A desperate man calls a talk-radio help show and says, “I need help, I have a drinking problem.” HOST: “Have you ever tried quitting?” CALLER: “That’s easy, I did that three times just today.” Stopping isn’t the problem, we all know how to do that, it’s not starting again – that’s where the wisdom is. Obviously, when it comes to child abuse there are some real clear lines that I don’t need to spell out. But, as with many things in life, there is an awful lot of gray. When we define child abuse by a set of actions, we can easily ignore many so called lesser actions that can be equally devastating. In fact, child abuse doesn’t have to involve physical actions at all. A student of mine who is a plastic surgeon told me of the teenager who tried to commit suicide because every time he saw his father, the father said to him, “I hate you.” That’s just as much child abuse as any amount of physical punishment. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how a parent can affect his children negatively. I use a simple rule of thumb to test for child abuse:
It’s your son’s sixteenth birthday and he is expecting a car. Why is he expecting a car? Because since his fifteenth birthday he's been telling you there is only one kid in his grade who didn’t get a brand new car and his father is making license plates for the federal authorities. So let’s examine the choices in front of you: Option a) Buy him the brand new Mustang – bright yellow – that he’s been hinting at for the last year. Option b) Buy him a 10 year old Ford Taurus in faded blue with roll-up windows, no a/c and rusted windshield wipers. Tell him if he wants the Mustang, he needs to work over the summer and you will match him $-for-$. Option c) Get him the same thing your father got you, a pat on the back and some ideas for a weekend job so he can save up for the 10 year old Taurus. For those who don’t have the finances to avail yourself of these choices you will probably fail to appreciate how difficult it really is. So let me spell out for you what goes through the mind of a rich dad as he thinks about each of those options: Option a) New Yellow Mustang: I’ll be lucky if the only thing in two pieces by his 17th birthday is the car. Do you want me to tell you about all the rich kids who are now paraplegics because they got a car like this? Option b) 10 Year Old Ford Taurus: My son is going to get very depressed. He’ll be incredibly embarrassed that all his friends have fancy cars. His friends will make fun of him to no end. He’s going to think I hate him and he’s going to start hanging with the kids who drive this kind of car, like the one whose father is making arts-and-crafts for the State of Florida. Those kids don’t take school seriously, many are taking drugs and most drop out of school. And if you think I am exaggerating, that’s what his school counselor told me! Option c) Car Wash: My neighbor did that with his kid three years ago. On the way home from work his son was mugged. He’s now blind in one eye and has a phobia about leaving the house, which he can only do if he’s seriously medicated. Of course, any one of them could be the choice that makes the boy into a man, but which one? It’s so easy to pick, but if you pick the wrong one you will never forget it. Never! Having met a significant number of these parents who now live with the knowledge that they picked the wrong option, I can attest to the fact you will never forget making the wrong choice. Alternatively, the poor parent has an easy choice. In fact he or she doesn’t really have any choice at all. It’s the son who has the choice, and it’s real simple and real clear: grow up or be bitter. Ok, so what’s a rich father or mother to do?
Wouldn’t life be great if it were as easy to empower our children as it were to mess them up?I know someone who’s son is suffering from Mercury poisoning – you can google what the effects of that are. Out of five choices we gave parents in our on-line survey, feeding your child harmful food was their second highest fear.The number one fear is that their child would marry the wrong person. I know parents whose children have done just that.The third highest fear is drugs, fourth is breaking the parent child relationship. Last, is sending them to the wrong school.And, unfortunately, I’ve seen them all. Not at the hands of indifferent or “too busy” parents, but by wonderfully conscientious moms and dads.I think we have to conclude that the things that can mess up our children are as easy as can be. As Ilana Ratner and Dick Goldman eloquently pointed out, you just can’t stop the world. If the list of tragedies, from minor to major is 100, then everyone of our children will go through many of them, many times over.Yet, it is far from inevitable that our children will be messed up.Two people go through the same experience, one is traumatized for the rest of their lives, the other uses the pain to make life, theirs and others, better.I remember vividly explaining to a class the experience of one of my teachers, and how an early trauma in his life, made him who he was. A woman raised her hand and told me, that same experience occurred to her daughter. It sent her spiraling into depression, to which she has not recovered.Parents, it is clear, can be broken into two categories, those who try to shield their children from the world, and those that give their children a shield.
NO! Call me slow or dim-witted, but I always thought "no" summed it up pretty clearly. I'm a sort of an old-fashioned, Oxford English Dictionary kind of guy. “No” means no. As in no, you can't eat more candy, take the car out for a spin on your 13th birthday, or sell your new brother Zak on eBay. But that's me. In the kid dictionary, “no” means “maybe, possibly, depends, wait 5 minutes and ask again.” And here we have the great parental debate: What do we do with a no.
I have a dream that goes like this: ME: "Son, don't eat anymore cookies before dinner." SON: "OK." That's it. I know, it's not world peace. It's not feeding the hungry or curing cancer or anything like that. Those things seem so difficult and this one seems so close, so attainable. But that's the parenting paradox: The moment you tell them what not to do, that thing becomes immensely appealing to them. King Solomon said it so well: “Stolen Waters are Sweet.” (Proverbs 9:17) Water is not sweet except if you shouldn’t have it. Tell your children not to eat gravel, not to chase cars on the freeway, and not to set the dog on fire, and what do you end up with? At least two visits to the emergency room and one to the vet.
Let me tell you the problem I have with evolution. First, I don't have a problem with frogs coming from fish, and I don’t have a problem with birds evolving from lizards. I don’t even have a problem with dogs evolving from scummy divorce lawyers (my latest pet peeve). My problem with evolution is this: How can anyone think teenagers evolved from anything? The whole concept of evolution is that the previous species is inferior to later ones. That would mean the previous incarnation of teenagers was worse than the ones we have now. I just find that hard to believe. Anyone who has experienced these precious moments of teen-parent angst knows what I mean: • The Look, as in, “I can’t believe you and I are related.” Where do they learn that? It must be in the DNA. How can teenagers all over the world spontaneously know what look to do? Do they go to school for that? What-ever! • The ever-amusing “I hate you, and can you drop me off at the mall with your credit card” combo. Funny how they fail to see the irony in that. • The classic line, “You are the reason I need therapy!” All of this makes it hard for me to conceive of a human-like species worse than a teenager. So, I submit that teenagers must have killed off the dinosaurs. Life in Jurassic Park got too comfortable, the kids grew up, the livin’ was easy, and the world entered the Teenagic Period. A new generation of dinosaurs evolved, the Teenagosaurus. This genus was so self-absorbed and impervious to reason, that the dinosaurs couldn’t survive it. The only way for life to go on was to evolve, because the only thing worse than a teenager, is a teenager with big teeth. In this artists re-enactment of a tragic father-son dinosaur scene, you see father dinosaur trying in vain to explain to his “evolved” teenage son that if we are to survive as a species, you can't sleep till 2 p.m. The son doesn't listen, of course, perhaps because Mr. Dinosaur is unable to wave his useless little arms in protest. So, in the end, they became extinct.
It has become ever so trite to state that in business if you don't know where you want to end up chances are you won't get there. This is obviously true in just about every and all of our endeavours, not least of which is parenting. This tool will help you plot out your own parenting road map. Because, as much as we tend to think we are clear where we want our children to end up, it's very easy to be ambiguous. Not only to us, but to our children, and even our spouses. And confusion and conflicts love vagueness. Okay, so here's what to do: click here to download your FREE Parenting Road Map
Or what I like to call "teenaging," but is more commonly known by the acronym: MKADMC. My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy! Teenaging is the (often) painful and slow process of training parents in how to raise teenagers. To call raising a teenager "parenting" is like calling bungee jumping “skipping.” Teenaging officially begins at around 11 or 12. However, cases of "teenage-itis" have been known to break out in children as young as 9 or 10, and I can testify to the fact that some of my kids (as young as 6 or 7) broke out with the same symptoms as my 17-year-old. Don't worry, that's what single-malt scotch was invented for. If you are just embarking on the teenaging years, then the vast majority of the advice you’ve read about “parenting” is about as useful as a retirement plan at Lehman Brothers. Rule 2 of Teenaging: Change your definition of winning.
Or, for those who want something a little easier, "How to Assemble a Nuclear Submarine in Your Basement."Rule 1 in parenting a teenager: Don't blame your spouse. Let's say you are going head-to-head with your teenage son or daughter. It's loud, aggravating and circular. You aren't getting anywhere except closer to a nervous breakdown.Typically, it's easier to get your spouse to step in, and annoying when they don't seem to help or take your side.Don't blame your spouse. If you go back far enough in your memory banks, you will recall this rule from your own teenage years. Your squabbles with your mother rarely had anything to do with your father, and vise versa.
My local supermarket has a machine to check blood pressure. Wouldn't it be great if there were a machine to see if you are a good or bad parent?Curious?Well, I have such a machine. If you are game, click here and it will tell which kind of parent you are, good or bad?Nervous? You should be....