Rule #6: Bad Dad Rule

I apologize to my listeners and readers for my disappearance. I had a personal crisis which took me away from my new podcast and 2catrule postings while I sorted out my emotions and decided how I could regroup.

I’ve long ago realized that the definition of my life was not going be what I acquired or achieved- but the definition of my life would be found in how my children and grand children lived. How they learned to treat others.

In all these blog postings and podcasts the two consistent lessons of life are 1.Be Kind 2. Be Grateful. Everything I want to teach my children about life come down to those two themes.

As I have said from the beginning of this journey I am a flawed man. I think in the end my children will learn more from my mistakes than my successes.  I have realized that the journey I am on is an imperfect one, and I have made many mistakes. Its is certain that I will make many more.

I know that  my children respect and love me, but at times disagree with me. At different points in their lives they have seen me as an authoritarian, a bullshitter (I know its hard to believe), and generally the road block to their joy. My parenting approach was not to try to be loved or even liked, but to embrace the role of parent and hopefully, in the long run, find that love with my children. I knew that being a parent it was impossible to be liked when I was the keeper of resources and the dispenser of discipline.  I wanted to raise good people more than I wanted to be liked.

What put me on a tightrope of emotions was I was doing this as a divorced father. This made it hard to get the consistency necessary to deliver difficult messages when needed. I fortunately had a partner in Bobbi who supported me in my actions even when she disagreed with me. It is the consistency in messaging and the consistency in love which allowed me to cross that rope with a couple of scary stumbles but no falls.

In the early heat of emotion of the divorce I saw this impact on my kids and knew I had to get them off the battle field- someone had to be an adult, they needed parents not combatants. Whenever things got bad, and bad things were said about me or to me, I kept telling myself that my kids need a parent – my kids needed  me to be an adult or their lives would fall into a state of constant turmoil. Sometimes you have to suck it up and focus on what your kids need even if at the moment it makes you look terrible.

It still sucked for them. Divorce is an unstable state where the kids are rocked back and forth on an emotional boat. They need to have something to grab on to and trust, something that reaffirms that they are not alone.

When parenting its hard to see the hits you take along the way will yield results- but they do.

As I look at all six of them, ages 19-34 today, I could not be more proud of them  Yes, they all have been successful academically and financially. But more importantly they are truly good people that understand those two lessons of kindness and gratitude. They are all imperfect like their father, and I see some of the flaws that I have passed down to them. But by a large margin they are winning at the game of life by being good people.

What stopped me from publishing this podcast and blog was when one of my children called me a “bad dad”.  It was in regards to a discussion of actions and consequences, and a disagreement over how I was approaching a situation.

In the 34 years I have been parenting I have sought advice from books, websites, therapists and friends – and most consistently Bobbi. I never claimed to have all the answers, and always tried to respectfully listen to advice whether it was solicited or not. My Dad gave me lots of it, some I listened to and used, other I listened to and went a different way. In all this advice I was the final decision maker on how to parent- it was not a democracy.

Effective parenting looks more like a benevolent dictatorship than an open democratic exchange of ideas. A smart parent listens, a smart parent isn’t afraid to change and grow, a smart parent must always puts the interest of the child first- it is a process that stops with the adult, with the parent.

Everyone that knows me knows that both my father and I loved to negotiate. I am always open to a good deal, and finding win-win solutions. But in the end with parenting, the negotiation must end and a decision has to be made- in parenting the buck stops with the adult.

The ‘disagreement” that lead to my definition as a bad Dad was about my choices and use of consequences. As my children became teenagers and adults I had a limited number of non-physical consequences to chose from. These could be a reduction of privileges or a reduction of access to assets.

The older the kids got the more limited the choices.

When Matthew was about 5 years old he was a terror at bedtime, a true terror. I remember one night in the struggle of wills I removed first his toys, then books and moved on to covers and pillows . It was his will against mine, and as the room was left with only a bare mattress he finally blinked. As cruel as that may seem it was a defining moment- I had to make my point and could not backdown – not for my sake but for his. I had to use everything at my disposal and I almost was out of options. Thank God he blinked.

But when it comes to older kids I have use cars, credit cards, allowances and even when necessary college tuition. With four of my kids I threatened it, with two I actually withheld it.

Very few things are as important to me as seeing my kids well education. But raising kids that are kind and grateful is far more important to me than the degree they have. So when necessary I used the arrow I had available and aimed for where it would be felt.

I’m not sure how my kids will remember me- maybe as a tyrant, maybe as a saint- but neither is true. In the end all I really have tried to be is a Good Dad. Its sort of how I define my life, and when that was questioned it hurt my feelings to the point I could not continue with these messages without understanding the purpose of it. It made me question if my kids missed the point.

But after reflection I see they aren’t missing it. They may not agree with all my postings, but they listen respectfully and use what they feel is useful. I’m good with that approach, it is what I did with my Dad.

Yes I was deeply hurt but the comment, and yes the aftermath of me telling them to” fuck off” when the comment wasn’t retracted has  had the disappoint consequence of isolated from them. I regret my anger and language, but remain steadfast in that my definition of being a “Good Dad” does not require me to be liked. But it does require me to be an adult. And as an adult I am going to do what I believe is right and in the interest of my child no matter what vote is against me.

The lesson in this rule is one of parenting.  What parenting truly means.

If you are going to raise good people ( the ultimate goal of good parenting) you must be willing to risk everything. Your time, your fortune and your pride – nothing is more important than the mission of raising good people.

You will face a time when your kids hate you. Maybe that will happen when they are 5 , maybe when they are 50 but it is not only possible, it will happen. Being the adult in the room is the one that says no to ice cream, no to cars and sometimes no to college.

If you have kids you have an obligation to them, and the world, to raise the best human beings possible. You are the last barrier to the world, the last chance to give clear lessons and consequences, even if it means you need to be called a Bad Dad. In the end its the only way you can truly be a “Good Dad”.








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