School’s back in session which means Dads get “nothin”!

When you come home from work, you walk in the door and say to your school-age kid, “what did you do in school today?” and your kid says: “Nothin” and keeps on moving.

So what’s a dad to do with “nothin”? Here is my trick. First of all don’t always challenge them on the spot. After all your kid is into his afternoon, and maybe this isn’t a great time to talk. So say something like, “I want to hear more about nothing later”.

Then when the time comes, if you are able to sit down and eat together, which I hope you try to do often, say, “OK let’s talk about nothing”. You may get a smile, or a ”Daaaad” in frustration, but you will get their attention. If they insist still “nothin’” take step two.

That is, ask your kid for the teacher’s phone number or email address. Tell them that you are going to call and complain that they are doing nothing in school and you want to know why. By this time you usually have your kid’s attention and usually they are smiling with embarrassment and will tell you something about school. But be prepared for what you are going to hear.

It may deal with homework that needs to be done. Or social issues they are dealing with. Such as, “Mandy was my best friend this summer, and now she won’t talk to me at school.” Or “Todd is such a jerk; he’s always trying to pick a fight with me.” Or “my first period teacher is really great, but I hate my third period teacher and he doesn’t like me either”. Or “I hate chemistry!”

So what do you do when “nothin” becomes “somethin”? First, take what they say as serious to them and second listen in a way that shows you care. Your caring and listening are what is most important. By the way, sometimes they have something good or funny to report, so you want to share the joy.

Remember never any put-downs. Always encouragement. Things like “I know you can handle this,” or “I’ve seen you in situations like this before and you usually make the right decisions.” And always leave your kids with the feeling that you are there to help and support them, and that you will always be there to help them face a difficulty or solve a problem.

Finally, almost never should dads solve the problem for the child. Dads need to empower their kids to solve their own problems. Give advice, encouragement, support, guidance and other forms of aid, but don’t jump in and make everything all right. If you do jump in, your kid will not develop problem solving skills and will know deep down that you don’t think they are capable of solving their own problems.

So there is a lot to “nothin”. Good luck with this fall semester. Have some fun with your kids and always show them respect even if they are doing “nothin”.

3 thoughts on ““Nothin”

  1. Dan Conway

    My friend Michael is full of practical wisdom. He’s been teaching “soft skills” for hard-headed folks like me for many year now, and it shows. There’s no such thing as a perfect father (or mother), but I believe we can be good, loving parents in spite of our failings if we keep three things in mind: 1) respect for our children’s dignity as persons, 2) acceptance of their individuality, especially if it means they are very different from us, and 3) forgiveness of the hurts and disappointments we all experience as parents and children. Michael teaches these three virtues in ways that are never moralistic or rigid. He reminds that while none of us will ever be perfect we can be good fathers (and mothers) if we pay attention to our kids and treat them lovingly–as they deserve!


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