Episode 66: Interview with Speaker, Author, and Teacher Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

In this episode, we get to hear from Nadia Swearingen-Friesen, a speaker, writer, and teacher who shares some great information for parents. We discuss her system for helping our children internalize discipline, making memories at Easter and Christmas, and the importance of getting our kids outdoors. 

Our Guest Today-Nadia Swearingen-Friesen:

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a national speaker, educator, and author with a passion for empowering parents. Her book, Sticks! A Practical Way to Reduce Stress, Improve Discipline, and Create the Family You Want offers encouragement and ideas to parents who find themselves living in survival mode or struggling at home.  Nadia speaks all over the country on a wide range of parenting topics and is passionate about intentional parenting. She has been married to her husband, Mark, for 27 years and has four children. Nadia and her family live outside Chicago with their Goldendoodle pup, Dakota. 


Here is a link to her Sticks! book:  https://amzn.to/3A3Evno

Here is a link to her website: nadiaswearingen-friesen.com/

Books Recommended in this Episode:

Transcript:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today, we have a special guest Nadia Swearingen-Friesen, and Nadia is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering moms to embrace intentional parenting. Drawing on her experience as an educator and mother of four, Nadia offers women specific practical ideas to help them meet their goals as wives and moms. Nadia has had the opportunity to offer presentations to a variety of organizations, including Hearts at Home and MOPS International. Nadia has also attended and graduated from She Speaks, a conference for speakers and writers offered by Proverbs 31 Ministries. Nadia also speaks locally at parenting groups, early childhood programs, and anywhere parents need encouragement and education. In addition to her popular blog, Nadia is also a regular contributor to Family Fire, a family-oriented website produced by Reframe Media. Nadia, thank you for joining us today. I appreciate you being here with us.

Nadia:

I’m glad to be here, Terrie.

Terrie:

Well, I’m excited to talk to you about your books and your speaking topics. Your first book on your website is Sticks, and I’m really excited to hear about this. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Nadia:

Sure. This is by far my favorite. I found myself as a mom of four kids, as our family was growing a little bit at a time, my husband and I just started to realize that the things that we wanted for our family, the things that we wanted to do and be as parents, all of those things just sort of fell away. What I’ve learned since then is that this is really normal—that parents can get into this place where they are getting up in the morning and meeting the needs of these small humans and just pushing through the day with that. And then at the end of the day, you sort of fall into bed exhausted, and you get up the next day and you do the whole thing again. And those goals that you have, you don’t have time or energy for. So when we realized this, we set about trying to fix it and it was quite a process for us.

Nadia:

I figured out the system, I’m an educator. I was a teacher for years. I still do subbing and long-term subbing and put sort of those skills together, trying to figure out where can we kind of tweak things to make it better. After a while we figured out a system, we called it Sticks. It was not ever supposed to be a speaking topic. But what we found was that we were consistently saying things to our kids and they were reliant on what we were saying. So for instance, if parents find themselves saying, “Put your shoes away” every single day, if you’re saying the same thing every single day, we’re missing something because what we want for our kids is we want them to internalize those things. So we can get distracted by thinking that we are in some way in the business of raising good children. That’s not our job at all. Our job is to raise good, compassionate, faithful adults. And when we take our eye off of that, we miss a lot of opportunity. And so what sticks gave us was the opportunity to help our children, to internalize the things that we were saying, to take age-appropriate ownership over things that needed to be done in the day and to greatly, wildly reduce stress in our house. And that was awesome, but it was just for us. And then my kids would go to school, and they would talk about Sticks. And then their friends were going home and telling their parents. And then the parents were calling me saying, “What is this? And how do I get my kids on it?” And I was spending a lot of time doing that. And then one of the people who called said, “Hey, I book speakers. Can you speak on this?” And then the whole thing just took off. So it became a book from there and there’s people all over the country that use the Sticks! system.

Terrie:

I love that. I remember so many times when my kids were growing up, thinking discipline is not crime and punishment.

Nadia:

Right. It’s an interesting thing because the system as it’s set up is totally adaptable to every family. And it actually can help kids who are on the autism spectrum as well. Visual cues tend to be very helpful to kids who are on the spectrum. This gives them an opportunity to have a visual cue that they themselves are sort of learning to manage. And it can really help, especially with parents who have kids on the spectrum or people who are homeschooling or people who are just stressed out. There’s so many different ways that this can help parents because we need to be able to raise our kids to manage–entirely age appropriate–but to manage their own things. And when moms are running around, micro-managing every single detail, we’re exhausted and we don’t really get to be the moms that we wanted to be. So this gives us a little bit less of the micromanaging to do, and that will allow us to have more energy to come alongside our kids. And we think about that discipline. It really is all about teaching. We want to be able to do that–to teach our kids. But when we’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions, we’re really just being reactive. So this gives us a different approach entirely.

Terrie:

That’s fantastic. And you have two devotional books. Can you tell us about those?

Nadia:

Sure. The devotional book that’s available right now is called Decisions That Make a Difference. And that came out of another speaking topic. I was actually speaking at a conference and had been really wanting to develop this topic for parents. I think sometimes it’s easy for us to get distracted by things that maybe aren’t as important as other things. And as I looked through your podcast and your information, I know you and I are speaking the same language on this. We want to make sure that we’re putting the energy that we have as parents into teaching our children and to raising them well and to helping them to grow spiritually. All of those things are just so important, and we can find our days full of trying to break up arguments or decide who’s sippy cup is who’s–all of these things. They’re very distracting.

Nadia:

So my hope was that I could write both these books–by the way, are just quick reads that, get the information into parents hands fast, which is what I hear from parents. When I’m speaking. Just teach us right now, how to do it so we can go home and do it. And so that intention with both of those books was just to be able to get that information to parents. When we think about how we’re raising our kids, we want to make sure that we’re putting the first things first and that we’re making sure that our faith matters. We want to make sure that we’re teaching our kids to discern. Those sorts of things can get lost in the mix if we don’t have the energy to approach our parenting with intentionality. The decisions that make a difference has just a set of quick devotions, again, not a long book, but a set of quick devotions that parents can turn to that address discernment and faith and even education, which in our family, we really value education. And we want to make sure that we’re raising our kids to do the same. And at home, we want to be able to process what they’re learning so that we can help them to see all of those things through the lens of faith so that they can learn to think through what they believe about different things that they’re taught in school. All of those things, I think need our attention. And that was my hope with this book.

Terrie:

That’s great. You have a book about Christmas too–a 12-day devotional leading into Christmas?

Nadia:

Yes, yes. And that I love, love, love. I speak on Christmas on helping families to connect to faith and family during the holidays. It’s a time that’s full of so many distractions, but I think what we really want to do–it’s such an important season–is use advent to really teach our children about Jesus and his life. As I was raising my own children, one of the things that I found was I regularly would let’s say, put out my nativity set. And I remember saying things like, cause it was breakable, you know, and I would say, “Don’t touch! Don’t touch!” And I remember just feeling so convicted that I was giving that message. “Here Is this amazing story. Don’t touch.” And I wanted to do that in a different way. And so I sat down and wrote a set of devotions that are used between December 1 and December 25. And instead of setting out nativity scenes so that your kids can’t touch, the encouragement is to have one that they can touch. And each of the devotions focuses on one piece, one story within a nativity set. When you take out the shepherd, for instance, you would read a devotion about shepherds. And then you’re building that nativity set over the whole month. And then on Christmas morning, you would add Jesus to the scene. But when your children look at the nativity scene, it’s not just a precious sort of “don’t touch” thing, which really has nothing to do with the biblical story of Christmas. It was gritty and real, and we need our kids to connect with that. And so instead of having this sort of don’t touch scene, they have all of these pieces that come together to tell the story from a lot of different perspectives. The devotions for Connecting to Christmas is available through my website. And you can even do that one through digital download.

Terrie:

Awesome. You have another book too, I think, don’t you, about Easter?

Nadia:

I do. That one’s harder to get at. It was another set of devotions [March into Lent] and it walks through passion week. So if people were interested in that, they could certainly reach out to me, and I would be happy to figure out a way to get that to them. And I think we have to be realistic. There’s going to be days where you go, “Well, this–I can’t get to it today,” but if you’re getting to it regularly then those days, it’s okay. And the other thing that I think we need to do is we need to find ways to do this, these things with our children at times where we might not ordinarily consider doing that. We do the Christmas and the Easter devotions at the dinner table. So we’re all seated here. It only takes a few minutes. It gives us something to think about as when my kids were going to school. I mean, some of my kids are still in school, but my kids are older now. On the drive to school, we would often read devotions in the car. We’re all in the car together. This is a great time for devotions. So we think, you know, you have to be in a certain situation, but what we really want to teach our kids is that we can grow in our faith in a lot of different surroundings. We don’t have to take a position. We can be together. We can be talking about it as we go for a walk or as we sit in the backyard. There’s a million different ways to work it in. And for us, I mean, four kids is very full and that, for us, made a big difference–like it just helped us to see that we could find a way, find a place for that time and that intentionality.

Terrie:

That’s great. Let’s look at some of the different speaking topics. I’m very intrigued by the “Now that We Know” talk. I love that idea. You want to talk about that for a second?

Nadia:

So I love that talk. I’m super passionate about it. We, for people who are new to this and aren’t familiar with me, the “Now That We Know” talk actually helps parents to figure out how to balance the use of technology in their families. It’s entirely research-based. What I had been doing was really giving, tried and true, this is what we’ve done, this is how it worked for us sorts of ideas. I had a previous technology talk and that was kind of the idea behind that. Then as we have gotten deeper into this whole technology thing, and initially when we were putting screens into the hands of our kids, we didn’t really have any research that said, “You know what? This might not be our best bet.” And honestly, we probably knew that, but we didn’t have anything to back that up. And so now we have been at this long enough that the research is rolling out and it’s compelling.

Nadia:

When I first started to work on the talk, I was sitting with my husband going through lots and lots of research. He was working on a different part of the presentation, and I just was overwhelmed. I sat at the table, I put my head down on the table, and he said, “What’s the problem?” And I said, “As you read this research, I just feel like I can’t fix this. I can’t make it better.” It’s so clear to me that we need to take a different approach. And it’s not that we need to not use technology. Of course, we need to use technology. It’s everywhere, and it’s fine to use it. It isn’t fine to use it the way we’re using it. That’s where we have to look at what are we doing with it. What is the purpose? Are we using technology to teach or are we using it as a toy? If that’s the only question that people ask themselves, is this a toy or a tool, that’s really it. Then I think that will help to guide our decisions. What we know for sure is that kids are playing outside less. They’re talking less. They’re being spoken to less. And the deficits are clear in the classroom. It’s well-researched. It’s not my belief. It’s not my opinion. Those things are fact. I think when we look at those things, we need to say, “How can I find better balance?” Not how do I panic? Not how do I do away with all of it? How do I find better balance so that it benefits my children and it benefits your family life as well, right? Because we need to be communicating with our kids. We have this time to raise them and to be with them and to teach them. And then that’s it. And so if we are not making the most of that time, or our eyes are off the ball, that’s something that will be hard in the long term. So the presentation is research-based. It gives the research. It’s not boring. Sometimes people hear that. They’re like, oh no. It’s engaging and empowering. And the title of it “Now That We Know” is basically just a question: what will we do now that we know what the impact of technology on children is? And again, it’s not that it’s all bad. I really want to be so clear on that. It’s that we need to be careful with how we use it.

Terrie:

That’s good. And then you also have one similar “Balancing technology.”

Nadia:

And that’s the original talk. And that has a lot of “Here’s what you can do, and here’s what kids need.” And that’s important. It’s important for us to know, like kids need to be spending this much time outside per day. They need to be moving this much per day. They need to rest this much per day. But the “Now That We Know” talk really puts the muscle of current research behind that.

Terrie:

Well, and I also love, and along the same lines, the time to play outside, I was reading a book the other day that talked about how many children today have no connection to nature. And therefore they also don’t have a connection to taking care of our world because they don’t go outside. You know, they’re just aren’t in touch with it at all. And, and then I see that you say this talk will address our fears. And I think that’s a lot for the young parents today. Well, when we were kids, we just ran outside and came in when it was too dark to see anymore. And now you just can’t let them go outside alone hardly ever. And so i love that you take the time to address that as well. Can you tell us a little more about that talk?

Nadia:

I would really encourage that your listeners take some time to look up a book called The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. And he addresses so much of this stuff. He talks about what we’re afraid of, and he talks about the safety things. Andin reality, and I was so surprised to learn this, there are two things that we need to know in terms of having our kids play outside and what we are afraid of. What we hear from parents is that they’re afraid that somebody will harm their child. And statistically, it is the vast majority of instances where a child would tragically be harmed or taken, it has to do with a person known to the family. So there’s that. Everyone knows their own situation, whether that’s something that is pertinent for you, but statistically there isn’t a higher rate of crime now, in terms of children, than there was when we were growing up. The problem is when we were growing up, we had the news on from five to six or whatever, and not 24 hours a day. And so we’re so much more aware of what’s happening everywhere. You know, you’ll hear a story about something that happened to somebody that happened in New Jersey and Los Angeles. And, you know, and it feels like it’s so much more now than it has been in the past. And so part of it is we don’t need to be flippant. We need to watch our children. We need to create safe ways for them to play. So I’m not in any way suggesting that parents need to just say, “Oh, it’s fine.” And push them out the door. We need to set up situations so that they can be safe. But we also need to be able to tell ourselves that some of the things that we’re afraid of are perceived more than real. I think the thing that we need to be really careful about is our kids are afraid of being outside. And we will, as adults, sort of hand the responsibility of taking care of the world to our kids really soon. And if they’re afraid of bugs and wind and dirt and falling and whatever, what, how will they care for nature? They’ll see it differently than the current generation sees it. And so we want to raise kids that can interact with it and love it and experience it. Those sorts of things are just so, so important. So that book really helped a ton. We raised our kids to play outside every single day. When I say that, because I live outside of Chicago. People are like, “What if it’s cold?” And I tell them, you know what? I spend a fortune on their coats and there snow pants and their boots and their hats. I want those things worn out by the end of the year or by the end of the winter. You know, if it’s drizzly, your child can play in water. You bathe them every day, and they live to tell the tale. So get them outside, let them play, let them experience it, let them climb trees and roll in the grass. And when we look at how kids have had so many fewer experiences in terms of sensory experiences, we do need to be really mindful that they need that input. They need the input of jumping and honestly screaming and getting dirty and the grit on their feet and all of those things help their sensory systems.

Nadia:

And so we do need to make a plan to have them be outside. The other thing that I think is really important is we have nationally this epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. And, personally, it stresses me out and embarrasses me that we struggle with us. In order to have more vitamin D than you can possibly need to use in a day, you only have to have a child outside in sunlight–you know, if it’s cloudy, it’s different–but in sunlight for 10 minutes, and that tells you something about how little our kids are playing outside. So we need to just get them out there. Vitamin D builds our immune systems and we are certainly living in a time where we need a strong immune system. Research tells us the kids that have contact with green things outside, learn better. If you have contact with trees and sky, so this is actually researched outside, and then you come back inside, they actually take the information in better. And so when you think about it, we’re trying to, you know, make the most of these minutes that we have kids at school, but we’re doing it in a way that they can’t take in the information easily. It’s one of those things that needs to be revisited. That is a huge, huge thing. And so I’m hoping I do see some schools that are making a movement in that direction. The school that my kids attended had 15 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunch, 15 in the afternoon. And they kept those a little bit as they grew. They would have a little bit less recess, but even in middle school, they were still having a break in the morning inside and then a 30-minute recess at lunch, even in middle school. There are schools that do it. I really want to encourage parents to know how much recess your child is getting and to be an advocate for them. Here’s the thing. I think teachers want the kids outside. If parents would rise up and say, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense. How can we help?” You know, not in a mean and angry way, but in a supportive way, the teachers, I think, will quickly come behind that, and our kids will have more time outside, which is definitely an important thing.

Terrie:

Yeah, that’s good. Nadia, thank you for all you’ve shared today. I’ve enjoyed talking with you and we will continue this conversation next week as this is going to be a two-parter conversation. And so please join us next week. As we continue talking with Nadia. If you would like to connect with Nadia, you can reach her at her website, nadiaswearingenfreisen.com. And I’ll have that link in the show notes. And if you’d like to connect with me, you can reach me at TerrieHellardBrown.com. Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. As we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with all their hearts.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

2 thoughts on “Episode 66: Interview with Speaker, Author, and Teacher Nadia Swearingen-Friesen”

  1. Wow, what a wonderful topic. Wish I would have had this information when I was raising children, however what I can do is share it with as many young mothers as i can!!!

    1. Terrie Hellard Brown

      I know! She has so much good information. We have part two of this interview next week. I really loved talking with her. I’m thinking she and I might need to put together an online workshop for parents. Wouldn’t that be fun!

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