Although I usually don’t talk much about my personal life on this blog, I thought I would make an exception today because so many people write to me with questions about how to raise their children. As regular readers know, I have two children, Suri and Maddox, and they are, as one prominent child psychiatrist put it, “perfect.”
Raising perfect children is a combination of science and art. Some would argue that genetics also play a role, but that would give partial credit to the children themselves, which is nonsense. No, when raising perfect children, the credit belongs to the parent or parents who are actually doing the hard work of molding perfection from witless lumps of flesh; just as you wouldn’t credit the stone for Michelangelo’s “David,” nor should you credit the child for their own fortunate happenstance of being raised by me (and to a much lesser extent, my wife).
Question: how do I do it? How do I manage to maintain a busy professional and social life while simultaneously imparting all of my knowledge, grace, and humility to my offspring? Answer: with a big heart and a firm hand.
First, the tough stuff – punishment, because that’s what everybody wants to know. “How do I discipline my child in a safe and loving way?” Read on.
Now, I am not an advocate of corporal punishment because, frankly, it doesn’t work. When a child misbehaves, I never spank or hit that child. Instead, I follow our president’s lead – I use waterboarding. Now, obviously you don’t waterboard every time a child acts up because that would cause the punishment to lose its efficacy. Instead, you reserve “going swimming,” as I call it, for those occasions when the child has acted so egregiously (peeing on the toilet seat, leaving hand prints on the glass door) that you simply have no choice.
When most people hear the term “waterboarding,” they immediately think about what a small number of our interrogators did (or do) to a small number of high-value detainees at some of our nation’s detention facilities. And if you believe the liberal news media, you would think that this kind of treatment is beyond the pale. Well, I don’t know how they waterboard at Gitmo, but the way we do it at our house is to hold the child upside down, put a wet wash cloth over his or her mouth, pinch the child’s nose shut, and then pour a thin stream of water into the mouth. Believe me, this is not torture. If it was, it would be illegal, and as our president has made clear, this is within the bounds of the law. It’s just simulated drowning. The child is never in any actual danger, but it sure scares the pants off them!
That’s the key to punishing your children: make the punishment severe enough that it has the desired effect – namely, to get them to stop the behavior that got them punished in the first place! Trust me, time-outs only get you so far. Now, just the threat of being waterboarded is enough to get their attention. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I had to take out the washcloth.
(By the way, this particular form of punishment has in no way deterred the kids from actually going swimming. Suri and Maddox are both excellent swimmers and love going in the pool.)
But punishment is only one half of the equation when it comes to raising perfect children. The other, more important part is love. Love your children like the precious gifts they are. You know that old saying: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry?” This is especially true in the parent/child relationship. My children know I love them because I never apologize to them. This may sound odd, but it’s important to remember that, to a child, you are like the Mighty Zeus: all-powerful. When you apologize to your child, the façade of infallibility crumbles and you look like just another schnook instead of a godhead. Be a godhead for your child.
Love also means doing stuff with your children. Stuff that both of you enjoy. Say your child loves horses. Take her to the horse track. That’s a good place to find horses. Or if your child loves baseball, take him to the horse track. That’s a sport, too. Maybe your kids love to cook. Great. Take them to the horse track. They have food there. You see? Of course if they don’t have a horse track where you live, that’s okay. You could go to the dog track.
Another piece of advice for anybody interested in raising perfect children: get an au pair. Au pairs are young girls from all over the world who come to the United States to study and learn about our culture. In exchange for a small stipend plus room and board, they agree to look after your children for up to forty five hours a week. That’s a lot of time that you don’t have to watch your kids! Maybe that sounds counterintuitive; after all, shouldn’t you spend as much time with your kids as possible? No, no, and no! The last thing you want is for your kids to take you for granted. The less they see of you the better. Plus, having an au pair means you get to have a young European girl living with you. Far out! There’s nothing like a little “cultural exchange” to keep parenting exciting. The kids learn a lot, and so do you.
Finally, make sure to tell your kids you love them every single day. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents neglect to tell their children these simple three words. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t love their kids as much as I love mine. That’s probably it. But even if your children aren’t as perfect as mine and you don’t love them that much, fake it. That way, they won’t be able to pull that “my parents never told me they loved me” crap so popular on therapist’s couches all over the country. I tell my kids I love them even when I’m giving them a simulated drowning. Why? Because it reinforces the idea that what they’re experiencing is their fault.
I could probably write a whole book about parenting perfect children, and one day I probably will. But if you follow the advice I’ve just given you for free, chances are your children will wind up just as perfect as mine. (I’m obviously exaggerating to make a point – your children will never be as perfect as mine. Not that it’s a competition. But if it was, your kids would lose.)