Modern World Discipline.

It's not your job to be her friend -- you're supposed to be her PARENT.
It’s not your job to be her friend — you’re supposed to be her PARENT.

[Excerpt from Diary of an Angry Father. Yes, there is a book.]

Discipline is critically important in raising a child. All humans need to be taught that there are rules and limits in life, and there are real and sometimes dire consequences for breaking those rules. If your children don’t learn this fact early, you’re going to have one devil of a time trying to teach it later. And if you’re foolish enough not to teach it at home, the culture shock of learning it in the real world may result in your son or daughter living on your couch, broken, depressed, and disillusioned, by the time they reach 25.

Here’s an important test. Do you envision yourself as one of those parents who is friends with your child? Do you consider yourself “cool” and “hip” and “one of the kids?” Do you engage in conversations on their level, and keep up with the latest trends in celebrities, music and fashion? You’re setting yourself up to become a complete failure as a parent. Put your kids up for adoption immediately before you cause any further damage.

Perhaps you are the polar opposite. Some parents would be better prison wardens than parents. Before you force your average kid to play the cello, compete in chess tournaments, or become the next fencing master, remember that kids are just kids. Let them spread their wings a bit and give them an opportunity to express their own interests – rather than forcing them to pursue yours. Otherwise, you run the risk of permanently alienating your children.

You need to find a balance somewhere between the friend and the warden. It’s a difficult task, since each of us is different. You’ll need to consider your child’s common sense, aptitude, and their general disposition.

Your primary job as a parent is to teach your child the difference between right and wrong. Today, our children are inundated with mass media, social media, and marketing messages that have greyed and often obscured the lines between these concepts. Your task, to communicate the difference, is now more difficult than it has ever been before, in the entire history of human evolution. You need to be clever and underhanded for your lessons to be effective. Observe your child’s behavior, and then make predictions about future behavior in certain situations, as best you can, based on the evidence you gather. This will hopefully allow you to plant relevant and timely reverse-psychology seeds in your child’s mind, which will help them make better decisions and consider real world implications and repercussions more objectively.

One not-too-bright mother made all the rookie mistakes. Beverly allowed her daughter to begin dating, unsupervised, at 14. She rarely intervened in her child’s social activities, writing them off as “that’s what teens do.” Beverly gave her daughter a brand new car at age 16. Beverly considered herself a “cool” mom, so she decided against issuing a curfew. Beverly allowed her daughter to stay in a house that she rented the Jersey Shore, for two weeks each summer, completely UNSUPERVISED, knowing that there were older boys bringing alcoholic beverages to her daughter’s parties. Any teen would think this was fabulous. Today, poor Beverly is now the gossip of all her former friends, as the mom who unwittingly created a substance-abusing, irresponsible, unemployable dependent on the state who has ultimately ruined her ex-husband and her daughter’s life, too.

Never forget that until your child is a legal emancipated adult living away from your home, you are the boss. You need to be the boss. Regardless of what he or she says, your child subconsciously wants you to be the boss. Although it’s easier and may seem cooler to be your child’s friend, this is the single biggest mistake any parent can make. When they’re grown and have families of their own, then you can be friends. But for now, your child really needs you to be in charge. Although they’ll never understand or admit it, most children feel more secure when you position yourself as a figure of authority. Authority teaches them to be more responsible. This will help them become better adults and hopefully responsible parents.

There is a trick. You can’t hold the reins so tightly it causes a rebellion. I believe in a progression of freedom. When a child demonstrates to me that she can handle certain gradually more complex situations and responsibilities, and I will allow her graduated incremental freedoms. If she can’t get good grades, keep her room clean, and do the dishes properly and consistently without me nagging her, she’s obviously not ready to get her learners permit and certainly not prepared to party with her unsupervised friends until 1 AM. Communicate this method to your child, and make sure he or she understands exactly what is expected from them. Pay very close attention, test and evaluate frequently, and then punish or reward accordingly.

You will run into significant resistance. Many of your child’s peers’ parents will not enforce any rules, and your child may think your system is abnormal. Naturally, they’ll become jealous. I blatantly tell my kids the truth – other parents must not care about their kids. I ask them, “Wouldn’t you rather have parents who care about you?” They think about this for a while, and usually agree.

Unfortunately, in America, we can no longer apply any sort of punishment. Thanks to several misguided parenting experts and overly liberal judges who have set ridiculous precedents, we can’t even say hurtful words that might elude to the usage of any form of physical discipline, because this too could technically be construed as assault. As a matter of fact, if a child even feels slightly threatened, no matter what kind of havoc that child has directly caused, they’ve been conditioned to call the police on their parents and report domestic violence. And many do. As strange as this sounds, you should be aware of this. It’s quite embarrassing when the local police pull up to your home with lights and sirens to intervene in a silly family squabble.

Make sure that your children are well aware that if they call the police and you are arrested, they won’t get to stay home alone. Standard operating procedure dictates the child will be immediately removed from their comfortable and familiar environment, lose most of the toys and privileges that you pay for, and they’ll be placed in a potentially less attractive foster care situation. Depending on the location, they may have to change schools too. That should make them think twice about calling 911 the next time you punish them for forgetting to do a chore.

In some cases, sometimes through no direct fault of the parents, a child may be too far gone to recover. Instead of attempting to handle a potentially violent situation yourself, call 911 yourself and have them intervene on your behalf. I am aware of many unfortunate situations in which this should have or actually happened. This action by his parent sent a definitive message to her child. A few other strange but real twists later, and things worked out for the mom and her husband. The kid’s out of the house, not breaking down any more doors, and the parents are finally rested and seem quite happy. Little Punkin’ is now in rehab.

When you see parents ask their kids to do or not to do something and the child looks back and sneers, it’s because our society has removed the teeth of discipline. We are now faced with at least two complete generations of humans with no fear of civil or religious retribution. Wonder why our prisons are so over-crowded? Our now largely amended and loosely interpreted Constitution has unintentionally produced a culture of citizens who are ill-suited for civilized society.

Be that as it may, you should strive to avoid these mistakes. Know that even though your disciplinarian hands are tightly tied, there are still quite a few very effective tools in your arsenal.

Always try reasoning first. Tell them why you don’t want them to do what they think they should be doing, or vice-versa. Project the long-term effects of a potentially bad decision. You may have to paraphrase several times before you get their attention. For example, your 16 year-old daughter wants to go to a nighttime beach party or bonfire with a bunch of classmates. You ask who’s organizing the party, and she infers that it may be a student, and not a parent. But she quickly corrects herself, and says a parent. You ask for the parent’s phone number to verify, but of course, she doesn’t happen to have it. And she insists it would be weird if you called. You decline permission on the grounds that it is technically illegal to have a party on the beach without a permit, which can only be issued to an adult. Further, it’s a bad idea to be in the dark with a bunch of strangers. You know from experience that someone is likely to bring alcoholic beverages or worse, which is quite illegal. Further, mind-altering substances tend to lead to generally bad behavior which may include fights, inadvertent vandalism, and the potential arrest of all involved.

She still can’t comprehend the problem, because nothing bad ever happens during those beach parties on any of the teen sitcoms. So you’ll have to delve further into the possibilities. Dark areas could be an invitation for rape – a beach is a public place, and people other than your classmates may be there. Inadvertent physical harm from being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a fight, like being hit by a thrown garbage can or a broken beer bottle, could lead to permanent disfiguration of the face or body, and who wants that? And an arrest on her record could hurt job opportunities or her chances to get into the college of your dreams. Inexperienced teenaged minds are not yet wired to consider all these real-world circumstances, so it’s your job to do the thinking for her.

Listen carefully to her response, if she offers one. Your child may have the maturity to make the right decisions, apply the right care and reasoning, and ultimately offset your concerns. Or her argument might be immature and completely invalid. Still, with this method, you need to offer your counter reasoning as a discussion, not as though you are laying down the law. Remember, it is your job to teach them from your experience so that they won’t make potentially silly or damaging mistakes. Remind them of this fact. You might not have enough information to make an informed decision, but you do have the prerogative to decline permission based on that fact, and leave the burden of proof to your child. The delay in permission may give you enough time to avoid the potentially adverse situation.

If reasoning fails, you have the option to offer a substitute, such as a distraction. Play a game. Go to the movies. Have your own supervised beach party. Whatever. But just be a parent. Don’t simply give in because you don’t think you have a choice – you most certainly do. She may be mad as hell and storm up to her bedroom to fiercely defend her status on the social network of the month, but she’ll get over it. Bring her some ice cream a bit later, and at least attempt to talk with her. Remind her that your decision was made for her own good, and that you love her with all your heart.

In the event that he or she has already done something stupid or disrespectful, you must show some authority immediately, or you’ve just green-lighted such behavior and your child will run amuck from this point forward. Yelling and showing your displeasure is typical and can be moderately effective, but that’s sometimes not enough. You need to invoke immediate consequences. Depending on the severity of the infraction, you should have a predetermined and reasonable punishment ready to deploy.

Most importantly, you need to remember that they are just children, and it’s completely normal for them to make mistakes –as it is completely normal for you to correct them. What’s not normal or acceptable is repeated mistakes. A three-strike rule is a fair and effective method of discipline. The first time, you should offer calm reasoning and steps for improvement or redemption. Strike two means you didn’t make your point clearly the first time, or your children don’t think you’re serious. The punishment should be more severe for a second offense. A third strike, with the same bad behavior, means your child has no respect for your authority. Now it’s time to get serious.

You have the power and authority to take away the things they love. You legally cannot and should never deprive them from basic needs like safety, food, shelter, and clothing – but you sure can make that supply of basic needs seem miserable. It’s your hard-earned money and you’re the boss. These are just a few proven punishments that have enough teeth to show you mean business:

  • Ground them from all outside activities except school.
  • Increase chores.
  • Withhold allowances.
  • Cancel the cable TV.
  • Cancel the data plan on their smart phone.
  • If they need a phone, replace the smartphone with a prepaid flip phone.
  • Change the password to the wireless internet.
  • Physically remove the cable modem.
  • Sell the video game system.
  • Hide the car keys.
  • Remove the car battery.
  • Let the air out of at least two car tires.
  • Sell her car.
  • Disallow permission to go to the prom.
  • Don’t pay for any fringe activities.
  • Cancel vacation.
  • Drop them off at your parents before you go on vacation.
  • Sell the poodle.
  • Remove their trendy clothes and shoes from their room and replace them with clean and conservative thrift store clothes.
  • Provide bland meals, and avoid eating out.

Punishments, although they should clearly suck, should not be unreasonable in severity or duration. Grounding a child for missing curfew should only last a week for a first offense, but let them know the next time the punishment may go on longer.

Punishments you probably should not dole out include:

  • Shooting her laptop on YouTube.
  • Forcing them to stand on a street corner with a sandwich sign describing their mistake.
  • Anything that has anything to do with duct tape.

Discipline is a love-hate thing. Children must be taught that there are consequences for not doing the right thing. In the real world, you’ve got to compete against everyone else. If you go to work and decide not to do your job, someone else will do it, and the slacker will be fired. If you get fired, you won’t get paid, and no one will hire you because you’ll have a bad reference. If you don’t have a job, it’ll be difficult to pay rent, eat, buy beer, and make car payments. You’ll lose your cell phone, your internet, and you won’t be able to party with your employed friends. It’s hard to realize this fact in the comfort of your childhood home.

Once your unemployment runs out, welfare averages about $300 a month for a single person. To put that into perspective, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $550 a month. You’re already $250 in the hole, and you haven’t eaten or bought toilet paper yet. Never mind your car, insurance, gas, the internet, or your cell phone. They’ll all be gone – you can no longer afford those luxuries. What’s that, junior? You want to move back home if things don’t work out? I don’t think so. Make that option as undesirable as possible.

Sorry, punkin, we’ve already moved and downsized. Or, we converted your room into an office. Maybe you could sleep on a couch for a few nights. But we’ll need to charge you rent. And you’ll need to do an inordinate amount of chores to pay for your meals.

Only discipline with teeth will be effective. Make sure those kids can feel the bite. Perhaps that infant circumcision was payment in advance for all the grief some sons will inevitably cause their parents.

It’s a parent’s job to nag their kids. Call it what you want, but every time you attempt to steer your kids straight, you’re nagging them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve mentioned something once, twice, or a hundred times – you’re still a nag. The problem is, all humans have an inner mute button. Repeated exposure to any stimulus causes desensitization. And repeated nags will go unheeded. You’re wasting your breath.

What you need to do is filter your advice. Determine what’s truly important in terms of respect and safety. For instance, a lot of things get on my mother’s nerves. One of her biggies was when we kids didn’t completely close our mouths entirely when we ate, resulting in a strange smacking noise when chewing. She routinely told us to close our mouths, yet we routinely forgot. We didn’t hear her after a while. Besides, it’s hard to eat with your mouth closed, Mom. What’s the big deal?

A very difficult thing for anyone to learn is how curb their advice. Ask yourself if modification of the behavior in question is really important enough to risk activating their inner mute button. Is the offending behavior simply something that’s a pet peeve, or is it something that may directly affect their health or well-being? A better question would be, wouldn’t you rather they hear you when you tell them to be careful crossing the street?

There are better ways to get your point across. One of the most effective I’ve used is to pull my kids into a quiet place when I see something I want to address, making sure I have their complete attention, and then I calmly explain why they should or shouldn’t do a certain thing. I try to make the explanation as relevant as I possibly can, considering the child’s age and level of maturity. Explaining the potential social, physical, or other pitfalls or repercussions of a certain behavior seems to be more effective in curbing future actions than a quick verbal nag. In certain circumstances, a swift and immediate, yet adequate punishment may be necessary to permanently get your point embedded into their memory banks. Remember, they can become desensitized to this and all of your tactics, so use them sparingly and only when necessary.

Advertisements

My kids came up with the solution to our political mess.

King of the United States.
King of the United States.

You never know who the next hero or world leader might be. It could be the straight C student down the street, or the autistic chess genius who keeps to himself in the back of the classroom. Barack Obama was raised by a hippy, and he didn’t do too bad for himself. Benjamin Netanyahu went to high school about three miles from my childhood home in Philadelphia, and look where he ended up. It almost seems random. So why couldn’t my kids be the next Nobel Laureates?

My children hate that I force everyone to eat dinner together. All their friends play video games or watch the Bachelor on television while they eat, but I encourage lively discussion at the dinner table. I hope it’s helping their conversational and debating skills. Last night’s topic was politics. My son is studying civics in school and learning how our government is assembled. He had heard somewhere that you had to be rich to run for Congress, and he wanted to know why. Great question, uncomfortable topic — especially for a teacher. For a moment, I almost told him the bigger issue was they were mostly rich — and white. I temporarily quelled my desire to advise him that you should never discuss religion or politics in a business environment — or at dinner. My wife shook her head and thought about leaving, but the good sport she is, she stuck around this time, almost challenging me with a silent look that I know for a fact conveyed “Well, how are you going to handle this one, hot shot?”

First of all, I had to disclaim that not all congresspersons are wealthy. Hank Johnson and Bobby Rush don’t have a pot to pee in. Alcee Hastings and Ruben Hinojosa seem even worse, with negative fortunes, but that’s often deceiving. Chances are you had a positive fortune at some point if you have accountants smart enough to put you in severe redness. But he was right for the most part, as many of our representatives have vast wealth, like Ms. Pelosi’s estimated $100 million fortune. Mark Warner has twice that much.

The underlying question, why, is a difficult one. Without permanently souring my son on politics or introducing him to conspiracy theorists, I scoured my neurons for something painless that he could digest. Fortunately, I found something quickly that could also help his social development. “Wealthy people have a lot of friends. Most of them are successful in business, so their friends are probably successful too. The more friends you have, the better chance you have of getting elected. And the richer your friends are, the more money they can contribute to help.”

Honestly, it was brutally painful to sugarcoat that line of bullshit. Campaign contributions and lobbying are nothing more than legalized bribes. Representatives are supposed to protect the best interests of their constituents, but many of those representatives have no idea how their constituents live. What really happens is that rich guys help their buddies get elected in exchange for handshake favors that help everyone involved get wealthier. Government contracts, favorable legislation, special appointments, and so on. That’s not what our founding fathers had in mind, but that’s the end result. I thought it better to let him find that out for himself.

My son digested my line of bullshit for a moment. I was hoping to change the subject, but he beat me to it with another zinger. “Why does everyone have to belong to a political party?”

I was beginning to think the people who watched television during dinner were the smarter ones. “Well, think of it like a club, or more like a football team. There are two main teams, like vicious divisional rivals, kind of like the Cowboys and, well, anyone who’s not the Cowboys. Their teammates all kind of stick together for a number of reasons. One team wants the government to help the people, and the other side thinks people should help themselves. There’s the left and right, and all that confusing stuff your teacher will talk about.”

Somehow, my naive little man, who’s still just a boy with no sense of how fucked up the world truly is, managed to come up with a solution that makes complete sense. “Maybe if regular people got to run the government, and there weren’t any parties, we might end up with the best government. Why aren’t representatives chosen like that jury duty thing you have to do?” Profound, yet quite simple. His unjaded young mind just figured out how to completely level the field.

Although no one knows for sure, many scholars believe our founding fathers never intended governing to be a career. What if representatives were truly representative of the people? What if Beyonce the Barista or Ernesto the Electrician were chosen randomly to represent their state? Wouldn’t that give us a more balanced government indicative of the true voice of its people? Sure, even an average person can slant wickedly, but with a one-term limit, he or she would certainly cause much less damage than a life-term senator. I had never thought of a jury duty congress. Shoot, better yet, let 12 year-olds run the country for a couple years. Couldn’t be any worse than it already is. Fortunately, my son hadn’t become too familiar with the democratic atrocity known as The Electoral College yet.

So let’s recap. He’s going to run for congress as a poor, independent, one-term representative. I won’t ever tell him that he doesn’t have a shot in hell, but many folks didn’t think Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela did either. I think he’s on to something. We should try it his way for a decade or two. Now, if I can only keep his fragile mind away from Fox News forever, we may end up with a Nobel winner.

I almost named my daughter PIG.

Why couldn't you name me Bob? I hate my name!
Why couldn’t you name me Bob? I hate my name!

An old neighbor of mine was very into some guy named Jesus. That name isn’t too typical in English-speaking American circles, so I assumed her Jesus guy might have been Mexican. Her bumper stickers and Facebook posts were always neatly coordinated and quite often mentioned things like Jesus saves. Jesus forgives. Jesus provides. Jesus this, Jesus that, Jesus everything. At one point I thought, Wow, this kid must be one hell of a landscaper. Apparently, the one thing Super Jesus couldn’t do was reach out and smack this silly woman on her forehead for deciding to curse her son with a ridiculously obscure biblical name. We’re talking Old Testament here – filled with the truly peculiar names that nearly no one has used in millennia. Granted, there are some pretty happening Old Testament names, like Moses, Noah, and Adam. But these fools today are using the more crazy ones like Solomon, Silas, Titus, Abel, Caleb, and Balthazar. Yeah, she went there. She actually named her kid Balthazar.

I wondered what she was thinking. I’m sure she was trying to be cutesie so she could impress her equally small-minded friends who also went with odd names. I must admit that at times I envy her ignorance. It must be wonderful to be carefree and apathetic, thinking you don’t ever have to do anything meaningful, because you know in your heart with absolutely no doubt that some bearded white guy in the sky is taking care of everything with a master plan we simply cannot comprehend. All we have to do is say thanks once a week, and apologize whenever we make a mistake.

The problem with these obscure names is that most children outside of your tidy Jesus circle won’t necessarily share your joy and creativity. Many children (not yours, of course) are cruel and insecure. The first thing an insecure person will do is deflect attention away from him or herself, by any means possible, and then laugh hysterically to engage other weak-minded people to validate and cement that deflected attention. The bully’s joke just became a permanent label for your poorly named Balthazar. Considering that your child may be stuck in the same school with that insecure idiot and his or her posse for up to twelve years, I’m sure you can deduce that your child will take one hell of a mental beating, quite possibly leading to a deep resentment from which he or she won’t easily be able to recover without substantial therapy.

Other than a circumcision, the first name you choose for your child is the only gift you can bestow upon him or her forever. It’s critical that you choose that name as wisely as you can.

When choosing a first name, do the “rhyme test” and the “acronym test.” For example, Bob the Slob, Smella Bella, and Fatty Patty are a few of the more simple examples of extremely immature yet potentially embarrassing or inappropriate rhymes which your child may be subjected to for several painful years. Please consult a rhyming dictionary or website with your potential first names before committing to them.

Before I had my daughter, I was fooling around with different female names. I had always liked the name Paige, and her mother preferred the name Isabella for her middle name. We did the rhyme test and decided there wasn’t anything serious we couldn’t overcome. Page, pager, rage, cage; whatever. Nothing quite disturbing there. Isabella might be a bit more challenging with words like smella or fella. Still, no big deal, right? The name passed the rhyme test easily.

But after combining the three initials, using my last name, we realized we would have created a terrible situation. Her initials would have spelled the word PIG. Imagine the shame and embarrassment caused by having those initials embroidered on her little pee-wee soccer bag. Had we not done the acronym test, our poor little piglet might have been on Prozac by the age of six.

There are several other negative three-letter words and acronyms you can form using people’s initials that you might want to avoid, like CUM, DIC, KKK, DIE, ZIT, DUM, RAT, SOB, GAS, BAD, HOR, BUM, and SIN, for example. Always check the combined initials of your child’s first, middle, and last names before committing that name to that birth certificate.

Proper coaching before your child gets to school can alleviate or desensitize much of the embarrassment and stress that may accompany an already issued unfortunate name. Bullies look for weakness and tend to avoid strong personalities. A great comeback can shut a bully down permanently. It also doesn’t hurt if your kid is a mean looking 6’6” by the time he’s 12.

There’s also the legal option, which is often less costly and troublesome than a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, you have to be considered an adult by a court to legally change your name.

For more on names and helpful naming conventions, check this website out: http://www.personalnameology.com

Circumcision hurts, mommy.

To cut or not to cut... that is the question.
To cut or not to cut… that is the question.

If you truly love your newborn son, don’t overlook the issue of legalized torture. Apparently, male infants are not protected against cruel and unusual punishment by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. So the decision is left up to you – to circumcise, or not to circumcise? Why? Why not? What’s the point? The real question is, would you let some heartless doctor cut skin off your most private part? Of course not. That’s got to be incredibly painful! So why would you pay him to do that to your innocent little boy? Many doctors don’t even give an anesthetic before performing a circumcision. And since it technically is a surgery, there are associated risks including blood loss and infection. Why not slice the vulva off girls, while you’re at it? May as well fleece those insurance companies for as much as you can.

Circumcision removes the natural foreskin on the shaft of the penis, leaving that little “head” part that looks like a mushroom exposed. When a male achieves an adult erection, you can still see the scars on the shaft. Honestly, I would have preferred a choice.

Some religious proponents believe a clean penis is holier. But if their God didn’t want men to have a foreskin, why did He put it there? Some folks in the medical community justify circumcision as helpful from a sanitary perspective, potentially avoiding infection from bacteria that can hide beneath the foreskin. Opponents say it’s a silly, painful, cruel, and dated ritual with unfounded roots in religion that can adversely affect the sensitivity of the penis during sexual intercourse. If you teach your son to wash his penis thoroughly, he shouldn’t have an issue.

Whatever you decide, remember that circumcision is an irreversible procedure. You can’t easily slap that foreskin back on when he’s 20 and foreskins are as cool as iPhones once were. So think about it, discuss it, and choose for your son very carefully.

Movin’ On Up to The Land of The Nerds.

https://i2.wp.com/media.hamptonroads.com/cache/files/images/886701.jpg
Movin’ on up. George and Weezy were no dummies.

My neighborhood is overrun by nerds. Engineering nerds too, the worst kind. Engineers are taught to stay inside their tidy little boxes and focus on the task at hand with a very narrow tunnel vision. This training spills over into their personal life. If you’ve ever needed a sleep aid, befriend a software engineer. My buddy’s interests are limited to biking, biking shorts, biking safety, and his college football team. His favorite comedian is Bill Cosby, and his favorite movie is Star Trek. He even knows a bit of Klingon. He’s not a bad guy — it’s just that he’s extremely limited. In everything. And while the stay-at-home moms in my hood are quite Stepford, most of my male neighbors could be identical clones of this guy. I have tried continually to fit in, attending several functions and parties, but it’s the same exact conversation at every party. My “Irish goodbyes” are viewed as extremely rude, although not as awkward as formally leaving after the first 15 minutes.

Nerds are not necessarily a bad thing. In my old neighborhood, everyone seemed to think they were cool. Granted, conversation was a hundred times more interesting, and their parties were much more fun with scantily dressed women and substances that may soon be legal (of which I did not partake). Concurrently, many of the children in the old neighborhood seemed to be maladjusted and fairly ignorant, which is why we moved. No matter what a psychologist tells you, a child’s most powerful influence is his or her peers. With few exceptions, our children’s peers dictate what they wear, what they watch, what they listen to, and what they say. When my child began to ask why he couldn’t watch Duck Dynasty, I knew it was time to move. I would rather my own child hang with nerds instead of maladjusted cool kids.

My geek buddy and his wife booked a pricey vacation for the two of them to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. Something came up and their parents weren’t available to watch their son. Ostensibly, the Irish goodbye parents were their last resort before they had to cancel their trip. My son had never really conversed with their boy before, although they attended several classes together. After several dirty looks from my buddy’s bitchy Stepford wife, we set up one of our extra bedrooms and had our son show their boy the ropes.

Their boy was very polite, commonly using the foreign terms “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.” Seemed a little pretentious at first, but it grew on me. Apparently, it grew on my son too. We encourage our kids to engage in lively conversation at the dinner table in an effort to keep lines of communication open. I do allow quite a bit of leeway regarding being respectful towards others, reining it in when necessary. That freedom seems to bring up formerly hidden situations dealing with friends that I may need to address. It seems to work well. I worried our neighbor’s boy might find this disturbing, but I decided not to warn him. During my son’s rampage about the practices of a certain teacher at his school and my counterargument in her defense, the neighbor boy nudged my kid and said “BT.” The table became silent. “BT?” my son asked, “What is BT?” The neighbor boy leaned into my son and whispered, “backtalk.” He was scolding my son for being disrespectful.

This was an extremely unusual yet interesting dynamic I had never experienced. I suppose the neighbor boy had his own incident of backtalking for which he was corrected at some point, probably by an adult. But a kid to kid correction? In my old neighborhood, that was grounds for an ass-kicking. Shoot, the corrective parents might have been beaten up too. This kid hadn’t been at my house for a full day, yet he was confident enough to offer corrective guidance to a near stranger. I have to admit, I liked what I saw. Over the week, with a few more reminders, my kid seemed a bit more respectful. He even did his homework and studied without being prompted, and with none of the usual complaints. A few weeks after the neighbor kid left, my son’s behavior still seems improved.

I invited the neighbors over for a glass of wine (beer is frowned upon in this neck of the woods) to discuss their trip, but more to discuss their parenting insights. His mother wouldn’t stop talking and I found it difficult to get a word in edgewise. I found a moment when she was able to breathe and interjected with my question about BT. She looked at me with her trademark Stepford death stare, and asked if her son had behaved himself. “He was an absolute angel,” I replied. “But how did the whole BT thing come about? You know, backtalk?” Obviously, she did not want to discuss that, as she asked where the powder room was. That was incredibly awkward, because we have virtually identical homes – only our powder room is called a bathroom. Her husband jumped in to change the subject to talk about his new solid bicycle tires as my wife led his mentally challenged partner to the powder room.

These engineering folks’ kids are really good kids. With a few exceptions, most of them are very smart, well behaved, and eager to learn. And that seems to be rubbing off on my son. No offense intended, but everyone hated school at the mostly Caucasian ghetto elementary he attended, and no one knew why. For the first time in his young life, my kid says he likes school and finds it interesting. I still can’t deal with those parents, but I have resolved to tolerate them and I am grateful for their spirit. Their children may be the catalyst for my own son’s success. There’s definitely some truth to George and Weezy’s madness.

Apples to Apples: How to Explain Narcissism to a Teenaged Narcissist.

IMG_8041

Mom, can you take off from work today and take me for a physical? I have soccer tryouts and I forgot I needed the paperwork. Please? All my friends are trying out, and there’s this really cute boy there…

On most any other day, that might have been possible. But this particular Monday morning was too important to miss. A mandatory staff meeting, two interviews, and a report that was to be hand -delivered to a senior VP made any variation in this day impossible. “I’m sorry, boo, but I can’t help you today. I need advance notice for something like that,” replied her mother sadly. Her daughter whined and complained and feigned a panic attack — things that usually work, but all they did this time was make her mom feel even more guilty about not being a stay at home mother. “I have a lot of responsibility and I can’t just drop everything when you make a poor schedule decision. You should have told me about this weeks ago.”

“Oh,” the daughter fired back in her pissiest voice – the one she uses when she realizes she won’t get her way – “I have a lot of responsibility too. But at least I can make time for things that are important.”

That was enough for me. No one talks to my best friend that way — not even her daughter. I put my Wicked Stepfather hat on and off I went. “How dare you talk to your mother in that tone! Let me explain how this whole situation works, because apparently you didn’t get the memo. Sit down for a second.” She pouted and refused to sit. After all, I’m only the step-parent, so she feels she can try me. “Sit your ass down,” I said loudly as I gave her a soft little push into the soft couch to make sure she knew I meant business. No, it wasn’t a hard or abusive push, you pseudo-psychologists, stay-at-home moms, and completely useless Huffington Post parent bloggers. It was a gentle push, and you know in your heart she deserved it. I then told her something like this:

Look, sweetie, I realize this may be difficult for you to comprehend, but believe it or not, there is more going on in the world than you. Your little “responsibility” in this world is important, but compared to your mother’s, your responsibility is infinitely meaningless. Let me lay it out for you, sunshine. All you have to do is go to school, study, and get good grades. And that’s pretty important. But do you see all this? Everything all around you? The clothes on your back? The hot shower you took this morning? The blades in the razor you shaved your legs with? The couch you’re sitting on? The cool air conditioning you’re enjoying? The breakfast you just ate? The car you ride in to school? Those mindless shows you watch on my television via the cable service that I pay for? That shiny new iPhone 6 that you’re not in the least thankful for? None of that happens without your mother and I. If your mom shunned her responsibility like you just did, all this goes away and you either become homeless, or go to a foster home which I guarantee will not be anything near as great as this one. Your mother does so much for you that you completely ignore. The dishes she cleans while you’re watching The Disney Channel on your iPad. The clothes she washes and folds while you’re texting your friends. The house she cleans while you’re walking around complaining that there’s nothing to eat. The dinners she makes after a difficult day at the office while you’re sitting there impatiently waiting for dinner service. And she does all that after working 55 to 60 hours a week. When’s the last time you volunteered to help with anything around here? That’s right, you haven’t. It’s been months. Don’t lie and say you have, because I’ve been watching. So the next time you demand something from your mother, you’d better rethink your strategy. As far as your physical goes, we can’t help you today. And that’s your fault, not ours. The world won’t end if you don’t play soccer. Maybe next year you’ll be responsible enough to plan ahead. 

Who the hell do these kids think they are? There’s no fear allowed in parenting today. Even the most minute repercussions have been deemed socially unacceptable by today’s parenting specialists — who are apparently Arianna Huffington’s hand-picked feminists, and now the NFL. Children have been trained to call the police or social services upon the threat of any sort of discipline. Talking only goes so far in the real world. Perhaps in Huffington’s tux and taffeta world, words may have more of an impact. But here in the trenches of reality. you’ve left parents defenseless. Today’s children are dangerously narcissistic, a trait that will undoubtedly carry forward to adulthood if not restrained and corrected. I’m not sure that’s a world you will enjoy either, Ms. Huffington.

Dads, don’t be a dick. You’re in this thing too.

Dads, don't be a dick. He needs you too.
Dads, don’t be a dick. He needs you too.

Apparently, I’ve done it all wrong, according to my new hotshot publicist. “Men don’t read — women do,” she told me, shaking her head in quite visible disgust to emphasize that I was a complete dumb ass. She says what I should have done was title my book, Diary of an Angry Father, something like A Mommy’s Guide to Raising A Perfect Angel, under a non-threatening nom-de-plume. Maybe something like Ophelia Butts. Well, that sucked the wind from my sails. Here I was, engineering this huge war against Time and Huffington because the misandrists who run those rags ignore fathers and men in general, and it turns out they were right. There was no audience to begin with. There’s nothing more frustrating than nuking nothing. And that is NOT an apology, you man-haters. My publicist’s advice is quite valid, and I will probably follow at least some of it. I’ll probably do the Today Show in drag during my book promotion tour after I get breast implants and fake eyebrows. I have done stranger things.

But the mis-marketing or misandrist things are not the real problem. I was quite disturbed to find that men, especially fathers-to-be, don’t fucking read. Perhaps they were endowed with some sort of God-given instinct that enables them to pick up that baby and simply know exactly what to do for the next 18 years. I wasn’t blessed with that gene. Or, maybe it’s true that a majority of fathers think they know everything, simply don’t give a shit, or are lazy and defer anything that matters to the mother. I certainly hope that’s not the case. After all, I care. A lot. However, a brief evaluation of most of my male friends leads me to believe the misandrists’ beliefs have some merit.

Parenting takes a balance of two (or more) learned adults to offer the very crucial yet commonly missing quality of objectivity. Granted, my own father barely acknowledged my existence. And when he did, I blew him off. That helped me realize that men need more help than women do with this parenting thing. Perhaps I will re-brand my honest and painful advice into something more palatable for women. And who knows. Maybe I’ll come out with a third variation, written by Mike Clitoris, that sneakily slips tips for fathers into a golf digest, gun magazine, soft porn video, or fantasy football website.