The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Child More Control Over Their Lives



Don’t have time for the full interview? Here’s a short clip from the discussion!

In this episode Dr. William Stixrud and Ned Johnson join the podcast to talk about giving your kids the freedom to make choices and take control over their lives. We cover the importance of asking your kids questions, being calm as a father, meditation, mental health, motivation, sleep, and a lot more!


  • The importance of autonomy
  • The stress that comes with lack of control
  • What is non-anxious presence?
  • Why the family unit is most effective when Dad stays calm
  • Don’t go home until you meditate
  • What does it mean to “take the long view”
  • How to help kids do better now
  • What you can do now, to help you kids avoid being one of the 60% that are seeking mental health. In college 38% of girls in highschool are diagnosed with anxiety and 28% of boys
  • How do kids get intrinsically motivated
  • Understanding the passionate pursuit of pastimes
  • Why testing works for kids, and where it doesn’t
  • Dads should be consultants and not managers
  • Helping your kids know what they want
  • Instead of leading your kids, try walking by their side
  • Kids become resilient by solving their own problems
  • Ask your kids questions, ask your kids questions, ask your kids questions
  • Letting children own their decisions
  • Your problems might be that they’re not sleeping enough
  • It’s not always an issue of character, it may be an issue of chemistry


  • “As much as possible, encourage kids to make decisions. ” – Dr.  William Stixrud
  • “The worst job in the world is trying to get your kids to do things that they don’t want to do. ” – Ned Johnson


Dr. William Stixrud

William R. Stixrud, Ph.D., is a clinical neuropsychologist and founder of The Stixrud Group, a lifespan neuropsychology practice. He is also a member of the Adjunct Faculty of the Children’s National Medical Center, and he holds a faculty appointment as Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the George Washington School of Medicine.

Additionally, Dr. Stixrud is a frequent lecturer, and he has authored scientific articles on Transcendental Meditation and book chapters on meditation and the integration of the arts into education.

Dr. Stixrud has been quoted often in publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times of London, Scientific American,, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, Barron’s, and Vogue.

Dr. Stixrud holds a doctorate degree in School Psychology from the University of Minnesota. He did his training in neuropsychology at the Children’s Hospital of Boston (as a fellow of the Harvard Medical School) and Tufts New England Medical Center. Dr. Stixrud is also a rock and roll musician and plays in the band Close Enough.

Ned Johnson

Ned Johnson is an author, speaker, and founder of PrepMatters, an educational company providing academic tutoring, educational planning, and standardized test preparation. A professional “tutor-geek” since 1993, Ned has spent nearly 40,000 one-on-one hours helping students conquer an alphabet of standardized tests and honing his interpersonal skills. A battle-tested veteran in the fields of test prep, stress regulation, and student performance, Ned coaches clients to manage their anxiety and find the motivation to reach their full potential.

In 2006, Ned co-authored the book Conquering the SAT: How Parents Can Help Students Overcome the Pressure and Succeed, which tackles the outsized role anxiety plays in standardized testing. With Dr. William Stixrud, Ned co-authored The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. Their book explores how fostering children’s autonomy can help solve two challenges endemic to kids today: facing anxiety and developing intrinsic motivation. Ned is a sought-after speaker and teen coach on study skills, sleep deprivation, parent-teen dynamics, and test anxiety, and his work is featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, and many others.



  • Edwin Friedman


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Disclaimer: The transcription you’re about to read was produced digitally. It’s 95% accurate, however at times, the system interprets words incorrectly, so if you’re shrugging your shoulders saying, “What the heck?” — just skip that word/sentence and read on 🙂 Thanks and happy reading


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