How Someone Can Learn the Skill of “Optimal” Parenting

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD

Note: transcription provided by Otter.AI, which is a technology company that develops speech-to-text transcription and translation applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I’m your host, Dr. Christopher Loo. Thanks for being here. So without much ado, we’ll bring Dr. Toffle on the show. Welcome.

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it’s good to be here.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I’m really excited that we’re able to collaborate together. We’re both part of the Doctors Podcast Network. And I think podcasting is a really cool medium. So tell us your story. Where did the show come from? I want to hear all about it.

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: Absolutely. Yeah. So as you said, I’m a blogger and podcaster. But that’s only been about 14 to 15 months of my life. So before that I was just the general pediatrician, I guess. But see, I work in general pediatrics and a clinic, I’m married, I have two boys. And I grew up kind of out East and West Virginia, but we reside in Omaha, Nebraska now. So working my way. I think I’m gonna stop here. I don’t think I’m gonna go any further west at this point.

But yeah, so of course, everything changed 14–15 months ago with COVID. And, I think when you talk to a lot of people now, that’s kind of where their stories start. With some situations it feels like but of course, mine did too, because working as a general pediatrician in a clinic, when COVID started there, the goal was, don’t bring anybody in, we didn’t know what was going on, we didn’t know how these infections spread, things like that.

So we had very, very small numbers of patients coming in on a daily basis. And so I was finding myself going home early, spending more time with my family with my kids who were also at home, stuck because they couldn’t go to school, they couldn’t do activities. And before that, you think you’re doing a good job as a parent, because you get home at the end of the day, and that you only have this set amount of hours before they go to bed. And so you really just have to rock it for those sets of time. But then when you’re thrown into a situation where Nope, you’re going to be home all day with them. It’s a different world, and you think you’re doing a good job. But definitely some days are struggles.

And, as physicians, we are where we are fostered and grown to do our best and to not fail. And when you’re a pediatrician, and then a parent, everybody expects you to not fail as a parent, because you’re supposed to know this stuff. Because that’s you’re supposed to be teaching everybody else when they see you in the clinic. And, I quickly realized that there was still more growth for me. Absolutely. You talked about emotion, he talked about time, those are big topics when it comes to parenting. And so that’s when I just started, I kind of started writing my thoughts down and started the blog. And that really just kind of grew and over time, just it turned into a podcast.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s awesome. Yeah, I remember, just at the peak of the pandemic, just there’s so many people getting creative with social media, just so many new business models, and, a lot of these business models are gonna be here to stay, they’re gonna adapt. So that’s awesome. It’s, it’s awesome that everybody, they took a, a negative situation, and, and learnt from it and turned into a positive, which is what you did.

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: I mean, yeah, that the pandemic brought a lot of negative things, but you’re totally right there. I mean, when you think about what’s come out of it, there’s a lot of positives. I mean, it seems that it took what it took to get there with it, but I mean, there’s I think it’s I know you focus a lot on physicians and the kind of things they’ve done. And those things too, with your podcast and what you’ve done in the past and physicians are super creative, you just have to give them that chance. And when we’re not working, we’re not allowed to work, now we have a chance to figure something out, because we’re not focused on books, instead we are focused on charts. And so it’s like, okay, I get to use my brain somehow. So I think it’s pretty cool to see how creative those in the physician realm get with this stuff.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. So tell us about what is your blog? And what is your podcast? What’s it about? Yeah, was it promoted? Who’s it who’s reaching?

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: Yeah, so that’s, it’s kind of evolved over time, when I first started it, it was kind of more specifically dad focused, and not just physician dad, but dad focused. And that was because I was trying to figure out things as a dad. And, again, talking about that failure component, you don’t want to feel like you’re failing, because our culture is very much set up to not be a failure society. So when you fail at school, you get a bad grade in your tests, which then affects how you can do later on in life. And of course, going into medicine, you, you fail anything in school, you’re not going into medicine. Or if you fail something in med school, you’re not getting into the residency you want or you’re not matching and getting the job you’re on.

So, that the concept of failure is really just really ingrained in us that it’s such a bad and negative thing. But then when you look at your kids, and they’re trying to walk, they don’t see failure as a negative, they get up to take a couple steps, they fall on their face, they laugh, they get up and they do it again, right, failure, hey, they failed, they fell down. But you know what they did, they just got up and kept walking, if trying, and eventually they figured it out. And so, failure, such failure is such a big part of life. And I don’t think we, we look at it that way enough. And so it took me a little bit to really just embrace this sense of failure.

And so I always just say, embrace your imperfections, because we tend to see imperfections as a negative thing. And really, that they’re what make us who we are, they help us grow into the people that we want to become. And we never stop learning unless you just lay around all day and watch TV, which some people do. But it’s just that concept of learning to embrace it.

So when I started the blog, it was really me just trying to put my thoughts to paper. And I’m not a big writer, I mean, yes, my wife, I’m she, she had to correct my grammar very early on. I made sure she read through my articles, because I’m just not a big writer, at least I wasn’t. But really initially, the blog started as a way for me to talk about my thoughts as a dad, and get other people’s thoughts on it. And then, as it evolved, I would throw things in there about COVID Because that’s what everybody’s talking about. And I do woodworking on the side. So talking about hobbies, which is, again, it’s a big part of being a parent, because you got to have your hobbies. I mean, you have to take care of yourself and find those escapes and things like that. So I talked about that a little bit. But, I quickly, not quickly, it took me a while to realize this, but dad’s just don’t really sit around and read blogs all day. I think moms do a little bit more than dads. And so I realized, people were reading it, but the people that would comment and talk back about my information tended to be more mom’s, which was fine, it was great. It was cool to see like, hey, these moms are getting some great tips out of this from a parenting perspective.

But my goal really was to focus on that dad side of it, because I just, I don’t feel like there’s as much resources from a dad site out there, you look at how the generations have kind of changed and for good, for good reasons. But for the dad role, it used to be, you go to work, you come home, and that’s your job. I mean, that’s what you could do, you don’t do anything else. But now it’s not that you go to work, yeah. And maybe you don’t work, maybe you’re a stay at home dad. But in the case that you work, you come but when you come home, your dad, you’re doing just as much if not more than mom at that point, because mom’s probably exhausted because she’s been dealing with kids all day, and she needs a break, which is totally fine. But when you look at our parents before them, that’s just not how it was. And so it’s, it’s a totally different mindset. And I just don’t feel like enough people are talking about that. And so that was a big thing for me.

So then, but then kind of as things were going on, I just I started focusing more on that physician dad side, because I’m a physician Dad, I understand physician dad’s more I mean, I have, I have this private Facebook group, and I have friends in there that are dads that aren’t physicians, and we would chat and talk and things. But the thing I quickly realize is like, I don’t, it’s hard for me to relate to their background and their life, because I don’t know what they did for training. I don’t know what they did for their jobs or how their situations are. So it’s really hard when you’re trying to talk about mindsets and how you approach parenting and home from a mindset perspective. If I don’t understand you, it’s hard for me to know what your mindset is.

Whereas in physicians like, I understand it better I know, the training you had to go through I know the testing, I know the rigorous lifestyle and know like all the expectations of that. And so that’s when things started to shift a little bit more to the physician side. And that’s kind of around the time the podcast started, kind of launched too, as I realized I was trying to find those other sources of ways to reach those dad figures and so I figured stripe podcast, see what happens and so far, so good. So yeah.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I really resonate with the concept of failure. Because in business and entrepreneurship, you have to fail. And in terms of relationships as a physician and with your family. So what’s been some of the biggest challenges and revelations? As a physician dad, what have you learned?

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: Yeah, like you talked about with kind of the emotional side to it. I, when I started all this, I started hearing about life coaches, and it seems like everybody’s talking about coaches’ help. And maybe there’s because that’s the group of people I run with now online, everybody’s talking about coaches, because I’m bringing it up to other people outside of work. They’re like, What are you talking about? And so maybe it’s just the people I talk to.

Of course, they say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most of the time with, so like, that’s absolutely true.

But, talking with them, I started really looking into that, and looking at the whole, the mindset practices, and how your thoughts affect everything based on circumstances. And, and I get frustrated with my kids, it’s not me being frustrated with my kids doing something, it’s me being frustrated myself, either because I didn’t respond the right way to my kids, or my kids are acting a certain way, because I somehow inherently taught them to act that way, and I have to figure out a way to not do it.

And so that was a big shift for me, and like, in looking at mindset, and like my feelings, and it’s, I think one of the hard things is, once you start to look at that, and you know more about it, it’s really easy to beat yourself up more as a parent, because you can’t just blame everything else on everybody. Like if I come home from work, and the boys are fighting, everybody’s a mess, and I’m like walking in the door. I can’t just be like, well, that’s your problem. Sorry, I’m going upstairs. You can’t just say, what’s wrong with the kids? It’s, the kids are acting this way because most likely, something I did or said or didn’t teach them, or they’re not yet learning that. Now it’s my job to teach them. Okay, what’s going on? How do we deal with stress? How do we deal with frustration? Let’s talk through this.

And so it’s a lot easier to beat yourself up as a parent, when you realize that it’s more you than them? Which is tough, I think. And so that’s definitely been a hard hurdle with it, but also a good one, because I definitely see positives coming out from it now. Am I perfect with it? Absolutely not. And I always state, in my podcasts and my blog, I’m not going to be perfect, I don’t expect to be perfect. We all fail at this thing, no matter how much you know. But what’s definitely been beneficial, I think, for me, is working on those mindset practices, and really trying to apply it to everything I do with parenting, and not just parenting, how I handle things with my spouse, with my wife, and with my work and my job. Because you definitely, it’s easy to get frustrated with things at work and bring it home. And then if your mind’s already in that negative mindset, it’s really easy to become negative about everything else. And so. So that’s been a struggle. I mean, that’s practice. I mean, that’s, you’re trying to change routines that you’ve been doing, since who knows when. That takes time. And it’s easy to beat yourself up when you screw up. But yeah, it’s been good, but it’s been hard. So.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: It sounds like, it sounds like, parenting is a skill? Do you find that some of your physicians skills that you learned in the clinic? And how does it help you become a better parent or any physician skills that actually need to be aware of when you’re raising kids, and being a dad?

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD:I wish. You again, expect to be in pediatrics that they would have trained me to be a dad, and it’s just not the case. Again, I always joke like, yeah, I can intubate my kid if they start having problems, but I don’t know how to deal with them when they’re throwing a temper tantrum in the store. Because residency doesn’t train you to do that, it’s and so that’s the hard part is, you can start to apply some of the psychology that and those kinds of things to the parenting aspect of it. But, I think one of the positives, at least for me, from a physician’s side has been in pediatrics is I get to see all these families, and how they handle situations, how they handle them in good ways, and then not so good ways. And so I think that helps me try to then kind of tease out what I’m doing well. And what I’m not good at.

I’ll talk to my parents and they’ll be like, oh, yeah, we do this routine during the day, and it’s super helpful, super awesome. I’m like, Oh, I’m totally gonna apply that at home. And so that’s, that’s, I think, helpful for me from a pediatric side. Now, if you’re in radiology and staring at screens all day, I’m not sure that probably helps you from a parenting aspect too much. Although, I guess when you get home, you’ll hopefully like staring at screens. And so you keep your kids from staring at screens? I don’t know from outside that, I guess, but I definitely think the psychology side of it is helpful. My kids are little aren’t not too old. They’re eight and four right now. So luckily, we haven’t delved too much into anxiety, depression and those kinds of things. And I’m hopeful that from what I know, it’ll help prevent that, but that’s the hard part. You can’t be there with them 24/7. Nor should you and they got to learn to fail on their own and do better and you never know what’s happening behind closed doors and So that’ll be, that’ll be a hard thing I think to deal with over the next several years, once we’re getting older and that and seeing how I handle it from the dad side, and not just be the pediatrician, but being the dad too, because my wife always says, stop being the doctor be the dad, just be the dad right now. So. So that’s, I think, a challenge sometimes, too.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. So it sounds like as you grow, and you build your family. Sounds like the podcast will continue to grow and evolve. So what do you see the podcast going? And the themes moving on in the future?

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: Yeah, I think the great thing with doing a podcast on parenting is that your kids keep getting older stickies bringing more struggles, so it gives you more material to work with. But I think the thing I always talk about on my podcast, because when you look at a lot of parenting blogs, and podcasts and websites, and those kinds of things, they talk about the areas that you need to work on. And one of them is parenting. And I know for me, I started going off with these core foundations, I, with medicine, you got to make mnemonics. So it’s six B’s, because that’s what we do. And so there’s, there’s your brain, your body, your beliefs, your better half your business, and your books.

And so, and so I emphasize like, hey, there’s six bees in there, none of those said anything about parenting, none of them was a B’s, that’s a better dad, or better parent or anything like that. And that’s because in the way I see parenting, parenting is not how we handle our kids. Parenting is a direct reflection of who we are. Right, as a person. I mean, our kids, yeah, we, they, our kids learn through direct learning and how we teach them things purposefully. But then in those moments, when we’re not trying to teach them and we’re responding to the real world situations or responding to how they’re acting, they learn from that probably even more than they do, from the direct teaching that we do.

And so I think if you’re struggling on you, as a person, it’s going to be a struggle to be a parent, and how you parent your kids. So until you fix those areas, the parenting side, I mean, it’s tough, you’re not going to, you can’t just say, Okay, I’m going to be a better parent, but my mindset’s still gonna be crappy, I’m not going to take care of my body, I’m not going to have a good relationship with my spouse, you can’t, you can’t be a good parent without any of those other things.

So that has to be my focus. And so my hope is with the podcast, I’m going to continue to talk about those different areas, bring people on, talk about each of those, separately in different ways, bringing experts in, people like you who’ve gotten through, you’ve already retired from medicine right now. you’ve done some great things with business and that kind of stuff. So that’s great. That’s awesome. And I think people need to hear about that. Because the business really is a big part of being a parent. I mean, even if you’re planning to work until you’re 50, or 60, it’s still how you discuss your business, how you handle it, your time management, how much time you spend at the office versus home, all those things. I mean, that’s really directed towards parenting, too. And so there’s a lot of topics that you can cover with that.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s awesome. Yeah, we look forward to hearing more episodes from you. And we also hope to bring you back on the show in the near future. So if people were interested in contacting you, subscribing to your blog, in your podcasts? How could they do that?

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: Yeah, so you can find the podcast, if you just search for an Imperfect Dad MD on any of the podcast players, you can find it on there, it’s got my bright shining face on there. which is, I don’t know the first time you do that. It’s kind of awkward, then you’re like, oh, look, there I am. So there’s that. If you want to check out the website, it’s just www.imperfectdadmd.com. I am also an ImperfectDadMD on Instagram, and those types of social media platforms, or if you just want to email me, it’s imperfectdadmd[at]gmail.com. So it’s very easy to remember, hopefully.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Awesome. And to the listeners, all the resources and links that Jeremy put on will be listed in the show notes. So, Jeremy, what’s your parting words of advice for our listeners tonight?

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: I don’t know if many people out there listening are parents or not, but I think mindset is a big thing. And having a fulfilling life is not just financially driven, you have your four areas that you talk about, and definitely the emotional side of it, and the time side of it are just as important as the financial side. I mean, if it’s something that’s going to take away a little bit from your finances, but improve your time, that might be beneficial. If you’re not focusing on the emotional aspect of your work, or your day to day life, or your side hustle, or whatever it is, you need to. I mean, that’s a big thing. And so I think, looking at all those topics is definitely important, not just from a parenting side, but as a physician side or as an entrepreneur, like all those things. And yeah, I think mindsets are a big thing. If you’re not practicing it now. Start working on it.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Awesome. I love that. All right. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. And we look forward to having you in future episodes.

Dr. Jeremy Toffle, MD: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email me at chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!

Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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