Modern Family Matters

Designing a Life Template for Children: Embracing Your Role as Your Child's First and Most Important Teacher

December 07, 2022 with Nathaniel Turner Season 1 Episode 74
Modern Family Matters
Designing a Life Template for Children: Embracing Your Role as Your Child's First and Most Important Teacher
Show Notes Transcript

We sit down with Author, Ted Speaker, and self-described "Humanity Propulsion Engineer", Nathaniel A. Turner, to discuss how parents can create a life template that can give every child a real chance to succeed. In this interview, Nate discusses the following:

  • Why understanding how to change our future by changing how we think in the present is critical for anyone who wants to be a better version of themselves today. 
  • The value of knowing why we must carefully guard whom we allow in our inner circle because birds of a feather do indeed flock together.
  • Things men should do the moment they discover they are going to be fathers.
  • Why envisioning and journaling our best life is an essential part of planning for children.
  • Practical steps parents can start taking at any point in their parenting journey to create a path toward success, from the moment of conception to the day of graduation.
  • ...and much more!

If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys, please call our office at (503) 227-0200, or visit our website at

If you're interested in getting in touch with Nathaniel, you can do so by visiting his website:

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such.

Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast devoted to exploring family law topics that matter most to you. Covering a wide range of legal, personal, and family law matters, with expert analysis from skilled attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcast provides answers, clarity, and guidance towards a better tomorrow for you and your family. Here's your host, Steve Altishin.

Steve Altishin  0:28  
Hi everyone, I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships here at Pacific Cascade Legal. And today we have Author, TED Speaker and self described humanity propulsion engineer, Nate Turner, to talk to us about designing a life template for children and embracing your role as your child's first and most important teacher. Hey Nathaniel, how're you doing today?

Nate Turner  0:56  
I'm good. How are you? And I want to apologize in the beginning for my very casual attire. I've been running two airports trying to get to DC today.

Steve Altishin  1:05  
Oh, not a problem. Not a problem at all. I just put on the tie because if I don't, my wife will kill me, no other reason. So Nathaniel, can you talk a little bit about yourself?

Nate Turner  1:19  
Sure. So you're gonna call me Nate, right? Because Nathaniel means I'm usually in trouble. And I'm not gonna be in trouble with my buddy Steve today. So I'm Nate Turner, I'm originally from Gary, Indiana. I am the husband of one wife. Yeah. And, and I'm the father of one son. And as I jokingly say, if those relationships don't work out, I'm done. So that's me in a nutshell, who I am. I think, Steve, the most important word to me in all of the human language, the word "who" I don't think we spend enough time with that, certainly, we're not going to do that for your show. But I think, who is important to me, because it shows up everywhere. Once we are no longer here. It shows up in our obituary, it shows up in our eulogy. And it will be the last words to show up on our final testament, be that on a tombstone on earth or something. So I think the way that I like to approach my life is to live my life backwards. And think about how I want to be remembered when I'm no longer, and someone else will tell the world why that was.

Steve Altishin  2:21  
I love that. I love that. And then that kind of leads into, let's kind of start not with the how to design a template, necessarily. But you know, a little bit about the why. And you know, I was reading some of your articles. And I really loved the one where you were talking about, you know, where it's past time that parents live up to their time honored belief that they are their children's first and most important teacher. And it reminded me, you know, when our kids were really young, we started reading books to them. And that was way before they could read. I imagine you're even talking about more than just that. 

Nate Turner  3:03  
Yeah, absolutely. So schools always say that parents are the children's first teacher. And yet, parents typically have no equipment, have no training, have no coaching, we have very little skill level, to be that. Not only to be a teacher, when most of us don't know what we're doing to be a parent. I can remember getting this newborn baby after being in the hospital for, like 36 hours. And then they tell you bye, and not knowing what to do with that baby, I knew more about what to do with the car seat than I did what to do with a child. I mean, it's true. I mean, there are no, we say that there are no instructions, which is really a sad statement and quite an indictment on parenting, that in 2022, we still have more instructions to put in a car seat than we do about helping parents. So I think, yeah, parents, in order to be their children's first teacher, parents have to spend some time learning what it means to be a parent. So I think the time is up for us to, you know, going along, always using the same excuse that there is no book or there's no manual.

Steve Altishin  4:16  
You talk a lot also about, you know, it's important to understand and maybe change our future, I think you said, by changing how we think, and how teaching yourself and being yourself is an important part of that teaching. I thought that was fascinating.

Nate Turner  4:35  
Yeah, so my grandmother used to say to me all the time, and this is important. She lived to be just short of her 103rd birthday. She was born in 19-- you know I'm going to get the dates wrong and my mother is going to hear us and she's going to say you got it wrong. I think she was born in 1908, and she passed in 2011. She was born October 4th, 1908. She would say to me, there's this thing about the tree and the fruit. Now she would take me to church, and I won't spend time belaboring that point,, but the point about the tree and the fruit always stuck with me that she would say, you know, whatever you are, your child will become. And if you're not working to steadily improve yourself, then you're gonna have a hard time asking the child to do the same thing. So the best way to show the child how to do something, rather than complaining and yelling and screaming, is just to do better and be better yourself.

Steve Altishin  5:31  
So let's talk a little bit about the how. I mean, I totally get that. I mean, it's got to do like, I would imagine, not just with you, and yourself, but the people you're around, and kind of the circle of people that you have around you. 

Nate Turner  5:50  
Yeah, I may not have made that analogy clear. So I'm gonna clarify it. And then I'm gonna add the additional parts that you just mentioned. So like the tree, if you plant the seeds for a tree, and the tree grows, and say we plant an apple tree, that apple tree, you're going to need a few things to happen. One is it's going to need great amounts of water for it to grow, it's going to need a certain amount of fertilizer, it's going to need a certain amount of sunlight. At some point in time that tree is going to grow. And we hope that that tree will produce really great fruit, but the tree is not going to produce really great fruit unless the elements were in place for the tree to be great in the first place. We rarely ever see a tree that is falling apart with a piece of great tasty fruit on it. And so that's sort of the same way with with children, we have to create an ecosystem for children, sort of like the wind and the rain and the sun and the soil, that allows the child to be great. But oftentimes, that happens when their parent has its own great ecosystem that encourages them to be great first.

Steve Altishin  6:58  
I love that analogy, as a person who's killed many trees and plants. Yeah, I totally get where you're coming from. So how do we put this into action? You know, what are some things we can do?

Nate Turner  7:13  
I mean, the very first thing I say to parents all the time is that you have to think about where it is, and who it is, that you want your child to be. If you want, for example, let's say your minimum goal was to figure out how to get your child to college. I'd say, Well, what college do you want your child to go to? And do you want to have to pay for tuition? And is this a large school, or a small school, or public school, or private school, or a Ivy League school, or historically black college or university, or minority serving institution? You have to decide where it is that you want to go. And like a GPS, if you and I, if I was going to come visit you, Steve, I'd say, Steve, where are you? I'm going to drive out to Oregon, Washington, which is it, Oregon? Okay, all right, see, I was already lost. And so you would give me the address, and I will put it into my phone, and the phone would then tell me which direction to go. I think that's the most important part that families have to decide is what they want for themselves and for their children. And then we come back with a design from there.

Steve Altishin  8:26  
I love that. I know that you work with a lot of fathers. And you talk about how, you know, sometimes they can struggle with this. When should they, I mean every parent, but fathers in particular I guess, start working toward being a good father? 

Unknown Speaker  8:49  
When? Well hopefully before we become fathers. You know, I started writing something a few years ago. And I'm not sure what I'm going to call it, I wrote like 10 chapters of the 12 chapters that I had hoped to write. And I initially I wanted to call it something like, hold on before you unzip your pants, but I don't think that's what I'm going to call it. But someone was asking me, what would I tell my son? And so I started thinking about, again, my own mortality. If I'm not here, what do I want mine to know about being a father. And I think one of the things, there are several things I wanted him to do, is I want him to take a good honest look at his father. From A to Z, and realize that much of who he is he's gotten it from his father. And I'd also want him to take a really hard, long look at his mother, because they say that men marry their mothers and women marry their fathers. So I wanted to make sure that it's his model. I was modeling for him what he needed, and also wanted him to be able to take a look at his mom and see if his mother was the woman that he would want to spend his time with. And so there was a series of things, but the first part is just a self analysis of who you are before you go into bringing somebody else into this world.

Steve Altishin  10:08  
You also talked, we talked before about kind of stuff to talk about, and one of them was you talked about the importance of writing to your children. Will yu talk about that a little bit? 

Nate Turner  10:24  
Sure. So, you know, I wrote a book called Raising Superman. It was not intended to be a book, when when I learned I was going to be a father, because my relationship with my father was, was this tumultuous, would be polite, I was so concerned that I was going to mess it up. Like my father, everything in my body, my body said, Your father didn't have relationship with his father. And to the best of your knowledge, you don't know what kind of wisdom your grandfather had with his great grandfather. There is no history of man in your, in your family having great relationships with their fathers or their children. You don't have a track record for doing that. So for whatever reason, I decided to make some notes about the things that I wanted to have happen with my child. And one day when that child was to that child decided that he should get mail, and that I should write him letters. So before I was making notes about what I wanted, and then suddenly, he wanted mail. And what happened by me writing him initially was just to appease a two year old like, man, there's nothing good in the mailbox just builds trust me, this bales of junk mail. But Daddy, I want man, but Daddy, I want mail. So I got greeting cards and gift cards. And I started writing him from the office and mail them to when I get home a couple of days later. Well, I would come home every night. But a couple of days later when the letters got there because it was snail mail. He would say I got mailed in, can you read it to me. And so I would read the letters in the cards. And what I found in writing those letters and cards, it became cathartic. I started pulling out stuff that I hadn't known that was in me, you know, how much I loved and adored him. And I realized a couple things. One, the letters are more for me than they were for him, I got a chance to figure out where I wanted to go as a man and as a father. Also, it was also cathartic, because I got to sort of put to rest the demons that existed in my, in my, in my history about my father and I did I didn't have to be like my father on and the last thing, I realized that I might not have any legacy. But but the only legacy I could may have are these letters that I written to a child that were not letters to a two year old, they were written as if he was 32. But when he was six, if he was 56, or, you know, if he was seven, as he was 27, I was writing him thinking I wasn't going to be around, and he'd have a record of how much I loved him. And some instructions on on what to do is I mean,

Steve Altishin  12:56  
I love that. I love that I I think that writing sometimes brings out more in a person, then just talking, it's like, you know, you're talking kind of the top top of your head and you talk but when you have to sit down and write, you start to think about your past and and it really does bring out all of you.

Nate Turner  13:20  
Absolutely, absolutely, he certainly did. And then the one of the cooler things is that he learned to read off of his dad's letters. So yeah.

Steve Altishin  13:30  
So to the other part of our topic, okay, how to design a life template that can give you know, your child a real chance to succeed. What are you talking about a life template.

Nate Turner  13:45  
So So we talked a little earlier about parents having an ideal about what they hope and dream for their children. So again, the bigger the first thing is to find out what what hopes and dreams parents have for their children. So hopefully they have really audacious hopes and dreams for their children. And those dreams for us. Were about raising a child that was intellectually ambitious, who was globally and culturally competent, and who cared for something greater than themselves. That's what we what we hoped. But in general, what their life template is, is a backward design approach to it ask parents to do this one to make sure your children are first and foremost jack of all trades. We know we hear people all the time say Jack of all trades, master of none is it that's a terrible thing. But I would I would tell people I would challenge anyone to to introduce me to a child who was versed in a whole lot of subjects, and not be exceedingly excited about having to spend the time talking to that chat. If a child could talk to me about the plane I just got off of and the food we were going to eat and how the hotel was constructed, etc. You'd really be interested in talking to HR. So that's the very first thing. There are things we want people to be familiar with. Why? Because it makes sense in his world. We're always talking Diversity and Inclusion and Equity, it makes for much more diverse and rich conversation to have when you can talk about a number of things. Secondly, the party is to make sure children master stuff. So there are things we have to master in the 21st century, math and science are certainly those things meeting and writing have always been those things. So it's important that we make sure the children are beyond whatever a school says is acceptable, but they are fully proficient in those those subject matters. And then the last part, which is not least, is at the core, when your child's time is up, God forbid something terrible happens. So often, this happens when a when something happens with a child, the media defines who the child was, the parents haven't done enough to define who their own child was. So I'd say from the very beginning, this establish at the core of a child's being, who you want the child to be and live up to that for the duration of their life.

Steve Altishin  15:59  
I love it. You also talk about journaling, which which is close to my heart. And I just think it's great idea just general, but you really feel it's it's an important part of being a parent. 

Nate Turner  16:13  
Yeah. I'm here today without doubt, because the universe God, the Spirit, the creator, whatever word someone would choose to use, saw fit. Because every day I write my life as I imagined it being as opposed to how it how it actually is. And I do that through what I call a journaling for. So most people journal and write about something that happened in the past, maybe something they didn't like, I think that's an effective thing to do, if you're looking for clues on how to be better, but I don't find writing about stuff that I'm lamenting day in and day in and day out to be an effective way to move forward. So I started journaling by a an ideal asked my son to do which was first affirm who he was every day. So I say hey, man, right? Get a piece of get a pad and everyday, right, who you are, and what you want out of your life. And then one day I met some students, and I was speaking to them. And he was president as well, when they asked that I do what I had my son do. And like all good trees, I said no. And so so I decided I needed to start doing that. And the incredible thing happened that when I started seeing my life forward and writing about it, several things about my life change. So I'm a I'm a big fan of daily, the first 20 minutes of every day, I write my life, as I like it to be, even if it's not currently the way I want it to be.

Steve Altishin  17:44  
It seems like an does no help keep you on the path. They didn't believe or at least close to the path.

Nate Turner  17:51  
Yeah, it makes you chase your words, because you see your words all the time, if I say that I am a public intellectual mean, that's one of the things I write her I'm a best selling, award winning author. And then I haven't I'm not a best selling author yet. And I haven't won any awards to my knowledge. However, I do know that you can't win any awards. If you don't write, you can't be a best selling award winning writer, author, if you don't, if you're not constantly writing stuff, and you can't be focused on the outcome. To win, you just have to, you just have to write, and so allows me to, to stay focused and do those kinds of things.

Steve Altishin  18:32  
I love it. I love all of the things you've talked about in terms of being a better parent and doing actual things to do it. I mean, it's like, you know, particular kind of actions that are there aren't just oh, I should visit I shouldn't do that, but actually taking actions and to connect with your kid. And it's that's kind of the whole reason. And I and I watched a video of you. And you were imploring parents, and particularly fathers to connect to their child at the heart. That was just fascinated. And I know we're running a little low on time, but not that much to talk about that.

Nate Turner  19:17  
Yeah, so So Steve, my favorite movie of all time is the Lion King. And Mufasa and Simba's relationship convinced me that I could have a relationship that was better. My father's his past. His name was Tommy, that was better than Tommy. And then when my son was was the home that day, the second day home, we couldn't, my wife was exhausted. And there was this moment where I had this baby and I wanted to take the baby and give the baby to her because I didn't know what I was doing. And I laid my son on my chest with his ear against my heart and he went to sleep. And it hit me at that moment. That that's the connection that I want to have forever, I always want us to be connected at the heart.

Steve Altishin  20:05  
I love that. I love that by reminds me just a little bit of when our first daughter was born, and I knew nothing that I you know, I agree with you that they don't give you any any warning at all that helps the doctor hands me by my kids definitely. And, you know, other than the fact that she looks like a parma ham. She's beautiful. But it's, so I did, I didn't know what to do. It's kind of holding her out and, and then kind of draw her closer. And her little with one little hand, she reached up and gave me the finger. And I went, Okay, I can live with this relationship. It's kind of a different thing. But I mean, it was just like, there's this connection that happens right away.

Nate Turner  21:02  
Absolutely. Yeah. And, and at the end, it's always about what happens at the heart. I mean, it really is, I mean, people, you know, it could be in your head. But really, I believe that we're guided with our children, when we're doing what's best. We're doing what's best, because we're connected. 

Steve Altishin  21:23  
Yep, I agree. Well our time is almost up. But is there anything that we haven't talked about that you really liked to kind of hit or hit one more time? Or kind of? If I'm in your office, and we're kind of getting to the end of our meeting, and then you say hell that before you go, I want to tell you this?

Nate Turner  21:45  
Yeah. So I guess the one thing I would say is, take a as a as a parent, we always tell children, we always are concerned about who our children are associating with, I would say to parents, be very careful about the people that you associate with that you have a a village made up of humanitarians rather than a village made up of idiots, because it is scientifically proven that we are the average of the people we spend the most time with. Robin Kay Dunbar says Dr. Dunbar says it's a number of five that five people are responsible for 40% of everything we think that we consume, etc, we can add an additional 10 people 15 people to make 60% that Jim Rohn used to say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, pick whatever number you want to pay. But it is true that we are influenced by the people that we surround ourselves by. And if we are around people who don't love their children equally, who don't want your children to be successful, who are tugging at you and keeping you from doing the kinds of things you know you need to be doing to help your child be successful, it is unlikely that your child is going to be successful. So I'd say you know, be very particular about the people that not only do you allow in your child's life, but you allow your own box.

Steve Altishin  23:09  
I love that, I love I love your your analogy, the village and then the diversity of and the parable of the fruit. It kind of reminds me it's sort of a joke, but it really isn't. And I've you know, I've heard it takes a village. But it also takes a vineyard. There you go. I like that. I like that. So thank you for joining us today is this was great. I mean just lots of really down to earth. Stuff that can help and make me make us think about ourselves and I what I really love. So thank you so much, Nate, for talking with us today.

Nate Turner  23:55  
My pleasure. I'm very grateful to be here and hopefully you'll invite me back and I promise you next time I will be in a better place where the lighting is fine and I won't probably be in in a sweatshirt and the teacher.

Steve Altishin  24:08  
No, that's okay with me. Before we go, I did read a bunch of your stuff about about education. And I know you're a big fan of STEM. Yeah, I want to talk about that. And that'll be next time. And but before we go, would you like to give the anyone listening idea how to get in contact with you?

Nate Turner  24:34  
Sure. You have my mobile number so you can call me at any time and I can put your address and my phone and drive out to visit you. But the easiest way to find me I have a website is Nathaniel na th a n i e l the letter A as an apple and t you are in ER Nathaniel a love it

Steve Altishin  25:00  
So thanks again and thanks everyone else for joining us today. If anyone has any further questions on today's topic, you can also post it here and we can get you and connected with me. So until next time everyone stay safe, stay happy, and be well.

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