Nancy Lublin on Raising Responsibly Cool Kids in New York City…And the Power of Red Polish

At nine and a half years old, Nancy Lublin’s daughter presented a PowerPoint presentation to both her parents to explain her need for a cell phone. A few years later, her son did the same thing. “After they presented, we deliberated for 15 minutes. But really we were just laughing. Our kids had outsmarted us.”

It’s no surprise her two children were able to craft such articulate arguments. They come from pretty incredible genes. Lublin is the CEO of Crisis Text Line, the free, 24/7 text message service for people in crisis and was the creator of Dress For Success. Here, she talks about raising responsible (and cool) kids in the city and how to talk about real stuff.

You have managed to raise two responsible, respectful, and extremely cool kids in New York City. What is your secret?

We always treated them like “People-in-Training”. After they were babies, there was never any “kid” food. We’ve never made dinner that was just for them. We never did the kids’ menus at a restaurant. They would always eat off the adult menu. There were no phones or iPads allowed in restaurants or special treatment that way. We always thought they should be part of the conversation and part of what we were doing.

How were you able to raise your kids in an in city urban environment safely but give also give them a sense of autonomy?

I love the phone because we can track them through Find My Friends and they can tell us where they are. That makes me more comfortable letting them go to different places. For example, my son’s birthday was last week. I gave my daughter $40 and said, “You’re in charge of the cake.” So, she went to D’agostino and decided to make a S’Mores cake. She bought a box of vanilla cake, a box of chocolate cake, graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows and she made a S’Mores cake for him. And the cake was baller. Of course, I was on day two of The Whole 30 so I didn’t get to eat it but it looked beautiful and I’m told it was delicious.

The ACTUAL S’Mores Cake!

What’s the biggest benefit of raising kids in a city?

Here’s the thing that I love about being in the city that I think is counterintuitive. We have a small apartment. We spend our time together. I grew up in the suburbs and I had my own room. There was a basement playroom. There was a living room. There was a den. And we could all hide from each other. We had multiple TV’s and oftentimes we were all watching different things. Now, we have one TV and one living space and we’re all there together. Recently we watched all of MacGyver. Every single episode of MacGyver in order. That was a really fun family activity.

Do you have any advice to parents about how to talk to kids about difficult issues?

Never start a question with the word “why”. The word “why” is pretty useless. It puts someone on their heels and makes someone feel defensive. It sounds like an accusation. If you’re worried about your kids ask them a question directly. Instead of just saying, “I’m here for you and I care about you,” actually, it’s not suggestive or harmful to look at them and say, “I care about you. I love you. Are you thinking about killing yourself?” You actually need to ask that directly. That’s what our data shows. Give them a loving context and then ask the hard question directly. It’s actually a way of making them feel seen.

What does 7 a.m. look like in your home?

We’re all already up and with any luck everybody is showered. At 7:00 a.m. I get the KPI’s from the past 24 hours of my work, so I’m on my phone looking at slack. My husband’s pretty great about putting out some kind of breakfast and then we walk the High Line to school. It’s really civilized. [When we get to school] I make them kiss me and if they won’t, I scream loudly “I love you” as loud as I can. Multiple times. In front of all the other parents and kids. Because a good chunk of my job is embarrassing them. That’s a huge part of parenting.

What do you do if you have a free hour to yourself?

I have red nails and they get done every week. Forever Yummy, Essie 656. And that has been the same color for 14 years. When my daughter was born, I was severely pre-eclamptic. It was a very bad situation. I was crying and a mess and the NICU nurses said, “You can’t cry here. You have to be strong.” And I turned to one of them and said, “I need a red lipstick.” I somehow decided in that moment that was the color of being a strong mom. And ever since then I’ve had red nails. And my daughter knows the story and I keep this color in all of my handbags and in lots of pockets. I’ve had the same nail color since February 7th 2005. Now it’s called Forever Young. So I outlasted the name.

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