The Parent as Teacher


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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33 Responses

  1. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    Mouth closed, eh? While chewing? Impossible.Report

  2. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Several Hondas and Toyotas later I am pretty sure he was wrong about the superiority of American automobiles in the 1990s.

    Doesn’t the “several” kind of undermine your point? 😉

    On a serious note, though, Mike, I’m glad your daughter is ok, and I hope she’s handling the stress of her friend’s death reasonably well.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    If your daughters described their post-hike symptoms to WebMD they’d get a diagnosis of “angina” or “herpes.” Dad is probably going to have better information to offer.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    This is a great piece, Mike.

    Be sure not to discount the countless lessons you offer them even when your mouth ain’t yappin’. Modeling is one of the most effective forms of teaching. How you interact with your wife teaches them what they should expect from their own partners and how they should treat them. How you respond to failure, adversity, and errors demonstrate how they should do the same. How you carry yourself with others shows them the social skills and expectations you value.

    My wife laughs at how my dad and I will walk our lawn with the same gait and will stand with our wait shifted to the same leg when stopping to evaluate a tree’s health. My dad didn’t teach me to walk, but I learned nonetheless.Report

  5. Avatar A Teacher says:

    Nothing creates a teachable moment like realizing your own way of doing things, well, sucks. I’ve seen many students even in a formal classroom say “I don’t need your help I got this”, then proceed to work for 10 minutes, check their answer and stare in frustration. Then they get up, bring their paper to me and say “Okay… do I do this again?”

    I know I blew off somewhere around 80% of my parents’ advice. Then I had kids of my own. Then I had a job of my own. Then I… had a life of my own.

    And ~THEN~ I realized my parents knew a great deal more than I thought at the time and I’ve spend about the last 20 years or so telling them “Yeah… that thing you tried to tell me back in the 90’s? Turns out you were right after all.”

    Better late than never right?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to A Teacher says:

      “Nothing creates a teachable moment like realizing your own way of doing things, well, sucks.”

      And that requires realizing you HAVE a way of doing things. The self-reflection required to step back and say, “This is the way I do things and here’s why,” is something lost on many people. They often don’t even think about what they do, how, and why; they simply do.Report

  6. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The Romans used to say grandparents and grandchildren were natural allies: they had an enemy in common. The same is true of Uncles/Aunts and Nephews/Nieces: an enemy in common.

    With kids, the REC button is always on. They’re constantly watching us, observing how less-than-perfect we are. Every time they start with the eye-rolling — guess where they learned that? From watching their parents do the same thing to each other.

    Kids understand authority. Like trust, authority is earned. Occasionally I’d turn to my kids, who weren’t always amenable to instruction and gripe to them: “Hey, did it ever occur to you that I was once your age, that I’ve felt the way you feel about someone telling me to do things? I wasn’t born this old, you know. If you want to figure this out for yourself, go for it. I’ll be over in my office, stop by when you want some help, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to try to teach a pig to sing. Wastes my time and annoys the pig.”Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to BlaiseP says:

      The Romans used to say grandparents and grandchildren were natural allies: they had an enemy in common.

      Probably true, and I don’t mean to dispute it. But it curiously juxtaposes this NBER paper I saw just yesterday that claims grandparents who live with their grand kids have poorer health than those who don’t. I guess grandparents should ally with their grand kids from a distance, rather than in close quarters.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        From Grimm’s Fairy Tales:

        There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they brought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

        They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. ’What are you doing there?’ asked the father. ’I am making a little trough,’ answered the child, ’for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.’

        The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Make them fight a two-front war.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

      The Romans used to say grandparents and grandchildren were natural allies: they had an enemy in common.

      The Romans and Sam Levenson.Report

  7. Avatar zic says:

    You (and family) have been much in my thoughts.

    We went through a very difficult year, troubles for both children when they were in high school. It was, in retrospect, a challenge I’m grateful for, though I’d not wish it on any family or child; it changed our family dynamic for the better. We know, beyond shadow of any doubt, we can trust and rely on each other. I know my lectures then shaped the adults I love now; I see it in the values they bring to little things they do each and every day. But at the time, I simply had to have faith that it would help shape them.

    And I had to be prepared that it wouldn’t shape them in directions I wanted. A large part of parenting is the letting go. That is a lot more difficult then the hundreds of behaviors, big and small, we model each and every day. Some days, I think it’s the most important behavior to model; that message of, “I trust you to be.”Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to zic says:


      My daughter went out with some friends last Saturday, about a week after The Wreck. It was unbelievably hard to let her go but we knew it was the right thing to do.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I bet it was hard. You did right, though. She needs you to trust her. It will help her trust herself again.

        And someday, I’ll tell you about my son’s crotch rocket, but probably not about the day he lost it. He wasn’t hurt, but his freedom rode on the line, and on his way to his first day of college, too. Coyote.Report

  8. Avatar Chris says:

    My son, 15, has a little brother who’s 4 (he turns 5 next month). As a result of the difference in age between them, and the fact that his little brother’s biological father is not in the picture, my son vacillates between big brother and father figure. Watching him in his father-figure role has been fascinating for me, because so many of his “parenting” habits are copies of my own with him. I definitely get to see many of the good and bad habits I had when he was younger. For example, one of my habits was to explain both the why and the how of pretty much everything I did, as I did it. So I watch my son cooking dinner and saying to his little brother, who watches him attentively, “and now I do this for this reason, and then I do this other thing for this other reason.” On the other hand, I see how he gets frustrated with his little brother in much the same way that I used to get frustrated with him (his little brother is markedly speech delayed, as my son was, so their frustrations, and their frustrating behaviors, are very similar).

    As a result of watching my son with his brother, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my parenting, and I’ve also made a concerted effort to explain why some of the things I did, which he is now repeating, were probably not the right things to do.Report

  9. Avatar Michelle says:

    Great piece, Mike. I’m still hoping my stepson picked up something from either the Russian or me in the years that he lived with us. I’m not sure kids really hear their parents’ words of wisdom until much later on down the road, but that still doesn’t mean it’s not worth instructing them both by words and deeds.Report