Rule #24: Crush Your Child’s Dreams Early

in Rules of Parenting

Teach your child that when you try, you'll probably fail. And no matter what, you'll always look ridiculous.

Teach your child that when he tries, he'll probably fail. And no matter what, he'll always look ridiculous.

There was a time when good-natured people (parents, teachers, coaches, and the guy who tried to make you an Amway rep) told you that there was “nothing you couldn’t do if you set your mind to it and worked hard.”

You sort of believed them. But, after college, you also figured setting your mind to something and working hard didn’t sound nearly as appealing or interesting as bumming around Europe for a couple of years and not shaving things that usually need shaving. You returned home, shacked up with a person who would later steal your cat and the fez you bought in Amsterdam, and finally settled into a job that satisfied you about as much as licking stamps.

Your children share your slacker DNA, which means they’re prone to fits of general laziness and ambivalence during times of great opportunity, as well as when people are counting on them—so it’s important to let them know now that they probably won’t amount to much.

Keep the Expectations Low

Why set your children up for excruciating disappointment later in life when you can establish their losing ways now? This will help them lower their expectations for any number of things, including:

General literacy…

Far too many well-meaning academics and social scientists note that literacy is “important” for a democratic society and “critical” for “brain development.” But you’ve been getting along just fine by simply skimming the National Enquire and TV Guide headlines while at the grocery checkout. You might say things to your child like, “Son, I have to be honest with you about all the reading you’re doing in school. You’re really embarrassing me, and you’re showing a geeky side I don’t like.”

Or maybe, “Reading great books? Are they still teaching you that crap? Reading is kind of like long division—you’ll never really use it after you leave school.”

Physical fitness…

Some might argue that sports build youthful “character, teamwork and discipline” that carry over into adulthood, but it’s best to discourage participation and get a head start on your child’s post-sports-playing physique. Say things like, “You think I got this gut over night? Heather, sweetie, this took years of partying and heavy consumption of cured meats and starches. I suggest you get started on your freshman 15 right now.”

Or maybe, “Jason, you want me to buy you a football so you can practice and earn a college scholarship? Please. Football won’t even be around in 10 years. Why don’t you do something that will pay off when you’re an adult—like learning to play poker or how to properly place a bet on the ponies with a bookie.”

Personal appearance and hygiene…

That's right, Suzy. When you grow up, you're going to look just like your mother over there.

That's right, Suzy. When you grow up, you're going to look just like your mother over there.

Children, especially pre-teens and teens, spend way too much time worrying about how they look. Apparently, it helps with their “personal actualization” and makes them feel “strong” or “confident.”

But think about the hours pissed away by primping in front of mirrors, or consider how much of your hard-earned cash is spent by your children on deodorants to mask the hormonal cocktail of worry-sweat, greasy pores the size of dimes, and off-gassing from eating cured meats and starches. Not pretty.

So it’s important to suggest to your kids how much time they can save by forgetting their personal appearance altogether—and be sure to point out that, no matter what, there’s a really good chance they’re going to wind up looking just like you anyway.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

jason January 13, 2009 at 6:35 am

wow. i’m pretty sure my parents are the authors of this site.

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Rachel January 13, 2009 at 7:13 am

i’ve heard the best way to combat literacy is to give your kid a cell phone. jst tch thm how 2 txt mssg. thyll nvr lrn 2 spl. LOL.

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Father Knows Worst January 13, 2009 at 10:19 am

@Jason: You’re right. And, oh yeah, by the way, sorry for abandoning you on that church porch.

@Rachel: Ur pry rite.

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Mama Needs a Cosmo April 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Woo hoo!! Partners in bad parenting!! I love it . . .

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