Full PreFrontal

Ep. 142: Dr. Shimi Kang - The Dolphin Parent

March 18, 2021 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 142
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 142: Dr. Shimi Kang - The Dolphin Parent
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Full PreFrontal
Ep. 142: Dr. Shimi Kang - The Dolphin Parent
Mar 18, 2021 Season 1 Episode 142
Sucheta Kamath

In the increasingly complex world, raising children to become adaptable, communicative, open, creative, and self-reliant thinkers is a tall order. As the raging pandemic is taking its toll on the American psyche, some groups are proving to be more vulnerable than others. The American Psychological Association’s 2021 survey reports that the parents of children under 18 years of age are the highest stressed groups of people in the United States. So we need a universal healing approach and a pragmatic insight to handle the stress.

On this episode of Full PreFrontal,  award-winning author of The Dolphin Parent (A Guide to Raising Healthy Happy, and Self-Motivated Kids) and celebrated speaker, Dr. Shimi Kang shares ways to becoming a better parent while re-balancing yourself so that you become a trustworthy and compassionate role-model for your children.

About Dr. Shimi Kang
Dr. Kang is passionate about providing science-based tools that optimize the power of the human brain. She is the founder of Dolphin Kids: Future-Ready Leaders, CEO of Spark Mindset App, and host of the YouTube show; “Mental Wealth with Dr. Shimi Kang”.

She is the author of The Dolphin Parent: A Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Self-Motivated Kids and The Self Motivated Kid. The Dolphin Parent is a #1 National Bestseller and The Self-Motivated Kid won the 2015 US News International Book Award in the Parenting and Family Category. Her books have been released in 12 countries around the world and her newest title, The Tech Solution: Creating Healthy Habits for Kids Growing up in a Digital World is now available for pre-order!

Dr. Kang is represented as a national celebrity speaker with the Speaker’s Spotlight Bureau and is a TEDx Speaker with millions of views. She is a seasoned media specialist, known for discussing both common and complex conditions. You can find some of her articles and appearances in major media outlets, including BBC World News, Washington Post, the Huffington Post, CBC, Psychology Today, South China Morning Post, TIME Magazine, NPR, UK Daily Mail, Der Speigel, Al Jazeera, SETV-Shanghai, and Times of India. 

As a result of her endeavors and outstanding community service, Dr. Kang was honored with the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award , Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Sikh Centennial Foundation National Award. She has received five national awards in the field of addictions and mental health including the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry Research Award and an American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Award. Dr. Kang is most proud of receiving the Diamond Jubilee Medal for her years of outstanding community service and of being the mother of three awesome but exhausting children!

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Show Notes Transcript

In the increasingly complex world, raising children to become adaptable, communicative, open, creative, and self-reliant thinkers is a tall order. As the raging pandemic is taking its toll on the American psyche, some groups are proving to be more vulnerable than others. The American Psychological Association’s 2021 survey reports that the parents of children under 18 years of age are the highest stressed groups of people in the United States. So we need a universal healing approach and a pragmatic insight to handle the stress.

On this episode of Full PreFrontal,  award-winning author of The Dolphin Parent (A Guide to Raising Healthy Happy, and Self-Motivated Kids) and celebrated speaker, Dr. Shimi Kang shares ways to becoming a better parent while re-balancing yourself so that you become a trustworthy and compassionate role-model for your children.

About Dr. Shimi Kang
Dr. Kang is passionate about providing science-based tools that optimize the power of the human brain. She is the founder of Dolphin Kids: Future-Ready Leaders, CEO of Spark Mindset App, and host of the YouTube show; “Mental Wealth with Dr. Shimi Kang”.

She is the author of The Dolphin Parent: A Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Self-Motivated Kids and The Self Motivated Kid. The Dolphin Parent is a #1 National Bestseller and The Self-Motivated Kid won the 2015 US News International Book Award in the Parenting and Family Category. Her books have been released in 12 countries around the world and her newest title, The Tech Solution: Creating Healthy Habits for Kids Growing up in a Digital World is now available for pre-order!

Dr. Kang is represented as a national celebrity speaker with the Speaker’s Spotlight Bureau and is a TEDx Speaker with millions of views. She is a seasoned media specialist, known for discussing both common and complex conditions. You can find some of her articles and appearances in major media outlets, including BBC World News, Washington Post, the Huffington Post, CBC, Psychology Today, South China Morning Post, TIME Magazine, NPR, UK Daily Mail, Der Speigel, Al Jazeera, SETV-Shanghai, and Times of India. 

As a result of her endeavors and outstanding community service, Dr. Kang was honored with the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award , Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Sikh Centennial Foundation National Award. She has received five national awards in the field of addictions and mental health including the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry Research Award and an American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Award. Dr. Kang is most proud of receiving the Diamond Jubilee Medal for her years of outstanding community service and of being the mother of three awesome but exhausting children!

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal where we discover hidden powers of the brain's CEO. And we equip it with guidance and specific strategic collaboration with the world so that you can learn how to learn and manage your emotions, your thoughts, your ideas, your behaviors, and actions. This is if you have your prefrontal system under control, you are more productive, you are more happy. And you're also willing to change your ways. Because you cannot change your ways if you're not self aware. And it's your prefrontal system that gives you the boon of knowing thyself. And that's why we engage in these amazing conversations. And today, I was thinking about this issue about our effort in raising those that Who are we are responsible for so we are either responsible for our own children, or we are responsible for those we educate, or even clinicians who test children and work with them as therapists. And I was thinking that's such a huge responsibility. And so much of that depends on your personality, your approach your belief system, your own level of patience, and your own understanding of how children learn and how children respond. And one common complaint I get from most parents and most educators most professional development that I do, how do I motivate people? And, and, and, and that's such a mystery, and that's why it's with great delight,  I would love to welcome our guest, Dr. Shimi Kang, she is a passion. She's passionate about providing science based tools that optimize the power of human brain. She is the founder of dolphin kids, future ready leaders, CEO of Spark, mind, mindset app and a host of YouTube show, Mental Wealth with Shimi Kang. She is also a prolific author, one of the most prominent and famous one that you might have heard already is the Dolphin Parent: a guide to raising healthy, happy, and self-motivated kids. And the Self- Motivated Kid, which is also available on Amazon and she has a next best seller that has, I'm hoping it's a best seller that just hit the market, or she will talk about that. And lastly, I think she is in the process, or she has actually created a correct digital curriculum for for children and educators. And she's going to talk about that as well. And I do have the name of her most recent book, which is called the Tech Solution: Creating healthy habits for kids growing up in digital world, which is now available for pre-order. So welcome. Welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Shimi Kang: Thank you so much. And thank you for all the incredible work you're doing. Educating and spreading the very important message of Know thyself. It's interesting when you said that the Tech Solution book actually the epitaph that I put in this book is, Know thyself, love thyself. a lot about you know, of course, we have to know who we are, how we are hardwired, how our brains work. And then when we understand who we truly are and how we function, then we have to love ourselves, we have to put that into action, and take care of that amazing brain, that CEO that you just mentioned.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, that's why it excites me that I love that piece, which is loved ourselves because it cannot be that easy. And you know, since I'm in the space of metacognition, I always tell people, when we begin our work, it's going to hurt, because why you're going to know a little bit about yourself that you may have had a blind spot. So I asked this question of all my guests, since we will be talking about motivation, and engagement and how to find passion and and particularly bring the future leaders of tomorrow online to kind of have a buy in into leading a more meaningful life. How was that journey for you? How were you as a child? Were you highly motivated? When did you discover your own potential? And were you a self aware child? Or what was the mechanism that you discovered that helped you become you?

Dr. Shimi Kang: Right? Wow, that's a lot in that question. When I think of self motivation, I have a mantra for it which comes from my research and work in motivational therapy. Actually, I'm an addiction psychiatrist by training and I trained in Boston I think we're you did. So you know, this mantra goes like this. It says, I believe understanding how to optimize our brain and body and our motivation is simple. But simple is not easy. Knowing is not doing and doing leads to being and what I mean by that is self motivation and optimizing our body Mind is actually simple. Drinking water. Sleep is simple, and we know how to do this. But 80 to 90% of all children right now are chronically sleep deprived, chronically dehydrated, so knowing is not doing. And when we get to the doing, though, then we can become our best self. You know, when we drink that water when we sleep, or mood improves our energy or focus or concentration. So that's the mantra. And I think, to answer your question, it wasn't until I became a mother of three, myself. And just to give some background, I have a 15 year old son, who has ADHD and written output disorder. I have a 13 year old son, it was a bit of a perfectionist, and I have a 10 year old daughter who has dyslexia. And when they were all younger, and I felt very overwhelmed with parenting. And I said to myself, Oh, my goodness, I know how to do this, I've actually studied motivation I have, I have done research on it. You know, I had worked with teenagers for about 17 years at that time. And I realized that knowing is not doing I was missing the simple things that I wasn't putting in place, and those simple things I actually had in my childhood. And I say those three things that lead to self motivation. And this comes from the book, The Dolphin Parent, where I presented the acronym or the metaphor of the POD, the three things that lead to self motivation, are Play, Others, our connection with something bigger than ourselves and Downtime, you cannot be motivated if you're sleep deprived and exhausted. So when I think of my childhood, it was quite interesting. I was the youngest of five, I, my parents were hard working immigrants. I was never in a single activity, there was no time or money or ability to put me in any activity. I had a dolphin childhood in the sense that if you think of that metaphor of the animal, it is firm, but flexible, the body of the analyst, firm, but flexible. So my home, there was a firmness there, I had responsibility, you know, of my grandparents and night to do the dishes. And I had chores and very clear firmness on values. You know, we had to, you know, work hard, be honest, we had to volunteer every Sunday at the Sikh temple and make meals and serve the community and service and contribution was a very key, firm part of my childhood. Yet there was flexibility. Of course, I wasn't in any activities. I went to school, and I had lots of free time. I played in the snow for hours and hours at end, I rode my bike, I had a certain amount of freedom. And my mom actually couldn't read, she never had the opportunity to go to school. So she definitely wasn't a helicopter parent. She didn't know how to check my homework. And she and my dad who actually has ADHD himself, but became a math teacher. And he had five children, he would frequently ask me what grade I was in, and be like Shimi, how's grade five? And I'd be like, No, Dad, it's grade six. And he's like, Oh, okay. So, you know, definitely there was flexibility and openness. And I say that was my dolphin childhood, it was community minded. It was we had to collaborate the five of us, there was lots of communication and lots of problem solving, critical thinking. So all of that really, is I feel, led me to, you know, this path of understanding and motivation.

Sucheta Kamath: It's so interesting. I think what I'm hearing you say is, you kind of took pause and look back at your childhood and recognized all the key components that that help you grow and shine. And you realize that if you don't bring them back intentionally, your children may not have the similar experience that you did. But your experience, part of that experience was accidental. Because I grew up in India, and I was telling one of my guests last week, that yeah, there was no entertainment. When I grew up in India. There were two channels that to the second channel came on our live in seventh grade, and that channel was only Available from 6:30 to 8:30, in the evening, but from 6:30 to 7:30, it had local news. And and from 7:30 and they would show farmers so farmers plowing and talking about farming. So we cuz we had nothing we would even like, consider watching that. And to me that was that gave me so much information about farming, which was not at all important to my life, but there was self limiting environment. So I want to ask you this question about as a psychiatrist, where you began, what was radically different between you having to tackle the needs and and direction for your three children versus the patients that you saw? And what made you think about kind of penning down the dolphin way?

Dr. Shimi Kang: Right, yeah, interesting. Well, you know, it was, I don't know, if you remember, you know, back then, the book now was released in 2014. And a couple years before that, there was the famous book and big dialogue and parenting about Tiger parenting, you know, remember that are by Amy Chua. And so, you know, I understand it was a memoir wasn't meant to be, you know, an authoritative book on parenting, but it people really did take it that way. And I remember, as a psychiatrist, people coming to my office, with the book in their hand, saying, we need to be harder on our kids. Look, this woman didn't even let them have bathroom breaks, and, you know, make them pay to play the piano. And I actually found I had to really educate against a lot of those messages, you know, in, in my as a psychiatrist, and in my community here in Vancouver, which is very multicultural, and many, many Tiger parents and parents of all stripes. And then I realized, though, how easy it was to fall into those speaking fears. And I wanted to present the science of parenting and I wanted and there was all these metaphors, it was helicopter and snowplow. But there was no metaphor of what to do, right? What actually to do. There was all of these metaphors of what not to do. So for me, the dolphin, became that metaphor. And when you think of the qualities of the dolphin, I already mentioned, the approach is firm, but flexible, like the body of the animal. But the qualities of the dolphin is curiosity, communication, collaboration, they are community minded, they live in a pod, they're highly altruistic. They're fun, they're playful. And I used to and I would give the science I wouldn't say parents would be like, Oh, we have no time to sleep 12 hours my son's in hockey and my daughter's in ballet. And I would say, guess what, the dolphin which is a mammal that fully lives underwater alternates its brain hemispheres, and manages to sleep, you know, nine to 10 hours in a 24 hour cycle, that is how important these things are to the human brain. So really, I use it as the science of nature. And I say, sometimes we have to look outside ourselves to see ourselves, I believe we humans have forgotten what it means to be human. We have forgotten our children need to rest and have downtime, be socially connected, be in nature and to play. And that partly explains the very serious rising rates of anxiety, depression, addiction, you know, and disconnection and lack of creativity and perfectionism that we're seeing in this generation, because we have forgotten these very basic activities, you know, and we can get into the neuroscience of them because I felt in the book I had to give a scientific reference for all of these things because parents didn't want to believe you know, that sunlight and nature and sleep was what their kids needed, they wanted more Kumon or more you know, fancy this or that. So I had to give the science and reference it and I had to explain that downtime gives us endorphin connection gives us oxytocin play gives us serotonin and dopamine so it's really a lot of neuroscience and science with this practical idea of play others in downtime with this authoritative collaborative parenting style.

Sucheta Kamath: What I loved about your book and I'm so glad that you give the backstory so everybody could understand it that you know there's a we forgot one which is the doormat parenting so

Dr. Shimi Kang: Oh, jellyfish, jellyfish is the other we don't want to be jellyfish, the permissive parent.

Sucheta Kamath: But I think what it was one of the things that I find very creates impatience in me is that wanting to box things in so that it can be a quick fix. And and I appreciate the dolphin metaphor, but what more what I appreciate more is the invitation to play and invitation to be silly invitation to be not so rigid and structured, and that is completely lost. I look. I look at parents effort. With great compassion, but they want to create soldiers create these perfect humans, they almost take the responsibility of a factory maker, or sometimes maybe an artist, but they actually don't look at it as a garden, which their job is to a water, they think they're actually sculpting. So I appreciate that. So let's go, go go down this, the order of things. So define motivation for us. And what is the difference between a person's own motivation and motivating others?

Dr. Shimi Kang: Sure, yeah. So, you know, motivation, fundamentally, if we break it down, is all about dopamine, really, you know, that's the, that's our neural chemical of reward. And so we are motivated by reward. So it's, that's the primary short term, intrinsic motivator or hits of dopamine. And so we have to understand that that's very interesting, though, that's like sugar, I say, in our life diet. So you know, we do want that second piece of chocolate cake, and we will eat a whole bag of chips, because we're getting little hits of dopamine, or we'll scroll social media. But that's what we what I call the title neurochemical. What we need, then to sustain motivation are those other three neuro chemicals, the endorphin coming from downtime, the oxytocin coming from our connection with the world, and then the serotonin coming from play creativity, mastery and growth. So and above all, when we add them all together, the highest form of motivation is called mission, motivation or contribution. When we actually contribute to the world, we really receive dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin and brain derived growth factor and a whole bunch of other amazing, wonderful powerhouse neuro chemicals. And what I think is really important getting to your point is we're parents had it all wrong. You know, many parents were raising children, that to beat competitors in this scary world. Whereas what we need to do to intrinsically motivate them, is to be contributors to this world. And I do have to give that credit to my mom, who was very intuitive in that because I would come home, you know, with a 97 in math because I love math. She couldn't read my test. She said, that's great. When she would say, what did you do in your day? What did you like? What did you actually do? And her her message was, how did you contribute in a smaller, large way. So when we plant that seed of contribution, you know, it doesn't matter if you someone else gets the award, or you break your leg, in the sports game, or you're not very good at the art, when you're when you're motivated, to actually contribute have an impact your unique neural fingerprint, that motivation is unending, and it is lifelong. So and it's intrinsic. So you know, I think that in a basic way, simple is not easy. Let's let's really guide children to be contributors, that is the best way to keep them motivated.

Sucheta Kamath: So great. So let's talk about some children who may be highly motivated and things that interest them, such as video games, and they're highly uninterested in helping out which is a cleaning their room or, you know, putting away dishes as family finishes dinner. And I find one of the things that gets missed in the translation, again, going back to this relationship with our parents, raising children, you become extremely motivated by fear that if I don't take care of this now, if I don't teach you now, then your whole life is gonna fall apart, you know, then you're highly motivated to make them do things. So what are some of the ways you can raise these mission? aligned motivated individuals? What are some of the steps they can do? So one thing I think you mentioned is service and service, not just telling kids but being doing service and then your children join you? Is that what you mean by aligning children with that mission? motivation?

Dr. Shimi Kang: Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, service has to be really, I think it's very powerful when it's within your unique neural fingerprint. So, you know, we can think about what do I love to do service wise, I hate cooking, I have ADHD, I can't follow a recipe. It stresses me out. I have no motivation. What do I love to do? I love volunteering and talking about the brain. So my service would be, you know, doing charity events and community events and going on radio and going on TV and talking about this. Someone else might be cooking, someone else may be knitting a sweater, someone else may be, you know, helping others with financial literacy. So the key is for our raising children is help them find their unique neural fingerprint. We find that through play and exploration with a broad range of activities, and then connect that passion and, and that talent to something bigger than themselves, the community or planet and make sure that's the others and then make sure they have a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Because there's many, you know, genius artists who really want to serve the world, but they burn themselves out, and then they're no good to themselves or anyone. So the downtime piece is really key. Now, I suggest that I do have to mention the play piece is, you know, you're absolutely right about the rigidness of wanting to like create this robot child and the dolphin parent, I opened up the book with the story of Lego. Yes, and I say that. And I say that childhood has changed the way Lego has changed Lego of our childhood was the the type of play we needed. It was cheap, it was free flowing, it was simple bricks, we were the leaders in that built executive functioning skills that built our prefrontal cortex that led us to be the creators. And that's divergent play. children's play now is like today's Lego, it is rigid, it is structured, it is rule oriented, it is perfectionistic. There's no imagination, everyone knows what you're making, it's on the picture is on the box. And it's highly expensive. And it's fragile, it breaks easily. And that's exactly what we're seeing in our kids. You know, they're lacking resilience, they are perfectionistic. They're rigid in their thinking, we're not seeing the creativity. When you look at the Torrens test of creativity. Over the decades, children are scoring less than less. And I say this is a paradox of our time, despite being the most informed and involved generation of parents who ever walked the planet, we are raising the most unhealthy generation of young people, which actually have the lowest levels of creativity, and the shocking reality of low empathy and a lower lifespan, this will be the first generation to not outlive those that came before them. So you know, this, this topic is of urgency. And I'm so happy that you're you know, you're bringing this to people because we really need all of us to come together and try to turn the tide of what's happening in the world.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, and to your point, I love Stewart Browns work on play, the science of play. And I think to what you just mentioned, the Jennifer History wrote a book on All Joy No Fun, I don't know, if you get a chance to read that. It's one of my favorite books, who kind of took a aerial perspective on transformation in the way we raise families, not just children. And as you know, women became suburban moms, the children began to spend more time in the, their minivans, because they're getting hauled from place to place. Because there is nothing called neighborhood, it's, you know, you and if you are activity oriented, then you are going to and fro from activity, and activity is not play. It's a structured activity. And, and so the relationship you are learning or not, maybe learning is with one adult. And that is so anti, that freedom of thought or that mental flexibility, or that executive approach to life where you are facing problems that are novel, that's not happening. So tell Tell, tell us a little bit about this idea of, can we the play that you just mentioned, where and I love this example of Lego because, you know, Lego was supposed to be kind of the freedom for children to build something from. And now parents are buying more and more complex Legos. And they have to be built in form of whatever the complex Lego box was. So that actually is anti creativity again, but how does that translate into the daily activities when parents are kind of knowing a little bit more about neuroscience educators are encouraging the parents to bring these practical strategies but they feel they're still not confident that this will actually make their children more equipped to manage life? Right? Because it feels like wasted time because it's invisible. How do you bring courage to them? Yeah, well,

Dr. Shimi Kang: I think you know, when we look at motivation again, and that's my currency is I think parents are in different stages of change. Some of us are in action and we get it and we know it and we're ready to do it. Others are in contemplation. They're like, you know what, it doesn't feel right my child so over scheduled and has no free time, but you know, everyone else is doing it and others are in pre contemplation fully like buying into all of this. So The way we move people to action is through science and through storytelling, and through a critical evaluation of the benefits and drawbacks of their current behavior. So yeah, that's what we want to do. That's why the book is scientific, full of stories, and then asking people to evaluate, where does your child look most happy? You know, where does your child what are they engaged in more? Now we do on that note have to recognize the addictive nature of, let's say, certain technologies. And because they'll say, Oh, my child's really happy and engaged playing video games. Well, that's about dopamine. And so I'm not saying all video games are bad. But what we want to do is encourage gaming that is also divergent play. So something like Minecraft is a lot more like old school Lego, where as like Candy Crush, or slot machine type of game is much more what I call junk tech. And I lay this metaphor out in my book, the Tech Solution about how to evaluate technology, because we are spending so much time on that. And that is a critical interface for our young people. So you know, it's really about observing and saying, Where are they getting the endorphin oxytocin, you know, and then making decisions and choices to guide them along those pathways.

Sucheta Kamath: Lovely, and that I'm glad that you kind of brought our attention to technology and its role in you know, 21st century upbringing, I guess, a funny story. This morning, I had gone to my hair salon, and they were doing a Toys for Tots run, you know, like for the holidays. And the bin was filled with a technology, not a single manipulator handheld, like old fashioned balls or rings or jumping jump ropes. No, they were one, my hairdresser began to tell me that she actually got a baby's first iPad under one year. And I mean, it's a fake iPad, but it has like a technology to insinuate it's an iPad. And what struck me again, is once you have a screen, that means you enter an experience that may or may not leave any room for creativity, because it's response sensitive. And it's going to kind of guide you to go in a direction. So tell us why after the offense where you read or wrote your second book, and what's the, and I have to admit, I haven't had a chance to read it. So I would love to know, What is the message there? And what is the need that you found that you really needed to kind of bring this book out?

Dr. Shimi Kang: Okay, excellent. Yeah. And before I do that, though, I realized I didn't fully answer your last question, which is, how do parents what your parents do? Remember your own childhood, right? So and go back to that reference and believe that your child will pick up that skipping rope will pick up that stick and run around outside? If they if you just create the space and make the room and get rid of all the other distractions, the play behaviors are embedded in our human DNA? You know, technology will not bypass them as long as they're not readily available for the kids. Okay, on that note, then why did I write the Tech Solution? Well, really, you know, in my speaking, I do keynote speaking. So I talked to so I've talked to so many parent groups, schools all over the world for years, and the number one or two question was always technology. And it was always about screen time, how much screen time? And I realized I needed to answer this question. In a way that made sense. And so I started to use another metaphor, because the human brain we like metaphor, and we like visuals, and we learn best when something's familiar. So I started to use the metaphor of nutrition and diet. And I said, we need to look like look at technology consumption, the way we look at food consumption, that the tech we consume impacts our minds, the way the food we consume impacts our bodies, and there are several categories of tech. And they are toxic tech, junk tech, like junk food, and healthy tech, just like healthy food. And like a diet, we have to start this conversation early with our children. It has to be multiple times. It's never it's not just gonna be one talk. Look how much we have to teach our kids about diets over and over again and repetitive. And then I created the ingredients of the diet based on these neural chemicals. So I said you want to avoid toxic tech. That is any tech linked to cortisol. And that can come from things like sleep deprivation, prolonged sitting blue light, also fear of missing out comparing your lives to others, of course cyberbullying and hate. Avoid cortisol, tech savvy. Check that releases cortisol, you want to limit and monitor the junk tech just like junk foods, the sugar, the dopamine. So that would be mindless video gaming, where they're just zoning out, they're not laughing or joking with friends. You know, they're just like eating a bag of chips like mindless calories. No, you know, no healthy content there mindlessly scrolling social media, okay, a little bit of junk tech, like a little bit of chips and pop on a Friday is okay, not going to kill you. But that cannot be the major part of your consumption, and then consume healthy tech. And those would be any tech that leads to care, create or connect, it's actually the same as played others in downtime. So any tech that leads to play or creativity, building websites, making movies, making your own dance video, not watching others, robotics, coding, photography, there's so much healthy serotonin driven tech tech that leads to meaningful connection, like video conferencing, podcast, community activism, there's a lot out there for oxytocin. And then tech that leads to endorphin downtime, you know, monitoring your sleep, gratitude, journaling, mindfulness apps, you know, Fitbit and looking at your staff. So guiding children towards that healthy tag, it's very clear, I'm actually going to send you the plates, you can put it in your show notes, I have the visual plate of this, as well as a refrigerator list for people to drop the rules. So that you know, we can really get a handle on this really important issue.

Sucheta Kamath: Shimi, I'm so thrilled that you have taken the time to organize it this way. Because I think this will maybe have a greater buy in if we understand our own neuro chemistry. And I really like this, it's a it's a pro brain approach, you know, because then you're keeping your brain healthy, just like we are keeping our body healthy. Well, one question I do have about this requires parents to have deep understanding of the tech usage. And do you know what I mean? And so do you recommend parents to put some spyware or some software that tracks student use, I mean, child usage. And second thing, I find that parents don't do this early on enough, and then suddenly, they become awakened like ninja. And in middle in end of middle school or high school, they're like, hyper monitoring, and the kids are like, freaked out, because they will, why I mean, and then they create it, as you know, you know, fake Insta account that mom will never find out. So how do you see a solutions in that space where there is a, there's a kind of a culture in the house that says, you know, show me your, your environment with tech. 

Dr. Shimi Kang: Great, I love that. And the book is called the Tech Solutions. So there's very a lot of solutions. After each chapter, I give solutions, really practical things. So your second scenario really is very classic. It's the jellyfish parent who's kind of like, oh, no problem, and then figures out something you know, their child has some hidden Instagram account and then becomes the shark or tiger. And that doesn't work. So the message in the book is also to be that dolphin, parents guiding shoulder to shoulder present collaborative, and some very specific practical tips. The first one I say, delay, delay, delay, delay tech use as long as you can, you know, there's no evidence that really tech use is helpful for children, there's plenty of evidence that really tech use is disrupting the brain's myelin, which we know is such an important part of neural processing, we can see it on our fMRI scans, which is very shocking, because you know, even the brain of schizophrenics and autistic kids looks normal. These are actually an anatomical disruption that is associated and I lay that out in the book. So delay, delay, delay, and especially now with a pandemic. Children need eye contact and facial expression. If we're all looking at our phones and wearing masks, that we're losing that neurogenesis of eye contact and facial expression. Then I say there are three things to teach your child before you introduce a device. So these are some basic executive functioning skills. So one is time management, you want your child to be able to move from one task to the other. Second is real life social skills looking seeing each other looking into someone's eyes. And the third one is some sense of emotional regulation, how to manage boredom or stress, otherwise they will wire and fire stress management and boredom with tech. So work on those three life skills first, and then lastly, we introduced tech the way you would introduce car keys, you don't we don't just hand our child's keys to a car. So first of all, don't give your child a phone, let them borrow yours. That way you can maintain control and set scaffold the learning. So you know, when my oldest son got his phone in grade eight, he was allowed to text family and friends for carpool or homework first, once he showed he was able to do that, then he could do social chatting. Once he was able to do that he was allowed social media, well, then he made some mistakes on the highway. And then we brought him back on the local road and no social media, just like you would with like that metaphor, giving your your child the car keys. So all of those are practical aspects. And there's many, many more, of course we can talk about.

Sucheta Kamath: So amazing, amazing. Once again, I think this sounds like common sense wisdom, which is oxymoron, right? their common sense and wisdom. But it is being really cautious and yet firm about your belief system that I'm doing this for greater good. And you know, if you keep putting forward that value based parenting that it's always going to work. I'm very, very confident about that. The question that still comes to my mind is about the nature, this is good to set up the rules and regulations regarding technology. But how do you know it's working? So I'm saying, What if the child has a laptop, they're not using their phone for that counts? They have a fake Insta account, but they're only accessing it when they go to their friend's house, or they're logging in as a pseudonym. I mean, there's some ways, infamous. I mean, I will tell you from experience having been in a clinical setting, there's so many creative ways kids are going incognito. Right? How do you? I don't want to use the word Snoop. But is that appropriate? In your eyes? What do you think? Is the parents role there, unless a therapist is involved? And then you have to like really manage it at a much bigger level? Because?

Dr. Shimi Kang: Yeah, absolutely. And I wouldn't use the word Snoop, I would use the word presence, we need to be present in our children's digital lives as much as we are present in their offline life, because much of their life is online, the average teenagers checking their phone 150 times a day, young people were spending or seven to 10 hours on their phone, outside of homework in school pre pandemic. So it's about being present in your child's digital life. So be there. And ways to do that, of course, is it's your phone. So you get the passwords, and you monitor it, especially while they're learning. And of course you want to do so I don't believe don't when I say delay, you know, I don't think waits until they're in university, you know, around I like the idea of no screens till teens are waits until grade eight, because then by the time they're in grade 12, you've had four years of presence online, because you really, it really doesn't work as well. being there, you know, once they're off, you know, after that age group, so you want to give them and work with them early around grade eight. So you have three or four years where you're collaborative, shoulder to shoulder. And yes, so my kids, we check their screen time when we have their passwords. We, they kids do use things like incognito, so you have to check their browsers, you have to have parental controls, we shut the Wi Fi off at 9pm we have a digital day off. And we're not perfect. We've had many many issues with tech in our home. And we've had to we've been shocked and horrified at times as well and we've had to go back and reset. So you know I really outline all this in the book and I have a reset plan, six steps on how to reset so many parents think like is it too late? And of course it's never too late. We always have neuroplasticity we always have the ability to learn and before the age of 24 is a really good time to make sure these habits are in place so always reset.

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah I love it love it and and I think if I can share quickly about my children and their digital lives that have been but we have had the same rules that their study area they sit with their computer screens facing their back is facing the person who walks by so you can always see the screen so no business of quickly closing the laptop second no clearing of history allowed and parents have the right to review the history and this is for your greater good and and the spot checking which is randomly asking questions about the history. One site that you visited in the mom will our dad will not go there but you have to explain why you went to that site. And and the other thing that was also very interesting that you mentioned was about this internet shutdown. So in my practice, I highly recommend to get a an expert come home and set up the You know, to login a password for the internet, so that there's an auto shut shut down, and no technology in the bedroom, including television or iPad phone, anything nor technology, and households are not used to. So one last question about that, before we come to the end is how do you? And I can't know the answer. But I want to know what you think is how do parents make this a priority when parents feel that they have both parents are working, and they need to be in touch with their children. They feel technology also can be a temporary, they're embarrassed but a good babysitter? Because then the kids are not getting into other trouble. And and so how do you kind of encourage them to not be so freaked out by everything, but also be bold in that way that you can say, No, we are not going to get a smartphone for you until you're in eighth grade. I told my kids to get a flip phone. And they were quite resistant because they were embarrassed. And I said, Well, you have two choices, you get a flip phone or no phone. So right, but that was easier because the smartphone was not that available. And it was expensive.

Dr. Shimi Kang: Right? Yeah, no great question. You know, I opened the book with the yet another metaphor of fire. And I say technology is the fire of our time. And what I mean by that is, you know, at one point, our human ancestors, harness the power of fire. And that was a life history changing moments for human evolution, the individuals who knew how to harness that fire appropriately, went further and farther than ever before and launched our ability to really grow our brain, you know, by cooking our food and coming down from the trees and sitting together around the fire. In a created this amazing prefrontal cortex, fire was a key part of our human brains development. But also fire can burn you and burn down the village, if you don't use it properly. So the fire of our time is the phone. And if we see it that way, that's why I made that metaphor, because I want parents to understand the power of this device, and take the time to get it right. When you establish these healthy habits, ideally early, but even in adolescence, it's never too late. Now for the rest of their lives, they can use this powerful technology in service of their good of their health of their happiness of their success. Versus and I we haven't talked about the persuasive design of tech that is embedded in these devices manipulation, on purpose to attract and hook people. So on one end of this device, you have an immature underdeveloped pre myelin, a fully myelinated brain. And on the other end, you have the most sophisticated neuroscience known to humankind. So I know we have a lot to do as parents. But just like diets, you know, we need to teach them how to eat, we need to teach them how to consume tack and just like diet falls a bit apart in teenage years, and they may go to their friends and eat chips and no one's watching. This too will fall apart of it. But generally they come back in their 20s those habits that are set, those neural pathways are there. So yes, it's work, but it's definitely worth the effort. Well, fantastic.

Sucheta Kamath: I am so inspired. And I can't wait to get my copy and read the second book. And I, before I let you go, I would love to know if you have two most influential books or your favorite ones that you recommend that every listener should really grab it for the holidays, maybe?

Dr. Shimi Kang: Yeah, well, there's two on my mind. One is a very sciency book, which many of you have probably heard of. But it's Dan Siegel's Brainstorm, I just think that's a fantastic book of understanding the brain, the developing brain and such great science and storytelling. And then the other one, I would say is a bit more of a creative book, creative book, but it's one of my all time favorites is the Alchemist. And I think that gets back to that message of contribution. Meaning and I believe there's a line in there that when you fully go inward and find that neural fingerprint, the whole universe seems to conspire in your favor. And you know, and I love that line, because I feel that, you know, we, each child is so unique, you know, and whether there's autism or ADHD or dyslexia or nothing. Each child has that unique neural fingerprint and if we can get them on that path of finding their own unique gifts, then you know, this next generation truly is going to flourish.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, I am so grateful to you for your time and your insights. And we will add all kinds of show notes. So folks, please check our website, because I'm running low on time. But But Dr. Kang also has a brand new curriculum. And we will write about that in the end. But do you want to quickly tell people about that? 

Dr. Shimi Kang: Yeah. So there's two exciting projects. One is called Spark Mindset, which is an app parents and teachers can download. And it covers the three categories of play others downtime, and we have play activities, connection activities, and mindfulness breathing activities, we have a character called Sparky, which is a neuron that grows, the more you use the activity. So kids love Sparky, and Sparky changes colors. And then also, Dolphin Kids is going online into a program called Dolphin Learning. We have a social emotional, cognitive programming, that, you know, we have lots of free lesson plans for teachers and psychologists already on our website. But that'll be moving all onto a platform in the new year.

Sucheta Kamath: Fantastic, congratulations. And we cannot wait together to change the world and make everybody I really appreciate your message of hope and compassion with which you are lending hand to parents. So they don't feel discouraged with the avalanche of responsibilities that are coming on their, on their shoulders while they're trying to raise 21st century kids. So thank you for your time. And we look forward to listening and hearing about your next adventure.

Dr. Shimi Kang: Amazing, thank you Sucheta for your amazing, all the great work that you're doing. You're really changing the world. We need this message and it's very exciting because I believe science is really going to change. And this is exactly what you're doing. So thank you.

Sucheta Kamath: That's all the time we have please forward this of this amazing podcast to anybody you know, and who would benefit and always keep in touch. Thank you for listening to the to the Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function and we look forward to connecting again next week. See you then. Bye bye.