future like this where you give your word and you keep your word? Do you want to have integrity in your life? Do you want to feel lighter? Do you want them to feel strong? Do you want to feel good about yourself? Like, let's talk about what it feels like when you're reactive because you're not eating enough and you're, because you're playing too many games. Like let's talk about the actual reality inside of a person.

So then I'm walking around saying, “You said you would do this by this time there is an impact on the whole family that you didn't.” No shame, no judgment, just frickin facts, like straight up. Can you tell I’m direct? I'm direct. This doesn't work. This doesn't work for who you are. This doesn't work for our family unit. And this doesn't work for your future. So get your shit together. And I'm the first person that they all know when they want to get their shit together, I'm all in. Let's salute. Is that a word?

Justin: Yeah. Oh, right, right. Right. Let's solve this, right?

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah, yeah, I know. A solution. I don't know. Right.

Justin: We can salute to making these positive changes as well. Oh, I love that, yeah. You know, what comes up when I hear that is a sense that it ties back to this authenticity thing of like if what we're asking our kids to do is rooted in reality and authenticity. You know, then it has some weight to it and they will be… for themselves. But if what we're asking them to do is actually bullshit…

Vanessa: Bullshit! They’re like it’s bullshit!

Justin: Oh. Like. Right. I mean, this is the thing right now with what Max is doing in math right now. He's like, “This is, there's like never going to use this.” And I was like, “Max, you're right. You're right. You're never going to use that.”

So then let's think, why do we want to try to at least pass this class? Because if you know, if we don't pass this class, then there's going to be trouble. So this is a hoop. Let's just acknowledge that it's a hoop... I know. You know, and like let's just let's acknowledge that it's a game and we need to pass this level of this game to get to the next one. And, you know…

Vanessa: Yes, I'm freaking out over here because everybody knows that you don't have to graduate from high school to be a baller and a world leader. Everybody knows that.

Justin: All right, so I don't know if you remembered me a lot in high school, because I don't think you smoked pot or smoked a lot, but like in my senior year, I mean, it was just like every day. I mean, literally every day. And I mean, I barely graduated, just barely like by the skin of my teeth. And then I didn't go to college, I... Ok, so just as a really quick aside.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: The only way I knew that the SAT’s were even happening is, I called up a friend. I won't mention. No, no, I will, because he couldn't go out and he took the… and so I called up Josh Ramiz.

Vanessa: I knew you were going to say that. He was a good guy.

Justin: Yes. And I was like, dude, let's go out. You know, we're going to party tonight. And he's like, I can't the SATs are tomorrow. I'm like, wait, I had no idea. All right. Well, have fun. And so I didn't go to college. I didn't do the first year, but then I eventually got my act together.

And then I, and I now have two PhDs. So it's like, yeah. So my feeling about their school is like if you want to do it, I mean, like pass. Like you cannot drop out of school, but like and then, you know, let's find the joy where there is joy. And so you're really interested in history and you're really interested in the essays, like let's find the joy where there is and then where there's not.

Let's just treat it like a hoop that we got to jump through.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Be real, be real, be real, be real. Be real. Like I can't say it enough times. It's like acknowledge the truth. They are so smart. They're so like they get it. They get it.

And we're over here being like, well, if you don't bubba, then you won’t the dadda and then you won’t bubba and they're like, I don't want to fuckin dadda. Like they don't want what all the hoops add up to. And then we're just like these like animal trainers or something, you know, it's so then the Christmas card, you can be like: and then they went to la la la.

Justin: The Christmas card. Oh, my God. Vanessa, can you just talk real quick about the Christmas card? How do you feel about Christmas cards?

Vanessa: I don't know, man. Like the letters and the things. I like the funny ones. I like the real ones. But the ones where “Tommy la la la.”

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: Or Lucy la la la. I'm just like…

Justin: Thank you. Thank you. Speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, my kids will say, well, that's funny, because actually, you know, I happen to know that the picture that they're painting is completely opposite of, the parents are like in a fantasyland. It's just like, so refreshing when people are real. And I wanted to say something about like school and so easy to take that as a place to get hyper-focus, because, again, the metrics is measurable.

We love things that are measurable, went up and went down. It went up. It's like, wait, all the things I think we're all obsessed about have to do with things where you can like track them really well.

Justin: These easily tracked metrics I think are attractive to most of us, because deep down, we feel like if we can only be good enough we’ll be worthy of love and respect, we can all leave. And so these metrics become like, am I worthy of love and respect today?

Oh, if I could just, yes, maybe. And the truth is and this is what I am learning, and it's like a deep truth that is true for every single person in the world. There is nothing you can do to be more worthy of love and respect than you already are right now.

Vanessa: Right. Right. I want to just say this one thing. I was speaking with a kid on Wednesday, and his name is Nick. He just came out to his parents. I helped him for months to work into this email for months, coming out as trans. And he is amazing. I get it. Here's something that he said to me the other day. And I'm like, bro, oh, my god. And I'm like I'm writing a book on what you just said. A book, dude. Like, I’ll credit you. He said this. “It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's their responsibility to be proud of me.”

Justin: Mm-hmm.

Vanessa: Really feel that.

Justin: Wisdom. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: He doesn't have to jump through hoops to. And I'm putting those words like worth and love into like what make worth in pride. Like I'm proud of you because you're worth more. I'm so proud of you because your stock went up.

Justin: And when your stock goes up, my stock goes up…

Vanessa: Right!

Justin: Because fundamentally the parents are feeling unworthy. If my kid can just get into the right college, I'll be worth more. I will be worthy of love and respect finally.

Vanessa: Yes, exactly. Dude. Exactly. So that and I'm like, that's like the most. That's the most amazing way to say that, because what my work is about, which she doesn't even fully know, I don't even know if he knew I wrote a book, this kid. But like what he doesn't know is that I'm trying to get parents to see that what makes them freak out about all these kid things is actually something inside of them that's unhealed, that's undealt with, that's not whole. That's not... It comes down to self-love.

Justin: Wisdom.

Vanessa: That's it. That's it.

Justin: Yes. So parents listening to this, they have teenagers like, oh, my god, like I'm seeing myself and hearing myself and a lot of what you guys are saying and I don't even know where to start. So, Vanessa, what like today would be a baby step?

Vanessa: Today, what they can do is, I actually this is more in the course and it's step one. So the course has the same name as the book. Right. But it's in five steps. So it's like theoretical and philosophical, like in the book. Right. But it's real. It hits you. Right.

But now what do I do? Oh, I got what you do over here. Come over here. This course is like me, my face. And we're talking about all the stuff in the book, but not repeating it. It's all like fresh. I didn't read the book for the course at all. There's a whole coaching guide that goes with that, where it's like a lot of deep work, like this is not for babies, but it's for people who actually are sick of how it is. And they want something beautiful instead.

So. The first step I say “write a real clean letter to your teen,” and I have a link if you go in my bio anywhere, there's on Instagram specifically. Then there's a link on linktree and it says, “Real Clean Letter to Your Teen.” And it's an entire PDF and it breaks it all down to something. I guess you can't call it a baby step, but it's not a baby step. Like it's easy and little and quick, but it's the first step. Can we call it that?

Justin: Sure.

Vanessa: It's called the first real step. Yeah. And it's going to make a giant impact, and that is to write a letter and apologize and own up and take responsibility and be accountable for all the shit that you've been pulling, all the things that, the messages that you've been saying. It's not coming from this shaming place. It's coming from like this powerful place of ownership, of upsetting things to your children, like it when you fail. And in school or when the neighbors saw you vaping, I can't handle it because I think that it means that I'm a failure. And you're just a kid doing the best you can.

But the things that you do, I make them mean that I'm bad. And then I get mad at you for making me feel like I'm a bad person or a bad parent or something like that. Or remember that time I told you this or that. I'm sorry. I said that, you know, like talking about each and every instance you can think of where you put your child down and made them feel like a bad, broken person who needs fixing. All the control. We haven't even talked about the C-word, Justin.

Justin: Oh, my god. Oh.

Vanessa: Anyway, this is money.

Justin: That's ok. So that's the wonderful thing. Parents listening to this podcast, there is going to be a lot of stuff that maybe we just barely touched on. It's going to be in the book and then it's definitely going to be in the courses.

Vanessa: Yeah, the book stands alone. By all means. It's, you know, 12 bucks. Best thing you ever did. But the course is like, let's freaking do this.

Justin: Let's dig deep. I know parents, you know, they come out of your course and they've got a whole new foundation and they've got a whole new set of tools and they're rebuilding their relationship with their teens. But I'm sure, you know, life happens and, you know, growth is not just some linear trajectory. So what are the common pitfalls that parents deal with after they've built this foundation and are using these tools? What are some of the things that they still have to watch out for?

Vanessa: You know, the tendency to stop being real. I mean, really, I mean, the tendency to want to make excuses, to blame, to operate in a shame, shamy Blamey world context, where it has to be someone's fault. And then the other thing I would say is, so that it really requires like going deep, like I'm not a therapist, I'm not a doctor. I'm not like a million things.

What I am is like triage in many ways. It's like, ok, so maybe you want to get into a rehab program, mom. Maybe you want to go deal with your dad issues, dad. Let's, I think like one of the things is to think that you're never done. You know, like to think that, like you said.

Justin: Right, like I read the book, I took the course. Now I've done. Yes, I'm perfect. I am done. Yeah.

Vamessa: Yeah. It's not a Band-Aid. I'm not a Band-Aid. I want that to be like the sub-subtitle. This isn't a Band-Aid. Like this is like you using the fact that you, whether you wanted to or not, are now a parent. How are you going to let this I swear the ultimate challenge, right. Is parenting and everything that comes with it.

Times however many kids you have and whatever comes upon your life because of the kids and the marriage, like or if there's a marriage like all that stuff like this could be your this is your shot to go deep and sort out all the stuff that if you didn't have this little walking around reflection of you, you may never even realize that was hurting inside of you.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Oh, I love that. I love that. So that brings me to the final question before we get to the regular three questions that we always ask our guests. So the final question is, Vanessa, what is at the, what is the most challenging, I like to say what is at the edge for you in your own personal growth journey and your own parent journey? We just talked about how this is not a one-and-done thing.

So even though you have, you know, you know how to practice all these tools, you're still learning things about yourself, you're still growing up, what is at your edge, what is the kind of new and challenging in your own life?

Vanessa: Oh, so much. I'm ripping myself to shreds in a loving way, like uncovering, turning over every rock of me and who I am every day, every week, like professionally speaking. I work with someone who helps me with my energy. And when I'm confronted with this particularly hard like case or a family I client, I go to her and I'm like, what about me is in my way from serving these people in the way that they deserve to be served, like what are my triggers here?

And we'll talk about that. And I do breathwork. I do energy work because my things, I'm a recovering control freak. If I didn't take Lexapro, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be an alcoholic because I deal with incredible anxiety and depression and swings with all of that. But with, you know, treating it, I'm ok. I'm almost always eating with, or eating dealing with my eating disorder.

Still, I have a therapist, so I have my energy person, Reiki type stuff, everything, dude, like everything. I think it's because of my, you know, what people might call issues and imperfections and how hard I am on myself, how sometimes I think what I'm doing as a charity and I just want to help everyone. And I'm, this is a business. You know, those kinds of things, the tendency to like cross over my own boundaries. I'm working on that. My needlessness because of my own childhood. I bought myself a Jeep a couple weeks back, and it's an old 1965 Willys and it's so cool. And like that is for real the first time in my life I've done something for me that felt completely indulgent, you know. And I'm 44 almost. I don't do that.

So self-care will be something that I have to tackle. Just even eating enough food like every single day, like I'm a walking, talking wreck. But I know that. And that's what makes me awesome.

Justin: It sounds like radical self-honesty.  

Vanessa: Yes. Ooh, radical. Yes. Right. Awareness. Honesty. And then just like staying in, just staying in it and not ever thinking that I, but it's not like sad. I don't know. Does it sound sad? It's not sad?

Justin: No, no.

Vanessa: Sorry. I'm not saying I thought you thought it was sad. I don't. But what does it sound like when I said that?

Justin: The word that kept coming, or the words were radical self-honesty like that is when I asked, what is at your edge, your edge, what it sounded like to me was this constantly pushing this radical self-examination, saying like, what is my shit? Like what, what do I have that maybe I don't need to have or that I perhaps should start to have, like, you know, and can I just get real with myself?

Vanessa: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: Which is in working on myself over the past couple of years, but then building programs for parents. I feel like it's the hardest thing. It is the hardest thing to just sit back and wait. Can I just get real with yourself and like really own some of the really challenging emotions that I'm feeling, some of the, you know, some of the coping behaviors and avoiding behaviors that I've developed over the years, because I don't want to deal with this, because I don't want to be radically honest.

Vanessa: Right. And I find that like I'm unable, because I don't just work with parents and kids. I work with with CEOs and creators and artists like I work with, like the most amazing people from all over the place. And I'm not able to challenge these people who don't even have kids who are just like really like it's them against them kind of stuff. Unless I'm me, against me, I don't have parenting figured it out. I don't have myself figured out. I don't have life figured out.

But since I'm always pushing myself to the edge with so much love and like was the possibility of this because freedom is my thing, you know, like I want freedom and I experienced more freedom and more happiness when I uncover something and then bring just like just tons of compassion to it. Like that, it's like perpetually healing.

It's like, almost like an opportunity to find something that's hurt that I cope with or that makes me feel the way I don't like to feel or something, and then to to look at that, to love that, that's how I'm… Oh, wow. I'm just not really getting this like that's how I love myself. I tend to myself regularly, actively. I have a coach who pushes. I have two coaches.

They push me so hard and call me out so much. I couldn't be doing this amazing work and getting off the phone like another miracle, another miracle, another miracle. Like I walked out of this door before there's my living room and I'm like, oh, my God, like with every client. That's how I feel. And I couldn't be that bold if I weren't doing it for me, which is exactly what I'm talking about with parents and kids. You see it’s all the same?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it. So I feel like we've just scratched the surface. So I'm just going to put you on the spot that I would love to have you back and…

Vanessa: Yes! Oh, my god, I would do this every morning at nine o'clock.

Justin: Yeah. No, this conversation has been so much fun and there's so much oh, there's just so much here. It's so nourishing to talk about this. So we're going to go into the final regular questions, these are the three questions that we ask every podcast guest. Ok, so the first one is, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Vanessa: Get over yourself.

Justin: Ohhh, get over yourself. Oh, my gosh. Can you unpack that?

Vanessa: Yeah. Just like check your ego at the door... Does everyone else is like get over that you suck, too. We all suck. Who cares? It's not a big deal. Like, get over yourself. Ego.

Justin: For me, it would. Yeah, it would definitely be. Get over the parts of yourself that are the trying to prove your worthiness for love and respect because you are already worth it. Get over it, man. You are whole the way you are. Get over it.

Vanessa: Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: OK, so last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Vanessa: The one. The one from Nick. It all, it rocked me. It rocked me. It absolutely blew my mind. It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's my parent's responsibility to be proud of me. And I'd like to add period. Like no matter what. Unconditional love is what we're talking about.

Justin: I think that quote is, right now for me, is easier if I put love in there. Yeah. Because I guess from my own childhood, when I think of pride, I do think of like achievement in some way. And so this love is like, yeah, I don't and I can't earn my parent's love. That is something that has to be given freely or it's not love. It's some…

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: It’s something else.

Vanessa: That’s right. Right. And it's like the pride thing is like I'm proud of you, though, for a kid, this is what I understand. Like I talked to, I have a podcast. You and I talk to kids who are 18 to 22sh someone who was 14, his mom was dying for me to talk to me like you might as well been 30 anyway.

So. But these kids are like, I've never heard that my parents are proud of me. They equate that with being acceptable and being lovable. So like it's kind of like a buzz word. And I'm ok with you. I'm not proud of you. Like, are you proud of yourself? Like it's used like a weapon.

Justin: So what they hear is love. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Vanessa: And hey, listen, Justin, that's what you heard, too. So you just helped me prove that point, right? Like you heard love. Right. Like...

Justin: That’s awesome.

Vanessa: … I’m proud of your sibling whose such a show off and does all these things because…

Justin: I love your sibling.

Vanessa: They’re the favorite, because they measure up. They know how to jump through hoops.

Justin: Beautiful. Ok, so the last question I like to ask, because as you know, for parents, you know, when they're just in their in the throes of just of just the craziness of life and parenting, and, you know, the schedules are so busy and kids like, oh, my God, kids. But here at The Family Thrive we want to take a moment to celebrate kids. And so can you. And oh, my gosh. With six kids, you are like the expert on this. What is your favorite thing about kids?

Vanessa: Oh, my gosh. Just like their humor, like what they think is funny. Like their brains, their ideas, their minds. If you sit with a kid and like get in there, like just really get in there, you'll be so encouraged about like what humanity is. They're so in touch with like their thoughts and their ideas. It's like the judgment isn't there. If you're lucky, you know, like if. I mean, that's part of the thing, right, that we're trying to I'm like completely anti judgment when it comes to parenting.

Like it doesn't work to judge your kids, to criticize them, to come from that place if something's wrong with you. So anyway, to answer your question better, it's like the way that they think is a miracle. My mind is blown every single day that I talk to any kid of any age. I talk to kids as young as 11 and, you know, in any age above adults. But teenagers like we need to be in awe of them. We need to be in awe of them. They need to know we're in awe of them.

Justin: Wow. That's beautiful. And this is coming from a mom of six kids. Like it's like, you know of what you speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, I know. My, one of my. Oh, this is funny. I just want to add this funny little thing. One thing, if you don't, if you knew, you know the gaming thing, this is. the best trick ever. If you're not, if you don't understand what the hell they're talking about and you don't really care. Like, I can't even lay one little brick thing down in my life.

I have not bought a gaming gene. Like I can barely miss Pacman a little bit. That's it. And so it's ok. So what I do is I Google something about like a new update to a game. And I like I would get on like a board of people talking, you know, and then I'll copy and paste like my, I pretend like it's my opinion. I won't get update and I’ll be like “what about the new Call of Duty?” dududaa.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And then I say, well, this is like this, you know. Like how like the …

Justin: Oh my God, that’s brilliant.

Vanessa: And then they know that I'm they know that I don't know what I'm saying. And they know that I found that somewhere.

Justin: But they know that you cared.

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And then they know that like, I value what they value.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful. Vanessa, thank you so much. This is such a beautiful conversation is so, so rich. But before we go, how can people contact you? What are the ways that they can get involved?

Vanessa: I am the most active, actually, on my personal Facebook page. So, Vanessa Baker. I just feel more authentic there than a business page. And then what I shared over there too, my website has all kinds of stuff. It's vbakermindset.com.

Justin: Vbakermindset.com.

Vanessa: Right.

Justin: Oh and, we are going to have show notes as well. So we're going to put all of this stuff in.

Vanessa: Yeah. And then my book's on Amazon, if you don't like Amazon, which I understand, you can go to Barnes and Noble or Balboa Press, which is my publisher, and the course will launch on March 1st. People can email me from my website and I'm just an open door. Like, just bring it we'll work it out.

Justin: One more time. The book is called From Mean to Real Clean.

Vanessa: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.

Justin: Vanessa, thank you so much.

Vanessa: It was fun. Thanks, Justin. Thanks for having me. This is wonderful. You're amazing. And I appreciate what you're doing and I appreciate it. Like it's needed and I love that it's you who is doing it. Like because it's you, you're going to touch more life like people are going to and are responding to who you are in the work that you're doing in yourself. And then out in the world, like everything you're doing is like, perfect. I'm so proud of you.

Justin: That gives me some warm, fuzzy feelings, really. Thank you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: You're welcome.

Justin: All right.


Podcast Ep. 14: Destroying Myths Around Parenting Teenagers With Vanessa Baker, Parent Coach

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Podcast Ep. 14: Destroying Myths Around Parenting Teenagers With Vanessa Baker, Parent Coach

Parenting is hard...and parenting teens can be even harder. But parent coach Vanessa Baker is here to demystify parenting teenagers and give us some tools that will help parents not only survive but thrive the teen years!

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In this episode

This conversation is a game-changer for parents of teens (or kids who will one day be teens). Justin is joined by parent and teen relationship coach, Vanessa Baker. They dive straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talk about all the hard things parents come up against. Vanessa breaks it all down and lays out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. You won’t want to miss this!

Listen here


About our guest

Vanessa Baker is a mom of six and a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is the founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book “From Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

Show notes


In this episode

This conversation is a game-changer for parents of teens (or kids who will one day be teens). Justin is joined by parent and teen relationship coach, Vanessa Baker. They dive straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talk about all the hard things parents come up against. Vanessa breaks it all down and lays out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. You won’t want to miss this!

Listen here


About our guest

Vanessa Baker is a mom of six and a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is the founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book “From Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

Show notes


In this episode

This conversation is a game-changer for parents of teens (or kids who will one day be teens). Justin is joined by parent and teen relationship coach, Vanessa Baker. They dive straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talk about all the hard things parents come up against. Vanessa breaks it all down and lays out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. You won’t want to miss this!

Listen here


About our guest

Vanessa Baker is a mom of six and a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is the founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book “From Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

Show notes


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Justin: Audra and I are currently the parents of two teenagers, and let me tell you, the struggle is real. I don't know very many people who love parenting through their teenage years. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who really loves parenting teenagers. I'd wager most parents dread the teenage years and see them as a dangerous river that has to be crossed. Well, my good friend Vanessa Baker loves diving headfirst into that river.

She's a mom of six. That's right, six. And a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book From “Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “That You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

This conversation was mind-blowing. We drove straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talked about all the hard things parents come up against. She broke it all down and laid out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. So without further ado, here's my conversation with Vanessa Baker.

Let's just jump in because, as I said, it’s going to be super conversational. And what I want to start off with is the fact that I did not just meet you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: No.

Justin: We've known each other since high school. My memories of you in high school are that you really had it together.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: Yeah. What's coming up for me is like you had an idea of who you were and what you stood for and you had it together in a way that not every high schooler does.

Vanessa: Wow. I could’ve used that back then. Why didn’t you say so 25 years ago? Did you go to the 10 year class reunion?

Justin: No, I went to the 20 year.

Vanessa: Ok. I think I went to that one too. At the 10 year one a bunch of guys were standing around and they were like, “Wow, we thought you were so cool with your Jeep.” I had a ‘78.

Justin: Oh, I think I remember that.

Vanessa: Yeah. They’re like “you're so badass, you just had mud all over,” because I went off-roading all the time with Catherine Schultz.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I was like, “what?” I was like the only kid in my mind who didn't have a beamer and the old Jeep, you know, and it was just so funny that I'm like, all these things come out like way too late. But thanks for saying that. I didn't have that experience of myself at all.

I mean, I was like in the throes of a few, pretty serious eating disorder. I was like my parents were dealing with all kinds of stuff. My sister was constantly in crisis. I never felt like I fit in ever. I was apathetic.

I remember in Honors English senior year. I remember walking up to the teacher. Do you remember the redheaded teacher who's a runner? Who was the… uh… she's really adorable. And she's like pregnant. She's like a track-like cross-country lady.

Justin: So, Vanessa, I smoked a lot of pot in high school, so I don't... especially like senior year. I have just bits and pieces of memories of school. I mean, I have a lot of memories of the parties. I just… like school was...

Vanessa: That’s funny. So I went up there and I was like, I'm apathetic. I remember like search synonyms. I'm apathetic. I was like reaching out, like somebody help me.

Justin: Oh, my gosh.

Vanessa: And I love that you said that, though, because that just shows something that shines a light on something so important, which is the way we view people, has almost nothing to do with the reality of what they're dealing with. Like ever, probably.

Justin: Ok, so what about, is there another, maybe, truth alongside that? That what I was seeing was something deep down.

Vanessa: Yeah. You must have been really high. But yes, you're right. Because I do like that's how I would say that's how I describe myself now, and especially in the last five years. But you, I mean…

Justin: And it was always there. It was always there.

Vanessa: I like that. I like that. Thanks.

Justin: Awesome.

Vanessa: Thanks.

Justin: Awesome. So. So tell me a little bit about what, I mean, you know, from a I don't know the five-minute elevator pitch of like what has happened since Vanessa in high school. Yeah. So I mean, you can like, Yeah. Just like boom, boom, boom.

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, boom, boom, boom, boom. Ok, so I went to college. I kicked in with my academics in college. I was like super, like I was like the first woman president of the business college counselor at ASU. I was like getting awards and like causing like amazing things to happen. And like honors, call it like the whole thing, just like showing off and making just like waves over there. And then I got like a really hard job to get, a really hard internship to get.

And I was like, business, business, supply chain management. Oh, I love supply chain management, logistics, manufacturing. It's my life. And then I got married to a guy who I said, “You know, I'm gay. Right?” And he's like, “That's hot.” And so we just got married.

Justin: Oh, oh, oh. So he knew. He knew going in.

Vanessa: We knew. Yeah. Like I remember telling my friends, my high school friends, I'm like, I can just see myself being a lesbian, living in New York City. And like I mean, I was saying it, but it was only, it wasn't like something I could do something with, I guess. I mean, what was I going to be like, Richard Simmons? Like there weren't like a lot of gay people to look at for me at that point. There wasn't social media. The 1999, 2000, it sounds recent, but it's not, and things have changed a lot with who you think you can be.

And so. So we got married, got pregnant on the honeymoon. Okay, here's the boom, boom, boom, literally. Pregnant on the honeymoon, nine months later, baby number one. Then 18 months later, baby number two. 17 months later, baby number three. 16 months later, baby number four. 14 months later, baby number five. And now…

Justin: Amazing.

Vanessa: I know, right? Just unbelievable. I'm blessed to be fertile and have these wonderful children. I'm not talking crap about my blessings, but that was a lot. And then we carried on and, you know, doo-de-doo, regular, you know, natural progressions of life and raising kids and all of that.

And then when I was 38, I came out and I tried really hard to like be a gay person in a hetero marriage. And I thought coming out would be like enough, you know? But then I was like, no. And so I asked for a divorce. So the kids were between seven and 12 or something like that, close to that when that happened. I met my wife got married, I actually met her before I got a divorce, but we were friends. And I mean, there is a deeper story there, but it was all out in the open kind of stuff.

And then I got married to her. She had a baby who's two now, and we got a donor. And so now I've got these kids and this wife. And when I got the divorce and I wasn't able to be a stay-at-home mom anymore, homeschooling my kids and just doing that whole situation, I had to do something. And so I'm like, I love teenagers, like that’s as close as I could get to like what I was passionate about.

Justin: Well, that in itself is a rare skill, to love teenagers.

Vanessa: I do.

Justin: Cause most people don't.

Vanessa: Exactly. And, you know, my business mind was like, you can say the word teenager in a room anywhere in the entire world, and people go, “Guuuuuh.”

Justin: Oh, totally.

Vanessa: And I'm like, oh, I feel this could be a good niche where everyone will agree that there's a problem.

Justin: And nobody wants to solve this problem.

Vanessa: Yeah, and the ways they do try to solve it are not scalable, don't model anything that's workable, aren't how adults want to be treated. And I mean, I remember being at my son's basketball games and like there'd be like this crowd of like stranger teenagers. And I'd be like, I want to go talk to them, like I want to know them. And Stephanie, my wife would be like, “That's weird, babe.”

Justin: Stop being weird.

Vanessa: I know. But I'd be like, I don't think I'm one of them. I don't like think I'm cool. It's just like I'm so interested. Like I'm dying to know what they think about and what they want to do and just be like, yes, yes, whatever you're like into now, whatever you are lit up about.

Don't lose that. Like we get older. Not me, not you, buddy. Not me and not you. But a lot of people get older and they just like die inside. And I'm always like I want to like just harness their flame because the teenagers have it figured out.

Justin: Yeah. We have this one life to live. Like, don't let that flame go out.

Vanessa: Right. Don't sell out. Don't sell out. Like I'm so anti-sell out.

Justin: Ok, so I just want to do a little bit of a rewind. Did you ever have a moment when you knew that you wanted to be a mom or did it just happen?

Vanessa: I actually literally out loud said, “I never want to have kids.” When I was in my 20s, but right before I met my ex-husband, and then I really like I mean, it's just like a knowing. I mean, these kids are just like their world changers. They're so cool. They're imperfect. They're not like I'm not saying it like they all have straight A's.

So they're going to change the world like these people that I raised. They are. I mean, if you got to talk to one of them for five minutes, you would just be like, what? The things they think about. So somebody somewhere knew that I needed to get knocked up, like right away. A bunch of times.

Justin: Five times.

Vanessa: Yeah. These kids are amazing. I was driving around my boy, who's 15, has his permit, so he lives at his dad's. And so me and Charlotte, she's 12 or just turned 13. We went and picked Miles up, and he was driving us around. We went to Chick-fil-a, having all kinds of fun. And then we dropped them off. And she's like, who would say this, right? Thirteen, the youngest of five. She's like, “I have,” literally this sounds like a lie, but it's what she actually said, she goes, “I have the best siblings. I love them all so much and I feel so lucky.” And I'm like, “Yep.”

Justin: Awww, those are, that's poetry to a parent. Like, oh, my god.

Vanessa: I know. I'm like oooh, oh, oh. So that's the culture, you know, like that's the culture. So, no, I didn't want to have kids. And then I converted to be Catholic. And because I'm like this like, oh, person, I'm like, “Well, let's be Catholic.”

Justin: Yeah. Right. You don't go half in like there's now just like let's do this thing, ok. You alluded to a little bit of your story about becoming a parenting coach. And so, from what I gathered, a part of it was seeing that you loved this weird time in growing up that not a lot of people love. And so you saw like, ok, I think I can help there. Can you tell?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. Well, when I taught high school, so I got my business degree. I worked in consulting, and then I went back to ASU because I was like, I swear, every day at lunch I'd be like, do any of these windows open? I'm about to dive out of this second story. Like I'm being silly about something serious. But I was very depressed. I was very, very like unfulfilled. I got the company going with like Valley Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I got them going with Junior Achievement, like kind of all these lunch and learns.

I'm like always in HR’soffice, like, can I bring everyone into this? Can I bring everyone into that? All these things that were about kids. And then when I ran out of, you know, victims, to volunteer everything I cared about, I quit and I went back, got a high school, secondary education certification and all that. And I taught business. So when I taught high school, I was teaching in an inner-city school in South Phoenix. And it was like flying, like it was just like flying like, my connection and my ability to get through to them. It just lit me up and I just knew it was a thing. Right.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: So then I had my own kids and I was like, yep, it's a thing. It's a thing like my whatever. I don't know what even to call it, but just my desire to connect to people who aren't yet adults, I guess. I guess that's all I could say.

I just have this desire to just like get in there and like check out for, check for stuff. When that person said that, did you believe it? Do you know that’s a lie? That's like what do you see yourself doing? Did you know you can do anything like all these cliche-sounding things. But I like to just get in there. So, then when I needed to work, I'm not the kind of person who can work for someone else. You might be able to get that. I can't follow rules.

Justin: You blaze your own trail.

Vanessa: I am a trailblazer. My dad died almost two years ago, and that's something that I wrote in his eulogy. And when I spoke at his funeral. Exactly. So that's cool how you said that just now. A lot.

Justin: Beautiful.

Vanessa: Yeah, I'm like a trailblazer. I also consider myself a maverick, you know, like I just, I know what to do. I know what to say. Not because I'm righteous and not because I have a plan. But like there's this like deep trust that I have in myself that I want…

Justin: Inner knowing.

Vanessa: Yes. That I want to impart on people like as soon as I can catch them, as soon as they start realizing that they're about to face a fork in the road where people want them to be something that maybe they aren't, that maybe doesn't align. Like I'm obsessed with alignment and congruence and integrity inside of ourselves, that everything has to match, everything.

Justin: So that makes perfect sense because you have developed a system for teenagers and their parents by the whole system is in alignment. So you've developed this system based on these three acronyms, MEAN, REAL, and CLEAN. Can you just give us the like 3,0000-foot overview of what these acronyms mean?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. So MEAN stands for Misunderstood, Entitled, Authoritarian, and Numb. And my stance is that parents aren't really mean, they get called mean and they feel mean. But that's not the case. So when we look into mean, we look into what are the obstacles that are in the way, we poke around a lot, very gently, very nonjudgmentally there with tons of compassion and empathy, because I know, too, what that's like. And so we clear that away. So consider that the debris, right? We’re clearing all that away.

Then I help them create a foundation, and that's the REAL part. So REAL is a new foundation, right? Like we bondo up whatever they had and then we really, like solidify this foundation, which is the REAL part. Resilient, Effective, Authentic, and Loving. And so once that is set, we are looking at like that's what we all want. We want it to be effective. We talk to our kids and we hope our kids are resilient. Right. But we need to be resilient first. We can't be taking everything personally. Are all we're going to get our kids who are taking everything personally, including what we say to them. And we're not able to influence our kids when we're not being real. Period. They smell our shit from miles away and they're not into it. So…

Justin: I want to get into that later. Yeah.

Vanessa: Yes, for sure. So that's the thing. Authenticity, realness, like all of that. That's the foundation. Without that, like we may not move on.

Then CLEAN are the tools, like this is where we start building on our foundation. So that's being Connected, being Level-headed, being Expressive, being Aware and plain old, ordinary, Nice. Just nice. You know, like what happened to being nice?

Justin: Oh, my gosh. And I imagine by the end of it, being nice is just something that naturally flows, if you’ve like, if you've cleared away all the stuff, you've built the foundation, you're now practicing the stuff, nice is just flowing. Right?

Vanessa: Right, right. Because this is something that confronts a lot of people. They come to me because they want their kid to wear deodorant more often and get their grades up or care more about their sport or something. And it's never. Those are all symptoms. And it doesn't matter at all, that all that works out, though, all the cooperation, all of the like connections stuff, the being, having kids who care about what you have to say, all of that works out once you've dealt with yourself as a parent. They don't want to do anything you say if you're a fake person.

Justin: Oh, right. In grad school language, we would call all those things epiphenomenal. And so they're like epiphenomenal in the sense that they are real and they're coming from set. But they're not the source, like the phenomenon is the source. This other stuff is the epiphenomenon. This stuff that is coming from the real source.

And so what you're doing is you're like leading parents back to the source. Yeah. The fact that your teens are doing all these things and acting in ways that you think are problematic. That's not the issue. Right. Let's trace it back to the source.

Vanessa: Exactly. And I have this wonderful ability that I don't understand. That is where I'm able to diffuse and make light of it in a very helpful way, like to make it like, I don't want to say insignificant, but there's something where we're laughing. We're laughing about how ridiculous it is that we as parents do these things. And then I'll still like, “You mean how your kid does that and that and that and that?” And I'm drawing lines like that to you, like that to you, like that. And they're like, oh, my god.

Justin: Oh, do they ever get a look like they've seen behind the Matrix? Once you've shown them like oh my god…

Vanessa: Exactly.

Justin: Actually, I'm the source.

Vanessa: I almost thought about naming the book. “Great news, parents. It's all your fault.”

Justin: Oh, my god. All right. So your book just came out and it's, the book title is “From Mean to Real Clean.” And what’s the subtitle?

Vanessa: The subtitle is “How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.“ And so I would like to just say a moment, if you let me, about fully functional relationship. Like that's a thing. I don't think people even think that that can happen in and the people… Our standards are so low. We really. I hear, I feel I hear I like I feel most things more than hear. And I'm telling you, people think that teenagerhood, is that a word? Is just something to survive.

They're thinking like just to that and they get off to college thing and then they're going to stress about all new things. But the parents. But it's like they're not thinking about like sitting on a front porch with they're 55-year-old kid and they're 80. They're not thinking about what a fully functional relationship can yield for the rest of their life.

They, people don't, their head is so down and I get it and I get it. They're just blinders on. Survival mode is the best way to say it. And I'm, I paint a beautiful picture in the book about like, what is this look like? Like what could you have, like, broaden the perspective. Speaking of thirty thousand feet. Let's look like. How do you want it to go when your child has their first baby, say. You know, like how do you want that to go? Like, let's think bigger, guys.

Justin: Yeah. So would you say that 99% of the parents that you work with, if you ask them what is the most important thing in your life? They would probably say their kids andthe relationship with their kids.

Vanessa: Yeah.

Justin: And so there that must be such a oh, my god. I'm just feeling into how emotionally painful that must be for parents who say, yes, this is the most important thing in my life. And I don't think it can be functional or healthy or tough or good.

Vanessa: Yes. And the hope, the hope is what I'm, I'm a hope dealer, you know, like that's what I'm doing. I'm like telling people they think they're the worst parent. They think they're kids, they ruin them, even though on the outset they'll say, my kid is this, my kid is that I can't stand them, blah, blah, blah.

And but deep down, they think that's their fault. And that I'm going, it's not your fault. You're not to blame, your kids, not to blame. This is what it is to be human. I want to show you some blind spots. The second that you see it, it's a switch. I mean, there are habits doing bold, but it's a switch. You're like, that's what I'm doing. My kid’s addicted. I'm an alcoholic. Do you know how many people tell me there are alcoholics within five minutes of meeting me? A lot.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: A lot.

Justin: This goes straight into what I really want to focus on. I just want to start off with MEAN. Just looking at this idea of MEAN, and it's connected with what you just said about addiction or other ways that parents are really coping and avoiding.

And so it starts with this first one, misunderstood. And when I was reading the book, I was struck like when I started, it was misunderstood. I thought it would be maybe I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be, but I didn't expect for you to go into self-care.

Vanessa: Yes.

Justin: If you're not taking care of yourself, your behaviors and your communication are going to have all these unintended effects. And you're, you know, you're going to feel misunderstood. Can you talk a little bit about parent health care?

Vanessa: Yes, it's the first thing to go. I mean, right. When you have a baby. Isn't that just like the, I haven't showered in two weeks.

Justin: I haven't slept. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Vanessa: Right. Right. It's the first thing to go and then it doesn't get better from there. It's like, it's some people are able to, I don't want to generalize all parents or anything like that. I never want to do that. But yes. And it's like it's a martyr mindset where like I can't if I take my eye off the ball, if I'm not checking their grades before they even know their grades on their quizzes, if I'm not, you know, that whole like vibe, right. That way of being where you feel like you can't stop to take care of yourself. That's a huge, huge problem of why the parents are so reactive and take things personally and are angry and yell.

I mean, have you ever had low blood sugar? I mean, that's not a recipe for anything. So it's just like we can't overlook that. We have to build, again it's like the foundation in a way. Like unless you're healthy and whole and fully functioning as a human, how are you going to model that and have kids who are that so that the relationship can function?

Justin: And I imagine well, what struck me is this idea of self-care, I think is absolutely vital. I'm so glad that it was at the beginning of the book because like we got to start there. If you're not getting enough sleep, if you're not eating right, if you're not, you know, taking care of yourself, then none of this other stuff is going to work.

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: And with our nonprofit MaxLove Project, we work with childhood cancer parents. And, of course, whatever's going on with regular parenting like ratcheted up times 10 for a cancer parent. And so we talk about the oxygen mask principle that you can't put the oxygen mask on your kid if you're passing out. But then the addiction thing, what struck me there is I think, that so many parents, because they're not taking care of themselves, reach a point where the only way they think they can manage is to numb and pass out.

Vanessa: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. So that's the M and the N, right? The misunderstood, because you're just suffering. This is the part where I did. I got to tell you, this whole framework, you know, like it, like this sounds kooky, but I don't care because it's true. I don't even feel responsible for like making it up like it came to me, like I birthed a 10-year-old kid.

Like that's how it was. Like that's when you're in the zone of alignment, for example, of spirituality, the universe, like I just have to say that I didn't like labor. Oh, god. What should it say? You know, like, it just like came. So that's something I can't take real credit for.

Justin: That's awesome.

Vanessa: Yeah. I just don't know why I wanted to say that out loud right there. But so the numb thing, what's the biggest epidemic with teenagers? Right. They're numbing out. They're they're evading. They're drinking. They're doing serious drugs. They're...

Justin: Well, I don't know how you feel about this, but I think for boys, at least for my boy who turns 14 today. Yeah.

Vanessa: Oh, cool. Happy birthday.

Justin: Video games. Video games are a way to numb out.

Vanessa: Yep. Yep. Video games for sure. Like just, you know, social media. So those are the kid versions.

And then there's the mommy and the daddy, or the mommy and the mommy, and the daddy and the daddy version. Like they're all the versions of that. You can like, if somebody could be brave enough and just brave and courageous enough to look for on purpose how the exact attitudes, behaviors, tendencies, vices that their children have, that they're concerned about are reflected in us first.

Justin: Hmm. Oh…

Vanessa: That's it. That's it. You might say…

Justin: You just yeah, so I just had this like moment of reflection, because my thing is definitely with our son, it's the video games. And so I just had this moment of reflection when you said that. You know what I love to numb out with? Twitter. I love to numb out with.

Vanessa: That's your daddy version.

Justin: And yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so, oh, my gosh. I feel seen.

Vanessa: Awesom.e And I'll give your son a birthday present right now, ok? I'm a polarizer. I'm down with it. I don't need everyone to like me, agree with me. I don't give up. You know what. If people believe me or agree with me or like what I have to say, like I do what I do, I think what I think it works. And if it doesn't work for someone, we're not a fit. Like I don't care.

One thing that I say that is so counter. I don't know if it's countercultural, but it's kind of like against the grain is. Yes, I know about video game addiction. Yes, I understand. I understand. Like, I follow things like that. I read about things like that. I get it.

However, I have seen, out of speaking about my own children. Confidence go up so much. They have their little world. They have their people on Xbox Live or Minecraft servers like my daughter, who's 14, she's been in therapy for over three years, for one day a week, for over three years now. And I was just catching up, you know, mental telehealth. I love that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: Thanks for that. Think of Covid for that, I suppose, because that really got went into gear. She and so the therapist, the doctor, she's PHd, like you. And so she was like, I can't believe the growth. And I got to say, all these months of not being in school, the place where my daughter has like cut her teeth in, like realized who she is and like who she's becoming is largely due to her being on group chats and servers and discord and all the things, all the things. And it's the place in her life where she has that sense of confidence and friendship and working through lots of drama and like cool, real drama to work through, even with people you don't see.

Justin: Oh, my gosh, you are freeing me right now from a lot of shame and guilt that I, you know, there's some like bad parenting narratives that I'm working out. But, ooh, but this leads me into the second thing that I wanted to talk about with MEAN, and that is the authoritarian section. So there's a lot to say about authoritarian.

But you were talking about the parents needing everything to look perfect to the outside world. And this hit me, like when I really investigate some of my deepest emotional issues around my kids. A lot of it has to do with like what would people think about me as a parent if they knew how much, how many, how many hours my child plays, you know, video games with his friends, like what would people think that I like, you know? And so that's actually him is like how much of our parenting hang-ups are around our concern about how the outside world, whether it's our parents, are our extended family or just the world in general, sees us and our family and the judgment that we're trying to manage.

Vanessa: Avoid.

Justin: Avoid.

Vanessa: Futile, it's futile. Do you ever feel like, oh, my god, utility cologne is what you put on in the morning? Let me put on my utility. Oh, yeah.

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: It sucks. And I've got the best, best kid of my own example of another. Like, you can't, we can't care about that. There's no recipe for what a good kid and a good parent can look like.

So I've got this kid, Ollie. I wrote about her in the book. Right. She is almost 17 this month. She'll be 17. And if you could like, I wish you'd like walk in the room right now. But she's not. So she always has different color hair. She has like piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, like all these piercings, right? Yes. I know how old she is. Like, judge me, bring it. I don't care. Right. Like, well, but wait. There's more. She smokes cigarettes.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: All the time. And she probably... I think she's like she I always ask her. She's like probably like seven a day. So not like half a pack a day, right? Yeah, it's not packs of cigarettes, but, right, look, look at your face, by the way. This is awesome.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: Like...

Justin: Well, now I am a public health PhD.

Vanessa: I know.

Justin: You have to take that into account.

Vanessa: I know, I know. And I know smoking's wrong. And we've gone around and around about this for a long time, right? A long, long time. Just so you know, like I've tried everything. I've showed her videos, I've showed her lungs, I showed her black lungs, I've told her stories. I've tested her with her. You know, we've worked on quitting.

And then she's like, “Mom, I don't want to be a nonsmoker. So all this stuff like you've got to let me work through this.” And then it and then it's like comes to me and it's like, oh, and she buys them herself. I don't buy them. She goes on the reservation. She gets a good deal like she does. She has her whole system worked out. Right. She even bought one of those preschool things with the pockets so that she knows when she's allowed to allow herself to have the next pack.

Justin: Wow. Oh, wow.

Vanessa: Right. So like. So it sucks. It's stupid. I hate it. I hate it more than anything that she smokes. I hate it. I despise it. And will I. So this is my moment of am I going to make every day, every conversation, every time I smell her stanky smoking ass walk in the room or whatever. I make her walk away down the street.

By the way, she has to walk like ten blocks down to smoke, like you're not smoking on my property. Get out of here. Right. But our relationship is so incredibly deep and solid and full of communication.

Justin: I love that.

Vanessa: She’s never not answered my call or my text. I literally never ok, like she, where she struggles in school. She has a myriad of disorders, mood learning, like all kinds of things, which, by the way, I have a lot of compassion. Maybe if I had all that stuff going on, I'd need a little whatever to calm down too.

She's medicated, she has a psychiatrist and all of that and were responsible for her mental health. But what if I could realize, which I have, that smoking and that thing could be a war that we fight till the end of time. And what would happen? Like fill in the blank. Fill in the blank. What if I focus on that aspect of one thing about her?

Justin: So, Vanessa, have I asked you about authentic relating before? Because this is the thing that I like to talk about. Ok, so. Well, I’ll, after the show, I will send you info because it's like my favorite thing in the world.

Vanessa: Ok.

Justin: But authentic relating is really just a set of ideas and practices around communicating in just a deep connected way. And so I've taken several classes on this, and I've done it quite a bit over the last eight or nine months. One of the principles in authentic relating, well, it's this idea that in any relationship, any, of course, differences are going to pop up. Like we're not the same. No, you're you're going to choose to do and think in a different way than me.

The question is, is the relationship, is the connection more important than the differences in the conflict? And it's so beautiful, because what you just showed is that even something big like smoking, you know, for a public health Phd is like, oh, my God. But even that you have said that this relationship is more important. Like I'm really touched. Yeah.

Vanessa: You get me. That's right. That's right. And everyone, I mean, gasp, the parent and teacher coach. Let's, I'm air quoting here, her kids smoke. Oh, I didn't even mention all of her tattoos, you know, I mean, like all of our stick and poke tattoos, all of the things that look wrong about her. I could go ape shit on and, oh, to back to your point, how the public views certain people like a different level, like I'm putting myself out there.

So what people think, all my kids have straight A's and all my kids are perfect and don't ever look at porn or don't ever play video games too long or what? Vegetables all day long, like none of that, like nothing has worked out in my family. All of us are full-blown human beings.

Justin: But the relationships take priority.

Vanessa: Yes. And then when you have a relationship, then I'm able to influence them. I know where their heads at. I know what they're struggling with.

Justin: But the cool thing that is coming up for me around this is that even if you're not able to influence, let's just say, I mean, let's just throw that out the window, to go back to like what we were talking about a couple of minutes ago, we would say the most important thing in our lives, our kids and our relationships with our kids, these relationships are ends in themselves. Like if through it all, we maintain a connected, deep, loving relationship. We won. Like we're doing it.

Vanessa: Yes. Right. Influence. Influence. Like I like that you said that because I've never when I say influence, you're actually what you said is more what I even mean. I think that people think, oh, you mean you get to like make them do stuff? No, no.

I get to like, my love that I give them and the love they receive, to me, is like a one to one ratio. There's no like thing in the middle that like catches the stuff. There's no wall. There's no barrier. Like the fact that I. I walked into her room the other day, by the way. Shocking. She's messy. Right. Your brain, her executive functioning is just like, what's that? You know, and so I walk in a room the other morning and I'm like, Ollie, you know what I love about you? That you have 17 half drank water bottles all over your room. You know what else I love…

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I wasn't being a bitch. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm like I love, I said, I love that you're sloppy. I love that. I and I just told her, like all the things I love, like these. Ok, and just to get a little bit heavy if I lost her. From an accident or from a disease or from a mental health, you know, like crisis…

Justin: Tragedy.

Vanessa: Tragedy or suicide or something like that, right. If I did. I would look back and say to myself, why did you focus on all these little dumb things? Because you were worried about how people would think about you, Vanessa. And I would regret that my whole life. I would never get over the fact that I had to make a big deal about all the things that are wrong with her, which would develop her into someone who thinks that something's wrong with her and that she is broken and that I can never fix her.

Justin: Mm-hmm. That's beautiful. Oh, thank you. Thank you for that. Yeah, I kind of want to dig into this a little bit as parents. One of our charges, one of our responsibilities is that we are preparing these human beings to go out into the world and to be human beings among many other human beings.

And so in the book, you said it's not like you're arguing. You just let your kids do whatever they want and you just sit back and chill. And so you are making a distinction between discipline and punishment. And so can you unpack this a little bit?

Vanessa: Yes. Thank you for the opportunity. Yes. I think that sometimes when I speak, people think that I, assume that I'm passive and that I'm some hippie, like, hey, whatever you want, you know, and it's absolutely not the case. Instead of what I call cheap power plays. Ok, well, your phone is mine now. Well, I guess you lost your privileges. I guess you lost your stuff, didn't you? I mean, because they did something that I did my version of two hours before.

Who’s punishing me? They're never going to get to this point where they are perfectly meeting all the expectations of life. They're just not going to have anyone to catch them when they get older like us. Right. You see what I mean there? So this punishment thing is manipulative. It's cheap. There are way, it's taking advantage of the role. It's like using the power differential to force an outcome. So that's why I'm against that. Did that answer that part?

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: Okay. So then the alternative, though, that's what we want. We want to replace it with something better. There are, you know, there's extrinsic rewards from things we do in life and there are intrinsic rewards. So if we're always focused on the external metrics that kids come with, like grades are just like the most obvious one. Right. And like tardies and attendance and, you know, blowups or I don't know, like if you're keeping track of all these episodes of things and problems. Right. Number and frequencies of things.

If that's what you're focused on, all the outside stuff going back to, like, what will people judge you for, you know, and what will look bad and all of the above. If you're focused on that, then the kid just knows how to jump through hoops, follow directions, play the game, be a sneakier rat. You know, like there's every kid I know knows how to override life 360.

Every kid I know knows how to get Wi-Fi when their parents turn it off. Every kid I know, kids have, I forgot what it's called. Oh, my kids told me the other day, fake phones, though, like give them your phones mine. They'll have a phone. They passed around among their friends. That's the phone that or something like this where they give, they have a backup phone, guys. They have a backup. So you can't cut off their lifeline from their support system and their friends.

Justin: Oh, my god. So what do you do?

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, I know, right. You can't beat smart people. And you don't want your kids to be less smart, do you?

Justin: Right. Right.

Vanessa: And you can't beat them. And the more you try to beat them, the smarter they get about how to beat people. And you're teaching people how to be manipulative.

Justin: It's an arms race. Yeah.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Perfectly put. Yes. Ok, so here we go. Intrinsic. Are you someone who want, these are things that I say to my kids. Are you someone, do you see your future like this where you give your word and you keep your word? Do you want to have integrity in your life? Do you want to feel lighter? Do you want them to feel strong? Do you want to feel good about yourself? Like, let's talk about what it feels like when you're reactive because you're not eating enough and you're, because you're playing too many games. Like let's talk about the actual reality inside of a person.

So then I'm walking around saying, “You said you would do this by this time there is an impact on the whole family that you didn't.” No shame, no judgment, just frickin facts, like straight up. Can you tell I’m direct? I'm direct. This doesn't work. This doesn't work for who you are. This doesn't work for our family unit. And this doesn't work for your future. So get your shit together. And I'm the first person that they all know when they want to get their shit together, I'm all in. Let's salute. Is that a word?

Justin: Yeah. Oh, right, right. Right. Let's solve this, right?

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah, yeah, I know. A solution. I don't know. Right.

Justin: We can salute to making these positive changes as well. Oh, I love that, yeah. You know, what comes up when I hear that is a sense that it ties back to this authenticity thing of like if what we're asking our kids to do is rooted in reality and authenticity. You know, then it has some weight to it and they will be… for themselves. But if what we're asking them to do is actually bullshit…

Vanessa: Bullshit! They’re like it’s bullshit!

Justin: Oh. Like. Right. I mean, this is the thing right now with what Max is doing in math right now. He's like, “This is, there's like never going to use this.” And I was like, “Max, you're right. You're right. You're never going to use that.”

So then let's think, why do we want to try to at least pass this class? Because if you know, if we don't pass this class, then there's going to be trouble. So this is a hoop. Let's just acknowledge that it's a hoop... I know. You know, and like let's just let's acknowledge that it's a game and we need to pass this level of this game to get to the next one. And, you know…

Vanessa: Yes, I'm freaking out over here because everybody knows that you don't have to graduate from high school to be a baller and a world leader. Everybody knows that.

Justin: All right, so I don't know if you remembered me a lot in high school, because I don't think you smoked pot or smoked a lot, but like in my senior year, I mean, it was just like every day. I mean, literally every day. And I mean, I barely graduated, just barely like by the skin of my teeth. And then I didn't go to college, I... Ok, so just as a really quick aside.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: The only way I knew that the SAT’s were even happening is, I called up a friend. I won't mention. No, no, I will, because he couldn't go out and he took the… and so I called up Josh Ramiz.

Vanessa: I knew you were going to say that. He was a good guy.

Justin: Yes. And I was like, dude, let's go out. You know, we're going to party tonight. And he's like, I can't the SATs are tomorrow. I'm like, wait, I had no idea. All right. Well, have fun. And so I didn't go to college. I didn't do the first year, but then I eventually got my act together.

And then I, and I now have two PhDs. So it's like, yeah. So my feeling about their school is like if you want to do it, I mean, like pass. Like you cannot drop out of school, but like and then, you know, let's find the joy where there is joy. And so you're really interested in history and you're really interested in the essays, like let's find the joy where there is and then where there's not.

Let's just treat it like a hoop that we got to jump through.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Be real, be real, be real, be real. Be real. Like I can't say it enough times. It's like acknowledge the truth. They are so smart. They're so like they get it. They get it.

And we're over here being like, well, if you don't bubba, then you won’t the dadda and then you won’t bubba and they're like, I don't want to fuckin dadda. Like they don't want what all the hoops add up to. And then we're just like these like animal trainers or something, you know, it's so then the Christmas card, you can be like: and then they went to la la la.

Justin: The Christmas card. Oh, my God. Vanessa, can you just talk real quick about the Christmas card? How do you feel about Christmas cards?

Vanessa: I don't know, man. Like the letters and the things. I like the funny ones. I like the real ones. But the ones where “Tommy la la la.”

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: Or Lucy la la la. I'm just like…

Justin: Thank you. Thank you. Speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, my kids will say, well, that's funny, because actually, you know, I happen to know that the picture that they're painting is completely opposite of, the parents are like in a fantasyland. It's just like, so refreshing when people are real. And I wanted to say something about like school and so easy to take that as a place to get hyper-focus, because, again, the metrics is measurable.

We love things that are measurable, went up and went down. It went up. It's like, wait, all the things I think we're all obsessed about have to do with things where you can like track them really well.

Justin: These easily tracked metrics I think are attractive to most of us, because deep down, we feel like if we can only be good enough we’ll be worthy of love and respect, we can all leave. And so these metrics become like, am I worthy of love and respect today?

Oh, if I could just, yes, maybe. And the truth is and this is what I am learning, and it's like a deep truth that is true for every single person in the world. There is nothing you can do to be more worthy of love and respect than you already are right now.

Vanessa: Right. Right. I want to just say this one thing. I was speaking with a kid on Wednesday, and his name is Nick. He just came out to his parents. I helped him for months to work into this email for months, coming out as trans. And he is amazing. I get it. Here's something that he said to me the other day. And I'm like, bro, oh, my god. And I'm like I'm writing a book on what you just said. A book, dude. Like, I’ll credit you. He said this. “It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's their responsibility to be proud of me.”

Justin: Mm-hmm.

Vanessa: Really feel that.

Justin: Wisdom. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: He doesn't have to jump through hoops to. And I'm putting those words like worth and love into like what make worth in pride. Like I'm proud of you because you're worth more. I'm so proud of you because your stock went up.

Justin: And when your stock goes up, my stock goes up…

Vanessa: Right!

Justin: Because fundamentally the parents are feeling unworthy. If my kid can just get into the right college, I'll be worth more. I will be worthy of love and respect finally.

Vanessa: Yes, exactly. Dude. Exactly. So that and I'm like, that's like the most. That's the most amazing way to say that, because what my work is about, which she doesn't even fully know, I don't even know if he knew I wrote a book, this kid. But like what he doesn't know is that I'm trying to get parents to see that what makes them freak out about all these kid things is actually something inside of them that's unhealed, that's undealt with, that's not whole. That's not... It comes down to self-love.

Justin: Wisdom.

Vanessa: That's it. That's it.

Justin: Yes. So parents listening to this, they have teenagers like, oh, my god, like I'm seeing myself and hearing myself and a lot of what you guys are saying and I don't even know where to start. So, Vanessa, what like today would be a baby step?

Vanessa: Today, what they can do is, I actually this is more in the course and it's step one. So the course has the same name as the book. Right. But it's in five steps. So it's like theoretical and philosophical, like in the book. Right. But it's real. It hits you. Right.

But now what do I do? Oh, I got what you do over here. Come over here. This course is like me, my face. And we're talking about all the stuff in the book, but not repeating it. It's all like fresh. I didn't read the book for the course at all. There's a whole coaching guide that goes with that, where it's like a lot of deep work, like this is not for babies, but it's for people who actually are sick of how it is. And they want something beautiful instead.

So. The first step I say “write a real clean letter to your teen,” and I have a link if you go in my bio anywhere, there's on Instagram specifically. Then there's a link on linktree and it says, “Real Clean Letter to Your Teen.” And it's an entire PDF and it breaks it all down to something. I guess you can't call it a baby step, but it's not a baby step. Like it's easy and little and quick, but it's the first step. Can we call it that?

Justin: Sure.

Vanessa: It's called the first real step. Yeah. And it's going to make a giant impact, and that is to write a letter and apologize and own up and take responsibility and be accountable for all the shit that you've been pulling, all the things that, the messages that you've been saying. It's not coming from this shaming place. It's coming from like this powerful place of ownership, of upsetting things to your children, like it when you fail. And in school or when the neighbors saw you vaping, I can't handle it because I think that it means that I'm a failure. And you're just a kid doing the best you can.

But the things that you do, I make them mean that I'm bad. And then I get mad at you for making me feel like I'm a bad person or a bad parent or something like that. Or remember that time I told you this or that. I'm sorry. I said that, you know, like talking about each and every instance you can think of where you put your child down and made them feel like a bad, broken person who needs fixing. All the control. We haven't even talked about the C-word, Justin.

Justin: Oh, my god. Oh.

Vanessa: Anyway, this is money.

Justin: That's ok. So that's the wonderful thing. Parents listening to this podcast, there is going to be a lot of stuff that maybe we just barely touched on. It's going to be in the book and then it's definitely going to be in the courses.

Vanessa: Yeah, the book stands alone. By all means. It's, you know, 12 bucks. Best thing you ever did. But the course is like, let's freaking do this.

Justin: Let's dig deep. I know parents, you know, they come out of your course and they've got a whole new foundation and they've got a whole new set of tools and they're rebuilding their relationship with their teens. But I'm sure, you know, life happens and, you know, growth is not just some linear trajectory. So what are the common pitfalls that parents deal with after they've built this foundation and are using these tools? What are some of the things that they still have to watch out for?

Vanessa: You know, the tendency to stop being real. I mean, really, I mean, the tendency to want to make excuses, to blame, to operate in a shame, shamy Blamey world context, where it has to be someone's fault. And then the other thing I would say is, so that it really requires like going deep, like I'm not a therapist, I'm not a doctor. I'm not like a million things.

What I am is like triage in many ways. It's like, ok, so maybe you want to get into a rehab program, mom. Maybe you want to go deal with your dad issues, dad. Let's, I think like one of the things is to think that you're never done. You know, like to think that, like you said.

Justin: Right, like I read the book, I took the course. Now I've done. Yes, I'm perfect. I am done. Yeah.

Vamessa: Yeah. It's not a Band-Aid. I'm not a Band-Aid. I want that to be like the sub-subtitle. This isn't a Band-Aid. Like this is like you using the fact that you, whether you wanted to or not, are now a parent. How are you going to let this I swear the ultimate challenge, right. Is parenting and everything that comes with it.

Times however many kids you have and whatever comes upon your life because of the kids and the marriage, like or if there's a marriage like all that stuff like this could be your this is your shot to go deep and sort out all the stuff that if you didn't have this little walking around reflection of you, you may never even realize that was hurting inside of you.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Oh, I love that. I love that. So that brings me to the final question before we get to the regular three questions that we always ask our guests. So the final question is, Vanessa, what is at the, what is the most challenging, I like to say what is at the edge for you in your own personal growth journey and your own parent journey? We just talked about how this is not a one-and-done thing.

So even though you have, you know, you know how to practice all these tools, you're still learning things about yourself, you're still growing up, what is at your edge, what is the kind of new and challenging in your own life?

Vanessa: Oh, so much. I'm ripping myself to shreds in a loving way, like uncovering, turning over every rock of me and who I am every day, every week, like professionally speaking. I work with someone who helps me with my energy. And when I'm confronted with this particularly hard like case or a family I client, I go to her and I'm like, what about me is in my way from serving these people in the way that they deserve to be served, like what are my triggers here?

And we'll talk about that. And I do breathwork. I do energy work because my things, I'm a recovering control freak. If I didn't take Lexapro, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be an alcoholic because I deal with incredible anxiety and depression and swings with all of that. But with, you know, treating it, I'm ok. I'm almost always eating with, or eating dealing with my eating disorder.

Still, I have a therapist, so I have my energy person, Reiki type stuff, everything, dude, like everything. I think it's because of my, you know, what people might call issues and imperfections and how hard I am on myself, how sometimes I think what I'm doing as a charity and I just want to help everyone. And I'm, this is a business. You know, those kinds of things, the tendency to like cross over my own boundaries. I'm working on that. My needlessness because of my own childhood. I bought myself a Jeep a couple weeks back, and it's an old 1965 Willys and it's so cool. And like that is for real the first time in my life I've done something for me that felt completely indulgent, you know. And I'm 44 almost. I don't do that.

So self-care will be something that I have to tackle. Just even eating enough food like every single day, like I'm a walking, talking wreck. But I know that. And that's what makes me awesome.

Justin: It sounds like radical self-honesty.  

Vanessa: Yes. Ooh, radical. Yes. Right. Awareness. Honesty. And then just like staying in, just staying in it and not ever thinking that I, but it's not like sad. I don't know. Does it sound sad? It's not sad?

Justin: No, no.

Vanessa: Sorry. I'm not saying I thought you thought it was sad. I don't. But what does it sound like when I said that?

Justin: The word that kept coming, or the words were radical self-honesty like that is when I asked, what is at your edge, your edge, what it sounded like to me was this constantly pushing this radical self-examination, saying like, what is my shit? Like what, what do I have that maybe I don't need to have or that I perhaps should start to have, like, you know, and can I just get real with myself?

Vanessa: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: Which is in working on myself over the past couple of years, but then building programs for parents. I feel like it's the hardest thing. It is the hardest thing to just sit back and wait. Can I just get real with yourself and like really own some of the really challenging emotions that I'm feeling, some of the, you know, some of the coping behaviors and avoiding behaviors that I've developed over the years, because I don't want to deal with this, because I don't want to be radically honest.

Vanessa: Right. And I find that like I'm unable, because I don't just work with parents and kids. I work with with CEOs and creators and artists like I work with, like the most amazing people from all over the place. And I'm not able to challenge these people who don't even have kids who are just like really like it's them against them kind of stuff. Unless I'm me, against me, I don't have parenting figured it out. I don't have myself figured out. I don't have life figured out.

But since I'm always pushing myself to the edge with so much love and like was the possibility of this because freedom is my thing, you know, like I want freedom and I experienced more freedom and more happiness when I uncover something and then bring just like just tons of compassion to it. Like that, it's like perpetually healing.

It's like, almost like an opportunity to find something that's hurt that I cope with or that makes me feel the way I don't like to feel or something, and then to to look at that, to love that, that's how I'm… Oh, wow. I'm just not really getting this like that's how I love myself. I tend to myself regularly, actively. I have a coach who pushes. I have two coaches.

They push me so hard and call me out so much. I couldn't be doing this amazing work and getting off the phone like another miracle, another miracle, another miracle. Like I walked out of this door before there's my living room and I'm like, oh, my God, like with every client. That's how I feel. And I couldn't be that bold if I weren't doing it for me, which is exactly what I'm talking about with parents and kids. You see it’s all the same?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it. So I feel like we've just scratched the surface. So I'm just going to put you on the spot that I would love to have you back and…

Vanessa: Yes! Oh, my god, I would do this every morning at nine o'clock.

Justin: Yeah. No, this conversation has been so much fun and there's so much oh, there's just so much here. It's so nourishing to talk about this. So we're going to go into the final regular questions, these are the three questions that we ask every podcast guest. Ok, so the first one is, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Vanessa: Get over yourself.

Justin: Ohhh, get over yourself. Oh, my gosh. Can you unpack that?

Vanessa: Yeah. Just like check your ego at the door... Does everyone else is like get over that you suck, too. We all suck. Who cares? It's not a big deal. Like, get over yourself. Ego.

Justin: For me, it would. Yeah, it would definitely be. Get over the parts of yourself that are the trying to prove your worthiness for love and respect because you are already worth it. Get over it, man. You are whole the way you are. Get over it.

Vanessa: Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: OK, so last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Vanessa: The one. The one from Nick. It all, it rocked me. It rocked me. It absolutely blew my mind. It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's my parent's responsibility to be proud of me. And I'd like to add period. Like no matter what. Unconditional love is what we're talking about.

Justin: I think that quote is, right now for me, is easier if I put love in there. Yeah. Because I guess from my own childhood, when I think of pride, I do think of like achievement in some way. And so this love is like, yeah, I don't and I can't earn my parent's love. That is something that has to be given freely or it's not love. It's some…

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: It’s something else.

Vanessa: That’s right. Right. And it's like the pride thing is like I'm proud of you, though, for a kid, this is what I understand. Like I talked to, I have a podcast. You and I talk to kids who are 18 to 22sh someone who was 14, his mom was dying for me to talk to me like you might as well been 30 anyway.

So. But these kids are like, I've never heard that my parents are proud of me. They equate that with being acceptable and being lovable. So like it's kind of like a buzz word. And I'm ok with you. I'm not proud of you. Like, are you proud of yourself? Like it's used like a weapon.

Justin: So what they hear is love. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Vanessa: And hey, listen, Justin, that's what you heard, too. So you just helped me prove that point, right? Like you heard love. Right. Like...

Justin: That’s awesome.

Vanessa: … I’m proud of your sibling whose such a show off and does all these things because…

Justin: I love your sibling.

Vanessa: They’re the favorite, because they measure up. They know how to jump through hoops.

Justin: Beautiful. Ok, so the last question I like to ask, because as you know, for parents, you know, when they're just in their in the throes of just of just the craziness of life and parenting, and, you know, the schedules are so busy and kids like, oh, my God, kids. But here at The Family Thrive we want to take a moment to celebrate kids. And so can you. And oh, my gosh. With six kids, you are like the expert on this. What is your favorite thing about kids?

Vanessa: Oh, my gosh. Just like their humor, like what they think is funny. Like their brains, their ideas, their minds. If you sit with a kid and like get in there, like just really get in there, you'll be so encouraged about like what humanity is. They're so in touch with like their thoughts and their ideas. It's like the judgment isn't there. If you're lucky, you know, like if. I mean, that's part of the thing, right, that we're trying to I'm like completely anti judgment when it comes to parenting.

Like it doesn't work to judge your kids, to criticize them, to come from that place if something's wrong with you. So anyway, to answer your question better, it's like the way that they think is a miracle. My mind is blown every single day that I talk to any kid of any age. I talk to kids as young as 11 and, you know, in any age above adults. But teenagers like we need to be in awe of them. We need to be in awe of them. They need to know we're in awe of them.

Justin: Wow. That's beautiful. And this is coming from a mom of six kids. Like it's like, you know of what you speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, I know. My, one of my. Oh, this is funny. I just want to add this funny little thing. One thing, if you don't, if you knew, you know the gaming thing, this is. the best trick ever. If you're not, if you don't understand what the hell they're talking about and you don't really care. Like, I can't even lay one little brick thing down in my life.

I have not bought a gaming gene. Like I can barely miss Pacman a little bit. That's it. And so it's ok. So what I do is I Google something about like a new update to a game. And I like I would get on like a board of people talking, you know, and then I'll copy and paste like my, I pretend like it's my opinion. I won't get update and I’ll be like “what about the new Call of Duty?” dududaa.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And then I say, well, this is like this, you know. Like how like the …

Justin: Oh my God, that’s brilliant.

Vanessa: And then they know that I'm they know that I don't know what I'm saying. And they know that I found that somewhere.

Justin: But they know that you cared.

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And then they know that like, I value what they value.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful. Vanessa, thank you so much. This is such a beautiful conversation is so, so rich. But before we go, how can people contact you? What are the ways that they can get involved?

Vanessa: I am the most active, actually, on my personal Facebook page. So, Vanessa Baker. I just feel more authentic there than a business page. And then what I shared over there too, my website has all kinds of stuff. It's vbakermindset.com.

Justin: Vbakermindset.com.

Vanessa: Right.

Justin: Oh and, we are going to have show notes as well. So we're going to put all of this stuff in.

Vanessa: Yeah. And then my book's on Amazon, if you don't like Amazon, which I understand, you can go to Barnes and Noble or Balboa Press, which is my publisher, and the course will launch on March 1st. People can email me from my website and I'm just an open door. Like, just bring it we'll work it out.

Justin: One more time. The book is called From Mean to Real Clean.

Vanessa: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.

Justin: Vanessa, thank you so much.

Vanessa: It was fun. Thanks, Justin. Thanks for having me. This is wonderful. You're amazing. And I appreciate what you're doing and I appreciate it. Like it's needed and I love that it's you who is doing it. Like because it's you, you're going to touch more life like people are going to and are responding to who you are in the work that you're doing in yourself. And then out in the world, like everything you're doing is like, perfect. I'm so proud of you.

Justin: That gives me some warm, fuzzy feelings, really. Thank you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: You're welcome.

Justin: All right.


Justin: Audra and I are currently the parents of two teenagers, and let me tell you, the struggle is real. I don't know very many people who love parenting through their teenage years. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who really loves parenting teenagers. I'd wager most parents dread the teenage years and see them as a dangerous river that has to be crossed. Well, my good friend Vanessa Baker loves diving headfirst into that river.

She's a mom of six. That's right, six. And a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book From “Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “That You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

This conversation was mind-blowing. We drove straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talked about all the hard things parents come up against. She broke it all down and laid out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. So without further ado, here's my conversation with Vanessa Baker.

Let's just jump in because, as I said, it’s going to be super conversational. And what I want to start off with is the fact that I did not just meet you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: No.

Justin: We've known each other since high school. My memories of you in high school are that you really had it together.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: Yeah. What's coming up for me is like you had an idea of who you were and what you stood for and you had it together in a way that not every high schooler does.

Vanessa: Wow. I could’ve used that back then. Why didn’t you say so 25 years ago? Did you go to the 10 year class reunion?

Justin: No, I went to the 20 year.

Vanessa: Ok. I think I went to that one too. At the 10 year one a bunch of guys were standing around and they were like, “Wow, we thought you were so cool with your Jeep.” I had a ‘78.

Justin: Oh, I think I remember that.

Vanessa: Yeah. They’re like “you're so badass, you just had mud all over,” because I went off-roading all the time with Catherine Schultz.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I was like, “what?” I was like the only kid in my mind who didn't have a beamer and the old Jeep, you know, and it was just so funny that I'm like, all these things come out like way too late. But thanks for saying that. I didn't have that experience of myself at all.

I mean, I was like in the throes of a few, pretty serious eating disorder. I was like my parents were dealing with all kinds of stuff. My sister was constantly in crisis. I never felt like I fit in ever. I was apathetic.

I remember in Honors English senior year. I remember walking up to the teacher. Do you remember the redheaded teacher who's a runner? Who was the… uh… she's really adorable. And she's like pregnant. She's like a track-like cross-country lady.

Justin: So, Vanessa, I smoked a lot of pot in high school, so I don't... especially like senior year. I have just bits and pieces of memories of school. I mean, I have a lot of memories of the parties. I just… like school was...

Vanessa: That’s funny. So I went up there and I was like, I'm apathetic. I remember like search synonyms. I'm apathetic. I was like reaching out, like somebody help me.

Justin: Oh, my gosh.

Vanessa: And I love that you said that, though, because that just shows something that shines a light on something so important, which is the way we view people, has almost nothing to do with the reality of what they're dealing with. Like ever, probably.

Justin: Ok, so what about, is there another, maybe, truth alongside that? That what I was seeing was something deep down.

Vanessa: Yeah. You must have been really high. But yes, you're right. Because I do like that's how I would say that's how I describe myself now, and especially in the last five years. But you, I mean…

Justin: And it was always there. It was always there.

Vanessa: I like that. I like that. Thanks.

Justin: Awesome.

Vanessa: Thanks.

Justin: Awesome. So. So tell me a little bit about what, I mean, you know, from a I don't know the five-minute elevator pitch of like what has happened since Vanessa in high school. Yeah. So I mean, you can like, Yeah. Just like boom, boom, boom.

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, boom, boom, boom, boom. Ok, so I went to college. I kicked in with my academics in college. I was like super, like I was like the first woman president of the business college counselor at ASU. I was like getting awards and like causing like amazing things to happen. And like honors, call it like the whole thing, just like showing off and making just like waves over there. And then I got like a really hard job to get, a really hard internship to get.

And I was like, business, business, supply chain management. Oh, I love supply chain management, logistics, manufacturing. It's my life. And then I got married to a guy who I said, “You know, I'm gay. Right?” And he's like, “That's hot.” And so we just got married.

Justin: Oh, oh, oh. So he knew. He knew going in.

Vanessa: We knew. Yeah. Like I remember telling my friends, my high school friends, I'm like, I can just see myself being a lesbian, living in New York City. And like I mean, I was saying it, but it was only, it wasn't like something I could do something with, I guess. I mean, what was I going to be like, Richard Simmons? Like there weren't like a lot of gay people to look at for me at that point. There wasn't social media. The 1999, 2000, it sounds recent, but it's not, and things have changed a lot with who you think you can be.

And so. So we got married, got pregnant on the honeymoon. Okay, here's the boom, boom, boom, literally. Pregnant on the honeymoon, nine months later, baby number one. Then 18 months later, baby number two. 17 months later, baby number three. 16 months later, baby number four. 14 months later, baby number five. And now…

Justin: Amazing.

Vanessa: I know, right? Just unbelievable. I'm blessed to be fertile and have these wonderful children. I'm not talking crap about my blessings, but that was a lot. And then we carried on and, you know, doo-de-doo, regular, you know, natural progressions of life and raising kids and all of that.

And then when I was 38, I came out and I tried really hard to like be a gay person in a hetero marriage. And I thought coming out would be like enough, you know? But then I was like, no. And so I asked for a divorce. So the kids were between seven and 12 or something like that, close to that when that happened. I met my wife got married, I actually met her before I got a divorce, but we were friends. And I mean, there is a deeper story there, but it was all out in the open kind of stuff.

And then I got married to her. She had a baby who's two now, and we got a donor. And so now I've got these kids and this wife. And when I got the divorce and I wasn't able to be a stay-at-home mom anymore, homeschooling my kids and just doing that whole situation, I had to do something. And so I'm like, I love teenagers, like that’s as close as I could get to like what I was passionate about.

Justin: Well, that in itself is a rare skill, to love teenagers.

Vanessa: I do.

Justin: Cause most people don't.

Vanessa: Exactly. And, you know, my business mind was like, you can say the word teenager in a room anywhere in the entire world, and people go, “Guuuuuh.”

Justin: Oh, totally.

Vanessa: And I'm like, oh, I feel this could be a good niche where everyone will agree that there's a problem.

Justin: And nobody wants to solve this problem.

Vanessa: Yeah, and the ways they do try to solve it are not scalable, don't model anything that's workable, aren't how adults want to be treated. And I mean, I remember being at my son's basketball games and like there'd be like this crowd of like stranger teenagers. And I'd be like, I want to go talk to them, like I want to know them. And Stephanie, my wife would be like, “That's weird, babe.”

Justin: Stop being weird.

Vanessa: I know. But I'd be like, I don't think I'm one of them. I don't like think I'm cool. It's just like I'm so interested. Like I'm dying to know what they think about and what they want to do and just be like, yes, yes, whatever you're like into now, whatever you are lit up about.

Don't lose that. Like we get older. Not me, not you, buddy. Not me and not you. But a lot of people get older and they just like die inside. And I'm always like I want to like just harness their flame because the teenagers have it figured out.

Justin: Yeah. We have this one life to live. Like, don't let that flame go out.

Vanessa: Right. Don't sell out. Don't sell out. Like I'm so anti-sell out.

Justin: Ok, so I just want to do a little bit of a rewind. Did you ever have a moment when you knew that you wanted to be a mom or did it just happen?

Vanessa: I actually literally out loud said, “I never want to have kids.” When I was in my 20s, but right before I met my ex-husband, and then I really like I mean, it's just like a knowing. I mean, these kids are just like their world changers. They're so cool. They're imperfect. They're not like I'm not saying it like they all have straight A's.

So they're going to change the world like these people that I raised. They are. I mean, if you got to talk to one of them for five minutes, you would just be like, what? The things they think about. So somebody somewhere knew that I needed to get knocked up, like right away. A bunch of times.

Justin: Five times.

Vanessa: Yeah. These kids are amazing. I was driving around my boy, who's 15, has his permit, so he lives at his dad's. And so me and Charlotte, she's 12 or just turned 13. We went and picked Miles up, and he was driving us around. We went to Chick-fil-a, having all kinds of fun. And then we dropped them off. And she's like, who would say this, right? Thirteen, the youngest of five. She's like, “I have,” literally this sounds like a lie, but it's what she actually said, she goes, “I have the best siblings. I love them all so much and I feel so lucky.” And I'm like, “Yep.”

Justin: Awww, those are, that's poetry to a parent. Like, oh, my god.

Vanessa: I know. I'm like oooh, oh, oh. So that's the culture, you know, like that's the culture. So, no, I didn't want to have kids. And then I converted to be Catholic. And because I'm like this like, oh, person, I'm like, “Well, let's be Catholic.”

Justin: Yeah. Right. You don't go half in like there's now just like let's do this thing, ok. You alluded to a little bit of your story about becoming a parenting coach. And so, from what I gathered, a part of it was seeing that you loved this weird time in growing up that not a lot of people love. And so you saw like, ok, I think I can help there. Can you tell?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. Well, when I taught high school, so I got my business degree. I worked in consulting, and then I went back to ASU because I was like, I swear, every day at lunch I'd be like, do any of these windows open? I'm about to dive out of this second story. Like I'm being silly about something serious. But I was very depressed. I was very, very like unfulfilled. I got the company going with like Valley Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I got them going with Junior Achievement, like kind of all these lunch and learns.

I'm like always in HR’soffice, like, can I bring everyone into this? Can I bring everyone into that? All these things that were about kids. And then when I ran out of, you know, victims, to volunteer everything I cared about, I quit and I went back, got a high school, secondary education certification and all that. And I taught business. So when I taught high school, I was teaching in an inner-city school in South Phoenix. And it was like flying, like it was just like flying like, my connection and my ability to get through to them. It just lit me up and I just knew it was a thing. Right.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: So then I had my own kids and I was like, yep, it's a thing. It's a thing like my whatever. I don't know what even to call it, but just my desire to connect to people who aren't yet adults, I guess. I guess that's all I could say.

I just have this desire to just like get in there and like check out for, check for stuff. When that person said that, did you believe it? Do you know that’s a lie? That's like what do you see yourself doing? Did you know you can do anything like all these cliche-sounding things. But I like to just get in there. So, then when I needed to work, I'm not the kind of person who can work for someone else. You might be able to get that. I can't follow rules.

Justin: You blaze your own trail.

Vanessa: I am a trailblazer. My dad died almost two years ago, and that's something that I wrote in his eulogy. And when I spoke at his funeral. Exactly. So that's cool how you said that just now. A lot.

Justin: Beautiful.

Vanessa: Yeah, I'm like a trailblazer. I also consider myself a maverick, you know, like I just, I know what to do. I know what to say. Not because I'm righteous and not because I have a plan. But like there's this like deep trust that I have in myself that I want…

Justin: Inner knowing.

Vanessa: Yes. That I want to impart on people like as soon as I can catch them, as soon as they start realizing that they're about to face a fork in the road where people want them to be something that maybe they aren't, that maybe doesn't align. Like I'm obsessed with alignment and congruence and integrity inside of ourselves, that everything has to match, everything.

Justin: So that makes perfect sense because you have developed a system for teenagers and their parents by the whole system is in alignment. So you've developed this system based on these three acronyms, MEAN, REAL, and CLEAN. Can you just give us the like 3,0000-foot overview of what these acronyms mean?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. So MEAN stands for Misunderstood, Entitled, Authoritarian, and Numb. And my stance is that parents aren't really mean, they get called mean and they feel mean. But that's not the case. So when we look into mean, we look into what are the obstacles that are in the way, we poke around a lot, very gently, very nonjudgmentally there with tons of compassion and empathy, because I know, too, what that's like. And so we clear that away. So consider that the debris, right? We’re clearing all that away.

Then I help them create a foundation, and that's the REAL part. So REAL is a new foundation, right? Like we bondo up whatever they had and then we really, like solidify this foundation, which is the REAL part. Resilient, Effective, Authentic, and Loving. And so once that is set, we are looking at like that's what we all want. We want it to be effective. We talk to our kids and we hope our kids are resilient. Right. But we need to be resilient first. We can't be taking everything personally. Are all we're going to get our kids who are taking everything personally, including what we say to them. And we're not able to influence our kids when we're not being real. Period. They smell our shit from miles away and they're not into it. So…

Justin: I want to get into that later. Yeah.

Vanessa: Yes, for sure. So that's the thing. Authenticity, realness, like all of that. That's the foundation. Without that, like we may not move on.

Then CLEAN are the tools, like this is where we start building on our foundation. So that's being Connected, being Level-headed, being Expressive, being Aware and plain old, ordinary, Nice. Just nice. You know, like what happened to being nice?

Justin: Oh, my gosh. And I imagine by the end of it, being nice is just something that naturally flows, if you’ve like, if you've cleared away all the stuff, you've built the foundation, you're now practicing the stuff, nice is just flowing. Right?

Vanessa: Right, right. Because this is something that confronts a lot of people. They come to me because they want their kid to wear deodorant more often and get their grades up or care more about their sport or something. And it's never. Those are all symptoms. And it doesn't matter at all, that all that works out, though, all the cooperation, all of the like connections stuff, the being, having kids who care about what you have to say, all of that works out once you've dealt with yourself as a parent. They don't want to do anything you say if you're a fake person.

Justin: Oh, right. In grad school language, we would call all those things epiphenomenal. And so they're like epiphenomenal in the sense that they are real and they're coming from set. But they're not the source, like the phenomenon is the source. This other stuff is the epiphenomenon. This stuff that is coming from the real source.

And so what you're doing is you're like leading parents back to the source. Yeah. The fact that your teens are doing all these things and acting in ways that you think are problematic. That's not the issue. Right. Let's trace it back to the source.

Vanessa: Exactly. And I have this wonderful ability that I don't understand. That is where I'm able to diffuse and make light of it in a very helpful way, like to make it like, I don't want to say insignificant, but there's something where we're laughing. We're laughing about how ridiculous it is that we as parents do these things. And then I'll still like, “You mean how your kid does that and that and that and that?” And I'm drawing lines like that to you, like that to you, like that. And they're like, oh, my god.

Justin: Oh, do they ever get a look like they've seen behind the Matrix? Once you've shown them like oh my god…

Vanessa: Exactly.

Justin: Actually, I'm the source.

Vanessa: I almost thought about naming the book. “Great news, parents. It's all your fault.”

Justin: Oh, my god. All right. So your book just came out and it's, the book title is “From Mean to Real Clean.” And what’s the subtitle?

Vanessa: The subtitle is “How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.“ And so I would like to just say a moment, if you let me, about fully functional relationship. Like that's a thing. I don't think people even think that that can happen in and the people… Our standards are so low. We really. I hear, I feel I hear I like I feel most things more than hear. And I'm telling you, people think that teenagerhood, is that a word? Is just something to survive.

They're thinking like just to that and they get off to college thing and then they're going to stress about all new things. But the parents. But it's like they're not thinking about like sitting on a front porch with they're 55-year-old kid and they're 80. They're not thinking about what a fully functional relationship can yield for the rest of their life.

They, people don't, their head is so down and I get it and I get it. They're just blinders on. Survival mode is the best way to say it. And I'm, I paint a beautiful picture in the book about like, what is this look like? Like what could you have, like, broaden the perspective. Speaking of thirty thousand feet. Let's look like. How do you want it to go when your child has their first baby, say. You know, like how do you want that to go? Like, let's think bigger, guys.

Justin: Yeah. So would you say that 99% of the parents that you work with, if you ask them what is the most important thing in your life? They would probably say their kids andthe relationship with their kids.

Vanessa: Yeah.

Justin: And so there that must be such a oh, my god. I'm just feeling into how emotionally painful that must be for parents who say, yes, this is the most important thing in my life. And I don't think it can be functional or healthy or tough or good.

Vanessa: Yes. And the hope, the hope is what I'm, I'm a hope dealer, you know, like that's what I'm doing. I'm like telling people they think they're the worst parent. They think they're kids, they ruin them, even though on the outset they'll say, my kid is this, my kid is that I can't stand them, blah, blah, blah.

And but deep down, they think that's their fault. And that I'm going, it's not your fault. You're not to blame, your kids, not to blame. This is what it is to be human. I want to show you some blind spots. The second that you see it, it's a switch. I mean, there are habits doing bold, but it's a switch. You're like, that's what I'm doing. My kid’s addicted. I'm an alcoholic. Do you know how many people tell me there are alcoholics within five minutes of meeting me? A lot.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: A lot.

Justin: This goes straight into what I really want to focus on. I just want to start off with MEAN. Just looking at this idea of MEAN, and it's connected with what you just said about addiction or other ways that parents are really coping and avoiding.

And so it starts with this first one, misunderstood. And when I was reading the book, I was struck like when I started, it was misunderstood. I thought it would be maybe I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be, but I didn't expect for you to go into self-care.

Vanessa: Yes.

Justin: If you're not taking care of yourself, your behaviors and your communication are going to have all these unintended effects. And you're, you know, you're going to feel misunderstood. Can you talk a little bit about parent health care?

Vanessa: Yes, it's the first thing to go. I mean, right. When you have a baby. Isn't that just like the, I haven't showered in two weeks.

Justin: I haven't slept. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Vanessa: Right. Right. It's the first thing to go and then it doesn't get better from there. It's like, it's some people are able to, I don't want to generalize all parents or anything like that. I never want to do that. But yes. And it's like it's a martyr mindset where like I can't if I take my eye off the ball, if I'm not checking their grades before they even know their grades on their quizzes, if I'm not, you know, that whole like vibe, right. That way of being where you feel like you can't stop to take care of yourself. That's a huge, huge problem of why the parents are so reactive and take things personally and are angry and yell.

I mean, have you ever had low blood sugar? I mean, that's not a recipe for anything. So it's just like we can't overlook that. We have to build, again it's like the foundation in a way. Like unless you're healthy and whole and fully functioning as a human, how are you going to model that and have kids who are that so that the relationship can function?

Justin: And I imagine well, what struck me is this idea of self-care, I think is absolutely vital. I'm so glad that it was at the beginning of the book because like we got to start there. If you're not getting enough sleep, if you're not eating right, if you're not, you know, taking care of yourself, then none of this other stuff is going to work.

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: And with our nonprofit MaxLove Project, we work with childhood cancer parents. And, of course, whatever's going on with regular parenting like ratcheted up times 10 for a cancer parent. And so we talk about the oxygen mask principle that you can't put the oxygen mask on your kid if you're passing out. But then the addiction thing, what struck me there is I think, that so many parents, because they're not taking care of themselves, reach a point where the only way they think they can manage is to numb and pass out.

Vanessa: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. So that's the M and the N, right? The misunderstood, because you're just suffering. This is the part where I did. I got to tell you, this whole framework, you know, like it, like this sounds kooky, but I don't care because it's true. I don't even feel responsible for like making it up like it came to me, like I birthed a 10-year-old kid.

Like that's how it was. Like that's when you're in the zone of alignment, for example, of spirituality, the universe, like I just have to say that I didn't like labor. Oh, god. What should it say? You know, like, it just like came. So that's something I can't take real credit for.

Justin: That's awesome.

Vanessa: Yeah. I just don't know why I wanted to say that out loud right there. But so the numb thing, what's the biggest epidemic with teenagers? Right. They're numbing out. They're they're evading. They're drinking. They're doing serious drugs. They're...

Justin: Well, I don't know how you feel about this, but I think for boys, at least for my boy who turns 14 today. Yeah.

Vanessa: Oh, cool. Happy birthday.

Justin: Video games. Video games are a way to numb out.

Vanessa: Yep. Yep. Video games for sure. Like just, you know, social media. So those are the kid versions.

And then there's the mommy and the daddy, or the mommy and the mommy, and the daddy and the daddy version. Like they're all the versions of that. You can like, if somebody could be brave enough and just brave and courageous enough to look for on purpose how the exact attitudes, behaviors, tendencies, vices that their children have, that they're concerned about are reflected in us first.

Justin: Hmm. Oh…

Vanessa: That's it. That's it. You might say…

Justin: You just yeah, so I just had this like moment of reflection, because my thing is definitely with our son, it's the video games. And so I just had this moment of reflection when you said that. You know what I love to numb out with? Twitter. I love to numb out with.

Vanessa: That's your daddy version.

Justin: And yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so, oh, my gosh. I feel seen.

Vanessa: Awesom.e And I'll give your son a birthday present right now, ok? I'm a polarizer. I'm down with it. I don't need everyone to like me, agree with me. I don't give up. You know what. If people believe me or agree with me or like what I have to say, like I do what I do, I think what I think it works. And if it doesn't work for someone, we're not a fit. Like I don't care.

One thing that I say that is so counter. I don't know if it's countercultural, but it's kind of like against the grain is. Yes, I know about video game addiction. Yes, I understand. I understand. Like, I follow things like that. I read about things like that. I get it.

However, I have seen, out of speaking about my own children. Confidence go up so much. They have their little world. They have their people on Xbox Live or Minecraft servers like my daughter, who's 14, she's been in therapy for over three years, for one day a week, for over three years now. And I was just catching up, you know, mental telehealth. I love that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: Thanks for that. Think of Covid for that, I suppose, because that really got went into gear. She and so the therapist, the doctor, she's PHd, like you. And so she was like, I can't believe the growth. And I got to say, all these months of not being in school, the place where my daughter has like cut her teeth in, like realized who she is and like who she's becoming is largely due to her being on group chats and servers and discord and all the things, all the things. And it's the place in her life where she has that sense of confidence and friendship and working through lots of drama and like cool, real drama to work through, even with people you don't see.

Justin: Oh, my gosh, you are freeing me right now from a lot of shame and guilt that I, you know, there's some like bad parenting narratives that I'm working out. But, ooh, but this leads me into the second thing that I wanted to talk about with MEAN, and that is the authoritarian section. So there's a lot to say about authoritarian.

But you were talking about the parents needing everything to look perfect to the outside world. And this hit me, like when I really investigate some of my deepest emotional issues around my kids. A lot of it has to do with like what would people think about me as a parent if they knew how much, how many, how many hours my child plays, you know, video games with his friends, like what would people think that I like, you know? And so that's actually him is like how much of our parenting hang-ups are around our concern about how the outside world, whether it's our parents, are our extended family or just the world in general, sees us and our family and the judgment that we're trying to manage.

Vanessa: Avoid.

Justin: Avoid.

Vanessa: Futile, it's futile. Do you ever feel like, oh, my god, utility cologne is what you put on in the morning? Let me put on my utility. Oh, yeah.

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: It sucks. And I've got the best, best kid of my own example of another. Like, you can't, we can't care about that. There's no recipe for what a good kid and a good parent can look like.

So I've got this kid, Ollie. I wrote about her in the book. Right. She is almost 17 this month. She'll be 17. And if you could like, I wish you'd like walk in the room right now. But she's not. So she always has different color hair. She has like piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, like all these piercings, right? Yes. I know how old she is. Like, judge me, bring it. I don't care. Right. Like, well, but wait. There's more. She smokes cigarettes.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: All the time. And she probably... I think she's like she I always ask her. She's like probably like seven a day. So not like half a pack a day, right? Yeah, it's not packs of cigarettes, but, right, look, look at your face, by the way. This is awesome.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: Like...

Justin: Well, now I am a public health PhD.

Vanessa: I know.

Justin: You have to take that into account.

Vanessa: I know, I know. And I know smoking's wrong. And we've gone around and around about this for a long time, right? A long, long time. Just so you know, like I've tried everything. I've showed her videos, I've showed her lungs, I showed her black lungs, I've told her stories. I've tested her with her. You know, we've worked on quitting.

And then she's like, “Mom, I don't want to be a nonsmoker. So all this stuff like you've got to let me work through this.” And then it and then it's like comes to me and it's like, oh, and she buys them herself. I don't buy them. She goes on the reservation. She gets a good deal like she does. She has her whole system worked out. Right. She even bought one of those preschool things with the pockets so that she knows when she's allowed to allow herself to have the next pack.

Justin: Wow. Oh, wow.

Vanessa: Right. So like. So it sucks. It's stupid. I hate it. I hate it more than anything that she smokes. I hate it. I despise it. And will I. So this is my moment of am I going to make every day, every conversation, every time I smell her stanky smoking ass walk in the room or whatever. I make her walk away down the street.

By the way, she has to walk like ten blocks down to smoke, like you're not smoking on my property. Get out of here. Right. But our relationship is so incredibly deep and solid and full of communication.

Justin: I love that.

Vanessa: She’s never not answered my call or my text. I literally never ok, like she, where she struggles in school. She has a myriad of disorders, mood learning, like all kinds of things, which, by the way, I have a lot of compassion. Maybe if I had all that stuff going on, I'd need a little whatever to calm down too.

She's medicated, she has a psychiatrist and all of that and were responsible for her mental health. But what if I could realize, which I have, that smoking and that thing could be a war that we fight till the end of time. And what would happen? Like fill in the blank. Fill in the blank. What if I focus on that aspect of one thing about her?

Justin: So, Vanessa, have I asked you about authentic relating before? Because this is the thing that I like to talk about. Ok, so. Well, I’ll, after the show, I will send you info because it's like my favorite thing in the world.

Vanessa: Ok.

Justin: But authentic relating is really just a set of ideas and practices around communicating in just a deep connected way. And so I've taken several classes on this, and I've done it quite a bit over the last eight or nine months. One of the principles in authentic relating, well, it's this idea that in any relationship, any, of course, differences are going to pop up. Like we're not the same. No, you're you're going to choose to do and think in a different way than me.

The question is, is the relationship, is the connection more important than the differences in the conflict? And it's so beautiful, because what you just showed is that even something big like smoking, you know, for a public health Phd is like, oh, my God. But even that you have said that this relationship is more important. Like I'm really touched. Yeah.

Vanessa: You get me. That's right. That's right. And everyone, I mean, gasp, the parent and teacher coach. Let's, I'm air quoting here, her kids smoke. Oh, I didn't even mention all of her tattoos, you know, I mean, like all of our stick and poke tattoos, all of the things that look wrong about her. I could go ape shit on and, oh, to back to your point, how the public views certain people like a different level, like I'm putting myself out there.

So what people think, all my kids have straight A's and all my kids are perfect and don't ever look at porn or don't ever play video games too long or what? Vegetables all day long, like none of that, like nothing has worked out in my family. All of us are full-blown human beings.

Justin: But the relationships take priority.

Vanessa: Yes. And then when you have a relationship, then I'm able to influence them. I know where their heads at. I know what they're struggling with.

Justin: But the cool thing that is coming up for me around this is that even if you're not able to influence, let's just say, I mean, let's just throw that out the window, to go back to like what we were talking about a couple of minutes ago, we would say the most important thing in our lives, our kids and our relationships with our kids, these relationships are ends in themselves. Like if through it all, we maintain a connected, deep, loving relationship. We won. Like we're doing it.

Vanessa: Yes. Right. Influence. Influence. Like I like that you said that because I've never when I say influence, you're actually what you said is more what I even mean. I think that people think, oh, you mean you get to like make them do stuff? No, no.

I get to like, my love that I give them and the love they receive, to me, is like a one to one ratio. There's no like thing in the middle that like catches the stuff. There's no wall. There's no barrier. Like the fact that I. I walked into her room the other day, by the way. Shocking. She's messy. Right. Your brain, her executive functioning is just like, what's that? You know, and so I walk in a room the other morning and I'm like, Ollie, you know what I love about you? That you have 17 half drank water bottles all over your room. You know what else I love…

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I wasn't being a bitch. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm like I love, I said, I love that you're sloppy. I love that. I and I just told her, like all the things I love, like these. Ok, and just to get a little bit heavy if I lost her. From an accident or from a disease or from a mental health, you know, like crisis…

Justin: Tragedy.

Vanessa: Tragedy or suicide or something like that, right. If I did. I would look back and say to myself, why did you focus on all these little dumb things? Because you were worried about how people would think about you, Vanessa. And I would regret that my whole life. I would never get over the fact that I had to make a big deal about all the things that are wrong with her, which would develop her into someone who thinks that something's wrong with her and that she is broken and that I can never fix her.

Justin: Mm-hmm. That's beautiful. Oh, thank you. Thank you for that. Yeah, I kind of want to dig into this a little bit as parents. One of our charges, one of our responsibilities is that we are preparing these human beings to go out into the world and to be human beings among many other human beings.

And so in the book, you said it's not like you're arguing. You just let your kids do whatever they want and you just sit back and chill. And so you are making a distinction between discipline and punishment. And so can you unpack this a little bit?

Vanessa: Yes. Thank you for the opportunity. Yes. I think that sometimes when I speak, people think that I, assume that I'm passive and that I'm some hippie, like, hey, whatever you want, you know, and it's absolutely not the case. Instead of what I call cheap power plays. Ok, well, your phone is mine now. Well, I guess you lost your privileges. I guess you lost your stuff, didn't you? I mean, because they did something that I did my version of two hours before.

Who’s punishing me? They're never going to get to this point where they are perfectly meeting all the expectations of life. They're just not going to have anyone to catch them when they get older like us. Right. You see what I mean there? So this punishment thing is manipulative. It's cheap. There are way, it's taking advantage of the role. It's like using the power differential to force an outcome. So that's why I'm against that. Did that answer that part?

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: Okay. So then the alternative, though, that's what we want. We want to replace it with something better. There are, you know, there's extrinsic rewards from things we do in life and there are intrinsic rewards. So if we're always focused on the external metrics that kids come with, like grades are just like the most obvious one. Right. And like tardies and attendance and, you know, blowups or I don't know, like if you're keeping track of all these episodes of things and problems. Right. Number and frequencies of things.

If that's what you're focused on, all the outside stuff going back to, like, what will people judge you for, you know, and what will look bad and all of the above. If you're focused on that, then the kid just knows how to jump through hoops, follow directions, play the game, be a sneakier rat. You know, like there's every kid I know knows how to override life 360.

Every kid I know knows how to get Wi-Fi when their parents turn it off. Every kid I know, kids have, I forgot what it's called. Oh, my kids told me the other day, fake phones, though, like give them your phones mine. They'll have a phone. They passed around among their friends. That's the phone that or something like this where they give, they have a backup phone, guys. They have a backup. So you can't cut off their lifeline from their support system and their friends.

Justin: Oh, my god. So what do you do?

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, I know, right. You can't beat smart people. And you don't want your kids to be less smart, do you?

Justin: Right. Right.

Vanessa: And you can't beat them. And the more you try to beat them, the smarter they get about how to beat people. And you're teaching people how to be manipulative.

Justin: It's an arms race. Yeah.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Perfectly put. Yes. Ok, so here we go. Intrinsic. Are you someone who want, these are things that I say to my kids. Are you someone, do you see your future like this where you give your word and you keep your word? Do you want to have integrity in your life? Do you want to feel lighter? Do you want them to feel strong? Do you want to feel good about yourself? Like, let's talk about what it feels like when you're reactive because you're not eating enough and you're, because you're playing too many games. Like let's talk about the actual reality inside of a person.

So then I'm walking around saying, “You said you would do this by this time there is an impact on the whole family that you didn't.” No shame, no judgment, just frickin facts, like straight up. Can you tell I’m direct? I'm direct. This doesn't work. This doesn't work for who you are. This doesn't work for our family unit. And this doesn't work for your future. So get your shit together. And I'm the first person that they all know when they want to get their shit together, I'm all in. Let's salute. Is that a word?

Justin: Yeah. Oh, right, right. Right. Let's solve this, right?

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah, yeah, I know. A solution. I don't know. Right.

Justin: We can salute to making these positive changes as well. Oh, I love that, yeah. You know, what comes up when I hear that is a sense that it ties back to this authenticity thing of like if what we're asking our kids to do is rooted in reality and authenticity. You know, then it has some weight to it and they will be… for themselves. But if what we're asking them to do is actually bullshit…

Vanessa: Bullshit! They’re like it’s bullshit!

Justin: Oh. Like. Right. I mean, this is the thing right now with what Max is doing in math right now. He's like, “This is, there's like never going to use this.” And I was like, “Max, you're right. You're right. You're never going to use that.”

So then let's think, why do we want to try to at least pass this class? Because if you know, if we don't pass this class, then there's going to be trouble. So this is a hoop. Let's just acknowledge that it's a hoop... I know. You know, and like let's just let's acknowledge that it's a game and we need to pass this level of this game to get to the next one. And, you know…

Vanessa: Yes, I'm freaking out over here because everybody knows that you don't have to graduate from high school to be a baller and a world leader. Everybody knows that.

Justin: All right, so I don't know if you remembered me a lot in high school, because I don't think you smoked pot or smoked a lot, but like in my senior year, I mean, it was just like every day. I mean, literally every day. And I mean, I barely graduated, just barely like by the skin of my teeth. And then I didn't go to college, I... Ok, so just as a really quick aside.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: The only way I knew that the SAT’s were even happening is, I called up a friend. I won't mention. No, no, I will, because he couldn't go out and he took the… and so I called up Josh Ramiz.

Vanessa: I knew you were going to say that. He was a good guy.

Justin: Yes. And I was like, dude, let's go out. You know, we're going to party tonight. And he's like, I can't the SATs are tomorrow. I'm like, wait, I had no idea. All right. Well, have fun. And so I didn't go to college. I didn't do the first year, but then I eventually got my act together.

And then I, and I now have two PhDs. So it's like, yeah. So my feeling about their school is like if you want to do it, I mean, like pass. Like you cannot drop out of school, but like and then, you know, let's find the joy where there is joy. And so you're really interested in history and you're really interested in the essays, like let's find the joy where there is and then where there's not.

Let's just treat it like a hoop that we got to jump through.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Be real, be real, be real, be real. Be real. Like I can't say it enough times. It's like acknowledge the truth. They are so smart. They're so like they get it. They get it.

And we're over here being like, well, if you don't bubba, then you won’t the dadda and then you won’t bubba and they're like, I don't want to fuckin dadda. Like they don't want what all the hoops add up to. And then we're just like these like animal trainers or something, you know, it's so then the Christmas card, you can be like: and then they went to la la la.

Justin: The Christmas card. Oh, my God. Vanessa, can you just talk real quick about the Christmas card? How do you feel about Christmas cards?

Vanessa: I don't know, man. Like the letters and the things. I like the funny ones. I like the real ones. But the ones where “Tommy la la la.”

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: Or Lucy la la la. I'm just like…

Justin: Thank you. Thank you. Speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, my kids will say, well, that's funny, because actually, you know, I happen to know that the picture that they're painting is completely opposite of, the parents are like in a fantasyland. It's just like, so refreshing when people are real. And I wanted to say something about like school and so easy to take that as a place to get hyper-focus, because, again, the metrics is measurable.

We love things that are measurable, went up and went down. It went up. It's like, wait, all the things I think we're all obsessed about have to do with things where you can like track them really well.

Justin: These easily tracked metrics I think are attractive to most of us, because deep down, we feel like if we can only be good enough we’ll be worthy of love and respect, we can all leave. And so these metrics become like, am I worthy of love and respect today?

Oh, if I could just, yes, maybe. And the truth is and this is what I am learning, and it's like a deep truth that is true for every single person in the world. There is nothing you can do to be more worthy of love and respect than you already are right now.

Vanessa: Right. Right. I want to just say this one thing. I was speaking with a kid on Wednesday, and his name is Nick. He just came out to his parents. I helped him for months to work into this email for months, coming out as trans. And he is amazing. I get it. Here's something that he said to me the other day. And I'm like, bro, oh, my god. And I'm like I'm writing a book on what you just said. A book, dude. Like, I’ll credit you. He said this. “It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's their responsibility to be proud of me.”

Justin: Mm-hmm.

Vanessa: Really feel that.

Justin: Wisdom. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: He doesn't have to jump through hoops to. And I'm putting those words like worth and love into like what make worth in pride. Like I'm proud of you because you're worth more. I'm so proud of you because your stock went up.

Justin: And when your stock goes up, my stock goes up…

Vanessa: Right!

Justin: Because fundamentally the parents are feeling unworthy. If my kid can just get into the right college, I'll be worth more. I will be worthy of love and respect finally.

Vanessa: Yes, exactly. Dude. Exactly. So that and I'm like, that's like the most. That's the most amazing way to say that, because what my work is about, which she doesn't even fully know, I don't even know if he knew I wrote a book, this kid. But like what he doesn't know is that I'm trying to get parents to see that what makes them freak out about all these kid things is actually something inside of them that's unhealed, that's undealt with, that's not whole. That's not... It comes down to self-love.

Justin: Wisdom.

Vanessa: That's it. That's it.

Justin: Yes. So parents listening to this, they have teenagers like, oh, my god, like I'm seeing myself and hearing myself and a lot of what you guys are saying and I don't even know where to start. So, Vanessa, what like today would be a baby step?

Vanessa: Today, what they can do is, I actually this is more in the course and it's step one. So the course has the same name as the book. Right. But it's in five steps. So it's like theoretical and philosophical, like in the book. Right. But it's real. It hits you. Right.

But now what do I do? Oh, I got what you do over here. Come over here. This course is like me, my face. And we're talking about all the stuff in the book, but not repeating it. It's all like fresh. I didn't read the book for the course at all. There's a whole coaching guide that goes with that, where it's like a lot of deep work, like this is not for babies, but it's for people who actually are sick of how it is. And they want something beautiful instead.

So. The first step I say “write a real clean letter to your teen,” and I have a link if you go in my bio anywhere, there's on Instagram specifically. Then there's a link on linktree and it says, “Real Clean Letter to Your Teen.” And it's an entire PDF and it breaks it all down to something. I guess you can't call it a baby step, but it's not a baby step. Like it's easy and little and quick, but it's the first step. Can we call it that?

Justin: Sure.

Vanessa: It's called the first real step. Yeah. And it's going to make a giant impact, and that is to write a letter and apologize and own up and take responsibility and be accountable for all the shit that you've been pulling, all the things that, the messages that you've been saying. It's not coming from this shaming place. It's coming from like this powerful place of ownership, of upsetting things to your children, like it when you fail. And in school or when the neighbors saw you vaping, I can't handle it because I think that it means that I'm a failure. And you're just a kid doing the best you can.

But the things that you do, I make them mean that I'm bad. And then I get mad at you for making me feel like I'm a bad person or a bad parent or something like that. Or remember that time I told you this or that. I'm sorry. I said that, you know, like talking about each and every instance you can think of where you put your child down and made them feel like a bad, broken person who needs fixing. All the control. We haven't even talked about the C-word, Justin.

Justin: Oh, my god. Oh.

Vanessa: Anyway, this is money.

Justin: That's ok. So that's the wonderful thing. Parents listening to this podcast, there is going to be a lot of stuff that maybe we just barely touched on. It's going to be in the book and then it's definitely going to be in the courses.

Vanessa: Yeah, the book stands alone. By all means. It's, you know, 12 bucks. Best thing you ever did. But the course is like, let's freaking do this.

Justin: Let's dig deep. I know parents, you know, they come out of your course and they've got a whole new foundation and they've got a whole new set of tools and they're rebuilding their relationship with their teens. But I'm sure, you know, life happens and, you know, growth is not just some linear trajectory. So what are the common pitfalls that parents deal with after they've built this foundation and are using these tools? What are some of the things that they still have to watch out for?

Vanessa: You know, the tendency to stop being real. I mean, really, I mean, the tendency to want to make excuses, to blame, to operate in a shame, shamy Blamey world context, where it has to be someone's fault. And then the other thing I would say is, so that it really requires like going deep, like I'm not a therapist, I'm not a doctor. I'm not like a million things.

What I am is like triage in many ways. It's like, ok, so maybe you want to get into a rehab program, mom. Maybe you want to go deal with your dad issues, dad. Let's, I think like one of the things is to think that you're never done. You know, like to think that, like you said.

Justin: Right, like I read the book, I took the course. Now I've done. Yes, I'm perfect. I am done. Yeah.

Vamessa: Yeah. It's not a Band-Aid. I'm not a Band-Aid. I want that to be like the sub-subtitle. This isn't a Band-Aid. Like this is like you using the fact that you, whether you wanted to or not, are now a parent. How are you going to let this I swear the ultimate challenge, right. Is parenting and everything that comes with it.

Times however many kids you have and whatever comes upon your life because of the kids and the marriage, like or if there's a marriage like all that stuff like this could be your this is your shot to go deep and sort out all the stuff that if you didn't have this little walking around reflection of you, you may never even realize that was hurting inside of you.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Oh, I love that. I love that. So that brings me to the final question before we get to the regular three questions that we always ask our guests. So the final question is, Vanessa, what is at the, what is the most challenging, I like to say what is at the edge for you in your own personal growth journey and your own parent journey? We just talked about how this is not a one-and-done thing.

So even though you have, you know, you know how to practice all these tools, you're still learning things about yourself, you're still growing up, what is at your edge, what is the kind of new and challenging in your own life?

Vanessa: Oh, so much. I'm ripping myself to shreds in a loving way, like uncovering, turning over every rock of me and who I am every day, every week, like professionally speaking. I work with someone who helps me with my energy. And when I'm confronted with this particularly hard like case or a family I client, I go to her and I'm like, what about me is in my way from serving these people in the way that they deserve to be served, like what are my triggers here?

And we'll talk about that. And I do breathwork. I do energy work because my things, I'm a recovering control freak. If I didn't take Lexapro, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be an alcoholic because I deal with incredible anxiety and depression and swings with all of that. But with, you know, treating it, I'm ok. I'm almost always eating with, or eating dealing with my eating disorder.

Still, I have a therapist, so I have my energy person, Reiki type stuff, everything, dude, like everything. I think it's because of my, you know, what people might call issues and imperfections and how hard I am on myself, how sometimes I think what I'm doing as a charity and I just want to help everyone. And I'm, this is a business. You know, those kinds of things, the tendency to like cross over my own boundaries. I'm working on that. My needlessness because of my own childhood. I bought myself a Jeep a couple weeks back, and it's an old 1965 Willys and it's so cool. And like that is for real the first time in my life I've done something for me that felt completely indulgent, you know. And I'm 44 almost. I don't do that.

So self-care will be something that I have to tackle. Just even eating enough food like every single day, like I'm a walking, talking wreck. But I know that. And that's what makes me awesome.

Justin: It sounds like radical self-honesty.  

Vanessa: Yes. Ooh, radical. Yes. Right. Awareness. Honesty. And then just like staying in, just staying in it and not ever thinking that I, but it's not like sad. I don't know. Does it sound sad? It's not sad?

Justin: No, no.

Vanessa: Sorry. I'm not saying I thought you thought it was sad. I don't. But what does it sound like when I said that?

Justin: The word that kept coming, or the words were radical self-honesty like that is when I asked, what is at your edge, your edge, what it sounded like to me was this constantly pushing this radical self-examination, saying like, what is my shit? Like what, what do I have that maybe I don't need to have or that I perhaps should start to have, like, you know, and can I just get real with myself?

Vanessa: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: Which is in working on myself over the past couple of years, but then building programs for parents. I feel like it's the hardest thing. It is the hardest thing to just sit back and wait. Can I just get real with yourself and like really own some of the really challenging emotions that I'm feeling, some of the, you know, some of the coping behaviors and avoiding behaviors that I've developed over the years, because I don't want to deal with this, because I don't want to be radically honest.

Vanessa: Right. And I find that like I'm unable, because I don't just work with parents and kids. I work with with CEOs and creators and artists like I work with, like the most amazing people from all over the place. And I'm not able to challenge these people who don't even have kids who are just like really like it's them against them kind of stuff. Unless I'm me, against me, I don't have parenting figured it out. I don't have myself figured out. I don't have life figured out.

But since I'm always pushing myself to the edge with so much love and like was the possibility of this because freedom is my thing, you know, like I want freedom and I experienced more freedom and more happiness when I uncover something and then bring just like just tons of compassion to it. Like that, it's like perpetually healing.

It's like, almost like an opportunity to find something that's hurt that I cope with or that makes me feel the way I don't like to feel or something, and then to to look at that, to love that, that's how I'm… Oh, wow. I'm just not really getting this like that's how I love myself. I tend to myself regularly, actively. I have a coach who pushes. I have two coaches.

They push me so hard and call me out so much. I couldn't be doing this amazing work and getting off the phone like another miracle, another miracle, another miracle. Like I walked out of this door before there's my living room and I'm like, oh, my God, like with every client. That's how I feel. And I couldn't be that bold if I weren't doing it for me, which is exactly what I'm talking about with parents and kids. You see it’s all the same?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it. So I feel like we've just scratched the surface. So I'm just going to put you on the spot that I would love to have you back and…

Vanessa: Yes! Oh, my god, I would do this every morning at nine o'clock.

Justin: Yeah. No, this conversation has been so much fun and there's so much oh, there's just so much here. It's so nourishing to talk about this. So we're going to go into the final regular questions, these are the three questions that we ask every podcast guest. Ok, so the first one is, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Vanessa: Get over yourself.

Justin: Ohhh, get over yourself. Oh, my gosh. Can you unpack that?

Vanessa: Yeah. Just like check your ego at the door... Does everyone else is like get over that you suck, too. We all suck. Who cares? It's not a big deal. Like, get over yourself. Ego.

Justin: For me, it would. Yeah, it would definitely be. Get over the parts of yourself that are the trying to prove your worthiness for love and respect because you are already worth it. Get over it, man. You are whole the way you are. Get over it.

Vanessa: Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: OK, so last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Vanessa: The one. The one from Nick. It all, it rocked me. It rocked me. It absolutely blew my mind. It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's my parent's responsibility to be proud of me. And I'd like to add period. Like no matter what. Unconditional love is what we're talking about.

Justin: I think that quote is, right now for me, is easier if I put love in there. Yeah. Because I guess from my own childhood, when I think of pride, I do think of like achievement in some way. And so this love is like, yeah, I don't and I can't earn my parent's love. That is something that has to be given freely or it's not love. It's some…

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: It’s something else.

Vanessa: That’s right. Right. And it's like the pride thing is like I'm proud of you, though, for a kid, this is what I understand. Like I talked to, I have a podcast. You and I talk to kids who are 18 to 22sh someone who was 14, his mom was dying for me to talk to me like you might as well been 30 anyway.

So. But these kids are like, I've never heard that my parents are proud of me. They equate that with being acceptable and being lovable. So like it's kind of like a buzz word. And I'm ok with you. I'm not proud of you. Like, are you proud of yourself? Like it's used like a weapon.

Justin: So what they hear is love. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Vanessa: And hey, listen, Justin, that's what you heard, too. So you just helped me prove that point, right? Like you heard love. Right. Like...

Justin: That’s awesome.

Vanessa: … I’m proud of your sibling whose such a show off and does all these things because…

Justin: I love your sibling.

Vanessa: They’re the favorite, because they measure up. They know how to jump through hoops.

Justin: Beautiful. Ok, so the last question I like to ask, because as you know, for parents, you know, when they're just in their in the throes of just of just the craziness of life and parenting, and, you know, the schedules are so busy and kids like, oh, my God, kids. But here at The Family Thrive we want to take a moment to celebrate kids. And so can you. And oh, my gosh. With six kids, you are like the expert on this. What is your favorite thing about kids?

Vanessa: Oh, my gosh. Just like their humor, like what they think is funny. Like their brains, their ideas, their minds. If you sit with a kid and like get in there, like just really get in there, you'll be so encouraged about like what humanity is. They're so in touch with like their thoughts and their ideas. It's like the judgment isn't there. If you're lucky, you know, like if. I mean, that's part of the thing, right, that we're trying to I'm like completely anti judgment when it comes to parenting.

Like it doesn't work to judge your kids, to criticize them, to come from that place if something's wrong with you. So anyway, to answer your question better, it's like the way that they think is a miracle. My mind is blown every single day that I talk to any kid of any age. I talk to kids as young as 11 and, you know, in any age above adults. But teenagers like we need to be in awe of them. We need to be in awe of them. They need to know we're in awe of them.

Justin: Wow. That's beautiful. And this is coming from a mom of six kids. Like it's like, you know of what you speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, I know. My, one of my. Oh, this is funny. I just want to add this funny little thing. One thing, if you don't, if you knew, you know the gaming thing, this is. the best trick ever. If you're not, if you don't understand what the hell they're talking about and you don't really care. Like, I can't even lay one little brick thing down in my life.

I have not bought a gaming gene. Like I can barely miss Pacman a little bit. That's it. And so it's ok. So what I do is I Google something about like a new update to a game. And I like I would get on like a board of people talking, you know, and then I'll copy and paste like my, I pretend like it's my opinion. I won't get update and I’ll be like “what about the new Call of Duty?” dududaa.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And then I say, well, this is like this, you know. Like how like the …

Justin: Oh my God, that’s brilliant.

Vanessa: And then they know that I'm they know that I don't know what I'm saying. And they know that I found that somewhere.

Justin: But they know that you cared.

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And then they know that like, I value what they value.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful. Vanessa, thank you so much. This is such a beautiful conversation is so, so rich. But before we go, how can people contact you? What are the ways that they can get involved?

Vanessa: I am the most active, actually, on my personal Facebook page. So, Vanessa Baker. I just feel more authentic there than a business page. And then what I shared over there too, my website has all kinds of stuff. It's vbakermindset.com.

Justin: Vbakermindset.com.

Vanessa: Right.

Justin: Oh and, we are going to have show notes as well. So we're going to put all of this stuff in.

Vanessa: Yeah. And then my book's on Amazon, if you don't like Amazon, which I understand, you can go to Barnes and Noble or Balboa Press, which is my publisher, and the course will launch on March 1st. People can email me from my website and I'm just an open door. Like, just bring it we'll work it out.

Justin: One more time. The book is called From Mean to Real Clean.

Vanessa: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.

Justin: Vanessa, thank you so much.

Vanessa: It was fun. Thanks, Justin. Thanks for having me. This is wonderful. You're amazing. And I appreciate what you're doing and I appreciate it. Like it's needed and I love that it's you who is doing it. Like because it's you, you're going to touch more life like people are going to and are responding to who you are in the work that you're doing in yourself. And then out in the world, like everything you're doing is like, perfect. I'm so proud of you.

Justin: That gives me some warm, fuzzy feelings, really. Thank you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: You're welcome.

Justin: All right.


Justin: Audra and I are currently the parents of two teenagers, and let me tell you, the struggle is real. I don't know very many people who love parenting through their teenage years. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who really loves parenting teenagers. I'd wager most parents dread the teenage years and see them as a dangerous river that has to be crossed. Well, my good friend Vanessa Baker loves diving headfirst into that river.

She's a mom of six. That's right, six. And a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book From “Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “That You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

This conversation was mind-blowing. We drove straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talked about all the hard things parents come up against. She broke it all down and laid out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. So without further ado, here's my conversation with Vanessa Baker.

Let's just jump in because, as I said, it’s going to be super conversational. And what I want to start off with is the fact that I did not just meet you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: No.

Justin: We've known each other since high school. My memories of you in high school are that you really had it together.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: Yeah. What's coming up for me is like you had an idea of who you were and what you stood for and you had it together in a way that not every high schooler does.

Vanessa: Wow. I could’ve used that back then. Why didn’t you say so 25 years ago? Did you go to the 10 year class reunion?

Justin: No, I went to the 20 year.

Vanessa: Ok. I think I went to that one too. At the 10 year one a bunch of guys were standing around and they were like, “Wow, we thought you were so cool with your Jeep.” I had a ‘78.

Justin: Oh, I think I remember that.

Vanessa: Yeah. They’re like “you're so badass, you just had mud all over,” because I went off-roading all the time with Catherine Schultz.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I was like, “what?” I was like the only kid in my mind who didn't have a beamer and the old Jeep, you know, and it was just so funny that I'm like, all these things come out like way too late. But thanks for saying that. I didn't have that experience of myself at all.

I mean, I was like in the throes of a few, pretty serious eating disorder. I was like my parents were dealing with all kinds of stuff. My sister was constantly in crisis. I never felt like I fit in ever. I was apathetic.

I remember in Honors English senior year. I remember walking up to the teacher. Do you remember the redheaded teacher who's a runner? Who was the… uh… she's really adorable. And she's like pregnant. She's like a track-like cross-country lady.

Justin: So, Vanessa, I smoked a lot of pot in high school, so I don't... especially like senior year. I have just bits and pieces of memories of school. I mean, I have a lot of memories of the parties. I just… like school was...

Vanessa: That’s funny. So I went up there and I was like, I'm apathetic. I remember like search synonyms. I'm apathetic. I was like reaching out, like somebody help me.

Justin: Oh, my gosh.

Vanessa: And I love that you said that, though, because that just shows something that shines a light on something so important, which is the way we view people, has almost nothing to do with the reality of what they're dealing with. Like ever, probably.

Justin: Ok, so what about, is there another, maybe, truth alongside that? That what I was seeing was something deep down.

Vanessa: Yeah. You must have been really high. But yes, you're right. Because I do like that's how I would say that's how I describe myself now, and especially in the last five years. But you, I mean…

Justin: And it was always there. It was always there.

Vanessa: I like that. I like that. Thanks.

Justin: Awesome.

Vanessa: Thanks.

Justin: Awesome. So. So tell me a little bit about what, I mean, you know, from a I don't know the five-minute elevator pitch of like what has happened since Vanessa in high school. Yeah. So I mean, you can like, Yeah. Just like boom, boom, boom.

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, boom, boom, boom, boom. Ok, so I went to college. I kicked in with my academics in college. I was like super, like I was like the first woman president of the business college counselor at ASU. I was like getting awards and like causing like amazing things to happen. And like honors, call it like the whole thing, just like showing off and making just like waves over there. And then I got like a really hard job to get, a really hard internship to get.

And I was like, business, business, supply chain management. Oh, I love supply chain management, logistics, manufacturing. It's my life. And then I got married to a guy who I said, “You know, I'm gay. Right?” And he's like, “That's hot.” And so we just got married.

Justin: Oh, oh, oh. So he knew. He knew going in.

Vanessa: We knew. Yeah. Like I remember telling my friends, my high school friends, I'm like, I can just see myself being a lesbian, living in New York City. And like I mean, I was saying it, but it was only, it wasn't like something I could do something with, I guess. I mean, what was I going to be like, Richard Simmons? Like there weren't like a lot of gay people to look at for me at that point. There wasn't social media. The 1999, 2000, it sounds recent, but it's not, and things have changed a lot with who you think you can be.

And so. So we got married, got pregnant on the honeymoon. Okay, here's the boom, boom, boom, literally. Pregnant on the honeymoon, nine months later, baby number one. Then 18 months later, baby number two. 17 months later, baby number three. 16 months later, baby number four. 14 months later, baby number five. And now…

Justin: Amazing.

Vanessa: I know, right? Just unbelievable. I'm blessed to be fertile and have these wonderful children. I'm not talking crap about my blessings, but that was a lot. And then we carried on and, you know, doo-de-doo, regular, you know, natural progressions of life and raising kids and all of that.

And then when I was 38, I came out and I tried really hard to like be a gay person in a hetero marriage. And I thought coming out would be like enough, you know? But then I was like, no. And so I asked for a divorce. So the kids were between seven and 12 or something like that, close to that when that happened. I met my wife got married, I actually met her before I got a divorce, but we were friends. And I mean, there is a deeper story there, but it was all out in the open kind of stuff.

And then I got married to her. She had a baby who's two now, and we got a donor. And so now I've got these kids and this wife. And when I got the divorce and I wasn't able to be a stay-at-home mom anymore, homeschooling my kids and just doing that whole situation, I had to do something. And so I'm like, I love teenagers, like that’s as close as I could get to like what I was passionate about.

Justin: Well, that in itself is a rare skill, to love teenagers.

Vanessa: I do.

Justin: Cause most people don't.

Vanessa: Exactly. And, you know, my business mind was like, you can say the word teenager in a room anywhere in the entire world, and people go, “Guuuuuh.”

Justin: Oh, totally.

Vanessa: And I'm like, oh, I feel this could be a good niche where everyone will agree that there's a problem.

Justin: And nobody wants to solve this problem.

Vanessa: Yeah, and the ways they do try to solve it are not scalable, don't model anything that's workable, aren't how adults want to be treated. And I mean, I remember being at my son's basketball games and like there'd be like this crowd of like stranger teenagers. And I'd be like, I want to go talk to them, like I want to know them. And Stephanie, my wife would be like, “That's weird, babe.”

Justin: Stop being weird.

Vanessa: I know. But I'd be like, I don't think I'm one of them. I don't like think I'm cool. It's just like I'm so interested. Like I'm dying to know what they think about and what they want to do and just be like, yes, yes, whatever you're like into now, whatever you are lit up about.

Don't lose that. Like we get older. Not me, not you, buddy. Not me and not you. But a lot of people get older and they just like die inside. And I'm always like I want to like just harness their flame because the teenagers have it figured out.

Justin: Yeah. We have this one life to live. Like, don't let that flame go out.

Vanessa: Right. Don't sell out. Don't sell out. Like I'm so anti-sell out.

Justin: Ok, so I just want to do a little bit of a rewind. Did you ever have a moment when you knew that you wanted to be a mom or did it just happen?

Vanessa: I actually literally out loud said, “I never want to have kids.” When I was in my 20s, but right before I met my ex-husband, and then I really like I mean, it's just like a knowing. I mean, these kids are just like their world changers. They're so cool. They're imperfect. They're not like I'm not saying it like they all have straight A's.

So they're going to change the world like these people that I raised. They are. I mean, if you got to talk to one of them for five minutes, you would just be like, what? The things they think about. So somebody somewhere knew that I needed to get knocked up, like right away. A bunch of times.

Justin: Five times.

Vanessa: Yeah. These kids are amazing. I was driving around my boy, who's 15, has his permit, so he lives at his dad's. And so me and Charlotte, she's 12 or just turned 13. We went and picked Miles up, and he was driving us around. We went to Chick-fil-a, having all kinds of fun. And then we dropped them off. And she's like, who would say this, right? Thirteen, the youngest of five. She's like, “I have,” literally this sounds like a lie, but it's what she actually said, she goes, “I have the best siblings. I love them all so much and I feel so lucky.” And I'm like, “Yep.”

Justin: Awww, those are, that's poetry to a parent. Like, oh, my god.

Vanessa: I know. I'm like oooh, oh, oh. So that's the culture, you know, like that's the culture. So, no, I didn't want to have kids. And then I converted to be Catholic. And because I'm like this like, oh, person, I'm like, “Well, let's be Catholic.”

Justin: Yeah. Right. You don't go half in like there's now just like let's do this thing, ok. You alluded to a little bit of your story about becoming a parenting coach. And so, from what I gathered, a part of it was seeing that you loved this weird time in growing up that not a lot of people love. And so you saw like, ok, I think I can help there. Can you tell?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. Well, when I taught high school, so I got my business degree. I worked in consulting, and then I went back to ASU because I was like, I swear, every day at lunch I'd be like, do any of these windows open? I'm about to dive out of this second story. Like I'm being silly about something serious. But I was very depressed. I was very, very like unfulfilled. I got the company going with like Valley Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I got them going with Junior Achievement, like kind of all these lunch and learns.

I'm like always in HR’soffice, like, can I bring everyone into this? Can I bring everyone into that? All these things that were about kids. And then when I ran out of, you know, victims, to volunteer everything I cared about, I quit and I went back, got a high school, secondary education certification and all that. And I taught business. So when I taught high school, I was teaching in an inner-city school in South Phoenix. And it was like flying, like it was just like flying like, my connection and my ability to get through to them. It just lit me up and I just knew it was a thing. Right.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: So then I had my own kids and I was like, yep, it's a thing. It's a thing like my whatever. I don't know what even to call it, but just my desire to connect to people who aren't yet adults, I guess. I guess that's all I could say.

I just have this desire to just like get in there and like check out for, check for stuff. When that person said that, did you believe it? Do you know that’s a lie? That's like what do you see yourself doing? Did you know you can do anything like all these cliche-sounding things. But I like to just get in there. So, then when I needed to work, I'm not the kind of person who can work for someone else. You might be able to get that. I can't follow rules.

Justin: You blaze your own trail.

Vanessa: I am a trailblazer. My dad died almost two years ago, and that's something that I wrote in his eulogy. And when I spoke at his funeral. Exactly. So that's cool how you said that just now. A lot.

Justin: Beautiful.

Vanessa: Yeah, I'm like a trailblazer. I also consider myself a maverick, you know, like I just, I know what to do. I know what to say. Not because I'm righteous and not because I have a plan. But like there's this like deep trust that I have in myself that I want…

Justin: Inner knowing.

Vanessa: Yes. That I want to impart on people like as soon as I can catch them, as soon as they start realizing that they're about to face a fork in the road where people want them to be something that maybe they aren't, that maybe doesn't align. Like I'm obsessed with alignment and congruence and integrity inside of ourselves, that everything has to match, everything.

Justin: So that makes perfect sense because you have developed a system for teenagers and their parents by the whole system is in alignment. So you've developed this system based on these three acronyms, MEAN, REAL, and CLEAN. Can you just give us the like 3,0000-foot overview of what these acronyms mean?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. So MEAN stands for Misunderstood, Entitled, Authoritarian, and Numb. And my stance is that parents aren't really mean, they get called mean and they feel mean. But that's not the case. So when we look into mean, we look into what are the obstacles that are in the way, we poke around a lot, very gently, very nonjudgmentally there with tons of compassion and empathy, because I know, too, what that's like. And so we clear that away. So consider that the debris, right? We’re clearing all that away.

Then I help them create a foundation, and that's the REAL part. So REAL is a new foundation, right? Like we bondo up whatever they had and then we really, like solidify this foundation, which is the REAL part. Resilient, Effective, Authentic, and Loving. And so once that is set, we are looking at like that's what we all want. We want it to be effective. We talk to our kids and we hope our kids are resilient. Right. But we need to be resilient first. We can't be taking everything personally. Are all we're going to get our kids who are taking everything personally, including what we say to them. And we're not able to influence our kids when we're not being real. Period. They smell our shit from miles away and they're not into it. So…

Justin: I want to get into that later. Yeah.

Vanessa: Yes, for sure. So that's the thing. Authenticity, realness, like all of that. That's the foundation. Without that, like we may not move on.

Then CLEAN are the tools, like this is where we start building on our foundation. So that's being Connected, being Level-headed, being Expressive, being Aware and plain old, ordinary, Nice. Just nice. You know, like what happened to being nice?

Justin: Oh, my gosh. And I imagine by the end of it, being nice is just something that naturally flows, if you’ve like, if you've cleared away all the stuff, you've built the foundation, you're now practicing the stuff, nice is just flowing. Right?

Vanessa: Right, right. Because this is something that confronts a lot of people. They come to me because they want their kid to wear deodorant more often and get their grades up or care more about their sport or something. And it's never. Those are all symptoms. And it doesn't matter at all, that all that works out, though, all the cooperation, all of the like connections stuff, the being, having kids who care about what you have to say, all of that works out once you've dealt with yourself as a parent. They don't want to do anything you say if you're a fake person.

Justin: Oh, right. In grad school language, we would call all those things epiphenomenal. And so they're like epiphenomenal in the sense that they are real and they're coming from set. But they're not the source, like the phenomenon is the source. This other stuff is the epiphenomenon. This stuff that is coming from the real source.

And so what you're doing is you're like leading parents back to the source. Yeah. The fact that your teens are doing all these things and acting in ways that you think are problematic. That's not the issue. Right. Let's trace it back to the source.

Vanessa: Exactly. And I have this wonderful ability that I don't understand. That is where I'm able to diffuse and make light of it in a very helpful way, like to make it like, I don't want to say insignificant, but there's something where we're laughing. We're laughing about how ridiculous it is that we as parents do these things. And then I'll still like, “You mean how your kid does that and that and that and that?” And I'm drawing lines like that to you, like that to you, like that. And they're like, oh, my god.

Justin: Oh, do they ever get a look like they've seen behind the Matrix? Once you've shown them like oh my god…

Vanessa: Exactly.

Justin: Actually, I'm the source.

Vanessa: I almost thought about naming the book. “Great news, parents. It's all your fault.”

Justin: Oh, my god. All right. So your book just came out and it's, the book title is “From Mean to Real Clean.” And what’s the subtitle?

Vanessa: The subtitle is “How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.“ And so I would like to just say a moment, if you let me, about fully functional relationship. Like that's a thing. I don't think people even think that that can happen in and the people… Our standards are so low. We really. I hear, I feel I hear I like I feel most things more than hear. And I'm telling you, people think that teenagerhood, is that a word? Is just something to survive.

They're thinking like just to that and they get off to college thing and then they're going to stress about all new things. But the parents. But it's like they're not thinking about like sitting on a front porch with they're 55-year-old kid and they're 80. They're not thinking about what a fully functional relationship can yield for the rest of their life.

They, people don't, their head is so down and I get it and I get it. They're just blinders on. Survival mode is the best way to say it. And I'm, I paint a beautiful picture in the book about like, what is this look like? Like what could you have, like, broaden the perspective. Speaking of thirty thousand feet. Let's look like. How do you want it to go when your child has their first baby, say. You know, like how do you want that to go? Like, let's think bigger, guys.

Justin: Yeah. So would you say that 99% of the parents that you work with, if you ask them what is the most important thing in your life? They would probably say their kids andthe relationship with their kids.

Vanessa: Yeah.

Justin: And so there that must be such a oh, my god. I'm just feeling into how emotionally painful that must be for parents who say, yes, this is the most important thing in my life. And I don't think it can be functional or healthy or tough or good.

Vanessa: Yes. And the hope, the hope is what I'm, I'm a hope dealer, you know, like that's what I'm doing. I'm like telling people they think they're the worst parent. They think they're kids, they ruin them, even though on the outset they'll say, my kid is this, my kid is that I can't stand them, blah, blah, blah.

And but deep down, they think that's their fault. And that I'm going, it's not your fault. You're not to blame, your kids, not to blame. This is what it is to be human. I want to show you some blind spots. The second that you see it, it's a switch. I mean, there are habits doing bold, but it's a switch. You're like, that's what I'm doing. My kid’s addicted. I'm an alcoholic. Do you know how many people tell me there are alcoholics within five minutes of meeting me? A lot.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: A lot.

Justin: This goes straight into what I really want to focus on. I just want to start off with MEAN. Just looking at this idea of MEAN, and it's connected with what you just said about addiction or other ways that parents are really coping and avoiding.

And so it starts with this first one, misunderstood. And when I was reading the book, I was struck like when I started, it was misunderstood. I thought it would be maybe I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be, but I didn't expect for you to go into self-care.

Vanessa: Yes.

Justin: If you're not taking care of yourself, your behaviors and your communication are going to have all these unintended effects. And you're, you know, you're going to feel misunderstood. Can you talk a little bit about parent health care?

Vanessa: Yes, it's the first thing to go. I mean, right. When you have a baby. Isn't that just like the, I haven't showered in two weeks.

Justin: I haven't slept. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Vanessa: Right. Right. It's the first thing to go and then it doesn't get better from there. It's like, it's some people are able to, I don't want to generalize all parents or anything like that. I never want to do that. But yes. And it's like it's a martyr mindset where like I can't if I take my eye off the ball, if I'm not checking their grades before they even know their grades on their quizzes, if I'm not, you know, that whole like vibe, right. That way of being where you feel like you can't stop to take care of yourself. That's a huge, huge problem of why the parents are so reactive and take things personally and are angry and yell.

I mean, have you ever had low blood sugar? I mean, that's not a recipe for anything. So it's just like we can't overlook that. We have to build, again it's like the foundation in a way. Like unless you're healthy and whole and fully functioning as a human, how are you going to model that and have kids who are that so that the relationship can function?

Justin: And I imagine well, what struck me is this idea of self-care, I think is absolutely vital. I'm so glad that it was at the beginning of the book because like we got to start there. If you're not getting enough sleep, if you're not eating right, if you're not, you know, taking care of yourself, then none of this other stuff is going to work.

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: And with our nonprofit MaxLove Project, we work with childhood cancer parents. And, of course, whatever's going on with regular parenting like ratcheted up times 10 for a cancer parent. And so we talk about the oxygen mask principle that you can't put the oxygen mask on your kid if you're passing out. But then the addiction thing, what struck me there is I think, that so many parents, because they're not taking care of themselves, reach a point where the only way they think they can manage is to numb and pass out.

Vanessa: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. So that's the M and the N, right? The misunderstood, because you're just suffering. This is the part where I did. I got to tell you, this whole framework, you know, like it, like this sounds kooky, but I don't care because it's true. I don't even feel responsible for like making it up like it came to me, like I birthed a 10-year-old kid.

Like that's how it was. Like that's when you're in the zone of alignment, for example, of spirituality, the universe, like I just have to say that I didn't like labor. Oh, god. What should it say? You know, like, it just like came. So that's something I can't take real credit for.

Justin: That's awesome.

Vanessa: Yeah. I just don't know why I wanted to say that out loud right there. But so the numb thing, what's the biggest epidemic with teenagers? Right. They're numbing out. They're they're evading. They're drinking. They're doing serious drugs. They're...

Justin: Well, I don't know how you feel about this, but I think for boys, at least for my boy who turns 14 today. Yeah.

Vanessa: Oh, cool. Happy birthday.

Justin: Video games. Video games are a way to numb out.

Vanessa: Yep. Yep. Video games for sure. Like just, you know, social media. So those are the kid versions.

And then there's the mommy and the daddy, or the mommy and the mommy, and the daddy and the daddy version. Like they're all the versions of that. You can like, if somebody could be brave enough and just brave and courageous enough to look for on purpose how the exact attitudes, behaviors, tendencies, vices that their children have, that they're concerned about are reflected in us first.

Justin: Hmm. Oh…

Vanessa: That's it. That's it. You might say…

Justin: You just yeah, so I just had this like moment of reflection, because my thing is definitely with our son, it's the video games. And so I just had this moment of reflection when you said that. You know what I love to numb out with? Twitter. I love to numb out with.

Vanessa: That's your daddy version.

Justin: And yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so, oh, my gosh. I feel seen.

Vanessa: Awesom.e And I'll give your son a birthday present right now, ok? I'm a polarizer. I'm down with it. I don't need everyone to like me, agree with me. I don't give up. You know what. If people believe me or agree with me or like what I have to say, like I do what I do, I think what I think it works. And if it doesn't work for someone, we're not a fit. Like I don't care.

One thing that I say that is so counter. I don't know if it's countercultural, but it's kind of like against the grain is. Yes, I know about video game addiction. Yes, I understand. I understand. Like, I follow things like that. I read about things like that. I get it.

However, I have seen, out of speaking about my own children. Confidence go up so much. They have their little world. They have their people on Xbox Live or Minecraft servers like my daughter, who's 14, she's been in therapy for over three years, for one day a week, for over three years now. And I was just catching up, you know, mental telehealth. I love that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: Thanks for that. Think of Covid for that, I suppose, because that really got went into gear. She and so the therapist, the doctor, she's PHd, like you. And so she was like, I can't believe the growth. And I got to say, all these months of not being in school, the place where my daughter has like cut her teeth in, like realized who she is and like who she's becoming is largely due to her being on group chats and servers and discord and all the things, all the things. And it's the place in her life where she has that sense of confidence and friendship and working through lots of drama and like cool, real drama to work through, even with people you don't see.

Justin: Oh, my gosh, you are freeing me right now from a lot of shame and guilt that I, you know, there's some like bad parenting narratives that I'm working out. But, ooh, but this leads me into the second thing that I wanted to talk about with MEAN, and that is the authoritarian section. So there's a lot to say about authoritarian.

But you were talking about the parents needing everything to look perfect to the outside world. And this hit me, like when I really investigate some of my deepest emotional issues around my kids. A lot of it has to do with like what would people think about me as a parent if they knew how much, how many, how many hours my child plays, you know, video games with his friends, like what would people think that I like, you know? And so that's actually him is like how much of our parenting hang-ups are around our concern about how the outside world, whether it's our parents, are our extended family or just the world in general, sees us and our family and the judgment that we're trying to manage.

Vanessa: Avoid.

Justin: Avoid.

Vanessa: Futile, it's futile. Do you ever feel like, oh, my god, utility cologne is what you put on in the morning? Let me put on my utility. Oh, yeah.

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: It sucks. And I've got the best, best kid of my own example of another. Like, you can't, we can't care about that. There's no recipe for what a good kid and a good parent can look like.

So I've got this kid, Ollie. I wrote about her in the book. Right. She is almost 17 this month. She'll be 17. And if you could like, I wish you'd like walk in the room right now. But she's not. So she always has different color hair. She has like piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, like all these piercings, right? Yes. I know how old she is. Like, judge me, bring it. I don't care. Right. Like, well, but wait. There's more. She smokes cigarettes.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: All the time. And she probably... I think she's like she I always ask her. She's like probably like seven a day. So not like half a pack a day, right? Yeah, it's not packs of cigarettes, but, right, look, look at your face, by the way. This is awesome.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: Like...

Justin: Well, now I am a public health PhD.

Vanessa: I know.

Justin: You have to take that into account.

Vanessa: I know, I know. And I know smoking's wrong. And we've gone around and around about this for a long time, right? A long, long time. Just so you know, like I've tried everything. I've showed her videos, I've showed her lungs, I showed her black lungs, I've told her stories. I've tested her with her. You know, we've worked on quitting.

And then she's like, “Mom, I don't want to be a nonsmoker. So all this stuff like you've got to let me work through this.” And then it and then it's like comes to me and it's like, oh, and she buys them herself. I don't buy them. She goes on the reservation. She gets a good deal like she does. She has her whole system worked out. Right. She even bought one of those preschool things with the pockets so that she knows when she's allowed to allow herself to have the next pack.

Justin: Wow. Oh, wow.

Vanessa: Right. So like. So it sucks. It's stupid. I hate it. I hate it more than anything that she smokes. I hate it. I despise it. And will I. So this is my moment of am I going to make every day, every conversation, every time I smell her stanky smoking ass walk in the room or whatever. I make her walk away down the street.

By the way, she has to walk like ten blocks down to smoke, like you're not smoking on my property. Get out of here. Right. But our relationship is so incredibly deep and solid and full of communication.

Justin: I love that.

Vanessa: She’s never not answered my call or my text. I literally never ok, like she, where she struggles in school. She has a myriad of disorders, mood learning, like all kinds of things, which, by the way, I have a lot of compassion. Maybe if I had all that stuff going on, I'd need a little whatever to calm down too.

She's medicated, she has a psychiatrist and all of that and were responsible for her mental health. But what if I could realize, which I have, that smoking and that thing could be a war that we fight till the end of time. And what would happen? Like fill in the blank. Fill in the blank. What if I focus on that aspect of one thing about her?

Justin: So, Vanessa, have I asked you about authentic relating before? Because this is the thing that I like to talk about. Ok, so. Well, I’ll, after the show, I will send you info because it's like my favorite thing in the world.

Vanessa: Ok.

Justin: But authentic relating is really just a set of ideas and practices around communicating in just a deep connected way. And so I've taken several classes on this, and I've done it quite a bit over the last eight or nine months. One of the principles in authentic relating, well, it's this idea that in any relationship, any, of course, differences are going to pop up. Like we're not the same. No, you're you're going to choose to do and think in a different way than me.

The question is, is the relationship, is the connection more important than the differences in the conflict? And it's so beautiful, because what you just showed is that even something big like smoking, you know, for a public health Phd is like, oh, my God. But even that you have said that this relationship is more important. Like I'm really touched. Yeah.

Vanessa: You get me. That's right. That's right. And everyone, I mean, gasp, the parent and teacher coach. Let's, I'm air quoting here, her kids smoke. Oh, I didn't even mention all of her tattoos, you know, I mean, like all of our stick and poke tattoos, all of the things that look wrong about her. I could go ape shit on and, oh, to back to your point, how the public views certain people like a different level, like I'm putting myself out there.

So what people think, all my kids have straight A's and all my kids are perfect and don't ever look at porn or don't ever play video games too long or what? Vegetables all day long, like none of that, like nothing has worked out in my family. All of us are full-blown human beings.

Justin: But the relationships take priority.

Vanessa: Yes. And then when you have a relationship, then I'm able to influence them. I know where their heads at. I know what they're struggling with.

Justin: But the cool thing that is coming up for me around this is that even if you're not able to influence, let's just say, I mean, let's just throw that out the window, to go back to like what we were talking about a couple of minutes ago, we would say the most important thing in our lives, our kids and our relationships with our kids, these relationships are ends in themselves. Like if through it all, we maintain a connected, deep, loving relationship. We won. Like we're doing it.

Vanessa: Yes. Right. Influence. Influence. Like I like that you said that because I've never when I say influence, you're actually what you said is more what I even mean. I think that people think, oh, you mean you get to like make them do stuff? No, no.

I get to like, my love that I give them and the love they receive, to me, is like a one to one ratio. There's no like thing in the middle that like catches the stuff. There's no wall. There's no barrier. Like the fact that I. I walked into her room the other day, by the way. Shocking. She's messy. Right. Your brain, her executive functioning is just like, what's that? You know, and so I walk in a room the other morning and I'm like, Ollie, you know what I love about you? That you have 17 half drank water bottles all over your room. You know what else I love…

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I wasn't being a bitch. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm like I love, I said, I love that you're sloppy. I love that. I and I just told her, like all the things I love, like these. Ok, and just to get a little bit heavy if I lost her. From an accident or from a disease or from a mental health, you know, like crisis…

Justin: Tragedy.

Vanessa: Tragedy or suicide or something like that, right. If I did. I would look back and say to myself, why did you focus on all these little dumb things? Because you were worried about how people would think about you, Vanessa. And I would regret that my whole life. I would never get over the fact that I had to make a big deal about all the things that are wrong with her, which would develop her into someone who thinks that something's wrong with her and that she is broken and that I can never fix her.

Justin: Mm-hmm. That's beautiful. Oh, thank you. Thank you for that. Yeah, I kind of want to dig into this a little bit as parents. One of our charges, one of our responsibilities is that we are preparing these human beings to go out into the world and to be human beings among many other human beings.

And so in the book, you said it's not like you're arguing. You just let your kids do whatever they want and you just sit back and chill. And so you are making a distinction between discipline and punishment. And so can you unpack this a little bit?

Vanessa: Yes. Thank you for the opportunity. Yes. I think that sometimes when I speak, people think that I, assume that I'm passive and that I'm some hippie, like, hey, whatever you want, you know, and it's absolutely not the case. Instead of what I call cheap power plays. Ok, well, your phone is mine now. Well, I guess you lost your privileges. I guess you lost your stuff, didn't you? I mean, because they did something that I did my version of two hours before.

Who’s punishing me? They're never going to get to this point where they are perfectly meeting all the expectations of life. They're just not going to have anyone to catch them when they get older like us. Right. You see what I mean there? So this punishment thing is manipulative. It's cheap. There are way, it's taking advantage of the role. It's like using the power differential to force an outcome. So that's why I'm against that. Did that answer that part?

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: Okay. So then the alternative, though, that's what we want. We want to replace it with something better. There are, you know, there's extrinsic rewards from things we do in life and there are intrinsic rewards. So if we're always focused on the external metrics that kids come with, like grades are just like the most obvious one. Right. And like tardies and attendance and, you know, blowups or I don't know, like if you're keeping track of all these episodes of things and problems. Right. Number and frequencies of things.

If that's what you're focused on, all the outside stuff going back to, like, what will people judge you for, you know, and what will look bad and all of the above. If you're focused on that, then the kid just knows how to jump through hoops, follow directions, play the game, be a sneakier rat. You know, like there's every kid I know knows how to override life 360.

Every kid I know knows how to get Wi-Fi when their parents turn it off. Every kid I know, kids have, I forgot what it's called. Oh, my kids told me the other day, fake phones, though, like give them your phones mine. They'll have a phone. They passed around among their friends. That's the phone that or something like this where they give, they have a backup phone, guys. They have a backup. So you can't cut off their lifeline from their support system and their friends.

Justin: Oh, my god. So what do you do?

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, I know, right. You can't beat smart people. And you don't want your kids to be less smart, do you?

Justin: Right. Right.

Vanessa: And you can't beat them. And the more you try to beat them, the smarter they get about how to beat people. And you're teaching people how to be manipulative.

Justin: It's an arms race. Yeah.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Perfectly put. Yes. Ok, so here we go. Intrinsic. Are you someone who want, these are things that I say to my kids. Are you someone, do you see your future like this where you give your word and you keep your word? Do you want to have integrity in your life? Do you want to feel lighter? Do you want them to feel strong? Do you want to feel good about yourself? Like, let's talk about what it feels like when you're reactive because you're not eating enough and you're, because you're playing too many games. Like let's talk about the actual reality inside of a person.

So then I'm walking around saying, “You said you would do this by this time there is an impact on the whole family that you didn't.” No shame, no judgment, just frickin facts, like straight up. Can you tell I’m direct? I'm direct. This doesn't work. This doesn't work for who you are. This doesn't work for our family unit. And this doesn't work for your future. So get your shit together. And I'm the first person that they all know when they want to get their shit together, I'm all in. Let's salute. Is that a word?

Justin: Yeah. Oh, right, right. Right. Let's solve this, right?

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah, yeah, I know. A solution. I don't know. Right.

Justin: We can salute to making these positive changes as well. Oh, I love that, yeah. You know, what comes up when I hear that is a sense that it ties back to this authenticity thing of like if what we're asking our kids to do is rooted in reality and authenticity. You know, then it has some weight to it and they will be… for themselves. But if what we're asking them to do is actually bullshit…

Vanessa: Bullshit! They’re like it’s bullshit!

Justin: Oh. Like. Right. I mean, this is the thing right now with what Max is doing in math right now. He's like, “This is, there's like never going to use this.” And I was like, “Max, you're right. You're right. You're never going to use that.”

So then let's think, why do we want to try to at least pass this class? Because if you know, if we don't pass this class, then there's going to be trouble. So this is a hoop. Let's just acknowledge that it's a hoop... I know. You know, and like let's just let's acknowledge that it's a game and we need to pass this level of this game to get to the next one. And, you know…

Vanessa: Yes, I'm freaking out over here because everybody knows that you don't have to graduate from high school to be a baller and a world leader. Everybody knows that.

Justin: All right, so I don't know if you remembered me a lot in high school, because I don't think you smoked pot or smoked a lot, but like in my senior year, I mean, it was just like every day. I mean, literally every day. And I mean, I barely graduated, just barely like by the skin of my teeth. And then I didn't go to college, I... Ok, so just as a really quick aside.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: The only way I knew that the SAT’s were even happening is, I called up a friend. I won't mention. No, no, I will, because he couldn't go out and he took the… and so I called up Josh Ramiz.

Vanessa: I knew you were going to say that. He was a good guy.

Justin: Yes. And I was like, dude, let's go out. You know, we're going to party tonight. And he's like, I can't the SATs are tomorrow. I'm like, wait, I had no idea. All right. Well, have fun. And so I didn't go to college. I didn't do the first year, but then I eventually got my act together.

And then I, and I now have two PhDs. So it's like, yeah. So my feeling about their school is like if you want to do it, I mean, like pass. Like you cannot drop out of school, but like and then, you know, let's find the joy where there is joy. And so you're really interested in history and you're really interested in the essays, like let's find the joy where there is and then where there's not.

Let's just treat it like a hoop that we got to jump through.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Be real, be real, be real, be real. Be real. Like I can't say it enough times. It's like acknowledge the truth. They are so smart. They're so like they get it. They get it.

And we're over here being like, well, if you don't bubba, then you won’t the dadda and then you won’t bubba and they're like, I don't want to fuckin dadda. Like they don't want what all the hoops add up to. And then we're just like these like animal trainers or something, you know, it's so then the Christmas card, you can be like: and then they went to la la la.

Justin: The Christmas card. Oh, my God. Vanessa, can you just talk real quick about the Christmas card? How do you feel about Christmas cards?

Vanessa: I don't know, man. Like the letters and the things. I like the funny ones. I like the real ones. But the ones where “Tommy la la la.”

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: Or Lucy la la la. I'm just like…

Justin: Thank you. Thank you. Speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, my kids will say, well, that's funny, because actually, you know, I happen to know that the picture that they're painting is completely opposite of, the parents are like in a fantasyland. It's just like, so refreshing when people are real. And I wanted to say something about like school and so easy to take that as a place to get hyper-focus, because, again, the metrics is measurable.

We love things that are measurable, went up and went down. It went up. It's like, wait, all the things I think we're all obsessed about have to do with things where you can like track them really well.

Justin: These easily tracked metrics I think are attractive to most of us, because deep down, we feel like if we can only be good enough we’ll be worthy of love and respect, we can all leave. And so these metrics become like, am I worthy of love and respect today?

Oh, if I could just, yes, maybe. And the truth is and this is what I am learning, and it's like a deep truth that is true for every single person in the world. There is nothing you can do to be more worthy of love and respect than you already are right now.

Vanessa: Right. Right. I want to just say this one thing. I was speaking with a kid on Wednesday, and his name is Nick. He just came out to his parents. I helped him for months to work into this email for months, coming out as trans. And he is amazing. I get it. Here's something that he said to me the other day. And I'm like, bro, oh, my god. And I'm like I'm writing a book on what you just said. A book, dude. Like, I’ll credit you. He said this. “It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's their responsibility to be proud of me.”

Justin: Mm-hmm.

Vanessa: Really feel that.

Justin: Wisdom. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: He doesn't have to jump through hoops to. And I'm putting those words like worth and love into like what make worth in pride. Like I'm proud of you because you're worth more. I'm so proud of you because your stock went up.

Justin: And when your stock goes up, my stock goes up…

Vanessa: Right!

Justin: Because fundamentally the parents are feeling unworthy. If my kid can just get into the right college, I'll be worth more. I will be worthy of love and respect finally.

Vanessa: Yes, exactly. Dude. Exactly. So that and I'm like, that's like the most. That's the most amazing way to say that, because what my work is about, which she doesn't even fully know, I don't even know if he knew I wrote a book, this kid. But like what he doesn't know is that I'm trying to get parents to see that what makes them freak out about all these kid things is actually something inside of them that's unhealed, that's undealt with, that's not whole. That's not... It comes down to self-love.

Justin: Wisdom.

Vanessa: That's it. That's it.

Justin: Yes. So parents listening to this, they have teenagers like, oh, my god, like I'm seeing myself and hearing myself and a lot of what you guys are saying and I don't even know where to start. So, Vanessa, what like today would be a baby step?

Vanessa: Today, what they can do is, I actually this is more in the course and it's step one. So the course has the same name as the book. Right. But it's in five steps. So it's like theoretical and philosophical, like in the book. Right. But it's real. It hits you. Right.

But now what do I do? Oh, I got what you do over here. Come over here. This course is like me, my face. And we're talking about all the stuff in the book, but not repeating it. It's all like fresh. I didn't read the book for the course at all. There's a whole coaching guide that goes with that, where it's like a lot of deep work, like this is not for babies, but it's for people who actually are sick of how it is. And they want something beautiful instead.

So. The first step I say “write a real clean letter to your teen,” and I have a link if you go in my bio anywhere, there's on Instagram specifically. Then there's a link on linktree and it says, “Real Clean Letter to Your Teen.” And it's an entire PDF and it breaks it all down to something. I guess you can't call it a baby step, but it's not a baby step. Like it's easy and little and quick, but it's the first step. Can we call it that?

Justin: Sure.

Vanessa: It's called the first real step. Yeah. And it's going to make a giant impact, and that is to write a letter and apologize and own up and take responsibility and be accountable for all the shit that you've been pulling, all the things that, the messages that you've been saying. It's not coming from this shaming place. It's coming from like this powerful place of ownership, of upsetting things to your children, like it when you fail. And in school or when the neighbors saw you vaping, I can't handle it because I think that it means that I'm a failure. And you're just a kid doing the best you can.

But the things that you do, I make them mean that I'm bad. And then I get mad at you for making me feel like I'm a bad person or a bad parent or something like that. Or remember that time I told you this or that. I'm sorry. I said that, you know, like talking about each and every instance you can think of where you put your child down and made them feel like a bad, broken person who needs fixing. All the control. We haven't even talked about the C-word, Justin.

Justin: Oh, my god. Oh.

Vanessa: Anyway, this is money.

Justin: That's ok. So that's the wonderful thing. Parents listening to this podcast, there is going to be a lot of stuff that maybe we just barely touched on. It's going to be in the book and then it's definitely going to be in the courses.

Vanessa: Yeah, the book stands alone. By all means. It's, you know, 12 bucks. Best thing you ever did. But the course is like, let's freaking do this.

Justin: Let's dig deep. I know parents, you know, they come out of your course and they've got a whole new foundation and they've got a whole new set of tools and they're rebuilding their relationship with their teens. But I'm sure, you know, life happens and, you know, growth is not just some linear trajectory. So what are the common pitfalls that parents deal with after they've built this foundation and are using these tools? What are some of the things that they still have to watch out for?

Vanessa: You know, the tendency to stop being real. I mean, really, I mean, the tendency to want to make excuses, to blame, to operate in a shame, shamy Blamey world context, where it has to be someone's fault. And then the other thing I would say is, so that it really requires like going deep, like I'm not a therapist, I'm not a doctor. I'm not like a million things.

What I am is like triage in many ways. It's like, ok, so maybe you want to get into a rehab program, mom. Maybe you want to go deal with your dad issues, dad. Let's, I think like one of the things is to think that you're never done. You know, like to think that, like you said.

Justin: Right, like I read the book, I took the course. Now I've done. Yes, I'm perfect. I am done. Yeah.

Vamessa: Yeah. It's not a Band-Aid. I'm not a Band-Aid. I want that to be like the sub-subtitle. This isn't a Band-Aid. Like this is like you using the fact that you, whether you wanted to or not, are now a parent. How are you going to let this I swear the ultimate challenge, right. Is parenting and everything that comes with it.

Times however many kids you have and whatever comes upon your life because of the kids and the marriage, like or if there's a marriage like all that stuff like this could be your this is your shot to go deep and sort out all the stuff that if you didn't have this little walking around reflection of you, you may never even realize that was hurting inside of you.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Oh, I love that. I love that. So that brings me to the final question before we get to the regular three questions that we always ask our guests. So the final question is, Vanessa, what is at the, what is the most challenging, I like to say what is at the edge for you in your own personal growth journey and your own parent journey? We just talked about how this is not a one-and-done thing.

So even though you have, you know, you know how to practice all these tools, you're still learning things about yourself, you're still growing up, what is at your edge, what is the kind of new and challenging in your own life?

Vanessa: Oh, so much. I'm ripping myself to shreds in a loving way, like uncovering, turning over every rock of me and who I am every day, every week, like professionally speaking. I work with someone who helps me with my energy. And when I'm confronted with this particularly hard like case or a family I client, I go to her and I'm like, what about me is in my way from serving these people in the way that they deserve to be served, like what are my triggers here?

And we'll talk about that. And I do breathwork. I do energy work because my things, I'm a recovering control freak. If I didn't take Lexapro, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be an alcoholic because I deal with incredible anxiety and depression and swings with all of that. But with, you know, treating it, I'm ok. I'm almost always eating with, or eating dealing with my eating disorder.

Still, I have a therapist, so I have my energy person, Reiki type stuff, everything, dude, like everything. I think it's because of my, you know, what people might call issues and imperfections and how hard I am on myself, how sometimes I think what I'm doing as a charity and I just want to help everyone. And I'm, this is a business. You know, those kinds of things, the tendency to like cross over my own boundaries. I'm working on that. My needlessness because of my own childhood. I bought myself a Jeep a couple weeks back, and it's an old 1965 Willys and it's so cool. And like that is for real the first time in my life I've done something for me that felt completely indulgent, you know. And I'm 44 almost. I don't do that.

So self-care will be something that I have to tackle. Just even eating enough food like every single day, like I'm a walking, talking wreck. But I know that. And that's what makes me awesome.

Justin: It sounds like radical self-honesty.  

Vanessa: Yes. Ooh, radical. Yes. Right. Awareness. Honesty. And then just like staying in, just staying in it and not ever thinking that I, but it's not like sad. I don't know. Does it sound sad? It's not sad?

Justin: No, no.

Vanessa: Sorry. I'm not saying I thought you thought it was sad. I don't. But what does it sound like when I said that?

Justin: The word that kept coming, or the words were radical self-honesty like that is when I asked, what is at your edge, your edge, what it sounded like to me was this constantly pushing this radical self-examination, saying like, what is my shit? Like what, what do I have that maybe I don't need to have or that I perhaps should start to have, like, you know, and can I just get real with myself?

Vanessa: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: Which is in working on myself over the past couple of years, but then building programs for parents. I feel like it's the hardest thing. It is the hardest thing to just sit back and wait. Can I just get real with yourself and like really own some of the really challenging emotions that I'm feeling, some of the, you know, some of the coping behaviors and avoiding behaviors that I've developed over the years, because I don't want to deal with this, because I don't want to be radically honest.

Vanessa: Right. And I find that like I'm unable, because I don't just work with parents and kids. I work with with CEOs and creators and artists like I work with, like the most amazing people from all over the place. And I'm not able to challenge these people who don't even have kids who are just like really like it's them against them kind of stuff. Unless I'm me, against me, I don't have parenting figured it out. I don't have myself figured out. I don't have life figured out.

But since I'm always pushing myself to the edge with so much love and like was the possibility of this because freedom is my thing, you know, like I want freedom and I experienced more freedom and more happiness when I uncover something and then bring just like just tons of compassion to it. Like that, it's like perpetually healing.

It's like, almost like an opportunity to find something that's hurt that I cope with or that makes me feel the way I don't like to feel or something, and then to to look at that, to love that, that's how I'm… Oh, wow. I'm just not really getting this like that's how I love myself. I tend to myself regularly, actively. I have a coach who pushes. I have two coaches.

They push me so hard and call me out so much. I couldn't be doing this amazing work and getting off the phone like another miracle, another miracle, another miracle. Like I walked out of this door before there's my living room and I'm like, oh, my God, like with every client. That's how I feel. And I couldn't be that bold if I weren't doing it for me, which is exactly what I'm talking about with parents and kids. You see it’s all the same?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it. So I feel like we've just scratched the surface. So I'm just going to put you on the spot that I would love to have you back and…

Vanessa: Yes! Oh, my god, I would do this every morning at nine o'clock.

Justin: Yeah. No, this conversation has been so much fun and there's so much oh, there's just so much here. It's so nourishing to talk about this. So we're going to go into the final regular questions, these are the three questions that we ask every podcast guest. Ok, so the first one is, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Vanessa: Get over yourself.

Justin: Ohhh, get over yourself. Oh, my gosh. Can you unpack that?

Vanessa: Yeah. Just like check your ego at the door... Does everyone else is like get over that you suck, too. We all suck. Who cares? It's not a big deal. Like, get over yourself. Ego.

Justin: For me, it would. Yeah, it would definitely be. Get over the parts of yourself that are the trying to prove your worthiness for love and respect because you are already worth it. Get over it, man. You are whole the way you are. Get over it.

Vanessa: Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: OK, so last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Vanessa: The one. The one from Nick. It all, it rocked me. It rocked me. It absolutely blew my mind. It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's my parent's responsibility to be proud of me. And I'd like to add period. Like no matter what. Unconditional love is what we're talking about.

Justin: I think that quote is, right now for me, is easier if I put love in there. Yeah. Because I guess from my own childhood, when I think of pride, I do think of like achievement in some way. And so this love is like, yeah, I don't and I can't earn my parent's love. That is something that has to be given freely or it's not love. It's some…

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: It’s something else.

Vanessa: That’s right. Right. And it's like the pride thing is like I'm proud of you, though, for a kid, this is what I understand. Like I talked to, I have a podcast. You and I talk to kids who are 18 to 22sh someone who was 14, his mom was dying for me to talk to me like you might as well been 30 anyway.

So. But these kids are like, I've never heard that my parents are proud of me. They equate that with being acceptable and being lovable. So like it's kind of like a buzz word. And I'm ok with you. I'm not proud of you. Like, are you proud of yourself? Like it's used like a weapon.

Justin: So what they hear is love. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Vanessa: And hey, listen, Justin, that's what you heard, too. So you just helped me prove that point, right? Like you heard love. Right. Like...

Justin: That’s awesome.

Vanessa: … I’m proud of your sibling whose such a show off and does all these things because…

Justin: I love your sibling.

Vanessa: They’re the favorite, because they measure up. They know how to jump through hoops.

Justin: Beautiful. Ok, so the last question I like to ask, because as you know, for parents, you know, when they're just in their in the throes of just of just the craziness of life and parenting, and, you know, the schedules are so busy and kids like, oh, my God, kids. But here at The Family Thrive we want to take a moment to celebrate kids. And so can you. And oh, my gosh. With six kids, you are like the expert on this. What is your favorite thing about kids?

Vanessa: Oh, my gosh. Just like their humor, like what they think is funny. Like their brains, their ideas, their minds. If you sit with a kid and like get in there, like just really get in there, you'll be so encouraged about like what humanity is. They're so in touch with like their thoughts and their ideas. It's like the judgment isn't there. If you're lucky, you know, like if. I mean, that's part of the thing, right, that we're trying to I'm like completely anti judgment when it comes to parenting.

Like it doesn't work to judge your kids, to criticize them, to come from that place if something's wrong with you. So anyway, to answer your question better, it's like the way that they think is a miracle. My mind is blown every single day that I talk to any kid of any age. I talk to kids as young as 11 and, you know, in any age above adults. But teenagers like we need to be in awe of them. We need to be in awe of them. They need to know we're in awe of them.

Justin: Wow. That's beautiful. And this is coming from a mom of six kids. Like it's like, you know of what you speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, I know. My, one of my. Oh, this is funny. I just want to add this funny little thing. One thing, if you don't, if you knew, you know the gaming thing, this is. the best trick ever. If you're not, if you don't understand what the hell they're talking about and you don't really care. Like, I can't even lay one little brick thing down in my life.

I have not bought a gaming gene. Like I can barely miss Pacman a little bit. That's it. And so it's ok. So what I do is I Google something about like a new update to a game. And I like I would get on like a board of people talking, you know, and then I'll copy and paste like my, I pretend like it's my opinion. I won't get update and I’ll be like “what about the new Call of Duty?” dududaa.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And then I say, well, this is like this, you know. Like how like the …

Justin: Oh my God, that’s brilliant.

Vanessa: And then they know that I'm they know that I don't know what I'm saying. And they know that I found that somewhere.

Justin: But they know that you cared.

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And then they know that like, I value what they value.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful. Vanessa, thank you so much. This is such a beautiful conversation is so, so rich. But before we go, how can people contact you? What are the ways that they can get involved?

Vanessa: I am the most active, actually, on my personal Facebook page. So, Vanessa Baker. I just feel more authentic there than a business page. And then what I shared over there too, my website has all kinds of stuff. It's vbakermindset.com.

Justin: Vbakermindset.com.

Vanessa: Right.

Justin: Oh and, we are going to have show notes as well. So we're going to put all of this stuff in.

Vanessa: Yeah. And then my book's on Amazon, if you don't like Amazon, which I understand, you can go to Barnes and Noble or Balboa Press, which is my publisher, and the course will launch on March 1st. People can email me from my website and I'm just an open door. Like, just bring it we'll work it out.

Justin: One more time. The book is called From Mean to Real Clean.

Vanessa: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.

Justin: Vanessa, thank you so much.

Vanessa: It was fun. Thanks, Justin. Thanks for having me. This is wonderful. You're amazing. And I appreciate what you're doing and I appreciate it. Like it's needed and I love that it's you who is doing it. Like because it's you, you're going to touch more life like people are going to and are responding to who you are in the work that you're doing in yourself. And then out in the world, like everything you're doing is like, perfect. I'm so proud of you.

Justin: That gives me some warm, fuzzy feelings, really. Thank you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: You're welcome.

Justin: All right.


Justin: Audra and I are currently the parents of two teenagers, and let me tell you, the struggle is real. I don't know very many people who love parenting through their teenage years. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who really loves parenting teenagers. I'd wager most parents dread the teenage years and see them as a dangerous river that has to be crossed. Well, my good friend Vanessa Baker loves diving headfirst into that river.

She's a mom of six. That's right, six. And a teen relationship coach who loves the teenage years with a passion. She is founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset and author of the new book From “Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.” She also hosts a podcast called “That You'll Understand When You're Younger,” which she created to destroy the mindset that teenagers are problematic. Her mission is to help parents become the first person whom their teenagers talk to and listen to and not the last.

This conversation was mind-blowing. We drove straight into the raging river of teenagehood and talked about all the hard things parents come up against. She broke it all down and laid out a plan for parents to reconnect and rebuild a deep, loving relationship with their teens. So without further ado, here's my conversation with Vanessa Baker.

Let's just jump in because, as I said, it’s going to be super conversational. And what I want to start off with is the fact that I did not just meet you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: No.

Justin: We've known each other since high school. My memories of you in high school are that you really had it together.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: Yeah. What's coming up for me is like you had an idea of who you were and what you stood for and you had it together in a way that not every high schooler does.

Vanessa: Wow. I could’ve used that back then. Why didn’t you say so 25 years ago? Did you go to the 10 year class reunion?

Justin: No, I went to the 20 year.

Vanessa: Ok. I think I went to that one too. At the 10 year one a bunch of guys were standing around and they were like, “Wow, we thought you were so cool with your Jeep.” I had a ‘78.

Justin: Oh, I think I remember that.

Vanessa: Yeah. They’re like “you're so badass, you just had mud all over,” because I went off-roading all the time with Catherine Schultz.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I was like, “what?” I was like the only kid in my mind who didn't have a beamer and the old Jeep, you know, and it was just so funny that I'm like, all these things come out like way too late. But thanks for saying that. I didn't have that experience of myself at all.

I mean, I was like in the throes of a few, pretty serious eating disorder. I was like my parents were dealing with all kinds of stuff. My sister was constantly in crisis. I never felt like I fit in ever. I was apathetic.

I remember in Honors English senior year. I remember walking up to the teacher. Do you remember the redheaded teacher who's a runner? Who was the… uh… she's really adorable. And she's like pregnant. She's like a track-like cross-country lady.

Justin: So, Vanessa, I smoked a lot of pot in high school, so I don't... especially like senior year. I have just bits and pieces of memories of school. I mean, I have a lot of memories of the parties. I just… like school was...

Vanessa: That’s funny. So I went up there and I was like, I'm apathetic. I remember like search synonyms. I'm apathetic. I was like reaching out, like somebody help me.

Justin: Oh, my gosh.

Vanessa: And I love that you said that, though, because that just shows something that shines a light on something so important, which is the way we view people, has almost nothing to do with the reality of what they're dealing with. Like ever, probably.

Justin: Ok, so what about, is there another, maybe, truth alongside that? That what I was seeing was something deep down.

Vanessa: Yeah. You must have been really high. But yes, you're right. Because I do like that's how I would say that's how I describe myself now, and especially in the last five years. But you, I mean…

Justin: And it was always there. It was always there.

Vanessa: I like that. I like that. Thanks.

Justin: Awesome.

Vanessa: Thanks.

Justin: Awesome. So. So tell me a little bit about what, I mean, you know, from a I don't know the five-minute elevator pitch of like what has happened since Vanessa in high school. Yeah. So I mean, you can like, Yeah. Just like boom, boom, boom.

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, boom, boom, boom, boom. Ok, so I went to college. I kicked in with my academics in college. I was like super, like I was like the first woman president of the business college counselor at ASU. I was like getting awards and like causing like amazing things to happen. And like honors, call it like the whole thing, just like showing off and making just like waves over there. And then I got like a really hard job to get, a really hard internship to get.

And I was like, business, business, supply chain management. Oh, I love supply chain management, logistics, manufacturing. It's my life. And then I got married to a guy who I said, “You know, I'm gay. Right?” And he's like, “That's hot.” And so we just got married.

Justin: Oh, oh, oh. So he knew. He knew going in.

Vanessa: We knew. Yeah. Like I remember telling my friends, my high school friends, I'm like, I can just see myself being a lesbian, living in New York City. And like I mean, I was saying it, but it was only, it wasn't like something I could do something with, I guess. I mean, what was I going to be like, Richard Simmons? Like there weren't like a lot of gay people to look at for me at that point. There wasn't social media. The 1999, 2000, it sounds recent, but it's not, and things have changed a lot with who you think you can be.

And so. So we got married, got pregnant on the honeymoon. Okay, here's the boom, boom, boom, literally. Pregnant on the honeymoon, nine months later, baby number one. Then 18 months later, baby number two. 17 months later, baby number three. 16 months later, baby number four. 14 months later, baby number five. And now…

Justin: Amazing.

Vanessa: I know, right? Just unbelievable. I'm blessed to be fertile and have these wonderful children. I'm not talking crap about my blessings, but that was a lot. And then we carried on and, you know, doo-de-doo, regular, you know, natural progressions of life and raising kids and all of that.

And then when I was 38, I came out and I tried really hard to like be a gay person in a hetero marriage. And I thought coming out would be like enough, you know? But then I was like, no. And so I asked for a divorce. So the kids were between seven and 12 or something like that, close to that when that happened. I met my wife got married, I actually met her before I got a divorce, but we were friends. And I mean, there is a deeper story there, but it was all out in the open kind of stuff.

And then I got married to her. She had a baby who's two now, and we got a donor. And so now I've got these kids and this wife. And when I got the divorce and I wasn't able to be a stay-at-home mom anymore, homeschooling my kids and just doing that whole situation, I had to do something. And so I'm like, I love teenagers, like that’s as close as I could get to like what I was passionate about.

Justin: Well, that in itself is a rare skill, to love teenagers.

Vanessa: I do.

Justin: Cause most people don't.

Vanessa: Exactly. And, you know, my business mind was like, you can say the word teenager in a room anywhere in the entire world, and people go, “Guuuuuh.”

Justin: Oh, totally.

Vanessa: And I'm like, oh, I feel this could be a good niche where everyone will agree that there's a problem.

Justin: And nobody wants to solve this problem.

Vanessa: Yeah, and the ways they do try to solve it are not scalable, don't model anything that's workable, aren't how adults want to be treated. And I mean, I remember being at my son's basketball games and like there'd be like this crowd of like stranger teenagers. And I'd be like, I want to go talk to them, like I want to know them. And Stephanie, my wife would be like, “That's weird, babe.”

Justin: Stop being weird.

Vanessa: I know. But I'd be like, I don't think I'm one of them. I don't like think I'm cool. It's just like I'm so interested. Like I'm dying to know what they think about and what they want to do and just be like, yes, yes, whatever you're like into now, whatever you are lit up about.

Don't lose that. Like we get older. Not me, not you, buddy. Not me and not you. But a lot of people get older and they just like die inside. And I'm always like I want to like just harness their flame because the teenagers have it figured out.

Justin: Yeah. We have this one life to live. Like, don't let that flame go out.

Vanessa: Right. Don't sell out. Don't sell out. Like I'm so anti-sell out.

Justin: Ok, so I just want to do a little bit of a rewind. Did you ever have a moment when you knew that you wanted to be a mom or did it just happen?

Vanessa: I actually literally out loud said, “I never want to have kids.” When I was in my 20s, but right before I met my ex-husband, and then I really like I mean, it's just like a knowing. I mean, these kids are just like their world changers. They're so cool. They're imperfect. They're not like I'm not saying it like they all have straight A's.

So they're going to change the world like these people that I raised. They are. I mean, if you got to talk to one of them for five minutes, you would just be like, what? The things they think about. So somebody somewhere knew that I needed to get knocked up, like right away. A bunch of times.

Justin: Five times.

Vanessa: Yeah. These kids are amazing. I was driving around my boy, who's 15, has his permit, so he lives at his dad's. And so me and Charlotte, she's 12 or just turned 13. We went and picked Miles up, and he was driving us around. We went to Chick-fil-a, having all kinds of fun. And then we dropped them off. And she's like, who would say this, right? Thirteen, the youngest of five. She's like, “I have,” literally this sounds like a lie, but it's what she actually said, she goes, “I have the best siblings. I love them all so much and I feel so lucky.” And I'm like, “Yep.”

Justin: Awww, those are, that's poetry to a parent. Like, oh, my god.

Vanessa: I know. I'm like oooh, oh, oh. So that's the culture, you know, like that's the culture. So, no, I didn't want to have kids. And then I converted to be Catholic. And because I'm like this like, oh, person, I'm like, “Well, let's be Catholic.”

Justin: Yeah. Right. You don't go half in like there's now just like let's do this thing, ok. You alluded to a little bit of your story about becoming a parenting coach. And so, from what I gathered, a part of it was seeing that you loved this weird time in growing up that not a lot of people love. And so you saw like, ok, I think I can help there. Can you tell?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. Well, when I taught high school, so I got my business degree. I worked in consulting, and then I went back to ASU because I was like, I swear, every day at lunch I'd be like, do any of these windows open? I'm about to dive out of this second story. Like I'm being silly about something serious. But I was very depressed. I was very, very like unfulfilled. I got the company going with like Valley Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I got them going with Junior Achievement, like kind of all these lunch and learns.

I'm like always in HR’soffice, like, can I bring everyone into this? Can I bring everyone into that? All these things that were about kids. And then when I ran out of, you know, victims, to volunteer everything I cared about, I quit and I went back, got a high school, secondary education certification and all that. And I taught business. So when I taught high school, I was teaching in an inner-city school in South Phoenix. And it was like flying, like it was just like flying like, my connection and my ability to get through to them. It just lit me up and I just knew it was a thing. Right.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: So then I had my own kids and I was like, yep, it's a thing. It's a thing like my whatever. I don't know what even to call it, but just my desire to connect to people who aren't yet adults, I guess. I guess that's all I could say.

I just have this desire to just like get in there and like check out for, check for stuff. When that person said that, did you believe it? Do you know that’s a lie? That's like what do you see yourself doing? Did you know you can do anything like all these cliche-sounding things. But I like to just get in there. So, then when I needed to work, I'm not the kind of person who can work for someone else. You might be able to get that. I can't follow rules.

Justin: You blaze your own trail.

Vanessa: I am a trailblazer. My dad died almost two years ago, and that's something that I wrote in his eulogy. And when I spoke at his funeral. Exactly. So that's cool how you said that just now. A lot.

Justin: Beautiful.

Vanessa: Yeah, I'm like a trailblazer. I also consider myself a maverick, you know, like I just, I know what to do. I know what to say. Not because I'm righteous and not because I have a plan. But like there's this like deep trust that I have in myself that I want…

Justin: Inner knowing.

Vanessa: Yes. That I want to impart on people like as soon as I can catch them, as soon as they start realizing that they're about to face a fork in the road where people want them to be something that maybe they aren't, that maybe doesn't align. Like I'm obsessed with alignment and congruence and integrity inside of ourselves, that everything has to match, everything.

Justin: So that makes perfect sense because you have developed a system for teenagers and their parents by the whole system is in alignment. So you've developed this system based on these three acronyms, MEAN, REAL, and CLEAN. Can you just give us the like 3,0000-foot overview of what these acronyms mean?

Vanessa: Yes. Yes. So MEAN stands for Misunderstood, Entitled, Authoritarian, and Numb. And my stance is that parents aren't really mean, they get called mean and they feel mean. But that's not the case. So when we look into mean, we look into what are the obstacles that are in the way, we poke around a lot, very gently, very nonjudgmentally there with tons of compassion and empathy, because I know, too, what that's like. And so we clear that away. So consider that the debris, right? We’re clearing all that away.

Then I help them create a foundation, and that's the REAL part. So REAL is a new foundation, right? Like we bondo up whatever they had and then we really, like solidify this foundation, which is the REAL part. Resilient, Effective, Authentic, and Loving. And so once that is set, we are looking at like that's what we all want. We want it to be effective. We talk to our kids and we hope our kids are resilient. Right. But we need to be resilient first. We can't be taking everything personally. Are all we're going to get our kids who are taking everything personally, including what we say to them. And we're not able to influence our kids when we're not being real. Period. They smell our shit from miles away and they're not into it. So…

Justin: I want to get into that later. Yeah.

Vanessa: Yes, for sure. So that's the thing. Authenticity, realness, like all of that. That's the foundation. Without that, like we may not move on.

Then CLEAN are the tools, like this is where we start building on our foundation. So that's being Connected, being Level-headed, being Expressive, being Aware and plain old, ordinary, Nice. Just nice. You know, like what happened to being nice?

Justin: Oh, my gosh. And I imagine by the end of it, being nice is just something that naturally flows, if you’ve like, if you've cleared away all the stuff, you've built the foundation, you're now practicing the stuff, nice is just flowing. Right?

Vanessa: Right, right. Because this is something that confronts a lot of people. They come to me because they want their kid to wear deodorant more often and get their grades up or care more about their sport or something. And it's never. Those are all symptoms. And it doesn't matter at all, that all that works out, though, all the cooperation, all of the like connections stuff, the being, having kids who care about what you have to say, all of that works out once you've dealt with yourself as a parent. They don't want to do anything you say if you're a fake person.

Justin: Oh, right. In grad school language, we would call all those things epiphenomenal. And so they're like epiphenomenal in the sense that they are real and they're coming from set. But they're not the source, like the phenomenon is the source. This other stuff is the epiphenomenon. This stuff that is coming from the real source.

And so what you're doing is you're like leading parents back to the source. Yeah. The fact that your teens are doing all these things and acting in ways that you think are problematic. That's not the issue. Right. Let's trace it back to the source.

Vanessa: Exactly. And I have this wonderful ability that I don't understand. That is where I'm able to diffuse and make light of it in a very helpful way, like to make it like, I don't want to say insignificant, but there's something where we're laughing. We're laughing about how ridiculous it is that we as parents do these things. And then I'll still like, “You mean how your kid does that and that and that and that?” And I'm drawing lines like that to you, like that to you, like that. And they're like, oh, my god.

Justin: Oh, do they ever get a look like they've seen behind the Matrix? Once you've shown them like oh my god…

Vanessa: Exactly.

Justin: Actually, I'm the source.

Vanessa: I almost thought about naming the book. “Great news, parents. It's all your fault.”

Justin: Oh, my god. All right. So your book just came out and it's, the book title is “From Mean to Real Clean.” And what’s the subtitle?

Vanessa: The subtitle is “How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.“ And so I would like to just say a moment, if you let me, about fully functional relationship. Like that's a thing. I don't think people even think that that can happen in and the people… Our standards are so low. We really. I hear, I feel I hear I like I feel most things more than hear. And I'm telling you, people think that teenagerhood, is that a word? Is just something to survive.

They're thinking like just to that and they get off to college thing and then they're going to stress about all new things. But the parents. But it's like they're not thinking about like sitting on a front porch with they're 55-year-old kid and they're 80. They're not thinking about what a fully functional relationship can yield for the rest of their life.

They, people don't, their head is so down and I get it and I get it. They're just blinders on. Survival mode is the best way to say it. And I'm, I paint a beautiful picture in the book about like, what is this look like? Like what could you have, like, broaden the perspective. Speaking of thirty thousand feet. Let's look like. How do you want it to go when your child has their first baby, say. You know, like how do you want that to go? Like, let's think bigger, guys.

Justin: Yeah. So would you say that 99% of the parents that you work with, if you ask them what is the most important thing in your life? They would probably say their kids andthe relationship with their kids.

Vanessa: Yeah.

Justin: And so there that must be such a oh, my god. I'm just feeling into how emotionally painful that must be for parents who say, yes, this is the most important thing in my life. And I don't think it can be functional or healthy or tough or good.

Vanessa: Yes. And the hope, the hope is what I'm, I'm a hope dealer, you know, like that's what I'm doing. I'm like telling people they think they're the worst parent. They think they're kids, they ruin them, even though on the outset they'll say, my kid is this, my kid is that I can't stand them, blah, blah, blah.

And but deep down, they think that's their fault. And that I'm going, it's not your fault. You're not to blame, your kids, not to blame. This is what it is to be human. I want to show you some blind spots. The second that you see it, it's a switch. I mean, there are habits doing bold, but it's a switch. You're like, that's what I'm doing. My kid’s addicted. I'm an alcoholic. Do you know how many people tell me there are alcoholics within five minutes of meeting me? A lot.

Justin: Wow.

Vanessa: A lot.

Justin: This goes straight into what I really want to focus on. I just want to start off with MEAN. Just looking at this idea of MEAN, and it's connected with what you just said about addiction or other ways that parents are really coping and avoiding.

And so it starts with this first one, misunderstood. And when I was reading the book, I was struck like when I started, it was misunderstood. I thought it would be maybe I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be, but I didn't expect for you to go into self-care.

Vanessa: Yes.

Justin: If you're not taking care of yourself, your behaviors and your communication are going to have all these unintended effects. And you're, you know, you're going to feel misunderstood. Can you talk a little bit about parent health care?

Vanessa: Yes, it's the first thing to go. I mean, right. When you have a baby. Isn't that just like the, I haven't showered in two weeks.

Justin: I haven't slept. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Vanessa: Right. Right. It's the first thing to go and then it doesn't get better from there. It's like, it's some people are able to, I don't want to generalize all parents or anything like that. I never want to do that. But yes. And it's like it's a martyr mindset where like I can't if I take my eye off the ball, if I'm not checking their grades before they even know their grades on their quizzes, if I'm not, you know, that whole like vibe, right. That way of being where you feel like you can't stop to take care of yourself. That's a huge, huge problem of why the parents are so reactive and take things personally and are angry and yell.

I mean, have you ever had low blood sugar? I mean, that's not a recipe for anything. So it's just like we can't overlook that. We have to build, again it's like the foundation in a way. Like unless you're healthy and whole and fully functioning as a human, how are you going to model that and have kids who are that so that the relationship can function?

Justin: And I imagine well, what struck me is this idea of self-care, I think is absolutely vital. I'm so glad that it was at the beginning of the book because like we got to start there. If you're not getting enough sleep, if you're not eating right, if you're not, you know, taking care of yourself, then none of this other stuff is going to work.

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: And with our nonprofit MaxLove Project, we work with childhood cancer parents. And, of course, whatever's going on with regular parenting like ratcheted up times 10 for a cancer parent. And so we talk about the oxygen mask principle that you can't put the oxygen mask on your kid if you're passing out. But then the addiction thing, what struck me there is I think, that so many parents, because they're not taking care of themselves, reach a point where the only way they think they can manage is to numb and pass out.

Vanessa: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. So that's the M and the N, right? The misunderstood, because you're just suffering. This is the part where I did. I got to tell you, this whole framework, you know, like it, like this sounds kooky, but I don't care because it's true. I don't even feel responsible for like making it up like it came to me, like I birthed a 10-year-old kid.

Like that's how it was. Like that's when you're in the zone of alignment, for example, of spirituality, the universe, like I just have to say that I didn't like labor. Oh, god. What should it say? You know, like, it just like came. So that's something I can't take real credit for.

Justin: That's awesome.

Vanessa: Yeah. I just don't know why I wanted to say that out loud right there. But so the numb thing, what's the biggest epidemic with teenagers? Right. They're numbing out. They're they're evading. They're drinking. They're doing serious drugs. They're...

Justin: Well, I don't know how you feel about this, but I think for boys, at least for my boy who turns 14 today. Yeah.

Vanessa: Oh, cool. Happy birthday.

Justin: Video games. Video games are a way to numb out.

Vanessa: Yep. Yep. Video games for sure. Like just, you know, social media. So those are the kid versions.

And then there's the mommy and the daddy, or the mommy and the mommy, and the daddy and the daddy version. Like they're all the versions of that. You can like, if somebody could be brave enough and just brave and courageous enough to look for on purpose how the exact attitudes, behaviors, tendencies, vices that their children have, that they're concerned about are reflected in us first.

Justin: Hmm. Oh…

Vanessa: That's it. That's it. You might say…

Justin: You just yeah, so I just had this like moment of reflection, because my thing is definitely with our son, it's the video games. And so I just had this moment of reflection when you said that. You know what I love to numb out with? Twitter. I love to numb out with.

Vanessa: That's your daddy version.

Justin: And yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so, oh, my gosh. I feel seen.

Vanessa: Awesom.e And I'll give your son a birthday present right now, ok? I'm a polarizer. I'm down with it. I don't need everyone to like me, agree with me. I don't give up. You know what. If people believe me or agree with me or like what I have to say, like I do what I do, I think what I think it works. And if it doesn't work for someone, we're not a fit. Like I don't care.

One thing that I say that is so counter. I don't know if it's countercultural, but it's kind of like against the grain is. Yes, I know about video game addiction. Yes, I understand. I understand. Like, I follow things like that. I read about things like that. I get it.

However, I have seen, out of speaking about my own children. Confidence go up so much. They have their little world. They have their people on Xbox Live or Minecraft servers like my daughter, who's 14, she's been in therapy for over three years, for one day a week, for over three years now. And I was just catching up, you know, mental telehealth. I love that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: Thanks for that. Think of Covid for that, I suppose, because that really got went into gear. She and so the therapist, the doctor, she's PHd, like you. And so she was like, I can't believe the growth. And I got to say, all these months of not being in school, the place where my daughter has like cut her teeth in, like realized who she is and like who she's becoming is largely due to her being on group chats and servers and discord and all the things, all the things. And it's the place in her life where she has that sense of confidence and friendship and working through lots of drama and like cool, real drama to work through, even with people you don't see.

Justin: Oh, my gosh, you are freeing me right now from a lot of shame and guilt that I, you know, there's some like bad parenting narratives that I'm working out. But, ooh, but this leads me into the second thing that I wanted to talk about with MEAN, and that is the authoritarian section. So there's a lot to say about authoritarian.

But you were talking about the parents needing everything to look perfect to the outside world. And this hit me, like when I really investigate some of my deepest emotional issues around my kids. A lot of it has to do with like what would people think about me as a parent if they knew how much, how many, how many hours my child plays, you know, video games with his friends, like what would people think that I like, you know? And so that's actually him is like how much of our parenting hang-ups are around our concern about how the outside world, whether it's our parents, are our extended family or just the world in general, sees us and our family and the judgment that we're trying to manage.

Vanessa: Avoid.

Justin: Avoid.

Vanessa: Futile, it's futile. Do you ever feel like, oh, my god, utility cologne is what you put on in the morning? Let me put on my utility. Oh, yeah.

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: It sucks. And I've got the best, best kid of my own example of another. Like, you can't, we can't care about that. There's no recipe for what a good kid and a good parent can look like.

So I've got this kid, Ollie. I wrote about her in the book. Right. She is almost 17 this month. She'll be 17. And if you could like, I wish you'd like walk in the room right now. But she's not. So she always has different color hair. She has like piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, piercing, like all these piercings, right? Yes. I know how old she is. Like, judge me, bring it. I don't care. Right. Like, well, but wait. There's more. She smokes cigarettes.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: All the time. And she probably... I think she's like she I always ask her. She's like probably like seven a day. So not like half a pack a day, right? Yeah, it's not packs of cigarettes, but, right, look, look at your face, by the way. This is awesome.

Justin: Oh.

Vanessa: Like...

Justin: Well, now I am a public health PhD.

Vanessa: I know.

Justin: You have to take that into account.

Vanessa: I know, I know. And I know smoking's wrong. And we've gone around and around about this for a long time, right? A long, long time. Just so you know, like I've tried everything. I've showed her videos, I've showed her lungs, I showed her black lungs, I've told her stories. I've tested her with her. You know, we've worked on quitting.

And then she's like, “Mom, I don't want to be a nonsmoker. So all this stuff like you've got to let me work through this.” And then it and then it's like comes to me and it's like, oh, and she buys them herself. I don't buy them. She goes on the reservation. She gets a good deal like she does. She has her whole system worked out. Right. She even bought one of those preschool things with the pockets so that she knows when she's allowed to allow herself to have the next pack.

Justin: Wow. Oh, wow.

Vanessa: Right. So like. So it sucks. It's stupid. I hate it. I hate it more than anything that she smokes. I hate it. I despise it. And will I. So this is my moment of am I going to make every day, every conversation, every time I smell her stanky smoking ass walk in the room or whatever. I make her walk away down the street.

By the way, she has to walk like ten blocks down to smoke, like you're not smoking on my property. Get out of here. Right. But our relationship is so incredibly deep and solid and full of communication.

Justin: I love that.

Vanessa: She’s never not answered my call or my text. I literally never ok, like she, where she struggles in school. She has a myriad of disorders, mood learning, like all kinds of things, which, by the way, I have a lot of compassion. Maybe if I had all that stuff going on, I'd need a little whatever to calm down too.

She's medicated, she has a psychiatrist and all of that and were responsible for her mental health. But what if I could realize, which I have, that smoking and that thing could be a war that we fight till the end of time. And what would happen? Like fill in the blank. Fill in the blank. What if I focus on that aspect of one thing about her?

Justin: So, Vanessa, have I asked you about authentic relating before? Because this is the thing that I like to talk about. Ok, so. Well, I’ll, after the show, I will send you info because it's like my favorite thing in the world.

Vanessa: Ok.

Justin: But authentic relating is really just a set of ideas and practices around communicating in just a deep connected way. And so I've taken several classes on this, and I've done it quite a bit over the last eight or nine months. One of the principles in authentic relating, well, it's this idea that in any relationship, any, of course, differences are going to pop up. Like we're not the same. No, you're you're going to choose to do and think in a different way than me.

The question is, is the relationship, is the connection more important than the differences in the conflict? And it's so beautiful, because what you just showed is that even something big like smoking, you know, for a public health Phd is like, oh, my God. But even that you have said that this relationship is more important. Like I'm really touched. Yeah.

Vanessa: You get me. That's right. That's right. And everyone, I mean, gasp, the parent and teacher coach. Let's, I'm air quoting here, her kids smoke. Oh, I didn't even mention all of her tattoos, you know, I mean, like all of our stick and poke tattoos, all of the things that look wrong about her. I could go ape shit on and, oh, to back to your point, how the public views certain people like a different level, like I'm putting myself out there.

So what people think, all my kids have straight A's and all my kids are perfect and don't ever look at porn or don't ever play video games too long or what? Vegetables all day long, like none of that, like nothing has worked out in my family. All of us are full-blown human beings.

Justin: But the relationships take priority.

Vanessa: Yes. And then when you have a relationship, then I'm able to influence them. I know where their heads at. I know what they're struggling with.

Justin: But the cool thing that is coming up for me around this is that even if you're not able to influence, let's just say, I mean, let's just throw that out the window, to go back to like what we were talking about a couple of minutes ago, we would say the most important thing in our lives, our kids and our relationships with our kids, these relationships are ends in themselves. Like if through it all, we maintain a connected, deep, loving relationship. We won. Like we're doing it.

Vanessa: Yes. Right. Influence. Influence. Like I like that you said that because I've never when I say influence, you're actually what you said is more what I even mean. I think that people think, oh, you mean you get to like make them do stuff? No, no.

I get to like, my love that I give them and the love they receive, to me, is like a one to one ratio. There's no like thing in the middle that like catches the stuff. There's no wall. There's no barrier. Like the fact that I. I walked into her room the other day, by the way. Shocking. She's messy. Right. Your brain, her executive functioning is just like, what's that? You know, and so I walk in a room the other morning and I'm like, Ollie, you know what I love about you? That you have 17 half drank water bottles all over your room. You know what else I love…

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And I wasn't being a bitch. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm like I love, I said, I love that you're sloppy. I love that. I and I just told her, like all the things I love, like these. Ok, and just to get a little bit heavy if I lost her. From an accident or from a disease or from a mental health, you know, like crisis…

Justin: Tragedy.

Vanessa: Tragedy or suicide or something like that, right. If I did. I would look back and say to myself, why did you focus on all these little dumb things? Because you were worried about how people would think about you, Vanessa. And I would regret that my whole life. I would never get over the fact that I had to make a big deal about all the things that are wrong with her, which would develop her into someone who thinks that something's wrong with her and that she is broken and that I can never fix her.

Justin: Mm-hmm. That's beautiful. Oh, thank you. Thank you for that. Yeah, I kind of want to dig into this a little bit as parents. One of our charges, one of our responsibilities is that we are preparing these human beings to go out into the world and to be human beings among many other human beings.

And so in the book, you said it's not like you're arguing. You just let your kids do whatever they want and you just sit back and chill. And so you are making a distinction between discipline and punishment. And so can you unpack this a little bit?

Vanessa: Yes. Thank you for the opportunity. Yes. I think that sometimes when I speak, people think that I, assume that I'm passive and that I'm some hippie, like, hey, whatever you want, you know, and it's absolutely not the case. Instead of what I call cheap power plays. Ok, well, your phone is mine now. Well, I guess you lost your privileges. I guess you lost your stuff, didn't you? I mean, because they did something that I did my version of two hours before.

Who’s punishing me? They're never going to get to this point where they are perfectly meeting all the expectations of life. They're just not going to have anyone to catch them when they get older like us. Right. You see what I mean there? So this punishment thing is manipulative. It's cheap. There are way, it's taking advantage of the role. It's like using the power differential to force an outcome. So that's why I'm against that. Did that answer that part?

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: Okay. So then the alternative, though, that's what we want. We want to replace it with something better. There are, you know, there's extrinsic rewards from things we do in life and there are intrinsic rewards. So if we're always focused on the external metrics that kids come with, like grades are just like the most obvious one. Right. And like tardies and attendance and, you know, blowups or I don't know, like if you're keeping track of all these episodes of things and problems. Right. Number and frequencies of things.

If that's what you're focused on, all the outside stuff going back to, like, what will people judge you for, you know, and what will look bad and all of the above. If you're focused on that, then the kid just knows how to jump through hoops, follow directions, play the game, be a sneakier rat. You know, like there's every kid I know knows how to override life 360.

Every kid I know knows how to get Wi-Fi when their parents turn it off. Every kid I know, kids have, I forgot what it's called. Oh, my kids told me the other day, fake phones, though, like give them your phones mine. They'll have a phone. They passed around among their friends. That's the phone that or something like this where they give, they have a backup phone, guys. They have a backup. So you can't cut off their lifeline from their support system and their friends.

Justin: Oh, my god. So what do you do?

Vanessa: Ok. Yeah, I know, right. You can't beat smart people. And you don't want your kids to be less smart, do you?

Justin: Right. Right.

Vanessa: And you can't beat them. And the more you try to beat them, the smarter they get about how to beat people. And you're teaching people how to be manipulative.

Justin: It's an arms race. Yeah.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Perfectly put. Yes. Ok, so here we go. Intrinsic. Are you someone who want, these are things that I say to my kids. Are you someone, do you see your future like this where you give your word and you keep your word? Do you want to have integrity in your life? Do you want to feel lighter? Do you want them to feel strong? Do you want to feel good about yourself? Like, let's talk about what it feels like when you're reactive because you're not eating enough and you're, because you're playing too many games. Like let's talk about the actual reality inside of a person.

So then I'm walking around saying, “You said you would do this by this time there is an impact on the whole family that you didn't.” No shame, no judgment, just frickin facts, like straight up. Can you tell I’m direct? I'm direct. This doesn't work. This doesn't work for who you are. This doesn't work for our family unit. And this doesn't work for your future. So get your shit together. And I'm the first person that they all know when they want to get their shit together, I'm all in. Let's salute. Is that a word?

Justin: Yeah. Oh, right, right. Right. Let's solve this, right?

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah, yeah, I know. A solution. I don't know. Right.

Justin: We can salute to making these positive changes as well. Oh, I love that, yeah. You know, what comes up when I hear that is a sense that it ties back to this authenticity thing of like if what we're asking our kids to do is rooted in reality and authenticity. You know, then it has some weight to it and they will be… for themselves. But if what we're asking them to do is actually bullshit…

Vanessa: Bullshit! They’re like it’s bullshit!

Justin: Oh. Like. Right. I mean, this is the thing right now with what Max is doing in math right now. He's like, “This is, there's like never going to use this.” And I was like, “Max, you're right. You're right. You're never going to use that.”

So then let's think, why do we want to try to at least pass this class? Because if you know, if we don't pass this class, then there's going to be trouble. So this is a hoop. Let's just acknowledge that it's a hoop... I know. You know, and like let's just let's acknowledge that it's a game and we need to pass this level of this game to get to the next one. And, you know…

Vanessa: Yes, I'm freaking out over here because everybody knows that you don't have to graduate from high school to be a baller and a world leader. Everybody knows that.

Justin: All right, so I don't know if you remembered me a lot in high school, because I don't think you smoked pot or smoked a lot, but like in my senior year, I mean, it was just like every day. I mean, literally every day. And I mean, I barely graduated, just barely like by the skin of my teeth. And then I didn't go to college, I... Ok, so just as a really quick aside.

Vanessa: Really?

Justin: The only way I knew that the SAT’s were even happening is, I called up a friend. I won't mention. No, no, I will, because he couldn't go out and he took the… and so I called up Josh Ramiz.

Vanessa: I knew you were going to say that. He was a good guy.

Justin: Yes. And I was like, dude, let's go out. You know, we're going to party tonight. And he's like, I can't the SATs are tomorrow. I'm like, wait, I had no idea. All right. Well, have fun. And so I didn't go to college. I didn't do the first year, but then I eventually got my act together.

And then I, and I now have two PhDs. So it's like, yeah. So my feeling about their school is like if you want to do it, I mean, like pass. Like you cannot drop out of school, but like and then, you know, let's find the joy where there is joy. And so you're really interested in history and you're really interested in the essays, like let's find the joy where there is and then where there's not.

Let's just treat it like a hoop that we got to jump through.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Be real, be real, be real, be real. Be real. Like I can't say it enough times. It's like acknowledge the truth. They are so smart. They're so like they get it. They get it.

And we're over here being like, well, if you don't bubba, then you won’t the dadda and then you won’t bubba and they're like, I don't want to fuckin dadda. Like they don't want what all the hoops add up to. And then we're just like these like animal trainers or something, you know, it's so then the Christmas card, you can be like: and then they went to la la la.

Justin: The Christmas card. Oh, my God. Vanessa, can you just talk real quick about the Christmas card? How do you feel about Christmas cards?

Vanessa: I don't know, man. Like the letters and the things. I like the funny ones. I like the real ones. But the ones where “Tommy la la la.”

Justin: Oh, my god.

Vanessa: Or Lucy la la la. I'm just like…

Justin: Thank you. Thank you. Speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, my kids will say, well, that's funny, because actually, you know, I happen to know that the picture that they're painting is completely opposite of, the parents are like in a fantasyland. It's just like, so refreshing when people are real. And I wanted to say something about like school and so easy to take that as a place to get hyper-focus, because, again, the metrics is measurable.

We love things that are measurable, went up and went down. It went up. It's like, wait, all the things I think we're all obsessed about have to do with things where you can like track them really well.

Justin: These easily tracked metrics I think are attractive to most of us, because deep down, we feel like if we can only be good enough we’ll be worthy of love and respect, we can all leave. And so these metrics become like, am I worthy of love and respect today?

Oh, if I could just, yes, maybe. And the truth is and this is what I am learning, and it's like a deep truth that is true for every single person in the world. There is nothing you can do to be more worthy of love and respect than you already are right now.

Vanessa: Right. Right. I want to just say this one thing. I was speaking with a kid on Wednesday, and his name is Nick. He just came out to his parents. I helped him for months to work into this email for months, coming out as trans. And he is amazing. I get it. Here's something that he said to me the other day. And I'm like, bro, oh, my god. And I'm like I'm writing a book on what you just said. A book, dude. Like, I’ll credit you. He said this. “It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's their responsibility to be proud of me.”

Justin: Mm-hmm.

Vanessa: Really feel that.

Justin: Wisdom. Yeah. Right.

Vanessa: He doesn't have to jump through hoops to. And I'm putting those words like worth and love into like what make worth in pride. Like I'm proud of you because you're worth more. I'm so proud of you because your stock went up.

Justin: And when your stock goes up, my stock goes up…

Vanessa: Right!

Justin: Because fundamentally the parents are feeling unworthy. If my kid can just get into the right college, I'll be worth more. I will be worthy of love and respect finally.

Vanessa: Yes, exactly. Dude. Exactly. So that and I'm like, that's like the most. That's the most amazing way to say that, because what my work is about, which she doesn't even fully know, I don't even know if he knew I wrote a book, this kid. But like what he doesn't know is that I'm trying to get parents to see that what makes them freak out about all these kid things is actually something inside of them that's unhealed, that's undealt with, that's not whole. That's not... It comes down to self-love.

Justin: Wisdom.

Vanessa: That's it. That's it.

Justin: Yes. So parents listening to this, they have teenagers like, oh, my god, like I'm seeing myself and hearing myself and a lot of what you guys are saying and I don't even know where to start. So, Vanessa, what like today would be a baby step?

Vanessa: Today, what they can do is, I actually this is more in the course and it's step one. So the course has the same name as the book. Right. But it's in five steps. So it's like theoretical and philosophical, like in the book. Right. But it's real. It hits you. Right.

But now what do I do? Oh, I got what you do over here. Come over here. This course is like me, my face. And we're talking about all the stuff in the book, but not repeating it. It's all like fresh. I didn't read the book for the course at all. There's a whole coaching guide that goes with that, where it's like a lot of deep work, like this is not for babies, but it's for people who actually are sick of how it is. And they want something beautiful instead.

So. The first step I say “write a real clean letter to your teen,” and I have a link if you go in my bio anywhere, there's on Instagram specifically. Then there's a link on linktree and it says, “Real Clean Letter to Your Teen.” And it's an entire PDF and it breaks it all down to something. I guess you can't call it a baby step, but it's not a baby step. Like it's easy and little and quick, but it's the first step. Can we call it that?

Justin: Sure.

Vanessa: It's called the first real step. Yeah. And it's going to make a giant impact, and that is to write a letter and apologize and own up and take responsibility and be accountable for all the shit that you've been pulling, all the things that, the messages that you've been saying. It's not coming from this shaming place. It's coming from like this powerful place of ownership, of upsetting things to your children, like it when you fail. And in school or when the neighbors saw you vaping, I can't handle it because I think that it means that I'm a failure. And you're just a kid doing the best you can.

But the things that you do, I make them mean that I'm bad. And then I get mad at you for making me feel like I'm a bad person or a bad parent or something like that. Or remember that time I told you this or that. I'm sorry. I said that, you know, like talking about each and every instance you can think of where you put your child down and made them feel like a bad, broken person who needs fixing. All the control. We haven't even talked about the C-word, Justin.

Justin: Oh, my god. Oh.

Vanessa: Anyway, this is money.

Justin: That's ok. So that's the wonderful thing. Parents listening to this podcast, there is going to be a lot of stuff that maybe we just barely touched on. It's going to be in the book and then it's definitely going to be in the courses.

Vanessa: Yeah, the book stands alone. By all means. It's, you know, 12 bucks. Best thing you ever did. But the course is like, let's freaking do this.

Justin: Let's dig deep. I know parents, you know, they come out of your course and they've got a whole new foundation and they've got a whole new set of tools and they're rebuilding their relationship with their teens. But I'm sure, you know, life happens and, you know, growth is not just some linear trajectory. So what are the common pitfalls that parents deal with after they've built this foundation and are using these tools? What are some of the things that they still have to watch out for?

Vanessa: You know, the tendency to stop being real. I mean, really, I mean, the tendency to want to make excuses, to blame, to operate in a shame, shamy Blamey world context, where it has to be someone's fault. And then the other thing I would say is, so that it really requires like going deep, like I'm not a therapist, I'm not a doctor. I'm not like a million things.

What I am is like triage in many ways. It's like, ok, so maybe you want to get into a rehab program, mom. Maybe you want to go deal with your dad issues, dad. Let's, I think like one of the things is to think that you're never done. You know, like to think that, like you said.

Justin: Right, like I read the book, I took the course. Now I've done. Yes, I'm perfect. I am done. Yeah.

Vamessa: Yeah. It's not a Band-Aid. I'm not a Band-Aid. I want that to be like the sub-subtitle. This isn't a Band-Aid. Like this is like you using the fact that you, whether you wanted to or not, are now a parent. How are you going to let this I swear the ultimate challenge, right. Is parenting and everything that comes with it.

Times however many kids you have and whatever comes upon your life because of the kids and the marriage, like or if there's a marriage like all that stuff like this could be your this is your shot to go deep and sort out all the stuff that if you didn't have this little walking around reflection of you, you may never even realize that was hurting inside of you.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Oh, I love that. I love that. So that brings me to the final question before we get to the regular three questions that we always ask our guests. So the final question is, Vanessa, what is at the, what is the most challenging, I like to say what is at the edge for you in your own personal growth journey and your own parent journey? We just talked about how this is not a one-and-done thing.

So even though you have, you know, you know how to practice all these tools, you're still learning things about yourself, you're still growing up, what is at your edge, what is the kind of new and challenging in your own life?

Vanessa: Oh, so much. I'm ripping myself to shreds in a loving way, like uncovering, turning over every rock of me and who I am every day, every week, like professionally speaking. I work with someone who helps me with my energy. And when I'm confronted with this particularly hard like case or a family I client, I go to her and I'm like, what about me is in my way from serving these people in the way that they deserve to be served, like what are my triggers here?

And we'll talk about that. And I do breathwork. I do energy work because my things, I'm a recovering control freak. If I didn't take Lexapro, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be an alcoholic because I deal with incredible anxiety and depression and swings with all of that. But with, you know, treating it, I'm ok. I'm almost always eating with, or eating dealing with my eating disorder.

Still, I have a therapist, so I have my energy person, Reiki type stuff, everything, dude, like everything. I think it's because of my, you know, what people might call issues and imperfections and how hard I am on myself, how sometimes I think what I'm doing as a charity and I just want to help everyone. And I'm, this is a business. You know, those kinds of things, the tendency to like cross over my own boundaries. I'm working on that. My needlessness because of my own childhood. I bought myself a Jeep a couple weeks back, and it's an old 1965 Willys and it's so cool. And like that is for real the first time in my life I've done something for me that felt completely indulgent, you know. And I'm 44 almost. I don't do that.

So self-care will be something that I have to tackle. Just even eating enough food like every single day, like I'm a walking, talking wreck. But I know that. And that's what makes me awesome.

Justin: It sounds like radical self-honesty.  

Vanessa: Yes. Ooh, radical. Yes. Right. Awareness. Honesty. And then just like staying in, just staying in it and not ever thinking that I, but it's not like sad. I don't know. Does it sound sad? It's not sad?

Justin: No, no.

Vanessa: Sorry. I'm not saying I thought you thought it was sad. I don't. But what does it sound like when I said that?

Justin: The word that kept coming, or the words were radical self-honesty like that is when I asked, what is at your edge, your edge, what it sounded like to me was this constantly pushing this radical self-examination, saying like, what is my shit? Like what, what do I have that maybe I don't need to have or that I perhaps should start to have, like, you know, and can I just get real with myself?

Vanessa: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: Which is in working on myself over the past couple of years, but then building programs for parents. I feel like it's the hardest thing. It is the hardest thing to just sit back and wait. Can I just get real with yourself and like really own some of the really challenging emotions that I'm feeling, some of the, you know, some of the coping behaviors and avoiding behaviors that I've developed over the years, because I don't want to deal with this, because I don't want to be radically honest.

Vanessa: Right. And I find that like I'm unable, because I don't just work with parents and kids. I work with with CEOs and creators and artists like I work with, like the most amazing people from all over the place. And I'm not able to challenge these people who don't even have kids who are just like really like it's them against them kind of stuff. Unless I'm me, against me, I don't have parenting figured it out. I don't have myself figured out. I don't have life figured out.

But since I'm always pushing myself to the edge with so much love and like was the possibility of this because freedom is my thing, you know, like I want freedom and I experienced more freedom and more happiness when I uncover something and then bring just like just tons of compassion to it. Like that, it's like perpetually healing.

It's like, almost like an opportunity to find something that's hurt that I cope with or that makes me feel the way I don't like to feel or something, and then to to look at that, to love that, that's how I'm… Oh, wow. I'm just not really getting this like that's how I love myself. I tend to myself regularly, actively. I have a coach who pushes. I have two coaches.

They push me so hard and call me out so much. I couldn't be doing this amazing work and getting off the phone like another miracle, another miracle, another miracle. Like I walked out of this door before there's my living room and I'm like, oh, my God, like with every client. That's how I feel. And I couldn't be that bold if I weren't doing it for me, which is exactly what I'm talking about with parents and kids. You see it’s all the same?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it. So I feel like we've just scratched the surface. So I'm just going to put you on the spot that I would love to have you back and…

Vanessa: Yes! Oh, my god, I would do this every morning at nine o'clock.

Justin: Yeah. No, this conversation has been so much fun and there's so much oh, there's just so much here. It's so nourishing to talk about this. So we're going to go into the final regular questions, these are the three questions that we ask every podcast guest. Ok, so the first one is, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Vanessa: Get over yourself.

Justin: Ohhh, get over yourself. Oh, my gosh. Can you unpack that?

Vanessa: Yeah. Just like check your ego at the door... Does everyone else is like get over that you suck, too. We all suck. Who cares? It's not a big deal. Like, get over yourself. Ego.

Justin: For me, it would. Yeah, it would definitely be. Get over the parts of yourself that are the trying to prove your worthiness for love and respect because you are already worth it. Get over it, man. You are whole the way you are. Get over it.

Vanessa: Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: OK, so last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Vanessa: The one. The one from Nick. It all, it rocked me. It rocked me. It absolutely blew my mind. It's not my responsibility to make my parents proud. It's my parent's responsibility to be proud of me. And I'd like to add period. Like no matter what. Unconditional love is what we're talking about.

Justin: I think that quote is, right now for me, is easier if I put love in there. Yeah. Because I guess from my own childhood, when I think of pride, I do think of like achievement in some way. And so this love is like, yeah, I don't and I can't earn my parent's love. That is something that has to be given freely or it's not love. It's some…

Vanessa: That’s right.

Justin: It’s something else.

Vanessa: That’s right. Right. And it's like the pride thing is like I'm proud of you, though, for a kid, this is what I understand. Like I talked to, I have a podcast. You and I talk to kids who are 18 to 22sh someone who was 14, his mom was dying for me to talk to me like you might as well been 30 anyway.

So. But these kids are like, I've never heard that my parents are proud of me. They equate that with being acceptable and being lovable. So like it's kind of like a buzz word. And I'm ok with you. I'm not proud of you. Like, are you proud of yourself? Like it's used like a weapon.

Justin: So what they hear is love. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Vanessa: And hey, listen, Justin, that's what you heard, too. So you just helped me prove that point, right? Like you heard love. Right. Like...

Justin: That’s awesome.

Vanessa: … I’m proud of your sibling whose such a show off and does all these things because…

Justin: I love your sibling.

Vanessa: They’re the favorite, because they measure up. They know how to jump through hoops.

Justin: Beautiful. Ok, so the last question I like to ask, because as you know, for parents, you know, when they're just in their in the throes of just of just the craziness of life and parenting, and, you know, the schedules are so busy and kids like, oh, my God, kids. But here at The Family Thrive we want to take a moment to celebrate kids. And so can you. And oh, my gosh. With six kids, you are like the expert on this. What is your favorite thing about kids?

Vanessa: Oh, my gosh. Just like their humor, like what they think is funny. Like their brains, their ideas, their minds. If you sit with a kid and like get in there, like just really get in there, you'll be so encouraged about like what humanity is. They're so in touch with like their thoughts and their ideas. It's like the judgment isn't there. If you're lucky, you know, like if. I mean, that's part of the thing, right, that we're trying to I'm like completely anti judgment when it comes to parenting.

Like it doesn't work to judge your kids, to criticize them, to come from that place if something's wrong with you. So anyway, to answer your question better, it's like the way that they think is a miracle. My mind is blown every single day that I talk to any kid of any age. I talk to kids as young as 11 and, you know, in any age above adults. But teenagers like we need to be in awe of them. We need to be in awe of them. They need to know we're in awe of them.

Justin: Wow. That's beautiful. And this is coming from a mom of six kids. Like it's like, you know of what you speak.

Vanessa: Yeah, I know. My, one of my. Oh, this is funny. I just want to add this funny little thing. One thing, if you don't, if you knew, you know the gaming thing, this is. the best trick ever. If you're not, if you don't understand what the hell they're talking about and you don't really care. Like, I can't even lay one little brick thing down in my life.

I have not bought a gaming gene. Like I can barely miss Pacman a little bit. That's it. And so it's ok. So what I do is I Google something about like a new update to a game. And I like I would get on like a board of people talking, you know, and then I'll copy and paste like my, I pretend like it's my opinion. I won't get update and I’ll be like “what about the new Call of Duty?” dududaa.

Justin: Yeah.

Vanessa: And then I say, well, this is like this, you know. Like how like the …

Justin: Oh my God, that’s brilliant.

Vanessa: And then they know that I'm they know that I don't know what I'm saying. And they know that I found that somewhere.

Justin: But they know that you cared.

Vanessa: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And then they know that like, I value what they value.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful. Vanessa, thank you so much. This is such a beautiful conversation is so, so rich. But before we go, how can people contact you? What are the ways that they can get involved?

Vanessa: I am the most active, actually, on my personal Facebook page. So, Vanessa Baker. I just feel more authentic there than a business page. And then what I shared over there too, my website has all kinds of stuff. It's vbakermindset.com.

Justin: Vbakermindset.com.

Vanessa: Right.

Justin: Oh and, we are going to have show notes as well. So we're going to put all of this stuff in.

Vanessa: Yeah. And then my book's on Amazon, if you don't like Amazon, which I understand, you can go to Barnes and Noble or Balboa Press, which is my publisher, and the course will launch on March 1st. People can email me from my website and I'm just an open door. Like, just bring it we'll work it out.

Justin: One more time. The book is called From Mean to Real Clean.

Vanessa: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager.

Justin: Vanessa, thank you so much.

Vanessa: It was fun. Thanks, Justin. Thanks for having me. This is wonderful. You're amazing. And I appreciate what you're doing and I appreciate it. Like it's needed and I love that it's you who is doing it. Like because it's you, you're going to touch more life like people are going to and are responding to who you are in the work that you're doing in yourself. And then out in the world, like everything you're doing is like, perfect. I'm so proud of you.

Justin: That gives me some warm, fuzzy feelings, really. Thank you, Vanessa.

Vanessa: You're welcome.

Justin: All right.


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