I adored my dad, and he adored me.
He had a great sense of humour, was adventurous and playful, and not much could shake him up. He rarely raised his voice and he listened well. He explained and reasoned with me, always taking his time to motivate and inspire.
They were wonderful ingredients to make for fatherhood, hence I cannot remember any drama or disagreements between us in my childhood.
But that all changed when I became a teenager.
The challenge was on! I wanted freedom, autonomy, the right to make my own decisions. I was coming into my own. I knew so much…or so I thought!
At first, my dad was puzzled and arguments erupted, often left unresolved as I stormed off, thumping up the stairs into my room, slamming doors.
My dad left standing at the bottom of the staircase, shouting louder, both making me one another even angrier.
Looking back, I was struggling too. At 14-years-old, I was the youngest in my class while everyone else was almost 16. I was constantly facing peer pressure to fit in and “not so good”, as I was told frequently.
I’m sure you have a suitcase of stories as well, those badass highlights of your childhood journey.
Lucky for me, my dad adapted quickly and became a real cool cookie dealing with his high-maintenance and, at times, defiant teenage daughter.
Here is one piece of wisdom he taught me…
At age 13, my 15-year-old girlfriends started smoking. There was no smoking allowed at our house. Nobody in our family smoked at that time.
If I wanted to get away with this rebellious act, I had to smoke-proof myself and my room. The doors locked, and one of my girlfriends and I lit up. Within a few minutes there was the knock at the door…which we ignored. We aired out the room like nothing had happened. All seemed well.
The next day after school, I was greeted by horrific and graphic images of mouth cancer and very sickly looking people plastered all over my walls and the ceiling over my bed.
My dad said to me: “These pictures will stay up for one month, you may look at them every day and decide if this is really for you. Then you can take them down and start smoking, of course not in this house.”
And there they stayed for a month — plastered all over my room.
I never smoked again.
As I became a parent, I remembered this story and shared it with my boys. The key of parenting is to find solutions for the ongoing problems, no matter how simple or complex they may be.
As well, never give empty threats. Many parents promise consequences, but do not follow through. You will loose all credibility with this approach.
You must deliver what you promise!
For example, at 5- and 7-year-old, my sons Carl and Peter needed frequent reminders to clean up their room. Most of the time I had kept my cool and modelled the appropriate action, helping them in true educator fashion and leading by example.
But even the cool parent can loose it sometimes. After many reminders I found myself saying very loud: “If those toys are not cleaned up off the floor I will come and collect them all and throw them into the garbage.”
Carl giggled and I heard Peter say: “She won’t do it.”
Ten minutes later, I entered their room with two large garbage bags, collected the toys and left. The boys were speechless.
Fortunately for them I did not throw them out, but stuffed them into the large freezer in the garage for one week.
The room was cleaned up and was never a problem again. It taught me to be prepared to deliver what your say and the problem solves itself.