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The Powerful Pedagogy

Raising Resilient Children with Tunu Thom

In this insightful conversation with Tunu Thom, we explored various aspects of parenting, childhood development, and social-emotional learning.
Tunu shared some personal anecdotes and professional experiences to illustrate the importance of fostering critical thinking, self-reflection, and self-expression in children. Drawing from Nina Simone’s life story, which she presents to us in her children’s book “An Unexpected New Dream” we talked about how important it is to nurture perseverance, self-discovery, and individual talents in each child.
This conversation is filled with valuable insights and practical strategies for parents and educators alike.

It’s very interesting to explain their perceptions of fairness and right and wrong, and also how that relates to how we’ve decided to agree about things with one another. You know, I am very concerned about critical thinking. I really want our children to be able to look at something, think about what it means, and think about the possible options for what they can learn.

Lynnette Arthur: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Powerful Pedagogy, I am Lynnette Arthur and today we have with us the amazing Tunu Thom, author of an amazing new children’s book “An Unexpected New Dream” and Tunu has just been on the scene as an advocate for young children. She’s a mom, she’s done homeschooling, she’s done in-house schooling and so she definitely has a wide range of expertise that she’s going to share with us today. So welcome Tunu I’m so happy to have you.

Tunu Thom: Thank you so very much. I’m just like, what a time you know, it’s like what a time to be alive. I think about like being present here on this podcast. And having an opportunity through technology, to have conversations about our children is very important, you know, because none of us really know what we’re doing.

LA: We’re sort of getting it out on our own, you know.

TT: Yeah.

LA: But I do want to dive right into your book. So you just recently published a children’s book. 

TT: Yes, I self-published this book called “An Unexpected New Dream”.

LA: Can you hold it a little closer? 

TT: Sure. How’s that? 

LA: Yes. That’s wonderful.

TT: Awesome. So this book, I actually, I wrote it about, I wrote it when I was pregnant with my nine-year-old. Yeah. And I wrote it and that maybe two or three friends listened to it. And they thought it was like, good. And then I didn’t do anything with it. And so I worked as a comedian and artist, dancer, actor, producer, and during COVID everything like, everything totally shut down. And so I picked up the book and I said, Okay, maybe now’s the time to sort of put him around. Maybe this is the time you know, and it was I actually I got an illustrator. His name is Chris White. And he’s a young digital artist and we met through another artist that I have met randomly. And so Chris and I have been working together virtually I’ve actually never even met him. 

LA: Wow. This is all through virtual. 

TT: Yeah, right. And so that’s why I’m like so grateful in this moment. I know people have like, really differentiating things to say about technology and the way it affects our lives and the way it affects the way we relate to one another. But one thing that I will say is, thank goodness, you have this podcast, thank goodness, we can communicate ideas far and wide. You know, it’s it’s really interesting, and it wasn’t right because so much was word of mouth. So much was, you know, hearing about something randomly and now we have the opportunity to connect with ideas, ideas, and also with other people. Doing what they believe. Right. And so this is a huge conversation about the books we should have in our schools and the books we shouldn’t have in our schools. And I think, well, I think that it’s a dangerous idea. We’ll begin to ban books. Because after we ban books, we burn books, right? And I think it’s more important to create and nurture critical thinkers, because clearly from me, the way I perceive things you can read whatever you want, you can watch whatever you want, you can scroll through whatever you want. If you don’t have the capacity to relate in a kind of a metacognitive way about what you’re taking in, you’re gonna be behind the eight ball anyway. You know, yeah. I remember when I was literally in the third grade a boy was being bullied in my class for being smart. You know, and the teacher said in front of the class, nerds are going to rule the world. So don’t you bully them. And I think it’s just interesting, like what we’re seeing now.

LA: I know how those guiding words sort of helped you at that moment, navigate what you were seeing.

TT: Exactly, exactly. So when I was younger, it wasn’t cool to be smart. When I was and I was actually in a Gifted and Talented program, several gifted and talented programs. It wasn’t it wasn’t cool to be smart, you know, and just culturally speaking. And now I feel like that has somewhat broken up because of all the information that we receive, and through technology. And so for me, I always support critical thinking. I will always support reading voraciously. I will always support guided conversations between parents and their children at every age at every age. Around reading. Right. So in our home, my husband is a writer also. But in our home, there are literally books like in every corner, you know. You know, and so I think that that’s important to uplift because the children are modeling what they see like they just kind of look at me do.

LA: They see you scrolling then they too are gonna want to scroll, right? In that conversation with the parent who is trying to see how to get their child to sort of read more and I was like, well, do you read with them in front of them? You know, and they were like, No, and I was like, well, that’s definitely what you model, they will, a will, you know, sort of adapt and take on themselves. And one of the things that I get from you like hugely is just how big you are on bigging up children’s self-esteem.

TT: Oh my goodness. It was one of the most I mean, imagine how many ideas don’t get birthed into the world. Because someone somewhere thought that they weren’t good enough. Like literally, just literally didn’t feel like they were enough. And I want to connect that to the last idea that you spoke on, which is this idea that children model their parents and yes, this is true that I was watching. They’re like the like 007 everywhere but just always taking information about us. And that can put like a lot of pressure on a parent, right? Especially in the times that we’re in right now. That kind of feeling like microscope vision, not ready for being examined or feeling self-critical. And thinking about it throw that away, like throw it away. It’s what it is. It’s fine. They’re watching. And look at it from the perspective of having an opportunity to empower yourselves with imagination, to empower yourselves with creativity together. Yeah, right together because the children are seeing the truth like they know when you’re happy. They know when you’re sad they are picking up on all the emotional cues they know. I’m always a proponent to being as honest as age-appropriate as can be with them. Right. But also allowing ourselves to go on the journey of them experiencing themselves through our adulthood and also us experiencing them through their childhood. Right. It’s like this beautiful two-way street. The reason that I brought that up when you asked about self-esteem is because if we give ourselves an opportunity to like be on that childhood journey with us, it’s like, Okay, now we can like have fun together, or how can I literally have 10 minutes sunburst with my kids? Yeah. Because you know the reality is there’s this stuff to do that makes money you know? And I get to be a kid or sometimes they say mum give me ten and I’m like ok in five minutes, these ten minutes of sunburst are amazing because we’re even able to say and intuit and have this kind of connection about like, Okay, what do we need now? To shift our energy as a family to shift our energy from the day to shift our energy from whatever may be going on, you know, and so those little things that we do here in our home, that create not only a sense of transparency but access into our true selves, which is joy which is love, which is fun.

LA: I love that and I feel like you know, there are parents out there listening to this, like, what do those moments look like? Right, those check-ins, those check-ins with our children, you know, just allowing them to just speak from the heart. And also, you know, one of the things you said like, what does that transparent parenting look like, you know, we sort of allow them, you know, in your world, you know, it’s like you said age-appropriate enough, but enough to really sort of have a healthy view of what is going on in the world, right? Beyond and even our personal lives. 

TT: Right, right. I think for us, well, I see for myself, I won’t speak for my husband, although we work pretty well as a partnership. For us, it looks like not having our emotions, you know, and that’s something that was, I would say, like, a little harder than not for me, because I grew up in a home where my dad would hide his emotions. My mom wouldn’t want us to see when something was wrong. Right? And so I always as a child, and I have three other siblings. So the four of us always knew when something was off, right? But I chose to have a level of vulnerability because I wanted to, I wanted to make sure that what was happening in my home, I was able to level up my experiences in my home. And so this is a small example. And it deals with race, right? So when I was pregnant with my daughter, Trayvon Martin happened, and I was it was, it was emotionally very full for me because I’m like, I have a baby in my womb. I didn’t know the baby’s sex. I didn’t find out until she was born, what her sex was, but I have a human being inside of me. And this is how human beings are behaving. And so what am I going to do? From a place of power? Right? Not from a place of like reaction or victimization, but what am I going to do to ensure that we’re like raising the level of the bar of humanity? And when I was pregnant with my daughter, I decided that we were going to live in a non-violent home. Right. Now has it totally been no violent? I don’t know. But the reality is, is that that is the tenant, that is the constant thing that we’re moving toward, which will humility and with the ability to communicate, you know, and with understanding the value of our person, and the value of communicating verbally from our hearts, right. And so what’s the idea of non-violence, there’s what comes in also on top of that is like layers of communication, protection, love, communicating with the Most High God, God who wants like us to enjoy our lives, and we all can we can all enjoy our lives in our home. We can all enjoy our lives with the people that we attract and that we meet and that we become friends with. And friends, that sometimes turns to family, you know, we can do that. But we have to, you have to have a certain scope in our mind a certain vision that we’re clear about cultivating right? So those are responsibilities in our homes. And for me, it was super important that I packed the book with value. One of the things that one of the children that read the book is like, “You know when I’m reading this book, it’s like there’s something to learn on every page”. And that really touched my heart. Because, it’s like, Yo, that’s right, there’s something to learn in every moment. There’s something to learning in every day. There’s always something new to learn, you know. I named the book “An Unexpected New Dream” because it’s about Nina Simone’s protest right? And a lot of people don’t know that when she was 11 years old, she went to perform in her town hall and her parents were moved to the back of the audience because of segregation.

LA: I don’t think a lot of people knew that you know.

TT: And it’s so funny because even her mom was very, her parents, her mom mostly, was very religious. Our mom was actually a traveling minister, and her mom never really talked about race. Her mom never really her family didn’t put that on the forefront. Right? It wasn’t something that she was taught to, to stand firmly behind,

LA: Right or doesn’t get how to process it, how to navigate what she was seeing, right?

TT: And so she literally in that moment when her were moved at the back of the audience she decided that she’s not going to play and so her parents were placed in the front row. 

LA: At 11 years old.

TT: At 1. Right. And so we have to we have to navigate with the idea that our children are clear about right and wrong. 

LA: Oh, absolutely. Shout out to Nina Simone. 

TT: Yeah. But also shout out to our children because they’re watching or listening and they do know. And there’s a there’s a belief that you’re born in like sin or original sin, and I don’t have that belief. I believe that we’re here and we have a certain sense of knowing and a certain sense of goodness, that’s my that’s my perspective. Some people may not.

LA: You know, for me, I do agree. So yeah.

TT: So it’s like recognizing that means that we’re all naturally creative. We’re all natural artists, we’re are naturally activists. Because really, an activist is just someone who’s utilizing their energy and power to be their him/her whole self.

LA: Absolutely. And taking action, you know, to just make things right do the right thing stand up. And you know, self-esteem comes so much from learning to accept who we are, seeing sometimes our insufficiencies and also still choosing through that to love ourselves, right? Each child’s you know, self-esteem, grows with each experience of successful interactions, you know, do these positive words. So, it’s important that books like this would show examples of, you know, people standing up for what is right are written and are part of our libraries so that way they could sort of reinforce what our children know that they are able to do know that they have the changes, they are able to make, you know, so, I mean, this has been so rich already. Just, you know what you said about just listening to and acknowledging your child’s thoughts and feelings. I wanted to ask you because I’m a firm believer in, especially in my classroom, allowing children to sort of experience unpleasant feelings in a safe place and teaching them how to deal with them. So I am not with the theory that you know, just because you see a child crying or angry or sad, you know, just to swoop right in and fix everything. Like I do think it is healthy for children to experience those feelings in a safe environment, right, where they’re loved and they’re safe, and navigate those feelings. And you know, part of that is because then if they don’t, they’re going to turn into adults that if they get angry, they lose it or they feel sad. It goes into depression, like, you know, we have to help our children facilitate all feelings, right? Whether it’s positive self-esteem, or even when it’s sort of negative when it’s anger when it’s frustration. You know, that is so important, and I’m curious just in your own journey with your own children, what I guess what are some of the strategies that you’ve used with your own children when it does come to that then being upset, you know, 

TT: This is a phenomenal, phenomenal time to ask that question. That question is so poignant and necessary. So I actually had a really challenging time. When I first had my daughter, I was single, right? And so it was just her and I and we were kind of rockin’ and rollin’. And our vibe was like a DNA swirl. It was just doing it. We were just doing all the things you know, and we’ve worked really well together. But I was not comfortable with her being upset. I was not comfortable with her being upset. I breastfed her for two and a half years. I didn’t want to hear her cry like, no we shouldn’t. You shouldn’t cry on demand like this whole thing. And then I would say that I mature my motherhood, and mature in understanding what my responsibility to her life really is. I began to make space between me needing approval as a parent from my child because a lot of that is about some of the things about protection. We kind of want to soften the edges but some of it is about, I want my child to like me because I’m so vulnerable to the love that I’ve given them and I love this child so much that I want them to feel good all the time. And I think that we parent in spaces that are only about facilitating our own emotional comfort is really dangerous, right? And so let’s take it to let’s take it to another space racism is terrifying. 

LA: Oh, absolutely. 

TT: It’s literally I mean, it’s literally terrifying. But it’s also terrifying, that we actually are classifying one another according to what we look like. And not only classify one another according to what we look like but then we have an entire societal structure that mitigates shades and textures and knows what is literally terrifying that human beings have done that right. I have a joke I always say when the aliens come everybody wants to be human. But I’m saying that to say if we’re not able to navigate, having challenging conversations, and uncomfortable feelings and if we’re not able to kind of put our hearts and our heads together with our ducks and like really be in alignment with what it is that we say is what we want from humanity instead of making it be like oh, this pie in the sky. We will just act on it. Now. I was able to do in the purple have a definition of racism, right? And so like if you don’t know where to start, and many of us don’t, like quasi black right? Like, it’s not what to say.

LA: Especially with young children, because there’s this thing that we’re like, we don’t want to if they don’t know about it yet, why tell them about it. Let’s just let their worldview be like this. Like you said like this pie in the sky, and I get it. You know what a one-year-old you know, and a two-year-old can understand is also very limited but you know what children know from the beginning what’s fair and what’s unfair. 

TT: That’s right. They absolutely do. 

LA: You know who has more they are very aware of those imbalances. 

TT: Absolutely true.

LA: Using fairness to start these conversations, which is a concept that they can understand at a young age is very valuable.

TT: And the idea of fairness is a very interesting one. My mom and my daughter, they have a beautiful dynamic and so I remember one day my daughter saying but it’s not fair. And I remember my mom telling her you get what you get and you don’t get upset. And that stuck with me for two reasons. First, I believe that it’s not I don’t think that things are meant to be fair. I think that life is about lessons. Right? And we’re we’re here learning. We’re here learning our lessons. And to think that one thing has to be what the other thing like if things always balance out in a way that’s fair, but I think our children have that mentality of fairness, to remind us to always keep doing the right thing. And so it’s interesting, it’s an interesting, like balance because well things are not always fair. But there are lessons to learn. And looks like the lessons uplift us all. Right? Yeah. So it’s an interesting thing. It’s very interesting explaining their perceptions of fairness and right and wrong, and also how that relates to how we’ve decided to agree about things with one another. You know, I am very concerned about critical thinking like I really, really want our children to be able to look at something, think about what it means, and think about the possible options for what they can learn from that fit. And so when we were young, my mom and dad would watch TV kind of with us, and then would like, talk about the segment during commercials. But then the other thing my mom would do is she would ask us “Why do we think this commercial is on at this time?” You know, why do you think, she would ask “Why do you think that this product was placed in this on this channel?” And so we began to think awareness is about creating space. Everybody’s like, oh, meditate, meditate, you know, like get like really zen. But I think that that really is about creating space from what you think and giving yourself giving our perspective. Like some breadth, you know, and when we’re able to give that scope and breadth to our perspective, we’re open up cognitively, our imaginations can flourish and we can become creative, not about just our experience personally. But about what someone else may be projecting onto us. Why because communication is a two-way street. It’s not just what I think it’s literally what is projected and what is received as transmission and reception.

LA: Right and ask children to say like, you know, what do you see or why do you think this is? Yes, we asked him to like open-ended questions like not just yes or no, like why do you think this is? 

TT: I love that question. I’m gonna put that in the arsenal. Why do you think this is?

LA: You know, and one of the things you said like you get what you get you don’t get upset. I used to use that in my classroom, like for years and years and years. And then as the more I learned about social-emotional learning, and how important that is, I stopped saying Don’t get upset because children would still be upset, right? Repeating the quote to themselves. So what are you what I started saying was you get what you get, and we don’t throw a fit. Right? You can be frustrated, you didn’t get the color you want and you didn’t get to sit where you want. It’s okay to be upset, but just you don’t throw a fit right? You regulate those emotions, and maybe it’ll like sort of work out your way next time. 

TT: Yes, I’d love that. I feel like I need to be taking notes. Thank you. I needed that today.

LA: I’ve seen you know, even in my classroom, you know, with some of my students, I will let two students sort of argue sometimes I’m one of those teachers that feel like I have to step in and solve every problem. I’ll watch from like a very close distance out. Well, they, they’ll be looking at me, sort of while they’re arguing like you’re not gonna step in. I’m like, No, you got this. Let’s see if you can get this right now and negotiate. Who had it first? State your claim. Did you have it first? Tell him that you got it first. Like we like let children advocate for themselves is so important because then they become adults who can do the same.

TT: Exactly. And it’s so it’s so beautiful to watch their self-efficacy, their self-esteem, and their idea of what’s right and wrong, like form this trifecta, right? And it’s so interesting to watch them when they do when they are able to work things out. Because what happens, is your voice has developed, right? Oh my god. It won’t matter what’s going on in your heart. Won’t matter what’s going on in your gut if you are not able to communicate it healthily, you’re automatically gonna get sick. Right? Are they gonna get sick because you are not able to put yourself in a space of expression? 

LA: Yes, it’s we both came to the same word expression, right? And so the opposite of expression is repressing, right? Yes. Yeah. So teaching our children to express themselves in a way and I’m like, you know, sometimes sometimes they gotta yell, sometimes you do. You can, you can yell and not be disrespectful with it. But sometimes, you know, it may require sort of, you know, use your strong voice or my students I want to use did you use your strong voice like no go and use your strong voice. Sometimes we even have roleplay like “Say it to me, say to me, say like, say ‘I had that first'” and they’re like, “Oh I got it first.” Oh, say that. You know, and just to watch them sort of march over there and claiming their strong voice that they had it first like, I’m like, What is this doing for this child in the long haul?

TT: Exactly, exactly. I read this changing so exponentially fast. It’s not like it’s it’s so fast. I mean, for me, it’s I feel that and that is my personal perspective. And because of that, it’s so important for us to hold on to what makes us human. Right. It’s so important for us to recognize our past. It’s so important for us to honor our future by being who we want to be in the moment. Right. That’s the real way to honor our future. And, you know, I think about the value of not just having those experiences, but then being able to share a literary work that you can reflect, you know, and that’s the beauty of, oh my god, I just love books. I really do. Like, I feel like books are my first vacation, or so my first like, is you have relationships. No, I learned so much through reading. And then I think early in my 20s I started reading like How To books and self-help books. I think that’s what we call them, then, you know, what, like, every author was like a mentor. And I’m still kind of in that space, always reading and I know that motherhood has caused me to read less. So I’m thankful again for technology. You know, what am you know, going through my day, and what am I learning, but when we think about their voices, and when we think about the responsibility that they have for themselves, and then when we think about our current human situation, right, pandemic war in Russia and Ukraine, alien flight, Elon Musk having more satellites in space, then you know, even NASA or maybe just as many, all of these things, right, and just thinking about just the regular news and the regular information, that’s that we are encouraged to digest and find ourselves inside of there’s so much for them to digest so much for us all to digest. And to do it with creativity and the capacity for more imagination is imperative because things are not going to flow down. 

LA: No, no, not at this point. And like you said, it does feel like there’s something happening and where other things are speeding up, right, that climate change and the effects that we’re seeing from that are happening like faster and faster and faster, that we’re really seeing these effects. 

TT: One of the things that’s so important is the idea of making sure that our youth feel like they have the tools that they need, because nothing was really new under the sun, and we can utilize old lessons to enforce new tools. So my thing is really, really critical thinking through reading, looking at myself, honestly, as a human being as an adult, as myself as a mother, and thinking about almost every day what could I have done differently today?

LA: Yes self-reflection? Yes absolutely. Yeah.

TT: That’s something that I chose to role model, and that’s also something that I’ve chosen to instill in my parenthood. And it has always been easy, right? Because if I’m self-reflecting and vulnerable and open about it, then my kids like are smart enough to be like “But you, mom, you” exactly. But is okay. Because I feel like it burns up my courage, right? And so whereas my grandmother couldn’t possibly allow her children to critique her in certain types of ways, you know, we look at the shift through the generations. And now it’s like, okay, you felt that you saw that, let’s talk about it. And I’ll tell you exactly why. And you can help me to grow and shift and I can monitor that with you, you know.

LA: I think one of the things that part of your book that you spoke about that is the most powerful is the fact that Nina at this young age stood up for what she aligned was right, right? That her parents be able to sit, you know and watch closer, watch her perform. And one of the things that you write on your website, is that a young person’s voice is aligned with truth, it holds authority. 

TT: Yes, yes. And I think you know, we have these ideas about authority, like, Oh, my God, you know, the police have the authority or, you know, our government has authority and these things are true, that the relationship that we have to our own power is what is the true authority and the relationship we have to our values? That is the true authority because it’s really like your personal compass, right? It’s like, okay, this feels right. This feels wrong. Okay, but not really in this way. Because that you know, it’s a personal compass, that will always guide us will always lead us in the right places, the right spaces, it leads us in a way that is almost undeniable. It’s just undeniable, you know, and so be able to embrace, not enforce that but to be able to share the ideals of authority with a child without being afraid, right? Because, you know, we’ve come from places and spaces that say children need to be controlled, which is true on some level, that children need self-control. Right? And so and not just some children, not just some children, not just some people like self-control and self-discipline. Those are also important values in the book as well. Because one of the things one of the very first lessons in the book that we find was that she fell in love with the piano and she started studying. She started studying really, really seriously. And not only that, she started studying seriously, but she became so enamored with her study, that she just loved it and she just enjoyed studying and she’d sacrifice playing with her friends to sacrifice, having, you know, relationships because she loved what she was doing. You know, she loved that relationship that she had with music.

LA: And she kept cultivating it within herself. 

TT: Yes, yes. And so that’s the other thing that I think is super important. It’s like, we are all, creative. We are all able, to cultivate a sense of ourselves through artistry, and the fact that her parents saw early that she had this gift, and they taught her that her gift was to serve. Her gift was not, you’re not special we all have them. You are to serve with your gifts.

LA: How do we use our gifts? Yeah, yeah.

TT: So that’s one of the things that I totally fell in love with. I liked the idea of even uncomfortable feelings because as she got older, she wasn’t accepted into a school. 

LA: That issued her like an apology like later on.

TT: Right before she died. She got a doctorate from the Curtis Institute. For me, it’s such a beautiful thing when an institution can self-reflect. You know, that is we talk a lot about like, okay, you know, she did this and she got to this place, but I think it’s really important when an institution can say, You know what, I did the wrong thing. We were we were out of order. We were out of pocket.

LA: And let’s restore this.

TT: Right, right, because it really, really, really hurt her when she wasn’t accepted into the Curtis Institute and her brother. She actually was going to stop doing music and so imagine a world with no Nina Simone, the voice of the civil rights movement. She was this phenomenal genius and she has such a huge body of work. I just remember like the first time hearing her like who is this man singing and she’s playing the piano at the same time. I’m just like, oh my goodness, this is amazing. 

LA: And when you see her, she has such a presence that you can imagine. I imagine Nina as this young 11 year old and she probably had that presence back then as well.

TT: Absolutely. Absolutely. And the presence I believe it came from a certain level of dedication, a certain level of consistency, a certain level of like a certain level of vision. And so that’s something else that I discussed in the book. Like she had a vision to be the first black concert pianist the first black woman concert pianist. And it was a vision that her mom shared with her. Her piano teacher shared this with her. It was a vision that they held seriously.

LA: Just imagine the conversations that she must have had with her parents in the segregated south that fed that vision right how they as adults, how do we as parents feed that vision? feed our child’s vision or our vision of our children?

TT: This is a very, very, very, very interesting conversation because I’ve met people around this topic and varying in varying spaces on the topic like on the timeline, timeline of the topic, and some people are like, I’m clear about what my child should do. I know what their talents are, and I’m pushing them toward them. You know, and some people are like, I don’t, it doesn’t matter what they do, as long as they’re happy. You’re gonna be a doctor, you’re gonna be a nurse, you’re gonna be a lawyer, you know, so this is kind of varying styles around it, where we’ve landed. Honestly, it’s a it’s a mix, right? And so it’s like, no you need discipline, you need structure, and have fun with the things that you’re doing. And let’s see what that leads. Yeah, then there’s gonna be something that’s just not fun. Right? Just do it. Right, but also, the other caveat to that for us is like continue to explore, continue to find things that excite you continue to be enamored by the world around you.

LA: Right, and unapologetic in who you are and how you express yourself. 

TT: Yeah, right. And that includes finding out who you are through experiencing new things. Right. And so she never thought that she was going to be a singer Nina Simone never planned to sing. She literally was told at her first job where she was playing piano like, if you don’t sing you’re out of a job tomorrow. And so she started singing like I need the money. It was new territory, and she was able to just galvanize all that she had learned and, you know, her church songs and the classics that she learned and she was really able to create a sound that was just her own. And so it’s like when we think about, what is the power of one person? This is a conversation we have in our home also, like, I think maybe every six months my kid will be like she’s nine now. I’m just one person. You know, I don’t know. This is a lot. She’s running in the space of healing the planet and assisting the planet and being healed. And she feels in that moment she felt like small she felt not authoritative, you know, and we just have to constantly are having conversations. Oh my god, parenting is so much talking. It’s so much talking. It’s so so much talking. Oh my god. Oh my God was so much talking so much.

LA: Same here. Talking them through, talking them up, talking them down, like is literally like so much talking.

TT: But I’m grateful because it creates a sense of openness and so we’re having this conversation that we had it like six months ago and once or twice before and then six months later, I kind of those big things. I kind of tried to chop them down. Keep a note of it. Sometimes I’ll write a note to make sure we discuss this or get back to this conversation. Just to continue to like to build on it. Right just to continue to like add that extra layer and some more ice and and maybe a cherry you know, you know Yeah, and like when visited or take a bite of the cake in like oh, that was terrible. Let’s make a new cake. Playing with those ideas. Not all of them because they’re totally related to like what we value right? And like if it’s like a consequence then well for her or everyone and you know, then we can shift things out. But coming back to the idea about not feeling powerful, right and just being vulnerable enough to share with her like, I don’t know what’s going on. For so much. I don’t know may. I still have to do my work. I still have to do by myself, nobody else is going to be me and I’m very, very special in the tapestry of this life blanket. I’m very special because my needle in my thread can only be woven by me. And this is the same for you. You know

LA: That is so powerful, that statement, and that brings us to the end of this episode. I feel like I definitely want to have you on again. Yes, yes, but your book “An Unexpected New Dream” if you’re interested it could be found at So please go there today and get your copy. 

TT: Thank you so much for having me

LA: Of course, of course, and I look forward to having you again. I would love to dive even more into like the parenting tools. You know, so much on just like the social-emotional work that you do at home. And yeah, I would love to expound on that. 

TT: Absolutely. It’s necessary.

LA: Thank you so much. 

TT: Thank you so much for having me. 

LA: A pleasure.

Teaching Fairness and Critical Thinking

This episode opens with a focus on fairness and critical thinking in children’s development. Tunu and Lynnette exchange personal stories that emphasize the significance of introducing these principles early and fostering critical thinking through open-ended inquiries. This sets the groundwork for comprehending social interactions and making ethical choices with depth and insight.

Teaching Self-Regulation and Emotional Expression

As the conversation unfolds, the spotlight shifts to how important it is for children to understand and manage their emotions. The guests share some really useful tips on how parents and teachers can help children learn to handle their feelings and be true to themselves. These tips are super important because they help children build strong relationships and stay strong when life gets tough. For instance, they talk about changing the way we say things to encourage children to react to things calmly instead of getting upset.

Empowering Children’s Advocacy and Self-Efficacy

Next, the discussion turned to how important it is for children to stand up for themselves and for what’s right. Tunu and Lynnette shared some really interesting stories about how children can make a difference by speaking up for themselves and others. They talked about how when children feel confident and believe in themselves, they can speak up confidently and play a big role in making positive changes in their own lives and the world around them.

The Role of Vision and Discipline in Child Development

Finding the right balance between encouraging children’s dreams and teaching them discipline is crucial for helping them grow into well-rounded individuals. Tunu and Lynnette shared some personal stories and talked about why it’s important to let children explore their interests and be creative while also teaching them how to be disciplined and responsible. They explained how this balance helps children develop their talents and passions while also giving them the skills they need to succeed in life.

Reflecting on Personal Growth and Parenting

When we think about the ups and downs of being a parent, it’s like taking a journey filled with learning and sharing. Tunu and Lynnette talked openly about their experiences and challenges, showing us how being a parent can help us grow and become more open to new things. They emphasized how important it is to support our children’s growth and build strong bonds with them along the way.

Nina Simone’s Story: A Journey of Vision, Persistence, and Self-Expression

Tunu’s book “An Unexpected New Dream!” is inspired by the remarkable life of Nina Simone, a legendary figure known for her unwavering vision, persistence, and commitment to self-expression. Through Nina’s story, readers are invited to explore the themes of following one’s dreams with courage and resilience, even in the face of challenges. Nina’s journey from overcoming obstacles to achieving success serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of embracing our unique gifts and passions.

Parenting Strategies for Nurturing Children’s Talents

Tunu and Lynnette discussed various ways parents can support their children’s talents, touching on the importance of finding a balance between providing guidance and allowing space for exploration and self-discovery.

Here are some of the strategies mentioned throughout this episode:

  1. Encourage Critical Thinking Through Reading: Engage children in discussions about what they read, asking open-ended questions to stimulate their thinking about the content and its implications.
  2. Foster Self-Expression: Create a supportive environment where children feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions. Encourage them to use their “strong voice” in communication, teaching them to express themselves respectfully and confidently.
  3. Support Self-Advocacy: Allow children to advocate for themselves in various situations, such as resolving conflicts or stating their preferences. Offer guidance and coaching as needed, empowering them to assertively voice their needs and opinions.
  4. Promote Self-Reflection: Encourage children to reflect on their experiences and actions, fostering self-awareness and accountability. Model self-reflection as a regular practice and discuss its importance in personal growth and learning.
  5. Embrace Uncomfortable Feelings: Help children navigate uncomfortable emotions by validating their experiences and providing a safe space for expression. Teach them healthy coping mechanisms for managing emotions, such as using their “strong voice” or engaging in constructive activities.

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podcast guest

Tunu Thom

Tunu Thom is the author of  “An Unexpected New Dream.” Inspired by the activism and artistry of Dr. Nina Simone Tunu produces works that centralize around themes of motherhood, culture, futurism, sexuality, and world politics.… Charging with cultivating joy, her brand of comedy is smart, hilarious, and inspirational.

Her work nurtures the curious, the change makers, and lovers alike. She is a graduate of LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts (drama), holds a B.S. in African-Centered Education and Performing Arts, and an M.A. in Dance Education (NYU). She has taught and performed thought-provoking, culture-shifting works at venues from the New Victory Theater on Broadway to the World Famous Apollo Theater.  Internationally, she has taught, lectured, and performed in Nigeria, the West Indies and the Philippines.

You can read more about her work on her website: