Letters For My Sons

Month: February 2015

Authoritative Parents: Being a Better Dad

I am passionate about being a great dad.  Not passionate as in I want to tongue-lash the concept, but passionate as in I spend as much time as possible getting better at it.

My parents, and I think many parents, just don’t give a fuck about parenting.  They go through the motions.  The goal is to get your kid to eighteen without any disfiguring injuries or criminal records, and then you can relax.  You’ve done your job.

As a parent and a member of a community I have an obligation.  My obligation is to raise my boys so they can support themselves, support their community, and generally treat other people well.  If you cannot being your kids to this level them you are doing your community a disservice, as well as making the world a worse place for everyone else’s children.  Get your act together.

The Two Parts to Parenting

You can split parenting into two parts.  There’s survival, and there’s coaching.  Most parents are reasonably good at the first part, and mediocre at best at the second.

Survival is the basics.  Getting food on the table. Getting them to school.  Keeping them safe.  And, as my parents did, instilling the right mix of fear and religious conviction that keeps them off the streets and out of Big Bubba’s pants in the local prison.

Coaching is where parenting seems to get tough, and I think it’s because most people don’t know how to teach, and nor do they know how kid’s brains work.  Coaching rides on the assumption that you know how you want your child to turn out.  You cannot coach for tennis if you want your boy to play football.  In the same way, you must coach for the behaviours you want to see.  This requires that you know those behaviours.

All too often parents are disappointed in their kids when they get to age, and they don’t get amazing jobs, or they are not motivated, or they don’t have a work ethic, or they don’t suddenly go out and become real estate moguls or rock stars.  “Oh but they’ve got so much talent… They’re so smart!” whine the parents of mediocre kids.  Well, what the fuck happened?

You fucked up.  Ninety-five percent of the time, you fucked up.  There’s room in there for genetic and psychological freaks that will be idiotic adults no matter who parents them.  But for the majority of us, how our kids turn out is almost the sole result of parenting.

The Four Parenting Types

Dr Laura Markham of ahaparenting.com wrote a fantastic book called Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids – How To Stop Yelling And Start Connecting.  This is by far the best book I’ve read on parenting, and it ticks all the boxes for me.  It discourages violence against children, disregards praise and punishment as motivators, and disapproves of permissive parenting.

I had many lightbulb moments when reading this book, but none more so than when reading of the different styles of parenting.  The four types are Authoritarian, Permissive, Negligent and Authoritative.

In brief, Authoritarian parents are little dictators, Permissive parents let their kids do what they want (usually as a reaction to their authoritarian parents), and Negligent parents are exactly that.

I was a child of authoritarian parents.  I’d rejected that as a parenting style from a belief that it hinders the child’s inherent need to discover on his own terms.  However I hadn’t been able to reconcile how to encourage both his self-discovery AND meeting my high expectations.

Then I saw this table.

parent-styles

 

Authoritarian parents are the classic “You must meet my expectations!” kind of parents.  However, they offer no support to reach those expectations, and often believe that by simply demanding better outcomes that they have done their job.  My father once told me he was disappointed in my grades at school.  He offered me a reward to get As across the board, but he didn’t show me how I could possibly reach those heights.

Authoritarian parenting had confused me, and made me equate demandingness and expectation with bad parenting.  Permissive parenting was just as bad to me, and the kids I knew with permissive parents were utter ratbags with their own set of problems.

My lightbulb moment was to realise that being nice to your kids AND having high expectations were not mutually exclusive.  In fact, that’s exactly what the best parents do, and what the most well-adjusted kids appreciate.  Kids like have demands made of them, because it helps them feel challenged and as part of a special group, their family.  This type of parenting is called Authoritative.

The key is to be demanding of certain behaviours and outcomes, but also to offer as much support as necessary to reach those goals.  Kids live in a new universe where methods for success are completely unknown.  They need as much education and reinforcement as possible before being released into the wild.

Authoritative parents coach their kids by expecting their kids to perform well, then giving them what they need to do the best they can.  It’s a model all parents can work towards.

Forging Guilt Into A Sword Of Fire

We all want to change ourselves.  Even those of us who feel the burning flames of personal contentment still have monsters inside we’d like to cook.  I consider it adding the seasoning to the meal.  The hearty, bloody, satisfying meat is all there, but I wanna make it taste even better.

There is no easy change.  Any changes we make has to get past the roadblocks we set for ourselves. At some point we’ve all found ourselves unable to do something we know we should.  Assholes out there say “just do it!” cos THEY just did it at some point, but that might be their base character.  They may have the strength to jump in and do anything.

This is not a message from the excuse brigade.  There are some things we just cannot bring our selves to do at this point in time.  But that does not preclude the ability to do it at some point in the future.

There is work to be done. That work is to bring ourselves to the point where that action we so dearly want to take is, while perhaps not easy to do, at least within our realm of ability.

Guilt rears it’s ugly head often at this point of self-change.  We feel guilty for not being the man we are supposed to be, despite the fact we may never have practiced to be that way.  We may never have been taught to be tough, or to take action, or to meet women, or to go to the gym, or to talk in front of crowds, or to finish what we start, or to achieve goals that we set.  We have never performed these tasks, we have never practiced these things and have never been taught them by a skilled practitioner, and yet we believe we should have the innate ability to perform all the tasks necessary to being a man, or a capable person, or whatever the label you are striving for happens to be.

When we fail to live up to these unpracticed standards we’ve set for ourselves we feel guilty.  We have let the team down.  We should have been able to perform despite all logical reasoning pointing to the opposite.  So we are weighed down by the burden that is guilt.  John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress described Christian as carrying a large burden on his back, the burden of guilt.  This is literally the way in which I feel guilt, as a weight upon me.  I feel it as a sensation of heaviness in the bottom of my chest that pulls me down and forward.

But guilt is a thoroughly useless emotion, the only purpose of which is for external control.  You have taken this emotion, thought it was somehow useful, and turned it upon yourself in order to make yourself perform.  But guilt never works in a positive sense.  You never felt good about doing the task for your parents or whoever else emotionally blackmailed you into feeling guilty.  You did it to rid yourself of the horrible gnawing feeling in your guts that people with a conscience feel.  When you feel guilty for your own lack of action, even if you eventually perform the act, you will not feel really great about it as you only did it to assuage your own guilt.  Likely you will still feel guilty, perhaps about not doing it earlier or some other reason.

Imagine instead performing an action because you truly enjoyed it.  Or perhaps as a personal challenge, and you enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that you get from overcoming difficulty.  Imagine doing that thing you hate not because of guilt, but through a desire for victorious battle.

I started thinking about going to the gym in my mid-twenties after reading about the positive effects.  But I could not bring myself to go.  The anxiety was too great.

What could I be anxious about in going to the gym, you ask?  Before I first went, small things had built into mountains.  I didn’t know what the people would be like…. were they all marshmallow douche bags?  What was the routine like?  How did you change from one machine to another?  Was there some secret code that I knew nothing about?  What if I didn’t know how to use a certain machine?  Would everyone laugh at me?  Would I stick out like a mole on a model because I was small and thin?

It all sounds so ridiculous to me now, but at the time I COULD NOT DO IT.  It was like travelling to the moon for me, completely beyond the realm of my ability.  The anxiety was far too great and involved all the deep feelings that imagination lends you, like the fear of humiliation and intimidation.  And I felt guilty for not being able to do it.

At some point I had to render guilt useless.  All it took was a modicum of self-control.  I realised I felt guilty about something, then used logical thought to destroy that feeling.  I found it far more useful in the long run to be gentler with myself and allow failure without guilt, then to allow guilt to prosper and be left immobile.

It took a lot of practice.  Often I would find myself with a feeling in my guts that took a while to uncover.  Guilt sneaks in while you are not looking.  You must be forever vigilant to protect yourself against this energy sapper.

 

9 Things Fathers Don’t Talk About

So you’re having a baby.  Congrats.

Perhaps.

Fatherhood is overlooked in the months of pregnancy.  With all the changes happening to the woman, the man, as usual keeps silent and gets on with life.  There are however many unexpected events in a father’s experience that no one talks about, and many men think they are alone in the experience.

 

1.  You won’t love your child.  When they first come out, and for the next few months or so, your primary thoughts will be “What the fuck was I thinking?” and “Will anyone notice if I accidentally drop this thing in the bin?”

The only thing that keeps most kids alive, I believe, is the fear of butt rape by professionals in a large prison.  Otherwise most babies would go into landfill.

 

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

 

You won’t love your child at first.  They are tiny balls of flesh with no personality and nothing attractive about them.  They look incredibly ugly, and yet strangely delicious.  Modern movies however would have you believe that little Northeast will have manga eyes that communicate the secrets of the multiverse with a serene buddha-face that says silently “Don’t worry Daddy, everything’s gonna be alright, the world is an amazing place” as you gurgle into a purpley puddle of affectionate goo.

Bollocks.

Most men, and many women for that matter, have no feelings whatsoever toward their children for the first weeks and months.  It is a lie that we have been sold.  I had to learn to love my boys, especially the first one.  They do nothing, say nothing, screech like animals, and shit all over your nice things, especially your hands (and occasionally your face).

 

2.  You won’t get a full nights sleep for between 3 and 10 years.  That’s right bitches.  Depending on how many kids you have you can look forward to behaving like a alcoholic retard for the next few years.  My vocabulary went down, my immune system died in the ass, and my work capacity went from a ten to a four.  Two to six hours sleep a night for years will do that to you.

Then when they do sleep through, you will wake up anyway because you fear they might be dead.  They aren’t of course.  But they might be.

 

3.  Babies are boring as hell for the first six months.  Especially for the first one, impatience can really get to you as you wait for little TimTam to roll over, smile, goddamn it, just DO SOMETHING!  You want them to do stuff.  They are so, so ridiculously boring.  There really is very little return on investment during this time.

 

4.  They are WAY smarter than you think.  Before having kids I believed that they didn’t develop brains until around five years old.  I have no idea why I thought that, or what I thought happened in that five year period, but there you go.

I thoroughly did not expect my boys do develop intelligence so early on. In their almighty struggles to move, communicate, experience and manipulate, babies and toddlers will educate you on how you became the way you are.  From the moment they are born they are trying to talk and move, and everything we say strikes a chord within them.  You will constantly be surprised (when you are not hideously bored) at the little ways they demonstrate smarts.

 

5.  There are approximately 843,982 ways for the mother and baby to die during pregnancy and birth.  There’s a reason child and mother mortality rates were at holocaust levels before modern medicine; it’s hideously dangerous.  Once I polled all the mothers I knew and found that, had they given birth 200 hundred years ago, over 50% of them would have died.

My wife and I spent several months wondering if I would wake up with her dead beside me from a placental bleed.   If she had sustained a major bleed she would have died in under a minute, and there would have been nothing I could apply pressure to, cos it would come from her vagina.  Fucking great.

 

Just like this

 

The hippies will tell you birth’s the most natural thing in the world.  It is.  For some mothers.  After you’ve seen a woman writhing around for 24 hours or more trying to eject an enormous parasite you may have second thoughts about how simple it is.

 

6.  Yelling at or spanking your kids makes them either a) harder to control, or b) easier to control now, but a bunch of shitheads later.  I’ve been following a no yelling policy with my boys and things have never, ever, been better.  It forces me to get down to the child’s level and understand the context of what is happening.  My boys feel like they are understood, which is 90% of the battle won.  How many times have you felt misunderstood, and crave understanding?  I’ll wager your childhood was full of frustrated moments of incomprehension.  Turn that around for your kids and you’ll reap the rewards.

If yelling is lazy man’s parenting, then spanking is unemployed junkie parenting.  Spastics, tough guys and the uneducated are simply not creative enough to find a reason for misbehaviour.  Well done, by hitting a child you’ve given a solid lesson on how your world works.  You don’t try to solve problems through open discussion, rather you enforce obedience through violence.  You will raise frustrated and (physical or mentally) violent kids.

 

7.  People without kids and parents with twenty-something children know how to parent better than anyone in the world.  That’s the impression you’ll get anyway, after the fiftieth slack-jawed fuckwit tells you “All he needs is a smack on the bum and he’ll be fine.”  Thanks for the info, cocksmoker.  That’s why one of your kids is in a juvenile justice centre and the other one won’t talk to you.

I’ll be the first to take advice if it’s useful, but most of the tards that approach you will be vomiting the same advice: Beat your kids, don’t discuss things with them cos it breeds impertinence, and, oh, beat your kids.

 

8.  Your wife/gf/significant other will create a nest almost as soon as she gets pregnant.  This will mean a change of home, buying a new house, repairs to the existing house, and other large financial changes you may not expect.  The hormonal impact of a pregnant woman has to be seen to be believed.  My wife was, compared to some of our friends, relatively stable, but we still ended up buying our first house very soon after pregnancy.  She was an unstoppable fat juggernaut, which changed our lives for the better.  But it is a little surprising if you are not ready for it how single minded they become on fixing a home for their brood.

 

9.  The vag will change.  Here’s a couple of interesting facts for you to ponder.  If your partner has a vaginal birth, chances are she will be incontinent for a while.  Or perhaps the rest of her life.  Many mothers I know cannot run or play on a trampoline for fear of pissing all over the kids.  This can be solved with pelvic floor exercises, but most mothers are too lazy busy with young ones to practice.

There’s also a little thing called the hierarchy of perineal lacerations.  Not only is it great bbq conversation, it also characterises vaginal tears from childbirth according to size.  First degree tears are tiny, while fourth degree lacerations extend to the anus.  Delicious!  After you pick your lunch off the floor, get your missus some photos off the net, and maybe it will motivate her to do some pelvic floor exercises so you don’t have to fuck a vagina the size of Saturn.

 

There you have it.  If any of you experienced anything and thought you were alone in it, leave it in the comments below.  I’d love to hear it.

 

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