“Why reading to your kids is so important” With Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Shannon Nash

Reading to your kids — Definitely when my kids were younger I spent a lot of time doing this. Reading allows you to spend present, uninterrupted time bonding and focusing on your child. Some of the best conversations about my values, morales, ethics come from time spent reading to my kids and sharing personal stories […]

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Reading to your kids — Definitely when my kids were younger I spent a lot of time doing this. Reading allows you to spend present, uninterrupted time bonding and focusing on your child. Some of the best conversations about my values, morales, ethics come from time spent reading to my kids and sharing personal stories inspired from the reading in a particular book.

I had the pleasure to interview Shannon Nash. Shannon is the chief financial officer and chief operating officer for InsideSource. She brings more than 20 years of experience in business operations, finance, human resources, IT, and legal to the role. An attorney and a CPA, Nash is passionate about building companies, teams, and people. Nash began her career as a tax attorney with KPMG, K&L Gates LLP, and Cooley LLP. She has also served as a senior attorney with Amgen in Thousand Oaks, CA, executive director of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, CFO of Sunseeker Media, COO of Aspire University, and vice president of finance for Cumulus Media’s San Francisco market. Nash holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Igrew up in the DC Area (Northern Virginia Suburbs) with my parents and a younger sister.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I credit the drive and determination to my father, the lessons he taught me and the example he gave me. He was able to move himself and his family out of a small Midwest factory town to Washington DC (a big city) and gain a law degree. This led to many of his siblings, neighbors, friends all coming to DC (often living with us for awhile) to obtain education and then themselves becoming lawyers, doctors, MBAs. This education changed the trajectory of entire generations. I credit that single move from even allowing me to dream and have a career.

I also credit my son’s autism diagnosis for propelling me to leave my corporate legal job at a major Fortune 500 company and dive into the world of business and finance which uliantely led me to the C-Suite.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

In a home with two working parents with kids there is always something to do!

WEEKDAYS — We try and have dinner together at least 2–3 days a week, but with the kids sports schedule and work/professional events on weeknights both my husband and I are obligated to attend, we do not always meet this goal. Mornings start early for us, getting the kids ready for school before we head off to work all day. Even on the nights where we are not all able to gather for dinner together, my husband and I tag team nightly check-ins to make sure homework is done and we do not lose track of our kids lives at this time that we know our involvement is critical!

WEEKENDS — Full of Kid activities during the day (soccer, lacrosse, band performance, etc) and nights at events — both social and some professional. We have a family calendar to keep it all together but admittedly several things slip through the cracks and we get double (sometimes triple) booked!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now 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?

We are a neuro-diverse family, so my kids needs are varied. For my special needs child, with autism, he needs significant amounts of time focused on repetitive learning. For example, it might have taken my son months to learn how to tie his shoes when other kids can learn in a day(s). Not spending this critical time when these kids are young with early intervention services and therapies can have a significant impact on how that child is able to function as an adult. For some of these kids this is the difference between having an adult that can work and live independently (or with some limited assistance).

We feel like it is equally important to make time for imparting our good values, ethics, morals and decision making. Not spending this time with your children, they learn these values from outside sources — friends, social media, Tv, etc. These kids also often face a sense of abandonment which can lead to lifelong issues with relationships and functioning in society.

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?

The teenage years can definitely be challenging in terms of finding that quality time with the kids. However, our kids are watching and looking for guidance from us whether they admit it or not. Having teenagers I know it often seems like they don’t need you or are listening to your advice. In reality they are listening and spending that time to impart your values, ethics and decision making is critical to their development. The first time you overhear your kids speaking to a peer and repeating something you said, you know that you’ve done your job.

For my special needs child I found that I had to spend even more time on him particularly when he was younger to help him with everything from self care (like brushing his teeth etc) to helping him with behavioral and social issues. It took him a long time to develop his speech, learn to read, write, math, etc. Those early intervention therapies and time we spent with him were critical to helping him develop as an adult. At the age of 4/5 years old he could barely speak, had a very limited vocabulary and couldn’t read/write. He is now 21 and has a part-time job. He still doesn’t like speaking that much (but it’s not because he doesn’t have the vocabulary). He just prefers to communicate in writing. His texting skills are excellent and I’ve even had full-blown disagreements with him via text (millennials)!

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 a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I totally agree that that quality time is extremely important. Examples:

1. Connections — Finding something that is important to your kid and connecting with them on that thing is one way to spend quality time. For example, my kids are active in sports. I make as many of their games as I can but like most working moms, I miss some. Spending time talking to them about the sport, about what they like about it and listening to how the feel is an additional quality time exercise that my husband and I actively set as a priority. He and I do our best to coordinate schedules so at least one of us is always there, but that time catching up the one of us that wasn’t and relishing in their stories is something we both prioritize and enjoy!

2. Reading to your kids — Definitely when my kids were younger I spent a lot of time doing this. Reading allows you to spend present, uninterrupted time bonding and focusing on your child. Some of the best conversations about my values, morales, ethics come from time spent reading to my kids and sharing personal stories inspired from the reading in a particular book.

3. Watching Movies/TV shows — You can actually spend quality time with a kid watching a movie/tv show, especially with an older kid that can really participate in the conversation. The key is to embark ins some conversation related to what you are watching. We watch TV shows like Blackish that often have many life lessons as part of its storyline and we discuss these with our boys. But it’s not all serious. Our current favorite show as family as a “911”. It’s one of these guilty pleasures that we all share.

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. No electronics — have to create a rule that electronics get put away (including mine) to have a full conversation and truly be “present”. I try to do this 3–4 times a week with my kids.
  2. Routine check-in time — whether that is at breakfast, dinner, homework check-in, it should be frequent and a time your children knows they will have you undivided attention
  3. Find hobbies/activities in common with your kids and do them together — from cooking together to watching TV, this is time that you are already spending but try and incorporate your kids in this as well.
  4. Be self-aware and realize that sometimes you need to say “no” to that networking event, that dinner, that other thing. Kids grow up super fast and before you know it they are adults. Every few months do a reality check to take inventory of how much quality time your are spending with your kids, self correct and improve.
  5. Eat together — We all have to eat. Some of the best conversations have happened over the dinner table Try and do this at least 3–4 meals a week

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I don’t think there is such a thing as a good parent. I try my best and there are some days when I’m an excellent parent and others not so much. But comparing yourself to this mythical “good parent” is not healthy. You will never measure up. Instead focus on being the best parent you can be. Be self-aware when you fail as a parent and work hard to get better.

For example, and this may seem like a minor thing but I feel so bad when it happens. We have an App to order our kids lunch at their school. You can order weeks/months in advance but you have to remember to go back in to order every month or so. On a few occasions I have forgotten to order lunch for my kids and they have then had to eat something like a banana because of mom’s mistake. In addition to being hungry I’m sure they are embarrassed because their friends have moms who can just run another lunch up to the school. I’m a working mom and can’t easily do that. When I get home that night and they tell me about missing lunch it feels like someone just punched me in the gut! Total failure and bad mom land. But after a lot of apologies and hoping on the App to feverishly make lunch selections for the next few months (an a glass of wine) I start to put it in perspective. The kid didn’t starve and it did show him that sometimes you don’t get what you want when you want it and your mom’s not perfect!

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

We try to expose our kids to many different things, cultures, people, activities so that they can actual visualize what is possible.

For example, our kids have traveled all over the world with us. One was even born in Switzerland. I think it’s super important to expose them to different cultures so they don’t get trapped in believing that the world is a big as their little bubble

When they were younger we exposed them to many activities and sports — soccer, football, lacrosse, baseball, cooking classes, music classes, art classes, acting classes. Then we let them tell us what they really liked doing and now that they are older we are doubling down on what they are really passionate about. For one that’s soccer. For the other that’s lacrosse and saxophone.

I also model a lot of this for my kids. I have always wanted to be a dancer but my parents werent to supportive of that. It was a dream that I thought would never be fulfilled. But as an adult I got the unbelievable opportunity to work for Debbie Allen and run her organization. Talk about being around a role-model and icon in the world of dance. Debbie inspired me to never give up on your dreams. So several years later I became a Zumba instructor and now I’m also a U-jam fitness instructor. I’m now a weekend dancing warrior and leaving out a childhood dream!

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success is in the legacy I leave behind. It’s a legacy for your kids and for all of the people you have helped and mentored along the way. Truly successful people impact lives and generations to come. Lessons my father told and taught me live on today through my kids and so on and so on. I think as leader in the corporate world this is the ultimate measure of success and really significant — how many people have you impacted to be future leaders and what lessons have you passed on that will make it to the next company (which could be the next Facebook, Amazon, etc). Successful and really significant people are revered because of their influence!

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner — This book teaches you a lot about self-awareness and being committed to taking personal responsibility for your life. It focuses on helping you build close relationships in your personal life. Although I think it’s marketed more as a business leadership book it’s really applicable to managing relationships at work and home.

Mindset by Carol Dweck — This book helps your frame the “mindset” that you use in interacting with your kids. It focuses on language that you use and how that can impact a child. It helps you understand how a child’s brain develops and how your mindset can impact the child’s mindset as they are developing as well. It gives advice/tips on how techniques/practices parents can use to positively impact mindset.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again”

Relevance — I repeat this quote to remind myself that you have to keep trying — for every failure, every job or promotion I didn’t get, every negative comment, when my son was diagnosed with autism, bad days at work, bad days at home, etc.

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. 🙂

We all have childhood dreams. I would wish that everyone could have the chance to experience something that they were passionate about. Too many people live this life and never have that opportunity. The sheer joy of people following a dream or passion could bring a lot of good to this world. Thus, if I could inspire a movement in the same way that I’m trying to inspire my kids (and at work my staff, mentee and colleagues) it would be to create an organization that helped people/matched them with their wishes (even if for 1 day).

I’ve been beyond blessed to have accomplished my wishes and I hope that same joy for others.

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