Ian Chambers and Dr. Azizi Interview
Moshi CEO Ian Chambers and sleep expert Dr. Azizi on pandemic parenting and teaching kids about diversity
We sat down with psychologist and sleep expert, Dr. Azizi Seixas, and our CEO, Ian Chambers, to ask them about parenting during a pandemic, diversity and inclusivity, and the secret to being a great dad.
As parents during the pandemic, how have you coped with these high-pressure periods with your families?
Ian, CEO: I think it’s been incredibly difficult, actually. That’s the reality. I’ve found that I’ve had to focus on fewer things than I used to focus on, even though in some ways we have more time. When I’m not working in my home office I’m spending time with my family and doing more family-focused activities.
Dr. Azizi: There’s this concept that I’ve studied and read about where people actually define why we do this. It’s said that a lot of parents are actually experiencing what’s called Revenge Delayed Sleep Time. Meaning, you give a large portion of your day to your job during this pandemic and the time that you’re free is spent with your kids and the family. So, once they head to bed we’re like “No, this is my time. I deserve it.” What ends up happening, is that parents delay the time they go to bed because they want to feel like they get their ‘me-time.’
How can parents ensure they’re exposing their kids to the right kind of content to encourage an understanding of diversity and inclusion?
Dr. Azizi: Be intentional and purposeful. I can only share what we have done and what our friends have done successfully. I think our kids realize diversity, but they realize diversity in a way that is not necessarily weighted to some of the historical issues that we as adults face. When kids see diversity they don’t think slavery, they don’t think racism and prejudice. At the same time, particularly for me and my wife, our kids are biracial. We’re kind of caught in between this framework of how much we should or shouldn’t share with our kids about the realities of their world and what they could potentially face.
So, what we do is fill our kids with a ton of love. What we oftentimes do in addition to this, is also show their friends love. For example, my daughter has a very diverse set of friends. My wife and I have this general rule of thumb that we treat other people’s kids the way in which we treat our children. At the end of the day, it’s really love. Both my wife and I see kids as extremely precious. Even though we have a special bond and love for our children, their friends are just as precious. So, how do you teach your child to see their friend as precious? That’s how we approach the idea of diversity. Everyone is special. Everyone is unique.
We chose where we live in the USA because we didn’t want to keep our daughter from the reality that we live in a diverse world. We talk about diversity not just as skin color but also class, income, the gifts, and blessings that they’re afforded. We share with our daughter all the time that she has two parents who are very well educated, who are professors, and that we live in a pretty decent home in a nice neighborhood – but your friends may not. We remind her that it doesn’t mean that she’s better or that they’re lesser.
Ian, CEO: One of the things that’s really interesting to me is that kids aren’t born with any bias. With my kids, I see such an innocence in that everything is just about love. My 10-year-old is starting to notice differences, whether it’s skin color or gender or whatever it may be, but it’s her natural inclination to just accept everyone as they are. Fortunately, they’re growing up in an environment where there is generally less bias – not necessarily the case everywhere – but we’ve moved a lot from where we were when I was younger.
I like to think that within our household we recognize that everyone is different, and that’s the point. People are different. It’s not about saying everyone is the same because everyone isn’t the same. It’s about understanding that people are different and we should respect and love them for the way that they are.
How do you react to those moments when kids bring home certain ideas that you didn’t teach them from interacting with others?
Ian, CEO: One of the things I’ve tried with my kids is around perspective. What I mean by that is to try and explain that we only see things through our own eyes. We can ask questions but we can never fully understand who that person is. You only see what you see and might not know the actual situation that person is in. When we actually try and understand that everyone’s perspective and view of the world is completely different, we see that we can’t make assumptions about who people are or why they are.
Dr. Azizi: For us, particularly with our older daughter, we usually go by two rules of thumb. You have the cognitive thought process where you ask them how they think the other person felt, and you have immersion. We have to immerse our kids into experiences so that when we’re talking about diversity and loving others it’s not some abstract thing. We purposefully have our daughter in public school because of that, because we wanted her to appreciate differences. We want her to love diversity. We want her to embrace it.
What content is available for kids to learn about these areas in an appropriate way, and how does Moshi help?
Dr. Azizi: I think Moshi plays an incredible role because it has found a clever way to discuss universal and fundamental virtues – love for all, appreciating uniqueness, understanding diversity, and coming into oneself. Moshi has bottled all of that in a bite-sized format without getting political, and that’s the key.
Oftentimes, parents can be a bit worried about exposing their child to content that has an underlying cultural or political meaning that they feel their little ones aren’t quite ready for. Moshi is the solution for the whole family. Not just for kids where they get concrete stories and mindfulness exercises that help them get through their day and help them work on issues like anger, frustration, boredom, and anxiety but it also provides a companion and support for parents.
Ian, CEO: I think the reliance that comes from parents also stems from the fact that it works. Time for parents is so precious and so squeezed at the moment, so with Moshi supporting a healthy sleep routine for kids that reliance becomes very important for parents. We saw that in a recent survey 70% of users said they would be very disappointed if Moshi disappeared, so clearly it’s having a very profound impact on families and there’s a lot more that we can do in the future. Bringing entertainment into the world of well-being for kids is really special and magical.
What’s the secret ingredient to being a great dad?
Dr. Azizi: You have to be present all the time. Kids may not have a lot of cognitive intelligence but they definitely have a lot of social intelligence. They know when you’re present or not present. I felt like I was such a clumsy dad in the beginning. I felt like I was never good enough and that I was never going to do it all as well as my wife. Moshi provided almost like a meeting ground where I could experience this thing with my daughter. It doesn’t have to just be a solution or tool that you use to help your kids fall asleep, but can also be used as a transitional object where you get to bond with your child. I use Moshi as an opportunity to engage with my daughter.
Ian, CEO: I don’t think anyone would have desired something like the pandemic, but if there is any good to come out of it, it’s that we’ve almost gone back in time to where we actually do spend a lot more time together as a family. There is a certain learning we can take from this pandemic around how important it is to spend time with family. I think it’s going to be quite challenging for society to try and find a way back to however we were prior to lockdowns.
If we look at how Moshi can fit into the transition back to “normal” – it brings consistency, order, and a lot of love. Because it’s a magical world away from the real world, it doesn’t matter where you are or what your situation is, it remains a safe and supportive place to go.
Dr. Azizi: I agree, I think this pandemic and the lockdowns people have experienced around the world has really recalibrated how people see family life and the importance of it. I also think in many ways it has reset how we look at child development. Typically, kids go to school not just to learn as an individual but also socially. There’s so much that gets taught in between the lines, so to speak. Unfortunately, what has happened in the US is that because education has become so standardized we have removed some of the important things that make the education and learning experience fun and meaningful, such as the arts.
And, unfortunately, kids who come from underserved and under-resourced schools are even less likely to be exposed to the arts and less likely to learn these social and emotional skills that will help them to grow. To be great at any career you have as an adult, you have to have problem-solving skills and creativity – not just an algebraic and book-smart mind. Through this time, Moshi has helped us tap into that sense of imagination and creativity that’s been missing. We can now tap into a digital solution that will allow them to cultivate some of the lost arts and learnings.