Parenting has never been easy. And these days, it can seem like it’s more difficult than ever. Whatever way you decide to parent your kid (are you a helicopter parent, a tiger mom, or I don’t know, a panda parent or some other type of transportation/wild animal?) there’s someone out there who’ll tell you in no uncertain terms that you’re doing it wrong. On those crappy days when you need a little guidance, some reassurance or a fresh take on things, forget about the parenting manuals, ditch the social media minefield — and turn to the best TED talks for parents.
Many people have graced the famous TED stage to share their thoughts on modern parenting. Here are 10 of our favorites.
1. Jennifer Senior: “For Parents, Happiness Is A Very High Bar”
Writer Jennifer Senior’s 2014 talk about the stresses of parenting triggers one of those ultra-reassuring moments when you realize you’re not the only one who feels guilty that you’re not ecstatic about being a mom all the time. Its message is simple but crucial: If we stop focusing so much on being happy and making our kids happy — and instead concentrate a little more on decency, work ethic, etc. — we’ll all end up, well, happier.
2. Andrew Solomon: “Love, No Matter What”
Writer Andrew Solomon’s 2013 talk about raising a child who’s different from you in a major way (in terms of physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, etc.) is beautiful and moving. Solomon’s research involved talking to dozens of parents about their own experiences (some have child prodigies, trans kids, or children with autism, Down syndrome, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities) and how dealing with exceptional circumstances gives their lives profound meaning.
3. Astro Teller: “The Unexpected Benefit of Celebrating Failure”
Until kids are taught in school that failure is OK, we need people like Astro Teller, captain of X, a.k.a. the Moonshot Factory (formerly Google X, home to the self-driving car and balloon-powered internet), to remind us of this. Teller goes even further in his 2016 talk, explaining why failure isn’t just a positive thing; it’s crucial. Only by failing can our kids make an impact on the world, and a culture that rewards failure can promote world-changing innovation. It’s food for thought, for sure.
4. Rita Pierson: “Every Kid Needs A Champion”
The late Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, delivered a rousing, insightful TED talk in 2013 about the powerful role of teachers in children’s lives. “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like,” said Pierson — words that continue to inspire educators, parents and children around the world. Her talk may be aimed at teachers, but it has an important message we all need to heed: “[One] of the things that we never discuss, or we rarely discuss, is the value and importance of human connection. Relationships.”
5. Adora Svitak: “What Adults Can Learn From Kids”
Yep, one of the best TED talks for parents comes from a 12-year-old kid. Child prodigy Adora Svitak (now a 21-year-old writer, speaker, and advocate), delivered her 2010 talk to convince the world to embrace “childish” thinking: bold ideas, optimism and wild creativity. And why can’t learning be a two-way street? If we were as willing to learn from our children as we are to teach them, we could all achieve so much more. At the very least, this talk will make you pause before saying “you can’t do that” to your kid.
6. Sarah Kay: “If I Should Have A Daughter…”
Spoken-word poet Sarah Kay delivered a beautiful TED talk in 2011 that began with a wonderful poem (its opening line “If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s going to call me point B, because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me” is up there with the best) and ended with not one but two standing ovations. Kay tells her own coming-of-age story — and the methods she uses with her teenage students to encourage them to share their thoughts, even when they think they have nothing worthwhile to say.
7. Gever Tulley: “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do”
In 2007 Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School and Brightworks, revealed in his TED talk that he put power tools in the hands of second-graders and thought it was a brilliant idea. Based on the premise that the best way to keep kids safe (and develop their self-confidence, and control their environment) is to let them experience a little bit of danger, this one might just change the way you parent for good — and for the better.
8. Reshma Saujani: “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection”
In her 2016 TED Talk, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani leads with the story of how she ran for Congress at age 33, which she describes as “the first time in my entire life that I had done something that was truly brave, where I did not worry about being perfect.” According to Saujani, we can only have a truly innovative society if we buck the tradition of raising girls to be “perfect” while raising boys to be brave. “I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection,” she says.
9. Ramsey Musallam: “3 Rules to Spark Learning”
We all want our kids to get excited about learning, and chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam knows how to do just that. His 2013 TED talk about the three rules to spark learning (“curiosity comes first,” “embrace the mess” and “practice reflection”) is short — only a little over six minutes — but it packs a punch. And it might just get you excited about learning, too.
10. Bruce Feiler: “Agile Programming — For Your Family”
Author, speaker and TV host Bruce Feiler introduced a radical parenting idea in 2013: Get your kids to help you raise them. Feiler’s practices, which are inspired by agile software programming, are designed to help stressed-out parents cope with family life. The idea is that by taking things like bottom-up idea flow, constant feedback and accountability out of the boardroom and into the home, kids take more control over their lives, and everyone wins. He even suggests kids choose their own punishments (which you can file under “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”).