4 Parenting Lessons I Learned From Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out.

Emotion. It comes with the territory of parenthood. From birth on, our children will travel through seasons of ups and downs, good times and bad. How do we, as parents, help them navigate these tricky waters of life?


Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you: I love movies. I probably love them a little too much. In fact, my wife and I have been known to speak to one another in full movie lines. Yeah, it’s that bad!

More than the lines, though, is the story. I love a good story, good plot line, and especially good acting. Give me a Shawshank Redemption-Crash-Avengers-Braveheart mashed into one big cinematic experience and I’ll give you one happy man! There’s something about story, plot, and delivery that makes movies so darn good, and incredibly meaningful to our lives.

I always take away life lessons from nearly every movie I watch. Even if it’s a bad movie. Maybe it’s the communicator in me that is always on the lookout for application. I’m not sure. The other day, Kristin and I went on a date to see Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out. We knew going in that it was good, but we had no idea just how good it really was. Once again, Disney created something beyond imagination and creativity. In our opinion, Inside Out is one of their best animated features yet.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, it centers around a little girl named Riley and the emotions that live inside of her as she grows up- Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. As a child, she is happy and all of her emotions are balanced (for the most part). But in her pre-teen years her dad moves the family from Minnesota to California for a new job and everything goes haywire with her 5 emotions. They are in a race against time to restore balance to Riley and protect her core memories from disappearing forever.

Creative, inspiring, thought-provoking and fun! We loved this film. It hit home with me personally. But as a parent, I couldn’t help but think about my children and what they’ve gone through, in the past, when our life has become hectic or filled with change. Here are 4 parenting lessons I walked away from the film with:

  1. Pay attention to your children’s emotions. Sometimes life is moving so fast, and we are struggling to keep up, that we miss critical details when it comes to our children’s emotions. Life is going to happen. Sometimes you get fired. Sometimes you have to sell your house and move to a different state. Sometimes you lose a loved one. In the vortex of change, it’s easy to narrow your adult focus so much that you miss what’s happening with your children. This was illustrated well in the film. Once the family arrived in California, life and a new job took over and it was stressful. In many scenes, Riley stood in the shadows watching her parents deal with the change, unaware that she was there. Honestly, it’s an easy thing to overlook when life is closing in. But it’s critical that we pay attention to our children’s emotion in the midst of a big life change.
  2. My adult decisions directly impact my child’s emotions. In the movie, Riley’s parent’s make the decision to move from Minnesota to California. Big life decision! Especially considering that Riley’s roots, even as a youngster, were deep back home. She had friends, a life, and a hockey team that she loved. As the movie progresses it’s quite evident how much of an impact the move has on Riley’s life. Again- change is going to happen in life. While decisions must be made, an awareness of the impact they are making on our children is important. Several years ago, when I changed jobs and began working in a new city, it impacted my kids. They had to make new friends just like we did. It wasn’t easy for them. It took me a while but once I became aware of the impact my decision had made, I was able to respond to them with more compassion and sensitivity.
  3. My children need my help navigating seasons of change. Last year, I was unexpectedly fired from my job in the church. On the afternoon it happened I shared the sad news with my two Jr. High daughters. One was angry. The other just cried in the backseat as we drove along. This was a huge change especially since a big portion of our family’s life had to do with the church. We had friendships there. My children were in small groups there. This was all about to change, and change suddenly. But that’s life. And sometimes, life comes to an abrupt halt. It’s going to happen at one point or another to our children. It’s up to us, as the primary influence in their lives, to stand by them and help them navigate seasons of change to the best of our ability.
  4. Parent consistently and diligently, even when you’re in the middle of tough circumstances. Just because our family goes through a major life change (which ours has in the last few years), does not mean that we take our foot off the gas in parenting our children. There are times that compassion must lead the way, and we need a break from routine, but those times are the exception, not the rule. The healthiest thing you and I can do, when we’re in the middle of a tough life-circumstance, is continue to parent, consistently and with diligence.

The old Nationwide insurance commercial had it right- “Life comes at you fast!” Life is going to happen and your family will go through change at some point. How you lead your children through this determines much of how they will learn to handle change. Stay vigilant, stay focused, and stay consistent!

Question: Have you experienced a big life change recently? How did it impact your kids? What lessons have you learned? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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