Interview with Sissy Goff and David Thomas, Authors of Are My Kids on Track?

By Melanie Rainer

Today we are thrilled to bring an interview with Sissy Goff and David Thomas to Minno Life. Sissy and David, along with Melissa Trevathan, are co-authors of Are My Kids on Track?, a wonderful new book that tracks 12 emotional, social and spiritual milestones for kids.

Sissy, David and Melissa run Raising Boys and Girls and work together as counselors at Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tenn. They are popular authors, speakers and workshop leaders in the areas of child and adolescent development.

Are My Kids on Track? is available for sale in the Minno store. The book “helps you identify and measure emotional, social, and spiritual milestones in your son/daughter’s lives. Moreover, you will discover practical ways to guide your kids (from birth to adolescent) through any stumbling blocks they might encounter and help them reach the appropriate landmarks. Along the way, David, Sissy and Melissa pinpoint the different ways boys and girls develop, so you can help your kid flourish in his or her own way.”

Are My Kids on Track? is a book that every parent needs, and we were honored to talk to David Thomas and Sissy Goff about it.

Minno: What inspired you to write Are My Kids on Track?

David Thomas: We’ve seen a real trend in the past years of working with kids and families where more kids than ever seem to be struggling to regulate emotionally. The national statistics around teen suicide, substance abuse, eating disorders, and technology addictions would certainly confirm that adolescents are struggling to take their emotion to something constructive, and instead are gravitating more and more toward harmful behaviors. Technology has only made navigating the social maze even more complicated for the kids we love. Once upon a time, you might hear about a birthday party you weren’t invited to and feel disappointed. Today, an adolescent could see a dozen photos of the party in real time.

Sissy Goff: Somehow, as a culture, we still seem to focus so heavily on how kids are developing physically and academically. We chart their progress and know each of the milestones they’re supposed to be hitting in certain windows of their development. We don’t, however, spend near enough time talking about their emotional, social, and spiritual milestones. And, as we know, those make up possibly even more of who we really are…and who the kids we love will become as adults, co-workers, friends, spouses, and even parents themselves these days. We want to turn the tide and equip parents to help their kids move toward these 12 really important concepts.

David Thomas: Yes, These are just a few of the concerns that prompted us to want to write the book. We wanted to offer hope and partnership to parents and educators as we care for the kids we love in a complicated moment in history.

JT: What needs do you hope Are My Kids on Track? meets for parents?

DT: More than anything, we hope this book offers parents a sense of partnership. We sit with hundreds and hundreds of parents who are asking important questions on behalf of the kids they love. We hope this book can be an extension of the work we’re doing every day in our counseling offices. Furthermore, we wanted the book to feel practical and user-friendly. Every chapter breaks down the stumbling blocks and building blocks unique to boys and girls. We then go on to end each chapter with 10 practical ideas every parent can be doing easily within the home. We weren’t interested in extending the “to do” list for parents, but folding it into the daily rhythm of family.

SG: We also hope it brings a lot of grace. So much of our society focuses on the competitive and on keeping up. Our own fears in this way can translate into a profound amount of pressure for us, that eventually trickles down to the kids we love. We want to be tracking their development, but we also want to remind them of a statement of David’s I love…”practice makes progress.”… It’s definitely a journey, and one in which God goes before us and the kids we love and extends an immense amount of grace. There is no perfect track, perfect child, or perfect parent.

JT: Are My Kids on Track? identifies 12 social, emotional and spiritual milestones for kids. How did you identify those milestones?

DT: We break down 4 emotional, 4 social and 4 spiritual milestones we want to see kids progressing toward. These milestones are different than the physical milestones we want to see kids reach by a particular moment in their development. Kids will be progressing toward these milestone throughout their development. However, if we don’t know what the milestones are and how to help our kids get there, it’s easy to see why so many adults in this world got stuck somewhere along the way. Don’t we all know at least one adult man who is still operating like an adolescent boy?

SG: And we know plenty of adult women who never learned how to have that mixture of strength and kindness we talk about in the boundaries section. My relationships would sure have been different along the way had I learned that as a child. The three of us sat down and talked about what we believed was most important and often most missing today for kids.

JT: Do you have a “favorite” milestone in the book? One that stands out to you as especially important, or say the one chapter you think every parent has to read?

DT: That’s hard to say, as I think they all have such importance, and build on one another. But if I were to pick just one of the emotional milestones, I’d say it’s the milestone of Resourcefulness. That’s certainly where I see the most kids struggle. They might find their way to identifying what they feel, but they don’t know what to do with it.

SG: I think I might say perspective, because it’s one I believe girls, in particular, seem to have in shorter supply. On a 1 to 10 scale emotionally, they live at 15 so much of the time. We need to help them learn to have perspective in all of their emotions.

JT: I love how the book helps parents navigate the milestones with boys and girls. Why did you write the book this way?

DT: There are certainly areas of overlap between the genders, but there are some stumbling blocks unique to gender. For example, one of the social milestones is that of Ownership. We discuss in the book how, in the face of failure, boys will instinctively blame someone else, and girls tend to blame themselves. Therefore, the direction they need to head from there looks very different. Girls can get stuck in self-contempt, where boys can’t even own their own part. That’s but one of many differences we identify. We also felt splintering off with the genders made the book that much more user-friendly as we talked around these important benchmarks for our children.

SG: The spiritual milestones are the only ones that didn’t vary as much. Truth is truth, and there are some fantastic statistics and foundational ideas Melissa points to in those chapters that don’t vary from gender to gender or person to person. But, particularly, in the arenas of emotional and social development, boys and girls develop and express themselves differently. We felt like it was important to not only understand but help them in ways that would be unique to their gender. And then help parents lay that timeless, unchanging truth from a spiritual perspective.

JT: Who should read Are My Kids on Track? Just parents? Should teens read it? What about teachers, church workers, etc?

DT: We wanted the book to be a resource for anyone who cares for kids – parents, educators, coaches, youth pastors, children’s ministers, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The practical ideas we recommend in each chapter could just as easily be adapted to the classroom as they could to the living room. It’s been encouraging to lead in services in schools and to see how important it is to educators that kids are progressing toward these milestones. Furthermore, there’s plenty of research identifying the benefits within the academic setting when we fold in social and emotional learning.

SG: And, as in the case with many of our parenting seminars, parents always talk to us about their own journey. Reading about their own children, they inevitably see some areas in which they still hope to grow. We’re all—parents, teachers, grandparents, kids, counselors—we’re all on this journey of progressing through the milestones…with a little help and a lot of grace.