Yes, Dad, It’s Okay to…

…tell your child that something they’re wearing makes them look ridiculous.

…tell your child that you love them, whether girl or boy.  Kids need to hear more of the corrections for them to learn – which can be tough on the ego – and knowing that they’re loved will at least take some of the sting out of it.  It’s probably something you should tell me more than anything else and as I write this, I’m realizing that I don’t do it enough.

…tell your child that what they’ve done is bad or dumb.  Many adults no longer want to take the time and effort to do so for fear of offending or upsetting the parent, which means that  the kid isn’t going to hear unless you deliver it.  As I’ve told any of my own kids on any number of occasions for a smart kid, that was an incredibly stupid thing to do.  You know better than that.

…take action about the bad, dumb or poorly done thing.  There are consequences to behavior and sheer stupidity and it’s not going to damage them to get called up short and it  could frankly save their lives.

…tell your child that he can do better.  That said, be ready to provide concrete and hard details as to deficiencies and then be ready to assist with how to improve; surprisingly, many kids will appreciate it.  As one teen once told me, when I want praise on something that I’ve done for school, I take it to my mother.  Then I take it to my father to see what needs to be improved.

…raise your voice and/or speak sternly to your child.   Many fathers don’t realize that their voice is a valuable disciplinary tool that can be used to help maintain some order and discipline before things get completely out of hand.

…tell your child that it’s time to move on to something else, especially in terms of dealing with the electronics.  Kids typically have no sense of when to stop and electronics, particularly games, aren’t designed to help develop that so it’s up to the parents to say enough.  I’ve had to really work on handling the resulting whining that accompanies such a directive and I still have testy moments, but kids need to do more than just sit in front of a screen.

…squelch your child when they’re older and frankly, the teen ego sometimes needs it in order to be brought back into line.

…take privileges away even when they’re older.  They’ll survive without the car, cellphone and iPod for a period of time.  That said, it’s usually helpful to lay out such a prospect with the original groundrules so that you don’t come off as arbitrary and capricious.  I expect you home by 10 pm and if there’s a problem, contact me immediately.  If you’re late without contacting me, then you lose the use of the car for the next two days/the trip to the beach with the Jones family/the cellphone for a week/whatever works in the situation…

talk and share information with the parents of your child’s peers.  Kids and teens usually hate it when parents want to call other parents because it appears to limit their independence and at the worst, prevents them from conspiring to do something phenomenally stupid.  But a brief chat at least eases some of the angst and reassures that there are others who also pay attention and try to monitor what’s happening.  My son and his friend, Opie, were embarrassed when the boy’s father came to our front door to meet me one evening before his son’s first sleepover at our house.  I frankly appreciated it and could easily defend it to the two boys, who grumbled afterwards, and thoroughly understand why that father did what he did.  Thank God, I’m not alone here.

ask about what adults are overseeing things and nix plans when you’re not comfortable.  Hell, I did it last week.  Stupidity is contagious and in an adolescent brain, one of the last things to mature is that part which controls judgment and risk assessment.

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