Today on the podcast you're going to hear a really fun conversation with Sadie Robertson Huff and her mom, Kori Robertson. They've talked a lot about their family publicly, and Kori even wrote a book called Strong and Kind that talks a lot about parenting and family. We're really excited to have them on today!
Kori, you guys are launching some healthy kids that love Jesus, and I know you would never claim you've done it perfectly. But you have gotten some things right - they like you and they liked God. So Sadie, I want to start with just hearing what it was like growing up in your house?
Sadie: Honestly, it was a lot of fun. This is what I always say about my parents, because everyone always asks me, "what's the key to success?" They ask mom that too. Mom and dad were just really fun and they had a lot of fun. They were strict and they were our parents, but they were never scary to come to and talk about real stuff. I asked my mom every question in the world, and all my siblings made fun of me for it because they knew if anything got to me, it would get to mom. It was awesome though, because it made us have a relationship and helped me grow more in wisdom. But at the end of the day, we're just a bunch of goofy people who liked to laugh at each other and at ourselves. Lots of game nights and lots of pizza.
Well, I love what you're saying because in this whole series, what we're talking about is fighting for kids. We're looking at the next generation coming and talking about our minds and how to not be paralyzed by anxiety and fear. The number one question I've gotten since the book came out is how do we help our kids? The statistics among children with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts is rampant in this next generation. I know Kori you were determined to fight for your kids. What has that felt like for you as you have lots of different personalities and lots of different passions and gifts?
Kori: Every kid is going to come out different, whether you have biological children or adopted children. God made them unique and different. I wish I would have known this when they were younger. God created them to be who they are, with their unique and original personalities. It's part of our job to protect that and help them grow into who God made them to be. All these outside influences can come in and stop that and prevent that because of fear, security, shame, or just different things that come into their life. So I think it's our job to say you know what? I'm not allowing that to come into our kids' lives and change who God wanted them to be. Knowing each of their kids and what's come into their lives and what are their blockers is really important. Sadie was right - I did try to get my kids to tell me everything. I wanted them to talk to me from a really young age. We try to be open and honest, and if they told me something that was kind of alarming, I tried not to react. Just try to keep the face and talk through it. I remember hearing, and I read a lot of parenting books about how to raise kids well, and I remember someone saying, "you have to romance your kids, because you want them to love you and like you, because that is the first step to loving and liking God." The way we interact with our kids teaches them what a good father and a good parent is like. That's a lot of pressure! But God covers all of our mistakes, and sometimes we have to come in and apologize and say we screwed up. I'm not perfect and I'm not God, so I'm going to mess it up.
Some of those moments are the best moments too. The times I've made the biggest mistakes and had to own up to it, the hurt has caused more intimacy than the times we've done it right. I think that helps relieve some of the pressure. It's a relationship! I know for a lot of people listening, they want their kids to open up to them. So how did you do it? What did it look like? Especially if you have kids that don't open up as easily.
Kori: Yeah, Sadie is a natural talker. She likes to ask all the questions. I remember when I told her about sex and the birds and the bees, she asked me every single question you can imagine. We talked until 1am and we got to the end of it and she said, "I'm not sure I wanted to know all that." I told her I would be honest and answer all her questions! So she was naturally like that. Other kids aren't that way. I think there is a point where you have to look for those opportunities, look for the moment, and figure out when you can catch them. Even if you're tired, because sometimes it's late at night. But I try to use that time and listen and be there. There's a Mother Teresa quote that says, "God hasn't called me to be successful, he has called me to be faithful." It just takes the pressure off of me. I don't have to do it right all the time. I just have to be there every day. I have to get up and be faithful and be in the moment. So that's what I've tried to do.
I think back to your book, Strong and Kind, and it's been awhile since I've read it, but I remember thinking I liked it so much. I don't really like parenting books, candidly. They make me feel pressure, but yours didn't do that. You gave these attributes of where you wanted your kids to go, and it helps to not feel like we have to do it all right. There are these end goals in mind, and we can kind of be in process together toward that rather than following these three steps.
Kori: Yeah, the steps were not our personality. We don't do anything the same on any other day. I think the part of it I wanted to get across, is that we didn't tell our kids what we wanted them to be in life. We never wanted to put pressure on them to like, work in the family business or something. We really don't have these goals for our kids. We had goals for the type of people they would be. It challenges you as a parent, because if I want my daughter to be fearless, then I have to live fearless. If I want her to be kind to others, I have to be kind to others. It always ends up turning back on yourself, which is life with Jesus. We're always trying to become more like him, knowing that his death on the cross has covered all of our sins. If we're the kind of people we want our children to be, we're not putting it on them as rules, but we're showing them what it looks like.
Did you feel that way Sadie? Did you learn more from watching them and who they were than what they said?
Sadie: Forsure. 100%. They modeled it out. Mom always says this, and it's so true, they were the same no matter what room they walked in and no matter what successes they had. That's huge because we saw this genuine heart to pursue kindness and to pursue strength but not in their own strength. We knew that was coming from God. I didn't even notice this until I was reading my vows to Christian, but in them I said, "I love how strong you are and how kind you are." When I said them, I was like, oh. That's who I wanted! I was looking for the attributes of strong and kind because my family modeled that. It's cool that the person I'm trying to become daily is also the people I'm looking for to spend my life with.
Kori: One thing I've always felt insecure about when talking about our family or kids is when people ask, "what were your steps? Did you have daily devotion or weekly devotion?" We really didn't. We weren't good at that. We were not that parents that had Sunday night devotional time. We weren't even super good at routines.
That's our family and I'm so comforted right now. We are way to fly by the seat of our pants.
Kori: That's how we are too! Yeah we're just not good at that. We didn't have steps, we just tried the best we could to live it. When we didn't we tried to own up to it and be honest and ask for help when we needed it.
Sadie: That's the thing too, is seeing two people that aren't perfect, because they would own up to their mistakes they are making in that moment or mistakes that they made in their past. That makes you want to go to them and tell your stuff to them, because you're not afraid that they're going to be like, "oh my gosh, like how could you ever?" They didn't set this stage where they were perfect and didn't make mistakes. We saw them pursuing the Lord and it makes you as a kid want to go to them, ask questions, and be vulnerable.
I think that takes off so much pressure. If we're after kids that know how to make mistakes and know how to apologize, where are they going to learn it? What you said is so powerful Sadie, to be launching into adulthood and realize it was more about what your parents did and who they were than what they told me. It's freeing because it allows you to make mistakes in front of your kids. It teaches them so much more than us being perfect or pretending we are.
Kori: Willy and I disagree on 90% of things in life. We were just raised so differently. I mean our faith was the same and we were both raised in Christian homes, but other than that, it was the complete opposite. So we think differently and our kids see us argue and disagree. We need to be unified on important things, but it's also important for our kids to see the disagreement sometimes. You don't want your kids to get married and think you're never supposed to argue. That's not real life. Hopefully that was a learning thing for them to see that we can argue and still respect and love each other.
You don't want to hide your fights so well that they get married and they're just shocked. This week Zac and I had a fight, and we've been married 22 years, so they're way less frequent than they used to be. Cooper came down the next morning, because Zac and I were yelling, and was giggling to our other kids about us fighting. My other kids laughed and just said, "they always work it out." But he was so proud he got to know the secret that mom and dad fight! Kori, I want to talk about a crisis with you and one of your kids where you felt like something was about to be a total screw up. There are little moments of everyday, but there's also moments as your kids get older, where the moments are big. Maybe a situation where you didn't know what to do.
Kori: I'll use Sadie since she's here. I think when Sadie went on Dancing with the Stars. I don't want people to think they can't relate to that, but it was this moment where I felt like, am I going to allow my child this freedom? She was going to be around people that might not have the same values as us. Or was I going to protect her and keep her close and feel safe. I felt a lot of insecurity and fear about that.
Sadie how old were you?
Sadie: I was 17, but I was 16 when I went to the interview.
Kori: Yeah, up until that time, we had a show, but we were in Louisiana and it was all our family together. There were a lot of things we had to navigate just from that, with social media, letting our children be put out there, and all those things. But we got to the point where she got asked to be on Dancing with the Stars and I was gripped with fear. I just didn't know if I was making the right decision. I'll never forget a friend of mine saying, "you don't need to be scared for her. She has the spirit of God living in her." It's not just me protecting my kids and making sure everything is right. The Spirit of God is with them more than me and he loves them more than I do. He's got it. It was a real moment for me to release and let them go into the world. I wanted them to dream big and do anything, and that requires me letting them go. It was a lesson for me. I remember when Sadie was little and we were at a waterpark. They had handlebars and Sadie was trying to go across, but it was getting difficult for her. I told her, "it's okay if you need to drop! You can drop." She was maybe 5 years old or something. Some man said to me, "don't tell her that. Tell her she can do it!" I was like, you're right. So then I told her she could do it! And she did. It was such a moment to me. It helped me to see that our kids can be more than we think they can. They have the Spirit of God and they're strong. So many times we kind of let them off the hook and say they're kids, they're teenagers, they're whatever. But sometimes we need to step up and say, you know what, you got this. God's behind you. He's in you. He's with you. Go for it.
I love that analogy. It's such a big thing to let your girl soar into the whole wide world, and yet, that releasing of Sadie shaped her. When you told me your story Sadie, I remember that experience shaped so much of you - more than anything else in your life. Kori, you had to get over some of your legitimate fears so that God could work in that way. That's what I take away from that. That letting go and opening your hands and releasing them happens over and over from the time they're little. It's constantly opening our hands and letting go. Having just sent a kid to college, it's a scary thing. So I can't even imagine sending a kid into something so big like that. We are raising these kids ultimately to let them go and to let them soar. In the beginning, the tighter you hold, the better mom you are. You hang on and take care of their needs and you're winning. Then all the sudden, that's not healthy. From 10-14 years old, you have to start letting go because then you become that parent you didn't mean to become.
Sadie, you're giving your life to this next generation. I specifically want you to talk to them for a minute. Or even just their parents that might be listening and their kids are struggling from anxiety or depression or even suicidal thoughts. What would you say to those that are younger and feel stuck in their minds?
Sadie: First of all I'd say, I get it. Years ago when I was going through a similar time, I felt so stuck in anxiety. I literally thought it was who I was. I just thought I was an anxious person. I didn't think I could control that I have panic attacks. Time after time of calling mom and her speaking scripture over me, it began to sink into my mind and heart. I started to quote that over and over and over anytime I started feeling fear or anxiety. I had to fight it. I would say to anyone struggling, don't let yourself lose the battle of your mind. You can win the battle of your mind. Surround yourself with people who can speak truth over your mind when you can't. When I was telling myself I am anxiety, I am fearful, I am fearful, there was somebody there speaking scripture over me and telling me the truth. At one point, mom and other people were fighting for me. Then I became strong enough to fight for myself. I recognized the thoughts when they would creep in. I recognized the lifestyle patterns that were causing some of those things to happen. I think that's really important - identifying the lifestyle you're living in that might be playing a role in why you're thinking those thoughts. Talk to somebody about it. Don't try to fight it by yourself...As a generation, we're struggling with this more than ever. Some of it is chemical imbalance, but there's also some stuff that we put on ourselves. It's become a normal thing to say, "I struggle with mental illness." Every college campus I go to, everybody struggles with mental illness. Everybody struggles with anxiety. Everybody struggles with depression. Those things might be really real, but it's not a cool thing. We don't want to identify ourselves with anxiety. We don't want to identify ourselves with depression. We have to start fighting it and feel the need to fight it. That's not something we want to cling onto. Until my mom said, you're not anxiety, that's fear. I was like, I don't want that! Fear sounds worse than anxiety. Anxiety was the standard thing to say. The fear was leading me to worry and anxiety. I had to understand that it wasn't healthy or cute or a good thing. It made me want to fight. I wanted to get the tools to fight it. The Word of God and other people helping me.
I am like coming out of my skin, because this is so good. If we're comfortable with it, we'll never leave it. If we think, this is just our lot, we have to struggle with it, we won't get in this battle and fight. There's probably some of you saying, "I don't think this is cool. I want to fight. I just don't know how! I don't know if I can change." I think you can hear all three of us saying, there is power to shift things. Kori, I would love to hear when your kids were little, what did you do to help them not spiral in fear or anger or whatever? What does it look like to grab that 5-year-old by the shoulders and help them out of their spiral?
Kori: Sadie was more naturally fearful from a young age. I really tried to not allow her to live in it. I tried to still make her do the thing. I remember the first time she went to camp, which is literally the camp our family runs, we're all there. It's not like she's at some camp on her own. Our house was on the property. But she was still homesick! I remember the closing program, they all get up there and sing, and she did not want to get up there and do this. But I told her, you can do it. I have a video of her literally standing on that front row bawling crying. All the other kids are singing and doing their little hand motions, and she's standing there crying. But she's still standing there! I've always believed that you don't get over fear by not doing the thing you're scared of. You get over fear by doing the thing you're scared of. So I give her the encouragement and protection I can, but I tell her she can do it. You're going to do this. You're going to be there. It might be scary but you can do it. We would take some deep breaths, blow the candles out, put up five fingers and blow them out, whatever we can do.
Sadie: For parents dealing with kids like me who were anxious of everything, scared of everything, and didn't feel like they could do anything. There was a moment in my life where the revelation hit me that everytime I do something I'm scared of, I've conquered fear. It's that simple. Everytime I would survive it and be okay. I was always memorized by scary things. I loved to watch the weather channel and see the tornado stories. But then of course I would be afraid of them. I loved to look at facts about shark attacks. I was that person. But what I found, I always wanted to know how people who survived those things get back into the water. It turns out that people who survive those things are less scared of them because they've survived it. It's this thing called survivor's confidence. I started thinking about that with little things that I'm afraid of. You gain this confidence when you do it. You can trust yourself and trust God when you survive something you didn't think you could. Mom pushing me to do those things helped me see that I will survive and be better for it. Now I'm probably too far on the other side. I didn't just grow out of my fear though - I kept having to work through those things. Mom kept having to speak those things over me.
Kori: Moms will sometimes say their kids are shy or they're bratty or afraid or stubborn or something like that, but I was careful not to say those things in front of my kids. We didn't want to speak those words over them. We said affirming words and the things we wanted to see in them, instead of the things we maybe saw right in that moment.
That's so helpful and so encouraging, because it's so easy to just say everything negative. I think about Cooper right now, because I'm still in the thick of parenting with him. I just did an interview with Dr. Chapman about the 5 love languages, and I walked right into my house, I looked him in the eye, and I grabbed him by the face, and I spoke all this truth over him. He literally stood up straighter and smiled so big and said, "thank you mom." I mean it was almost like the grew up as I was doing this. This was like 20 minutes ago. I just think if we can speak life over our kids, the things we hope for them, I think they rise to it. I think they want to believe those things about themselves too.
I hope you guys enjoyed this episode of the podcast with Kori and Sadie! Make sure to check out the whole episode and more from this season on the Made for This podcast!