Podcast Episode 144: Fascinating Parenting Lessons from the Animal World

Thanks so much for coming by to check out Episode 144 of The New Family Podcast where we take a deeper look at parenting lessons we can draw from the animal world.

Dr. Jennifer Verdolin joins us for this episode of the show. Dr. Verdolin is an evolutionary biologist and the author of a fascinating new book called Raised by Animals: The Surprising New Science of Animal Family Dynamics (With Try-at-Home Lessons From the Wild). She’s an animal behaviour researcher specializing in social and mating behaviour, and is a scholar in residence at Duke University.

She makes a compelling argument that we’re missing an incredible opportunity to understand ourselves and the parenting experience better by overlooking the biological basis for a lot of human behaviour — our kids’ and our own. Plus Dr. Verdolin provides really interesting examples of parenting from the animal world that are instructive to human parents.

Here are some resources related to my discussion with Dr. Verdolin.

Dr. Verdolin’s new book Raised by Animals: The Surprising New Science of Animal Family Dynamics

Her first book Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships

Dr. Verdolin’s Psychology Today blog

Dr. Verdolin’s website

Related Episode: The New Science of Emotion And What It Means For Kids

Related Episode: Family Naturism: Raising Kids Around Social Nudity

What Dr. Verdolin she most hopes people get out of reading Raised by Animals:

“One thing is to be able to initiate conversations on some difficult topics without some of the pitfalls that can happen. Animals for me and, I hope, for others are a great segue into some difficult conversations. If you can talk about pregnancy in male sea horses or sibling rivalry in sharks, this can give a good transition to discussing sensitive parenting topics, because you’re one step removed. I always find animals are a great buffer to starting some of those conversations. And I think parenting is a topic that is fraught with a lot of danger and differences; everyone has a different way of doing things or thinks they have a different way of doing things. So I would like people to be able to use some of the examples in the book to initiate conversations with other parents, within their own families, with their kids about certain topics.

“Second, I really want people to have a better perspective about where we are in the grand scheme of things with other species, and see these similarities and differences between us as a way to feel more connected to other animals, to our families and to our fellow human beings. And then to use some of their strategies to improve our lives, improve our relationships and improve our families.”

Photo credit: Astrid Capello Photography

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Brandie Weikle

About Brandie Weikle

Brandie is a long-time parenting editor, writer and spokesperson. Most recently editor-in-chief of Canadian Family magazine, Brandie has also been the parenting and relationships editor for the Toronto Star, founding editor of two Toronto Star websites, and an editor for Today's Parent. Brandie is a single mother of two in Toronto and a frequent television and radio guest on parenting topics. A former digital director at House & Home Media, she also consults on digital audience engagement. Contact her here. View all posts by

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