What’s a Dad To Do?


What’s a Dad To Do? That’s a good question. Sure my wife and I raised kids like zillions of other people. Did we do it right? Yes. How did that happen? I can tell you where to start, and if you don’t have this beginning, forget it.

I was watching a program about Ernie Johnson, Jr. When he talked about his father Ernie Johnson, Sr. He said he gave his Dad a coffee cup one time with the inscription (I believe I have this right) “To Dad My Best Friend”. I’d say the compliment that Ernie, Jr. gave his Dad is the pinnacle of compliments.

If the name Ernie Johnson, Sr. doesn’t mean anything to you, then you are not a long time Atlanta Braves fan. Ernie, Sr. was either a Braves announcer or color commentator from 1963 through 1999.

There are other people who are at the other end of the spectrum. I have heard people say they don’t want to be their child’s best friend. I guess that establishes a disciplinary wall between them that can be used to enforce the parents’ strict rule of law—their law.

Of course when I was growing up, I could witness parents’ action first hand—my own. I sorta picked through what I thought I’d do when I became a parent. That’s easier said than done. When I entered the parenthood combat zone, every situation I encountered seemed to have a nuance that my parents didn’t encounter when dealing with my brothers and sisters and me. The stored knowledge from all those years was almost worthless. Entering parenthood with an empty brain is frightening.

I stumbled around, probably not assessing the situation properly half the time, and the rest of the time just getting plain lucky in child rearing.

With this being Father’s Day, I thought I would go into my memory bank to try and figure out what I did (what my wife and I did) that caused the kids (Now long time adults) to be the adults we hoped they would be.

You have to remember there is a lot to remember, and much of it probably had nothing to do with the end result. I do know though that I finally hit upon the very thing that made the difference in their lives. And my wife and I concur on this.

You are going to say there is no way anyone can simplify raising kids, simplify it to this extent. Life is too complicated, you say, that one sentence cannot tell the whole story. That there must be something I forgot, and that fifty page document I recorded one time about raising kids, that my mind has entered the senile stage, and I just don’t remember.

I have not lost my mind, and I am not senile, although readers of this site might have varying opinions about that. This one sentence works whether you are a disciplinarian, a semi-disciplinarian, or a non-disciplinarian. This tells you whether your kids are on the right track, for if this does not exist, you may as well get ready for your kids to be mixed in with the wrong crowd or getting ready to go to jail, and sometimes the offenses are not minor.

Treat everyone with respect. That’s right. That’s the sentence. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything. True you have your own personalized additional measures of raising your own kids, but if respect is not there for everyone, you are going to have a great deal of difficulty overcoming the other obstacles, if you overcome them at all.

You say that can’t possibly work. It did for us, and even in today’s uneven world with texting, iPhones, Instagram, Facebook, and you name it, it will still work today.

Treat everyone with respect is a basic tenet of good behavior, a principle to live by. You don’t have to reprimand the kids at the supper table. You don’t have to blame them for texting and talking on the phone too much. You don’t have to go out and see if they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Just ask them, “Did you treat everyone with respect today?”

The kids will have to look you in your eye, and answer it. And they are not about to lie, because you will know they’re lying.

Do not forget one very important thing yourself as a parent. Don’t sit up there and rationalize and lie to yourself. Oh, Johnny’s being good and respecting everyone when he’s not. Parents lying to themselves will not help their kids. It will only make them worse. If you’re not willing to face your own truth, you won’t get it from your kids, and you certainly won’t get respect.

What’s a Dad to Do? Ask your kids if they treated everyone with respect today.

Don’t think that works? Try it.


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