Ask Ty...February 25 [The Dad Rules Question]

It must be Tuesday Thursday, Middlespace Cadets, because I'm answering your questions
Q: Dear Ty,

You mentioned one of your "Dad Rules" elsewhere on the Internet - "#4 - Petulance will not be tolerated" - that's excellent; what are consequences, and what are #s 1-3?

- Hazel
Ty: Good question and an even better observation, Hazel. Surprisingly, with all the Web logging I've done over the years, I cannot believe I've only mentioned my Dad Rules once. What the hell?! Dadding is pretty much my most important and most favorite activity in life. Something I take seriously and give a lot of thought to.

When my child was very young I began telling her stuff like, "Dad rule number one, check yourself before you wreck yourself." It was kind of modeled after social psychologist (and one of my thesis advisers) Elliot Aronson's Aronson's First Law.* Well, over time (and by the time she was four or five), Dad Rules had become the foundational and guiding principles to my approach to teaching and raising a responsible and respectful child; both in terms of the child's expectations and the conceptual continuity that makes it work for the two of us long term.

I mean, Jesus Crispies, so many parents just totally suck at parenting that I figured that if I do one thing well in my life it may as well be parenting. I work the hardest at parenting. Between the overly permissive parents and the totally neglectful parents there has to be a functional, lucid reality. I basically steal all the best elements of parenting that I've observed and do my best to not do the worst. I have tried to make it all work together rather than some hodgepodge of individual items.

What I can report so far is that it is working. If you begin early and consistently with the development of people (children, a work team, an army, a relationship) rather than constantly respond to remediation measures the opportunity success grows. The best is when I can simply say, "Honey? Remember rule one..." and squash a situation before it becomes a problem. I can call, "Petulance..." with the response, "...will not be tolerated" echoing from the congregation. Dad rules rule!

So, Hazel, you asked for it, here they are as I have educated my child, annotated. There are ten:

The Dad Rules
by Ty Hardaway
1) Check yourself before you wreck yourself - Well, this nugget loosely translated means be aware of your behavior and how that balances with your attitude because if you don't, you may someday wake up a total loser. This really should be life rule #1. It's about decisions and choices. As we develop and mature we are presented with increasingly complicated behavior and ethical choices. My suggestion is a person should always pause to ponder the possible consequences of one's choices (check yourself).

2) Skills pay the bills - If you go through life and learn nothing, your life will basically be the sum of your knowledge: nothing. Your cumulative life skill set roughly translates to your ultimate earning power/happiness quotient/etc. Knowledge and your skills can create a cycle of opportunity.

3) Take your time pooping - Seriously. Consider this well. If you distill it to basic life functions and you find that you just must for some reason somehow rush your movements (or worse squelch your movements) then you just may be living your life wrong. I mean absent predator attack or other danger one should really let the body work at the body's pace. How you treat your body will affect how you treat your life and the lives of others. Grab a magazine on the way in.

4) Petulance will not be tolerated - Nope. You are not allowed to whine, slam doors, or talk to anyone in a disrespectful manner. It reflects poorly on yourself. If there is a reason you are irritated or annoyed; huffy; snappish; irritable; grouchy; bad-tempered; or ill-tempered, we are more than happy to discuss it with you and help you find a resolution. There is a place for anger and debate. But consider how and when you chose to use them.

5) Sometimes you just have to play the game - People will give you stuff. Sometimes (perhaps often) the social game can feel intolerable. We all have certain family, work, and school obligations. We all have hoops to jump. Some of these obligations may feel beneath us. Other tasks are duplicated ad nauseum. And some situations are just plain boring. So? Why be a jerk about it? Just play the game--situationally and with great style--maybe you will learn something. Patience is one of the ultimate virtues. And people will give you stuff for free.

6) Listening keeps you out of trouble - This began as a reminder that parents say things not just to be correct but to teach. Sometimes things are said with little to no context and sound like "orders." Yep. And there are reasons. Maybe we know shit kids don't know. Time for discussion, debate, and push-back may or may not come at a later point, but for the most part, if you listen you will also learn.

7) You are welcome to tell me or ask me anything, anytime - We promise that we will try our hardest to keep an open door and mind to discussion, debate, and push-back on any topic. But you have to also know that if you have questions or information, we actually really want to hear it. Really! We try not to judge, but sometimes our experience shapes responses. Know that. Just as we want you to come to us with any question or comment, we need to do our best to make that safe and comfortable for you. And yes, there really ARE dumb questions (we'll try not to say that though).

8) First impressions are lasting impressions - How you present yourself or your products (homework, quizzes, Web logs, etc.) may be the very thing that shapes the opinions of influential people and ultimately tracks you to success or mediocrity. That tip of your iceberg should represent the you that you want represented. That is something you can control.

9) The Golden Rule is pretty bad ass - Yes, the basic ethical principles to/of The Golden Rule can serve as an important behavioral and attitudinal template. But always remember: not only treat others as you want them to treat you, but balance that responsibility with the expectation. That is, do not tolerate disrespect. Associating yourself with people who disrespect you is disrespectful.

10) Listening will keep you out of trouble - Always maintain a healthy observational presence. Look and listen, but also see and hear. You'll know when trouble is brewing. Avoid it. Listen to yourself first and foremost.
Today was the first time I fleshed this all out, really. But these are pretty much the "rules" (more, guiding principles than rules) and my interpretations. It's not like these are rules that are posted on the refrigerator in a contract I made a three year-old sign. They are reminders; a way to keep my focus as well as hers. I usually bring them up when a particular situation warrants. They are ten discussion points we can come back to when needed.

As far as consequences, Hazel, situations where I have to remind the young one of one of the "rules" generally involve the rule reminder followed by a short discussion. The 'whys' are far more important than the rules; the discussion more important than the reminder. Messy homework? Rule #8. Don't want to go to dinner at the neighbor's? Rule #5. Being mean or judgmental? See rule #9.

During the long snow break from school boredom created a bit of a cabin monster. We not only had to discuss rules 6 and 10 (and a couple of others), but I actually wrote the reminder on an index card after a particularly frustrating incident. Surprisingly, kiddo put it on her bulletin board herself. The conversation was illuminating to me and helpful for her.

Mostly, though, kids see through all our bullshit. Never forget that. If you don't mean the things you are "teaching" them or if you don't demonstrate them in your life, they have absolutely no reason to buy in. Your moral authority doesn't exist. If you walk the talk, you have an increased probability that your offspring will follow you on that walk.

But what do I know? Nothing! That's what.

Just a guess,


* Aronson's First Law: People who do crazy things are not necessarily crazy.