Here are five quick tests:


Do you…let your children boss you around?   (Do they say things like “Where’s my breakfast?”)

Do you…make excuses for your children? (“She would have said ‘Thank you.’ but she was too busy playing.”)

Are you afraid your child won’t love you if you say “No”?

Have you ever let your child tell you to “Shut up” without consequence?

Are you worried about whether or not your children “like” you? (and I don’t mean on Facebook.)

Wimpy Parenting is actually quite common, which is one of the reasons I wrote my book “Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around.”  I know that some of you may object to my use of the word “wimpy”, but, let’s face it, you know what I mean.  Besides, I grew up when sticks and stones could break my bones but words could never hurt me – so I encourage you to not be distracted by my language and hear the message.

Today, parenting has become a “profession” and, as a result, has become the focus of great examination and angst.  Sure, people always worried about their children, their health, their happiness, and their comfort, but today’s kids are coddled in ways that shortchange our children and teach them dependence rather than independence.  When I was young and bored, it was not my parent’s responsibility to entertain me.  In fact, my mom used to say “Go bang your head against the wall until you can think of something to do.”  Pretty concise don’t you think?

vectorstock_1943457I believe in simplification.  The more “power” we give our children, the more complicated our lives become.  If every decision requires a consultation like “Do you want to go to school?” or “Is it OK if mommy and daddy go out tonight?’ we are really complicating our lives.

It’s up to our children to fit into our lives – not the other way around.

Yes, having children changes many things, but those are things that we as parents change voluntarily (no more sleeping late (gotta coach the team), no more swearing (the echo machine is in the room), no more wild parties (that one’s self explanatory), etc.).

Ultimately, it’s our job as parents to lead, and it’s our children’s job to follow.

Being a Wimpy Parent takes its toll on you.  You can’t make plans.  You can’t go to restaurants.  You can’t live your life because your child or children dominate it – and what kind of life is that?

The most ironic thing about being a Wimpy Parent is that children want us to be in control.  They are not equipped to have the responsibility that we give them by letting them be our boss.  It’s just not fair – they have far less life experience than we and they are much more comfortable being led than they are being asked to make decisions.

Just try it.

vectorstock_745873Have the confidence to take control.  Team up with your mate, or parenting partner, or best friends, or whomever it takes to give you strength and start making decisions for your children.  Depending on their age, they’ll most likely resist a little, but if you stand firm you’ll find that a lot of the “noise” in your life disappears – and suddenly you have a peaceful home.

I’ve said many times that it’s “easier to lighten up than it is to tighten up” which means that your children can EARN greater decision making responsibility as time goes on, but being a pushover from the very beginning is no way to run a family.

Trust me.

Children are not as fragile as we might think.  They live through the curveballs with which we present them.  They change schools, they make new friends, their feelings get hurt, and yet they learn to love music, they laugh at funny things, and they love their moms and dads.

The process is designed to succeed.

Which brings us back to simplification.  We had four simple rules with our kids:


  • Be truthful.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be generous.
  • Be kind.

Concentrate on teaching your children those values and they will most likely become people that other people like to be around.


RaisingChildrenFinalFrontCvrWebI wrote “Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around” to guide parents toward a better understanding of their roles – as moms and dads, as well as parenting partners – because the core strength of a family comes from the leadership that the adults offer. To help parents discover their objectives and define their values, I broke the process, and it is a process, into five basic behavioral “musts.”  I also created an anagram, or pneumonic (or whatever you want to call it) based on the word S.M.A.R.T.

AtticusFinchSet an Example – This has two parts. The first one is the most obvious interpretation. Behave as though everything you do will be mimicked by your child – because it will be!  If you’re nice to the food server, your child will grow up to be nice to food servers. If you show people respect, your child will do the same. You don’t have to be a saint, but it’s important to realize that your child is going to reflect the behavior you teach… whether consciously or subconsciously…and that especially includes how you communicate with the people closest to you. The second part is to reflect on the examples set for you by your own parents, and to discuss them with your spouse or partner. This allows you to solidify and synchronize your values and goals, which you will then use to guide you through the parenting process.

10CommandsMake the Rules – As part of setting an example, you should decide what values you think are most important to you and your parenting partner. If you value truth and respect above all else, for example, shape your rules accordingly. If you value academic achievement and the making of beds, work those in accordingly. Remember that “rules are the arms in which your children can embrace themselves.” By following your rules, your children know they are “good,” and therefore feel comfortable in your presence. Be sure your rules are reasonable and understandable. Your children will follow your lead because they understand you have created those rules to keep them safe, and to teach them to respect the feelings and property of others. My wife and I would often explain why we created a rule, and the logic behind it, so that our children would understand that we weren’t just making them up for fun.

DadAndSonApply the Rules – Once you’ve decided what’s important, you have to stick to your guns. Little children will test boundaries, which is their job. By saying “no” together with an explanation of your reasons, you show them you care. Applying rules is as simple as guiding your children toward the behaviors that you prefer. Arbitrary rules like “you must sit at the dinner table for twenty minutes” have never made sense to me. When you see your child doing something you like (as in following a rule) just comment on it: “I like the way you’re sitting quietly at the table” or “Thank you for taking your dishes to the sink.” It’s as much about being a cheerleader as about being a cop. Remember, every rule you create is a rule you have to enforce and too many rules make life very complicated.

Respect Yourself – This one is a biggie. It is inexcusable to let your child tell you to shut up – but there are parents who allow it.  You are the boss, you are the “pack leader.” In order to maintain comfort for all concerned, you need to lead with the confidence that generates admiration and respect. I like to think of it this way:

If you were to get into a cab and ask the driver to take you to worried-baby2the airport, and that driver were to say to you “OK – I think I know how to get there.” You would have two reactions. Your first would be “Get me out of this cab!” and, your next would be to realize that you have no respect for this un-prepared person. Your children are passengers in your cab. You should be far better informed about the local roads than they are. And even if you’re not, you need to make them think you are, for their comfort and safety. Your life experience is your qualification.

teacherTeach in All Things – If you see your child as an “Adult In Training” and you know it’s your job to be their teacher, then everything you do will be informed by an underlying lesson. I believe that our basic job as parents is creating “citizens,” and to teach citizenship we have to find ways to illustrate day-to-day lessons. Will we help an older person cross the street? Why do we have to wait in line? What happens when toys get broken? How does it feel to give a gift? How would you feel if someone did that to you? These are examples of the lessons that parents can and should be teaching every day. Once our kids catch on, they begin to see the lessons themselves.

There are whole chapters dedicated to each of these “Five Simple Musts” in my book. By following these very basic and doable suggestions, you can simplify the parenting process and concentrate on the wonder of raising your children.  They are eager to learn what you want to teach them, so be a leader and show them the things you love about the world.

June has been an excellent month.

emorylogoFirst, our daughter Emily was admitted to Emory University, her first choice.  She got the news not by email or snail, but by phone from an actual human. Southern hospitality!

RaisingChildrenFinalFrontCvrWebNext, I’ve approved the publication draft of my book Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around:  Five Common-Sense Musts From a Father’s Point of View.  Now the cover art can be completed and I’ll have physical copies of the book very soon.  I’ve posted the just-completed cover here to showcase the talent of my wonderful artist, Cynthia Jacquette.

In the meantime I’ll be using this site to share insights from the book and to address the pleasures and pains of parenting.  So please stay tuned and for candid thoughts and updates please follow me as commonsensedad on Twitter.