We have long marveled at how, from the outside anyway, it seems like Barack and Michelle Obama managed to raise daughters Sasha and Malia with really good heads on their shoulders. In the latest episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast, the former first lady and her brother, Craig Robinson, give a lot of credit for their parenting skills to their own mom and dad. The sweet stories they share might even give us some new ideas on how to raise our kids.
“I think for me, having a voice, a lot of it happened because I always knew I had parents that would back me up,” Michelle Obama said as she and her brother, an investment banker and writer, shared their favorite memories from growing up. “They weren’t these kind of ‘Our kids can never do wrong’ [parents], but when we were right, when it was fair, when we had truth on our side, they were right there with us. … We were we were fortunate to have that in our parents.”
Here are some of the other parenting tips we gathered from the chat:
Give kids some independence.
Obama and Robinson reminisced about the first time their mother allowed 5-year-old Michelle to ride her bicycle around the block with 7-year-old Craig.
“Thinking about that, that was a big milestone for mom, letting your kids be independent,” Robinson reflected. “I think, things that mom and dad let us do that way sort of helped our development.”
“You have to teach kids how to be independent, which means that at some point you’ve got to trust them that they can make decisions on their own — which, now that we’re parents, you kind of think, how hard that is, to let your kids, go,” Obama agreed.
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My brother @craigmalrob is someone who will always be there for me, someone who will lift my spirits, and keep me in check. He’s known me from the first breath I took––and that’s a gift that has no parallel in my life. I know that not everyone has siblings of their own—some of us might have fraught relationships with our brothers and sisters, and others might have lasting connections with friends that take on a sibling relationship. But no matter the specifics of our situations, hopefully we’re all lucky enough to have someone who knows us inside and out—someone who gives us the strength to take flight. For me, that’s Craig. And on this week’s episode of The #MichelleObamaPodcast, we reflect on everything from growing up on the South Side of Chicago to our perspectives as parents. You can listen to our conversation now by clicking the link in my bio.
Tell them the truth.
One hilarious memory Robinson shared was about taking a sex-ed quiz in sixth grade. He got all but one question right, and the school called his parents, thinking he knew too much about the topic.
“You know how mom and dad were about telling us the truth about everything, and I was very inquisitive,” Robinson said. “It is a real testament to mom’s parenting, because she didn’t go crazy. She went up and talk to the teachers and said, ‘Did it ever dawn on you that, when kids ask you questions you just tell them the right answers?'”
Give them chores.
Robinson asked his sister about how she approached raising her daughters once they were in the White House.
“We made sure they had responsibilities, and so, we had to do things like, institute rules that the housekeepers couldn’t clean the girls’ rooms, and that they had to make up their own beds, and have a set of chores. We grew up … each of us had our own set of responsibilities. … I know I had to clean the bathroom, we each had to do the dishes.”
“I had [dish duty] Monday, Wednesday, Friday; you had Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and mom did ’em on Sunday,” Robinson recalled. “I also had yard duty: cut the grass, rake the leaves. … I took the garbage out.”
Recognize that your children are different people.
Obama said she and her brother have always had a good relationship because they never felt like they were competing with each other.
“I think that mom and dad did a good job of recognizing us as individuals,” she said. “So I’ve tried to do that with Malia and Sasha — give them a moment to show me who they are. Because like I said earlier, kids come here with a certain temperament. I was always feisty. I was always an internal perfectionist. Sasha’s temperament is different from Malia’s that’s different from Leslie, your daughter, that’s different from Avery. You’ve got to give them space and parent the kid you have, not the kid you want. Mom and dad were good about that, so I always felt secure in who I was and fine with who you were.”
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