Sunday, May 10, 2015

What Makes a Good Kid?!

Annapolis, Maryland -- In the workaday world, whenever a gracious parent says to me, “You must be so proud of your boys,” I reply sincerely, “Yes, I am. They get their intellect and athleticism from their Mom. They get their low cunning from me.”

With that humble arrogance, let’s turn to the second installment of the foundation of the agent-in-waiting book, My Three Sons: How A Bad Dad Raised Good Kids. What’s a good kid? I’ve considered that phrase for a decade and a half – yep, ever since I became a Dad. All-encompassing, but an amorphous term, behind which is a catalogue of behaviors and attitudes: loyalty, thoughtfulness, dependability, discipline, determination, drive, enthusiasm, and toughness. Yeah, nice list - but Dads want precision, not a thesaurus.

My Three Sons is my straightforward take on the four realms of the good kid: his Personal Conduct; his Worldview; his Resilience and Adaptation; and, his Aspiration. Grounded in these four areas, the good kid is reflexive in making the correct decision in every situation he encounters at home and school, with his peer group and in his community.

Here are some definitions – see if they make sense to you.

Personal conduct: A kid responds with confidence and poise in every aspect of social interactions. He carries himself with ease because he has developed self-control and patience.

Worldview: A kid knows and grasps his environment. He appreciates the intrinsic good that everyday life offers and understands the bad. Equally important, he develops the maturity to limit the prevalence of electronic media - the narrow, glowing rectangle - in his daily life.

Resilience: A kid moves out with drive and clarity when circumstances large and small go south. He absorbs challenges and failures head on, handles pressure, adapts, and discovers a route to recovery.

Aspiration: A kid habitually sets goals and holds himself accountable. He is realistic in evaluating personal benchmarks and resists obstacles with determination and endurance.

Working from this baseline, I then contemplated how to inculcate these ideals in my three sons. And my reflections yielded this:
I would seize upon examples of sheer right and wrong found in everyday life, create a simple parable, and then identify each with an unforgettable exhortation.

These maxims - Dad’s “sayings” as my three sons labeled them - became a pounding soundtrack in the boys’ lives. Virtually every important aspect of their adolescence was viewed through the lens of one of my appeals. Over time, constant reprise and explanation of these adages helped develop instinctive, habitual responses to the situations in which my sons found themselves. Indeed, nearly a decade later, all four of us still repeat these aphorisms. Some are nutty and comical; others are harsh.

I found that given simple, constant, and memorable guidance on temperament and behavior, a young boy will thrive, becoming comfortable with himself and his surroundings; he settles into a pattern of conduct, which leads to a pattern of accomplishment. Repetition builds character.

Next up: “Dad’s sayings…”