I think every child needs the presence of their parents. They need that reinforcement or reassurance that somebody cares about them and loves them. Love, care, and attention are central aspects of development and nurturing. It’s a truth for both humans and animals — you need to feel loved and wanted.
As a part of our series about how busy leaders make time to be great parents, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. William Seeds. Dr. Seeds is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and physician.
Thank you for joining us Dr. Seeds! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I had an uneventful childhood in the best possible way. My two devoted and affectionate parents had demanding careers — my father was a physician and researcher, and my mother was a social worker.
I was the oldest of three boys, and growing up, my brothers and I were given a lot of freedom and independence. We spent a lot of time outdoors, and our parents would only expect us back home in time for dinner.
My father was especially busy, and he would sometimes miss our school and sporting events. So my mom made sure that family dinners were a priority in our family.
It was something I could depend on. Regardless of my parents’ schedules or work demands, our family would gather for a meal each night to talk about our day.
My parents would use this time as an opportunity to encourage us to reflect and figure out how we could improve. I was pretty much in charge of myself.
My parents never pushed us, but they always encouraged us to push ourselves. Growing up, I knew I could depend on these family dinners and my parents’ support and affection.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
My uneventful childhood came crashing down when I was 17 years old―my father died unexpectedly. We were jogging together in my highschool when my dad dropped dead on the track.
My father’s death came as a shock to everyone because my father seemed to be in good shape and he was very athletic. My life changed immediately after that.
I lost my father right in front of me, and there was nothing I could do about that. So I asked myself, what would dad want me to do?
I thought that he would’ve wanted me to take care of everyone, so that’s what I did. I took on that role and basically skipped the grieving process altogether.
I pushed my mother and brothers to forge on. I just felt that we needed to move on, get over it, and make the best of it.
My father’s death essentially spurred my interest in health. I couldn’t stop asking why.
I didn’t want history to repeat itself, so health became an even bigger priority. It was around this time that I started college and I began reading up on nutrition.
I didn’t just learn more about health and nutrition, but I learned how to learn more about it. At that time, we were never taught how to do research or how to look for information.
The book gave me the insight and the ability on how to get smarter. And that’s all I needed.
So that was a turning point in my career. Even if I was a business and finance major, I spent my college years building my knowledge and expertise on health and nutrition.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I really value the ability to adapt to different situations, and this is evident in my day to day. So it’s tricky to describe an average day because it varies depending on my interest and current commitments.
I usually start the day very early, and I give myself the morning to explore my interests. Some days, I might begin with some training in the morning.
On other days, I’ll spend the first few hours researching and reading. My wife is usually up early and takes care of making breakfast.
Over breakfast, we calibrate and discuss our plans for the day. Over the years, we’ve learned that our kids’ plans can change overnight, so we usually wait until breakfast before we hit up our son and ask him what his plans are for the day.
We make sure that at least one of us is present for school or extracurricular events. After breakfast, we’re all off to the races.
I usually spend the rest of my day in the office, hospital, or operating room. It isn’t uncommon for me to see 60–100 patients in a single day.
If it’s an operating day, I can handle up to 14 cases. I’m in and out of meetings, I teach interns, and I may take a few Skype meetings or conference calls as well.
So I really rely on my staff and scheduler, Shauna, to make sure I have time for everything. My office understands that my family is an integral part of my life.
So Shauna coordinates with my wife to make sure that I make time for all the kids events (even the college kids). I usually end the day doing high intensity and weight resistance training, especially if I didn’t get to it in the morning.
I set up a gym in my garage at home so my family knows where to find me. Typically, it’s where everybody ends up and that’s where we say goodnight.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
I think every child needs the presence of their parents. They need that reinforcement or reassurance that somebody cares about them and loves them.
Love, care, and attention are central aspects of development and nurturing. It’s a truth for both humans and animals — you need to feel loved and wanted.
A sense of belonging is important. In our family, we do everything together.
Ever since they were young, we wouldn’t leave them at home and we travel together. It’s just the way we did it because we knew they needed to be included.
Actively including your kids also makes for better communication. Life is all about the art of communication, and it starts between you and your child.
Communication is essential for all the right things to happen, and it also helps avoid some of the wrong things. But even when you can’t avoid the wrong things, communication allows you to understand each other.
Through communication, you can show an interest in your kids’ lives. It’s also the best way to respectfully set boundaries because children need boundaries and they need to feel respected.
At the end of the day, it isn’t just the amount of time you spend with your kids. It’s about the quality and consistency of that time.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
I don’t think you can compare families on time because it’s more about the quality of time and what you do with the time. For example, you can be a divorced parent and not have the luxury of that time, but you can still be the most effective parent in the work.
You can also be a parent who works two jobs, so you end up missing out on a lot of events. Yet you’re able to devote a specific amount of time to your child and your child knows it.
I think consistency is key. Your child should know that they can depend on you.
Again, it all starts with communication. It’s important to remember that each child is different, so it’ll impact how you spend your time with them.
Your child may enjoy doing activities, like working out. Other kids might prefer conversing with you while you’re traveling in the car.
Every kid is different, so they’ll open up in different ways and in different contexts. Whatever activity or context they prefer, consistency is key.
We all go through the days when the kids don’t seem to want to talk about anything, but you’ll also have amazing days when they just want to rock and roll and tell you everything. You want to make sure that when they have those amazing days, your kids know that you’re there and you’re listening.
You have to be a good listener. When they’re ready to open up, seize those moments!
That’s your shot! It’s an opportunity to get information, encourage them, and give them your feedback.
You can’t always force your kids to talk to you, so you need to be ready when they’re ready. Again, it’s not the quantity of time, but the quality.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
We always make time for our kids in the morning. The kids know it’s a critical time because we want to know what’s happening.
The morning is the best time to figure out our plan for the day. Apart from that, we sometimes alter our travel plans to make more room for family time.
Instead of traveling cross-country on a plane, sometimes we’ll travel by car because it’s a chance to get everybody together. My kids can’t get away from me, and they’ll have to talk to me.
So, that’s led to amazing conversations. We also have conversational rituals where we get our kids to answer questions.
I think it’s really important to ask questions because you’ll keep getting answers. You may not hear what you want but you’ll eventually get it.
Whenever they share an experience, we encourage them to reflect by asking them what they enjoyed about the day or what they wouldn’t want to do again. Just like my own parents, asking these types of questions help develop a thinking pattern.
Our best conversations happen in the car, the weight room, or in the kitchen, where we’re all together. It helps to know where we can find each other.
Growing up, my boys knew that my wife and scheduler would find ways to make it work. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing; I’ll always find time to be there for them.
There are times when I decline activities so I can be there for my family. Some people may tell me I’m nuts for not being there, but with the help of my scheduler, I can usually work around things.
From my own childhood, realizing how hard my father worked but knowing that I could always depend on spending time with him over dinner was great. It was tough when he missed out on school events though, so I’m trying to make it work so that I can be there for my kids’ events.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
1. You can let your child know that there’s a time of the day where you’re always accessible.
If they have that one thing right there, that’s gold.
For us, that happens in the morning. It’s when we can ask them about their plans and we can tell them about ours.
It’s just important to tell your children about your own day because you’re a team.
2.Make more space in your lives for quality time.
For example, even if your children ride the bus, make an effort to pick them up from school every week or even just twice a month.
Regardless of how often you can do it, make it consistent and make sure your kids know when you’ll be there to pick them up. After school pick-ups are a great opportunity for conversation.
Even if they don’t end up sharing too much on your ride home, your kids will appreciate your presence and the effort you put into setting aside some time for them.
3. Plan activities.
For example, you can exercise with your kids.
Exercise is an activity you can introduce to your kids at a young age, and it’ll also have a positive impact on their lifestyle. When you do it together, it’s also another opportunity to talk and get to know each other.
By planning activities with your kids, you’re also teaching them about time management — another important skill that will also have an impact on their lifestyle.
4. End events or vacations with questions.
We encourage our kids to reflect and at the same time, we also share our thoughts.
It’s a great chance for your kids to get to know you as well. They can learn about how you evaluate situations and your own interests.
5. Encourage reading while they’re young.
When our kids were young and wanted an Xbox, we monitored the amount of time they spent playing and they needed to “pay back” that time by reading.
So we really kept score of the hours they spent playing on the Xbox and made sure they spent the same amount of time on books. Aside from that, we also make reading fun by reading at the same time.
It’s important to set an example. It makes a difference when your kids see you’re doing the same thing.
Over the years, we’ve seen our kids become amazing and prolific readers who spent more time reading than playing Xbox. It’s a pivotal moment in your kids’ lives.
If you give your child the expertise of reading, then you’ve given them the key to life. Reading gives them a command of language which equips them with invaluable comprehension and communication abilities.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or a story?
A good parent is someone who shows their kids love, care, and concern. Good parents are consistent, and they make time for their kids.
There are different paths to achieve this consistency, but what’s important is that the child is aware of it and feels respected. Apart from this, a good parent also shows they are in charge.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
For us, “dream big” is something we constantly communicate with our children in different ways. You need to instill in your child that there’s nothing they can’t do.
We explain to them that when somebody says you can’t do something, it should be an indication that you can. The way to instill this is by empowering your kids by not doing things for them.
Your children can dream big if they know they can accomplish things by themselves.
One of my kids in college recently shared that when he was younger, he thought they would have the best projects because his parents were smart and his dad was a scientist.
But apart from inquiring about their plans and ideas, we didn’t really help them. Later on, he realized how important that was.
Even though his projects didn’t look as great as the others, he would learn something every time and he improved with each project. Eventually, he started figuring things out for himself.
To give your child confidence and independence is gold. It’s not always easy because as parents, you always want to help your child.
When they’re confident and independent, they can dream big because they know they can do it. Every night a bed time, we would tell our kids: “Tomorrow, we’re searching for excellence.”
It may be a cliche now, but now our kids have great respect for that. They search for the best in everything because there’s nothing they can’t achieve.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
I think success is when your kids tell you that they understand what you did and they thank you for it. It makes all the difference.
When they say, “You were tough on me here, but thank you.” Seeing my family enjoy life is success for me.
Personally, it’s also about being happy, motivated, and being challenged. Every time you feel like you’ve accomplished something, you always ask: “What are we doing next?”
So, success is really more about the journey than the results. It’s a constant evolution because once you think you’re successful, then you’re done because what else is there?
Apart from that, success also has a relational component. When people respect you and know you as a good person, that’s an indication of success.
I find that I become more successful when I listen to people. If you can listen, you’re successful.
Money and prestige are great things, but they’re fleeting. It’s really about becoming a better person, parent, and husband, and the ability to balance your responsibilities.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I don’t really have any books, podcasts, or other resources that inspire me to be a better parent. It’s mostly intuitive, and I believe there are many ways to be a great parent.
My way just happens to work for us. I would never say I’m an expert on parenting because I’m always learning.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The first story is about having a moral compass. When I was really young, my dad let me go into a hardware store to buy something.
The owner gave me more change than necessary, so I was really happy and I told my dad. My dad told me that it wasn’t right and I needed to go give back the money.
I didn’t think it was a big deal but my dad thought otherwise. So I had to go back in and line up to give back the money.
When I tried to give back the money, the owner said that I could keep the change. I wanted to keep it but my dad wanted me to give it back.
So I said, “Sir, I can’t take it. It’s not right.” He took the money from me and said, “Son, you’re going to go a long way.”
Back then, I didn’t know what he meant, but I never forgot it. It’s about the importance of having a moral authority, and I learned that at a young age over a couple of cents.
The next story is about the value of hard work. One day, out of the blue, my dad brought me to the living room and said: “I want you to think about this. You’re going to have a very difficult time in your life trying to achieve this level of success to take care of your family and provide all these things I’m able to provide for you, your brothers, and mother.”
After that, I found different ways to earn and save money. I had a lawn mowing business and a paper route with my brothers. It also taught me to manage my time better.
Back then, I had no idea what he meant. But it pushed me to work hard and learn the value of money.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The future of the world is the power of our youth. So the movement would have to involve investing time in your children and making them feel relevant.
It’s about showing your children that you know them, you care about them, and you want to know more about them. It’s letting them know you’re there for them when it’s good and when it’s bad.
Our success is based on helping our children. It’s an investment because they are the future.
This is how we’re going to make the world a better place: instilling all the right stuff in our children.
At the end of the day, all that matters is family. Relationships make life meaningful.
It’s a lifelong process. But if I can do it, you can do it.
Parenting is a lifelong journey and there are always ways you can improve as a parent. Dr. Seeds doesn’t claim to be an expert in parenting, but through this interview, he shares invaluable experiences which we can all learn from.
Thank you for all of these great insights!