Get Your Kid to Say “My Dad is Cool!”
As I write this article I must warn you that I am no child psychologist nor have I formed my hypotheses through a gambit of scientific testing of hundreds of families over the course of a specified period of time (I truly do not know what I just said). The only credentials I have, and probably the only reason you will pay me any attention, is that I am a father. Yes a father of two beautiful, smart, funny, and extremely talented teenage daughters: one 16 and the other 13. And yes they have deemed me a ‘cool dad’. So how did I determine these 5 things a dad can do to be labeled “cool”? Well, I simply asked. I asked my daughters why they thought I was “cool”. So that obviously means you cannot be cool unless 1) your kids are old enough to understand what cool is and can express it. Every kid thinks the world of their parents until you say something like “No! You can’t date until you're 40!” or “That better be grandma you’re on the phone with!” 2) They tell you that you are cool…unprovoked. No cheating! Giving them permission to drink beer or saying things like “Just don’t get pregnant!” doesn’t make you cool.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way now I can add in my disclaimer: Results may vary. The information is coming from two teenage girls. So if you have boys instead of girls, or both boys and girls, these points may take a whole different direction. And further every kid is unique and has different needs. However, my sources (and their sources) have assured me these items would make it on to most adolescent and pre-adolescent list regardless of gender. So that being said, let’s begin!
Make them laugh. Milton Berle was quoted as saying “Laughter is an instant vacation.” And he’s absolutely right. My dad was and still is a funny dude (probably where I get it from). And I can vividly remember the times he had me and my brothers laughing ‘til our sides hurt. And now as a father myself, it’s amazing to see how, when either you have made your kids laugh or you are all laughing together, time seems to slow down and you can tell impressions are being made at that very moment.
Kids need to see you have a sense of humor and not just some overworked, under paid genius who’s mad all the time because some idiot is actually is getting paid off the Snuggie invention (why couldn’t that have been me?).
So lighten up bro. Tell some jokes every once in a while. Pull up Hulu or You Tube and watch some old Martin or In Living Colour episodes with your kids. Heck, I even watch Sponge Bob Square Pants with my girls (love Patrick!) Of course the material should be appropriate depending on the age of your kids. But if you appreciate it, then I’m almost certain they have that same funny bone!
Have a sense of style. ‘Nuff said. No kid wants their dad to look like Jason Alexander in 'Shallow Hal'. On the other side of the coin, don’t think rockin’ skinny jeans, wide-striped hoodies and multicolored Air Force ones is the answer either. Get some style about you man! So how do you do that?
For the sake of blog post etiquette and since there are so many variables to style advice that has to be considered, we will keep it short and sweet: Hit up the BR (Banana Republic). You see, you don't have to spend a bunch of money to look stylish. And men's clothing boutiques like BR (can we still call BR a boutique?) and J.Crew seem to have a good grasp on dress styles for men of certain age. Even though I have started to explore the realm of custom clothing and all it's wonders, BR is still one of my favorite places to shop and get style ideas. And if you have trouble dressing yourself, don't be afraid to ask for help. The sales people are generally knowledgeable about modern men's apparel. You can trust them. And for the sake of your kids, you need to be headed there right now!
Don’t overreact to troubling situations. One thing is for certain, if you flip out every time something goes wrong, face it you’re not cool. Nobody really enjoys being around that person. So why would you expect your kids to be any different? Staying calm, cool, and in control truly is the embodiment of what cool is. So obviously then this is how you need to react when troubling situations arise with your kid. And believe me they will arise.
How have I fared? Well I guess pretty well (I mean my girls did put it on the list). But trust me, I’m not perfect. Believe me, at times I can see the whole room turning red when these situations transpire. But at that point I try and channel my emotions into a singular uttering “Your mother and I will need to discuss some things and get back to you” or something like that. Doing this seems to defer any “uncool” overreaction and therefore gives me the opportunity to really think things through. It seems to have worked thus far.
Your coping mechanism may be different. But whatever you decide works for you I’m certain (or shall I say my kids are certain) your efforts will go along long way with your youthful counterparts!
Cheer them up when they are sad/angry. Piggy backing on the last point; a lot of times these ‘troubling situations’ leave your kid feeling sad, angry, embarrassed or even lost. It’s at these junctures that a parent must make sure their kids know that it’s not the end of the world; despite the how they might feel at that moment.
This might not be the easiest thing to do; for you might be upset yourself depending on the situation. Then again you may just suck at being sympathetic (i.e. ME! You see I grew up in a house with 3 other brothers: 1 older and 2 younger. And let’s just say sympathy was not one of our family’s strong suits; with the exception of my mother of course. Love you Ma! Heck my older brother used to shoot us with a BB gun! I should have told on him.) So expressing this quality may come as a bit of a challenge for you and really, us as men in general. So try making them laugh (see ‘Make them laugh’ above). Or maybe just simply take them to get some Rita's Water Ice. However you do it, mastering this ability to cheer them up will not only make you a cool parent but also a good friend.
Get up to date on your music man! Music is the universal language. Even when that universe is made up of two consistently conflicting worlds: Your musical world and your kids musical world. I would say this is the other main area where you will clearly see the generational disparity between you and your kids. So is there a way to tie the two together? Absolutely! But be warned you might have to be willing to listen to likes of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to do so. Sorry.
What I have managed to do is relate to my kids infatuation with certain artists. Take one of the aforementioned international music sensations: as an adult I’m like “why would any girl go crazy over a barely 5 feet tall corny dude who still has to shop in the boys department at Kmart?” But then upon further analysis, I realize these girls are no different from the girls from my era (teenage years of late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s). And this dude is no different from little Joey of New Kids On the Block. And I must admit, I even liked “Please Don’t Go Girl” (some people who have known me for a while might say I liked "You Got the Right Stuff"...don't listen to them). And after actually listening to some of Bieber’s music I had to admit he is talented; even if his voice is “…the sound that makes me punch infants!” (Dane Cook, ’05). All I’m saying is find the similarity between your music and theirs and often you’ll find there is not much difference.
Then what you can do is share with them those similarities. Share with them the music you like and how it made you feel when you were their age and allow them to do the same. Discuss the lyrics and the artist’s talents. By doing this they may not only start to connect with your music preferences but also simultaneously connect with you. Now my daughters will actually ask my opinion on new music they think is “hot”. We’ve even shared playlists. Now that’s cool!
With the help of the internet and services like YouTube, our generation might likely be the first to ever successfully bridge the gap between “my parents’ music” and “those kids’ music”. So use these tools to your advantage and start to see a whole new level to your relationship with your kids develop!
So that’s it! Coming straight from the mouth of two teenagers, the above 5 items will get you that cool status you’ve relished for so long. Master these techniques and you may even become friends (take a deep breath, that’s a good thing). Now, stop being so lame!
Photography by Angela R. Jacobs