Most parents that we have met during our lifetime have had a desire to be the best parents they could possibly be for their kids. With that said, I believe that all parents initiate whatever parenting skills they have based solely upon the current level of knowledge and experience that they currently have. Therefore, in order to achieve the goal of becoming the best parents that we can be for our children, we must always be seeking further wisdom, knowledge, and learning lessons from our experiences.
Diane and I both grew up in dysfunctional homes. It’s not that our parents didn’t love us, but they simply relied upon the things they knew from how they grew up. In essence, both sets of our parents merely reenacted what they had gone through in their upbringing. Although they all wanted more for their children, they never broke away from the cycle of defeat that so many American families suffer from. Within this cycle, we commonly see or experience a large amount of screaming, fighting, words of hate, picking, poking, bullying, and many other forms of discourse. Growing up, I had two older sisters and we fought constantly. Every week was filled with words of strife, words of hate, ridiculing words, and fighting. “I hate you” was a common phrase in my household throughout my childhood. But this is not how it should be for a family. The only way for this cycle to change is for us to think about how we are going to change our parenting.
I always knew that our family would be different. I made it one of my life goals to have a family one day that would not be dysfunctional. Growing up, I was constantly observing what was wrong about sibling rivalries, bullying at school, and dysfunctional family behaviors. I constantly strategize what and how I would do things different one day. And the issue of siblings getting along was not restricted to the household environment. There are things that happen in public schools, in the social environment, that greatly affect what happens at home.
I got picked on a lot growing up. I was always undersized, both in height and weight. I got held back in 7th grade and I was still completely undersized until my junior year in high school. I rarely ever defended myself because I was afraid to fight due to the fact that my entire being was always gripped in fear. I always hung around the least popular kids in school, you know, the ones every one else made fun of and ridiculed. I felt sorry for them, and I always wanted to be a friend to the hopeless. I never was interested in being popular because the popular boys were always the ones who exercised their physical dominance and had the most sarcastic personalities. Through all of this, I developed a hatred for unnecessary picking, poking, and bullying. In fact, I grew up in an era where The 3 Stooges was still a popular television show and I hated it with a passion. I could not stand to watch these men act they way they did because I got to witness the reenactment of all their antics in real life. I realized at a young age that most young boys modeled many of their unhealthy behaviors from The 3 Stooges.
When Diane and I began to have kids, I knew that I would command an environment that did not allow picking, poking, or bullying of any kind within our household. In addition, I knew that I would raised my kids to defend each other, ferociously! And that’s just what I did as a father. From an early age we begin to teach our young boys how to play hard, how to mutually wrestle with each other if they chose to do so; however, in no case were they allowed to dominate one another with fear tactics or bullying tactics. Along with this, they were taught what antagonizing meant, so they weren’t allowed to antagonize one another.
Some examples of this might be: thumping someone on the ear; slapping someone on the head or back; sitting on top of someone’s chest and poking them in the chest; getting someone in a head lock and grinding away at their skull with the knuckles; and other forms of “picking” or “poking” at each other. This never happened with our boys because we taught them from an early age how unhealthy these antics were.
These lessons were carried over in to their school lives. Whether you agree with me or not on this next subject matter is not important to me. It simply worked for me and my family. I taught my boys to ferociously defend themselves and to ferociously defend each other. Why? Because I did not want them to go through their schools days gripped with the fear that I dealt with throughout my childhood years. And I have learned that the only way you stop a bully is to stop the bully in his tracks. I taught our boys that if they every got picked at, poked at, picked on, or bullied that they were to give that individual one warning to stop. The warning went something like this: “If you thump me on the ear again, I’m going to beat your face.” And if they did it again, my boys were instructed to unleash upon the bully and ferociously defend themselves.
Our boys had opportunities for these confrontations to occur, but to this day not one of my boys has ever been in a fight. They have been picked on though. One time our youngest son, TJ, was playing football with his older brother Gavin and some of his friends in a neighborhood yard. During this play time, one of Gavin’s schoolmates, four years older (8th grader) was picking on TJ. TJ came home crying and I asked him what was wrong. After getting the story, I realized that Gavin had not ardently defended his little brother in this situation. So when Gavin got home I gave him two choices: 1) You can go to school tomorrow and tell your friend that if he ever touches your little brother again, you are going to beat his face, and that he owes you an apology and tells you that he will never do it again. 2) You can do nothing and I’m going to whip your butt harder than you’ve ever been whipped, and then I’m going to get your big brother (Cam) to handle this kid for you. Gavin chose to confront the kid the next day and the kid apologized for his behavior. The kid was actually a good kid, their friendship remained strong, and I even had the pleasure of coaching this kid in 7 on 7 football for three years and enjoyed him thoroughly.
One time, when TJ was in 6th grade, one of his best friends at the time was over at the house. This young man was what most people considered a good kid, but he had a lot of boyhood behaviors that always reminded me of the boys that I was taken advantage by as a child. He loved to antagonize and thump people and all sorts of stuff like that. I told TJ that it had to stop and the only way to stop was to tell him that, “If you thump me again, I’m going to beat your face, so you better stop.” About an hour after the confrontation, this kid called his dad and walked out of our house bawling because he had been confronted.
So, what does all of this have to do with us as a family? What does it have to do with our parenting success? All I can tell you is that we have 3 boys right now at the ages of 25, 22, & 17, and they have always loved each other wholeheartedly. They have always told each other, “I love you” in their daily conversations, their daily good-byes, their phone calls with each other, and so on. They have always stuck up for each other. They have always supported each other in their endeavors. They have always gone out of their way to make it to each other’s games, even when they didn’t have to. They have never fought with each other. They have never spoken negative words to each other. They have never picked on each other. They hold each other accountable and are there for each other in times of struggle or turmoil.
They became this way with each other because of one simple decision. Their parents decided that their son’s lives would be different than their upbringing. Their parents decided that siblings saying stupid things to each other would not be tolerated and siblings hating on each other would not be tolerated. Their parents decided that they would not allow exterior forces to work against the picture of the family unit that they desired. One of the greatest forces that works against you as a parent are those exterior forces, and we parents must teach our children how to deal with and combat these forces. We equipped our sons for the battle, and it allowed us to foster an environment of love within our household. It created a family bond that can not be broken by anyone. It created the beginning of a family legacy.
In a way, I could thank The 3 Stooges for teaching me what not to do with my kids. But I can’t give the show that much credit because of the destruction it caused to so many others who were victims of these modeled behaviors and never climbed out of the vicious cycle of defeat. I’m not advocating that The 3 Stooges is the root of all evil, nor am I saying that it was the cause of all of the moral decay of young boys in America; however, I do believe that it had a negative impact. At least it did on the boys that I knew.
As a parent you must remember that you are the thermostat for your home. You dictate the atmosphere of your home by what you allow to happen. Love can not cohabit with picking, poking, bullying, words of hate, words of death, ridiculing, sarcasm, and the like. You, the parent, must decided how badly you want to raise kids that love each other and defend each other.