Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sometimes, your kid is an asshole!

I look at my 6 year old son Antonio and smile. He’s such a good boy. He works hard in school, in Italian school, during his swimming classes and on the Soccer field. At home, he has his chores and he helps me cook. I always get compliments as to how nice and well behaved he is. I am so proud that he is my son and I am so proud to be his father.

And yet... sometimes... he’s an asshole.

Guess what... sometimes... your kid... your perfect little angel... is an asshole too.
I know what you are thinking, “NOT MY KID!!”


It’s ok. It happens. The problem is... too often... we refuse to accept it.

We’ve all seen this scenario. A kid gets into trouble at school. The GOOD kid gets into trouble at school. The parents meet the teacher and the parent’s reactions are one of:
  • ·         Impossible
  • ·         Not my kid
  • ·         The other kid started it
  • ·         My child doesn’t do things like that

Then, there are my personal favorite reactions:
  • ·         It’s the teacher’s fault
  • ·         It’s the school’s fault
  • ·         It’s the after school attendant’s fault

You almost NEVER hear a parent say:
  • ·         I’m sorry for my child’s behavior
  • ·         I’ll take care of it
  • ·         He’ll be punished at home
  • ·         We’ll talk about it
  • ·         This won’t happen again

Dear parents, our kids, no matter how perfect we think they are, sometimes, they can be assholes. When that happens, we need to put on our ‘big parent underwear’ and deal with it. We may not want to believe that it happens but YOUR reaction to these situations will greatly influence how your child:
  • ·         treats others
  • ·         deals with adversity
  • ·         respects authority

Refusing to address these situations teaches our children that no matter what they do, mommy and daddy will always take their side so they can do it again. And again. The more ‘freedom’ a child believes that they have, the more they will test the limits. This causes incredible headaches for teachers and the whole school system. If this goes on, it will carry into their teen years and potentially into adulthood. It is incredibly important to hold our children accountable for their actions as young as possible, even if we believe that they could never misbehave.

Ok. I know you are pissed off at me for making such allegations. I don’t blame you but, here’s a little secret... I used to think like you. My Antonio? Act like an asshole? NEVER! NOT POSSIBLE! Then...

Flashback to last year. Antonio was 5 years old and in kindergarten. He and one of little buddies started playing too aggressively with each other. Nothing exaggerated, just a little too rough. They gave each other orders. They pushed each other around.

It started in the school yard. The after school attendant told me about it but, since Antonio is usually such a great boy, we wrote it off as ‘boys will be boys’ and it was just a bad day. Then it happened again. I built a nice trust and friendship with the after school attendant so I believed her, despite it sounding weird, that my son had at least 50% of the blame in this situation.

Each time, I would have a conversation with Antonio. I’d go through the usual parent topics. Respect. Don’t fight. Behave. Be the good boy I know you are. If it continues, there will be bigger consequences. Given his chance to speak, he would apologize. He’d accept his part of the blame and told me he would work harder to behave. Each conversation was followed up by a minor punishment.

Then, it happened again. In class. The teacher wrote us a note. Both kids would be separated for a week. On the Friday, she would talk to each child and see if they’ve learned their lesson. At home, another small punishment and discussion. All went well. On Monday, they were allowed to play together again. The truce didn’t last long. That night, the after-school attendant said that Antonio hit the other kid.


This time, I had enough. I asked the school not to discipline him. I promised them that this would be absolutely handled by morning. Having a reputation of being a logical, direct and trustworthy father, they granted my request.

At home, I wasted no time. Awesome Dad turned into Daddy Disciplinarian. Right away, we sat down and had a conversation. I told him that I was disappointed that this behavior continued. I told him that his behavior was unacceptable and that was not how he has been raised. He knows better. Just like every other conversation, I allowed him to speak and explain himself. He felt bad. He knew he disappointed his daddy. That’s tough for any child to live with. He cried. He apologized. He told me that he would behave better and wouldn’t disappoint me again. I was proud of him for stepping up. For a 5 year old, he showed maturity beyond his years. Unfortunately, that didn’t save him from the consequences, which were:
  • ·         An apology letter to his teacher, the after-school attendant and the other child (nothing big, 10 lines per letter which he copied from me). This took him a while. We stopped for dinner. After dinner, he told me he was tired but he wanted to absolutely finish his letters before bed. He continued despite yawning every couple of lines. The letter was appreciated by everyone.
  • ·         He lost all money he could earn for his chores and being good for two weeks. This was tough for him because he takes a lot of pride in his chores and being good (he gets to put some in savings and gets a good chunk of it as spending cash). He is learning the value of money so he wasn’t happy but, he understood the consequence.
  • ·         No TV (not that he watches a lot of it at my place anyways) for one week.

Since then, I haven’t had any issues with him at home or at school. He understands that there are consequences to his actions. His teachers appreciate the fact that, in the event something was to happen, that I would be there to support them rather than blame them. Trust me, this goes a long way to boosting the teacher’s morale.

Being a parent isn’t easy. I know this. You know this. No matter how good of a job we do, we have to realize that sometimes, our kids will act like assholes. If we react the right away, it will happen less often. No matter how much of an angel you believe your child to be and no matter how much you hate playing the tough parent, sometimes, we have no choice.

Sometimes, your kid will be an asshole. Believe it. Don’t blame others. Don’t blame yourself. It’s only normal. You know what? Sometimes, you are an asshole too. Don’t get offended. Sometimes I am an asshole too. It’s a part of life. No one is perfect. Let’s just try to limit our asshole episodes.

Stay Awesome!

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