4 distilld lessons from “Growing Up with Craig and Michelle” x The Michelle Obama Podcast

Here are the distilld lessons (extended) from “Growing Up with Craig and Michelle” from The Michelle Obama Podcast.

4 distilld lessons from “Growing Up with Craig and Michelle” x The Michelle Obama Podcast

Here are the distilld lessons (extended) from “Growing Up with Craig and Michelle” from The Michelle Obama Podcast.

On this episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast, Michelle sits down with her brother Craig Robinson to talk about their life as siblings and the values that they learned while growing up together. They also talk about how their childhood experiences impact the way they raise their own children.

Read this if…

  • You have a sibling, by blood or by choice
  • You are a parent
  • You’re dealing with the loss of a loved one

Guest Bio

Craig Robinson is a former college basketball coach, basketball executive, and broadcaster. He is a former head coach of men's basketball at Oregon State University and Brown University. He was a star forward for his basketball team at Princeton University in the early 1980s and a bond trader during the 1990s. He is the current vice president of player and organizational development for the New York Knicks.

the distilld lessons (extended)

Michelle Obama is very close to her older brother Craig Robinson. She refers to him as her first hero. She lovingly recounts in her memoir, Becoming, that Craig has been there for her since the day she was born. Their childhood experiences have taught them lessons that they apply now as parents to their own daughters.

On this episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast, Michelle sits down with her brother Craig Robinson, to talk about their life as siblings, and the values that they learned through their parents.

Here are the distilld lessons inspired by the “Growing Up with Craig and Michelle” episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast:

1. Teaching children independence helps them grow into independent adults.

Michelle and Craig, as children, rode their bikes in their pastime. They started on the sidewalk, and then they were allowed to cross to the other side. When they showed that they could cross safely, they were allowed to ride on the street.

One of their fondest bike rides was the first time they were allowed to ride around their block without supervision when they were seven and five years old. Craig turned around to check on Michelle so much that he almost crashed.

They both saw their near-crash experience as a childhood milestone. When their parents let them ride their bikes, they became more confident. The possibility of danger only made them closer to each other. Michelle’s trust in her brother grew because their parents entrusted him with her.

Their bike rides grew their bond as siblings, but it also showed how their parents empowered them to be more responsible for themselves and their siblings.

When we let children make decisions and face consequences, we teach them to be independent. This prepares them to meet the demands of adulthood. Conversely, when children are dependent growing up, they’re likely to continue being so in their adulthood. They could grow to become pleasers, disappointers, reactors, frustrators, or rejectors. They could also grow to rebel against their parents and turn to alcoholism and drug addiction.

Controlling children too much can actually stunt their growth. They’re not allowed to grow into responsible adults. We can’t always keep making choices for them. If we do, we might deprive them of learning the lessons that help them later in their life.

2. Curiosity is a valuable life-long trait to instill in children.

When Craig was in sixth grade, he had sexual education classes. While this wasn’t unusual, his performance in a test surprised the teacher. In this exam, he only missed one question. This made the teacher call their mother up because they wondered why Craig knew too much about sex. Their mother’s response was simple: when kids ask you questions, you just tell them the right answers.

Openness to complex ideas and concepts was key in their household. When they asked their parents about sensitive parts of their bodies, they were taught about sexuality. When they asked their parents if they were a rich family, they were taught fiscal responsibility. Their parents’ openness to questions made them feel comfortable with curiosity. They were enabled to ask more questions and learn throughout their childhood.

Parenting can be more effective when we field questions from children like this. In the book Children’s Questions, author Michelle Chouinard says that when we let children ask questions, even difficult ones, we can cultivate their curiosity. This curiosity then can help them make sound decisions in any given situations as they grow up.

3. Extreme sibling rivalry can have life-long effects for the whole family.

Michelle and Craig never felt like they were competing against each other. This is one of the things they were thankful for in their childhood. Even when Craig became a varsity basketball player, Michelle wasn’t given any less attention. They were allowed—encouraged, even--to tread their own paths.

They apply their parents’ style of parenting on their own children. Both of them take their time to cultivate their relationships with their children. They tried to assess and understand each of their temperaments. They made sure that their own kids had space to grow into their own. They made it clear to their children that the family is a team, and that one’s success was also the others’.

Instead of cultivating competitiveness within the household, parents can instead celebrate the success of one child while encouraging the other to maximize their potential. Children have different talents and interests. They develop at different paces. They should be shown that they don’t have to constantly prove their skill just to be seen and validated. When we show them that they have value outside of good grades or sports wins, it helps to them be kinder to themselves and others.

Sibling rivalry may be natural among siblings, but it can be so severe that it leads to physical violence and mental health problems. It often starts in teenage years but can carry into adulthood, causing permanent damage in the family. Marital problems and even domestic violence are also possible adverse effects to severe sibling rivalry.

It’s important to let children be themselves. This doesn’t only help them pursue their individuality, it also fosters harmonious relationships with their siblings. They can carry these good qualities into adulthood, and when meeting other people.

4. The secret to meaningful relationships is to “show up” for others.

Frasier Robinson, Michelle and Craig’s father, died of multiple sclerosis at the age of 55. When they were planning the funeral, Michelle and Craig had an argument. But when they were about to get into a fight, they both stopped when they realized they didn’t know how to fight each other. They were so close and already understood the other too well.

After their father’s death, Craig filled in the role of father figure in Michelle’s life. He made sure that she was safe and protected. He also kept all of Michelle’s suitors in check— including, of course, former president Barack Obama. Craig also became Michelle’s confidante and problem-solver. He heard out all of her fears and worries during her husband’s campaign and eventual presidency.

Michelle says that their father taught them that in order to build meaningful relationships, we have to “show up” for other people. We have to make conscious effort to connect with and help others. It could be in person, through a phone call, or even a text message. The important thing is to make the other person know that we’re here for them.

Through this, we can be better siblings, parents, children, or friends. We can reach out more to people and be more present in their lives. We could help them articulate their worries, work through their problems, or we could just give them comfort as we listen to them. When we try to show up for people, they can feel that they’re not alone, and they don’t have to be.

For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.

The Michelle Obama Podcast

Hosted by the former First Lady of the U.S., The Michelle Obama Podcast features conversations with her family, friends, and colleagues, where they have deep dive discussions on the relationships in our lives that partly shape who we are. Our distilld lessons here.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.