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Episode 63: Raise Resilient Kids with Jeff Nelligan

Updated: 4 days ago

Jeff sitting at a wood table in a suit and tie speaking
Jeff Nelligan


This is Episode 63.


"Welcome to 'Wellness in Every Season,' the place where we explore the rich tapestry of motherhood and wellness in all its forms. I'm Autumn Carter, your host and guide. 


Autumn Carter: This is episode 63 of wellness in every season. And today I have with me Jeff, he is our second male ever on the podcast. And the reason why I chose him is because he is going to be talking about resilience and kids. He is an author and I will let him further introduce himself because he just has so much to offer. Thank you for joining us today, Jeff.

Jeff Nelligan: Thank you, Autumn, and being the second dad, that's huge privilege. Thank you so much.

Autumn Carter: Of course. Can you tell us about your book and then tell us about your journey to writing this book?

Jeff Nelligan: Certainly. The book is entitled," Four Lessons from My Three Sons, How You Can Raise Resilient Kids". And it's a very short pretty loose, pretty funny book. It's about a 40 minute read. It's about 75 pages and it just, Encapsulates what I want to say is the ethos for how my sons were raised from the ages of about four all the way up through, now the eldest is 28 and it's an ethos that stayed with them. It's could be useful to parents, both moms and dads as their kids, grow up and particularly in this particular age, which is very unsettled.

Very unfortunately, social media driven age, device driven age, and just an age in which a lot of values seem to be disappearing or either dispersed or watered down.

Autumn Carter: I love that it is a short read because busy parents. So when you're in the thick of it, you don't want a long book. You want get to the point and Jeff, you are formerly in the military. Get to the point. So thank you for writing a book that is going to help us and not be watered down.

Can you tell us some of your stories? You have three boys, you had them all in sports. Tell us about some of the sports they did and how that drove them to be who they are today.

Jeff Nelligan: Certainly. And I bet, every mom listening has been through the sports game, whether it be with Girls or boys. And it seems like the whole universe who's there. Someone has a kid who's playing soccer at a young age. And my kids started soccer at the age of four, way up at the Montgomery County soccer Plex, not far from where you live there, Miss Autumn. Soccer moved to lacrosse and then it moved to other sports. But the big thing, and with girls and with boys, it's the same thing, and it's the idea that sports is a great metaphor for life, because you encounter the three things you're going to need the most.

Number one, you're on a team, and you get the camaraderie of being on that team, and there may be kids on the team you dislike, but you have to get along with them. The second part of it is the adversity in sports. At the end of every game, whether it's four year old or five year old soccer or a division one college rugby, there's a scoreboard at the end and there's a winner on it and there's a loser on it.

And if you're very vested in the game, you don't want to be on that losing side. So you're going to want to get better and you're going to feel the hit of the loss and the exhilaration of the victory. The third part of it is, if you're on a team with like minded individuals, you want to get better.

You don't want to be the guy sitting on the bench. So your own personal discipline in getting better at any sport is going to be enhanced. Now, the athletic metaphor, Autumn, is easy and it's overused. What I've just said really applies to anything thing. It can be playing in the marching band. It can be being in a theater production.

It can be in the robotics club or Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Any place where there's a group of kids, whatever age, who all are pushing towards a shared goal. And so I always use that metaphor because those three values, the idea of camaraderie and then resilience and adversity and then personal discipline, improving oneself.

Those are key elements that will last the kid's entire life.

Autumn Carter: You don't always get along with everybody on the team and that happens in life. Happens in the classroom, it happens at work. Have you always got along with everybody you worked with?

Jeff Nelligan: No, I don't think anybody does. That's a great point. If you got a team of, 15 kids, or you're in an office with 10 other colleagues, There's one or two that are going to rub you the wrong way. That's just the human condition. That's the way it works, but you have to work with them.

And that means also too, that you have to dig deep for your own humility and your own kind of, personal strength and saying, Oh, Jimmy or Betty, they're a jerk, but I've got to, I've got to work with them and I'm going to do my best. It really requires a lot of personal accountability.

Autumn Carter: And especially if you have that shared goal of making the goal for using sports.

And there's also the sometimes that one that rubs you the wrong way is the one who pushes you to be the best version of yourself.

Jeff Nelligan: Yeah. And, you'll find that you'll find that in a coach or in a theater director or in a scout master. Or in a teacher that's, pushing you with, like I said, the robotics club that, that figure, that authority figure or that colleague that is just asking more and more, and in your heart that they're right in doing so.

Autumn Carter: Or even a parent, right?

Jeff Nelligan: Oh, I think we take that as a given there, Autumn. Yes, definitely a parent.

Autumn Carter: Sometimes for granted, right?

Jeff Nelligan: Yeah, I think we come back to that. That's the first, of all those individuals I mentioned, the parent is numero uno. That's the one that you should please.

And all that, maybe that sounds old fashioned, but that's what it's all about. Because that's the person you're going to, you spend. pretty much your whole life around up until, the age of 12 or 13, and then it starts to diminish. But yes, definitely the parent.

Autumn Carter: And you're no longer such a great person.

They're like, I'm sick of you now. I don't want to be around you.

Jeff Nelligan: Yeah, parents don't understand. Parents will spend 75 percent of the time they're ever going to spend in with their kid in the first 12 years of the kid's life, 75%.

So you better get it right then because. after 12, 25 percent until you pass from the mortal coil. So having that good wellbeing between yourself and your child is essential in those years.

Autumn Carter: I definitely agree. Tell me about your thoughts on screen time and what you call it. Cause I think it's really catchy.

Jeff Nelligan: The great validation of my own belief in screen time came about eight days ago, when Dr. Jonathan Haidt's book was released to the United States, it was called The Anxious Generation. Dr. Jonathan Haidt, along with Dr. Jean Twenge, Of San Diego State University and Haidt is with New York University have been studying the effects of social media on kids for almost 20 years and they when I say studying.

The deepest research and surveys. This is not anecdotes strung together in a book. This is heavily researched data that proves social media in its various stages. The iPhone is 2007 it's adoption among youth is around 2009 by 2010 broadband really makes it's a great push across the country so that many things that were on the internet could now be seen in full on an iPhone and these two have charted and particularly Dr.

Haidt. In that book, Anxious Generation, which I might add is number one on Amazon. So it's got quite a readership. Too much exposure to social media ends in just a mental health disaster for young people, particularly girls. And, today's stats are awful.

I quote them in an earlier book I wrote about the pandemic lockdowns called "Your Kid's Rebound from Pandemic Lockdowns, A Parent Guide to Restoring Your Family". Average kid today, 10 and 18, spends eight hours a day. 47 minutes a day on a glowing rectangle. iPhone, iPad, computer. That doesn't include schoolwork.

Just that time alone is more time than they sleep.

Autumn Carter: That's true.

Jeff Nelligan: Youth. When I'm talking youth, from three to five, spend an average of an hour and 47 minutes on a screen, three to five years old. Oh my gosh. An average boy in this country spends approximately 10 minutes on video games every day.

This saturation with this passive. It's passive encounter with the screen and all the vulgarity that can flow through the interweb has an awful effect on kids and we see it, half the kids in 2023, half the kids between, I want to say between the ages of 10 and 18 had a major depressive episode.

These bad trends were accelerated by the lockdowns because. Kids were even more isolated than they had been in the past.

Autumn Carter: And they were on the screen more too, for school.

Jeff Nelligan: For school.

Autumn Carter: And then the electronic babysitter, as my mom calls it.

Jeff Nelligan: Yeah. And if you've got an electronic babysitter, you're wrong.

Again, I'm unfiltered. And the other thing too, Autumn is, and we talked about it earlier, the parents set an example too, if they're constantly scrolling on a screen. So from the earliest stages on with my sons, All that wasn't even part of the conversation. They didn't get phones until they were at the end of 11th grade.

And then they got the most basic phones. There was no way a video was going to be screened on the phones we gave them. We limited TV time. They're one hour a week for a video game and could only be on a weekend, which we were all going to athletic events or doing other things. So the whole idea of cutting down on screen time We didn't even have to cut down because it never approached any kind of level of, great use.

And that's the biggest, that's the biggest fear. And that's the biggest impediment I see to kids today becoming what they should become, realizing their full potential. How does anyone justify eight and a half hours on a phone for a kid every day? What chunk of time is that replacing?

Time with their peers, time with their parents, family time with their parents, with their family, reading, just walking around outside. And now that Hate's book is out, when I say validation, I was thinking this way about screens back in 2001, when I see my kids would get addicted to, DVDs of Disney movies.

Or of watching, different things that we would see pretty, pretty tame at the time. And after a while of seeing them get crazy about not being able to watch another half an hour of something, I said, this is it. Now you're not going to watch any of it. The television is going dark and it's going dark for years.

So again, It was a validation of what I thought, and I just can't believe now the immensity of time that people spend on it today, both adults and kids, and how that's just destroying and hurting them, badly.

Autumn Carter: I have my degree in applied health, so we studied a lot of this type of research.

And how important it is to spend time outside. So we can definitely go in that direction. There's so many directions we can go with what you said, but there are studies on two year olds younger than two don't need TV. It actually impedes development.

Jeff Nelligan: Oh, yeah.

Autumn Carter: What is actually happening inside the brain is very interesting because you are unplugging.

We all know this when we're exhausted at the end of the day as parents and we want to veg out on TV. Why do we call it vegging out watching TV? Because we literally are becoming a vegetable. We are Completely unplugging our brain. And that happens to the children. We might justify it by saying they're watching something educational.

Yes, but there's a really big but in there. They're still unplugging. They're not fully using their brain. And it's replacing that time with you, it's replacing that time fighting with siblings, and figuring it out. The end part of that sentence, figuring it out, and so many other things, and it's replacing outdoor time.

And I know that your children playing sports, they spend a lot of time outside, so what are your opinions on how much time we spend indoors nowadays?

Jeff Nelligan: You make a great point. Super point about young kids. An hour of TV a day. I question what is educational TV? Any kind of looking at a screen is a passive endeavor.

There's nothing that is using their motor skills. There's nothing that's using their mind skills because what they're doing is digesting what's coming at them. And an educational TV, unless it's math problems coming at them, for an hour or two plus two, one plus three, five plus four, then I don't buy the whole educational idea.

Then obviously the idea that they're sitting rather than moving around, whether it's reading a children's book or playing with Thomas the tank engine or blocks or whatever. Staring at a screen just doesn't seem to me to be any kind of use of time. The outdoor thing is essential.

 We pushed him out the back door and let him play in the neighborhood and that was it. And they had to figure out what they wanted to do. They had to, in their own mind, be creative enough to spend that time doing something that was worthwhile or just moving around, we were lucky because the athletics and having three boys naturally builds up that natural competition, but it also just kept the moving.

And of course. That's the other part of the screen devastation is that you've got the health of young people and the stats are in my book. "Rebound from pandemic lockdown". You've got now 20 percent of Kids between the ages of two and 18 are obese or overweight. That's unbelievable.

One fifth of every kid which is pretty much in that span of age is obese or overweight. And guess what? You don't recover from that. 87 percent of people who are obese at 18 are obese at 38, 20 years later. And no one wants to talk about this cause it's a tough issue and it's personal, but imagine, one out of five being that way.

That's not good for them, that's not good for their minds, nor is it good for society. But that's the consequence, as you brought up earlier, of being inside rather than outside.

Autumn Carter: The fridge is a lot closer if you're inside. Yeah. And if you're watching shows, they're showing sweets more than vegetables.

They've tried to show more vegetables and kids don't like seeing it on the screen as much, so they're seeing more sweet things on the shows. And it's a lot easier to get to snacks. And for me, I find that I am not as hungry when I'm more active because I'm already getting that sense of fulfillment, the dopamine hit, the serotonin, all of those good hormones that I don't need to get from food.

And there are so many studies about the obesity in America and now it's not just in America. But these studies started decades ago, and it very much correlates with how much time is spent on TV and more programming became available, and now more screens are available. So it all definitely correlates.

And I spent a lot of time studying this in my degree, and I found it very interesting. And you are very right. If you're obese, when you're younger, the chances of you becoming non obese, slimming down, get harder, the longer you are obese. And there's so much, there's so much emotion attached to this for sure.

But if we're looking at just the scientific side of it, where you're taking out some of the emotion and just going to logical, I know it's hard here as a parent, but. It's so hard on every organ in your body to have all that extra fat and to be trying to work so hard to move the nutrients around all of this extra fat in your body.

And it's harder to want to move around. It takes so much more energy to move around. So it's easier if you're starting children away from screen time younger and there's so many studies on immunity. You actually have a higher immunity if you're spending more time outside. If you're spending more time exercising compared to just sitting there and being very sedentary, which is the same as sitting, just for anyone out there who's not into the scientific jargon.

 I am a very firm believer in, and there is science to back this up as well, that the more children are involved in sports, you talked about others like robotics.

I smiled at that cause I could see my oldest eventually getting in there. He's just has too many interests right now. So we're like, just pick one. So right now it's soccer for soccer season. So every time a new season starts, okay, what are you interested in this time? It's really cute. It's fun. He's nine.

And then the other ones are swim just for safety reasons. But anyway you are automatically making healthier choices because you need that to fuel your body. You are not as likely to wind up with the wrong groups of friends because your friends are doing sports.

They're the ones that you're making while you're in sports. You're more likely to get enough sleep because you're tired at the end of the day when you're supposed to be there. What else? There's so much science about this. So not getting into drugs, not being around the wrong people. You know how to set goals.

There's a lot of goal setting with sports so that you can learn how to be in this position and do what you're supposed to at the right time. So you're not making a goal for the wrong team. I've done that before. We're not going to talk about that, but you're learning all of these amazing life skills.

What other life skills, because I'm bumbling along, have you noticed from your sons in doing sports and then from watching other children in sports and research that you've done on this?

Jeff Nelligan: Yeah, and the research I did, was a lot of it was in "your kid's rebound from pandemic lockdowns", and there's a lot in Four Lessons from My Three Sons, which actually contains, this second edition, contains a rather large appendix that points to different scientific studies, health studies, national surveys, medical, psychological research.

It's pretty extensive and it's all out there. This is nothing that was, that needs to be proven. If you don't move, you're going to get heavier. That's pretty extensive. It's common sense. It comes back to, I think, all these decisions you talked about from the refrigerator, to the screen to being outside, it's that engaged parent, it's that engaged mom and dad that are not sitting in a corner scrolling, setting not a very good example.

And also the idea of not wanting the culture to raise your kids. When you talked about the TV earlier, when you're talking about young kids, very young kids and every mom listening to this, Remembers the young kid, no matter how old their kid is. Now remembers the two year old I sure as heck do.

And it was a long time ago. I remember all three at two age two and three was most delightful times of my life. And I still look back at it fondly. And it's just a super memory. I didn't want the culture to raise my kids. I wanted to raise them. So we put the culture way to the side. And part of doing that is filling that time, for example, that eight hours and 47 minutes with being outdoors and with sports.

Again, the athletic metaphor is easy to use, but it flows into everything that I talked about earlier, whether it be, the marching band, the orchestra, the ballet, the swimming, gymnastics the scouts, the things they learn are, and the biggest thing is, adversity. No person and no kid gets a free ride.

There are going to be setbacks and obstacles and hills to climb every day of the kid's life. And the great thing about sports is you hit adversity and you have to get around it immediately or get over it or just absorb it. And, vow that you're going to come back the next day. A kid that can meet adversity head on and then overcome it, even if it's not a hundred percent overcome is better off the next time that adversity happens, I'm.

I, I'm an odd guy. I liked seeing my kids in tough situations when they were young, whether it be on a football field or an athletic field, or whether it be with friends, or whether it be in a very strange situation. I liked that because I knew that they had to overcome it and that become stronger the next time.

 The classic example I give about just adversity is. When my kids were really young, Elvis was seven and the youngest was four, we were in a big indoor mall in Montgomery County, not far from where you are. And I whipped out my wallet and gave each kid a 5 bill. And I said, go get change. This is not a race.

Jeff Nelligan: You go into stores, maybe you'll strike out, just come back to the old man with change for your five that I'm giving. And off they went. And here was a brand new task. Never been asked before putting them into the real world full of strangers and strange places and events and situations.

 One kid had struck out at two stores and had to go to a third. Another kid came back with 20 quarters in his pocket and they loved that. And so we kept doing it and doing it. And then of course we graduated to more kind of uncertainty and adversity. Here's 20.

We're parking at a sketchy 7 Eleven. Go in there and get Gatorade and Doritos and come back out with the stuff. We'll wait in the car. And then it gets bigger. Here's Dad's ATM card. Go get the old man 300. Here's the passcode. Here we are at the airport. Here's all the airline information. Go get four boarding passes.

So these kids were constantly exposed to things and situations that were completely out of their realm and they had to perform. So it pays off. It pays off not only, in the immediate months and years and days that they're living. Pays off way down the line, the youngest kid, youngest kids in Montgomery mall and some irresponsible parent there at a birthday party leaves my kid and two other kids in the food court and vanishes into a theater with 11 other kids.

So there's my kid and two kids, five years old. And of course the other two kids are crying, but my kid says, wait a minute. My dad once told me at a college football game, if you're lost, you can't see anything because we're too small, but look for that person, that man or woman with the stripe running down their leg.

And that's a security guard or a policeman or a soldier. And they'll help you. After about three minutes, he tells you two other kids there and gets them out of their sobbing. They finally get a guy, they go run up, grab his legs and say, Hey, we're lost. We're lost. And then they ultimately hook them up with the irresponsible parents in the movie theater.

But the idea was here's a kid, five years old. He doesn't panic. He thinks of a way out of it. And there are many illustrations of this happening all throughout their lives, even into their military careers when sometimes they've been in very tight situations. So if a mom or dad could teach that kid early on how to get over those obstacles, they're going to be set for life.

Autumn Carter: There's a lot of emotions that might come to this. So please relisten to this part because he gives tips on how to start small. And even if your children are older and you're realizing they're not as independent as you want them to be, you can still start small, even if they're 12, whatever. He did not do this out of nowhere.

Jeff Nelligan: And if you've got a kid 12 who you think is, a little bit shy or fragile, there are ways to start small, like with change. Hey, Johnny. You need to go get a change for this and get these two things. Another thing we go to a supermarket and mom's have been there.

Dad's been there. And I'd say to these guys, it would be a giant or a safe way. And I'd say, Hey, Nellie jr. You're going to have to go get these 10 items and I'll be back here in the produce section. You come bring it back to me. And the kid would set off. And come back. And you just do that enough times, and the guy has a presence and a sense of the world where he's not terrified.

In fact, he knows exactly how to handle himself, because he's been out there on his own, and is, very capable and very savvy about how things are going down.

Autumn Carter: And you can't see his face, but there's dad pride when he's talking, and it's not just teaching them independence, but teaching them that there's still a safety net.

And when they grow up and they leave, they're still the safety net and not of you as a parent anymore, but they know where they can still find safe spaces when they are off on their own. So there's a lot of value in this. And I was remembering the times. I was 18 when I started working for an optometrist, and I remember that there were a few parents that had their children call in to make the payments with their credit card or debit card, HSA card, whatever card.

Jeff Nelligan: Yeah.

Autumn Carter: I just loved it. I instant smile as soon as I picked up the phone, it was a kid on trying to make their appointment or to make a payment. And It was the cutest thing ever. And I could hear the parent in the background explaining to them, okay, this is what you do. This is what you say.

Sometimes I was on speakerphone, and they were nervous the first time. But what if we as a society can be that safe space for children instead of why are you the one doing this? Thinking about it from both perspectives, there's, So much value in this. I love this.

Jeff Nelligan: Autumn, I like the way you put it, the start small, because let's say we're talking to a mom right now who's got a 12 or a 13 year old or 10 year old who doesn't have that kind of facility in the real world for whatever reason, the COVID lockdowns accelerated a kind of shyness that was, too far.

 Here's start small, the Autumn way. Next time you're in the supermarket, 12 year old Betty, say, look, go get these 15 items. Here's the basket, go get them. I'll be in this area. And don't come back with, four.

I want them all. And that's easy. The Giant's a pretty safe place. And a kid 12 years old or 13 or 11, that's a good, that's a good test and that's starting small.

Autumn Carter: And teach them to scream, then you don't have to worry, you know what they sound like if they're upset.

So let's start there. You're coming up with all the reasons why this won't work. And you know what I found? I have four little kids. Nine, six, about to be five, and three. And during the summer, I often have to take all four of them shopping. Like it's exhausting even thinking about it. But what helps is I give them tasks in that aisle, or I'd send the two older ones off together, or maybe the oldest by himself to go and get things because if they are busy, they're not fighting.

So think about it that way. Make your life easier. If you don't want to think about it in an independence way, think about how if your kids are busy, they aren't fighting. They aren't bugging you. So give them tasks like this to do and think about how There are many benefits to it. Yes It's hard planning it out ahead of time.

It takes a lot of mental energy, but it's worth it in the end and You're planning it might keep you away from your phone a little bit longer. There you go.

Jeff Nelligan: I like another great test you just and I never even thought of it, and Here, I'm the old man thinking I know everything. The small start, the small step. Hey, Johnny, you're going to have to set up these three appointments or you're going to have to call about this or that. So here's a little script. You get on the phone and you call and you do it. Not me.

Autumn Carter: Then they'll learn how to use a phone in an emergency.

Jeff Nelligan: They're not even leaving the house, but they got to deal with another human being in a transactional way, which is, a super way to start. And I'll tell you, Autumn, this is going to sound awful and moms are going to dislike me forever. You can't keep enabling a kid and trying to keep them away from the real world.

Because you know what happens? You do that too much, and the kid is 24 and living in the basement and playing Minecraft. For all those moms out there who are hesitant and all, solid, maternal figures. Think about that is that's the possible end game for not making these small steps right now, because that's where it leads to.

And I know moms and dads with that kid in their basement. I know dozens of them and it's not pretty. And what had happened over the years is that enabling process just became cemented into everyday life. So again, I'm sounding like the bad guy. But I'm also probably older than everyone that's listening to this, and I've seen enough of it in my years.

So that's a cautionary note, but I think we stick with Autumn's small steps first to break the logjam.

Autumn Carter: My stomach's clenching even sharing this. My dad, he is in his sixties now. We haven't spoken for a while for lots of reasons, lots of trauma there. He lived with my mom when they were married and they were married for, I think they were together for three years. That was the longest he spent away from his parents house.

He moved back in when they separated and divorced. He did not move back out until several years ago, living off them the whole time. I moved out when I was 18 and did not look back. There's so much enabling that happened there and so much abuse of his parents, abuse of me. There's reasons why I'm in therapy and there's reasons why I want to help out other people.

That could be a whole other time when I'm ready to divulge all of that. Seeing that very up close with my father. And then one of my aunts, she has a daughter, and she's done very similar. The daughter lives on her own, but anytime there's any kind of financial hardship, like taking one of her dogs to the vet, that's considered a financial hardship for her.

She has to go to the bank of mom. You don't want to do that. What happens when my aunt dies? What do you have? You need to be able to equip your children to be out in the real world. And that is why and every time I start to feel overwhelmed as a mom, I'm like, okay, I get together with my husband.

Let's teach these children to be a little more independent. So then we started doing during the pandemic, actually, when all the dishes started piling up in the sink because everybody was home suddenly. And I was in school, so just having that mental capacity to deal with the dishes several times a day.

And as we all know, when they pile up in the sink, they cement on, did you know, our dishwashers are new enough that you can put them straight in the dishwasher and you don't need to rinse them. I started having my children put their own dishes in the dishwasher. You can start with little things like that or teaching them how to buckle themselves in and unbuckle from the car seat, teaching them when to do it.

When not to is also key. Not while you're driving down the road. I've had that happen. It was not fun. But you can teach them little things around the house. Start there even, and then go from there. And teach them how to handle money, as Jeff just talked about. This, it's not just the talking to other people, which our society has a really hard time with because of all the screen time.

But, They are learning how to handle money, what it looks like, what it feels like, and he's not having them go and buy things. Did you notice that? He wasn't saying that. So it wasn't that, oh, we need to give money away, it's we're exchanging money. There's just so many layers into what he was showing with the example.

Anyway, I hope that I did not take away from what you were saying with talking about my dad.

Jeff Nelligan: It's a super point. And here we are just talking about this and me saying I've seen it too many times and I said dozens and dozens of times. And then you have a story like that.

 I spoke with an acquaintance who read my book, Autumn, and she said, I'd love to give this to my brother. And I said that's great.

And I said, how many kids does he have? And she says he doesn't have any kids. He's 39 and he still lives with my mom. And I said, Oh my goodness. She said, yes, my mom was a very nurturing, maternal woman and taking care of everybody. And my brother who's, 10 years older than me just never grew out of it and he's still at home.

 That's the kind of example, that's obviously an extreme example. It's part and parcel of what's happening in society today. You're looking at kids between the ages of 18 and 24, 46 percent of them still live with mom and dad. Now partially that's for economic reasons, but partially that's because They've just been enabled to the end of the earth.

 Making those small steps in the beginning, that prepares you for not having that happen to you when your kid's between 18 and 24 or even older.

Autumn Carter: I'm glad that you did acknowledge the economic reason, but I was just taking a pause to just envision doing a study on this and really teasing out how much is economics and how much is it enabling and how interesting of a study that would be.

And I just started to nerd out going down that direction, but There's so much truth to it that even if it is economic reasons, we can talk about how as parents important it is. Yes, follow your passions, but make sure your passions either can pay for themselves, pay for your lifestyle that you want, like really envision what kind of lifestyle do you want, child?

Okay, what are you passionate about? Okay, how do we have those combined? And if not, maybe your passion needs to be a hobby, and then figure out something that you will enjoy doing. At least for 10 years. There are so many people who have switched careers several times at the end of their career span.

 That's normal. That's common, but let's make sure that they can support themselves and the lifestyle that they want. So they don't have to come back to you because what happens when you're going to retirement age and you feel like you can't retire because your children are still dependent on you.

Is that really what you want? Or you want grandchildren, but your children are saying no, that they can't afford them. So you're missing out on that. I'm not saying that you turn things around to be about yourself, but really think about your children here. And what do you want for them long term? There's so much value.

And I am a life coach. So I will talk about goals here. But there's so much value and setting goals with your children and setting goals for what you would like for them to accomplish. I'm not saying that you're taking your unrealized potential and trying to shove it on your children. That's your potential that you need to work on.

But there's value in realizing if I want them to get to this point in life, What do I need to start doing now and making sure your child is on track and on board with what you're doing in the direction that you guys are going. And you're discussing these things with your child. So it's not one of these, Oh, you're graduating high school.

Okay good luck. I haven't prepared you for anything.

Jeff Nelligan: And Autumn, those discussions that you talk about, you just noted. They start early. It's not as though you're going to tell a kid who's five or six years old. Hey, you want to be a, a rocket scientist or own your own I. T. company. You just find what they're interested in and you gently guide them. And on the second part of your observation, yeah, maybe it is an economic reason while Junior's 23 and he's at home. But the other part of it is, there are enormous opportunities. of not living with your parents. That is joining the real world and having to scuffle a little bit.

When I got home from college, my parents came out for my graduation. It was in New England and then they came home and I came home several days later. My dad, the next morning took me out to the back porch and he said we're really proud of you. He says, you have four weeks to get out of here. He says, I'll stake you wherever you want to go.

You're leaving and you're leaving the zip code and you're leaving the area code. I hope you leave the state. Because you have to go out there and make it on your own. And hanging around here is not going to cut it. And he said that to myself and my sister and my brother, as they graduated school, it's time for you to leave.

And that's tough love and no parent wants to have that hard conversation, but that's part of being a parent is having those hard conversations. And all three of us, we were out. All three of us left the state. We were in growth. Los Angeles, very nice home. And my parents were just angels on earth, the best upbringing a kid could ever have.

But that was the hard message at the end. You need to leave. Certainly you can come back someday, but you need to get out there and fail and succeed somewhere else. So I wonder how many parents are having that conversation today with a kid.

Autumn Carter: Let's make this way more real. You have this gigantic ring on your finger. Tell me the story about it because I asked you about it when we talked earlier. And I love this story for one of your sons. We might need to take a picture of it. Tell us the story.

NCAA Championship Ring
The ring Jeff's son gave him

Jeff Nelligan: This ring that I'm showing Miss Autumn is a NC2A national championship ring that my son won playing rugby for United States Military Academy, that is West Point and my son was a walk onto the team, he'd never played ever in his life. And four years later with that personal drive and all the values Autumn and I have discussed throughout this podcast ascended to become first team, all American, the MVP of the national championship series and the leading scorer in the nation for rugby.

 This ring is what you get when you win a national championship, the school buys them for you. And at his graduation, he took the ring off after the graduation ceremony. And we were sitting around with a bunch of his buds and parents and everything. And he handed it to me and he said, dad, this is for you.

This is for 17 years of you standing on those sidelines. And, of course. And I told this to Autumn. I was, I was sobbing, tears running down my cheeks. The idea is that I'd spent all that time on those crazy sidelines, in the middle of the winter and the heat of summer, rain, snow I once added up, someone once asked me You've been to a lot of games in your life.

And I said, yeah. how many for your son Koi. And I said, "from age four to his last game in the NCAA finals, which West point won, 1300 games". That's just an average, and it's probably a conservative low estimate. 1300 is actually 1, 323 games that I had attended over the course of that time.

Now, that's nutty and any dad or mom, particularly moms are going to say, you are a nut job for, driving and that's the biggest thing, driving, yeah. And that's one kid. And the other two got about the same amount But it just shows that if you're, the whole point is, and I'm glad Autumn brought this up, if you're an engaged parent from the age of four all the way to the end, when the kid's has that marker, which is either high school graduation or college graduation, because not everyone's built for college.

It's not that, it's not necessary for some kids. That's the kind of engagement that you show, These are the kinds of rewards you get. And now not everyone's going to get a championship ring, but it's just the idea and the acknowledgement that, Hey, the old man was with me, a large part of the way.

And I never took it for granted. And that's the thing about the engagement with your kids. I would add to that, to the honesty factor, both with moms and dads, the book, Autumn and I are discussing, "Four Lessons From my Three Sons". In that book, I take a lot of shots at myself. Moments when I was humiliated, or ashamed of myself, or I was in a bad light with my sons because I always believed, humility really is power under control. And, if I was wrong, I was the first person to admit it. And, Autumn brought up earlier, sitting down with your kids, finding that goal that they want, that ambition, which is the last section of the book, rekindling and pushing that ambition.

 Where we grew up in Washington, again, not far from autumn, there were, there's tons of buildings, big buildings, 20, 30 stories, glass buildings, glass and steel and iron and brick and all these office parks full of the same kind of buildings. And we drive by these and they were ubiquitous in the landscape of all the places we went and we drive by them and finally, I just wanted to make a point to them. And I said, guys, we see all these office buildings everywhere and let me tell you something up on the seventh floor of that building right there.

Some guys sitting there in an office. And he's got a picture of his family on the wall, and on his desk is a mug, coffee mug like you made me in second grade, and he's staring at a screen, and He's saying to himself, what in the hell am I doing here? I was going to be a jet pilot. I was going to be a big real estate investor.

I was going to form my own IT company. I was going to sail around the world. I was going to build homes. And instead, here I am sitting staring at a computer screen. And I said, guys, you don't want to be that guy. Because that guy is your dad. And you have got to get farther than the old man has. Never forget it.

So that goes back to that idea of when you're wrong or when you want your kids to ascend to something that is inconceivable to them at the moment, lay it on the line with them and you'll feel better and you'll also just be giving them such an invaluable priceless lesson.

Autumn Carter: So being real, just like you are in your book, be a real person. Don't show the side that you think is perfect. What is your advice for parents of older children, for being there for them, but maybe not giving unsolicited advice, like what does that chapter of life look like? And what is your advice for that chapter of now they're adults?

Jeff Nelligan: I think most moms and dads will find that as a kid moves on, through after high school, To college or wherever they go. Then after college to careers and my three sons are all military officers. So it's a little bit different, but as long as you remain engaged, they will come to you when there's, when they have a question about something, it may be about their career.

It may be about what kind of car do I buy? I have these three options. It may be about friends or anything. If you've remained engaged all those years, they'll come and ask the question. That's when you know that you can give them that honest answer.

And I've had to answer plenty of questions from my guys throughout high school and college. And even after, even in their military careers.

When the first one went away to college, I got a call in his first seven weeks, eight weeks, and he called me on the phone one night. And he goes, Hey dad, got a question. Do grades matter?

Autumn Carter: Oh no.

Jeff Nelligan: And I said, no, they don't. I said, you're where you wanted to go and you're doing what you want to do. You're playing in the LAX team and you've got a great bunch of guys. I've already met them, as friends. And you're in a period of your life in a position where you should enjoy and pursue the things that matter to you most.

I said, you can't spend the next four years. waking up every morning worrying about grades or a test or what you got in a paper or your point score total at the end of the week. I said, if you get C's, that's the way it is. If you get A's in the things you're interested in, that's good too, but you can't spend these years worrying about those things.

I said, high school, totally different. I said, you never would have asked me this question in high school because you know that you were planning for this future. But at this point, you're past that small high school mind. You're looking at what you're going to be doing for the rest of your life and how that's going to be formed by what you study at school.

So no, grades don't matter. Just bring home the C's. The old man is fine with it. So those are the kind of bring home the experience. And the worldview that this place is going to give you. There's that kind of question you're asking, do they come to you.

Autumn Carter: If you're engaged, the relationship will evolve and you're evolving with it because they're growing up, you're growing up as a parent along with them. So it's just allowing it to evolve.

Jeff Nelligan: Correct. That engagement pays off because what did I say earlier? I said by the age of 12, you've spent 20, 75 percent of All the time you're going to spend with that kid when he hit he or she hits 12.

 If you don't have that solid relationship at that point, boy, the rest of it's going to be tough because you may not have that facility for going back and forth with your child. And, at the same time, when they were younger, I would give them advice and I would get pushback.

I kept bugging one of my kids, Oh, you got to run for a student body office. You're really good on your feet. You have a bunch of friends, you're a real sharp talker. You're a good guy. You got to run for this office. And he kept demurring and, we'll talk about it later, dad.

Finally, I brought it up one night. After dinner, I said, Hey man, you really should run for that student body office. And he just stopped and he looked at me and he said, dad, I know what I'm doing here. I was dumbstruck and I said, you're right. So be prepared.

When they come back at you, they can have that. that strength of purpose to say, Hey, I'm not listening to you on this one. I've made up my mind.

Autumn Carter: And you've already taught me enough. Wow. Okay. So where can we find your book?

Jeff Nelligan: You can find it on my website it's It's also on Amazon, under "Four Lessons From my Three Sons, How You Can Raise Resilient Kids".

I have an Instagram account Nelligan_books. I have a Facebook account Jeff Nelligan Books, which has, gosh, 3, 000 followers, believe it or not. I'm stunned, but I'm happy. And I have a Twitter account, at Resilient Sons.

Autumn Carter: Perfect, we will have all that linked in the show notes, so if you need help spelling his name, just look in the show notes, you'll be fine.

Is there anything else that you want to leave us with as we end today?

Jeff Nelligan: Yeah here's one for moms, I know this moms are listening. Moms have a singular unique position in families. I know that my sons, my three sons is rugged and real and alert and sharp and just being boys.

They're much tighter with their mom than they are with me. And that may sound counterintuitive, given that they're all three military officers, and I was in the service, and I was an athlete and all that. So moms carry that special burden. There's no question about it. I know it, and I just told you, even my three sons are much tighter than their mom than were with me.

So moms have this kind of additional pressure on them to perform, to guide, to instruct, and to listen. So the engagement from a mom is much more crucial than that from a dad. And I don't care if you have boys or girls. They're always closer to mom. I know this. I've been talking about it for 25 years.

 Mom's who hear this, maybe know that or maybe do not. You have that extra responsibility to build that engagement with those kids. And again, not let the culture raise them yourselves.

Autumn Carter: I wonder if you saw this with your boys, that moms are sometimes treated worse than dads. They're sometimes the first ones used as a punching bag, so sometimes it's hard to remember that we are still the first people they want to go to.

Jeff Nelligan: No question. The first. Period. No one will ever shake me from that belief. I already know it. I've been living it for years and years. I was closer to my mom than my dad. And so were my brother and sister. It's just the natural, it's human nature.

Autumn Carter: I'll take it. Sometimes I don't want to, go see your dad. Give me a second to breathe. But at the end of the day, I'll take it.

Thank you so much for being on and for writing this book for all of us. There is such a need, there are so many parents that are struggling, and we are in a different day and age than the way we grew up. It can be very challenging to navigate. Especially because now, instead of relying on ourselves, like you were able to do when your kids were growing up, we have social media telling us all these things. And the problem with social media is that we see the shiny bits, we don't see the real bits as much.

And so we think, Oh this person's doing their parenting better. Maybe I need to follow this style or I need to follow this style. And at the end of the day, we need to follow our own guidance, our own intuition, and really remember that we know our children best. We know what they need best, not our neighbor, not whoever on social media.

We know them. So thank you so much for this time.

Jeff Nelligan: And you bet. Thank you, Autumn, for having me.



Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode. I'm Autumn Carter, guiding you through motherhood's seasons. I hope today's discussion inspired you and offered valuable insights.

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