Good Kids: How To Accept Your Kids Even When You Don’t Understand Them, with Lizz Winstead

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Lizz Winstead (activist and co-creator of The Daily Show) examines her own childhood, attending Catholic school, being the youngest of five, and having two conservative parents who always accepted her even when they didn’t totally understand her.
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Good Kids: How To Accept Your Kids Even When You Don’t Understand Them, with Lizz Winstead transcript


[00:35] Kid: Hi! You’re listening to Good Kids: How Not to Raise an — oh! I can’t say that word. This is Lizz Winstead. 


[00:45] Lizz Winstead: When I grew up, we didn’t have a lot of money. And I went to a birthday party for a girl that was in my class. And I brought my gift. And the gift that I brought was the gift that we all got for coming to the party. And I remember that it was so mortifying, because everyone was like, oh, my God, look at you gave this stupid gift to her. 


[01:10] And, you know, it was what my parents could afford. And I remember that I was just feeling judged. And I was feeling, you know — one thing that feels really sad to me in this country is that poverty has been weaponized, and has been turned into a character flaw. You know, rather than someone’s just is less fortunate financially than you. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad or stupid or not full of an abundance of other things to offer. But it has really become something that feels, like a judgment call we make on people]. And I feel like that is tragic. It’s tragic for kids, you know, as we look now at how kids are humiliated when they can’t pay their school lunch bills. Or it’s obvious you didn’t pay your school lunch bill because you get this thing slapped in front of you that’s a jelly sandwich. Those things, I think, are just so profoundly character changing. 


[02:06] When I was in Catholic school — I will never forget this. They did it thing that I thought was outrageous. And that was it was we were going home for Christmas break, and they handed us — I must have been in fourth or fifth grade — and they handed us the financial report — end of the year financial report — of how much money the families had given to the church to bring home to our parents. And it was clearly a way for us to be shamed, or feel shamed, and go back to our parents and either feel proud because the parents gave a bunch of money, or feel embarrassed that your parents didn’t give a lot of money. 


[02:50] And my mom made lunch for the priests every day — that was her job, and that’s she how she gave back to that church. And so on the docket, it didn’t have a lot of money on this piece of paper. And I remember kids saying, your parents must not love God very much if they didn’t give enough to the church. And I brought it home to my mom and I handed her the booklet.And I remember her going into their bedroom and just crying because she was so — she just felt so humiliated and embarrassed.


[03:33] Good kids are kids that you really see the thing that drives them, and you help them follow down that path. And then just steer them as they go and remind them of the other things that they saw joy in that they maybe haven’t tapped into. And just I think really being a tour guide for what your kid is showing you that they love, and allowing them to fail so they can get up and feel it again. 

[04:02] I think if we try to define good kids, we create really insecure kids that we would call bad, right? So when I define good, I don’t know that I would put it that way. I think maybe what I would say is I define a well-rounded kid as a kid who feels safe enough to do some self-exploration that brings them joy in the face of adversity or judgment.A kid that develops an emotional range where tears are comfortable, expressing fear and pain are comfortable. And a kid who’s curious. 


[04:44] For me, the greatest gift that you can do is instill enough confidence into a child that gives them the confidence to be curious. Because if you don’t have curiosity, everything else shuts down. You know, I think so often for myself, and when I watch people who never let somebody fall off the wall, they protect them from getting to that point where they climb the wall. You’ve gotta learn that you can survive the fall. I mean, I started my professional career as a stand-up comic, so I know a lot about falling off walls. And had I not been able to get back up on a stage again, I would have self-defined as somebody who bombed. But the fact that I got up again and was able to do it, and then get one laugh, meant that I got one laugh. And then it was a challenge to myself to see if I could get a second one. And so to have encouragement in that I think is crucial.


[05:48] During a lot of listening, I think with kids is super important, because sometimes they don’t know how to ask. Sometimes they want to know, but they’re afraid to ask, they’re afraid to know the answer. And so, you know, I think it’s just like any relationship. I don’t think people give kids enough credit. And I think that allowing them to do a bunch of talking and then asking questions that are legitimate, if you don’t understand what they’re trying to ask, gets them to come around to a place of trust and a place where they can open up. 


[06:19] And so as somebody who — I remember my dad saying to me as a kid, ‘I raised you have to have an opinion. And I forgot to tell it was supposed to be mine.’ But my parents loved my tenacity. And the weird thing about it is that they they never, ever said, ‘I don’t think you can do that.’ They often wondered — they were very traditional and conventional — they often wondered why I would want to take these paths that seemed really hard and just full of rejection. When my mom was one of these people who happened to love all of the traditional trappings of what being a woman meant, where — she loved it. She loved observing her kids. She was a professional observer and derived great joy from it. For me, if I was relegated to only being an observer, it would suffocate me. And she just could not understand that. And so because my life was so different from my mom’s, I felt really lucky that we did have some intersections of our — of the stuff we love. Like, I love to cook. We loved a lot of like the same books, and we love some of the same movies. And so we could share culturally. So as she got older, and her life became smaller, it was really important for me, as I watched her be a mom, to allow her to still be my mom by asking her questions about cooking. Sometimes I would make up stuff just to get her advice on so that she could give me advice. You know, I think that the value of parenting and mothering, if you define as a mom, you want to be a mom to your kids. And how does that role change when your kids grow up?


[10:31] If you’re given the gift of speech, you should use it in communicating, because I find it very helpful. And as we are, you know, just device-obsessed, that gift of communication and tone has shifted farther and farther and farther away from having a full experience of a person. And I think that it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like when we have a generation of people who have been communicating profoundly by text, when you have parents and children in that same sort of dynamic, and what that feels like. And I think we are sort of at a point there a lot of times I’ve been at dinner tables where people are just texting with each other as we’re eating. And I was like, wait. The dinner conversation was always manic and and wild because I had two conservative parents in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I’m the youngest of five. And I’ve six years between me and my next sibling. And then it’s two years following that. So between my oldest sibling and me, there’s thirteen years. So we had people screaming about the Vietnam War, politics. I also grew up in Minnesota, which is a very progressive state with two conservative parents. They sent us to a Catholic school that was run by Jesuits. So the Catholics were liberal. It was a whole mess for my parents. Like, what is happening? You know, what is happening? 


[11:50] So there was constant dialog. There was a lot of laughing. Both of my parents were incredibly funny people. My siblings are all fun. So it was vibrant. Dinner was fun. It was really fun to sit down — and I was talked over a lot because I was the youngest. I think that’s what drove me to stand-up because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. And I realized that if I’m standing on stage, that is five minutes of uninterrupted talking. And I was all about it. Like, I don’t think — if I never got a laugh, I think I would still go back and do it just because it was the time for me to talk. 


[12:27] So it was rich, and there was a lot of fighting and there was a lot of, like, sometimes people would stomp away from the table, and there’d be crying and there would be stuff. But we’d get up and do it all over again. There was never any like severe rifts, even in trying times. I mean, it was a very trying time. When I was in high school, I got pregnant. The first time I ever had sex I actually got pregnant. And so my mom found out because the bill came to our house. And so a Catholic mom having to go through that, and having to navigate that, that was probably the most intense thing that, you know, my mom and I had to go through. And I’m not even sure she made peace with that up until she died. But we had a relationship that was really good. And we spent a lot of time being with each other and not talking about that. That just couldn’t be talked about. And it was something that she would talk to my sisters about because she was worried that I wouldn’t go to heaven. That made me feel bad. But that’s the only thing that ever made me feel better about my abortion, that she would have to worry about that. But that’s because she was a mom. 


[13:40] Sometimes I think what makes, if we’re going to say the word ‘bad’ — is the kid tired, hungry? Like, I feel like being a kid — kids have a sleep pattern. You know, when we say kid also, like, what are we talking about? Like are we talking about a five-year-old? Are we talking about a seventh grader? You know, hormones can make everybody an asshole. So I’m just gonna say, what makes so many bad? Hormones. I think that’s the universal thing. That’s what I’m going with. Hormones. Boom. For the win. 

[14:14] You can find comedian Lizz Winstead on Twitter @LizzWinstead, or at com. Good Kids is a production of Lemonada Media. It’s produced and edited by Andrew Steven. Our executive producer is Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Our Music is by Dan Milad. Ad sales and distribution are by Westwood One. You can find out more about Lemonada online at If you liked what you heard share rate review, say great things about us.


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