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As parents, we often strive to encourage a strong foundational relationship between our child and music. Whether placing headphones on your pregnant belly, attending music class with your toddler, or getting Baby Shark stuck in your head after playing it on repeat – we want to encourage their love of music, while also allowing it to be child lead.

 Joining me today is musician and father of 3, Mark Joseph. Mark and I will discuss the ways we can authentically create opportunities for music in our homes and how to allow our child’s intrinsic motivations to drive the relationship. Mark also shares his own personal experience of finding resilience, self-actualization, and never losing his love of music.


Mark (00:00):

It’s very important for music to be relatable to the child in a way that is fun, rewarding and that is connected to something that they understand or is meaningful to them because there’s a connectivity from the creation of the music to the listener that’s part of who we are. It’s part of our DNA.

Dr. Sarah (00:23):

This is a really exciting episode for me. In part, because it taps into a topic that I’m really personally interested in with respect to my own child who’s intense interest in music, both amazes me and totally surpasses my skillset in every possible way, leaving me often feeling really ill-equipped to support him. But also this episode really excites me because the person who’s joining me to answer my questions about supporting children’s relationships to music happens to leave me a bit star struck. Mark Joseph has spent his entire life and career as a musician. He just released a solo album, Vegas Motel, that really showcases his talents as a singer songwriter and collaborator. He also happens to be a guitarist for the Big Wu. Which is a band that I have loved since I was a teenager growing up in Minnesota. So I’m super honored to have him here and also a little bit fan girling out right now, so bear with me.

Dr. Sarah (01:21):

The reason, the reason I asked Mark to join the show besides being a very talented musician, is that he’s also a father of three, a big kid and two little kids, and they love music. And I really wanted to pick his brain a bit about how he supports their love of music and how he integrates music into his parenting. I think there can be a fine line to walk when we’re supporting our kids’ passions between providing them a lot of resources to learn skills and sort of not overdoing it on the structure in a way that can take the fun out of it. So we really still want these interests to be child led, and that can be hard as things like lessons and practice and expectations start to get added into the mix. And I wanted to hear his take on that. And in this episode, Mark and I are going to talk about intrinsic motivation childhood and supporting their musical interests. We’re going to talk about the parallels of music and parenting, both of which require us to be attuned to others, and the importance of the arts in our children’s lives. He’s going to share his own personal experience of finding resilience, self-actualization and never losing his love of music. I hope you enjoy.

Dr. Sarah (04:11):

Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.

Dr. Sarah (04:45):

Hi. So I’m just like really excited to introduce this guest today, because this is, this is an unusual episode, I think for Securely Attached podcast, this is a different take on things. And I’m like really kind of pumped to introduce Mark Joseph. He is, he’s the one of the guitarists for a band, that I actually grew up like loving back home in Minnesota. There were like, I grew up going to concerts and we randomly connected in like the funniest way at a wedding. Where, you know, we got into this amazing conversation about music and kids. And so first I just wanted to say welcome, welcome to coming to the podcast.

Mark (05:28):

Thanks, thanks for having me.

Dr. Sarah (05:31):

This is like, it’s a big, it’s a big honor to have you here. And also I think one of the reasons why I thought it would be so cool to have an episode on this is because, you know, I bring a lot of like psychologists and mental health professionals and child development experts on this show. And I don’t think we get a take from, from, you know, the world that you come from as much. And I, can you share a little bit about like, sort of your story, what you do and as both as a musical professional, but also as a father.

Mark (06:02):

Sure. Yeah. Well, I’ve been in the music business. Full-Time since 2003. I tour and perform sing, play guitar all over the country and the world. I I’m a father of three. I’ve got my oldest is 19 and I’ve got a three-year-old daughter and a two year old son. And they’ve you know, they’ve grown up with me on the road you know, and that reality. But yeah, I I run a production company as well, so I’ve done everything from booking, management tour management and also performing, working with artists, marketing, promotion, you name it, we’re living in a do it yourself era. So I do a little bit of everything, you know, depending on what’s, what’s happening at the time. And it’s been, it’s been a wild run. It’s a living dream, what I’m doing. And I remind myself of that every day even when, especially when it’s really hard, you know. But this is all a dream I dreamed when I was a, when I was a kid and I found guitar and I wanted to make music, my my reality, my living, and and you know, it’s a blessing that I’m still able to do it, and it’s still going here all these years later.

Dr. Sarah (07:18):

Yeah. And you make amazing music, like you’re really, really talented. And I think one of the reasons I love the music that you guys do. Your band is called the Big Wu. And you’re a Minnesota home grown band that I grew up with. But it’s a very, you know, that kind of music is so connected. You are always, it’s a jam kind of situation where you’re always kind of paying attention and tuned into each other, and you’re having a conversation like a live conversation through instruments.

Mark (07:52):

Yep. And it’s that’s kind of that particular band is part of their pedigree is to never do things the same the twice, twice in a row, you know, always keeping it fresh and allowing organic sort of musical situations to develop. You know, and they do.

Dr. Sarah (08:08):

It’s awesome. But what I…

Mark (08:12):

It’s something. It’s different, yeah. It’s not you’re average, it’s not your normal, a lot of bands play things and they’re like, this is the start, this is the end, this is how it all goes. It’s all planned out. And the Big Wu is very much not, not like that. And I actually enjoy it very much for that reason. It keeps it creative.

Dr. Sarah (08:26):

Well, it requires you to be paying attention. And like be really emotionally connected to each other and present.

Mark (08:34):

Absolutely. Yup. You have to be present. You have to be listening. It’s all about listening. And then sharing musical space, you know, you can’t, music has to be, you know, when they say in concert, we always talk about concerts. Like, oh, we’re going to a concert, but it’s about for performing music by being in concert, you know, that’s what it really means in is together. It’s organized, it’s coordinated and it’s sharing that musical space, absolutely being present for it.

Dr. Sarah (09:02):

Yeah. That’s awesome. And there’s so many parallels to that and parenting.

Dr. Sarah (09:07):

Absolutely. And I think one of the reasons why I was like, would you come on this podcast and talk is because I like was really actually really interested in your perspective on, as a parent, as a musician, as someone who really understands both the, you know, the world of music and musical education, but also understands how to, you know, your kids are a part of, are very involved in the way that you, you know, live out your music. How do you, as parents, as a parent nurture a relationship that your child has to music, without it going into that space of like, it starts being work, it stops being fun. Like, I think I was even asking you, cause I have my son, who’s also almost four. He’s so interested in guitar. He’s fascinated by it. He loves watching people play guitar. He loves to pretend to play the guitar. And we’ve thought about giving him musical lessons and I’m ambivalent because from what I know about intrinsic motivation and building a child’s like really real, true, authentic interest in something and passion for something like sometimes lessons make it diverged from that. And I’m worried about making it too much, like, okay, it’s time to practice your instrument now and just making it not fun. And how do you walk that line as a parent and as a musician?

Mark (10:35):

Yeah, this is a, it’s a great question and subject which is something that I’m intrigued by. I have my own experiences as a child. I started to learn piano at age six. And I stuck with it about age six to eight. In my experience in that, when I, when I was young was that I loved piano and I took to it. I can still play piano to this day. But I didn’t stick with it because I was learning music that I couldn’t identify with. Music, I didn’t, wasn’t familiar with. It just so happened, we didn’t know this at the time, neither did my parents, but it, you know, it turns out that I play by ear. That’s really the sort of the the key to my musical world is listening. I can, I have a gift of recall.

Mark (11:25):

I can. So at the time there was no recall there. I’m playing old German waltzes that I had never heard before. I couldn’t relate to it. And therefore it didn’t interest me. You know, and as we come to find later, once I finally, you know, I picked up a guitar when I was 11 and this has been my whole life, you know. So it’s kind of, that was a missed opportunity then. Not that anybody could really do anything about it. That’s part of life you live and you learn and you grow. Right. But what I, what I learned from that and that the lesson I learned from that was that I think that it’s very important for for music to be relatable to the child in a way that is fun, rewarding and that is connected to something that they understand or is meaningful to them.

Mark (12:07):

And that’s where music is different from other things. And that there are differences in art between music at different mediums, art between music, graphic, art sculpting, you name it. They all have their own sort of elements to them that, that make them stand out is terms in terms of like how you accomplish doing the act, how you get better at it, how you learn, and then also the interaction with an audience. And that’s where music is so special because there’s a connectivity from the creation of the music, to the listener. And that’s, what’s so awesome about it. That’s why people are obsessed with music. That’s why we dance. That’s why it’s a community. It’s a, we congregate with music, you name it. It’s part of who we are. It’s part of our DNA. And I find that for children to really connect through music, it has to be has to be a sort of a platform where they can feel comfortable to be themselves.

Mark (13:07):

Right. That’s where kids are, kids are hilarious because they don’t have any pretense. So like, what’s cool. And what is it, or who should I be? Well, they, they are who they are their kids, and that’s why they’re great. And that’s why we look into them and our hearts are melted by them because it’s, it’s a pure it’s, it’s, their heart is pure. It comes out, the music comes out just like their jokes are actually funny or goofy or whatever. And I think that it’s the same with music that you have to sort of find ways to make it fun, to keep it positive, especially when they’re young. Because then you’re going to find what they, you know, what they’re, what they really are interested in as you progress, right? Like, you know, if they’re into drums it’s going to be obvious, you know, especially if you provide them with different instruments to experiment with a fun environment, to do it in. And and no real expectations. There’s no real outcome. It’s just like positivity and enjoy it, you know,

Dr. Sarah (14:02):

See that, like, I really like that because I talk a lot on here about the idea of, of process over product in general, when, cause cause I do a lot of education with parents on how to foster intrinsic motivation in our kids, whether it’s to, you know, learn in school, whether it’s to feel accomplished in a skill, whether it’s to like, feel good in friendships, whether it’s to be musical, whatever it is, it’s not about the outcome. So it’s really about helping them create an awareness of the process. How does it feel in my body when I’m doing these things? What is it like to struggle with this? How do I, when I do struggle, keep going, right. Versus did I get that right? Did I make it when, you know, did I, did I fix the problem? And I think with what you’re talking about with music is like, if we are really focused as parents on being attentive, to nurturing the part of our child, and having our child kind of coach them and reflecting on, what it feels like to make music, what it feels like to play this instrument like this and this instrument like this, and what’s, you know, versus being like, now we’re going to do this and we’re going to do this.

Dr. Sarah (15:14):

We’re going to practice this for, you know, the next half hour. And the goal is to learn this song. And if you do that, you get a sticker in your sticker book. Like, ah, that makes me anxious.

Mark (15:30):

How much, how much fun can we have learning this song? You know, like there’s different, there’s different ways to do it. Music is multifaceted. So there’s so many different elements into, in learning. And truly, I love that. What you said about when you’re working with with people about like the process, working through a process, what is, like for me, it’s like, like when you come to something you’re struggling with, how do we, how do we find the motivation to push through it? Or like, what is our like identifying the rewards too. Like sure, not everything in life is easy. Learning is still is hard. What’s the trick to get you through, to not quitting and then keeping up, you know, keep going and keep getting through it. I mean, I, like I say this all the time at all of my rehearsals and talk about it frequently. Because we have to, for the amount of work that I do, I, you know, I do 150 to 200 shows a year, that’s just the shows.

Mark (16:23):

There’s the driving, there’s the rehearsals. There’s the personal practice time. There’s all these different elements that go into making that possible. And so I find myself in rehearsal spots a lot with a lot of different personalities and people who have different motivations, some people dread rehearsal, they think it’s the worst. It’s a, that’s the work a lot of guys like to say that, oh, that’s, that’s what we really get paid for it’s the working and sitting there and rehearsal, blah, blah, blah. I always tell that for me, it’s quite the opposite because it’s just an attitude choice that I have. So when I look at music, I think it’s a blessing to be able to play music. And so when I’m in rehearsal, I love rehearsal because I’m getting to learn something new and I’m challenging myself. And I enjoy the process. I invest myself in the process. And then when the day’s over, I’m saying, wow, that was, that was, that was a lot of work. But now I know all these songs. Now I knew that new music and it’s, that’s a beautiful thing. And the experiences is good because that’s what you love. You know, if you enjoy doing it, then you can find a reason to keep going and push through the difficult parts, you know. Reminding ourselves that it’s fun. Ultimately, you know, maybe I don’t know. 

Dr. Sarah (17:31):

Oh, I was going to say, I think embodying that yourself is just, is maybe even more important even than telling your kid that. Like, if you can approach your children’s time with the music as what are we going to learn today? What are we going to figure out today? How are we going to make this as fun as possible today? Versus, you know, I got to get them to think about how fun it’s going to be, because really I’m like, oh, here we go, got 30 minutes of piano practice up ahead and it’s going to be work. Like modeling it, embodying it ourselves is probably more important than trying to get our kids to embody ot. Cause they’ll, if we’ve, if we own it, if we say like, oh my God, I’m so excited to do 30 minutes with you. And like, watch you, like see what you make. And I’m here and I’m paying attention and I’m curious, but I’m not running the show because I’m letting you kind of lead. Then our kids are going to feel that too.

Mark (18:29):

Absolutely. And like finding the motivators, everybody’s got different motivators, right? I mean, some people love to work towards a goal and to end up someplace, right. Other people maybe more introverted people. And this is where you could probably advise me on this, but I would imagine, you know, introverted people maybe enjoy just the pleasure of doing something. They don’t need to have an outcome or to perform a concert or you know, what have you, other people do. I guess personally and yeah, and I think it’s, again, like music is music and art is a, is a it’s an individual expression. Music means different things to different people. So finding your approach to sharing music with your children as a, not just in a teachers sort of or teaching students sort of environment, but also like as a family. In our, in our family, music is ever present all the time, 24/7.

Mark (19:23):

It doesn’t matter. It could be 6:00 in the morning. It could be 3:00 in the morning. It doesn’t matter. It’s always there. We’re always jamming. We’re always hanging out. You know, my oldest daughter Kaya, she plays saxophone and sings and she’s a very musically attuned young person. And she you know, she’s always got the new song and she can’t wait to share with me. She knows like pop on. I heard this song, you just have to hear it, you know? And, and so it, so it’s like in our family, music is always like, that’s part of how I approach. Maybe it’s maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s us. It’s all the above. But the way we like it is like, music is always there as part of what we’re doing daily. So it’s never like to pick up an instrument is not like, it’s like, he’s just like, same as you would go to have lunch.

Mark (20:06):

You know, it’s just anything you do naturally all day now, other families are, I understand everybody’s different. And I understand that some families are gonna be much more scheduled and structured than maybe ours is. And and that’s fine. And again, it’s just about finding your flow, finding your creative way of making it a positive experience, you know? And again, when I say that, I always think about like, well, what’s the opposite of that? Well, I guess like maybe like, you know, the virtual, like the young Mozart’s playing at four years old and to the king and queen of England. Well, I think that’s the extreme, extreme end of this. I think most people are going to use music as a, as a, as a you know personality builder, as a connect, you know, communication it’s that, all those different skills and building skills. And for me, it’s all about keeping it positive.

Dr. Sarah (21:04):

Yeah. And, but I, but I think, well, okay, the young Mozart’s, you know, those, those musical savant kids that can just, that do live, breathe, eat, and sleep music. Oftentimes because their parents make them, right? Or the, or that it’s just, it, the pressure is incredibly high. Yeah. I think that is like a very, very, you know, extreme end of the spectrum. But I think that there are stuff that’s close to, that that exists where it’s like, we really, as parents have to check in and say, am I doing this because my child is truly excited by this? Or am I doing this because I’m projecting some wish or desire I have on to an outcome for them then I’m fantasizing about, and how as parents, can we do that work of saying, who is this for? And if it is…

Mark (21:58):

Oh yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, that’s, that is, I see that a lot on different levels. I know we touched on this before, when we talked as well. Like this is, this is a big part of it. This is where the the parent has to take a long, hard look at themselves and make sure they’re being honest with themselves and the way that they interact with their child, you know. And this is not just music, either, it could be sports. It could be it could be academic goals. You know, we see that a lot, right. I mean, our country is obsessed with college. You know, we’re convinced that college is the only, at least this is kinda my 2 cent take on it. But I see that most parents can’t imagine a world where their kid doesn’t, doesn’t go to college, like that’s path to, you know, self destruction or whatever.

Mark (22:45):

And maybe that’s true for some people probably is. However, I don’t think that there’s only, there’s no one road in this life for everybody. Everybody’s got their own path. You have to find your own path, the people who search out their own path and do it honestly, and truly this goes for parents and kids I think ended up with a more rewarding and happy, ultimately happy life in that they are where they’re supposed to be. We’ve all seen it a million times. We’ve seen the parents who go and get the master’s degree. And they’ve been running down the highway 120 miles an hour since they were 15 years old because they either, their parents told them what they’re going to do or convinced them of it. Or maybe they thought they knew what they wanted. And then they find out later that that’s not what they want.

Mark (23:29):

How many people do we know? I mean, we’ve, we’ve all met them, you know? I’m a people person. So I like, I talk to people, I get their stories, a lot of people that spent 10 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on their education. And now they work in, you know, now they work, they’re a farmer or now they they care for you know, for the elderly and things like that. Because in the end we want to, we want to find meaning in our lives, you know, we want it to mean something. Something that means something to us. And in the end of the day, money comes and don’ts, you know, and yet however, you know, back to sort of what we’re talking about, it’s like, we’re, we get obsessed with money. We get obsessed with like the bills or the anxiety of said bills.

Mark (24:15):

Right? I mean, we, can’t, it’s hard for us to break away from those things. So sometimes like, for instance, like if you have a regimented day and you’re like, everything has to fall into these little 30 minute or hour long increments, music might start feeling like a chore to your kids. Or if you’re just adult, even adult trying to learn an instrument. And I’ve seen that a lot too. I know a lot of adults that would really, really love to learn how to play guitar, but man, it’s just cannot get over the hump because they it’s, they can’t give, allow themselves the freedom to have some time, extra time, maybe on certain times, or that’s part of learning too. Like sometimes when you’re learning, you get on a, you get on a good run and you’re like, this is great. Now I want more of this.

Mark (25:01):

Well, that’s the moment you gotta, you gotta run with it. You know, like when, you know, kids, when they start reading, right. And it clicks for them. And then they’re just like, they can’t put the book down. Well, that’s a really great opportunity. And I think that’s the point, like for instance, that’s a point where like, the kids should be allowed to read a bunch right there because they’re totally, they found what they love about it. And then that’s it. That’s what we’ve been searching for. That’s the, that’s the jump point, you know? So like, yeah,

Dr. Sarah (25:28):

100%. I think that’s so true. And I think that that’s talking about that natural ability to tune into our kids. And when they they will show us right. When they have an interest that’s coming like really authentically from within them, they can’t not do it. Right. They’re going to show you they need it all the time. And I think as parents, sometimes we get in our way by saying, let me put some boundaries around when you can do these things or let me, you know. Or maybe I’m not being as mindful as I could be about the schedule that I’m creating and how much that schedule might be a barrier to being able to do this when, when you’re kind of feeling strikes, right. Is your child so scheduled that they don’t really have time to play around and the playing can be musical. The playing can be, maybe they’re really like wanting to kind of experiment with how things work and tinker, and maybe they’re like budding engineers, right? Like it doesn’t, we don’t really know where it’s going to go if we, but we got to get out of their way.

Mark (26:34):

Sure. I’ve heard you say that a few times. And I agree. I agree completely. I mean, there’s the time, you know, we have to show our kids the way we have to teach them right from wrong. We have make sure they know how to, you know, eat good food and how to stay clean. And so these are things that every parent has to do. But the rest of it, yeah. You have to let the child develop into who, the person they were born to be, you know. At the end of the day, you know, that’s really, I do believe that to be true. And you know, my, you know, I always these days when I’m thinking about things, thinking about life, you know, cause we’re always growing and evolving, right. Even us, you know, we’re old, old people, right. Whatever you know, we’re always still growing.

Mark (27:17):

We’re still kids, you know? And so like, I try to think back on my life and like reflect on things like, well, what did, what did that, what was that like for me? Or like, you know, when I was 21, like, what was I going through? What was that experience like? And, you know, like I find like when I look back and think about what would I do differently, it’s like, I would give myself a break. I would let myself sort of like, I was real hard on myself as a kid, you know what I mean? It was like this expectation to be, to be successful, I guess it was like in, for me you know, maybe this will be a good takeaway for the show here. Like I decided I was going to be a musician by age 16. I mean, I decided that was it.

Mark (28:01):

I knew that’s what I was going to do. I had no plans for college per se. My mother really wanted me to go to a music school, but I didn’t, we went and visited it. It just wasn’t right for me. I’m a kind of person that learns by doing something. So the more I do it, the more I learn, you know, I do well with smaller settings. You know, I have a mild form of dyslexia. I’m not ashamed to share that, that’s true. Something we found out when I was young and it’s actually served me to know that I have that because I, now, I, you know, now I don’t like feel like, you know, I used to feel like, oh, I’m not very smart or why can’t I do this? Or why am I not good at math? Why do I reverse numbers and things like that?

Mark (28:41):

Well, I know why I do, because it’s part of who I am. It’s nothing to be ashamed. It’s natural. And so the more I’ve actually known that I embrace it. You know, I have no shame in that and like sharing that and understanding that, like I look back and think, man, you know, like I was just a kid trying to figure it all out. Meanwhile, all this pressure from my family and the people around me being like the common thing at family gatherings would be like, oh, Hey Mark, how you doing? I’d say, I’m doing good. What’s going on with you? And like, well you know, I’m a, full-time in the music business now for two years and I’m really excited about it, proud about it. And that always the automatic response from most people would be, oh, so how’s that going for you?

Mark (29:24):

You know, this kind of like assumption that you’re going to fail. That was a mistake. What a pipe dream, what a, what a ridiculous choice to make for your life. And it really makes makes you resilient if you really believe it. You know, and I’m kind of I was raised to be tough in different ways. Like some really on purpose from my mother, other parts were just my life experience made me kind of tougher and maybe maybe the most or tough in my own way sort of. And you know, I was resilient. If I decide I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. And, and I’ve, so I stuck with it, despite all that doubt that was sort of put on me or cast upon me, you know? And I don’t know. It’s like, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Mark (30:09):

People can find their own path, they can do what they’re supposed to do in this life. And you know, I do think by going to hit back on the younger version of me, like, well, maybe I wonder if I wasn’t as strong as I am, or if I had the self-confidence that was sort of taught to me by my mother, like, would I have, would I have stayed with it? What would happen? You know, here I am now I’m 39 years old now, like and I’ve recorded six full length records. I’ve toured all over the world. I’m raising three kids. Everybody’s doing great. What would have happened if I had maybe listened to that doubt? Or didn’t believe in myself enough. And I’m, there’s a lot of people are, you know, may have, may have given up and that’s, and that’s that’s unfortunate because you know, we’re, people are brilliant. I believe all people have ability to be amazing and to do what they want with their life. So, you know I don’t know. It’s all very interesting. Everybody’s got their own path, I guess.

Dr. Sarah (31:04):

Yeah. And I think one of the things that you keep saying that makes me keep going back to this thought, is this idea of like, as a society, we, I think we get really distracted by achievement. And I think we mistakenly think that that’s the goal and I actually think…

Mark (31:22):

Likes and shares and clicks, right?

Dr. Sarah (31:23):

Right. Or even, or even the college degree or the great paying job. And those are wonderful things. If, if that’s what’s right for you, but at the end of the day, I actually don’t think achievement is what makes us happy. I think self-actualization is what makes us happy. And so if we, as a parent, inadvertently push achievement, achievement, achievement, achievement, achievement, instead of self-actualization, the reality is, is if you are really self-actualized achievement tends to follow, right? If you are living your truth, if you are following things that light you up and then make you want to keep going and doing and withstanding struggle, you’re going to achieve in life because you, can’t not, right. You, you can’t, you won’t stop. But when our goal first is achievement, then, if that self-actualization piece, if that’s not nurtured, then as soon as we hit a roadblock, we’re going to be like, well, nevermind, this is too hard.

Dr. Sarah (32:26):

Let me switch to a different, easier thing to achieve, or let me try this thing that I’m going to get. And if we’re always oriented outside of ourselves. And we’re just jumping around to the thing that we think is going to make us finally get the kind of validation that we, that would make us, we think feel good instead of having this internal drive and nurture. So as parents, I think it’s our job to really stop worrying about achievement. Achievement will come. It’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad word, but if it’s the goal and it’s the focus, we can accidentally derail our child’s progress towards it, because really we want to nurture our self-actualization.

Mark (33:03):

Absolutely. wow. That is, that is so true. As I sit here and think about my life, right, we think about naturally when you achieve something great, you you’re like, oh, you know, you want to share it with everybody and tell everybody. But you know, there’s more, you know, just this a simple achievement is that really happiness? Is that really what the goal of life is? And like, I like to ask myself like, like if you can know the difference, you can look at a day and say, this was a really good day. Look at what we did today. Or like what, look at what we accomplished. Like even looking at your child and watch them accomplish something like not an achievement per se, but just making progress, like every day, making progress is pushing you towards an achievement or a goal of some sort.

Mark (33:50):

And we can’t discredit that. You know, just since I didn’t get a thousand likes on Instagram today doesn’t mean anything at all. It literally doesn’t. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s a platform, it’s nothing it’s and we obsess, kids, especially, obsessed about this stuff. And that’s dangerous. You know, was I a good person today? Did I do something for someone? Did I make somebody smile today? Did I think about others? Was I you know, was I selfless at any point today, things like that should be honored too, as much as any kind of achievement. Being a good person is just as important as any kind of any kind of skill or or achievement you can get in this life. You know, it should be the being kindness award or something. And, you know, I dunno, whatever you want to call it.

Dr. Sarah (34:38):

What I’d add to that, it’s not just about being kind to others that we want to help our kids do. It’s about being kind to themselves. Like, did I do something for me today that felt good because it felt good, right? If I’m playing this instrument to bring it back to music, am I doing it because I think mom’s going to be really proud of me or am I doing it because God, that felt so good to like really make that sound and like get whatever I’m feeling inside my body, out through this instrument. Like that is what I want my kid to be looking at a guitar and thinking not because, oh, you know, every time I pick up the guitar mom gets like so excited. It’s like, and I do cause I get so excited because I love seeing my adorable three year old play guitar.

Mark (35:20):

That’s why it’s all positive because music is good like that. Like we get to share music with other people and that’s the beauty of it. So it’s okay to be excited and it’s okay for a child to want to perform for their parents. That’s, that’s totally natural and that’s positive. It might not be the driver for everybody. I think the warnings, the warning sign is where a parent wants, wants it for themselves more than anything. And to touch on the self-love thing. That is the key. And I believe the key to true happiness in this life is to learn how to love yourself. To truly love yourself is to love is to be able to love period. If you can’t love yourself, you, you truly not gonna be able to love anybody. And and then also that leads to everything else like sharing a positivity or love through music, using things, you know, being able to express love through, through different mediums, no matter what it is.

Mark (36:13):

And to touch quick on music, like how special music is compared to some other not, not that either one’s better or worse or anything, but music is unique because of the inner city energy exchange and the real time exchange in music. You play the song, somebody sitting right there, listening, it happens in real time. That’s a really rewarding thing and a beautiful thing. And oftentimes I look at my grandfather’s a graphic artist, sculptor painters. And the difference between our experiences is that he’ll, he would, he would spend a month on a painting on his own, you know, without that, any of that immediate gratification or exchange of energy, you know, and it’s, so their world, their reality is very different. And again, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s all positive. It’s all our different art forms. But maybe what I’m trying to say is one of the great benefits of music is that through that, that, that real-time connection that happens while you play, you can it can build confidence.

Mark (37:16):

It can it can it creates happiness because you’re sharing something. So, so organic. So you know, it’s a community, right? Cause we can sing together, you know, the togetherness, the connectivity, you know and you know, again, like on the worst day, I think we talked about this last time we talked about like, On a worst day. Like no matter what, like, you know, you have a child that’s struggling and going through something, once you get to the point where there’s not, you, you said everything you can say, you’ve tried, you tried everything. You try. Sometimes you can take a break and just put on your favorite song and just sit there and hug each other or talk or sing together. That’s a, it’s a community point. Sometimes it’s the, I mean, licensed crazy. Sometimes you meet people you don’t get along with at all, except when we just jam out and listen to this song, you know, maybe, you know, and that’s fine. That’s fine. You know, I think it’s a great place to meet up, you know, in the middle of so many different levels.

Dr. Sarah (38:11):

Yeah. But you’ve talked to me too about this idea. You’ve referred to music as like a sacred place. And I think it’s interesting cause we were talking about it originally as like, okay, if you really trust your child, like if you’re really interested in your child’s musical interests, if you can trust them and just really like, let them go with it. That kind of trust is it’s very, to like just any kind of trust that exists in the parent-child relationship and really thinking about as, as a unit, like, cause you’re talking about music is it’s relational, right? It’s a, it’s a two person experience. Even if you’re listening alone in your room to a song, there’s a relationship happening between the artist and you in that moment. Right. Even if it’s asynchronous, but music is inherently relational. And, and I think understanding that you can use music as a tool within the parent-child relationship is also really helpful.

Mark (39:14):

Sure. Yep. You see it in kid’s, in kid’s shows all the time when the is about to be taught and they say it, you know, Sesame Street, music, it helps, it helps. It helps connect it. It makes learning fun in some ways, especially for young children, you know? It is a sacred place though, in what I meant by that too, is that there’s a time when, when my oldest daughter was struggling and you know, and she was going through some hard things and, and and again, like I said, when it was all, everything that’s been said, is said, you don’t know what to do. Maybe you just feel stuck. Sometimes in life we feel totally stuck. You know, that means you’re going to get through this day and tomorrow you’ll wake up and we’re going to keep working on it. We’re going to figure it out.

Mark (39:59):

We’re to keep moving down the road and, and look for solutions and grow and learn as people. But in that moment when you feel stuck and there’s nowhere to go and you don’t know what to do, you can always push play on your favorite song and hold, hold your daughter’s hand, you’re holding your sons and hug each other, go on a walk, play the boom box, pick up a guitar, sing your favorite song and feel free. Be free from that because you have the control to do that too. And music can take us not so much a way, but it can bring us together in a way we can use the community of music. The music is special like that because it communicates through a transcendence really. I mean, I do believe that, you know, spirituality, religion, whatever it is you believe in this slight, I feel a very powerful, spiritual connection through music as well. And it brings me to I mean, I can, I can talk to my, my grandparents who have passed away many years ago in certain ways I feel them. I feel their energy. That’s what the power of a song is. You can listen to Mozart Beethoven now and feel spiritual you know, movements. You can feel things. I mean, that’s what music is and that’s why it’s so powerful. And it can be used as a way to come together. Even when you’re in distress.

Dr. Sarah (41:15):

It’s also regulating for the nervous system. I mean, that kind of sensory input helps actually calm our nervous system down. I mean, there’s a reason why mothers instinctively hum to their babies and it’s because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system in us, the singer also in the person who’s hearing those vibrations and hearing that like actual, like it’s, it really does calm down our nervous systems.

Mark (41:41):

Oh yeah. The science backs it all. As, you know, the science backs it up on multiple levels. Even to the point, if you go to a base heavy, a dance party or rave your pulse will fall in time with the beat. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s what it is. That’s why people are hypnotized by music because it’s a very powerful, a very powerful medium, and it’s part of our DNA. Like it’s been there for, you know, for thousands of years. It’s it’s enough.

Dr. Sarah (42:05):

Yeah. And it’s funny cause like, even just when I thought about having this conversation with you and I was like, I was like, I’m going to have a conversation with someone from the Big Wu. Like I was so fan girling out. Cause I was like this cause, cause I have some of the most incredible memories, like encoded in my body from listening to that music when I was a kid, you know, I would go to those concerts when I was like 13, 14, 15, well, maybe not 13. I think my first concert was when I was 15 years old and I, but I remember that so powerfully and that music makes me happy and it’s that stuff is like it’s encoded in our body.

Mark (42:43):

Yes. And those are, you know, at that age too, I mean those experiences are are a defining in your life. It help, you know, makes us who we are in a lot of ways. And that’s, you know, that’s probably maybe another whole episode there as well, but like young people are going to experience music too is also very important. And I’ve had a lot of the greatest experiences of my life when I was young, going to shows, going to, you know, to be in the audience to experience something like that. You know, there’s many different examples I can think of, but they’re definitely help to find us. They help us grow as people. It can be scary going to a big show by yourself, you know, that’s a confidence builder, figuring it out, working through it, you know? All that.

Mark (43:29):

I used to get a lot of anxiety about that, you know. I used to be real self-conscious and I was young and and certainly music helped me work through a lot of that as well. You know? So we just played a, what we call pop-up show just the backyard party for some friends of ours this Saturday and all the kids were together and we were there just very, you know, very small environment. And my three-year-old daughter Magnolia came on stage and she’s sang Three Little Birds by Bob Marley was with us and she did great, it was really beautiful. And we were talking about it and we’re like, you know, I think it’s time to get a little microphone and a little speaker for kids so they can practicing singing on a microphone. Cause that’s a whole other thing, you know? So, you know, cause they, you can sing all day, but once you get on a microphone and you’re like, oh, you get real kind of like freeze, you don’t know what to do. And so yeah, we decided we’re going to get both Magnolia and Levon their own little microphone so they can be practicing in the basement and you know, kind get, get comfortable on a microphone.

Dr. Sarah (44:28):

Yeah, yeah. Which also speaks to the idea like exposure and helping them experiment with new materials. Right? Like it’s whether we’re talking about music or we’re talking about anything, like I always think it’s helpful for kids to have practice with materials a lot in a lot of different forms to help them feel confidence. Like if you’ve got a kid who’s starting first grade, you know, having them play with some of the things they’re going to be playing within their first grade classroom. Right. And if you want your kid to be able to be interested in facilitate, then nurture that relationship to music, you know, you know, giving them lots of variety of things like, you know, a microphone that makes that sound and getting to experiment with the kinds of sounds microphones can make, you know, having drums and having like, I don’t know, I just feel like that variety not limiting it.

Mark (45:14):

For sure. And precaution is is an integral part, rhythm and percussion is an integral part of all music. So you can get a little percussion kit we’re talking, I mean for as expensive as toys are, you can get a little percussion kit for very, very little. We’re talking 10 bucks. You can get like 10 different noisemakers, all, you know, a little clackers and little shakers and all kinds of different stuff that can be that’s, you know. Percussion is easy, you know, it’s, it’s rhythm, it’s all there. It’s fun for kids and makes funny noises, you know, that’s one that’s an easy one right there. You know, there’s also there’s also E every community has child development, music classes of different kinds, just, you know, check your check your local resources and see what’s out there. But usually there’s community driven classes that are usually pretty affordable and really fun too, because the kids can get together and do that. There’s even over the pandemic, we I participated in a number of kids, music classes that were interactive. So the kids would clap along and there’d be singing, you know, we would, you know, things like that. So there’s a lot of different ways you can sort of create a variety of options for your kids to enjoy music, to experiment with music and get more familiar. Yeah, indeed. Before they go into the classroom settings.

Dr. Sarah (46:32):

Yeah. Okay. So my big takeaways from this, there’s so many, I like don’t even know, but like, I think we really, really talked a lot about the intrinsic motivation and music and not kind of getting in their way and like really fostering that and also giving them this sort of rich variety without a lot of pre pre like prescriptive outcomes tied to it. Like, we’re going to learn this song now versus here’s a bunch of fun things, let’s see what happens.

Mark (47:00):

Hey, it could be like, let’s try this song instead of like, we’re going to learn this song or like, what do you think about this? Or what do you like, watch your kids, see what they read, what resonates with them. You’re going to be more successful running in that direction. And then as far as you know what, what’s gonna excite them and motivate them to continue to fight.

Dr. Sarah (47:20):

Yeah. This has been so helpful. I’m like literally going to go back and listen to this episode myself, to like, be like, okay, now what do I do with my son? Cause I’m still like, I don’t work starting guitar lessons, and I’m very excited about it, but I really don’t want it to feel I needed to feel child led. Like, that’s just something that I feel so passionate about. And I have a million more questions for you, so you’ll have to just come back.

Mark (47:47):

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. And again, like sometimes, you know, you gotta make sure the kids comfortable too, depending on how big they are, even to the sizes of their hands to the, you know, for the instruments they’re playing. I’ve seen that a million times too. Sometimes kids just don’t have the right instrument and then it’s not even been taken care of like or let’s use guitar for example, like the way a guitar is set up, it’s neck alone, the way it’s set up is like how far the strings are off to the neck, right. A lot of guitars that come out of the factory are just there. They’re just factory that they knock them out. There’s there’s, they’re never been set up really. So it can be really difficult to play. I’ve met adults who are like, ah I’ve had a guitar under my bed for 20 years because I tried for six months and it hurt my hands so bad I couldn’t do it. Like, well, cause you have to have it set up and there’s a little things you can do. You take it to a music shop, have them set it up. All of a sudden, you know, all my guitars, like they’re set up in such a way where the strings are, are just, just off the neck. So it’s not, it shouldn’t be painful to play the instrument. You know what I’m saying? And that these things like this makes a difference. They do. Sometimes you can have a faulty instrument. I mean, it happens, you know? So those are things to check on too. If you’re, if you’re a child is struggling, you might want to check on different things. Maybe it’s a, and this happens a lot with guitar because it’s hard as a lot of dexterity goes into it. It’s not an easy instrument to play.

Mark (49:02):

A lot of times what I’ll I’ll suggest for younger kids is if it gets hard, seems like a struggle, try ukulele. Ukuleles are they’re smaller. You know, they’re easy. You can play some of the chords on a ukulele. You can play with one finger, right? So it’s not like you’re going to spend, you can, you can get some songs smelling pretty quickly without having to spend months and months and months just to figure out how to play it. And then maybe if they’re into that and the ukulele is going great. Well maybe then you use that as a stepping stone to guitar. Just different ideas.

Dr. Sarah (49:31):

No, that’s so helpful to think about too, because I think as parents who are not musically inclined, like I love to listen to music and I appreciate it deeply. And it’s a big part of our family life. I cannot play an instrument to save my life because I tried everything when I was little and I just, I never stuck for me. I’m not, I would never know that like, okay, you need to get your guitar like kind of set up to fit your hands and to fit your also your like hand strength, it sounds like.

Mark (50:00):

Yep. For sure. And, and again, like, just like, you know, everybody learns differently. Well, everybody’s got different bodies and different strengths and different, you know, so these are things that you have to think about when especially when you start to take a particular instrument more seriously, you know guitar could be a, one of the things you can grab a full-size guitar and give it to a five-year-old. I mean, they’re going to have trouble holding the thing in their hand, let alone trying to figure out how to play a chord. You know what I’m saying? These things do matter. And there are resources out there to also for, you know, for all different families and income brackets, where you can find instruments. We’ve done a lot of fundraising instrument, donation drives and things like that to make sure instruments are available to people.

Mark (50:43):

And in fact, if it’s ever in doubt or, you know, a family that needs help with something like that there are resources out there, or you can go ahead and contact us and we’ll help you figure it out as well. It’s something that’s very important to us and we’ve done for years, we’ve we’ve done many, many instrument drives donation wise. There’s, there’s things you can do to make sure we can get instruments in kids’ hands it’s. It’s actually something that I’m very passionate about. And I think it’s very important.

Dr. Sarah (51:09):

That’s amazing if people want to find out more about that and get in touch with you about that, how can they do that?

Mark (51:14):

They can go ahead and email me directly at markjosephamericansoul@gmail.com. And I’m sure we can post the email there on, on the bio and stuff. Anybody that’s got questions I’m happy to help. It’s it’s, you know, this is not what I do every day of my life, but I can certainly help point in the right direction. And we know that people out there that can help get get you going in the right direction and maybe even answer some questions. That happens a lot too. I’ll have parents asking questions for their young guitar players. Like, wow, he’s struggling with this, or what’s working. I mean, I’m happy to help.

Dr. Sarah (51:46):

What a great resource. Thank you so much for being here. And I’m so, so excited to share this episode with all my friends from home and be like, guess who was on the podcast?

Mark (51:58):

Keep up all the good work, Sarah. You’re doing great, great stuff and it’s a pleasure to meet you. And I look forward to continuing the conversation on many levels.

Dr. Sarah (52:07):

Yes. Thank you so much.

Mark (52:09):

Thank you. Bye.

Dr. Sarah (52:10):


Dr. Sarah (52:15):

One of the things I most love about music is how uniting it can be, which is not unlike parenting. We all want the best for our kids. And there are so many different ways of achieving that. I really loved hearing how resilient Mark was when he faced expectations of a society that didn’t align with the way that he approached music and learning and how he stayed true to his passion of being a musician. He wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t been so strong and instead sort of succumb to his doubts. But here’s the thing, that strength that Mark referred to, it’s not something people either have, or they don’t. Resilience is a muscle. And just like the physical muscles in our body, we can really work to strengthen them in ourselves and in our kids.

Dr. Sarah (52:59):If you’re interested in more about resilience, I’ve created a free guide called Fostering Resilience From Birth. And this guide walks you through behavior shifts that you can make yourself as the parent, rather than trying to change the way our kids are behaving or thinking in the moment. And in this guide, I give you sort of actual phrases that you can swap out when you’re talking to your kids. And of course explain the why behind the swaps. That way you aren’t just sort of reading off a script. Instead, you’re learning the psychology behind these shifts so you can adapt them to fit any situation that might arise. If you want to understand the building blocks of resilience so you can help your child tolerate distress, develop a growth mindset and increase self-esteem, check out this free guide. I think you’ll like it. You can go to my website, drsarahbren.com that’s drsarahbren.com and click on the resources tab to download the guide. And don’t forget to follow, like, and rate the podcast to help us spread the word to more parents. Just like you. Thanks for listening and don’t be a stranger

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23. Nurturing your child’s relationship to music with musician and dad Mark Joseph