Monday, January 30, 2006

Walking "The Walk"

Everyone needs a toolbox with some very basic tools. Hammer, at least two screwdrivers (Philips and flathead), a wrench, plyers, and, of course, duct tape. By the way, watch out for "duck tape", which is a poor imitation of duct tape which takes advantage of the common mispronunciation. It is definitely not "duck tape".

And in the land of fatherhood, it turns out there are a few necessary tools to be effective. At least with young kids. So, I thought I'd share them with you.

The Walk

This isn't just any walk. This is the "I mean business, and you'll be sorry you dared not come when I call you" walk. It is a very determined walk. Brisk, but not running...arms swinging enough to draw attention to both of your fists...and the fists, of course, are to highlight your extreme disapproval.

When used correctly, The Walk incites instant regret for having disobeyed. No further disciplinary action is often necessary since they are typically in tears by the time you grab them by the shirt and toss them over your shoulder. But you can't give in yet...this is where the next tool comes in

The Look

Made famous by mothers everywhere, The Look can be utilized by fathers as well. However, fathers need to be careful about overusing The Look, because otherwise you risk just looking goofy, and inciting laughter as a response. The Look is a narrowing of the brow in combination with a slight frown, lips pursed. It is highly effective after The Walk because it lets your child know they aren't off the hook yet. You are still disappointed in them, and you don't want them to forget it.

The Look is useful in other situations as well, and can sometimes be effective just prior to needing The Walk. Just that stare will cause them to cower in fear and come running to you without the need to go chasing after them. Now, as I mentioned, mothers have a whole host of other uses and variations on The Look. Men, however, need to keep it limited.

The Joke

Actually, this isn't a single joke, though it could be. It is the fact that this father likes to try to make jokes that his kids find entirely (and forgive me for using the "s" word here)...stupid! Yet, this view of a "completely pathetic jokester called Dad" that the kids have is important to the relationship. It helps develop a sense of not only self-worth, but grants them permission to make fools of themselves sometimes without falling apart. If Dad can embarrass himself by telling humorless humor, I guess we can face embarrassing situations as well.

That's the theory, anyhow. Don't know if it is working. But, if you every hear me mention "pickles", you now have a bit of insight into the hilarity (or lack thereof) I can come up with my kids.

"What's for breakfast, Dad?"

"Pickle cereal!"

"What kind of cake are you making?"

"Pickle cake!"

Absurd, perhaps. But, what's wrong with a little absurdity among family?

The Sermon

Do you know this one? The ability of a father to make a child feel utterly remorseful for the slightest of things by offering them The Sermon. Of course, no two "Sermons" are exactly the same, but they can all be bundled together. The Sermon is an opportunity for a father to share how things were when he was a child, and how that makes the injustices of today in their lives seem rather impotent. Okay, so I didn't walk uphill both ways to school...but I did live without cable and a VCR (uh...DVD player) until I was about ten or eleven, which is, clearly, far worse than walking uphill both ways to school.

The Sermon is amazingly effective. Just a few days ago, I managed to influence their complete method of playtime with a Sermon. I told them how acting out what they see on television (or, more specifically, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) isn't anything special. Anyone can act out what they see. What is really special is when they can come up with something to pretend all on their own.

My son's response? "Uh. We don't know how to do that."

So, see? Very effective indeed.

Anyhow, I think that's enough for now. If you don't already have these tools in your toolbox of fatherhood, you need to work on them. Of course, if your kids are considerably older, then you're on your own...because I'm a bit of a procrastinator, and I haven't purchased the tools I need for the teen years, which I believe involve a straight-jacket, a water barrel, hammer and nails, and a drill for air holes.

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