Resetting Baselines with Keith Mccurdy (Live Sturdy #2)

What happens when we take the time to truly reset the lives of our young ones, especially those grappling with behavioral and learning issues? Join us as we delve into an enriching conversation with the seasoned Keith McCurdy, who after visiting over 40 schools, discusses the shared aspiration of parents and school leaders to offer better guidance to children. We debunk the myth that emotions are the core of identity and shed light on the crucial impact of nurturing healthy, Christ-centered families.

Are you curious about the effects of technology and social media on our attention, especially with teenagers? As we walk through this digital maze, McCurdy shares the importance of cultivating healthy habits like prioritizing sleep and regular meal times. As we continue, we spotlight the role parents play in establishing structure, guide their children, and the positive ripple effects it has on family functioning and academic performance.

Our exploration doesn’t stop there. We venture into the uncharted territory of parenting in the digital age, highlighting the influence of technology and social media on children and families. We discuss the necessity of setting boundaries and reassessing the impact of technology with a 90-day break. McCurdy emphasizes the evaluation of its benefits and costs as we strive towards a less distracted life. So, join us, be a part of this conversation, and take up the challenge to share your success stories after implementing these approaches.


Biography: Keith Mccurdy

Keith McCurdy has worked with families, children, parents, and individuals for over 30 years in the field of mental health, working with more than 15,000 individuals and families. He received his Master of Arts and Education Specialist degrees from James Madison University. He is currently the President and CEO of Total Life Counseling, Inc., and is licensed in the state of Virginia as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.









0:00:00 – Davies Owens
What if I told you the vast majority of behavior and learning issues can be fixed by resetting or baselining the life of the struggling young person? What if, for 90 days, they took a break from many of the life-draining activities like not sleeping or eating well and spending way too much time on the screen? What if these lifestyle changes could make a significant impact on our homes and on our schools? Well, baselining works, and Keith McCurdy is back in the second segment of the new Live Sturdy series to tell us how. Join us for this episode.

0:00:50 – Davies Owens
Owens. Well, Keith, it’s exciting to continue on in the Live Sturdy series as part two. It’s exciting to have part two.

0:00:57 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, it is. I’m really excited for us to be back. I think it’s a great thing.

0:01:01 – Davies Owens
Well, I’ve already had some folks email in and say, oh, we’re excited about this series, we’re going somewhere with this kind of structure around it. So, yeah, the plan is once a month we’re going to be doing the Live Sturdy series and we’ll just be going to kind of some really top things that you’re dealing with and seeing out there. That again, I always say you have such a fantastic vantage point because you were out there in the trenches. Speaking of being out there in the trenches, I want to share. Why don’t we take a few minutes and share a little bit about what’s happening next year for us in 2024. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, but I want to just give both parents and school leaders sort of a heads up for what’s coming in 2024. And folks probably who are listening are like yeah, Keith was just at our school. You are all over the place. I don’t know how you do all you do. How many schools have you been to of late, Keith?

0:01:49 – Keith McCurdy
Well, I think once I get finished this week, I’ll actually be out west at one more school and I will have been to 40 schools this year.

0:01:58 – Davies Owens
Oh my goodness. And you sleep where? Right In different hotels. Yeah, you make rock stars seem like they’re bored. I mean, that’s an amazing amount of schools 40 schools and then, in just the last few years, how many do you think you’ve been to?

0:02:18 – Keith McCurdy
It’s. You know I need to add it up, but I think it’s probably 120, 140 schools in the last years. Yeah.

0:02:26 – Davies Owens
So, and what do you? Again, I don’t know anyone else, and if somebody else thinks they can beat the Keith McCarty challenge, please email us and let us know. But I mean, I don’t know anybody else that’s out there in schools as often as you are, which speaks to the demand and the interest of school leaders. As I’m talking in that if you put I always say if you put 10 heads of schools in a room and ask them what kind of keepshap at night, nine out of 10 will say we just want to be more involved in supporting and walking next to parents. Parenting is very difficult these days and how do we do that? I mean, I assume that’s part of the reason they’re calling you and the frequency that they are.

0:03:01 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, you know it’s amazing to me if I look over just the last couple years, I’m seeing hearing the same messages from heads and from parents and seeing it play out when I visit schools and really I would throw it in a couple categories. That I continue to see is you know, parents that that are expressing, you know, a real desire and a real need to know how to engage this process better with their children. You know this awareness of we feel kind of overwhelmed and ill equipped, so how can we better engage this? You know, without all the frills, without all the gimmicky things, but really what’s the simple truth in how to raise our kids?

Well, today and I think on the other side of the spectrum you know it’s funny, I’ve had this question asked me several times in the last couple years you know what’s the what’s the number one issue with our students today? I’m like, well, there’s a lot but, but, but the one that we’re fighting with our students so much. When I share this with students, it’s amazing the feedback I get is that you know, we have this, this myth or lie of the last two generations that are just really overwhelming them, that how they feel is the most important part of who they are. And so we’ve really given our students a broken compass. We’ve said your emotional world, your feelings, which really can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. We’ve told them this is your compass. And then we have parents that are really ill equipped to know how to really navigate against that lie in essence?

0:04:24 – Davies Owens
Yeah, Well, I mean, you and I both share this overarching vision for restoration of the family, and if we don’t have solid, healthy, Christ centered families, then it affects immediately our schools, that affects certainly our culture. So you and I are talking a lot right now about how do we respond to this other than go clean ourselves. There’s a lot to do and you know this is certainly something I’m passionate about in kind of my what you were in a school just last week.

0:04:55 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, and tell me. Tell me what you were seeing in here and yeah, great.

0:04:59 – Davies Owens
Yeah, I mean I was. I had the joy of being at Stonehaven School there in Marietta, georgia, and you know, gosh, I don’t know back 2011,. I had a unique opportunity Most folks probably know the story of getting to do basically a TED talk. It was Gabe Lyons runs an organization called Q, now called Think, and they’re just they asked me to remember standing on the stage in Portland with about 800 folks kind of looking at me very suspiciously. This is back in 2011.

And this guy was coming to talk about classical Christian education in 18 minutes with a big timer running like a TED talk, and so I had to really figure out how do we explain what this unique form of education is that we’re all rediscovering, and that has sort of been a niche, I guess you could say. I’ve been in for a dozen years now. So I was in Atlanta doing a variation on the talk that I often give around. What is classical Christian? Why is it the right form of education for today? It’s amazing, Keith, just how something so simple as what is classical Christian education generally draws kind of perplexed looks, even among school leadership. It’s, on the one hand, there’s a lot that’s super exciting to talk about in terms of what it is and why it’s the right time for it. But it’s not often easy to understand it.

So I’m going to be continuing to develop that message and also looking at school culture and just the impact of culture at large on education. So you and I are the plan is in 2024, I feel like we should run the drum roll thing here. We are really excited about kind of doing a double header. The idea would be coming together on one school at a time and have kind of a two day on the ground, get to meet with faculty and administration and students and certainly parents, and cover kind of the broad spectrum from what is classical Christian, why is it the absolute right form of education for today? And then, really, how do we raise sturdy kids? I mean, those messages are important.

0:06:53 – Keith McCurdy
And it’s amazing to me I make this comment often that I deal with every type of school, virtually that there is in the nation. That have been for years and I have yet to find a better model that matches well with what is correct parenting scripturally than that of the Christian classical model. And so I think, our blending of kind of those key aspects and those messages can be just so valuable. That’s why I’m excited about doing it with you.

0:07:22 – Davies Owens
I’m excited about it too. We’re calling it the Live Sturdy Road Show, so you’re gonna be hearing more about that and we’ve got a website we’re developing just for that. But if you’re interested in having Keith and I come to your school and we would love to do that we’re filling up quick for 2024. So just info at basecamplivecom and let me know you’re interested and we can reach back out to you and have a conversation about that. But we could ramble on about the amazing things that we see the opportunities for doing together, Keith, but folks click play on this podcast because they wanna understand a little bit about this idea of baselining, which sounds like something you would do at base camp, but it’s really just a huge need right now.

And what I like to often call the age of distraction Everyone seems to have ADD these days and I know talking to so many again just last week in Atlanta, talking to heads of school and teachers who were just saying, yeah, the students that show up in my classroom from great families. They’re just a little different than they were four or five, certainly seven or eight, nine years ago in terms of their attention span and their focus and so on. So help us out without. How do we baseline?

0:08:30 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, I get referrals in my office for that more than I ever used to. It’s amazing the increase over the last 10 years and over the last 30, 40 years, from a time when we hardly ever saw this category of diagnosis and yet today it’s around every corner. And so baselining is really the idea of how can we begin to figure out what really is going on, with a child who presents often with the parent coming into my office referred by a local pediatrician or doctor that they have gone to because they’ve been told my child has either this learning issue or attention issue and so they need to be on medication and doctors many doctors today are very wise to the fact of wait a minute. That may not be the first course of operation, and so I get a lot of folks coming into my office saying you know, I was referred to you to get an evaluation for this, and they say what do you think?

And I said, well, I have no idea. I need to know more about your child. And they said great, what do you want to know? Let me tell you. I said, no, no, it’s not anything you can tell me. We actually have to baseline your child, and in baselining your child, we will find out a great deal about what they’re really struggling with and what really is going on. And that idea most parents are like, ooh, baselining, all right, that sounds great. And then I begin to explain it to them and we relook at what does it mean to kind of reset the environment in your child’s life to figure out what really is going on in their learning environment?

0:09:57 – Davies Owens
Yeah, well, we’re gonna get into really what that looks like and specific tangible things one can do in home and to some extent at school as well. And I wonder, Keith, you know, I think about it just sort of the spiritual disciplines, or I’m sure there’s a huge parallel here that we’ve lost in the church, the spiritual disciplines, and in our homes. And so I think about something like fasting, which most people kind of look at you with cross eyes if you say fasting. Like what are you talking about? Like a skip breakfast or something? But it seems like to me is that maybe a way of looking at we’re talking about is just there’s a time, even biblically, to just, you know, to deny yourself something in order to kind of really grow spiritually and reset.

0:10:38 – Keith McCurdy
Right, exactly, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a time to step back from the you know our engagement with life that we go through every day to be able to reflect, to reset, to meditate, to see truth, because in the midst of everyday life sometimes we lose that perspective.

0:10:57 – Davies Owens
Yeah, yeah, and so you don’t. I know we’re gonna get in, take a break here, but the good news is we’ve not crossed the proverbial Rubicon and we can’t go back. I mean, there is a point at which I remember. I remember you know well, I’m glad to hear that because I mean I think there, I remember years ago, often quote Nicholas Carr. He wrote an article I think it was July of 2008 in Atlantic Monthly entitled as Google making a stupid, and he went back and wrote a book about it later and, if you think about this, a year after the smartphone came out, and I remember Nicholas Carr saying I used, you know, journalist, I used to read and write long form. I have a hard time doing that as an adult right now. So this was 2008. So again, we’re really in a really a world that is so Antithetical to everything that we really need to be about, which is being focused and Attending well and engaged well, and especially given that 2008 really was not even the big mushroom cloud of Tech and social media.

0:11:54 – Keith McCurdy
That really didn’t begin until 2012, when we had about 50% saturation to where we are now with our teenagers at 97% saturation of social media usage, you know. So Worrying about that in 2008 and then really seeing just the collapse from 2012 To 2022 of the mental health world yeah, directly linked to this process.

0:12:18 – Davies Owens
Yeah, yeah, and then you had COVID, which told everybody to stay on the screen indefinitely.

So you just you, for I mean, it’s like could we stick with one more nail in the attention coffin. So, all right, well, let’s take a break, we’re gonna come back and For offers them good hope on how to baseline and get ourselves kind of back in the land of of healthy habits. We’ll be right back with Keith McCurdy.

0:13:21 – Keith McCurdy
All right now, baselining, just so you know, is a wonderful thing, even though it’s painful. So the very first step in baselining. So I’ve got parents in my office. I said, all right, here are the steps to baseline. It’s three months. And they said, great. I say number one they have to have regular bedtime. It gives them at least nine hours of sleep every day, including weekends, same time. And the parents say, oh, but they have soccer. I say, not for three months. Oh, but they have, you know, dance at nine o’clock at night. Not for three months. You know, again, we’re dealing with children. We’re trying to figure out are we gonna put them on an extremely powerful psychiatric medication or can they miss soccer or dance or whatever for three months? So they’re like, oh, okay, all right, we can do this. Great, it’s same time to go to bed, same time to wake up, seven days a week, doesn’t matter if it’s weekends, no exceptions.

0:14:08 – Davies Owens
We were 90 days. 90 days is it takes 30 days to form a habit, and what? 90 days to really reset yourself? Is that kind of in?

0:14:15 – Keith McCurdy
my experience with with parents and kids we’re dealing. Typically, the kids that come in in this are older grammar school students or younger middle school students, and my experience is 90 days gives us the window to see what we need to see and what we’re good.

0:14:31 – Davies Owens
No, I mean so with bedtime in particular. What is I? You know I what, what is ideal and what’s what’s probably actually happening out there.

0:14:42 – Keith McCurdy
Well, what’s usually happening? I assess every patient that comes in my office. I ask them what their habits are. We talk about bedtime, we talk about getting up and, very clearly, the majority of students, even grammar school students, are not asleep before 11 o’clock at night. Yeah, high school students, upper school students, are up One, two in the morning on technology, responding to think. The stats we have nationally is that there are, you know, up to a third of our teenagers that are Always online. Now I say this in public to students and they affirm it yeah, they’re online, their phone is on, all the notifications are on. If they hear something in the middle of the night, they wake up and respond to it. So we know sleep is drastically Disrupted, and so that’s why we start right there, because if we don’t get sleep in line, if you’re not getting at least nine hours of sleep, same bedtime every night, get your body in a rhythm, then anything else I asked them to do really will not have the effect we need to.

0:15:41 – Davies Owens
That’s, and so again, just some obvious habits. I say obvious but you know the idea the the phone basket in the kitchen or whatever it is, oh no, technology in the bedroom.

0:15:50 – Keith McCurdy
Oh yeah, these break into all other categories.

Yeah, absolutely so, the first is that first is bedtime. The second one is based on just the simple reality. The majority of our Teenagers, especially, do not eat breakfast. I I speak to about 10 that this this year, I’ve spoken to about 10,000 Teenagers and I asked the question how many of you skip breakfast this morning? It’s typically the majority of the room, 75% of the room raise their hand.

Wow, so we know if, by you know, by ninth grade, by eighth grade, ninth grade, the majority are skipping breakfast. That habit got disrupted somewhere along the way, and it’s amazing to me how many younger students don’t eat breakfast or skimp at breakfast or grab a doughnut you know quality breakfast as they’re running out of the house. And so the second piece is hey, you’re, your child needs three to five regular meals a day, based on their metabolism, and they need to make sure they have breakfast every morning and it’s reasonably healthy. And so we have to have a discussion about what that looks like. We have to have a discussion about that means your day has to start earlier. Well, lo and behold, if your child’s not going to bed early, they’re gonna get up earlier. It’ll be all right, we’ve already moved the ball a little bit.

0:17:03 – Davies Owens
Well, and I’ve thinking about the parents that through the year, or the parent thinking again, they’re not immune for many of these either. They probably have not gone to bed until 11 or one, and the idea of waking up and finding more than here’s a pop tart, shove it in your backpack and get out the door is probably pretty hard for the parent.

0:17:21 – Keith McCurdy
So Well, it’s amazing how this reset and we’ll talk more about that in a little bit yeah, this reset doesn’t just reset the child, it has an effect on the whole family. It would have to, yeah, cause you’re changing habits of the family. So the second one is again is meals. They have to have breakfast. They have to have three to five regular meals a day. It also helps reclaim the idea of a family table, the idea that meal time is really about relationship and connection. It’s not just nutrition, and families today have lost that quite a bit.

0:17:53 – Davies Owens
So you’re saying I mean it could be again. I guess we’ll get into the practical side of it, cause I’m just thinking about again. Wait, I gotta get up and make a hot breakfast every morning. What is that gonna look like?

0:18:05 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, and those are the challenges parents have to begin facing. What does it really look like? What do I have to change in my life? What different decisions do I have to make to actually attend to the important things? Yeah, that I’ve gotten distracted from or quote too busy from, so absolutely. Again, a lot of categories to break out underneath this.

0:18:23 – Davies Owens
Yeah, no, absolutely Okay. So I’ve gotten some sleep and I ate something other than a PopTart. What do I need to do now?

0:18:29 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah. Third thing is put their afternoons after school in routine and parents say what do you mean by that? I said well, you know, too many times we have routines kind of backwards. We have no routine. Now that you have a captive audience because you know they’re going to bed at a set time and you know they’re getting sleep when they come home from school, the first part of the routine is simply have a snack, because that’s important. The second part of the routine is before you do anything else, and we’re not gonna chase you around the house and make you do this, but nothing else happens until homework is taken care of. And so instead of trying to control the child, we’re now controlling the gate. We’re basically saying if a man doesn’t work, he should need you have homework to do first, and until it is finished and taken care of, we don’t move on to anything else.

Now this is where and again I’ve got to work with parents over this three months on. What do we do when the child refuses? What do we do when they throw tantrum? You know so many things like that and we work through that piece, but we’re getting in line the idea that you don’t move to B until you get through A the simple reality that responsibility is what leads to freedom and privilege. Too many times in families today we give the opposite. We think if we give tons of freedom and privilege then child will be so thankful and appreciative they’ll be responsible. Well, that doesn’t work.

0:19:43 – Davies Owens
Well, I got to. I mean again and I know you’re not suggesting becoming legalistic about it that there’s, you know it’s really continuity, it’s consistency in the family. And I think about another day’s podcast is just the reality of how much seat time our kids have in our five day a week schools, and so especially the boys that come home and they’re about to go out of their mind and they’ve been sitting in chairs all day and all of a sudden oh, by the way, before you can do anything else, you need to get a snack and go get right to work. I mean, so could they go run around for 30 minutes? I mean, it seems like that might be.

0:20:15 – Keith McCurdy
Well, in this three month period, I really push away from that, because what happens in today’s family is the child comes home, they get loose, and it’s two hours later and the parents is trying to drag them back to do homework. Okay, and so it’s really getting a more of a tight protocol in place for 90 days. Again, we’re not looking at what ultimately will be the long-term flow of the family. It’s we’re looking to reclaim some ground.

0:20:43 – Davies Owens
Yeah Well, I think your point a minute ago just about this. Again, it’s 90 days and it’s in comparison to you’re putting your kid on a powerful chemical altering drug that you, by the way, had to drive down and meet the doctor and go to the pharmacy and get the thing and adjust the prescription. I mean, none of this is just without effort. But right.

0:21:03 – Keith McCurdy
All of it has effort and sacrifice Right. And then we define what homework being finished look like. Homework finished is. It’s finished, it’s checked, it’s corrected. It’s back in the book bag. The book bag is by the door in the mini van, and they’ve already made the lunch for the next day. So all of a sudden, we’ve made morning even easier, so now you even have more time to make breakfast and enjoy the morning, once homework is taken care of.

Now your child has obligations to the family. You know this is where children start to get onboarded. That wait a minute. I’m not just a consumer here, I’m a contributor, and they don’t have to be major long-term obligations that take a lot of time during the week. It could be very simple thing, but the idea of every day you’re gonna contribute around here in a meaningful way. Once the contribution is taken care of, whatever it may be, now they have freedom and privilege to have fun, to go run around, to do things. The key with that is we really want to encourage a lot of that outside. Then they have a normal bedtime, normal dinner time, normal bedtime. So we put the afternoon in a correct order. That is the order of growth. Responsibility is what leads to freedom and privilege. We’ve laid that out with primary responsibilities taking care of wrapping up your school day, which includes your homework, taking care of obligations around the home. Then you have freedom and privilege to do other things.

0:22:23 – Davies Owens
Well, from my experience as a school administrator, the homework. Sometimes kids are in this position. That would need to be baseline and probably everybody does, but if you’re having some acute issues, sometimes you struggle to even know or to have written down what your homework is. So, again, having an agenda that sets maybe now this is what we’re doing.

Right, and maybe that is the chart on the wall for 90 days and it’s. Come home and here’s the schedule and write down what are those assignments and capture it well so that you can actually know when you’ve accomplished it well.

0:22:53 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, when you set the expectation that this is what we’re doing, then what gets built in, that is this notion of there has to be preparation for that expectation, both within the parent and within the child, and that’s why we want to really get in this system again of calls and effect, which is the basic learning tool of childhood and basically that’s a routine of we do this before you can move on to this, most families in today’s world are so caught up with trying to chase, controlling behavior and then meeting out punishment that they totally miss that a huge part of discipline and discipleship is guidance, direction, and that’s really what the calls and effect routine does. It says we’re going to put this in a proper form of learning and that in many cases avoids the need for chasing the child for the significant amounts of punishment, because we’ve set the system up to work in a certain way.

0:23:47 – Davies Owens
Right, well, we’re going to take a break and come back and jump into some more of these. And as you’re talking about this, Keith, I keep thinking about there’s so many ripple effect benefits across the family. I mean, when the child gets an order, it would help get adults in order. And I think about I don’t know what the actual statistic is. I think it’s like under one minute, maybe it’s 37 seconds is the actual time the average American family parent spends talking to their child in any kind of conversation, certainly by high school years and maybe it’s just hey, don’t forget your gym bag. But if you created this type of a routine, I just think about all these moments, whether it’s over actual breakfast or it’s maybe reading again together as a family before bedtime. All of a sudden, you just net it up to 32 minutes a day, like wow, what would that be like? So, right, right.

0:24:31 – Keith McCurdy
And those are, and again, those are sub areas that I work on with families during those 90 days of now that you’ve set a bedtime. What does healthy bedtime look like and what does it include? Well, we put in time reading, you know. We put in these processes. Yeah, if you now have a flow after school of a routine, then maybe one of the obligations of your child every day is they do a little bit to help you prepare dinner where there’s also conversation.

Yeah, I, mean so it opens up the avenue for healthier family functioning.

0:24:57 – Davies Owens
Yeah Well, final point for a good break. I remember years ago at Ambrose somebody had kind of done some statistics that it was interesting the Varsity Boys basketball players had higher GPAs on average than the other students and the sort of the probably potentially multiple reasons. But the reason it was fairly clear was that because they had very, a very tight schedule, they had to go straight out of school to get homework done, to get to practice, to get as opposed to kids that had lots of disposable time, that kind of slacked off and ultimately you were better off because structure was, you had full structure throughout the day.

0:25:34 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, that’s actually for those who don’t know, I also coached 11 years at a classical school basketball, started a couple of programs and coached. That’s a national statistic that’s been in place for many years that athletes that are required to keep a rigorous schedule across the board have higher GPAs than the average student. Yeah, yeah, I don’t know where that is today, but that was accurate five years ago and for many years before that.

0:25:58 – Davies Owens
Right, right, well kids a day can dribble while swiping on their phone, so I don’t know if that messes up the whole thing. So don’t dribble and swipe, it’s not good. I will be right back and continue this conversation with Keith McCurdy hey there you go.

0:27:50 – Davies Owens
All right, Keith. We’ve got folks going to bed on time, eating better, planning out routines in their day and getting outside. What else do they need to do in this 90 days? There’s a lot going on here.

0:28:01 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, I’ll add a little bit to the going outside. One of the things I tell parents is, once you have this routine in place and then once you set your kids free, once they’ve taken care of their obligations and their homework, they need at least 30 minutes outside a day. If it rains, buy a rain jacket. We need children to not be afraid of the weather. It’s amazing how we have so bubble wrapped our children today that we have children afraid of environmental conditions. We have children afraid of normal life events. We today have 30% of eligible license holders at 16 that will put off getting a license over 18.

We are creating these roadblocks by overprotecting our children and creating too many safe places, too many soft spaces for them. That is backfired majorly, and a great way to experience the normal, broken, dangerous, painful, enjoyable part of life is playing outside. I joke with parents all the time. How does a child learn to check branches when climbing a tree? Well, by first not checking branches. The physical world of God’s creation gives us a sense of sturdiness and durability that we don’t get on a screen.

So we really need to embrace this idea. We are kicking our kids out of the house. I’ll tell a quick story on my mother. I pray my 88-year-old mother will not listen to this, but it used to be. I would want to five.

And growing up, on the weekends, saturday morning, my mom would fix this breakfast and she would kick us out of the house and she told us you’re not allowed to come back in the house and lunch would be ready. She’d bring lunch out to us. We still were not allowed to come back in the house. We were required to be outside all day. If we had to go to the bathroom, it was luck of the draw who got to go in and who had to go in the woods. But we learned to play in the neighborhood. We learned to play with tadpoles, we learned to dig holes, we learned to build forts, because there was a requirement that we were going to exist in the physical world and so many of our children miss that today. And it’s amazing what you see when we begin to introduce that back into the labs of our children. And so that’s not a little point, it’s a big point.

0:30:16 – Davies Owens
There’s a book on Nature Deficit Disorder, which I think is a great topic just to look at. And yeah, I grew up in the floodplain near our house. We called the Swamp in Atlanta and it had go-kart trails and no, I mean those are some of the best moments in life and there were things we did that probably would have concerned our mothers, involving chainsaws and other things.

0:30:36 – Keith McCurdy
But yeah, yes, yeah, we had a pond called Ricky’s Pond, because the kid named Ricky lived next to it.

0:30:42 – Speaker 5
What is it? It was Ricky’s Pond, because he lived near it.

0:30:44 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, that’s right. Well, and then the last category. So I get parents. They hear those four things and they’re on board with those four things. And then I say now the fifth thing is this no technology, no screens whatsoever, no movie time, no TV for 90 days. This is where the parents go fall on the floor and I remind them.

I say again you’re trying to figure out whether you put your child on a very powerful psychiatric medication that we don’t fully understand what it does with your child, and while some can help, we also had to deal with many side effects, and so I pretty much guilt them into it in a sense, and I just say I’m just suggesting take a break from something in your child’s life that really didn’t exist when you grew up. So it truly can’t be true. Torture. This is a new phenomenon, the way we engage the tech world. So it means I don’t look at the weather on your phone, they’re not watching TV, they have no technology interface unless it’s required medically checking their sugar levels, insulin levels, or if it’s required for a school assignment, and then it’s on a public computer in a public space. Other than that, no tech, 90 days.

0:32:07 – Davies Owens
So how does that affect the whole family? Because I can think of a time a number of years ago when I did a teaching in middle school discipleship class when we did a three day tech fast and lots of learning even in three days. But the biggest problem was the kids all came back in my class and said mom and dad were on and we get our restaurant and there’s a screen there. I mean it’s a very. You have to almost make it a family wide commitment right.

0:32:30 – Keith McCurdy
Parents ask me the same question. I say well, it looks like during the hours when that child’s awake I said, luckily you gave him a bedtime, but during the time that child’s awake you’re fasting as well. It’s the only way to pull it off, because you definitely don’t want to be a hypocrite to your child. And so we walk through it. And what parents grab on to not always in that first meeting but definitely by the next week is well, as one mom said. She walked in my office. She goes you’re actually punishing me, aren’t you?

0:33:03 – Keith McCurdy
I said well, that meant his punishment, but there’s no way to reset your child without resetting part of your life as well, and I would tell you that maybe half of the parents I give this to maybe a little more than that will do it, and not all of them finish it, but it’s amazing to me, the ones that do what we see is well, it’s amazing.

0:33:29 – Davies Owens
I mean again, I saw it in three days and that was really painful with students. So I mean imagining, because you typically see a client every week, I guess during this season. So I mean yeah during the 90 days.

0:33:41 – Keith McCurdy
I will see them weekly. I will work with both, sometimes more than once a week because the parents depending on how well the parents are taking to this process. So I’m working with the child to deal with the parents to deal with it, how we break all these subcategories out under each one. But what I hear at the end of 90 days across the board, across the board, is we have a normal child. Now again, let’s define normal.

Normal, unfortunately, in my profession today, gets described as this little teeny category where everything else is abnormal. That’s where we’ve gotten to. The real definition of normal is massive. Abnormal is very small. Normal includes awkward, annoying, socially behind, sometimes inattentive, sometimes aggressive and obnoxious. I mean normal includes the normal human condition within it. And parents come back and they say well, the vast majority, my child’s normal doesn’t mean everything’s fixed, but we realize the issue has nothing to do with attention. Now, that’s not all of them. I would argue that’s probably 98% of them. The really interesting thing is the other 2% that are left over. The parents come in now we have clarity about what issue remains and then we deal with it and treat it appropriately. The vast majority come in. They have learned so much more about their child. They have regained healthy family functioning. They have started new traditions in their home. They had to to survive it. In a sense, it’s amazing how you change the face of the family in 90 days.

0:35:21 – Davies Owens
So how this is amazing. 98% of these, those who’ve gone through the 90 day, or 98% have come away with it being really an environmental problem. I mean, it sounds like it’s A developmental issue.

0:35:37 – Keith McCurdy
Right, something that.

0:35:38 – Davies Owens
Based on external forces.

0:35:40 – Keith McCurdy
Right, yeah Right, nature versus nurture, because we are told, unfortunately, that everything is nature and unfortunately, the expectation that on the parents view is that only a medication will fix this. The medication in the pharmaceutical industry, especially in the psychiatric industry not necessarily in every individual psychiatrist, but in the industry is medication should solve all things in the psychiatric world? Well, statistically we know that’s absolutely not true. So we should market it that way. And when something comes to us, when someone comes in my office, unless they are suicidal, homicidal or non-functional or psychotic, the first response is not what medication to go on. The first response should be how?

0:36:19 – Davies Owens
should I live differently? But don’t you think again really? It’s just so much easier to just prescribe medication and you don’t have to do. What you just described is a lot of work, Keith, I mean starting at bed times and diets and yeah.

0:36:31 – Keith McCurdy
Yeah, but here’s my argument Because I’ve been in the field now gosh 35 years. It’s easier at the beginning to go down the road of just taking a pill if I think that’ll solve something. But the reality is in the long run, when you get post 90 days, it’s much easier to be parenting and raising a normal, functioning, goofy kid than a child for the next 15 years that you’re trying to manage and medicate it doesn’t need it, right.

0:36:58 – Davies Owens
So my thought okay. So I mean it’s quite convincing. I mean 98%. How do you argue with that? And benefit to family as well. Again, maybe it becomes another podcast. But then what does reentry into the world of distraction look like? I mean, do you have to sort of remain anamish there a little bit?

0:37:18 – Keith McCurdy
Well, that’s actually sets the stage for another great discussion with parents, which is, parents come in and they say great, now what do we start opening up and bringing back? And this is when I pause the parents and say well, first thing I want to ask you is this all those things that you had in your child’s life before? Did you actually evaluate them before you let them in the first time? And the resounding answers will know, right.

Then I said well then, let’s start looking at every single thing you want to let back in and let’s look at the benefit and the cost, let’s look at what we know. If they say, well, you know, my son loves TikTok or Instagram, well, let’s actually look at the current research we have that tells us the problems with it, you know, let’s really say we’re going to look at them from now on. We’re going to look at the nature of everything we say yes to and no to, and that creates a whole new process for parents. Now they’re initiating healthy parenting.

0:38:11 – Davies Owens
Well, and again, I think it’ll be part of future conversations in series, because I know a lot of the concern is coming from teachers who are looking out across their classroom and it’s hard when you’re in that position to instigate that. And it’s hard when you’ve got a high school freshman or sophomore that is now coming in and they’re having to do this reset when they’ve had a lot of independence. So one of the things I know you do really well that I’d love to explore further with you is just really helping the student to come to that decision as much as the parent.

0:38:39 – Keith McCurdy
So yeah, absolutely, and that’s one of the topics I, you know, many schools have me back to do an entire day with, with you know, all the different populations. All about social media and tech engagement. And it’s amazing, after this conversation with students, how many students are ready to say hey, I want to take this challenge. I want to see if this really has an effect on me that the statistics are saying it should have.

0:39:02 – Davies Owens
Yeah, Well, we need, we need to wrap it up. But one thing you and I keep talking about and this just makes me want to look into it even more is, you know, basically creating a vision for living, I guess, a less distracted life, and whether making a decision to go with a light phone instead of a smartphone, and kind of getting a little bit of a movement rolling through our house programs and our classical Christian schools, where I know there are high schoolers that are saying we’re tired of it, we’re going to do something different and kind of making that kind of the almost like the new rebels or the absolutely Go Luddites, you know.

0:39:37 – Keith McCurdy
Well, it’s amazing to me I’ll end with this yeah, when I have a student in my office that says to me I got on social media, I got on Instagram and in six months I was depressed and suicidal and I had never been before, and we can look at his feed and see the decline, it’s just, it’s amazing.

0:40:03 – Davies Owens
It is amazing.

0:40:04 – Keith McCurdy
Amazing the effect. It can’t, it doesn’t have it on every student, but the stats tell us it has it on more than not.

0:40:11 – Davies Owens
Wow, well, key Thanks, for I want to say thank you for that. I want to say thank you for that, although I feel like you’ve just you’ve both inspired us to do something very difficult, which would be the 90 days, and yet I think there’s a way out which is really helpful for families and for adults. I think a lot of adults are listening that are probably sensing yeah, I probably need this for myself as much as I need it for my kids. So thank you for that inspiration, and I know folks who love to hear from me. If you go through this process, drop us a line info at basecamplivecom. We’d love to celebrate with you and hear success stories, because I think there are a lot of folks out there that will benefit from this approach of baselining. So thanks, Keith.

0:40:49 – Keith McCurdy
All right, thanks for having me again.