How to Raise Joyful Kids

Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content


Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, sociologist, philanthropist, and mother of activist Marley Dias, talks about how to raise joyful, change-making kids. For her, it’s all about creating the conditions of joyfulness, which begins with listening to your child, asking them questions, and sharing what’s happening in your own life. Plus, why family and culture are so critical to creating joy, and how you can find your own joy as a parent. “Those of us who have found access to joy are those of us who are in the business of change-making, because every day we are doing something to improve the conditions under which we live and improve in the society in which we exist.”


You can follow Dr. Janice Johnson Dias on Instagram @drjanicejohnson.


Support the show by checking out our sponsors!


Interested in learning more about Janice? Check out the links below: 


To follow along with a transcript and/or take notes for friends and family, go to shortly after the air date.


Stay up to date with Good Kids and everything from Lemonada on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @LemonadaMedia. For additional resources, information, and a transcript of the episode, visit


If you want to submit a show idea, email us at



Dr. Janice Johnson Dias

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias  00:05

Hi, I’m Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, and you’re listening to GOOD KIDS. I am a sociologist and a philanthropist and a mom. And I’m going to talk to you about how you can find your own joy in order to move you and your family forward.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias

The conditions of joyfulness really come about by the environment that caregivers set for their themselves and for their children. And at the heart of that is the listening. And I know as a caregiver, listening to kids really is hard. It’s very hard, in large part because they are young, and you’re just like, “they’re dumb, though.” But I encourage caregivers to think about children as insight, almost cameras into a particular world that you don’t have access to, right? So hearing them, and being able to ask them questions, not just as questions of routine, but questions of real inquiry, like be curious about what is happening with them in the world will give you a sense of what it takes and to enhance their own joy.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias

And so I urge caregivers out there to take at least 15 minutes every single day to sit with their children, and talk to them. Not in this accusatory, fake way. But actually ask them open ended questions in order to understand so like, “what happened today in your classroom?” Like you’re asking them because you’re actually curious, you’re actually curious, like, even on Zoom. Like who talked? Who didn’t talk? Who did this teacher call on? Right? Did you think like the teacher should have called on you. And that means that you have to be aware of what is happening in their lives. Similarly, I encourage caregivers to actually share what’s happening in their lives, right?

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias  02:05

So we’re at work, something has happened, we don’t want to talk to our children about it. So by the time they get to work, they can’t negotiate work. They don’t know how to negotiate with a difficult peer, they don’t even know how to organize anything, because we have decided that the only conversations that we can have with young people are conversations about them, which is so non-reciprocal, and ill prepares them for the future. So I really encourage caregivers to create a context that prioritizes questions and listening and is one that is reciprocal.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias 

I use the same practices in my household, and I have some of the same irritation that parents have. And so every day, I asked my child two simple questions like what was the best part of your day? And I mean, the best part like was it talking with your friends was them in class. And I always asked her, “What would you change if you could?” And that now that question, by the way, has really turned into a situation because she has a whole litany of things that she could change, especially Zoom learning. But now she rates like she comes down at the end of the day. And she’s like, today was a four.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias

And I’m like, “well, what? What’s a four?” Like, tell me the range, right? She was just like, “oh my God, you’re such a sociologist.” I’m like, look, I don’t know, the meaningfulness of a four unless I know what is the range of fours. And so she’s able to describe it in all these different ways. And you know, and then we end up telling stories of when we were in school, it really is about the connection, the fact that if you talk about anything, then when there is something, right? Then it’s easy to feel like can talk. We also we struggle sometimes in the house because my husband does a job that is solitary. He’s often on a computer making maps doing something.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias  04:05

And so I call him chatty cathy, because when he’s done what work he has the most he wants to say, and he too really wants to share. And so there are some actual techniques for listening, right? And it is letting your child finish the thought without interruption. And that is difficult for caregivers. But one of the exercises is that if you can count a 30 just tap your feet before you comment. That would be most helpful. And just because you ask her or your children a question doesn’t mean that they need to answer right away.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias

Take a beat and let them speak and when they are speaking, try to hear all the words, right? In such a way that you can repeat back phrases like I heard you say that you really hated today. I heard you say like, even though the day was bad, there was this part, like, is that correct? No, you didn’t hear me correctly, they will be happy to tell you. And I know at first it will feel awkward. But the more you do it the easier it gets. Furthermore, I think caregivers are very good at listening to their friends. And so I just, I’m curious about why listening to their friends matters more than listening to their children.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias 

Because when your you know, male friend or female friend or girlfriend, boyfriend, talks to you, you actually want to know what they have to say. So we could devise some of that same practices, stop what you’re doing, give them your attention. If you’re in the middle of doing something, you say, “hey, I’m gonna need a minute, I need to call you back.” Or, “hey, I’m gonna need a minute before I talk to you.” So practice doing that, so that you can honor the humanity and children.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias  06:09

Family and culture are so critical for creating continuity in a child’s life, it is really important for children’s sense of self for all children, regardless of their race. Being connected and seeing yourself connected to your cultural group is invaluable. So in my child’s life, you know, my child has a complicated ethnic identity, because I’m Jamaican, her father’s Cape Verdean, but she is black American. So she comes to be in a particular way. So I encourage caregivers to have a real keen sense of what has happened within their cultural group within their family, and what they can extract from that, in order to help their children understand the power of this moment, and the power of moving forward. Connections help heal us. And it also helps us act.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias 

And that’s the place where joy lives, right? Is that you need to be healed, and you need to have the power and the energy to act. And so the past is critical to that and interrogation of it, a reconciliation of it. And you know, the country as a whole needs it. But for parents, we can do the work. One of the many exercises that I think caregivers can do right now, if you don’t feel joyful, and I really want to separate joyfulness from happiness. This is a […] moment for all of us. And I argue and I maintain that joyfulness comes out of a sense of action. If you are right now feeling despondent and disengage, what I urge you to do is to look at your skills, your talents, and the immediate social frustration that you have, and then try to work on one of those things.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias  08:09

That the very act of doing something to improve your condition and the conditions of those around you will bring you tremendous joy. So it could be as simple as you know, we know that we have elders not eating. We know that some of the kids are not wearing masks. We know that there are kindergarten kids who do not have playgroups like they used to what are your skills? What are your talents? What are your passions? That you can lend your energy to.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias 

And what you will find is the practice of doing it not one time, but the practice of consistently doing it will engender a kind of joyfulness in your spirit because you’re acting. And so I argue and I maintain that those of us who really have found access to joy are those of us who are in the business of change making because every day we are doing something to improve the conditions under which we live and really improve in the society in which we exist.

Dr. Janice Johnson Dias

If you want to learn more about how to raise joyful change making kids please pick up a copy of my book PARENT LIKE IT MATTERS: HOW TO RAISE JOYFUL, CHANGE-MAKING GIRLS. And you can follow me on Instagram at @drjanicejohnson or you can follow my work at the Grassroots Community Foundation. That is grassrootscommunity Thank you for listening to GOOD KIDS.


GOOD KIDS is a Lemonada Media Original. Supervising producer is Kryssy Pease. Associate producer is Alex McOwen and Kegan Zema is our engineer. The show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. The music is by Dan Molad with additional music courtesy of APM music. Check us out on social at @LemonadaMedia, recommend us to a friend and rate and review us wherever you listen to podcast. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at Until next week, stay good.

Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.